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Statement to the eighteenth session of the Human Rights Council by Ms.VirginaDandan, Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity

13 September 2011

Madam President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Please allow me Madam President, to thank the Human Rights Council through you, for my appointment as independent expert on human rights and international solidarity, which I have accepted with a deep sense of commitment and responsibility to pursue the objectives and deliver the expected outcomes of the mandate which the Council has entrusted to me. Thank you also for the honour, privilege and opportunity given to me today, to share with this distinguished gathering, my vision and plan for the implementation of this mandate.

The notion of solidarity has defined the work of the United Nations since its inception, drawing together nations and peoples to promote peace and security, human rights and development. To quote Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in his message during the celebration of International Human Solidarity Day on December 20, 2009-- “Based on equality, inclusion and social justice, solidarity implies a mutual obligation among all members of society and across the global community.”

In this context, the Millennium Declaration stands out as one of the most notable expressions of a common cause on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people, in which Member States of the United Nations include solidarity as one of the fundamental values indispensable to international relations in the 21st century.

In my humble view, solidarity far exceeds the sense of a common bond that is rightfully synonymous with solidarity. Solidarity is a persuasion that combines differences and opposites, holds them together into one heterogeneous whole, and nurtures it with the universal values of human rights. International solidarity therefore does not seek to homogenize but rather, to be the bridge across those differences and opposites, connecting to each other diverse peoples and countries with their heterogeneous interests, in mutually respectful, beneficial and reciprocal relations, imbued with the principles of human rights, equity and justice.It is not my intention to use the limited time I have, narrating to you the details of what everyone is already aware of, regarding the multiple and multifaceted crises the world must address urgently. But I would point out that threats to peace and security, poverty, water scarcity, population pressure, the adverse social and economic effects of globalization including its impact on labour and migration, as well as the misuse of natural resources that is closely linked to increasing social conflict, marginalization and poverty, are but some of the most serious constraints to a sustainable future during this century. These grim realities reinforce the argument for the elaboration of the right to international solidarity, and for judiciously moving forward without further delay, to reach an agreement on its contours, configuration and substance, as will be articulated in a draft declaration on the right of peoples and individuals to international solidarity.

I recognize with respect and deep appreciation, the commendable work done by my predecessor, the former independent expert on human rights and international solidarity. It is my plan to pick up where he left off and not to reinvent the wheel, as it were. His reports contained among other things, the views expressed surrounding international solidarity as a human right. I am paying very close attention to all views that have been expressed and will continue to do so, respecting, reflecting and open to perspectives that are other than mine. The way to understanding is in listening to what is being said, and at the same time, to what is not being said.

A workshop would be the proper forum and opportunity for further dialogue on outstanding issues and gaps including the gender implications of international solidarity, the impact of a right to international solidarity on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the realization of the right to development. During many years of working with grassroots communities I have witnessed how solidarity can effectively bring people together to overcome obstacles in the fulfilment of human rights and development. The workshop will also hopefully occasion a meeting of the minds on points that have been raised between the arguments for and against, the concept of the right to international solidarity. It is envisaged that this workshop will be held in the latter part of next year, 2012.

In preparation for that workshop, it is my intention to engage with the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council, at its next session in February, for the purpose of formal discussions and informal consultations, regarding its expected input to the draft declaration. It will also be important to link up with the Treaty Bodies, in particular, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Having been a member of that treaty body for two decades and its former Chairperson, I am aware of the significance the Committee attaches to international cooperation, which it views as an obligation of States. In addition and if time allows, I would like to study and observe firsthand through country visits among other things, how best practices identified in the reports of my predecessor actually work on the ground, and how aid effectiveness is ensured in practice particularly in terms of achieving development goals. In my experience, the reality on the ground can be very different from what written reports describe.

Whenever possible, I will participate in relevant seminars, conferences and other gatherings, in order to address what has been an apparent lack—a consciousness and familiarity with, and an understanding of, human rights and international solidarity, and just as importantly, the need to listen attentively and learn from the diverse views regarding international solidarity. I look forward therefore to the invaluable views and perspectives that I will welcome and seek actively from the distinguished delegations, the various treaty bodies, my colleagues the special procedures mandate holders, the UN specialised agencies, the OHCHR, international and national non-governmental organizations, as well as institutions of learning.

With your permission Madam President, I stress my gratitude to the international and national non-governmental organizations and all other stakeholders who have supported and contributed to the work of my predecessor and warmly invite their continued engagement during my term. It is my hope that because the right to international solidarity belongs to peoples and individuals, we might find a meaningful way to engage with grassroots communities, so that they too will share ownership of the outcomes of this mandate.

In conclusion Madam President, I am confident that the support of the Human Rights Council, the results of all the activities I have lined up, the work done by my predecessor and the assistance of the OHCHR will serve as the tools, resources and materials that will enable me to construct and deliver a draft declaration on the right of peoples and individuals to international solidarity, before my term ends in 2014.

Thank you all for your kind attention.