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Letter from the Chairs of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies in relation to the preparation of the Ministerial Declaration of the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council and the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development

22 April 2021

Excellencies,

I write to you in my capacity as Chair of the Chairs of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies and in relation to the preparation of the Ministerial Declaration of the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council and the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development.

It is with pleasure that I forward the contribution of the Chairs of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies to the 2021 HLPF. I trust that this contribution will help demonstrate the ongoing work of the Treaty Bodies in support of the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda as well as its relevance to the discussions on the Ministerial Declaration of the High-Level Segment you are leading at present.

I have had the opportunity to review the draft outline of the Ministerial Declaration you have circulated, which highlights many important issues of concern to the Treaty Bodies. With a view to building on the Chairs' contribution to the HLPF and in the hope of assisting with your task of preparing the Ministerial Declaration, I would like to take this opportunity to provide some suggestions on the outline.

I welcome the reaffirmation of the 2030 Agenda principles, especially leaving no one behind, and I encourage particular attention to this in the Ministerial Declaration. The COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impact has resulted in millions more people being pushed into poverty, exacerbating the situation of those people left behind prior to the pandemic and exposing others to the threat of being left behind. Because of pre-existing gender inequalities, deep-rooted discrimination and feminized poverty, the multifaceted consequences of the current crisis have impacted women disproportionately, while at the same time placing increased responsibilities on women's shoulders inclusive of care of children, the elderly and sick family members.

It would therefore be important that the Ministerial Declaration recognize the imperative of identifying the most vulnerable and marginalized people, including through investing in disaggregated data collection, and prioritizing their needs in response and recovery plans through tailored interventions. In identifying the most vulnerable and marginalized, specific emphasis should be placed on women, particularly those who have experienced multiple and compounded forms of discrimination while on the front lines of responses, at home, in the health workforce and in various sectors of production This will undoubtedly help immeasurably to respect the principle of leaving no one behind as we combat the pandemic and advance on achieving the SDGs, inclusive of SDG 5 on gender equality.

H.E. Jukka Salovaara
Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations

H.E. Mohammed Hussein Bahr Aluloom
Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations

In addition, I would like to encourage a strong focus on financing and international cooperation to support recovery plans. International human rights treaties recognize an obligation on States to use the maximum available resources, individually and through international cooperation, to guarantee at least the minimum obligations related to rights such as health, housing, social security, food, work and education. This requires moving away from austerity measures and building momentum to promote budgeting, financing and macroeconomic policies that expand social security and social services and prioritize those furthest behind, supported by national and international action and solidarity.

Further, a reference to the safeguarding and expansion of civil space in the Ministerial Declaration would be welcomed by many. Important to the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 17, participation of civil society, concerned communities, the private sector, national human rights institutions and other relevant stakeholders is also a core element in ensuring a sustainable and inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery. In this regard, I would like to highlight the role of civil society as a partner in COVID-19 response and recovery. Civil society help to give voice to those left behind, build bridges to communities, provide alternatives views and visions for response and recovery and help ensure accountability of decision-makers. They are indispensable partners in aiding and empowering those most in need.

The COVID-19 response has led to the restriction on certain human rights and freedoms in order to pursue the legitimate aim of protecting public health. While public health restrictions on certain rights and freedoms are permissible, they are subject to strict limitations under human rights treaties. In this context, the Ministerial Declaration could encourage a continuous and ongoing review of any public health restrictions on rights and freedoms to ensure they are proportional and still necessary to meet their public health objectives.

Finally, the draft outline refers to human rights as a cross-cutting issue, which I welcome and encourage its inclusion and elaboration in the Minister Declaration. In this vein, and as referred to in the Chairs' Statement to the HLPF, I reiterate our commitment that the Treaty Bodies will continue their work as partners in realizing the 2030 Agenda, including through monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related State practices and developing advice, guidance and recommendations to assist States and other actors to address the pandemic and its consequences.

I thank you for your consideration of these issues as you develop the Ministerial Declaration and stand ready to assist as you proceed with negotiations on a zero draft. I wish you every success in your important endeavours as Co-Facilitators of this process.

Please accept, Excellencies, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Luis Ernesto Pedernera Reyna (Mr.)
Chair of the Meeting of Human Rights Treaty Body Chairs
Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child