Action on Resolutions at the Human Rights Council
The 28th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council took place from March 2 - 27, 2015. The program of work consisted of daily side-events, general debates, annual high-level panel on many different subjects, such as death penalty, the right of the child, the right of the person with disabilities, and more. The 4 weeks were preciously spent for discussions and debates where many ideas were brought to the table and where many questions were answered, and many more raised. All of that is, in fact, a long procedure of preparation for the final voting at the Human Rights Council - which will take place at the very end of the session.
The last two days are fully dedicated to finalizing the decisions to be taken on all that has been discussed. There are fewer side-events and most of the participants can be found at the Human Rights Council plenary room. It is an important part of the program because it is the time when the issues that have been debated become conclusive: what needs to be done? It is also the part to be taken back to our organization's chapters and to our government at home so that we can work together (advocacy) to live up to those commitments.
The new comers to the UN, such as interns, may not realize that it is a significant part of the schedule. They may not know that voting for action on the resolutions is taking place. At the beginning of my internship, I was not aware of it. I tried to attend every side-event of interest to WFWP. As the weeks passed by, there were fewer and fewer side events. Consequently, I thought the session was simply coming to an end. However, I realized only later during my second internship how the voting system really works and how important it is. The hall is overflowing during those periods of Action on the draft Resolutions because governments must be present to have a vote.
Why is it so important and how does it function? The resolutions that are passed influence the governments from around the world to change. It is their homework. It is also the final time to listen to the opinions of peers that have been forming throughout the session, which may even change a nation's final vote.
The voting is carefully guided by the Human Rights Council President, who announces each numbered "draft resolution." Each nation's Ambassador has the right to express a few thoughts about the significance of the issue, which they often do in clusters. For the 47 current members of the Council (membership rotates in cycles of 3 years, decided by the General Assembly by geographic allotment), they usually use their time to explain briefly the vote they will be making. Then the chance of speaking is yielded to another country. The 47 countries that have voting rights then have their positions recorded on a large board: yes, no or abstention. The outcome is announced, more often than not, as expected. With some hard won battles, there may be clapping or sighs of relief. There is often consensus by all, "adopted without a vote," which is the hoped - for goal of the many meetings that had been going on privately or publicly during the session - or even the pre-sessional period.
For example, last September 2014, a HRC Resolution on the "Protection of the Family" was adopted for the first time in history; they acknowledged its key role as a fundamental group unit of society and promote the policies to enhance the atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding for the development of the children as well as its members. In respect to the adopted resolution, the governments are responsible to consider this in their national policies. Such a procedure is the final result of the efforts exerted throughout the sessions. This particular resolution was fought for and was not accepted unanimously. This is an important reason for NGO's like WFWPI who favor the resolution to be present and to continue to work with their governments to influence opinions and support the processes of implementation at home.
Therefore, I recommend to the future interns not to miss this moment of fruition. Voting is, in point of fact, a fundamental act of human rights and a most crucial procedure to have knowledge about.