Request for Support of Proposal to Establish Human Rights Council at the United Nations
To: Mr. Nobutaka Machimura, Minister of Foreign Affairs
- There is a proposal currently under consideration to establish a new standing Human Rights Council as a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly or as a principal organ of the United Nations. This Council would replace the current Commission on Human Rights that is a subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and its membership would comprise representatives of UN members elected with a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. This proposal was made in the report on United Nations reforms (A/59/2005) issued by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in March of this year as part of the preparations for the Millennium + 5 Summit that is scheduled to be held in September. It was also included in the first draft outcome document of the Millennium + 5 Summit prepared by the UN Secretary General and issued in June of this year (A/59/HLPM/CRP.1).
- The Japan Federation of Bar Associations supports the proposal to establish a Human Rights Council. We believe that doing so will be a significant step forward in embodying the spirit of the United Nations Charter, which positions human rights as one of the organization's purposes, on par with security and development issues. Establishment of the Council will provide a clear statement of the importance of human rights within United Nations activities.
It is important, however, that the Human Rights Council, when it is established, be comprised of UN members that are suited to its role as the central UN organ in human rights activities. It will also be essential to strengthen the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of any effort to strengthen UN human rights mechanisms. Furthermore, it will be necessary to ensure that the Human Rights Council maintains the same opportunities for NGO participation as have been established by the current system vis-a-vis the Economic and Social Council.
- For these reasons, we request that the government of Japan actively support the adoption of the proposal to establish a Human Rights Council at the Millennium + 5 Summit, which will be an historical opportunity to reach a decision on reform of the United Nations at the 60th anniversary of its founding. We also request that the government of Japan take action so as to achieve the following objectives in the establishment of the Human Rights Council:
- Ensure that the members of the Human Rights Council are selected from among the Member States qualified to deal with human rights issues as determined by such elements as not being subject to the deliberations under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by the Security Council and having signed or expressed the intent to sign major international human rights conventions;
- In conjunction with the establishment of the Human Rights Council, set concrete, numerical targets for reinforcement of the financial and human resources of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that will serve as its secretariat, for example, a doubling of the Office's allocations from the United Nations regular budget by 2010;
- Achieve an explicit statement that the consultation arrangements between NGOs and the Economic and Social Council under Article 71 of the United Nations Charter will also be applied to the Human Rights Council when it is established as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly or as a principle organ of the United Nations.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
July 20, 2005