Malawi has been elected into the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after amassing 180 out of 190 votes, a position it will hold for three years beginning 2021.
The election has excited government, with the Ministry of Justice describing it as a triumph as it gives Malawi a voice on human rights issues at both international and regional levels.
Membership of the council comes with a responsibility to uphold high human rights standards, a criteria stressed by the member States when they created the council after adopting resolution 60/251 in March 2006.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala said the election will provide Malawi Government a good platform to set its human rights agenda.
He said: “This is a good platform for the Malawi Government to set its human rights agenda. It equally gives Malawi a voice on human rights issues at international and regional level.
“Our membership on the council is for a term of three years starting 2021. Malawi got 180 votes out of about 190 States that voted. The Human Rights Council is based in Geneva, Switzerland.”
Masanjala said government will be providing more details in due course on the membership and how it will benefit the country and improve its human rights status.
In its submission to the UN General Assembly dated August 26 to be voted into the council through Malawi’s Permanent Mission to the UN, the country outlined a number of legal reforms it has undertaken.
It said the country believes in the universality and indivisibility of principles of human rights and has over the years shown its unwavering commitment to this cause.
In the 21-page document, the mission pledged to consolidate the gains made in the full realisation, enjoyment, advancement and protection of economic, social, political, civil and cultural rights at local level.
It further pledged to: “Take steps to ensure the 60:40 ratio of men to women in public appointments and public service. Equip human rights institutions to ensure they carry out their work effectively without fear or interference;
“Preserve and protect the enjoyment of freedoms of the media, access to information, assembly, expression or opinion, religion or belief, consistent with our national and international obligations.”
Meanwhile, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Michael Kaiyatsa and his Youth and Society (YAS) counterpart Charles Kajoloweka have urged the Malawi Government to use its membership to improve its human rights record and drive the global human rights agenda.
It reads: “The election of Malawi as a member of the UNHRC, therefore, implies that from now onwards, Malawi will have to take concrete, credible steps and real commitments to fully guarantee the protection and promotion of human rights according to international law.”