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Human Rights Council Holds General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

16 March 2022
Morning

The Human Rights Council this morning heard the presentation of a series of reports and then held a general debate on its agenda item three on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented a series of updates and reports on child, early and forced marriage; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the realisation of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl; good practices, key challenges and new developments relevant to access to medicines and vaccines; the human rights implications of the lack of affordable, timely, equitable and universal access and distribution of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines and the deepening inequalities between States; ways to harmonise laws, policies and practices relating to mental health with the norms of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; combatting intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatisation of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief; the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; the challenges and opportunities of young people in the field of human rights; the impact of the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms by children and youth; normative standards and obligations under international law in relation to the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons; promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations; and human rights and transitional justice;

Other reports dealt with terrorism and human rights; freedom of opinion and expression and national normative frameworks for access to information; the impact and repercussions of measures taken by Governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the safety and work of journalists and media workers; the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity; good practices and challenges faced by States in using the guidelines on the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs; improving the effectiveness of, harmonising and reforming the treaty body system; Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture; Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the contribution of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes and upholding the principles of the Charter of the United Nations; the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights; the right to social security in the changing world of work; the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by older persons; the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training: good practices, challenges and the way forward; and on ways to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of the Human Rights Council on issues affecting them.

The Council then heard the presentation of the report of the fourth intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, by Lansana Gberie, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair of the fourth intersessional meeting; and the report on the seventh session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights by Emilio Rafael Izquierdo Miño, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva and  Chair‑Rapporteur of the Working Group. 

In the general debate, speakers reaffirmed that all human rights were indivisible, interdependent, inalienable, inter-related, and universal.  The right to development was an important enabler for the achievement of basic human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.  The solidarity between States should increase, in order to achieve human rights throughout the world, and all initiatives should be strengthened in that regard.  The integration of human rights in recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic was essential to ensure that, indeed, no one was left behind, and to enhance gender equality and strengthen partnerships after the pandemic.  Protection measures should be adapted to reflect the specific situation of all human rights defenders, and they should be able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals, thus States should take steps to ensure this was the case.

Speaking were: Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Lithuania (on behalf of a group of countries), Côte d'Ivoire (on behalf of the African Group), Luxembourg (on behalf of a group of countries), India (on behalf of a group of countries), Qatar (on behalf of a group of countries), Fiji (on behalf of a group of countries), Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Sweden (on behalf of a group of countries), Syria (on behalf of a group of countries), Bangladesh (on behalf of a group of countries), Austria (on behalf of a group of countries), Peru (on behalf of a group of countries), Bangladesh (on behalf of a group of countries), Sweden (on behalf of a group of countries), Egypt (on behalf of a group of countries), China (on behalf of a group of countries), France (on behalf of the European Union), Finland, the United Arab Emirates, China, France, Venezuela, Cuba, Nepal, Malaysia, Namibia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Armenia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russian federation, Sudan, Republic of Korea, United States, Malawi, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Ecuador on behalf of a group of countries, Philippines, Nigeria, Mauritius, Iraq, UN Women, Burkina Faso, United Nations Population Fund, El Salvador, Switzerland, Panama, Algeria, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, South Africa, Belarus, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Romania, Georgia, Iran, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Sovereign Order of Malta, Holy See, Niger, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Egypt and Chad.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Ombudswoman of Croatia on behalf of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Institute for Development and Human Rights, World Organization of the Scout Movement, Centre for Reproductive Rights, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, Women’s International League on Peace and Freedom, Save the Children International, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Peace Brigades International,  International Service for Human Rights, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, Franciscans International, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, American Association of Jurists, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Baha’i International Community, Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, Iuventum e.V, International Humanist and Ethical Union, VIVAT International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Sikh Human Rights Group, International Commission of Jurists, FIAT International, Human Rights Advocates, Edmund Rice International, Platform for Youth Integration and Volunteerism, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Disability Alliance, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty, Beijing Guangming Charity Foundation, Rahbord Peimayesh Research & Educational Services Cooperative, European Centre for Law and Justice, Society for Threatened Peoples, Réseau Unite pour le Developpment de Mauritanie, Fundación para la Mejora de la Vida, la Cultura y la Sociedad, Khiam Rehabilitation Center For Victims of Torture, Chinese Association for International Understanding, Village Unis, Il Cenacolo, Disibility Association of Tavana, YouChange China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development, Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients, Al-ayn social care foundation, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Stichting Global Human Rights Defence, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Friends World Committee For Consultation (Quakers), Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center, International Buddhist Relief Organization, World Muslim Congress, International Muslim Women Union, Association D’Entraide Medicale Guinee, Africa Culture International, United Nations Association of China, Organization for defending victims of violence, Albaream Association for Charitable and Social Work, Solidarité Suisse-Guinée, Chun-hui Children’s foundation, Human Rights Information and Rehabilitation Center, China Sung Ching Ling Foundation (CHECK), African Green Foundation International, China Foundation for Human Rights Development, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Youth Parliament for SDG, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, The Next Century Foundation, Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH), Make Mothers Matter, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, United Nations Watch, Partners For Transparency, Zero Pauvre Afrique, Mouvement National des Jeunes Patriotes du Mali, International Action for Peace & Sustainable Development, War Resisters International, Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran - « ARC », Promotion du Développement Economique et Social – PDES, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés (OIPMA), Alliance Creative Community Project, Tourner La Page, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l'Afrique (SIA), Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l'homme, "ECO-FAWN" (Environment Conservation Organization - Foundation for Afforestation Wild Animals and Nature), Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement, Society for Development and Community Empowerment, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Alliance Defending Freedom, Alsalam Foundation, Iraqi Development Organization, Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France, and Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee.

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 forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

At 3:30 p.m., the Council will continue its interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, after which it will start an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, Balakrishnan Rajagopal.

Presentation of Reports under Agenda Item Two on Reports of the High Commissioner, her Office and the Secretary-General, and Item Three on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Documentation

The Council has before it (A/HRC/49/65) report on the seventh session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (25-29 Oct 2021)

The Council also has before it (A/HRC/49/59) report on the summary of fourth intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (18 Jan 2022).

Further before the Council are:

  • High Commissioner’s oral update on the preparation of her report on child, early and forced marriage
  • High Commissioner’s oral update on the preparation of her report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the realization of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl
  • High Commissioner’s report on the outcome of the consultation on ways to harmonise laws, policies and practices relating to mental health with the norms of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on how to implement them (A/HRC/49/29)
  • OHCHR report on the intersessional seminar on the challenges and opportunities of young people in the field of human rights (A/HRC/49/32)
  • High Commissioner’s report on the full-day intersessional seminar on good practices, key challenges and new developments relevant to access to medicines and vaccines (A/HRC/49/34)
  • OHCHR report on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (A/HRC/49/36)
  • High Commissioner’s report on a comprehensive approach to promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations (A/HRC/49/37)
  • OHCHR report on freedom of opinion and expression and national normative frameworks for access to information (A/HRC/49/38)
  • OHCHR report on human rights and transitional justice (A/HRC/49/39)
  • High Commissioner’s report on the impact and repercussions of measures taken by Governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the safety and work of journalists and media workers (A/HRC/49/40)
  • High Commissioner’s report on the impact of the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms by children and youth (A/HRC/49/41)
  • OHCHR report on good practices and challenges faced by States in using the guidelines on the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs (A/HRC/49/42)
  • Secretary-General’s report on the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (A/HRC/49/63)
  • Secretary-General’s report on the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (A/HRC/49/64)
  • High Commissioner’s report on the normative standards and obligations under international law in relation to the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons (A/HRC/49/70)
  • Secretary-General’s report on measures taken to implement Human Rights Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system (A/HRC/49/27)
  • OHCHR report on the contribution of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes and upholding the principles of the Charter of the United Nations (A/HRC/49/88)
  • And High Commissioner’s report on combatting intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatisation of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief (A/HRC/49/86)

Presentation of Reports

PEGGY HICKS, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced 18 written reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on a range of thematic issues to be considered under agenda items two and three, as well as two oral updates of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  There was an update on the preparation of the High Commissioner’s report on child, early and forced marriage which would be presented at the next session and would focus on progress, gaps and challenges in addressing child, early and forced marriage.  There was an update on the preparation of the High Commissioner’s report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the realisation of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl, to be presented at the next session, expressing deep concern over school closures.

Moving to thematic reports, Ms. Hicks presented the High Commissioner’s report on the full-day intersessional seminar on good practices, key challenges and new developments relevant to access to medicines and vaccines (A/HRC/49/34) which focused on the human rights challenges in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.  She also introduced another effort on this topic, the High Commissioner’s report on the human rights implications of the lack of affordable, timely, equitable and universal access and distribution of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines and the deepening inequalities between States (A/HRC/49/35), highlighting the profound human rights implications of uneven rollout and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

She presented the High Commissioner’s report on the outcome of the consultation on ways to harmonise laws, policies and practices relating to mental health with the norms of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on how to implement them (A/HRC/49/29), reflecting on the many promising experiences shared during the consultations held in November 2021.  The next report the Director introduced was the report of the High Commissioner on combatting intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatisation of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief (A/HRC/49/86), which called upon States and other stakeholders to redouble efforts to implement the action plan of the Human Rights Council.

The Office of the High Commissioner’s report on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (A/HRC/49/36) highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a broad range of disproportionate and adverse negative impacts on racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.  Last April, the Human Rights Council-mandated intersessional seminar on the challenges and opportunities of young people in the field of human rights (A/HRC/49/32), called for an annual Human Rights Council youth forum to ensure permanent, structured and meaningful youth participation in its work. 

Ms. Hicks presented the report of the High Commissioner on the impact of the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms by children and youth (A/HRC/49/41) detailing the profound impacts that the use of firearms had on the enjoyment of human rights.  The report of the High Commissioner on the normative standards and obligations under international law in relation to the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons (A/HRC/49/70) reviewed the need to move expeditiously towards developing and adopting a coherent, comprehensive and integrated human rights framework on older persons.  The report of the High Commissioner on a comprehensive approach to promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations (A/HRC/49/37) described the main factors underlying and exacerbating pre-existing discrimination against women and girls.

Ms. Hicks also introduced the report of the High Commissioner on human rights and transitional justice (A/HRC/49/39) which stressed the importance of using transitional justice processes not only to provide redress to victims of human rights violations, but also to secure positive impacts on sustaining peace and on sustainable development.  The report of the Secretary-General on terrorism and human rights (A/HRC/49/67) recalled that countering terrorism and respecting and promoting human rights were complementary.

The report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on freedom of opinion and expression and national normative frameworks for access to information (A/HRC/49/38) focused on good practices for establishing national normative frameworks that fostered access to information held by public entities.  The report of the High Commissioner on the impact and repercussions of measures taken by Governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the safety and work of journalists and media workers (A/HRC/49/40) referred to a rise of attacks and exacerbated health impacts and economic stress experienced during the pandemic.  The report of the Secretary-General on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity (A/HRC/49/66) focused on the safety of journalists, including women journalists, and the issue of impunity in the online space.

Ms. Hicks further presented the Office’s report on good practices and challenges faced by States in using the guidelines on the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs (A/HRC/49/42) which provided examples of promising practices to increase the participation of women and persons in situations of vulnerability.  There was also the report of the Secretary-General on measures taken to implement Human Rights Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonising and reforming the treaty body system (A/HRC/49/27).

The report of the Secretary-General on the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (A/HRC/49/63) highlighted that in 2022, civil society projects in 92 countries were contributing to ensure access to rehabilitation and redress services to survivors.  The report of the Secretary-General on the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (A/HRC/49/64) awarded 17 grants to projects in 13 eligible States aimed at strengthening national preventive mechanisms.

Finally, the Director introduced the Office’s report on the contribution of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes and upholding the principles of the Charter of the United Nations (A/HRC/49/88) addressing areas where human rights had made a notable contribution to the realisation of the United Nations’ objectives of maintaining peace and security.

Other reports included, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the meeting on the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights (A/HRC/49/30); the High Commissioner’s report on the intersessional full-day panel discussion on the right to social security in the changing world of work (A/HRC/49/33); the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by older persons (A/HRC/49/61); the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the panel discussion on the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training: good practices, challenges and the way forward (A/HRC/49/62); and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the intersessional round table on ways to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of the Human Rights Council on issues affecting them (A/HRC/49/69).

LANSANA GBERIE, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair of the fourth intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, presenting the report of the fourth intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said the theme of this year’s meeting was “investing in sustainable recovery, advancing gender equality and strengthening partnerships – towards a renewed social contract anchored in human rights”, with a focus on Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, Sustainable Development Goal 17 on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development, and the overarching promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind and to reach those furthest behind first.

The following key messages emerged from the meeting: to adopt forward looking policies grounded in human rights and gender equality to make up for lost ground and to get all back on track to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to create the renewed social contract anchored in human rights that the Secretary-General had called for; to address the severe socio-economic consequences caused by the pandemic, deepening poverty and compounding inequalities; and to transform all economies and orient economic policies towards reducing inequalities and advancing human rights and environmental sustainability. The international community must now work together to transition from temporary ad hoc measures to longer-term investment for the realisation of economic and social rights.  To this end, all States needed to mobilise resources domestically using all the macroeconomic tools at their disposal, to invest in health care, social protection, education, housing and environmental solutions.  Women’s participation in the design and implementation of new energy systems, COVID-19 recovery taskforces and decision-making in general, was essential.

EMILIO RAFAEL IZQUIERDO MINO, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights, said that the Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights was mandated to "elaborate a legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights''.  

The Working Group had met from 25 to 29 October 2021 and important progress had been made.  However, work still needed to be done to define the fundamental aspects that would make possible the adoption of an inclusive and balanced text.  The broad participation of all actors, particularly States, was necessary in order to enrich the process with their vision and input.  The Chair-Rapporteur was further convinced that it was possible to improve victims' access to effective justice and reparation through binding standards, complementing voluntarily adopted precepts such as the Guiding Principles.  Business-related human rights abuses persisted in virtually all productive sectors and in all regions of the world, often leaving affected individuals and communities without options for access to justice and remedy.  Non-binding standards could and should be reinforced and complemented by binding standards, and the Guiding Principles themselves called on States to consider "a smart mix of measures - national and international, mandatory and optional - to promote respect for human rights by business." 

In conclusion, Mr. Izquierdo Mino stated that the process for the elaboration of a binding instrument had as its fundamental objectives the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of business activities; the prevention of human rights abuses by business; the guarantee of access to justice and effective remedy for victims; and the strengthening of international cooperation in this area.  

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Speakers reaffirmed that all human rights were indivisible, interdependent, inalienable, inter-related, and universal.  The right to development was an important enabler for the achievement of basic human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.  It was urgent to operationalise the right to development in this regard.  Debt burdens should be relieved, vaccine equity ensured, and the international community should reassess the global financial architecture.  The need to promote and respect human rights must become a reality for the most vulnerable: women, children, migrants, indigenous people and all marginalised persons, and all national and multilateral stakeholders should be strongly engaged in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which were among the best means of ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights, and strengthening the process that led to the full achievement of the right to development.

The solidarity between States should increase, in order to achieve human rights throughout the world, and all initiatives should be strengthened in that regard. Capacity building, based on the needs and priorities of States, determined in cooperation with them, would be a positive step forward in achieving the right to development.  The United Nations human rights mechanisms should ensure the operationalisation of the right to development as a priority, including through taking into account the input of relevant organizations.  Development models should be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2030 Agenda was grounded in human rights.  The pledge to “leave no one behind” showed how equality was fundamental.  The integration of human rights in recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic was essential to ensure that, indeed, no one was left behind, and to enhance gender equality and strengthen partnerships after the pandemic.  Resources, both domestically and through international cooperation, should be strengthened: the investment of resources into civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights should be carried out through public and disaggregated data.

The universality, objectivity and non-selectivity of human rights should be ensured in the work of the Council, as well as the elimination of double standards.  The work of the Council should be guided by cooperation, with the aim of enhancing all rights, including the right to development, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.  The Council should place more emphasis on human rights learning, as well as on providing learning and capacity building, serving as a forum for dialogue on all human rights.  This work must be pursued in a fair manner, in line with the United Nations Charter.  Only with a spirit of consensus building could progress be made within the Council to address issues of true concern.  Human rights issues must be addressed through the global context, through a non-biased approach, in a fair and equal matter, without interference in the internal affairs of States, taking into account the economic, social, cultural and political particularities thereof.

Islamophobia continued to grow, and the Council should work to counter this dangerous trend.  Freedom of belief and religious expression was vital - freedom in this area was guaranteed for all.  Religious pluralism was an important part of a civilised society.  Lasting and sustainable peace could not be established through grave violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including in limiting the freedom of expression of religion and belief.  All efforts to limit the freedom of speech and expression by controlling the media, in particular in Russia in the context of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, were of concern: it was up to all States to provide a safe and enabling environment for all media workers, ensuring accountability for investigations of violations of their rights, and ensuring the safety of all journalists, including online, and in particular of women journalists and media workers.  The protection of journalists and media workers in Ukraine should be guaranteed through the full protection of international law, and they should be considered as civilians and treated as such.  Truth was often one of the first casualties of war, and it was vital to ensure the free flow of information during the war about developments on the ground.  The deliberate targeting of journalists, media workers and key information infrastructure, cyber-attacks and other disinformation were all of grave concern, and, in the context of Ukraine and Russia, should be stopped immediately.  The Council must respond to the situation.  Human rights defenders played a critical role in tackling human rights violations, including in the environment, where they helped to confront climate change, and accountability for all threats, harassment, attacks and killings both by State and non-State actors must be prevented and held to account.  Support and safety measures for environmental human rights defenders must be gender-responsive in particular.  Protection measures should be adapted to reflect the specific situation of all human rights defenders, and they should be able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals, thus States should take steps to ensure this was the case.

Migrant workers continued to be fundamental as the world recovered from the pandemic, and States should guarantee their rights, including the right to work, and ensure that the flow of remittances continued, given their importance for families in both countries of origin and countries of residence.  The climate threat was a threat also to human rights, and effective climate resistance was required, with global action to combat climate change and its impacts on all.  Building resilience was vital for protecting and promoting the human rights of all in that context.  All Member States should implement the relevant United Nations obligations, including the Paris Agreement, stepping up measures for the next COP meeting in Sharm al Sheikh, and stepping up the effort to combat climate change, with a specific focus on human rights, especially those of women, indigenous peoples and minorities.  Addressing the root causes of climate change was vital to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights.

Women and girls were faced with specific violations of their human rights, which required specific and targeted interventions, held in a targeted manner.  States should mainstream gender, adopting a specific approach to respond to their needs and the challenges that they faced.  The Beijing Platform of Action and other instruments underlined that the full participation of women in a spirit of equality in all areas of society were fundamental to achieve development and peace.  Gender equality, women and girls’ empowerment and their full access to education, economic resources, decent work, equal pay, sexual and reproductive healthcare services and social protection services must be ensured.  The right to education and full participation in economic, social and public life were vital, and this required restarting momentum through impactful action, actively boosting the participation of women’s empowerment through multilateral fora, ensuring women’s economic empowerment, and addressing the gaps in the coverage of this in the United Nations’ mechanisms and organizations.  The new barriers facing women’s economic empowerment, including in the world of work, growing informality of work, and others must be taken into account, as should the impact of climate change, which increased economic inequalities.  When women sat at the table, then the whole of society benefited.

The vaccine divide was a severe barrier to ending the pandemic, and further exacerbated inequality across the world.  A vaccine was a global public good, and should be equitably distributed, so as to close the gap of immunisation, and the international community should give greater help to developing countries, and improve the affordability of vaccines and other health products, in particular in least developed countries.  Strengthening the multi-tiered defence against the pandemic was vital to bring it to an end.  The pandemic had negatively impacted the enjoyment of human rights, in particular the right to education, hampering educational paths, with difficulties in ending studies and entering the labour market, leading to further marginalisation.  Efforts should be made to remedy this, in particular for women and girls, who had suffered rising violence and child marriage during the period of the pandemic.  The right to self-determination was an inalienable right, enshrined in the United Nations Charter and in many other international instruments.

The bogey of terrorism should not be used to impede the right to self-determination.  New technologies were important in achieving rights, but they should be approached from a human rights-based angle, in order to ensure that they fully supported the rights of all groups, without discrimination.  Democratic backsliding was happening around the world, and laws meant to defend human rights were under attack.  Democracy must be upheld, and those guilty of attacking it must be held accountable.  The vulnerable, marginalised and targeted through oppressive tactics and measures must be protected.  The needs and challenges should be faced through the full use of international law and international institutions.  People had a right to live in a democratic country, and to vote for democratic institutions, not for dictatorships.  Separation of powers and participatory democracy were vital for protecting the rights of all, in particular minorities, and also for promoting the proper functioning of the State and the relationship between it and civil society.  Democracy was the best foundation for a stable global society, as democracies did not go to war against each other.

Among country situations raised by speakers were the situation in Ukraine, due to the war; the Russian Federation, due to the stifling of dissent; Jammu and Kashmir due to the Indian occupation; Azerbaijan, Armenia, due to their conflict; Burkina Faso, which welcomed the support of the international community; Cuba, due to the economic blockade; Afghanistan, due to the actions of the Taliban; Brazil, due to racism and transphobia; Japan, due to the plight of internally-displaced persons from the Fukushima nuclear disaster; Palestine, due to the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements; Mexico due to the situation of human rights defenders fighting corruption; Colombia, due to the lack of recognition of the needs of the Afro-Caribbean population; Philippines, due to the torture, illegal arrest and harassment of human rights defenders; India, due to anti-conversion laws and the violence faced by Christian Indians; Nicaragua, due to the violations of the rights of human rights defenders and their limited access to resources; Iran, due to the threats to the Iranian Bar Association and the harassment of lawyers; China, due to the situation of Uyghurs and the Muslim population; United Arab Emirates due to the treatment of human rights defenders; Yemen, due to the situation in prisons; Denmark, due to the treatment of refugees; Bahrain, due to the inequality of women in terms of access to health and reproductive services; Morocco, due to the situation in the Western Sahara; Algeria, due to the situation in the Tinduf and the treatment of certain tribal groups; Sri Lanka, due to the war crimes and genocide committed against Tamuls by the armed forces; and Bahrain, due to the failure of the Government to disclose where or whether people were imprisoned.

 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/03/morning-human-rights-council-holds-general-debate-promotion-and

 

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