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News Human Rights Council
10 July 2023
Council Hears Presentation of Three Reports on the Voluntary Funds of the Universal Periodic Review
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Pakistan, Japan and Sri Lanka. The Council also heard the presentation of three reports on the Voluntary Funds of the Universal Periodic Review.
Concerning Pakistan, the Vice-President of the Council said out of the 340 recommendations received, 253 enjoyed the support of Pakistan and 87 were noted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Pakistan were Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Nepal and Oman.
Also speaking were Jubilee Campaign, Action Canada for Population and Development, GIN SSOGIE NPC, European Centre for Law and Justice, Federation for Women and Family Planning, Minority Rights Group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Inc., International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, and CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
As for Japan, the Vice-President said that out of the 300 recommendations received, 180 enjoyed the support of Japan, and 120 were noted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Japan were Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Libya, Maldives, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of Korea, China, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Ukraine and Tanzania.
Also speaking were International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning, Centre for Global Nonkilling, Shaanxi Patriotic Volunteer Association, Advocates for Human Rights, Amnesty International, iuventum e.V., International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, and Interfaith International.
With regard to Sri Lanka, the Vice-President of the Council said that out of the 294 recommendations received, 173 enjoyed the support of Sri Lanka, and 121 were noted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Sri Lanka were Japan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa and UN Women.
Also speaking were Lawyers for Lawyers, Franciscans International, Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC Nederland, World Evangelical Alliance, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Humanists International, Stichting Global Human Rights Defence, and Amnesty International.
The Council then heard from Mahamane Cisse-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who presented the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on operations of the Voluntary Fund for participation in the Universal Periodic Review, the report on operations of the Voluntary Fund for financial and technical assistance in the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review, and a report on a high-level panel discussion that was held at the fifty-second session of the Council, focusing on the achievements, good practices and lessons learned by the two Voluntary Funds in the implementation of their mandates.
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 Council will next meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Pakistan
Presentation of Report
Pakistan said the Government accorded high importance to the Universal Periodic Review process as a productive mechanism of the Council that enabled States to meet their human rights obligations through constructive engagement and in a largely non-politicised manner. Pakistan’s human rights profile remained on an upward trajectory through the four cycles of the Universal Periodic Review process. The fourth review afforded an opportunity to showcase the progress being made and also the challenges faced in Pakistan’s abiding quest to advance rights, freedoms, dignity and better standards for everyone in the country. In the past months, the 340 recommendations received were thoroughly examined by a multi-stakeholder consultative process. Around 70 per cent of the 340 recommendations, which totalled 253, were accepted. Pakistan noted 84 recommendations and rejected three politically motivated assertions.
This acceptance rate marked a significant increase compared with the third Universal Periodic Review, when around 50 per cent of the recommendations were accepted. Pakistan paid particular attention to the rights of women and children, as well as education and health, among others. Pakistan was also mindful of the recommendations made in other areas, such as minorities, media, and law enforcement; it had viewed them on merit and they would remain part of the overall human rights agenda in the days ahead. While Pakistan attached great importance to all the recommendations received, it was unable to accept some of the recommendations pertaining to certain areas due to legal and jurisprudence limitations. Nonetheless, Pakistan was pleased to accept a great majority of recommendations aimed at furthering respect and protections for all its people, especially in the field of economic, social and cultural rights. Pakistan recognised the need for more work, especially in implementing and strengthening institutional mechanisms.
In the discussion, some speakers commended Pakistan for accepting many recommendations, showing its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Speakers welcomed efforts to strengthen national human rights, as well as mechanisms to promote international human rights instruments. The steps undertaken by the Government to enhance legislation to protect vulnerable and marginalised groups were welcomed. The country’s efforts to strengthen the role of women in society was commendable; it was also commendable that Pakistani women’s participation in politics was among the highest in the region. Speakers took positive note of the country’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as efforts taken to make the country more resilient to the adverse effects of climate change.
Some speakers said it was concerning that a law was passed in 2023 which tightened blasphemy laws, which were often used to persecute minority groups. The Government lacked the political will to protect the rights of religious minorities and had rejected multiple recommendations which called for the repeal of blasphemy laws. There had been concerning incidents when mobs targeted those accused of committing blasphemous crimes, often resulting in their deaths. A number of speakers called on Pakistan to repeal the laws, which were incompatible with the country’s international obligations. It was also regretful that Pakistan had not adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which allowed religious minorities to effectively challenge the State and other actors.
Some speakers remained concerned about enforced disappearances, torture and crackdowns on peaceful protests which were occurring in the country. It was essential that Pakistan heed recommendations to prevent arbitrary arrests, torture and ill treatment and end the widespread use of the death penalty. The country should also decriminalise same sex relationships and adopt anti-discriminative legislation based on gender identity. Pakistan should adopt and implement recommendations to improve maternal health services, increase access to safe abortion, and promote the rights of adolescents to reproductive and sexual health services. Many speakers wished Pakistan luck in implementing the recommendations and recommended that the report be adopted.
The Vice-President of the Council said that out of the 340 recommendations received, 253 enjoyed the support of Pakistan, and 87 were noted.
Pakistan said Pakistan had consistently demonstrated its strong political will to promote and protect all human rights of everyone. This was manifest in the wide-ranging legislative, policy, and institutional steps taken across the spectrum of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Pakistan had enacted several progressive legislations in line with its international human rights obligations, focusing on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the vulnerable and the marginalised. Pakistan was resolved to take further meaningful steps to implement the accepted recommendations, especially pertaining to sustainable development, women’s empowerment, protection of the child, poverty alleviation, social protection schemes, and protecting rights of persons with disabilities, among others. As was the case with other developing countries, Pakistan’s capacity to promote and protect its citizens' economic and social rights remained under stress.
The Council then adopted the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process of Pakistan.
Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Japan
Presentation of Report
Japan said that out of the 300 recommendations, Japan “agreed to follow up” on or “support” 180 recommendations, including those related to awareness raising training activities or the promotion and protection of the rights of the socially vulnerable, such as women, children and persons with disabilities. Japan had already taken concrete actions on some of the agreed recommendations, including amendments to the Penal Code in June 2023 to address sexual crimes more comprehensively, including raising the minimum age of consent for sexual conduct from 13 to 16. Also in June 2023, Japan amended the immigration control and refugee recognition act to avoid unnecessary and long-term detention and stipulated alternatives to detention and mandatory periodic re-evaluation of immigration detention. Also in the amended act, Japan established a legal framework of recognising complementary protection status, to protect those facing a humanitarian crisis and in need of international protection, such as persons displaced due to conflict.
Moreover, as Japan received several recommendations on gender equality, the Government had formulated the fifth basic plan for gender equality in December 2020. Japan also annually set the basic policy on gender equality and empowerment of women. The Kishida administration had been undertaking efforts to address structural issues, including the gender pay gap and gender stereotypes, making “women’s economic empowerment” a core issue within the administration. Japan intended to continue its efforts to better its domestic human rights situation, while also contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights globally, including the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the discussion, some speakers acknowledged the progress made by Japan, including on women’s rights and the advancement of education. This included human rights education aiming to eradicate gender stereotypes, and fostering a society that respected the rights of all, including vulnerable groups such as migrant workers and persons with disabilities. The progress made to develop legal and institutional frameworks on the promotion of human rights in the country, including the amendment of the Civil Code, were welcomed. Japan’s participation in international development efforts, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, were also noted. The decision to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture was welcomed.
A number of speakers commended the efforts made to combat the sexual exploitation of children and sexual offences, as well as trafficking in persons. The measures being undertaken by Japan to address the scourge of trafficking in persons, through the adoption of the 2022 action plan to combat trafficking in persons, were highly commendable. The intention to step up efforts to establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles was noted. The Government was encouraged to continue efforts to effectively combat hate speech, while safeguarding freedom of expression. Speakers were confident that Japan would implement the accepted recommendations in a manner that best suited their national context and circumstances: such a tailored approach would result in clear contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
The recruitment of comfort women during the Second World War was raised by several speakers, who urged Japan to continue to address the issue. Japan should cease its plan to evacuate contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plan into the ocean and establish a multilateral monitoring system, including other stakeholders. The decision to not accept any recommendations made in that context was regretted. Japan should improve the situation of detention and rights of detainees, and make further progress towards eliminating the use of the death penalty. Abortion should be decriminalised, and the forced sterilisation of trans persons ended. Japan should create a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, ensuring the right to same-sex marriage. It should also improve the situation with regard to sexual and reproductive rights, eradicate non-consensual sexual acts from society, and implement the Istanbul Convention. Modern contraceptive rights should be approved by the Health Ministry.
The Vice-President noted that, based on the information provided, out of the 300
recommendations received, 180 enjoyed the support of Japan, and 120 were
Japan said the Government would continue its efforts to promote and protect human rights at home and abroad, and to provide fact-based information and transparent explanations on Japan's views and efforts to the general public and the international community. Regarding Fukushima, the recovery effort varied from region to region. Substantial progress had been made in a wide range of areas and the Government would continue this. Japan was taking measures and strictly abiding by international law regarding discharging contaminated water. The water would not adversely affect human health or the environment. A report had been drafted on the discharge of the water, which concluded that it was consistent with international safety standards. Japan believed the death penalty issue should be considered independently by each sovereign country. The Government of Japan would continue to cooperate constructively with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
The Council then adopted the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process of Japan.
Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of
Presentation of Report
Sri Lanka said the Government was taking significant steps to address national reconciliation issues, while at the same time making every effort to pursue economic reforms to mitigate the recent challenges faced by the country. All recommendations were carefully examined by the Government. Following this extensive process, Sri Lanka had decided to support 173 recommendations and take note of 115. There were a significant number of recommendations pertaining to the prevention of terrorism act, and the Government had undertaken to repeal the act as a voluntary pledge. Sri Lanka remained committed to pursuing efforts to achieve tangible progress in national reconciliation through domestic mechanisms with the assistance of international partners.
In guaranteeing fundamental freedoms, the Constitution of Sri Lanka provided permissible restrictions to ensure that the freedom of speech and expression, and of peaceful assembly and association were subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of national security, as well as racial and religious harmony. Sri Lanka supported all recommendations received on trafficking in persons and committed to continue efforts towards combatting all forms of trafficking in persons, including of women and children. Measures were being taken to address violence against women through the adoption of a national policy on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Sri Lanka would continue to work towards implementing the recommendations that were supported by the Government.
In the discussion, a number of speakers congratulated Sri Lanka for accepting 173 recommendations and for their efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country. Speakers hailed progress made on human rights thanks to the ratification of several international treaties. It was commendable that Sri Lanka had accepted recommendations related to poverty reduction and equal education. The country had also taken appropriate measures to ensure mental health services and to implement mental health awareness raising campaigns. Speakers hailed efforts undertaken by Sri Lanka to implement national plans to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. The country’s efforts in strengthening the social protection system and providing relief to those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were appreciated. The adoption of Sri Lanka’s first national action plan on women, peace and security was also commended.
Some speakers said that Sri Lanka should repeal all discriminatory legal provisions, including those in the Penal Code. There needed to be increased efforts to address gender discrimination. In Sri Lanka, lawyers were increasingly the subject of harassment and discrimination, particularly those working on sensitive cases such as minority rights. Sri Lanka was urged to implement all recommendations to protect human rights defenders and take all efforts to protect lawyers. The Government was also called on to discharge activists and protesters who were facing court cases due to arbitrary arrests, and to remove all legislation which targeted activists.
A number of speakers said the Office of Missing Persons, established in 2017, remained central to the Government’s intention to establish the fate of thousands of victims of enforced disappearance. However, it had failed to complete an investigation in even a single case, and had widely lost the confidence of victims’ families. Members of Tamil communities also continued to face harassment, intimidation and arrest for conducting events to memorialise victims of the conflict, or for staging protests demanding accountability for abuses.
The challenges faced by Sri Lanka due to the global crisis were recognised by some speakers, and it was important for the country to implement recommendations in a way that best suited their social standards. They supported the adoption of the report of Sri Lanka and wished the country every success in the implementation of all accepted recommendations.
The Vice-President of the Council said that out of the 294 recommendations received, 173 enjoyed the support of Sri Lanka, and 121 were noted.
Sri Lanka said it was important to work towards the realisation of universal human rights based on genuine dialogue and cooperation, and devoid of politicisation, selectivity or discrimination. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated during the review in February, the Government was keen to use this opportunity as a catalyst for the realistic assessment of challenges, to learn from the past and to build better and stronger in moving forward. Sri Lanka accepted that the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms rested with the State concerned. States undertook this responsibility in accordance with their national policies, cultural norms and constitutional framework. Sri Lanka attached equal value to all human rights and was firmly of the view that the right to development was equally important. Sri Lanka had supported all recommendations received pertaining to human rights and the environment.
The Council then adopted the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process of Sri Lanka.
Presentation of Reports on the Voluntary Funds of the Universal Periodic Review
The Council has before it the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Universal Periodic Review Trust Funds, namely, the Operations of the Voluntary Fund for Participation in the Universal Periodic Review (A/HRC/53/56)
The Council has before it the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Operations of the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance in the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review (A/HRC/53/57)
The Council has before it the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the High-level panel discussion on the achievements, good practices and lessons learned by the two Voluntary Funds for the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/53/58).
MAHAMANE CISSE-GOURO, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the report on the Operations of the Voluntary Fund for Participation in the Universal Periodic Review. In the reporting period, the Voluntary Fund for Participation in the Universal Periodic Review continued to ensure the full participation of States, especially from developing or least developed countries and small island developing States, to cover the travel expenses to Geneva of one government representative to participate in the Universal Periodic Review Working Group session and the adoption of the outcome document by the Human Rights Council. Last year, 2022, marked the end of the third, and the beginning of the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. During the transitional year, two sessions of the Working Group, rather the standard three sessions, were held. In 2022, the Voluntary Fund supported the participation of 19 delegates from eligible countries, including five least developed countries and four small island developing States. Of the 19 delegates that benefited from the support of the Voluntary Fund, 7 were women and 12 were men.
In 2022, only two countries and the International Organization of la Francophonie contributed to the Voluntary Fund, for a total amount of $89,239.18. While this constituted an increase compared with the year 2020, when no contributions were received, it was a decrease compared with the year 2021 and was an insufficient level of income. To ensure an adequate level of support during the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, the financial situation of the Voluntary Fund needed to be strengthened and reach an annual income of at least $300,000 to enable greater and meaningful participation.
Mr. Cisse Gouro then presented the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Operations of the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance in the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review, which provided an overview of contributions and expenditures as of 31 December 2022 and described the support provided during 2022 to 20 States. In 2022, the lifting of measures to counter the COVID-19 pandemic had enabled the Voluntary Fund to resume the full scale of its activities and to implement 22 projects. In 2022, many State delegations stressed the need for further technical cooperation and capacity building, including during meetings organised in the context of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of Human Rights Council resolution 6/17 establishing the Fund. This led the Council to adopt last October, a resolution 51/30 entitled “Strengthening the Voluntary Funds for the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Human Rights Council”, which requested the scaling up of the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to implement the mandates of the two Voluntary Funds in the regions.
Pursuant to the same resolution, a high-level panel discussion was held at the fifty-second session of the Council, focusing on the achievements, good practices and lessons learned by the two Voluntary Funds in the implementation of their mandates in their first 15 years of operations, and reflecting on further optimisation of the use of the funds. While the Trust Funds enjoyed overwhelming political support, they lacked the corresponding monetary support. In 2022, requests for technical assistance from the Fund amounted to over 1 million dollars. However, only a quarter of this amount was received in contributions. For 2023, the project proposals received by the Fund exceeded 1 million dollars, but so far, the Fund only received three pledges that would enable it to only support two or three projects. To ensure the sustainability of technical cooperation relating to the Universal Periodic Review during the fourth cycle and to respond to the increasing number of project proposals submitted to the Voluntary Fund, an annual income of at least $1,000,000 in voluntary contributions would be needed.
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