Elected today as the 2013 President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Remigiusz Henczel of Poland pledged to help promote human rights in a "fair and equal manner."
The 47-nation Geneva-based body, which serves as the UN's foremost inter-governmental institution tasked with boosting the promotion and protection of human rights globally, also elected four Vice-Presidents - collectively known as the Council's Bureau - for the same 1 January-31 December term.
They were Cheikh Ahmed Ould Zahaf of Mauritania, Iruthisham Adam of the Maldives, Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador and Alexandre Fasel of Switzerland. Mr. Chiriboga was also elected as Bureau's administrative rapporteur.
Mr. Henczel, who will preside over Council sessions, is Poland's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. He described his election as Council President as a "great honour" for both himself and his country, according to a news release from the Geneva-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which provides institutional assistance to the Council.
"He deeply believed in a Council that promoted and protected human rights effectively and enabled cooperation among States, cultures and religions in a fair and equal manner," said the release.
"In discharging his duties," it added, "he would always be guided by these principles, paying heed - in the same way - to the views and concerns of all stakeholders."
During 2012, the Council dealt with human rights issues linked not only to crises involving violence, but also to questions of economic and social development, and criminality. As such, the focus of resolutions varied from abuses in such places as Syria, currently engulfed in an internal conflict, to pronouncements of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and trafficking in people, especially women and children.
OHCHR said Mr. Henczel "sincerely hoped" that he and Council stakeholders would be able to "make 2013 another successful year of the Council's work, narrowing the gap between the human rights promise and the harsh reality still faced by many people all over the world."
OHCHR said outgoing Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre lamented that 2012 had been "marked by numerous serious and urgent situations." According to OHCHR, she said the Council had to "continue to look at the best way to deal with these crises and how to anticipate them."
The Council adopted a distinctive set of operating initiatives a year after the UN General Assembly launched the body in 2006 to replace the UN Human Rights Commission. Among them was the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which serves to assess the human rights situations in all UN Member States.
Ms. Dupuy Lasserre "underlined the importance" of this mechanism in order to "understand the situation on the ground" in Member States," OHCHR stated. She also highlighted OHCHR's role in helping countries that had shown they want to improve their respective human rights records, and spoke of the importance of non-governmental organizations in the Council's work.
The Council's next session is set to run from 25 February to 22 March.