The EU would like to thank the co-facilitators for convening this meeting, the timing of which allows us to conclude the initial discussion of all topics pertaining to the New York track of the Human Rights Council review before we formally receive the outcome of the review discussions in Geneva. As this initial round draws to a close, we are also looking forward to receiving further guidance about the continuation of the process.
The facilitators’ non-paper of 23 November has correctly and comprehensively detailed those aspects that were relevant to the status of the Council at the time of its establishment, and which form the subject of today’s discussion: size, composition, and membership of the Council, as well as the practice regarding pledges and commitments. These aspects are addressed in key provisions of GA resolution 60/251 which, in its operative paragraph 1, mandated the GA to conduct a review of its status within five years. Hence, such status-related aspects can only be discussed by the GA itself, and we are grateful to the HRC President for having made this point clear during the recent negotiations in Geneva.
At the same time, a lot has been said in previous consultation rounds with regard to the overall exercise being a “review”, and not a “reform”. We may all have slightly different views as to the exact meaning and scope of both terms. But we should be able to agree that reviewing the Council’s status entails consideration of the requirements contained in operative paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Council’s founding resolution, in particular that member states “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, and shall fully co-operate with the Council”. These guiding principles, which are squarely rooted within resolution 60/251, must be the basis of our work.
Has the Human Rights Council, during its first five years, lived up to these principles? It was only three weeks ago that the General Assembly felt compelled to suspend the rights of membership in the HRC of one state, due to that state’s non-compliance with the requirement to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. The recognition that this consensual decision by the GA was necessary was certainly overshadowed by the question of whether this particular state should have been elected to the Council in the first place. Here again, we must reiterate that resolution 60/251 is very clear: Electing states shall take into account the contribution of candidates to human rights, and elected members shall uphold the highest standards and fully cooperate with the Council. This in fact is where the credibility of the Council starts.
The European Union is therefore convinced that much can, and in fact must be done in order to allow the Council, its individual members, and candidates, to meet the very standards and benchmarks contained in resolution 60/251. And we are equally convinced that an important part of the responsibility in this regard lies with the General Assembly when electing the Council’s members. And in this regard, we consider that more must be done to facilitate the process.
In order to fulfil the requirements contained in operative paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Council’s founding resolution, the European Union would therefore like to highlight the following possible measures:
1. Full cooperation with the Council is already a requirement for elected members as set out in paragraph 9 of resolution 60/251. But we consider it necessary to further operationalise this requirement. Full cooperation with the Council’s mechanisms must be measurable and we therefore suggest that all candidate countries issue a declaration of full cooperation, at least for the duration of their membership, with all mechanisms and instruments of the Council as part of their “pledges and commitments”. This could take the form of a standing invitation to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council but a declaration should be forthcoming even in the absence of such an invitation, and full information on how this will be put into effect should be explicitly stated. Non-issuance of such a declaration should be taken into account by electing states;
2. Once elected, members of the Council should fully cooperate with all mechanisms and instruments of the Council. Non-cooperation which is to be determined by the Council- should be fully taken into account when the state is presenting itself for re-election;
3. The General Assembly should hold public hearings for candidates to the HRC prior to the elections, involving Member States, NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions. These hearings should focus on the voluntary pledges and commitments, as well as on how the candidate country intends to comply with the requirements contained in op. 9 of resolution 60/251. Such hearings should assist electing States in their decision-making process;
4. In addition, members of the Human Rights Council should, at the end of every term of their membership, present a written or oral report to the GA on the state of implementation of heir voluntary pledges and commitments, as well as on their compliance with ops. 8 and 9 of resolution 60/251. Interim reports during their term of membership could also be considered.
In our view, these proposals are in no way extraordinary. They are in fact based on a simple principle of everyday life: that in joining any organization or body, candidates and members should adhere to the principles and rules of this organization or body. Many more could of course be considered such as cooperation with Treaty Bodies, implementation of UPR recommendations. We could also consider whether a catalogue of concrete and measurable suggestions for standards to uphold could be workable. We look forward to hearing proposals from others in this regard.
Finally, the European Union would like to use this opportunity to point out the need to ensure a basic degree of competition in elections to the Council, and calls upon all regional groups to advocate competitive slates for HRC elections. The European Union stands ready to discuss and consider any proposals in this regard.