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Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner

Human Rights Council 34th Session (27 February-24 March 2017)

Item 2 – Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner

Statement of Ireland

9 March 2017

Ireland aligns with the statement of the European Union and adds the following.

High Commissioner

Mr President,

Ireland thanks the High Commissioner for his report and presentation to the Council. We will make some broad remarks today and respond to the thematic and country-specific reports of the Office in other debates throughout the session.

High Commissioner

In your statement to the Council yesterday, you said that:

“The work in the Council on this stage or through the UN can only be meaningful if it reflects accurately the space beyond it and then changes those conditions for the better”.

We strongly agree with this call to action, to ensure that our collective work and the outputs of this Council have an impact on the ground. For our part, we again re-commit our efforts to these goals in partnership with you and your Office.

We deeply value the thorough and professional work carried out by your Office here and in the field. We repeat our regular call on all States to consider joining us in providing practical support to the independence and effectiveness of OHCHR and UN human rights activities by making unearmarked contributions to the Office.

But for our work to have meaning and impact beyond the confines of this chamber, the Council must ensure that it is open to input from outside Geneva. A critical part of this is the active and unimpeded participation of civil society actors, and in particular human rights defenders, with and in the Council.

The enrichment of our work in this way has been one of the distinctive features and success stories of the Council since its creation 10 years ago. However we cannot afford complacency. Year after year, the report of the Secretary General on Cooperation with the United Nations, its Mechanisms and Representatives in the Field of Human Rights documents disturbing cases ranging from subtle acts of intimidation to the most explicit and extreme attacks – and has in the past warned that these cases are the tip of the iceberg. And no report can quantify the deterrent effect on those too afraid to engage, or how many people are simply unable to reach out to the Council, its mechanisms, or the UN more generally.

Threats, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders are unconscionable in all circumstances. Ireland’s position is that procedures and modalities for the engagement of civil society actors and human rights defenders with international organisations, including the United Nations, should be of the highest standard and avoid placing them at risk. And where, despite best efforts, instances of intimidation, attacks or reprisals nonetheless occur, rigorous follow-up through all available channels is necessary.

In that regard we warmly welcome the designation of Andrew Gilmour as Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and consider that his appointment will assist in ensuring a more systematic and coordinated response to these wholly unacceptable occurrences.

This appointment forms part of a positive arc in the United Nations more generally, in the long and continuing process of bringing human rights from the margins to the mainstream.

High Commissioner

Secretary General Guterres has placed a welcome emphasis since his appointment on the interrelated questions of human rights, rule of law and prevention of conflict – speaking of strengthening prevention efforts by focusing on stronger institutions and more resilient societies; and of the need to put human rights at the forefront of national and international policies. The particular relevance of OHCHR to those tasks is clear.

We would be interested to hear more, in particular around whether there is a prospect for enhanced cooperation between OHCHR and the Secretariat; or to build further on the very welcome increase in exchanges between you as High Commissioner and the Security Council.

Thank you