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Human Rights Council to hold its fortieth regular session from 25 February to 22 March 2019

BACKGROUND RELEASE

GENEVA (21 February 2019) - The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold its fortieth regular session from 25 February to 22 March 2019 in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The session will open at 9 a.m. on Monday, 25 February under the presidency of Ambassador Coly Seck of Senegal, with key statements delivered by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres; United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet; the President of the United Nations General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés; and the Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland Ignazio Cassis. 

A three-day high-level segment will follow the session opening, during which senior officials from more than 90 States and international and regional organizations will highlight human rights issues of national and international interest and concern. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will present her annual report to the Council on 6 March, to be followed by an interactive discussion with States and non-governmental organizations the following day.  Thematic and country reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner, and the Secretary-General will also be presented, including reports or oral briefings on Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Venezuela and Yemen, and on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.

On 25 February, the Council will hold a high-level discussion on human rights mainstreaming that will examine human rights in the light of multilateralism, on 26 February it will examine the question of human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty in the context of its biennial high-level discussion on the issue, while on 15 March, it will commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with a debate on the mitigation and countering of rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies.

The Council will review over 120 reports on a wide range of issues presented by more than 35 human rights experts, groups and mechanisms, including the report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment which draws attention to the negative impact of air pollution and recommends actions to be considered as part of national air quality plans; the presentation by the Independent Expert on foreign debt on the guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of economic reforms; and the report on the situation of women human rights defenders in which the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders reviews obstacles they face and provides good practice examples to support the building of diverse, inclusive and strong movements of women human rights defenders. 

The report by the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights marks the tenth anniversary of the mandate and contains strategies for advancing cultural rights during the next decade, while the Independent Expert on human rights of persons with albinism explores barriers to access to justice for this group.  The Council will also hold interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs on the right to food; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to privacy in the digital age; the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; adequate housing; freedom of religion; and the rights of persons with disabilities, who will present a thematic study on disability-specific forms of deprivation of liberty.

The Council will discuss, inter alia, the human rights situation in Syria with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which will present an updated written report.  On Myanmar, it will hear the High Commissioner’s update on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, and an update by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.  The Council will hear the High Commissioner present an oral update on the situation in Eritrea, which will be further discussed during an enhanced interactive dialogue.  The Council will also dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, and the mandate holders on the human rights situation in Iran and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

On the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur and will discuss the final report of the Commission of Inquiry in relation to the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018.

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Council will hear the High Commissioner’s oral update on the developments of the human rights situation in the Kasai region and her report on the situation of human rights before, during and after the elections of 23 December 2018, and will hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on technical assistance to this country.  Further, interactive discussions with the Independent Expert on Mali and on the High Commissioner’s oral presentation on the situation in Ukraine will also be held, as will a high-level dialogue to assess the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.  The Council will consider the High Commissioner for Human Rights reports on Libya and Afghanistan, the report on the work of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, and will hear the annual oral presentation by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on successes, best practices and challenges in technical assistance and capacity-building efforts.

Other highlights of the session will be the annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on 6 March, which will focus on article 26 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on habilitation and rehabilitation.  On 4 March, the Council will hold its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, which will address the question of empowering children with disabilities, including through inclusive education.  Also, the Council will engage with the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children who will present a thematic study on the sale and sexual exploitation of children in the context of sports; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children; and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict who in her report explores the issue of the abduction of children by parties to a conflict and children of or recruited as foreign fighters.

The Council will also hear the presentation of a thematic study on statelessness as a minority issue by the Special Rapporteur, and the reports by the Forum on Minority Issues, the 2018 Social Forum, the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, and the Special Procedures annual report.  Further, it will consider the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the High Commissioner’s report on the implementation of the action plan to combat intolerance, stigmatization, discrimination and violence against persons based on religion or belief.

The Council will consider and adopt the final outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of 14 States (Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan, Malaysia, Central African Republic, Monaco, Belize, Chad, China and Malta), and appoint four Special Procedure mandate holders as members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Council will hold nine general debates during the session: the general debate on the High Commissioner’s oral update will start on 7 March, and the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights on 8 March.  On 13 March, the Council will hold two general debates, on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, and on human rights bodies and mechanisms.  The general debate on the Universal Periodic Review will take place on 15 March, and on 18 March the Council will hold general debates on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, and on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The general debate on racism and racial discrimination will be held on 19 March, and on technical assistance and capacity-building on 20 and 21 March. 

The Council will take action on decisions and resolutions on 21 and 22 March before concluding the session.

Further information on the fortieth session can be found here, including the annotated agenda, the detailed programme of work, and the reports to be presented.

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system, made up of 47 States which are responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.  The Council was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March 2006 with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.

The composition of the Human Rights Council at its fortieth session is as follows: Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Egypt, Eritrea, Fiji, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

The President of the Human Rights Council in 2019 is Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.  The Council’s four Vice Presidents are Vesna Batistić Kos of Croatia, Harald Aspelund of Iceland, Carlos Mario Foradori of Argentina, and Nazhat Shameem Khan of Fiji.

For further information and media requests, please contact Rolando Gómez (+ 41 22 917 9711 / rgomez@ohchr.org), Cédric Sapey (+ 41 22 917 9845 / csapey@ohchr.org) or Sarah Lubbersen (+ 41 22 917 9813 / slubbersen@ohchr.org).

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For use of the information media; not an official record