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Opening Remarks by Bacre Ndiaye Director, Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Opening of the thirteenth session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

Geneva, 11 August 2014

Mr. Vice-President of the Human Rights Council,
Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you here today on the occasion of the opening of the thirteenth session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

At the outset, allow me to extend a warm welcome to the Committee’s new member, Ms. Karla Hananía de Varela and to congratulate her on her election. I wish also to express my gratitude to Mr. Seetulsingh, who has left the Advisory Committee, for his valuable contribution to the work of the Committee since 2009. Let me congratulate him on behalf of the Office on his election to the Human Rights Committee, and wish him all the best for his future endeavours.

Distinguished experts,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to share with you, as is customary, perspectives from the Office of the High Commissioner on thematic human rights issues which are on the agenda for this session.

Since the Human Rights Council – in June 2013, by its resolution 23/9 – mandated this Committee to prepare a research-based report on the negative impact of corruption on human rights, there has been growing awareness of the intrinsic links between promoting and protecting human rights and anti-corruption efforts. In November 2003, the Office participated in the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention against Corruption in Panama. In this regard, I wish to refer to OHCHR’s pamphlet “The human rights case against corruption”, published in collaboration with UNDP and UNODC. This pamphlet provides a brief overview of the case against corruption from a human rights perspective. It explores the nexus between the promotion and protection of human rights and corruption, including through discussion of relevant human rights standards and mechanisms and thereby provides a basic foundation for rights-based advocacy against corruption. I would also like to draw your attention to the report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of human rights which focused this year on the impact of the non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin on human rights.

During this session, you will also hold a discussion on the issue of promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal, based on the progress report prepared by the drafting group. Sport contributes to physical and mental wellbeing, and promotes cooperation and empowerment. The right to participate in sport is enshrined in core international human rights treaties, and the UN has also acknowledged the importance of sport as a vehicle for peace and human development. However, as the High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out at a side event on Equality and Sports held on 16 June 2014, discrimination is all too common, in and off the sports field. While reiterating the importance of combating discrimination and fighting impunity in sports through effective measures, the High Commissioner raised an additional, important issue in this context, which may be of interest to your work.

Major sporting events draw enormous numbers of spectators, involving heavy investment in infrastructure and aesthetic improvements to the urban environment. They risk becoming hubs of human rights violations, including misuse of public funds, child labour, forced evictions and demolitions, and the sexual exploitation of human beings, including children, in the context of a surge in tourism.

The Special Rapporteur on the sale of children has also recently been focusing on the protection of children from sexual exploitation in the context of major sports events, and organized a side event on the issue during the 25th session of the Human Rights Council last March.

Distinguished experts,

While your Committee has commenced its work on the drafting of a study on technical cooperation for the prevention of the situation of human rights of persons living with albinism, the latter continue to face attacks or suffer terrible discrimination, stigma and social exclusion. In the past few months, the Office of the High Commissioner has continued its efforts in raising awareness on the issue. On 11 March 2014, the Office, together with the NGO “Under The Same Sun”, organized a side-event in the margin of the 25th session of the Human Rights Council on violence against children with albinism.

Participants to the side-event included the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. A public information campaign was moreover launched, starting with a Google+ Hangout on 25 July with the participation of civil society partners and UN human rights experts.

I would also like to inform you that in collaboration with the Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF) the Office will organize in September an Expert Meeting on persons with albinism, as a follow-up activity of the various initiatives. During the first segment of this meeting civil society actors are expected to discuss the current situation of persons with albinism in three countries (Tanzania, Burundi and Côte d’Ivoire). A second segment of the meeting will offer a framework for discussion on specific challenges persons with albinism are facing in terms of categorization and the way forward. One of the objectives is to provide key information to the work of this Committee. I am also pleased to inform you that Ms. Boisson de Chazournes, Rapporteur of this study, will participate in the expert meeting.

On the issue of the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, let me draw your attention to the workshop that was organized by the Office on 23 May 2014 in Geneva. Mr. Ziegler and Mr Okafor participated in the wokshop and presented the work done by the Advisory Committee as requested by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 24/14 and will be able to provide you more detailed information.

Participants of the workshop examined a wide range of issues, from the impact of unilateral coercive measures on international humanitarian and human rights law, to their impact on the economy, on peace and security and on the social fabric of States. A number of panellists questioned the purpose and effectiveness of unilateral coercive measures, whether imposed to react to prior violations by the targeted State, in response to terrorism, as an alternative to war or in the context of war. The Chair of the workshop pointed to a need to redefine what was understood as the effectiveness of unilateral coercive measures in order to take human rights and humanitarian concerns into account. Some speakers during the workshop called for the creation of a special procedures mandate. As this Committee continues its deliberations on the report on unilateral coercive measures to be presented at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, I am confident that your work will offer new perspectives for the international community to act upon.

The Committee will further hold discussions on best practices and main challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights in post-disaster and post-conflict situations, as well as on the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights, including human rights mainstreaming in local administration and public services.

At this stage, I wish to commend once again, the efforts of all experts of the Committee, for their commitment and for the work done in the respective drafting groups during the inter-sessional period.

Distinguished Members,
Colleagues and friends,

In conclusion, I wish to reiterate the full support of the Office of the High Commissioner to all your endeavours to assure a smooth continuation of your deliberations.

I thank you.
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