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Tánaiste's Address to the Chairs of the United Nations Treaty Monitoring Bodies

United Nations, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Speech, Ireland, 2011

Address by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Eamon Gilmore T.D., to mark Ireland’s hosting of a meeting of the Chairs of the United Nations Treaty Monitoring Bodies.

Iveagh House 

10 November 2011


Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, 

I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you all this evening to this reception to mark Ireland’s hosting of a meeting of the Chairs of the United Nations Treaty Monitoring Bodies.

In particular I would like to welcome the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Kang Kyung-wha. We are extremely honoured to have you with us here this evening.

To an extent that few outside the human rights community realise, the efforts to advance human rights in the United Nations context rely on the work of the experts of the Treaty Monitoring Bodies, whose role is to oversee the implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

The international human rights covenants and the contribution of the Treaty Monitoring Bodies are the foundation for the United Nations’ standing as the premier forum for the articulation, protection and advancement of human rights globally.

The United Nations in its field work, and inter-governmental efforts at the Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly, depend on this bedrock for their validity and effectiveness.

As we all know, however, the Treaty Monitoring Bodies are a victim of their own success.

There are now nine bodies, each with a separate legal basis and each facing challenging resource constraints and subject to an over burdened agenda.

In gathering here for this meeting in Dublin, you are acknowledging the scale of these challenges.

It has long been recognised that the Treaty Bodies system would benefit from strengthening in a manner that would render it more efficient and effective.

In particular, the introduction of the Universal Periodic Review process in 2008 has brought new challenges and opportunities for the Treaty Bodies, notably in relation to how the Human Rights Council and the Treaty Bodies can work to maximise synergies and coherence.

Some might see the Universal Periodic Review as a threat; I see it more as a parallel and supportive process with considerable potential for cooperation with the Treaty Monitoring Bodies.

We also recognise that we are operating increasingly in an environment where resources are constrained. While this is creating difficulties for us all, we must use this as an opportunity to ensure that the Treaty Monitoring Bodies are deploying the available resources in the most efficient and effective manner.

I firmly believe that a strengthened Treaty Monitoring Body process is essential to the advancement of human rights globally. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When Ireland speaks of the work of Treaty Monitoring Bodies, we are speaking with the benefit of important recent experience.

This year we have seen our record examined under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in February and also the United Nations Convention against Torture in May.

In October of this year we also underwent our first examination under the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

In discussions with the experts at these reviews many pertinent issues and concerns were raised. We welcome these opportunities to engage in relation to Ireland’s international commitments.   The outcomes of these discussions, I can assure you, are being given very careful full consideration.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the role played by civil society and national human rights institutions in these processes. I know that many of you present here this evening engaged actively with the recent reviews of Ireland by Treaty Monitoring Bodies and in our Universal Periodic Review. I would like to thank you for your continued commitment and the issues you raised during these reviews. 

I would like to express my warm appreciation to the members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade NGO Standing Committee on Human Rights who are here this evening and whose contributions as members of this important Committee are much appreciated. Active involvement by civil society is a key component of our human rights policy and the Standing Committee is an expression of our commitment to its role.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The overwhelming majority of members of the Treaty Monitoring Bodies have brought great experience, knowledge and independent-mindedness to the table, to the benefit of the United Nations human rights system.

Without this great commitment and your continued efforts, the international human rights system, as we know it, would not work.

In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to pay special tribute to Ms. Anastasia Crickley, a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and Professor Michael O'Flaherty, a member of the Human Rights Committee, who are with us this evening.

We are extremely proud of the work done by Ireland’s two members of Treaty Monitoring Bodies and of the contribution that you are both making to the advancement of global human rights.

I would also like to extend warm congratulations to Professor O’Flaherty on his recent appointment as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

In the presence of the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, I would like to add a note of thanks for the critical role played by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in supporting the work of treaty bodies and their secretariats.

We in Ireland of course associate the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with our former President Mary Robinson, who served with great distinction as High Commissioner between 1997 and 2002.

No matter where you travel in the world, when Ireland and human rights are raised the conversation quickly turns to the great contribution that President Robinson made, and continues to make. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights has been, and will continue to be, a central component of our foreign policy.

We have long championed the vital role of the United Nations in this regard. We strongly believe in the need for a shared effort to advance the values at the heart of the Charter of the United Nations. We will be continuing to play a leading role in the advancement of human rights internationally.

In closing, I would like to wish the distinguished delegates and experts every success in their deliberations, and I once again congratulate you on the important contribution you are making to the debate on the challenges facing the Treaty Bodies here in Dublin over these two days.

Thank you.