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Proposed Human Rights Council is vital: Annan

Proposed Human Rights Council is ‘issue of great importance to all’: Annan

Warning that the proposed Human Rights Council could “unravel” if Member States made the wrong moves in the ongoing negotiations over the body, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that the Council was of utmost importance to all nations and the stakes in the ongoing debate were “very high.”

Mr. Annan told reporters that he was “chagrined” by reports that Washington opposed the proposed text to set up the Council, aimed at replacing the much-criticized Human Rights Commission, but said that this was not an issue about isolating the United States from the rest of the world and he repeated his call for an agreement as soon as possible.

“If we are not careful and we make the wrong moves that unravel the Council, then we are in a situation where we have a Commission that we all claim is discredited, and the Council that should replace it is being unravelled,” he said.

“So I would urge the Member States to think about this as they move forward with their decision. The bad must always give in to the good, but the better must not be the enemy of the good. That is the advice I would want them to bear in mind as they attempt to settle this issue.”

Mr. Annan went on to praise the human rights record of the United States and said he would be in further contact with U.S. officials over the issue of the Council, including meeting with Ambassador John Bolton later today.

“The U.S. has had a very good record on human rights. It played a very important role in the establishment of the UN human rights machinery. And without the U.S., we probably would not have the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said.

“So it does have a leadership and a moral position in this area, and I hope, as they move forward, it will find some way of associating itself with the other Member States. I don’t think we should see it as isolating the U.S., or the U.S. versus the others. We are in this together. This is an issue of great importance to all of us.”

Today’s comments were Mr. Annan’s latest call to Member States to reach agreement on the Council, the blueprint for which was unveiled by UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson last week.

The European Union is now formally backing the proposed Council, a spokeswoman for Mr. Eliasson said today, adding that the Assembly President had warmly welcomed the decision that was made last night.

Yesterday, Mr. Eliasson also called for speedy agreement on setting up the body, urging states to move away from national concerns to forge global solutions.

“I would hope that we will all be able to move in this direction, and find that in a situation like this, the national positions have to be put in second place, and we now have to look for international solutions,” Mr. Eliasson said, adding that “on human rights, we need to be united in this world.”

“I have always said that I want to proceed as soon as possible. I have said earlier that the beginning of the work of the Human Rights Commission is a crucial date – the 13th of March…And as President of the General Assembly, I would also hope that we would move to action and have a consensus decision on this very crucial matter.”

Mr. Eliasson said that the blueprint for the Council “constitutes the best basis for the continued work of human rights, which has to be maintained in the United Nations.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has also called for the Council to be approved, warning that failure by the General Assembly to do this could immeasurably damage the cause of human rights, and saying that there was no reason to believe that further negotiations would produce a better mechanism.

As envisioned in the blueprint, the Council will have a higher status and greater accountability than the Commission that meets yearly in Geneva.

Mr. Eliasson has also said that another major improvement of the proposed Council is the requirement that its members, elected individually by the Assembly, would be judged on their human rights records with the proviso that they can be suspended if they themselves commit gross and systematic violations.

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