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Human Rights Council Concludes High-level Segment and Holds General Segment

24 February 2021
MORNING

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its high-level segment, hearing addresses from 26 dignitaries who talked about the wide-ranging repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, national efforts to promote and protect human rights, and violations of human rights in countries around the world.  The Council also held its general segment.

Speakers said that fair and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine and resources was important at the global level.  Unacceptable pressures exerted to limit the most fundamental of freedoms, sometimes under the pretext of responding to the pandemic, were regrettable - especially on civil society, human rights defenders, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex defenders, journalists and media workers.  All States were urged to adhere to the Paris Agreement goal to keep temperature increase under 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was why the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change was so important.

The following dignitaries took the floor: Ekaterina Zaharieva, Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Titus Songiso Mvalo, Minister of Justice of Malawi, Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Nikos Dendias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Anthony J.  Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, Darren Allan Henfield, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Yvonne Dausab, Minister of Justice of Namibia, Aimée Gbakrehonon Zebeyoux, Secretary of State to the Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, in charge of human rights of Côte d’Ivoire, Marc Garneau, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, Zeyni Moulaye Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, Erlyne Antonela Ndembet Damas, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals in charge of human rights of Gabon, Casten N.  Nea, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Marshall Islands, and Lejeune Mbella Mbella,  Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon.

Also speaking were Mohamed T. H. Siala, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Libya, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for European and Foreign Affairs of France, Luigi Di Maio, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, Menardo I.  Guevarra, Minister of Justice of the Philippines, Ali Bagheri Kani, Deputy of International Affairs of the Judiciary of Iran and Secretary of the High Council for Human Rights of Iran, Ana Luisa Castro, Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Jan Beagle, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization, Meg Taylor, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Joel Hernández, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Interparliamentary Union.

Speaking in the general segment were Sudan, Somalia, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Botswana, Mozambique, Israel, Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions took the floor, as did four speakers representing civil society organizations also took the floor.

Speaking in right of reply were Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Armenia, India, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, Japan, United Kingdom, Cuba, Iran, Colombia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Mauritius and Saudi Arabia.

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-sixth regular session can be found here.

The Council will next hear the presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory, followed by an interactive dialogue.

High-level Segment

EKATERINA ZAHARIEVA, Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, welcomed the United States’ re-engagement with the Council, noting that the respect for human rights must remain at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic response.  Bulgaria had a tradition of fighting racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and for a second year in a row, the authorities had prevented a procession of neo-Nazis known as Loukov March.  Bulgaria had a long-standing tradition in gender equality, joining several leading international initiatives against gender-based violence.  Working as part of a United Nations group to include the rights of the child in all aspects of the 2030 Agenda, Bulgaria encouraged further extensive work in this area.  Bulgaria remained actively engaged in the Universal Periodic Review, and Ms. Zaharieva was looking forward to the successful adoption of Bulgaria’s report. 

DEMEKE MEKONNEN HASSEN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, noted that Ethiopia faced daunting challenges of political transition, such as the deliberate efforts aimed at attacking the reform process.  Spearheaded by the Tigray People's Liberation Front, this campaign had culminated in an attack on the northern Tigray region.  The Ethiopian Government had been left with no option but to take legitimate measures to restore law and order, as well as delivering humanitarian assistance.  The humanitarian response effort was admittedly fraught with many challenges, but the situation was improving.  Sensationalised reporting by some media was by no means a reflection of the reality on the ground.  As a host country to hundreds of thousands of refugees, Ethiopia took its responsibility to them very seriously.  Mr. Hassen thanked the Council and the High Commissioner for their support and understanding of Ethiopia’s situation. 

TITUS SONGISO MVALO, Minister of Justice of Malawi, reiterated that the COVID-19 pandemic had spared no people, no nation and no continent, and was a gruesome reminder that all were indeed human beings with common frailties.  Fair and equitable access to the vaccine and resources would be important at the global level.  Malawi was reviewing several policy recommendations as a result of the effects of the pandemic, including the need to enhance interventions towards social protection programmes and other fiscal bailouts.  Given the United Nations’ seventy-fifth anniversary, Mr. Mvalo reminded that traces of imperialism or colonialism should not be prevalent today in any shape or form.  Malawi was actively engaging with the human rights system, submitting its eighth periodic report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  Malawi’s third cycle at the Universal Periodic Review would be adopted later in this session.

SIMON COVENEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, emphasised that it was important to acknowledge the catastrophic loss of life due to the pandemic, while remaining hopeful due to the development of vaccines.  Unacceptable pressures exerted to limit the most fundamental of freedoms, sometimes under the pretext of responding to the pandemic, were regrettable - especially on civil society, human rights defenders, lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex defenders, journalists and media workers.  Moreover, the Irish people were deeply troubled by moves to reject or interfere with the results of democratic elections, such as the coup in Myanmar and the situation in Belarus.  The levels of suffering being endured by the people of Syria and Yemen were shameful.  Recent events in Ethiopia had also caused grave concern, while Ireland remained a steadfast and vocal supporter of the Middle East peace process and the two-State solution.

SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, emphasised that Russia’s return as a full member of the Council was a confirmation of its key role in multilateral cooperation.  Despite the pandemic, however, some Western colleagues were unwilling to reconsider their self-serving methods.  The calls to suspend unilateral sanctions on Russia by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner continued to be ignored.  Mr. Lavrov expressed concern over the use of teenagers and children for political purposes by pseudo-democratic activists.  Recent closures of Russian-language television channels in Ukraine and the Baltic States were examples of political censorship.  Since September 2020, Ukraine had begun pushing out minority languages from the public and educational spheres.  Mr. Lavrov was convinced that the Council did not need radical reform, but its functioning was not ideal, and Russia had serious complaints about its work.

NIKOS DENDIAS, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, said that any restrictions aimed at curbing freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic should to be implemented in a limited and non-discriminatory way.  The human rights situations in Libya, Syria and Myanmar required constant attention by the Council.  Greece maintained a standing invitation to all Human Rights Council Special Procedures.  Greece would undergo its third Universal Periodic Review this year, and the Government was proud of its progress in implementing policies to assist people with disabilities, women and children in particular.  During the pandemic, Greece had had to cope with continuous mixed migratory flows and had put first the most vulnerable, despite systematic attempts by State actors to instrumentalize human suffering.  The Hellenic Coastguard had rescued over 319,000 migrants and refugees between 2015 and 2020.  Cultural rights were of particular importance to Greece.  The Agia Sofia monument had been converted to a mosque and Greece joined others in asking for its reconversion to its previous status.

ANTHONY BLINKEN, Secretary of State of the United States, said the United States was honoured to re-engage with the Human Rights Council and other important international organizations.  The United States was committed to defend the human rights of all people everywhere, as it was making democracy and human rights central to its foreign policy.  The Council played a meaningful role in protecting fundamental freedoms by documenting atrocities and holding wrongdoers accountable, though the United States regretted its disproportionate focus on Israel.  Any pledge to fight for human rights around the world must begin with a pledge to defend them at home, and as such President Biden was preparing policies to help people of colour in the United States.  While reforming domestically, the United States would continue to challenge abuses in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran, Russia, China and “Burma”. 

DARREN ALLAN HENFIELD, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, said that as an archipelagic nation vulnerable to hurricanes and natural disasters, the Bahamas was no stranger to storms.  The global COVID-19 pandemic had proved to be a storm of an entirely different category.  In response, the Government had expanded social security programmes by over $177 million, bridged the digital divide in education, and strengthened food and nutrition security.  At the regional level, States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were working collectively on health, food and transport policies.  Caribbean economies had amongst the highest debt ratios in the world.  As a result of the pandemic, and in order to build back better, they needed more equitable international aid financing.  Given the current economic climate, he reiterated the need for the Council to have adequate financing to conduct its work, though it must also demonstrate value for money given Member States’ own financial constraints and increased welfare spending. 

YVONNE DAUSAB, Minister of Justice of Namibia, was grateful for the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Member States for maintaining their commitment to the realization of all human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, and reiterated the call for equitable regional representation in the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Twenty years after the Durban Declaration, progress had been made, but shortcomings remained.  Namibia was vulnerable to climate change and called on Member States to embed climate change considerations in their policies and laws, as efforts to promote and protect human rights would be futile in an inhospitable climate.  There should also be greater commitment to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.  Namibia was concerned about high rates of gender-based violence, and regretted the slow progress in global efforts to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and persons with albinism.

AIMEE GBAKREHONON ZEBEYOUX, Secretary of State to the Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, in charge of human rights of Côte d’Ivoire, reaffirmed the commitment of Côte d’Ivoire to the Council, and to implementing the recommendations from the third cycle of its Universal Periodic Review.  Among these was the adoption of a new penal code which took into account crimes contained in the International Criminal Court statute.  Furthermore, Côte d’Ivoire had deployed a contingent of blue helmets to Mali in order to re-establish peace in that country, a prerequisite for human rights.  Côte d’Ivoire had suffered from COVID-19 as a health crisis, but also as a human rights crisis, with the right to life, health, and education impacted.  Given this, the recovery policies were targeted at helping the most vulnerable people in the country.  Côte d’Ivoire deplored certain human rights violations resulting from the acts of violence which had punctuated the election process in 2020.  Legal proceedings were underway against the perpetrators, and a dialogue led by the Prime Minister had successfully calmed the situation.

MARC GARNEAU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, said that having adopted a feminist foreign policy, Canada believed gender equality must guide efforts to revitalize international institutions.  Canada was concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka.  The crimes against humanity in Venezuela, which were detailed in the recent report of the Fact-Finding Mission, were extremely troubling.  Canada was concerned about ongoing reports of human rights abuses in Iran.  It called on China to halt the crackdown on human rights affecting Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.  Canada condemned a recent coup in Myanmar.  Canada called for media freedom.  Those responsible for undermining democracy and for violating human rights in Belarus must be held accountable.  From the Black Lives Matter Movement, to the campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex rights, human rights defenders and all those advocating for justice were inspiring.

ZEYNI MOULAYE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, stressed that in August 2020, Mali had undergone an institutional change that had paved the way for a political transition led by President Bah N’daw.  This change had not in any way affected Mali’s deep attachment to human rights.  There were all sorts of obstacles facing Mali in human rights protection, and it needed support to combat terrorism and address the health crisis.  The multidimensional crisis since 2012 had been affecting the human rights situation.  The Transitional Government reiterated its will to implement the agreement for peace and reconciliation in Mali, which resulted from the Algiers process, as well as the conclusions of the inclusive national dialogue and national coordination.  The Government was undertaking measures to build bridges and to foster dialogue between the different communities.  Mali appreciated the support of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission.

ERLYNE ANTONELA NDEMBET DAMAS, Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals, in charge of human rights of Gabon, said that this session was being held against a particularly difficult backdrop of the current COVID-19 crisis.  Gabon believed that the Council membership would provide the State with more influence in the human rights protection arena and the African Group States were thanked for their support of Gabon’s candidacy.  Recommendations made to Gabon in the Universal Periodic Review were being implemented, particularly those focusing on the protection of vulnerable groups, especially women, children and detainees, and the provision of better health protection.  Initiatives in detainee centres for minors were being implemented together with the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  Gender equality had been made a priority last year to promote the true empowerment of women. 

CASTEN N. NEA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Marshall Islands, noted that the Marshall Islands were bringing to the Council a perspective that securing human rights meant making sure that the smallest States and those with the least resources had the same rights as those with more.  As a low-lying atoll nation, they were the first to submit an enhanced nationally determined contribution and long-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  They were a leader in setting the standard for a green recovery, committing, along with members of the High Ambition Coalition, to allocate at least 60 per cent of recovery spending on green and climate-friendly initiatives.  All States should adhere to the Paris Agreement goal to keep temperature increase under 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was why the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change was so important.

LEJEUNE MBELLA MBELLA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, stressed that peace and the promotion of human rights were a cornerstone of the domestic policy of Cameroon.  Despite the difficult times, Cameroon was working on its Sustainable Development Goals achievements, and developing cooperation with civil society organizations.  Experts in violence had tried to destabilize the country, attacks from Boko Haram had been occurring since 2015, and there was a worrying situation in neighbouring countries as well as secessionist attempts in the north-west and south-west.  Power had to be obtained through elections, not through obscure methods.  The President had expressed a good will for dialogue and a number of measures had been taken in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, addressing the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees.  The two regions had a special status and measures had been taken to restore the peaceful coexistence.

MOHAMED T.  H.  SIALA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Libya, thanked the High Commissioner’s Office, the United Nations Mission in Libya, and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to Libya for their support.  It was paramount to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice, and this was the primary goal of the Commission of Inquiry that Libya had requested; Mr. Siala said he was looking forward to the start of its operation.  The COVID-19 crisis had had a direct impact on human rights in Libya.  The right to public health as a pillar of human rights required the Council to promote justice and encourage fair distribution of vaccines around the world.  Libya’s stability depended on the stability of the entire region and vice versa - this increased stability would positively contribute to regional problems like cross-border crime.  The situation in Libya required great efforts in order to achieve the Berlin Conference goals, including ceasing interference in Libya’s internal affairs.   

JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, Minister for European and Foreign Affairs of France, drew the Council’s attention to the situations in Belarus, Russia, Xinjiang, Syria, Yemen and Myanmar.  These de facto regressions of democratic values, accompanied by a wave of questioning the universality of human rights, were worrying.  France was ready to work with all in the human rights protection system to respond to any criticisms addressed to it.  Gender equality and the rights of women and girls, the protection of human rights defenders, as well as fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of expression and opinion, were priorities for France.  Drawing the Council’s attention further to cross-cutting issues such as the promotion of the rule of law, Mr. Le Drian highlighted that they were often neglected.  France’s commitment against impunity remained steadfast, and the absence of sanctions on perpetrators sent a disastrous signal. 

LUIGI DI MAIO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, emphasised that actions needed to be collective.  The COVID-19 crisis had had a major impact on the most vulnerable people, placing them at risk of further abuses and discrimination.  No one must be left behind in the recovery efforts.  Persons with disabilities, children and women demonstrated strength despite the challenges - women’s empowerment was critical.  2021 was the year for the elimination of child labour, and the improvement of the rights of the child, especially in conflict and post-conflict situations, as this was important.  Italy called on Egypt to tackle cases of enforced disappearances, sought an end to terrible impunity in Libya, was concerned about grave human rights violations in Belarus and the shrinking civil space in Russia and Hong Kong, condemned the military coup in Myanmar, and noted that the situation in Yemen remained serious. 

MENARDO I.  GUEVARRA, Minister of Justice of the Philippines, noted that as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines had launched the largest emergency subsidy programme in its history to support vulnerable sectors.  The Philippines welcomed the adoption of Human Rights Council resolution 45/33 and engaged actively in the development of the technical cooperation programme referred to in the resolution.  Mr. Guevarra announced that a few activities that were part of this programme had already started.  The Philippines was standing firm on the President’s promise to protect the nation from illegal drugs, while ensuring its commitment to human rights and domestic accountability mechanisms, such as the newly created Inter-Agency Review Panel to review anti-illegal drug operations that had resulted in deaths.  Mr. Guevarra noted that the Philippines rejected any attempts by external entities to assume jurisdiction over its internal matters. 

ALI BAGHERI KANI, Deputy of International Affairs of the Judiciary of Iran and Secretary of the High Council for Human Rights of Iran, noted the high death toll in Iran due to terrorism, with 17,000 innocent people killed by the MKO terrorist group, which acted with impunity following its removal as a recognised terrorist group.  He also condemned the murder of General Qassem Soleimani by the United States, and the assassination of scientists involved in peaceful nuclear technology, including Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh by Israel.  Iran regretted the unlawful unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States, which simultaneously claimed to defend the rights of the Iranian people.  This was a country that equipped the dictator Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons, and was seeking to deprive the Iranian nation of its right to self-defense, even refusing to sell it basic medication.  He called on the Council to act free from any politicized approach.

ANA LUISA CASTRO, Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, said that Panama’s foreign policy was based on the promotion of multilateralism and the primacy of international law.  At the forty-fifth session of the Council, Panama, together with the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica and Nicaragua, had denounced the negative impact of discriminatory lists on the enjoyment of all human rights, and rejected the adoption of lists against any country during a pandemic, as this undermined the concept of solidarity.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights should re-examine this matter.  Panama noted the importance of using new technologies and platforms, especially in addressing the current digital divide in education.  Panama endorsed the Secretary-General’s call for a global ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems, and recognised the importance of fighting climate change as well as corruption globally. 

GILLIAN TRIGGS, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, regretted that at least 80 million people globally, the majority of whom were children, had been forcibly displaced due to conflicts, and were vulnerable to the effects of racist practices, hate speech and social isolation.  The United Nations Refugee Agency was well placed to observe the damaging effects of racism given its 500 or so emergency operations in the field.  By the end of January 2021, 46 operations throughout the world had reported incidents of discrimination, stigmatization or xenophobia.  It was clear that under the veil of COVID-19, xenophobia, racism, and stigmatization were on the rise, marginalising vulnerable people.  The United Nations Refugee Agency regretted that many nations had closed their borders completely to asylum seekers in the name of public health.  It hoped to support countries with its Guidance on Racism and Xenophobia, a guide for best practices.

JAN BEAGLE, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization, noted that well before the COVID-19 pandemic, a global backlash had been underway against the rule of law and multilateralism.  COVID-19 was now exacerbating this.  However, this need not be the case.  Around the world, the International Development Law Organization was focusing on three priority areas: helping countries to strengthen their legal and policy frameworks to better manage their COVID response, whilst upholding their human rights requirements; mitigating the impact of the pandemic on justice systems and justice seekers, and continuing to advocate for the urgent need to adhere to the rule of law.  The link between the rule of law, human rights, good governance and sustainable development was incontrovertible. 

MEG TAYLOR, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, said the three priorities of the 18 Member States of the Forum were the response to the COVID-19 crisis, climate change, and human rights in West Papua.  Although Pacific countries had registered relatively low levels of infection of COVID-19 across the region, the socio-economic impact had been devastating, resulting in plummeting of incomes and rising poverty and malnutrition.  Gender-based violence, which was already prevalent in the region, was on the rise.  A Pacific resilience facility was in place to provide assistance.  Forum leaders called for the affordable distribution of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines and support in building health infrastructure.  Sea levels were rising, oceans were warming, and category 5 cyclones were striking, resulting in new displacements.  The Council was called on again to establish a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.  Human rights abuses in West Papua were a standing item in the Pacific Islands Forum.  A Mission by the High Commissioner to West Papua should be sent.

JOEL HERNÁNDEZ, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said that one year after the declaration of the Pandemic, it was impossible not to comment on the scourge it represented and its impact on human rights.  The Commission had adopted two resolutions - on the pandemic and human rights in the Americas and on guidelines on the human rights of persons with COVID-19.  The Commission had registered a lack of human rights protection when it came to women, children, Afro-descendants, indigenous persons, human rights defenders and journalists.  In Cuba, the repression of activities and human rights defenders had been registered.  In Nicaragua, massive human rights violations and serious constitutional crises had been noted.  In Venezuela, the forced migration of over 5 million people and the militarization of people’s security was alarming.  Serious human rights violations had occurred in the context of social protests since 2019 in Peru, Haiti and Bolivia.

MARTIN CHUNGONG, Secretary-General of the Interparliamentary Union, said that rules of social distancing and confinement had disrupted day-to-day human interaction at its core.  This had been particularly true for parliaments.  Parliamentary vigilance and oversight of executive powers were all the more critical given the huge impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on human rights across the globe.  The spread of the virus and the official response had often exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities, putting already vulnerable communities further at risk.  Moreover, many countries had taken sweeping steps – even declared states of emergency – to fight the pandemic and protect their populations.  The Interparliamentary Union promoted robust parliamentary action to help ensure that national responses respected human rights.  In some countries Parliaments had been side lined, excluding parliamentary oversight.

General Segment

Sudan said it had undertaken some important steps in the promotion of human rights.  Last year, Sudan had signed an agreement with several armed groups and the Constitution had been adopted.  Last June, amendments had been introduced regarding the rights of women and children.  The death penalty for minors had been abolished.  Procedures for transitional justice were in place.  The Government was cooperating with the International Criminal Court.  However, there were many challenges impeding the overall progress, particularly in the area of the economy. 

Somalia noted that the Federal Government of Somalia was in the process of preparing for parliamentary elections and had set a quota of 30 per cent for women’s representation.  In 2021, Somalia would present its achievements, challenges and opportunities in following up on the 2016 Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  Somalia reaffirmed its commitment to work closely with this Council in upholding human rights values and in promoting the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Algeria said Algeria had taken a number of measures to greatly limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Constitutional amendments had received the full support of the people in November 2020, reaffirming Algeria as a country of law and order.  Despite the many attempts to eliminate the role of the United Nations in the region, Algeria continued to support political solutions, following the peace and reconciliation efforts in Mali.  Algeria supported the Palestinian people’s quest for their rights. 

United Arab Emirates said that as one of the main sponsors of the General Assembly resolution 75/200, the United Arab Emirates affirmed its determination to promote the principle of tolerance and renewed its support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.  The COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in exceptional circumstances, and the United Arab Emirates had taken a number of preventive measures, including a national campaign of vaccination providing 5 million vaccines in record time, while also providing vaccines to some of the poorest countries in the world. 

Botswana assured the President of Botswana’s support as a fellow small nation.  The human rights situation in the world was of serious concern, as proven by the very recent events in Myanmar.  As a result, States must show collective enthusiasm to fulfil the tasks of the Council.  Human rights were universal and the Council was in a unique position to contribute to the 2030 Agenda.  Before the pandemic, the progress in the implementation of the Agenda had been encouraging, but it had been reversed because of COVID-19. 

Mozambique noted that the human rights situation in Mozambique showed substantial improvements despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The majority of African countries, including Mozambique, expected to receive the first doses of the vaccines next month.  Climate change continued to interfere with the enjoyment of human rights in Mozambique.  The country was looking forward to its participation in the Universal Periodic Review.

Israel noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups, and Israel would continue to work with others to address these challenges.  Wings of peace in the region were being felt after the signing of the Abraham accords between Israel and its neighbours.  Israel called on all States to refrain from participating in agenda item 7, and despite this bias it would continue working with the Council. 

Cambodia had successfully handled the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer than 600 confirmed cases, zero deaths, and no lockdown, due to good governance and a rapid health response.  Support for the disadvantaged and vulnerable remained a priority, with Cambodia introducing several rounds of social protection interventions to ensure that no one was left behind.  The Government had donated more than 7 million masks and medical equipment to several countries in the region.  Cambodia was proud to be hosting the thirteenth Asia-Europe Meeting on 1 and 2 June 2021. 

Lao People’s Democratic Republic stated that the promotion and protection of human rights was at the heart of policies of the Government.  Lao People’s Democratic Republic had recently completed its third cycle at the Universal Periodic Review and 160 out of 226 recommendations had been supported.  The Government of Lao People’s Democratic Republic was committed to eradicate violence and discrimination against women, children and persons with disabilities.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions reaffirmed that at their annual conference, held in December 2020, national human rights institutions from across all regions had called on States to uphold their human rights obligations in the context of climate change.  National human rights institutions had set out a practical set of strategies on how they could apply these, including providing advice to States, supporting victims of climate justice, and engaging with businesses on their roles and responsibilities. 

Civil Society Representative regretted that the majority of the global gender measures related to discrimination against woman.  Connectivity and privacy of communication were increasingly relevant issues for discussion, and necessary for the protection of human rights.  Self-defence courses were successful for building women’s self-confidence and should be provided as a public service.  Women’s equal participation in society should be fully guaranteed and established. 

Civil Society Representative regretted that arbitrary age-based measures were denying older persons access to health and social care.  Older women and women with disabilities were particularly at risk, and ageism had led to the denial of treatment for older care home residents.  These responses must be recognised as human rights abuses.  States were urged to take steps to eliminate ageism in all its forms. 

Civil Society Representative said that global democracy faced many challenges.  Widespread conflicts, corruption and weak institutions were major obstacles.  The spread of COVID-19 had exacerbated the crisis, while governments had used their power to deny information and data to their people.  In Iraq, the situation was extremely worrying with corruption, torture and other human rights violations commonplace.  More than 700 protestors in Iraq had been killed by the State and these acts remained unpunished. 

Civil Society Representative said that the digital world could be empowering but also a source of inequality.  Parents were a cornerstone for protecting children’s rights in the digital environment; they had to be empowered and offered resources to improve their digital skills.  Many parents complained that small children could not attend classes at home without their help, provoking stress.  Some children had dropped out of schools due to distance learning during the pandemic.

At the end of the meeting, Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Armenia, India, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, Japan, United Kingdom, Cuba, Iran, Colombia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Mauritius and Saudi Arabia spoke in right of reply.


Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/02/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-acheve-son-debat-de-haut-niveau

 

 

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For use of the information media; not an official record