04 October 2018, GENEVA – The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“the Geneva Centre”) was invited by the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council to participate in the third round of informal consultation session on the long-term efficiency of the Human Rights Council (HRC). The one-day consultation session was held on 04 October 2018 at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). Permanent Missions, national institutions, international organizations, NGOs and human rights bodies were present at the informal consultative session.
The first part of the session began with discussions on improving the annual programme of work of the HRC. This was followed by discussions on rationalization of resolutions and initiatives of the UN human rights body. The last session was dedicated to the use of information technology to enhance the facilitation of information and raise awareness about the activities of the HRC.
The Geneva Centre – represented by its junior project and communication officer Mr. Blerim Mustafa – attended the consultative session held at UNOG. In his statement to the participants, the Geneva Centre made recommendations to the HRC Secretariat on how to decrease its workload by 15% a year.
Under agenda item 1, the Geneva Centre made three recommendations which would enable the Council to bring out the annual saving of 49 working hours. First, it recommended that any agenda item not discussed separately in a given session should be included in the general debate of the same session and allow for the possibility to adopt a corresponding draft resolution. Second, the Geneva Centre suggested that thematic panel debates should be reduced from three to two hours and that panel debates should not exceed 10 per calendar year. This would allow the Council – it was noted - to save 22 hours a year.
Finally, with regard to the Universal Periodic Review, the Geneva Centre proposed to keep the current four-year cycle for the review of States. However, out of the 48-country reviews per year, it was proposed that “32 countries should undergo full review whereas 16 countries drawn by lot be subject to a shorter implementation review of past UPR recommendations.”It was also recommended that the time devoted to the implementation of previous recommendations of UPR cycles should be “reduced from three and a half hours to two hours for the implementation review.” On an annual basis, this would allow the Council to devote 36 instead of 63 hours for implementation reviews rather than full reviews. “The Council would therefore save 27 hours per annum,” it was concluded.
With regard to agenda item 2, the Geneva Centre made two recommendations that would enable the Council to save 42 hours per annum. First, the Geneva Centre proposed that interactive dialogues with Special Procedures Mandate Holders should be reduced from three to two hours. In the context of the annual presentation of 54 reports of Special Procedures Mandate Holders, it would allow the Council to save 27 hours per year.
In addition, the representative of the Geneva Centre gave concrete recommendations to the Secretariat of the Council on how to make interactive debates at the Council more action- and outcome-oriented. In this regard, it was proposed that prospective participants should submit their questions in advance which would subsequently be addressed during the interactive session with the audience which would focus on a few specific replies to equally specific questions put to the floor.
Speaking time for civil society organizations should also be maintained and not reduced as this would limit the possibility of civil society organizations to contribute to the realization of the main objectives of the Council.
With regard to the rationalisation of resolutions, the Geneva Centre recommended that a maximum cap on the adoption of resolutions should be introduced to “avoid a pile up of resolutions and the introduction of an excessive number of operational paragraphs.” Except for emergencies, the Geneva Centre supported the idea of biennial resolutions if, during the gap year, the “implementation of previous year’s resolutions could be reviewed.” By circumventing the gap year – it was noted - the adoption procedures for resolutions with explanation of votes – estimated at 30 minutes per resolution – would be avoided. If this methodology would be applied in the context of the adoption of 30 resolutions per annum, the “Council would save 15 hours over the course of the year,” it was proposed.
Regarding the last agenda item, the Geneva Centre took note of the proposal to introduce online reservation for side events, but highlighted that this proposal would “crowd out small and medium sized NGOs in consultative status” that lack the “resources and capacity to proceed with long-term projection of side events.”
Further consultation sessions are planned at the United Nations Office at Geneva on the long-term efficiency of the Human Rights Council. Review exercises were also carried out in 2010 and 2011 to increase the value-added of the HRC in the debate on human rights and to provide a cooperative atmosphere that would be conducive to their advancement.
The Geneva Centre will attend forthcoming sessions and present its viewpoints on the solutions required to enhance the effectiveness of the work of the HRC.
The Geneva Centre's statements can be downloaded: