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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

MORNING

21 June 2012

Concludes Clustered Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association and
on Countering Terrorism

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Maria Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona. It also concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and on promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

María Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, recommended the establishment of an institutionalized follow-up mechanism on country visits of Special Procedures. She also recommended that States explore the possibility of establishing domestic mechanisms to internally review and monitor the progress made with regard to recommendations of human rights treaty bodies. The Special Rapporteur spoke about country visits conducted to Ecuador, Zambia, Bangladesh, Viet Nam and Ireland, where, despite overall progress troubling issues remained. In all those countries women faced discrimination and were disproportionately vulnerable to poverty.

Paraguay, speaking as a concerned country, said extreme poverty and human rights were a concern and Special Procedures constituted an opportunity to fulfil human rights. The Constitution afforded protection to vulnerable groups and Paraguay had ratified all relevant conventions and honoured its commitments to treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review.

Timor-Leste, speaking as a concerned country, said extreme poverty posed a major obstacle and a comprehensive long-term policy for social protection was needed. Efforts to reduce poverty would be based on inclusive growth and development. In order to ensure decentralised development and equitable distribution, agricultural and rural enterprise remained a priority.

In closing remarks the Special Rapporteur welcomed the fact that the Council had prioritized extreme poverty in its work. She echoed many delegations’ concerns about the reduction of funds for international cooperation. Assistance for climate change must be additional to regular official development assistance. The Guiding Principles had been negotiated for 11 years now and most countries had had the opportunity to participate in the consultations. The Special Rapporteur appealed to States to adopt those Principles by consensus during the twenty-first session of the Council in September 2012.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on extreme poverty and human rights were: Costa Rica, Djibouti, Uruguay (GRULAC), Bangladesh, Senegal (African Group), France, Romania, Indonesia, Kuwait, Chile, Spain, Finland, Philippines, Pakistan (OIC), Cuba, Morocco, European Union, Togo, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Belgium, China, Norway, Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, Botswana.

Non-governmental organizations that took the floor during the interactive dialogue were Latin Committee for the Defence of Women’s Rights, European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation, Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero (Corporacion Humanas) and MADRE.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

In concluding remarks, Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said his mandate had been created to protect the shrinking space for civil society and one of its objectives was to analyze the reasons behind this and reverse the trend. There were disturbing trends around the rights of association and peaceful assembly, such as States learning from each other how to restrict the enjoyment of those rights. There had to be a way to stop that trend.

Also in concluding remarks, Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that violations of international human rights law by non-State actors in the context of terrorism did not void the obligation of States to fulfil their duties and obligations. Reducing the plight of victims of terrorism to being a pretext for violations of international human rights law involved their secondary victimization and was a distortion of the report and misuse of human rights law principles.

Mr. Kiai and Mr. Emmerson presented their reports on 20 June. A summary of their presentations can be found in press release HRC12/067E.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were: Belgium, United States, Austria, Egypt, Colombia, China, Syria, Russian Federation, Mexico, Poland, Guatemala, Italy, Indonesia, Botswana, Sweden, Uruguay, Ireland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Belarus, Togo, Council of Europe, Costa Rica, and South Africa.

Non-governmental organizations that took the floor during the interactive dialogue were: Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, World Organization Against Torture, Amnesty International, International Service for Human Rights, Society for Threatened Peoples, Corporación Humanas, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, COC Netherlands, Forum Asia for Human Rights and Development, Civicus, and Freedom House.

The Council today is holding a full day of meetings. During its midday meeting, starting at 2 p.m., the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises and the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and on the Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism

Belgium believed that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were an essential element of democracy which ensured the sustainability and vitality of democracy in mature societies. The Special Rapporteur had recommended that national laws recognize spontaneous assemblies and asked what was the value added of this in relation to international instruments concerning the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association? What would be the reasonable limit to the right of peaceful assembly?

United States said that the rights to peaceful association and of assembly remained under continued threat, for example in Belarus and Syria, while in Cuba, despite some positive measures undertaken so far, the Government was preventing its citizens from public assemblies. What were the most pressing threats to the rights to peaceful assembly and association today? Terrorist acts by non-State actors were heinous and despicable criminal offences, but did not violate international law. That was why the United States would be hesitant to endorse creating human rights protections that applied only to victims of terrorism.

Austria expressed concern about ongoing attacks and repression against peaceful demonstrators around the world. States had a clear duty to protect protesters and there had to be full accountability for any violations of the right to freedom of expression. Austria asked Mr. Kiai to elaborate on his recommendation on fighting impunity and strengthening legal institutions to protect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Human rights must be protected at all times in the framework of countering terrorism. Austria welcomed the victim-centered approach of the Special Rapporteur and asked what could be the role of the Council in relation to the creation of new international instrument for victims of terrorism.

Egypt said that some of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were not well founded in international law, including the call to allow armed registered associations to function freely, and the call to enable access to foreign funding and resources without prior authorization. All counterterrorism efforts should be conducted under due process of law in line with international standards, especially international human rights standards. Egypt called for a study to be carried out on the issue of the use of drones as an indiscriminate means of mass killing of innocent civilians, and to qualify these practices under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Colombia reaffirmed its zero tolerance policy of violence against trade unionists. Resources had been allocated for the protection of vulnerable persons, increased from 7 million in 2007 to 111 million dollars in 2012, affording protection to 1,373 trade unionists. Colombia called attention to victims of terrorism. Colombia was implementing a law on victims and land restitution, which used a broad concept of victims.

China said that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provided that the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was subject to limitations as provided by law. It could not be interpreted as a tacit agreement for any State or individual to take part in actions violating human rights. That China had been portrayed as a country not permitting assemblies was a trampling of facts. At the end of 2010, 44,000 civil society associations had been registered in China. Activities had to abide by the law, the constitution, and not impair State, public and collective interests.

Syria stressed the responsibility of States to protect their citizens from terrorism. While the report noted that human rights and international law were violated by terrorist acts, it contained no references to the role played by States and entities that provided support to armed groups engaging in terrorist acts. Syria had suffered acts of terrorism by armed groups, including Al-Qaeda, who had carried out violent attacks against the Syrian people. Investigations on these acts were underway to bring the criminals to justice and provide compensation for victims and material damages. There was, however, no compensation for the loss of life. Syria was determined to combat terrorism by all available means in order to protect its citizens.

Russian Federation indicated that article 4 in the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination forbade the establishment of associations which aimed at the promotion of racism; similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights established a strong basis for prohibiting any neo-Nazi organizations. Russia agreed that acts of terrorism committed by non-state actors violated the rights of victims, and highlighted the provision by some States of support to terrorist activities and groups engaged in terrorism. Groups that had been accused or suspected of terrorism should be subjected to a thorough investigation and a human rights dimension should be included when combating terrorism.

Mexico said it was the obligation of States to ensure justice. A few weeks ago the Mexican Congress had approved legislation on victims, which included access to justice and compensation. Mexico requested further details concerning ways in which Mr. Emerson could further contribute to ensure respect for human rights in the context of States’ efforts to combat national and international terrorism. Mexico reiterated that the right to association was essential for the defence of other rights as well; in this context, Mexico suggested that the Special Rapporteur address the situation of migrants and other vulnerable groups.

Poland said that the right to freedom of assembly and association was a universal human right of every individual and constituted an essential element of democracy. Poland was concerned that there were still countries where those freedoms were hampered by local or national authorities and where individuals were being deprived of full enjoyment of those rights. What specific instruments would the Special Rapporteur suggest to use to halt the use of violence, harassment, intimidation and reprisals?

Guatemala said that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in its national law were regulated only to ensure that the exercise of this right did not adversely affect the rights of other people and demonstrators themselves. Guatemala had created a number of institutions to establish and facilitate dialogue with peaceful demonstrators, including the office of the Ombudsman. Despite the progress achieved to date, there were still challenges for the full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Guatemala asked the Special Rapporteur which criteria, in addition to numerical one, could be used to verify the representatively of associations such as labour unions.

Italy strongly condemned the increasing number of deadly attacks on religious sites and expressed its solidarity with societies which suffered such violence. States and the Human Rights Council should ensure the right of all people to peacefully and safely practice their faith in public. Building and strengthening the human rights capacity of national administrative and law enforcement officials was an essential element to ensure that people could publicly manifest their opinion in an atmosphere free from violence. Which initiatives could the Council and regional organizations undertake to disseminate the best practices in this regard and make them operational?

Indonesia said that human rights education and training for police as well as military officers had always been the Government’s priority. Indonesia welcomed the implementation of the four pillars of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Indonesia had established the National Coordinating Body for Combating Terrorism through Presidential Regulation, and would continue to pay greater attention to the protection of victims of terrorism. All measures against terrorism had to respect human rights and be consistent with the rule of law.

Botswana said that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association was not absolute. Matters of national security and public safety and order placed necessary limits on these rights, including terrorism. Demonstrators and organizers also had responsibilities individually and collectively, during assemblies. When peaceful, a violent response from authorities in most cases was disproportionate.

Sweden said that it particularly welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s consideration of best practices, including national practices and experiences that promoted and protected the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. What were the greatest obstacles to the practical enjoyment of everyone’s right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests?

Uruguay said that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association could not be made conditional. Uruguay promoted the role of associations and possibilities for the public expression of opinion, including trade unions. The freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was customarily exercised through a wide range of activities and marches and the authorities guaranteed peace and order without interfering. The national police academy had incorporated training on human rights. Uruguay inquired if any further work or best practices were needed concerning the interaction between demonstrations and authorities to enhance security in marches and public gatherings.

Ireland said that although the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association were interrelated, they often led to different challenges; therefore the identification of legal and institutional best practices for these rights in common was useful. Internet freedom had been a priority for Ireland during its Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ireland asked the Special Rapporteur to share his views on whether the duty of States to ensure the expression of dissenting views also applied to freedom of assembly, for instance in cases of racism, xenophobia or discrimination?

Switzerland welcomed the best practices listed in the report as a source of inspiration to improve the protection of freedom of association. In Switzerland the practice was not to notify or register associations. Would the Special Rapporteur suggest implementing one and could he elaborate on the potential problems related to systems of notification and registration. States should adopt a positive attitude concerning peaceful demonstrations and recognise their fundamental value. The monitoring by independent entities, such as participants and human rights defenders, was essential. What were the best mechanisms to monitor demonstrations? What steps could be taken by the United Nations and regional organizations to ensure rights in the context of peaceful assemblies?

Czech Republic said that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were a valuable indicator of a State’s respect for the enjoyment of many other human rights. It was regrettable that those freedoms were denied in many countries where individuals were subjected to threats and acts of intimidation or violence, including torture. The Czech Republic asked Mr. Kiai whether there were many obstacles in fulfilling his mandate and how the Council could help in addressing them. What was the most effective way to educate and sensitize public officials so that everyone, including minorities, could freely hold assemblies also to express dissenting, incendiary or shocking views?

Thailand said that the challenge in implementing the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association would be to find the appropriate balance between those rights and maintaining public order. Were the protestors who carried arms peaceful and if not, at which point were they considered as not peaceful? Given the transnational nature of terrorist activities today, could the Special Rapporteur elaborate on how to ensure the effective prosecution of the perpetrators, especially where regional justice mechanisms did not exist?

Pakistan was only too familiar with the human cost of terrorism and took seriously the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur to adopt the international framework to protect the human rights of victims of terrorism. Among those victims there were also those whose rights were violated in the context of countering terrorism and not only in terrorist attacks. More that 1,000 civilians, mostly women and children, had been killed in Pakistan in drone attacks; unfortunately they were only considered as collateral damage. Pakistan asked Mr. Emmerson to take those into consideration when discharging his mandate, together with human rights violations in cases of targeted killings.

India said that the principal responsibility of ensuring an environment of security and peaceful coexistence lay with the State. At the same time there was a need to reflect on how all stakeholders, including civil society and protestors, could effectively prevent protestors from violating the rights of others as well as their own. India condemned all acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, irrespective of the motivation that may be invoked to justify them. Terrorism could not be countered by law enforcement alone. Prevention was also critical, through responses in areas including education, social integration, tolerance, rule of law and respect for human rights, among others.

Belarus said that it was striking that the analysis in the report had focused only on one group of countries. The Special Rapporteur had perhaps been lenient towards those countries behind his mandate. Belarus recommended that Mr. Kiai show more vigilance and not be afraid of turning his gaze towards subjects including Canada, the United States, and European Union countries.

Togo said that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association provided channels for dialogue, pluralism, tolerance and open-mindedness. However, the exercise of this right had to be carried out in conformity with the constitution, in respect for national security, public order, public health, morality and the freedoms and fundamental rights of others.

Council of Europe recalled that Ministers of Member States of the Council of Europe had adopted guidelines on the protection of victims of terrorism in 2005. States had the obligation to protect the rights of victims and measures taken to fight terrorism must respect human rights and the rule of law. Guiding principles should include the need to provide assistance to victims, independently from the prosecution or conviction of perpetrators, and States’ respect for the dignity, privacy and family life of victims.

Costa Rica said Costa Rica had supported the adoption of a resolution in the Council concerning the protection of peaceful assemblies which encouraged States to create propitious conditions through the creation of norms. The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were central components of a democratic society. Any restrictions should be clearly delineated and in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and States should ensure access to the Internet as an instrument to fulfil these rights.

South Africa said that the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was embodied in its laws and Constitution, and remained central to democracy. The Special Rapporteur had indicated in his report that this right may be exercised through the Internet and social media; in this regard, South Africa inquired about measures of accountability to prevent illegal acts, derogatory and defamatory statements, and racism.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia said that while peace and public order needed to be maintained at all times, peaceful assemblies must be recognized as legitimate democratic means for the public to express themselves. States must not disperse peaceful demonstrations only because of the actions of a few unruly demonstrators. Armenian and Estonian police provided some good practices in this regard, including their legal obligation to facilitate public assemblies and training in separating provocateurs from peaceful demonstrators.

World Organization Against Torture said that the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders had continued to document too many obstacles they faced in countries characterized by restrictive legislation and practices related to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Direct intervention of the Special Rapporteur before the authorities was essential to ensure that their policies and legislation complied with the best practices identified in his report.

Amnesty International welcomed the efforts to promote better recognition and respect for the human rights of victims of terrorism and noted the responsibility of States to investigate the attacks, bring those responsible to justice in open and fair trials, and ensure medical assistance and access to reparation mechanisms to victims. Amnesty International supported the establishment of a new global instrument to specifically and comprehensively address the human rights of victims of terrorism.

International Service for Human Rights pointed out the particular importance of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association for human rights defenders operating in the intergovernmental space, including the Human Rights Council. These spaces had to be open and inclusive if they were to retain their credibility. The International Service for Human Rights welcomed the emphasis on the need for a gender perspective, and the primacy of the role of the State in ensuring that protests were carried out peacefully and were protected.

Society for Threatened Peoples said that though Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution provided that citizens enjoyed freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, association, procession and demonstration, in practice the Tibetan people, the Mongolians and Uyghurs among others had struggled to exercise these rights.

Corporación Humanas, Chile, Centre for Legal and Social Studies, Argentina, in a joint statement, said that the global fight against terrorism had resulted in processes of hardening of criminal legislation in numerous countries of Latin America, such as in Chile and in Argentina. Their identification and specific action by States and international protection mechanisms were necessary to avoid violations of fundamental rights.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that the creation of this mandate was a prescient measure, as the global resurgence of peaceful protests had demanded democratic reform, accountability and economic justice. Governments had enacted laws restricting freedom of assembly and security forces had responded with excessive force. In the Arab region, protests had met with extreme brutality and systematic human rights violations. Freedom of assembly constituted the front line of the struggle for human rights and a concerted approach should be undertaken to create a strong United Nations framework of implementation tools and benchmarks.

COC Netherlands said that States should protect the rights of those discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, since their peaceful activities were oppressed by State and non-State actors. Peaceful demonstrations, activities and pro-human rights gatherings by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups had been arbitrarily shut down in Uganda and other parts of the world; and specific anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender laws and proposals in Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, and Russia had been highlighted by the High Commissioner, which prohibited expressions of the right to equality in violation of international norms.

Forum Asia for Human Rights and Development said that severe restrictions through the peaceful assembly act had been imposed by Malaysia, including onerous responsibility on the organisers for the violent behaviour of others. In Cambodia, activists had been arrested and prosecuted and, in India, protesters had faced harassment. Concerning the issue of access to funding and resources, Forum Asia for Human Rights and Development regretted that Bangladesh did not provide a full response to the references made by the report of the Special Rapporteur, including on tightened government control on the activities of non-governmental organizations.

Freedom House said that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were the foundation of democratic societies and there was nothing new about authorities clamping down on civil society exercising those rights. Governments used a variety of strategies to violate, intimidate and repress the enjoyment of those rights and crackdowns were often accompanied with accusations against non-governmental organizations in order to discredit them.

Concluding Remarks by Special Rapporteurs on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism

MAINA KIAI, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said in his concluding remarks that while there was no full agreement by States on all the issues, he was very interested in continuing this dialogue also during the country visits to a number of countries, including Algeria, Bahrain, Belarus, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela. This mandate had been created to protect the shrinking space for civil society and one of the objectives of the mandate was to analyze the reasons behind it and reverse the trend. Turning to the questions by the delegations, Mr. Kiai said that breaches of those rights cut across all the regions of the world. There were some countries where laws of association were particularly harsh, and in some of those countries those laws were being challenged in court. There were disturbing trends around the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, such as States learning from each other how to restrict the enjoyment of those rights and there had to be a way to stop this trend. It was important to be clear about the duty of States to remove from demonstrations those causing trouble; that was not the duty of organizers of protests. The question of combating impunity was essential and was the foundation of the protection of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

BEN EMMERSON, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, in closing remarks thanked the States that had endorsed the content of the Framework Principles and agreed to the call toward the proposed international instrument in that regard. Mr. Emmerson also thanked those who approached this issue with an open mind and wished to further study this proposal. All States would receive a letter from the mandate holder asking for an internal audit of laws, procedures and practices with a view to compilation and publication of those responses to clearly identify protection gaps. Further, the content of the report needed to be clearly communicated during the upcoming review next week of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The Framework was not only about compensation, but included also investigations, prosecution and protection of a number of vital rights of victims. Violations of international human rights law by non-State actors in the context of terrorism did not void the obligation of States to fulfil their duties and obligations. Reducing the plight of victims of terrorism to a pretext for violations of international human rights law involved their secondary victimization and was a distortion of the report and misuse of human rights law principles.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/20/25).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on the Mission to Timor-Leste (A/HRC/20/25/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on the Mission to Paraguay (A/HRC/20/25/Add.1).

Presentation by Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

MARIA MAGDALENA SEPULVEDA CARMONA, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said that she was actively developing the guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights, a draft of which would be presented at the twenty-first session of the Council in September 2012. The report provided a critical assessment of developments following official country visits conducted to Ecuador, Zambia, Bangladesh, Viet Nam and Ireland, where, despite the overall progress, some troubling issues remained in terms of protecting the rights of persons living in poverty. In each country there existed groups that were particularly vulnerable to poverty due to entrenched discrimination and other factors and in all those countries women faced discrimination and were disproportionally vulnerable to poverty. The Special Rapporteur recommended the establishment of an institutionalized follow-up mechanism on country visits of Special Procedures, while States should explore the possibility of establishing domestic mechanisms to internally review and monitor the progress made with regard to recommendations of human rights treaty bodies.

With regard to her country visits, Ms. Sepulveda Carmona said that although Timor-Leste had made significant progress towards the consolidation of peace and security and had experienced rapid economic growth, this unfortunately had not translated into sustained improvements in living conditions or job creation for the majority of the Timorese people. Poverty remained pervasive and widespread with 41 per cent of the population living on less than one dollar per day. The Special Rapporteur welcomed the increase in budget allocation to social services, including health and education and expressed concern at the fact that the budget allocation to physical infrastructure was disproportionately high, at the expense of resources for desperately-needed health services and quality education provision. The challenge of building a new education system in Timor-Leste was fundamental, as 42 per cent of the population of 15 years and above was unable to read and write in either of the two official languages.

Paraguay’s rich natural resources contributed to significant recent economic growth, which, unfortunately had not been translated into a significant reduction in poverty. Data from 2010 suggested that poverty affected over half of the population and extreme poverty affected 30 per cent of the population, especially in rural areas. Inequality in Paraguay was alarming and it was one of the most unequal countries in South America. Challenges such as unequal access to land, corruption and impunity must be addressed immediately. It was regrettable that the Congress had not approved resources for social expenditure which was the lowest in Latin America. The report contained concrete recommendations to improve human rights in this country, including the ratification of several international instruments and adoption of laws against all forms of discrimination.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Paraguay, speaking as a concerned country, said that extreme poverty and human rights was an issue of concern and Special Procedures constituted an opportunity to continue to fulfil human rights. The Constitution afforded protection to vulnerable groups and Paraguay had ratified all relevant conventions and honoured its commitments to the treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review. With support from the High Commissioner, Paraguay had established a national human rights plan for the implementation of further policies. Addressing inequalities was an important element of this plan. The concern with inequality in the current economic system had been translated in a number of different programmes which aimed at poverty reduction and addressed, for example, the rights to health and education, housing problems for the poorest, water and sanitation, and food security. Medium- and long-term plans included the eradication of food insecurity and strengthening the supply of quality food. The State had also set up a programme to provide opportunities for people who faced problems finding jobs. Other programmes aimed at addressing the situation of working street children, ensuring education and family protection, and money transfers promoting the effective rights to food, health, and education.

Timor-Leste, speaking as a concerned country, said that it openly acknowledged shortcomings identified in the report but it would be inaccurate to depict the situation as a deliberate act to further marginalise the vulnerable or as the result of neglect. The Constitution guaranteed the protection and promotion of all rights, economic, social and cultural, as well as civil and political rights; their implementation required new institutions, legislation and policies. Since independence in 2002, successive Governments strove to meet this challenge. Extreme poverty posed a major obstacle and a comprehensive and long-term policy for social protection was needed. Efforts to reduce poverty shall be based on inclusive growth and development; in order to ensure decentralised development and equitable distribution, agricultural and rural enterprise remained a priority. Communities’ participation in the design and implementation of development policies was also foreseen. In 2013 municipal elections would be conducted and municipalities would have more opportunities to design, implement and monitor local development. Timor-Leste remained committed to alleviating extreme poverty through development activities and targeted social policies.

Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty

The National Human Rights Institution of Timor-Leste addressed the Human Rights Council in a video message, and said that most people in the country continued to experience poverty, food insecurity, a rising gap in incomes and unequal access to basic services. More needed to be done to combat discrimination and women had to have access to full education to be in a better situation to compete with men for employment, participate in political life and access justice. There was a need to promulgate the law on domestic violence and increase resources for the vulnerable persons unit in the national police.

Costa Rica said that the elaboration of guiding principles was a lengthy process that had started even before the appointment of the mandate holders. The challenges on the international human rights system was not writing the norms, but implementing them and the recommendations from treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures. The best way to implement recommendations would be through follow up visits which would be difficult to implement due to time and budgetary resources.

Djibouti said extreme poverty was a combination of many factors and that a way out was the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in combination with civil and political rights. States and the international community must guarantee the full enjoyment of those rights. Djibouti was committed to combating extreme poverty and attached great importance to the follow up mechanism proposed in the report of the Special Rapporteur.

Uruguay, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, expressed concern with the persistence of extreme poverty, aggravated by the economic, financial and food crises, and by their increasing scope: including health, chronic disease, illiteracy, lack of housing and access to water. The Group stressed the importance of paying special attention to vulnerable groups and noted that extreme poverty was exacerbated by gender inequality, violence and discrimination. International and national measures to address extreme poverty should be implemented. In the context of the Council, constructive work by the Special Rapporteur could be done on the project of principles on extreme poverty and human rights; and the Group also encouraged States to actively contribute to this project.

Bangladesh took note of the components of the follow up report. Bangladesh was already on track to meet one of the indicators of target 1 by bringing down the poverty gap ratio. Poverty alleviation projects were being implemented and constituted more than half of the budgetary allocation of resources. Bangladesh was often cited for its best practices for social safety net programmes. The rural employment opportunities initiative addressed marginalized women’s empowerment and stepping out of poverty. The national human rights commission had been established in 2008 and had competence over civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. Bangladesh acknowledged that it had not been able to accomplish as much as it would have liked, but it had not stopped its efforts.

Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said States faced challenges concerning technical and financial capacities to adequately follow up on the recommendations put forward by the Special Procedures. Senegal also stressed the need in the United Nations to work for greater coordination and streamlining of mandates on human rights. Less complexity would lead to greater simplicity in the follow up process and further ways and means to achieve synergy of action should be sought. This constituted a prerequisite so that the Council could institutionalize such follow up mechanism as suggested in paragraph 113 of the report.

European Union continued to reaffirm the commitment of the European Union to combat social exclusion and poverty, within the European Framework for Strategic Growth ‘Europe 2020’ which aimed to lift 20 million persons from poverty by 2020. The report contained a number of recommendations and proposals for Special Rapporteurs to conduct monitoring as part of their country visits. Could more information be provided on that?

Romania stressed that the issue of securing tenures for persons living in informal settlements may be addressed by the public authorities only for settlements that were on public ground. The situation was much more complex for land that was privately owned, as the public authorities often did not have the legal means. Romania’s experience of undergoing a process of restitution of real estate nationalized by the communist regime showed that legal certainty of ownership may take a longer period.

Indonesia said poverty reduction through economic growth and increased income should be complemented by better access to basic services and empowerment of the poor. Indonesia applied two grand strategies on poverty eradication: increasing income through productivity and access to opportunities for poor communities, and through reduction of the cost of basic needs, such as education and health. Finally, while some of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations were of long-term value they were impractical and burdensome for some countries during the current global and financial crisis.

Kuwait drew the attention of the Special Rapporteur to numerous crises in the world that further pushed people into extreme poverty and posed challenges to the international community. International cooperation should foster development to eradicate extreme poverty and to that end the Kuwaiti International Development Fund had assisted hundreds of communities in their development. Kuwait had devoted 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product to international cooperation and regularly participated in funding for emergencies.

Chile said that the follow up mechanisms gave the necessary consistency and quality to initiatives and implementation of recommendations. Countries’ realities were not always comparable; still, some common factors could be identified such as the need for strong institutions and actors who could protect the rights of citizens. Chile supported the final draft of the guiding principles which would create better public policies aimed to protect the most vulnerable parts of society.

Spain said poverty was both the cause and consequence of human rights violations and that States were responsible for creating environments conductive to combating poverty. That was why Spain was in favour of the guiding principles and emphasized that they could be applied globally, in all countries and regions. Combating poverty was an axis that tied together the whole international cooperation of Spain. There was clear evidence about the links between access to safe drinking water and sanitation and poverty and Spain asked how this right could be ensured in informal settlements.

Finland said that according to recent International Labour Organization estimates more than five billion people globally lacked adequate social security. The rights to social protection, effective job creation policies and accessible public services were an elementary part of human rights. Finland agreed that the systematic and transparent follow up of recommendations was needed, and the availability of information and data was crucial for effective poverty reduction. Global human rights sensitive indicators to measure progress, covering also the post 2015 Millennium Development Goals, could support the national implementation of the right to social protection.

Philippines concurred with the report in that political will could lead to meaningful progress in poverty reduction and human rights even in the context of the global economic downturn, as had been the case in the Philippines. The benefits of growth should be inclusive. The Philippines noted that key result areas were also themes in the report of the Special Rapporteur. The Government had taken aggressive measures to promote all rights, including the right to development. Cash transfer programmes had been implemented and were seen as investments in social capital; maternal health programmes and newborn care had also been strengthened; and health insurance provision had been extended to cover poor households. Dialogue with civil society and United Nations country teams was also necessary to sustain this momentum.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, regretted the Special Rapporteur’s choice to discuss follow-up issues in the current report rather than the contemporary challenges faced by those living in extreme poverty. If extreme poverty was to be effectively addressed, its root causes – the imbalance in the macro-economic trading environment and environmental degradation – must also be addressed. The international community must move beyond the conceptual debate to practical actions in order to bring relief to the most vulnerable.

Cuba said a genuine desire and will for international cooperation, particularly from developed countries, was needed to solve poverty in the poorest countries. Many countries, which now enjoyed high levels of development, had benefited for years by exploiting the resources of their former colonies – which were now known as the ‘developing world’. The richer countries had pledged to donate 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to those countries but that commitment had been poorly fulfilled. If developed countries honoured the pledge it would make a real difference to eradicating poverty.

Morocco said that mandate holders must not be taken as inspectors or judges but rather as advisors who helped countries implement human rights policies in accordance with their international obligations. States must keep the Council informed about the follow-up to Special Procedures. Morocco called for a strengthening of dialogue between States and Special Procedures.

France shared the view of the Special Rapporteur concerning the crucial importance of the issue of follow up and asked how the coordination between different treaty bodies and Special Procedures could be effected in the follow-up mechanism. Insufficient integration of human rights in national poverty eradication programmes was often mentioned in the report and France asked how the dimension of human rights could be better included in such programmes.

Togo said that in order to combat poverty, Togo had developed a national strategy, which was now in its second phase of implementation. In spite to the commitment of Togo to the eradication of poverty, pervasive crises posed a challenge and Togo called upon all partners to assist initiatives of the Government in this regard.

Ireland said that the mandate on extreme poverty was important and embraced international development and national economic growth strategies. There was a need to involve more human rights instruments in poverty reduction strategies. Coherence and coordination were of utmost importance, as were the political will of States and acceptance that extreme poverty was unacceptable in both developed and developing countries.

Sri Lanka was proud to have reduced the poverty head count ratio from 15.2 to 8.9 per cent within four years. In an effort to strengthen household economic units, the Government’s Livelihood Development Programme had provided 2.5 million households – 50 per cent of the total household population – with seeds, plants, livestock, fisheries and input for small-scale industries. Approximately 90,000 projects were implemented in areas of road access, electrification, drinking water, sanitation and irrigation under the ‘Gama Neguma’ programme.

Ecuador described some of the actions it had taken to significantly reduce poverty - its significant reduction in poverty and unemployment, to 4.2 per cent, and reduction in under-employment. Those were today the lowest figures in Ecuador’s history. There had been a trebling of investment in health, social inclusion and education. Ecuador was the second country in Latin America to have most reduced its poverty rate. The experience of Ecuador was not unique in Latin America. The current financial crisis showed that past recipes would not help combat poverty in the future.

Belgium said in 2008 Belgium adopted a Federal Plan to combat poverty which established quotas to decrease the number of citizens living below the poverty threshold. There was a need to establish an institutionalized follow-up mechanism in the Office of the High Commissioner. Belgium greatly regretted that too many States left requests for visits by the Special Rapporteur unanswered, and urged Member States to respond favourably to her requests. How in a world where budgetary restrictions were the norm could States ensure that children’s enjoyment of their human rights flourished?

China said that the primary task of developing countries was to guarantee the rights to life and development. States must make more efforts in eradicating poverty, put it on top of their agendas and develop international cooperation in this regard. Further, they should create jobs and so fight poverty.

Norway agreed that States must review the progress they had made in the promotion of human rights through periodic national consultations. Human rights could play a crucial role in reducing poverty, however poverty was a complex issue and its reduction must be addressed at the national level based on national solutions. Social protection programmes and cash transfers deserved higher priority in many countries, even though those programmes did not necessarily mean the greatest amount of poverty reduction per dollar.

Zambia assured the Special Rapporteur that the new Zambian Government was attending to all recommendations made in her country visit report. Specifically, the legal framework was on top of the agenda and the Government was hopeful that all recommendations concerning legal and constitutional reform would be included in the new Constitution currently being drafted.

Saudi Arabia had provided substantial assistance to agencies working to combat poverty. In 2008 $ 500 million was donated to the World Food Programme. The Kingdom had cancelled debts amounting to approximately $ 6 billion for a number of poor countries. The Kingdom was generously helping to develop countries and exceeded the proportion fixed by the United Nations. The number of poor in the world was increasing year after year – all possible measures must be taken to stop the suffering of people from poverty.

Luxembourg recalled the International Labour Organization’s recent adoption of a resolution on social protection and elementary guarantees for social security, which ensured protection from poverty and social exclusion. Those guarantees provided basic healthcare access, particularly during maternity, and income protection. Women were especially affected by poverty, which subsequently violated their rights. Small farmers were also a vulnerable group.

Botswana said there was currently no institutionalized mechanism at the international level through which the impact of Special Procedures’ recommendations could be measured. That had a ripple effect of rendering the work of the Special Rapporteurs worthless. If brought into being, how could such a mechanism work? It was important to acknowledge that the financial crisis had weakened the ability of States to implement poverty reduction strategies. Had the Special Rapporteur engaged with the development of small-scale agriculture in developing countries?

MADRE in a video message said that half of Timor-Leste’s population lived in poverty and was afflicted by the resource curse. MADRE called for help in investing in health care, education, water and rural roads, ceasing the borrowing and waste of money on huge infrastructure projects without much economic or social return, and helping Timor-Leste take responsibility for its own development.

Latin Committee for the Defence of Women’s Rights said that it was concerned about the high levels of general illiteracy which affected women in particular, especially in rural areas. States needed to promote legislation reforms to ensure the labour rights of domestic workers were up to speed with international standards. There should be further enquiry into the situation of rural indigenous women.

European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation said that in many societies, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people were at increased risk of homelessness, and faced discrimination in educational institutions among other risks. The Federation would welcome views on how these factors could contribute to vulnerability to extreme poverty for those affected and what actions States could take to address these concerns.

Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero (Corporacion Humanas), said that there was no systematic method to follow up on recommendations by Special Procedures and that was why the non-governmental organization had proposed a range of measures to regional and international institutions to implement and follow up on recommendations. States should show their support to the system by creating internal follow up mechanisms for the follow up.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

MARIA MAGDALENA SEPULVEDA CARMONA, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in her closing remarks, welcomed the fact that the Human Rights Council had prioritized extreme poverty in its work. The follow up report was welcomed, particularly by the concerned countries, and the approach to that report was constructive. The Special Rapporteur echoed concerns by many delegations concerning the reduction of funds available in international cooperation and called on all States to keep the necessary levels of international assistance. The assistance for climate change must be additional to regular official development assistance. The Guiding Principles had been negotiated for 11 years now and most countries had the opportunity to participate in consultations. The Special Rapporteur appealed to States to adopt those Guiding Principles by consensus during the twenty-first session of the Human Rights Council in September 2012. The practice of video messaging was extremely important and brought the Council closer to the people working in the field and to the people living in poverty.

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For use of the information media; not an official record