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Human Rights Council feature stories

New treaty would codify right to development
The right to development is the focus of a new international human rights convention currently being drafted as requested by the Human Rights Council. The Convention on the Right to Development will, among other things, codify the right to free, active and meaningful participation in development and in fair-sharing the benefits from development.
Voices of women and girls essential to fight for human rights
Women, girls and people with diverse gender identities continue to face barriers to the freedom of opinion and expression. Female politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and activists are particularly targeted. Governments and social media platforms must do more to end gender-based harassment and violence both online and offline.
“We are erased.”
Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the human rights situation of women and girls has deteriorated, said Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights during a meeting of the Human Rights Council. The country is witnessing a staggering regression in women and girls’ enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, she added.
Human rights should be at the heart of tech governance
Technology has been a dominant force during the covid-19 pandemic, yet its use has exposed major risks to human rights, underscoring the importance of good governance in order to fully harness its enabling potential.
A villager holding a baby maneuvers on a makeshift bridge at a flooded community brought by Typhoon Conson in Muntinlupa city, Metro Manila, Philippines, 10 September 2021 © Francis R. Malasig/EPA-EFE
“I lost friends, relatives, our house”
More people have been forced to flee their homes because of drought and other natural disasters caused by climate change than by armed conflict, and the scale of human displacement is growing every year, experts said during a Human Rights Council panel discussion on the adverse effects of climate change.
UN expert warns of dangerous decline in media freedom
“The decline of media freedom and the rise in threats to the safety of journalists is a worldwide trend, most sharply evident in backsliding democracies and recalcitrant totalitarian States,” said Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, in a report to the Human Rights Council.
Environmental human rights defenders must be heard and protected
“Every day, environmental human rights defenders face abuse, threats and harassment for their work addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and nature loss,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during a high-level virtual event co-organized by Sweden and UN Human Rights.
Accountability for gross violations is an obligation - UN expert
“Accountability and appropriate sanctions for perpetrators are essential conditions for a peaceful and sustainable transition,” says Fabián Salvioli, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.
Social protection must be strengthened before the next crisis
In his latest report, the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Olivier De Schutter, said the millions of people thrown into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic should be a warning sign. He pushed for the creation of a Global Fund for Social Protection to improve long-term social protection measures and the universalization of social protection floors for low-income countries.
Speakers urge definitive action to combat systemic racism
“I am asking you to help us – Black people in America,” said Philonise Floyd to the Human Rights Council. The death of his brother George in the USA in May led to global protests against racism and police brutality. It also led to an urgent debate on systemic racism during the Council’s 43rd session.
Expert calls for resolution on right to healthy environment
David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, called on the Human Rights Council to pass a resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment, saying it would lead to stronger State actions on environment.
Reflecting on 25 years of women’s rights action
Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, experts celebrate that document’s vision of women’s rights and discuss its continued relevance to address remaining and new challenges.
A call to action for human rights
Calling human rights “part of the very identity of the United Nations,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined a commitment to step up action on human rights in seven key areas.
Reporting Back to Myanmar’s Rohingya: The Most Important Report of All
International fact-finding mechanisms set up by the Human Rights Council investigate human rights crises globally and issue reports relying heavily on testimony from survivors and victims. In a rare move, the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar returned to those communities and reported back to them.
Digital age: Is our privacy under threat?
States have a responsibility to protect against unlawful interference with the right to privacy. More transparency in how States and the private sector manage personal digital data is key to protecting our human rights.
Human Rights Council Retreat
This week, government representatives, members of civil society and human rights experts took stock of progress made by the Council while expressing their views on its future work.
Displaced and afraid in Idlib, Syria
Warring parties in Idlib have given little consideration for civilian lives and have caused massive displacements. UN experts propose recommendations to address the situation of the displaced.
Improve integration of child soldiers
“We are concerned about the punitive approach taken by some States toward children associated with armed groups, including mercenaries, and insist that the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration,” said Saeed Mokbil, Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries during the Human Rights Council.
Reprisals: Targeting Human Rights Defenders
"The horrendous impact on the victim and their families aside, reprisals against people for cooperating with the UN sends a chilling message to others of what will happen if they do the same thing. As they are designed to do," said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour.
Myanmar Fact Finding Mission: accounting for the gravest international crimes
The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar found patterns of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, amounting to the gravest crimes under international law. The report calls for Myanmar military generals to be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
SIDs Trust Fund honours Tonga
Tonga delegate Elsie Fukofuka has become the 100th beneficiary of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund. The Fund provides support for delegates from least developed countries and small island nations to attend the Human Rights Council.
An unresolved uprooted life
Internally displaced persons in Japan and Mexico look to their Governments to recognize their displacement.
What to know about detention and the right to health
The UN right to health expert, Dainius Pūras, says that over 10 million people detained in prisons and confined in other institutions are denied their right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Burundi - A knife or a steel bar? How would you prefer to be killed?
In 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to stand for another term as head of state of Burundi. Since then, real or suspected government opponents have been hunted down, tortured or killed. The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi talks of crimes against humanity.
Protecting the rights of detainees in Syria
Protection of detainees and the disappeared in Syria was the focus of a recent panel discussion held during the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The discussion focused on the experiences of former detainees as well as providing some ways forward.
Zeid's Global Human Rights Update
Addressing the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner focused on trends that increasingly undermine the work of the United Nations – including attempts to block the scrutiny of his Office.
Taking stock of the Human Rights Council at 10
Former presidents assess a decade of the Human Rights Council during a discussion on the 10th Anniversary of the Human Rights Council. The event was moderated by UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore.
Homelessness: surviving at the peripheries
Homelessness is not a personal failure but the consequence of the systemic denial of the rights of homeless people, says UN expert on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha.
Out of sight, out of mind: deaths in detention in Syria
Syrian men, women, and children have been transferred to one of the dozens of official or secret Government-run detention facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. Thousands of them have been killed while in custody.
Criticism is no threat to sovereignty
“Sovereignty cannot be damaged by carefully evaluated commentary,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his opening address to the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council, taking place in Geneva this month.
More satellite images to assist human rights work
Satellite imagery plays a vital role in helping to substantiate and help corroborate other sources of information, including witness testimonies, of human rights violations. A recent agreement between the UN Human Rights Office and UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) hopes to expand the use of this technology for human rights work.
UN Human Rights Office researches abuses of Boko Haram
The atrocities and human rights abuses committed by Boko Haram are the focus of a special investigation by the UN Human Rights Office. The investigation, authorized by the Human Rights Council earlier this year, will interview provide background information for an oral report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Message is clear: Human Rights Still Matter
“Let the message go out that we will defend the victim and the voiceless,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The message was given during his opening statement of the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council, taking place in Geneva this week.
States must renew dedication to inalienable human rights
The near daily news of atrocities and needless human suffering at the hands of terrorists and others demands a stronger and more inspired leadership from Member States toward upholding human rights, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Zeid made his comments at the opening of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Protect the rights of people with albinism
Tanzania has witnessed a spate of brutal attacks and killings of people with albinism, linked to myths and witchcraft. To protect this vulnerable group, the East African nation has rounded up children with the condition and placed them in holding centres throughout the country.
Mass surveillance: exceptional measure or dangerous habit?
Digital communications technologies have revolutionized the way human beings interact, but Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri warns of the very real impact that governmental surveillance of digital communications can have on a range of human rights.
The Long Road to Ending Impunity
The UN Human Rights Office and the UN Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) enforce protection measures to enable victims and witnesses of alleged human rights violations to testify in court.
Out of many perspectives comes one history
History and memorials are not the spoils of the victor. In a panel discussion held during the 27th Human Rights Council, Human Rights special rapporteurs discussed with guests and Member States the best way to ensure that history teaching and memorialization processes are being used as a way of fostering mutual understanding between communities so as not to repeat past wrongs.
Web resource gathers human rights education commitments of States in one place
A web resource called “The Right to Human Rights Education”, which was unveiled during a side event at the 27th session of the Human Rights Council, is a compilation of all the provisions of international and regional instruments that highlight commitments made by States to human rights education.
Syria’s brutal war threatens international peace and security
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic says the continuous influx of foreign fighters and the advances of extremist groups has contributed to a spill-over of violence affecting international peace and stability.
The harms of gender stereotyping
Gender stereotyping is a form of discrimination against women and a contributing factor to many violations of their rights, say experts at the Human Rights Council.
Everyone needs a place to call home
The UN human rights expert on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, presents new Guiding Principles on tenure security for the urban poor in her last report to the Human Rights Council.
The Human Rights Council’s 25th session opens in Geneva
At the opening of the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay spoke of the daunting challenges, which lie ahead, for the full protection and promotion of human rights and highlighted the recent human rights achievements.
The right to privacy in the digital age
UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay describes a ‘blurring of lines between the public and private sphere” brought about by modern communications technology and the challenges this poses to ensuring effective protection of the right to privacy.
Human Rights Council’s 24th session opens in Geneva
At the opening of the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay expressed her distress over the current human rights challenges throughout the world starting with the catastrophic situation in Syria, and highlighted the Office’s recent achievements.
Combating child sex tourism
By 2030 the number of international tourists will reach an estimated 1.8 billion. Tourism, however, has a dark side and can be a potential vehicle for child abuse. Child sex tourism (CST) is a growing trend affecting millions of children around the globe.
A move to raise a healthier generation of kids
Human rights and health experts participated in an interactive dialogue on the challenges in achieving the full realization of the right of the child to health during the full-day meeting on the Rights of the Child.
20 years working for human rights
Two decades on from the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, the international community recalls it as a ‘milestone’ in the development of the global human rights movement.
The 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council opens in Geneva
At the opening of the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, evokes the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and acknowledges achievements and challenges ahead.
Ending the recruitment of child soldiers
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict appeals to the Human Rights Council for greater protection of conflict-affected children.
Supporting women human rights defenders
“Although much progress has been made in realizing women’s rights, we must acknowledge that we still live in a world where women face serious inequalities in all spheres of life—at home, at work, in communities and in politics,”.
The right to send out “inconvenient” information
Journalists should not be intimidated, imprisoned, tortured or killed for telling “inconvenient” truths, notes the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, in his latest report to the Human Rights Council.
Right to food: the impacts of bad diets
In his new report to the UN Human Rights Council, Olivier De Schutter, the UN independent expert on the right to food, addresses the links between health and malnutrition.
Children and the justice system
Addressing the Human Rights Council, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay says imprisonment of children should be considered only as a last resort.
A stain on our collective conscience
UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon calls on members of the Human Rights Council and “all people of conscience” to act now to put an end to violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A right to choose for persons with disabilities
States that have endorsed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should ease the participation of all persons with disabilities in the political and public life of their countries.
Human Rights Council holds its 19th session
Human rights issues, from minority rights to juvenile justice, will be addressed during the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council, which takes place in Geneva from 27 February to 23 March 2012.