World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

30 April 1999


cf. WCC Press Release of 18 March 1999

According to Clement John, executive secretary for Human Rights of the World Council of Churches (WCC) "religious organizations and NGOs have to look for new collective strategies for participation at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR)."

"We have to reconsider how we utilize interventions in an environment where even direct poignant testimonies by victims of human rights violations no longer draw silence and respect from delegations," said Clement at a joint ecumenical meeting evaluating the 55th UNCHR session. The session is closing here today.

While the high number of oral interventions "might account for a general feeling of fatigue on the commission floor, the diluted and repetitive contents of some of the speeches may also be a reason for the lack of response from members of the main UN body dealing with human rights," the WCC executive secretary for human rights concluded.

Oral interventions made in general debate during the 55th UNCHR session are very likely to exceed the previous year's total figure of 943.

Clement also notes "a slow backslide of the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the commission in general." He is therefore calling for alternative methodologies and strategies for "how to feed into the process", such as well-prepared NGO expert briefings "to raise awareness and build collective actions and strategies with relevant networks."

Written interventions reproduced as official UN documents - such as the joint intervention on the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan submitted by the WCC in cooperation with Franciscans International and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) - represent another possibility to be further explored by the WCC's International Relations team. In a follow-up meeting with representatives of the Pakistani government, the three organizations expressed their concern that the government's proposal to modify the procedure for activation of the blasphemy law was not sufficient, and consequently pressed for its repeal.

Geneviève Jacques, executive secretary for Impunity, Truth and Reconciliation, welcomed the Guatemalan government's invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to visit the country around September this year. According to Jacques, this can be seen as a result of WCC's and DanchurchAid's joint support for a Guatemalan delegation, headed by Bishop Rios, which came to Geneva in March and was hosted by WCC and the International Service on Human Rights. One of the main objectives of the delegation's visit was to bring the situation of Guatemala back onto the human rights agenda.

Moreover, the WCC's International Relations team welcomed the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants as "a timely recognition of the need for effective protection for the increasing number of migrants in the world, as this new thematic mechanism is expected to strengthen respect for economic, social and cultural rights."

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.