ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS ADDRESS FROM MINISTER OF JUSTICE OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS ADDRESS FROM MINISTER OF JUSTICE OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Hears Reports from Social Forum, Forum on Business and Human Rights and Working Group on Right to Peace, Concludes Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
7 June 2013

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting today heard an address from the Minister of Justice of the Central African Republic.  The Council started its general debate on the Council’s subsidiary bodies and heard reports from the Social Forum, the Working Group on a draft declaration of the right to peace, and the Forum on Business and Human Rights.  It also concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

Arsene Sende, Minister of Justice of the Central African Republic, said that the Central African Republic was a fragile State characterised by decades of repeated crises.  The first actions that were being taken since the political change on 24 March 2013 related to restoring peace and security, assisting displaced persons, preparing for elections, strictly respecting human rights, and reforming the judiciary system and the penitentiary administration.  The restoration of peace and security faced many difficulties, including the presence of elements of the Lord’s Resistance Army, bandits loyal to former President Francois Bozize and porous borders.  Other priorities of the new administration were to organize Presidential and legislative elections within 18 months; the promotion and protection of human rights and inviting Special Rapporteurs to visit the country and examine the situation and offer recommendations.

Alya Al-Thani, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the 2012 Social Forum, said that participants at the 2012 Forum agreed on the need for a new development paradigm that accounted for people’s basic needs and called for a holistic, human-rights based approach to development, which should be locally driven.

Christian Guillermet, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group on a draft United Nations declaration on the right to peace, said that States and civil society organizations participated broadly in the first session of the Working Group, which looked at a draft text prepared by the Advisory Committee. 

Jyoti Sanghera, Chief of the Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues Section of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the first annual Forum on Business and Human Rights had been an overwhelming success.  The Working Group had decided to complement the annual Forum by holding regional forums on business and human rights but additional resources would be needed

In the general debate that followed on subsidiary bodies of the Human Rights Council, speakers recalled that the global economic and financial crisis had unjustly affected those that had not caused it.  The Social Forum was a vital space for fruitful dialogue and there should be a follow-up on recommendations made.  Support was expressed for the work of the Working Group on the declaration on the right to peace and a draft resolution on the right to peace would be submitted at this session.

Speaking in the discussion were Ireland on behalf of the European Union, Gabon on behalf of the African Group, Cuba on behalf the Economic Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Ecuador on behalf of a group of like-minded countries, Colombia on behalf of the Group of Latin American Caribbean Countries, and Spain. 

The Human Rights Council had earlier concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.  During the general debate, speakers reiterated the Council’s responsibility to address human rights violations and situations of concern and raised allegations of violations in countries and regions around the world. 

Speaking in the general debate were: Centre Europe Tiers Monde, Press Emblem Campaign, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, World Barua Organization, Indian Council of South America, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de la Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale, Maarji Foundation for Peace and Development, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, Action Internationale pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grand Lacs, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, World Federation of Democratic Youth, Women’s Human Rights International Association, Il Cenacolo, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Liberation, France Liberte Fondation Danielle Miterrand, International Buddhist Relief Organisation, International Educational Development Inc., Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, Agence Internationale pour le Développement, and Third World Centre.

The start of the general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention can be found in HRC/13/72.

Ethiopia, China, Kuwait, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Azerbaijan spoke in a right of reply. 

The Human Rights Council this afternoon will consider the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Serbia, before continuing its general debate on subsidiary bodies of the Council.  Time permitting the Council will start its general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.

Statement by the Minister of Justice of the Central African Republic

ARSENE SENDE, Minister of Justice of the Central African Republic, said that the Central African Republic was a fragile State characterised by decades of repeated crises.  The first actions that were being taken since the political change on 24 March 2013 related to restoring peace and security, assisting displaced persons, preparing for elections, strictly respecting human rights and reforming the judiciary system and the penitentiary administration.  Concerning the restoration of peace and security, in all the national territory, the authorities were working to establish a symbiosis between the regular troops of the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic and elements of the Seleka coalition.  The restoration of peace and security faced many difficulties, including the presence of elements of the Lord’s Resistance Army, bandits loyal to former President Francois Bozize and porous borders.  The administration was also redeploying on the ground to ensure a better direction of emergency humanitarian situations.  Non-governmental organizations were encouraged by the President to effectively participate in such humanitarian situations.  Other priorities of the new administration were to organize Presidential and legislative elections within 18 months; the promotion and protection of human rights and inviting Special Rapporteurs to visit the country and examine the situation
and offer recommendations.  The Central African Republic had made the solemn commitment to create a national human rights commission in line with the Paris Principles.  The creation of this national institution was urgent.  The Government was working on this and counted on support in this endeavour.

To carry out the reform for the abolition of the death penalty, the Central African Republic had used a participatory approach and set up a commission for reflection.  On the fight against impunity and allegations of violations of human rights committed under the former regime, the Government had opened two separate investigation procedures.  The Government was committed to closing the Bossembele and Camp de Roux prisons.  Measures would be taken to ensure that prisons and detention centres would be visited periodically by human rights non-governmental organizations, both national and international.  Sexual and gender-based violence was also a priority, as was combating discrimination, including against persons with HIV/AIDS.  On judiciary reform, the main areas of action were contained in the 10-year plan that came out of the work of a meeting in 2007.  Efforts had been made to reform the penal code, including, to create courts for children.  In the last month, the identification of child soldiers had begun, with a view to their reintegration into the education system.  Respect of international standards in detention sites called for action in favour of a demilitarised incarceration system, under civilian control.  The Central African Republic appealed to all partners for assistance.

In conclusion, Mr. Sende said that his country had made progress in the field of human rights in a very difficult context.  The Central African Republic was ready to work with the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a constructive spirit and it would participate in the Universal Periodic Review in September 2013.

General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Centre Europe Tiers Monde raised the case of the violent persecution and killing of a number of Uyghurs in China.  Differences in the account of what happened had emerged but the British media had reported a version that seemed to catalogue a host of human rights abuses in China which needed to be addressed.

Press Emblem Campaign said that seven journalists were currently in jail in Turkey for simply carrying out their work during recent public disorder in Ankara.  They were being held without charge under anti-terror laws.  Turkey should not use recent public demonstrations as an excuse for a crackdown on the media.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers drew the Council’s attention to the human rights situation for hunger strikers in Guantanamo, including poor living conditions and invasive searches.
 
World Barua Organization said that the situation of indigenous peoples and children was deteriorating in India.  Members of the indigenous community were held in police custody for a long period of time and police abused their power and subjected indigenous families and their children to harassment.  The Council should address the issue.

Indian Council of South America said that the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly their right to self-determination, were violated in Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil.  The illegal occupation of Alaska and Hawaii should cease and their peoples should be recognized as independent from European powers. 

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de la Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale welcomed all the commitments undertaken by the United Arab Emirates and encouraged the country to continue to make efforts to improve the situation of women.  It also encouraged the country to continue its constructive participation in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  

Maarji Foundation for Peace and Development highlighted several situations in Pakistan that it felt should be brought to the Council’s notice, including the alleged assassination of a critic of Pakistan’s policy over Kashmir.  Pakistan had to stop the harassment of its critics.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence raised the issue of the increasing violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, ethnic and religious clashes in Syria and elsewhere where it said Muslims had been targeted and were suffering.  Human rights had to be protected in the face of religious extremism.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that the human rights situation in Iraq was dire on all fronts.  How could the delegation from Iraq deny this in front of the Human Rights Council?  The culture of impunity must end and a Special Rapporteur had to be appointed to bring Iraq to account.

Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples highlighted the suffering of refugees in southern Algeria, many of whom were tortured by senior officers and were convicted without trial or proof of guilt.  The international community should investigate the reported human rights abuses.

United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation spoke about the injustice and exploitation to which the Balluchi people had been subjected by Pakistan.  Brutal attacks and abductions were on the rise in the region, and Pakistan suppressed the rights of the Balluchi people.  Pakistan should not be allowed to perpetrate a massacre in Balluchistan.

Pakistan, speaking in a point of order, said that it was fully conscious of its responsibility to protect the rights of all its citizens and could not allow this forum to be used for claims which infringed upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a sovereign State.  The remarks made by the representative of United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation should be deleted from the record.

The President said this was a right of reply and not a point of order.

United States, speaking in a point of order, said that non-governmental organizations should be allowed to speak in the Council and, therefore, the representative of United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation should be allowed to complete his statement.

Cuba, speaking in a point of order, said that it was unacceptable for a non-governmental organization to attack the sovereignty and territorial independence of a sovereign State, and was not willing to listen to unsubstantiated claims made by United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation.

China, speaking in a point of order, said that it supported the statement made by Pakistan, and stressed that the Council should not be used as a platform to infringe upon the sovereignty of States.

United Kingdom, speaking in point of order, said that it agreed with the United States and that the non-governmental organization representative should be allowed to conclude his statement.

The President allowed the speaker to finish his statement.

World Muslim Congress said that the peaceful movement of the Kashmiri people for the realization of their right to self-determination had been crushed through brute force, and they had been robbed of all their fundamental rights.  Amnesty International had issued appeals for the release of juveniles.  The Council remained a silent spectator.

International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists reiterated its concern regarding recent developments affecting the Syrian population.  The Syrian regime had launched indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities and the situation was deteriorating.  The Association urged Member States to act responsibility and refrain from providing the parties to the conflict with arms.   

Action Internationale pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grand Lacs drew attention to the situation of the Sahrawi living in the Polisario camps.  It asked the Council to do what it could to ensure that humanitarian agencies were able to do their job.  It was urgent to hold a census of the population and they should be given identity papers.  

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy drew the Council’s attention to the hunger strike of what it said was a victim of the Sikh massacre of 1984.  The right to justice for Indian minorities, including Sikhs, Muslims and Christians, had to be upheld and protected.

World Federation of Democratic Youth highlighted the plight of Saharawi women whom it said were violently and sexually victimised by the Moroccan authorities in Western Sahara.  The escalating deterioration of the human rights situation in the region deserved the attention of the Human Rights Council.

Women’s Human Rights International Association, in a joint statement with other concerned non-governmental organizations, drew the Council’s attention to the conditions in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq and alleged attacks on their residents by the Iraqi military.  Sanitary conditions at the camps were poor.  Promises by the international community to resolve the issue had been broken. 

Il Cenacolo said that refugees in the Polisario-run refugee camps were exposed to inhuman practices and lived in isolation from the rest of the world.  Women were raped and enforced disappearances, torture and kidnappings were common practice there.  Il Cenacolo called upon the Council to address the situation, taking into account the relevant reports issued by Amnesty International.   

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said that the people of Kashmir were systematically sanctioned, tortured, raped and executed by the authorities, and that the rule of law did not exist in the region.  Youth who had recently protested had suffered horrendous injuries.  The world had to put an end to the deaths of innocent people. 

Liberation said that climate change was affecting the livelihood of vulnerable populations in India.  Flooding destroyed properties and took lives every year, while the uncontrolled migration of aliens posed a threat to local people.  India had an obligation to protect its most vulnerable and discriminated against populations.  Action should also be taken at the international level.

France Liberte Foundation Danielle Miterrand, said that the clashes taking place in Istanbul had been characterised by excessive use of force by the Turkish authorities against the population.  The Foundation was concerned that this kind of abuse could give rise to provocations that may aim to sabotage negotiations.  It urged the Council to closely follow this burning issue. 

International Buddhist Relief Organization said that serious human rights violations were caused by the caste system in India.  An independent study had found that 9,000 honour killings had been carried out against individuals who had married out of their caste or religion.  The Council should call on India to guarantee the right to life and to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations.

International Educational Development said that it remained concerned about the situation in Turkey, where it was clear that the Government response was extreme and the protesters’ right to freedom of expression was being violated.  Turkey also consistently failed to protect the rights of Kurds.  China attacked the media and civil society, violated the rights of Tibetans and failed to control air pollution.

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said that China was not fully implementing the Vienna Declaration and continued to violate the rights of the Tibetan people.  The majority of Tibetan nomads were evicted from their ancestral land and Tibetans were often given prison sentences in secrecy.  The Council could not remain silent over the human rights crisis suffered by the Tibetan people.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that after President Morsi had been elected, human rights violations in Egypt had continued.  Rather than taking steps to end violations, the authorities had refused to open serious investigations on cases of violence.  No accountability for grave crimes had been sought. 

Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation referred to the brutal tactics adopted during military operations by the Syrian authorities.  New information on the use of chemical agents made the situation even more depressing.  The international community stalled and delayed taking action while the Syrian people suffered.  The Council had to act now.

Agence Internationale pour le Developpement denounced the violations of fundamental rights suffered by Sahrawi women and girls in the Tindouf camps.  It was underscored that they were victims of all types of harassment, rape and forced marriage even when they were young.    

Third World Centre condemned the violations of human rights of Basque political prisoners in Spain and France.  The Centre expressed concern about the refusal to release seriously ill prisoners and those who had been arbitrarily detained, and called on the Council to investigate these violations.

Right of Reply

Ethiopia, speaking in a right of reply, refuted the allegations made by Switzerland and Eritrea.  The number of non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia had substantially increased under a transparent process of accreditation; domestic and foreign civil society organizations were active; and the legal and institutional framework had provided them with ample opportunities to raise funds locally.  Switzerland was asking Ethiopia to delay local capacity building and this did not advance genuine human rights advocacy work but promoted dependence and interference into national political process.  The baseless allegations by Eritrea were born out of misplaced anger against being told to halt suppressing its people and acts of destabilisation in the region.  It was shameful that Eritrea tried to equate Ethiopia with its tyrannical regime.

China, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the groundless accusations against China put forward by a number of delegations and some non-governmental organizations.  China’s Constitution and laws fully guaranteed fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, but no freedom was absolute and citizens had to adhere to the framework provided by the law.  In China those who advocated for division or subverted the Government faced restrictions.  A large number of policies had been implemented to address the situation of ethnic minorities, including their freedom of religion and belief and the protection of their traditions.  A few separatists with foreign support, in Xinjiang and Tibet, carried out violent acts with the purpose of garnering the support of the international community for their secessionist agendas. 

Kuwait, speaking in a right of reply, said that Switzerland should have contacted it to clarify the situation about questions raised related to the death penalty.  Kuwait stated that the death penalty as part of Shari’a law came under the sovereignty of the State.  There had been no cases of the implementation of the death penalty since 2007.  The death penalty would be implemented when the perpetrators deserved it and in accordance with the crime committed against society.

Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said that once again the United States repeated its historic line of interventionism against Venezuela and continued with its international campaign to discredit Venezuela.  Now it was concerned with the transparency of the electoral process in Venezuela, while the United States held the darkest record for violations in the world in that area.  With its preventive wars it had invaded countries and left in its wake thousands of innocent victims which it cowardly called collateral damage.  Venezuela urged the United States to keep the promise of establishing of a new relationship with Latin America.  In its statement, Switzerland questioned freedom of expression in Venezuela.  Its allegations corresponded to a total ignorance of the Venezuelan reality.  The Council was a space for the promotion and protection of human rights and not for work that sought to stigmatize sovereign States. 

Uzbekistan, in a right of reply, refuted statements made by the United States, Austria and Switzerland and said they had flagrantly ignored the achievements made in Uzbekistan to improve its human rights record.  For example, 60 per cent of media was not State-owned, and Internet access was increasing.  People in Uzbekistan were not persecuted for political reasons but were only held accountable for criminal acts.  Freedom of religion was guaranteed.  The International Committee of the Red Cross had made more than 200 visits to Uzbekistan’s prisons.  On the other hand, Switzerland was guilty of failing to tackle xenophobia and religious intolerance; in the United States cruel interrogation techniques and racial discrimination in handing down the death penalty were rife; Austria was failing to tackle the rise of neo-Nazism.

Turkmenistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that religious freedoms followed international norms and unregistered activity by religious groups had been decriminalized.  A complaints procedure vis a vis the penitentiary system had been established.  The Government cooperated with the International Committee of the Red Cross over prison visits and two visits had recently taken place; a positive view was taken by the International Committee of the Red Cross of these correctional facilities. 

Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, addressed the statements made by the United States, Austria and Switzerland.  The United States used complaints against others to cover up abuses of human rights at home.  Its blockade of Cuba amounted to genocide of a whole people, while the continued illegal operation of Guantanamo was a serious cause for concern.  With respect to Alan Gross, an American citizen imprisoned in Cuba, Cuba had offered to mediate with the United States on this case, but the United States should be mindful of the Cuban citizens it had imprisoned.  The attempt of the United States to discredit Cuba was regretted.  Switzerland and Austria should take care of their own problems and were urged to tackle xenophobia and racism at home before criticizing Cuba.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the remarks of a number of countries and said that Egypt attached great important to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society, in particular as part of the democratic process, and they were active in a number of areas.  A regulatory framework for their activities was necessary, however, this still allowed for their independence.  Concerning the draft law on civil society, this was a domestic issue; this draft legislation expanded the areas of work of civil society and created a coordination commission bringing together civil society representatives, and would enable NGOs to fulfil their social role.  It would be premature to judge negotiations that were still ongoing in Parliament and Egypt was convinced that these views were shared by international partners.

Sri Lanka, speaking in a right of reply, responded to remarks made by Canada and the United States during the general debate.  Sri Lanka was surprised by Canada’s claim concerning the lack of reconciliation and human rights violations, while the achievements in the implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission had been well documented in the public domain, including a number of aspects included in the process of reconciliation.  Sri Lanka reiterated that as a founding member of the Commonwealth, it was committed to its principles and this was demonstrated by its willingness to host the next meeting of Heads of Government.  Responding to the United States, Sri Lanka said that every effort was being made to investigate attacks against the media and to prosecute perpetrators.

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, addressed the politically motivated and counter productive remarks made by some delegations concerning the upcoming elections.  Iran counted with an ancient civilization and was aware of its responsibility towards human rights but it was unfortunate that these States were attempting to intervene in the domestic affairs of others.  Iran drew attention to the fact that according to the Constitution its internal affairs should reflect the desire of the population and the eligibility of candidates should be confirmed by the Guardian Council, and the eligibility requirements for the election of a President.

Iraq, speaking in a right of reply, noted references contained in statements by certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying it was deplorable that these NGOs defended murderers, terrorists and those who instigated religious and ethnic violence.  Some NGOs had referred to the closing of a number of television satellite channels, but the delegation wished to point out that the press was free in Iraq and freedom of expression was protected by the constitution.  The right to demonstrate was also protected in Iraq.  As for Liberty camp, the NGOs knew that it was built under the supervision of the United Nations and it was being monitored by the United Nations.  Iraq had repeatedly urged the international community to find another suitable place for those living in this camp.

Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, referred to a statement by Azerbaijan and its concern about the situation in Syria and Syrian-Armenians.  Guided by the spirit of humanity and brotherhood, Armenia hosted many refugees from Syria, including those of Armenian origin.  The Government made its utmost towards their full integration into Armenian society.  All so-called arguments about Syrian-Armenians were baseless and unfounded.  Azerbaijan was advised to discuss the relevant issues with the competent authorities of Nagorno Karabakh.  Everyone enjoyed freedom of movement and it was obvious that people would choose to move to a democratic and stable country such as Nagorno Karabakh.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, was deeply concerned about grave and widespread violations of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and called upon it to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The Republic of Korea called upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with a view to improving the human rights situation on the ground.  It urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to ensure the safety and well-being of persons that were involuntarily returned to the country. 

Japan said the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea claimed the abduction issue had been solved but this was not the case.  The Japanese Government urgently sought a resolution to this issue and said it pursued a dialogue over this and other important issues, including nuclear weaponry.  Japan wanted immediate and concrete action by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to resolve all outstanding human rights issues, including that of the abduction of Japanese citizens and other human rights violations.

Azerbaijan said it was well-known that in its view about one-fifth of the territory of Azerbaijan was under occupation and Armenia was insolently insisting on the legality of the separate entity referred to by the Armenian delegation while it had been repeatedly demonstrated that this entity was illegal and what it called its puppet government was not recognized by any State, including Armenia itself.  While the international community was focussed on Syria, human rights violations were reportedly going on in this region.

Armenia, speaking in a second right of reply, responded to the unfounded accusations made by Azerbaijan and stressed that it counted with democratic order with competent bodies.  Azerbaijan recognised the existence of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Bishkek Protocol and the cease fire agreement, and it was on the basis of these documents that there was peace and security in the region.  Concerning the questions about refugees brought up by Azerbaijan, this issue was of importance and would be dealt with and the voluntary return of refugees would be considered by the competent bodies.

Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that the propagation of legal entities established by Armenia in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan led towards the preservation of the status quo, and recalled United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions concerning the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and pointed the right of the population to return to their homes and stressed the importance of the creation of appropriate conditions for their return.  The illegal settlement of Syrian Armenians had also been noted by the High Commissioner for Refugees and Azerbaijan stressed that there was no alternative but for Armenia to retired its forces from the occupied terrorise and uphold the rights of refugees to return to their homes.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Social Forum (A/HRC/23/54).

The Council has before it the Summary of discussions at the Forum on Business and Human Rights (A/HRC/23/33).

The Council has before it a note by the secretariat on the report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on a draft United Nations declaration on the right to peace (A/HRC/23/55).

The Council has before it the report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on a draft United Nations declaration on the right to peace (A/HRC/WG.13/1/2)

Presentation of Reports on the 2012 Social Forum, the Working Group to Draft a UN Declaration on the Right to Peace, and the Forum for Business and Human Rights
ALYA AL-THANI, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the 2012 Social Forum, said that the Social Forum took place from 1 to 3 October 2012.  Participants agreed on the need for a new development paradigm that accounted for people’s basic needs, respectful of their dignity, equality and rights, and responsive to their demands.  Development efforts had often failed to meet this standard by focusing on quantitative macroeconomic progress without addressing the underlying structural inequalities that continued to plague societies, the entirety of the human condition including the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of persons and the long-term sustainability of humanity’s actions.  Participants called for a holistic, human-rights based approach to development that accounted for the perspectives of diverse stakeholders including indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, women, youth and older persons.  Participants agreed that, in order to move to a transformative people-centred development paradigm, development should be locally driven.  Globalization may be viewed as both a problem and a solution.  Participants argued that equitable distribution of the benefits of globalization and the democratization of international institutions was essential to the furthering of people-centred development.

The panel discussions and interactive dialogues provided an opportunity for participants to explore specific issues related to people-centred development and globalization in greater depth and created an enabling framework for the genesis of action-oriented and practical conclusions and recommendations.  Participants also made concrete proposals for the development agenda post-2015.  They supported the active participation of the most vulnerable and marginalized at all levels of development and governance, and the meaningful participation of developing countries and civil society in international development and global governance. Participants recommended that development agendas must recognize that women traditionally and historically had skills and knowledge for livelihoods that ensured food security for all.  Participants further called for solidarity among all people and States, so all may pursue a vision of a shared future.  
                            
CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group on a draft United Nations declaration on the right to peace, presented the report of the first session of the Working Group.  States and civil society organizations participated broadly in the session which looked at a draft text prepared by the Advisory Committee.  The process allowed for a broad space for discussion that did not presuppose the outcome.  An atmosphere of trust and constructive dialogue was thus created.  Going forward, bridges had to be built between States and civil society in order to compose a text that would be acceptable to all.  The text before the first session was however considered too broad, and there were some notions in it that States felt lay beyond the mandate of the Working Group.  As a result three proposals had been put forward including the preparation of a new text which would be put before the second session of the Working Group.  The challenges that lay ahead required a genuine commitment to multilateralism.  If this was easy, the Working Group would not be out of a job, so the big questions must be asked and answered. 

The progression of human rights was clear as the international community looked back to the Vienna Convention 20 years ago.  The ball was now in the Council’s court and it could send a message about the importance of strengthening the human rights agenda by fully taking part in the work of the Working Group.

JYOTI SANGHERA, Chief of the Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues Section of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report on the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, said that the first annual Forum on Business and Human Rights had taken place from 4 to 5 December 2012 and it had been an overwhelming success.  Participants represented over 80 countries, with attendance by at least 50 registered permanent missions, around 150 business enterprises, 170 civil society organizations, 5 international trade union networks and around 20 national human rights institutions, as well as at least 15 specialized agencies from the United Nations system and 17 international and regional institutions.  The official programme of the Forum included 21 substantive sessions, focusing on trends and challenges in implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as per the mandate of the Forum.  Official Forum sessions included discussions on: access to judicial and non-judicial remedy for business-related human rights impacts; impacts on indigenous peoples and responses by business, human rights mechanisms and NGOs; and progress and challenges experienced by States, businesses, international institutions and civil society in implementing the Guiding Principles.

The second annual Forum would be held from 2 to 4 December this year and the Working Group on Business and Human Rights intended to build on the momentum of the 2012 Forum; it also had decided at its third session to complement the annual Forum and its programme of work by holding regional forums on business and human rights.  Such forums should stimulate further participation by regional and local actors including State-based political coordination bodies, regional development banks, domestic and local businesses and civil society.  The first regional forum for Latin America and the Caribbean would be held in Medellín, Colombia, on 28 to 30 August this year.  Ms. Sanguera recalled that additional resources would be needed in order to be able to implement the expanded and ambitious vision for the Forum on Business and Human Rights and maximise the Forum’s potential as a key global platform on business and human rights and multistakeholder dialogue.  Support from donors was also critical for enabling the Working Group to organise regional forums in collaboration with appropriate partners.

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that it commended the High Commissioner’s efforts towards a comprehensive and inclusive treaty-body strengthening process.  All new initiatives in this regard should build on the existing framework.  The process should lead to a high level of compliance related to reporting.  The independence of the Special Procedures had to be scrupulously respected.  The European Union reiterated its full commitment to the Universal Periodic Review.

Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Social Forum was a vital space for fruitful dialogue.  It recalled that the financial and economic crisis was a result of faults in financial governance and structural imbalances.  It was unjust that those that had not caused this crisis were the ones that had to suffer the effects.  The conclusions and recommendations of the Social Forum were important and the African Group advocated an evaluation and effective follow-up of these recommendations.

Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Economic Community for Latin America and  the Caribbean, said that the immense majority of the international community and thousands of non-governmental organizations supported the Working Group on the right to peace.  It acknowledged the work of the Chairperson Rapporteur of the Working Group for the work done thus far.  The Community would submit the draft resolution on the right to peace at this session. 

Ecuador, speaking on behalf of a group of like-minded countries, said the Group was fully committed to the development of a declaration on the right to peace and it encouraged those States that did not see the need for one to engage and contribute further to the process.

Colombia, speaking on behalf of the Group of Caribbean and Latin American Countries, said that it recognized the complimentarity of the stakeholders from States, civil society and enterprises in the pursuit of the Guiding Principles.  It was important to open a dialogue in the region on human rights and enterprises and a planned forum would provide training and capacity building opportunities.

Spain said cooperation by States with the Council was vital for the work of the Special Procedures.  States should extend an open invitation to all Special Procedures and Spain had played its part by hosting, for example, the Special Rapporteur on racism.  Spain took part in the Forum on Human Rights and Business and underlined the importance of this exciting event.  The Council should adapt so that persons with disabilities could contribute fully, both in Geneva and over the Internet. 


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/078E