Report of the Human Rights Council
02 November 2023
Remarks by Mr. Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the UNGA
Let me welcome and commend Ambassador Václav Bálek for his unswerving leadership as President of the Human Rights Council during this precarious time.
A time when climate change, poverty and food insecurity continue to wrench our societies.
When a staggering 108.4 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict and violence.
And when – while we were already tested enough by the wars in Ukraine, Africa, and the worrying situation in Haiti – the gravest escalation of violence in the Middle East in decades continues to play out before our eyes, and this time in a much more dramatic and visceral fashion.
Against this backdrop, the Council’s role in promoting and protecting human rights and addressing violations – wherever and whenever they occur – has never been more critical, and more consequential.
The presentation of the Council’s annual report this morning offers a prime opportunity to reflect on how to strengthen coordination and coherence in the work of the General Assembly and the Council.
The question is: How do we leverage the comparative advantages of these two bodies to maximize our collective influence and impact?
The Human Rights Council has proven its relevance, time and again, by:
- reviewing the situations of human rights in all Member States,
- addressing violations in a timely and substantive manner,
- bringing a plurality of voices into the deliberations, and
- reinforcing the universality of human rights.
The increasing workload of the Council is a clear testament to its importance.
It is also a sign of its innovation.
The Council’s focus on capacity-building and regional cooperation in the field of human rights has been crucial to effecting change on the ground.
In this context, I welcome its recent resolution on the establishment of a regional office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Caribbean Community.
This year we are preparing to mark the anniversary of the historic adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 75 years ago.
This landmark document provides the very foundation of international human rights law.
As we look forward to this significant occasion, let us recall that the 30 articles of the Declaration transcend borders and cultures – offering us the most powerful tools we have for preventing conflict, sustaining peace, and advancing development that respects and protects women, children, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and people of African descent as well as other vulnerable groups in our communities.
Likewise, the freedom to engage with the UN, in itself, is a basic exercise of human rights. It must be respected and protected.
I therefore condemn any acts of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating, or seeking to cooperate, with the organization in defense of these fundamental freedoms.
Now more than ever, there is a vital need to prevent human rights violations.
Let us recommit to the goals of the Declaration.
Let us act now to end conflict, to respect the UN Charter, and to abide by international law.
Let us infuse today’s debate with the critical thinking we need to close the gaps between our aspirations and our reality.
I thank you.
Video Link: https://youtu.be/D8aaKkjvYmw