New Zealand is pleased to welcome Ambassador Van Meeuwen to New York for the presentation of the report on the Human Rights Council’s third year of operation.
We acknowledge his contribution, and that of his predecessor, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi.
New Zealand firmly believes in the universality and indivisibility of human rights for all people; and regards the Human Rights Council as the primary United Nations mechanism with responsibility for human rights.
New Zealand wishes to see the Council fulfill the mandate with which it was entrusted by member States: To respond effectively, and in a timely manner, to human rights situations while promoting open, inclusive dialogue and cooperation with concerned countries.
This third year of operation has been an important one.
In its first year, the Council laid solid foundations, through the adoption of the institution-building package; followed, last year, by consolidation of those institutions and mechanisms.
After that establishment phase, this third year has been the Council’s first full year of work.
And, in that period, we have been encouraged to see some positive work in the Council that has contributed towards the fulfillment of its mandate.
In this regard, New Zealand has welcomed the contribution of new members, and has been pleased to see evidence of increased cross-regional cooperation.
Transparency is also important; we commend the Council for its use of web casting - and for other improvements, such as the use of new technology to distribute meeting alerts.
Strong operational practices in the Council are critical for the effective implementation of human rights.
For this reason, New Zealand considers the system of independent special procedures (including those on specific human rights situations), and the Universal Periodic Review, to be among the more valuable components of the Council’s work.
This year, New Zealand was pleased to undergo its own first UPR review; and we look forward to the continuing evolution of the UPR process, which we see as positively complementing other mechanisms, including country statements and treaty body reporting.
We particularly recognise the challenges smaller states face in participating in the UPR process, especially those without representation in Geneva.
So, in support of UPR, earlier this year, New Zealand hosted a seminar for Pacific countries to exchange views and build the region’s capacity to engage in the process.
We are pleased that those of our Pacific neighbours who have so far been reviewed have found the experience positive and rewarding, and we look forward to others participating in the next UPR round in December.
Despite some encouraging, positive steps, New Zealand remains convinced that more needs to be done.
The Council must intensify efforts to assist States in their responsibility to address the gap between the norms embodied in the core human rights instruments and the reality faced by individuals.
Specifically, we urge Member States of the Council, past and present, to reinvigorate their efforts to deliver on the pledges they made on their election to the Council.
This year, the Council also addressed some important thematic issues.
In this regard New Zealand was pleased to have co-led initiatives on disabilities and maternal mortality.
However, other important thematic issues have not received the attention they deserve, and others that have been taken up by the Council did not always add value to its work or promote human rights.
New Zealand considers that being able to address critical country situations in a timely and effective manner is fundamental for the fulfillment of the Council’s mandate, and vital for its credibility.
Pleasingly, there have been a number of instances where this has taken place in the past year.
However, we regret that there have been other situations where this has not happened.
We are also concerned that the Council can sometimes be selectively willing to condemn what it regards as human rights abuses in some places, while conveniently ignoring others that might be uncomfortably “closer to home”.
Greater consistency in this regard would do much for the Council’s wider credibility.
While it is still “early days”, the forthcoming 2011 review of the Council could also provide an opportunity for assessment and improvement of its working methods, taking into account the need for the proper implementation of existing structures.
In that regard, we again urge the Council to move towards a clearer and predictable annual programme of work; and also believe that more can be done to increase the effectiveness of meeting time, especially for working groups.
This United Nations was established in 1945, in part, in response to the human rights abuses of the preceding years.
New Zealand put its hand to that original establishment; has maintained its support for global respect of human rights; and remains firmly committed to those ideals, both domestically and internationally.
But, for all that, we are under no illusions as to the nature and extent of the task still at hand – a task that, in UN terms, belongs with the Human Rights Council.
We wish the Council well for the challenges ahead.
They are many, and they are real; but they must be taken up and addressed; which is why we worked for and supported the Council’s establishment - and why, despite any shortcomings, we continue to support it today.