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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL BEGINS GENERAL DEBATE ON CIVIL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing
5 March 2020

The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard the presentation of thematic reports of the High Commissioner and Secretary-General, the report of the Second Intersessional Meeting on Dialogue and Cooperation on Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. It then began a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and the Right to Development Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced 10 reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights under the Council’s agenda item on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, and one report under the agenda item on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.

Frank Tressler Zamorano, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair of the Second Intersessional Meeting on Dialogue and Cooperation on Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, summarizing the key messages from the second intersessional meeting, drew attention to the need for greater coherence and alignment of efforts to meet human rights obligations and to implement the commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals. Strong leadership, political will and financial resources would be required for the decade of action and delivery by 2030, as well as stronger social protection and pro-poor macroeconomic policies, and a “whole-of-society”, multi-stakeholder approach.

Emilio Rafael Izquierdo Miòo, Chair Rapporteur of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, presented the report of the fifth session of the working group, which took place from 14 to 18 October 2019. He reminded that the mandate of the working group, established in 2014, was to elaborate a legally binding instrument that would govern the activities of transnational corporations with respect to human rights. A second revised version of the instrument would be prepared in order to prepare the grounds for the process of inter-governmental negotiations during the sixth session of the Working Group, which would take place from 26 to 30 October 2020.

During the general debate, speakers reminded that the Human Rights Council in its work should be guided by impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation. The Council’s objectives could be best served through building consensus through genuine dialogue. The politicization of the Council would lead to the erosion of trust between all relevant stakeholders, leading to counterproductive effects for human rights. One delegation recalled the words of the United Nations Secretary-General when he launched his Call to Action for Human Rights : human rights should never be used as a vehicle for double standards or a means to pursue hidden agendas. Success must be measured by the yardstick of meaningful change in people’s lives.

Speaking in the general debate were Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Croatia (on behalf of the European Union), India (on behalf of a group of countries), Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Denmark (on behalf of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture), Indonesia (on behalf of the Core States of the Inter-Governmental Group on the Convention against Torture Initiative), Fiji (on behalf of a group of countries), Bangladesh (on behalf of a group of countries), United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Afghanistan (on behalf of a group of countries), Cabo Verde (on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries), Germany (on behalf of members of the Freedom Online Coalition), Australia (on behalf of a group of countries), Netherlands, Brazil, Libya, India, Namibia, Japan, Philippines, Pakistan, Sudan, Chile, Uruguay, Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Nigeria, Cameroon, Nepal, Armenia, Marshall Islands, Viet Nam, UN Women, Iraq, State of Palestine, Lithuania, Cuba, France, Luxembourg, Costa Rica, Estonia, Greece and Russian Federation.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, Leilani Farha. A summary of the first part of the discussion held earlier today can be found here.

In the discussion, speakers welcomed the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing that were presented by the Special Rapporteur, noting that they would assist States in the efforts to ensure the realization of the right to adequate housing and strengthen campaigns on this issue by communities and activists alike. The Guidelines were relevant and timely, mentioning the correlation between investment and the implementation of the right to adequate housing. Speakers called on States to commit to incorporating the Guidelines, including the accompanying implementing measures in law, policy and practice. Implementation of the Guidelines could substantially alter how States treated housing, bearing in mind that the current housing crisis was linked to socio-economic inequality, commodification of housing, and land speculation. Housing should not be considered as a commodity and a means to accumulate wealth and investment, but as a social good.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing were : Spain, Venezuela, Algeria, Indonesia, Maldives, China, Nepal, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Cyprus, Viet Nam, Philippines, Bahrain, Sierra Leone and Libya.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Make Mothers Matter, Centre Europe – Tiers Monde, Caritas Internationalis – International Confederation of Catholic Charities, Stichting CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Edmund Rice International, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Amnesty International, World Muslim Congress, and Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group.

Speaking in right of reply were China, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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 on Friday, 6 March, at 10 a.m. 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.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in this Context

The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, Leilani Farha, which started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

Discussion on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in this Context

Speakers welcomed the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing presented by the Special Rapporteur that would assist States in their efforts to ensure the realization of the right to adequate housing and strengthen campaigns on this issue by communities and activists alike. The Guidelines were relevant and timely and they mentioned the correlation between investment and the implementation of the right to adequate housing. Informed by country visits and based on broad consultations with States and other stakeholders, the Guidelines had set the bar higher, inviting States to revisit policies and consider all aspects in relation to fully implement the right to housing. States were called upon to commit to incorporating the Guidelines, including the accompanying implementing measures in law, policy and practice. The implementation of the Guidelines could substantially alter how States treated housing, bearing in mind that the current housing crisis was linked to socio-economic inequality, financialisation and commodification of housing, and land speculation. Housing could not be considered only as a commodity, a means to accumulate wealth and investment rather than a social good. It was important for the Guidelines to also emphasize the right of older persons to adequate housing, as they often faced insecurity and homelessness due to lack of opportunities to pay rental or maintenance costs. Urgent action was needed to realize the right to housing for those in the most vulnerable segments of society. States also outlined their legislative and policy measures which were carried out to provide affordable housing to vulnerable people.

Some speakers noted that climate change was a particular challenge that had to be addressed within the right to housing, which was why Guideline 13 was particularly significant. Informal settlements across the world had been devastated by climate-induced disasters and slow-onset impacts such as sea level rise, and their residents suffered from flooding. Informal settlement dwellers were particularly vulnerable due to their precarious living conditions. Moreover, climate change and disaster risk reduction were used as excuses for evictions of informal settlements for modernization projects. Challenges in the provision of housing to migrants and displaced persons were raised. Attention was also drawn to the economic hardships faced by single mothers, which combined with other intersectional discrimination in accessing housing, had put them at risk of homelessness. Governments were called upon to address the root causes of women’s vulnerability to poverty and homelessness. Additionally, the role of the private sector had to be addressed by regulating real estate and financial actors, requiring human rights impact assessments of housing developments and encouraging collective or co-operative financing and ownership models. The Rapporteur was asked what obstacles hindered international cooperation programmes from assisting developing countries to achieve the right to affordable housing. How could international financial institutions further assist developing and least developed countries to ensure the right to housing? Given the impacts and vulnerabilities that climate change posed to countries most at risk, what further measures did the Special Rapporteur propose to ensure that the Guidelines achieved their intended purpose?

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in this Context

LEILANI FARHA, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, said that there was plenty to discuss when it came to the housing situation in France. She urged Member States to look at the Guidelines on the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing, adding that she would post answers to the questions raised during the interactive dialogue on her website. The Special Rapporteur underlined that she believed that United Nations human rights Special Procedures were a very effective mechanism. She urged States not to withdraw their support to the Special Procedures. In her last address, Ms. Farha thanked all those who had helped her mandate. After six years of tenure, the international community should be ashamed because things in the housing situation had gotten completely out of hand. The affluent could access land and property with little regard for human rights, and homelessness had gotten to be accepted as a new normal. The housing crisis was of epic proportions. Nevertheless, that shame should be used to see the right to housing in a new light. But many more States and cities must join efforts to come up with new ideas and solutions, the Special Rapporteur concluded.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report on the fifth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (A/HRC/43/55).

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/HRC/43/33). The advance unedited version can be found at A/HRC/43/33

The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on measures taken to implement Human Rights Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system (A/HRC/43/23).

The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (A/HRC/43/24).

The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (A/HRC/43/25).

The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity (A/HRC/43/26).

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on awareness-raising under article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (A/HRC/43/27).

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (A/HRC/43/28).

The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights (A/HRC/43/29). The advance unedited version can be found at A/HRC/43/29

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment (A/HRC/43/30).

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/43/32).

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the intersessional seminar on the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights and best practices in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16 in this regard (A/HRC/43/34).

The Council has before it the Comprehensive study of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implications of the lack of integrity of the judicial system for human rights, in particular for persons kept in detention facilities outside the territory of States (A/HRC/43/35). The advance unedited version can be found at A/HRC/43/35

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (A/HRC/43/38).

The Council has before it the Annual Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (A/HRC/43/39).

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief (A/HRC/43/72). The advance unedited version can be found at A/HRC/43/72

Presentation of Reports

PEGGY HICKS, Director of Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced 10 reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted under agenda item 3 and one report under item 9. First was the report of the Secretory-General on measures taken to implement Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system. The second report was the Secretary-General’s report on the operations of the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Since 2012, the Special Fund had supported 72 torture prevention projects in 22 States across four regions. Third was the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. The Fund had received over $ 9.2 million from 19 Member States and as a result of funded projects, over 40,000 victims and their families would receive concrete, vital assistance this year. The fourth report was the report on conclusions and recommendations of the Special Procedures, highlighting the significant number of reports presented by mandate holders, including some key contributions on thematic issues such as Sustainable Development Goals implementation, climate change, migration, new technologies and so forth. Fifth was the report of the High Commissioner on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.

Ms. Hicks said the sixth report was the report of the Secretary-General on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights, with a special focus on the role of new technologies for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. It looked at the potential of new technologies for the achievement of rights and identified risks associated with technological changes in exacerbating inequalities. Seventh was the Office of the High Commissioner’s summary report on the workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, which provided highlights from a multi-stakeholder workshop from October 2019. The eighth report was a report on the intersessional seminar on the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights and best practices in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16 in this regard. Ninth was the report on the integrity of the justice system, submitted pursuant to Council resolution 37/3, which examined different types of extraterritorial detention and how they might impact the integrity of judicial systems. Tenth was the report of the Secretary-General on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, which provided an overview of the current situation of actions taken by States, the United Nations system and civil society. Finally, the last report introduced was the report submitted under agenda item 9, pursuant to Council resolution 40/25, entitled combatting intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief.

FRANK TRESSLER ZAMORANO, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair of the Second Intersessional Meeting on Dialogue and Cooperation on Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said that the theme of the second intersessional meeting was “Accelerated action and transformative pathways : realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” The theme recognized the global concern that countries were not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and that much more had to be done to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind and reaching those furthest behind. The second intersessional meeting had focused on three main areas of work. The first one was the measures to promote empowerment, inclusion and equality in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting the impact of climate change, eradicating poverty, achieving gender equality and building peaceful, just and inclusive societies. The second one was the role of the human rights mechanisms in supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, as well as the experiences and good practices of establishing and strengthening human rights national mechanisms for implementation, reporting and follow-up. The third area was the importance of ensuring adequate space for civil society, business representatives and other stakeholders.

Turning to the key messages from the second intersessional meeting, Mr. Tressler Zamorano noted that accelerating progress would require greater coherence and alignment of efforts to meet human rights obligations and to implement the commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals. Strong leadership, political will and financial resources would be required for the decade of action and delivery by 2030. The transformative nature of the 2030 Agenda required people to be put first and human rights-based policies to be adopted, including stronger social protection and pro-poor macroeconomic policies, Mr. Tressler Zamorano underlined. Growing inequalities demonstrated the need for a special focus on countries and groups of people that were being left behind, including greater attention to human rights-focused prevention and conflict prevention. Finally, the intersessional meeting widely acknowledged the crucial role of national statistics offices in supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving the 2030 Agenda would require a “whole-of-society”, multi-stakeholder approach.

EMILIO RAFAEL IZQUIERDO MIÑO, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chair Rapporteur of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, presented the report of the fifth session, which took place from 14 to 18 October 2019. He reminded that the mandate of the working group, established in 2014, was to elaborate a legally binding instrument that would govern the activities of transnational corporations with respect to human rights. Since 2015, the working group had held five sessions with increased participation of States and other relevant stakeholders. Mr. Izquierdo Miòo noted that the abuses of human rights as a result of business activities disproportionately impacted different social groups. Accordingly, the future legal instrument would present an effective solution to the obstacles that victims faced when seeking justice and reparation. In July 2019, a revised version of the legal instrument had incorporated the majority of the recommendations received during the fourth session of the working group, as well as during the intersessional period. The revised version sought to align its principles with the existing instruments, such as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the Tripartite Declaration of the International Labour Organization on International Corporations and Social Policy, the Chair Rapporteur explained.

The revised version sought to achieve the following main goals : to strengthen the respect, promotion and protection of human rights in the context of business activities, to prevent the occurrence of violations and abuses of human rights by businesses, to facilitate the guaranteeing of access to justice and effective reparation for victims, and to promote and strengthen international cooperation in order to advance the above-described goals. The revised version had been recognized as a solid text with sufficient judicial quality for the substantive negotiations of the future treaty, the Chair Rapporteur noted. He added that the fifth session of the working group had taken place in complete transparency, accepting all comments and recommendations that had allowed for a profound discussion. The second revised version of the proposed treaty would be prepared in order to prepare the grounds for the process of inter-governmental negotiations during the sixth session of the working group, which would take place from 26 to 30 October 2020. The new version should be presented by the end of June 2020 and would be based on the discussions held during the fifth session, concrete proposals contained in the text, additional proposals received by the end of February 2020, and informal consultations held during the first half of 2020, the Chair Rapporteur explained.

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

Speakers voiced concern about the rising levels of populist politics, especially anti-Muslim sentiments, leading to negative profiling of Muslims. Member States and the Human Rights Council should address those worrying trends. Reminding that the Human Rights Council in its work should be guided by impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation, speakers noted that its objectives could be best served through building consensus through genuine dialogue. The politicization of the Council would lead to the erosion of trust between all relevant stakeholders, leading to counterproductive effects for human rights. As the United Nations Secretary-General said in his Call to Action for Human Rights : human rights should never be used as a vehicle for double standards or a means to pursue hidden agendas. Success must be measured by the yardstick of meaningful change in people’s lives.

Speakers reminded that the majority of targets of the Sustainable Development Goals were linked to elements of international human rights and labour standards, as well as to the pledge to leave no one behind, which reflected the fundamental principle of non-discrimination and equality. Strong links between human rights and sustainable development offered enormous potential to make national follow-up better aligned and more effective and accountable. Some speakers announced that they would present a resolution at the current session of the Human Rights Council to allow it to continue the conversation to advance potentials for integrated approaches to human rights and sustainable development. In addition, all States should redouble their efforts to implement the Paris Agreement, while Special Procedures should mainstream the issue of climate change and human rights, including the adverse impact of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights, with a focus on women, children and persons with disabilities.

Speakers further strongly encouraged States to develop comprehensive national assistance plans for victims of terrorism and to address their rehabilitation needs. Recalling that an estimated 40.3 million people suffered from modern slavery and human trafficking, speakers noted that ending modern slavery required collective action by Governments and financial institutions. Speaking of the right to self-determination, some speakers emphasized that it was a route to the realization of all basic rights and fundamental freedoms. Denial of the right to self-determination deepened conflicts and fomented systematic violations, abuses and atrocities. It was further agreed that good governance, human rights and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals were mutually reinforcing, and that Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong and inclusive institutions was particularly relevant in that interlinkage.

Speakers also noted that new digital technologies were transforming the nature of governance at all levels. Underlining the responsibility of transnational corporations for human rights abuses, certain speakers voiced strong support for the establishment of extraterritorial mechanisms and norms that would allow for the control of their international activities in order to guarantee redress for victims. Finally, some speakers called attention to secessionist activities in various countries that incited terrorist violence with support from abroad and that were justified by international public opinion. The Council had to adopt a holistic and integrated approach that reinforced the interplay between development, human rights, democracy, rule of law and international cooperation. Whereas the Council should adopt equal attention to both economic, social and cultural rights, and to civil and political rights, there were funding constraints to promote socio-economic rights, particularly the right to development.


For use of the information media; not an official record


HRC20.022E