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Statement by Mr. Shamsul Bari, Member of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures at the First meeting of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the Review of the Work and Functioning of the Human Rights Council

Mr. President, colleagues and friends,

It is my pleasure to represent the special procedures at your meeting today.  On their behalf I would like to thank the Council for its inclusive and consultative approach to the review process.  I also thank you Mr. President for your efforts in this regard.  We are pleased to be able to contribute some ideas which we hope are specific and constructive and might enhance the work and functioning of the Council.  We are also looking forward for any suggestions that might emerge during this process which can strengthen our work and its impact on realizing the human rights of those on the ground.

I will focus my remarks on particular areas that mandate holders consider should be taken up during the review process. We have outlined some specific ideas in our non-paper which all delegations should have.  In putting forward these ideas we have been guided by the fact that this process is a review, and not a reform.

We consider that the review is a unique opportunity to strengthen the international human rights protection system.  Enhancing the work and functioning of the United Nations system’s main body on human rights will strengthen the system as a whole, and certainly its capacity to promote and protect human rights, and to prevent violations.
The review should enhance the Council’s ability effectively to address human rights issues in all parts of the world.  In its work to address gross and massive violations in the context of prevention and early warning of emerging situations, in responding to long-standing and chronic human rights situations, and in seeking to further the implementation of the universal periodic review, the Council will wish to use the recommendations and conclusions of special procedures on a systematic basis. In 2009 alone, special procedures provided contributions to all special sessions of the Council and at your request addressed other critical issues through joint reports. It also followed up pursuant to Council mandates, including on the food, financial and economic crises.

The special procedures are created by and an integral part of the Human Rights Council and the international human rights system. We appreciate the recognition received for our contribution as independent, proactive, and responsive mechanisms. This has strengthened our commitment to supporting the Council’s capacity to identify and act on human rights concerns.  Further facts and figures are relevant here: in 2009, more than 50 States invited us to visit and recommend measures they could take to implement their international human rights commitments. We submitted more than 130 reports to the Council and the General Assembly, and communicated with Governments through almost 700 individual letters relating to alleged violations of human rights.  Our work is not confined to fact-finding, monitoring and reporting; it extends to contributing to the development of international human rights law and practice. We are also well-placed to make suggestions for technical cooperation and assistance. 

In undertaking all these activities, we are committed to fulfilling the mandates given to us by the Council with independence, integrity, impartiality and professionalism.  Our independence is a key element of our effectiveness and capacity to support the Council. 

We are conscious that our independence confers on us the responsibility to carry out our work with professionalism and impartiality.  All mandate holders take this responsibility seriously and have created a procedure to address any issues relating to the conduct and working methods brought to our attention by any stakeholder. We have also established a Coordination Committee which works to ensure that our working methods are harmonized and predictable.  This Committee also acts as our interlocutor with States and other stakeholders.

Mandate holders have the responsibility of bringing to the Council’s attention any suggestion likely to enhance the capacity of special procedures to fulfill their mandate. In order to enhance cooperation and follow-up, we regularly make suggestions as we consider, as I am sure you do, that sustained constructive engagement of the Council and its mechanisms with States is crucial. We also consider that our work as special procedures is key to the continuous improvement of the human rights situation worldwide. 

We appreciate the regular opportunities we have to engage in dialogue with States, particularly in regard to good practices and examples of cooperation in respect of standing invitations, responses to requests for visits, substantive and timely responses to communications.  We would welcome more opportunities in this context, and have suggested that this review consider how interactive debates might be enhanced, perhaps through extension of time. Having more time to discuss Special Procedures’ reports or having a dedicated dialogue for each mandate holder could contribute to more effective use of this opportunity to exchange and debate. We are also ready to engage more often with the Council throughout the year, for example through oral updates. In addition, we are exploring ways to engage with States more regularly on an informal basis, both as individual mandate holders and as the system as a whole. 

Our work will not have any sustained impact on the human rights situation on the ground without effective follow-up to our recommendations. To achieve this goal, regular and constructive engagement with the Council and with the States concerned is essential. Additional tools such as thematic discussions or stand-alone country or regional dialogues, involving the whole range of international, regional and local stakeholders could contribute to better implementation of recommendations. In addition, efforts could be made to ensure a coherent and coordinated follow-up of recommendations made by all international human rights mechanisms.
I look forward to listening to this week’s discussions.  The Coordination Committee and all mandate holders also look forward to future key events in the review and to submitting ideas and suggestions that you may wish to discuss.

Thank you for your attention.