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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS CLUSTERED INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY AND ON CULTURAL RIGHTS

1 March 2019

The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, and Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

Presenting his reports, Mr. Cannataci said that gender-based breaches of privacy were a systemic form of denial of human rights, and their discriminatory nature frequently perpetuated unequal social, economic, cultural and political structures. On privacy and health data, he stated that indigenous data sovereignty, prisoner populations, forensic databases and other health databases were at risk and advised that sensitive data about individuals should not be published online or exchanged without minimal safeguards to preserve privacy rights. He noted his missions to the United Kingdom and Germany.

On her part, Ms. Bennoune spoke about her thematic report on the tenth anniversary of the mandate on cultural rights and noted that it was a critical moment for assessing progress made in the implementation of cultural rights. Cultural rights needed to be mainstreamed across the United Nations human rights system and more resources must be dedicated to their implementation. The Human Rights Council could do more by drawing attention to States that did not respond favourably to requests for visits by inquiring about follow-up recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review. She spoke about her visit to Malaysia.

Malaysia spoke as a concerned country. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia also spoke in a video message.

In the ensuing discussion on the right to privacy, speakers affirmed that States had a duty to protect the right to privacy of its citizens by putting in place adequate safeguards. The right to privacy was an essential ingredient of democratic societies and facilitated the exercise of other human rights. However, a balance needed to be achieved between the right to privacy and legitimate security concerns. Any interference with the right to privacy should be consistent with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. States had to take all necessary measures to prevent, investigate and punish breaches of privacy perpetrated on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.

On cultural rights, speakers stressed the importance of making different cultures a positive and effective tool to bring cultures together as bridges, not as barriers. Upholding cultural rights had a transformative and empowering capacity that contributed to strengthening international peace and security. Some speakers appreciated the approach of the Special Rapporteur in preventing relativist attempts to use what was claimed to be cultural, religious or traditional arguments to undermine human rights. Others drew attention to the negative impact of climate change and terrorist activities on cultural sites, and called for technical assistance in that respect.

Speaking in the discussion were Germany on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Israel, Croatia, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Fiji, Cuba, Australia, Russian Federation, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Italy, Republic of Korea, El Salvador, France, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Morocco, Poland, Algeria, Iran, Nepal, China, Georgia, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Greece, Malta, Ecuador, Norway, Gabon, Timor-Leste, Cameroon, Armenia, Ukraine, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL), International PEN, Freemuse – The World Forum on Music and Censorship, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Association for Progressive Communications (in a joint statement with Association for Women's Rights in Development), Action Canada for Population and Development (in a joint statement with Association for Women's Rights in Development), Article 19 – International Centre Against Censorship, British Humanist Association, Franciscans International, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (in a joint statement with Association for Progressive Communications), Al-khoei Foundation, Human Rights Advocates Inc., Prahar, and iuventum e.V.

The Council will next meet this afternoon at 3 p.m., to hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy (A/HRC/40/63). (Advance unedited version: A/HRC/40/63)

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (A/HRC/40/53).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (A/HRC/40/53/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (A/HRC/40/53/Add.2).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy and the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights

JOSEPH CANNATACI, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, presented his fourth annual report that focused on intelligence oversight, the first report of the “Privacy and Gender” project, the Health Data Taskforce report, and which described “privacy metrics” work. He also undertook country visits to the United Kingdom and to Germany, and urged all Member States to read the report and all the annexes, as the word limit imposed for the report did not do justice to the extensive work carried out by the mandate.

Member States and institutions of the United Nations needed to actively entrench privacy as a standard in democratic societies. The modernized Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data CETS No. 108 had a set of safeguards and principles applicable to activities undertaken for national security purposes and he had encouraged all States to adhere to it. His recommendations included the incorporation into the domestic legal system of article 11 of Convention 108 for the protection of the fundamental right to privacy and the adoption of the principle of “if it is exchangeable, it is oversightable”. In the area of privacy, technology, and other human rights from a gender perspective, he stated that cyber misogyny and abuse were enabled by new technologies with further reach and durability than previously, highlighting that women, young girls, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and communities were particularly at risk. Gender based breaches of privacy were a systemic form of denial of human rights, and their discriminatory nature frequently perpetuated unequal social, economic, cultural and political structures.

On privacy and health data, he stated that indigenous data sovereignty, prisoner populations, forensic databases and other health databases were at risk and counselled that sensitive high dimensional unit record level data about individuals should not be published online or exchanged without minimal safeguards to preserve privacy rights. Finally, he stated that a preliminary draft of his work on privacy metrics was appended to the report and invited individuals, civil society and governments to send their comments by 30 June 2019.

KARIMA BENNOUNE, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, presenting her report on Malaysia, noted that Malaysia had developed a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, with a tradition of tolerant and inclusive culture. However, it was noted that more must be done to preserve this in the face of challenges to cultural diversity, including the obstacles faced by Malaysian Shia and Ahmadi Muslims. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex cultural events had been cancelled prior to the Special Rapporteur’s arrival. Ms. Bennoune expressed concern over reports of pressure on indigenous peoples to conform culturally. The Malaysian Government needed to develop concrete plans to guarantee freedom of artistic expression. Concern was also expressed at the level of involvement of religious authorities, and often only those of the majority religion, in policy decisions throughout the country, including in relation to culture. Putting a stop to the rise of fundamentalism must be a top priority of Malaysia’s new government.

Presenting her thematic report on the tenth anniversary of the cultural rights mandate, the Special Rapporteur noted that it was a critical moment for assessing progress made in the implementation of cultural rights. During its first decade, the mandate on cultural rights had produced 16 thematic reports, and had clarified the scope of cultural rights, demonstrating how cultural rights and cultural diversity contributed to strengthening the universal human rights framework. The Special Rapporteur called for the immediate release of Mauritanian blogger Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’kheitir, and Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language rights defender jailed by Chinese authorities. It was noted that the implementation of cultural rights at the national and international levels remained one of the main outstanding challenges. Greater funding and staffing were needed for the United Nations work on cultural rights. The Human Rights Council, it was noted, could do more by drawing attention to States that did not respond favourably to requests for visits by inquiring about follow-up recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review. There have been many advances in the field of cultural rights in the first decade of the mandate, including noticeable developments in the use of human rights language and approaches in various fields of the mandate. Cultural rights needed to be mainstreamed across the United Nations human rights system, which must dedicate more resources to their implementation. The Special Rapporteur called on Governments, United Nations bodies, civil society and experts to develop cultural rights action plans, setting specific goals to be achieved during the next 10 years of the mandate and to be reported on in 2029.

Statement by Concerned Country

Malaysia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the new Government was currently reviewing laws and policies with much greater emphasis on the promotion and protection of human rights of all in Malaysia, including in the field of cultural rights. As a multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country, Malaysia was cognizant of the importance of the promotion, protection, preservation and the safeguarding of culture, arts and heritage as a means towards ensuring peace, tolerance and respect among people. The Government was currently seeking views and feedback with various stakeholders to formulate a National Harmony Bill, which would further consolidate efforts to enhance and strengthen relations among Malaysians and ensure fairness, equality, respect and harmony. The federal Constitution stipulated that Islamic law was implemented at the State level. Malaysia disagreed with the views of the Special Rapporteur on fundamentalism and extremism in the country, noting that it opposed all forms of extremism and that it promoted tolerance and moderation, as well as the right of all Malaysians to their freedom of expression and belief.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, speaking in a video message, stressed that although the new Government had recognized the need for reform and improvement of the human rights record, not much had been done and no specific steps had been taken to accede to the remaining core human rights treaties. The Government was called on to withdraw all reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. No tangible steps had been taken to improve freedom of expression. The attempt by the lower house to repeal the controversial Anti-Fake News Act 2018 was blocked by the upper house. Despite commitment to repeal and place a moratorium on the Sedition Act 1948, the act had been used to arrest several individuals for various offences. The Sedition Act 1948 had no place in any democratic society. There was a growing intolerance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community and the Government was called on to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

Interactive Dialogue

Germany, speaking also on behalf of a group of countries, stated that the right to privacy created safe spaces that enabled the enjoyment of other rights on and off line. States had a duty to protect the right to privacy of its citizens by putting in place adequate safeguards. Given the plurality of society and the specific needs of vulnerable segments of society, they asked the Special Rapporteur to share his views on this issue and his plans for future reports. European Union stated that the advent of new technologies gave rise to concerns about their misuse by authoritarian regimes to rate citizens based on their behaviour using the processing of personal data, and called on States to ensure that any interference with the right to privacy should be consistent with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. It asked the Special Rapporteur on culture to highlight ways to better promote and protect cultural rights over the next 10 years.

Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that the right to privacy was not an absolute right, but a qualified right which could be limited. The African Group asked how States could strengthen the right to privacy in an initial context of the processing of private health data. Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed the importance of making different cultures a positive and effective tool to bring cultures together as bridges, not as barriers. The Arab Group pointed to the importance of respecting the heritage and traditions of other cultures, and expressed deep concern at the threat imposed by climate change and terrorist attacks on important cultural sites. Pakistan noted that the right to privacy on the Internet was important and complex, and needed proper deliberations amongst all stakeholders. A balance needed to be achieved between the right to privacy and legitimate security concerns.

Afghanistan said it believed that upholding cultural rights had a transformative and empowering capacity that contributed to strengthening international peace and security. It was emphasized that culture, when enjoyed in accordance with international standards, could nourish and expand and had the potential to create a space for debate and resolving conflicts. United Kingdom said it was committed to facilitating full access to a wide range of interlocutors in a number of institutions for Mr. Cannataci’s visit. The United Kingdom recognized the correlation between privacy and security, especially given the rise of digital communications and technologies. Israel said that the international community should stand up for cultural rights, even when political pressures tried to encroach on them. Israel lamented that the politicization of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over the years had led it to adopt a dangerous posture against the connection Jews had to their heritage sites in the land of Israel.

Croatia paid particular attention to the rights of its numerous minorities and guaranteed them cultural autonomy and the free use of their language and script. Croatia appreciated the approach of the Special Rapporteur in preventing relativist attempts to use what was claimed to be cultural, religious or traditional arguments to undermine human rights. Tunisia appreciated the focus on the links between democracy and the respect for private life. Article 44 on the Constitution provided for the need for the State to respect private life and personal data. Jordan underlined that the right to culture was a key right, adding that its Constitution enshrined cultural participation and creation. There was also a law that upheld intellectual property and contributions to the national urban heritage.

Iraq reiterated its commitments to the universal covenants and documents adopted to safeguard cultural rights. It drew attention to the negative impact of climate change and terrorist activities on cultural sites, and called for technical assistance in that respect. Fiji noted that cultural diversity was a defining element of humanity and was something that should be celebrated and safeguarded. As a country that faced the threat of climate change and its negative impact on cultural heritage, Fiji urged the Special Rapporteur to continue working on that theme. Cuba reiterated concern about the violations of State sovereignty through monitoring and massive interception of communications and data collection. For Cuba, cultural rights were a priority and the new national Constitution aimed to promote citizens’ participation in cultural policy.

Australia said that collecting and using data was becoming increasingly valuable for States and non-state actors, but it came with risks to individuals’ privacy. Australia had a new approach to the issue of encrypted communications, preserving the effectiveness of encryption while providing law enforcement necessary access. Russia noted the delay of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy and the fact that it was only published in one language, which was a gross violation of the principle of multilingualism. All categories of human rights were equal, including cultural rights, and the Rapporteur was urged to be more balanced in her work. Bolivia said that cultural heritage was a human rights issue. The centrality of cultural rights in the context of human rights was underlined.

Saudi Arabia said that the creation of the Ministry of Culture was an indication of the importance that Saudi Arabia gave to the cultural dimension. Many national laws had been passed, confirming cultural heritage and intellectual property law. Venezuela rejected the abuse of new information technologies, endangering the right to privacy. As part of the cultural revolution, the national plan on heritage and memory had been developed in order to consolidate national identity. Italy recalled their Act 71/2017 which introduced cyberbullying and provided for a specific role for their Data Protection Authority to handle this issue. The Special Rapporteur was asked to provide some best practices on how article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could be achieved, as he mentioned in the report.

Republic of Korea stated that the right to privacy was an essential ingredient of democratic societies and facilitated the exercise of other human rights. It highlighted the importance that the monitoring of the enjoyment of this right should not be limited to certain regions and welcomed the Rapporteur’s plan to focus further on Africa, Asia and South America during 2019 and 2020 despite constraints in time and resources. El Salvador said it had increased provisions for the right to privacy in its domestic policy, particularly for women and children. The preservation and promotion of cultural rights were mandatory and key in fostering a more cohesive and united society. France asked the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to provide some guidance on the different discrimination linked to gender in the enjoyment of the right to privacy, and whether this was an area he was going to study further. It asked the Special Rapporteur in the field of culture how cooperation with social society could favour the respect and promotion of cultural rights.

Interim Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs

JOSEPH CANNATACI, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, noted that the use of personal information, especially data on social media, was one of the five priorities that he had set for his mandate. As for concerns expressed by certain delegations about the corporations involved in the health sector, he encouraged them to attend the upcoming discussion on health data, which would be based on the principles of data protection. The Special Rapporteur said that one of the biggest risks posed by new technologies was smartphone technology which enabled the monitoring of people whenever and wherever. On the question of children and privacy, Mr. Cannataci stressed that a carefully designed approach needed to be implemented in order to educate children about online behaviour. In 2018, the Special Rapporteur had prepared a draft legal instrument regarding surveillance across countries. Responding to the comment made by the Russian Federation, Mr. Cannataci reminded that the Council had tasked him to integrate a gender perspective throughout his mandate, which he fully intended to do. He suggested that the Russian Federation invite him for a visit to discuss issues in a friendly manner. Responding to Australia regarding its new approach to the access by law enforcement officials to encrypted communications, the Special Rapporteur said that time would tell whether Australia’s approach was indeed reasonable and proportionate.

KARIMA BENNOUNE, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, thanked the Malaysian Government and was very grateful for the video statement of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission, and agreed that the ratification of remaining human rights treaties was necessary, as well as the implementation of human rights commitments. She reminded that the new Government had pledged to ratify all remaining human rights treaties. Positive developments were noted such as unbanning of certain books and dropping of charges against a cartoonist. She expressed hope there would be compensation for what they endured. The use of the term race interchangeably with ethnicity was problematic. She welcomed that indigenous peoples were working in the management of parks, but there were reports of bullying. More had to be done to promote diverse mother tongues in Malaysia. As for fundamentalism, many Government officials agreed that it existed in practice. The lived reality of Malaysians had to be consistent with the rhetoric of officials. An atmosphere of tolerance and inclusion could not be preserved by rhetoric alone; it had to rely on concrete measures.

As for thematic reports, delegations were thanked for their support and Cuba was thanked for its leadership of the mandate. Twelve fact-finding missions had been carried out, as well as a mission to Mali to provide reparations for victims of destruction of cultural heritage. Still, a number of requests for invitations had gone unanswered and she expressed hope that the Council would raise this during the Universal Periodic Review. The mandate lived up to the Council’s task in integrating a gender dimension, but more work needed to be done in cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. The issue of public space and cultural rights would be taken forward as well as work of cultural human rights defenders, which was often overlooked. Discrimination would remain a crosscutting priority. It was essential that States incorporated cultural rights throughout the education system, and increased funding for culture to meet targets of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of one per cent of government spending. There was a very positive engagement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in combatting extremism and anti-Semitism. Culture should not be used to violate human rights, as was stated in all her reports, and States were called upon to amend laws that promoted discrimination. The impact of climate change on cultural challenge was very important. A regional mission to the Pacific might be carried out to further explore this mater.

Interactive Dialogue

Mexico said it considered that the right to privacy should be fully analysed and considered within the framework of international human rights. Mexico placed particular importance to the right to privacy, and maintained a strong commitment to the promotion and protection of this right. Azerbaijan lamented that the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia had had catastrophic consequences for its cultural heritage. By destroying the monuments and changing architectural features, Armenia was pursuing far-reaching targets of removing any signs heralding their Azerbaijani origins. Egypt noted that it had recently passed a law on fighting Internet crimes and their effect on the enjoyment of human rights. Egypt also welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, and noted the progress referred to in the report at both national and international levels.

Morocco reaffirmed its commitment to respecting the private life of its citizens, as well as its willingness to create better legal protections in this area. Morocco also noted that it had put in place several public policies relating to the promotion and protection of cultural diversity to bolster institutional capacity. Poland said it attached great importance to the advancement of cultural rights not only at the international level but also internally. Poland asked how could a human rights approach be better integrated and mainstreamed into the field of and those working in peacekeeping and transnational justice? Algeria noted that technological tools offered formidable possibilities for the access and diffusion of knowledge at a low cost. However, Algeria expressed concern that the abusive and subversive use of these tools could constitute infractions to the right to privacy of individuals.

Iran stated that cultural diversity was vital for social cohesion and peace. It requested the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on cultural rights and address the impacts of mono-culturalism on human rights globally. Nepal stated that a rise in hatred and intolerance as well as environmental degradation and natural disasters were causing irreparable damage to tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The multi-ethnic and multicultural nature of Nepal was its strength and national policies for the protection of cultural rights were paramount to build an egalitarian society based on harmony and tolerance. China said it would not tolerate accusations regarding the situation in Tibet. It had rolled out new action plans on the regulation of collection, storage and decimation of private information, as well as new initiatives to build cultural centres in all villages, especially in rural areas.

Georgia said that since 2017, local governments had started implementing action plans to improve local level access to cultural resources, foster diversity, and increase the role of ethnic minorities in cultural life. However, Georgian cultural experts had not been granted access to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions which remained under the effective control of Russia. Georgia urged the Special Rapporteur to pay urgent attention to the situation in these regions. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization echoed the report’s concerns related to the threat of cultural relativism as culture and cultural rights were at the core of many crisis and conflicts where issues of identity, recognition and inclusion were both driving conflicts and the key to their solution. The recognition and protection of artistic freedom were important not only for the creative practice of artists but also for the rights of all cultural producers.

Greece, as a core group member of a joint statement on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage, welcomed the Rapporteur’s recommendations regarding cultural rights. Cultural rights encompassed many aspects, including the right to access to culture and the right to freedom of artistic expression. Malta warned that technological innovations brought new challenges, such as vulnerability to mass surveillance, which interfered with the privacy of the individual. How could States irreversibly extend the protection of rights offline to online? Ecuador had 14 nationalities and indigenous groups whose rights were promoted in public policies. The right to privacy was upheld, and Ecuador affirmed that States had to promote the right to privacy when using personal data.

Norway underlined that the purpose of the mandate was to protect conditions allowing all people, without discrimination, to access, participate in and contribute to cultural life. What recommendations were most salient for States in order to move forward the cultural rights agenda? Gabon noted with interest the correlation between gender and privacy, as highlighted by the Rapporteur, particularly for vulnerable groups such as women and children. Securing access on the Internet was a major challenge for authorities. Timor-Leste said that the promotion of cultural heritage in Timor-Leste had undeniably contributed to strengthening the democratic system. The Special Rapporteur was asked to further elaborate on best practice examples on regional coordination for the promotion of cultural rights?

Cameroon emphasized that the right to privacy was a fundamental right, and shared the Special Rapporteur’s opinion that violations of privacy could open the door to multiple other violations of human rights. Cameroon noted that the Internet offered major opportunities but it was also a means of infringement on the right to privacy. Armenia said it would continue to support further advancement and mainstreaming of cultural rights protection within the universal human rights framework. Armenia strongly opposed the politicization of the international cultural agenda which inevitably resulted in violations of cultural rights and caused harm to the reconciliation processes. Ukraine said that cultural rights could not be set aside in contexts of crises, conflicts or austerity. Ukraine lamented that the illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by the Russian Federation had resulted in illegal excavations, illicit construction activities and negligence regarding conservation of cultural sites.

South Africa expressed concern at the amount of cultural artefacts destroyed due to conflict and those artefacts that were stolen and not returned. South Africa noted that 2019 was the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and asked the Special Rapporteur if there was any work she would be doing to support this year. Bangladesh noted that the International Mother Language Institute, recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, promoted multilingualism and preserved and protected endangered languages globally. Bangladesh stressed the need for the protection of linguistic rights.

International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL) encouraged the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights to consider the importance of the cultural approach to the right to education in future reports. In the context of hate and violence, the international community needed to hear how to deal with the right to have an identity in educational systems. International PEN, in a joint statement, expressed support for the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a declaration on the rights of artists, reminding that in the past several years, violations against artists authorized by States and committed by digital companies had increased significantly. Freemuse – The World Forum on Music and Censorship recommended that the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights address the key mechanisms that were being used to repress cultural expression and artistic freedom across the globe, including national legislation that operated inconsistently with international human rights instruments.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture noted that the Saudi aggression on Yemen had led to the destruction of hundreds of historical cultural sites. Aggression and terrorism had violated the historic and cultural value of several cities, museums and cultural centres in Yemen, as well as in Syria, Iraq and Palestinian territories. International Lesbian and Gay Association said that the digital environment presented unique opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons to connect, gather and exchange information and self-organize. States had to take all necessary measures to prevent, investigate and punish breaches of privacy perpetrated on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Association for Progressive Communications, in a joint statement, stated that the right to privacy was a fundamental one. However, the exploitation of data by both State and non-State actors was often biased in terms of gender, ethnicity, race and class.

Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement, said that it was critical for States to work towards the realization of cultural rights for all, including women and persons with non-conforming genders and sexualities, given that State and non-state actors continued to instrumentalise culture to justify violence and discrimination dismantling the human rights system. Article 19 - International Centre against Censorship stated that threats of cultural relativism to the universality of human rights were of concern, particularly in Malaysia where progress had stalled following the improvements made after the elections last year. They asked for the support of the Rapporteur to release a report on the proposed National Harmony Act which would make causing disharmony in Malaysia an offence. British Humanist Association noted the increase in blasphemy accusations, which were used to shut down and undermine freedom of artistic expression, naming a series of humanist writers, poets and authors in Bangladesh, Palestine and Mauritania who had been attacked, harassed or murdered. Its asked what could be done to remove apostasy and blasphemy from statute books of States.

Franciscans International stated that lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender persons had been punished for exercising their cultural rights, suffering from violence and harassment worldwide, which was carried out in the name of defending religion and culture. It urged States to continue to include the specific issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in future reports. Association for Women’s Rights in Development stated that State and non-state actors continued to impose monolithic agendas on pluralistic societies and asked what cultural practices should be kept, reworked or discarded regarding the protection of religion and traditions, as well as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

Al-khoei Foundation drew attention to the rise of far-right extremism, and confirmed that in the last European Union elections, there had been more than 40 hate speech incidents across the continent. The Council and Member States were urged to take a firm stance against all forms of extremism and to hold to account groups that supported extremism. Human Rights Advocates Inc. said that over 100 countries had data privacy laws to protect the right to privacy and they all had as their starting point some notion of identifiability, making it a nightmare for those who had to navigate inconsistent regulations. Would it be helpful to adopt a definition for personal information and personal data as a step towards implementing a comprehensive data privacy framework? Prahar said that 63 per cent of responses to communications, as noted by the Special Rapporteur for cultural rights, kept the hope alive that States were serious about cultural rights. In case of the right to privacy, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Belgium were taking good initiatives, while India was becoming more restrictive. iuventum e.V. stressed that all were living in shrinking privacy space; Governments and companies were very interested in what people did and thought; and all devices were hackable with suitable technology. The situation was escalating, not just in terms of how to protect children from sensitive content but also on how parents should communicate and educate their children?

Concluding Remarks

JOSEPH CANNATACI, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, noted that the overwhelming majority of States and non-governmental organizations had welcomed the work of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. Mr. Cannataci emphasized the importance of the right to privacy for children, and expressed hope to produce a report on this issue over the coming two years. The Special Rapporteur thanked delegations and human rights organizations for their support for the mandate, and singled out the Republic of Korea for its recent financial support. Regarding a question from Algeria, the Special Rapporteur said that States needed to look at whether their existing legislation was adequate for addressing privacy, particularly legislation for the oversight of surveillance. However, it was noted that legislation needed to be complemented by appropriate resources – the law alone was not enough. Regarding a question from Malta, it was recommended that colleagues looked at the perennial problem in the field – not the lack of recognition for the right to privacy, but more specifically, what could be done about it, notably the problem of jurisdiction. Regarding a point raised by Gabon on anonymity, the Special Rapporteur said that anonymity was a double-edged sword: in some countries it could provide protection for human rights activists, but in others it be could be used for surveillance or privacy infringement. Regarding a question from Cameroon, Mr. Cannataci noted that to improve legislation on surveillance, it was important to set up an independent authority, as well as appropriate resources to this point. He noted that the mandate had formally requested India to invite him to carry out a country visit.

KARIMA BENNOUNE, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, reiterated that there was no such thing as a “relative” or “second-class” human being, who could be excluded from the enjoyment of human rights on the basis of what was considered to be the cultural tradition. Cultural diversity implied a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms. Cultural diversity could be preserved only if human rights were upheld, the Special Rapporteur stressed. She underlined the importance of cooperation with civil society to advance cultural rights, and she called on civil society organizations to form a coalition for cultural rights in order to better work with the United Nations system. More civil society submissions were needed to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. As for incorporating cultural rights in peace-keeping missions, she expressed hope that there would be more court indictments for the destruction of cultural heritage sites. The Special Rapporteur noted that one of the most important ways to protect languages was to defend the defenders of languages. With respect to the increasing attacks on artists, the international community needed to take measures to protect them. The best way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the mandate was to incorporate cultural rights in the lives of women and men across the globe.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC19.013E