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Human Rights Council must work in global interest

New Human Rights Council must work in ‘global interest’ – UN rights chief

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today called on the members of the new Human Rights Council, who were elected in a landmark vote yesterday, to work in the “global interest” and to act quickly ahead of the first meeting, set to start in Geneva next month.

“The signs from the election of the 47 members of the Council yesterday are very encouraging for the future of this new body,” the High Commissioner said. “The polls were not ‘business as usual;’ there were genuinely contested candidacies and all those elected made specific pledges and commitments expressing their concrete engagement to promote and protect human rights.”

“There is good reason to believe we are putting aside some of the difficulties we saw with the Commission on Human Rights,” she continued in a statement released in Geneva.

Ms. Arbour urged members to continue to work in the spirit shown in the election process and to be inclusive, cooperative and transparent, highlighting that a lot now needed to be done before next month’s meeting.

“Much remains to be settled in terms of organization in the five weeks remaining before the Council meets”, she said. “For the Council to make the most of its first meeting, members must meet and agree promptly on some basic governance and programmatic arrangements.”

“The Council belongs to the international community, including civil society. I call on the current membership to work in the global interest in building a strong, effective human rights body.”

In yesterday’s voting, all regions – Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Europe and Other States – obtained or exceeded the required 96-vote majority needed to fill their allocated number of members, except the Eastern European States, where only the Russian Federation, Poland and the Czech Republic won seats on the first ballot, while Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Romania were elected in a second round.

After the vote, Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the election as an opportunity for a fresh start as the new body replaces the much criticized and now defunct Human Rights Commission.

With all countries taking part in the voting, Mr. Annan said that the high rate of participation reflected “a widely shared commitment to replace the previous Commission on Human Rights with a body that can work more effectively, and can embody human rights ideals with more credibility; and that the Council elected today offers the United Nations a unique opportunity to make a fresh start in its vital work of upholding the highest standards of human rights.”

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