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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE HEARS PRESENTATIONS ON WORK OF SOCIAL FORUM, MINORITIES FORUM AND EXPERT MECHANISM ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES



Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
AFTERNOON
29 January 2009



The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this afternoon was briefed on the work of the Social Forum, the Forum on Minority Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by Experts who had attended their sessions.

José Antonio Bengoa, Advisory Committee Expert, briefed the Committee about the last Social Forum that took place in September 2008 in Geneva. The objective of the Social Forum was to deal with the elimination of poverty and human rights related to poverty. Very different people dealing with poverty came together, there were a lot of participants who had come from capitals, experts that worked in the field of social development in the government, also from the grassroots level, and independent experts. At the forum, a draft of guidelines on poverty and human rights was discussed. This draft was now in the hands of the Human Rights Council.

Mona Zulficar, Advisory Committee Expert, reporting on the Forum on Minority Issues, said that its last session was held on 15 and 16 December 2008. The forum was attended by a wide array of interest groups, as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, high-level representatives from UNESCO, non-governmental organizations, all the UN treaty bodies and advisory mechanisms. The two days of discussion resulted in the draft recommendations which would be submitted by the UN Independent Expert in March 2009 to the Human Right Council for adoption. The draft spoke about the importance of inclusive and quality education as a human right, a condition precedent for the enjoyment of all other human rights.

Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Advisory Committee Chairperson, briefed the Committee on a meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The first regular meeting took place from 1 to 3 October 2008. This body’s task was to review events that affected indigenous peoples and to establish international standards that were not binding but could be applied to improve the situation of many indigenous peoples. Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, attended the meeting and had recommended among other things the preparation of a study on events related to indigenous peoples and the collaboration of the various expert mechanisms working on the subject.

Committee Expert Purificaction V. Quisumbing also took the floor this afternoon, as did the Secretariat of the Committee.

The Advisory Committee will reconvene on Friday, 30 January at 11 a.m. in public to adopt its recommendations to the Human Rights Council and conclude its second session.

Statements

JOSE BENGOA, Advisory Committee Expert, briefed the Committee about the last Social Forum that took place last year in Geneva. The objective of the Social Forum was to deal with poverty. More precisely, they dealt with elimination of poverty and human rights related to poverty. Very different people dealing with poverty came together during the Social Forum, there were a lot of participants who had come from capitals, experts that worked in the field of social development in the government, also from the grassroots level, and independent experts. At the forum, the draft guidelines on poverty and human rights were discussed. These were now in the hands of the Human Rights Council. Mr. Bengoa underlined the unanimous agreement to develop this issue and that it should go on to the General Assembly. In the Social Forum, the final statement supported the whole process. Also, an important seminar was held at the Palais Wilson this week. The Social Forum represented a milestone and an important step showing the link between human rights and poverty. They could be very proud of this. The Secretariat had to prepare the forum quickly and Mr. Bengoa congratulated the Secretariat on the success of the forum. He hoped that the members of the Advisory Committee would continue participating in the Social Forum.

MONA ZULFICAR, Advisory Committee Expert, said that she had been requested by the Advisory Committee to attend and follow the meetings of the Forum on Minority Issues which was held on 15 and 16 December 2008, where she met with Gay McDougall, UN Independent Expert on Minorities, who presented draft recommendations on minority rights. The forum was attended by a wide array of interest groups, as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, high-level representatives from UNESCO, non-governmental organizations, all the UN treaty bodies and advisory mechanisms. The two days of discussion resulted in the draft recommendations. The recommendations would be submitted by the UN Independent Expert in March 2009 to the Human Right Council for adoption. The draft spoke about the importance of inclusive and quality education as a human right, a condition precedent for the enjoyment of all other human rights. The word “inclusive” was added to “education” in the draft as a result of the discussion that took place. The term inclusive education was necessary because the rights of minorities to education was an integral part of human rights.

Discrimination remained persistent towards minorities with regards to education. Minorities had a right to their own identity, to their own culture and to learn about their own culture in their own languages, which had been denied in many cases. The non-governmental organizations presented a lot of valuable support and suggestions as well as the multilateral organizations. The Expert met with the representatives of the treaty bodies and separately with the President of the Advisory Committee. Ms. Zulficar said that she commented on how to work on the implementation of those recommendations. One recommendation was related to affirmative action and the right to equal opportunities, which provided a more proactive approach to provide preferential treatment, bridging the gaps, and allowing minorities to catch up and enjoy opportunities. The draft was available on the Human Rights Council website. She applauded the drive to wide consultation and implementation which were hoped to give concrete action on the ground.

MIGUEL ALFONSO MARTINEZ, Advisory Committee Chairperson, briefed the Committee on the meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The first regular meeting took place from the 1 to 3 October 2008. The report he was giving now should be considered as an initial report based on his own notes. This body’s task was to review events that affected indigenous peoples and to establish international standards that were not binding but could be applied to improve the situation of many indigenous peoples.

This body received particular attention from the Human Rights Council. The Council decided at its sixth session that the best way to continue with the work of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples was to set up this Expert Mechanism. A Human Rights Council resolution gave life to this mechanism. This was a subsidiary body of experts to provide counsel on developments on thematic issues relating to indigenous peoples. It had to produce an annual report and submit it to the Council. It had to elect indigenous peoples and meet once a year until it came to the end of its mandate.

Mr. Martinez said Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, attended the October 2008 meeting. She recommended among other things the preparation of a study on events related to indigenous peoples. Such a study should be concluded in 2009. Statements made by non-governmental organizations yesterday in this regard had pointed out that the Advisory Committee should take into account issues of education of human rights in their study on indigenous peoples. He added that the Council had not chosen to eliminate parts of the mandate of the original working group.

Mr. Martinez emphasized that being present at the inaugural session was not enough. When the Council stated that it wanted the new body to continue the work this meant that it had to work on everything that had been started. Now it had to be seen, if there were issues that had not been taken up so far. The second session would take place in September 2009. Mr. Martinez believed that the result of his presence at the meeting was useful because he could see to what issues the indigenous peoples attached special importance.

PURIFICACION V. QUISUMBING, Advisory Committee Expert, said that in the first meeting in August 2008 it was decided that the Advisory Committee designate Mr. Bengoa and herself to follow the Social Forum. However, she did not receive any invitation to attend the Social Forum, what was the process to be taken in order to attend a meeting such as the Social Forum in future?

The Secretariat of the Advisory Committee said that they were at the early stages of the Advisory Committee, and operated under the resolution of the Human Rights Council. There was no provision for support from the Secretariat for any study to take place. They were doing whatever they could to provide support to the Committee. A system needed to be identified to support the Committee along with a bigger budget to support such requests.

PURIFICACION V. QUISUMBING, Advisory Committee Expert, said that there was a need to know how the Experts were supposed to carry out their work. She would in no way want to say that she was impeded in carrying out her work and she assumed that budgetary questions were involved. But she wanted to request to be informed that the Experts were expected to participate in working groups but had to hike or swim to get there.

The Secretariat of the Advisory Committee said that with regard to the draft recommendations, as of 6 p.m. yesterday the Secretariat had received a total of seven draft texts, which were in front of the Committee, six under item 2 and 1 under item 3. A translation of the texts in all United Nations languages was to be available tomorrow morning. Recommendation A/HRC/AC/2/L.1 concerned the interim report of the drafting group on human rights education and training; A/HRC/AC/2/L.2 concerned the right to food; recommendation A/HRCD/AC/2/L.5 was on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; recommendation A/HRC/AC/2/L.6 was on the drafting group on gender mainstreaming; recommendation A/HRC/AC/2/L.7 was on the drafting group on missing persons; and recommendation A/HRC/AC/2/L.3 was on the subsidiary bodies of the Human Rights Council. All documents had been submitted for processing and translation.

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For use of the information media; not an official record