Countdown to Human Rights Day
Learn more about support and care systems and why they are important to everyone.
News Human Rights Council
13 September 2023
MORNING 13 September 2023
The Human Rights Council the morning continued its general debate on the global update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, raising issues like development, climate change, and the rights of women and girls, among others.
Prior to the commencement of the debate, Jeyhun Aziz oglu Bayramov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, addressed the Council, saying that the Council was a platform for open dialogue, cooperation and the promotion of human rights worldwide. Azerbaijan was fully dedicated to upholding the fundamental principles of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments. The full realisation of human rights was essential for achieving peace and development for all people. Promoting tolerance and non-discrimination was one of the essential elements in protecting the rights of peoples and building sustainable societies. There was concern for the growing rise of Islamophobia and other religious misconceptions with a growing rise in hate speech, all of which were a threat to security. Burning the Holy Quran was a hate crime: effective countering of these phenomena required joint international efforts, through cooperation and dialogue among United Nations Member States.
The Minister said Azerbaijan had borne the brunt of Armenia’s activities, witnessing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, leading to the tragic denial of the human rights of thousands of Azerbaijanis, including the right to life. Despite repeated calls to establish a genuine dialogue and allow the return of expelled Azerbaijanis to their ancestral lands, the Government of Armenia ignored these, in violation of many international agreements and acts. Armenia must be held accountable on the international stage for its grave violations of the human rights of Azerbaijanis as this was crucial for reconciliation. Armenia had consistently ignored calls to disclose, under international human rights and humanitarian law, the location of disappeared persons.
In the general debate, some speakers thanked the High Commissioner for his comprehensive oral update, which focused on the critical nexus between development and human rights. Some speakers highly appraised the High Commissioner’s first year in office. His activities reflected the spirit and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which remained relevant today. Those speaking reiterated their staunch support of the dedicated work of the Office of the High Commissioner to promote and protect the human rights of all. It was regretful that some States were reluctant to work constructively with the High Commissioner and his representatives on the ground.
Many speakers expressed condolences to the people of Morocco and Libya for the devastating natural disasters which had occurred in their countries.
A number of speakers said this was a year of marking human rights achievements. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights had empowered people all over the world to claim their human rights and had helped ensure positive change. Human rights were an inherent part of solving conflicts. Human rights began at home and should never be an exclusively internal affair in any country. This was what the Declaration stood for. Standing up for universal human rights in every country was the duty of all United Nations Member States, and was what the Council was all about. Many speakers emphasised their commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of all.
Many speakers said human rights were under pressure in all regions of the world, making the High Commissioner’s role and presence even more essential. They spoke about violations of human rights in many countries, territories and regions. Speakers said the High Commissioner had referred to injustice, poverty, exploitation and repression as grievances that perpetuated cycles of conflict and misery. The denial of humanity was at the root of each of these grievances, meaning the antidote lay in the protection of human rights. The socioeconomic impact of the health, economic, food and climate change crises were accentuating pre-existing inequalities and discriminations to the detriment of human rights, social welfare, sustainable development and peace. Urgent, coordinated and solidarity actions were required, and priority needed to be given to vulnerable populations.
Some speakers underlined that the connection between human rights, sustainable development and peace was unquestionable. As the High Commissioner had stated, freedom was both the goal of development and its source. Freedom to develop was often constrained by challenges stemming from externally driven, historical, socioeconomic and environmental complexities. Discussions on reforms to the international financial architecture were necessary, and it was important to develop programmes, projects and investments that focused on realising the right to decent housing, water and sanitation, education and health. Inequalities between countries needed to be addressed to advance a more equitable world that enabled the realisation of human rights for all.
A number of speakers said they shared the concern of the Office of the High Commissioner about the imprisonment of human rights defenders across the globe. Restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly and association were raised as issues of concern by several speakers. It was vital that all political prisoners and those detained solely on the grounds of exercising their freedom of peaceful assembly and expression were released. Governments were urged to enable open and pluralistic civil space; to hold free and fair elections; and to guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
The High Commissioner’s focus on climate change and how it was acting as a key factor, pushing millions of people into famine, was welcomed. The escalating negative impacts of climate change were endangering the world’s very existence. There was a need to promote initiatives and actions at national, regional and international levels to address the negative impacts of climate change and water and food insecurity which threatened the effective enjoyment of human rights, particularly of vulnerable groups, as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. There needed to be a unified approach from States at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 28, which would take place in Dubai later this year.
The promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls was a priority for many speakers, who pledged strong support to the legitimate demands of women and girls around the world. The restricted access of some women and girls to education and work was very concerning, and women’s political representation needed to be increased. The surge of conflict-related violence, including reports of widespread sexual violence against women and girls, was deeply troubling. The Council needed to remain mobilised in the face of increasingly serious violations of the rights of women and girls. Many speakers strongly condemned the ongoing, systematic persecution against women and girls in some countries.
During the debate, serious concern was raised regarding specific conflicts currently taking place, which had resulted in a significant loss of life and civilian infrastructure. Some speakers highlighted their condemnation of war that was illegal, unjustified and unprovoked, as well as indiscriminate attacks on civilians and infrastructure. The violence, including sexual violence and disregard for basic human rights, being witnessed within these conflicts, was extremely concerning. Speakers called for the immediate cessation of aggression; the withdrawal of all forces and military equipment; and for authorities in conflict situations to respect the rights of citizens.
Some speakers strongly condemned acts of violence and discrimination committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The
rise in laws and legislation designed to target lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were deeply concerning. As enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone was entitled to human rights and freedoms, without distinction. The strongest, safest and most prosperous societies were those in which everyone could live freely, without fear of violence or discrimination. The use of hate speech against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was extremely concerning.
Some speakers said it was vital to foster genuine dialogue and effective cooperation with all Member States and United Nations human rights mechanisms, while ensuring the fundamental principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, and non-interference in internal affairs were upheld. It was regretful that some hegemonic countries continued to attempt to exploit human rights through negative reports from the Office of the High Commissioner against the countries of the South, which served to justify perverse media campaigns and the imposition of illegal unilateral coercive measures. The Office of the High Commissioner had work to do to achieve a more balanced and cooperative working methodology, to avoid political manipulation and double standards.
Speaking in the general debate were Bahamas on behalf of the Caribbean Community, Germany, Qatar, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Finland, Belgium, France, Ukraine, United States, Chile, Mexico, Georgia, Malaysia, Honduras, Bolivia, Lithuania, Romania, South Africa, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Nepal, Morocco, Cuba, Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, India, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, Kazakhstan, Senegal, China, Eritrea, Switzerland, Brazil, Portugal, Lesotho, Namibia, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Iraq, Australia, Slovenia, Iran, Netherlands, Norway, Japan, Holy See, Kuwait, Austria, Armenia, Malta, El Salvador, Ireland, State of Palestine, Thailand, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Spain, Burkina Faso, Peru, Egypt, Italy, Colombia, United Republic of Tanzania, Panama, Tunisia, Estonia, Yemen, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Denmark, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mozambique, Türkiye, Belarus, Uganda, Hungary, Greece, Sweden, Niger, Nicaragua, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Moldova, Equatorial Guinea, Slovakia and Botswana.
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-fourth regular session can be found here.
The Council will reconvene at 3 p.m. this afternoon to continue the general debate on the High Commissioner’s global update. Time allowing, it will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.