12 August 2013
Ms. Jane Connors, Chief of the Special Procedures Branch in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this eleventh session of the Advisory Committee.
Let me start with an overview of the issues that the Council has considered at its last two sessions in March and in June and which may be of interest to your work.
As this year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA), the Council convened, on the first day of the high-level segment of its 22nd session in March, a high-level panel discussion, with a particular focus on the implementation of the VDPA, as well as achievements, best practices and challenges ahead. During the discussion, the importance of integrating human rights and ensuring a human rights-based approach in the post-2015 Development Agenda, and the key role that the Council could play in promoting human rights as the third pillar of the UN system were underscored.
With the 2015 MDGs deadline getting closer, the international community has mobilized in order to prepare the post-2015 Development Agenda and address the remaining challenges. It is in this context and in conformity with the central role played by the Council in advancing a human rights-based approach to development that, at its March session, the Council held a half-day high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming under the theme “human rights and the post-2015 Development Agenda”, with a focus on areas related to the right to education. This was a timely opportunity for the Council to provide substantive input to the work of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Development Agenda, reaffirming the importance of integrating in this agenda human rights, and in particular the right to education.
A number of activities were undertaken over the past two sessions in relation to women’s human rights. On 26 February, the group of women Ambassadors in Geneva organized a well-attended panel discussion entitled “The Power of Empowered Women”. It brought together women leaders with different backgrounds who shared their personal experiences, and discussed achievements and challenges to attain women’s equality and to effect transformative change. The benefits for communities derived from women’s empowerment were highlighted, as well as the need to strengthen women’s issues in the post-2015 Development Agenda. Additionally, the Council in June held the annual full day discussion on women’s human rights, which focused on the issues of violence against women, gender discrimination, sexual orientation and gender identity, and it adopted three resolutions relating to this issue: One on the role of freedom of opinion and expression in women’s empowerment; another one on preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence; and a third one extending the mandate of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination of women in law and practice.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December 2006, the Council has continuously considered the rights of persons with disabilities, particularly through its annual debate. Last March, this debate focused on the work and employment of persons with disabilities. Many speakers stressed the need to recognize persons with disabilities as equal citizens and co-workers and to eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions. The discussion also shed light on the effects of the global economic crisis on disabled employment and disparities at the international level.
Considerable progress has also been made to improve the accessibility for persons with disabilities to the Council’s work, such as having a priority lane at Pregny gate, as well as seating arrangements and signage for them in the building. In addition, the conference registration form has been revised to allow persons with disabilities to indicate their specific needs, for conference facilities to be better prepared in advance and the necessary assistance to be provided upon their arrival at Pregny gate. The Council’s Task Force, established in July 2011, is also looking at ways to making the Council’s meetings further accessible through webcast or posting of documents in an accessible format on the webpage.
I am also pleased to inform you that the Council has made at least one panel per session accessible, which involves provision of sign language interpretation and captioning, and bringing a representative of a NGO from the South representing the disability community to participate in the panel from the floor. At the coming session in September, the Council will make another panel accessible for persons with disabilities. In addition, on the margins of the session, the President will organize a high-level meeting, which will offer a timely opportunity, ahead of the General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disability and Development to be held on September 23, to revisit the issues raised in the Council’s resolution that was adopted at its 16th session on the “role of international cooperation in support of national efforts for the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities”, and to strengthen efforts to ensure that the post-2015 Development Agenda is fully accessible and inclusive.
Furthermore, at its March session, the Council held a panel discussion on the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights. It was the first time that this issue was debated by the Council. All delegations taking part in the discussion unanimously agreed that a very strong link existed between anti-corruption efforts and human rights. It was recognised that corruption is an obstacle to the realisation of all human rights, and that a human rights-based approach could be the most effective means to fight corruption. The report containing the summary of the panel discussion was subsequently considered by the Council in June. The Council responded positively to the call made at the panel to give a sustained attention to this issue and adopted the resolution, which, inter alia, mandates your Committee to work on this issue. In addition, the Council also adopted the resolutions on the promotion and protection of human rights in post-disaster and post-conflict situations, and on international cooperation in the field of human rights giving two more mandates to your Committee.
In line with its established practice, the Council also devoted a considerable part of the last two sessions to thematic debates through interactive dialogues with Special Procedure mandate-holders covering a wide range of issues. These included, inter alia: the abuses in health-care settings amounting to torture; the emerging issue of lethal autonomous robotics (LARs) and the protection of life; securing the accountability of public officials for gross or systematic human rights violations committed in the course of State-sanctioned counter-terrorism activities; the structural and social underpinnings of gender discrimination in political and public life; security of tenure in the context of adequate housing; legal aid as essential element of the right to access to justice and of a fair and efficient justice system; multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by religious minorities; child sex tourism; addressing the issue of demand, particularly for exploitative labour and sale of organs, in the context of trafficking in persons; as well as the right to freedom of artistic expression and creation.
Furthermore, the Council took action on a number of thematic initiatives, including the decision to organize a panel on the human rights of children of parents sentenced to death or executed. Another resolution calls for a panel on the question of the death penalty. Moreover, for the first time since 2008, the Council adopted a resolution on the prevention of genocide, which includes reference to the right to truth in the context of prevention of genocide, and foresees a panel in 2014 commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide.
I am also pleased to inform you that the resolution on human rights defenders, that was adopted this year, was much more comprehensive than previous texts. It contained a stronger language on the subject of threats, intimidation and reprisals, and the obligations of States on issues such as the rights of human rights defenders online, and the protection from the use of national legislation aimed to impair, restrict, delegitimise and criminalise the work of human rights defenders, including funding of their work.
For the first time, the Council considered the issue of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism, and adopted a resolution requesting the Office to prepare a report to be submitted to the Council session in September.
I am pleased to note here that the resolution on the right to food and protection of human rights refers to the two reports of the Advisory Committee, which were submitted to the 22nd session.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now refer to a few of the issues that will be considered at the upcoming 24th session of the Council in September. Among the OHCHR reports which will be presented are the ones on the human rights of older person and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind, which are issues the Committee also looked into in the past. Other thematic issues on the agenda of the coming session, such as human rights of children of parents sentenced to the death penalty, right to development, and the safety of journalist, may also be interesting for you. The annual discussion on integration of a gender perspective is also scheduled for the upcoming session.
Furthermore, the interactive dialogue between the Council and your Committee will take place at the coming session for the second time. Such a dialogue indeed proved fruitful and succeeded in building the institutional link between the Council and your Committee. The result is before us today in terms of the new requests stemming from the Council for your Committee’s expertise and advice. I look forward to this dialogue and the interactions between our two bodies, which I am confident, will further strengthen the complementarity of our work.
Finally, let me take this opportunity to express my utmost appreciation for the work done by Mr. Bengoa Cabello, Ms. Chung, Mr. Heinz, Mr. Kartashkin, Mr. Sakamoto, and Ms. Zulficar, who will end their second term this September. Thank you very much indeed for your dedication to this Committee during your tenure.
In conclusion, I wish you all a successful session, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you.