Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2008

The New Human Rights Council: The First Two Years -- Report

Miko Lempinen

November 2007

Istituto Affari Internazionali


The European University Institute, the Istituto Affari Internazionali, and the Institute for Human Rights at Åbo Akademi University organized a workshop "The New Human Rights Council: The First Two Years" on 7­8 November 2007 in Florence. The purpose of the workshop was to evaluate and assess the potentials of the newly established United Nations Human Rights Council in promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The establishment of the Human Rights Council has been welcomed as an opportunity for a new and fresh start. The participants discussed, in particular, the issue of whether the process that replaced the Commission on Human Rights with the Human Rights Council really brought any significant change to the Charter based human rights machinery of the United Nations or whether the process was merely a reminder of the fact that politics, not the promotion and protection of human rights, comes first. This, again, would have turned the reviewing process to a struggle for merely defending the already achieved procedures and mechanisms without any realistic opportunity to contribute to an improvement of the allegedly dysfunctional system.

In October 2005, the Istituto Affari Internazionali together with the European Commission (Rome Office), the European University Institute and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute had organized an international conference on "The EU, the US and the Reform of the United Nations: Challenges and Perspectives". The conference, attended by experts, scholars, and officials from around the world, outlined, in particular, the role played by the European Union and the United States at the World Summit of September 2005 and, more generally, the transatlantic approach to the reform process of the United Nations. The workshop held in November 2007 can be considered as a continuation, but certainly not an end, to that debate.

As a continuation to the workshop, it was considered useful to proceed towards a comprehensive scholarly volume on the role and function of the Human Rights Council in promoting and encouraging international respect for human rights. The participants of the workshop agreed that this comprehensive study ought to be finalized well in advance of the five­year review of the Human Rights Council that will take place in 2011.  This report should be seen as a preparatory stage in the production of the forthcoming scholarly volume.