Interactive Dialogue with the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee

Interactive Dialogue with the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
As Delivered by Kim D’Auria Vazira

Thank you Mister President.  The United States welcomes this opportunity to address the role of the Advisory Committee.

We recognize that the Advisory Committee has offered constructive advice at times, and many of its members work in good faith.  However, we continue to have concerns that the Committee has often exceeded its purview and has become involved in expensive, duplicative efforts.  We recall that the Institution-Building Package states that the Advisory Committee should focus “mainly on studies and research-based advice” and that its suggestions should be “for further enhancing its [that is, the Advisory Committee’s] procedural efficiency” or for “further research . . . within the scope of the work set out by the Council.”

Accordingly, the Advisory Committee should focus on using the research it conducts to provide practical, pragmatic advice to the Council.  The Committee should not elaborate theoretical concepts designed to expand international law or recommend the establishment of new mechanisms or mandates.  We also believe it is inappropriate for the Advisory Committee to propose ideas – whatever the topic – for its future work because it is the Council’s role to design the Committee’s assignments to respond to needs the Council has identified.  In that regard, we underscore our concerns about the Committee’s suggestions that it consider issues including citizen security and human rights and a new world court.

The Council also bears responsibility for improving the work of the Advisory Committee and must do so.  The Council should not pass a resolution that requests the Committee to exceed its mandate by, for example, elaborating a Declaration.  We therefore endorse the call in the 2011 HRC Review for the Council to “clarify specific mandates given to the Advisory Committee, including indicating thematic priorities, and provide specific guidelines for the Advisory Committee.”

To that end, we believe the Council should be guided by the following principles when it designs future mandates and priorities for the Advisory Committee:

First, the Advisory Committee’s work should not duplicate work underway in other fora.

Second, the Committee should not be assigned to conduct research or provide advice on issues beyond the HRC’s mandate.

Third, the Council should design assignments for the Committee that take advantage of the Committee’s technical expertise.  The Council should not outsource initiatives and decision-making to the Committee or rely on the Committee to carry out the broader debates that occur within the Council.  The Council should not ask the Committee to elaborate theoretical concepts or to attempt to expand existing international law.

Finally, we would like to underscore the critical importance of membership to the Committee’s success.  As a subsidiary body of this Council, the Advisory Committee’s membership and its products reflect the credibility of this Council, and the members of this Council bear an important responsibility to ensure high caliber membership for the Committee.  States must respect the Council’s eligibility rules for membership.  They must propose candidates that do not hold decision-making positions in any government, organization or other entity that could give rise to a conflict of interest.  Finally, individuals nominated for membership must be human rights experts whose publications and public statements display an unyielding commitment to upholding universal human rights.

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