U.S. Statement on the 10th Anniversary of the Human Rights Council

Human Rights CouncilAgenda Item 2, High Level Panel on the 10th Anniversary of the Human Rights Council

Ambassador Keith Harper
As Prepared for Delivery

(Note that the statement could not be read in the Council due to time limitations)

32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Geneva,
June 13, 2016

On this anniversary, we celebrate the Council’s achievements and acknowledge areas for improvement.  The Council has accomplished a great deal since its founding, especially in more recent years.   It has addressed situations where there are significant human rights violations and abuses. The Council has advanced critically important thematic issues that pose global challenges.  We believe this is the primary purpose of the Council, and we should continue in this direction.

We applaud the thematic and country special procedure mandate holders.  Such mandates are among the most effective tools of the Council.  The mechanisms on Syria, Eritrea, and North Korea and Iran have made enormous contributions.  The Council has also provided increased technical assistance with countries that have demonstrated political will to improve their human rights protections.

The Universal Period Review process has been an extraordinary innovation.  It has offered all of us the opportunity to make recommendations, provided a platform for greater engagement with civil society, elevated human rights within the UN, and led to concrete reforms on the ground in countries that take the process seriously.

But there is a need for improvements, too.  Building on the work of the past decade, the Council must work harder at enhancing the profile and impact of its atrocity prevention work.  We are heartened by this body’s increasing focus on addressing human rights through the lens of prevention.

As we have said many times before, we also believe that the existence of a stand-alone agenda item on the State of Israel – the only country to have such an item – reflects a bias in the Council’s work that undermines its credibility.  The item should be removed.  We also must do a better job of ensuring that countries elected to the Council meet the qualifications for membership as established by the General Assembly, especially their human rights records.

And all of us can do better.  Advancing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is critical for stability, peace and prosperity.