Hears Address by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands
8 March 2019
The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council heard an address by John M. Silk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands.
In his address, Mr. Silk announced the establishment of his country’s permanent presence in Geneva, through which it would be able to ensure consistent participation in the Council, and to ensure that the United Nations never again overlooked the voices of the most vulnerable nations and communities. The Marshall Islands was committed to work with others to find pragmatic solutions which took better account of the unique characteristics of small island developing nations, and which also kept everyone on track to meet global human rights commitments.
In the ensuing general debate, speakers agreed that there was a need for an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. The negotiations of the legal instrument should seek to explore to the maximum possible extent the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights. Speakers reiterated their commitments to the 2030 Agenda and noted that maintaining a holistic approach and a human rights approach to global issues, such as sustainable development, was of primordial importance at a time when multilateralism and the concept of a rules-based order were increasingly challenged. Several speakers drew attention to women’s inequality, populist and nationalist leaders who used sexist and patriarchal campaigns to come to power, linguistic discrimination, the erosion of civic freedoms, the recruitment of children in armed conflict, the threat of terrorism, the use of torture, the risks that new technologies created for the right to food and nutrition, and the effect of unilateral coercive measures on human rights.
Speaking in the general debate were: Nepal, Nigeria, Ukraine, South Africa, China, Qatar, Sudan, Israel, State of Palestine, Mozambique, Singapore, Bolivia, Thailand, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Botswana, Algeria, Ireland, Iran, Montenegro, Lebanon, Greece, Canada, Paraguay, Samoa, Tanzania, Armenia, Namibia, Georgia, Indonesia, Venezuela and Libya. UN Women and the Food and Agriculture Organization also spoke.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor Soka Gakkai International (in a joint statement with several NGOs1); Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII (in a joint statement with several NGOs2); Corporate Accountability International; Il Cenacolo; Edmund Rice International Limited; Conectas Direitos Humanos; Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization; World Evangelical Alliance; Congrès juif Mondial; Article 19 - Centre international contre la censure; Centre Europe - tiers monde; Center for Environmental and Management Studies; Presse Emblème Campagne; Mouvement international contre toutes les formes de discrimination; International Association for Democracy in Africa; Human Rights Law Centre; Make Mothers Matter, au nom également de Graduate Women International,; Association for Progressive Communications; VIVAT International; Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism; Institute for Policy Studies; Ertegha Keyfiat Zendegi Iranian Charitable Institute, in a joint statement with Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims,; World Environment and Resources Council (WERC); Pan African Union for Science and Technology; Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc; African Regional Agricultural Credit Association; Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development; Commission to Study the Organization of Peace; International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; American Association of Jurists; Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights; iuventum e.V.; Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples; Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme; FIAN International e.V.; African Development Association; United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation; International Career Support Association; Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy; Shivi Development Society; World Russian People’s Council; Prevention Association of Social Harms (PASH); Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project; Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture; Peace Brigades International Switzerland; Action Canada for Population and Development; Canners International Permanent Committee; Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims; Asociacion HazteOir.org; European Union of Public Relations; International Association for Equality of women; Cuban United Nations Association ; Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea; World Muslim Congress; and International Commission of Jurists.
India, Cuba, Brazil and Pakistan spoke in right of reply.
The Council will meet next on Monday, 11 March, at 9 a.m. to conclude the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. It will then hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.
Address by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands
JOHN M. SILK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, said that his country was enthusiastic to establish a permanent presence in Geneva, and to be able to ensure its consistent participation in the Council. The United Nations functioned for all countries and peoples, Mr. Silk said, but most importantly for the choices of the most vulnerable. For small island nations, least developed countries, and many others, the United Nations was their primary multilateral platform. However, as much as the United Nations was a strong institution, there were far too many times in which all States – as the United Nations – had overlooked the voices of the most vulnerable nations and communities. It was the Marshall Islands’ intention to establish a permanent mission in Geneva to join the growing chorus of nations that were here to ensure that the United Nations never again overlooked the voices of the most vulnerable. The Marshall Islands sought to apply objective, human rights-based criteria in addressing situations of concern. A truly effective international human rights system should be able to go far beyond the generic “check boxes” used for quick and superficial evaluation of human rights records. Human rights were more than treaty ratifications, but also about implementation and visible realities in local communities.
Mr. Silk noted that, while the small size of the Marshall Islands could not be an excuse for treaty participation, the heavy burden of treaty reporting for small States and those with capacity challenges could not be overlooked. The Marshall Islands was committed to work with others to find pragmatic solutions which took better account of the unique characteristics of small island developing nations, and which also kept all on track to meet global human rights commitments. Since its independence, the Marshall Islands had joined with other small island nations to draw global attention to climate change impacts and risks. The severe human rights and security implications of climate change were obvious to everyone in the room. There were no easy answers to complex human rights topics, but perhaps the most important element was to ensure not only the voices but also the active engagement of the most vulnerable. The Marshall Islands was strongly concerned about threats to the role of human rights defenders, and urged greater political will to ensure adequate protection; Mr. Silk expressed deep concern that stronger political will was needed to effectively address reprisals. The Marshall Islands sought to join other nations to further define truly independent positions which built bridges across traditional political divides, and to seek a balanced agenda.
General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development
Nepal had mainstreamed the 2030 Agenda into its national programmes, and for this purpose 430 indicators had been devised. Nepal was concentrating its vision on modernizing agriculture and infrastructure, and other sectors of its economy. The accelerated progress on gender equality empowerment had seen a rate of 30 per cent of representation of women in parliament.
Nigeria said that the repatriation of illicit funds to countries of origin was vital to the actualization of those countries’ development agendas. The availability of safe havens in foreign jurisdictions for corruption remained the major driver for corruption in all societies. Nigeria remained committed to combat human trafficking, and to ensure that no citizens suffered the inhuman and degrading treatment occasioned by such crimes.
Ukraine said Parliament in 2018 had passed in the first reading the draft law ensuring the functioning of Ukrainian as the State language, which safeguarded the right of Ukrainians to information and services in the State language as an important factor for identity, security and unity. Ukraine regretted that since 2014 the number of Ukrainian-language schools in Russian-occupied Crimea had fallen by 87.5 per cent. Ukraine called on the international community to condemn the ongoing assault on the Ukrainian language.
South Africa said that the work of the Working Group on transnational corporations was challenging the status quo on a matter that had not been effectively addressed by the United Nations for decades. Transnational corporations and businesses could not be a law unto themselves so the United Nations had to set norms that would be uniform across all jurisdictions of operation to enhance the protection of human rights and ensure a level playing field.
China noted that each country should choose its own path to develop human rights, in line with the actual situation and people’s needs, and on the basis of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. China supported the Russian Federation’s earlier statement on languages, noting that it attached high importance to the protection of languages and alphabets, and to the bilingual education of minority groups. It called on all countries to fully protect the rights of their minority groups and their right to use their own languages.
Qatar ensured the right to education for citizens and residents and had set up international initiatives for children in conflict zones. The “teach a child” initiative was being implemented globally to provide education to 10 million children in over 50 countries. Sustainable development was promoted in Qatar as a path to enjoy other human rights. During this session, Qatar had organized an event on providing education to all in order to progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda goals and ensure that no one was left behind.
Sudan highly valued the efforts carried out by the Special Representative on the sale of children. Sudan’s Government had taken a number of legal measures such as bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries in this regard. Sudan hosted 2 million refugees from neighbouring countries. The promotion of economic, social and cultural rights had to be given equal importance to the promotion of civil and political rights.
Israel agreed that there were many different ways that children could suffer the consequences of terrorism, and that States should pay special attention to this aspect, and invest in prevention and in the rehabilitation of children who were victims of terror. Israel called the Council’s attention to the continuous use of children as human shields by terrorist groups. The international community should do more to protect children from terror.
The State of Palestine expressed its understanding that an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights would contribute to redressing gaps and imbalances in the international legal order that undermined human rights. The draft treaty attempted to maintain a complementary approach, a necessary requirement for the continuation of a unified universal approach in countering corporate abuses.
Mozambique, speaking of the scope of the draft instrument on transnational corporations and human rights, reiterated that it should only concern transnational corporations in line with the Council resolution 26/9. Any other approach would compromise the rationale that informed the need for the instrument at stake. The negotiations of the legal instrument should seek to explore to the maximum possible extent the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights, and build upon them.
Singapore had achieved good social outcomes in recent years despite having low tax rates. However, inequality, social mobility, the ageing population, and climate change remained long-term challenges. Inequality and social mobility were a key challenge of the times globally. Singapore hoped the Council could do more to promote the sharing of best practices on overcoming inequalities and ways to promote more inclusive societies.
UN Women stated that women had been routinely left out of the data on which decisions were made, and as algorithms were increasingly used to select data samples. A recent UN Women Sustainable Development Goal monitoring report showed that progress towards meeting Goal 5 remained unacceptably slow, and looked forward to accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and gender equality.
Bolivia wanted to highlight the impact on human rights of the activities of transnational corporations. It was important to close loopholes that allowed for the violation of human rights by perpetrators who used transnational structures to evade national laws. Bolivia called on governments and civil society to participate in the substantive intergovernmental negotiations on the draft legally binding instrument during the fifth session of the Working Group.
Thailand believed in strengthening synergies between the Voluntary National Review and the Universal Periodic Review processes and stressed that all had to build on this dialogue at the High-Level Political Forum to make sure that human rights had a place in the discussion on sustainable development and vice versa. Concerned efforts across government agencies and meaningful partnerships with all stakeholders were needed.
The Russian Federation said that the Council was designed as a forum for proper international cooperation in the human rights sphere. Unfortunately, some States were using it for scoring political points and to promote their own agenda, just before elections. Political statements were made in Council that had no implications for human rights. This was causing direct damage to the Council.
Netherlands was deeply concerned about the erosion of civic freedoms worldwide. In Nicaragua, the Government’s decision to withdraw legal personality and expel civil society organizations was condemned. In Zimbabwe, the disproportionate use of force by security personnel was concerning and in Sudan the Government’s response to protests was alarming. In Cuba, the repression of public criticism was worrisome.
Costa Rica called on States to make more of an effort to reach those that were furthest behind, in order to eliminate hunger and ensure that all human beings had access to a dignified life. This task was increasingly interconnected with the strengthening of the system of protection of human rights. However, development and prosperity had not reached the majority of humans. This growing inequality created new challenges concerning new technologies, climate change, and the millions of people displaced around the world by conflict.
Azerbaijan said it continued to support the process of elaborating an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. Azerbaijan was of the view that non-binding, voluntary rules aimed at the protection of human rights had not been able to prevent human rights violations, particularly in conflict and post-conflict situations. The elaboration of a legally binding document would contribute to improving human rights globally.
Botswana thanked the Chair Rapporteur of the Working Group on transnational corporations for the report, which discussed articles of the envisaged treaty aimed at regulating the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. Botswana agreed that work should be done in line with the Guiding Principles on business and human rights, and that there should be a gradual approach to defining the scope of companies to be regulated in order to mitigate challenges. Placing prevention at the forefront was key for a better outcome.
Algeria reiterated its commitment to the work of the Working Group on transnational corporations. The activities of transnational corporations needed a better institutional and legal framework internationally to ensure that they were brought into line with universal human rights norms. Their activities affected the lives of many people and communities in many ways. It was thus indispensable to have an appropriate redress for victims, and to ensure that transnational corporations were accountable if human rights were violated wherever they were conducting their activities.
Ireland commended the High Commissioner for her report on the empowerment of children with disabilities. Ireland was committed to the full elimination of all violence and discrimination against women and girls and would continue to work towards the full realization of their rights globally. Ireland was concerned about the persistent shortfall in the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, and called on other States to consider making voluntary contributions.
Iran thanked the High Commissioner for the reports provided in the preceding sessions and welcomed the recommendations they contained. Iran condemned sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran which were unjustified. Iran urged the creation of a working group that would submit to the Security Council an assessment of the impact that sanctions had on civilians around the world.
Montenegro said that the only way forward was to create societies in which women and girls were equal and protected. Montenegro strongly condemned violence against children and their participation in armed conflicts, and was firmly committed to the universal and absolute prohibition of all forms of torture. Human rights defenders served as the guardians of universally recognized rights, and States were called on to ensure the full protection of defenders.
Lebanon said that focus had to be given to all rights equally. Lebanon supported the 2030 Agenda and would present its national report, which was monitoring the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. A number of ambitious plans were being adopted to reform the country. The Council was called on to adopt initiatives to protect human rights and build national capacities.
Greece underscored that interdependence and indivisibility were essential principles of human rights, whether they were economic, social, cultural, civil or political. Maintaining a holistic approach and a human rights approach to global issues such as sustainable development was of primordial importance at a time when multilateralism and the concept of a rules-based order was increasingly challenged.
Canada acknowledged the extensive time and effort of States, civil society, and business and labour representatives who had participated in the process of the Working Group on transnational corporations. Canada reiterated the importance of ensuring that the treaty negotiation process was an effective multilateral approach, which was endorsed by consensus, transparency, inclusiveness, and was respectful of divergent views.
Paraguay said it was honoured to have presented its vision concerning synergies between human rights and the 2030 Agenda. Paraguay noted that with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Agenda, generating a monitoring mechanism that linked the commitments of human rights and development had become both important and necessary.
Samoa reaffirmed its commitment to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons. The socio-economic wellbeing of its people remained at the core of Samoa’s development initiatives. Samoa recognized the need to foster stronger partnership with civil society and non-governmental organizations in defending human rights, and acknowledged the challenges that civil society faced in Samoa in terms of resource constraints.
Tanzania was making remarkable progress in realizing the rights to education, health and clean water for all its citizens. The Government had increased the budget in these sectors and had seen an increase in enrolment of primary and secondary school level children across the country. Access to clean water had increased. Tanzania remained committed to the promotion and protection of all human rights throughout the country.
Armenia stated that human rights principles, and in particular non-discrimination, should be paramount in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Armenia was one of those countries that had presented its first voluntary national review at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum, and it stressed that this forum should not be regarded as a platform for political speculation. The Sustainable Development Goal implementation strategies must be consistent with States’ obligations in the field of human rights protection.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations believed poverty and food insecurity ranked among the main agents of inequality and the organization continued to intensify its work to fight these challenges. Climate change was a severely exacerbating factor in these issues. Furthermore, as the majority of those living in hunger resided in conflict zones, ending conflicts was therefore paramount to realizing a world without hunger and reducing inequality.
Namibia was acutely aware of the need to put effective national mechanisms in place, including a comprehensive national action plan to give effect to the Guiding Principles on business and human rights. Namibia supported efforts which addressed the unfair power imbalance between companies and rights holders and the growing power of companies versus States. Businesses were urged to embrace opportunity brought by the 2030 Agenda and show their commitment to the protection of human rights.
Georgia said that linguistic discrimination continued to be acute, particularly in the territories where sovereign States were deprived of the opportunity to exercise effective control and where the access of the international human rights monitoring mechanisms was denied. The prohibition of education in their native language for ethnic Georgians in Georgian occupied regions was another example of such discrimination.
Indonesia said that the Government of Indonesia was steadfast in encouraging the implementation of the Guiding Principles on business and human rights at the national level. It was crucial to consider the existence of small and medium enterprises, which had a completely different level playing field from big transnational companies. Legally binding instrument should allow selected small and medium enterprises from certain undertakings.
Venezuela noted that its Government promoted the active participation of Venezuelans in all public affairs. Venezuela reaffirmed its commitment to the fight against all forms of violence and discrimination, particularly against those who were daily victims because of race, colour, sex, language and religion, among others. Venezuela also rejected the promulgation of laws that had extraterritorial effects and involved an intrusion in the internal rights of States.
Libya shared the conclusions of the report with regard to measures to promote human rights and build societies based on the integration of all. All human rights were indivisible and interdependent. The Council should give priority to all rights in the same way and provide technical assistance and capacity building, while respecting the sovereignty of States and taking into account the cultural norms of countries.
Soka Gakkai International, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, emphasized the importance of the implementation of education methodologies to measure the impact of human rights, and said they should be further developed. Adequate policies to train educators with skills and knowledge for human rights should also be a priority. In addition, young people’s voices should adequately be respected to ensure an inclusive plan of action for non-government organizations working to improve human rights globally.
The joint statement of Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII 2 called for a move towards a modern form of multilateralism that put human rights at its core, and sought the common good for the human family. Pope Francis had stated that building a fair society and a lasting peace was impossible without a conscience of fraternity. They believed such an approach was vital to addressing the current global challenges.
Corporate Accountability International called on the Council and States to guarantee the inalienable rights to access justice and reparation, where necessary. States should ensure that national State mechanisms for pursuing corporate crimes worked, and where these failed, an international mechanism must exist to allow citizens to seek redress.
Il Cenacolo stated that Algeria was denying the basic human rights of a group of people in the south of the country. In this regard, a member of the Polisario Bureau had been kidnaped in Algiers by the security services more than a year ago. Subsequently the authorities had refused to address his fate. Il Cenalco appealed to the Council to bring pressure on the Algerian authorities to free him, or to shed light on his fate.
Edmund Rice International Limited drew attention to the Indian Union Government’s budgetary allocation for children. In 2004, the Indian Government made a promise to invest 6 per cent of the gross domestic product on children’s education and three per cent on children’s health. Yet in 2018, India spent just 1.02 per cent of its gross domestic product on public health, and 2.6 per cent on education.
Conectas Direitos Humanos said that civil society in Brazil was under threat. On 1 January, President Bolsonaro had enacted executive order number 870 that reformulated the structure of the federal executive branch, giving the power to one of the Presidency’s Secretariats to oversee and monitor activities of non-governmental organizations. The Brazilian constitution prevented State interference in the functioning of civil society.
Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization said that the number of displaced persons in Sudan was 1.8 million, in addition to 2 million refugees from neighbouring countries. Between 4,000 to 5,000 Eritrean irregular migrants and refugees entered Sudan illegally each month. There had been a high percentage of drop outs from the refugee camps. Sudan still suffered from the impact of economic sanctions, despite receiving large numbers of refugees.
World Evangelical Alliance noted that it drew attention to the wellbeing of minorities in nations at every Human Rights Council. It urged the Government of Malaysia to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all religious workers and the freedom to carry out their duties free from intimidation or threat. In Algeria, the authorities had pursued their campaign of intimidation and harassment against Christians. Algerian authorities were called upon to re-open all closed Churches and allow freedom of religion.
World Jewish Congress noted that in France, anti-Semitic acts had increased by 74 per cent in 2018. It was becoming increasingly common to hear on the streets hateful words towards Jews in France, as if they were representatives of Israel. These acts often conflated anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Denying the anti-Semitic nature of anti-Zionism was a limiting factor when it came to combatting it. The Council was called upon to take serious actions to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism.
Article 19 - International Centre against Censorship welcomed the joint statement of 37 States condemning Saudi Arabia for the murder of Jamal Kashoggi in Istanbul, and demanding cooperation with the investigation of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. On International Women’s Day, Article 19 deplored the threats and attacks against women journalists and human rights defenders, including sexual and gender-based violations and abuses.
Europe-Third World Centre, called for reforms on the treatment of trans-national companies. The future treaty addressing this must establish the responsibility of all companies in the value chain. This must also include investors providing capital for the trans-national companies. This was essential to prevent the social and environmental liability from being dissipated through the value chain of trans-national companies. This was vital to ensure citizens get redress.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies stated that Pakistan was one of the most active States involved in the arming, organizing and funding of terrorist groups. Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence played a key role in sponsoring such groups. Pakistan provided territory on which these groups could flourish. They were very disappointed that Pakistan continued to promote such groups, whilst pretending to be a victim of terrorism in international fora.
Press Emblem Campaign stated that women human rights defenders faced different risks from men, and faced more risks as they were more visible. In 2017, a record 16 women journalists had been killed. More than 16 months after the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the authorities had not yet responded to a public enquiry. They also decried the indictment of Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, in what was considered a case of political persecution.
International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) found it very opportune to bring to the Council’s attention the linkages between inequalities and economic, social and cultural rights. Tackling inequalities was key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 5, 8, 10, 16 and 17 and special attention had to be paid to groups that enjoyed lesser rights. The plight of Dalit women was underlined.
International Association for Democracy in Africa spoke about the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, which was 72,000 square kilometres. It was a disputed territory along with the Kashmir issue. There was suppression of civil society in Gilgit-Baltistan and political activists were awarded 40 years of punishment.
Human Rights Law Centre said that the High Commissioner highlighted the importance of the right to social security and of recognising the value of unpaid care work in addressing women’s inequality. Yet the Australian Government was steadily undermining its social security system and making life harder for many women. Currently it was imposing its punitive ParentsNext programme on single mothers accessing social security.
Make Mothers Matter, in a joint statement with Graduate Women International (GWI), noted that the world currently hosted the largest generation of young people in history, yet in comparison to adults, they were three times more likely to be unemployed. Within this group, young women were three times more likely than young men to be unemployed. Make Mothers Matter urged States to give unpaid carers social protection, training, and include unpaid care in work pension calculations.
Association for Progressive Communications expressed deep concern over the shrinking of civic space online. Restrictive laws applied online were creating a chilling effect on civil society through surveillance systems. There was also a disturbing trend of Internet shutdowns, particularly in Asia and Africa, which restricted a range of human rights. Association for Progressive Communication also expressed deep concern at the online backlash against feminist voices through coordinated digital campaigns.
VIVAT International expressed deep concern about the human rights situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina related to economic, social and cultural rights. Such a situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina contributed to an increase in the number of poor families, especially among young persons, and increased the flow of migration of young persons and entire families from the country.
Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism stated that terrorist attacks had put at risk the human rights of millions of people across the world, and the number of victims was increasing, especially in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Thailand, Russia, the Philippines, Lebanon, Syria, India, Iran, France, Norway, Sweden and the United States. Punishing terrorists before the global public was an important step to ending the scourge of terrorism.
Institute for Policy Studies believed that the Council should redouble its efforts to end corporate impunity. The organization criticized the existence of investor-State dispute settlement systems, which eroded the sovereignty of States and respect for human rights. The case of Chevron in Ecuador was an example of that. More than 500,000 persons in Europe had signed a petition calling on the European Union to support a binding treaty and to ensure that investor-State dispute settlement systems respected human rights.
Ertegha Keyfiat Zendegi Iranian Charitable Institute, in a joint statement with Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, read messages from two Kurdish families in Iraq, whose children had been recruited by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They reiterated that the use of children in armed conflict was prohibited under international law and that it was a crime. The organization criticized the Iranian Government for not taking effective steps to free those child soldiers. It asked the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into the recruitment of child soldiers in Iran and Kurdistan.
World Environment and Resources Council (WERC) reminded that Sindhi people’s struggle for the right to self-determination had been active since the creation of the Pakistani State, yet the Government had purposefully misappropriated Sindhi people’s abundant natural resources in the name of development, making them economically disadvantaged. That included controversial infrastructure projects such as the China Pakistan Economic corridor and mega dams on the Indus River.
Pan African Union for Science and Technology noted that Pakistan was a source of terrorism and that successive Pakistani governments had contributed to the terror business globally. Killings often went unreported and there were no reliable statistics on terrorist incidents and victims. Cross-border terror incidents with Afghanistan were frequent. There had been 262 terrorist incidents in 2018, out of which 171 had been carried out by a group that had initially been set up by the Pakistani army.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc raised concern about the continued torture and intimidation of women human rights defenders through reprisals of the Government of Bahrain. The organization had received messages from three female prisoners in Bahrain, who had been the object of communications by the United Nations Special Procedures. Those women had been subjected to torture in order to provide false testimonies. Relatives of the three women had also been detained.
African Regional Agricultural Credit Association drew the Council’s attention to the grave human rights violations against the people of Balochistan, resulting from the construction of controversial mega projects by Pakistan. The State had been aggressively exploiting the natural resources of Balochistan, and hundreds of villages had been burnt to ashes by the military in order to secure the roads and routes. Millions of people had been displaced and they lived a miserable life without shelter, food and health care.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development stressed that Sudan was still facing undeclared economic sanctions, which were blatantly implemented by many Western countries, despite the efforts exerted to preserve economic, social and cultural rights. That unfair practice had caused a harsh economic situation and had had negative repercussions on people enjoying their most basic rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights needed to provide technical assistance and capacity building in order to implement the right to development in Sudan.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace reminded that the use of torture in Pakistan was actively sponsored by the security forces. Even law enforcement forces had become practitioners of such heinous crimes. Women, children and religious minorities had witnessed brutalities in the form of violent attacks, false blasphemy, persecution, murders and counter-terrorism. Behind those practices stood the unaccountable persona of the Pakistani Government. Although torture was a crime in Pakistan, it was still widely practiced.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists drew the Council’s attention to the sexual abuse carried out in humanitarian aid missions. The international community had to confront that issue in order to solve it. Whilst women and girls were clearly at the greatest risk, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community was also at risk. The organization called for a collaboration between United Nations agencies and relevant non-governmental organizations to work together to ensure safer and better humanitarian aid for everyone in need.
American Association of Jurists called on the Council to address the situation of human rights defenders in the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara. Women were key actors in promoting the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people and were systematically targeted by the Moroccan occupying forces while peacefully demonstrating. Beaten, arbitrarily arrested and harassed, Saharawi women paid a heavy price for standing up for the respect of their people’s rights.
Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights referred to the cases of Ms. Kim Harumoni and Ms. Kwak Harumoni, who had recently died without having been given an apology by the Government of Japan for the sexual slavery crimes committed by the Japanese military during the Second World War. Victims must have the right to truth and compensation. The sexual slavery crimes committed by the Japanese army had affected the entire Asia Pacific region, and under international law Japan remained responsible for providing remedy to all survivors.
iuventum e.V noted that the right to physical or bodily integrity was rarely invoked in human rights discussions. That right should supersede less significant rights. The economic right of a corporation must not violate the right of a person to safe food, water and air. Objective criteria were often missing in human rights discussions. The organization proposed the drinking water analysis as a human rights indicator. By mobilizing science students through their study programmes to learn professional skills, the cost analysis would be reduced and the participation of youth would be promoted.
Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples said that the right to development could not be realized without the enjoyment of natural resources. Through pillage and exploitation of natural resources, the Sahrawi people had been denied their right to development. International jurisprudence had established that Western Sahara was a non-autonomous territory, with a distinct legal identity. However, the European Court of Justice had confirmed that the political authorities in the European Union had just signed an agreement with Morocco, contributing to further exploitation of resources in Western Sahara. The organization condemned the lack of consultations with the Polissario Front.
Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme reminded that hundreds of millions of women around the world continued to suffer from harassment and discrimination on a daily basis. Populist and nationalist leaders were using sexist and patriarchal campaigns to come to power. The organization invited everyone to think of measures to prevent the abuse of women. It continued to be concerned about the acquisition of arable land in a number of African countries through opaque contracts in the past 10 years, affecting food insecurity and the acquisition of water resources.
FIAN International e.V. noted that the deployment of new technologies was creating new risks for violations and abuses of the right to food and nutrition, particularly in the context of corporate activities. It was large corporations that drove and shaped the use of new technologies, increasing the existing inequalities. For example, the transformation of seeds and other genetic resources into digitized sets of information violated peasants’ rights to seeds. A treaty on transnational corporations and human rights could help address those problems, and it could force corporations to resolve land disputes with a human rights commitment.
African Development Association regretted that human rights mechanisms were losing ground, and emphasized that it was time for human rights defenders to stick to best practices. The organization drew particular attention to Algeria, where journalists and women were being prosecuted for claiming their political and civil rights. The Polissario Front was just an employee of the Algerian Government, and it did not deserve to be Algeria’s representative in the Sahara.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation believed that many young entrepreneurs were at risk of social and economic exclusion as a result of abuses by the dominant power structures. It was the Council’s responsibility to ring the alarm to prevent the social and economic exclusion of young entrepreneurs, and to allow them to generate their own wealth. The organization called for young entrepreneurs to be considered as human rights defenders given the work they did around the world.
International Career Support Association addressed the Republic of Korea’s Supreme Court ruling that called on Japanese companies to pay compensation to individual Koreans for having been forced into labour during the Second World War. The Association stated that many Koreans had in fact worked voluntarily during that period, or had been wartime labourers. It called on the Council to instruct the Republic of Korea to correct their errant diplomatic relations.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy condemned the Cameroon Government’s actions, in particular its refusal to implement all United Nations’ recommendations regarding the Anglophone crisis. The Government had instead opted for military action to address the crisis. Soldiers were burning down homes and hospitals in the region and targeting civilians. No action had been taken to hold them accountable. Since 2016, children had not been going to schools and those that attempted to attend school had been kidnapped. Another Rwanda-like genocide was about to happen in Cameroon.
Shivi Development Society pointed out to the presence of the militant, exclusivist and supremacist theology – Wahhabism - in Jammu and Kashmir. As a result, any Kashmiri Muslim or non-Muslim who rejected the Wahhabi strain of Islam was the target of jihadist violence and discrimination. Wahhabism was methodically seeded and nurtured in the Kashmiri land of Sufism and systematic efforts were made by the foreign-based terror groups such as Jaish-e-Modammed and Hizbul Mujahideen to recruit children.
World Russian People’s Council expressed deep concern about a gross interference of the State authorities of Ukraine in the internal life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church had been artificially created in December 2018 by a merger of two non-recognized religious organizations. On 21 December 2018, a discriminatory bill had been adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament aimed at depriving the historic Orthodox church of its name. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was a fully independent entity of the Moscow Patriarchate, with which it had historic and spiritual ties.
Prevention Association of Social Harms stressed that unilateral coercive measures against Iran violated the Geneva Conventions. Officially, medical equipment was exempted, but the sanctions against Iranian banks had severely affected the purchase of medical equipment. The shortage of medicine had resulted in the lack of access of Iranians to medicine. There was a systematic deprivation of human rights, which States should condemn.
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights condemned the systematic house demolitions by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory. House demolitions were part of Israel’s collective punishment policy against the Palestinians. The organization called upon the international community to offer protection to the civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory and ensure the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The organization reiterated its call on the international community to take immediate action to put an end to the Israeli crimes.
East Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project welcomed the work of the Human Rights Council to recognize and protect human rights defenders. It called for the adoption of a strong, substantive resolution on environmental human rights defenders, which would recognize the multiple threats they faced and the legitimacy of their work, and which would highlight their protection needs and would stress the nexus between environmental rights, environmental defenders and civic space.
Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture drew attention to the human rights situation in Kuwait, where there was a continuing deterioration of human rights. Years of prison sentences were being handed down for human rights defenders. Women continued to be deprived of their right to pass their nationality on to their children, and their right to housing was violated. Trafficking in persons continued. However, the Kuwaiti Government had refused to change its approach, despite recommendations by the Council.
Peace Brigades International Switzerland highlighted difficulties that female human rights defenders faced in Colombia in access to justice and in facing the culture of impunity. It was vital for statutory law to be adopted so that access to justice could be guaranteed. Otherwise, even transparency concerning sexual violence would be prevented. The Council was called on to urge the Colombian Government to support this law.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that the Office of the High Commissioner’s report on youth and human rights highlighted forms of discrimination faced by youth regularly. Across the globe youth faced staggering rates of unemployment, systematic denial of health services, unwanted compulsory military service, and different forms of discrimination. Youth were the largest living population on the planet.
Canners International Permanent Committee said that Pakistan was facing a big problem in housing due to the growing population. However, the rate of urban planning was not catching up. The housing sector faced serious problems. Pakistan was the seventh most populous country in the world, but it was not able to guarantee adequate housing due to corruption and many other problems.
Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims said that terrorism was a threat against peace and human rights. They pointed to certain satellite television channels in Europe that continued to flourish. They gave examples of BBC Persian and Arian TV, which promoted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PPK) in Turkey, without consequences. The international community should consider using legal doctrines to change international law, so it could better address this problem.
Asociacion HazteOir.org stated that International Women’s Day could be used to promote the rights of women, but instead it had been used to promote gender ideology. Whilst its aims were good, it restricted other rights such as freedom of expression. A number of so-called feminist organizations had received substantial funding, despite calling for violence in some instances. It was important to promote organizations that adhered to principles that protected freedom of expression.
European Union of Public Relations stated that Pakistan had long failed to fulfil its promises to adhere to the basic tenets of human rights, despite being a signatory to numerous conventions. These were used as a fig leaf for such actions, which included the abuse and intimidation of activists. In particular, this was on the increase in the online sphere, where human rights activists were surveyed and entrapped by the authorities.
International Association for Equality of women regretted that children in Iran were growing up in a world of violence, confronted on a daily basis with public executions or public floggings. Extremely widespread public executions had a negative effect on adults, but they created an even more harmful effect on children. The age of penal responsibility in Iran was 9 years for girls and 15 for boys, which included the death penalty.
Cuban United Nations Association expressed concern regarding the poverty in which millions of people around the world were living. The international community needed to move towards genuine international cooperation, and end coercive measures such as the United States blockade against Cuba. A legally binding instrument on transnational corporations was a step forward, but they needed to ensure that social responsibility and gender perspectives were incorporated.
Solidarite Suisse-Guine called attention to the violation of children’s rights in Yemen, noting that more than 1,600 children had been killed and 4,000 had been injured until 2018. There was also a large degree of recruitment of child soldiers, and many children had died of hunger since 2015. Moreover, 14 million Yemeni people were confronting a humanitarian crisis. States were called on to impose measures to avoid the suffering of human beings.
World Muslim Congress said that the human rights situation in Kashmir was worsening and 2018 was the worst year thus far. While the international community was worrying over tensions escalating between two nuclear powers, they were not concerned over the repression measures that Indian forces were carrying out in the Indian-occupied part of Kashmir. A commission of inquiry had to be established to investigate enforced disappearances.
International Commission of Jurists urged all States to actively participate in the process of establishing a legally binding instrument in the field of business and human rights. Recent dramatic events in Brazil and South Sudan showed the central place that a system of legal responsibility for businesses, including for complicit participation in abuses, should have in an international treaty. The dam collapse in Brazil was an example of such human rights violations.
Right of Reply
India, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement by Pakistan, said that to date Pakistan occupied more than 78,000 square kilometres of Indian territory in Kashmir. India was calmly and resolutely committed to take all actions to address any aggression by Pakistan. The military strike of 26 February was such an action. Pakistan would be well advised to act on the perpetrators of terrorist attacks in its own territory.
Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, said that the Netherlands had no authority to criticize Cuba or any other country, given its record on equality. Cuba pointed to recent reports from the High Commissioner referencing attacks on migrants and minorities in the Netherlands, in particular against Muslim groups. It was regrettable that the Netherland had failed to address their own issue of discrimination of women in the labour market, and their pay gap. Cuba expressed the wish to banish manipulation in the Council to improve its functioning.
Brazil, speaking in a right of reply, said it was committed to dialogue and transparency, and thus had to react to allegations made by some civil society organizations. President Bolsonaro had signed executive order 870, which had created the Ministry of Women’s Rights and the Family. Article 5 had been mistakenly understood as a way to control civil society. Actually, it was envisaged as a measure against corruption and making the process more accountable. Concerning the tragedy that had occurred, all public services had been mobilized to respond to the tragedy, particularly to reach out to the most vulnerable. Phone lines had been made available to vulnerable people to call for help.
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that India continued to peddle the most absurd arguments. Kashmir, Pakistan noted, was the unfinished business of decolonization. India maligned Pakistan for anything and everything under the sun, ignoring the facts. Indian-occupied Kashmir had had no government for nearly a year. Kashmir was not Indian territory, but an internationally recognized disputed territory. India was spreading false information, and Pakistan urged the Indian delegation to alter its narrative against Pakistan, which remained self-serving against the legitimate Kashmiri struggle. Pakistan underscored that real democracies did not rape women as part of a State policy of repression, and they did not orchestrate genocides against minorities. Pakistan called on India to undergo introspection and do a course correction. It urged India to give peace a chance.
India, speaking in a second right of reply, said that it had robust respect for the rule of law in the country. Pakistan was guilty of denying civil rights and it discriminated against monitories. Every voice of dissent in the country was regularly snuffed out, and minorities were pursued via blasphemy laws. Sectarian violence and systemic persecution was unleashed against Muslim minorities. India called on Pakistan to demilitarize from the region of Kashmir.
Pakistan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that session after session, India continued to manipulate the facts and acted as the victim. Considering that today was International Women’s Day, it should be specified that more than 8,000 women had been sexually assaulted and harassed in Kashmir where Indian security forces were using rape as a tool of war. The killing of Hindu women who married Muslim and Christian men was a common practice. India was the rape capital of the world.
1Joint statement on behalf of: Soka Gakkai International, International Catholic Child Bureau, Teresian Association, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), Globethics.net Foundation, UPR Info, ONG Hope International, The Planetary Association for Clean Energy, Inc., Foundation for GAIA, Refugee Council of Australia, Institute for Development and Human Rights - IDHR, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL), Graduate Women International (GWI), International Council of Jewish Women, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, and Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Économique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale.
2Joint statement on behalf of: Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), Dominicans for Justice and Peace - Order of Preachers, World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations, Passionists International, Association Points-Cœur, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development - VIDES, International Institute of Mary Our Help of the Salesians of Don Bosco, International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, International Movement of Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus, International-Lawyers.Org, Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and New Humanity.
For use of the information media; not an official record