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Human Rights Council adopts 10 texts, requests a meeting on female genital mutilation and decides to hold a panel discussion on women and climate change

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5 July 2018

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON 

5 July 2018

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted 10 resolutions, including texts requesting a two-day meeting to discuss progress, gaps and challenges in the elimination of female genital mutilation, and deciding to hold a panel discussion on women and climate change.

Concerning female genital mutilation, the Council requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a two-day meeting in 2019 to discuss progress, gaps and challenges in the elimination of female genital mutilation and to submit a report on the outcome at its forty-fourth session.

On climate change, the Council decided to hold at its forty-first session a panel discussion on women and climate change and requested the High Commissioner to submit a report of the discussion at the forty-second session.  The Office of the High Commissioner was also requested to conduct a study on the integration of gender-responsive approaches into climate action.  

Turning to HIV/AIDS, the Council decided to request the High Commissioner to organize a consultation on HIV/AIDS in 2019 to discuss all relevant issues and challenges pertaining to the respect and protection of human rights in the context of the response to HIV and to present the report to the Council at its forty-first session.

Concerning firearms, the Council requested the High Commissioner to prepare a report on the impact of the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights to be presented at its forty-second session.  

In another text, the Council called on States to take immediate and effective action to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls, including in digital contexts, and requested the High Commissioner to present a summary report of the panel on the matter held during its thirty-eighth session

On the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, the Council requested the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice to continue engaging with the Commission on the Status of Women, including by participating in its work and formally reporting.

On the issue of human rights and international solidarity, the Council, by a vote of 31 in favour, 14 against and one abstention, recognized that international solidarity shall be a new foundational principle underpinning contemporary international law and requested the Secretary-General and High Commissioner to provide necessary resources to the Independent Expert on the matter.

On the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, the Council adopted a text by a vote of 28 in favour, 14 against and three abstentions requesting the High Commissioner to make clear the process by which States requested assistance and to prepare a report for its forty-first session on the work of the Office in the implementation and enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights.

In a resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, the Council decided to call on States to bridge the digital divides, including the gender digital divide, and to enhance the use of information and communications technology to promote the full enjoyment of human rights for all.

In another text adopted, the Council called on States to take all necessary measures to ensure accessible, inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory quality education and encouraged United Nations entities to continue to promote the full realization of the right to education worldwide.

Speaking in introduction of draft texts were Mexico, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Philippines, Bangladesh, Canada, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Sweden, Brazil, Portugal, Ecuador, and Peru.

Mexico, Chile, Australia, Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Belgium, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Georgia, Egypt, Peru, Tunisia, Iraq, China, and Qatar spoke in general comments.

Australia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Iraq, Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Mexico, Japan, Peru, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia spoke in explanation of the vote before the vote.

The Council will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday, 6 July, to continue taking action on resolutions and decisions before closing its thirty-eighth session.

Action on Resolutions under the 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 the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Girls

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.1/Rev.1) on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council calls upon States to repeal all laws that exclusively or disproportionately criminalize the actions or behaviour of women and girls, and laws and policies that discriminate against them, based on any grounds, including any custom, tradition or cultural or religious interpretation contrary to the international obligation to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls; and to work towards establishing or strengthening inclusive and gender-responsive social protection systems, including floors, to ensure full access to nationally appropriate social protection for all without discrimination of any kind.  The Council requests the Working Group [on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice] to continue engaging with the Commission on the Status of Women, including by participating in its work and formally reporting.

Mexico, introducing draft resolution L.1/Rev.1, also on behalf of Colombia, explained that the text was the outcome of an open and transparent process.  The draft resolution identified good practices that contributed to gender equality in the fields of education, economy and labour, and called on States to implement legislative and policy reforms to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, particularly multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.  The draft resolution highlighted a range of arguments against gender inequality.  Firstly, the legal argument which prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender in line with international law.  Secondly, the moral argument according to which in 2018 it was unacceptable that half of the world population did not hold the same rights as the other half.  And finally, the economic argument, according to which gender equality promoted more prosperous, developed, just and peaceful societies.  The sponsors of the resolution were of the view that cultural and religious traditions could never be used as an excuse to oppress or discriminate against women and girls.  The draft resolution aimed to contribute to the dismantling of the patriarchal structures that subjugated women and girls, and in that way to contribute to a more just world.

Action on Amendments L.24 and L.35

Russia, introducing amendment L.24, noted the constructive approach of the authors of the resolution.  However, the draft had a number of provisions which were not in line with international law.  The principle of equal opportunity and non-discrimination was one of the priorities in Russian policy and was the basis for Russian legislation.  However, in order to be in line with international law, Russia was introducing this amendment.  The draft resolution’s focus on so-called sex education was unclear.  This approach could be harmful to the wellbeing and health of girls, placing it against article 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Education on human rights, and not so-called sex education, should be the main instrument in preventing and eliminating violence against girls.  Thus Russia proposed deleting all reference to sex education from the text of the draft resolution.

Saudi Arabia, introducing amendment L.35, thanked the sponsors for their openness during informal consultations and said it supported this draft resolution.  However, there were some paragraphs that contradicted with Saudi Arabia’s principles and culture.  That was why it had submitted L.35 to delete the term “intimate partner” because this term was quite ambiguous.  The United Nations Declaration did not mention this kind of violence against women.  In order to ensure clarity and accountability on crimes of violence against women, the legal and clear definition of this kind of violence had to be taken into account.  

Mexico, explaining the position of the sponsors of draft resolution L.1/Rev.1, said that Mexico rejected amendments L.24 and L.25, noting that comprehensive sexual education was essential to do away with discrimination against girls and women.  For those reasons, it invited all other Members of the Council to also vote against amendment L.24.  Turning to amendment L.25, Mexico noted that the recognition of spousal violence against women and girls was important both in the public and private space, where women and girls needed to feel safe.  One out of three women worldwide suffered from violence permitted by a partner, Mexico reminded and called on all to vote against amendment L.25.

Chile, speaking in a general comment, thanked the group of countries that had drafted the draft resolution for the open and inclusive process.  The text incorporated different viewpoints.  The resolution presented obstacles for the enjoyment of women’s rights, particularly in the economic area, including disproportionate work burden within the family and violence against women and girls.  The Council could contribute to eliminating the obstacles to gender equality and ensure the enjoyment of women’s rights so States were called to vote in favour of L.1 without a vote.

Australia, speaking in a general comment, thanked Mexico and Colombia.  Australia was deeply concerned about all forms of sexual violence against women and girls, from online spaces to work places.  Sexual harassment was a barrier to women’s empowerment, undermining their role.  No country was immune to this problem and across the world there were many discriminatory practices and legislative provisions.  Draft resolution L.1 recognized positive steps to enhance women’s empowerment and Australia was pleased to support it and urged other Council’s members to do the same.

Slovakia, in a general comment on behalf of Member States of the European Union who were Members of the Council, thanked Mexico and Colombia for the introduction of the draft resolution.  The European Union welcomed and supported all efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls, including by the Council’s Working Group on discrimination against women.  This year’s focus on obstacles to the economic empowerment and progress of women and girls was very timely.  The European Union underscored the importance of preventing and eliminating gender stereotypes that perpetuated discrimination and violence against women and girls.  A human right based approach to women’s health was important for the elimination of barriers that hindered women and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of all human rights.  The European Union remained committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and would vote against any amendment to this resolution.  

Belgium, in a general comment, said it did not support L.35 which proposed to delete “intimate partner violence” in the draft resolution.  According to the World Health Organization, intimate partner violence was a major public health problem.  About one in three women worldwide had experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime.  Worldwide, as many as 38 per cent of murders of women were committed by the intimate partner.  This was an existing reality and had to be recognized.  Belgium would therefore vote against the amendment, and asked all others to do the same.

Brazil, in a general comment, noted that violence against women and girls was even more damaging when it happened in the intimate context.  Brazil had adopted laws to address and criminalize violence committed by intimate partners.  According to the World Health Organization, intimate partner violence was a global phenomenon and one of the most common forms of violence against women and girls worldwide.  Brazil thus invited all Member States of the Council to vote against amendment L.25.

United Kingdom, in a general comment, stated that it opposed both amendment L.24 and amendment L.25.  Speaking on L.24, the United Kingdom noted that the importance of comprehensive sexuality education for women and girls was internationally recognized, and it was necessary to provide primarily adolescents with the knowledge and tools to protect their health and to enable them to make educated choices.  With such education, they would become more empowered and wiser human beings.  The United Kingdom therefore called on all Member States of the Council to vote against amendment L.24 presented by the Russian Federation.  

Australia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said as a co-sponsor of the resolution, it could not accept amendment L.24, as it ignored the universal commitment towards girls’ rights.  The adoption of the amendment would result in girls losing access to comprehensive sexual education. Comprehensive sexual education had contributed towards the reduction of early pregnancies, forced marriages and its importance had been acknowledged by different United Nations agencies.  The objective was to provide young people with tools that would provide for their empowerment.  With all this in consideration, all States were invited to vote against the amendment.

The Council then rejected the amendment L.24, by a vote of 12 in favour, 24 against and seven abstentions.

Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected amendment L.35 and asked all others to do the same.

The Council then rejected amendment L.35, with 11 votes in favour, 24 against, and seven abstentions.  

Action on Draft Resolution L.1/Rev.1 as Orally Revised

Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said ensuring equality between all men and women and taking measures for the empowerment of women were undisputed principles under the Constitution of Egypt.  While thankful to the delegations of Mexico and Colombia, Egypt regretted that it had not been possible to reach consensus on this important topic, and to show more interest to the concerns of some States.  It was the understanding of Egypt that discrimination would mean any distinction between men and women or boys and girls.  Egypt regretted the insistence by the sponsor States of the resolution on using the terms “human rights defenders” in several paragraphs while aware of the inappropriateness of the use of these terms.  This language disrespected other cultures.  Egypt saw the text as ideological but not in line international law.  While rejecting violence against women, Egypt could not accept terms such as “intimate partner,” which was a way of mainstreaming same sex relations.  There needed to be a clear legal definition of the perpetrators of such crimes.  Therefore, Egypt disassociated itself from this paragraph, as well as from the paragraph referring to the possibly harmful term of “comprehensive sexuality education” which could be manipulated to promote teaching on sexuality between the same sexes.

Nigeria, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, acknowledged the efforts of the sponsors of the draft resolution and recognized the role of the Human Rights Council in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.  Nigeria was continuing to make genuine efforts to enable all persons to enjoy their rights.  However, it noted that the notions of “comprehensive sexuality education” and “intimate partner violence” were vague and did not enjoy international recognition.  Therefore, Nigeria dissociated itself from the paragraphs referring to those notions.

Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that it was committed to empowering women, promoting their rights, making laws against gender-based violence, and ensuring that comprehensive education was provided to women and girls.  However, comprehensive sexuality education, and the provision of sexual and reproductive health rights had to be interpreted within the framework of national laws and cultural contexts.  Pakistan, therefore, dissociated itself from the paragraphs that referred to those notions.

Saudi Arabia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, sought to clarify its position concerning the resolution.  Saudi Arabia attached great importance to women’s rights, as they were also guaranteed by Sharia, and any discrimination or violence was avoided.  Saudi Arabia had participated in meetings while the resolution was being drafted and voiced its views concerning some aspects that were contrary to Saudi Arabia’s position.  It was important to have a draft that reflected everyone’s viewpoints.  However, the outcome was not something that was expected and Saudi Arabia would like to disassociate itself from certain paragraphs.

Qatar, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was grateful to Mexico and other countries for their work on the resolution.  The rights of women were enshrined in all relevant documents in Qatar and adequate measures were being undertaken to ensure the protection of women’s rights.  The 2030 Agenda also worked to improve the protection of women’s rights.  Qatar had participated in informal meetings during the drafting and submitted its proposals but they were not positively received.  For that reason, Qatar would like to disassociate itself from certain paragraphs.  There were specific features of each State, reflecting its tradition and they had to be respected.

Iraq, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, thanked the delegations for working on the draft and reiterated that women’s rights were part of the universal human rights.  Iraq supported the goal of the draft.  However, there were some aspects of the document on which consensus was not reached, which was why Iraq would disassociate itself from certain paragraphs, as they were in collision with national policies.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution L.1/Rev.1 as orally revised without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and International Solidarity

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.3) on human rights and international solidarity, adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 14 against and one abstention, the Council recognizes that international solidarity shall be a new foundational principle underpinning contemporary international law; requests the Independent Expert [on human rights and international solidarity] to continue to participate in relevant international forums and major events with a view to promoting the importance of international solidarity in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially those goals relating to economic, social and climate issues; requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide all the human and financial resources necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate of the Independent Expert; and requests the Independent Expert to report regularly to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly in accordance with their respective programmes of work.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (31): Afghanistan, Angola, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela.

Against (14): Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Abstentions (1): Mexico.

Cuba, introducing the draft resolution on international solidarity, said the draft resolution had the purpose of promoting international solidarity, which was a powerful instrument to tackle the root structural causes of poverty, inequality, and other challenges faced by the international community.  The draft resolution had been supported by an overwhelming majority of States.  There was, however, a minority of countries which considered that international solidarity should not be tackled in the Council.  International solidarity was a prerequisite for human dignity, which, in turn, was required for all human rights.  Cuba hoped that this draft resolution would be adopted, with the support of the vast majority of the Member States of the Council.

Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the European Union remained committed to international solidarity as an important moral principle and a political commitment.  At the same time, and as repeatedly highlighted by the European Union and others, including civil society organizations, serious conceptual doubts continued to exist about whether the principle of international solidarity could meaningfully be translated into the language of human rights standards.  The position of the European Union was not taken into account during consultations.  For this reason, the European Union could not support the draft resolution and called for a vote and would vote against it.
 
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that international solidarity was an important concept that States should take into account, but it should not be understood as a human right.  The use of the term was ambiguous and had an impact that went beyond human rights.  It did not provide any added value to the work of the Human Rights Council.  For those reasons, Mexico could not support the draft resolution.

The Council then adopted draft resolution L.3 by a vote of 31 in favour, 14 against, and one abstention.  

Action on Resolution on Enhancement of International Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.4) on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, adopted by a vote of 28 in favour, 14 against and three abstentions, the Council takes note of the annual update on the activities of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, and requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to seek to enhance dialogue with representatives from non-traditional donor countries with a view to broadening the donor base and to replenishing the resources available to the funds.  The Council also requests the Office of the High Commissioner to make clear the process by which States request assistance from the funds; and to prepare a report for the forty-first session of the Council on the work of the Office in the implementation and the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, as well as providing possible contributions to face the challenges for the promotion and protection of human rights, including the right to development.

The results of the vote are as follows:

In favour (28): Angola, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela.

Against (14): Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Abstentions (3): Afghanistan, Brazil, Mexico.

Venezuela, introducing draft resolution L.4 on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and additional co-sponsors of the resolution, said States were thanked for their constructive inputs to the draft resolution.  The resolution reflected the shared commitment towards international cooperation, as stipulated under the United Nations Charter and in the Vienna Programme of Action, to improve cooperation on human rights among Member States.  It should be based on real cooperation and genuine dialogue in relevant fora, including the Universal Periodic Review.  Four perambulatory paragraphs concerned the General Assembly resolution on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that recalled that one of the principles of the United Nations was to foster international cooperation to promote respect for human rights.  There was a need to promote unity and solidarity among States.  The operative part included seven paragraphs to enhance visibility of cooperation, and in one, concern was expressed about unilateral coercive measures.  The draft also emphasised the need to maximize the benefits of globalization by strengthening international cooperation to strengthen understanding of cultural diversity, while respecting national sovereignty.

Australia, speaking in a general comment, thanked Venezuela for presenting the resolution and acknowledged the importance of international cooperation in meeting human rights obligations.  Language introduced in the resolution was of a political nature. There were concepts, completely unrelated to international solidarity.  The resolution sought to elevate certain rights above others.  Australia did not agree with the assertion that sanctions were against international law.  Australia had sought to address its concerns with the penholder but without success.  Australia called for a vote on the resolution and urged other members to vote no.

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it regretted that the main sponsor had not provided any information whatsoever in regard to its concerns.  The Human Rights Council must take a disciplined approach.  For that reason, Japan did not support the resolution and chose to vote against it.

Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union Member States that were members of the Human Rights Council in an explanation of the vote before the vote, acknowledged that Venezuela, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, had held one round of informal consultations on the draft resolution on the “Enhancement of International Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights.”  It regretted the decision of the pen-holder to introduce a number of contentious issues into this resolution that had been adopted by consensus in the past.  Nevertheless, the European Union had engaged constructively in these discussions, with the clear objective to come to a consensual text.  While the European Union thanked the main sponsor for engaging in bilateral discussions, it regretted that none of its comments were taken on board.  Against this background, the European Union could not support resolution L.4, and would be voting against it.  

Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reaffirmed its commitment to international cooperation in line with international standards.  However, the draft resolution included elements to which many delegations had expressed reservations, such as paragraphs referring to unilateral coercive measures and terrorism, thus duplicating existing resolutions.  Therefore, Mexico would abstain from voting on the draft resolution.  Mexico reiterated that all States should fulfil their human rights obligations and should not presume that the lack of international cooperation was a justification for them not do so.

Peru, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stated that it continued to share the values of the Non-Aligned Movement and that it would vote for the draft resolution.  At the same time, it made clear that existing cultural differences should not serve as an excuse not to protect and promote human rights.

The Council then adopted draft resolution L.4 by a vote of 28 in favour, 14 against, and three abstentions.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.5) on human rights and climate change, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to incorporate into the programme of work of the forty-first session of the Human Rights Council … a panel discussion on "Women's rights and climate change, climate action, best practices and lessons learned"… and requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a summary report of the panel discussion to the fourth-second session of the Human Rights Council.  The Council also requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in consultation with and taking into account the views of States… and other stakeholders, to conduct, from within existing resources, an analytical study on the integration of a gender-responsive approach into climate action at local, national, regional and international levels for the full and effective enjoyment of the rights of women, to be… submitted to the Human Rights Council… no later than thirty days prior to the start of the Council’s forty-first session; and decides to consider the possibility of organizing follow-up events on climate change and human rights.

Viet Nam had the honour to introduce draft resolution L.5 on climate change and human rights, as orally revised, which had been co-sponsored by over 40 countries.  The Core Group drew attention to the rights of women and girls in the context of the impact of climate change.  The integration of a gender-responsive approach into climate policies at all levels was essential.  Addressing adverse impacts of climate change required a comprehensive approach.  Continuing and enhancing international cooperation was essential, in particular in financing, transfer of technology and capacity building, to build resilience and increase mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.  The resolution called on the Council to hold a panel discussion on best practices and lessons learned with regard to climate actions and women’s rights.

Philippines, also introducing draft resolution L.5, thanked all delegations and said that seven bilateral consultations as well as group consultations and three meetings took place to incorporate all views.  The impact of climate change on marginalized groups was increasingly recognized.  Climate change forced people to find alternative forms of livelihoods.  It was an existential threat.  Women, girls, and poor populations were particularly at risk.  A panel discussion and research would contribute to further knowledge on the subject.  The Philippines hoped the resolution would be adopted by consensus.

Bangladesh, also introducing draft resolution L.5, said the Council was already aware that the focus of the resolution this year was women’s rights in the context of the adverse impact of climate change.  Climate change had a deep, negative and disproportionate impact on the full and effective enjoyment of the human rights of women.  This included, inter alia, the right to life, the right to food, the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to adequate housing, the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and the right to development.  Bangladesh urged delegations to deliver on the commitments made in the Paris Agreement, as effective and meaningful climate actions would inevitably require the due consideration and respect of human rights.  Bangladesh urged the delegates to join the adoption of the resolution by consensus.
 
South Africa, in a general comment, said the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change was the primary forum where climate change should be discussed.  The United Nations must respect its mandate.  In looking at how climate change affected the realization of human rights, the Council must deal with this issue so as to ensure that it was not to the detriment of the Member States, and that it did not undermine the Paris Agreement.  While joining consensus on the resolution, it was under the opinion that the resolution could have been strengthened in the spirit of the Paris Agreement, in light of, inter alia, technology transfer.  

Slovakia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that climate change was a common concern of humankind and when taking action to address it, States needed to ensure that they were respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights obligations.  While the European Union welcomed the focus of the draft resolution, it believed that the text could have been further improved, particularly with respect to the positive role that women could play as agents of change.  The European Union stressed that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities could not be applied to human rights, nor was it the only relevant principle to be taken into account in relation to climate action.  All countries were vulnerable to climate change and human rights must be universally respected, regardless of a country’s economic conditions.  The European Union added that it was confident that the implementation of the Paris Agreement would significantly strengthen and broaden international efforts to tackle climate change.

The Council then adopted draft resolution L.5 as orally revised without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Accelerating Efforts to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls: Preventing and Responding to Violence against Women and Girls in Digital Contexts

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.6) on accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls: preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in digital contexts, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to take immediate and effective action to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls, including in digital contexts, by, inter alia, ensuring that women and girls are able to exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression online and offline without discrimination and do not experience violence or threats of violence while exercising this right; and to take immediate and effective action to respond to all forms of violence against women and girls, including in digital contexts, and to protect all victims and survivors.  The Council welcomes the panel discussion on violence against women and girls, held during the annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights at the thirty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council, and requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a summary report on the discussion to the Council at its fortieth session.  

Canada, introducing draft resolution L.6 on behalf of over 72 sponsors, thanked all delegations and civil society representatives for their engagement during the four informal consultations.  It was clear from the beginning that everyone involved was committed to joint responsibility to eliminate violence against women, including in digital contexts.  Digital technologies were enablers of political and social rights, as well as catalysts for economic development.  At the same time, harassment, stalking, bullying, trafficking and censorship undermined these efforts and violated the human rights of women.  Preventing and responding to violence against women was a way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  There was a need for comprehensive sexuality education programmes as they could play a pivotal role in empowering young people to safely use and navigate digital technologies.  Amendment L.32 would not be supported as it would undermine recognizing the importance of prevention strategy for eliminating violence against women.  Sponsors of amendment L.33 were thanked for the constructive spirit and for withdrawing their amendment.

Action on Amendment L.32

Russian Federation, introducing amendment L.32, said the fight against violence against women and girls, trafficking in women, and sexual exploitation of women was one of the main priorities of the Russian Federation.  It thanked the co-sponsors for this resolution, however it did not agree with the comments by Canada on the point made on the arguments underlying the amendment that Russia proposed.  Russia had introduced the amendment on points which, according to it, were not generally accepted international human rights law.  Russia did not understand why the drafters emphasised informing and educating women and children about sexuality.  This type of education could be contradictory to article 17 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and Russia could not support this approach.  Human rights education, and not education on sexuality, should be a priority in eliminating violence against girls.  Therefore, Russia proposed to eliminate these references to sexuality education from the draft resolution L.6 and asked for its proposal to be reflected in the minutes of the meeting.

Slovakia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, reiterated its strong support for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against them, including in digital contexts.  The European Union remained committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action.  It reaffirmed its commitment to the protection of the right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence.  For those reasons, the European Union was pleased to support the draft resolution, and it would vote against the proposed amendment.  

Japan, in a general comment, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the elimination of all forms of forms of violence against women and girls, noting that the draft resolution brought an important human rights dimension to that issue.  Japan was committed to building a better world in which every child was free from violence.  Digital technologies empowered women and girls to exercise all their human rights, but also served as a platform to practice abuses and violence against women and girls.  Japan thus called on all businesses to harness the positive contribution of digital platforms for the exercise of all human rights, and it invited all countries to support the draft resolution.

Chile, speaking in a general comment, said it did not support amendment L.32.  Comprehensive sexuality education was a term used across the world as well as in official United Nations documents and it was a compromise solution already reached among States.  Each State offered, depending on its conditions, different types of sexual education.  Comprehensive sexuality education helped young people to use and surf the Internet in safety and to seek factual information.  Comprehensive sexuality education did not try to take away the role of parents, but rather it served as a tool to assist parents.

Belgium, speaking in a general comment, reaffirmed its commitment towards the elimination of discrimination against women and girls as its priority.   This was the first resolution that was putting a spotlight on discrimination against women and girls in the online context.  Violence against women remained present across the world.  One in three women in the European Union experienced some type of assault during their lifetime.  Belgium strongly supported the resolution.

Georgia, in a general comment on behalf of the community of the sponsors of the draft resolution, said they strongly supported the draft resolution, stating that this was the first time that the Human Rights Council had paid particular importance to violence against women and girls in the digital context.  The main sponsors had taken into account the various proposals, and the text demonstrated the responsibility of States in this regard.  This initiative had initially been adopted by consensus.  They found it unfortunate that an amendment had been put forward on this draft resolution.  Amendment L.32 would weaken the approach to addressing this form of violence against women and girls.  It reminded the Council that the term “comprehensive sexuality education” aimed to eliminate violence and discrimination against women and could help in safely using and navigating digital technology.  The sponsors would vote no on amendment L.32 and called on all others to do the same.

Australia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Australia supported equal access to and equal treatment of comprehensive sexuality education, which were necessary for the proper wellbeing of children.  Early pregnancy, sexual activity, and sexually transmitted diseases could profoundly affect the lives of women and girls.  Comprehensive sexuality education was critical in order for girls to make an informed decision on their lives.   This was recognized in two Sustainable Development Goals.  It was critical to ensure that quality education was allowed for girls.  Australia would be voting against this amendment, and asked all others to do the same.

The Council then rejected the draft amendment, with a vote of 13 in favour, 25 against, and six abstentions.

Action on L.6

Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stressed that it attached great importance to the elimination of violence against women and girls in all contexts, including in the digital context.  The Sustainable Development Goals provided a renewed momentum for achieving advances in that area.  Egypt commended the main sponsors for having engaged with different stakeholders, but it opposed the insistence on using the term human rights defenders.  While it endorsed the use of age-appropriate sexuality education, it would continue to oppose the use of ambiguous sexuality education that was used to promote abortion and same-sex relations.  Egypt would, therefore dissociate itself from paragraphs referring to those notions.

Nigeria, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, commended the efforts of the core sponsors to come up with the final text; Nigeria was disturbed about continued violence against women and girls online and offline, and it reiterated its commitment to fight all forms of violence against women and girls.  However, it expressed reservation with respect to the use of the term “comprehensive sexuality education” and dissociated itself from the reference to it in the draft resolution.  

Pakistan, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Pakistan was committed towards protecting the rights of women.  The reference of the text to comprehensive sexuality education did not take into account cultural sensitivities.  Therefore, Pakistan disassociated itself from those paragraphs.

South Africa, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed its support for the resolution.  It showed that rights came from duties and responsibilities.  South Africa’s approach towards women’s rights was informed through work with civil society.  Canada was able to incorporate inputs of civil society from South Africa so South Africa was not only in favour of the resolution but was added to the list of sponsors.

Iraq, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the rights of women and girls were recognized as part of universal human rights and had to be preserved in the digital context.  Great importance was placed on this issue.  The overarching goal was supported, but certain aspects were not in line with traditions in Iraq.  Comprehensive sexuality education infringed on cultural and national sensitivities.

Saudi Arabia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, clarified its position with respect to the draft resolution presented by Canada.  Saudi Arabia placed great importance on the right of women and girls.  It had participated in four informal meetings to negotiate the draft resolution and had shared its concerns with a view to the use of certain concepts.  Unfortunately, these concerns had not been undertaken into the text of the draft resolution.  Given the importance of this resolution, Saudi Arabia would disassociate itself from the paragraphs 5 and 11 (d) and other paragraphs that mentioned these concepts and asked for this decision to be documented.

Qatar, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had on a number of occasions stated that certain concepts were not compliant with its commitments.  Though it recognized that some practices were acceptable in some countries, it was not mandatory to include them in this resolution and thereby make them obligatory.  Qatar therefore disassociated itself from the paragraphs 5 and 11 (d) and 10 (f) and others that mentioned these concepts.  

The Council then adopted draft resolution L.6 without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.9) on the elimination of female genital mutilation, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to adopt national legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation, in line with international human rights law, and take steps to ensure its strict application; and to provide assistance to women and girls who are victims of female genital mutilation, including through appropriate support services for treatment of the physical, physiological and psychological consequences.  The Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in close collaboration with … other United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes, international human rights mechanisms and civil society organizations, to organize a two-day meeting in 2019, preferably in Addis Ababa, to discuss progress, gaps and challenges in the application of human rights norms, standards and principles to the measures taken by State and non-State actors to prevent and eliminate female genital mutilation in different contexts … and to submit a report on the outcome of the above-mentioned meeting at the forty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council.

Togo, introducing draft resolution L.9 on behalf of the African Group, explained that the draft resolution followed the Council’s resolutions 27/22 and 32/21 adopted in 2014 and 2016 respectively.  The practice of female genital mutilation was present in about one half of African countries, and in certain countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.  According to some estimates, at least 200 million women and girls had been victims of female genital mutilation.  Over the course of several years, a number of efforts had been deployed at the international and national levels to eradicate female genital mutilation, with good results in certain countries.  However, that progress did not follow the demographic rise in the countries where the practice of female genital mutilation continued, and if current trends continued, the number of victims would considerably increase in the next 15 years.  Accordingly, the African Group called for an end to that practice which violated the human rights of women and girls, in particular the right to physical and mental integrity, the right not to be subjected to torture or inhumane and degrading treatment, and the right not to be subjected to gender discrimination.  The draft resolution reminded that it was States’ responsibility to prevent and eliminate female genital mutilation, and to maintain a policy of zero tolerance.  The African Group invited all Member States of the Council to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.

Slovakia, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, praised the leadership of Burkina Faso, Togo and the African Group on this issue.  The text contained significant improvements compared to resolution 32/21.  Resolution L.9 recognized female genital mutilation as a human rights violation as well as a harmful practice that abused the enjoyment of the human rights of women and girls.  It further urged States to condemn all harmful practices affecting women and girls, in particular female genital mutilation, and it called on States to adopt, implement, harmonize and ensure respect for laws and policies aiming at preventing and eliminating female genital mutilation.   The European Union remained fully committed to this endeavour and all the 28 Member States co-sponsored this initiative before the tabling deadline and were pleased to join consensus on L.9.

Australia, speaking in a general comment, said it was a strong advocate for eliminating female genital mutilation and thanked the African Group for their leadership on this very important issue.  The Council’s responsibility was to uphold the rights of women and girls.  The text was very strong, guaranteeing access to justice and the rule of law.  Gender equality was also incorporated.

Belgium, in a general comment, warmly congratulated Burkina Faso, Togo, and the African Group as a whole, for having led the initiative to fight this global phenomenon.  Female genital mutilation was a violation of human rights and something that had to be fought at all times.  It was a particularly horrific form of violence against women, and deprived them of their most basic rights.  The phenomenon remained at unacceptable numbers across the world; namely 140 million girls suffered.  Belgium hoped this resolution would accelerate the initiative of eradicating this scourge and therefore would support this draft resolution.

The Council then adopted draft resolution L.9. without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.10/Rev.1) on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon all States to bridge the digital divides, including the gender digital divide, and to enhance the use of information and communications technology, in order to promote the full enjoyment of human rights for all; to ensure effective remedies for human rights violations, including those relating to the Internet, in accordance with their international obligations; and to consider formulating, through transparent and inclusive processes with all stakeholders, and adopting national Internet-related public policies that have at their core the objective of universal access, and the enjoyment of human rights.  The Council decides to continue its consideration of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet and with other information and communications technology, as well as of how the Internet can be an important tool for fostering citizen and civil society participation.

Sweden, introducing draft resolution L.10/Rev.1, explained that the draft resolution built upon the Council’s resolutions 20/8, 26/13 and 32/13 from 2012, 2014 and 2016, which emphasised that all human rights applied online as well as offline.  Those resolutions had played a central role in the normative debate in many fora.  They recognized the global and open nature of the Internet as a factor for accelerating development, including in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The draft resolution contained important updated language to reflect recent developments relating to the respect and protection of human rights in the digital age.  It incorporated language on the importance of bridging digital divides, including the gender digital divide.  It further elaborated on other elements, such as the protection of communications, the need to promote digital literacy, as well as the need to protect the safety of journalists.  The draft resolution also introduced a reference to the responsibility of private enterprises on the Internet.  Finally, it recognized legitimate security concerns related to the use of information and communication technologies and it stressed the importance of combatting hatred, discrimination and violence.  

Brazil, introducing draft resolution L.10/Rev.1, believed that the theme was very relevant and timely.  The co-sponsors were proud of the open and engaging process and of the large numbers of co-sponsors.  All delegations that had participated in the process, especially Tunisia and Nigeria, were thanked for their contributions.

Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said that the resolution emphasised that human rights applied online as well as offline.  This was an important principle, fully endorsed by the European Union.   The resolution included new references to closing the gender digital divide, encryption, safety of journalists and it had built on previous resolutions, all adopted by consensus.  All members of the Council were invited to adopt the text by consensus.

Egypt, speaking in a general comment, thanked the Core Group for their engagement and for accepting inputs from Egypt.  The Internet constituted an incredible force which could contribute to the promotion of human rights.  Information and communication technologies could play a great role in empowering women.  For this resolution to be effective, it had to bear in mind all challenges which faced the promotion of human rights online.  The use of the Internet for propagating racial violence and terrorism, criminal activities, and online pornography all constituted violations of human rights and had to be addressed on an equal footing.  Egypt wanted to join the list of co-sponsors but did not because of those shortcomings.  Egypt favoured stronger language concerning the role of the private sector and Internet providers.  Egypt would join the consensus today and continue engagement with the Core Group.

Peru, speaking in a general comment, said that the submitted draft text highlighted the importance of guaranteeing human rights offline and online.  The protection of human rights on the Internet faced challenges in the digital age, and thus the draft resolution was both timely and essential, if the work to protect human rights was to be adapted to the modern age.  The draft resolution also presented an opportunity to promote gender equality, and the importance of fighting discrimination and hatred on the Internet.  Peru thanked the sponsors for having achieved a balanced draft and expressed hope that the resolution would be adopted by consensus.

Tunisia, speaking in a general comment, noted that it was proud to belong to the co-authors of the draft resolution, which came from its conviction that information and communication technologies could reinforce the protection of human rights.  It was very important that countries, companies, and civil society dealt with those technologies while protecting human rights, including the freedom of expression and opinion.  The Internet could be a means to promote coexistence and tolerance among countries.  

South Africa, in a general comment, reaffirmed its commitment to articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Incitement to hatred could not be justified under any circumstances.  South Africa had recently tabled a bill which sought to criminalize hate speech.  This was seen as a way of healing the wounds of apartheid, against the backdrop of racism and intolerance.  It was particularly disturbing when pornography was distributed on the Internet.  Therefore, it was regretful that this draft resolution did not include the provisions regarding information society, which were an integral part of the International Covenant.  South Africa would nevertheless join consensus on this resolution.

Iraq, in a general comment, reaffirmed that human rights could be promoted and enforced on the Internet.  The use of the Internet led to the rapid advancement of societies.  During the informal consultations, Iraq noted that the co-authors had not mentioned international responsibility in preventing terrorism and terrorism organizations to enter the Internet.  Iraq asked that its remarks be noted.

China, speaking in a general comment, said it had the largest population of Internet users.  Citizens enjoyed full freedom of expression online.  China managed the Internet according to the law, ensuring freedom of expression of its citizens as well as safe flow of information.  In pursuing such a position, China actively participated in consultations on L.10/Rev.1 and expressed its views and put forward some amendments.  It remained regrettable that the text failed to give due attention to public interest and to strike a balance between individual rights and public interest.  China looked forward to future engagement on this topic.  China would join the consensus.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution L.10/Rev.1 without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights in the Context of HIV and AIDS

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.12) on human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS, adopted without a vote, the Council urges States to ensure full and unimpeded access, for all persons living with, presumed to be living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV, including key populations, to HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and support, in a public health environment free from discrimination, harassment or persecution; to bring their laws, policies and practices … fully into compliance with their obligations under international human rights law … and to review or repeal those that are discriminatory or that adversely affect the successful, effective and equitable delivery of HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and support programmes.  The Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a consultation, in the first half of 2019, in coordination with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, lasting one and a half days, to discuss all relevant issues and challenges pertaining to respect for and the protection and fulfilment of human rights in the context of the response to HIV, with a focus on regional and subregional strategies and best practices; and to prepare a report on the outcome of the consultation … and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session.

Brazil, introducing draft resolution L.12 also on behalf of Colombia, Mozambique, Portugal and Thailand, reminded that human rights had been first acknowledged as a fundamental element to an effective HIV response by the Commission on Human Rights in 1990.  Since then, the Commission and the Council had consistently contributed to international, regional and national strategies to end AIDS and eliminate the discrimination against persons living with, presumed to be living with, at risk of, and affected by HIV, particularly key populations.  The draft resolution addressed the most pressing issues related to a human rights-based response to HIV.  It highlighted the need to scale up efforts to fulfil the right to health, provide access to medicines, diagnosis and treatment for all, and achieve universal health coverage.  It also recognized the special needs of women and girls, youth, persons deprived of their liberty, and migrants and refugees among others.  The need to eliminate stigma and discrimination against key populations crosscut the whole text.  

Mexico, in a general comment, repeated its strong commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, and to ensuring full and unimpeded access to support and care for persons living with HIV/AIDS.  The draft resolution acknowledged the importance of universal coverage as the attainment of the highest possible physical and mental health.  It recognized the vulnerability of women and girls, as well as migrants and refugees and other vulnerable populations.  Mexico agreed with the draft resolution, and urged that this text be adopted by consensus.

Egypt, in a general comment, said it remained committed to preventing HIV/AIDS, and promoting capacity building in this regard.  Egypt would support the Council’s work in the context of HIV/AIDS.  Nevertheless, it highlighted that in 2012 and 2015, on the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Egypt had disassociated itself from language which recognized protection or promotion of unethical and illegal behaviours which could contradict cultural or moral values and national sovereignty.  Egypt attached high importance to the prevention of risky behaviour.  It informed that it would not be bound by problematic terms such as “key population”.  Egypt requested that its statement be officially added to the records of the meeting.

Qatar, speaking in a general comment on behalf of a group of States, explained its position in regard to the resolution.  HIV/AIDS had a devastating effect worldwide, impacting political and socio-economic rights and the right to development.  Efforts on international and national levels to combat HIV/AIDS in a systematic way were supported.  The Council could play a major role in such efforts.  However, cultural considerations had to be incorporated, and they were not in this text.  Reference to International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and human rights was not supported.  Additionally, the term key population was not agreed upon universally.  For those reasons the States disassociated from certain paragraphs.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution L.12 without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Right to Education

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.13) on the right to education: follow-up to Human Rights Council resolution 8/4, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to take all necessary measures, including sufficient budgetary allocations, to ensure accessible, inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory quality education, and to promote learning opportunities for all; to continue to make efforts to strengthen the protection of preschools, schools and universities against attacks, including by taking measures to deter the military use of schools; to accelerate efforts to eliminate gender-based discrimination and all forms of violence, including sexual harassment, school-related sexual and gender-based violence, and bullying of children, in schools and other educational settings, and to realize gender equality and the right to education for all.  The Council encourages the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the treaty bodies, the special procedures of the Human Rights Council and other relevant United Nations bodies … to continue their efforts to promote the full realization of the right to education worldwide and to enhance their cooperation in this regard, including by enhancing technical assistance to Governments.

Portugal, introducing draft resolution L.13, explained that the draft resolution built upon previous omnibus resolutions adopted by the Council on the realization of the right to education worldwide, calling upon all States to give full effect to that right and encouraging the ratification of all relevant conventions.  It contained a special focus on governance, aiming to mainstream a human rights-based approach to the right to education across national education administrations in order to foster equal and equitable access to education for all, and to ensure that education systems met human rights obligations and Sustainable Development Goals.  That objective could be met through several measures, such as reviewing education governance systems, applying accountability and transparency principles across all governance structures, and developing monitoring mechanisms.  

The Council then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and the Regulation of Civilian Acquisition, Possession and Use of Firearms

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.14) on human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms, adopted without a vote, the Council calls once more upon all States to do their utmost to take appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures, consistent with international law, in particular human rights law, and their constitutional frameworks, in order to ensure that the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms are effectively regulated with the aim of enhancing the protection of the human rights of all; and to ensure that regulations on the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms include appropriate measures to avoid illicit practices, including diversion of firearms. The Council requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report on the impact of the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights … and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session; and requests the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of all Member States.  

Ecuador, introducing draft resolution L.14, said thousands of victims worldwide suffered due to the acquisition, possession and use of firearms.  The purpose of the draft resolution was the promotion and protection of human rights through the strengthening of legislative and administrative measures at the national and international levels.  The Human Rights Council had a mandate to strengthen human rights.  The draft resolution recognized the broad range of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural, which were affected by the civilian use of firearms.  These included damage to people’s physical and mental health, resulting in people living in fear of violent attacks such as in public places, schools and mass gatherings.

Peru, also introducing the draft resolution L.14, said the resolution urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the acquisition, possession and use of firearms by civilians, and the issue of regulating that and its relation to the protection of human rights.  The purpose was to ensure that States and other parties involved could better understand the effects of firearms.  Peru hoped that the report could be submitted at the forty-second session of the Human Rights Council.  The draft resolution was a balanced and improved text, and highlighted the obvious concerns of the international community about human rights violations by the civilian use of firearms.  Peru urged the members of the Human Rights Council to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.  

The Council then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.
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For use of the information media; not an official record
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