European & International News

Human Rights Council elects first woman President

[International Service for Human Rights, Geneva, 30 June 2011] On the morning of 20 June 2011, the Human Rights Council (the Council) held its Organisational Session for the upcoming cycle. Ms Laura Dupuy Lasserre, the Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva was elected as the new President, the Council’s first-ever female President.

Prior to Ms Lasserre’s introduction, Ms Navanetham Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointed to the Council’s adoption of 29 resolutions during the 17th session as clear evidence of progress the body is making in tackling comprehensive human rights issues. Ms Pillay focused much of her address on the increasing financial costs that her office is incurring in trying to implement the Council’s decisions. She went as far as saying that OHCHR is stretched to the point where fulfilling all of its obligations is becoming increasingly impossible due to the additional responsibilities it is being asked to carry out. Ms Pillay urged state representatives in Geneva to work collaboratively with their representatives in New York, to ensure that substantive decisions of the Council in Geneva are properly backed with the commitments of financial resources in New York.

Outgoing President Mr Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand then thanked the Council for its support and cooperation. Mr Phuangketkeow mentioned that he noticed stronger engagement of the Council with human rights issues during his tenure as President and that he was pleased with the increase in consensus and cross-regional agreements. He called on the Council to respect cultural diversity and hoped for more Council focus on substantive issues rather than on procedural ones.

In her introductory speech, Ms Lasserre commented on her personal experiences of dealing with the injustices of dictatorships and promised to work in concert with the Council to help combat social injustice globally. After her opening remarks, Ms Lasserre introduced her new bureau where Ms Gulnara Iskakova of Kyrgyzstan was selected as one of the four new Vice-Presidents and the new Rapporteur. The new bureau is completed by Mr Christian Strohal of Austria, Mr Anatole Fabien Marie Nkou of Cameroon and Mr Andras Dekany of Hungary. After a bureau with only one EU-member (Slovakia) in 2010-2011, the new bureau contains representatives of two EU-member States.

Several procedural matters were addressed, including the announcement that as an outcome of the Human Rights Council review process, Council cycles will now begin with the start of each calendar year starting in 2013. Therefore, the President and Bureau elected now will server for 18 months, and the members of the Council elected in June 2012-2014 will be extended exceptionally until the end of the calendar years. In the afternoon, the Council selected the troikas for the 12th session of the universal periodic review (UPR).

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