5 March 2008


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the opening of the seventh session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 3rd.

In his speech the Secretary General urged the Council to spur greater accountability for action on human rights now that the transition from the previous Commission on Human Rights was complete

He particularly affirmed the system of independent special procedures "your vanguard mechanisms for early detection of problematic human rights situations and sustained protection” and noted that the system was essential to the proper functioning of the Council.

"Special Procedures” is the general name given to the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations (eg Myanamar) or thematic issues (eg trafficking in persons) in all parts of the world. Currently there are 28 thematic and 10 country mandates led by an independent special rapporteur or a working group appointed by the council.

Direct contact with a rapporteur or mandate holder is one of the most effective ways in which individuals or NGO’s such as Edmund Rice International (ERI) can address issues of human rights in particular countries.

Ban-Ki-moon went on to note that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism was “a historic undertaking, with significant consequences for people around the globe. It must help ensure… that nations are accountable for progress, stagnation or regression in implementation of human rights standards.”

The UPR mechanism is the system whereby each of the 192 member states of the UN are examined every four years in regard to the fulfilment of its human rights obligations and commitments.

NGO’s are an integral part of the UPR mechanism and participation in the process will provide another important opportunity for ERI to be effective.

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