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Human Rights Council adopts resolutions on the death penalty, the right to water and sanitation and maternal mortality and morbidity

AFTERNOON

28 September 2011

Holds General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted three resolutions on the question of the death penalty, the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights. It also held a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

In a resolution regarding the report by the Secretary-General on the question of the death penalty, the Council requested the Secretary-General to continue to submit to the Human Rights Council a yearly supplement to his quinquennial report on capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, paying special attention to the imposition of the death penalty on persons younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offence, on pregnant women and on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities.

Concerning the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Council acknowledged with appreciation the third annual report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, and welcomed the submission of the compilation of good practices on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, in which the Special Rapporteur put particular emphasis on practical solutions with regard to the implementation of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. It also called upon States to continuously monitor and regularly analyse the status of the realization of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation on the basis of the criteria of availability, quality, acceptability, accessibility and affordability.

On preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights, the Council requested the Office of High Commissioner to convene in cooperation with other relevant entities of the United Nations system, an expert workshop, open also to the participation of Governments, regional organizations, relevant United Nations bodies, and civil society organizations, to prepare concise technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, including the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health.

Belgium, Germany and New Zealand introduced the resolutions. Speaking in general comments or in comments before or after the vote were Spain, Ecuador, United States, Colombia, Burkina Faso, Benin, Mauritius, and Senegal.

At the beginning of the afternoon, the Council heard presentations on the Secretary-General’s report on the assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Cambodia, and the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, followed by a general debate on technical assistance and capacity-building.

Kyung-Wha Kang, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia highlighted the achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in cooperation with the Government, civil society and development community. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights extended support in areas of prison reform, land and housing issues, legal and judicial reform and promotion of the legacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in Cambodia. Turning to the report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, Ms. Kang said that the human rights situation in the country remained precarious. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was most concerned by violations by the Force Republican de la Côte d’Ivoire including extrajudicial executions, torture and inhumane and degrading treatment. The human rights of internally displaced persons needed urgent attention.

Speaking as a concerned country, Cambodia said that they took note of the report, which highlighted both the practical steps which had been taken and the achievements which had been made. Cambodia had already addressed some of the issues of concern in its response to the United Nations. Despite its limited capacity, Cambodia continued to take action regarding the legislative and institutional framework in order to tackle challenges pertaining to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Speaking as a concerned country, Côte d’Ivoire said that the report highlighted the extrajudicial executions, sexual violence and degrading and inhumane treatment during the period under consideration, and the Government stressed its commitment to putting an end to all those practices as soon as possible. The return to normalcy required that the embargo on arms be lifted in the country to ensure that the public forces were equipped to fight against delinquency. Côte d’Ivoire would like to reassure the international community that it would do its upmost to fully respect human rights and public liberty.

In the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building, speakers said that they believed technical assistance had an invaluable role to play in assisting all States to meet their obligations and called upon all Governments to take advantage of the expertise civil society could provide, also on the Human Rights Council to combine its capacity to react to violations and identify shortcoming that could impair the realization of human rights with more proactive efforts. The exchange of information with Special Procedures, rapid responses to their calls, and the extension of standing invitations to such mechanisms were among the best manifestations of cooperation with State parties.

Speakers included Poland on behalf of the European Union, Senegal speaking on behalf of the African Group, United States, Thailand on behalf of Brazil, Honduras, Indonesia, Mauritius Islands, Morocco, Norway, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, Maldives, Uruguay, Algeria and the United Kingdom.

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Association of World Citizens, Amnesty International and Femmes Africa Solidarité.

The President of the Human Rights Council said that Papua New Guinea officially informed the Council that the National Executive Council had not yet approved their position on the pending recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review on Papua New Guinea. The Council agreed to postpone the consideration of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on New Guinea to the Council’s nineteenth session in March 2012.

The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 29 September 2011, to continue to take action on draft resolutions and decisions.

Documentation

The Report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the OHCHR in assisting the Government and the people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights, (A/HRC/18/47), was submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 15/20, in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council at its eighteenth session on the role and achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights.

The Report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Côte d'Ivoire, (A/HRC/18/52), states that the fragile security situation, coupled with existing resentment within several communities, especially in Abidjan and the west, continues to breed inter-community tensions which often result in violence. Civilians, particularly women and children, remained the primary victims of human rights violations. There are reports of human rights violations by the Forces Républicaines de la Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI) including extra-judicial and summary executions, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention, violations of economic and social rights through acts of extortion, threats and intimidation. The fragile security situation has also encouraged vestiges of militia groups to continue carrying out targeted attacks against the population in areas in the west amid heightened levels of tension among various communities. While corrective action has been taken the Government needs to intensify its efforts to address human rights violations by the FRCI. Amid the current challenges facing the justice system, victims of sexual and gender-based violence continue to face considerable difficulties obtaining redress. Concerns have also been raised regarding the situation of former President Gbagbo and his close associates: their incommunicado detention, the lack of access to lawyers and the delay in formally bringing charges against them. The report concludes that the Government needs to ensure that international standards and principles are respected in the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is engaged with the Government and other relevant stakeholders with a view to supporting and enhancing the setting up of transitional justice mechanisms.

Presentation of the Reports by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

KYUNG-WHA KANG, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia, highlighted the achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in cooperation with the Government, civil society and the development community. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights extended support in areas of prison reform, land and housing issues, legal and judicial reform and the promotion of the legacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in Cambodia. Cambodia’s reporting to treaty bodies was now almost fully up to date. Cambodia’s ratification rate continued to grow with the entry into force of the Optional Protocol on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Secretary-General’s report had expressed particular concern about the erosion of the freedom of expression. Certain provisions of the draft law on associations and non-governmental organizations raised concerns over the ability of non-governmental organizations to operate freely and efficiently.

Turning to the report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, this report provided an update on developments since the High Commissioner’s report at the seventeenth session. It covered the period from 1 June to 31 August 2011. The human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire remained precarious. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was most concerned by violations by the Force Republican de la Côte d’Ivoire including extrajudicial executions, torture and inhumane and degrading treatment. Certain Force Republican de la Côte d’Ivoire commanders were illegally usurping law enforcement functions. Lingering intercommunity tensions had at times escalated into violence, especially in the west. The human rights of internally displaced persons also merited urgent attention. Many in camps remained vulnerable. Some had been attacked in the west by militias and mercenaries. The report looked into the situation of the former senior government officials including former President Gbagbo, his wife and associates. It was important that their treatment and subsequent prosecution and trial be consistent with minimum standards of international justice and fairness. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the establishment of a Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Broad based consultations on sensitive issues were required to build consensus on a number of sensitive and complex issues related to the conflict. The High Commissioner urged the Government to stabilize the security situation in order to better protect the population, particularly the most vulnerable communities in Abidjan. There was an urgent need to address the legacy of impunity for serious violations that had beset Côte d’Ivoire, including the recent post electoral conflict.

Statements by Concerned Countries

KE SOVANN (Cambodia), speaking as a concerned country, said that Cambodia took note of the report, which highlighted both the practical steps which had been taken and the achievements which had been made. Cambodia had already addressed some of the issues of concern – including those related to the reform of the judiciary, land reform and the right to freedom of expression – in its response to the United Nations. The Government had made efforts to comply with its obligations under relevant United Nations human rights treaties and was continuing to take practical steps to consider adhesion to other human rights instruments. The Government welcomed the partnership extended by the High Commissioner’s Office in enhancing Cambodia’s capacity-building in the field of human rights. Despite its limited capacity, Cambodia continued to take action regarding the legislative and institutional framework in order to tackle challenges pertaining to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The human rights office in Cambodia should further work with the Government to advance human rights in the country.

MAMADOU GNENEMA COULIBALY (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking as a concerned country, reiterated the commitment of the Government in supporting the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report on Côte d’Ivoire highlighted the extrajudicial executions, sexual violence and degrading and inhumane treatment during the period under consideration and the Government stressed its commitment to putting an end to all these practices and bringing the country back to administrative normalcy as soon as possible. The context shaped by the crisis had made the effort all that more difficult. In the aftermath of a decade of human rights violations, the crisis had led to the deaths of at least 3,000 persons, numerous cases of disappearances, rapes, pillaging and internally displaced persons and refugees. The delegation assured all Member States that the Government had made major steps toward the definitive halting of violations of human rights. The return to normalcy required that the embargo on arms be lifted in the country to ensure that the public forces were equipped to fight against delinquency. The international community should support the Government to allow its republican forces to provide for the security of its citizens. In order to provide for the prosecution of identified persons by the Commission of Inquiry, the Government had established its own commission to ensure that all persons were prosecuted and the President was committed to fighting impunity. Côte d’Ivoire would like to reassure the international community that it would do its upmost to fully respect human rights and public liberty.

Côte d’Ivoire reassured Member States that it would spare no effort, no endeavour, and no concession in order to achieve the strict adherence of human rights and the reconciliation of its daughters and sons who had suffered human rights violations for decades. The Government reiterated to the High Commissioner for Human Rights its readiness to receive members of the Commission of Inquiry at any time in order to verify the commitments that the Government was either now undertaking or would soon undertake. It was essential to reach reconciliation and judicial measures that were essential to achieving this as evidenced by the recent creation of the Ministry of Human Rights and the many efforts that had been made at the national level. The Government was cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by participating in the initiative on toxic waste and the initiative for the promotion of truth, justice and reconciliation.

General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

REMIGIUSZ A. HENCZEL (Poland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the obligation to respect human rights was universal and pertinent to all States irrespective of their political systems and level of economic and social development. Technical assistance and capacity building programmes remained for States with limited resources. The European Union was committed to using external assistance instruments to help various countries address assistance needs in the human rights field. The European Union appreciated the reports of the High Commissioner on the situations of human rights in various countries. The European Union was looking forward to the prompt opening of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Regional Office for North Africa in Cairo and the establishment of an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Tunisia. The European Union was discussing the possibility of an interactive dialogue on Yemen at the nineteenth session of the Human Rights Council. The European Union was actively engaged in Somalia. The European Union would work closely with international partners including the African Union and it supported the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights initiatives in that regard. The European Union commended the valuable contribution by civil society in the areas of technical assistance and capacity building and called upon all governments to take advantage of the expertise that civil society could provide.

MOUHAMADOU LAMINE THIAW (Senegal), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Group noted with interest the recent developments in Côte d'Ivoire that the High Commissioner highlighted in her comprehensive and concise report. Nevertheless, major challenges persisted in the country, including the security, stability and justice, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights. These challenges must be met simultaneously in order to ensure that Côte d'Ivoire met its objectives – reconciliation, peace, stability and prosperity. In this perspective, the African Group underscored the firm commitment and political will expressed by President Alassane Ouattara with the purpose of guiding the country to the full respect of human rights. It was also reassuring to know about the various initiatives undertaken by the Ivorian authorities to translate this commitment into practice. The African Group welcomed the establishment of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and hoped that the appointment of an Independent Expert would help Côte d'Ivoire to achieve substantial success in the areas of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. Côte d'Ivoire deserved the constant support of the international community.

JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) said that the United States supported the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ mechanisms to prevent human rights abuses and violations, its engagement in dialogue with governments to promote greater respect for human rights and its active role in removing obstacles to the realization of human rights. The United States congratulated Côte d’Ivoire for its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to build the Government’s human rights capacity. The new Government was making sincere efforts to improve the human rights situation under challenging circumstances and the United States welcomed the President’s oft repeated commitment that there would be no impunity in Côte d’Ivoire. The United States encouraged the Government’s robust cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner as it strove to build its capacity to carry out its obligations to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses. Technical assistance and capacity building were important tools for addressing human rights abuses around the world. On Sri Lanka, the transmission of the Panel of Experts report again underscored the critical importance for the Government to meet its international obligations and meaningfully address the credible allegations that had been raised about serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law that occurred in the final months of the conflict.

SEK WANNAMETHEE (Thailand), speaking on behalf of Brazil, Honduras, Indonesia, Mauritius Islands, Morocco, Norway, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey, said that during the five-review of the Council earlier this year, a considerable amount of time was spent discussing how the Council could do better in addressing urgent human rights situations in a timely constructive and cooperative manner. The countries shared the view that the capacity of the Council to react to violations and identify shortcoming that could impair the realization of human rights should be combined with more proactive efforts to promote technical cooperation and capacity building in order to assist countries in addressing their human rights challenges. The Council must not spare efforts to enhance cooperation in the field of human rights. That was why the Council must do better in fulfilling its mandate to provide advisory services, technical assistance and capacity building. In fact, the Institution Building package that guided the work of the Council already offered space for discussion on technical cooperation under agenda item 10. What was needed now was to make better use of this space. The countries believed that the promotion of technical cooperation was not only about securing more resources and funding, but about strengthening partnerships, ensuring better coordination and engaging countries in the sharing of experiences and best practices. Agenda item 10 should not only be on certain countries facing challenges but it should provide an opportunity for all States and stakeholders to participate in and benefit from the discussion. A more thematic approach to the discussion would raise the comfort level and widen the opportunities for dialogue and cooperation within the Council. The Office of the High Commissioner in collaboration with other United Nations agencies played a pivotal role in providing technical assistance and capacity building on the ground. It was imperative for the Council to coordinate more with the Office to ensure that the deliberation in the Council was translated into concrete actions. The countries hoped that the Special Procedures could also contribute to intensifying efforts in this regard. Guided by these objectives, the group of countries would propose a draft resolution on enhancement of technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights for consideration of the Council and hoped that the initiative would enjoy broad support and serve as common ground.

HARRIET E. BERG (Norway) said that it was disconcerting that gross violations of human rights continued six months after the end of the post-election conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. Norway called on the Ivorian authorities to ensure security for all its citizens through disarming militias, deploying regular law enforcement forces and reforming and reinforcing the security and justice sectors. It was worrying that many of the gross human rights violations had been perpetrated by members of the Government’s forces with apparent impunity. While acknowledging the steps taken to create a professional armed force, Norway called on the Ivorian Government to act decisively and firmly against these repeated abuses against the civilian population and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The climate of impunity must end. While the former President and many of his associates had been arrested and indicted, not a single individual associated with the pro-Ouattara or pro-Soro forces, the victors of the conflict, had been brought to justice.

ALEXANDRE FASEL (Switzerland) said Switzerland was concerned about the sexual violence committed against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the repeated occurrence of such serious sexual violations. Switzerland condemned these acts as massive violations of human rights and called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to do everything it could to protect the human rights of women against these aggressions. Switzerland regretted that the Government had not been able to fulfill its obligations according to its commitments to international human rights law but said that at an international level it was incumbent upon the international community and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to safeguard the human rights of women and Switzerland appealed to the Member States to better follow the situation of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

IRUTHISHAM ADAM (Maldives), commenting on the High Commissioner’s report on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, welcomed the cooperation and engagement by the new Government of Côte d’Ivoire with the international human rights machinery and the Council. Its commitment to transitional justice and the high priority attached to social cohesion in the aftermath of recent conflict was truly noteworthy. The Maldives also welcomed the establishment of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission to promote the values of forgiveness and tolerance and to promote harmony between Ivorian people. The Maldives welcomed the establishment of a national commission of inquiry and the institutional reform measures to investigate human rights violations during the electoral crisis. The formal recognition of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court was a monumental step for a country just stepping out of a troubled past. The Maldives believed that much needed to be completed for Côte d’Ivoire to move forward in consolidating their infant democratic fabric. Tackling the prevalent security situation and the protection of vulnerable populations such as women and children was paramount. The Maldives urged the international community to continue to support Côte d’Ivoire and endorsed the recommendations contained in the High Commissioner’s report.

FEDERICO PERAZZA (Uruguay) said that States’ cooperation with the system for the promotion and protection of human rights had been among the issues most extensively discussed at the Human Rights Council. Uruguay’s position was that human rights promotion and protection must be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue in order to strengthen the capacity of States to comply with their human rights obligations. The exchange of information with Special Procedures, rapid responses to their calls, and the extension of standing invitations to such mechanisms were among the best manifestations of cooperation. At the same time, the system itself must demonstrate its willingness to cooperate with States. Uruguay saw human rights cooperation as a two-way process.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said Algeria supported the work of the international community in providing technical assistance on human rights issues in the spirit of solidarity, and it preferred this approach to confrontations. Algeria was concerned about the undermining of sovereignty through a draft resolution to be submitted tomorrow by a group of western countries which called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to only coordinate with Member States that were donors without any reference in the draft resolution to the concerned country and its priorities. Algeria said that a reference to donor countries alone would establish a hierarchy and reinforce a questioning of sovereignty. Algeria was a co-sponsor of a resolution on the promotion of technical assistance and the reinforcement of capacities in the area of human rights and hoped that this resolution would provide assistance to those countries in transition in the Arab world. Algeria welcomed the efforts of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to pursue national reconciliation and social cohesion and called on the international community to support these efforts.

IAN DUDDY (United Kingdom) firmly believed that technical assistance had an invaluable role to play in assisting all States to meet their obligations. The United Kingdom welcomed the High Commissioner’s update on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire and the Ivorian Government’s stated commitment to human rights. More remained to be done and the United Kingdom urged them to urgently address impunity relating to the recent violence. The United Kingdom fully commended the progress made by Tunisia since the Jasmine Revolution and encouraged it to continue along this path, utilizing in full the support the Office could offer. The need for continued support for Haiti should not be forgotten and the United Kingdom hoped that their forthcoming Universal Periodic Review complimented the work of the Office of the High Commissioner on the ground. The United Kingdom remained concerned by the uncertain future of the Office in Nepal and strongly supported their continued presence. The United Kingdom called upon the Nepalese Government to urgently address this issue so that they may benefit from the invaluable support the Office could provide. The United Kingdom would always defend the ability of the United Nations human rights mechanisms to support and encourage States, regardless of their situation, to use these mechanisms to support the fulfillment of their obligations.

GENEVIEVE JOURDAN, of Association of World Citizens, said that there was much discussion about the transfer of resources from rich countries to other countries and it was often said that this was not right because the latter suffered from corruption. Added to this was the illegal arms market, often at the behest of developed countries, as well as other catalysts of corruption. These issues could be tackled, but only hand in hand with communities. All Governments providing technical assistance should only do so in conjunction with communities.

PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said that the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must not be neglected as long as serious human rights violations continued to be committed there. If the Council was to contribute to ending the culture of impunity, occasional outrage must be replaced by sustained response. Amnesty International recommended starting now to establish a technical assistance mandate with a focus on judicial reform and elimination of impunity at the Council’s March 2012 session. In a recent report, Amnesty International had highlighted that the Congolese justice system remained largely unable to deliver accountability, address impunity and secure reparation for victims after decades of neglect, mismanagement and poor governance.

BINETA DIOP, of Femmes Africa Solidarite, said in the past Somalia had created opportunities for women to be part of the peace negotiations. However, serious women’s rights violations had been reported since the outbreak of the conflict opposing the Transitional Federal Government and the insurgent group of Al-Shabaab. Around 80 percent of those displaced in Somalia were women and children who had tried to reach refugee camps and the women in camps were victims of recurrent sexual violence. The Independent Expert should strengthen his work with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and explore areas to strengthen the role of women to battle famine. The international community should mobilize resources to enable the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations to better respond to the crisis.

Action on Resolutions

Action on Resolution under Agenda Item on Organizational and Procedural Matters

In a resolution (A/HRC/18/L28) regarding the Report by the Secretary-General on the question of death penalty, adopted without a vote, the Council recalls article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and articles 6 and 37 (a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, takes note of Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/59 of 20 April 2005 and Human Rights Council decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, and requests the Secretary-General to continue to submit to the Human Rights Council, in consultation with Governments, specialized agencies and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, a yearly supplement to his quinquennial report on capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, paying special attention to the imposition of the death penalty on persons younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offence, on pregnant women and on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities.
FRANCOIS ROUX (Belgium), introducing draft resolution L.28, said that it was an honour to submit L.28 to the Human Rights Council. This was a procedural matter aimed at requesting that the Secretary-General of the United Nations continue to provide an addition to his five-year report in respect of the death penalty. After consultations with various parties, Belgium felt that it was necessary to have a legal basis for this matter. Belgium thanked all delegations for their highly constructive attitude and their flexibility.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural rights, including the Right to Development

Action on Resolution on Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

In a resolution (A/HRC/18/L1) regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, adopted without a vote, the Council acknowledges with appreciation the third annual report of the Special Rapporteur, and takes note with interest of her recommendations and clarifications with regard to national and local planning for the implementation of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation; welcomes the submission of the compilation of good practices on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, in which the Special Rapporteur put particular emphasis on practical solutions with regard to the implementation of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. The Council calls upon States to continuously monitor and regularly analyse the status of the realization of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation on the basis of the criteria of availability, quality, acceptability, accessibility and affordability; calls upon States to set access targets to be reached in short-time periods for universal service provision, giving priority to realizing a basic level of service for everyone before improving service levels for those already served; calls upon States to provide a regulatory framework aimed at ensuring that all water and sanitation service providers respect and protect human rights and do not cause human rights violations or abuses; invites States to continue to promote at all levels the full realization of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation in forthcoming national, regional and international initiatives; stresses the important role of the international cooperation and technical assistance provided by States, specialized agencies of the United Nations system, international and development partners, as well as by donor agencies; urges development partners to adopt a human rights-based approach when designing and implementing development programmes in support of national initiatives and plans of action related to the right to safe drinking water and sanitation; requests the Special Rapporteur to continue to report, on an annual basis, to the Human Rights Council and to submit an annual report to the General Assembly; and encourages the Special Rapporteur to facilitate, including through the engagement with relevant stakeholders, the provision of technical assistance in the area of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

REINHARD SCHWEPPE (Germany), introducing resolution L.1, said that this draft resolution had 65 co-sponsors and addressed the right to clean water and sanitation following up the report presented by Catarina de Albuquerque, Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Germany indicated that plans grounded on a human rights-based approach could play an important role in alleviating the current water and sanitation crisis. Plans should put States resources to maximum use and carefully chosen indicators were important in order to provide best measures of success and also to point to where further efforts were required. The report by Ms. de Alburquerque had been used as a basis for the resolution. Financing and planning for both infrastructure development and maintenance was very important. Cooperation from the international community was very important in the progressive realization of this right. Germany urged States to mainstream human rights into plans in order to avoid discrimination. The resolution was the result of consultations and Germany thanked delegations for participation during the informals and expressed appreciation to those delegations which had co-sponsored the resolution. It was a stepping stone and Germany reaffirmed its commitment to this important topic.

AGUSTIN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain) speaking as a co-sponsor of draft resolution L.1, said Spain very much endorsed the statement made by Germany. Spain congratulated Catarina de Albuquerque on her role as Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation. Spain recognized the human right of drinking water and sanitation. It was essential for countries to plan to bring this about. This would have sustainable results. The resolution would make States take a human rights based approach to drinking water in their national strategies. Spain welcomed the good practices complied by Special Rapporteur that offered practical solutions. Along the same lines Spain supported the work of Special Rapporteur to integrate the work of Special Rapporteur with the United Nations Children's Fund, particularly with regard to Millennium Development Goal 7 to halve the number of people who did not have access to safe drinking water.

ALFONSO MORALES (Ecuador), speaking in a general comment before the vote, said that Ecuador supported the draft resolution since it reaffirmed the recognition by the General Assembly concerning the right to water and sanitation as a basic human right. Ecuador believed that the resolution was important and there were a number of co-sponsors. Ecuador had made water a constitutional right, a staple right and primordial right that the State had to provide to its citizens.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft resolution L.1, said that the world’s water demand would soon exceed supply. The United States was deeply committed to addressing these global challenges and was one of the largest donors to international development banks, including the World Bank and was pleased to join consensus today. The United States appreciated the acknowledgement in this resolution that questions of trans-border legal issues related to water would not be included. The United States was pleased to see a reference to private actors to work in this area and for State entities to protect water rights.

Action on Resolution on Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/18/L.8) regarding preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights, as orally amended adopted without a vote, the Council encourages States and other relevant stakeholders to take action at all levels to address the interlinked root causes of maternal mortality and morbidity, such as poverty, malnutrition, harmful practices, lack of accessible and appropriate health-care services, information and education, and gender inequality, and to pay particular attention to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls; requests the Office of High Commissioner to convene in cooperation with other relevant entities of the United Nations system, an expert workshop, open also to the participation of Governments, regional organizations, relevant United Nations bodies, and civil society organizations, to prepare concise technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, including the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health; requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present the technical guidance to the Human Rights Council; and decides to continue considering the issue at its twenty-first session under the same agenda item.

WENDY HINTON (New Zealand), speaking in introduction of draft resolution L.8, said in 2001 the Human Rights Council had recognized preventing maternal mortality and morbidity as a health development and human rights challenge. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been requested to prepare an analytical composition of good and effective practices. Despite recent improvements 350,000 women died each year from preventable causes related to child birth. The text this year called for an expert workshop to prepare technical guidance on the application of human rights based approach to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity. There was one amendment in operative paragraph 5, they would delete the last phrase of the paragraph beginning at the word including so that it would now finish at the words “to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.”

ALICIA VICTORIA ARANGO OLMOS (Colombia), speaking as a co-sponsor, wondered what was missing in international efforts to make significant progress in the prevention of maternal mortality and morbidity. The response to this challenge was to apply a human rights approach in practical terms. In many cases maternal mortality cases occurred because women were not aware of their rights or suffered from marginalization or discrimination. The resolution could constitute a significant tool, in hand with international and local efforts and initiatives, to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity. This was a moral obligation to children and mothers.

SABINE BAKYONO KANZIE (Burkina Faso) speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.8, said Burkina Faso believed that with the adoption of this text, the international community would reach a new milestone in the fight against maternal morbidity and mortality. The consensus in this Council demonstrated it was important to adopt a human rights based approach to this issue.

PATRICE HOUNYEAZE (Benin), speaking in a general comment, indicated that the draft resolution on maternal mortality and morbidity raised major concern upon which the full attention of the international community should be focused. This initiative was part of a greater endeavour to protect the health of people around the world, including women and children. New initiatives would strengthen the protection of the rights of women. This tragic situation was one that would continue to require strengthening efforts address maternal mortality and morbidity.

SUBHAS GYSDHUR (Mauritius), speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.8, said Mauritius supported this resolution in order to strengthen the struggle against this scourge of maternal morbidity and mortality using a human rights based approach. Mauritius was proud to support the draft and urged Council to adopt it by consensus.

MOHAMED LAMINE THIAW (Senegal), speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.8, said that the importance of the issue at the heart of this draft resolution could not be overstated as the right to life was the most fundamental of all human rights. Senegal fully supported the initiative which aimed to hold an open workshop to develop a guidebook to reduce the number of women who died while giving birth.

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