Summary of the Bangkok Retreat

The Human Rights Council (HRC) held an "Ambassadorial retreat" in Bangkok, Thailand, from 8 to 10 December 2010 in the framework of the HRC review.

Ambassadors of Permanent missions in Geneva as well as National human rights institutions (NHRI) and ECOSOC accredited non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were invited by the HRC President and Ambassador of Thailand H.E. Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow to continue the discussions on the review before the second session of the Open-ended Working Group to be held in February.

The "Retreat" started on Wednesday 8 afternoon by an Opening remarks by H.E. Mr Theerakun Niyom, Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and followed by an introduction by H.E. Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow.

The latter stated that the "Bangkok Retreat" was an occasion to brainstorm in order to see the way forward clearer. Despite the fact that the occasion was not for making decisions, he hoped that delegations would be able to go beyond their talking points. He announced that the outcome of this review should be a supplement to the Institutional Building Package resolution 5/1 and that facilitators will work on the texts for this supplement. In addition to this supplement, the outcome will contain a summary of the discussions to be sent to New York reflecting the key issues discussed, the agreements reached and perhaps the issues where views did not converge as well as the overlapping issues between Geneva and New York. Finally, he hoped that this work could be completed in March 2011 so New York could complete the review in July.

Following this introduction, the five facilitators made briefings on the state of discussions on their respective issues. H.E. Mr. Omar Hilale, facilitator on the UPR, made a very thorough and detailed PowerPoint presentation shedding lights on the issues largely accepted, those requiring further discussions and those with deep divergences. For a detailed summary of his presentation, please see our news here.

On Thursday, States and stakeholders engaged in a "General discussion" on "Expectations from the HRC review process in Geneva: what do we seek to achieve in enhancing the work and function of the Council and what are the key issues". Statements were of general nature and rarely touched upon concrete points of discussions of the review. Most speakers stressed the importance of the UPR as a new human rights mechanism and touched upon the issue of country situation.

In total, eight NHRIs and NGOs took the floor during this General discussion: Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Conectas Direitos Humanos, Democracy Coalition Project, East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Project, Human Rights Watch, International Disability Alliance, International Service for Human Rights and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.

CHRI dedicated its statement to the UPR. It was based on discussions held with NGOs previously and followed the topics of the three discussions to be held by Ambassadors on Friday and described below.

On Friday, the meeting was closed to the other stakeholders while Ambassadors discussed in three sessions the following questions:

- "How to make the Council be more effective and efficient, maximize time and resources we have and improve the culture of work?"

- "How can the Council make more impact on the ground?"

- "How to deal with the country specific/emergency situation in a more cooperative, constructive and timely manner?"

At the end of the day, the HRC President held a briefing with the other stakeholders to summarize them the discussions.

On the first question, the President explained that Ambassadors discussed the number of sessions, the interactive dialogues, the number of resolutions, the agenda of the HRC and the number of reports presented by Special Procedures mandate holders.

The second question was mainly concerning the UPR and technical cooperation. Delegates touched upon the following points: how to ensure implementation and follow-up at the UPR; how to mainstream human rights at the United Nations, underlining the role of the UPR and of the UN Countries Teams in this regard; what capacities have countries to implement human rights at the national level and finally the importance of highlighting the visibility of the HRC on the ground.

On the third question, were debated the issues of tools at hands to address country situations; the trigger mechanisms; the role of the President; the early warning mechanisms (Special procedures, group of experts, UPR?) and technical cooperation.