12 June 2014
Concludes Dialogue on Right to Health and on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations
The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. It also concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Chairperson of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transitional corporations and other business enterprises.
Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said that the continued challenges to effectively address violence against women included the shift to gender neutrality and to a men and boys agenda; failure of States to act with due diligence; lack of transformative remedies to address the root causes of violence against women; the impact of financial crisis and austerity measures; and the lack of a legally binding instrument that explicitly recognized violence against women as a violation of human rights. The Special Rapporteur also referred to country visits to India, Bangladesh and Azerbaijan.
Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, presenting the report prepared by his predecessor, Magdalena Sepulveda, said it demonstrated the many ways in which fiscal policies, and particularly taxation policies, were a major determinant in the enjoyment of human rights. Reference was made to Ms. Sepulveda’s visit to the Republic of Moldova, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. Mr. Alston said that if the elimination of extreme poverty was not a central part of the human rights vision, a highly selective battle was being fought. It should not be a marginal concern, but a central preoccupation.
In the discussion that followed, speakers said that it was high time to break the silence and to comprehensively tackle the underlying causes of violence against women and girls. One speaker remarked that, in the light of the increasing attacks on women and the challenges they faced in safeguarding their rights and human integrity, the report should have been focused on more concrete cases of violations and on methodologies for bringing perpetrators to justice. Could the Special Rapporteur elaborate on the role, if any, that men and boys could actually have in combating gender-based violence?
It was agreed that poverty reduction was more effective and sustainable when combined with investment in areas such as health and education. One speaker said it was important to underline that the determination of fiscal policies varied upon States’ needs and priorities, among others. Could the Special Rapporteur elaborate on the link between taxation and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals with, if possible, examples of best practice? How could the international community better use official development assistance to assist partner countries in increasing domestic revenue collection?
Speaking in the discussion were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Liechtenstein on behalf of a group of States, Costa Rica on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, European Union, South Africa, Morocco, Maldives, Sierra Leone, Spain, Algeria, Venezuela, Italy, Montenegro, Switzerland, Paraguay, Ireland, United States, Estonia, Namibia, Netherlands, Turkey, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, France, Sudan, Chile, Burkina Faso, India, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Israel, Denmark, Qatar, Viet Nam, Malta, Sri Lanka, Poland, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Norway, Cuba, China, Canada, Syria, Argentina, Uruguay, Iran, Bangladesh, Belgium, Pakistan, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Eritrea, Nigeria, Thailand, Romania, Niger, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Mexico. The International Committee of the Red Cross also spoke.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Femmes Afrique Solidarite, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany, Franciscans International in a joint statement, Righting Finance, and British Humanist Association also took the floor.
Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, India, Mozambique and the Republic of Moldova spoke as concerned countries.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Chairperson of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transitional corporations and other business enterprises.
In the discussion, speakers said that with the complicity of States, transnational corporations had achieved unprecedented political power which allowed them in many instances to act with impunity. In spite of many communications regarding transnational corporations’ human rights violations, the Working Group was not able to respond to the grievances of victims. It was time for Member States to take measures at the international level with respect to those entities. The Working Group was called upon to support States in the adoption and implementation of domestic legislation aimed at preventing and holding accountable corporations for human rights violations. The methodology of the Working Group had to be improved, and more attention had to be given to enhancing access to effective remedies, and clarify the applicability of the Guiding Principles to public financial institutions.
Speaking in the discussion were Centre Europe Tiers Monde, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Connectas Direitos Humanos in a joint statement, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany, and CIVICUS World Alliance.
Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, in concluding remarks emphasized the great importance of questions, interventions and different views and dialogue in the Council. It was noted that States had already taken steps on the issue of the promotion of unhealthy food. Non-governmental organizations and consumer groups should be encouraged in terms of education and even in funding.
Michael K. Addo, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, in concluding remarks reiterated the intention to continue to engage and to incorporate suggestions in the ongoing work of the Working Group. It was entirely up to States to decide what the next stage of normative development would be and the Group felt the need to be cautious but certainly a lot remained to be done and the Group looked forward to the Council’s contribution.
Mr. Grover and Mr. Addo presented their reports on Wednesday, 11 June in the afternoon and a summary of their presentations, as well as the first part of the interactive dialogue, can be seen here.
The Human Rights Council today is holding a full day of meetings. At 3 p.m., the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions, and on internally displaced persons.
Interactive Dialogue on the Right to Health and on Human Rights and Business
Centre Europe Tiers Monde said that in spite of many communications regarding transnational corporations’ human rights violations, the Working Group was not able to respond to the grievances of victims. It was time for Member States to take measures at the international level with respect to those entities. BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that domestic legal systems had failed to adopt and implement strong legislation to ensure that corporations were held accountable for violations of human rights committed extraterritorially. The Working Group was called upon to support States in the adoption and implementation of domestic legislation aimed at preventing and holding accountable corporations for human rights violations.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development regretted that the Working Group had not elaborated in detail on measures needed for the protection of human rights defenders and their participation in business and human rights. Challenges faced by such defenders had to be considered. Corporations were reminded that they had to respect the rights of human rights defenders. Conectas Direitos Humanos, in a joint statement, said that the Working Group on human rights and business should give more attention to enhance access to effective remedies, and clarify the applicability of the Guiding Principles to public financial institutions. It was important that the Working Group abide by the highest human rights standards, especially regarding vulnerable groups. Its methodology of work should also be improved.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers said that the international political system was undermined by the interference of business organizations. With the complicity of States, transnational corporations had achieved unprecedented political power which allowed them in many instances to act with impunity. It was only through a binding mechanism that the necessary structures to regulate transnational enterprises could be developed. Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany said that while the Guiding Principles constituted an initial step to address the current mismatch, the Working Group had interpreted its mandate too restrictively, and national plans had often focused on weak regulatory frameworks. They called for the drafting of an internationally binding instrument.
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcomed the report presented by the Working Group, especially its recommendation to States to ensure the protection and respect of the rights of human rights defenders raising awareness on the impact of business activities. Such recommendations were extremely important for indigenous and environmental human rights defenders in the Philippines, where rights violations and massive displacement of indigenous peoples continued to be perpetrated.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and the Chair of the Working Group on Human Rights and Business
ANAND GROVER, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, in concluding remarks thanked all States and non-governmental organizations for their interventions and questions. The great importance of questions, interventions and different views and dialogue in the Council was emphasized. States had already taken steps to tackle the promotion of unhealthy food. It could be said that States were in agreement with the report. There were some questions that needed to be addressed. On whether within the State there had to be a domestic set of guidelines or laws, there were some States who had been successful with voluntary guidelines, but it had been found that there was not really a clear answer to this question. A law would be preferred, but to do this, voluntary guidelines had to be set up first. On best practices, the recommendations in the report were indicative of what States could oblige business entities to work on. On developing countries and incentives and disincentives, there was the disincentive of the soda tax in Mexico. Non-governmental organizations and consumer groups should be encouraged in terms of education and even in funding.
MICHAEL K. ADDO, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, thanked Ghana and the United States for their responses to the report of the Working Group, as well as the States, non-governmental organizations and international organizations which had participated in the dialogue. Mr. Addo reiterated the intention to continue to engage and to incorporate their suggestions in the ongoing work of the Working Group. Among the many issues raised during the discussion, Mr. Addo agreed that national action plans were one among different forms of implementing the Guiding Principles for a common sense of what they could achieve, and this was to promote multi-stakeholder interaction, identifying protection gaps and promoting participation. The Guiding Principles were no more than “guidance” which would facilitate State-driven processes towards national action plans and their implementation. Concerning the question of business engagement with the Working Group and the Guiding Principles, Mr. Addo said that the Group was working as much as possible to make business visibility more prominent and was learning new ways of implementing its complex mandate, which included the private sector. Mr. Addo did not doubt the commitment of businesses, but it was now the time for them to step forward and demonstrate their support for the Guiding Principles. Finally, concerning the question of a legally binding instrument, the Working Group joined the Council in the opinion that there was room for normative development and, concerning accountability, protection and redress, the Group welcomed this. It was entirely up to States to decide what the next stage of normative development would be and the Group felt the need to be cautious but certainly a lot remained to be done and the Group looked forward to the Council’s contribution.
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo (A/HRC/26/38), as well as on her country missions to Azerbaijan (A/HRC/26/38/Add.3), Bangladesh (A/HRC/26/38/Add.2) and India (A/HRC/26/38/Add.1)
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona (A/HRC/26/28) as well as on her country missions to the Republic of Moldova (A/HRC/26/28/Add.2) and Mozambique (A/HRC/26/28/Add.1)
Presentation of Reports on Violence against Women and on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights
RASHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, presenting her reports, said that this year marked the twentieth anniversary of the mandate and of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. The gains, gaps and the continuing challenges of the past 20 years were reflected in the thematic report. The continued challenges to effectively address violence against women included the shift to gender neutrality and to a men and boys agenda; failure of States to act with due diligence; lack of transformative remedies to address the root causes of violence against women; the impact of financial crisis and austerity measures; and the lack of a legally binding instrument that explicitly recognized violence against women as a violation of human rights. The 2013 report to the General Assembly on pathways to, conditions and consequences of incarceration for women highlighted that many countries were witnessing a disproportionate increase of women being incarcerated and that women of ethnic and racial minorities faced disproportionately higher rates of incarceration. There was a strong link between violence against women and women’s incarceration and the report stressed the responsibility of States to address the structural causes that contributed to women’s incarceration and to address root causes, risk factors and consequences related to crime and victimization; it also called for a greater focus on alternatives to incarceration.
Turning to her country visit reports, the Special Rapporteur said that violence against women and girls in India was manifested in numerous ways, was rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities faced by women, and was strongly linked to their social and economic situation. The normative framework in addressing violence against women was progressive, but there were discrepancies between the provisions of the laws and their effective implementation. India should address the multiple and intersecting inequalities and discrimination that women faced as part of a holistic response to address the causes and consequences of violence against women. In Bangladesh, inequality and power imbalances between men and women were among the root causes of violence against women; underpinned by the persistence of patriarchal attitudes towards women, it was often justified by the misinterpretation of religion. The lack of effective implementation of the existing laws, the challenges in relation to access to justice, the lack of a responsive environment and the absence of a necessary legislative framework in some instances were some of the major concerns. During the visit to Azerbaijan, domestic violence, early and forced marriages and the increase in the number of sex-selective abortions had been highlighted but the extent of the phenomenon was hard to assess due to lack of disaggregated data, reliability of the available information, significant underreporting of cases, the focus on mediation and reconciliation in matters involving the violation of women’s rights, and the lack of usage and implementation of laws. The Government of Azerbaijan should adopt a more substantive and focused approach to addressing violence against women and to apply holistic and sustainable solutions at the law, policy and programmatic levels.
PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, presenting the report prepared by his predecessor, Magdalena Sepulveda, said it demonstrated the many ways in which fiscal policies, and particularly taxations policies, were a major determinant in the enjoyment of human rights. Taxation was a key tool when tackling inequality and for generating the resources necessary for poverty reduction and the realization of human rights; it could also be used to foster stronger governance, accountability and participation in public affairs. The report had also considered how the principles of non-discrimination and equality and the duty of international cooperation and assistance should inform taxation policies. Taxes were not the only source of Government revenue, but they were arguably the most important. On measures that could be taken, among others, the tax base could be widened and efficiency in collection improved; measures should be taken to address tax abuse; States could ensure that corporations paid reasonable amounts of taxation; and measures should be taken to ensure that the financial sector pulled its weight in contributing to public revenue collection.
On Ms. Sepulveda’s visit to the Republic of Moldova, there was a widening gap between urban and rural areas, which in turn exacerbated the disproportionate vulnerability of certain groups. On the visit to Mozambique, the increasing income gap between rich and poor, lack of implementation of legislation and poverty reduction policies and the lingering risk of corruption all posed potential threats to stability. With regards to the visit to Guinea-Bissau, Ms. Sepulveda’s final report would be submitted to the Council in 2005.
Mr. Alston urged the Council delegates to read the thematic report carefully. There sometimes was concern about the lack of expertise that the Council may have to deal with macroeconomic or financial matters, but it was the Special Rapporteur’s belief that the report perfectly illustrated why human rights bodies had to consider and debate such issues. Extreme poverty had to be acknowledged as a negation of all human rights. If the elimination of extreme poverty was not a central part of the human rights vision, a highly selective battle was being fought. It was argued that the persistence of absolute poverty should not be seen as a tragedy about which nothing could be done because of financial constraints. Rather, it was a result of a series of deliberate and conscious decisions by key actors that had chosen to prioritize other goals. There was a need for a forthright stocktaking on the impact of what had so far been done by the human rights community in this area. There was a need to move beyond generalities. The challenge was to identify concrete solutions, to mobilize public opinion in support, to catalyse coalitions that could make them happen, and to bring the full weight of the human rights regime to bear on the elimination of extreme poverty. It should not be a marginal concern for the Council, for human rights non-governmental organizations, for the treaty bodies, or for the full range of Special Procedures. It should be a central preoccupation.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Azerbaijan, speaking as a concerned country, thanked Ms. Manjoo for her visit and comprehensive report. Azerbaijan had provided detailed comment as an addendum to the report to clarify several issues and had provided an update of progress achieved since the visit. Azerbaijan was committed to guaranteeing gender equality in all spheres and to prevent domestic violence and violence against women through a number of national measures. The national programme of action contained the provision on rehabilitation programmes for women who had been subjected to domestic violence as well as on the strengthening of the fight against violence, securing legal remedies, necessary compensation and rehabilitation, among others. The report had pointed out that the conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh of the Republic of Azerbaijan which had grave consequences, including bodily integrity violations, losses of family and material possession, continued to pose numerous challenges. The Armenian occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan, and the unresolved state of the conflict and its grave consequences to this day represented one of the major obstacles for the provision of human rights of women refugees and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan.
Bangladesh, speaking as a concerned country, expressed appreciation for the visits undertaken by several mandate holders, including Ms. Manjoo. The Government was committed to ensuring the equal rights of women and curbing discrimination on the basis of sex. On the basis of various initiatives, policies and legislative measures, women’s status and participation had significantly increased. A gender responsive budget had also been formulated by the Government and, in order to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of government expenditure, a medium term budgetary framework had been introduced. Several initiatives had also been undertaken to curb child marriages, including the Child Marriage Restraint Act. The Special Rapporteur, however, had cited some data from non-governmental organizations which did not satisfy basic standards of proof. In addition, established data in recent years exhibited that school dropout rates had gone down and girls’ enrolment was higher than that of boys in primary education. Although there had been instances of eve-teasing, which was a universal phenomenon, the conclusion that girls were frequently harassed in schools or on their way to schools could not be substantiated.
India, speaking as a concerned country, said that the report displayed high proclivity for making unsubstantiated yet sweeping generalizations and did not provide specific details on human rights violations mentioned therein. In the absence of specific details, it was impossible for the Government to verify or take necessary action; citing such instances was of little value to States concerned about addressing those alleged violations of human rights. The report lacked full objectivity and exhibited a tendency to oversimplify the issues at hand. Violence against women was a complex issue and must be dealt with effectively; effective remedies for women and girls should aim to have a transformative effect by addressing the root causes of violence against them. India recognized there were enormous challenges to overcome and had adopted a policy of zero tolerance and resolved to strengthen the criminal justice system for the effective implementation of the policy.
Mozambique, speaking as a concerned country, recalled the challenges it still faced as a result of the war, including the destruction of physical infrastructure, and reiterated the commitment of the Government to fight the prevailing poverty in the country, particularly in the rural areas. The fight against poverty was declared the ultimate priority and the Government had put in place measures to ensure that children, particularly girls, remained in school; in order to provide resources for the fight against poverty, Mozambique was advocating the setting up of the Women’s Fund. The prohibition of discrimination contained in the Constitution was ample and the Government believed it already included the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Finally, Mozambique reaffirmed its commitment to fight poverty and uphold human rights.
Republic of Moldova, speaking as a concerned country, said that its legal and institutional framework for the protection of human rights comprised a comprehensive National Human Rights Action Plan and sector-based strategies, accompanied by oversight mechanisms, ensured, on the basis of available resources, a systematic long-term implementation of human rights. With regards to the situation of groups particularly vulnerable to poverty, the women representation in decision-making positions at the local level had significantly increased and there was a gradual increase at the level of Parliament. Integration into society of persons with disabilities, particularly with mental and intellectual disabilities, was being facilitated by an increasing number of community services for mental health, as well as the activity of mobile teams. On the situation of the Roma people, providing social services to Roma beneficiaries according to their degree of vulnerabilities was an important development towards better social inclusion.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, agreed on the need to use maximum available resources for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights without discrimination. It was important to underline that the determination of fiscal policies varied upon States’ needs and priorities, among others. Poverty reduction was more effective and sustainable when combined with investment in areas such as health and education. Liechtenstein, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said that significant data suggested that violence against women and girls was amongst the most pervasive forms of violence today. It was high time to break the silence and to comprehensively tackle the underlying causes of violence against women and girls. Efforts to include gender and violence into national curricula had been observed with great interest.
Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that corruption was one of the key challenges the Community had decided to address. It had adopted a plan of action to gradually reduce income inequality on the basis of progressive policies and the provision of jobs, minimum wages and social security. Poverty and extreme poverty eradication also constituted a key priority of the post-2015 development agenda, considering its cross-cutting nature. Violence against women constituted one of the most serious human rights violations and was clearly based on social, political and economic inequality. Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the efforts of the Group to enhance the rights of women came in the context of international mechanisms. Arab countries had undertaken many efforts in this context and the issue had become a priority item on regional agendas, as demonstrated by the Cairo Declaration. References in the report on poverty reduction to the fact that revenue raising policies should be guided by human rights considerations was very interesting and deserved further study.
European Union noted that women and girls remained disproportionally vulnerable to violence and asked Ms. Manjoo what measures should the United Nations take to further ensure an effective, efficient and holistic approach towards the elimination of violence against women and how could other United Nations agencies support UN Women in more effective ways? Concerning extreme poverty, the European Union said that development assistance would not be enough to solve the problem of extreme poverty and it was vital to adopt fiscal policies to support the most vulnerable groups. South Africa said that Ms. Manjoo’s report noted that, despite years of continued mandates, women and girls remained at risk. South Africa had made great strives to protect vulnerable groups by implementing international commitments and regional protocols. Concerning extreme poverty, South Africa highlighted the need for sound fiscal policy frameworks to ensure the progressive realisation of all economic, social and cultural rights, as illustrated by its national development plan.
Morocco said that violence against women remained one of the most significant forms of discrimination at the global level. Morocco had implemented political and judicial reform to combat violence and to fight obstacles for women to access justice or achieve their political, economic and sociocultural fulfilment; initiatives had also been implemented to ensure national legislations’ conformity with international norms.
The promotion of women’s rights remained high on the agenda of the Maldives which stressed the importance of enforcing the legal norms, particularly for women living in poverty who often lacked access to justice. In light of the increasing attacks on women and the challenges they faced in safeguarding their rights and human integrity, Sierra Leone remarked that the report should have been focused on more concrete cases of violations and on methodologies for bringing perpetrators to justice. Sierra Leone stressed that poverty gaps would persist as long as sustainable and cohesive strategies failed to effectively channel funding into development programmes. Spain noted that in the absence of economic, social and cultural rights, women were more exposed to the risk of violence and stressed the indivisibility of human rights. Spain asked whether violence against women had its rightful place in the post-2015 development agenda.
Algeria took note of the intention of the Special Rapporteur to conduct a study into normative lacunae in violence against women and asked how an international legally binding instrument could fill those gaps. Algeria was taking considerable steps to promote the living standards of its population, particularly the vulnerable groups, and said that fiscal equity was enshrined in practice and in law. Venezuela reiterated the need to move to more effective mechanisms in order to eradicate violence against women and had presented a draft law to criminalize femicide. Collected tax revenues were returned to people through national social investment programmes and as a result, rates of extreme poverty in Venezuela were in constant decline and stood at 5.5 per cent in 2013.
Italy asked whether the Special Rapporteur could further elaborate on the role, if any, that men and boys could actually have in combating gender-based violence. Italy also asked the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights to elaborate on the link between taxation and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals with, if possible, examples of best practice? Paraguay said that combating extreme poverty continued to be one of its overriding concerns. Since the Special Rapporteur’s visit to the country in 2011, Paraguay had been taking significant measures in this regard. Could the Special Rapporteur share her opinion on the limitations of the notion of violence against women being defined in a general recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women? Montenegro said that it had recently developed and implemented a framework of actions regarding domestic violence, including amendments to the Criminal Code to make violence within the family a criminal offense. The Special Rapporteur was asked to elaborate on his concerns related to the negative impact of financial crises and austerity measures on violence against women and girls.
Switzerland highlighted the importance that equitable fiscal policies would have in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In the report, gaps and overlaps in policy and programmes regarding the elimination of violence against women and girls in United Nations entities had been mentioned. Could examples be given of these gaps and overlaps and how they could be corrected? Ireland firmly believed that in addressing issues surrounding violence against women and girls, the structural underpinnings of gender inequality, which facilitated disempowerment, under-representation and ultimately the vulnerability of women and girls, had to be tackled. How could the international community better use official development assistance to assist partner countries in increasing domestic revenue collection?
United States, noting the situation of other groups at risk, particularly stressed the problem of violence against indigenous women and girls, including the high incidence of child and forced marriages. Existing United Nations mechanisms could address this situation. Concerning extreme poverty, the United States was concerned by some of the report’s discussion and recommendations indicating that human rights obligations may somehow dictate or regulate how States carried out their fiscal policies. Estonia was appalled by recent reports of violent attacks against women and girls, such as the recent stoning of a pregnant woman, and reiterated States’ responsibility to prevent and investigate all cases of violence; recognising the importance of gender equality measures, Estonia noted that the increasing trend of gender neutrality could impede the achievement of substantive equality. Namibia said that violence against women was both a cause and consequence of discrimination and patriarchal dominance and control; women and girls remained the most vulnerable in any society. Recognising the primary role and responsibility of the State, Namibia’s Government had enacted various laws that curbed this heinous crime through domestic legislation and a national plan of action to coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders combating gender-based violence.
Netherlands agreed with the findings that the problem of violence against women was pervasive and demanded a holistic approach, which should include working with men as partners; and asked Ms. Manjoo to elaborate on accountability mechanisms to address impunity mentioned in her report and to illustrate how States could address attitudes towards gender relations? Turkey recalled the normative gap existing at the international level and, in this regard, drew attention to the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, which was a regional instrument open to accession by all United Nations Member States. The Convention introduced a committee of experts to oversee its implementation and would enter into force on 1 August 2014. Egypt was strongly determined to continue the mission of eradicating violence against women. The Government had extended an invitation to Ms. Manjoo to undertake an official visit and its new constitution placed an unambiguous obligation on the State to protect women from all forms of violence. International and regional normative frameworks on violence against women were rich and diverse and the remaining challenge was to ensure the best implementation of existing norms and to support States efforts to fulfil their obligations.
Australia stressed that it did not tolerate violence against women, any time or anywhere, and the State’s commitment to empowering women was reflected in its domestic policies and foreign policy and development agenda. During its presidency of the G20, Australia had prioritized international tax reform and domestic resource mobilization as ways of addressing poverty issues. New Zealand said that Ms. Manjoo’s report dealt with the detrimental impact of violence on women’s economic empowerment. In New Zealand, an inter-ministerial task force had been established to look into the subject matter holistically. Some conceptual challenges included the creation of hierarchies of violence against women. Violence against women had to be looked in a comprehensive way, while the root causes had to be analysed and properly dealt with. International Committee of the Red Cross emphasized the specific forms of violence to which women and girls might be subjected during armed conflict and the specific measures which could be taken to increase their protection, including by strengthening prevention frameworks. The vulnerability of women and girls increased when they were compelled to leave their homes and communities. The Red Cross had developed a multidimensional approach to identifying and addressing the specific vulnerabilities of women and girls in armed conflict.
France stated that extreme poverty was a major universal scourge with multiple ramifications which had to be addressed by all appropriate means. International aid alone was not sufficient to combat extreme poverty, and each State had to allocate appropriate economic resources for that cause. Extreme poverty was closely linked to the respect of human rights. France had made the fight against violence against women a priority. Sudan believed that combatting violence against women was one of the very first duties of the State, something that Sudan had faced with the breakout of the conflict in Darfur. Sudan had a national plan to combat such violence, and that issue had been included in the implementation of the peace plan. Sudan was looking forward to the visit of Ms. Manjoo, to whom an invitation had been sent.
Combating violence against women was a priority for Chile, which had created a Ministry for Women and adopted an agenda to address various forms of violence against women. Although Chile had enjoyed considerable economic growth over the past years, inequalities still persisted in the country and those were being corrected through the tax system which financed social policies, health and the reform of the education sector. Burkina Faso said that the most common forms of violence in the country were domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation and early and forced marriages, which persisted in both urban and rural areas. India reiterated its zero tolerance policy for violence against women. Poverty eradication through sustained growth remained a key priority and India said that progressive tax collection was crucial to that end. Saudi Arabia had dealt with the phenomenon of domestic violence in all its manifestations and it had put in place programmes and policies to address the phenomenon, including through legal and judicial systems. Poverty and unemployment represented major challenges in the country and Saudi Arabia had established a fund to combat poverty and to improve social security.
Angola said that Ms. Sepulveda Carmona had rightly recognized the responsibility of States for establishing policies to combat social inequalities and promote poverty reduction. In that regard, Angola recognized the role played by private enterprises, which were an engine of economic growth through the creation of jobs. Angola had registered considerable progress in the reduction of poverty, bringing it down from 65 per cent in 2002 to 35 per cent in 2013. Israel noted that Ms. Manjoo had made valuable contributions towards advancing the issue of combatting violence against women around the world. States and civil society had an important role in the prevention of violence against women and ensuring their empowerment. Israel asked whether the development of entrepreneurship, as a tool for women to gain independence and hence empowerment, could lead to a life free from violence. Organization of Islamic Cooperation stated that harmful and discriminatory cultural practices continued to worsen different aspects of the lives of women, and often some traditions, such as female genital mutilation, were wrongly associated with religion without any justification. The Holy Book of Islam had laid great emphasis on the rights of women, including the need for a healthy family environment governed by established values, which was a cause supported by the Organization’s Human Rights Commission.
Denmark said that violence against women was a complex subject covering numerous serious interrelated sub-issues, and the causes of which ought to be addressed. The scourge of sexual violence in conflict situations should also be addressed and impunity should be ended. Denmark was concerned that norms were changing too slowly and asked what was the best way to enter into dialogue with governments on that issue. Qatar welcomed the efforts of the United Nations system, which was constantly working on combating violence against women, which nonetheless remained spread around the world, for a number of reasons. Strengthening the international legislative and justice system could put an end to many practices of violence against women; that framework should reflect international pluralism. Qatar had specific programmes for women’s empowerment in various sectors, and was promoting prevention and protection. Viet Nam was making continuous efforts to combat violence against women, including the 2006 Law on Gender Equality and the 2007 Law on Domestic Violence. Viet Nam agreed that fiscal policies, including taxation, were important in combatting poverty. How could international cooperation and assistance be used as tools to combat poverty and promote human rights?
Malta said that there should be a continuum of protection for women against violence in domestic, regional and universal legal instruments and emphasized that the implementation of international norms protecting women from violence was primarily the responsibility of States, but also of international organizations and civil society organizations. Sri Lanka stressed that notwithstanding the lack of a specific legally binding instrument at the international level, States could take measures to combat violence against women. Sri Lanka was committed to enhancing the support extended to vulnerable groups and numerous programmes were being implemented to improve socio-economic conditions of low income households. Poland appreciated the description of various forms of violence against women provided by the Special Rapporteur and said Poland was going to sign the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and adjust its national legislation accordingly.
Malaysia agreed that taxation could be a significant tool to address inequality and generate the necessary revenue to support poverty reduction programmes and that one such tool was the progressive personal income tax system. Malaysia reaffirmed its strong commitment to the eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls and said it was constantly improving the policy and framework to this end. United Arab Emirates said that, despite the adoption of numerous international conventions and treaties, violence against women had not yet been eradicated. To address the phenomenon, the United Arab Emirates had in place preventive measures to raise awareness, including the establishment of the Family Court, and the protection of the human rights of women. Brazil concurred that fiscal policies were important tools for transferring and redistributing wealth and for generating revenue for social investment, and also agreed that fiscal policies should meet the requirements on the right to transparency. Concerning violence against women, Brazil said that more effective preventive and repressive measures were required, in addition to addressing individual, institutional and structural causes.
Norway said that the United Nations had contributed to a much better understanding of the complexity of the issue of violence against women, including its causes and consequences. Violence against women manifested unequal power relations between men and women, and had led to the prevention of the latter’s full advancement. The taxation scheme had to be designed in a way that poor people were not driven deeper into poverty. Cuba believed that Ms. Manjoo’s report was a core document which would allow States to measure their progress in combating the scourge of violence. States had the duty to provide assistance cooperation to other States, and work together to tackle the issue of tax evasion. International financial institutions had to play a more positive role. Cuba would provide its support to combatting poverty affecting millions of people globally. China stated that acts of violence against women were a serious problem worldwide, the root causes of which ought to be removed. The majority of people living in poverty came from developing countries, which needed to receive more comprehensive technical support from developed countries, in line with their national conditions. China shared its experience in combating poverty with other countries through South-South cooperation.
Canada noted that a lot had been accomplished over the previous two decades, but the progress had been slow and the problems persisted. Canada believed that States had to focus on their obligations and strengthen and effectively apply laws on gender-based violence. Canada asked which approaches to the economic empowerment of women were most effective. Syria had undertaken a number of activities to put an end to the phenomenon of violence against women and was committed to the Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women. The current situation in Syria, unfortunately, posed significant challenges to further progress, as many women in Syria were facing threats by various terrorist groups operating in Syria. Argentina urged all the mechanisms of the entire United Nations family to continue the important work on combating violence against women. Argentina was committed to tackling such violence, an example of which was a 2009 law providing comprehensive protection for women and broadening the definition and modalities of violence. Argentina believed that wealth redistribution constituted an instrument of development, which had allowed Argentina to go further in developing equality and social integration.
The redistributive tax system in Uruguay, together with other social policies, were key in improving socio-economic indicators and reducing poverty. Uruguay noted with concern that violence against women continued to be pervasive and pandemic in nature and recognized the existence of the normative gap and supported the efforts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to protect the victims of this crime. Iran noted the slow progress in the promotion and protection of women’s rights despite the many initiatives to this end. The preventive approach must be recognized as a core component of any strategy to put an end to violence against women. That was why Iran had stepped up its efforts to strengthen the national legal and policy framework and engage with a wide range of actors. Bangladesh stressed that an open, equitable, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory multilateral trading and financial system was of crucial significance for the creation of a supportive international environment for the eradication of extreme poverty. Another area of significance was fulfilling the commitments of official development assistance.
Eritrea said that its experience had demonstrated that the macro policy context of poverty elimination was fundamental both in terms of political and financial commitment. This was intrinsically related to the promotion of social justice that was the main drive. Hence, pragmatic policies and practices to transform the style and the quality of life of citizens had been introduced. Belgium said that combating extreme poverty was of great interest to it. The focus now had to be on the dissemination of the Guiding Principles. On violence against women, Belgium asked what specific measures should be taken to improve the implementation of relevant international legal instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Pakistan believed that violence against women was one of the worst forms of human rights abuses and discrimination. It supported the acceleration of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Pakistan had taken legal, administrative and policy measures to do so. United Kingdom said it was utterly unacceptable that women continued to face violence and discrimination the world over. Ending violence was a top priority for the United Kingdom and high profile initiatives would be held in this regard. It recognized that action was needed at home as well as overseas. It was time for political will and commitments to be turned into action. Indonesia shared the view that violence against women was a widespread and pervasive human rights issue that required the attention of States. Had enough focus been placed on addressing the root causes of violence against women over the last 20 years? Indonesia shared the view that States had to devote maximum available resources to ensure the progressive realization of all social, economic and cultural rights.
Nigeria believed that in all cases, States had a responsibility to ensure that women were not victims of traditional practices, negative religious tenets and ill-defined, primitive and outmoded doctrines. Nigeria condemned all forms of violence against women and was saddened by the recent abduction of over 200 school girls, and was resolved to stamp out Boko Haram and all forms of terrorism in Nigeria. Thailand stated that community leaders should be mobilised to help change the mind-set towards stereotyping of women, and acknowledged the importance of the legislative framework at national, regional and international levels. While men and boys were also victims of violence, violence against women was systematic. In order to tackle extreme poverty, Thailand placed emphasis on providing access to essential services, social protection, reducing income inequality and developing basic infrastructure. Romania said that the drafting Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights constituted a major accomplishment. Romania underlined that its experience had demonstrated that the adoption of a flat rate income tax could have a positive impact on economic growth as well as on State revenues. Had taxes on financial transactions proven to be effective at the national level?
Niger said that the third world conference on women in Nairobi in 1985 and following international meetings had highlighted the global nature of concerns on violence against women, urging States to elaborate an international legal instrument which would explicitly address that scourge. The Government of Niger had a strategic plan in place for 2012-2015 on the promotion and protection of women’s rights. Armenia regretted that the report on the visit to Azerbaijan had been distributed very late, and was unpleasantly surprised at Ms. Manjoo’s voluntary improvisation concerning the sensitive issue of the Nagorno Karabakh and a full range of inaccuracies present in the report. Armenia stressed that the OSCE Minsk Group was the one and only competent body with an international mandate for the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Azerbaijan emphasised that sustainable development and the reduction of poverty and human rights were interconnected. On violence against women and internally displaced women and refugee women, Azerbaijan called on Armenia to respect the voice of the international community and the Special Rapporteur, calling for intensifying efforts to resolve the issue of the occupation of land. Mexico agreed that current challenges in combating violence against women were linked to the use of non-binding legal approaches, and stressed the need to have a comprehensive approach, including social independence and empowerment, especially political empowerment, of women. Mexico agreed that fiscal policies on tax collection had to be commensurate with international provisions.
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, in a joint statement, welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women on India, which called attention to longstanding gaps in prevention, protection redress and reparation. Prevention had to strike at the gender stereotyping and victim blaming that normalized routine violence. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said that structural and institutional inequalities persistent in India were a major cause for violence against women. Militarism contributed to an increasingly insecure environment. India was currently the largest importer of arms in the world and a gun culture created an atmosphere of impunity.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network called on States to take immediate steps to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people were included in their poverty reduction strategies. States should also increase their access to formal education, quality health services, equal employment opportunities, decent treatment at work, and full social benefits, and guarantee other means for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to step out of poverty.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers indicated that rapes in India, kidnappings of young girls in Nigeria, femicides all over the world, demonstrated that today impunity remained the norm for most acts of violence against women. Violence against women was a widespread and systematic human rights violation. Agreeing that a normative gap existed at the international level, the Association called for a binding instrument. Sudwind was delighted that the mandate on violence against women had been in existence for 20 years. However, it was concerned that widespread violence against women still existed. In Iran, violence against women was legally endorsed, encouraged and promoted. All countries should implement measures to end violence against women, including laws, education and development programmes to eliminate its structural causes. Femmes Africa Solidarité said that, despite considerable gains, violence against women remained endemic, and commitments made by Member States did not match changes on the ground. They called on the Special Rapporteur to visit conflict and post-conflict countries in order to engage constructively with States and welcomed the draft resolution initiated by Canada.
CIVICUS World Alliance said that Filipino women detainees also suffered the same kind of State-perpetrated violence, as in the case of Andrea Rosal. These cases and that of other women political prisoners and detainees in the Philippines, which were no different to those in India and Bangladesh, constituted a violation of international human rights instruments. Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany welcomed the opportunity to speak about indigenous women in Manipur, India, noting that women in militarised regions lived in a constant state of siege and surveillance. The Social Service Agency urged the Council to support recommendations in this area, including the repeal of the armed forces special powers act and ensuring that criminal prosecution of members of the armed forces was free from legal barriers.
Franciscans International, speaking also on behalf of ATD Fourth World and the Mining Work Group at the United Nations, stated that it was especially urgent that the sustainable development goals promote structural transformations and alternatives to the current extractive model of development. An agenda addressing the structural causes of poverty and inequality through a rights-based approach should be encouraged. Righting Finance Initiative agreed with the recommendations that revenues raised from the private sector were commensurate to the incomes, and that the human rights of affected persons ought to be protected. Governments ought to move from tax competition to tax cooperation. Full disclosure of ownership of transnational corporations should be made through national registries. British Humanist Association supported the proposal of a universal legally binding instrument on violence against women to address the issue as a specific human rights violation. States were bound to provide an operative criminal justice response for the female victims of violence, while laws penalizing or discriminating against women should be abolished.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women and on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights
RACHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in concluding remarks said she was thankful for the substantive and analytical interventions received today by both State and non-State actors. An incorrect statement by the delegation of India that a staff member of the High Commissioner’s Office went to Chennai state to meet with a high level official was clarified. An assistant had attended a meeting but had not engaged with high-level officials. The Special Rapporteur had never before been subjected to the offensive and insulting language and attitudes received during the recent visit to India, and this was an issue of concern. Armenia was reminded that the mandate was looking at violence against women, its causes and consequences. One of the consequences of the conflict was displacement, with the consequence of poverty, violence, and the existing and emotional aspects of being denied access to land displaced from, which was within the mandate.
On accountability mechanisms, the Special Rapporteur referred to the 2013 report, which reflected the work of the mandate since 1994, including the work of United Nations agencies in developing numerous accountability tools, which unfortunately had been forgotten. The Special Rapporteur did not object to the inclusion of men and boys. The report highlighted the challenges of an un-nuanced, a-historical approach. On austerity measures, the loss of service provision including in the criminal justice system, therapeutic, and legal services was quite a source of concern. This was also leading to loss of experience and expertise. Violence against women had not taken its rightful place in the Millennium Development Goals and there should be a separate goal on violence against women in the post-2015 development agenda. There had been views that the Council of Europe Convention could serve as a universal instrument on violence against women, but it was drafted in consultation with Member States of the Council of Europe and civil society in Europe, and not in conjunction with the rest of the world.
PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, thanked the speakers for engaging with the report and addressed some of the issues raised. Some speakers had highlighted the importance of the Guiding Principles and Mr. Alston noted that dissemination was of great importance in this regard. The main challenge remained implementation and Mr. Alston hoped that Member States would lead the way in making the principles relevant in their own domestic contexts and accelerating this process. Mr. Alston was gratified for the support expressed for the need to address fiscal policy from a human rights perspective and further developing their understanding of these issues, and hoped that this would be made in further reports also identifying initiatives for the Council and particular actions that States and other actors might consider. It was surprising the extent to which in a wide range of nominally economic forums these questions about fiscal policy and taxation were at the top of the agenda but had not been approached from a human rights perspective and it was important to ensure that this was not marginalised. Noting that some States had expressed concerns about restrictions concerning their fiscal policies, Mr. Alston felt that these worries were unwarranted as there was no question regarding the prerogative of States but reiterated the need to ensure that a human rights focus informed these processes. The rhetoric of this Council endorsed the notion of participation much too often without giving it much substance and Mr. Alston hoped he might be able to contribute to specifying what participation meant in this context.
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