dcsimg
English Site French Site Spanish Site Russian Site Arabic Site Chinese Site OHCHR header
Make a donation to OHCHR


Header image for news printout

Human Rights Council holds general debate on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

MORNING

22 March 2011

The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Speaking in the general debate, speakers said that the Vienna Declaration was clear in that the international community should protect and promote human rights everywhere and the international community should address double standards and should not create a hierarchy of universally acknowledged rights by trading one for the other. Delegates affirmed their commitment to fight discrimination in all its aspects. The international community needed to reaffirm in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action that the right to development was a key right, and it had to promote effective international cooperation and equitable economic relations. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the universality of human rights and other fundamental freedoms. All Governments should uphold their commitments to promote and protect the human rights of their citizens. In this respect, the role of the Human Rights Council should be to support the legitimate aspirations of the people and hold Governments accountable for violations of universally recognized human rights.

Some speakers said that the universal nature of human rights included also the responsibility to ensure equality, non-discrimination and protection from violence for gays, lesbians, bisexual or transgender persons, persons belonging to religious minorities and all others who may face discrimination on any other grounds. They expressed concern at the continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions. They also recognized the sensitivity of these issues in societies. In this regard, it was important to work towards respectful dialogue and a shared recognition that no one should face stigmatization, violence or abuse on any ground. Other speakers said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action set out to address all fundamental human rights without exception and they believed that civil and political rights were interrelated with economic, social and cultural rights and were mutually reinforcing. The issue of sexual orientation and gender identity in the United Nations had not yet found consensus and the attempt to introduce sexual rights among universal human rights had not been successful. The notion of sexual orientation and gender identity had no legal foundation on any human rights instruments and the focus in the debate under item 8 on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action did not encompass in any way such controversial notions. Every nation had the right to religion and culture and no culture of some groups should be imposed on others.

Speakers said that the work done by human rights defenders aimed at fulfilling the objectives of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The efforts of human rights defenders were essential to the protection and promotion of human rights at the national level. All Governments should ensure that all the non-governmental organization activists, lawyers, journalists and other individuals acting in defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms were free from repression. On intolerance and related violence on religion or belief, speakers said the Human Rights Council should address appropriately such situations and Member States should support the adoption of the resolution on freedom of religion and belief during the current session. All countries had the right to choose the priority areas in human rights in accordance with their social systems and the international community should respect these choices. Civil and political rights were interrelated with economic, social and cultural rights and were mutually reinforcing.

Other issues raised included the right to adequate housing and the importance of women’s rights and gender issues as stipulated in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The promotion and protection of women’s rights and the issue of gender-based violence should be kept at the forefront of the international agenda. Incidents of violence and discrimination against women and girls were sadly still common in all parts of the world, including in both developed and developing countries. Twenty-five years after the Declaration on the Right to Development, the enjoyment of that right remained elusive and the international community should exert greater will to make the right to development achievable. Transparency in the financial system and an open trading system were essential. Increased Overseas Development Assistance was urgently needed so that developing countries could achieve their Millennium Development Goals. Terrorism today represented the full negation of human rights, including the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life. The High Commissioner for Human Rights was called upon to devote further energy to making the distinction between legitimate non-governmental organizations and civil society groups and those which used this title to promote terrorist aims. Some speakers said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action stipulated that national and international mechanisms and programmes should be strengthened for the defense and protection of children, in particular the girl-child, abandoned children, street children, and children in armed conflict, and that international cooperation and solidarity should promote the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Many speakers outlined national efforts to ensure that their citizens enjoyed all human rights.

Speaking in the general debate were Hungary on behalf of the European Union, Costa Rica on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), Colombia on behalf of 82 States, Paraguay on behalf of the four countries of MERCOSUR Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay,
Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, United States, Poland, United States, Poland, Argentina, Mexico, China, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Republic of Moldova, Algeria, Iran, Morocco, Indonesia, Holy See, Azerbaijan and South Africa.

The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations took the floor: Network of National Human Rights Institutions of the America Region, Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, European Group of National Human Rights Institutions, Network of African National Human Rights Institutions, Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights, Centrist Democratic International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia), Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, World Union for Progressive Judaism, International Club for Peace Research, Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Developpement dans la region des Grands Lacs, International Service for Human Rights, Indian Council of Education, African Association of Education for Development, France Libertes: Fondation Danielle Mitterand, World Federation of Democratic Youth, Liberation, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale, Indian Council of South America, International Humanist and Ethical Union and UN Watch.

The Council today is holding a full day of meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. During its midday meeting, the Council will hear the presentation of the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and will then hold a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Documentation

The Report of the Secretary-General on the joint work plan of the Division for the Advancement of Women and OHCHR, (A/HRC/16/33), provides a review of the cooperation between the Division for the Advancement of Women, now part of the newly established United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It also indicates a commitment to maintain and strengthen cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women.

The Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the workshop on traditional values of humankind, (A/HRC/16/37), contains a summary of the discussions held during the workshop on traditional values and human rights, which was held in Geneva, on 4 October 2010, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 12/21. The workshop, which was opened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, saw the participation of experts representing different civilizations and legal systems, as well as delegates from interested States, academics and intergovernmental and civil society organizations.

The Report of the Secretary-General on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, (A/HRC/16/76), highlights the main achievements, challenges and priorities at the national level regarding the establishment and strengthening of national human rights institutions. The activities of national human rights institutions on thematic issues, such as business and human rights, torture prevention, the rights of migrants and persons in mobility and the rights of indigenous peoples are also discussed.

The Report of the Secretary-General on the process currently utilized by the ICC of National Institutions to accredit national institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles, (A/HRC/16/77), contains information on the activities carried out by the Subcommittee on Accreditation of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in considering and reviewing applications for accreditation and carrying out re-accreditation and accreditation reviews of national human rights institutions. It also contains detailed information on the development of the general observations of the Subcommittee, aimed at a more rigorous but at the same time fairer and more transparent accreditation and review process.

General Debate on Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was a milestone which covered a wide range of human rights and reaffirmed the principle of universality that was so fundamental to human rights. The Vienna Declaration was clear in that the international community should protect and promote human rights everywhere and it called on the international community to address double standards and not to create a hierarchy of universally acknowledged rights by trading one for the other. The European Union had repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to fight discrimination in all its aspects. The universal nature of human rights included also the responsibility to ensure equality, non-discrimination and protection from violence for gays, lesbians, bisexual or transgender persons, persons belonging to religious minorities and all others who may face discrimination on any other grounds. Human rights violations targeted toward persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity constituted a global and entrenched pattern of serious concern to the European Union. Civil society played an important role in promoting human rights and reminding governments of their commitment to the universality of human rights. States had the responsibility to ensure that those that speak up for human rights, often risking their very lives, should be protected. The protection of human rights defenders would continue to be a priority for the European Union through the implementation of the European Union guidelines on this issue.

NORMAN LIZANO ORTIZ (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), said that in 2011 the international community celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the right to development and it needed to reaffirm in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action that the right to development was a key right. The international community had to promote effective international cooperation and equitable economic relations. The Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries asked the developed countries not to just focus on economic indicators. They believed that in the general debate on the implementation and follow up of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, it was important to take into account the historical and cultural heritage and States needed to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. All States had common values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all people had to benefit from these rights without discrimination because they were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

ALICIA VICTORIA ARANGO OLMOS (Colombia), speaking on behalf of a Group of 82 States, expressed concern at the continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions. The group of countries commended the attention paid to these issues by international human rights mechanisms, including the relevant Special Procedures and treaty bodies, and welcomed the continued attention to these pressing issues within the context of the Universal Periodic Review. They also recognized the sensitivity of these issues, including in their own societies. In this regard, it was important to work towards respectful dialogue and a shared recognition that no one should face stigmatization, violence or abuse on any ground. In closing, the group of countries said that they recognized the broader responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who were marginalized and took the opportunity to renew their commitment to addressing discrimination in all its forms.

RAUL MARTINEZ, (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the four countries of MERCOSUR Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, said that during the recent MERCOSUR foreign affairs meeting in October 2010, the block highlighted issues of human rights, extreme poverty, the right to health, trafficking of persons, forensic science, restituting the identity of those people taken from their country as children and the rights of children. MERCOSUR stressed the need for human rights in many areas including juvenile justice, border situations and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. They restated their intention to continue to find common issues that they could work on together and would continue to support the right to development and hoped that the block would cooperate in events related to this topic in this anniversary year of the passing of the Declaration of the Right to Development.

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action set out to address all fundamental human rights without exception and the African Group believed that civil and political rights were interrelated with economic, social and cultural rights and were mutually reinforcing. The issue of sexual orientation and gender identity in the United Nations had not yet found consensus and the attempt to introduce sexual rights among universal human rights had not been successful. A disproportionate number of States did not join the statement regarding the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. The proponents of the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity had not themselves defined this concept in national jurisprudence. The Heads of State of the African Union adopted a decision in Uganda in July 2010 whereby they rejected to impose the western value system on other regions. They clarified that the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity had clarity in the sense that they did not want any discrimination of anybody under any condition but this concept stood against African values. This concept touched the concept of family that stood at the heart of everything they did as well as the issue of poverty and health. Finally, the leaders of the African countries stated that every nation had the right to religion and culture and no culture of some groups should be imposed on others.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States) said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the universality of human rights and other fundamental freedoms to which the United States and others in the Human Rights Council were committed. This session of the Council came at an extraordinary time, as history was unfolding before them. People who had not had the ability to address their grievances through free and fair democratic processes and freedom of expression were now claiming these human rights as their own. As protests continued to take place across the Middle East, the United States called upon all Governments to uphold their commitments to promote and protect the human rights of their citizens. Countries had a responsibility to seek out and listen to the voices of those that were at this very moment marching in the streets for their freedom. In this respect, the role of the Human Rights Council should be to support the legitimate aspirations of the people and hold Governments accountable for violations of universally recognized human rights. Finally, the United States concluded by saying that it was working to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the world, particularly those forced to flee their homes or countries.

REMIGIUSZ A. HENCZEL (Poland) said the Government of Poland reiterated its solemn commitment to the full implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and would support the High Commissioner and her Office as well as Special Procedures and treaty bodies in that goal. Poland appreciated the work done by human rights defenders aimed at fulfilling the objectives of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The efforts of human rights defenders were essential to the protection and promotion of human rights at the national level. Poland called on all governments to ensure that all the non-governmental organization activists, lawyers, journalists and other individuals acting in defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms were free from repression. Poland hoped that the newly established mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association would help exert pressure on countries that had not respected their citizens’ rights in this regard. Poland was concerned by the numerous cases of intolerance and related violence on religion or belief in many countries and called on the Human Rights Council to address appropriately such situations and supported the adoption of the resolution on freedom of religion and belief during the current session.

SEBASTIAN ROSALES (Argentina) said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recognized the indivisible nature of human rights and the importance of the right to adequate housing. This concept was enshrined in Argentina’s constitution and in many human rights treaties. Argentina restated its readiness to welcome the visit of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and they underlined that their housing policy and the right to adequate housing were very relevant to their Government. Between 2002 and 2009 the budget for urban development and housing saw a high increase and Argentina had designed a growth policy and investments in social housing and had recognized the impact that housing had in their country by improving the sanitary and the tenancy conditions. Although there were still some shortcomings the Government of Argentina had developed an integrated housing policy to ensure that they upheld the rights enshrined in their constitution so that everyone had an adequate standard of living. Argentina was deeply committed to uphold access to adequate housing since it brought to a decent standard of living to all people.

SALVADOR TINAJERO ESQUIVEL (Mexico) said that democracy, the rule of law and promoting human rights could not remain in the realm of rhetoric and had to be backed up with decisive action. Mexico sought to build a State policy that protected fundamental human rights, and was preserved through the succession of Governments. New constitutional amendments had been implemented in Mexico, which incorporated the universal principles of human rights. With respect to the suspension of human rights, the reforms addressed this issue and provided a set of rights that could not be suspended, even in situations of national emergency. These constitutional reforms had received broad support both from within and outside the country. Moreover, civil society organizations had lent their support to these reforms and had said that this marked an important step in the promotion and protection of human rights in Mexico. In closing, the delegation reaffirmed its commitment to advancing national human rights.

HOU PEI (China) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action contained solid commitments by the international community to ensure human rights and stated that these rights were universal, indivisible and interdependent. The international community should treat all human rights fairly. The Chinese Government stuck to the principle of putting people first and the protection of people’s livelihood was the basis of the Government’s work to ensure that all members of society benefited and developed together. The Government had implemented social security development in urban and rural areas and basic medical care to the benefit of 422 million people. The Chinese Government ensured that the elderly and sick were cared for and that all people had access to housing. The financial crisis, food crisis and national disasters posed difficulties for developing countries in achieving economic development and China hoped the international community would assist developing countries to reach their Millennium Development Goals. China believed that all countries had the right to choose the priority areas in human rights in accordance with their social systems and said the international community should respect these choices.

ASIM VETIKHAR AHMAD (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the notion of sexual orientation and gender identity had no legal foundation in any human rights instruments and they stressed that the focus in the debate under item 8 on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action did not encompass in any way such controversial notions. The Organization of the Islamic Conference reaffirmed the commitment made by all States, under the Charter of the United Nations, to promote and encourage universal respect of and observance of all human rights. The work of the Council should be guided by constructive international dialogue and cooperation with a view to uphold all human rights and they noted with concern the attempt to create new rights that were not agreed by the United Nations system and in the universal agreed human rights framework. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteed rights for all without exception. The Organization of the Islamic Conference underlined their opposition to the notion of sexual orientation and gender identity and said that such advocacy constituted an intervention in the domestic affairs and in the sovereignty of States and it was important to refrain for promoting values that did not enjoy international consensus. The Organization of the Islamic Conference called upon the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to uphold the Council agenda and called upon all States to pursue the human rights agenda in line with the human rights agreed in the framework of the United Nations.

GRIGORY LUKIYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said that the Russian Federation was against any forms of discrimination on any grounds. Russia was opposed to any form of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation. However, Russia also recognized that this remained a sensitive issue for many countries, mainly due to entrenched cultural and religious values. Russia therefore condemned the attempts by certain States to isolate and judge States that took a harder stance on sexual orientation. Finally, the delegation warned that if efforts were made to turn lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into a category that needed protection, it could have the reverse effect on their integration and the promotion of their human rights.

NAHIDA SOBHAN (Bangladesh) said that the Vienna Declaration was the foundation for the Human Rights Council and the Declaration stated the fundamental need for the right to development. Twenty-five years after the Declaration on the Right to Development, the enjoyment of that right remained elusive and the international community should exert greater will to make the right to development achievable. Transparency in the financial system and an open trading system were essential. Increased Overseas Development Assistance was urgently needed so that developing countries could achieve their Millennium Development Goals. Bangladesh restated the fundamental rights in the Vienna Declaration: right to development, rights of indigenous people, migrants, women and girl children.

CORINA CALUGARU (Republic of Moldova) said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had established the goals for a wide range of human rights in the twenty-first century reaffirming that the promotion and protection of all human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community. The Republic of Moldova highlighted the discussions within the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding the Vienna Declaration and Programmen of Action, inclusively the new trends in this sense/area. In this context, the national authorities were implementing continuing measures in order to respect human rights for all. One of the last evolutions was represented by the broad consultations on the anti-discrimination draft law. The objective of this law consisted of ensuring all rights of all persons guaranteed by the law. According to national legal provisions, homosexuality was not criminalized anymore. While in compliance with all international standards this aspect was included in the above mentioned draft law.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were incredibly important to the promotion of the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights. Following the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, it was necessary to reflect and recognize that there was still much work to be done. The rising prices of food, oil and basic commodities made it very difficult for many developing countries to protect the human rights of their citizens and therefore greater international support and aid needed to be given. Algeria had been supporting refugee populations in light of the refugee crisis occurring because of the situation in Libya. Terrorism today represented the full negation of human rights, including the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life. On this issue, Algeria called on the High Commissioner to devote further energy to making the distinction between legitimate non-governmental organizations and civil society groups and those which used this title to promote terrorist aims.

HAMID AHMADI (Iran) said that to achieve the Vienna Declaration’s lofty goals and aspirations, the Vienna Declaration considered constant strengthening of the United Nations machinery for human rights and established the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. Iran had always rendered its support to the idea of further improving the coordination, efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations human rights organs and had enjoyed a working relationship and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner. Iran was dismayed at the detrimental behaviour of some States who did not observe these governing principles and that there were a few States, led by the United States, who followed a destructive policy in the Council which would result in the renewal of the unhealthy atmosphere of confrontation and polarization.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the promotion of human rights went through interpretations based on frozen conceptions of human rights and this was the case of the right to non discrimination that was exploited and this had undermined the universality of human rights. The discussion reflected politicization of certain aspects and a violation of Art 1 of the two Covenants that said that all States had the right to non discrimination. The Morocco initiative of autonomy for the Sahara region was fully in line with the principle of self determination.

CHANDRA WIDYA YUDHA (Indonesia) said that Indonesia wished to contribute to today’s debate by highlighting the importance of women’s rights and gender issues as stipulated in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. With International Women’s Day just behind them, it was indeed apt that the promotion and protection of women’s rights and the issue of gender-based violence was kept at the forefront of the international agenda. Incidents of violence and discrimination against women and girls were sadly still common in all parts of the world, including in both developed and developing countries. In terms of women’s safety and protection, the Law on the Elimination of Domestic Violence, passed by the Indonesian Government in 2004, included the provision of shelter, protection from perpetrators and medico-legal counseling for victims. In conclusion, Indonesia urged all countries that had not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to consider doing so in the immediate future.

SILVANO M. TOMASI (Holy See) affirmed the dignity and worth of all human beings and condemned all violence against people. Concerning the debate regarding sexual orientation, there was some confusion on the definition of the term, for the purpose of human rights law. A State should never deprive a person on the basis of human rights due to feeling and thought. Throughout the world there was an understanding that certain sexual behaviors should be banned such as pedophilia. To deny the moral dimension of sexuality, which could be rooted in religious principles, denied a belief about human nature. The Holy See called the Council’s attention to a disturbing trend in these social debates, that people were being attacked for not supporting sexual relations between people of the same sex. These attacks contradicted a fundamental principle of human rights.

SAMIRA SAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) said that Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action stipulated that national and international mechanisms and programmes should be strengthened for the defense and protection of children, in particular the girl-child, abandoned children, street children, and children in armed conflict, and that international cooperation and solidarity should promote the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Azerbaijan welcomed the focus of the annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child on children living and working in the streets. The number of children living and working in the streets in Azerbaijan had decreased compared to 1998-99, mainly due to economic development and poverty reduction. The parent negligence was still displayed and as the country was at war, people from the frontline and adhering districts moved to urban areas to try to find jobs and provoke their children to work. In general, there were still many problems in the field of social reintegration and rehabilitation of children facing exploitation.

LUVUYO NDIMENI (South Africa) said that South Africa continued to support the basic rights of human dignity as well as non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The discussion of such a culturally sensitive issue as sexual orientation needed to be conducted in an open, transparent and inclusive manner. In this regard, South Africa urged all countries to address the important issue in their national capacities and to work towards safeguarding the rights of their citizens, irrespective of their sexual orientation.

LARRY DEVOE, of Non-Governmental Organization Network of NRHI of the Americas, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the important role played by national human rights institutions. In September 2007 a commission appointed the ombudsman of Ecuador as Secretary of their Network and their action was focused on the protection of groups in situation of discrimination, in the reduction of poverty and on the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. The Network of National Human Rights Institutions of the America Region decided to strengthen their Network and they would continue to support all activities and ensure that all participants in the international coordinating committee could contribute to the promotion of human rights in the world.

ALI BIN SAMIKH AL-MARRI, of Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, welcomed the report of the Secretary-General related to the review status of some organizations that represented Asia and all this would lead to strengthening of the promotion mechanisms. The report of the Secretary-General reviewed the contribution of national associations and referred to the implementation of the various instruments. It was crucial to take into account the contribution made by civil society and their opinions. Their association had asked for status A for these national associations in order to be able to better contribute to the work. National associations played an important role in the efforts undertaken in the area of human rights and it was important to give them a say in this work and the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions appealed to the Secretary-General for the need to have more financial resources and the creation of a fund for these organizations was one of the means to achieve this goal.

ALAN MILLER, of European Group of National Human Rights Institutions, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the important role of national human rights institutions. The European Group of National Human Rights Institutions interacted with key human rights mechanisms in Europe, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supported this interaction. They worked at strengthening their relationship with regional human rights mechanisms and institutions, in particular in the reform process of the European Court of Human Rights. Members of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions were active at all levels of the promotion and protection of human rights, and they called on Member States to support national human rights institutions at both national and international levels.

KATHARINA ROSE, of Network of African National Human Rights Institutions, said that the national human rights institutions from the African continent expressed their appreciation to the States and non-governmental organizations which had supported during the review of the Human Rights Council process the proposals for improved engagement of Paris Principles compliant national institutions in the Human Rights Council, and especially in the Universal Periodic Review. The Network of African National Human Rights Institutions worked to support its members in bridging the gap between international, regional and national human rights protection mechanisms. African national human rights institutions faced numerous challenges, especially in the wake of electoral upheavals as witnessed recently in several countries. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should continuously support strengthening of the capacity of national human rights institutions to enable them to deliver on their mandate, especially in situations of crisis or conflicts. The Network of African National Human Rights Institutions had carried out a gaps analysis of national human rights institutions in several African countries with the objective to identify and recommend actions to be taken to make those institutions fully compliant with the Paris Principles.

MYRIAM MONTRAT, of Joint statement of National Institutions of Human Rights of several countries, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the principle of equality and non-discrimination. As national human rights institutions, they were charged with the protection and promotion of human rights for all, without prejudice or discrimination. They also stated their strong support of the joint statement made earlier on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, supported by more than 80 States. Unfortunately, however, there was continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions.

KIM VANCE, of Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network, in a joint statement with International Service for Human Rights, and Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, said that it was pleased to make this statement on behalf of 116 non-governmental organizations from over 60 countries. They commended the large core group of States that had made the earlier joint statement and were particularly encouraged by the measureable increase in cross-regional support for these issues in recent years. In closing, it was hard to imagine how any State committed to human rights could disagree with the principle that States had a collective responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who were marginalized.

SHEHEREZADE KARA, of International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, in a joint statement with Shirkat Gah, Women's Resource Centre, said that 14 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action the relation between culture and human rights remained controversial for the Council. In many countries women experienced brutal forms of discrimination which were brutally routed in their traditions and placed women in a position of inferiority to man. In certain cultural contexts women were subject to lynching, stoning and killings. They called on the Human rights Council to fulfill its mandate by making clear that no country may call traditional values to violate human rights.

TOM GANIATSOS , of Marangopoulos Foundatan Rights, in a joint statement with International Alliance of Women,, said that they subscribed to the main propositions by experts and participants. These included the existence of a common set of values informing human rights standards shared by all cultures, as inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the entitlement of every human being, regardless of gender, socio-economic, cultural or sexual identity, belief system, political view or geographic location to all of the human rights and freedoms affirmed in the Universal Declaration; and the obligation of States under the Vienna Declaration and under international law in general, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to protect human rights and personal freedoms for everyone.

ED-DAHY ELBACHIR, said that unfortunately the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action continued to be systematically violated in many parts of the world and Centrist Democratic International regretted the violations on a daily basis by many States and individuals. Some parties were now manipulating the right to self-determination in order to tear apart the territorial integrity of other States. The international community was fortunately convinced that autonomy was an internationally recognised and modern form of the right to self-determination that granted respect of national sovereignty and regional stability. The populations taken hostage by Polisario militias in the Tindouf camp were an example of violations of the Vienna Declaration and this population expected the international community to take urgent action to lift the blockade which had been imposed on it.

POOJA POTAL, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia), expressed its disappointment that the unavailability of Rules of Procedures had been constantly used as an excuse by the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to avoid substantive discussions on pressing human rights issues. The cooperation with civil society was insufficient and its guidelines on engaging with civil society, adopted in February 2011, were kept away from public knowledge. The Bangkok Action Plan of 2010 underlined the importance of partnerships between government, national human rights institutions and civil society in developing regional mechanisms, but there was no real effort by States to engage with civil society organizations on developing the Charter of Democracy. Forum Asia called upon the Government of the Maldives and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to follow an inclusive process for agenda setting in the preparation of the upcoming Asia-Pacific workshop.

STELLA SZONN, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said that for a national human rights system to be strong and effective, a constant, open, inclusive and equal cooperation had to prevail between national human rights institutions and representatives from all civil society players. The latter group included non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders, associations of journalists and lawyers as well as experts from various philosophical or religious schools. In this light, traditional practices or extreme religious interpretations in certain countries could not provide a “carte blanche” that was then misused, for example, to justify violations based on gender or sexual orientation. As just one example, Sudwind said that Iran failed to take any concrete steps towards establishing a national human rights institution, in full compliance with the Paris Principles.

DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, said that at the last session of the Council, they had been immediately stopped on a point of order by a Member State delegate who declared that “Islam will not be crucified at this Council”. All they had done was condemn the female genital mutilation of three million young girls every year in 32 countries, 29 of which were members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Such crimes, carried out traditionally, but also with official religious backing, should not be treated as taboo subjects at the Council, because of fear of religious sensitivities. The growing phenomenon of cultural relativism should not be supported by self-censorship at the United Nations.

SYED SULTAN AHMAD JILANI, of International Club for Peace Research, said that even though the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called for the elimination of all kinds of human rights violations almost two decades ago, they found that in some areas the situation was only worsening. Article 15 asked the international community to work against xenophobia and article 19 called upon governments to protect all human rights of minorities. But xenophobia, particularly in the form of Islamophobia was growing in several European countries and partly fed upon the flagrant violation of the human rights of religious minorities in several Muslim-majority countries.

HAMDI CHERIFI, of Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action stipulated that the right to development was a fundamental right and the right to developed facilitated the enjoyment of all human rights. Unfortunately, this provision continued to be violated in many regions of the world and the populations could not uphold this right because of their vulnerability. The Saharan population was an illustration of this and Actional Internationale pour la Paix et le Developpement dans la region des Grads Lacs urged the Council to liberate the Saharan population from the siege that had been imposed on them for three decades.

ELEANOR OPENSHAW, of International Service for Human Rights, said that human rights were rooted in cultures and traditions and adherence to human rights framework was a mean to uphold principles of human dignity, equality and non-discrimination. Those universal values must be distinguished from other values within cultures across the world that were not compatible with international human rights standards, and which were too often used to exclude and discriminate against those who did not form the perceived mainstream society, such as women, minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, or persons with disabilities. The promotion of human rights must be done by challenging societal attitudes, biases and prejudices that led to human rights abuses and discrimination, particularly against minorities.

ARBINDER SINGH KOHLI, of Indian Council of Education, said that the best way to protect human rights around the world was to develop human rights communities, which would be a reality should there be a sound and viable human rights education. The Indian Council of Education urged governments particularly in developing countries to maintain human rights education as a priority and to include it in school curriculum and in training for state organs. The proper human rights education for all those involved in the administration of justice was a key to combating impunity and establishing the rule of law. Human rights education programmes should include the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, persons with different gender identity and sexual orientation, and indigenous peoples. The Indian Council of Education urged governments to provide adequate financial resources to national human rights education in their budgets and to adopt a rights based approach in all areas such as economic and social planning, trade and finance policy.

GHENNET GIRMA, of African Association of Education for Development, said that the existence of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights did not guarantee the well-being of civil society organizations. In Ethiopia, civil society organizations had been muzzled for the past three years by a proclamation that interfered with their work through constant surveillance, random inquiry and income limitation, bringing down international aid to only ten percent of their income. Unless organizations were independent, they could not freely and boldly report and combat human rights violations such as involuntary disappearances, arbitrary and illegal detention, mass arrest, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions. Ethiopia needed to be encouraged to issue a standing invitation to the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and to accept a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

ORETTA BANDETINI DI POGGIO, of France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action stressed in paragraph 2 that “all peoples had the right to self-determination”. Decolonization began some 50 years ago and most people formerly under colonial rule had gained their independence. As stated at the last session of the Council, by various member countries, human rights could not exist in a vacuum and needed to be applied universally, including in the Western Sahara, which was still a non self-governing territory, despite the numerous United Nations Resolutions in favour of its self-determination.

MALAININ LAKHAL, of World Federation of Democratic Youth, in a joint statement with Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action underlined in point 2 the sanctity of the right of all peoples to self-determination. The World Federation of Democratic Youth reiterated their deep concerns about the situation in the Western Sahara. This territory had been included in the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963, yet five decades had passed, and the United Nations was still failing to organize a referendum on self-determination as recommended by all United Nations resolutions on the subject.

SAEED MOKBIL, of Liberation, welcomed the report of the High Commissioner and attached great importance to the universality of all human rights, taking into account different values which made an important contribution to the development of human rights and standards. Liberation supported the proposals mentioned in paragraph 53 of the High Commissioner report on the elimination of the culture of violence against women and drew the attention of the Council to another type of culture of violence, intolerance, extremist and impunity which undermined the principles enshrined in the international human rights instruments in several countries.

MICHELINE MAKOU DJOUMA, of Organisation pour la communication en Afrique et de promotion de la coopération économique internationale (OCAPROCE International), said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed that the right to development was an integral part of human rights and stipulated that each individual was at the heart of development. All human rights were based on dignity and value of the human person and were part of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was unfortunate that those provisions were ignored in many regions of the world, where some forces were putting people in camps where the population had no rights or voice, such as the case of Polisario and camp Tindouf. Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale urged the Human Rights Council to ensure that the rights of women in those camps were protected.

RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that despite the adoption of principles of foreign occupation and the right to self-determination, the calls to address violations were ignored by this Council, regardless of the fact that violation of those rights were at the basis of the violation of human rights. A number of United Nations processes were excluding the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples, while their abilities to address violations through domestic laws and domestic judicial systems were reduced. The Indian Council of South America congratulated the Government of the Russian Federation on the first meeting on traditional values and supported the corresponding draft resolution.

ROY BROWN, of International Humanist and Ethical Union, applauded the recognition that human rights were implicitly underpinned and founded on the concept of human dignity. However, there seemed to be little recognition that dignity in the context of traditional values had no guarantee of equality. When dignity was defined by the norms of an autocratic or patriarchal culture, tradition or religion, women could have dignity in male-dominated terms but be totally lacking in autonomy and have very few human rights. In conclusion, there could be no real dignity without autonomy, and the problem became particularly acute when traditional values were enshrined in religion and in laws deemed to have divine sanction.

HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said that gross and systematic violations of human rights, including discrimination, were still a daily reality experienced by too many people in many parts of the world. In Iran, there was pervasive gender inequality and violence against women, a continued crackdown on women’s human rights defenders and violent repression and sentencing of women exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Finally, UN Watch said that greater action was required by States and asked when the promises of the Vienna Declaration would be implemented.
__________

For use of the information media; not an official record