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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, CONTINUES GENERAL DEBATE ON THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS

6 March 2020

The Human Rights Council this morning continued its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council celebrating International Women’s Day, hearing a statement by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, President of the Human Rights Council, noted that International Women’s Day would be celebrated on Sunday but the Council had decided to celebrate it today. All were invited to encourage women and support and protect them, all year round.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that International Women’s Day was of particular significance this year as it marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was an ambitious roadmap for gender equality. Today the international community must celebrate the progress made, but also remember that achieving women’s equal human rights was an ongoing struggle. The agenda was unfinished and the most affected were women and girls who suffered from intersectional discrimination. The international community had the knowledge, alliances and capacity to advance towards gender equality, and now they had to make it a reality.

Finland, on behalf of a group of countries, and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, in a joint statement with 17 other organizations, also took the floor on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

The Council then proceeded with its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. A summary of the first part of the discussion held on Thursday, 5 March, can be found here.

Noting that the promotion of the right to development was lagging behind the promotion of other rights, speakers observed that a more equal and balanced approach to human rights would also contribute to closing the development gap between countries. Human rights and sustainable development were inseparable, and the fundamental principle of the 2030 Agenda, to leave no one behind, had struck at the very core of human rights. Speakers underlined the centrality of the rule of law and good governance for the protection of human rights. Some pointed to the extremely slow progress in the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other businesses with respect to human rights. Conflicts and situations of occupation must not be exploited as business opportunities, they stressed. Furthermore, speakers drew attention to the need to uphold the rights of women and children, especially those in conflict with the law, as well as the rights of refugees and migrants, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, and ethnic and religious minorities, and to address accelerating climate change. Finally, they urged the United Nations system and the Human Rights Council to adopt a truly pluralistic approach to the world’s problems, and to accept that different civilizations had different approaches.

Speaking in the general debate were : Iran, Ghana, Mozambique, Albania, China, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia, Sweden, Timor Leste, Azerbaijan, Algeria and United Kingdom,

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : World Federation of United Worlds Association, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Stichting Choice for Youth and Sexuality, Centre Europe – Tiers Monde, Fian International, United Nations Association of China, Human Rights Law Centre, VAAGDHARA, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, World Evangelical Alliance, Sikh Human Rights Group, Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, Institut international pour les droits et le développement, Society for threatened peoples, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale- OCAPROCE Internationale, Make mothers matter, International Institute for Non-aligned Studies, Indian Council of Education, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, International-Lawyers.Org, Ingenieurs du Monde, International Association of Crafts and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Chinese Association for International Understanding, United Nations Watch, Association for Progressive Communications, Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, Global Welfare Association, Iraqi Development Organization, Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, World Barua Organization, Association pour l'Intégration et le Developpement Durable au Burundi, Center for Organisation Research and Education, African Development Association, Associación Cubana de las Naciones Unidas (Cuban United Nations Association), Friends of the Earth International, Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule, Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans, Il Cenacolo, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Society of Iranian women advocating sustainable development of environment, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Union of Arab Jurists, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Service for Human Rights, Shivi Development Society, International Humanist and Ethical Union, British Humanist Association, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Association internationale des femmes, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre Peuples, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, World Muslim Congress, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Organisation international pour les pays les moins avancés, International Muslim Women’s Union, China Society for Human Rights Studies, European Union of Public Relations, iuventum e.V, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, World Environment and Resources Council, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Association of World Citizens, Alsalam Foundation, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, Agence internationale pour le développement, Canners International Permanent Committee, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, Union of Northwest Human Rights Organisation, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, Action of Human Movement, International Bar Association, Villages Unis (United Villages), European Centre for Law and Justice, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Article 19 – International Centre Against Censorship, Réseau International des Droits Humains, International Commission of Jurists, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Solidarité Suisse-Guinée, Reseau Unite pour le Développement de Mauritanie, International Association for Democracy in Africa, United Schools International, Synergie Feminine pour la Paix et le Développement Durable, Universal Rights Group, and Rahbord Peimayesh Research and Educational Services Cooperative.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV

The Council will meet again at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will continue its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. It will then hold its annual debate on the rights of persons with disabilities, focusing on awareness raising.

Statements Celebrating International Women’s Day and the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

ELISABETH TICHY-FISSLBERGER, President of the Human Rights Council, noted that International Women’s Day would be celebrated on Sunday but the Council had decided to celebrate it today. All were invited to encourage women and support and protect them, all year round. She invited High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to deliver a statement on this occasion.

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that on Sunday, the world would commemorate International Women’s Day. In 2020, this was of particular significance as it marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was an ambitious roadmap for gender equality. Twenty-five years ago, representatives of 189 countries had pledged to achieve gender equality. This commitment had led to action and numerous achievements. Today the international community must celebrate this progress, but also remember that achieving women’s equal human rights was an ongoing struggle. The agenda was unfinished and the most affected were women and girls who suffered from intersectional discrimination. On the twenty-fifth anniversary, they could not accept the slow and uneven pace of progress. Ms. Bachelet called for joint work with Members States, civil society, the private sector and all stakeholders to accelerate progress towards full gender equality. She affirmed the importance of the “I stand with her” campaign on challenging harmful views and beliefs about the roles and characteristics of women and girls. Such views and beliefs were pervasive in all countries and lay at the heart of gender-based discrimination, perpetuating exclusion and oppression. The campaign would raise awareness and it called all to #change the story. The international community had the knowledge, alliances and capacity to advance towards gender equality, and now they had to make it a reality. Together, all could change the story.

Finland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that in the past 25 years tremendous progress had been made in securing the rights of women. However, the resurgence of harmful and discriminatory policies and laws against women was worrying because they went against human rights standards. Of particular concern was the continued push against the advancements achieved on reproductive rights. Likewise, the group called attention to the discrimination and direct attacks faced by women human rights defenders because of their work, including those working on land rights and indigenous rights. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration was an opportunity for the international community to honour its commitment to fully implement the rights of women and girls. Events marking the anniversary, such as the Generation Equity Forum, were a great opportunity to live up to that commitment. In conclusion, the group of countries wished everyone happy International Women’s Day.

Centre for Reproductive Rights, in a joint statement on behalf of 17 organizations, recalled that women and girls human rights defenders were building solidarity networks articulated around demands for economic and social justice, bodily autonomy, equal rights within families and against violence, militarization and intersectional discrimination. International human rights mechanisms had a key role to play in reflecting and amplifying the demands coming from feminist and women’s rights movements. At the same time, States had an obligation to address underlying structural factors which negated their autonomy in decision-making regarding their own lives. As the world celebrated International Women’s Day, the organizations called on everyone to celebrate the creativity, resilience, sense of strategy, solidarity and political savviness of women human rights defenders throughout the world, and to commit to ensuring a meaningful place at the table for all women in all of their diversity.

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development

The general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, started on Thursday, 5 March and a summary can be found here.

Noting that the promotion of the right to development was lagging behind the promotion of other rights, some speakers observed that a more equal and balanced approach to human rights would also contribute to closing the development gap between countries. Human rights and sustainable development were inseparable, and the fundamental principle of the 2030 Agenda, to leave no one behind, had struck at the very core of human rights. Hence respecting human rights was a major step in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, speakers emphasized. They underlined the centrality of the rule of law and good governance for the protection of human rights. They also welcomed the reports of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, which was an efficient tool for delivering support to victims of torture and their family members. Speakers noted the extremely slow progress in the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other businesses with respect to human rights. It was important to differentiate between transnational corporations and businesses within countries. Certain speakers warned that business-related human rights abuses in situations of conflict and occupation were not only enabled by State action or inaction towards private enterprise. They were often at the core of States policies towards unlawful belligerence and domination. Conflicts and situations of occupation must not be exploited as business opportunities. Speakers also drew attention to the need to uphold the rights of children, especially those in conflict with the law, the rights of refugees and migrants, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, ethnic and religious minorities, and to address accelerating climate change.

Speakers noted that there was a clear connection between increasing social and economic inequality and growing distrust in democratic institutions. While extreme poverty had been falling since 1990, inequality was rising. Inequality was not only a barrier to sustainable development, it also created a breeding ground for social tensions and conflicts, speakers stressed. Ensuring that everyone could enjoy their human rights – be they civil, political, economic, social and cultural – was absolutely necessary to achieve equality and sustainable development. Speakers also underlined that the importance of women’s equal participation in political, economic and social life, for which sexual and reproductive health and rights were a critical prerequisite, was a key pillar of a democratic society. Educating girls was the solution to a number of problems. It could break the cycle of poverty, improve health and bring lifelong opportunities, not just for individuals, but for entire countries. Turning to the promotion of human rights education, speakers underlined that it was important to prevent human rights abuses and ensure peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Likewise, freedom of assembly and association, including the possibility to create trade unions and demand decent work conditions, were a must to achieve equality. Finally, one speaker stated that the United Nations system was both the problem and the solution because it had promoted a hegemonic approach to the world’s problems, from the point of view of only one civilization. Perhaps it was time for the United Nations and the Human Rights Council to adopt a truly pluralistic approach and to accept that different civilizations had different approaches.


For use of the information media; not an official record


HRC20.023E