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Statement by Mr. Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Chair of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, at the thirtieth session of the Human Rights Council

22 September 2015

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address you today in the context of the presentation of the annual report of the Advisory Committee which covers the Committee’s fourteenth and fifteenth sessions in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 16/21.

During the period covered by this presentation, the Advisory Committee has continued to give priority to requests arising from Council resolutions and has made considerable progress on the mandates entrusted to it. Hence before you today, along with the reports of the Committee on its fourteenth and fifteenth sessions, you also have thematic reports on two of the seven mandates the Committee has been working on during the past year.

[Sport and the Olympic ideal]

The first thematic report before you is the final report on the study on the possibilities of using sport and the Olympic ideal to promote human rights (A/HRC/30/50) pursuant to Council resolution 27/8.

The report seeks to assist stakeholders in assessing modern human rights policy related to sport and to facilitate its further development and improvement in a coherent, comprehensive and systematic manner, with a view to strengthening universal respect for human rights for all through sustained efforts. It recognizes the important role sport can play in combating social barriers, discrimination and racism, by promoting communication about gender and other forms of discrimination and contributing to bringing men and women closer together to enhance social cohesion. It also highlights that alongside the opportunities for economic and social development that sporting events, especially global or mega sporting events, bring to host countries, there are significant risks carried by these events, which may include for instance the local population being displaced, evicted, exploited or even killed. The report also underscores the roles of education and media in sport, highlights best practices and national experiences that could be taken as models to be replicated, and identifies the challenges that lie in the complexities surrounding sport and its use as a tool to promote human rights. It makes a number of recommendations with a view to maximising the potential of sport as a tool to better promote and protect human rights.

[Local government and human rights]

The second report presented to you today is on the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/30/49) pursuant to Council resolution 27/4.

The report underscores the principle of shared responsibility of different tiers of government for the protection and promotion of human rights and highlights the need for States to take steps to ensure coordination between ministries and regional and local authorities in order to reconcile related policies with their international human rights obligations. It also identifies the main challenges faced by local governments in the protection and promotion of human rights, which can be categorized as political, economic and administrative. It further highlights the need to have human rights protection mechanisms at the local level and provides some examples of such mechanisms as well as of the so-called “human rights cities”, which stem from one of the globally developed initiatives aimed at localizing human rights.

The report also underscores the imperative role of civil society in the planning and implementation of activities for the promotion and protection of human rights and cites several best practices and initiatives at the local level in a number of countries. It makes recommendations, including on the need for a greater involvement of and dialogue with local authorities in the monitoring of domestic implementation of States’ international human rights commitments, as well as on the need to develop guiding principles for local government and human rights, which could be a useful instrument to clarify the role of various actors and institutions, and to develop concrete strategies in implementing the various recommendations of the different UN human rights mechanisms. The Committee hopes that the Council will give due consideration to these recommendations in taking forward its discussions on this issue.

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At its last session, the Committee also made good progress on one of its ongoing mandates, namely, the activities of vulture funds and the impact on human rights. At its recently ended fifteenth session in August, the Committee discussed a preliminary report (A/HRC/AC/15/CRP.1) on this topic prepared by the drafting group tasked with the preparation of the progress report, due to be presented to the Council in March 2016 pursuant to Council resolution 27/30. The Committee however recommended that the Council extend the time schedule envisaged to allow for better informed work, and that the Advisory Committee be requested to submit a progress report to the Council at its thirty-third session in September 2016. The Committee hopes that the Council will favourably consider this recommendation.

The Committee also started working on the two new mandates entrusted to it by the Council last June, namely, the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy, and their family members and unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights. The work on these topics is ongoing and the Committee has also circulated questionnaires to relevant stakeholders in order to gather their views and inputs. I take this opportunity to call on all of you present here today to respond to the questionnaires, which are important for the preparation of the reports requested by the Council.

[Challenges]

In view of the recurring issue of lack of new mandates, and taking into account paragraph 77 of resolution 5/1, the Committee has continued its practice of identifying proposals for further research within the scope of the work set out by the Council. This has proved to be a successful avenue for the Committee to bring to the Council’s attention areas which could benefit from the Committee’s collegial expertise. The proposal to study the issue of preserving international watercourses to protect the rights to life and food is one of the topics put forward by the Committee for the Council’s consideration (recommendation 14/5).

The Committee has also continued to refine its methods of work and embarked on a process of reflection on a number of issues as a preliminary step towards the identification of new research proposals. Among the issues that the Committee studied at its last session were the:

  • Whistle-blowing and human rights in the context of corruption
  • Climate induced displacement and human rights
  • Mainstreaming human rights in the post-2015 development agenda, and
  • Regional human rights regimes (protection mechanisms).

The Advisory Committee also considered a preliminary overview of possible thematic gaps within the Human Rights Council prepared by one of its members.

The Committee hopes that the Council, will continue to build on its proposals and entrust the Committee with new mandates at this and the coming sessions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would, at this stage, like to express the Committee’s gratitude to the current and former Presidents of the Council and members of the Bureau as well as the coordinators of regional and political groups with whom the Committee had several informal exchanges over the past years. These meetings have since been institutionalized and have provided a useful platform, which has strengthened the interaction between the Council and the Committee, to exchange views on the Committee’s work and its achievements, but also to discuss in an informal setting the challenges faced. This regular dialogue with the President and the Bureau of the Council, and the regional and political coordinators has successfully resulted in drawing attention to the concern of lack of mandates and to overcoming such difficulties for the near future.

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,

[Methods of work/Modus operandi]

As per its established practice at each session, the Committee also reviewed its methods of work at its last session, with a view to improving its functioning and its procedural efficiency and to better fulfilling its mandate of providing expert advice to the Human Rights Council. In this regard, the Committee decided, inter alia, to establish a network of academic friends of the Committee with the objective to work together collaboratively on the topics of the research-based reports of the Advisory Committee. It also decided to open the Advisory Committee online discussion forum to representatives of non-governmental organizations and members of civil society to enable more frequent interactions and exchange with the latter.

In conclusion, I would like to stress once again the dedicated and collective work of the Committee as a unique collegial body. The Committee privileges, at any time, an inclusive way of working, engages with all stakeholders, including State delegations, non-governmental organizations, national institutions, specialized UN agencies and other intergovernmental organizations. Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the important contribution of all stakeholders to the Committee’s work. As mentioned earlier, the Committee is seeking your input through the questionnaires sent out last week and counts on your active contribution in that regard.

I thank you.