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Human Rights Council holds Panel discussion on how enhancing human rights technical cooperation can contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

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4 July 2018

MORNING 

4 July 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning held a panel discussion on human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on enhancing human rights technical cooperation and capacity-building to contribute to the effective and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In her opening statement, Georgette Gagnon, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said technical cooperation in human rights was central to the prevention of conflict.  As such, cooperation was essential to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Capacity-building to Member States was provided to identify and operationalise linkages between human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sek Wannamethe, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office in Geneva and Panel Moderator, said the idea behind the panel was that human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals were mutually dependent and reinforcing.  Linkages had been recognized by the Office of the High Commissioner, treaty bodies and the Human Rights Council, as seen in a number of resolutions.  

Valerie Julliand, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nepal, said that when speaking about sustainable development, it was essential to consider the multiple facets of exclusion.  Data was the only way to address discrimination as what was not supported by data did not exist.  There was a need to be sensitive in identifying and recognizing human rights violations and abuses.

Mary Wanyonyi, Director of Strategy and Development and Focal Point for the Sustainable Development Goals of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, said data was key in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  In Kenya, national statistical officers were well provisioned to ensure that data conformed to United Nations principles.  Kenyan human rights bodies participated in the work of national statistics committees to improve Sustainable Development Goals-related monitoring.

In the ensuing discussion, States voiced their strong commitment to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The implementation of the Agenda must be consistent with international human rights obligations.  The Human Rights Council had reaffirmed the complementarity of the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights obligations.  To achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda, States and international organizations must pursue increased and participatory technical assistance and capacity-building that accounted for all relevant stakeholders.  

Speaking were Brazil on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, European Union, Turkey on behalf of a group of countries, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Singapore on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Francophone Group of Member and Observer States of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Portugal on behalf of a group of countries, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Australia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Botswana, Honduras, Ireland, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, United Nations Development Programme, Sri Lanka, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Iran, and Chad.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Australian Human Rights Commission in a video message, International Lesbian and Gay Association, (in a joint statement with Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights), Action Canada for Population and Development, Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, and Association of World Citizens.

The Council will next hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic.  It will later hold an interactive dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights concerning the human rights situation of the Rohingya people and other minorities in Myanmar.

Opening Statement

GEORGETTE GAGNON, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said technical cooperation in human rights was central to the prevention of conflict and marginalisation.  As such, technical cooperation was essential to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Equitable development aimed at breaking cycles of disadvantage was a major endeavour.  Ms. Gagnon said her report focused on how technical assistance contributed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Monitoring work and public advocacy were the basis for programmes capable of achieving sustained results.  Successful technical cooperation programmes were being replicated in the context of South-South cooperation.  Targeted technical cooperation could reach those furthest behind first by addressing discrimination and promoting participation in decision-making.  The United Nations programme on albinism in Malawi had led to a national action plan on the matter.  In Colombia, the United Nations assisted in creating rights-based development projects.

Capacity building to Member States was provided to identify and operationalize linkages between human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Mainstreaming human rights mechanisms in national action plans was well under way.  As an example, Fiji’s national action plans aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.  The High Commissioner’s Office developed guidance tools to support policymakers and statisticians in government agencies to measure progress on the realisation of the 2030 Agenda.  In Tunisia, the Office documented women’s access to social security and facilitated the drafting of an action plan on the empowerment of women in rural areas.  In Colombia, the Office was helping develop a national rural health plan with the full participation of Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples.  The connection between human rights and sustainable development was increasingly recognised.  Basing policies on sound evidence required disaggregated data collection informed by international human rights law.  Progress on commitments to leave no one behind would be measured on how Member States delivered rights for the most vulnerable and excluded members of society.  The High Commissioner’s Office would continue supporting States, the United Nations system and stakeholders in ensuring that development policies addressed the root causes of discrimination, exclusion and inequality.

Statements by the Panel Moderator and the Panellists

SEK WANNAMETHEE, Moderator and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office in Geneva, said that the idea behind the panel was that human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals were mutually dependent and reinforcing.  Linkages had been recognized by the Office of the High Commissioner, treaty bodies and the Council, as seen in a number of resolutions.  Three questions would be addressed during the panel: how could the work of the human rights mechanisms contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, how could the United Nations system provide technical support to the Sustainable Development Goals, and finally what was the role of data and statistics and how could they contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The role of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was welcomed, as it had taken the lead in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

NAHLA HAIDAR, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that since its establishment, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had been keenly aware of the nexus between development and the realization of women’s rights.  The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had established an internal working group and a direct relationship with UN Women and other concerned agencies to reflect together on the best way of making synergies and more precisely mainstreaming gender in fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals and drafting of indicators.  The Sustainable Development Goals provided a chance for a policy coherence.  None of the work would be possible without the work of the United Nations agencies and United Nations country teams.  Work was being done to reinforce the relationship with national human rights institutions.  Guidelines for reporting to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had been developed, in order to incorporate a dimension on the Sustainable Development Goals.  The provision of data was not only quantitative but also qualitative.  A draft guidance note would be probably established during this session of the Council.  It was important to hear from States on areas where they needed more support and assistance.

SEK WANNAMETHEE, Moderator and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office in Geneva, introducing the next panellist, asked how could the United Nations system support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals while ensuring policy coherence.

VALERIE JULLIAND, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nepal, said she came to the floor as a practitioner and an idealist.  Having spent more than 25 years in the field in Latin America, Africa and Asia, this had given her the opportunity to see first-hand what it meant not to have human rights.  When speaking about sustainable development, what had to be kept in mind were the multiple facets of exclusion, on the basis of culture, geographic remoteness, caste and other factors – those who were excluded from the justice system, rule of law, and economic development.  The link between human rights and development must therefore not be forgotten.  The emphasis on human rights in the Sustainable Development Goals was captured in the concept of leaving no one behind.  These were one single issue.  This meant there was an imperative to address the inequalities that the last years of development had created.  The Sustainable Development Goals could not be considered as achieved in any country if a large segment of the population was left behind.  

The technical and the data aspects were very important in this respect.  When speaking of data, all actors who were producing and using data needed to be involved.  Disaggregation and elaboration of indicators that allowed for measures was also extremely important.  Indicators only made sense when measured.  Data was the only way to address discrimination.  What was not supported by data, did not exist – this applied to the largest discriminated groups, including indigenous peoples and castes.  Policy coherence that helped putting in perspective all different activities in a country, including the laws, was importance so as they did not work in silos, but in synergy.  There was a need to be sensitive in identifying and recognizing human rights violations and abuses, and in addressing the root causes.  

SEK WANNAMETHEE, Moderator and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office in Geneva, said capacity building in the area of data and statistics was an important issue and the next speaker would share Kenya’s experience, including the progress made and challenges.

MARY WAYONYI, Director of Strategy and Development and Focal Point for the Sustainable Development Goals of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, said data was key in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In Kenya, national statistics officers were well provisioned to ensure that data provided met official thresholds and conformed to United Nations principles.  Mainstreaming a human rights-based approach to data was essential to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Statistics in Kenya usually revealed disparities among various groups.  Vulnerable groups included families living on the streets and women.  Technical cooperation anchored on principles of sustainable development was essential.  Efforts must build technical knowhow to that end.  Cooperation between the High Commissioner’s Office and Kenya was a milestone and the forthcoming census would include questions to identify vulnerable communities.  Assistance in the form of training enhanced national capacity and was particularly relevant as no single institution could meet the current demand for data.  Kenyan human rights bodies participated in the work of national statistics committees to improve Sustainable Development Goals-related monitoring.

Discussion

Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, said that the key theme of the eleventh summit of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries in 2016 was the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  The human rights component of the Community had been strengthened in order to meet the 2030 Agenda.  The Community shared the view that technical cooperation was instrumental in promoting and protecting human rights.  European Union acknowledged that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda had to be consistent with States’ obligations under international human rights law.  The promotion and protection of human rights and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals were inter-related and mutually reinforcing.  The European Union was promoting sustainable development through the new European consensus on development “Our world, our dignity, our future”, fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda.  Turkey, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, was strongly committed to working together to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda, aimed at building resilient societies and leaving no one behind.  Technical cooperation pertaining to human rights and Sustainable Development Goals was a joint responsibility of all United Nations agencies.

Denmark, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that the 2030 Agenda mirrored the international human rights framework, bringing opportunities to integrate all human rights into global and national policies, both in developed and developing countries in the next 12 years.  Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Community Vision 2025 reflected priorities under the 2030 Agenda.  Capacity building programmes were useful in improving data collection relating to human rights and sustainable development.  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed the importance of technical assistance provided to States that needed support in developing national policies.  Efforts for plurennial financing and setting up of a funding mechanism had to be a priority.

Brazil, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said achieving the Sustainable Development Goals contributed to the achievement of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  Capacity building was a positive element in the attainment of the goals and meant that the promotion and protection had to include not only goals but also working methods.  Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Francophone Group of Member and Observer States of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, said technical assistance and capacity building programmes in the field of human rights greatly contributed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The success of these programmes required that they were accessible to all.  In light of this, the Francophone Group asked that the Human Rights Council scrupulously ensure the respect for multilingualism.  Portugal, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the 2030 Agenda offered a huge opportunity to advance human rights on the ground.  It especially welcomed the role of mechanisms for the implementation and follow-up, which created a common space to discuss progress and challenges.  Mechanisms to collect data and increase public transparency were also key, as was the acquis of human rights.

Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals would not be possible without addressing human rights violations around the world.  Providing access to justice for all and building effective institutions was essential to achieving the goals.  That was why it was important to stress the importance of capacity building and technical cooperation.  Australia agreed that realizing the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to “leave no-one behind” was intrinsically linked to dismantling discrimination, reducing inequalities, and addressing “the structural root causes that kept people in poverty, and that marginalized, excluded or discriminated against them in laws, policies and social practices.”  Myanmar said that as the principle of inclusiveness was enshrined in the Sustainable Development Agenda, it was essential to ensure that no one was left behind in strengthening the human rights and fundamental freedom of nations.  In this light, Myanmar recognized the importance of providing technical assistance and capacity building in line with General Assembly resolutions.

Australian Human Rights Commission, in a video message, said national human rights institutions had a pivotal role to play in the domestic implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and played a valuable role in their global and regional application through technical cooperation beyond State borders.  The Australian Commission engaged in such activities across their region.  International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, said it was paramount that technical cooperation on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals account for the needs of all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Close cooperation required disaggregated data to capture the intersectional identities of all people.  Action Canada for Population and Development drew attention to ways in which the idea of leaving no one behind was turned into a new language battleground in intergovernmental spaces.  States must demonstrate political integrity, accountability and commitment to ensure that all rights were realised for all people.

Pakistan said technical assistance and capacity-building were among the key tasks of the Human Rights Council.  The Council had reaffirmed the complementarity of human rights and the 2030 Agenda.  The panellists were asked for ways to effectively explore synergies between the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights obligations.  Costa Rica noted that the Sustainable Development Goals were linked to human rights standards.  Technical cooperation helped States uphold international human rights obligations by enhancing the work of relevant national institutions.  Costa Rica played a dual role as a provider and recipient of assistance.  Botswana asserted the significance of regular reviews to allow for the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Ensuring the strong impact of technical cooperation required a multi-stakeholder and participatory approach to ensure that no one was left behind.

Honduras reiterated the relevance of the panel in order to share best practices in achieving greater coherence and synergies in implementing the 2030 Agenda and human rights responsibilities.  It was essential to develop policies based on data and Honduras was cooperating with Paraguay on SIMORE.  Ireland said it was a co-chair of the negotiations and honoured to play a leadership role in the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Gender equality was reflected across the 2030 Agenda and in order to achieve further progress, Ireland supported UN Women in developing gender-sensitive statistics.   Senegal said that developing States had to be better supported, particularly in the area of data collection and developing more inclusive policies.  The exchange of best practices among States and regional mechanisms and treaty bodies was welcomed.  

United Arab Emirates said that the 2030 Agenda set out many development goals which were complementary to socio-economic and environmental dimensions.  A National Commission had been established to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  United Nations Development Programme appreciated the practical approach and said its Strategic Plan 2018-2021 set out the direction to support States achieve sustainable development and ensure the protection of human rights.  The Programme focused on partnerships and integrated approaches to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as on cooperation with national human rights institutions.  Sri Lanka had embarked on a transformative journey to realize a sustainable and resilient society.  The formulation of data and its application was a challenge for developing countries.

Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie emphasised its continuous engagement in the area of technical cooperation with Member States.  From its experience in technical cooperation, it was crucial to actively listen to States, in order to hear the logical realities, and assess them, and to develop a true and in-depth discussion of funding needs, which respected multilingualism.  This was a vital pre-requisite so that everyone could participate in human rights.  Iran said the enhancement of international cooperation was the most effective element in the promotion and protection of human rights, for which genuine dialogue and the exchange of views were essential.  Against this backdrop, technical assistance should be provided in consultation with the States concerned.  Chad supported the Human Rights Council and encouraged the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals programme.  There was a need to strengthen inter-institutional cooperation in the human rights mechanisms bodies.  It called for the operationalization of the Human Rights Office in Chad, pending for eight years now.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions said national human rights institutions had a robust and independent mandate, and played a key role in bringing civil society, governments and other stakeholders together.  They monitored and reported on the situation of vulnerable groups, and advised national governments.  They were therefore key partners in facilitating an inclusive and effective follow-up process to the 2030 Agenda at the national level.  United Towns Agency for North South Cooperation said the world was facing a critical issue – deforestation and climate change.  Yet climate change still seemed to not be a priority.  The Climate Change Conference (COP21) had emphasised the role of indigenous peoples and the need to respect their rights as a significant step towards progress, but the reality on the ground had not changed.  Association of World Citizens said Yemen had ratified many international conventions, particularly regarding human rights, especially racial discrimination and the rights of women.  However, the situation on the ground was catastrophic.  Therefore, it hoped that technical assistance would arrive and reach civil society and not just the government.

Concluding Remarks

MARY WAYONYI, Director of Strategy and Development and Focal Point for the Sustainable Development Goals of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, said that through capacity-building and technical assistance, barriers to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals could be overcome.

VALERIE JULLIAND, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nepal, emphasised that when talking of leaving no one behind, it was important to truly account for the impact of all actors.  Without the will to assess human rights violations, there would be very limited results.  Technical cooperation for overall development must be prioritised, including in the context of South-South cooperation.

NAHLA HAIDAR, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that there must be ways to increase Geneva-New York interaction.  There would always be difficulties in securing resources for technical assistance.  Ensuring proper funding for projects was based on solidarity and the responsibility to protect.  Accountability would be a major challenge in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

GEORGETTE GAGNON, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that a few points had been highlighted during the discussion.  There were some States that said that technical cooperation was not a one size fits all solution.  Indeed, this was an accurate point, but it was important to recall that within the 2030 Agenda, all States agreed to comprehensive and people-centred goals, grounded in the universal human rights framework.  Universal standards had to be applied.  Concerning item 10, the Office of the High Commissioner noted the importance of momentum and sharing of experiences through international cooperation and urged the Council to continue to prepare statements and reports within this item.

SEK WANNAMETHEE, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office in Geneva, said that panellists had highlighted linkages between human rights and the 2030 Agenda.  Technical cooperation and capacity building had to be designed in an effective manner, with the United Nations and civil society working hand in hand.  The development of statistical mechanisms and proper indicators was essential.
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