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Human Rights Council holds debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and starts debate on racism and racial discrimination

​16 June 2020

Ends General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. At the end of the meeting, the Council heard the presentation of the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and began a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.

In the general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, speakers welcomed the progress achieved thanks to the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, but expressed concerns about the rise of nationalism, racism, as well as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had reminded the world of the importance of the principles of the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights. In that context, speakers urged to Council to redouble its efforts to counter the “hate pandemic”. They echoed the United Nations Secretary-General’s statement to the effect that one could not “pick and choose” amongst human rights.

Speaking in the general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were Pakistan on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, Austria on behalf of a group of countries, Croatia on behalf of the European Union, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Ethiopia on behalf of a group of countries, State of Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan, Libya, India (video message), Bahrain, Venezuela, Indonesia, Nepal, Sudan, Armenia, Marshall Islands on behalf of a group of countries, Iraq, Cuba, Tunisia, Russian Federation, Iran, Syria, Algeria, Belarus, South Africa, United Kingdom, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cambodia (video message), Burundi, Myanmar and China.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organization representatives: Action Canada for Population and Development, Federation for Women and Family Planning, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, World Jewish Congress, Asociacion HazteOir.org, Iraqi Development Organization, Victorious Youths Movement, Association pour les Victimes Du Monde, African Green Foundation International, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Ingenieurs du Monde, United Nations Watch, Alsalam Foundation, African Heritage Foundation Nigeria, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l'Afrique, World Muslim Congress, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, International Muslim Women's Union, ABC Tamil Oli, Tamil Uzhagam, Tourner La Page, Action pour la protection des droits de l'homme en Mauritanie, Association pour la Défense des Droits de la Femme Mauritanienne, Association Mauritanienne pour la promotion du droit, Association pour le Développement Humain en Mauritanie, Association pour l'Éducation et la Santé de la Femme et de l'Enfant, Personhood Education, Guinee Humanitaire, European Centre for Law and Justice, and CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

Speaking in right of reply were India, Mauritania and Pakistan.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. The debate started yesterday and a summary can be found here. In the general debate, speakers said statements made in this chamber that focused on Israel as the sole antagonistic party in the conflict demonstrated the Human Rights Council’s bias against Israel. The Council never seemed to miss an opportunity to obsessively attack the nation State of the Jewish people. Other speakers welcomed the long-awaited release this session of the report on the database of businesses contributing to illegal Israeli settlements, despite geopolitical pressure seeking to prevent this. It had already had impact on the ground: several companies contacted by the High Commissioner’s Office had responded by ceasing their settlement activities.

Taking the floor were the following civil society representatives: World Jewish Congress, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, B’nai B’rith, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, Ingenieurs du Monde, United Nations Watch, American Association of Jurists, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Watch, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Amnesty International, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, and International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

At the end of the meeting, the Council heard a presentation of the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and began the general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Refiloe Litjobo, Chair-Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, presenting the report, began by paying his respects to George Floyd. The COVID-19 pandemic had also reminded the world that racial discrimination deeply and disproportionately still affected millions of migrants, refugees, Roma, Dalits, indigenous peoples and other minorities around the world. Mr. Litjobo welcomed the urgent debate on racism that would take place on Wednesday, 17 June.

In the general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, speakers expressed concern about the increasing levels of racist violence around the world. The recent global Black Lives Matter protests were a sign that people all over the world wanted their governments to strengthen their commitments to equal societies and their fight against racism, xenophobia and related discrimination.

Speaking in the general debate were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, Croatia on behalf of the European Union, Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, and Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV.

The Council will meet again on Tuesday, 16 June at 3 p.m. to continue the general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Time permitting, it will then take up its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building.

General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

Speakers said statements made in this chamber that focused on Israel as the sole antagonistic party in the conflict demonstrated the Human Rights Council’s bias against Israel. The Council never seemed to miss an opportunity to obsessively attack the nation State of the Jewish people. The biased agenda item under discussion, which was anti-Jewish by nature, was partly the reason why the United Nations faced a credibility problem. The United Nations General Assembly resolution on Zionism cited by Iran was a canard that had been rightfully rescinded. If this Council truly cared about the occupation of Arab territories, why had it failed to adopt a single resolution on Turkey’s occupation of parts of Syria, speakers asked. Other speakers welcomed the long-awaited release this session of the report on the database of businesses contributing to illegal Israeli settlements, despite geopolitical pressure seeking to prevent this. The database encouraged companies to comply with their human rights responsibilities by ending their contribution to rights abuses. It had already had an impact on the ground: several companies contacted by the High Commissioner’s Office had responded by ceasing their settlement activities. Some speakers denounced the de facto annexation, colonization and exploitation of Palestinian resources, which sometimes relied on corporate complicity. Annexation was entrenched in Israeli apartheid, which must be dismantled.

General Debate on Follow-up to and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Speakers welcomed the progress achieved thanks to the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action but expressed concerns about the rise of nationalism and racism, as well as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had reminded the world of the importance of the principles of the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights. In that context, speakers urged the Council to redouble its efforts to counter the “hate pandemic,” noting that some States had cracked down against human rights defenders and sowed hate speech under the guise of responding to the emergency. They echoed the United Nations Secretary-General’s statement to the effect that one could not “pick and choose” amongst human rights. Speakers said that climate change was the biggest threat to the survival of humans as a species, and this matter should be at the center of efforts to “build back better.” They also condemned any attempts by Governments to suppress the work of civil society and human rights defenders. Stressing the importance of the rule of law, other speakers said it should be the essential principle for each State’s relationship with its people, serving as the society’s backbone, even in times of crisis. Some speakers warned against the use of human rights as an instrument of domination, and condemned coercive measures. The Council should be rigorously committed to the principles of neutrality, independence and non-politicization.

Speakers called on the Council to focus on the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world while strengthening multilateralism and enhancing international cooperation, which in the field of human rights was essential for the full achievement of the purposes of the United Nations, and was now more pertinent than ever as States dealt with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global pandemic had had a disproportionate impact on segments of the population suffering from intersecting forms of oppression. In such a context, the delay and confusion surrounding the modalities of the Council’s forty-fourth session complicated the involvement of civil society organizations, speakers stated. For people under colonial domination and indigenous peoples, COVID-19 had had a significant impact. The rights of women and persons with disabilities across the world should be discussed. It was worrying that world leaders were using social media to target minorities. Speakers urged the members of the Council to consider the issue of police brutality with the gravity it deserved and expressed concerns about the sincerity of some Member States to do so, given their own poor record in that area. Others expressed concern that the allocation of funding towards the promotion of the right to development was not at the expected level and emphasized that more resources should be allocated to this important issue.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief (A/HRC/43/72).

The Council has before it the Note by the Secretariat on Report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on its seventeenth session (A/HRC/43/73).

The Council has before it the Addendum to the Report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on its seventeenth session entitled Preliminary exchange of views on the preparations of the twentieth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (A/HRC/43/73/Add.1).

The Council has before it the Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 22 March 2019 on Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief (A/HRC/RES/40/25).

Presentation of the Report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

REFILOE LITJOBO, Chair-Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, began by paying respects to the memory of George Floyd. The whole world had seen the unacceptable images of agony, and was mourning his death. The COVID-19 pandemic had also reminded the world that racial discrimination deeply and disproportionately still affected millions of migrants, refugees, Roma, Dalits, indigenous peoples and other minorities around the world. Quoting Martin Luther King, Mr. Litjobo stated that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere, and that no country was immune to the evils of racism. Mr. Litjobo reminded all to think of the mother of George Floyd and all black mothers who lost their children due to the colour of their skin.

During its last session, the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had shared views on the challenges faced by women of African descent. Women and girls of African descent faced multiple discrimination and needed a holistic approach to lift them out of the intersectional oppression, inequality and poverty. Mr. Litjobo said the Working Group had expressed concern about the increased incitement to violence, racial hatred, hate speech and hate crimes, as well as the resurgence of neo-Nazism and white supremacy. The crisis was an opportunity to reform: systems that reproduced racial inequalities must be dismantled. It was encouraging to see more racial public policies that promoted cultural change, affirmative action policies, and reparatory justice as discussed during the regional meeting on the International Decade for People of African Descent that took place last year in Senegal. The Durban Declaration and Programme for Action provided a decent platform to tackle these problems. The Working Group also discussed the effectiveness of the follow-up mechanism, recognising the importance of improving its efficiency. This issue must be placed at the top of the Council’s agenda, said Mr. Litjobo, as he ended the presentation by welcoming the urgent debate on racism taking place on Wednesday, 17 June.

General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Follow-up to and Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Speakers expressed concern about the increasing levels of racist violence around the world. The twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action should be an opportunity to strengthen the fight to combat racism and hate speech. The socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic were having disproportionate effects on persons already suffering from structural racism. Unlike COVID-19, however, racial discrimination, xenophobia and hatred were human made messages. As a result, responses to COVID-19 must not perpetuate discrimination and prejudice, despite the growing climate of racism and violence. Speakers cited the recent global Black Lives Matter protests as a sign that people all over the world wanted their governments to strengthen their commitment to equal societies and their fight against racism, xenophobia and related discrimination.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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