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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21897


Mr McClelland asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 16 September 2003:

(1) Does the Government intend to nominate an Australian candidate to be Chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights; if so, (a) what are the Government's reasons for nominating, and (b) who will be Australia's candidate.

(2) What items are on the agenda for the 60th session of the Commission in 2004.


Mr Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The position of Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights rotates on a regular basis among the five main UN electoral groups. In 2004 it will be the turn of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG - of which Australia is a member) to hold the position of Chair. WEOG members have endorsed Australia to be the Group's candidate for Chair. This is expected to be formalised at a one day session of the Commission on 19 January 2004 when the Bureau for the sixtieth session of the Commission will be elected.

(a) Australia is one of the three Vice-Chairs of the Commission this year. Chair of the Commission in 2004 would be a natural progression from the role we have been pursuing in the Commission in 2003.

(b) Mr Mike Smith, Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, would represent Australia on the Commission if Australia was elected to the position of Chair. Ambassador Smith currently represents Australia in the position of Vice-Chair of the Commission.

(2) A provisional agenda for the annual session of the Commission on Human Rights is circulated by the United Nations at least six weeks before the start of the session. A final agenda is adopted at the commencement of each annual session. The agenda from CHR59 this year can be taken as a guide to the agenda for the next session as can resolutions put forward at previous sessions. These documents are available on the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website (www.unhchr.ch).