21 June 2017
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.
In the general debate, delegations recognized the importance of technical assistance and capacity building in enabling countries to build human rights sensitive policies. Some delegations noted that technical assistance and capacity building played a particularly important role in enabling least developed countries and small island developing States to achieve their international obligations. Some speakers stressed the necessity to consider the principles of sovereignty, dialogue and cooperation as an indispensable basis for technical cooperation.
Speaking were Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Maldives, Malta on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Like-Minded Group, Nicaragua on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), Cuba on behalf of 57 Member States and Observers, Venezuela, United States, Egypt, China, Brazil, Tunisia, Bolivia, United Kingdom, Latvia, Dominica, Maldives, Libya, Spain, Estonia, France, Finland, Algeria, Thailand, Honduras, Uganda, Ukraine, Ireland, Romania, Republic of Moldova, Syria, Myanmar, Poland, Belarus , Holy See, Lithuania, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sweden.
The United Nations Children's Fund also took the floor.
The following civil society organizations also took the floor: International Lesbian and Gay Association, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Iraqi Development Organization, Alsalam Foundation, Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, International-Lawyers.Org, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Liberation, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, World Barua Organization, Tourner la page, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, Le Pont, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, L’Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie, Tamil Uzhagam, Society for Development and Community Empowerment, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique, Alliance Creative Community Project, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Buddhist Relief Organitation, ANAJA (L’Eternel a répondu), Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, International Fellowship of Reconciliation and Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés
The Russian Federation and Georgia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Council will next meet on Thursday, 22 June at 9 a.m. to start taking action on decisions and resolutions.
The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the progress and the challenges encountered in the main activities aimed at enhancing technical cooperation and capacity building undertaken since the establishment of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/35/20)
General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that providing technical assistance and capacity building to countries in need was one of the essential roles played by the Council. All countries could benefit from technical assistance and capacity building, in particular developing and least developed countries, as long as the support was provided in line with their priorities.
Maldives, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that the establishment of the Voluntary Trust Fund for technical cooperation and assistance for least developed countries and small island developing States represented a vital step towards achieving the Council’s aspirations. The Trust Fund had made possible for the first time in its history the universal representation of the entire United Nations membership at the Council during its tenth anniversary celebration.
Malta, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that technical assistance and capacity building were essential to incorporating human rights standards at the national level, thus strengthening legislation, plans and policies. It encouraged countries to fully cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in that respect. More had to be done to align the delivery of technical assistance with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of a Like-Minded Group, said technical cooperation and capacity building were among the core functions of the Human Rights Council. State-driven engagement based on the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-politicization could help reap maximum benefits for all. That would overcome polarization and confrontation. The discourse of “naming and shaming” needed to be abolished. Technical cooperation should not be viewed as a tool for interference in the internal affairs of States and needed to be carried out in the spirit of strengthening States’ capacities.
Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), denounced that Venezuela had been the target of a media campaign, whose purpose was to hide the achievements of the revolution. Those running that campaign were making selective use of human rights to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community. There were serious indications of an intention to intervene and undermine the foundations of Venezuela. The country and its legitimate Government should be supported, and efforts to use the Human Rights Council to intervene in the affairs of a free and independent nation were rejected.
Cuba, speaking on behalf of 57 Member States and Observers, recognize the need for non-interference in the internal affairs of States, saying it was up to the Venezuelan people to determine their future. The countries supported the constitutional Government of Venezuela’s determination to maintain peace, and the repeated appeal of the President for dialogue between various sectors. The international community should boost capacity and provide technical assistance to Venezuela as it would to any other country wishing to deal with human rights problems.
Venezuela stressed the progress it had made in the pathway towards peace and dialogue. Technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights should be engaged in on the basis of solidarity and not confrontation, with respect for the principle of sovereignty. Venezuela called on States to reject any interference in their internal affairs and reiterated its support to all developing countries in the Universal Periodic Review.
United States encouraged all governments to allow the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish offices in their countries. In the perspective of upcoming elections, the United States encouraged Cambodia to continue to work in close collaboration with human rights mechanisms. The United States was disappointed by the decision of Bolivia to close the joint office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United States encouraged Honduras and Mexico to take lawful steps to investigate all cases of violations.
Egypt emphasized that technical cooperation and capacity building were key to strengthen human rights and the right to development. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights needed to fulfil its role in total independence. The objective of strengthening technical assistance in the field of human rights should be a priority and any interference in States’ internal affairs should be avoided.
China stated that technical assistance and capacity building were an indispensable part of the international human rights system. They should be provided in line with the following principles: national situations and needs, and without imposing norms on others, promotion of sustainable economic development, and enhancing the transparency in the usage of such assistance. China called for an end of interference into national affairs in the name of human rights.
Brazil noted that establishing local presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in countries that had requested technical cooperation was essential in order to identify, in coordination with the concerned country, the right responses to human rights challenges. Brazil welcomed the projects in support of national development goals, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, as they were the basis of structural changes in States.
Tunisia said the opening of an office in the country had been useful in providing access to transitional justice and strengthening women’s role in society, as well as in overhauling the judiciary. The Human Rights Council and treaty bodies enabled the international community to cooperate with each other and with civil society. Further work needed to be done to avoid the duplication of efforts. International cooperation was essential in helping countries promote human rights.
Bolivia said a disciplined approach to work was needed to resist impunity and imperialist policies. Yesterday, calls had been heard for respect for the Government of Venezuela. The Human Rights Council’s work should be guided by non-selectivity, and an example had been seen with the assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bolivia, which had helped provide awareness-building. The United States should stop undermining Bolivia’s efforts and respect for once the sovereignty of other countries.
United Kingdom said it had held an international conference on Somalia, and welcomed commitments made at that conference. Despite those commitments, serious human rights abuses remained of concern, and the new Government should tackle impunity and ensure accountability for violations. The humanitarian situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia was of concern. While the Human Rights Council should prevent violations from happening, better use should be made of agenda item 10.
Latvia said that the increasing number of requests for technical assistance and capacity building confirmed that they were widely recognized as a unique and crucial tool to improve human rights on the ground. Latvia took note of the concerns expressed regarding the lack of access to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and it welcomed the commitment of the Government of Ukraine to improve human rights on the ground. Latvia strongly supported technical assistance to Ukraine.
Dominica, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that small island developing States had been able to identify priority areas for the improvement of human rights. The group of countries expressed gratitude to the donor countries which had enabled their participation in the Council’s work. The reality in small island countries was that there were challenges in the implementation of human rights, and the group thus called for the continued assistance of the international community.
Maldives stated that the Voluntary Trust Funds were valuable in allowing all Member States to participate in the Human Rights Council’s work. Effective participation could only be ensured when transparency and coherence were increased. The current work method in the Council prioritized expedience at the expense of participation. The delegations of small countries could not take part in all of the meetings organized by the Council.
Libya stressed the importance of boosting capacity building in the field of human rights as well as of supporting national mechanisms. All governments had to meet their obligations in ensuring that their people would enjoy their human rights. Libya called on the international community to support the country in its efforts to face its security challenges, carry out an effective process of disarmament, and make accountability better in order to encourage displaced people to return to their homes.
Spain stressed that technical cooperation was a key instrument to promote human rights on the ground. In various areas, the results of technical assistance were encouraging. The establishment of national institutions of human rights and the progress made in transition processes were among the main achievements. But mutual trust was necessary to improve even further the situation of human rights.
Estonia expressed concerns about the situation in the occupied territories of Georgia. The restrictions of displacement in Georgia and the obstacles to children’s education in their own language were particularly worrisome. Estonia urged the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and Ossetia to allow the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights full access to their territories. The illegal occupation of those two territories caused great harm to security in the region.
United Nations Children's Fund encouraged the Government of Georgia to address challenges still remaining in the implementation of child rights. The social workers system should be strengthened by increasing their number, and the Government should also address the situation of children living in poverty. With adequate resources, the Council could strengthen coordination towards the realization of children’s rights in Georgia.
France said that now more than ever, technical cooperation and capacity building were needed to promote and consolidate human rights. Two instruments were important, one of which fought against impunity, and the authorities in Guinea and Mali were commended for working with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to that end. France would continue to work toward that end.
Finland said the ownership of the country concerned was the key when promoting change. Sufficient funding in support of reforms was also needed. Regarding Georgia, Finland welcomed the country’s cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was regrettable that staff from that Office were not able to gain access to the affected areas in Georgia.
Algeria welcomed the efforts made by the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical assistance and capacity building to those who had requested it. With respect to Venezuela, Algeria underscored the need to uphold the principle of non-interference into national affairs. It welcomed the efforts of the Government of Venezuela to find a solution to the current crisis in a spirit of dialogue.
Thailand reminded that agenda item 10 had been created to provide an open and comfortable space for States to have a genuine discussion on their challenges and capacity building needs. This agenda item should be reinvigorated by focusing on building mutual trust and respect. Technical cooperation should be tailored to meet the evolving needs and priorities of States.
Honduras said that since the establishment of its presence in the country, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had assisted in the setting up of a mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders and in the drafting of relevant laws. It had also helped with the establishment of a network of human rights institutions, and a monitoring system for the implementation of human rights recommendations.
Uganda said that in order to achieve universal representation, it was important to support least developed countries and small island developing States to enable their effective participation in the Human Rights Council. As a beneficiary country, Uganda greatly appreciated the Secretariat of the Voluntary Trust Fund for technical cooperation assistance for least developed countries.
Ukraine said that the absence of access to several territories for United Nations human rights mechanisms was a major cause of concern. These restrictions existed in Donbass, Crimea and also in Georgia. Ukraine called up on all countries to facilitate free and unimpeded access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to territories where humanitarian law was being infringed.
Ireland said that technical cooperation should not be seen as an isolated activity but rather as part of a multi-dimensional human rights strategy in line with the High Commissioner’s comprehensive mandate. Civil society also had an essential role to play in embedding respect for human rights at all levels, national, regional and global.
Romania expressed serious concern at the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia. Romania emphasized the importance of the continuous technical assistance provided by the Tblisi office of the High Commissioner, while urging that that office should be granted full access to the regions in question which were integral parts of Georgia.
Republic of Moldova said technical cooperation and capacity building played a major role in human rights implementation. The engagement of the Georgian Government with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights was commended. The quarterly reports provided by the Georgian Government were welcomed, and the continued lack of access was lamented. The Republic of Moldova reiterated its call for access to the areas in question for staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Syria said technical cooperation and capacity building had to be built on consultation with concerned States, far from any political conditions. It should aim at raising capacity and helping States. Discussions under the agenda item were taking a different tendency, and the international community needed to fully respect the sovereignty of Venezuela with no interference in its domestic jurisdiction.
Myanmar stated that the Council’s work was currently more focused on addressing the consequences of human rights violations, adding that preventing them was more useful. The proactive approach in the field of technical assistance and capacity building should be done, first and foremost, through dialogue and cooperation with the concerned country. It was important that all relevant stakeholders be well equipped with knowledge and expertise on international norms and standards of human rights.
Poland regretted that the humanitarian and economic situation of the civilian population in Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained a major concern. There was a continued need for coordinated action by the international community and competent Georgian institutions aimed at improving the human rights situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It was necessary to continue the international efforts aimed at finding a political and peaceful solution to the conflict stemming from the Russian aggression in 2008.
Belarus shared the view that the activity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist countries in response to their requests served as an important tool for the effective promotion and protection of human rights on the ground. In that respect, coordination and dialogue between the Office and concerned countries were crucial for the effective incorporation of internationally recognized human rights standards. Active participation of the Office in Belarus would help the Government enhance the situation on the ground.
Holy See voiced concerns about the deterioration of the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It called on the Government to take immediate action to put in place a cease fire preventing arms trafficking and to promote an effective and objective reconciliation dialogue and build the conditions for voluntary returns to the Kasai regions.
Lithuania was concerned that the human rights situation in Abkhazia and Ossetia had been further deteriorating. A brutal “borderization” process by the Russian Federation was continued, which ruined daily lives of local populations living on both sides. No international human rights monitoring mechanisms had been granted access to assess the situation in these regions.
Sao Tome and Principe stressed that this was the second time it participated in a regular session of the Human Rights Council. It remained a challenge to participate in the three annual sessions of the Council. Therefore, technical cooperation was crucial to ensure Sao Tome and Principe’s full and effective participation in the activities of the Council.
Sweden welcomed efforts to support Georgia to advance the protection of human rights in the country. The war there had been an eye-opener to many European countries, and the risk for normalization of an unacceptable situation was growing with time. Sweden called on the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops and allow the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to enter the Georgian regions in question.
International Lesbian and Gay Association singled out several countries for positive steps taken, including Japan, Cambodia, Sweden, India, South Africa, Paraguay and Canada, where the parliament had amended the Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said there was a technical cooperation programme between the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and Saudi Arabia that would end this year, but it should be extended, and include civil society. The judicial system was opaque, and the Office was training judges in international standards. Saudi Arabia should continue its efforts to reform, and publicly commit to continuing that cooperation with the Office.
Iraqi Development Organization, in a joint statement, stated that victims in Yemen had not been compensated. An independent investigation into all human rights abuses and violations should be established. The committee established by Saudi Arabia was deeply flawed and it was involved in the same acts that it had been investigating.
Alsalam Foundation, in a joint statement, highlighted the importance of technical cooperation to achieve concrete results. It called on the High Commissioner to highlight the importance of standards and real political determination for real change in the field of human rights. Technical assistance should be given to countries that indeed wanted change.
Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme voiced concern over the alarming humanitarian situation in Yemen, where civilians were dying from malaria and diphtheria, whereas seven million people were suffering from malnutrition. The organization called on the international community to put an end to the genocide in Yemen, and for an end to the Saudi-led intervention there.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development commended the positive results of technical assistance in promoting human rights in Sudan. The Foundation also welcomed the report of the Independent Expert after his visit to Sudan where he was provided with access to all relevant entities. He visited Khartoum, the Blue Nile and met with many government and private sector representatives.
International-Lawyers.Org drew the attention of the Council to the deteriorating situation in Yemen. The need for assistance was widespread in this country with over 2 million internally displaced persons. International-Lawyers.Org stressed that the lack of access to drinking water had contributed to the spread of cholera in the country. Only a human rights sensitive approach to ending the conflict would provide for a long lasting solution.
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities noted that Yemen was facing major security and political challenges, with civilians undergoing major human rights violations. Non-governmental organizations needed technical assistance and capacity building. The Association called on the Council to fulfil its role in providing assistance to local authorities and to increase its pressure on all parties to end the blockade on Yemen cities.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association highlighted an epidemic in Indian society of violence against women. It looked like a routine affair. A woman had been abducted, raped, and murdered. In another incident, a 16-year old girl had been raped and then thrown out of a moving train. The Human Rights Council should provide technical assistance to India to build its capacity to tackle violence against women.
Liberation said that in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, political prisoners suffered abuse and discrimination, and detainees were tried in front of military courts, even though they were civilians. The reason for such widespread human rights abuses was the colonial occupation. The Sahrawi people were severely restricted from exercising their rights.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee said technical assistance had proved its utility by helping countries review legislation on the basis of human rights. The Human Rights Council should note the incapability of the judiciary in India, where the majority of judges belonged to the upper caste. The provision of technical assistance should be considered to improve the justice system.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in a joint statement, called attention to the desperate situation in Yemen, which remained under siege due to the radical Houthi militias who were inflicting a campaign of horror and destruction on Yemeni citizens. The international community had to finally take action to stop the illegal intervention of Iran in Yemen.
Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi noted that the Indian Ministry of Defence had refused to amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which had been designed to use the Indian army to suppress self-determination in north-east India. It urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical assistance to the people of north-east India.
World Barua Organization noted positive examples of the technical assistance provided to various countries that had helped them to follow-up on human rights recommendations. It urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical assistance to India regarding the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Tourner la page said that the people of Eelam Tamil urgently needed technical assistance and capacity building to protect their right to live in peace until they enjoyed self-determination. Justice delayed was justice denied. The Sri Lankan State had co-sponsored a resolution in 2015 and asked for 18 months to implement commitments it made in this Council. After 18 months, nothing had moved forward.
Association des étudiants tamouls de France noted that the Sri Lankan Government had co-sponsored resolution 30/1 and agreed to implement it fully. So far, there had been hardly any progress with regard to setting up an independent special court for war crimes with international participation. Instead of prosecuting the military personnel, the President, Prime Minister and other key officials had repeated that no military personnel would be prosecuted.
Le Pont said that the right to self-determination and independence was a fundamental human right similar to that enjoyed by the peoples of Bosnia, Timor Leste and South Sudan. The people of Eelam Tamils had repeatedly called on the international community to adhere to the international human rights fundamentals and not to heed the racist Sinhala State establishment.
Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul said technical cooperation had been offered to Sri Lanka on matters of urgent concern, including torture, enforced disappearances and accountability for war crimes. The entrenched culture of impunity continued as there had been no prosecutions to date. The Human Rights Council should pressure the Government to follow through on its commitment to a meaningful form of international participation on the proposed special court for war crimes.
L’Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie said the year 2009 had seen the end of a civil war resulting in a legacy of human rights abuses. Sri Lanka was undergoing a process of transitional justice, and although the adoption of the resolution had been a milestone, the Human Rights Council was urged to open permanent offices in Sri Lanka to promote guarantees of non-repetition in cases of forced disappearance.
Tamil Uzhagam asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide assistance to Sri Lanka. The Tamil human rights defenders reiterated the request to set up an inquiry. The Human Rights Council should hold a panel discussion on self-determination in the field of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
Tamil human rights defenders should have access to the Human Rights Council.
Society for Development and Community Empowerment noted that the Tamil people urgently needed technical assistance and capacity building in order to protect their right to live in peace until they enjoyed the right to self-determination. The unitary State system in Sri Lanka denied Tamils nationhood, sovereignty and the right to self-determination.
Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique stated that eight years after the end of the war in Sri Lanka, the country had still not come to terms with its massive problem of enforced disappearances. In 2013 the United Nations Working Group on enforced disappearances had reported that Sri Lanka had the second largest number of unresolved disappearance cases in the world.
Alliance Creative Community Project pointed out to the lack of political will on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka to effectively provide truth and justice, as evident in the past judgments of courts, particularly when victims were Tamils. Not only had Sri Lanka failed in its international obligations, but it had also fallen short of many of obligations under Council resolution 30/1.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the United Nations technical assistance programme was a very effective tool in helping developing countries to combat poverty. However, this programme should not be limited to United Nations funded programmes but should also monitor bilateral trade agreements between States to ensure human rights standards.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights investigation on Sri Lanka was based on gossip and biased information. The Sri Lankan judiciary had unfairly been qualified as partial. The Organization highlighted that when the United States or the United Kingdom changed their internal law on terrorism, little criticism was voiced. Sri Lankan army members accused of having committed crimes should be referred to Sri Lankan judges.
ANAJA (L’Eternel a répondu) said that while the Sri Lankan Government had shown willingness to work towards reconciliation and called for participation of civil society in the process, mechanisms in place did not reflect the aspirations of the war affected community. ANAJA called on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent international investigation on all crimes, including genocide, committed by the Sri Lankan army.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said technical cooperation and capacity building included the establishment of national human rights institutions and plans to ensure policies in line with international obligations. Iran needed assistance to begin the first steps toward establishing a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles. But there was no sign of implementation of Iran’s accepted Universal Periodic Review recommendations.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation called on the Human Rights Council to implement the resolution in support of non-self-governing territories. Western Sahara was the only non-self-governing territory which had no internationally recognized administrative power. The European Union was called on to take certain actions.
Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés said the improvement of technical cooperation and capacity building was a major challenge for the international community, and welcomed progress made by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. The work of the Office was essential toward the promotion and protection of human rights. United Nations technical cooperation must be oriented toward the promotion and protection of all rights. The situation in Yemen was one example.
Right of Reply
Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the unfounded allegations by several delegations about the Republic of Crimea, which together with the city of Sevastopol was part of the Russian Federation. Three years ago people of Crimea had voiced their will to become part of the Russian Federation. It was inappropriate to discuss human rights in the Russian Federation during a dialogue on Ukraine and Georgia. The Russian Federation was not an occupying power. South Ossetia and Abkhazia were sovereign, independent States. Technical assistance to Georgia undermined the work of experts on the Caucasus and had nothing to do with human rights.
Georgia, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Russian Federation, clarifyied that the Russian Federation had committed military aggression against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as established by the 2008 fact-finding mission. The Russian Federation continued to occupy 20 per cent of Georgian territorial. Therefore, the responsibility for the situation of human rights in those two regions of Georgia rested with the Russian Federation. No progress had been made in those two provinces because the Russian Federation was not willing to engage constructively in relevant talks.
For use of the information media; not an official record