Joint Statement on Independence of the OHCHR Cosigned by the United States

HRC 28 Cross-regional general comment at the end of the session on protecting the independence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office

Statement Delivered by the Delegation of Tunisia

Friday 27 March 2015

Mr President,

I present this comment on behalf of 52 States to express strong support for the independence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his office, an issue that has been touched upon in our discussions in this session.

The UN, through its Member States, has consistently maintained that independence is essential to the High Commissioner’s ability to fulfill the responsibilities assigned to him or her by the General Assembly 22 years ago, following up on a longstanding initiative from within Grulac States.

We would like to reiterate our support to the High Commissioner and his Office. The independence of the thought and action of the High Commissioner and his office is crucial for the advancement of the human rights agenda. The independence is complementary to the Human Rights Council and it is of utmost importance to keep the two in separate roles, in the interest of the promotion and protection of human rights. While one of the responsibilities of the Office is to function as a secretariat of the HRC, it operates under the administrative direction and authority of the UN Secretary-General and the General Assembly.

Without a high degree of independence, the High Commissioner cannot perform his duties as an impartial, objective, non-selective and effective mandate holder, charged with playing an active role in promoting human rights in every country around the globe. The UN has universally recognized this functional independence of the High Commissioner and his office on several occasions, for example by the General Assembly’s track record of refusing to legislate any additional form of oversight over the OHCHR, be it by the Human Right Council or any other body.

Mr President,

The report of the Joint Inspection Unit raises issues of governance and oversight with respect to the High Commissioner of Human Rights and his office. We are against in particular recommendation number one regarding a governance and oversight review, which could undermine this independence.

In this connection we take note of the various and differing views contained in the report. We also take note with appreciation of the response of the Secretary General of the United Nations to the JIU report and specifically on the issue of governance and oversight.

The High Commissioner has become an authoritative voice on human rights. The High Commissioner and his office are also a trusted advisor for States to address protection and capacity gaps in the field. These achievements must be protected against any form of micro-management or undue political influence.

The States supporting this statement are determined to further protect the independence of the High Commissioner and his office in all circumstances, and to promote a respectful and collaborative relationship with his office.

 The following states have cosponsored the statement (52)

Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suisse, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

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