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Item 2 General Debate – Update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
September 15, 2009

Statement delivered by Douglas M. Griffiths
Deputy Permanent Representative, Chargé, ad interim
U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva

Human Rights Council 12th Session

Geneva, September 15, 2009

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Madame High Commissioner, for your extremely engaging remarks.

It is the commitment of the Obama administration to human rights that brings the United States to this Council as a member, and that same commitment drives our desire to make new friendships, pursue new endeavors, and forge new paths to ensure that we meet each threat to human rights with a renewed strength and a collective effort.

Madame High Commissioner, the United States welcomes your focus on the issue of discrimination. We agree that discrimination of any form contributes to unrest in societies. The United States is painfully aware of how difficult the battle against racism and stigmatization can be. We hope that the High Commissioner’s planned initiatives on race will focus on best practices and on the need for States to keep accurate statistics so that States can measure where progress has been made and where there is still a need to make progress.

We support the High Commissioner’s charge to Member States that we keep the focus of this Human Rights Council on pressing human rights issues and specific situations, and in that vein we thank the High Commissioner for highlighting specific situations around the world. We ask High Commissioner Pillay her advice on how States that wish to promote and protect human rights, might best engage to encourage concrete changes on the ground.

During this session, we will consider a number of important and relevant resolutions and while it is easy to get caught up in the discourse over language and documentation, let us not lose sight of our true goals. Let us ensure that at the end of the day it is the message of human rights – and the realization of human rights for all people, regardless of position, gender, race, ethnicity – that is most prominent, let us leave this session with a more strengthened human rights mechanism than when we came.

The United States is grateful to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As we navigate through the sometimes difficult waters, the office serves as a beacon, shedding light on human rights situations and illuminating challenges ahead. The practical fieldwork done by the High Commissioner and her dedicated staff ensures that important issues like emerging forms of slavery and the exploitation of children receive the attention of the international community. The Human Rights Council continues to need the leadership of an independent High Commissioner’s Office and the United States is committed to working with this Office. We strongly encourage all states to support the independence of the OHCHR and all human rights mechanisms and to view them as resources in the fight to ensure the full realization of human rights around the world.

High Commissioner Pillay has stated there can be no lasting peace without respect for human rights and without accountability for human rights violations. This message is an important one to keep in mind as we continue to ensure the realization of human rights and the pursuit of peace.

Today, we have a great opportunity. We have the opportunity to remake a world where all human rights for all people are respected, but we will need to do it together. The United States is pleased to have the opportunity to work together, in this Council and with the Office of the High Commissioner.

Thank you, Mr. President.