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Opening of the 18th session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

Opening Remarks by Mr. Adam Abdelmoula, Director
Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


Monday, 20 February 2017
Palais des Nations, Room XX

Mr. President of the Human Rights Council,
Mr. Chairperson of the Advisory Committee,
Distinguished Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to be with you all today. This is the first time since I assumed my functions as Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division that I have the privilege to address you. I very much value this opportunity, as your expertise and the work carried out by the Committee significantly contribute to the effective realization of human rights across the globe.

I would like to join the President in congratulating the three new members of your Committee: Mr. Lazhari Bouzid (Algeria), Mr. Xinsheng Liu (China), and Ms. Mona Omar (Egypt), as well as Mr. Lebedev, Mr. Obata, Ms. Hananía de Varela and Mr. Ziegler on their re-election to the Committee for another three-year term.

The President has just given an overview of the highlights of the last session of the Human Rights Council held in September, which may be of particular interest to the work of this Committee. He also provided you with an outline of the programme of work of the session ahead, which will start next Monday.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I see from the draft programme of work for the current session that the Committee has before it a week full of salient discussions and exchanges. The Secretariat of the Advisory Committee has developed a comprehensive programme of work and introduced novelties so as to ensure that more and more actors – delegates, NGOs, national human rights institutions, academics etc., can benefit from your expertise and the important work you are doing. The Secretariat has also continued its efforts to ensure that you will be able to benefit, to the extent possible, from available expertise of OHCHR and UN colleagues working in specialized areas, including in field or regional offices, and to invite them to participate in the discussions being held in Room XX.

Distinguished members,

Let me now turn to your current mandates which touch upon leprosy-related discrimination, unaccompanied migrant children, illicit funds as well as regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights.

I am pleased to note that report on leprosy-related discrimination is being finalized and will be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its 35th session. This well-articulated study will provide the Council with valuable insights into the implementation of the principles and guidelines to eliminate this underestimated discrimination against persons affected by leprosy. This Committee was also the first, through one of its studies, to shed light on the plight of persons with albinism and the discrimination they face.

Another theme that has been of importance to this Committee over the past year is that of migrant children. The study on unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents of the Committee is not only timely but also much awaited in the current alarming context, where every day we sadly learn about incidents sometimes involving large numbers of migrants.

The situation of migrants today depicts the continuing failure of States and the international community as a whole to protect their rights. Migrants facing exploitation, discrimination and violence, and migrant children, who are unaccompanied or separated from their parents, are in a particularly vulnerable situation. Migration also continues to be central on the agenda of the OHCHR. The Office has a long standing commitment to the human rights of migrants, and in recent years, it has significantly stepped up its advocacy and work on protecting the human rights of all migrants.

Most countries lack data on the number of children deprived of liberty, and on the reasons, length and places of detention. Children deprived of liberty thus often remain invisible and forgotten. To address this pressing situation, the UN General Assembly invited the Secretary-General to commission an in-depth global study on children deprived of liberty. The Global Study seeks to collect good practices and provide action-oriented recommendations to effectively realize all relevant rights of the child. In October 2016, the Secretary-General appointed Mr. Manfred Nowak to lead this Global Study. The study will be conducted in cooperation with Member States, UN organizations including OHCHR, national human rights institutions, civil society, the academia, and – most importantly – children themselves. I trust that your research-based report will be an important contribution in this process.

As you know, in June 2016, the Committee on the rights of the child (CRC) and the Committee on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers (CMW) announced that they would examine in detail the rights of children in the context of international migration, with a view to adopting a joint General Comment in early 2017, which would provide a comprehensive, rights-based approach to the situation of children affected by migration. I am very pleased that you will have the opportunity at this session to interact with Mr. Pablo Ceriani, who is the Rapporteur of the CMW on this landmark General Comment, as well as with colleagues working with Mr. Nowak and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. The close working relations established by the Committee with other UN bodies and mechanisms working on the subject and/or related issues is an excellent practice and I encourage you to pursue this avenue further.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Another topic that you will be discussing this week is the impact of the flow of funds of illicit origin and the non-repatriation thereof to the countries of origin, on the enjoyment of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, with a special emphasis on the right to development. The study was commissioned to inter alia compile relevant best practices and main challenges, and to make recommendations on tackling those challenges, based on the best practices in question.

I am pleased to note from reading the draft report that it provides a helpful introduction to what these funds are and examines how this matter affects human rights. This is indeed a complex issue that needs to be carefully analysed from a human rights perspective and therefore, I look forward to reading the final report of the Committee which will be submitted to the Council later this year.

Distinguished members,

The most recent mandate of your Committee concerns regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights and you will discuss your preliminary report at the present session.

Mr. Chairperson,

I was very pleased to learn that you will also discuss how to integrate a gender perspective in your studies. I welcome the initiative to renew your thinking on this critical topic.

Among the novelties referred to earlier, I have the pleasure to inform you that the Secretariat organized a dialogue with the 11 government officials from Least Developed Countries and Small Islands Developing States supported by the Trust established by the Council. The Delegates - 6 women and 5 men- are from the following countries: Bhutan, Cape Verde, Jamaica, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Timor Leste, Tonga, and Trinidad and Tobago. While they are working on human rights issues in their respective countries, it will be the first time for almost all of them to attend a regular session of the HRC. It will hence also be the first opportunity for them to interact with your Committee to share with the Council’s think tank the challenges faced and discuss themes that are particularly relevant to LDCs and SIDS. This discussion will be held on Thursday, 23 February 2017 (from 5:00 to 6:00 pm). I wish you an interesting exchange of views and fruitful debate.

Distinguished Members,

As OHCHR seeks to advance human rights for all and in all parts of the world in close partnership with civil society, national institutions and the international community at large, we count on your expertise and on the important work carried out by your Committee.

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished Members,

Let me conclude here by assuring you of the full support of the Secretariat in carrying out your activities.

I wish you very fruitful deliberations at the present session.

Thank you