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


1 March 2013

The Human Rights Council this morning continued its interactive dialogue with Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on her annual report.

Responding to questions and comments by delegations, Ms. Pillay said that an informed dialogue between States and more concerted efforts to tackle homophobic occurrences in societies were essential steps to ensure worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality.  The Office was closely following the situation in Mali and already had three human rights officers on the ground, and would increase this number to 10 by mid-March.  The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was her priority, and Ms. Pillay reiterated her arching concern for this human rights situation.  She would be addressing the subject under the appropriate agenda item of the Human Rights Council.  

In the interactive dialogue, concern was expressed about the situations in Syria, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Mali, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Speakers were also concerned about instances of racial and religious discrimination, and the impact of the global financial crisis on economic, social and cultural rights.  The importance of the need to pay attention to the human rights of migrants and to religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities was also highlighted in the dialogue.  The focus on the global development agenda, the rights of women, gender mainstreaming and combating discrimination was welcome.  However, it was noted that there was no mention in the High Commissioner’s annual report of some issues that should be included, such as extrajudicial killings committed by drones or rendition flights, among others. 

Concerns were also voiced with regards to the financial challenges faced by the Office of the High Commissioner and countries were called upon to increase funding and un-earmarked contributions to the Office.  However, one speaker said that Member States needed the United Nations to deliver more with less across the board.

The following delegations took the floor: Germany, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Italy, United States, Jamaica, Spain, Honduras, Kuwait, Costa Rica, Qatar, Cuba, Brazil, Thailand, Paraguay, China, Japan, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Nepal, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Indonesia, Egypt, Botswana, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Syria, United Kingdom, Morocco, Australia, Armenia, Norway, African Union, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Uzbekistan, Russia, France, Uzbekistan, Belgium,  Rwanda, Poland, Malaysia, Republic of Congo, and the Philippines.

The High Commissioner presented her annual report to the Council on Thursday, 28 February in the afternoon, and a summary of her comments can be found here.

The Human Rights Council will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to hold a high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming.  It will resume the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on Monday, 4 March, in the morning. 

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her Annual Report

Germany said that Germany was aware of the challenges on the Office posed by its growth and it would again propose the Office a voluntary contribution of five million Euros.   The Vienna Declaration had recognised the important role of civil society in the protection and promotion of human rights.  Human rights needed defenders.  Governments may reject criticism but that did not give them the right to intimidate, abuse or even kill critics.   It had been highlighted that human rights space was shrinking.  How could this phenomenon be explained and what could the Council do to reverse this trend.

Chile said, with regards to combating discrimination, that it was concerned about continued acts of racial hatred and believed this needed to continue to be a priority in the Office of the High Commissioner.  Chile appreciated that the work of the High Commissioner was exercised through offices in the field.  Chile was concerned by the current financial situation of the Office.  It was essential that States considered realistically the budgetary limitations when presenting initiatives with financial implications.

Ecuador said there was a need to highlight efforts to combat racial discrimination.  It believed there was a need to look at the situation of migrants.  They should not be penalized and considered as simple criminals and the Council had to address this.  Ecuador called for the signing and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families.  It was also concerned that there was no mention in the High Commissioner’s annual report of certain events that should be included, such as extrajudicial killings committed by drones and rendition flights that had been protected by impunity for a number of years.

Argentina shared the concern of the High Commissioner on the effect of the economic crisis on economic, social and cultural rights and said that lessons must be learned from the loss of jobs, poverty and the erosion of workers’ rights.  Argentina had increased its contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the next cycle and it was convinced of the importance of the work of the Office.  The violence in Syria must be stopped and all States providing arms to parties in the conflict must stop this too.  The use of measures such as reduction of the age of criminal responsibility or the use of the death penalty in some States was an issue of concern to Argentina.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the information on the actions of the High Commissioner and her Office and noted that the exchange of opinions and dialogue taking place in the Council must be enhanced to achieve the objectives of her Office.  The High Commissioner’s activities to counter discrimination must be supported by one and all.  Saudi Arabia refused the imposition of sexual orientation on the agenda of the Council as this was a controversial issue and not compatible with institutional practices.  Saudi Arabia highlighted the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the suffering of Palestinian prisoners.

Italy said that freedom of religion and protection of religious minorities should be given utmost priority, including by the High Commissioner’s Office, together with efforts to firmly ground the human rights dimension in the post-2015 development agenda.  Existing prevention and monitoring mechanisms should be established or strengthened, starting from the operative tools already in place such as the Universal Periodic Review, the Special Procedures and treaty bodies.  In terms of financing, Italy said that the necessary means must be provided to the Office and that its share of the United Nations regular budget must be progressively increased.

United States said that the situation in Syria continued to deteriorate and that the latest report from the Commission of Inquiry included accounts of killings, systematic torture, rape, destruction of civilian property, and gender-based violence.  Malians faced the horror of rule by violent extremists in the North but violations had also occurred in the South, including extrajudicial and summary executions, torture, and arbitrary arrests.  Sri Lanka must promptly implement the constructive recommendations of its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission.

Jamaica welcomed the inclusion of human rights as an area of focus in the global development agenda, and was pleased to note the 58 field presences of the Office of the High Commissioner in all regions of the world.  Jamaica welcomed the special attention paid to the human rights of women and proposed that men be included in the agenda in line with the Council’s gender equality policy.  Jamaica applauded the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which was an invaluable tool for internal reflection and constructive peer review contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Spain thanked the High Commissioner for the work she had carried out in 2012 and said that the latest report of the High Commissioner’s Office was a positive example of the mainstreaming of the Office.  The focus on gender equality issues was a positive development, since Spain had been working on “femicide”, gender violence resulting in death.  Spain also welcomed the mainstreaming of human rights issues and their inclusion in the post-2015 development agenda.  The Office should continue to exert its influence on the international community, and for that purpose it was important to have a communication policy with the media. 

Honduras said that technical support had been very valuable for Honduras and the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner in the field were essential for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Honduras also supported efforts to overcome the Office’s financial difficulties.  Honduras praised the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner at fighting discrimination.  It was essential to keep on the agenda violations of human rights against migrants, particularly migrants in irregular situations.  There was shared concern about levels of violence and organized crime affecting various countries.  Honduras agreed that human rights should be addressed in security policies.

Kuwait underlined the ongoing human suffering of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Kuwait also stressed the importance of financial support for the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  In response to the appeal by the High Commissioner and aware of the burden taken on by her Office, Kuwait reiterated its commitment and said that it would provide funding on an ongoing basis.  Kuwait shared the concern of the High Commissioner about ongoing racism and racial and religious discrimination and called upon the High Commissioner to deal with the matter nationally and internationally. 

Costa Rica said that Costa Rica had benefitted from technical advice from the Office of the High Commissioner in combating racism and racial discrimination and that it was about to finalise its national plan of action.  It was also very pleased by the Office’s commitment to the subject of violence and impunity.  It was high time to include a human rights component in all activities of the United Nations system.  The High Commissioner also reminded that economic crises directly affected the most vulnerable classes.  On Syria, Costa Rica called for an immediate ceasefire and identification of a solution to ensure the welfare of the people and the stability of the country. 

Qatar highly appreciated the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner in the Middle East and North Africa and welcomed the establishment of new efficacies in those regions that would strengthen transition in several countries.  Qatar also welcomed the work of the High Commissioner on fighting discrimination against older persons and the establishment of the Working Group on their rights.  The next report of the High Commissioner should clearly address the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the impunity Israel enjoyed for the violations.  The conflict in Syria had led to grave and systematic violations of human rights and impunity.

Cuba took note of the High Commissioner’s priorities including the fight against discrimination, rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, women’s rights and the right to development, and also noted the increase in the treatment of country-specific situations.  The Office must ensure the integrated and equal treatment of all rights and pay attention to the grave consequences of austerity measures on economic, social and cultural rights in various countries.  Cuba reiterated that the review of treaty bodies was a governmental process in which changes could be brought about only by States Members of the United Nations. 

Brazil said that civilian populations had been disproportionately affected by armed conflicts and the continuous economic crisis affected the most vulnerable segments of the population; if left unchecked, human rights violations could quickly lead to large scale violence.  Brazil followed with great distress the spiral of violence in Syria and regretted the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.  Particular attention should be given to the prevention of conflict and preventive diplomacy was a great tool to avoid situations of grave human rights violations and deadly instability.  The international community must remain vigilante to racism and xenophobia.

Thailand said that Thailand joined the call for an increase in the regular budget allocated to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and encouraged the Office to continue prioritizing its work in accordance with the six thematic issues and to avoid unnecessary duplication.  Education was key in addressing stigmatization and discriminatory attitudes.  Human rights should be made a core principle of the post-2015 development agenda and should be mainstreamed within the United Nations system.  Cooperation and engagement with the country concerned was the most appropriate approach to addressing human rights situations in a country.   

Paraguay supported efforts undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner, particularly concerning human rights activities and development.  Development policies must include measurable and achievable human rights components.  Paraguay stressed that priority should be given to the human rights of migrants.  It also requested that efforts be stepped up to support more national projects with special funds, because they produced tangible results.  Paraguay’s National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture had benefited from such a fund.   

China welcomed the efforts made by the High Commissioner’s Office in the past year and hoped that the High Commissioner would continue to actively promote human rights dialogue and cooperation based on the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity.  China encouraged the High Commissioner to fight against racism and xenophobia, and welcomed her resolve to address the issue of the rights of migrants.  China supported the increase of the regular budget allocation to the Office and the strengthening of institutions.

Japan said it believed that discussions at the Council and activities of the Office of the High Commissioner should focus on how to improve the actual human rights situation in each specific case and decide on best specific action to be taken.  It was deeply regrettable that the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea showed no sign of improvement despite the mounting concern expressed by the international community.  Japan welcomed the High Commissioner’s request to launch an international inquiry into the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

India said that being home to 500 million women, the Government of India placed high importance on the economic empowerment of Indian women and their safety and security.  India emphasised that treaty body strengthening had to first and foremost focus on the core problematic issues relating to the treaty body system such as resourcing and coherence in working methods.  India was thankful for the attention paid to the protection of civilians affected by conflict and the publication of the report on Afghanistan, and encouraged the publishing of more such reports from other countries.

Côte d’Ivoire said that current entrenched areas of tension such as in Syria or in Mali demonstrated the great importance of United Nations mechanisms, in particular human rights mechanisms.  This was the right place to underline the significant increase in the work of the Office, but at the same time the paradoxical stagnation of funding.  Given the importance of field visits, it was vital to make sure that United Nations resources were appropriately redistributed to put the Council in a position to pursue its work and work rapidly on the ground wherever required.

Nepal said that the Government was making every possible effort to end impunity and lay the foundation of lasting peace.  Nepal did not interfere in the administration of justice by the independent judiciary and was of the opinion that the cases from the conflict era could be better dealt with in totality by a Transitional Justice Mechanism.  There was no provision in the draft ordinance providing blanket amnesty for grave human rights violations.  Nepal was committed to complete smoothly its nationally-owned peace process and expected greater understanding and cooperation from the international community.

Republic of Korea commended the attention of the High Commissioner to the human rights situation around the world, including the tackling of all forms of discrimination and the protection of rights of migrants in irregular situation and the rights of civilians affected by armed conflict.  The Republic of Korea remained deeply concerned about the continuing deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria, Mali and the Sahel region.  The encouraging start of the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review must be sustained by ensuring its universality and effectiveness.

South Africa agreed with the High Commissioner that the workload of her Office had increased and said that the work of the Office should be funded from the United Nations regular budget.  The fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance should remain a priority for the High Commissioner and more work should be done at eliminating those scourges, particularly through the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  South Africa remained committed to addressing the challenges faced by persons with disabilities.

Algeria praised the High Commissioner’s efforts to combat discrimination, racism, and intolerance, and welcomed work which had been carried out under the Universal Periodic Report, a mechanism which should be maintained.  Further efforts should be made to build capacity in terms of cooperation and assistance in developing countries.  Special Procedures should remain impartial, independent, and non-selective, and double standards should be avoided.  Why did the Council remain silent on the violation of human rights in certain parts of the world, such as in the Occupied Palestinian Territories? 

Burkina Faso thanked the High Commissioner for her support and assistance in drafting a national action plan in Burkina Faso to combat discrimination and ensure the legal protection of human rights.  It was important to have a general policy framework which recognized and guaranteed human rights.  Efforts to prepare public opinion on abolishing the death penalty in Burkina Faso were underway.  A strategy for accelerated growth and sustainable development for 2012-2015 was in place and aimed to consolidate social cohesion and democracy.   

Jordan said that despite efforts to protect religious minorities, the rights of such minorities continued to be violated.  Therefore, appropriate measures should be taken at the national and international level in order to raise awareness and increase cultural and religious tolerance.  Ongoing efforts to strengthen equality between the two sexes were a positive development.  Jordan supported efforts to eliminate discrimination against women, remained committed to gender equality, and worked to establish appropriate legislation to tackle violence against women.

Azerbaijan said that there was a need for financial contributions to the Office of the High Commissioner to be increased and it called on countries to contribute un-earmarked contributions.  Taking into account the increased number of internally displaced persons worldwide and the gap on their rights in international law, how would the High Commissioner assess the possibility of the elaboration of a draft international convention on internally displaced persons and what kind of support could the Office of the High Commissioner contribute to that endeavour?

Uganda singled out as noteworthy the hands on tackling of racial and religious discrimination, the development of human rights training material for border guards to protect migrants as well as the assistance to regional bodies in incorporating human rights in the security policies, among others.  Uganda requested the High Commissioner to pay attention to the recommendations made by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Like Minded Group presented by the Chinese delegation during the high-level segment. 

Indonesia, speaking on the strengthening of the treaty body system, said                 it had, along with Iceland acted as a facilitator to the continuing consultation of the intergovernmental process in New York.  Indonesia appreciated the efforts of the Office in formulating the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of national, racial or religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.  Further measures were needed to enhance the profile of migrant workers and the upcoming General Assembly high-level dialogue on international migration and development would be instrumental in that regard. 

Egypt agreed with the High Commissioner on the sensitivities of democratic change and said that Egypt continued to move forward in the establishment of democratic foundations of the State in full compliance with the law and avoiding the mistakes of the past.  Egypt would host the regional Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for North Africa, thus expressing its commitment to human rights.  The protection of human rights required further coordination of national and international policies to avoid the negative effects on migrants of increased racism and xenophobia.

Botswana was aware that limited financial resources had left the Office little choice but to consider private funding, which might compromise its impartiality.  Botswana agreed that human rights should be integrated in all peacekeeping missions and hopefully in the African-led international support mission in Mali to guard against possible human rights violations.  Much remained to be done to promote gender equality and women’s rights, including changes of cultural practices and State policies which were detrimental to women.

Salvador said that resource constraints should not affect the very important task of maintaining the web page of the Human Rights Council, and publishing minutes of the meetings and relevant documents.  The High Commissioner should focus her attention on the phenomenon of youth unemployment which was affecting the whole world and so help societies become less violent and reduce delinquency rates.  If this phenomenon was addressed systematically, it would prove that globalization could be inclusive and just, and provide decent work and justice to young people.

Sri Lanka welcomed the High Commissioner’s call to States to adopt a balanced and comprehensive post-2015 development agenda, and asked for greater emphasis to be placed on mainstreaming economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to development.  It was important to ensure the independence and impartiality of treaty bodies and to safeguard the inter-governmental element in the process.  Sri Lanka said that the proportion of the United Nations regular budget allocated to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be increased.  There was also a need to increase un-earmarked contributions.      

Tunisia said that the recent assassination of a human rights defender in the country had dealt a heavy blow to Tunisians, who were unaccustomed to such incidents and strongly condemned the use of violence.  Authorities would ensure a fair trial of the accused and would take measures to avoid the repeat of similar incidents in the future.  The drafting of the final constitution was underway and elections would be held in the autumn.  Tunisia was determined to continue to move forward in political reform and democratic transition, and to ensure respect of all human rights.

United Arab Emirates said that the situation in Palestine, Syria, and Mali was a matter of concern.  It welcomed the High Commissioner’s special attention to women’s rights, and said that strengthening gender equality required a legal mechanism to protect women from alienation.  The United Arab Emirates welcomed the High Commissioner’s focus on the Millennium Development Goals and her efforts to eliminate poverty.  The Palestinian problem should have been accorded greater importance in the High Commissioner’s report, and the international community should help the Palestinian people achieve self-determination. 
Syria said that it noticed that there continued to be a partial approach to the situation in Syria.  The High Commissioner had stressed that the Syrian dossier could be sent to the International Criminal Court which went beyond the mandate of the Office.  Why had the High Commissioner still not called for Israel’s crimes to be sent before the Court?  This was an example of double standards.  Unilateral sanctions had been imposed on Syria and these constituted a flagrant violation of human rights in and of themselves.  American information had been presented as United Nations information and this could not be accepted as it undermined the credibility of the human rights system in the United Nations. 
United Kingdom supported the Burmese Government’s call for the opening of an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights office and for efforts to facilitate this.  It called upon the Burmese Government to make a commitment to sign a host country agreement outlining a comprehensive mandate.  The High Commissioner’s role in condemning reprisals against human rights defenders was also welcome.  The United Kingdom welcomed steps to address financial challenges.  However, United Nations Member States needed the United Nations to deliver more with less across the board.

Morocco welcomed the mention made of efforts to take into account the increasing workload of the Office of the High Commissioner, with particular reference to the various work done by the treaty bodies.  Morocco had cooperative and constructive relations with Special Procedures and in 2013 invitations for three visits had been issued.  Morocco would have liked to see a bigger focus on economic and social rights.  Political and financial support was vital and the funding of the Office remained a fundamental challenge.  The Office also needed appropriate human resources. 
Australia believed that the strengthening of treaty bodies must be a priority of all, particularly in light of serious resource constraints across the United Nations system and the essential role Committees played in enhancing peoples’ enjoyment of human rights.  Australia welcomed the practical recommendations contained in the report of the High Commissioner and the measures to improve the efficiency of Committees across the full range of their work.  Australia supported independence of the High Commissioner and her Office, central to its effectiveness, particularly in light of financial constraints.

Armenia said that practices of incitement to national, racial and religious hatred still existed in many parts of the world, which should be explicitly condemned by the international community.  Armenia strongly supported the activities of the Office on combating impunity and believed that crimes on ethnic grounds and its perpetrators must be punished and not publicly glorified.  Impunity led to mass atrocities and genocide, said Armenia and stressed the importance of keeping those issues on the agenda of the Council and under the attention of the international community.

Norway commended the timely, transparent and principled approach of the High Commissioner to events in 2012 and said that there was no need to invent new and complex solutions to the increasing complexity of human rights crisis and challenges, but to focus instead on translating the basic principles developed over the last decades into action.  Norway asked for support for the resolution on human rights defenders, and stressed that the investment in the financial sustainability of the Office was an investment in peace, security and development.

African Union said that it attached great importance to peace and security in Africa, and thanked the High Commissioner for providing technical assistance to Mali, especially during the crucial phase of peace restoration and reconstruction in the country.  The situation in the Sahel region continued to pose a humanitarian and security challenge which required urgent attention.  The African Union hoped that the peace agreement concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region, which was signed last week in Addis Ababa, would be implemented by all parties.  

Sovereign Military Order of Malta said that clean water, proper sanitation and good hygiene could prevent the spread of diseases, create healthy living spaces, and protect the environment.  The Sovereign Military Order of Malta expressed concern about the plight of civilians affected by armed conflict and urged the Council to take action to condemn and prohibit all armed conflict.  Including access to water and sanitation in the human rights development agenda and encouraging the explicit recognition of the right to food in national constitutions would help in the fight against poverty.   

Uzbekistan said that 2012 had been a year of particular challenges in the area of human rights, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.  2012 had also demonstrated successes and had demonstrated that the role of human rights in sustainable development was important.  A memorandum of understanding was being concluded between Uzbekistan and the Office of the High Commissioner, and bureaucratic obstacles should not undermine that process.  Uzbekistan was planning to hold an international conference on the role of local human rights mechanisms, drawing on Uzbek experience.

Russia said that it supported the work of the Office of the High Commissioner in the area of countering racial discrimination, racism and xenophobia, which it considered to be one of the highest priorities on the international human rights agenda.  On the enhancement of the rights of minorities, linguistic and ethnic, Russia called upon the Office to pay particular attention to Russian speaking minorities in a number of European countries.  Russia was concerned at the action of the Office with regards to reform and said that the mandate of the Office was limited to secretarial services for the Committees’ work. 

France, with regards to the situation in Mali, said that there was still a possibility of action to avoid a further dramatic situation and called for the immediate deployment of human rights observers.  When did the High Commissioner think the strengthening of the human rights observers’ presence could be effective on the ground?  France also hoped an ambitious resolution would be adopted.  On Syria, the work done by the Commission of Inquiry was remarkable, courageous, and decisive in combating the impunity of those responsible for crimes in Syria and France and called for a renewal of its mandate.

Czech Republic said that as its Minister had pointed out a few days ago, unfortunately a growing trend of repression of civil society was being experienced in numerous countries.  It therefore encouraged the High Commissioner to speak up against such repressions, no matter how sophisticated forms they may take.  As the High Commissioner had rightly said, human rights would not improve much without a robust and free civil society.  A sustainable and complete transition to democracy required an end to impunity and assuring accountability.  

Belgium said that independence was essential to the full implementation of the mandate given to the High Commissioner by resolution 48/141 because it guaranteed her impartiality.  Appropriate financing of the Office was a challenge and Belgium would actively contribute to all reflections on this subject.  Belgium shared concerns expressed by the High Commissioner and was particularly concerned about massive human rights violations in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  This country required more attention of the Human Rights Council, and establishing the rule of law and security on the territory of the country was a priority.

Rwanda said that the past year had been extremely challenging for human rights, with situations in Syria, Mali and the Sahel region.  The situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained of serious concern for both the country and the Great Lakes Region.  Rwanda commended the efforts of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the African Union and the United Nations Secretary-General to bring comprehensive peace to the region and said that the signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework on 24 February was an important step towards a sustainable solution. 

Poland said the principles of independence, impartiality and objectivity, which were at the heart of the work of the High Commissioner, were essential for the promotion of human rights.  Important challenges still remained to be addressed: the growing death toll in Syria together with impunity for the perpetrators made it one of the most difficult human rights situations in the world today.  The international community should continue its engagement in this and other conflicts, including in Mali.  The priority the High Commissioner gave to fighting impunity and promoting the rule of law was timely, as those elements were necessary for sustainable peace.

Malaysia said that Malaysia strongly believed that gender equality and the empowerment of women were fundamental for human development.  Malaysia was deeply concerned about the unhealthy rise in the defamation of Islam and the profiling of Muslims.  The country had undertaken legislative reforms in order to realize a mature, modern, and functioning democracy, and enhance civil liberties in the country.  Such reforms included the Internal Security Act 1960 and the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984.  Priority should be given to the outcome of the inter-governmental Working Group in New York on strengthening the treaty bodies.   

Republic of Congo said that it hoped to be on the High Commissioner’s agenda in the future.  States’ needs for development were constantly expressed in terms of technical assistance.  Therefore, efforts to provide assistance to States in putting together national action plans should continue.  The Republic of Congo supported all the High Commissioner’s efforts to ensure that the issue of migrants was properly dealt with.  The right to development should be promoted and protected because development allowed the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  There could be no democracy without development.  

Philippines acknowledged the outstanding performance of the High Commissioner in an environment of political and security challenges, and called for greater budgetary resources for her work.  The global economic crisis was impacting negatively on many countries, so it was important for human rights to remain paramount in those circumstances.  The protection of the rights of migrant workers, regardless of their status, and of the victims of trafficking in human beings was important.  The Philippines asked the High Commissioner to ensure that human rights were mainstreamed in United Nations policy discussions.

Remarks by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, thanked the delegations for their support and highlighted how much she appreciated working in partnership with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on a broad range of issues.  Responding to the questions on the follow-up to the Rabat Plan of Action, the High Commissioner said that the Office would provide technical support to the Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of complementary standards and was considering developing an implementation plan for the Office itself.  In terms of steps to ensure worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, the High Commissioner highlighted the importance of an informed dialogue between States and more concerted efforts to tackle homophobic occurrences in societies. 

The strategic priorities for 2014-2017 would be defined this year and financial considerations would play a part in those decisions.  The Office would be reaching to partners and Member States to seek their views on the subject.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was committed to working closely on the strengthening of the treaty bodies and was already identifying some measures while waiting for the results of the intergovernmental process. 

Responding to the question concerning shrinking space for non-governmental organizations’ participation in the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner welcomed initiatives heard from several delegations today and said that the process of the Universal Periodic Review offered some space for non-governmental organizations, while the Council could also draw on the work of Special Procedures in this matter. 

Ms. Pillay said some delegations expressed concerns about insufficient attention being given to the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the report of the High Commissioner.  This situation was her priority, said the High Commissioner and reiterated the overarching concern for the human rights situation there, and the violations of the human rights of Palestinians which had been taking place for decades.  This issue would be further addressed under the appropriate agenda item during this session of the Council, when the High Commissioner would be presenting her report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Regarding Bahrain and the needs assessment visit there, Ms. Pillay reiterated her concern about the overall human rights situation and urged the Government to take measures to improve the human rights of the people.  There would be another needs assessment mission to this country, she said.  On the reasons for the closure of her office in Nepal, the High Commissioner said she had always believed that the presence of the office in the country was needed and that it could further contribute to the human rights situation there, particularly in the transition process and issues of transitional justice.  The Office of the High Commissioner was closely following the situation in Mali and already had three human rights officers on the ground, and would increase this number to 10 by mid-March.

For use of the information media; not an official record