September 11 - Issue 27 - States Begin Campaigning for HRC Membership, Vote Trading Underway

New York, September 11, 2007 - At least three states - Bahrain, Chile, and Slovakia - have announced their candidacies for election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2008-2010 (a three-year term). Below are details on each region's open seats and candidatures declared or reported to date.

A vote-trading agreement between Chile and Japan for seats on the Human Rights Council and Security Council, respectively, is being reported in the Latin American press.

Africa

The Group of African States is allotted 13 seats on the 47-member Council. Currently serving as members of the Council are: Angola, Cameroon, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia.

June 2008 will mark the end of the membership term for Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Zambia, which means that four seats will be open for competition. All four of those States will be eligible for re-election, as they are now serving only their first term. (The Council limits membership to two consecutive, three-year terms.)

In general, current members of the HRC (or other UN body) who run for re-election are at an advantage in elections and more likely to be re-elected for a second term.

In the last election, Africa put forward a "clean slate" consisting of four candidates for the four available seats, ensuring those States' election to the Council.

Asia

The Group of Asian States is also allotted 13 seats on the Council. Asian countries already on the Council are: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka. The terms of Japan, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, and Sri Lanka will end in June 2008, leaving four seats open to competition. All four are eligible for re-election.

On 4 September the government of Bahrain announced its candidacy. Bahrain was elected to the Council for its first year of operation (May 2006) for a one-year term. It did not run for re-election in May 2007 in order to give other Asian states the opportunity for membership, said a representative of Bahrain's foreign ministry last week. He said,

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"We also wanted to take a year off in order to evaluate our achievements during the first year and to prepare new personnel at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take up positions on the Council."

Like Africa, in the last election the Asian group put forward only four candidates for its four available seats on the Council.

Eastern Europe

The Group of Eastern European States holds six seats on the Council. The current members are: Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, and Ukraine. The terms of Romania and Ukraine will end in June 2008, leaving two open seats. Both Romania and Ukraine will be eligible for re-election.

Slovakia announced on August 27 that it will run for election.

If the Czech Republic declares candidacy, its election will be virtually guaranteed because it will hold the presidency of the EU in 2009, and an unwritten tradition dictates that the EU presidency has the opportunity for a seat. This year, for example, Slovenia was elected due in part to its EU presidency in 2008.

Eastern Europe was one of only two regions to put forward more candidates than available seats in the last election. For two available seats Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Belarus were all candidates.

Latin America and Caribbean

The Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) have eight seats on the Council, currently held by Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Uruguay. The membership terms of Brazil, Guatemala, and Peru will expire in June 2008, which means that three seats will need to be filled in the May 2008 election. Brazil, Guatemala, and Peru are all eligible for re-election.

Last year, only two candidates competed for Latin America's two open seats: Bolivia and Nicaragua. The likelihood of a "clean slate" this year is somewhat lower, given the reported competition that already exists for the three seats.

Chile is running for HRC election, and Japan has promised to support its candidacy. In exchange, Chile will support Japan's campaign for an elected seat on the Security Council as well as a permanent seat. The agreement was made upon the two countries' signing a Free Trade Agreement earlier this month in an attempt to expand their trading partnership. It was reported in the Santiago Times on September 4.

The initial reaction from civil society regarding Chile's candidacy has been positive. Human Rights Watch said in August, "Chile has influence on a global level.... When Chile talks about human rights issues, the rest of the world listens attentively and respectfully." Chile is a member of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

On September 10 Peru also announced its support for Chile as an HRC member. Peru's support is significant for Chile's campaign because of the impending verdict in Chile regarding the extradition of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. Chile currently is holding Fujimori because of alleged serious human rights violations and corruption during his presidency (1990-2000), and the Supreme Court is debating whether to send him to Peru for trial. The Santiago Times reports that "both Chile's pro-human rights stance and its desire to obtain a Human Rights seat at the UN could suffer if the [Chilean] Supreme Court decides not extradite Fujimori. Peru's support for Chile's bid for the UN seat is seen as a welcomed surprise for Chile, since it comes before the court ruling." The Court reportedly made its decision on September 10 but has not announced it yet.

Further efforts for HRC support reportedly took place in Australia at the 6-9 September summit of APEC (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum). Chile is one of only two Latin American members of APEC (along with Peru), which has 20 members in total. Support from APEC could assure Chile's election to the Council in May 2008.

According to some reports, Brazil will run for re-election while Argentina will run for election after having held a one-year term (2006-2007) and not run again in the last election. Both are assured election, say analysts, leaving one open seat. Challenging Chile for that seat is likely to be Venezuela. Observers expect a Venezuelan candidacy because it was unable to gain elected membership on the UN Security Council last year.

Western Europe and others

The Group of Western European and Other States (WEOG) is allotted a total of seven seats on the Council. The current WEOG members are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. France's and the UK's first terms will expire in 2008, leaving two open seats; both may run for re-election.

Along with Eastern Europe, WEOG was one of the only regions to put forward more candidates than available seats in the last election. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Italy competed for two available seats.

Resources

Results of General Assembly elections of Human Rights Council Members, 17 May 2007

Current Composition of HRC, 2007-2008

In the News

"Chile's Bachelet Gets Peru's Support for Human Rights Seat" -Santiago Times, September 10, 2007

"Bahrain to Run for UN Rights Council" - Gulf News, September 5, 2007

"Chile's Bachelet in Japan" - The Santiago Times, September 4, 2007

"Chile: Bachelet to Lobby for UN Human Rights Council Seat" - Santiago Times, August 30, 2007

"Slovakia to apply for post on UN Human Rights Council" - Slovak Spectator, August 27-September 2, 2007

More News on UN Elections and Appointments