On November 23, the General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted the Report of the Human Rights Council, introduced by Zambia for the African Group, and covering the period of March through May 2009. Unlike last year’s resolution, which was approved by a vote of 117 in favor, 5 against and 55 abstaining, this year’s text was adopted by consensus.
There was a subtle, but important, difference in wording between last year’s resolution and the current one, which enabled this year’s consensus. Last year’s text “takes note of the report of the Human Rights Council, and endorses the recommendations contained therein.”
The resolution just adopted, however, “Takes note of the report of the Human Rights Council and acknowledges the recommendations contained therein.” In 2008, Australia, Canada, Israel, Palau, and the United States voted against the resolution. An affirmative vote would have signified that their governments endorsed the recommendations contained within the report. The abstaining nations, while not flatly rejecting the recommendations through a negative vote, also would not positively endorse them. This year’s resolution, however, did not require active endorsement on the part of state governments. To acknowledge the recommendations is to accept that they exist, without the obligation to support their provisions.
The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained that the group had joined consensus on the resolution despite their belief that the wording of the resolution brought “no added value.” Furthermore, the delegation expressed its concern that there had been no informal consultations on the draft, and that the text’s co-sponsors had not provided Member States with adequate time to consider the resolution.
Although Israel joined consensus on the draft, it expressed concern that the work of the Council, as well as its methods, is biased and prejudiced, focusing disproportionately on the Middle East. By joining consensus, Israel hoped that the Council would improve its treatment of human rights.