U.N. member states should move quickly to establish the Human Rights Council as recommended by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 15 leading human rights organizations said today.

“Our organizations support the call of the Secretary-General to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a new body that has greater authority by being given a higher status in the U.N., and that, as a standing body, is able to meet whenever necessary to address human rights issues in the world,” the groups said in a joint speech to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which is meeting in Geneva.

The organizations argued that the new body should:

  • Respond quickly to human rights crises year-round through monitoring, adopting resolutions, and alerting the international community;
  • Respond effectively to early warnings by taking preventive action—within the U.N. system and its agencies and with the international community—on the basis of reports of the High Commissioner from field presences, monitors, and missions, as well as reports from special procedures and NGOs;
  • Ensure follow-up and implementation of country-specific commitments and decisions, and of recommendations from special procedures (special rapporteurs and working groups) and treaty bodies; and
  • Provide a more comprehensive supervisory framework and continue to develop human rights standards and norms.

The groups called also on member states to increase financial resources for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In a speech to the Commission last week, Annan recommended that U.N. member states replace the 53-member U.N. High Commission on Human Rights with a new, standing Human Rights Council composed of member states with a solid record of commitment to the highest human rights standards.

The organizations making this statement are Amnesty International, Association for the Prevention of Torture, Bahá’í International Community, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Dominicans for Justice and Peace, Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme, Franciscans International, Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights, Lutheran World Federation, Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture, and Rights Australia.