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Human Rights Council discusses right to education, human rights of internally displaced persons, and protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

MORNING

25 June 2021

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded a dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, held a discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, and started a debate with the Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, speakers underlined the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the right to education, outlining a number of national programmes that sought to counter this trend, which was in particular greatly affecting developing countries.  Welcoming the focus on the cultural perspective on education of this report, speakers emphasised that balanced and inclusive education represented a fundamental goal. 

Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, in concluding remarks, stressed that cultural diversity required involving all spheres of society; accordingly, good governance practices were needed, and teachers, children and parents must enjoy sufficient autonomy.  Agreeing with speakers that digitalisation was an important issue, she announced that her next report would focus on this matter.

Speaking were Croatia, Mauritania, Djibouti, Holy See, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Yemen, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Gabon, Malawi, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Cambodia, and Mauritius.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Direitos Humanos - IDDH, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL), Rutgers, Association apprentissage sans frontieres, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Edmund Rice International Limited.

The Council then held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said that strong tenure and urban governance systems were required to prevent or mitigate the effects of displacement, including through strengthening laws, policies and institutions to improve secure access to land, adequate disaster resilient housing, and protection against forced evictions.  The report cited examples of protective measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic such as moratoriums on evictions and utility cut-offs.  In post-conflict situations, peace negotiators should systematically include housing, land and property issues in all negotiations, peace agreements and transitional justice arrangements, she added. 

Speakers welcomed the report’s focus on housing, land and property rights, noting that they were crucial for ensuring durable solutions for internally displaced persons and preventing further displacement.  The sharp increase in the number of persons living in internal displacement was a matter of grave concern for speakers, who also noted that a gender component in addressing this issue was fundamental.  The pandemic had made efforts to protect the internally displaced much more challenging across the world. 

Speaking were European Union, Norway on behalf of a group of countries, Indonesia, Libya, Sovereign Order of Malta, Fiji, Senegal, Iraq, Armenia, Togo, Syria, Burkina Faso, China, Morocco, Algeria, Venezuela, United States, Egypt, Malaysia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Georgia, Mali, Chad, Djibouti, Russian Federation, Philippines, Serbia, Ukraine, Yemen, International Development Law Organization, Marshall Islands, Tunisia, Malawi, Cambodia, Vanuatu, Cyprus, Japan, Cameroon, Colombia, and South Sudan.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Franciscans International, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Iraqi Development Organization, Action of Human Movement, Le Pont, Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, iuventum e.V., The International Organisation for LDCs, and Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, and Asociación Civil.

The Council also began an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said his report on “The Law of Inclusion” constituted a study of international human rights law and concluded that gender, gender identity and gender expression had been incorporated under that framework.  Gender was a social construct deeply embedded in society as a basis for making decisions on social, economic and political inclusion and participation on the one hand, and exclusion and marginalisation on the other.  For the very few, gender would contribute to the creation of experiences of privilege; for most it would lead to experiences of discrimination and violence.  Reiterating that the right to self-determine one’s gender was a fundamental part of a person’s freedom and a cornerstone of the person’s identity, the Special Rapporteur stated that it was the obligation of States to provide access to gender recognition. 

Speakers said embedded norms and stereotypes were often combined with a lack of legal protections and safeguards leading to violence against and discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  Speakers agreed that gender was not necessarily perceived and experienced as a binary, and gender identity and expression did not always correlate with biological sex.  More and more reactionary groups were manifesting themselves in public spaces, however, which was why enabling safe spaces for civil society to work on this issue was more important than ever.  Diversity was an asset to every society and should not be the cause of hate. 

Speaking were: Slovenia on behalf of a group of countries, Costa Rica on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Argentina on behalf of a group of countries, Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, Uruguay on behalf of a group of countries, Luxembourg on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, Liechtenstein, Israel, Canada, France, Czech Republic, Portugal, Australia, Cuba, Spain, Germany, Montenegro, Malta, and Italy.

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-seventh regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education

The interactive dialogue with Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, started on 24 June and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Speakers underlined the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the right to education, outlining a number of national programmes that sought to counter this trend, which was in particular greatly affecting developing countries.  Welcoming the report’s focus on the cultural perspective on education, speakers emphasised that balanced and inclusive education represented a fundamental goal.  Some speakers took issue with the Special Rapporteur’s methodology, which they considered to be marked by selectivity.  It was unacceptable when education systems were used exclusively for minorities.  Speakers noted that the quality of education was another important factor that must be considered, highlighting that inclusivity and diversity were fundamental values infused into many of their education systems. Multiple speakers brought up the importance of including sign language to ensure these values were fully implemented. 

Concluding Remarks

KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, stressed that cultural diversity went beyond merely teaching a minority group’s literature or including its art in curricula.  It required involving all spheres of society; accordingly, good governance practices were needed, and teachers, children and parents must enjoy sufficient autonomy.  Agreeing with speakers that digitalisation was an important issue, she announced that her next report would focus on this matter.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

The Council has before it the report (A/HRC/47/37) of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on housing, land and property in the context of internal displacement

Presentation of Report

CECILIA JIMENEZ-DAMARY, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said her thematic report was dedicated to housing, land and property issues in the context of internal displacement.  The critical importance, and potential benefit for States, of addressing housing, land and property issues became apparent when they were understood as causal factors of internal displacement, issues which arose as consequence of displacement, and which posed significant barriers to achieving durable solutions.  While all internally displaced persons could generally be considered vulnerable in terms of their housing, land and property rights, women, indigenous peoples and pastoralists faced specific challenges, notably in relation to security of tenure, land use, land ownership and inheritance.  The multiple dimensions of housing, land and property underlined the necessity for a multisectoral approach that engaged internally displaced persons and other displacement-affected communities and took into consideration the differential impact of these issues on specific groups. 

The Special Rapporteur added that strong tenure and urban governance systems were required to prevent or mitigate the effects of displacement, including through strengthening laws, policies and institutions to improve secure access to land; adequate disaster resilient housing; and protection against forced evictions.  The report cited examples of protective measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic such as moratoriums on evictions and utility cut-offs, subsidies for tenants and landlords, as well as other measures to avoid disputes ranging from agreements; provision of legal aid services; documentation of housing, land and property rights; and use of land tools in the development context to improve land information systems. In post-conflict situations, peace negotiators should systematically include housing, land and property issues in all negotiations, peace agreements and transitional justice arrangements, she added. 

In closing, Ms. Jimenez-Damary said her intention for this report was for Member States to examine housing and land property issues in internal displacement with an understanding of human rights concerns related to the safety, living conditions, health, livelihoods and long-term prospects for internally displaced persons, and with a view on engaging humanitarian, development, peace and climate actors to devise cohesive responses that included preventive, responsive and solutions-focused measures.

Discussion

Speakers welcomed the report’s focus on housing, land and property rights, noting that they were crucial for ensuring durable solutions for internally displaced persons and preventing further displacement.  The sharp increase in the number of persons living in internal displacement was a matter of grave concern for speakers, who also noted that a gender component in addressing this issue was fundamental.  The pandemic had made efforts to protect the internally displaced much more challenging across the world.  Speakers welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s analysis of how rising sea levels and climate change induced displacement, threatening the very existence of small island developing States.  Under the guise of democracy, some countries had initiated armed conflict and unilateral coercive measures in various parts of the world, resulting in the displacement of a large number of innocent civilians.  The recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Internally Displaced Persons were welcomed by other speakers, who called on the international community to pay more attention to this issue.

Interim Remarks

CECILIA JIMENEZ-DAMARY, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, stressed the importance of considering the root causes of internal displacement, many of which were related to human rights deprivations, notably as regards housing, land and property rights.  Women could experience a differential impact in that regard, due to gender issues.  Specific legal, social and cultural barriers to their enjoyment of housing, land and property rights must be identified and adequately addressed.  Such rights should be upheld regardless of the civil, marital or relationship status of women.  Climate change was a relevant lens to consider internal displacement, including in various contexts of armed conflict and human rights violations.  In that regard, the inclusion of the people affected was crucial; their voices must be raised and their own assessment considered carefully.

Discussion

Speakers agreed that long-term solutions were needed to address internal displacement but warned that any external interference was unacceptable.  The effects of forced displacement on livelihoods and children’s access to education was underscored by speakers.  Noting that, often, international displacements were not properly accounted for, speakers said this made a full assessment of this phenomenon difficult and urged States to remedy this issue.  They denounced military operations - including the systemic targeting of internally displaced persons camps, and the use of the internally displaced persons as human shields - forced displacement campaigns, policies of falsification of real estate records, and terrorist activities leading to forced displacement in several regions in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Eastern and Southern Europe, and South East Asia.

Concluding Remarks

CECILIA JIMENEZ-DAMARY, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, thanked the speakers for their comments and the concerted effort to pay attention to the housing, land and property rights of internally displaced persons around the world.  Regarding climate change, it was important to be able to use the loss and damage mechanism provided by the international community.  Ms. Jimenez-Damary concluded by thanking all stakeholders who continued to provide support in the implementation of her mandate.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Report

The Council has before it the report (A/HRC/47/27) of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the law of inclusion

Presentation of Report

VICTOR MADRIGAL-BORLOZ, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, urged the dismantling of the use of criminal legislation to persecute sexual orientation and gender identity.  There were still 69 countries that, without any plausible justification under international human rights law, still made criminals of their siblings because of who they were or who they loved. 

Turning to his report on “The Law of Inclusion”, he said it constituted a study of international human rights law and concluded that gender, gender identity and gender expression had been incorporated under that framework.  Gender was a social construct deeply embedded in society as a basis for making decisions on social, economic and political inclusion and participation on the one hand, and exclusion and marginalisation on the other.  For the very few, gender would contribute to the creation of experiences of privilege; for most it would lead to experiences of discrimination and violence.  That was often the case for women and persons whose gender identity did not fit squarely within the male/female binary or fit within it in a manner that did not correspond to the preconceptions attached to the sex assigned at birth.

Having gathered and systematised significant evidence about harrowing levels of violence against women, men and gender diverse persons, the Special Rapporteur had concluded that like other forms of gender-based violence, these stemmed from gender norms and stereotypes which were enforced by unequal power dynamics, and were further aggravated when they intersected with other structural inequalities resulting in poverty, homelessness and lack of job opportunities, for example.  Since it traversed the lives of all individuals who lived in gendered societies, the study of gender and gender theory was a powerful tool to address the oppression of female or non-normative identities and transform systems of violent masculinity.  One of the conclusions of his research was that the fight to live free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and the feminist struggle were deeply intertwined.  Reiterating that the right to self-determine one’s gender was a fundamental part of a person’s freedom and a cornerstone of the person’s identity, the Special Rapporteur stated that it was the obligation of States to provide access to gender recognition. 

Discussion

Speakers thanked the Independent Expert for his report, noting that despite efforts to achieve concrete progress, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons continued to face discrimination around the world.  The work on sexual orientation and gender identity did not challenge the human rights of women.  It was important to fight the criminalisation of same sex relationships worldwide - everyone should be free to be who they were and able to love who they chose.  Embedded norms and stereotypes were often combined with a lack of legal protections and safeguards leading to violence against and discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  Speakers agreed that gender was not necessarily perceived and experienced as a binary, and gender identity and expression did not always correlate with biological sex.  More and more reactionary groups were manifesting themselves in public spaces, however, which was why enabling safe spaces for civil society to work on this issue was more important than ever.  Diversity was an asset to every society and should not be the cause of hate. 

Some speakers said that the association of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons with the crime of paedophilia in new legislative measures adopted in some States was unacceptable.  Some noted that gender was an intersectional, multi-layered concept that could change over a person’s lifetime.  Many speakers were impressed with the highly valuable work conducted by the Independent Expert, commending the quality of his report and reiterating their full support for his mandate.  The linking of the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity with intersectional feminism was particularly appreciated by speakers.  Many examples of mainstreaming of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex policies in national legislation were provided by speakers who also referred to the importance of protecting sexual and gender minority youth.

Interim Remarks

VICTOR MADRIGAL-BORLOZ, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said his report had intently outlined best practices on prevention, prosecution and reparations.  An intersectional approach to policy and legislation required that data collection be designed accordingly.  Stressing that the participation of concerned communities, populations, and peoples was key, he recalled that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans movement had “nothing about us without us” as its motto.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/06/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-examine-des-rapports-sur-les

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For use of the information media; not an official record