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Human Rights Council hears presentation of thematic reports by the secretary-general and by the High Commissioner and his Office

MIDDAY

Hears Presentation of Report by the Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations, Concludes Discussion on Human Rights and the Environment and on the Right to Food

GENEVA (9 March 2017) - The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting heard presentations of the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and of a number of thematic reports by the United Nations Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office.  The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on human rights and the environment and on right to food.
 
Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair-Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, in a video statement, presented the report on the second session of the Intergovernmental Working Group held in October 2016.  The second session had demonstrated that the Intergovernmental Working Group had gained its might, political commitment and participation.  The third session would take place from 24 to 28 October 2017, during which the elements for the draft of the legally binding international instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises would be presented, and substantive discussions would start, in keeping with Human Rights Council resolution 26/9.
 
Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented 14 reports by the Secretary-General and by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office.  They included the report on the realization of the right to work and the enjoyment of all human rights by women; the report on the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights which recalled that each of the Sustainable Development Goals corresponded to key economic, social and cultural rights; the report on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; the report on missing persons; the report on the negative effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms; and the report on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations which noted that while migration could be a positive experience, the precarious movements of people were a serious human rights concern.
 
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John Knox, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver.  The Council heard the presentation of the Special Rapporteurs’ reports and started the interactive dialogue with them on Wednesday, 8 March, and the summary is available here.
 
On human rights and the environment, delegates agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the loss of biodiversity might disproportionately affect certain groups.  Without freedom of expression and opinion and without information, it was not possible for human rights defenders and journalists to advocate for a healthy environment, they said and called for the protection of environmental human rights defenders.
 
On the right to food, speakers warned that the serious drought linked to El Niño in Madagascar had reached critical levels, which could become a famine without emergency aid.
 
In his concluding remarks, John Knox, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, thanked delegations for their participation and noted that he would be present shortly at a side event together with civil society participants from environmental organizations. 
 
Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, was not present to make concluding remarks.
 
Speaking were Caritas International, Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, Iraqi Development Organization, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Prahar, Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship, World Barua Organization, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik and Liberation.
 
Speaking in right of reply were India, Burundi, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan, Gabon, Bahrain, Republic of Korea and Armenia.
 
At 3 p.m., the Council will hold a panel discussion on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity as a human rights priority as well as in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
 
Continuation of Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on human rights and the environment and on the right to food 
 
Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), in a joint statement with Company of the Daughters of Charity of Vincent de Paul, said that serious drought linked to El Niño in Madagascar had reached critical levels; more than half of the population in interior villages had no food or drink and without emergency humanitarian aid, this could become a famine.  Centre Europe-Tiers Monde called attention to the disastrous impact on human rights of corruption, and illegal issuing of licences for logging and forest exploitation in Madagascar and urged the Government to respect customary management systems and include local populations in decision-making.  Iraqi Development Organization agreed that the loss of biodiversity might disproportionately affect certain groups, such as coastal populations in Bahrain who had traditional links with the sea, where resources were being affected by land development projects, and oil production.
 
Asian Legal Resource Centre noted that exact rates of child malnutrition in China and Myanmar were not known and asked whether the Special Rapporteur would engage on the conceptual failure of Asian justice institutions which contributed to high rates of child mortality and malnutrition.  Prahar called attention to the hardships India faced in feeding its growing population, and the impact of pesticides on the health of tea pickers in Assam state.  Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship said that without freedom of expression and opinion and without information, it was not possible for human rights defenders and journalists to advocate for a healthy environment, and it was not possible for people to participate in decision-making processes. 
 
World Barua Organization said India was haunted by an assault on the right to food, and since cow slaughter was banned across most states of the country, lower caste people were prevented from eating food they could afford and which was permitted to them. Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique said there was a genocidal land grab going on in Sri Lanka, and urged United Nations agencies to re-establish their presence in all eight districts.  Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said the report on the right to food was useful, and noted that in provinces of Iran, children had died from the overuse of pesticides.  Noting that the Special Rapporteur was one of the first to be invited to visit Iran, she was asked whether she would have access to the private ports of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  Liberation said people in northern India were under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and the Indian army had destroyed thousands of hectares of paddy fields, calling on the Human Rights Council to call on India to allow villagers to work to ensure food security.
 
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment 
 
JOHN KNOX, Special Rapporteur on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, said in response to a question by the Iraqi Development Organization on land recovery projects that he had not worked on such projects, however the general principles that he had described with respect to human rights and the environment would apply to such projects as well, that was the need to meet procedural obligations of information, participation, remedy and so forth.  He thanked delegations for their participation and noted that he would be present shortly at a side event together with civil society participants from environmental organizations.  He thanked the Human Rights Council for its support for his mandate.
 
Documentation
 
The Council has before it the Report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, with the mandate of elaborating an international legally binding instrument (A/HRC/34/47).
 
Presentation of the Report by the Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights 
 
MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair-Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, in a video statement, presented the report on the second session of the Intergovernmental Working Group, and noted with satisfaction the participation of numerous States, the constructive and flexible spirit of delegations, and in particular the democratic and inclusive character of the debate.  There had been six round-tables in which 35 panellists - 16 of whom had been women - had participated.  One panel had been devoted to victims of human rights violations by transnational corporations and business enterprises.  It had been a rich discussion, with the participation of States, international organizations, United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, labour representatives, representatives of the business sector, academia, victims and their lawyers, and human rights lawyers.
 
This process was a unique opportunity to agree on the minimum common standard for the observance of human rights by transnational corporations, and also to fill the undeniable loopholes in the international laws which allowed some transnational corporations to go unpunished for violations of rights of women, indigenous peoples, minorities, and the poor.  Those and other voices in a recurrent and sustained way committed the international community to seek a balance in the unbalanced relationship between transnational corporations and other companies and their obligations and responsibilities with regard to human rights.  The international community must contribute with a basic legal tool to defend all rights and to obtain reparations and redress.  The second session had demonstrated that the Intergovernmental Working Group had gained its might, political commitment and participation.  The third session of the Intergovernmental Working Group would take place from 24 to 28 October 2017 would be extremely important because the Chair-Rapporteur would present the elements for the draft of the legally binding international instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises so as to start substantive discussions in keeping with resolution 26/9 of the Human Rights Council.
 
Documentation
 
The Council has before it Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/34/16).
 
The Council has before it United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/34/17).
 
The Council has before it Conclusions and recommendations of special procedures - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/34/18).
 
The Council has before it Measures taken to implement Human Rights Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/34/19).
 
The Council has before it Rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities - Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/21).
 
The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on missing persons - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/34/22).
 
The Council has before it Workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/23).
 
The Council has before it Summary of the panel discussion on promoting international cooperation to support national human rights follow-up systems and processes - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/24).
 
The Council has before it Question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/34/25).
 
The Council has before it Equality and non-discrimination under article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/26).
 
The Council has before it Protection of the rights of the child in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/27).
 
The Council has before it Activities and programmes of the United Nations system that contribute to the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/28).
 
The Council has before it Realization of the right to work- Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/29).
 
The Council has before it the Report on negative effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/30).
 
The Council has before it Principles and practical guidance on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/31).
The Council has before it Mental health and human rights - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/32).
 
The Council has before it Summary of the workshop on ensuring effective and inclusive mechanisms and methodologies to mainstream human rights in the formulation and implementation of public policies - Report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/34/33).
 
The Council has before it the Communications report of Special Procedures (A/HRC/34/75).

Presentation of Reports by the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner and his Office
 
KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented 14 reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office.  Two reports were the basis for separate discussions (those on the rights of persons with disabilities, and on the rights of the child) so she would focus on the other 12, beginning with the report on the realization of the right to work and the enjoyment of all human rights by women which reaffirmed that the right to work was a universal human right.  The report on the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights recalled that each of the Sustainable Development Goals corresponded to key economic, social and cultural rights.  The report on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities noted that legislative and policy measures must be tailored to circumstances on the ground and involve direct interaction and dialogue with affected communities. 
 
The report on missing persons underscored that it was a multifaceted issue which must be high on the agenda of Member States and put the rights, needs and concerns of the missing and members of their families at the centre.  The next report presented the activities and programmes of the United Nations system that contributed to the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights.  The report on the negative effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms noted that the human rights of victims of terrorism must be respected, including their rights to reparation, truth and justice.  The report on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations noted that while migration could be a positive experience, the precarious movements of people were a serious human rights concern.
 
Ms. Gilmore said the report on the integration of a human rights perspective into mental health and the human rights of persons with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities identified a lack of respect for human dignity, and a comprehensive approach to addressing their human rights situation required the protection of autonomy, agency and dignity.  The annual report on further improving the effectiveness, harmonization and reform of the treaty body system was of a technical nature, and would consider the implementation of resolution 68/268 which would allow the treaty body system to address some of its most pressing challenges.  The report on the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture noted that the Fund was a key tool to pursue the fight against torture directly providing redress and rehabilitation to victims.  The last report before the Council concerned the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture which since 2012 had supported 36 projects in 11 States across four regions.  Finally, she drew the Council’s attention to the report on conclusions and recommendations of the Special Procedures.
 
Right of Reply
 
India, speaking in a right of reply, said that the issue that must be addressed was Pakistan’s illegal occupation of a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the continuing suffering of the people who were victims of sectarian conflict, terrorism, extreme economic hardship and discriminatory policies.  The continued operations of terrorist groups from Pakistan was the prime reason for the denial of the most fundamental of the rights – the right to life – to the victims of terrorism.
 
Burundi, speaking in a right of reply, was indignant that the human rights situation in Burundi was spoken of on the basis of fabricated and concocted information, at the time when the human rights situation had returned to normal.  The people were going about their daily business and refugees were coming home.  The Government had resumed cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which had led to the resumption of negotiations, which were now ongoing and progressing.
 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, renounced the statements and uncivilized language of “South Korea”, which must not be tolerated in the Council.  Those allegations were aimed to distracting the attention of the world from a scandalous business and political crisis which was shaking the country.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea renounced “South Korea’s” attempts at the politicization of the incident in which a citizen of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had been killed in Malaysia, and demanded immediate release of the 13 female citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea who were abducted last year.
 
Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement made by Armenia, said Armenia was trying to use the Human Rights Council as a platform to abuse Azerbaijan.   Armenia had committed gross violations of international law and had conducted military attacks against Azerbaijan.  The illegal presence of Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh was the primary reason for the escalation of the violence.  Azerbaijan called on Armenia to refrain from lecturing others on the values which Armenia itself violated.  Azerbaijan reminded that Armenia did not cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and did not allow visits by the Office.
 
China, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements made by some non-governmental organizations, noted that China accorded great attention to lawyers, who had to abide by the national law.  Lawyers were not allowed to act with impunity and the use of the label “lawyer” to safeguard human rights violations betrayed double standards.
 
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Indian delegation, said India consistently used the most absurd arguments and tried to divert attention from serious human rights violations.  The Indian occupying forces had committed a number of crimes against the population of Jammu and Kashmir, which was an internationally recognized dispute.  Senior Indian leadership had openly acknowledged the interference in Pakistan’s affairs and the use of terrorism against Pakistan.  They ignored State oppression that had led to the problematic situation in Indian occupied in Jammu and Kashmir.  Extreme political parties infringed on the rights of Muslims in India.
 
Gabon, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement made by the European Union, said the electoral process in Gabon was over 7 months ago and Gabon was living in a state of peace, which could be confirmed by anyone who had recently visited the country.  Gabon rejected the fake allegations, and regarding the elections, said the electoral process had taken place in an atmosphere of peace and prosperity.  The rule of law prevailed in Gabon, and security forces had been forced to intervene, arresting criminals who had all been released after trial.  There were no enforced disappearances in Gabon.
 
Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements made by the European Union, United Kingdom and Switzerland, said that capital punishment was allowed in certain cases according to the penal code, with all the legal guarantees including the right to defence and appeal.  The suspects had a right to appeal in front of the highest court of the Kingdom.  A final, extraordinary court of appeal was also available.  The prosecution had a special investigation unit which reviewed allegations about inhumane treatment.
 
Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remarks, confirmed that the “North Korean” regime had been involved in a recent crime in Malaysia, and called on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to abide by the relevant resolutions to promote and protect human rights.
 
Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, said that Azerbaijan was prepared to use any agenda of the Human Rights Council to divert the attention of the international community from the human rights situation in the country.  Armenia recalled that, following the allegations made by Azerbaijan in 2006 about Armenia setting fires at lines of contact in Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia had agreed to receive an environment assessment mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, strongly rejected the provocative and misleading allegations by “South Korea”, whose security law remained the only anti-human rights law in the world.  “South Korea” should address its own worst human rights record and immediately release the abductees who had been tricked into going to “South Korea” and had been appealing to the international community for their return home to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that everyone was aware of Armenia killing the entire political elite of the country and also killing demonstrators who protested against the elections.  Armenia was in a desperate need of justice.  A number of international organizations had adopted decisions and resolutions on the situation of the environment in the occupied areas of Azerbaijan.
 
Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, rejected groundless allegations made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Citing Hanna Arendt, the delegation of the Republic of Korea noted that even in the darkest time people had the right to illumination and expressed hope that the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would have their illumination. 
 
Armenia, speaking in a second right of reply, noted that it was well recognized that Azerbaijan had imposed a foreign domination on Nagorno-Karabakh and that it had conducted a pogrom against the Armenian population.  A direct consequence of direct hate speech against Armenians at the highest political level in Azerbaijan was violence against Armenians.  Azerbaijan had still managed to escape universal condemnation for its grave violations of international humanitarian law.  It was fair to ask what type of regime governed Azerbaijan.

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For use of the information media; not an official record