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Human Rights Council begins general debate on the High Commissioner’s global human rights update

15 September 2020


Concludes Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Human Rights Council this morning began a general debate on the global human rights update by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and her updates on Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Ms. Bachelet presented her global human rights update and her updates on Nicaragua and Venezuela on Monday, 14 September, and a summary can be found here.

Nicaragua and Venezuela spoke as concerned countries.

Speaking in the general debate were Germany on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Ukraine, Uruguay, Netherlands, Denmark, China, Timor-Leste, Morocco, Azerbaijan, United Kingdom, Paraguay, Pakistan, Norway, Qatar, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Armenia, Ukraine, India, Mexico, Senegal, Australia, Japan, Chile, Namibia, Austria, Cameroon, Netherlands, Venezuela, Bahrain, Nepal (video message), Spain, Peru (video message), Sudan, Czech Republic, Denmark, Nigeria and Slovakia.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights impact of the COVID-19 pandemic started on Monday, 14 September, and a summary can be found here.

Speaking were Georgia, Syria, United Kingdom, South Sudan, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Tunisia, Myanmar (video message), Nauru (video message), Cambodia, Kenya, United Nations Development Programme (video message), Tanzania, France, Guyana, Gabon and Pakistan.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor : Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, International Catholic Child Bureau, Penal Reform International (video message), FIAN International (video message), Peace Brigades International Switzerland, Minority Rights Group, Amnesty International, Friends World Committee for Consultation, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Reporters Without Borders International (video message), and Institute for NGO Research (video message).

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council's forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

At 3 p.m., the Council will conclude its general debate on the High Commissioner's global human rights update and will then hold an interactive dialogue on the report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights impact of the COVID-19 pandemic started on Monday, 14 September, and a summary can be found here.


Speakers requested debt relief and urged global solidarity to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategies that did not respect human rights could not effectively tackle the COVID-19 crisis. Some speakers called for additional efforts to counter child labour, the recruitment of child soldiers and other harmful practices that had increased because of the pandemic. If adequate measures were not taken, efforts to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda could be set back. Some speakers called on Member States to work towards the drafting and adoption of an international convention on the rights of older persons. Speakers underscored the crucial role played by national human rights institutions in the current context. In addition to addressing human rights violations suffered by people in detention during the pandemic, the Council should look to longer-term systemic reforms to address the global prison crisis which left the 11 million people detained globally so vulnerable in the first place. Minorities and indigenous peoples were not only at greater risk of contracting the virus, but also faced higher mortality rates once infected ; factors causing such vulnerability must be addressed. Speakers asked panellists what could be done to ensure equitable access to protective equipment for all frontline workers globally.

Concluding Remarks

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in concluding remarks, said the COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare the inequalities between countries and in countries, as well as multiple intersecting forms of discrimination. Stressing the need to "build back better", she flagged the risks associated with the diversion of funds from the prevention and treatment of other diseases such as malaria and sexual and reproductive health services.

MARTHA E. NEWTON, Deputy Director-General for Policy at the International Labour Organization, concluded by saying that, while the virus did not discriminate, its impact on people in vulnerable situations was greater. The gaps in social protection must be addressed, notably for people in marginalized groups.

MIKE RYAN, Executive Director of the World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme, said the pandemic had contributed to mental health problems across populations, a problem which had been compounded by the interruption of physical and mental health services in many countries. The World Health Organization was committed to a human rights-based approach to combatting COVID-19.

General Debate on the High Commissioner's Global Human Rights Update and her Updates on Nicaragua and Venezuela

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her global human rights update and her updates on Nicaragua and Venezuela on Monday, 14 September, and a summary can be found here.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Nicaragua, speaking as a concerned country, regretted that Ms. Bachelet's reports were politicized. The reports were based on sources exclusively opposed to the Government. Nicaragua condemned any attempt to interfere in its internal affairs as well as unilateral coercive measures targeting certain countries that affected the right to development and human rights of their peoples. Nicaragua recalled that last June, 23 of the 47 Council Member States did not support the resolution concerning Nicaragua.

Venezuela, speaking as a concerned country, said the Government of Donald Trump had increased its siege of Venezuela by imposing new unilateral coercive measures that were causing death and suffering to the Venezuelan people. Venezuela appreciated that the High Commissioner had recognized the negative impact of these measures on the enjoyment of human rights. The High Commissioner's presentation demonstrated the progress of the cooperation and technical assistance relations between her Office and the Venezuelan Government.

General Debate

Lamenting the lack of progress in Nicaragua on the human rights front, some speakers urged the Nicaraguan Government to ensure free elections in 2021 and genuinely cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Others expressed support for the current Government, noting that it had strengthened peace and democracy. On Venezuela, speakers noted with concern the continued erosion of democratic principles and institutions. About Lebanon, speakers called for an independent investigation into the explosion to ensure accountability. Regarding the financial situation of the United Nations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the lack of resources for the implementation of mandates already granted by this Council was concerning as it could lead to setbacks in the protection of human rights worldwide. Payment of assessments by Member States should be made on time, especially by those who had the wherewithal to do so easily. Some speakers recalled that in discharging her mandate, the High Commissioner had the responsibility to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic jurisdiction of States. Condemning the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, speakers called for an impartial investigation. Several speakers urged the abolition of the death penalty. Noting that recent developments in Belarus were alarming, speakers expressed full support for the call for an urgent debate on the situation in that country.

Human rights issues in or concerning the following countries and areas were also raised : Mali, Chad, Comoros, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Tanzania, Viet Nam, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Bangladesh, occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Afghanistan, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Russian Federation, Iraq, Burundi, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Ukraine, Hong Kong, China and Turkey.

Some countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, Afghanistan, Burundi, Libya, India, Sudan and Nepal, talked about their own human rights situations, explaining for instance how they have addressed past and current human rights issues.


For use of the information media; not an official record

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