Human Rights Council elects Václav Bálek of Czech Republic as its President for 2023


Ambassadors of Bolivia, the Gambia, Luxembourg and the Maldives Elected to Serve as Vice Presidents for Next Year

GENEVA, (9 December 2022) – The Human Rights Council today elected Ambassador Václav Bálek, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, to serve as its President for a one-year term beginning on 1 January 2023.

The Council also elected Ambassadors Maira Mariela Macdonal Alvarez of Bolivia, Muhammadou M.O. Kah of the Gambia, Marc Bichler of Luxembourg and Asim Ahmed of Maldives to serve as three of its four vice presidents next year. Ambassador Alvarez will serve as Rapporteur of the Geneva-based body.

After congratulating Ambassador Bálek on his election, current Council President Ambassador Federico Villegas of Argentina affirmed that the Council managed to fulfil its three basic roles this year, namely the continuation of the Universal Periodic Review, addressing urgent situations, and developing new norms. “I felt like the captain of a ship with a very valuable cargo in the middle of a storm…. But I was always convinced that my responsibility as captain was to keep this ship afloat”, he stated. “We have a collective obligation to analyse in detail every aspect of the universal human rights system to see how to improve and enhance it in the face of today’s challenges”.

Speaking of the Council’s decisions, Ambassador Villegas said it was imperative to “transcend our national positions” by recommitting to our “collective responsibility” to advance human rights. “Systematically and ethically incorrect to ignore mandates even if they were voted against or abstained. These mandates refer to people, victims of violations whose situations are addressed by legally adopted resolutions”. He added: “We have no right to deprive people who are suffering of international protection because we voted against a resolution. We may have differences during the negotiations, but once adopted, the resolutions are valid, and the mandates must be implemented.” (Statement in Spanish)

Commenting on his appointment as President for next year, Ambassador Bálek stressed that “the Council must be a safe space for everyone to respect, protect and promote human rights offline and online”. While noting 2023 will mark a “historical milestone” given the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which established the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights through its adoption in 1993, Ambassador Bálek said “there is no doubt 2023 will bring many challenges many of which will persist from this year”. The President-elect said the topics he attached the utmost importance to were prevention, participation, and progress in efficiency. On participation he said: “I will support the need to speak the language of people outside of our Geneva ‘bubble’ and bring the Council closer to them”.

The Council also heard from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, who, while stressing how global crises required global responses, said “the very essence of human rights implies that their violations are a matter of concern. This lies at the heart of the universal consensus around the Universal Declaration for Human Rights”. Speaking to the importance of an “open and effective dialogue”, the High Commissioner said the Council should be “a place where, in spite of differences and even geopolitical tensions, we come together to protect our shared human rights values, our shared humanity”. One of the greatest challenges of the human rights system was “to ensure equal attention to all issues, in order to protect the rights of all”.

On 11 October, the General Assembly elected 14 States to serve as members of the 47-member body filling the vacancies to be left at the end of this year.

Prior to the Bureau elections, the Council heard an update from Kira Kruglikova, Director of the Division of Conference Management at the United Nations Office at Geneva, on the actual and envisaged resources for conference services provided to the Council.

At today’s meeting, the Council also adopted a President’s statement on the Council’s long-term efficiency process aimed at enhancing the organization’s working methods. Through this action, the Council extended for one year the measures contained in an earlier President’s statement of 2019 designed to streamline the work of the 47-member body given its expanding agenda, while preserving its essential mandate to promote and protect human rights throughout the world.

Also related to the Council’s efficiency process, launched in 2015, meeting participants heard from Ambassador Álvaro Moerzinger Pagani of Uruguay who provided an update on consultations and activities related to the voluntary rationalisation of Council initiatives. The Council then heard from Ambassador Andranik Hovhannisyan of Armenia who apprised States of consultations related to the strengthening and optimization of the Universal Periodic Review, and finally from Ambassador Umej Singh Bhatia of Singapore, who, on behalf of focal points, updated today’s meeting participants on efforts to address challenges faced by delegations of small island developing States and the least developed countries from participating in the Council and the implementation of measures on the use of modern technology.

The Council also heard an update from Ambassadors Katharina Stasch of Germany and Tovar Da Silva Nunes of Brazil on the extraordinary modalities that the Council adopted and applied during COVID-19. The Council then heard from Ambassador Kah of Gambia, Council Vice President and coordinator of the task force on accessibility for persons with disabilities, who presented an oral report of the task force entitled “Equality and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities and the right of persons with disabilities to access to justice”. His statement was followed by one from Ambassador Anna Louise Duncan of New Zealand presenting an update on her activities as the Council’s Gender Focal Point this year.

At today’s meeting, Council members also approved the theme for the 2023 high-level panel discussion, to take place in February 2023, as follows: “A reflection on five years of UN youth 20230: Mapping a blueprint for next steps”.

During today’s meeting, the following States took the floor: Bolivia, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, the European Union, the Gambia, Honduras, India, Iran (the Islamic Republic of), Israel, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, South Africa, the United States of America and Zambia. The following non-governmental organisation also delivered a statement: International Service for Human Rights.

The Council will meet on 15 December to hear oral updates by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, on the human rights situations in Ukraine and Nicaragua, as mandated by the 47-member body.

See biography of Ambassador Václav Bálek here.

Public Release. More on this here.