Council Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi and Hears Presentation by the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of the Czech Republic, Argentina, Gabon and Ghana. It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi and heard a presentation by the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
Concerning the Czech Republic, the Vice-President of the Council said out of the 242 recommendations received, 207 enjoyed the support of the Czech Republic and 31 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another four recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Czech Republic were China, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Israel, Lithuania, Maldives, Namibia, Nepal, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa and Ukraine.
Also speaking were World Jewish Congress, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, and United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation.
As for Argentina, the Vice-President said that out of the 287 recommendations received, 271 enjoyed the support of Argentina, and 14 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another two recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Argentina were Armenia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Maldives and Morocco.
Also speaking were World Jewish Congress, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Edmund Rice International Limited, Amnesty International, Lutheran World Federation, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, and Action Canada for Population and Development.
With regard to Gabon, the Vice-President of the Council said that out of the 259 recommendations received, 230 enjoyed the support of Gabon, and 29 were noted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Gabon were India, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka.
Also speaking were Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Africa Culture Internationale, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, Interfaith International, and Ingenieurs du Monde.
Concerning Ghana, the Vice-President said that out of the 298 recommendations received, 265 enjoyed the support of Ghana, and 30 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another three recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Ghana were Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Tanzania, Venezuela, Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Republic of Congo and Cuba.
Also speaking were Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Action Canada for Population and Development, Defence for Children International, Humanists International, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Advocates for Human Rights, Edmund Rice International Limited, Amnesty International, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme and Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, which started in the previous meeting.
Fortuné Gaetan Zongo, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, said in concluding remarks that there needed to be a dialogue facilitated between the different Burundians. They needed to be empowered to find a solution themselves. There was the political will there to have a State based on democracy and human rights. A link needed to be established between the goodwill and the implementation. The international community needed to support the country to enable it to have the necessary strength to implement the political will. Burundians needed to meet among themselves and have discussions towards a mode of government which they were going to respect. Dialogue and diversity were essential; other opinions needed to be heard to progress. There also needed to be a strong and independent justice system which could properly implement the rule of law.
In the discussion on Burundi, some speakers said incidents of torture, arbitrary arrests and forced detention required independent and impartial justice, one of the preconditions for a lasting peace. Journalists, civil society actors and political parties must be allowed to operate freely in the run-up to the elections of 2025. It was of concern that the access of the Special Rapporteur to the country continued to be restricted. Some speakers said that some of the allegations in the report lacked credibility and were counter-productive, not creating a conducive environment for cooperation. The international community, including the Council, should seek to engage in constructive dialogue and cooperation with countries concerned, refraining from biased and politicised approaches aiming to put pressure on countries.
Speaking in the discussion on Burundi were France, United States, United Kingdom, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, China, Switzerland, Sudan, Yemen and Russian Federation.
Also speaking were International Federation of ACAT, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Elizka Relief Foundation, Human Rights Research League, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Amnesty International, and World Organization against Torture.
The Council then heard a presentation by the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
Damilola Olawuyi, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, presented the report of the Working Group on the eleventh annual Forum on Business and Human Rights. The Forum was the world’s largest global conference on business and human rights. The 2022 Forum had the theme “Rights holders at the centre: Strengthening accountability to advance business respect for people and planet in the next decade”. It explored several topics that the Working Group considered critical for addressing current and future issues.
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-third regular session can be found here.
The next meeting of the Council will be on Friday, 7 July at 10 a.m. to continue with the consideration of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of a number of countries.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi
The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here.
In the discussion, some speakers said the incidents of torture, arbitrary arrests and forced detention in Burundi required independent impartial justice, one of the preconditions for a lasting peace. Journalists, civil society actors and political parties must be allowed to operate freely in the run-up to the elections of 2025. It was of concern that the access of the Special Rapporteur to the country continued to be restricted. Some speakers urged the Government to give him access, in line with its commitments, and to re-engage with the international community, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other bodies that could help it with its stated ambitions.
Some speakers said the authorities should guarantee the independence of the national human rights commission, and guarantee freedom for civic space. There was concern about continued restrictions on the freedom of expression. The authorities should take measures to ensure the independence of the judiciary and ensure access to justice for victims: it was necessary for a lasting peace for victims to have confidence that there would be a fair trial and reparations.
Some speakers noted the progress made since the last report, but were concerned about the slow and limited progress, encouraging the authorities to make further steps towards improving the situation within the country. Other speakers said there were positive developments within the country, with the engagement in socio-economic activities. Burundian refugees had continued to re-patriate from other countries and had taken part in nation building. The international community should continue to provide support to the Government and support measures to bring development in the country.
One speaker said country-specific mandates were often used to interfere within those countries. Some of the allegations in the report lacked credibility and were counter-productive, not creating a conducive environment for cooperation. The international community, including the Council, should seek to engage in constructive dialogue and cooperation with countries concerned, refraining from biased and politicised approaches aiming to put pressure on countries. Another speaker appreciated the steps taken by Burundi towards strengthening institutions and establishing peace in the country. However, the Council continued to promote a political agenda that had nothing to do with human rights and that flagrantly violated the principle of independence and sovereignty, as stipulated in the United Nations Charter. Such hostile and interfering mechanisms gave nothing to the cause of human rights.
Among the questions raised were: what could be done to maintain a constructive, open dialogue with the authorities with the aim of promoting the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms; what concrete steps could the Government take to improve the situation of human rights in the country; what actions should Burundi take to show its commitment to human rights standards, given its intent to apply to be a member of the Human Rights Council at a later session; and what were the Special Rapporteur’s opinions on recent attempts to end impunity.
ZONGO FORTUNÉ GAETAN, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, said there needed to be a dialogue facilitated between the different Burundians. They needed to be empowered to find a solution themselves. There was the political will there to have a State based on democracy and human rights. A link needed to be established between the goodwill and the implementation. The international community needed to support the country to enable it to have the necessary strength to implement the political will. Burundians needed to meet among themselves and have discussions towards a mode of government which they were going to respect.
Mr. Gaetan said he planned to work with the support of the Friends of Burundi, and would make proposals for Burundi to be able to establish a roadmap on its own. His door was open to all proposals which may be submitted, and he stood ready to cooperate with the State. Dialogue and diversity were essential; other opinions needed to be heard to progress. There needed to be a roadmap which was agreed and based on dialogue. The roadmap of 2015 needed to be updated and applied to the various actors.
The Special Rapporteur said that at the beginning of his mandate, his role had begun cooperating with the State of Burundi, and for this reason it would be possible to find a path forward and strengthen human rights in the country. There needed to be a strong and independent justice system which could properly implement the rule of law. All the actions which could threaten human rights and integrity needed to be brought together in a proper legal framework, and this could be done with the support of the Human Rights Council.
Presentation of Report of Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises
DAMILOLA OLAWUYI, Chairperson of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, presented the report of the Working Group on the eleventh annual Forum on Business and Human Rights. The Forum was organised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and guided and chaired by the Working Group. It was the world’s largest global conference on business and human rights, bringing together participants from States, business, institutional investors, community groups and civil society organizations, rights holders, indigenous peoples, United Nations bodies, national human rights institutions, trade unions, academia and the media.
The 2022 Forum was held in hybrid format from 28 to 30 November, under the theme “Rights holders at the centre: Strengthening accountability to advance business respect for people and planet in the next decade”. More than 2,500 participants from 130 countries and a wide range of backgrounds registered for the Forum online and in-person. The Forum explored several topics that the Working Group considered critical for addressing current and future issues, such as the role of development finance institutions, the extractive sector, climate change, intersectionality and the role of investors in the implementation of business and human rights matters.
The report reiterated the need for States and business to redouble efforts to implement effectively the United Nations Guiding Principles. Urgent action by States was required to strengthen policy coherence, and to promote responsible business conduct and corporate accountability.
The report showed that discussions in the Forum highlighted the need for strengthening institutional and regulatory frameworks, which would allow for adverse business-related human rights impacts to be identified, prevented, mitigated and accounted for. The importance of meaningful participation of rights holders and human rights defenders was outlined as a pre-requisite to find shared solutions to the challenges facing the business and human rights agenda. Participants at the Forum also stressed the importance of effective multilateralism to rebuild trust, and to ensure accountability and access to remedy.
Policy coherence at multi-lateral level remained a key challenge. Notably, while preventing and addressing adverse impacts on people was the core of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, due diligence and access to remedy had been largely absent from the 2030 Agenda, and States should strengthen the connection. The report provided concrete examples of actions needed to hold businesses accountable and facilitate access to remedy, including in the context of climate change, artificial intelligence and conflict. Against this background, the Working Group had decided that the theme of the twelfth annual Forum on Business and Human Rights would be “Towards effective change in implementing obligations, responsibilities and remedies”. The 2023 Forum would take place in Geneva from 27 to 29 November 2023, hopefully in a hybrid format, to ensure participation of an even broader and more diverse range of stakeholders.
Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of the Czech Republic
Czech Republic said the Government believed that the Universal Periodic Review was a central occasion to further advance its promotion and protection of human rights on the ground. All the given recommendations had been thoroughly reviewed and the Czech authorities had tried to approach the recommendations as favourably as possible. In sum, out of 242 recommendations, Czechia supported 207 and noted 31, while four recommendations were partially supported and partially noted. The first major group of recommendations addressed the position of Czechia vis-à-vis some of the key international human rights instruments, and there had been a major positive step forward as the Czech Government had approved the proposal for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention on 21 June 2023. By 2025 the Czech Republic would analyse its implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to see how it was prepared to ratify the Optional Protocol while providing minimum ground for complaints.
Another long-term issue that the Czech Republic had decided to tackle as a priority was the establishment of a national human rights institution according to the Paris Principles. The majority of recommendations focused on more general issues like the fight against racism, hatred and discrimination, trafficking in human beings, and domestic and gender-based violence, or addressed gender equality, protection of the rights of the child, persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and integration of the Roma community, as well as of migrants, refugees and other foreigners. These issues were also of utmost importance for the Czech Republic. The country remained committed to the Universal Periodic Review process and to the protection and promotion of all human rights.
Parliamentary Sub-Committee for Human Rights of the Czech Republic said that democracy itself must be based on the will and the rights of those forming it and giving it legitimacy. Non-respect for the humanity of the individual was a small slide into non-respect for the humanity of whole nations. The Czech Republic, at the Government, Parliament and civil society levels, was well aware of what was at stake, and took note of the report of the Universal Periodic Review. It would be a basis and a guide to continue the discussion for the strengthening of human rights within the Parliament.
In the discussion, some speakers, among other things, appreciated the constructive engagement by the delegation of Czechia during the entire Universal Periodic Review process, which reflected the strong commitment of the country to promoting and protecting human rights. The efforts made by the Government to protect the rights of vulnerable persons, including women and the elderly, were noted. Speakers welcomed the adoption of the national action plan on the prevention of domestic and gender-based violence 2019, and the national strategy for combatting trafficking in human beings 2023. Czechia was commended for welcoming almost half a million refugees from Ukraine, following the war of aggression by the Russian Federation. The submission of the Istanbul Convention to the relevant authorities for revision and ratification was welcomed, as was the significant legislative progress made by Czechia in the area of child protection.
Some speakers remained concerned about serious human rights violations in Czechia, including hate speech and violence against refugees in the country. Violence against women in the county was increasing, and many cases of domestic and sexual violence had not been properly dealt with. Cases of trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation and forced labour occurring in the country were also a concern. Russian and Russian-language citizens faced severe violations of human rights, which was not evident within the report. The steps to integrate Roma children in mainstream education had unfortunately not achieved the desired progress. Wider ranging measures needed to be adopted which took into account factors, including poverty.
Czechia was urged to fulfil its international human rights obligations by implementing the recommendations and overcoming the existing shortcomings in the country. It was encouraged to submit a mid-term report regarding the implementation process. It was hoped that Czechia would be able to implement some of the recommendations noted. Speakers wished Czechia success in the implementation of the recommendations and requested that the Council adopt its report.
The Vice-President of the Council said out of the 242 recommendations received, 207 enjoyed the support of Czechia and 31 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another four recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
Czech Republic said the statements and comments showed that speakers had carefully studied the situation in the Czech Republic. The country saw them as a further impetus for improving the situation of human rights and would take the recommendations as tools for improving implementation, and would consider them fully. It would involve to the maximum extent possible the target groups affected by the various issues under discussion, aiming to make the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review fully participatory. This was the start of the next round of an ongoing process: the way States took the recommendations received determined the success of the Universal Periodic Review, and the Czech Republic remained committed to this process.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Czech Republic.
Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Argentina
Argentina said the Government had examined the 287 recommendations made. Argentina had accepted 271 recommendations, taken note of 14 and provided additional clarification on two of them, indicating which part of the recommendations had been supported and which part had been noted. Argentina had made voluntary commitments within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, including taking the necessary measures to expedite trials, strengthen investigations, and increase support for victims within the framework of the process of memory, truth, justice and reparation for the crimes against humanity committed by the last civic-military dictatorship. Argentina would continue to promote the enactment of a comprehensive law against institutional violence that aimed to prevent this crime and provided support and reparation to victims.
Argentina would continue to promote dialogue and the peaceful resolution of indigenous peoples' territorial claims, and continue working for the full application of the law on access to voluntary interruption of pregnancy. It would also strengthen programmes for people in situations of gender violence and would guarantee rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. Argentina would foster the legal establishment of a comprehensive care system, which would expand the offer of services and care infrastructure, adapting the working day to care needs and modifying the labour system. Argentina would also promote the adoption of a new disability law. The country remained fully committed to raising awareness on the need to eradicate violent hate speech, and to continue promoting reforms that ensured the proper functioning of the rule of law.
Ombudsman’s Office of Argentina said there was no national action plan on human rights, nor on business and human rights. There was inappropriate management of a range of issues mentioned in the report, such as social security for retirees. There was a failure of management in the Women’s Ministry, and violence against women continued, with the national action plan having been ineffective. There was no attainment or progress in attainment to the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the discussion, some speakers said Argentina had demonstrated commendable efforts in advancing human rights, and it was crucial to recognise the country's responsibility toward fostering a culture of respect, dignity and equality. Remarkable progress had been made and was still going on in promoting gender equality, combatting violence against women, and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, which deserved recognition and support. Speakers recognised the improved protection and promotion of the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups, and the efforts to raise the visibility of these groups, ensuring their economic independence and political participation. The efforts were put in place by the Government to ensure truth and reconciliation policies were also appreciated.
Argentina had accepted 271 recommendations, including on improving the protection of the rights of the child and extending nation-wide the national plan to avoid teenage and adolescent pregnancies. Some speakers said the Government should effectively implement all recommendations that it had accepted. It was also encouraged to continue the progress made with regard to the national plan against discrimination. The voluntary commitments shouldered by Argentina with a view toward eliminating institutional violence and fostering the law on disabilities were also applauded. Argentina had implemented a national plan to combat human trafficking, and should continue to promote sustainable socio-economic development, the development of the health services, and support and promote the right to health.
One speaker said that the rise of anti-Semitism, a problem seen around the world, was also happening in Argentina. In the last years there was a growth of cases of hatred and anti-Semitism, especially on the Internet, but very little violence offline. Another speaker said the fight against climate change and environmental degradation by the authorities remained modest. Argentina’s constructive approach to the Universal Periodic Review process as a whole was noted and commended. Argentina was encouraged to implement all the recommendations.
The Vice-President said that based on the information provided, out of the 287 recommendations received, 271 enjoyed the support of Argentina, and 14 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another two recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
Argentina said the country would be commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the recovery of its democracy in December, at the same time as the international community would celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both dates had a special meaning and provided the opportunity to take stock of the road travelled, assess the progress made, and recognise the challenges which still lay ahead. The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Argentina would be used to bolster cooperation through dialogue.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Argentina.
Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Gabon
Gabon said it wished to pay just tribute to the Human Rights Council, all human rights mechanisms, and the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review for their commitment to human rights, and appreciated the participation of all States that were interested in improving human rights in Gabon. The fourth review had really enshrined Gabon’s commitment to improving and promoting human rights at the national level. After a careful review of the 259 recommendations, which in their entirety were in line with the reforms of Government policies and programmes in the field of human rights, 230 had been accepted. The Government simply intended to reaffirm its strong will and determination to work for the enjoyment of human rights, world peace, and the fulfilment of all those living in Gabon.
The majority of the recommendations had been implemented or were in the process of being implemented, and since January 2023 there had been more progress, such as in the Gabonese body for oversight of elections, and the convening of inclusive policy meetings which had led to the introduction of reducing the timeline of electoral mandates in order to strengthen the participation of all Gabonese in the electoral process. A draft law had been adopted to reorganise the national human rights body in line with the Paris Principles. On the 29 recommendations noted, these were issues in conflict with the cultural values and practices that were current in society, and which would only change over the course of time: their implementation could not be imposed. Gabon was committed to continuing to interact with the Council and the treaty bodies, and to implement fully all the recommendations that were accepted.
Some speakers acknowledged Gabon’s constructive engagement throughout the Universal Periodic Review process and its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights. It was pleasing to note that Gabon had supported the majority of the recommendations made during the session. Some speakers welcomed the efforts made by Gabon in the promotion and protection of human rights, which had led to the strengthening of legislative and institutional frameworks regulating the various political, economic and social spheres. The Government of Gabon had taken steps to fulfil their reporting obligations by preparing State party reports under various human rights treaties. This included legislative and institutional reforms as well as policies aimed at protecting and promoting human rights.
All the important reforms taken by Gabon were appreciated, particularly those in the areas of elections and the judiciary. Some speakers welcomed Gabon’s commitment to advancing the rights of women, including through the adoption of a national strategy to promote women’s rights and reduce gender inequality, and the strengthening of legislative and institutional frameworks to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons. Efforts taken by Gabon to promote inter-religious tolerance were also appreciated. Gabon was urged to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers.
Concern had been raised about the conditions in places of detention and the Gabonese Government was urged to address this. One speaker noted serious concerns about corruption, politically motivated arrests, a crackdown on freedom of expression, and a judicial system that was not independent. Opposition leaders in Gabon continued to face imprisonment, intimidation from security forces and restrictions on peaceful assembly. With elections in just over two months, the Council should investigate the systematic denial of justice and due process, and put an end to impunity. One speaker suggested that Gabon adopt a plan for the implementation of the accepted recommendations, and link the plan to ongoing initiatives, in line with the priorities of the country. Gabon was congratulated on a successful review and wished success in implementing the recommendations. The Council were recommended to adopt of the report.
The Vice-President of the Council said that out of the 259 recommendations received, 230 enjoyed the support of Gabon, and 29 were noted.
Gabon said a constructive spirit was seen during the entire review, and it had strengthened Gabon’s views of the mechanism, which was underpinned by cooperation. Gabon remained strongly committed to the cause of human rights.
Another speaker said Gabon was grateful to all States that had made recommendations. The Human Rights Council worked to guarantee human rights throughout the world, and was a tool for States to improve their public policies. Gabon had seen, with great interest, how involved the Council was in reviewing its human rights situation, and had managed to achieve significant progress to ensure effective guarantees for the rights of all, including women, children, indigenous populations, and those in prison. The effective realisation of all human rights must be continuously monitored. Gabon was willing to make its country a territory where all questions of rights could be discussed.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Gabon.
Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Ghana
Ghana said it had received 298 recommendations, which were extensively examined, and the Government supported 261, partially supported three and noted 34 of them. The key issues in the recommendations included the ratification of key human rights conventions; the protection of women and girls; the protection of children’s rights geared towards ending child marriage; anti-corruption measures; the protection of journalists and media organizations; the protection of human rights defenders; the prevention of trafficking; the right to health; the right to education; and the rights of persons living with disabilities. Ghana supported almost all of them and they were at varying degrees of implementation. The drafting of the prisons service bill was underway and the community service sentencing bill had been developed in an effort to decongest prisons. The major challenge in implementing these programmes was a lack of funding.
On the issue of human trafficking, the human trafficking act of 2005, which was currently in operation, was enacted to prevent, reduce, rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficked persons. Ghana received about 30 recommendations on the abolition of the death penalty, which the country supported. Currently there was still a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty, whilst the laborious process of amending the Constitution to enable the abolition was underway. Ghana received questions on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues and concerns regarding violence against this community. Ghana noted these recommendations. Ghana’s views on the recommendations were discussed with all major stakeholders to ensure their implementation.
Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice said it was impressed with the progress Ghana had made in respect to its human rights obligations. However, there were some issues which could be improved upon. Ghana needed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and to ensure that child marriages and witchcraft accusations were eradicated.
In the discussion, some speakers commended Ghana for accepting a large majority of the recommendations that were put forward, demonstrating Ghana’s ongoing commitment toward the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people in a manner that best suited the national context. Such an approach would translate to tangible impact on the ground. Speakers also welcomed the progress of Ghana in protecting human rights, including the adoption of the strategic plan on domestic violence and victim support, the adoption of child protection policies, as well as the initiatives undertaken to support the most vulnerable against poverty. The adoption of the right to information act of 2019 by Ghana and the establishment of the Right to Information Commission were also noted.
Ghana’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process was appreciated, and it should continue with the implementation of the recommendations, some speakers said. The work on the rights of the child, including the implementation of the national action plan, should continue. Well-planned, participatory urbanisation could be used as a driving force towards human rights-based and gender responsive cities for all. The efforts of the Ghanaian authorities to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals were welcomed by speakers. Ghana’s efforts to use sustainable urban development as one of its tools towards ensuring that no one was left behind were applauded.
One speaker said there were concerns over the persistence of the harmful practice of witchcraft accusations in Ghana; individuals accused, predominantly women, especially older women, widows, women with disabilities, and mothers of children with albinism, faced stigmatisation, various forms of violence, mutilation, and sometimes homicides, and were often driven violently from their communities and forced to seek refuge in designated “witch camps.” Another speaker regretted that Ghana had taken an inconsistent approach to the sexual and reproductive health and rights-related recommendations it received during the review. There was also concern for the reluctance to accept recommendations that directly or indirectly pertained to the rights of sexual and gender minorities in Ghana, as seen with the recommendation received on ensuring the elimination of discrimination, intimidation, and violence against key populations as part of the country’s HIV/AIDS response.
The Vice-President said that out of the 298 recommendations received, 265 enjoyed the support of Ghana, and 30 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another three recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
Ghana said the review had provided the opportunity to have an overview of the human rights situation in the country and to determine where priorities should lie. It also provided the inter-ministerial collaboration needed to address pressing human rights concerns in Ghana. The Government of Ghana pledged to report on the steps taken on the various recommendations to the Human Rights Council and to continue engaging with relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations. Today’s interaction had been very fruitful and Ghana was committed to consider all comments and observations in the implementation process, including recommendations from civil society. Ghana looked forward to a robust engagement with all stakeholders and the national follow-up process to better enhance the country’s human rights framework.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Ghana.