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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue on extreme poverty and on internally displaced persons

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1 July 2019

Human Rights Council
MIDDAY

28 June 2019

Hears Address by Undersecretary for Special Concerns of the Philippines

The Human Rights Council today held a clustered interactive dialogue with Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Cecilia Jimenez, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.  The Council also concluded the clustered interactive dialogue on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

The Council heard an address by Camilo G. Gudmalin, Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Department of Social Welfare and Development of the Philippines, who said that while States had achieved significant advances in ensuring that children were treated with dignity, respect and love, children in different corners of the world remained vulnerable to various forms of abuse and exploitation.  Protecting every child in situations of neglect, in refugee and migration contexts, during times of conflict and disaster, and from cyber-crimes was a moral task that demanded the focused attention of the international community, with utmost urgency.  With over 35 million children under the age of 14 in its population, the Philippines took its duty to promote and protect the welfare and the right of each Filipino child solemnly. 

Mr. Alston said that his report on climate change focused on the intimate relationship between climate change, human rights, poverty and inequality, and reflected the overwhelming urgency of climate change in relation to the mandate.  Climate change posed a grave and immediate challenge, the Special Rapporteur warned.  Today’s children could not avoid a future filled with climate disasters worldwide that would severely reduce the standard of living for many of them.  The result, Mr. Alston warned, would be climate apartheid.  He spoke about his country visits to the United Kingdom and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Speaking as concerned countries were the United Kingdom and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.  Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission also took the floor.

Ms. Jimenez said national human rights institutions could play a critical role in promoting and protecting the human rights of internally displaced persons and other displacement-affected communities.  While stating that it was important to acknowledge the limitations and constraints on the work they undertook in that regard, such as funding and resources, capacity, security and lack of political will of national authorities, she noted that national human rights institutions had demonstrated that much could be achieved through their ability to mediate between Governments, communities and non-governmental organizations, as well as their unique understanding of local situations. 

In the interactive dialogue that followed, speakers pointed out that the majority of people living in poverty were children, and, in that context, young people around the world were rightly demanding action on climate change.  Some pointed out that the Human Rights Council was spending too much time on country-specific issues, shifting the focus away from the great challenges that humanity was facing such as poverty and climate change. 

On internally displaced persons, speakers said that persistently high numbers of new displacements each year, coupled with protracted crisis situations all over the world, had resulted in new record highs of persons living in displacement each year.  They recalled the role of faith-based organizations, which often were the first providers of assistance to internally displaced persons, as well as that of national human rights institutions, which could only fulfil their missions if they had access to adequate resources.  Internal displacement required the consistent engagement of all stakeholders; and strengthening further cooperation between human rights institutions and their humanitarian and development counterparts was necessary. 

Taking the floor in the discussion were the following States: European union; Angola (on behalf of the African Group); Ukraine (on behalf of a group of countries); Belgium (on behalf of a group of countries); Pakistan; Sovereign order of Malta; Libya; Holy see; Philippines; Togo; UNICEF; Tunisia; Croatia; Burkina Faso; Algeria; and Cuba. 

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its clustered interactive dialogue on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.  The first part of the dialogue can be found here .

Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, in her concluding remarks, thanked speakers for their strong support for the mandate and welcomed their ideas on how to use the Beijing 25+ process to further advance action on the elimination of violence against women and girls.  It was now up to States to take forward those ideas and the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, and, above all, to strengthen synergies with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice, and many others, both at global and regional instruments and mechanisms. 

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, in concluding remarks, noted the significance of recognizing that women and girls were disproportionately vulnerable to trafficking in persons, including in mixed migratory flows.  It was essential to ensure that all those working on the identification of victims of trafficking in persons were trained in gender responsiveness, which would also contribute to removing still prevailing stereotypes in the identification of potential victims.  The Special Rapporteur said she was advocating for a ban on the detention of migrant children and stressed that in addition to all the ordeals that they went through, detention was a deeply traumatizing experience with long-lasting consequences. 

Speaking in the interactive debate were: Netherlands; Ecuador; Djibouti; Indonesia; Republic of Korea; Malta; Saudi arabia; South africa; Myanmar; Botswana; New zealand; Iraq; Morocco; France; Costa rica; Bolivia; Namibia; Switzerland; Japon; Bahamas; Colombia; China; Iran; Belgium; Rwanda; Chad; Ireland; Albania; Greece; Jamaica; Cyprus; Bangladesh; Gambia; Senegal; Lesotho; Seychelles; Eritrea; Kiribati; Mexico; Serbia; Sierra Leone; United kingdom; Trinidad and Tobago; United Republic of Tanzania; Republic of Moldova; Somalia; Comoros; Luxembourg; Armenia; Afghanistan; Georgia; Canadian Human Rights Commission; Australian Human Rights Commission; International Federation of Journalists; Centre for Civil and Political Rights; ; VIVAT International (in a joint statement with Franciscans International); Kayan - Feminist Organization; Foundation ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes); Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR); International Lesbian and Gay Association; Defence for Children International; Mexican Commission of Defense and Promotion of the Human Rights; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (Victoria); Liberation; United Nations Watch; Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII; International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); and  Peace Brigades International Switzerland.

The Human Rights Council will next hold a panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change: climate action, good practices and lessons learned.  The interactive dialogue on extreme poverty and human rights and on the human rights of internally displaced persons will resume on Monday, 1 July.

Continuation of the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, and with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children

On the issue of violence against women, speakers expressed concern about the lack of cooperation between the mandate holder and other United Nations entities – a problem to which the report of the Special Rapporteur referred.  Urgent action was needed and the United Nations should implement a system-wide approach, some said, stressing the importance of an integrated implementation of relevant conventions and resolutions such as the United Nations Security Council resolution on women, peace and security, to promote unified action.  Speakers underscored that eliminating violence against women was at the heart of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.  While sexual violence was closely linked to the issues of gender inequality and discrimination, deep-rooted cultural practices or beliefs within communities could also hinder the enforcement of laws on gender-based violence, some said.  As the mandate was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, where, in the Special Rapporteur’s opinion, did the main challenges now lie?  What had been the main achievements?

On trafficking in persons, speakers said that it was a grievous violation of human rights which affected primarily women and children, and required concrete action in the social sphere in the long term.  In that context, a focus on agency and empowerment would be key.  Delegations noted the timely focus on the social inclusion of victims and survivors.  Some called on countries that hosted victims of trafficking to assist them to be productive and independent through the provision of education, training and employment opportunities, as well as the creation of durable livelihood opportunities for voluntary returnees.  How did the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights coordinate with relevant stakeholders to better assist countries, notably in collecting data?  What measures would the Special Rapporteur recommend to encourage victims of trafficking to accept the training that was offered to them?

Speakers from civil society organizations drew attention to structural inequalities and systemic racism that indigenous women and girls faced across the globe and asked about best practices to address the underlying causes of disproportionate violence against this group of women.  Other speakers concurred that the detention of children must always be banned and said that the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty had demonstrated that there were many alternatives to detention, and that children should not be held behind bars.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, and with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, in her concluding remarks, thanked the speakers for their strong support for the mandate and welcomed their ideas on how to use the Beijing 25+ process to further advance action on the elimination of violence against women and girls.  It was now up to States to take forward those ideas and the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, and, above all, to strengthen synergies with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice, and many others, both at global and regional instruments and mechanisms.  Twenty-five years after the Beijing conference, violence against women in many countries around the world was persistent and endemic, which called for strengthening and improving action at the global and regional levels.  The Special Rapporteur agreed with many States which called for a greater involvement of her mandate in the women, peace and security agenda, especially with regard to sexual violence in conflict.  Sharing concern expressed by many delegations about significant pushback forces against women’s rights, she remarked that such forces were stopping the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and the change of legislation in many countries.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, in concluding remarks, noted the significance of recognizing that women and girls were disproportionately vulnerable to trafficking in persons, including in mixed migratory flows.  It was essential to ensure that all those working on the identification of victims of trafficking in persons were trained in gender responsiveness, which would also contribute to removing still prevailing stereotypes in the identification of potential victims.  The Special Rapporteur said she was advocating for a ban on the detention of migrant children and stressed that in addition to all the ordeals that they went through, detention was a deeply traumatizing experience with long-lasting consequences.  There were measures that could be put in place to protect women and girls from being trafficked in conflict and post-conflict situations.  It was imperative for States to take action to prevent trafficking in persons and modern slavery in supply chains – through legislation, national action plans, or other measures - and work with the private sector to raise their commitment to provide remedies to workers who were identified as victims of trafficking and exploitation.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/41/39 ).  (Advance version A/HRC/41/39 ).

The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights - Visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (A/HRC/41/39/Add.1 ).

The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights - Visit to the Lao People's Democratic Republic (A/HRC/41/39/Add.2 ). (Advance version A/HRC/41/39/Add.2 ).

The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – comments by United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (A/HRC/41/39/Add.3 ).

The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – comments by Lao People's Democratic Republic (A/HRC/41/39/Add.4 ).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (A/HRC/41/40 ).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (A/HRC/41/40/Add.1 ).

Presentation of Reports

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said that, considering that on 27 June, Geneva had set several records for maximum high temperatures, it was an appropriate moment to introduce his report on climate change, which focused on the intimate relationship between climate change, human rights, poverty and inequality, and reflected the overwhelming urgency of climate change in relation to the mandate.  Climate change posed a grave and immediate challenge, the Special Rapporteur warned.  Today’s children could not avoid a future filled with climate disasters worldwide that would severely reduce the standard of living for many of them.  The result, Mr. Alston warned, would be climate apartheid.  Those who bore the overwhelming responsibility - the wealthiest countries and the wealthiest individuals - would be able to weather the storm and adapt.  Those who bore the least responsibility – the poorest countries and the poorest individuals – would bear the brunt.  Climate change was fundamentally a poverty issue, and despite the token references to climate change, the human rights community as a whole failed to take the issue seriously.  In relation to poverty, all governments should now be pressed to identify steps to take to mitigate the grossly disproportionate consequences that climate change would have for all persons living in poverty and low incomes.

Turning to his visit to the United Kingdom, he said that the country that had pioneered the modern welfare State after World War II had changed course dramatically: the Chancellor at the time made no secret of his desire to bring deep and comprehensive change, and he and his successors had done so.  Inequality had grown, economic and social insecurity was rampant, and the United Kingdom had become a more fractured and less compassionate society.  He expressed hope that the United Kingdom’s Government would engage substantively with the recommendations in his report rather than dismiss them as nonsense.  On his visit to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he said that despite impressive growth, there had not been a commensurate reduction in poverty.  The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party remained firmly in control of public dialogue.  There was an assiduously maintained lack of transparency in most realms; a reluctance to permit criticism; the absence of meaningful complaint mechanisms; and comprehensive government management of the media, inter alia.

CECILIA JIMENEZ, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said national human rights institutions could play a critical role in promoting and protecting the human rights of internally displaced persons and other displacement-affected communities.  While stating that it was important to acknowledge the limitations and constraints on the work they undertook in that regard, such as funding and resources, capacity, security and lack of political will of national authorities, she noted that national human rights institutions had demonstrated that much could be achieved through their ability to mediate between Governments, communities and non-governmental organizations, as well as their unique understanding of local situations. 

The year 2018 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and presented an important opportunity to raise awareness of these Principles, the ongoing and evolving challenges globally and nationally relating to internally displaced persons, and the urgent need to prevent and reduce internal displacement.  Under the auspices of her mandate, a multi-stakeholder developed Plan of Action to Advance Prevention, Protection and Solutions of Internally Displacement Persons had been galvanizing more strategic, coordinated and collaborative action on internal displacement for the past year.

She commended some of the States that had taken important steps in the past year with regard to either recognizing the gravity of internal displacement in their countries or developing and implementing national laws and policies on internal displacement.  This included Niger, which she had visited in 2018, and which had become the first country in Africa to adopt a national law on protection and assistance to internally displacement persons to domesticate the Kampala convention; South Sudan; El Salvador; and Mexico.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Lao People’s Democratic Republic, speaking as a concerned country, said that during his visit, the Special Rapporteur was allowed unfettered movement in the country and held all meetings and field visits as requested.  He met with senior representatives of ministries and organizations and visited Huaphanh and Attpeu provinces.  While there was room for improvement, the efforts and achievements of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic related to poverty reduction and human rights implementation were not reflected in the Special Rapporteur’s report.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic recognized the importance of continued cooperation with the United Nations Special Procedures, and strongly called for an impartial, ethical, responsible and accountable conduct of Special Procedure mandate holders.  While the Special Rapporteur had made some factual assessments and recommendations on poverty reduction efforts in the country, he had gone beyond his mandate in trying to paint a negative picture of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic with pre-determined perception and deliberate ignorance about the country.

United Kingdom, speaking as a concerned country, said it had submitted a detailed response to the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, under document number A/HRC/41/39/Add.3 and referred all members of the Council and all observer delegations to it so that they could consider its comments, alongside the Special Rapporteur’s report.

Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission, in a video statement, said that the Special Rapporteur’s findings starkly demonstrated the disproportionate impact of austerity measures on those already living in or facing the threat of poverty.  The report illustrated that the policies of successive Governments had eroded the right to social security and had led to increased poverty.  The Commissions were disappointed with the United Kingdom Government’s response to the Special Rapporteur’s report, and urged it to review its welfare and spending policies to ensure that the most significant impacts were not felt most by those they were designed to support, and to work constructively with all stakeholders to improve the protection of economic and social rights in the United Kingdom.

Statement by the Undersecretary for Special Concerns of the Philippines

Camilo G. Gudmalin, Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Department of Social Welfare and Development of the Philippines, said that while States had achieved significant advances in ensuring that children were treated with dignity, respect and love, children in different corners of the world remained vulnerable to various forms of abuse and exploitation.  Protecting every child in situations of neglect, in refugee and migration contexts, during times of conflict and disaster, and from cyber-crimes was a moral task that demanded the focused attention of the international community, with utmost urgency.  With over 35 million children under the age of 14 in its population, the Philippines took its duty to promote and protect the welfare and the right of each Filipino child solemnly.  The enhancement of national frameworks to fulfil this duty was a highlight of the Philippines’ submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child this year, which included, inter alia, the enactment by congress of 29 laws from 2010 to 2017 that related to child rights protection; the establishment of congressional committees; the five-year national plan of action for children; programmes to mainstream child rights into local development planning and programming; and the annual 20 per cent increase from 2010 to 2017 of the total allocation for child-related programmes in the national expenditure programme.

Children’s vulnerabilities were heightened during times of armed conflict and disasters, which resulted in long-term negative consequences on their well-being, mental health, education, nutrition, and overall health.  The Government had accordingly responded to such challenges with measures that had established new legal standards and best practices in special child protection during such situations.  In the thirtieth year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Philippines joined all States to pursue with renewed determination their commitments to promote and protect every right of every child.  While each country had its own particular challenges and contexts, “we all share the imperative of providing safe and protective environments for our children, where they can grow and thrive to achieve their fullest potential,” he said.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

In the interactive dialogue that followed, speakers pointed out that the majority of people living in poverty were children, and, in that context, young people around the world were rightly demanding action on climate change.  Some pointed out that the Human Rights Council was spending too much time on country-specific issues, shifting the focus away from the great challenges that humanity was facing such as poverty and climate change.  Could the Special Rapporteur share innovative examples of alternative means of living for low-income people in rural areas affected by climate change?

On internally displaced persons, speakers said that persistently high numbers of new displacements each year, coupled with protracted crisis situations all over the world, had resulted in new record highs of persons living in displacement each year.  They recalled the role of faith-based organizations, which often were the first providers of assistance to internally displaced persons, as well as that of national human rights institutions, which could only fulfil their missions if they had access to adequate resources.  Internal displacement required the consistent engagement of all stakeholders; and strengthening further cooperation between human rights institutions and their humanitarian and development counterparts was necessary.  Did the Special Rapporteur believe that Africa’s achievements these past years could lead to efficiently addressing the root causes of internal displacement?

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, speaking in concluding remarks as he would not be able to remain in Geneva for the continuation of the dialogue next week, said that the Council should take into account the interests of youth but also the extent to which they were expressing their views on issues like climate change.  Governments would be wise to be more responsive to what youth were saying.  The Council should appoint an expert group to work on ways in which the Council could raise the profile of the climate change issue and reflect on its impact on human rights.  He pointed out that the International Monetary Fund, which could hardly be described as a radical organization, had been critical of the level of public subsidy from which fossil fuel industries benefitted.  It was disappointing that the United Kingdom simply referred to its written response.  Regarding the use of the word “punitive,” with which the United Kingdom took issue, he pointed out that preventing someone receiving benefits for three years was punitive; forcing people to search for a job for 35 hours per week in and out was punitive; and the impact of some of the policies enacted by the United Kingdom on people with disabilities could also be described as punitive.  In relation to the response of the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, while thanking the Government for its cooperation, he reiterated that some of the specific issues that were addressed in the report should be taken up.  It was concerning that people who had been displaced by a collapsed dam in 2018, and who had been resettled and given a plot of land, had lost this plot of land and were now working on a banana plantation owned by a foreign company.

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