30 June 2021
Remarks by the President of the Human Rights Council Nazhat Shameem Khan
Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,
Bula Vinaka and Good Day.
At the outset, I wish to thank the International Service for Human Rights for inviting me to participate in the launch of their new practitioners' guide, entitled: "A Seat at the Table". It is indeed my pleasure to address you in my capacity as President of the Human Rights Council and raise attention to this valuable and timely guide to crafting effective narratives at the United Nations about human rights and the people who defend them. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg for providing their support for this event.
As we all know, the Council functions most effectively when the voices of human rights defenders receive the attention they deserve, and this guide offers insights into the kind of messages we can use that can best increase support for human rights defenders as well as how to craft effective human rights narratives, particularly regarding human rights defenders.
Human rights defenders offer expertise that State delegations draw on when engaging with the Council and they bring to the Council's attention the voices and perspectives of those most vulnerable to, and suffering from, human rights violations.
In this connection, I wish to highlight four particularly helpful recommendations that the guide provides for crafting effective narratives on human rights defenders, namely: identify the best practice that the defenders aim to achieve via their advocacy; provide specific examples of how defenders wish to translate human rights principles into concrete action; highlight the importance of ensuring that defenders and affected communities have their voices heard; and remind all audiences that advancing human rights is a foundational objective of the United Nations.
Narratives faithful to these four recommendations will help ensure that the critical contributions of defenders to the Council receive the attention that they deserve.
Excellencies, dear Colleagues,
The United Nations system recognizes the importance of amplifying the voices of human rights defenders and bringing their contributions to the attention of the international community.
Our guiding text in this regard, of course, is General Assembly resolution 53/144, on the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which importantly recognises that "Everyone has the right,
individually and in association with others,
to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels".
And as you know, the Human Rights Council has taken action to help achieve the goals set forth in the Declaration.
In this regard, I would like to highlight that the mandate of the Council's Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, which, is to,
inter alia, "promote the effective implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in cooperation and dialogue with Governments and other actors" - has been consensually extended by the Council five times since 2008, and most recently at its 43rd session last year.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Special Rapporteur for her commitment to the fulfilment of this mandate. Her important work is helping to ensure that human rights defenders around the world can operate in a safe and enabling environment, free from hindrance and insecurity.
But serious challenges remain. As the Special Rapporteur's most recent report, presented to the Council in March and entitled "Final Warning:
Death Threats and Killings of Human Rights Defenders" shows, defenders continue to be subject to threats of violence and violence itself for their work.
It is for this reason that this practitioner's guide is so important: narratives on human rights defenders that follow the recommendations set forth in the guide will lead to greater visibility for those defenders, and the issues they raise, in the Council. And increased visibility at the Council will not only make their advocacy more effective but will also help to protect them..
Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,
I would like to conclude by noting that this year as President of the Human Rights Council and previously as Ambassador of the Republic of Fiji to the United Nations in Geneva, I have had the great honour to hear the voices of human rights defenders from around the world. I have heard the important from-the-ground information and unique perspectives that they bring, along with their sincere desire to promote and protect the human rights of all persons, and particularly the most vulnerable among us.
It is my great hope that the use of this guide by Council stakeholders will lead to increased support for human rights defenders and greater visibility and protection when participating in the Council's work.
Vinaka and thank you.
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