19 June 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to participate in the 3rd international expert meeting on the follow-up to implementation of the Human Rights Council resolution 16/18. High Commissioner Pillay is not able to attend and asked me to convey her best wishes. This milestone resolution 16/18 represents clear commitments to address religious intolerance – wherever it occurs – through promoting the related rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and non-discrimination.
This consensual resolution turned the page on an overly politicized and stale debate, thereby becoming a model for overcoming controversies in a cooperative manner properly grounded in human rights law. Following a first event organized in Washington (12-24 December 2011) and one later in Wilton Park (3-5 December 2012), today represents the third edition in this process.
Resolution 16/18 contains important features crucial for its successful implementation. It formulates a list of pragmatic action oriented points taken from the 8-point plan generated by the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. This resolution encourages Member States to include information on their implementation efforts in their regular reporting to OHCHR. This places the responsibility for implementation where it should principally rest, namely at the national level. The practical and introspective nature of resolution 16/18 is what the Istanbul process seeks to enhance.
Indeed, the Istanbul process is an initiative that complements the paradigm shift achieved by the Human Rights Council and furthers its implementation through practical events organised by Member States to share good practices and showcase national initiatives.
As many of you know, the Office of the High Commissioner for human rights has been working for many years on the subject matter of resolution 16/18. After a first expert workshop held in Geneva in 2008, the High Commissioner launched in 2011 a series of expert workshops on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred which constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. These events were held in various regions of the world and served to learn of and study national practices, in terms of legislation, public policies and jurisprudence. In total 4 events took place which brought together 45 experts, including special procedures mandate holders and treaty body members, representing different legal and cultural traditions. The Kingdom of Morocco subsequently, in October last year, hosted a wrap-up event in Rabat where those experts who participated in all regional events took stock of the findings of each of the four workshops covering all regions and produced the Rabat Plan of Action.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Rabat Plan of Action was produced by internationally recognized experts in the subject matter and is available for each and every stakeholder to use as a stepping stone or to be inspired by it. Indeed, the Plan of Action contains a large number of useful tools aiming at assisting efforts to counter the rising prevalence of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred which constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
These expert workshops, and indeed the Rabat Plan of Action itself, have not been devised as a parallel track to resolution 16/18 but instead have all along aimed to support efforts of the international community, such as the one that brought us together today, to share experiences and publicise practical and expert-based suggestions and to underline the role of the international human rights expert mechanisms in support of Member States’ efforts.
Indeed human rights expert mechanisms, the Universal Periodic Review as well as regional mechanisms are to be considered as important resource tools for the implementation of international human rights obligations. Civil society has a critical role to play. Indeed, it is not only at the receiving end of such obligations but is particularly well placed to be a catalyst for the sustainable realization of all human rights for all, specially in period of crisis when xenophobic and hate speech are on the rise.
Let me recall at this juncture the growing good cooperation between the UN in general and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights specially and the Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. In addition to organizing the bi-annual UN-OIC meetings mandated by the General Assembly, OHCHR has also organised training and capacity-building events not only with the OIC Secretariat but also with the OIC’s new Permanent Independent Human Rights Commission.
Indeed, OHCHR had been following closely the creation of this body and had conveyed a series of recommendations based on the experience of relevant regional and international human rights mechanisms to help ensuring that this new OIC body is fit for purpose. As any new mechanism, there are still a number of sizeable challenges remaining but a milestone has been set and we are glad that the Commission is present today through its distinguished chairperson Madam Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin and Mr. Wael Attiya, Commissioner. OHCHR believes that this commission has a great potential and fills an important gap in the structure of the OIC of which this commission has become a principal organ. The OIC independent human rights commission can play a central role in the human rights arena in years to come. This requires the full support of the OIC, both its Member States and the General Secretariat and also the support of relevant regional and international human rights mechanisms. The personal commitment of the Secretary General of the OIC to the cause of human rights has been instrumental for the creation of the OIC independent human rights commission. This commitment needs to be continued and enhanced. I am glad to state that OHCHR stands ready to continue supporting the Commission
In conclusion, I hope that this week’s event will not only produce inspiring discussions and a fruitful exchange of good practices but that it will also instigate many States, including OIC members, to organise events at the national level with a view to furthering the implementation of Resolution 16/18.