Speech at the workshop on the Human Rights Council

05 Sep 2012

Speaker: Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator
Date:       5 September 2012
Event:      MOFA – UNDP workshop on the Human Rights Council
Venue:     Intercontinental Hotel, Hanoi

H.E. Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc, Assistant Foreign Minister;
Honorable Mr. Hoang Chi Trung, Director General, Department of International Organisations;
Representatives of resident missions in Viet Nam;
Ladies and gentlemen;

I am honored to have been invited to make the opening remarks at this workshop on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Today’s event is important as it demonstrates Viet Nam’s desire to further engage with and become part of the global human rights and governance agenda.

In 2011 the Government of Viet Nam announced its decision to contest for a seat in the HRC. This is the first time that Viet Nam would be a member in the Human Rights Council since its establishment in 2006. With elections set for autumn 2012, Viet Nam is aspiring to becoming a member for the period 2014-2016.

As enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights are universal and represent global values, the international institutions and mechanisms surrounding the human rights agenda however are constantly evolving.

When the former Commission for Human Rights was abolished and replaced with the Council in 2006, it was a decisive moment, not only for human rights, but for the standing of the United Nations as a whole. The establishment of the Human Rights Council marked a new beginning for the promotion and protection of human rights.

As the leading international institution concerned with human rights protection around the world, the HRC’s focus is to help member states meet their human rights obligations through dialogue, capacity building and technical assistance. The strength of the HRC is that it is a forum where countries come together to address human rights issues from different perspectives. In some cases, special sessions related to urgent human rights issues can be called by the members and Commissions of Inquiry can be established to look into alleged human rights violations in a country.

The international community agrees that no country should escape international scrutiny of their human rights obligations. Membership of the HRC implies that these countries will submit voluntary pledges and commitments with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights. Ultimately, the General Assembly can suspend the membership of any country that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights. The membership of the HRC comes with great responsibility and the members elected to the Council agree to three key points:

  • To uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights;
  • To fully cooperate with the Council;
  • And to be reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism during their term of membership.

With its decision to become a member of the Human Rights Council, Viet Nam has demonstrated its desire to be part of shaping the global human rights agenda, its institutional set-up and processes and at the same time to contribute towards securing human rights and ensuring a world of peace, prosperity and equality for all. The UN welcomes these efforts. 

The workshop today is part of a MOFA project supported by UNDP to promote “Capacity Building for the Implementation of International Human Rights Treaties in Viet Nam”. The aim of the workshop is to familiarize Vietnamese officials with the history and working of the Human Rights Council and to learn from the practical experiences of current and former members of the Human Rights Council, including Thailand and Germany. This is the fourth workshop on human rights organized this year in the framework of the MOFA and UNDP human rights project. Earlier workshops have looked at regional and national human rights mechanisms, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and most recently, a workshop to discuss UPR follow-up actions.

I am delighted that representatives from Thailand and Germany were able to join us. We look forward to hearing their experiences. Let me also thank my colleague Mr. Eric Tistounet from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva who is here with us today to provide OHCHR’s perspective on the Council. Finally, let me also thank the MOFA-UNDP team for their work in organizing the workshop.

I look forward to our dialogue today and to the UN’s continued engagement with Viet Nam on human rights. 

I wish you all good health and happiness, and a very successful workshop. Thank you.