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Human Rights Council Adopts Universal Periodic Review Outcomes of India, Finland, and the Philippines

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AFTERNOON 27 March 2023

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of India, Finland, and the Philippines.

The Council adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of India. The Vice-President said 221 recommendations were adopted by India and 118 were noted.

Speaking on India were United Nations Human Settlements Programme, United Nations Population Fund, Tanzania, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen, Algeria, Armenia, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, China, and Cuba.

Also speaking were Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Federation for Women and Family Planning, World Evangelical Alliance, Edmund Rice International Limited, Equality Now, Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, Lawyers for Lawyers, PRATYEK, Action Canada for Population and Development, and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development.

The Council adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Finland. The Vice-President said 168 recommendations were adopted by Finland and 47 were noted.

Speaking on Finland were Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Tanzania, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Egypt, Gambia, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Maldives.

Also speaking were SOS Kinderdorf International, Alliance Defending Freedom, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Institute for NGO Research, Humanists International, World Jewish Congress, Lutheran World Federation, Centre for Global Nonkilling, Amnesty International, Meezaan Centre for Human Rights, and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues.

The Council adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Philippines. The Vice-President said 215 recommendations were adopted by the Philippines and 74 were noted.

Speaking on the Philippines were United Nations Development Coordination Office, Venezuela, Yemen, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, and Vanuatu.

Also speaking were Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Lawyers for Lawyers, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Edmund Rice International Limited, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Franciscans International, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Human Rights Watch, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Centre for Reproductive Rights.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-second regular session can be found here.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 March, when it will consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Brazil, Poland, and the Netherlands.

Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of India

Report

The Council has before it the Universal Periodic Review outcome of India.

Presentation of Report

India said it had accepted over two-thirds of the 339 recommendations for implementation and had taken note of the remaining. The country had also recently established a national mechanism for implementation, reporting and follow-up for all human rights reporting obligations, which would play an important role in delineating the steps advancing the promotion and protection of the human rights of the people. India had made rapid strides in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, tracked through the Sustainable Development Goals’ India Index and Dashboard. The country was on the cusp of achieving a favourable sex ratio due to relentless efforts in protecting the girl child, a feat that seemed decades ahead of its time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, India had ensured supply of free food grains to over 800 million persons for 28 months to ensure food and nutritional security. The massive immunisation drive of over 2.2 billion COVID vaccines administered to more than 1 billion persons showed the country’s strong commitment to public health. In a move towards universal health coverage, India was implementing one of the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programmes, Ayushman Bharat, to provide accessible and affordable healthcare to over 500 million beneficiaries. Under the world’s largest financial inclusion drive, more than 478 million bank accounts had been opened, a majority of the holders being women. Cash transfers of nearly USD 27 billion had been provided to over 114 million landholding farmers to supplement their financial needs. India’s Constitution had evolved in response to the new challenges and in the process, the country had repealed excessive and obsolete laws.

Discussion

Some speakers welcomed the Government’s commitment to supporting those most in need, such as the homeless and those living with slum-related deprivation, calling it admirable. The support for the protection of women and girl’s rights, in particular housing and sanitation, was also welcomed. Local governments at all levels should observe international law and best practice with regard to forced evictions. The significant progress in advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights was noted. The Government’s strengthening of the healthcare sector’s response to gender-based violence was also applauded. Some speakers said there had been a frank dialogue throughout the review, and there was social progress, in particular with regard to the economy, and the extension of healthcare coverage. India was encouraged to continue to consolidate these successive social policies, which focused on the most vulnerable.

Some speakers regretted that India had not accepted the recommendation on changing the law on marital rape. India was invited to repeal or amend the law regulating the access of non-governmental organizations to foreign contributions as per the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Freedom of expression must be guaranteed for all. India must continue its efforts to promote and protect human rights, in particular through adopting legislation that would protect the rights of the most vulnerable. The issue of female genital mutilation was also raised, as it violated constitutional rights. Speakers noted that there was no specific law on female genital mutilation in India, and the Government was called on to collect data and to urgently develop a fully-costed national plan to end the phenomenon. There was concern for the continued harassment and silencing of human rights defenders. States were urged to repeal the conversion laws, which were against India’s constitutional guarantees. Health education should be made mandatory in all schools, and the Free and Compulsory Schooling Act should be reinforced.

The President said India had received 339 recommendations, out of which 221 were adopted, and 118 were noted.

Concluding Remarks

India said it attached high importance to the Universal Periodic Review process and believed that the lack of progress in fulfilling obligations was mostly due to lack of capacity. Therefore, a greater emphasis needed to be placed on technical assistance and capacity building, in consultation with and with the consent of concerned States, for improving the human rights situations on the ground. India appreciated the support provided by the Voluntary Funds for Participation in the Universal Periodic Review and for Financial and Technical Assistance in the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review and had been contributing to the latter. There was a need to place greater emphasis on building consensus in the Council, which should be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in dealing with various human rights situations.

Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Finland

Report

The Council has before it the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Finland.

Presentation of Report

Finland said the Universal Periodic Review was a valuable system, as every cycle provided more targeted and tailored recommendations. The previous cycles had supported the Government to implement and put into concrete action its human rights commitments. The Universal Periodic Review covered the field of human rights in a way that was equal and constructive, working as a channel to present national achievements, but also as a mirror to detect those areas where work was still needed. The recommendations gave concrete tools which could be used in the promotion of human rights. In the Government Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin, the legal protection of fundamental and human rights formed the very basis. The basic principles in the programme were equality, non-discrimination, participation, and securing everyone’s social, cultural and economic rights.

Finland received 229 recommendations, of which all were taken for further examination. The Government supported altogether 168 recommendations and 14 recommendations were partially supported. The rest, 47 recommendations, were noted. Many of the supported recommendations were already in the process of being implemented and the rest would be taken into further consideration as to how they would be implemented. Key themes arising were discrimination, racism and hate speech, as well as violence against women. The rights of minorities, asylum seekers and indigenous Sámi people also illustrated the challenges in the national human rights framework that needed urgent attention. In the Government’s view, the dialogue with civil society was an absolute added value of the Universal Periodic Review – broad recommendations enabled diverse dialogue at different stages of the process. The Government welcomed civil society participation in and contribution to the implementation process. By working together, the goal of a stronger human rights framework would be achieved.

Finnish Centre for Human Rights said Finland had received several recommendations aimed at better combatting discrimination, hate speech, hate crime, and domestic and gender-based violence. The Government had accepted many of these recommendations, some of which highlighted the need for prompt investigations. Ensuring effective criminal proceedings and victims' access to justice should be a priority of any initiative to strengthen the rule of law in Finland. Finland had also accepted recommendations to reform the Sámi Parliament Act. As the rights of indigenous peoples were a priority of Finland's foreign policy, the Government must ensure that this was also reflected in its actions at the national level.

Discussion

Some speakers thanked Finland for its cooperative and constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process. Finland was commended for its commitment to human rights at home and worldwide, and for accepting 168 of the 229 recommendations put forward in the review. It was also welcomed that the Government had committed to presenting a mid-term report to the Council. Speakers welcomed the Finnish Government’s efforts to combat racism and xenophobia by creating an action plan which made training on hate crime and ethnic profiling mandatory for all police officers and civil servants in police departments. They also welcomed Finland’s support for programmes aimed at providing indigenous peoples with equal access to decision making bodies, and to educational and economic opportunities. The positive impact of Finland’s housing first policy in implementing sustainable solutions to homelessness was acknowledged. Speakers welcomed that Finland continued to monitor homelessness and housing-related discrimination among the Roma through its national action plan on fundamental and human rights. The country’s attention to tackling violence against women and girls, and the promotion and protection of the human rights of refugees, migrants, and ethnic minorities, was also applauded.

Some speakers noted that it was regretful that Finland had not considered fully accepting the recommendation to put an end to the exacerbated increase in racism, hate speech, xenophobia, Islamophobia and racial violence, especially against minorities, refugees and migrants. The country needed to put an end to systematic excessive use of force and ill-treatment by the police. Many speakers offered full support for the adoption of Finland’s Universal Periodic Review outcome and wished Finland every success in the implementation of the recommendations.

The Vice-President said Finland received 229 recommendations, out of which 168 were adopted, and 47 were noted. Further clarification was provided on 14 other recommendations, indicating which elements of the recommendations could be accepted, and which elements were noted.

Concluding Remarks

Finland said this Universal Periodic Review provided Finland with a range of tools to develop and implement policies and practices to advance human rights in Finland. Those recommendations that were most urgent and relevant would be prioritised. The Government pledged to report to the Human Rights Council on the steps taken, and to engage relevant stakeholders and seek their feedback and input on any challenges or obstacles encountered during implementation. The Government would take all comments and observations from today’s discussion into consideration among all Ministries and their administrative branches, as well as for further dialogue with civil society.

Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of the Philippines

Report

The Council has before it the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Philippines.

Presentation of Report

Philippines said that in this fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, it had accepted 215 out of 289 recommendations. Of the 215, 200 were accepted two days after the review. An additional 15 recommendations were adopted following an open consultative process with the participation of the Commission on Human Rights. The Philippines under President Marcos was pursuing a rights-based development agenda to accelerate pandemic recovery, catapult the Philippines to upper middle-income status by 2024, and reduce the poverty rate to 9 per cent or single-digit by 2028. The Philippines had criminalised child marriage, raised the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 to 16, enhanced mechanisms to combat human trafficking and online sexual abuse of children, and created a department solely devoted to migrant workers’ affairs. To decongest prisons, the Government was building new facilities in different regions of the country.

The Philippines had institutionalised the periodic review of prison records, thus allowing for regular releases of persons deprived of liberty based on good conduct. From July 2022 to February 2023, 4,124 people had been released. The Philippines was working with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings on a capacity-building programme on forensic pathology to be launched this July within the framework of the United Nations Joint Programme, to be able to better investigate and deliver justice in cases of wrongful deaths in whatever context. The Philippines had a longstanding policy of constructive engagement with United Nations human rights mechanisms and was committed to international human rights norms and obligations. It stood ready to welcome the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression for a country visit in the last quarter of 2023.

National Human Rights Institution of the Philippines urged the Government to urgently exact justice to all victims of extrajudicial killings; and to respect the voices of truth, criticism, and dissent and refrain from acts of reprisals, intimidation and harassment against journalists, human rights advocates, and community workers. The Government should open up to constructive engagement with civil society; strengthen and respect the independence of the judiciary, the Ombudsman, and the national human rights institution; and provide social security services to cushion the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and runaway inflation. The Government should also heed the plight of the poor, indigenous peoples and minorities.

Discussion

Many speakers welcomed the Philippines’ active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process, noting the wide range of recommendations accepted, which included relevant commitments related to the protection of migrant workers; human rights-based approaches to drugs; accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, including in the context of anti-drug operations; improved prison conditions; strengthening equitable access to food and safe drinking water; universal health care during disasters and emergencies; and solution pathways for internally displaced people, amongst others. The Government had exemplified open and holistic cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review process, and it should continue to consolidate the sound and apposite social policies that it was rolling out to ensure the situation of its people. The Government’s commitment to improving human rights was evident in all fields - civil, political, economic and social - and its progress was applauded.

Some speakers said facts on the ground stood in direct contrast to the recommendations, adding that little had been done to systematically investigate the wide-spread human rights violations that had been committed. The killings of suspected drug offenders were still happening. The Government did not accept recommendations to end the practice of “red-tagging”, indicating a lack of commitment by the Government to end this practice, which caused significant harm to human rights defenders. There was also concern for the reported cases of targeted harassment and extrajudicial killings of lawyers in the Philippines, and the Government was urged to uphold the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and take immediate measures to guarantee the full independence of lawyers and their effective protection against any form of undue interference in their work. There was also concern that the Government had not prioritised the recommendations pertaining to the decriminalisation of abortion, and it should review its position and consider the adoption of the recommendation to decriminalise abortion through an amendment of the Revised Penal Code.

The Vice-President said the Philippines received 289 recommendations, out of which 215 were accepted and 74 were noted.

Concluding Remarks

Philippines said there was no policy to attack or harass human rights defenders, and the country had an open civic space which allowed representatives of civil society and the media to fulfil their role in society. With more than 2,100 media outlets, the Philippines had one of the most vibrant media systems in the world, and freedom for the media and press was protected. The Philippines had enacted the anti-terrorism law, which was in line with its Constitution, in 2020, and was legislated with the contribution of the national human rights institution and civil society. The recommendations that were noted were not rejected and may be revisited in the future. The Government was fully committed to uphold and protect the rights and freedoms of the Filipino people.

 

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