Global Policy Forum

NGO Joint Statement on the Secretary General’s Proposed Human Rights Council


By Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, World Indigenous Peoples´Association, Federation of Rural Catholic Women, Europe-Third World Centre, and others.

Presented by Susi Snyder, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

April 18, 2005

We wish to express our concerns regarding the UN Secretary-General's proposals for changes in the UN machinery for human rights, as contained in Document A/59/200. These proposals are far-reaching and should be given much time for a thorough study to ensure that they can indeed advance the promotion and protection of all human rights for all, and restore the people's credibility in the United Nations in the field of human rights. Time should be taken to make a serious analysis of the true obstacles that are in the way of the progressive implementation everywhere of the international human rights instruments; why commitments made are not implemented, what causes social and economic upheavals that affect the condition of human rights and how to meet these challenges. We believe also that the proposed changes should be analyzed in relation to the consequences they would have for the architecture and basic principles of the UN Charter.

Much progress has been made in raising awareness of the human rights problems the world over and of the people's struggles for their rights and liberation. The United Nations through its Commission on Human Rights and the subsidiary bodies, has developed international standards and mechanisms to respond to the many challenges. In our view, the erosion of credibility does not lie in the structure and architecture of the institution but rather in the absence of will of the parties concerned to work together to seek means for genuine promotion and protection of human rights, and to provide the Office of the High Commissioner with the necessary resources to be able to do its work.

We are concerned by proposals to shrink a reasonable geographically representative Commission to a small Council composed of selected member governments. This goes counter to a fundamental principle, that is, for the UN to be inclusive and representative of its full membership. The selectivity that has intruded upon the bodies of the UN is, in our view, one of the reasons for the erosion of confidence in the institution.

The changes proposed by the UN Secretary-General need clarification and study particularly in regard to the work of the subsidiary bodies of the Commission and its various mechanisms developed over the years, and also in regard to the relationship with non-governmental organizations. The importance of NGOs is acknowledged, but it is not clear how they would be able to exercise their consultative status as stipulated in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 and other practices that have evolved over the years.

We are convinced that a better promotion and protection of human rights lies in a change of will, approaches and attitudes rather than in changing structures. The United Nations Charter, whose 60th anniversary will be marked this June, remains the fundamental instrument for the promotion and maintenance of peace and the promotion and protection of human rights in their full dimensions.

More Information on UN Reform
More Information on the Human Rights Council
More Information on Secretary General Kofi Annan's Reform Agenda
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