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Statement by H.E.Ambassador Zhang Yishan, Head of Chinese Delegation, at ECOSOC Substantive Session of 2005 on Human Rights
22 July 2005, New York

2005/07/22

Mr. President,

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. Sixty years ago, in the devastating aftermath of the two world wars, the founders of the United Nations were determined “to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all” as a main purpose of the United Nations. Over the last sixty years, the United Nations, through unremitting efforts in this regard, has achieved remarkable results and developed and adopted, in the human rights field, a series of important international instruments that promote and protect human rights, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and cultural Rights, and the Declaration on the Right to Development. At the same time, institutional mechanisms have been established to examine human rights situations through the GA, ECOSOC, and the Commission on Human Rights, thereby considerably enriching the theories and practices in the safeguarding of human rights. This represents progress of the times and progress of humankind. While acknowledging and praising such progress, we must not lose sight of the formidable constraints and challenges that exist in the international human rights field. How to better promote and protect human rights is a topic that provides much food for thought.

In March this year, in his report “In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All,” the Secretary General Mr. Annan set forth a range of specific proposals on reforming the UN human rights machinery. While the expectations and demands vis-à-vis the reforms vary and there is also a divergence of views on specific issues relating to the content, process, and modalities of the reforms, all agree that the “credibility deficit” of the Commission on Human Rights, an important human rights body, is a cause for concern. There is widespread discontent with the existing problems of politicization, selectivity, and double standards. How should reforms of the UN human rights machinery be carried out? I would like to make a few comments and proposals in this context.

First, the reforms must be conducive to objective and fair discussions of human rights issues. In recent years, practices of double standards and selectivity in the international human rights field have been on the increase. Country-specific resolutions have been “magic weapons” in the hands of some countries, which, at every turn, use them to “name and shame” developing countries, especially those that do not necessarily agree with them or those that are less compliant. Meetings of the CHR are haunted by a phenomenon that is strange but not surprising: the accusations always originate from one group of countries and the accusing finger, like the needle of a compass, never fails to point south. Such double standards and selectivity inevitably give rise to confrontation and antagonism among countries and undermine the basis for joint efforts to promote human rights. At this year’s session of the CHR, a good number of countries, including like-minded groups of countries, set forth concrete ideas and proposals on changing the modality of country-specific discussions. Some proposed elimination of country-specific agenda items, some proposed that at least “thresholds” and clear standards be laid down for country-specific items, and some proposed that country-specific resolutions be introduced only when widespread, systematic gross violations of human rights have indeed occurred and other means have been exhausted. These proposals are all worthy of careful study.

Secondly, the reforms must aim to secure a balance between two different categories of human rights. The Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action points out, “All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.” Activities of the CHR have been characterized for a long time by the practice of giving priority to civil and political rights over economic, social and cultural rights, a practice that artificially separates human rights items and does a disservice to the promotion and protection of human rights. Such a situation must be rectified, so as to ensure equal treatment of both categories of human rights.

Thirdly, the reforms should make human rights bodies more representative and more in conformity with democratic principles. All nations in the east, west, north or south, and all countries, large or small, rich or poor, have the right to take part on an equal footing in the activities in the UN human rights field. The promotion of human rights is by no means the exclusive right of some individual countries but is the shared aspiration of the entire humankind. In order to ensure wider participation, there should be an increase in the membership of any new human rights body, to make it more representative, or it should at least be of the same size as the current Commission on Human Rights, and must strictly abide by the principle of equitable geographical distribution in its composition. The current underrepresentation of Asian and African membership must be rectified.

Mr. President,

China carefully studied the report of Ms. Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the plan of action of the Office of the High Commissioner. We have always supported the work of the High Commissioner and the High Commissioner’s office. We support adequate increases of the resources of the High Commissioner’s office to enhance its capacity to perform its functions. We also believe that, as a coordinating body in the UN human rights field, the office of the High Commissioner should be more devoted to promoting the dialogue, cooperation and communication among member states, and fostering the capacity building of developing countries in related areas.

Mr. President,

Reforms in the UN human rights field are of far-reaching significance. China stands ready to continue to participate in the consultations in a positive and constructive approach and work together with all sides to arrive at a reasonable and just reform programme on the basis of consensus.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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