Mr President, Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen
At the outset, let me extend my sincere gratitude to the members of the Human Rights Council for entrusting me with this important position of serving you as the next President of the Human Rights Council. Likewise, I wish to express my appreciation to the members of the Eastern European Group for endorsing my candidacy for the Presidency. It is a great honour and privilege for me, and for my country Slovenia, to be entrusted with this important responsibility of presiding over the Council throughout the year ahead of us. No doubt, many challenges lie ahead, yet many opportunities as well. Let me assure you that I will devote my full attention and dedication to the task at hand.
I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the current President, Ambassador Joaquín Maza Martelli, and the Bureau for their work and efforts throughout this year, which paved the way for our future endeavours. Under your leadership we have already started the essential discussions on how to better manage our workload and thus better serve human rights victims around the globe. It is now time to deliver concrete results.
Human rights, together with democracy and rule of law, are among the core values of Slovenian society. Nationally, human rights enjoy constitutional protection and they are one of the key priorities of Slovenia’s foreign policies. With the upcoming Presidency we are reaffirming our full commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and to the work of the Human Rights Council.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Next year we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which set out the universal protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for the first time. Looking back at this historic accomplishment presents us with an opportunity to assess our past work and address the challenges that lie ahead of us. Throughout our journey over these seven decades we have reached landmark achievements in realizing human rights, yet along this journey, like many others, we have experienced our share of setbacks. The lessons learned over this time will hopefully continue to guide us in our future efforts and strengthen our resolve to deliver on our promises of “never again”.
With the adoption of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration a few years later, human rights became firmly entrenched in the UN architecture. Since then we have established the International Bill of Human Rights, which together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set out the system of international human rights law. Next year, we will also mark 25 years since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which led to the creation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office in December the same year.
In the past 11 years of its existence the Council was able to write many success stories that we should embrace. Its robust mandate and unique set of mechanisms, such as Universal Periodic Review, Special Procedures and others, provide us with a system that allows us to work in the field of prevention, technical assistance and capacity building as well as to respond to the cases of grave violations of human rights. However, we should not shy away from the realization that the Council also has its shortcomings, which need to be addressed and improved.
It is true that despite its overall positive track record, the Council needs to, and can do, better. As people and victims of human rights violations and abuses, as well as others suffering from poverty, conflict, oppression, crisis and terror, continue to count on us to ensure protection of their inherent human rights and safeguard their freedom to live in dignity and free from fear, I firmly believe that we will rise to the occasion in demonstrating that this august body can and will deliver on its mandate even more effectively.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Against this background, and looking ahead of my duties as the upcoming President of this Council, let me take this opportunity to outline some of the issues I believe will be guiding my Presidency. In preparation for the task at hand, I have already engaged in many consultations, which I intend to continue throughout next year. It seems that there is a common desire among us for a more positive atmosphere and enhanced efficiency in the work of the Council. There seems to be an appetite for more dialogue to discuss issues such as promotion of technical assistance and capacity building, strengthening prevention of human rights violations and share good practices as well as to address the shortcomings and weaknesses.
In the last few months we have made important steps towards reaching an understanding that we do need to make further improvements to make the Council more efficient and effective. There have already been many initiatives and discussions on this issue, which provide important contribution for our future work here in Geneva. However, it is time we start directing the process towards more concrete results and I stand ready to provide my leadership and guidance in this.
We need to continue reflecting on how we can rationalize our work in order to utilize more efficiently our limited time and resources. We have come to a point where our very active engagement in the Council is starting to hinder the efficiency and effectiveness of our work. We therefore must continue our discussions on the rationalization of our activities in view of making the Council’s programme of work more manageable, transparent, long-term and results-oriented.
To enhance the Council’s impact on the ground, we also need to look into strengthening our outreach to and cooperation with regional organizations. I believe we need to build on regional partnerships to enhance our effectiveness in promoting protection of human rights in regional context. To make a difference where it really counts we need to embrace all relevant expertise and cooperation as well as build trust in and visibility of our work.
Human Rights Council is at the heart of the UN human rights system and to strengthen the third pillar we need to continue our work on strengthening cooperation between Geneva and New York.
We should also not forget about the Council’s unique feature enabling various stakeholders, in particular members of civil society, to participate in promoting universal human rights protection. We need to continue our efforts in guaranteeing that the Council remains a safe and inclusive environment for a constructive dialogue where representatives of the civil society can freely express their views on the situations of human rights around the world. The contribution of civil society actors does not only enrich our work in the Council but it also guides us in the right direction and thus safeguards us from failure.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
A challenging yet interesting year lies ahead. I believe there is enough energy, creativity, cooperation and understanding in this room that we can look forward to a productive and successful year. I firmly believe that by putting a more effective promotion and protection of human rights in the forefront of our efforts the assessment of the Council’s work in the end will only be a positive one. On this point, I would like to announce that Slovenia will next October host a retreat in our capital Ljubljana where we will be able to take stock of our achievements and identify our future challenges.
Once again, I would like to express my deep appreciation for your vote of confidence. In fulfilling my duties I intend to follow the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, objectivity and impartiality. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein and the Director General of UNOG, Mr Michael Møller and their Offices for the continued support to the work of the Human Rights Council and to its Bureau. I look forward to working with all of you when leading this Council through its 12th Cycle next year.
Thank you for your attention!