28 March 2019, GENEVA – The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“the Geneva Centre”) was invited by the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to participate in the first informal exchange of views on the issue of the 2021/2026 review of the status of the Human Rights Council. The one-day consultation session was held on 28 March 2019 at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).
Permanent Missions, national institutions, international organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations and human rights bodies were present at the informal consultative session.
The Geneva Centre attended the consultative session held at UNOG. In its statement, the Geneva Centre expressed its position on the reform proposals expressed in the Roadmap for 2019 and of the five fundamental questions raised by the President of the Human Rights Council Mr Coly Seck in his letter of 11 March 2019 addressed to Permanent Missions and civil society organizations in Geneva.
The initial part of the informal consultative session explored whether the Council could contribute to the General Assembly’s review of the Council’s status, what the Council’s contributions could take and the topics that should be addressed.
In this connection, the Geneva Centre stated that the Council could contribute to the review of its status and submit its recommendations to the UN General Assembly. It likewise recommended that the Council continue to remain a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly as the elevation of its status to a main body – reporting to the UN Security Council instead of the UN General Assembly – would have adverse impacts on the functioning of the Council.
In this regard, the Geneva Centre underlined that the endorsement of human rights resolutions would be limited to a restricted body within which five members have veto power. “This would therefore politicise human rights at a time when civil society organizations are exerting themselves to make values prevail over politics,” the Geneva Centre highlighted.
In addition, it was likewise remarked that the Council would lose its access to universality which it enjoyed through reporting to the UN General Assembly. This would in fact downgrade the impact of its work “unless the Council itself is enlarged to become a universal body.” The Geneva Centre therefore recommended that the question of making the Council a main organ of the UN should be discussed jointly with that of “broadening its membership to become a universal body.”
In relation to the possibility of reviewing the work and functions of the Council, the Geneva Centre highlighted that such a process would allow the Council to “enhance its moral authority worldwide” should it be conducted in an objective, transparent and pragmatic manner. It underlined that the review of 2010/2011 was too politicized and that pursuing a similar path, in the present context, would impede the ability of the Council to enhance its long-term efficiency and to fulfil its mandate.
In conclusion, the Geneva Centre suggested to the President of the Council that a review of UN human rights mechanisms’ methods of work and functioning could take place during 2021.
Position paper presented by the Geneva Centre: