Human Rights Council continues interactive dialogue with High Commissioner for Human Rights on her annual report and oral update

The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its interactive dialogue with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on her annual report and oral update, which addressed numerous human rights challenges across the world, particularly the growth of inequality.

The High Commissioner presented her annual report and oral update on Wednesday, 6 March, and a summary can be read here. The summary of the first part of the discussion, which was held earlier today, can be read here.

In the discussion, speakers thanked the High Commissioner for her report and concurred with her view about the need to address inequalities as well as harnessing the synergies between civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights. Speakers emphasized that free and fair elections were a critical component of good governance, and expressed concern about crackdowns and human rights violations during recent elections. Others welcomed efforts to give equal meaning to the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights. Some speakers paid tribute to the scope of actions of the High Commissioner, including her work on the guidelines on effective participation in public affairs. Speakers underlined that the Council played a fundamental role and could be pivotal for crisis prevention and for a sustainable and just world for all, as there could not be long-lasting peace when human rights were not respected.

Speaking this afternoon in the interactive dialogue were: Jordan, Iraq, Czech Republic, , Libya, Qatar, Somalia, Finland, Russia, Latvia, Philippines, Syria, Australia, Bolivia, Thailand, Uruguay, Sierra Leone, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Venezuela, Chile, Italy, Republic of Korea, El Salvador, Paraguay, Mexico, France, Maldives, Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Austria, Botswana, Belarus, Egypt, Bahamas, Morocco, Myanmar, Switzerland, Iceland, Poland, Sweden, Colombia, Algeria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Iran, Nepal, Bahrain, China, Montenegro, Lesotho, Georgia, Burkina Faso, Oman, Ethiopia, Albania, Yemen, Uganda, Hungary, Lebanon, Greece, Nigeria, Jamaica, Ukraine, Mali, Senegal, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, South Africa, Nicaragua, Turkey, Japan, Ecuador, Slovakia, Republic of Moldova, North Macedonia, Mongolia, Cameroon, Armenia, Bhutan, Zimbabwe Cambodia, United Kingdom, Zambia, Viet Nam, Belgium, Haiti and Algeria. United Nations Women and the Organization of American States also spoke.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Article 19 The International Centre Against Censorship, and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues.

The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 8 March, to conclude its interactive dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on her annual report and oral update. It will then hear the introduction of reports by the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, and the summary of the intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, then the introduction of thematic reports by the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and her Office, followed by a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Jordan continued to make reforms in order to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights. Addressing the Palestinian cause was key for achieving peace and stability in the Middle East, and political solutions had to be found for the crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya. Iraq welcomed the visit by the High Commissioner to assess the respect for human rights in the context of legislation and governmental procedures. The Iraqi Government abided by all international standards in that respect. Czech Republic paid tribute to the scope of actions of the High Commissioner, including her work on the guidelines on effective participation in public affairs. It concurred that the main task of the human rights system was prevention and early warning.

UN Women noted that at a time when civic space across the globe was eroding, and the relevance of multilateralism was under question, UN Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights must demonstrate bold and coordinated leadership. Venezuela underlined that the criminal embargo imposed by the Trump administration had cost Venezuelans billions of dollars. The dark Monroe Doctrine was being implemented in total impunity, and the so-called humanitarian aid was a pretext to justify a military invasion on Venezuela. Qatar expressed hope that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would bring those responsible for human rights violations to account. It drew attention to the violations of the rights of Syrians, Palestinians and Yemenis.

Somalia faced many gaps in resources and limited financing, and appreciated the increase of the Office’s resources to enable Somalia to implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. More progress was also needed on youth rights, as 70 per cent of the population was under 30. Finland welcomed efforts to give equal meaning to the three pillars of the United Nations, peace and security, development, and human rights. It was of the utmost importance to continue work to integrate the gender perspective into the substantive work of the Office’s field presences. Latvia highlighted the increased attacks on journalists and the shrinking space for civil society around the world as matters of concern. Latvia also regretted the deterioration of the human rights situation in countries and territories where the Office and international human rights mechanisms were facing continuous denial of access.

Russian Federation agreed that inequality bred conflict, but of greater significance was the interference in other States’ affairs. The countries that had provoked the revolution in Ukraine and had attempted to provoke revolutions in Syria and Venezuela should be addressed. Philippines fully supported the High Commissioner on the importance of addressing the complex challenges posed by gender and migration. The Philippines criticized figures used by the High Commissioner’s Office regarding drug killings which they believed were exaggerated, and asked the Office to address these data errors. Syria said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should take measures to address human rights abuses by third parties in Syria. Syria also condemned Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, and the building of colonial settlements, including in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Australia emphasized that free and fair elections were a critical component of good governance, and expressed concern about crackdowns and human rights violations during elections, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Australia also underlined that human rights applied to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Bolivia reaffirmed its determination to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding that it had always done its best to meet its reporting obligations to the treaty bodies, and reiterated its commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process. Thailand concurred with the High Commissioner’s view about the need to address inequalities as well as harness the synergies between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Thailand underlined the need to strengthen multilateralism and uphold agreed international norms and values.

Uruguay reiterated its firm commitment to the multilateral system and its absolute determination to continue cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Uruguay underscored the importance of technical cooperation and capacity building, and reiterated the call for States to continue providing voluntary financial contributions so that the Office could continue its work. Sierra Leone noted that the media tended to characterize migration as a crisis, but underlined that the focus needed to be on the underlying problems that caused mass migration, a phenomenon as old as human existence. Saudi Arabia would continue its efforts to promote and protect human rights. Regarding the High Commissioner’s comments on recent arrests, Saudi Arabia noted that those detained were taken into custody for committing crimes against the security and sovereignty of the State, and were guaranteed a fair trial.

Namibia concurred that the Human Rights Council should not pick and choose among peoples, and it reminded the High Commissioner of the need to resume the technical mission to Western Sahara, as well as to establish technical assistance and capacity-building programmes. Libya praised the efforts of the High Commissioner to strengthen international cooperation in order to promote human rights, and provide technical assistance and capacity building. Libya had achieved major progress in economic reforms, and in securing peace and security. Spain rejected all attempts to instrumentalize the work of the High Commissioner’s Office, and firmly condemned any reprisals against human rights defenders. It expressed concern about the situations in Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Chile welcomed the High Commissioner’s focus on inequalities, adding that the Sustainable Development Goals were a roadmap for overcoming them. Chile condemned the deterioration of the situation of human rights in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Italy said that the Human Rights Council played a fundamental role and could be pivotal for crisis prevention and for a sustainable and just world for all. There could be no long-lasting peace when human rights were not respected. Republic of Korea stated that the vicious cycle of inequalities affected all aspects of societies, adding that human rights defenders were watchdogs for human rights violations. It expressed hope that lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula would come to fruition.

El Salvador said that the United Nations system must underscore the promotion, development and protection of human rights without exception. This must be done through the full respect of the most vulnerable in societies, including migrants, children and the poor. Paraguay agreed that inequalities were one of the main threats to building peace within States. Paraguay regretted the serious violations of economic and social rights in Venezuela, as well as in Nicaragua, and underscored that the role of the United Nations was to help States with capacity building. Mexico noted that inequality led to divided societies wherein conflicts flourished. Mexico was committed to strengthen its legal framework to meet international standards, and ensure that human rights were respected.

France said that serious human rights abuses existed in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar. France remained concerned about the situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua. In a number of African countries, political dialogue that was inclusive was the only way forward to ensure that human rights were upheld. Maldives was encouraged by the High Commissioner’s vision to engage more substantively and proactively in areas related to climate change. Maldives was committed to re-engage with the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances. Costa Rica regretted the current state of human rights abuses, but remained hopeful that improvements could be made. Costa Rica asked the High Commissioner what the role of her Office should be, in light of her mandate, as she sought to tackle human rights abuses around the world.

Azerbaijan deplored armed conflicts that led to long-term suffering for civilians, and resulted in the forceful displacement of millions of people and the violation of their human rights. Azerbaijan valued the increased level of cooperation with the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the national level, including with the Office of the Ombudsperson and the Bar Association. Austria called on all States to fully cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the mechanisms of the Council. Austria called on more States to issue a standing invitation to the Special Procedures, and expressed concern about reports of reprisals against individuals and organizations that cooperated with Special Procedure mandate holders. Botswana concurred that inequality undermined and was directly inimical to the principles of human rights and human dignity. Botswana noted that there had been promising developments in some areas, such as the resolve of Somali leadership to turn around the country, and also commended countries across the African continent, such as Rwanda, for their strides on gender equality in leadership.

Belarus underlined that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should keep up with other agencies in the United Nations system and more actively implement key principles of the 2030 Agenda. Belarus also underscored the need to have a more balanced approach to monitoring and assessing human rights situations, and noted that there was still a politicization by the Council of human rights situations in various countries. Egypt underlined that human rights were universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, and that the improvement of one right led to the advancement of others. Egypt noted that its Government had a strong will to fulfil its responsibilities towards its people, to meet their aspirations, and to realize their rights for a better future. Bahamas appreciated the High Commissioner’s acknowledgement that some countries, often with capacity constraints, had undertaken successful initiatives to promote and advance human rights. Bahamas had committed to leave no one behind, to reduce poverty and inequality, and to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, including women, children and persons with disabilities.

Morocco stated that the working methods of the Council were a crucial issue in the fulfilment of its mandate. It was time to reflect on how to make the Universal Periodic Review a more effective human rights tool. Myanmar noted that the issue of Rakhine state concerned a complex mix of social and economic problems, including migratory flows. The Government was willing to overcome the problem of accountability, but the impartiality of the international community was crucial in that respect. Switzerland underlined the importance of the unimpeded exercise of the mandate of the High Commissioner, and called on States to cooperate with her mandate in a cooperative and transparent manner. Switzerland regretted that Israel had decided to end the temporary international presence in Hebron, which undermined the few existing mechanisms to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Poland stressed that human rights ranked high on its foreign affairs agenda. If elected to the Human Rights Council, Poland would promote the idea of human rights as enablers of all three pillars of the United Nations. Sweden remained committed in its strong support for the mandate of the High Commissioner and called on all countries to grant her Office access. Sweden commended the work that the High Commissioner’s Office did with civil society, which was crucial for prevention and early warning.

Colombia said that the end of the conflict in Colombia demonstrated the Government’s commitment to human rights. Colombia regretted the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, which had caused more than 1.2 million Venezuelans to flee across the border, and looked forward to the findings of the High Commissioner’s upcoming visit there. Ireland regretted the increase in attacks on human rights and basic freedoms around the world, and saw clear interlinkages between development, peace and security. What additional steps could Human Rights Council Member States take to ensure the delivery of the 2030 Agenda. Luxembourg regretted the decision of Venezuela to expel the United Nations presence in 2018. Standing up for healthcare and sexual and reproductive rights was a key pillar of Luxembourg’s policies, and the Government was supportive of the High Commissioner’s work on the fight to uphold gender rights.

Iran said that imposed unilateral sanctions on countries in Latin America had exacerbated the human rights situation there and violated the rights of civilians. The imposition of economic hardships on countries, whether in Gaza or in Yemen, was more than a simple violation of human rights, it was genocidal. Nepal stated that for many countries in the global south, inclusive development was the way to realize human rights in a concrete form. Countries like Nepal, which were disproportionally affected by climate change, required adaptation capacities and additional resources. Bahrain stated that equality was a foundation of all free societies. Bahrain welcomed the work of the High Commissioner in strengthening the work of the United Nations to build a world of peace.

China expressed hope and expectation regarding the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and noted China’s commitment to human rights. However, China regretted the High Commissioner’s statements regarding Xinjiang these statements went completely against the facts. Xinjiang enjoyed stability and harmony among all ethnic groups. Montenegro expressed its full support for the High Commissioner’s determination to strengthen prevention and early warning mechanisms in order to hinder conflicts. Montenegro also expressed deep concern that the death penalty and corporal punishment were still practiced in some parts of the world. Lesotho called on the international community to commit to support the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals as they laid out a solid foundation for States to translate into action the promotion and protection of human rights. Lesotho also reiterated its commitment to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights towards attaining a world where the cornerstones of democracy, good governance and human rights prevailed.

Georgia noted that respect for human rights, good governance, rule of law and access to justice were prerequisites for efficiently tackling existing inequalities. Georgia also expressed concern about reprisals against human rights defenders. Organization of American States regretted that the grave human rights situation in Nicaragua had given rise to a de facto state of emergency, characterized by the excessive use of force and where public space was shrinking. People unlawfully detained in Nicaragua must be freed, and fundamental freedoms and rights must be re-established so that a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution could be found. Burkina Faso expressed concern for the current status quo around armed conflict situations which led to serious human rights violations. Burkina Faso also expressed concern regarding the rise of terrorism and violent extremism, and given the many attacks carried out against Burkina Faso itself, was fully aware of their multi-dimensional impact on human rights.

Oman reiterated that credibility needed to be added to the work of the Human Rights Council by balancing the attention given to economic, social and cultural rights, with that given to civil and political rights. The lack of development and its neglect in developing countries was one of the causes of extremism. Ethiopia believed that peace, security, development and human rights were the critical foundation for building a stable world. It shared the High Commissioner’s call for States to take strong actions in addressing inequalities at all levels. Albania noted the efforts of the High Commissioner to fight impunity, strengthen the protection of human rights defenders, and address inequalities. Albania was determined to bring about gender equality, to defend the rights of the child, and to manage migration.

Yemen regretted that the High Commissioner had not referred in her report to those who were the cause of the suffering of the Yemeni people, namely the Houthis. The Houthi militia continued to put obstacles to all agreements, despite the shuttle diplomacy led by the United Nations. Uganda emphasized that inequalities continued to persist in all spheres of life, resulting from factors such as discrimination and poor governance. Uganda called on the High Commissioner’s Office to extend technical assistance to States to strengthen their national capacities. Hungary stressed the need for a strong and timely reaction of the Human Rights Council at a time when human rights violations persisted in every corner of the world. Particular attention should be paid to the right to education, and the elimination of discrimination and violence against women and girls.

Lebanon stated that the crises in the Middle East region, especially the migration crisis, had placed a strain on the Lebanese State, which must be taken into account when assessing the provision of services by the State. Lebanon highly appreciated the close cooperation with the High Commissioner’s Office to build technical capacity to ensure human rights in the country. United Kingdom condemned Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories and remained troubled at the restriction of protests in Nicaragua. The United Kingdom also regretted human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, Cambodia and Viet Nam, and called on Thailand to sign the 1951 Convention on Refugees. Nigeria remained deeply concerned about the trend of right wing nationalism around the world and its impact on migrants. Nigeria reiterated its long-held views on the non-politicization of human rights issues, and called for the avoidance of double standards in this area.

Jamaica remained unwavering in its commitment to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens. It welcomed assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in strengthening their efforts to comply with various treaty bodies, and particularly ahead of their next Universal Periodic Review in 2020. Ukraine said that the Russian-occupation authorities in Crimea had denied access to human rights monitors to the peninsula. Ukraine called for immediate steps to be taken to prevent Russia from continuing its aggression, and looked forward to welcoming the High Commissioner in Ukraine in the near future. Mali stated its commitment to pooling its resources with the G5 Sahel group to combat the activities of terrorist and organized crime groups in the region. Mali also reiterated its commitment to stepping up the implementation of the agreement for peace and national reconciliation.

Senegal said its Government had put in place several social policies, notably a programme of grants for families and financing for women and young people. Senegal reiterated its support for the Office of the High Commissioner. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was committed to genuine dialogue and cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights. At the same time, it strongly opposed politicization, selectivity and double standards in the field of human rights, and rejected highly politicized resolutions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. South Africa noted that it was faced with the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment that formed part of the legacy of apartheid. South Africa appreciated the High Commissioner’s approach of reaching out to the African continent, underpinned by the High Commissioner’s recent visit to the African Union.

Nicaragua said that despite the recent attempted coup, its Government had demonstrated its political commitment to the promotion of peace among Nicaraguans. Nicaragua respected the right to self-determination of peoples, and underlined that the domestic affairs of a country must be resolved by its own people. Turkey emphasized that it was abiding by universal values such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law, which were fundamental pillars of its constitution. Turkey underscored there was a need to refrain from premature and prejudiced comments or even conclusions that may be construed as attempts to influence judicial processes. Japan noted that it was of great significance to place human rights at the centre of the United Nations system, in particular at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals. Japan also supported the High Commissioner’s emphasis on early warning and early actions, and noted that various human rights mechanisms continued to play a critical role in this area.

Ecuador had made significant progress in the promotion of human rights in 2018, with the adoption of all nine core human rights treaties. Even though it faced challenges, Ecuador maintained complete openness in cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Slovakia noted that serious conflict prevention had to place human rights at its heart; engagement, dialogue and cooperation should be the main tools used in promoting human rights. Slovakia expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Yemen. Republic of Moldova concurred with the High Commissioner that each country was responsible for overcoming the current challenges to the international human rights system. It also agreed that empowering women was key for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

North Macedonia highlighted the adoption of the two Global Compacts on refugees and migrants, which were the signs of our time, when challenges and opportunities were intertwined in great complexity. The reaffirmation of universal norms was of vital importance, but so was their implementation in practice. Mongolia stressed the role played by human rights defenders in the promotion of human rights, which was why the Mongolian Government had presented a draft law for their protection. States had the primary responsibility to ensure that their citizens enjoyed full rights. Cameroon confirmed its official invitation to the High Commissioner for a working visit. It reiterated that the Government had assumed its responsibilities in protecting citizens from the secessionist movement in the north-west and south-west of the country. Cameroon rejected all libel in that respect.

Armenia argued that a State’s security was stronger when the foundations of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights were robust. Armenia regretted the systemic crackdown on political protests and civil society in Turkey and called for an end to these acts. Bhutan was fully committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and to that effect, their national development plans were well aligned with the 2030 goals. Bhutan had reduced the number of people living below the poverty line through interventions and broad-based programmes in education, health and agriculture. Zimbabwe said recent protests were contrary to the constitution of the country, therefore the Government had been obliged to intervene. Meanwhile, the Government remained committed to its economic reforms, in order to achieve a better future for all its citizens.

Cambodia believed that the politicization of the human rights agenda and double standards in that regard should be avoided. Cambodia noted that the Chinese Government had implemented security measures in Xinjiang in line with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Greece said it was a European Union frontline State in receiving migrants, and stressed the importance of burden and responsibility sharing. Greece welcomed yesterday’s findings on the specific burdens that women and girls faced in accessing human rights around the world. Zambia welcomed the High Commissioner’s emphasis that gross inequalities constituted a fundamental challenge to the principles of equality and political rights. Zambia would continue to play its role in upholding human rights around the globe.

Viet Nam expressed concern regarding the negative impact of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights. Viet Nam also noted its commitment to further strengthening sustainable development through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on policies towards multi-dimensional poverty reduction. Haiti noted that inequality, climate change, conflict and others remained threats to peace, development and the respect for human rights. Haiti had restored trust in institutions by continuing to fight corruption. Belgium reiterated its commitment to the independence of the functions of the High Commissioner, and insisted on her role as a mobilizing force for promoting human rights within the United Nations system. Belgium also expressed concern at persistent violations of human rights in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. Algeria urged the Council not to rank human rights on the basis of non-objective judgement. Algeria welcomed the High Commissioner’s commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda, and pointed out that Algeria had supported this work through the promotion of human rights and democratic pluralism.

Human Rights Watch supported the High Commissioner’s call for the release of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, and urged the Council to put in place regular monitoring of the human rights situation there. The Council should also look at the enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions in China’s Xinjiang region. Amnesty International shared concern about the appalling human rights violations in the Philippines, which met the threshold of crimes against humanity. It also drew attention to the deteriorating human rights crisis in Nicaragua, and called on Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release detained human rights defenders. Article 19 International Centre Against Censorship condemned the mass arbitrary arrests and detention of haft tapeh protesters demanding labour rights and fair pay in Iran. It deplored the efforts by political leaders to scapegoat minorities, including migrants, and critical voices for their countries’ economic and social ills, including in Myanmar, Russia, Brazil, Hungary and Poland. International Federation for Human Rights Leagues called on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested for their human rights activities. It was concerned about the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Sudan, and about the ongoing human rights violations in Nicaragua.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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