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Human Rights Council holds organizational meeting to discuss modalities of work

June 2007

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Human Rights Council holds organizational meeting to discuss modalities of work

Human Rights Council

22 June 2007

Hears from Chairperson of Meeting of Special Procedures, Announces Preparatory Committee for Durban Review Conference to be Postponed

The Human Rights Council today held an organizational meeting during which it discussed its modalities of work, heard from the Chairperson of the meeting of Special Procedures and announced the postponement of the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference.

The President of the Council, Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea of Romania, outlined the programme of work for the Council in the months to come, including modalities and technicalities concerning the Universal Periodic Review, issues relating to the setting up of the Advisory Committee and the work of the Working Groups of the former Sub-Commission, criteria for selection of Mandate Holders, and issues relating to the Complaints Procedure. He said four rapporteurs would be designated with a view to coming up with concrete proposals for the September session of the Council, which would be held from 10 to 28 September.

The September session would mainly focus on follow-up to the institution–building process, and considering the proposals of the Special Rapporteurs who were not in a position to report during the last few sessions, as well as reports requested from previous sessions for the September session.

Mr. Costea said attention during the September session would also be given to follow-up to Council decisions. Henceforth, the Council would meet every year in ordinary sessions for at least 10 weeks per year, hold six weeks of Universal Periodic Review meetings in the format of a Working Group, hold several organisational meetings before each plenary, and devote a significant amount of time to the preparations for the Durban Review Conference. An annual calendar would be agreed in September, so all delegations could plan their work.

Delegates, commenting, said small delegations found the meeting schedule gruelling. The number of weeks of meetings during this past year had been an enormous drain on the Secretariat, and a great strain on delegations. It was recommended that a programme of work and calendar of meetings had to be finalised before the September session to improve predictability. Concern was also expressed about the Universal Periodic Review Working Group sessions and how they would affect the calendar of work of the Council. The President acknowledged concerns over workload and pressure, but said there were not many options. The programme involved a lot of work and preparation for key decisions.

Gay McDougall, Chairperson of the Annual Meeting of Special Procedures Mandate Holders and of their Coordination Committee, and Independent Expert on Minority Issues, said the agreement of 18 June on the institution building process and the flexibility shown in reaching the outcome were welcomed. Mandate holders looked forward to focusing on effective implementation of the framework.

The institution building text contained several substantial elements, notably the Universal Periodic Review, and mandate holders looked forward to developing this and exploring synergies with the Advisory Committee, discussing respective mandates with the Council and working on the broader framework of Special Procedures with a view to improving and refining it. There had been significant efforts on the work of the Coordinating Committee, and the Council’s agreement on the institution building text showed the Council’s willingness to support the system of Special Procedures. Mandate holders were committed to working with the Council to ensure a human rights system that was responsive to the world’s needs.

Alejandro Artucio, Vice President of the Council and Rapporteur of the organizational session (19 to 22 June), said the draft report contained a factual description of the work, including the follow-up to the agreement on the institution-building "package", and the action on the draft proposals pending from Monday 18 June, the last day of the fifth session of the Council. Due to the obvious time constraints, the Council could not proceed with the aforementioned at its fifth session, and decided to do so during this organisational meeting.

Mr. Costea reported significant progress on several issues concerning the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference, in particular regarding the composition of the Bureau. There had been agreement on a Chairperson-designate, Ambassador Najat Al Hajjaji, former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and Permanent Representative of Libya. She was leading the discussions and progress would be achieved soon on an agenda and timetable. However, the limited time available meant that the Preparatory Committee meeting, which had been scheduled for 25 to 29 June, would be postponed to a later stage.

Speaking this morning were the Representatives of Pakistan, China, South Africa, Portugal, India, Slovenia, Brazil, Germany, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Australia, Italy, Uruguay, Netherlands, Algeria and Japan.

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