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Opening Remarks by Adam Abdelmoula Director, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the 117th session of the Human Rights Committee

Geneva, 20 June 2016

Chairperson, Distinguished members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you today to open the 117th session of the Committee. My name is Mr. Adam Abdelmoula, and I am the Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division (CTMD). This Division brings together the Human Rights Council, the Treaty Bodies and the Universal Periodic Review Branches under one umbrella. The goal is to ensure that all these mechanisms are supported more effectively.   As someone who has worked for OHCHR and the broader UN both in Geneva and the field, I am particularly eager to ensure that your recommendations have resonance at the national level, including with the support of UN Country Teams.  I look forward to working with you to this end.

Distinguished members,

This is a momentous time for the twin Covenants as we all celebrate their 50th anniversary. As the High Commissioner stated earlier this year: “Discrimination, state repression, corruption, insecurity and violence generate poverty; and people who are hungry are not free”.   “Civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights work together, amplifying each other. They build up a virtuous spiral that primes the forces of sustainable development and peace.”  The 50th anniversary provides a moment to reflect on the indivisibility and inter-dependence of rights and the challenges ahead for their protection.

You will continue to celebrate the 50th Anniversary during this session. The most notable event will be the joint meeting between you and the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.  This meeting will explore the complementarity of the two Committees and the contemporary relevance of the two Covenants. States and all other stakeholders are invited to take part in this interactive dialogue. I invite you to reflect on how best the two Covenants can be used to strengthen human rights protection in a world with very different challenges from those that existed at the time of their adoption. You may also wish to consider how you see the future of the Covenants and Committees under the ongoing treaty body review process.

Also linked to the 50th anniversary, you will discuss the issue of remedies at a meeting organized by the Geneva Academy for the two Committees this evening.  The meeting is timely as I understand that during your session, you will be considering a paper on remedies within the context of the individual complaints procedure.  In addition, the meeting comes at a time when the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has adopted its first Views under the Optional Protocol.  An exchange on this issue should therefore be very pertinent for members of both Committees and a good way to mark the anniversary.

Other anniversary events this year include the meeting organized during the 71st session of the General Assembly.  The General Assembly is yet to identify the modalities for the meeting.  We will keep you updated as preparations progress.  

Distinguished members,

The indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights has been a constant theme in the treaty body strengthening process. As required by General Assembly resolution 68/268 on the treaty body strengthening process, States made a commitment to reconsider the state of the human rights treaty body system in 2020 and to decide on further action to enhance its functioning. Strengthening the treaty body system should ultimately contribute to the better protection of human rights on the ground, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

As you may recall, in January 2015, Norway and Switzerland convened a meeting of States, independent experts and treaty body members in Wilton Park, where the concept of an independent study to explore options for treaty body reform in the context of the 2020 review emerged. In June 2015, during the 27th Chairpersons’ Meeting in San José, a worldwide academic process to reflect on the future of the treaty body system was called for by Costa Rica.

Following this call, in late 2015, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights invited a group of independent researchers to consider options for the 2020 review.  As a result of this meeting, the Geneva Academy developed the Academic Platform Project on the 2020 Review. 

The project aims to develop innovative proposals and solutions with a view to help shape the 2020 review.  To do so, a large and cross-regional group of independent researchers will meet at a series of regional workshops to plot the way forward.  It is relevant to note that treaty body experts will have the possibility to participate actively in the Project.  I understand that a briefing will be provided to you during this session by the Geneva Academy.

Currently, the first Secretary General’s report under GA resolution 68/268 is being finalised.  It will highlight the progress and challenges of the first year of implementation of the resolution, as well as anticipate requirements for the next biennium (2018-2019).  We look forward to engaging with you closely throughout this process. I am confident that the Division will also contribute to enhancing support to the treaty body system throughout the process leading to the 2020 review, as required by General Assembly resolution 68/268.

Finally, I have the pleasure of announcing that the Handbook for Treaty Body Members is available in English and Spanish with versions in other languages coming out soon. We hope that this will assist States in nominating and electing competent and independent treaty body members. You have all been provided with a copy.  

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished members,

You have a busy session ahead with seven State party reports, over thirty communications and the general comment on the right to life, among many other activities. I look forward to meeting you individually in the coming months and assure you the highest quality support from my colleagues in this new Division and the Office, as required. 

I wish you a most successful session.

Thank you.