On 13th May 2016, the UN Office in Geneva hosted an important international meeting concerning the evolution of the UN mechanisms for human rights. The panel discussion, organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, focused on the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and, specifically, on the Special Procedures mandate-holders. The meeting took place on the occasion of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Human Rights Council and revolved around the comparison between two important studies: one of these was authored by the retired Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, a member of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Management; the other by the expert Marc Limon, Director of the organization Universal Rights Group (URG). These studies were both devoted to the Special Procedures.
In addition to the authors, the panelists included: H. E. Mr. Jean-Marie Ehouzou, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva; the well-known Senegalese expert Mr. Doudou Diène, Former Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Riscrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance; Mr. Karim Ghezraoui, Chief of the Special Procedures Branch at OHCHR; and Dr. Steven L. B. Jensen, Researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. The Discussant was Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Moneim, Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Professor of International Law. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Jane Connors, former Director of Special Procedures Branch at OHCHR. H. E. Dr. Hanif Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Management, delivered the opening remarks and referred to the Geneva Centre’s endeavors to reinforce human rights in the countries of the South and activate the participation of countries from this region with a view to build bridges between them and countries of the North.
As for Ambassador Ehouzou, he emphasized in his opening remarks two fundamental issues of concern, which are the politicization of the subject of human rights and the necessity to ensure the independence of Special Procedures. Ambassador Idriss Jazairy presented a study which had been prepared in the context of the activities of the Geneva Centre and which included a historical retrospect on the growth of the Special Procedures mechanism and commented on current challenges as well as on action to be taken in order to promote a coherent system of Special Procedures in the future in a way that would respond to the expectations of the South, which had in the past been on the frontlines with regards to the creation and evolution of these Procedures.
This meeting, which was attended by around 130 diplomats, experts and specialists in the field of human rights, reviewed the diverse points of view in this matter, including a study put forward by the Executive Director of URG, Marc Limon, and also a presentation by Dr. Jensen on the historical evolution of human rights during the colonial period and its impact on the countries of the South.
Mr. Karim Ghezraoui, appealed, in his statement, for more cooperation between States and Special Procedures mandate-holders. In this context, Dr. Abdel-Moneim drew attention to the sufferings injured by the countries of the South, especially affecting the poor and the sick, and emphasized the necessity of taking into account the universality of human rights.
These presentations by the panel members were followed by remarks of stakeholders, including representatives of diplomatic missions to the United Nations, inter alia H. E. Mr. Obaid Salem Saeed Al Zaabi, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates, who brought out the importance of this meeting and stressed the sensitive nature of the discussion. He also expressed his support to the reinforcement of the relations between States and Special Procedures as well as international experts in the context of the respect by the latter of their full neutrality.
E. Mr. Boudjemâa Delmi, Permanent Representative of Algeria, presented a proposal with the view of reinforcing the cooperation between African Sates, extending such a cooperation with other geographical groups and also advocating a reinforcement of the interaction with the Coordinating Committee of Special Procedures and with the High Commissioner.
Finally, the South African Ambassador, Ms. Ncumisa Pamella Notutela, expressed, on behalf of the African Union, appreciation for the Geneva Centre and supported the thrust of the recommendations put forward in this study. She emphasized that mandate-holders should adhere to the principles of independence, objectivity and non-selectivity, adding that country mandates should only be set up with the approval of the country concerned. Lastly, she emphasized the necessity to rely increasingly on funding from the regular budget of the UN, stressing that, where voluntary contributions were made, they should be equitably distributed between mandates.
The Moderator considered that the successful meeting was the beginning of a dialogue that should be repeated and broadened to include other stakeholders, such as the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. She stated that time has been insufficient to draw up conclusions; nevertheless, she was prepared to participate in such an exercise that might take place after this panel meeting.
The meeting concluded its deliberation by recognizing the necessity to find balanced solutions for the evolution of the mechanism of Special Procedures in a manner that preserves the neutrality, professionalism and commitment of their high cause, which had motivated the creation of the Human Rights Council, in line with the rights and obligations which have been stipulated in the UN Charter.
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