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9 July 2013 - Presentation and discussion of pledges and commitments of candidates for the Human Rights Council - Statement made by M. François Zimeray, French Ambassador for Human Rights

Photo credit : Marie Afara

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege for me to come from Paris in order to participate to this event and I would like to congratulate very sincerely the organizers of this initiative. When I say it is a privilege, it is not a matter of diplomatic courtesy; I hope you will feel it, at least for two reasons. The first is because we consider the partnership with NGOs such as Amnesty International as a key element of our policy for Human Rights. The second reason is because we live in an open world and one defines oneself in others’ eyes. This is true for an individual, and this is true for a State as well.

Coming back to your question, if I had to sum up what is the baseline of France commitment to Human Rights, I would say that it is to defend universality of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in Paris in December 1948. One could consider that its principles are forever engraved in the marble. In fact, it is not the case. The more I travel the world in my capacity of Ambassador for Human Rights, the more I see that universality is in danger. The enemies of universality are relativism, culturalism, double standards and clash of civilizations. We, as a Human Rights Council, consider as a core mission the necessity to defend and to incarnate this universality and to transform the lofty ideal into a concrete reality.

The UPR is a very important procedure, in which every country has to give account of the situation prevailing on its own soil to the others. I would like to confess something very briefly. France is often seen as the country of Human Rights. This is an expression I don’t like. This is an expression I don’t use because I know that all civilizations, all countries have contributed in History to erect human dignity and to promote it. And I know that we all have weaknesses, and France has weaknesses as well. We welcome criticisms and we see them as an element of improvement as well.

We consider that during the last years, there has been positive evolutions of the Human Rights Council, which has been confronted to major crisis such as Libya and Syria. It is more responsive than before, with the 19 extraordinary or special sessions for example, and the creation of specific commissions of inquiry, as the one on North Korea, recently. We welcome also the possibility to create independent experts mandates or special rapporteurs mandates as well. There is also more credibility in the modalities of elections of the members. The fact that in this new council, some members can be suspended, contributes to this credibility.

But we are conscious that, and this is a reason why we are committed as well, there is a lot to do. Every day, what is at stake, is the credibility of the United Nations. There are improvements to realize in terms of reactivity because there is the rhythm of states and institutions and there is the reality of Human Rights; and there is a conflict between these two temporalities. We have to be more responsive and more reactive.

We also should have a more universal oversight. We should show more equanimity in this Council. There should not be a distinction between the wrong causes and the good causes, the good victims and the victims who should be forgotten, the perpetrators who should be prosecuted and those who should be forgotten.

In conclusion, I would say that no institution is perfect. One should condemn the mistakes of the Human Rights Council on behalf of the United Nations values, and not condemned the Human Rights Council on behalf of its mistakes.

Thank you very much.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU