Commonwealth Small States at the UN Human Rights Council

Small states make up the majority of the Commonwealth; 32 out of 52. However, while 15 of 20 members not classed as small states have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), only four of the 32 small states have served. Small States should have a big role to play: as pointed out by former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, they are well suited to act as bridge-builders and often serve as a lens for challenges faced by all nations, and we saw from the Maldives role in its early period on the HRC in breaking regional blocks and working for the common good that their contribution can be more dynamic, and flexible than many larger states.

What holds them back is a lack of capacity. The Geneva missions of Fiji and Mauritius both have just four diplomats, and there are more than 20 UN specialized agencies and International organizations, and four UN programs and funds based in the city that could be a focus for them in addition to bilateral and consular work. It is impossible for small delegations consisting of just a few diplomats, to attend HRC sessions, follow discussions on key resolutions, and participate in informal consultations and side events. The result is small states feeling marginalised, the credibility of the HRC being jeopardized, and worst of all the depth and diversity of HRC discourse is limited.  If small states are to play the full role they can at the HRC mechanisms, and the HRC is to be genuinely representative, small states need support to be able to engage effectively with it. Read More