31 March 2022
The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building.
Some speakers took note of the report of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation and supported the technical cooperation and capacity building services provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. They underlined the centrality of technical cooperation and capacity building and its important role in addressing the challenges faced by countries in the field of human rights. Speakers commended efforts made to ensure the integration of human rights into all United Nations programme tools, including in the area of sustainable development. All human rights bodies and mechanisms should strengthen their technical advisory role to assist States in fulfilling their human rights obligations. The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic had demonstrated that all human rights were universal, inter-dependent and mutually reinforcing, and should be treated equally. Chronic under-investment in economic, social and cultural rights had contributed to the global unpreparedness in effectively tackling the pandemic aftermath. The neglect of this set of fundamental rights was also driving structural inequalities, within and among States. Speakers hoped that in building back better and stronger from the pandemic, these hard-learnt lessons would be taken into consideration.
Calls were made to deploy the Council’s technical assistance mandate in confronting structural inequalities. Some speakers drew the Council’s attention towards the needs of developing countries. The Council was urged to utilise its technical assistance mandate to support these countries in their domestic efforts to safeguard and advance basic rights of their citizens. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights could better facilitate collaborative, practical and constructive engagements between States and human rights mechanisms by continually enhancing its institutional structures for such purposes. Speakers underlined the importance of making tangible contributions to the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation to support technical assistance programmes in the field of human rights, which would benefit the largest number of countries around the world, especially poor and small island countries.
Some speakers said that judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and other human rights defenders remained at risk, and many human rights organizations could not operate due to imposed restrictions and lack of access to funding. One speaker regretted that the roots of the problems for farmers worldwide were the policies of the World Trade Organization in the agriculture sector as they were based on an outdated puritanical ideology of the market without reference to human rights, cultural rights, dignity, poverty reduction and climate change. The Human Rights Council should seriously call for and monitor non-United Nations international institutions to integrate human rights and Sustainable Development Goals in all their policies and agreements.
Some speakers stressed that the spirit of cooperation and dialogue between all parties would always remain an essential factor in achieving progress in the field of human rights. Demand-driven technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights needed to be further promoted. Some speakers underlined that forcing States to accept technical assistance mandates had proven to be counter-productive since such politically motivated mandates were often divorced from the reality on the ground. Securing the consent of the concerned States remained unquestionable. Technical cooperation should neither be leveraged to advance political agendas nor used as a pretext to interfere in domestic affairs of States. Speakers further stressed the importance of ensuring the provision of technical expertise and training opportunities by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights through other human rights mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. They believed that technical assistance for human rights should abide by the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries concerned; engagement in sincere dialogue and cooperation; and avoiding the use of technical assistance for human rights as a tool to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
Some speakers reiterated that the will and leadership of countries concerned should be respected. It was only possible to move towards the effective implementation of human rights through international solidarity and cooperation in observance of the universal principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference. Concerns were expressed at the growing practice of imposing illegal unilateral coercive measures on developing countries, which constituted a flagrant violation of international law. Technical assistance and capacity building could not be used as an excuse to promote political agendas for regime change. It was within the power of any State to terminate cooperation on its territory when it deemed it appropriate to do so. Human rights cooperation and technical assistance could not be assumed to apply only to countries in the Global South. All countries, including developed countries, faced major human rights challenges and could receive assistance and learn from the positive experiences of other nations. It was unacceptable that this agenda item was used only to single out developing countries.
Some speakers mentioned many country specific situations, among others, India, Mali, Georgia, Cambodia, Philippines, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen. They further reaffirmed their support for the technical cooperation mandate in Ukraine and condemned in the strongest terms the Russian attack and its dramatic consequences on human rights, in particular those of women and girls displaced by the war. Speakers also deplored the situation currently facing Afghanistan. International assistance was necessary to create an enabling environment in which the Afghan people could realise their aspirations for peace, stability and development.
Speaking in the general debate were Mauritius (on behalf a group of countries), France (on behalf of the European Union), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Côte d'Ivoire (on behalf of the Group of African States), Denmark (on behalf of a group of countries), Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Morocco (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Lesotho (on behalf of a group of countries), Pakistan (on behalf of a group of countries), Luxembourg (on behalf of a group of countries), Paraguay (on behalf of a group of countries), Germany, Finland, Qatar, China, France, Venezuela, Cuba, Nepal, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Armenia, Indonesia, Lithuania, Russian Federation, Benin, Sudan, United States, United Kingdom, Malawi, Mauritania, India, Philippines, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Estonia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Thailand, Cambodia, Algeria, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, South Africa, Bangladesh, Turkey, Georgia, Latvia, Hungary, Cabo Verde, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Bhutan, Yemen, Iran, South Sudan, Switzerland, Bahamas and Tanzania.
Also speaking were Sikh Human Rights Group, YouChange China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, World Organisation Against Torture, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Human Rights Information and Training Center, Asociacion HazteOir.org, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Youth Parliament for SDG, International Commission of Jurists, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés (OIPMA), Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, and Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
Speaking in right of reply were Russian Federation and Cambodia.
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.
The Council will resume its work at 3 p.m. to begin to take action on draft resolutions and decisions before it closes its regular forty-ninth session on Friday, 1 April.
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