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The United Nations' human rights chief has said the UN's failure to respond to human suffering and breaches of international peace and security has cost hundreds of thousands of lives around the world.

Navi Pillay, whose term as UN Human Rights Commissioner is ending, said in her last speech to the body that her Council’s interest in human rights had increased markedly during her tenure.

But despite repeated briefings regarding escalating violations in multiple crises, there had not always been a 'firm and principled decisions' by Members to put an end to crises.

She told the UN Security Council: "Short-term geopolitical considerations and national interest, narrowly defined, have repeatedly taken precedence over intolerable human suffering and grave breaches of – and long-term threats to – international peace and security.

"I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this Council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives."

She added: "Conflict prevention is complex, but it can be achieved. In many States, democratic institutions de-escalate disputes long before they reach boiling point."

"The Council could adopt a standing consensus on a menu of possible new responses to such alerts violations, such as rapid, flexible and resource-efficient human rights monitoring missions, limited in time and scope," she said..

"Another innovative option could build on the new Arms Trade Treaty, which requires arms exporters and importers to confirm that weapons will not be used to commit violations. States Parties could agree that where there are concerns about human rights in States that purchase arms, one condition of sale would be that they accept a small human rights monitoring team, with deployment funded by the Treaty's Trust Fund."

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