Human Rights Council
28 February 2019
The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights.
At the beginning of the meeting, it heard delegations speak in right of reply in response to statements made during the high-level segment. China, India, Bahrain, Armenia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Cyprus, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Syria, Azerbaijan, Japan, Qatar and Myanmar spoke.
Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented her fifth thematic report and her reports on official country visits to Viet Nam, Indonesia and Argentina. The thematic report focused on fishery workers and their role in the realization of the right to food. Fishery workers were instrumental to the realization of the right to food and nutrition of the world’s population, yet they were amongst the poorest.
Viet Nam, Indonesia and Argentina spoke as concerned countries. The National Commission on Human Rights of Indonesia also spoke in a video message.
Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of human rights, presented the Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Economic Reforms, which were born out of the increasing recognition that human rights were often peripheral concerns in the development of policy responses to economic crises. He spoke of his country visits to Ukraine and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka and Ukraine spoke as concerned countries. The National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights also spoke in video messages.
In the ensuing discussion on the reports of the Special Rapporteur, speakers said that the fundamental role that fishery workers played to deal with the growing global demand for fish consumption was recognized. Recommendations in the report on the right to food were strengthening the rights-based approach in the fishing sector, which played a strong part of the economy in many countries. Speakers regretted that working conditions and remuneration for fisher folk, both on the sea and inland, were often forgotten by public policies.
Concerning the reports of the Independent Expert, speakers said that despite measures taken to improve the economic situation for countries in the region, Africa remained a continent in great debt. Foreign debt was noted as being indicative of the lack of justice in the flow of capital in the world. There were links between debts and low rates of growth and it was concerning that lending policies of the international financial institutions continued to use gross domestic product as a sole criterion.
Speaking in the discussion were European Union, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Kuwait, Spain, Pakistan, Holy See, Sudan, India, Brazil, Palestine, Tunisia, Cuba, Jordan, Iraq, Djibouti, Russia, Bolivia, France, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Iran, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Lesotho, Burkina Faso, Greece, Jamaica, Turkey, Ecuador, South Africa and Venezuela. World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization also spoke.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Connectas Direitos Humanos, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Associación Civil, Make Mothers Matter, FIAN International e.V., Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Iraqi Development Organization, World Barua Organization (WBO), Prahar, iuventum e.V., Action Canada for Population and Development, United Nations Watch, Ingenieurs du Monde, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, and Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik.
The Council will meet at 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon to hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Right of Reply
China, speaking in a right of reply, said that statements made by other States regarding Xinjiang province were simply untrue, and emphasized that they did not sit well with the principle of international cooperation. China explained that, under the leadership of the Communist party, the region was seeing increased harmony and stability. A number of counterterrorism measures had been taken in accordance with Chinese law and these had improved the human rights situation of the people in Xinjiang. China emphasized that it was an open and hospitable country, and welcome all United Nations officials to pay a visit to Xinjiang.
India, speaking in a right of reply, said it was not surprised by statements made by Pakistan, a country that had long supported cross-border terrorism. India drew attention to the recent terrorist attack, which it said was only one of many such attacks perpetrated against India. India expected Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorism and called on that country not to misuse the principle of self-determination as a mechanism to erode the territorial integrity of India. India was a pluralistic democracy which guaranteed freedom to all its people, freedoms which Pakistan had never truly enjoyed.
Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply on behalf of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt on allegations contained in the statement of the delegation of Qatar, said they had taken measures in order to protect their national security, as Qatar was working to destabilize their countries. The four States were concerned about terrorist attempts. There was framework in place to resolve the crisis and the four States were ready to cooperate to resolve the crisis. Qatar had tried to internationalize the crisis in a desperate attempt. Responding to the delegation of Denmark, Bahrain believed that what happened with its citizens was a matter of its own sovereignty. The citizen was sanctioned by the Penal Code, so interference was not accepted.
Armenia, speaking in a right of reply in response to allegations made by Azerbaijan and Turkey, said that Turkey was far from living in democratic conditions, so it could hardly talk about human rights violations. Thousands of journalists were in jail in Turkey and their speech was considered an act of confrontation. The Armenian genocide was one of the worst and hardest crimes of Ottoman Turkey and Turkey was still denying it. Turkish propaganda on Nagorno-Karabakh was not true and Turkey was called to reconsider its views on Nagorno-Karabakh. As for Azerbaijan, it was presenting falsified narrative concerning the ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, said that some countries were using fabricated stories and groundless accusations against them, including the United Kingdom and Japan. Those allegations were of a political nature and had nothing to do with human rights. Those countries should look at their own human rights records. The abduction issue was used for Japan’s internal use as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had done everything to resolve it. Japan still had to resolve the issue of comfort women and slave labour of Koreans during their occupation.
Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, said that the issue of comfort women was not only a bilateral issue, it was a matter of universal rights, pertaining to sexual violence. Lessons from history had to be learnt. The Korean Government believed that previous attempts to resolve the problem lacked a victim-centred approach. Many United Nations mechanisms suggested to put the victim at the centre of the approach. The Korean Government continued to cooperate with international mechanisms so that victims could get a brighter future.
Cyprus, speaking in a right of reply, said that Turkey had made many accusations to the Council which seemed trite considering their own human rights record, for instance charging human rights activists, the lack of integrity of the judiciary, the lack of independent and thorough investigations into allegations of torture, and the refusal to apply human right court judgements. The basis of resolving the conflict in Cyprus was reunification, which the Government was actively working towards.
Turkey, speaking in a right of reply, noted that it was facing unprecedented challenges to its security and unity due to terrorist threats. Nevertheless, it safeguarded freedom of expression, assembly and association. The proceedings against members of certain professions were related to criminal charges and suspected links to terrorist organizations. Responding to Armenia, Turkey noted that Armenia was responsible for the occupation of 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s territory, adding that the Council was not the place to discuss the 1915 events because they were clearly outside its mandate. With respect to Cyprus, Turkey recalled that its intervention in 1974 had been carried out in line its rights and obligations stemming from the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. None of the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions in relation to Cyprus described the Turkish intervention of 1974 as “invasion,” or the subsequent presence of Turkish troops on the island as “occupation.” The only occupation that one could talk about in Cyprus was the usurpation and occupation of the 1960 bi-communal Republic of Cyprus since 1963 by the Greek Cypriot administration.
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, rejected India’s assertion that the recent Pulwama incident took place in India, but rather in the Indian-occupied territory of Kashmir. Pakistan emphatically rejected any allegations of links to the attack, noting that these knee-jerk accusations were well-rehearsed tactics from the Indian playbook. Pakistan emphasized that it was not involved in the Pulwama attack. India’s unprecedented level of repression had resulted in the complete alienation of Kashmiri resistance. India’s purported claims of targeting a large terrorist camp were completely absurd, as the Indian explosives had landed in an uninhabited airspace. Pakistan noted that its air force had undertaken strikes against Indian territory, which avoided any civilian casualties.
Lebanon, speaking in a right of reply, said that Israel was making use of the deliberations of the Council for its own political purposes. The persistence of Israel to change historical facts and to disseminate falsehoods only deceived those who did not want to acknowledge truth for political reasons. Was there any wise person who thought that a power conceived under the base of colonialism could be a model of democracy? Israel had been launching false accusations against Lebanon, despite the fact that Israel was the one violating Lebanon’s territorial integrity. Lebanon rejected the assertion that Hezbollah was a terrorist group, noting that it was a major Lebanese party.
Bangladesh, speaking in a right of reply, noted that while the situation in Rakhine state had complex historical roots, to claim that the conflict had emerged from illegal cross-border movement made the possibility of addressing the root cause of the crisis rather bleak. Myanmar ascribed the exodus of people to seeds of terror sown by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which was a misrepresentation of facts. Bangladesh called on the real perpetrators of the atrocities to be brought to justice. Bangladesh noted that repatriation should be the overriding priority for solving this humanitarian crisis. It underlined that there had been grave, systematic, and egregious human rights abuses committed against the Rohningya and others in Myanmar.
Syria, speaking in a right of reply, said that the British and Danish Ministers had launched accusations against Syria, ignoring the flagrant human rights violations within their own countries. Syria reminded all countries that they ought to look at their own countries before giving lessons to others. Regarding the statement made by Turkey on Monday, Syria stated that Turkey was hiding behind the fight against terrorism in order to justify attacks against Syria, which was nothing more than an effort to distort truth and reality in order to achieve its own objectives. Syria also condemned Turkey for opening its border to thousands of terrorists who came to Syria to join the ranks of Daesh.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, said that Armenian allegations were baseless. The so-called Sumgait incident was investigated at the time of the Soviet Union, and the investigation revealed that it was a well prepared incident by masterminds in Armenia to provoke the events and to use it as tool of propaganda and inspire national sentiments, so they would later take part of Azerbaijani territory. Instead of attacking, when would Armenia open a trial for the Khojaly massacre?
Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said that allegations made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea were untrue. Under the Stockholm agreement, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was obliged to carry out investigations concerning all Japanese persons, including abductees, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was urged to respect the Stockholm agreement. As for the Republic of Korea, under the December 2015 agreement, it was confirmed by both parties that the issue of comfort women was resolved and Japan was fulfilling all obligations made in the agreement.
India, speaking in a second right of reply, said that the only objective of Pakistan in the Council was to spread malicious propaganda against India. Pakistan forgot United Nations resolutions and had never fulfilled its obligations to leave the occupied territory. Minorities in Pakistan were harassed through blasphemy laws and targeted measures and millions of innocent persons had endured enforced disappearances and torture.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, was disappointed with the evasive response of Japan, particularly concerning sexual violence. It denounced sexual slavery of Korean children in Japanese schools during the war. The crimes against humanity committed by Japan had been documented and proven during the Second World War, including sexual slavery. Japan was urged to take a sincere approach concerning the so-called abduction issue.
Pakistan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that India’s uncalled for attack on Pakistan was part of a baseless polemical campaign to discredit Pakistan and that these lies would not stand up in a court of law. The human rights situation in Kashmir, a disputed territory where India was the usurper and occupier, was the source of the instability. Pakistan pondered how the presence of 70,000 troops posted along the Indian border were unable to stop the illegal border crossing of terrorist groups into Kashmir. It accused India of barbaric repression and of being a sham democracy and stated that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was not biased against India.
Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, stated it would not repeat points on former comfort women, but reiterated hope that Japan would heed its previous recommendations in accordance with the human rights framework set out by this Council.
Japan, speaking in second right of reply, said that there were no discriminatory policies against Korean schools in Japan. The term sex slaves should not be used in lieu of “comfort women”. Japan had sincerely addressed the issue and it was now finally and irreversibly resolved. Japan urged the Republic of Korea to steadily implement the agreement and reiterated the importance of overcoming history and seeking a bright and peaceful future for the region.
Qatar, speaking in a right of reply, said that the actions taken by the siege countries against Qatar violated international human rights law. Qatar expressed its willingness to accept a peaceful resolution to the crisis within the framework of international law. It was highly dangerous to see that the besieging countries were linking Qatar to terrorism with no grounds, a claim that certain other countries were supporting.
Turkey, speaking in a second right of reply, condemned the unfounded accusations made by the Syrian regime. Turkey recalled the track record of the Syrian regime of mass killings, the use of chlorine gas, and repression of its people. It was a comedy that the representative for Syria was desperately trying to spread lies and falsehoods to mask Syria’s crimes against humanity. Turkey remained committed to the territorial integrity of Syria.
Syria, speaking in a second right of reply, said that the terminology used by the Turkish delegate was evidence to the mentality predominating Turkey and governing the Erdogan regime. Syria referred to the illegitimate practices perpetrated by the Turkish Government against the Syrian people. It noted that the illegitimate occupation by Turkey of Syrian territory ran against the claims of the Erdogan regime that it would respect Syrian territorial integrity. Syria called upon the Erdogan regime to respect human rights.
Myanmar, speaking in a right of reply, said that Myanmar’s Minister had already presented the situation in Rakhine state in detail. Concerning the repatriation, Myanmar was cooperating with Bangladesh. Both parties had agreed and reaffirmed desire to cooperate and maintain neighbourly relations. Hope was expressed that all challenges would be overcome and that the repatriation would be successful.
The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/40/56 ).
The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/40/56 /Add.1).
The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/40/56 /Add.2).
The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/40/56 /Add.3).
The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/40/56 /Add.4).
The Council has before an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/40/56 /Add.5).
The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/HRC/40/57 ).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/HRC/40/57 /Add.1).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/HRC/40/57 /Add.2).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/HRC/40/57 /Add.3).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/HRC/40/57 /Add.4).
Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt on Human Rights
HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented her fifth thematic report and her reports on official country visits to Viet Nam, Indonesia and Argentina. The thematic report focused on fishery workers and their role in the realization of the right to food, to be read in conjunction with the report on the right to food of agricultural workers and their critical role in realizing global access to food, as they faced similar challenges. Fishery workers were instrumental to the realization of the right to food and nutrition of the world’s population, yet they were amongst the poorest. Their working conditions were not provided for within the International Labour Organization’s framework and many workers lived below the poverty line and did not benefit from national labour or social protection schemes. The strenuous working conditions were disproportionately suffered by women and vulnerable people, including migrant workers, indigenous people and children, indeed the International Labour Organization estimated that 60 per cent of child labourers (129 million children) worked in the agricultural sector, which included fisheries and aquaculture.
During her trip to Viet Nam, the Special Rapporteur noted that remarkable economic growth had dramatically transformed the country and its levels of poverty and hunger, though rural areas and ethnic minorities still faced inequalities. However, this growth had had adverse impacts on the environment, natural resources and the livelihood of local communities, therefore she urged the Government to follow sustainable development principles to protect the environment.
On her trip to Indonesia, Ms. Elver noted the triple burden of malnutrition, undernutrition and obesity, which may have been linked to the Government over its focus on the production of rice and staples, and recommended new policies focused on the diversification of production, including fruits and vegetables. She stressed that some groups and individuals, including women and children, faced severe discrimination and obstacles, such as access to land, fisheries, business practices, climate change, infrastructure and trade, to enjoying their right to food.
The Special Rapporteur said she had visited Argentina during a severe economic and financial crisis which had had a direct impact on the people’s right to food and on their livelihoods. She reiterated the importance of promoting and protecting family farming as a means to achieve a balance between robust industrial agriculture and developing an agro-ecological production system, and access to nutritious food for the people. She encouraged the Government to prioritize the implementation of effective policies and reforms with the participation of all relevant actors to ensure the right to food for all, including indigenous people and those under the poverty line.
JUAN PABLO BOHOSLAVSKY, Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights, presented the Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Economic Reforms, which were born out of the increasing recognition that human rights were often peripheral concerns in the development of policy responses to economic crises. The fundamental premise of these Guiding Principles was the recognition that any economic reform measures had significant implications for the enjoyment of all human rights. The Guiding Principles reaffirmed and systematized the existing international human rights law and standards that applied to economic policymaking and laid out how human rights impact assessments enabled States, international financial institutions, creditors and others to ensure that economic reforms advanced the goal of progressively realizing human rights. Mr. Bohoslavsky emphasized that Governments at all levels should carry out both ex ante and ex post assessments, paying particular attention to specific groups which were most vulnerable to the adverse impact of economic reforms, such as women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and minorities. The Guiding Principles highlighted the important role of other relevant actors, such as international financial institutions, creditors and donors in carrying out human rights impact assessments. Acting in good faith, these actors should properly take into account the impact of human rights on a given population.
Regarding his visit to Ukraine, Mr. Bohoslavsky noted that over the past 10 years, the country had faced significant economic challenges exemplified by recession and currency devaluation, requiring extensive fiscal consolidation measures. In mitigating the impact of severe economic reforms, the Government had adopted various measures to address poverty, inflation and the dire social situation of a majority of its population. However, the report concluded that important challenges remained to striking the right balance between seeking to foster economic development under the given circumstances, and ensuring the realization of all human rights. He noted that the austerity measures implemented as part of the fiscal consolidation required by the International Monetary Fund had included specific measures that disproportionately impacted the human rights of women. The report concluded that rooting out endemic corruption could not be achieved without a holistic approach.
On the visit to Sri Lanka, The Independent Expert noted that Sri Lanka had taken steps to boost growth and consolidate peace and democracy, leading to important public investment programmes and economic measures. There was a consensus that a greater mobilization of resources was necessary. A more equitable fiscal system was also needed to expand the fiscal space and resources available for the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Mr. Bohoslavsky expressed concern about impacts of ongoing reforms on public spending and some social sectors. The report recommended that human rights impact assessments should be conducted systematically prior to the adoption of economic reforms in order to evaluate potential human rights risks and to avoid retrogression.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Argentine, speaking as a concerned country, expressed satisfaction at the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Argentina, and reiterated that the country supported strengthening Special Procedures. According to resolution 5/21, human rights mechanisms had to be independent, objective and impartial and Argentina was happy that Ms. Elver fully complied with that mandate. The report recognized that Argentina expressed cooperation and contribution of national authorities in different provinces. It also recognized efforts that Argentina was investing in improving the situation. Argentina was seeking to improve its gender policies and combat discrimination against women in rural areas, as suggested by the report. The recommendations of Ms. Elver in that aspect were welcomed and issues outlined in the report were already being worked on, so the recommendations had been taken in good spirit.
Indonesia, speaking as a concerned country, said that most of the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur had been implemented, such as diversification of policies, lowering food prices, incorporating the cultural context, targeting most vulnerable groups, accelerating land-redistribution policies, and ensuring that business respected human rights. However, a clearer context had to be set on several points. First, Indonesia did not recognize the term indigenous people. When the Declaration was adopted, Indonesia made an explanation of the vote, outlining that as a multi-ethnic society that had not changed since the time of colonization, the term indigenous was not applicable. The Special Rapporteur had jumped to a conclusion by stating that the measles breakout and malnutrition that occurred in one of 34 provinces was the result of the Government’s failure to fulfil the right to food. This was over-simplifying the real situation, as the outbreak happened in the Asmat communities which still had a semi-nomadic way of life and collected food from nature, and the Government had provided emergency response. On palm oil, Indonesia had taken policies to ensure a good business governance in the palm oil industry.
National Commission on Human Rights of Indonesia, speaking in a video statement, stated that it was aware of the complexity of the food security realities in Indonesia due to its geography and the diversity of its local cultures and varying ecological conditions. It identified the conflicting land tenure systems as a main cause of food insecurity amongst indigenous and local rural communities and regretted that the corresponding recommendations had not been included in the Special Rapporteurs report. A conflict resolution mechanism must be established to improve access to human rights, including the right to work, the right to properties, women’s rights, traditional rights and other rights relating to indigenous people.
Viet Nam, speaking as a concerned country, reaffirmed its consistent policy to promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to food, since the full enjoyment of human rights could not be possible with poverty and hunger. Viet Nam noted that it had achieved encouraging results in socio-economic development and raising people’s living standards. The recent visit of the Special Rapporteur had offered an opportunity for her to better understand the realization of the right to food and food security in Viet Nam, and for Viet Nam’s relevant ministries and agencies to share their difficulties and challenges, experiences, efforts and good practices in this field. Viet Nam expressed gratitude to the Special Rapporteur for the constructive dialogue and active cooperation during the visit.
Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the dialogue was an important opportunity to share further views on some significant developments relevant to matters raised in the report of the Independent Expert. The Government continued to give high priority to poverty alleviation and addressing regional disparities. A gradual and continuous decline in poverty levels was noted. On addressing indebtedness, the regional review programme had been conducted with the participation of Grama Niladhari officers and bank officials. The difficulties faced by customers were addressed as a priority. Tax evasion would be considered for inclusion as an unlawful activity in the amendments proposed to the financial transactions reporting act. Sri Lanka had identified the need for a comprehensive approach for the regulation of the microfinance sector, and for the regulation of all money lending and credit providing entities.
National Commission on Human Rights of Sri Lanka, in a video statement, valued the observations and recommendations in the Independent Expert’s report. It was concerned about the escalating public debt as cuts in public expenditure would hit the enjoyment of economic and social rights the hardest. Social indicators, including the health care and education systems, stood vulnerable as they were couched in welfare, not rights based policies. The Commission had repeatedly called on the Government to recognize the importance of enshrining economic, social and cultural rights in the Bill of Rights. It stated that there was a need to adopt a human rights approach in assessing the acceptability of economic policies and ventures as well as to develop human rights impact assessment frameworks and conduct human rights audits of the national budget.
Ukraine, speaking as a concerned country, said that it appreciated the opportunity to engage in the dialogue with the Independent Expert on his findings. However, Ukraine regretted that the Independent Expert had left out many of the comments and observations made by Ukrainian authorities in the report. Given the fact that the report dealt with Ukraine, it should have contained references to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 73/263 on the “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine”. Ukraine noted that given the temporary occupation by the Russian Federation of this integral part of Ukraine, Russia bore full responsibility for the respect for and protection of human rights in these territories under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Despite the Russian aggression in the occupied Crimea and Donbas, Ukraine continued to carry out comprehensive reforms aimed at strengthening democracy and the rule of law, ensuring economic prosperity, modernisation and well-being of all citizens.
Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking in a video message, said that the Russian occupation of Crimea and the continued armed aggression on Donbas had resulted in the death of 10,000 persons and the internal displacement of 1.5 million persons. There were five crossing points into Donbas and every month almost a million citizens risked their lives to pass through, attempting to receive social security and pensions. The occupation of the eastern part had seriously damaged the country. Recommendations from the report on the need to plan policies for economic reform were welcomed. Those feeling the impact the most were low income families and those who could not work as well as residents living along contact lines. Almost 768,000 internally displaced persons were pensionaries.
European Union said it actively promoted better international governance across the world’s seas and oceans to keep them clean, safe and secure, and was committed to fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing worldwide. The European Union asked: what incentives would the Independent Expert envisage companies could give in order to further promote accountability initiatives, and what measures could States improve in this regard? Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that despite measure taken to improve the economic situation for countries in the region, Africa remains a continent in great debt. The external debt of the continent had doubled in the last five years, and continued to be a great burden to African economic development. Kuwait reaffirmed the importance of States’ commitments to provide assistance and cooperation at the international level to improve human rights. Kuwait recalled the efforts it had made in helping countries with their overburdening debt. Kuwait called on States to take into consideration challenges that developing countries were facing.
Spain recognized the fundamental role that fishery workers played to deal with the growing global demand for fish consumption, and highlighted the persistent human and labour rights violations that they incurred. Spain underscored the importance of having a legal framework through which both States and international organizations could and should play a relevant role. Pakistan concurred with the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur for the adoption of legislation to criminalize contemporary forms of slavery practices in the fisheries sector. Pakistan noted that it had always been an active advocate of the abolition of all forms of slavery. Holy See noted that economic policies should always strive to be at the service of the full realization of human rights and inclusive development. Foreign debt was noted as being indicative of the lack of justice in the flow of capital in the world.
Sudan issued an invitation to the Independent Expert on foreign debt and appreciated his efforts. Debt was hindering economic security, as the report outlined, and heavily indebted countries spent large parts of their income to repay former debts. India noted that the report outlined the essential role that fish workers had in food security, bringing out their concerns. India produced 6 per cent of global fish production and the fish sector was a large employer and income generator for large sections of the population. Brazil considered that the development of guiding principles for human rights, by its very nature, was a task demanding comprehensive intergovernmental negotiations. Brazil was committed to modernizing the pension system, raising employment levels and streamlining regulations.
Palestine was disappointed that the report failed to recognize problems that fisher folk were facing in Palestine due to the Israeli occupation and blockade. There were 361 documented incidents committed by the Israeli navy, including fisher folk killed and boats confiscated, all leading to the collapse of the fishing sector. Tunisia welcomed the attempts of the report to spell out economic limits posed by foreign debt. Recommendations in the report on the right to food were strengthening the rights-based approach in the fishing sector, which played a strong part of the economy in many countries, including Tunisia. Cuba said it would present a resolution on the right to food at this session. Cuba commended the work of the Independent Expert in drafting the Guiding Principles.
Jordan stressed that its laws provided all labour rights and protections to agricultural workers, while tax reform aimed to support low income workers and minimum wage had been raised by 15 per cent. Iraq stressed the need to place human beings at the heart of economic policies and that was why its national development plan aimed to adopt policies for human rights and human dignity. Water was Iraq’s prime resource and it fully understood the need to protect the rights of fishery workers. Djibouti remarked that its large fishing potential was not adequately exploited as yet, and asked the Special Rapporteur to comment on the Blue Growth Initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Russia stressed that the impact of human rights policies on the situation in the Crimean Peninsula could only be seen in the context of the human rights situation in Russia, and not Ukraine. Bolivia was struck that the legal framework contained in the report did not include the General Assembly resolution on the rights of peasants, which also included the protection for small-scale fisher folk. France agreed with the Special Rapporteur that working conditions and remuneration for fisher folk, both on the sea and inland, were often forgotten by public policies, and raised concern that in some instances their situation even approached modern slavery. Azerbaijan supported the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur, especially on the elimination of contemporary slavery practices and exploitation of child labour as well as assistance to and the protection of migrant workers. Azerbaijan attached great importance to the full realization of the right to food, and the Government was taking measures to improve food safety in the country, including the establishment of the Food Safety Agency in 2017.
Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and its Effect on Human Rights
HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, responding to questions posed by the delegation from Indonesia, highlighted that cultural differences could not justify a State averting its obligation to ensure the right to food for all, and emphasized that there should not be any discriminatory policies when it came to safeguard this right. The Special Rapporteur noted with concern that the lack of access to food and malnutrition in the Papua region had exacerbated the measles outbreak there. Regarding the use of the term indigenous people, Ms. Elver noted that self-identification was one of the most important criteria to defining an indigenous community, and highlighted the multicultural nature of Indonesian society. The Special Rapporteur called on the Indonesian Government to better protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Regarding the country’s palm oil industry, Ms. Elver stressed that she had duly elevated the positive aspects of the palm oil programme, however, it was undeniable that the industrial expansion of palm oil had created numerous issues regarding the right to food. The bad practices of palm oil plantations posed a considerable threat to the right to food in Indonesia. The Special Rapporteur recognized the efforts that the Government had made in making palm oil more sustainable, but noted that it was important to also point out shortcomings on this issue.
JUAN PABLO BOHOSLAVSKY, Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights, responded to remarks made by Ukraine, saying he took all comments into consideration, and said that the General Assembly resolution that the delegation had referred to had been adopted in December 2018 and had therefore not been included in his report, but similar previous resolutions had been incorporated in the report. The issue of economic losses for Ukraine as a result of the armed conflict had been considered and analysed in several paragraphs of the report. In reference to comments by Brazil, Mr. Bohoslavsky said that the text of the Guiding Principles in its paragraph 4 clearly stated that not all economic reform policy formulated to address economic and financial crises were detrimental to human rights. Economic reforms carefully formulated and based on human rights could contribute to the betterment of human rights. Human rights impact assessment could discern the impact of reforms on human rights, and should be applied by States, he concluded.
Egypt stated that it was the obligation of States to pay special attention to the human rights of migrant workers who may be exploited as forced labourers in fisheries. International financial obligations to strengthen economic and social rights obligations should be implemented to relieve the burden on States in times of crises. Morocco stated that climate change was affecting food sources and the arable land available, and Morocco was striving toward the sustainable management of that sector, increasing output. It had renewed its agreement with the European Union and as pollution was a major challenge, it had subscribed to the Brussels declaration to protect oceans from environmental degradation. Algeria highlighted the need to limit the wasting of fish caught and promote biodiversity, highlighting the importance of the 2015 African Union obligation on fisheries to ensure the sustainable management of oceans. Economic policies may infringe upon human rights and foreign debt threatened the livelihoods of individuals.
Iran stated that fishery workers’ rights and their access to food was of high importance and highlighted the need to implement policies for the social protection of all peoples. The United States sanctions deprived Iranian workers from enjoying their access to these rights, and Iran asked what kind of mechanisms existed to protect people against these measures? Nepal stated that disadvantaged people, especially women and indigenous people, needed support to access their right to food. The Constitution of Nepal underlined the high importance of accelerating growth and pledged to end hunger by 2025 with a zero huger policy, including measures to support small-scale farmers to work with sustainable policies. Bangladesh prohibited the exploitation of waters to all those who were not small-scale or official, and stopped the fishing of the hilsa breed during the breeding season. In addition, it promoted sustainable industrial fishery policies in order to enjoy better working conditions, including giving good working opportunities to Rohingya migrants.
China said that the international community should create an inductive environment for developing countries to assure their food security, including by lifting trade restrictions. Over the past 40 years, China had always prioritized its people as a basis for economic reforms to ensure that they could benefit from economic, social and cultural development. Lesotho said that fisheries played an important role in providing food and income and it was important to link the sector with the wider development agenda, and to acknowledge that food security in the fishery sector could only be achieved by social and political development. Fisheries were a priority sector in Burkina Faso which made an important contribution to the realization of the right to food and that was why the legal framework to protect the human rights of the workers in the fisheries had been strengthened.
Greece was striving to overcome the obstacles of the global economic and financial crisis which had hit the country hard and stressed the importance of learning from policy failures and errors made in addressing the crisis which often led to the deepening rather than alleviation of the impact of the crisis on human rights. Jamaica, a small island State vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change, recognized the links between debts and low rates of growth and remained deeply concerned about lending policies of the international financial institutions that continued to use gross domestic product as a sole criterion. Turkey recognized that most fisheries workers worked in precarious conditions even though they made a major contribution to food security of societies and nations, and that was why it was important for the international community, States, and consumers to take positive steps. Ecuador said that regrettably, structural adjustment policies faulted the enjoyment of human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights, and directly and indirectly led to discrimination, particularly against those most vulnerable. On the right to food, Ecuador said it had a public programme in place to ensure that everyone had appropriate food at all stages of life.
World Food Programme stated that global huger was again on the rise due to war and conflict, and it condemned the use of huger and starvation as a tool for war. It urged the international community to halt the impediments faced by humanitarian aid workers in bringing food support to those in need. South Africa stated that the right to life of fishery workers was paramount, and suggested that human trafficking and human rights violations in the fishery sector should be reported on. It asked if the International Labour Office and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were going to work together on promoting the rights of marginal workers in fisheries.
Food and Agriculture Organization stated that fishery workers were amongst the most insecure and endeavours must be made to develop a guidance document on the sustainable management of the fishing values chain. Venezuela stated that its constitution promoted and protected sustainable farming, including fisheries, and had banned trawling and fostered artisanal fisheries since 2009. Despite the economic war waged from abroad, strategic policies to ensure food security were being implemented.
Conectas Direitos Humanos welcomed the Independent Expert’s report on Guiding Principles on Human Rights Assessment of Economic Reforms. The increase in the inequality indexes in Brazil due to the precariousness of the labour market could have been prevented with an ex ante assessment of such reforms or at least mitigated through a participatory ex post assessment regarding principle 18 Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil said that Argentina promoted the agricultural model based on financial speculations. This had a devastating impact on families and the general population and resulted in poor access to land and insecurity of tenure of peasants. Make Mothers Matter welcomed the focus on gender in principle eight of the Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessment of Economic Reforms. That was smart economics, as addressing the issue of unpaid care work was a key step towards women’s full participation in the economy.
FIAN International e.V. appreciated the wide range of fisheries mentioned in the report, but said it failed to analyse the structural causes of poverty and vulnerability of fisher folk. There was a lack of attention to fisher folk out of the labour market, while fisher folk were driven out of their land and water territories due to extractive industries and large-scale infrastructure projects. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom supported the Independent Expert’s call on Ukraine to take concrete steps to ensure that the burden of the economic crisis did not fall on the most disenfranchised. Neoliberalism and the consequent austerity measures had been elevated to the status of law – the laws of the free market, but they were not. Iraqi Development Organization said that Bahrain recently received a $10 billion loan from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. There was concern that Bahrain would use those funds to double down on repression. World Barua Organization (WBO) welcomed the recommendation that a guideline should be adopted by States for securing sustainable small-scale fisheries as it was important in the context of food security and poverty eradication. The death of small fisheries in India was not just a question of poverty but also of identity.
World Barua Organization (WBO) urged all States to implement the recommendations of the report of the Special Rapporteur, especially for sustainable small-scale fisheries. In India, small-scale fisheries supported whole communities; it was a question of identity. Small land holdings were at risk and were being shut down despite silent protests. Prahar stated that India was unable to fulfil the basic needs of its citizens in terms of food, noting that food shortages led to overuse of fertilizers and chemicals, leading to contamination. It accused the Government of being interested only in celebrating fake progress while the beef ban and “cow vigilantes” further worsened malnutrition and peoples’ livelihood. Iuventum e.V. stated that as policies concerning fisheries and their workers were often separated from those of other agricultural policies, it led to the violation of human rights in that sector. The United Nations disproportionately focused on environmental degradation, downplaying the impact of industry. It stated that the contamination of water and food posed similar issues and questioned their separation in Strategic Development Goals 2 and 6. Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the conclusions of the Independent Expert, especially those affirming that economic measures had consequences on human rights, particularly in countries of the south. This was particularly true for neo-liberal policies. That was why the organization urged States to implement principles 7 and 8 in the report.
United Nations Watch noted that while the Council had released a specific report on the human rights situation in Israel, not a single one had been released condemning human rights violations in Venezuela. Regarding the report from the Special Rapporteur Hilal Elver, United Nations Watch asked why there was not one word written regarding the millions of Venezuelans who could not get enough to eat? Ingénieurs du monde also noted that the Special Rapporteur on the right to food had not said anything about the situation in Venezuela, other than saying that she had sent letters requesting an invitation to visit the country.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain noted that Saudi Arabia and its allies had blockaded access to food and aid in Yemen, leading to a humanitarian crisis. Many Yemenis had been left unable to buy food, leaving 80 per cent of the population in need of humanitarian assistance. Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik expressed concern that Iran had denied access to the contents of its fishing contracts with other countries. Environmentalists and fisher folk in Iran were very much concerned about the water life after trawling. Due to the lack of transparency from government organizations in Iran, the extent of this damage was not known.
HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, thanked all countries for taking the matter of fisheries very seriously. This meant that all had to move forward and assist 800 million people working in fisheries who were providing important food for all, and yet were living in poverty. She noted the very important contribution of the European Union, Spain and France, as they were dealing with similar issues: accountability, private sector role, supply chain responsibility and transparency. This was all-important as consumers, private sector, non-governmental organizations, fishing sector and governments had to work together. The fishing sector was also a variety, partly the industrial sector and partly small fishing communities, so there was tension between the two as there were different layers of power in decision-making. Yet they were all employing fisher folk. Article 71, 72, 73 of the report looked at the role of the private sector and how to make the sector more attractive. While working on the report, she had had a good relation with the Food and Agricultural Organization and the International Labour Organization, and they had made good contributions. There was homework to be done, and they had to do it together. The Peasants Declaration was a big success and many governments supported it. On Friday, there would be a side event on the fisheries sector, so everyone was invited. Bolivia had mentioned peasants’ rights and Djibouti asked about the project of the Food and Agricultural Organization on fisheries. Fisheries were important for elevating poverty. Sustainable Development Goal 14 on life under water was extremely important, and would be assessed in her next report. The remarks of Palestine were important, and it was important to look at what was happening in Gaza. As for Venezuela, the Special Rapporteur could not go anywhere if the Government did not invite her. Several letters had been sent to Venezuela, but with no response. It was under investigation, but it was too complicated as there were two sides, as in any conflict.
JUAN PABLO BOHOSLAVSKY, Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights, thanked Ukraine and Sri Lanka for their cooperation. States and civil society organizations were also thanked for their support. International financial institutions and bilateral donors had to ensure that their decisions did not impact recipient ability to protect their human rights obligations. States, whether acting alone or with international financial institutions, should not compel borrowing States to satisfy their financial obligations under compromise. International bilateral lenders, when granting loans or giving policy advice concerning economic reform, had an obligation to take into account human rights impact assessment. Conducting human rights impact assessment was not an easy job. It required multidisciplinary approach, talking with all stakeholders, and political will. However, two decades ago, when feasibility was discussed of an environmental impact assessment, it was not believed this could be done, and yet two years ago a number of good practices had been identified.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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