10 years of the UN Human Rights Council: Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter calls for broader commitment to human rights

Bern, Press release, 29.02.2016

In his capacity as representative of the host state, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter has taken part in the opening of the main session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2016. Mr Burkhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA, urged the international community to show greater commitment to human rights. Switzerland became a member of the Council on 1 January 2016, for the third time since it was created.

Opening Address by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council
Opening Address by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council

During the opening of the Council's main session, Mr Burkhalter called on all stakeholders to work to strengthen human rights. In his speech, which was delivered before high-level UN representatives and more than 60 national ministers, he warned against the increasing pressure being put on human rights today – such as in conflict situations or authoritarian states. To this end Mr Burkhalter called for the implementation of concrete projects aimed at strengthening human rights, also in cooperation with non-state actors (civil society, international companies).
In his speech the head of the FDFA praised the Council's work in its first ten years and highlighted the growing importance of implementing human rights in conflict prevention and conflict management: „The efforts to take account of human rights in the prevention of conflicts must be stepped up. Human rights violations are always an indication of potential instability or the escalation of a conflict. They often pave the way for the worst possible tragedies.”

The establishment of the Human Rights Council was adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York on 15 March 2006. The Council began working in Geneva on 19 June 2006. Switzerland was a driving force behind the creation of the Council at the time. The Council has diversified and built up its thematic and country-specific activities in the first ten years of its existence. The mechanisms it uses – such as the Universal Periodic Review for all UN member states, the special rapporteurs and the Council's commissions of inquiry – ensure universality, credibility and a focus on the issues at hand. This makes human rights even more important as one of the UN's central pillars.

With the creation of the Human Rights Council and the establishment of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, the city's role as a centre for global governance and human rights issues has been bolstered. Switzerland is committed to maintaining the relevance and strength of these key institutions, and will do its utmost during this 10th anniversary year to ensure in particular that the UN's human rights-related activities are better integrated into the organisation as a whole in order to step up its role in the field of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The FDFA will also launch its new strategy on strengthening human rights on the margins of the Council's spring session.

Switzerland once again appointed member of the Human Rights Council

From 1 January 2016 until the end of 2018, Switzerland will once again serve as a member of the Council. This is the third time that Switzerland will be involved in the decision-making at the UN's key human rights body, where it will work to ensure the Council's credibility, efficient functioning and capacity to act.

One of Switzerland's priorities for the main session, which lasts until 24 March, is to pursue the initiative on protecting human rights in the context of peaceful protests launched by Switzerland and other states in 2012. A recent result of the initiative is the publication of a compilation of practical recommendations. This is intended to serve as a tool to help authorities deal with demonstrations, gatherings and protests appropriately and to improve the implementation of a state's obligations under international law in such contexts.


Further information:

Brochure on Switzerland’s candidacy for Human Rights Council membership for the 2016-2018 term
Switzerland in the UN Human Rights Council
Opening Address by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter


Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
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CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47
E-Mail: info@eda.admin.ch


Publisher:

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs