United Nations Human Rights Council voting on Friday

The election of fifteen members of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations will be held on Friday, 20 May 2011, at 10 a.m. in the General Assembly Hall. Here, you see information from the United Nations General Assembly regarding the election of the Human Rights Council:

In accordance with paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 the Council shall consist of 47 Member States, which shall be elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly.

The membership shall be based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats shall be distributed as follows among regional groups:

  • Group of African States (13)
  • Group of Asian States (13)
  • Group of Eastern European States (6)
  • Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (8)
  • Group of Western European and other States (7)

The members of the Council shall serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.

Member States who have chosen to announce their candidacies in writing are listed below. Voluntary pledges that Member States have chosen to provide in support of their respective candidacies, in accordance with paragraph 8 of General Assembly resolution 60/251, are issued as General Assembly documents in all official languages.

More information about the list of candidates as well as the list of retiring members is available here.

So what does this mean to Presbyterians?  The Human Rights Council is the main body within the United Nations system set to ensure that member states of the United Nations support human rights around the world.  One such human right is the freedom of religion or belief.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirms that religious freedom is a universal human right. This affirmation is expressed through our deep commitment to religious freedom around the world in our policies and programs. We are particularly concerned for people of any faith who find themselves as a religious minority in any country.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy identifies responsibilities and actions that governments should take and actions that governments should avoid as well as commitments of the church itself. These include:

  • Governments have responsibility to promote and protect religious freedom and should:
    • Give specific protections concerning religious freedom in their official policies, constitution and practices;
    • Give full cooperation to the UN in the performance of its responsibilities for protecting human rights;
  • And should not:
    • Co-opt, manipulate, or constrain religious practice by any persons, groups, or religious bodies except as may properly be necessary for the protection of human rights for all;
    • Limit or deny religious participation in public life; or
    • Discriminate either for or against any religious tradition or organization.
  • The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as a national church, has committed to:
    • Advocate for the religious freedom of any persons, groups, and religious bodies such as is consistent with the human rights for all;
    • Advocate that no official U.S. government relationship or diplomatic status be accorded any religious group or organization;
    • Urge the U.S. government to accord a key role to the United Nations in issues of religious freedom abroad even as it recognizes that a U.S. government role, based upon U.S. policies, is appropriate;
    • Give deference to partner churches’ determination of how to address issues of religious freedom in their own contexts and advocate, when consistent with General Assembly policies, as appropriate;
    • Be aware of the role of media and educate its members about general stereotypes and particular complexities in situations of curtailed religious freedom abroad.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations works within the United Nations system and with United Nations member states working to protect religious freedom throughout the world.


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