New Zealand thanks the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Dupuy Lasserre of Uruguay for presenting the Council’s 6th annual report; and also thanks her predecessor, Ambassador Phuangketkeow of Thailand, for his excellent work.
New Zealand remains a committed supporter of the Human Rights Council as the principal human rights body of the United Nations.
This year has seen no shortage of serious human rights challenges, including in the context of the Arab Spring. Since the special session on Libya in February, the Council has exhibited an increased willingness to act decisively when faced with serious human rights violations. Its actions on Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Syria; the debates on other situations; and the appointment of a new Special Rapporteur on Iran, all exemplify this positive progress.
The Council will be judged by its willingness to engage on human rights violations; and this year has seen it fulfilling its mandate in a constructive and cross-regional manner.
That ability to work cross-regionally has been evident in many of the Council’s thematic initiatives. In the Council’s March session, New Zealand and Mexico again presented a resolution on the rights of persons with disabilities - a resolution that built on work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and looked at how States might best fulfill their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with regard to international cooperation and assistance.
And, in the September session, we worked again with Colombia and Burkina Faso to present a resolution inviting OHCHR to convene an expert working group to enable a human rights approach to reducing unacceptably high global rates of maternal mortality.
Role of Civil Society and UN Stakeholders
In that cross-regional work on disability and on maternal mortality, and in many other areas of the Council’s work, we have, as always, been impressed by the contribution made by civil society and national human rights institutions. Civil society plays an active role in the Council’s work and, in New Zealand’s view, that assists in achieving better outcomes; and so, we pay tribute to our colleagues in civil society for helping the Council fulfill its mandate.
That mandate also includes promoting effective coordination and mainstreaming human rights within the UN system. Just as civil society has helped our work in the Council, New Zealand believes the involvement of other branches of the UN system has made a positive difference.
Universal Periodic Review
Having just completed the last round of the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), it’s also timely to reflect on that aspect of the Council’s work. New Zealand regards the UPR as a valuable addition to the UN’s human rights machinery.
At the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland, New Zealand, in September 2011, Pacific Leaders acknowledged, as a major regional achievement, the successful participation of all Forum members in that round. Crucial support for that effort was provided by the Forum Secretariat, the Regional Rights Resources Team of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and OHCHR. The resulting networks are now an important regional source of human rights expertise.
We also regard the Council’s special procedures as a vital tool for promoting and protecting human rights. Globally, as many have said, these are the Council’s “eyes and ears”.
Last year (2010) New Zealand welcomed a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya, and appreciated his identification of progress made, as well as problems still to be addressed. The Government is acting on many of his recommendations, and will continue to draw on the Report.
Human Rights Council Review
This time last year, we were in the midst of reviewing the work and functioning of the Council; and New Zealand had hoped that would present opportunities to improve the Council’s effectiveness. While any resulting improvements were modest, we believe the success of the Council lies not just in the rules that govern it, but also the manner in which they are implemented. The Council’s mandate is it to promote and protect human rights; and fulfilling that mandate requires both political will and the courage to act decisively and consistently.
As the President of this General Assembly pointed out in his opening statement, human rights are one of the three pillars on which the UN was founded. As we move into the Council’s 7th year, and into the second cycle of the UPR, New Zealand hopes that this year’s positive progress in pursuing the Council’s mandate will be sustained; and remains ready and willing to support that goal.