Human Rights Council
8 March 2019
Hears Presentation of Thematic Reports and Reports on Transnational Corporations and on the 2030 Agenda, Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Hears Statements on the Occasion of International Women’s Day
The Human Rights Council this morning began its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, after hearing the presentation of thematic reports by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner and the United Nations Secretary-General, and of reports by the Inter-Governmental Working Group on transnational corporations, and on an intersessional meeting on the 2030 Agenda.
Presenting the thematic reports, Adam Abdelmoula, Director of the Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, introduced reports on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in all countries; the realization of the right to work; the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; the conclusions and recommendations of the Special Procedures; on measures taken to implement Council resolution 9/8; on the operations of the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; and on the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
Emilio Izquierdo, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presented the report of the Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. He highlighted that the Working Group had overcome barriers that viewed the instrument as an initiative that would undermine the Guiding Principles of the United Nations on Business and Human Rights.
Morten Jespersen, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chairperson of the first intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, introduced the report of the intersessional meeting, saying that there was concern that implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals was lacking, due to poor governance, insufficient resource mobilization, and corruption.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers noted that the 2030 Agenda had opened up new avenues to integrate human rights into global, regional, national and local practices and policies. A human rights approach was crucial to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals while ensuring that no one was left behind. To that end, it was important to share evidence-based initiatives. Transnational corporations and other business practices resulted in human rights violations so maximum protection had to be afforded to local populations through a legally binding instrument.
Speaking in the general debate were: Pakistan on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Marshall Islands on behalf of a group of countries, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Republic of Korea on behalf of a group of countries, Oman on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Romania on behalf of the European Union, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Estonia on behalf of a group of countries, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Maldives on behalf of a group of countries, Russian Federation on behalf of a group of countries, Canada on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan, United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Cuba, Tunisia, Iraq, Togo, Uruguay and Philippines.
Earlier during the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on her annual report and oral update. The High Commissioner presented her annual report and oral update on Wednesday, 6 March, and a summary can be read here. The summary of the first part of the discussion, which was held on Thursday, 7 March, can be read here and the second part here.
Ms. Bachelet first addressed the Council on the occasion of International Women’s Day, saying that it was a day to acknowledge and celebrate the advances the world had made towards gender equality. Women and girls still suffered widespread discrimination, but fears of challenging cultures and traditions should not hold the international community back from promoting justice. All States were called on to stand up for women’s human rights.
Also speaking on the occasion of International Women’s Day was Mexico on behalf of a group of countries, Iraq, and Women International League for Peace & Freedom.
In the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner, speakers noted that women were largely excluded from meaningfully participating in transitional justice processes. Even mechanisms that had been put in place recently lacked a comprehensive gender strategy. The work of human rights defenders was essential to combat violence and discrimination, and to promote gender equality. The work of environmental defenders was also essential to rise to the challenge of addressing climate change. Tackling challenges such as gross inequalities globally required coordinated efforts at all levels.
The following non-governmental organizations took the floor during the interactive dialogue: International Commission of Jurists, American Association of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights, and Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme.
Gabon, Venezuela, India, Pakistan, Syria, Bahrain, Morocco and China spoke in right of reply.
The Council will meet next at 3 p.m. this afternoon to continue with the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
Statements on the Occasion of International Women’s Day
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said International Women’s Day was a day for celebration and action that acknowledged and celebrated the advances the world had made towards gender equality. Women and girls who by demanding their rights had made societies more just were honoured. However, women and girls still suffered widespread discrimination and human rights violations. They were exposed to smear campaigns. Fears of challenging culture and tradition should not hold the international community back from promoting justice. Torture was once a commonly accepted practice. Slavery was once considered a normal practice. Apartheid was considered as part of culture. Women human rights defenders demanded equality and this was what the world needed. The equal involvement of half the world’s population was needed in order to combat global challenges such as climate change, development, inequality, conflict and many others. Activists and movements were fighting on the frontlines to win hearts and minds for the rights, autonomy and choices of women. Men and boys were called on to join in this task, to multiply and amplify the voices for genuine dialogue, including on topics which might seemed uncomfortable. All States were called to stand up for women’s human rights.
Mexico and Finland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that human rights bodies’ remedies must fulfil the rights of victims, and include adequate, effective and prompt reparation. Women and girls in humanitarian settings were particularly vulnerable to human rights violations such as sexual and gender based violence, human trafficking and forced abortions.
Iraq believed that constitutions should enshrine the participation of women in societies. Having beaten back terrorism in Iraq, women were now pillars in the reconstruction of Iraqi society.
Women International League for Peace & Freedom said women’s movements offered an alternative to realpolitik, and challenged and dismissed the notion that only men with guns could negotiate peace. The organization called on all States and the United Nations to take bold measures to counter chauvinistic nationalism and to work to transform inequalities.
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights
International Commission of Jurists noted that, at present, women were largely excluded from meaningfully participating in transitional justice processes. Even mechanisms that had been put in place recently lacked a comprehensive gender strategy. It was imperative that problems faced by women during and after conflict were effectively identified and addressed. American Association of Jurists, in a joint statement, questioned the silence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the serious and systematic violation of civil and political rights, including the right to development, in the illegally occupied territory of Western Sahara. The High Commissioner was urged to resume the Technical Mission initiated in 2015.
International Service for Human Rights emphasized that the work of human rights defenders was essential to combat violence and discrimination, and to promote gender equality and emancipation. The work of environmental defenders was also noted as essential to ensure that all could breathe clean air, drink safe water and rise to the challenge of addressing climate change. Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme underlined that tackling challenges such as gross inequalities globally required coordinated efforts at all levels in order to guarantee the universal enjoyment of human rights. Concern was expressed about the danger, pressure and wave of arrests suffered by human rights defenders in Cameroon since the elections of October 2018.
Concluding Remarks by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, thanked all the speakers and acknowledged the large number of countries and civil society organizations that had been actively involved during the session. The clear commitment to multilateralism and the United Nations human rights system was promising. The important role of the Council, treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review, and the Office of the High Commissioner was reiterated, as it was all about prevention and early warning. The response of the whole United Nations system to early warning was needed if they wanted to prevent the violations of human rights. The work of the Council in terms of bridging the gap between New York and Geneva was very important, as well as the role of the current and former President. The issue of women’s rights and women’s empowerment was important, as was the positive role that women could play in their communities as peace builders, but also in the aftermath of conflicts. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women affirmed this positive role, but still much needed to be done. Today was a day to celebrate women, but also to commit to do as much as possible to ensure women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.
The shrinking of civil space and the difficult situation faced by human rights defenders was mentioned by many States. Jailing critics did not make societies safer, it made grievances deeper. It was imperative for States to create and preserve enabling environments for civil society. Sustainable Development Goal 16 was reiterated on inclusive and peaceful societies. The Office of the High Commissioner had prepared draft guidelines on the right to participate in public affairs. They were presented to the thirty-ninth session of the Council and provided a set of orientation guidelines to countries under resolution 39/11 mandated to disseminate the use of the guidelines and provide capacity building. Parliaments could also play an important role, as was showed through international efforts. States had to implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Concerning the work of the Special Procedures, the Council could support their access to countries and regions where there was no access.
The safety of journalists was also raised by many countries. States had to protect the rights of journalists both offline and online. Last year, the Secretary-General had established the United Nations network of focal points on journalists. As for addressing challenges of migrants and asylum seekers, following the adoption of the two new Global Compacts, there was a roadmap of action to ensure the protection of all migrants, regardless of States. States were encouraged to implement the provisions of the Global Compacts and the Office of the High Commissioner would provide technical assistance. Causes of migration needed to be addressed. As for delivery of the 2030 Agenda, there were areas that needed resources, but others needed political will and commitment. The Sustainable Development Goals reaffirmed the connection between development and human rights. If business as usual continued, the targets for the Sustainable Development Goals would not be reached by 2030, and the same applied to climate change. The Fund for Least Developed Countries would continue to provide support. In cases of violations of human rights, the situation was monitored and it was identified that much of those violations could be solved by capacity building and technical assistance.
Many States said that the actions of the Council were not neutral or objective. The best way to ensure that everyone would be convinced of its neutrality was to give access to all countries, because the Council would continue to report anyway. This included Western Sahara, as the Council was monitoring the situation remotely. More had to be done to support the engagement of States directly with the Council. Regional cooperation was also important and Memorandums of Understanding were being signed with regional organizations. Rapid deployment was done in order for the Council to assess the situation in a country and help it. Missions of Special Procedures could be part of human rights initiatives. On Sri Lanka, the report on reconciliation had just been made public, placing a strong emphasis on the need to prepare a strategy on transitional justice. The Office offered support to Sudan and was discussing the possibility to open an office in that country. The concern on the climate of xenophobia and hate space was prominent and the Secretary-General had decided to produce a communication plan on how to address hate speech and protect freedom of expression. As for the reform on management, the Council had to provide funds and support to all systems, Special Procedures and treaty bodies and work on the ground. Financial support was asked from States so that the Council could do its utmost.
Right of Reply
Gabon, speaking in a right of reply, expressed their surprise and disappointment following the statement of the European Union on arbitrary detention. Following the 2016 elections, the President of Gabon had organized a national dialogue, the results of which were enshrined in national law.
Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, deplored that countries of the region had joined the plan to disrupt democracy in Venezuela. The objective of the so-called humanitarian intervention to Venezuela was in fact to undermine the territorial integrity of the country, and they called on the Council to defend multilateralism and international law, which was not being upheld in its case.
India, speaking in a right of reply, rejected Pakistan’s statement on the situation in Kashmir, which was caused by terrorist infiltration at the encouragement of Pakistan, under the guise of self-determination. It was Pakistan’s intention to distract the Council from its own human rights abuses. India reiterated that the Council had no right to intervene in domestic matters.
Pakistan, speaking in a right or reply, said that India could not hide behind its lies of cross-border terrorism to justify its illegal occupation of Kashmir. India could have its wishful thinking, but the reality would never change. Pakistan underlined that India was using the term State-sponsored terrorism in a very different way from the rest of the world. India had the distinction of creating a lethal terrorist organization, the violence of which had led to the tragic assassination of its former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The pattern of impunity in India masked killers of ethnic rights. Pakistan noted that rape was used by Indian forces to target women in an attempt to punish and humiliate opposition forces. India was the headquarters of State-sponsored terrorism, and the edifice of fascism was in the advance stages of construction in India. India must give peace a chance.
Syria, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the chronic pathological assessments brought against Syria by countries like Lichtenstein. These were interventionist attacks under the banner of human rights targeted against specific countries, and had nothing to do with what was going in Syria. These accusations ignored the extremist ideology brought from abroad to target the Syrian State. This selective approach to human rights overlooked the illegitimate interventions in Syrian affairs and the illegal occupation of the territories of Syria. Concerns by Lichtenstein and other countries like Qatar about the questions of human rights had nothing to do with respect for international law. Syria demanded that countries committing crimes in Syria be held accountable, particularly those continuing to promote mechanisms that were incompatible with the United Nations Charter.
Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply, emphasized that fundamental freedoms such as the right to free expression, belief, and assembly were guaranteed by its constitution as cornerstones of political and economic modernization. A recent referendum had stressed the will of the Bahraini people to practice such rights as was the case in all States, but in a manner that had to be in line with local values. Judicial authority was noted as the basis for full integrity and compliance to the law with full impartiality. Bahrain categorically rejected any intervention in its judicial process, or any accusations against this system unless such accusations were well founded.
Morocco, speaking in a right of reply, criticized the statement of South Africa on behalf of Algeria and other countries, which took a hostile position on Western Sahara. Countries involved in the statement were countries involved in human rights violations, whose actions were discussed in the Council. They were trying to undermine Morocco and this constituted a fundamental disrespect for the principles that the Council was founded on. This was all on behalf of separatists, supported by Algeria during the Cold War, which were not recognized by the United Nations. During December, a roundtable had been held under the auspices of the United Nations and true representatives of the Western Sahara had participated in that event.
China, speaking in a right of reply, stated that Xinjiang province faced threats from terrorism and extremism, and the authorities had built vocational training centres to address this, which had nothing to do with religious oppression. China was a country that upheld the rule of law. It urged other countries and non-governmental organizations to stop their practice of double standards in criticizing China, and urged all countries to restart constructive dialogue.
India, speaking in a second right of reply, stated that their security forces demonstrated maximum restraint in the face of aggression from Pakistan in Kashmir. Pakistan remained a hub of terrorism, and groups based in the country enjoyed the full freedom to launch attacks against India from there.
Pakistan, speaking in a second right of reply, decried the unholy nexus between India’s security services and media networks to spread fake news, and foster disinformation centres. These had led to a string of murders last year fuelled by social media, and lay at the root cause of atrocities against minorities.
The Council has before it the Report on the fourth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (A/HRC/40/48).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report on the fourth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (A/HRC/40/48/Add.1). Advance unedited version: A/HRC/40/48/Add.1)
The Council has before it the Summary of the intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/HRC/40/34). (Advance unedited version: A/HRC/40/34)
The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on conclusions and recommendations of special procedures (A/HRC/40/18).
The Council has before it the Measures taken to implement Human Rights Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/40/19).
The Council has before it the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - Report of the Secretary-General(A/HRC/40/20).
The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (A/HRC/40/21).
The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (A/HRC/40/28).
The Council has before it the Question of the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in all countries: the role of economic, social and cultural rights in empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/40/29).
The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (A/HRC/40/30).
The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the realization of the right to work (A/HRC/40/31).
Presentation of Reports
ADAM ABDELMOULA, Director of the Human Rights and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced reports and updates of the Secretary-General and of the High Commissioner concerning thematic issues under items 2 and 3 of the agenda. He drew attention to the Secretary-General’s report on the question of the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in all countries, which focused on the theme of the 2019 High-Level Political Forum entitled “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” Addressing multiple dimensions of inequalities was necessary for the eradication of extreme poverty and for the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals and targets. Empowering rights-holders, particularly those who were left behind, or were at risk of being left behind, was critical for the sustainability and accountability of the Sustainable Development Goals implementation efforts. The report made recommendations to States and other stakeholders to embrace a human rights-based approach to “leaving no one behind.” The first recommendation referred to disaggregating data to identify who was being excluded or discriminated against. The second recommendation concerned identifying patterns of discrimination in law, policies and practices, and addressing entrenched structural barriers and unequal power relations that generated and perpetuated inequality over generations. The third recommendation referred to supporting the free, active and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, particularly the most marginalized, in the implementation of those policy and other measures so as to ensure accountability, recourse and remedies to all.
Turning to the High Commissioner’s report on the realization of the right to work, Mr. Abdelmoula explained that it emphasized that youth unemployment was a concern virtually everywhere in the world. The report explored the specific barriers youth faced in accessing, and participating in, the labour market. It recommended steps that States could take with a view to overcoming those barriers. The recommendations included: putting in place concerted legislative, policy and budgetary measures that were cross-sectional; applying a strong gender lens; taking concrete measures to protect young people from all forms of labour exploitation and age-based discrimination; and ensuring just and favourable conditions of work, including safe and healthy working conditions, and equal wage for work of equal value. It was crucial for States to adopt proactive job creation policies directed at the youth, to invest in social protection programmes that paid specific attention to the needs of the youth, offer modern, relevant and up-to-date education and training and actively promote young people’s participation in institutional political processes and policymaking.
Mr. Abdelmoula also introduced the High Commissioner’s report on protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, which focused on the impact of terrorism on children. Children could become victims of terrorism in a number of ways. States must take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence. The best interest of the child must be the primary consideration in counter-terrorism policies and programmes, which should ensure the right of children to express their views in all matters affecting them. States should avoid exceptionalising terrorist recruitment, and instead should recognize that the factors that placed children at risk of exploitation by a terrorist group overlapped with risk factors for other forms of exploitation, including sale, trafficking, forced labour and sexual exploitation.
Introducing the High Commissioner’s report on rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, Mr. Abdelmoula stressed that minorities continued to face numerous and significant human rights challenges in many parts of the world. Those challenges included discriminatory treatment, hate speech and incitement to ethnic or religious hatred, and attacks on the basis of ethnicity and religion, including among refugee and migrant populations. At country, regional and global levels, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights sought to support dialogue and activities with a wide range of stakeholders, with a view to combatting hate speech, promoting respect for religious diversity and dialogue, reflecting on the importance of investing in minority youth, collecting disaggregated data on minorities and encouraging their participation in decision-making processes.
The Secretary-General’s report on conclusions and recommendations of the special procedures showed the significant number of reports presented by mandate holders. In 2018, special procedure mandate holders had presented 133 reports to the Human Rights Council and 44 reports to the General Assembly. Several of them concerned the Sustainable Development Goals, prevention, migration, peace and security or economic issues. Mandate holders had presented reports on their visits to 58 countries or territories. Mr. Abdelmoula encouraged all States to look carefully at the wealth of recommendations contained in those reports and to use them at the national and international levels.
The Secretary-General’s report on measures taken to implement Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonizing, and reforming the treaty body system referred to the comprehensive biennial report of the Secretary-General on the treaty body system, submitted pursuant to the General Assembly resolution 68/268 to the Assembly at its 73rd session. It drew attention to online sources on the status of ratifications, reporting and the work of treaty bodies.
Moving on to the Secretary-General’s report on the operations of theSpecial Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, Mr. Abdelmoula reminded that since its establishment in 2012, the Special Fund had supported 59 projects in 17 States across four regions. As of 2017, the projects supported by the Fund had focused on the establishment or the strengthening of the effective functioning of national preventive mechanisms, with a view to increasing the preventive impact of the fund. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had launched a Practical Guide on National Preventive Mechanisms, which built on experience and recommendations of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, as well as on the lessons learned from the projects supported by the fund.
Turning to the Secretary General’s report on theUnited Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, Mr. Abdelmoula noted that the fund had witnessed an unprecedented level of support. In 2018, it had received a total of 9,403,902 US dollars of voluntary contributions from 26 Member States. The fund provided a lifeline for many torture survivors. In 2019, it would provide legal, medical, psychological and social assistance to thousands of torture victims in 77 countries, channelled through 165 annual grants to civil society organizations. The fund was increasing its capacity to respond to human rights and humanitarian crisis through emergency grants. For example, Rohingya victims forced to flee Myanmar to Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh were currently receiving vital rehabilitation services, through a special call funded by Germany for four emergency grants to organizations working on the ground.
Mr. Abdelmoula regretted that torture continued to be a global phenomenon that spared no one. Torture left long-lasting physical and psychological scars on survivors, their families and communities. Nevertheless, the rehabilitation services to which they were entitled were woefully insufficient and the needs of torture survivors continued to outweigh the response capacity. The Office’s target income level of 12 million US dollars would allow the fund to respond positively to all eligible and deserving grant applications in order to better assist torture survivors worldwide.
EMILIO IZQUIERDO, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presented a report on the activities of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights. Mr. Izquierdo reminded that the Working Group had been established in June 2014 in line with the Council resolution 26/9, with a clear mandate to create a legal instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other enterprises with respect to human rights. He highlighted that, beyond the different points of view on the administration of justice, proposals regarding the content and reach of the future instrument, the chairmanship was quite satisfied with the scope of the work. The chairmanship was also satisfied with the fact that the working group had overcome certain barriers and preconceptions according to which the instrument was an initiative that would undermine the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. On the contrary, the future instrument and the Guiding Principles were complimentary and mutually reinforcing. In that context, Mr. Izquierdo noted a change of focus that had been carried out by Presidential Rapporteur of the Working Group in 2018, namely the presentation for the first time of a draft text focused on the victims of violations related to business activities.
Mr. Izquierdo highlighted the elaboration of the draft text circulated in July 2018, which benefitted from contributions during previous sessions of the Working Group. The work also benefitted from independent assessment by experts who had participated as panellists in previous sessions of the Working Group. Mr. Izquierdo recognized the special role played by South Africa, which had shared the leadership of the process along with Ecuador. He also thanked the European Parliament for the eight resolutions on the issue. The growing support for the binding instrument was also reflected in the report on the Fourth Session of the Working Group, which gathered 96 Member States and 400 non-governmental organizations, trade unions, members of academia, and representatives of the private sector, among other. The main areas of work of the fourth session were: the prevention of human rights violations as part of transnational business activities; the rights of the victims of these violations, especially the right to access justice; international cooperation for the implementation of this instrument; and the necessary international monitoring mechanisms. The Chair-Rapporteur had invited more than 30 experts to provide comments and observations on the draft text. Mr. Izquierdo was thankful for the in-depth nature of comments and proposals in the ensuing discussion that aimed at negotiating a draft consensus. He expressed hope that in the next stages, more complex issues would be resolved.
MORTEN JESPERSEN, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chairperson of the first intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, introduced the report of the intersessional meeting of the Council for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda, held on 16 January 2019. This was the first of two intersessional meetings on this topic called for in resolution 37/24 and it focused on the following Sustainable Development Goals: 4 on quality education, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships. The meeting had provided an opportunity for Member States, United Nations agencies, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, and academia to share good practices, achievements and lessons learned in relation to three areas: empowerment, inclusion and equality in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; enhancing the role of human rights mechanisms in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals process; and ensuring adequate space for civil society, businesses and other partners in implementation of 2030 Agenda. The feedback on the meeting had been very positive. One of the main messages shared during the meeting was that the Sustainable Development Goals could only be realized through a human rights-based approach to their implementation on the local, national, regional and global levels.
There was broad agreement that strengthening the synergies between the 2030 Agenda and human rights could ensure better coherence between political commitments and legal obligations. Participants had reiterated that the Sustainable Development Goals were explicitly grounded in human rights and that they could only be realized through the implementation of all human rights. There was widespread concern that implementation was lagging, due to insufficient resource mobilization, poor governance, corruption and lack of accountability. Participants in the meeting had highlighted that the imperative to leave no one behind required States to address inequalities, and to identify and eliminate all forms of discrimination, including with respect to women and girls, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants. The participants had also discussed ways to bridge the gap between the community in Geneva and New York, and they had called for a more inclusive and collaborative role for civil society, businesses and other non-traditional stakeholders in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Many had found that implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals could be integrated with the Universal Periodic Review, Mr. Jespersen concluded.
General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, called for the non-politicization of the Human Rights Council in the promotion of human rights. It underscored the importance of the right to development in ensuring the basic human needs, poverty reduction and the right to health. The Organization noted that peaceful settlement of internationally recognized disputes was essential for the realization of human rights of the affected populations, and it raised concern about the rising levels of populism.
Venezuela, speaking on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement, stressed that current multiple global challenges required global solutions through the enhancement of international cooperation. The preparation of a legally binding instrument was necessary to guarantee the right to development. The Movement stressed that the selective approach to certain aspects of human rights would lead to a fragmented implementation of those rights, which was contrary to the United Nations Charter.
Marshall Islands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, emphasized that fisheries played a key role in supporting sustainable economic development in the Pacific region. All Pacific nations condemned abhorrent criminal practices, such as forced labour, modern slavery, trafficking and child labour, including in the fishing industry. There was a need to recognise those challenges in line with the target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, drew attention to transnational corporations and other business practices that resulted in human rights violations as they went unabated. The African Group called for maximum protection through the adoption of a legally binding instrument. The African Group had made numerous strides towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but that endeavour was unfinished and Africa needed partners for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Republic of Korea, speaking on behalf of Austria, Denmark, Singapore and 56 States, welcomed the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, assessing how changes in technology could affect human rights. The Council had set important standards for the full enjoyment of human rights, including in the digital context. The countries called on the Council to tackle the unprecedented impact of new and emerging technologies, noting that was indispensable to strengthen the interaction between the Council, academia, civil society and the private sector in order to better understand the risks of new and emerging technologies.
Oman, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, underlined the importance of taking steps to accomplish human rights, in addition to the steps already taken by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which believed in the balance between all political and social rights. Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council were committed to giving special care to those marginalized groups, including women and children. Achieving the 2030 Agenda could only be accomplished by removing the barriers that marginalized groups faced.
Romania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the annual thematic study on the rights of persons with disabilities, and called on States to assist their rehabilitation to ensure they were included in society. The European Union was committed to fighting torture, including by contributing to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture. The European Union regretted that their comments on the draft report of the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations had not been accurately accommodated and uploaded onto the group’s website.
Denmark, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reminded that the Convention against Torture Initiative had entered its fifth year, with 11 new States since its launch. It had made good progress towards achieving its vision where all States had condemned torture by ratifying the Convention against Torture. In 2018, the initiative had welcomed three new State parties, namely the Marshall Islands, the Bahamas, and the Gambia. The countries also recognized Malaysia for having pledged to ratify the Convention against Torture.
Estonia, speaking on behalf of Nordic-Baltic States, noted that the 2030 Agenda had opened up new avenues for integrating human rights into global, regional, national and local practices and policies. A human rights-based approach was crucial for the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals while ensuring that no one was left behind. To that end, it was important to share evidence-based initiatives and methodologies, and to collect comparable data on the Sustainable Development Goals indicators.
Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that it was committed to respect the right to development. The Arab Group particularly praised the contribution of women, particularly of Arab women, to the progress achieved, thanks to the regional emphasis on promoting gender equality to guarantee the empowerment of women and protecting women against gender-based violence. Women would be key to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, the Arab Group highlighted the resistance of Palestinian women in the face of occupation.
Maldives, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reminded that small-island developing countries made up 38 of United Nations Member States and 20 of non-United Nations Members. Those countries were very active in climate change initiatives, and their unique experiences, perspectives, as well as belief in the rules-based multilateralism had continued to play an important role in shaping key components of the United Nations.
Russian Federation, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that language was vital to freedom of expression and it reminded that there were 6,000 languages today. Despite numerous initiatives, not everyone had the right to enjoy its language and some people that spoke minority and indigenous languages had suffered and were exposed to discrimination, which contributed to their further marginalization.
Canada, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that freedom of expression was violated both offline and online, which undermined democracy. The 2030 Agenda sought to provide development for all, yet freedom of expression remained under attack. In 2018, dozens of journalists had been killed and many were at risk of threats while the climate of impunity continued to prevail. Gender-based violation continued, including sexual violence, the group reminded.
Pakistan noted that the people of Kashmir were denied their right to self-determination, granted to them by the United Nations Charter. Pakistan rejected the basis of India’s occupation of the region as illegal, and it reminded that the Kashmiri students in India were subjected to harassment by groups implicitly permitted by the Indian authorities. The rightful leadership of Kashmir was under arrest by India and Pakistan called for their release. India’s illegal aggression against Pakistan, including attacks the previous week, needed to be condemned.
United Kingdom regretted the many challenges to media freedom around the world, including in the European Union. It was essential to assert an international taboo against attacks on journalists. That issue deserved a global spotlight. The United Kingdom would host an international conference on that subject in London on 10 and 11 July 2019, and it invited States to pledge support for the campaign and to declare what actions they would take to support it.
India underlined that the adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011 was a significant achievement on the subject of business and human rights, adding that in that respect it had complemented its domestic legislation. Referring to the recent Fourth Session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group, India stated that in light of the many changes proposed, the current draft report needed to be revised to reflect them.
Brazil noted that it was States’ primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights. To that end, the Brazilian Government would secure access to justice and redress to all victims of human rights violations. Brazil also recognized that there were gaps in terms of human rights protections in the context of business activities. It said it would continue to be engaged in strengthening the protection and promotion of human rights in all business activities.
Cuba noted that it was sometimes forgotten that the origin of the International Women’s Day was linked to the socialist movement. The defense of women’s rights was required more than ever. The global community also needed to start promoting a focus on development-based promotion and protection of all human rights. Cuba denounced the negative impact of the economic and commercial blockade by the United States against it, and called for its removal.
Tunisia praised the work of women across Tunisia and in rural areas in the Palestinian territories. Women were at the heart of development, and no progress in that respect could be achieved without the integration of women in all areas. It was necessary for women to be fully integrated into the development process, and promoted in civil society. The world could not achieve sustainable development without women playing a key role.
Iraq welcomed the submission of reports and all those who had cooperated with women in Iraq in the context of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women and peace and security. Iraq was resolute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, noting that the 2030 Agenda was integrated in its mainstream work. Cooperation with regional and international organizations was the main way to achieve progress in the implementation of those goals, whereas terrorism and decline of oil prices challenged that endeavour.
Togo stressed the interdependence of human rights, noting that inequalities and the deterioration of economic and social conditions presented a breeding ground for all types of violations of human rights, which could lead to armed conflicts. For that reason, Togo had undertaken a series of measures, the key being the adoption of the National Development Plan, which had become a unique point of reference to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
Uruguay reaffirmed its commitment to the protection to all human rights, including the right to development. The human rights agenda was cross-cutting in all public policies. Respect for all human rights was necessary for both democracy and sustainable development. With respect to the report of the Working Group on Transnational Corporations, Uruguay rejected all human rights violations and it believed that victims should be offered remedies.
Philippines noted the challenges posed by the lack of resources, siloes in the multilateral system, and the risk of politicization of the Sustainable Development Goals. It called for the optimization of multilateralism, dialogue and cooperation to bring about meaningful transformation on the ground. In the relation to the instrument for upholding the rights of victims of corporate interests, the Philippines reiterated that the instrument had to reaffirm the United Nations “Protect Respect and Remedy” Framework and Guiding Principles.
EMILIO IZQUIERDO, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, responding to the European Union said that the statements that had been made during the Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Working Group had been published in full on the group’s web page. He invited everyone to participate constructively in the process of the review and negotiations of the proposed draft instrument in order to protect human rights in the context of business practices.
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