I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
We founded the Human Rights Council three years ago, due to our common aim to strengthen the United Nations human rights system, with a vision of ensuring the effective enjoyment of human rights by all. To achieve this goal the Human Rights Council must have all necessary tools and mechanisms at its disposal. We are convinced that the special procedures and their mandate holders have a core function in this regard.
Through country visits and other work of the special procedures, human rights violations worldwide are brought to our attention and the victims of violations are given international visibility. They are a significant tool in providing early warning and urgent measures at the international level in order to assist States in the implementation of human rights. The EU calls on all States to issue standing invitations to the special procedures.
While thematic procedures provide important conceptual analysis, country procedures are central to giving a voice to victims that otherwise would not have been heard. The independence of special procedures must be respected in all cases. It is important that they have the possibility to act and inform the Council on violations against human rights, based on their expertise, impartiality and independence. If the system of Special Procedures is to function effectively, it is imperative that States provide these Procedures with their full cooperation. We are concerned to note that, according to annual statistics provided by the OHCHR*, State response rates to urgent appeals and other communications are less than 50%. If we are to improve the system of Special Procedures, the most urgent need is to explore means of ensuring that States comply with their responsibility to cooperate fully with the Special Procedures so that they can do their job. We welcome the ideas brought forward in the report of the coordination committee on how to find practical and administrative synergies between the special procedures and the UPR, for instance to make use of the country-related documents in the UPR when preparing for country visits and use the UPR reports as a tool to reinforce specific recommendations.
Furthermore, it is important that the complaints procedure work as it was intended when the procedure was established. It is of utmost importance that any problems or procedural issues pertaining to the complaint procedure are addressed and resolved, bearing in mind the victims-oriented approach that the complaints procedure must uphold.
The Advisory Committee has recently finished its third session. When the Committee was created two years ago, we decided that the body should function as a think-tank for the Council, comprising independent experts that would prepare expert inputs on the request of the Council. The European Union believes that it is important that the Committee continues to execute its mandate in an independent manner. In our interpretation of paragraph 77 in the IB package any possible proposals from the Advisory Committee, should not automatically become a decision of the Council when not initiated by states.
The European Union welcomes the progress achieved in the works of the Advisory Committee, which, two years ago, was tasked by the Council to prepare a draft UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and training. Effective human rights education and training can prevent human rights violations by promoting a culture of peace, non-discrimination and tolerance anchored in respect for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. Bearing in mind these principles, we look forward to a successful outcome of this process.
The sessions of the Social Forum and the Expert Mechanism for Indigenous People have recently finished. We welcome the active engagement of all participants and civil society, whose involvement is a key component in the work we are undertaking.
Let me conclude by expressing our gratitude to the High Commissioner and her Office for the enormous amount of work they are undertaking. All the documentation created in various processes remain a valuable source of information about different aspects of human rights. We share the concern expressed by others about translation, and welcome that an internal task force has been established to look at ways of solving the problem.
As for the functioning of the treaty bodies and special procedures, we encourage the High Commissioner to ensure adequate staff and facilities for these mechanisms commensurate with the importance of their work.
With regard to recruitment and promotion of staff in the office, it is essential to not only pay attention to geographical distribution, but also give due consideration to gender balance, and ensure that the established criteria of efficiency, competence and integrity remain the foremost guiding principles when deciding who is the best candidate for a job.
Thank you, Mr President.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.