Accountability: Lanka seeks answers from UNHRC chief

Envoy also calls for transparency and equitable representation in staffing
By our Diplomatic Editor

As the UN Human Rights Council’s latest sessions ended on Friday in Geneva bringing a sigh of relief from ministers and officials, it was Sri Lanka’s turn to talk of accountability issues.

In a winding up speech at the 18th sessions regarding the deferral of the Draft Resolution ‘Transparency in Funding and Staffing of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam, called for accountability in the appropriation of funds to the UN body.

The creation of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, she said, was to “rationalize, strengthen and streamline its machinery with a view to increasing its efficiency and effectiveness.” She said it was also to report annually on UNHRC’s mandate coupled with the steps being taken to provide staff and resources within the existing regular budget of the United Nations.

“What is clear from all this,” she noted, “is the overarching duty of transparency with regard to its activities including equitable geographic representation in the staffing and a clear need for an equitable appropriation of funds available to the Commissioner and the need for accountability to this Council.”
Ms. Kunanayakam also re-iterated some elements in her previous speech where she noted that the trend of “Might is Right” needed to be discouraged at all costs.

Her hard-hitting speeches, particularly at UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navaneethan Pillay came after the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent her officially his Advisory Panel’s report on accountability issues related to alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka delegation took exception to the move. Firstly it was on the grounds that the UNSG had not formally informed the government. The other was on the grounds that the report was an internal UN document and not one which was the result of a decision by an UN inter-governmental body.

Ms. Kunanayakam said that to achieve the ideals of “equitable and efficient distribution of funds and symmetrical mobilization of human resources,” the Office of the High Commission should “permit access to information in a spirit of candour.”

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