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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE DISCUSSES ENHANCEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
13 August 2013

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this morning discussed the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, hearing a presentation from the Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 

Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, opened the discussion by recalling that the Human Rights Council had requested the Advisory Committee to prepare a focused and in-depth study on ways and means to enhance international cooperation in the field of human rights and to submit a progress report to the Council at its twenty-sixth session. 

Zdislaw Kedzia, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said international cooperation should address basic structural obstacles to rights such as poverty, underdevelopment and systemic discrimination, and that all actors involved should prioritize disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable groups.  The areas of trade, finance and investment were in no way exempt.  The individual should be placed at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda so that new development goals, indicators and benchmarks were explicitly aligned with human rights principles and standards.

In the discussion Committee Members spoke about how in the new study they needed to look at more practical aspects of international cooperation as the theoretical aspect had already been addressed.  Ways of enhancing international cooperation included dialogue, such as political and institutional dialogue, accompanied by financial and technical assistance.  A speaker recommended that the Committee focus on developing guidelines in issues such as human rights education, technical assistance, migration, South-South cooperation and mainstreaming of the term of international cooperation.  The United Nations could serve more in promoting strong partnerships with States and international actors in the field of human rights, another speaker said.  Cooperation between States was one of the most important elements of international cooperation, and important elements were provision of technical assistance and exchange of good practices.

The following Committee Members took the floor in the discussion; Shigeki Sakamoto, Saeed Mohamed Al Faihani, Imeru Tamrat Yigezu, Wolfgang Stefan Heinz and Mona Zulficar.  Representatives of Iran and Russia also spoke.

The Advisory Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon to discuss the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights.

Introductory Remarks by Chairperson of the Advisory Committee

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, opened the discussion by recalling that the Human Rights Council, at its nineteenth session, requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a seminar on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights.  A summary of the seminar, which took place on 15 February 2013, was submitted to the twenty-second session of the Council.  The Council then adopted, at its twenty-third session, Resolution 23/3 which requested the Advisory Committee to prepare a focused and in-depth study on ways and means to enhance international cooperation in the field of human rights and to submit a progress report to the Council at its twenty-sixth session.

Statement by Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

ZDISLAW KEDZIA, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said international cooperation may be seen as a result of the responsibility to assist and obligation to seek assistance.  The entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on 5 May had opened the avenue for the rights holders to claim their rights before the Committee and given the international community an important tool to ensure respect for that category of rights.  The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had undertaken to interpret guidelines for international cooperation in the field of economic, social and cultural rights, using the Covenant and other international instruments.  The Committee believed that assistance should focus on core obligations of State Parties to the Covenant to realize minimum essential levels of economic, social and cultural rights, that international cooperation should address basic structural obstacles to those rights such as poverty, underdevelopment as well as systemic discrimination, and that all actors involved should prioritize disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable groups.

The Committee believed that the areas of trade, finance and investment were in no way exempt from human rights principles and that the relevant international organizations should play a positive and constructive role in relation to human rights.  Human rights impact assessment should be an essential vehicle for the integration of human rights into trade policies and agreements.  Challenges included the continued isolation and tensions between human rights law and policies and trade and investment law and policies.  The individual should be placed at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda so that new development goals, indicators and benchmarks were explicitly aligned with human rights principles and standards.

Discussion

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, said that the Advisory Committee had spent a lot of time producing a first study on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights.  It had covered many points which also gave rise to the seminar held in February this year.  Now it was faced with a new resolution from the Council requesting a more focused and in-depth study.  There were two difficulties.  When carrying out the first study a questionnaire had been issued and received replies from certain States and non-governmental organizations.  What was to be done now, should a new questionnaire be issued?  It was his impression that the Committee was being asked to look at the more practical aspects of international cooperation.  It was also taken into account that studies had been carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  In its study, the Advisory Committee had already identified areas where cooperation could take place, as well as obstacles to international cooperation and the challenges faced by States.  Business, migration and structural adjustment policies, human security, and the right to development had been mentioned.  The theoretical aspect had already been addressed.

LAURENCE BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, Committee Expert, said that it was important to bear in mind the fact that there were different elements that emerged from the report.  The first element was the legal meaning of international cooperation in the field of human rights.  The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights set out the obligation of international cooperation to promote economic, social and cultural rights.  There was also an obligation set out in the United Nations Charter.  Secondly, there was a multiplicity of players involved in international cooperation in the protection of human rights.  States were the first subjects of international cooperation.  The role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was also highlighted.  Regional organizations also played an important role, as did non-governmental organizations and the private sector.  Ways of enhancing international cooperation included dialogue, such as political and institutional dialogue, accompanied by financial and technical assistance.  International criminal justice was also mentioned in the report as a way of achieving international cooperation.  Various angles in presenting the subject had been tackled.  On how the new mandate would take shape, it should be focused on encouraging thinking about areas where genuine efforts could be made and really focus more on means undertaken by the Human Rights Council.

A representative from Iran recognized that the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights was essential for the full achievement of the purposes of the United Nations.  The enhancement of international cooperation helped to promote mutual understanding and good neighbourliness among States.  Respect for cultural diversity at the national and international level was very important.  The international community should recognize people’s right to self-determination and right to preserve their cultures without coercion at the global level.  International cooperation should provide necessary mechanisms to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.  The Advisory Committee should focus on developing guidelines in issues such as human rights education, technical assistance, migration, South-South cooperation and mainstreaming of the term of international cooperation.

SHIGEKI SAKAMOTO, Committee Expert, said that the Universal Periodic Review was a key example of international cooperation in the field of human rights.  It created opportunities to improve the human rights situation and challenges ahead.  Certainly, within the process there were countries that grouped together around a political agenda but that was a reality of international relations.  The question was how to reduce that and focus discussion on key human rights issues, requiring sincerity by those engaged in the process.  It was a mechanism that gave non-governmental organizations and civil society an unprecedented voice.  The Committee should deal with the Universal Periodic Review from a viewpoint of cooperation between the State and civil society. 

SAEED MOHAMED AL FAIHANI, Vice-President of the Advisory Committee, said that that international cooperation was an important tool for the enjoyment of human rights world-wide.  Much literature had been written on it but most of it was affected by political considerations.  The report of the seminar held on 15 February this year could serve as a basis for discussion when preparing the study.  It was important to build on the Committee’s previous efforts for future work.  Even States that boycotted human rights machinery should be approached and not excluded, as we were looking for real cooperation and promotion and human rights.  The United Nations could serve more in promoting strong partnerships with States and international actors in the field of human rights.

IMERU TAMRAT YIGEZU, Committee Expert, said the Universal Periodic Review was an important way to enhance international cooperation but there were other institutions and a multiplicity of players outside the United Nations system whose policies were sometimes contrary to the human rights system.  Did we need to look at the issue of mainstreaming human rights into other institutions that may undermine human rights mechanisms?

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, said that to look for material that gave an overview on experience in international cooperation in the field of human rights and specifically analytical reports would be important.  It was very important for the drafting group to select issues and focus on those rather than try to be broad or comprehensive.  Had the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights come across interesting experiences in promoting economic, social and cultural rights which could help the Advisory Committee, and had analytical material been identified on extraterritorial obligations?  How could the often different views be bridged?

MONA ZULFICAR, Committee Expert, said that the challenge in international cooperation had always been the continuous tension between cultural diversity and sovereignty.  It was always important to remember that cultural diversity should be a source of enrichment not limitation, a source of showing other cultures that there were different ways of protecting, promoting and fulfilling human rights and not a means to restrict or block basic human rights and freedoms.  Another challenge was that the developed countries, when trying to promote the universality of human rights, had to remember that they sometimes had the challenge of double standards in their own backyard.  The recommendation of having human rights assessment as a criterion in evaluating trade and investment agreements before and after they were concluded and implemented was important.

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, recalled that the first study had looked at all the points raised and was, in his opinion, a good study.  The task was now to go into the more practical aspects and identification of areas where international cooperation could take place.  The representative of the European Union at the Council had objected to the Committee providing guidelines.  However, perhaps guidelines could be put forward if they concerned multilateral organizations and aid.  The United States had, speaking at the Council, stressed the obligations of States themselves to satisfy their human rights obligations by complying with their treaty obligations.

LAURENCE BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, Committee Expert, was interested to know whether the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had made any decisions or studied short-comings in the content of international cooperation.

ZDISLAW KEDZIA, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said policy coherence of various actors was an issue identified by the Human Rights Council, it was a big challenge and needed to be addressed.  There had been opportunities to talk to colleagues from the Department of Trade and International Relations, and there were evidently differences when they talked about human rights – a blind eye could not be turned to that.  It could be said that trade law and human rights law were both parts of international law governed by Article 1 of the United Nations Charter; benefit could be derived from that.  It was extremely important that a framework under the Covenant allowed for collection and sharing of experience and best practices.  The Committee was trying to generalize what it was hearing from State Parties and to offer that as advice to other countries.  The Committee was still ‘at the beginning of the road’ regarding extraterritorial obligations.  Specialists had recently developed the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations, although those guidelines had generated even more questions.  The Committee was trying to develop the doctrine of understanding of extraterritorial obligations.  Furthermore the Committee strictly looked at the corporate sector through the lens of the Covenant, rather than directly.

Russia said that cooperation between States was one of the most important elements of international cooperation and technical assistance was required, while the exchange of good practices was also important.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also had a role to play, such as in coordinating the work of various funds for technical assistance and in helping States with educational programmes in the area of human rights.  Cooperation between States and the international community and its mechanisms had to be bilateral. 


For use of the information media; not an official record

AC13/013E