President of the Human Rights Council, Nazhat Shameem Khan delivered her first address to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the organisational meeting in the build-up to its 46th regular session, scheduled from 22nd February to 23rd March 2021. 

President Shameem Khan said the Presidency of the Human Rights Council is the first for Fiji and the Pacific Island nations – which is a great achievement for the Pacific region. 

In acknowledging the work of all members of the Human Rights Council, President Shameem Khan reaffirmed the commitment to further the existing work and inclusive representative nature of the Council through collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. President Shameem Khan recognised the collective responsibility and solidarity among all States and said “it was crucial to addressing the challenges caused by COVID-19”. 

“It is our collective responsibility to draw attention and to respond to the deep inequalities that were laid bare by the pandemic – and to ensure that human rights standards, combined with our shared commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, will guide us as we do all we can to recover from what is, a global health – and a human rights crisis, “she said. 

“We know, as a community of nations, that emergencies and disasters, whether caused by a climate crisis or a health emergency, will exacerbate existing inequalities and deepening poverty.” 

President Shameem Khan emphasized the transformative role of the Human Rights Council in reshaping and harmonising social, national, and global relationships, with a view to building societies which are fairer, resilient, and premised on human dignity and equality. 

She reaffirmed her commitment to work closely with civil society organisations who support, contribute and enrich the Council`s work and ensure the inclusivity of its dialogues.  

President Shameem Khan’s address had a simple message which was unity and inclusivity in advancing the work of the Human Rights Council, with steadfast determination to protect and promote the human rights of all people. 

President Shameem Khan commended her predecessor, Her Excellency Elisabeth Tichy Fisslberger, for her determination and unwavering leadership during her tenure last year as president under extremely challenging circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Shameem Khan said she looked forward to working with the strong team of the Human Rights Council Bureau to ensure that the Council fulfils its mandate and remains guided by the principles of universality, and constructive international dialogue, in order to enhance the promotion and protection of all human rights, everywhere. 

Fiji is the first Pacific Island nation elected as the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR).

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