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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed

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7 March 2019

Human Rights Council
MORNING 

7 March 2019

Starts Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General.  The Council then started an interactive dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on her annual report and oral update. 

Coly Seck, President of the Human Rights Council, informed that as part of the efforts to bridge the gap between the work in New York and Geneva, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General would address the Council as part of the dialogue on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Addressing the Council, Ms. Mohammed stressed that the 2030 Agenda was a people’s agenda with human rights at its core.  Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals meant recognizing the interdependent and indivisible nature of all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, as well as the right to development.  The international community was off track in achieving the 2030 Agenda due to multiple problems.  Addressing all of those problems was an enormous challenge, but also an opportunity to identify those who were left behind and to carry them forward.  That meant generating solid, accurate data, and bringing the voice to civil society and human rights defenders and heeding their call.  Ultimately, the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and human rights fundamentally depended on national leadership and ownership, the Deputy Secretary-General concluded. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers emphasized that all opportunities to ensure a single perspective expressed in New York or Geneva were invaluable, especially on the centrality of human rights to the 2030 Agenda.  They underlined that human rights were intrinsic to the 2030 Agenda, not external.  Each of the Sustainable Development Goals had goal-specific means of implementation, and every goal was equally important.  Speakers underlined the importance of gender equality, as well as of investing in the justice sector and legal empowerment as the best investments that could be made to advance sustainable development.  Some speakers regretted that most poor countries were still languishing in poverty and expressed hope that any efforts by the United Nations to improve their development were not in vain.  Other speakers underlined that national human rights institutions were crucial elements of good governance and institutional accountability, which were necessary for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking were European Union, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Senegal, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Cabo Verde on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, Ireland, South Africa, Cuba, Costa Rica, Sudan, Mexico, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Nigeria, Vanuatu and Switzerland.  International Law Development Organization also took the floor.

Also speaking were the following civil society organizations: Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, and International Lesbian and Gay.

The Council then started an interactive dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on her annual report and oral update.  The summary of the presentation of her annual report and oral update can be read here.

In the debate, speakers underlined the need for impartiality in the promotion of human rights globally.  They stressed the importance of upholding the sovereignty and independence of countries in the exercise of the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noting that the politicization of human rights and double standards should be avoided, as well as naming and shaming.  The Council should be a platform for exchange and dialogue.  All States should build bridges and cooperate within the rules-based system at a time of strained unilateral cooperation.  There was always room for strengthening international cooperation in the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, especially when it came to technical assistance and capacity-building for developing countries.  Speakers also urged for geographically more diverse staffing in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Several speakers raised concern about the arrest of human rights defenders and shrinking civil society space, as well as about the plight of minorities and of the victims of various conflicts.    

Speaking were Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, China, on behalf of a group of countries, Angola, on behalf of the African Group, South Africa, on behalf of a group of countries, Peru, on behalf of the Lima Group, Argentina on behalf of a group of countries, Fiji on behalf of a group of countries, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Morocco on behalf of a group of countries, Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Kuwait, Netherlands, Pakistan, Denmark, Portugal, Israel, Liechtenstein, Sudan, Lithuania, India, Brazil, Sovereign Order of Malta, Timor-Leste, Canada, State of Palestine, Tunisia, Slovenia, Honduras, Germany, and Cuba.    

The Council will next meet today at 3 p.m. to continue its interactive dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on her annual report and oral update. 

Interactive Dialogue with the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

Opening Remarks by the President of the Council

COLY SECK, President of the Human Rights Council, informed that as part of the efforts to bridge the gap between the work in New York and Geneva, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General would address the Council as part of the dialogue on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Based on the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offered a global framework for a better integration of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals would certainly lead to gender equality, and greater empowerment and inclusion for all.  The 2030 Agenda unified the three pillars of the United Nations, and it allowed for connecting human rights and development.  As the international community began the fourth year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, challenges remained and more than ever, in light of persistent inequalities, migratory flows, and climate change.

Statement by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

AMINA MOHAMMED, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, underlined that the Human Rights Council was the epicentre for international dialogue and cooperation on the protection of all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural.  She saluted the Council’s outstanding contribution to human rights and, in particular, to the 2030 Agenda.  She proposed five guiding propositions as the world looked to the challenges ahead.  First, the 2030 Agenda was a people’s agenda.  It committed all to put people first and realize a more equitable and sustainable world, a world where no one was left behind.  It was a promise to secure peace and prosperity, which was founded in the respect for people’s rights and their dignity.  It was a pledge to go beyond “business as usual” to address emerging global challenges: climate change, peace and security, migration, inequality, including gender inequality, multidimensional poverty, and youth unemployment.  The Deputy Secretary-General noted that in that context she thought about the people she had met during her recent travels with the leadership of the African Union, in places such as the Lake Chad Basin and South Sudan, where the convergence of those issues compounded the need for answers.  The experience of a young girl she had met – Halima, a child bride – had exposed in the most tragic way, the interconnection between inequality, peace and security and basic human rights.  The 2030 Agenda was a people’s agenda; it was Halima’s agenda.

Second, human rights were core to the 2030 Agenda.  They were an intrinsic part of sustainable development and sustainable development was a powerful vehicle for the realization of all human rights.  Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals meant recognizing the interdependent and indivisible nature of all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, as well as the right to development.  Realizing those objectives meant that people were able to fulfil their rights to adequate housing, clean water, healthcare, education and food, as well as their right to participate in the decisions that affected their lives.  Third, the international community was off track in achieving the 2030 Agenda.  Youth unemployment was at record highs, and there was no leap forward for women and girls.  Investments in the poorest countries were not keeping up with their needs, including needs related to population growth, unregulated migration and climate action.  Acts of terrorism, armed conflict and heavy-handed military responses were compounding the problem and weakening the rights agenda.  Technology offered incredible gains, but the reality was that if not managed well, that progress would leave large numbers of people further behind and exacerbate social inequalities, marginalization and polarization.  Hate speech proliferated in all corners and far too often people were left behind as a result of entrenched patterns of inequalities and discrimination.

Addressing all of those problems was an enormous challenge, but also an opportunity to identify those who were left behind and to carry them forward.  That meant generating solid, accurate data.  It meant bringing the voice to civil society and human rights defenders and heeding their call.  The fourth proposition of Ms. Mohammed was, therefore, that implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and human rights fundamentally depended on national leadership and ownership.  Her fifth proposition was that it was time to urgently accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The international community needed to leverage the multilateral system to secure progress and increase resources for the national-level implementation of the 2030 Agenda and human rights, including for the least developed countries and small-island developing countries.  All parts of the United Nations system had to be engaged in that endeavour, and especially the United Nations human rights system.  The Universal Periodic Review and other human rights mechanisms were essential in that effort.  The new resident coordinator system would work to provide national authorities with a coordinated interface with whom to engage on coordinated, transparent, responsive and accountable United Nations support for nationally-led development and human rights action.

The United Nations system had to extend its support to national Governments to help them engage with and through other multilateral and bilateral channels, Ms. Mohammed noted.  The international community also needed to engage more meaningfully with the private sector and other stakeholders, including to secure the means for implementation.  The United Nations had to lead with its actions.  The Secretary-General had made historic progress on gender parity, demonstrating how much could be achieved with commitment and political will.  For the first time, there was parity among resident coordinators and there was the highest number of women in senior management roles in the history of the organization – more than half.  The Secretary-General had also launched a fresh approach for the United Nations system to disability inclusion, with a much greater focus on supporting persons with disabilities.  In closing, the Deputy Secretary-General underlined that important work was ahead of everyone.  But there was no doubt that together they could get to a world that left no one behind, a world where promises made were promises kept, for people and plant, for human rights and human dignity.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union was committed to a human rights approach to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  Could the Deputy Secretary General elaborate on how human rights could remain at the core of the United Nations agenda and guide all delivery on the ground.  Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the support of the Deputy Secretary-General in ensuring the right to development for all.  However, the time had come for action and not simply words.  Senegal said that eradicating poverty and social inequality was vital in Senegal’s national programme, whilst focusing on marginalized groups, including the young and the elderly.  Senegal hoped the United Nations would continue to support them through funding to enable them to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  United Kingdom stated that a free media played a vital role in the protection of human rights.  With this belief, a conference would be held with Canada this summer to explore how free media and the protection of journalists could be ensured.  Could the Deputy Secretary-General elaborate on what steps the United Nations could take to ensure that a free media and the protection of journalists was ensured in all States.

Tunisia welcomed the debate on the Sustainable Development Goals, but said that what was lacking was an understanding of the link between economic, social, and cultural rights and social development rights.  The realization of the Sustainable Development Goals was the responsibility of all States, but at the same time it was important to recognize the international dimension.  Cabo Verde, speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, said that the promotion of human rights was in the founding statute of the Community, and its members were committed to sharing best practices on the implementation of human rights.  The Community Members were working on an integrated approach to the 2030 Agenda, ensuring a commitment to the pledge of leaving no one behind.

Ireland emphasized that all opportunities to ensure a single perspective expressed in New York or Geneva were invaluable, especially on the centrality of human rights to the 2030 Agenda.  The Agenda provided the overarching framework for Ireland’s new development policy, A Better World, which outlined a global vision of a more equal, peaceful and sustainable world.  South Africa underlined that human rights were intrinsic to the 2030 Agenda – not external, but internal and intrinsic to it.  South Africa also emphasized the importance of the means of implementation: each of the Sustainable Development Goals had goal-specific means of implementation, and this implementation must be accelerated.  Cuba regretted that there had been shortcomings and lack of implementation regarding the Sustainable Development Goals.  Cuba noted that in order to implement the 2030 Agenda, it had to be agreed that all the Sustainable Development Goals were equally important; they needed to do away with discrimination, and make sure they were not focusing on some activities more than others.

International Development Law Organization underlined the importance of gender equality, and noted that it was partnering with United Nations Women on a new programme for gender equality in law for women and girls.  Investing in the justice sector and legal empowerment were among the best investments that could be made to advance sustainable development.  Costa Rica emphasized a point made by South Africa on the great joy and pride that was felt at seeing a brilliant African woman as well as a Latin American woman represented in the Council at such a high level.  Costa Rica emphasized that it was vital for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to rest on the United Nations architecture for human rights, including all the third pillar mechanisms and instruments.  Sudan noted that the United Nations played a critical role in promoting human rights, as well as in peacekeeping efforts and in economic and cultural rights.  However, Sudan regretted that most poor countries were still languishing in poverty and hoped that any efforts by the United Nations to improve their development were not in vain.

Mexico agreed that the 2030 Agenda was the most important agenda and that countries should not simply carry on with “business as usual.”  Were there any practical recommendations for States in order to prevent the technological divide?  Denmark, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that technical cooperation and capacity-building could make a real difference in integrating human rights in national frameworks, and in ensuring that the Sustainable Development Goals were implemented in line with human rights standards.  Nigeria said that the presence of the Deputy Secretary-General demonstrated the importance of the work done by the Council, and it warned that the link between human rights and the 2030 Agenda could be weakened in light of the ongoing onslaught on multilateralism.

Vanuatu concurred that people should be at the centre of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  It agreed that small and vulnerable countries should be assisted in implementing those goals and asked how the United Nations was addressing the problem of small-island countries vis-à-vis climate change.  Switzerland welcomed the dialogue with the Deputy Secretary-General and asked how the United Nations could ensure that the work of the Human Rights Council was taken into account in the general flow of work in New York.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions stressed that national human rights institutions were crucial elements of good governance and institutional accountability, which was necessary for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The existence of independent national human rights institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles was a global indicator for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 16.

CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation stated that civic space was crucial to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, and that the pledge to leave no one behind would not be met if women and other marginalized groups were not encouraged to take part in civil society.  They asked how the Deputy Secretary-General could help non-governmental organizations to foster the civic space to help deliver the 2030 Agenda.  Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme hoped this dialogue would continue in the future to enable States to meet the challenge of coherent policies that implement each of the three pillars of the United Nations.  The 2030 Agenda was the key framework for ensuring there could be an effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  International Lesbian and Gay Association reiterated that if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons were denied their rights, they would be left behind and would not be part of the 2030 Agenda.  They called for better data and analysis on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons to understand the lived reality of such persons in order to make policies.

Concluding Remarks by the Deputy Secretary-General

AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, in her concluding remarks, emphasized that facing some of the challenges at the country level required a United Nations response, not just an individual agency response.  She noted that her office was working closely with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to see how this could happen on the ground.  It was important to scale up efforts, and to find different ways of reaching everyone.  Ms. Mohammed noted that many, many people were being left behind in communities around the world, but too often, they did not know who they were.  Many times, baseline data was simply not available, even in the 130 places where the General Assembly had offices.  Today with the technology they had, data should not be a problem: the Secretary-General’s office was dealing with poverty data from 2015, which was simply not good enough, and they had to find ways to accelerate that.  Last year, Ms. Mohammed noted that her office was able to review the work done so far, and learn lessons from how the 2030 Agenda had been implemented.  She noted that they needed to do much more.  The Secretary-General had come in with a lens on prevention and transition out of crisis into sustainable development.  However, the context of implementing the 2030 Agenda was incredibly different: as a global community, they were not just dealing with nations that were poor, but were also seeing the effects of climate change, migration, humanitarian crisis and conflict.  It was noted that often countries talked about Sustainable Development Goals and lined up these goals with their mandates.  However, these goals needed to be looked at holistically: goals from 7 through 15 needed to be seen as economic investments in order to raise the revenues for goals 1 – 6.  However, all of this would collapse unless they ensured that all stood together on goals 16 and 17. 

The Deputy Secretary-General also underlined the importance of partnerships with national human rights institutions.   She hoped that all could see the whole agenda with human rights as an integral part of it.   Ms. Mohammed also said she wanted the United Nations development framework to be informed with robust cross-country assessments.  Countries did have priorities, but often did not have the wherewithal or political will to ensure that the whole agenda was included in their priorities.  There was a need to have better conversations and better in-country analysis.  The Deputy Secretary-General noted that Goal 16 was one which underscored the importance of the media, and noted that her office was looking to see how it addressed gaps in freedom of expression, and the issues facing journalists.  One way to get feedback on the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals was to keep the space for freedom of expression open: without freedom of expression, the global community was unlikely to close the gap between reality and expectations.  They also needed to see across all countries the involvement of civil society to inform the United Nations on what was happening.  While the Council often talked about international human rights obligations, these must be in connection with what was being done at the national level.  Ms. Mohammed noted that the Universal Periodic Review was an excellent vehicle for trying to close that gap.  She hoped that in-country assessments would help all see results, the gaps, and lessons learned from processes themselves.  The Deputy Secretary-General also emphasized the importance of not silo-ing human rights, and making sure that they were speaking together as a team to address this issue. In order to accelerate the human rights approach, the General Assembly was looking at different profiles of Resident Coordinators.  The office of the Secretary-General was revamping the process of how Resident Coordinators were appointed, and what it needed to do to make sure that they were there to implement the 2030 Agenda.  If they could deliver on the 2030 Agenda, they could deliver the rights that all aspired to.  However, one of the challenges facing the implementation of this Agenda was a huge trust deficit.  The Deputy Secretary-General noted that countries were hanging onto their mandates for dear life, and often in conversation, countries noted the need to address the 2030 Agenda but that they needed to prioritize their mandate, which Ms. Mohammed said was a ridiculous argument.  The United Nations was also trying to address the concerns of its staff, and Ms. Mohammed noted that the leadership of Michelle Bachelet was quite incredible.  However, they needed to facilitate country teams, not create more layers of work to do, and find ways to work together to achieve the 2030 Agenda. 

Regarding the goal of leaving no one behind, Ms. Mohammed noted that States had to know who these ‘no ones’ were, country by country and community by community.  The Deputy Secretary-General noted that funding was one of the greatest challenges that they had.  She encouraged States to look at what was happening in the General Assembly this year.  The General Assembly was going to start by looking at the climate change agenda.  Unless they took seriously the threat that this phenomenon posed, climate change would continue to run faster than they were.  Currently, States were delivering a world increase of 3 degrees, which was not sustainable, and they needed to look at a 1.5-degree increase as a maximum.  The General Assembly would also be taking stock of the Addis Ababa Agreement on where they were in funding the 2030 Agenda, which, she noted, was nowhere.  There were trillions in idle funds that needed to be unlocked, and the private sector had the capability to do so.  However, there was currently a sense of inertia in the financial system to allow these resources to flow.  Ms. Mohammed said she hoped to have ministers of finance sitting with the General Assembly in New York to emphasize why economies needed to work for everyone, and not cause more conflict.  The last and most important meeting would be on the Samoa pathway: they had to take forward those that were left behind first.  The culmination of the General Assembly’s meeting would be to say, after all this discussion, where does this leave the Samoa pathway?   The Deputy Secretary-General noted that graduating from low-income to middle-income often left countries in penury, which was a serious challenge.  Her office would not give up on looking for resources to address this challenge, and would continue urging partnerships for that to happen.  On the issue of those that were left behind, Ms. Mohammed noted that it was really important to understand that issue within specific country profiles.  They needed to go beyond profiles that were one size fits all, and look at data that was specific to countries.  On the issue of migration, the Deputy Secretary-General underlined that the United Nations Global Compact for Migration was a road map on this issue, and her office would be speaking with the International Organization for Migration on how this Compact could be rolled out at a country level. 

In regard to technology, Ms. Mohammed said that it was very clear that they had huge challenges, while there were also many opportunities.  She did not want to see a digital gap that people left behind.  The Deputy Secretary-General also noted that rapid technology developments were leaving governments behind: with technology, they needed to make sure that capacities within institutions were also there.  Another major challenge was on disabilities, and she emphasized the need for an engagement with solutions on how to deal with this.  Persons with Disabilities had to be a major part of the 2030 Agenda, and it was essential that country plans included this issue.  However, results also needed to be seen within the United Nations, and on this, they were not doing very well.   The Deputy Secretary-General said they needed to look at disability across the system, not just internally but how each and every agency did its work with relation to persons with disability.  Ms. Mohammed noted that her office had just finished coming back from the Pacific and Caribbean regions, undertaking a review on how to respond to the specific needs of island nations, and how to work together on capacity building.  The Deputy-Secretary General underlined that around the world, there was a shrinking civic space, which had to be addressed at the country level.  She acknowledged that the United Nations had not helped to keep that space open.  Civil Society needed to be represented at a national, regional, and international level. 

On the issue of violence against women, the Deputy Secretary-General highlighted the Spotlight Initiative, through which the international community could work together to push down resources into the local civil society level.  Regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, Ms. Mohammed noted that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people had the same rights as everyone else, and this community needed to be a central part of the 2030 Agenda.  The Deputy Secretary-General also regretted that the world was not in a place where it wanted to do things together.   The United Nations needed to also spend resources on its communication strategy to communicate its priorities outside its halls.  Even those State leaders that were expressing rhetoric contrary to United Nations values needed to be kept inside the tent, in order to understand why they had that rhetoric.

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, underlined the need for impartiality in the promotion of human rights globally, and called attention to the longstanding suffering of the people in Palestine, Myanmar, and Jammu and Kashmir.  The Organization urged for geographically more diverse staffing in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  European Union agreed that the human rights agenda was the prevention agenda.  It raised concern about the arrest of human rights defenders and shrinking civil society space in Turkey, Bahrain, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Cameroon, Gabon, the Comoros and Zimbabwe.  China, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, underlined the importance of upholding the sovereignty and independence of countries in the exercise of the mandate of the High Commissioner.  The politicization of human rights and double standards should be avoided, as well as naming and shaming.  The Council should be a platform for exchange and dialogue.

Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, considered that there was always room for strengthening international cooperation in the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, especially when it came to technical assistance and capacity-building for developing countries.  South Africa, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, voiced satisfaction with the holding of face-to-face talks between the Polissario Front and the Moroccan authorities.  While the Saharawi population continued to suffer many injustices, South Africa urged the High Commissioner to resume the technical mission to Western Sahara and to report on the situation there.  Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, voiced its deep concern about the human rights situation in Venezuela, especially the crackdown on peaceful protesters.  The breakdown of the constitutional order had exacerbated, generating a massive exodus of Venezuelans.  The countries condemned the prevention of entry of vital humanitarian aid in the country.

Argentina, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed their deep concern at the worsening humanitarian situation in Nicaragua due to the Government’s crackdown on protestors.  They regretted that no international human rights mechanism was monitoring the situation in the country after the Government abruptly revoked the invitation to the High Commissioner’s presence.  Fiji, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, pledged to engage with the work of the Council in good faith.  They also committed to work to fulfil the Council’s prevention mandate through capacity building.  Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reiterated their support for the Palestinian people and their right to a State with east Jerusalem as its capital.  The Arab Group regretted that the economic and social rights of Palestinians were denied by the Israelis through their occupation. 

Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, strongly believed that the High Commissioner and her Office could play a vital role in upholding the principle of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.  The High Commissioner’s reports on country specific situations were particularly effective to mobilize action to address emerging risks of atrocities.  Iceland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed significant concern over the arrest and detention of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.  They also said that the murder of Jamal Kashoggi reaffirmed the need to protect journalists and to uphold the right to freedom of expression around the world.  Peru urged all States to build bridges of dialogue to establish ways of communication on international issues.  Peru agreed that in these times of strained unilateral cooperation, it was necessary to cooperate within the rules based system.

Morocco, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, took note of the adoption of the Security Council’s resolution 2440 in October 2018, which called on parties to participate in good faith in negotiations for the autonomy of the Western Sahara.  The initiative for the Western Sahara launched by Morocco had been deemed by the Security Council as serious and credible, and it was proof of the sincere desire by Morocco to mend bilateral relations with Algeria.  Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern about violent extremism around the world, and called for analysing its roots.  The Movement was concerned about the continued violations of the basic human rights of Palestinians by the occupying force.  Kuwait voiced commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, especially for people of Syria and Yemen, and for the Rohingya.  It stressed the sovereign right of each country to address problems in line with its own regulations. 

Netherlands noted that progress for a better future required a diagnosis of current problems, which was exactly what the Human Rights Council did.  The Netherlands agreed that no one should turn a blind eye to gross inequalities, and raised concern about the plight of minorities: of the Uyghurs in China, and of the victims of the conflicts in Myanmar, Syria and Yemen.  Pakistan noted that the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir had indeed impacted all three pillars of the United Nations.  In the past seven decades, Kashmiris had been subjected to illegal Indian occupation and their right to self-determination had been negated.  Human rights defenders who raised their voice against India were silenced.  Denmark voiced deep concern about the shrinking civil space, noting that the role of human rights defenders in the prevention of human rights violations was vital.  The international community had a common interest in ensuring that civil society was able to operate and speak freely.

Portugal said there were unprecedented human rights crises around the word, including in Yemen, Myanmar and Venezuela.  The international community needed the High Commissioner’s firm and independent voice to stand up for those with no voice.  Israel asked how it was possible to ignore the terrorist attacks that Israel faced daily.  The Palestinian Authority was responsible for the mounting economic pressures in Gaza.  Liechtenstein concurred with the High Commissioner’s findings on the conflict in Myanmar, and believed an International Criminal Court referral should be discussed in the Security Council.  They welcomed the High Commissioner’s position that emphasized the essential role of accountability in ensuring a sustainable peace in a post-conflict Syria.    

Sudan regretted that the ongoing situation in Sudan had been instrumentalized by the High Commissioner for Human Rights for political purposes.  It would have been more balanced if the High Commissioner had also talked about the role of Sudan in establishing peace in the region.  Lithuania expressed concern that attacks against journalists were increasing in frequency and cruelty, and continued with impunity in conflict areas and in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes.  All such instances endangered freedom of expression, which Lithuania considered a key enabler of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  India underscored its efforts towards the promotion and protection of human rights.  India noted that Pakistan remained in illegal occupation of Kashmir, and emphasized that the central problem was cross-border terrorism from Pakistan as an instrument of state policy.

Brazil encouraged the strengthening of the Office of the High Commissioner when it came to technical assistance.  The Council was called on to make progress on consensus building and international cooperation.  Brazil expressed concern about consistent human rights violations by Member States, including those ongoing in Venezuela.  Sovereign Order of Malta reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law in conflict and crisis situations.  Combatting incitement to racial and religious hatred was a further fundamental principle of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s humanitarian engagement.  Timor-Leste reiterated that its Government was committed to ensuring a safe and equal environment that allowed for the enjoyment of human rights of all persons.  Timor-Leste also recommended that the Office of the High Commissioner resume the technical mission to Western Sahara.

Canada welcomed the demonstrated commitment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to providing capacity building and technical assistances to help States meet all their human rights obligations.  There was no justification for the arbitrary detention of minorities, or for acts of violence and reprisals against individuals or groups expressing their views and opinions.  State of Palestine noted the need for the strengthening of human rights mechanisms.  Turning to the statement delivered by Israel, it said the High Commissioner should visit both Palestine and Israel to see the alleged violations committed by the Palestinians against Israelis.  Tunisia underlined the impact on human rights of the right to equality, which was intrinsic to all other rights.  Tunisia promoted women’s rights and it viewed as very important women’s participation and empowerment, leading to important legal reforms. 

Slovenia thanked the High Commissioner for her strong stance against inequalities and the effects that they had on the respect for human rights.  It strongly supported her Office’s engagement on contemporary threats to human rights, such as climate change, technological developments, civilian suffering in armed conflicts, and displacement and youth unemployment.  Honduras agreed that inequalities affected all countries and all human rights.  Human mobility could only be managed through a comprehensive approach and international cooperation, which was why it had come up with the Comprehensive Development Plan with neighbouring countries.  Germany said that one of its commitments was to better connect Geneva and New York, and to contribute to a comprehensive and sustainable approach to security that duly took human rights into consideration.  It voiced concern about human rights situations in Turkey, Yemen, Turkmenistan, Haiti and Comoros.  Cuba asked the Office of the High Commissioner to set out what measures it would take to achieve balance in the Office’s staff, to ensure impartiality and for the Office to maintain its credibility.  It stated that item 2 of the Council’s agenda should focus on the work of the High Commissioner and not be used to demonize certain States.

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