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UN Human Rights Council

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the UN Human Rights Council. (204332)

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is now fully up and running after an institution building phase begun in 2006. Achieving UK human rights priorities remains difficult with the majority of members wishing to prevent the body effectively tackling country specific problems. However, the HRC has, largely through UK/EU action, taken some encouraging steps, including special sessions on Burma and Darfur and discussions of a wide range of country specific situations during open session. These sessions are webcast and open to non-governmental organisations and interest groups.

The introduction of the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review marks the first time that every UN member’s human rights record will be systematically examined. The UK was one of the first countries to be examined in April. We used this opportunity to provide a model for engagement that we encourage others to follow, including by addressing the challenges we face.

The UK remains committed to seeing complementary action on human rights in other parts of the UN, in particular through the General Assembly’s Third Committee. We will continue to resist those who argue that human rights are only a matter for the HRC in Geneva. They must be promoted in all parts of the UN.

We continue to see the HRC as a body that can deliver valuable results in human rights on the ground. It will take time and effort to realise this aim. The UK is ready to engage fully to see the Council increasingly fulfil its potential.