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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS 16 TEXTS, EXTENDS MANDATES ON THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY, ALBINISM, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND CULTURAL RIGHTS

22 March 2018

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted 16 resolutions, including on the extension of the mandates on the right to privacy, albinism, the environment, and cultural rights. 

The Council adopted resolutions to extend by a period of three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

Celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela, the Council decided to convene a high-level intersessional panel discussion on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, in the context of promoting and protecting human rights through social justice, reconciliation and democratic ideals, on Friday, 27 April 2018, which coincides with the date when Mandela and millions of South Africans cast their vote for the first time in a fully representative democratic election in 1994. 

On the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights, the Council requested the High Commissioner to convene, before its forty-first session, a half-day intersessional seminar on the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights, and on sharing best practices in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16 in this regard.

The Council adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 2 against and 22 abstentions a text on the integrity of the judicial system in which it requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare and submit to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session a comprehensive study on the implications of the lack of integrity of the judicial system for human rights, in particular for persons kept in detention facilities outside the territory of States.

On the right to work, the Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare an analytical report on the relationship between the realization of the right to work and the enjoyment of all human rights by young people, with an emphasis on their empowerment, and to submit the report to the Human Rights Council prior to its fortieth session.

On the protection of cultural heritage, the Council requested the High Commissioner to convene, before the forty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council, and in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, a two-day workshop in Geneva with the participation of experts from all regions of the world to develop appropriate tools for the dissemination of an approach to the protection, restoration and preservation of cultural heritage that promotes universal respect for cultural rights by all.

According to other adopted texts, the Council requested the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, to participate in relevant international dialogues and policy forums relating to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly the implementation of Goals 1 and 11.

On promoting human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals through transparent, accountable and efficient public services delivery, the Council recognized the important role of the Government, as the service provider, as well as all other stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society, in the promotion and protection of all human rights, and in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Concerning freedom of religion or belief, the Council urged States to step up their efforts to promote and protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and to this end ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief to all, without distinction.

By the terms of a text on the right to food, adopted by a vote of 41 in favour and 1 against, with no abstentions, the Council considered it intolerable that nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of 5 were attributable to undernutrition, and that about 815 million people in the world suffered from chronic hunger.

On the effects of foreign debt, the Council adopted a text by a vote of 27 in favour, 4 against and 16 abstentions, in which it stressed that the economic reform programmes arising from foreign debt should maximize the policy space of developing countries in pursuing their national development efforts.

The Council called upon all States to give full effect to economic, social and cultural rights by, inter alia, taking all appropriate measures to implement the Human Rights Council resolutions on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights.

On the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, the Council urged States to provide minority youth, wherever possible, with adequate opportunities to learn their own language or to have instruction in their own language, while ensuring that minorities also receive instruction in the official languages.

Speaking in introduction of draft texts were the delegations of Germany, Russian Federation, Germany, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Poland, Azerbaijan, Kenya, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Bulgaria on behalf of the European Union, Cuba, Portugal, Austria on behalf of a group of countries, Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus on behalf of a group of countries. 

Slovakia, on behalf of the European Union, United States, Switzerland, Slovakia, South Africa, Belgium, and United Kingdom spoke in general comments.

Slovakia, on behalf of the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, and Brazil spoke in explanation of the vote.


The Council will meet at 9 a.m. on Friday, 23 March, to continue taking action on resolutions and decisions before closing its thirty-seventh session.


Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development

Action on Resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.10) on the right to privacy in the digital age, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy for a period of three years under the same terms as provided for by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 28/16 of 26 March 2015; and requests the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Special Rapporteur with all the human and financial resources necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate.

Germany, introducing draft resolution L.10, noted that the right to privacy was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Respect for the right to privacy ensured a secure space in which other rights could be enjoyed, offline and online.  Privacy was a prerequisite for the meaningful exercise of other rights, granting people the security and confidence to both connect with others and access information.  This year’s resolution was a short and purely procedural resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy which had been created three years ago by consensus.  Given the importance of the right to privacy and new challenges in the digital age, that mandate remained of utmost importance. 

Slovakia, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said the right to privacy was especially relevant today in the digital age.  The right to privacy was also important for the realization of other rights.  Respect for the right to privacy could create a safe space online and offline for their enjoyment.  Violations or abuses of the right to privacy may discourage the exercise of other rights, especially the right to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association.  Respect for the right to privacy could secure the necessary space for the work of non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society actors.  The draft resolution L.10 was a short procedural text with the main purpose of extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy for a further period of three years, as supported by the European Union, and all members of the Human Rights Council were invited to join consensus around it.

The draft resolution was then adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Integrity of the Judicial System

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.11/Rev.1) on the integrity of the judicial system, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 2 against and 22 abstentions, the Council calls upon States to investigate promptly and impartially all alleged cases of extraordinary renditions, secret detention, torture and practices tantamount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including under the pretext of countering terrorism, and to hold accountable everyone implicated, including at the highest level of authority, in ordering or executing those activities; and requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in consultation with States, relevant United Nations agencies, special procedures, treaty bodies, non-governmental organizations and other relevant stakeholders, to prepare and submit to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session a comprehensive study on the implications of the lack of integrity of the judicial system for human rights, in particular for persons kept in detention facilities outside the territory of States.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (23): Angola, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Against (2): United States and Georgia

Abstentions (22): Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Russia, introducing the draft resolution L.11, said that the resolution aimed to strengthen the protection of human rights enshrined in the existing international human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and containing references to the Convention against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.  An appeal was launched to States to close secret detention centres which were on their territory and abroad.  The international community and Special Procedures were called on to shed light on all human rights violations committed under the pretext of the war on terror.  The existence of Guantanamo Bay was worrying, particularly the recent decision of the Washington administration to maintain this prison.  It reminded of the historical example of the Leipzig trial in 1933.  The recent appointment of Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency was particularly worrying having in mind the waterboarding accusations.  Hope was expressed that the resolution would be approved by the Council and that all States would ensure the administration of justice under their jurisdiction.

United States, in a general comment, stated that despite the picture painted by the Russian Federation in its rant, the United States was fully committed to the goals of promoting and strengthening the integrity of the judicial system in every nation.  Despite the resolution’s overarching goal of promoting the integrity of the judicial system, sensible requests to expand the focus of the text to address broader issues related to judicial independence, and to accurately reflect international law, had been rejected.  Once again, the refusal to consider those revisions seriously called into question whether Russia was at any point negotiating the resolution in good faith.  The United States continued to be concerned that the resolution mandated an expensive study, even though that was unnecessary, and did not address the interests of many States because of its narrow focus.  The United States expressed surprise to see Russia sponsor a resolution touting the rule of law in the face of its recent pattern of violating international law, most notably its violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its attempted murders of a British citizen and Russian citizen on the soil of a foreign country, and the widespread impunity in Chechnya.  The United States thus called on all to vote against the draft resolution.

Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the role of a competent, independent and impartial judiciary was essential.  Corruption in the justice system, whether actual or perceived, posed a real threat to confidence in the rule of law.  Whilst criminal justice systems may vary throughout Europe, as much as in other parts of the world, everyone was entitled to a fair trial that met standards under international law.  The European Union had approached the negotiations on this resolution in good faith, focusing on the substance of the resolution at hand.  It had presented proposals aimed at ensuring a comprehensive text on the role that judicial systems could play in the protection of human rights.   The European Union thanked the main sponsors of the resolution for taking some of the comments on board and regretted that some additional suggestions aimed at strengthening the text and addressing some of the legal concerns could not be included.  For these reasons, and mindful of the importance of the subject matter at hand, the States of the European Union which were Members of the Human Rights Council would abstain on the vote of this resolution.

The draft proposal was then adopted by the Council by a vote of 23 in favour, 2 against, and 22 abstentions.

Action on Resolution on the Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, and the Right to Non-discrimination in this Context

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.12) on the adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to non-discrimination in this context, adopted without a vote, the Council, deeply concerned that investment in housing has often become primarily a financial instrument solely and exclusively focused on seeking high returns, disconnecting it from its social function as a place to live in security and dignity, requests the Special Rapporteur… to participate in relevant international dialogues and policy forums relating to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly the implementation of Goals 1 and 11, and the New Urban Agenda… and to undertake thematic research with a view to advise States, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and other stakeholders on how to effectively respect, protect and fulfil the right to adequate housing, and non-discrimination in this context. 

Germany, introducing draft resolution L.12, explained that the text covered the realization of the right to housing for persons with disabilities, the importance of housing strategies based on international human rights law, and the problem of housing speculation and the “financialization” of housing.  Given the constructive negotiations, Germany expressed hope that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus. 

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was pleased to join consensus on this resolution in order to make adequate housing available to all.  Respect of human rights in urban development was noted.  There were a number of issues affecting the lack of adequate affordable housing in communities.
 
The Council adopted the draft proposal without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Mandate of the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons With Albinism

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.13) on the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, for a period of three years, on the same terms as provided by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 28/6 of 26 March 2015.  The Council also requests the Independent Expert to integrate a gender perspective throughout the work of the mandate and to pay specific attention to the challenges and needs of women and girls in order to address the multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of discrimination faced by women and girls with albinism.

Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introducing draft resolution L.13, explained that the text related to the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on the rights of persons with albinism for a period of three years.  The African Group maintained that the renewal was essential if they were to tackle the problems and challenges faced by persons with albinism in a coherent and progressive manner.  The renewal of the mandate would allow the Independent Expert to work with different partners to elaborate strategies and initiatives that would end attacks on persons with albinism in certain countries on the African continent.  In her previous reports, the Independent Expert had detailed problems related to health and education experiences by persons with albinism, and those related to beliefs and cultural practices.  Much remained to be done in that respect.  The African Group expressed hope that all delegations would support the draft resolution.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said States must take fundamental measures to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons, including of persons with albinism.  Future discussions on how to prevent attacks against persons with albinism could be greatly informed by examining the root causes of discrimination.  The United States reiterated its concerns about the necessity of this mandate.  It was of the view that the Council could take effective action to promote and protect the human rights of persons with albinism without a dedicated Special Procedure mandate holder on persons with albinism.  It also had concerns about the language referring to certain groups as “the furthest behind,” as there was no international consensus on this matter.

The Council then adopted the draft proposal without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Role of Governance in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.15) on the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council urges States to increase their efforts and to take measures to prevent and combat corruption in all its forms and at all levels, and thereby contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16.  The Council requests the High Commissioner to
convene, before its forty-first session, a half-day intersessional seminar on the role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights, and on sharing best practices in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16 in this regard…, and to submit to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session a report, in the form of a summary, on the seminar.

Poland, introducing the draft resolution L.15, said it was one of the main sponsors of the draft resolution, together with Australia, Chile, Republic of Korea and South Africa.  This initiative would be a significant step in the promotion of good governance and its role in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16.  The resolution requested the High Commissioner to convene, before the forty-first session of the Council a half-day intersessional seminar on the role of good governance in the promotion of human rights and sharing best practices on the Sustainable Development Goals.  The draft resolution was the result of extensive negotiations and the text had evolved and improved as a result of two rounds of informal consultations.

The Council adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Promoting Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals Through Transparent, Accountable and Efficient Public Services Delivery

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.16) on promoting human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals through transparent, accountable and efficient public services delivery, adopted without a vote, the Council recognizes the important role of the Government, as service provider, as well as all other stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society, in the promotion and protection of all human rights and, as appropriate, in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  The Council encourages States with effective models for the delivery of public services to share their best practices with other States, especially with developing States… and calls upon all States to establish… a transparent, accountable and efficient public service system.  The Council further invites the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to mark United Nations Public Service Day at every June session of the Human Rights Council with a view to raise awareness about the human rights dimension of public services delivery.

Azerbaijan, introducing draft resolution L.16 on behalf of a cross-regional core group, stated that the text enjoyed the support of 79 co-sponsors across all regional and political groups.  Azerbaijan thanked all of them, in particular the African States for their group co-sponsorship, and invited the Council to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.

Kenya, also introducing draft resolution L.16, explained that the text aimed at highlighting the significance of transparent, accountable and efficient delivery of public services in the context of the promotion and protection of all human rights and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The text encouraged States with effective models of public services delivery to share their best practices with other States through bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation frameworks.  The draft also invited the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights to mark the United Nations Public Service Day, 23 June, in every June session of the Human Rights Council, with a view to raise awareness about the human rights dimension of public services delivery.  Kenya noted that efficient public services delivery advanced the promotion of civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, and that it was the enabler of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, took the opportunity to clarify some points on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Much of the trade-related language in the outcome document had been overtaken by events since July 2015 and was immaterial.  Therefore, the United States’ reaffirmation of the outcome document had no standing for ongoing work and negotiations involving trade.  Indeed, some of the intervening events happened just months after the release of the outcome document.  The United States also noted its longstanding and well known concerns regarding the “right to development,” the progressive realization of economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as its concerns about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which it would raise in more detail in its explanation of the vote after the vote at the end of agenda item 3.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and the Environment

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.19) on human rights and the environment, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment for a period of three years.  The Council requests the Special Rapporteur, in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner, to convene, prior to the forty-third session of the Human Rights Council, an expert seminar on experience and best practices of States at the national and regional levels with regard to human rights obligations relating to the environment, and on the contribution of relevant actors, including the Special Rapporteur, in this regard, and to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its forty-third session, a summary report on the above-mentioned seminar, including any recommendations stemming therefrom, for consideration of further follow-up action.

Costa Rica, introducing the draft resolution L.19 on behalf of the core group Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland and its more than 60 co-sponsors, said the resolution focused on the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for human rights and the environment.  The Special Rapporteur had worked successfully to present comprehensive reports and good practices on the linkage between human rights and the environment.  His latest report on the protection of the environment and the rights of children and the compilation of Framework Principles on the relationship between human rights and the enjoyment of a safe and sustainable development was welcomed.  It was fundamental to continue facilitating public awareness in environmental decision making as recently stated in the Declaration of Escazu on Principle 10 of Rio.

Switzerland, also introducing the draft resolution L.19, noted that the recognition of the link between human rights and the environment was vital.  However, the link became obvious because there had been a negative impact of environmental degradation on different human rights.  More and more policies could have a negative impact on the environment if communities were excluded from the policy making process.  For those reasons the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was necessary.  The resolution further highlighted the importance of cooperation between human rights and environmental experts.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, concurred that the protection of the environment was vitally important and that it contributed to sustainable development, human well-being and the enjoyment of human rights.  In that spirit, the United States would join consensus on the draft resolution.  At the same time, the United States remained concerned about the general approach of placing environmental concerns in a human rights context and about addressing them in fora that did not have the necessary expertise.  For related reasons, the United States did not support all of the projects or publications, including the Special Rapporteur’s Framework Principles on human rights and the environment, noting that the Framework Principles themselves did not reflect or enshrine any new human rights obligations or commitments.  The United States noted its longstanding and well-known concerns regarding the “right to development,” the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as its concerns about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution L.19 without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.20) on freedom of religion or belief, adopted without a vote, the Council expresses deep concern at emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief, and at instances of religious intolerance, discrimination and violence, and urges States to step up their efforts to promote and protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and to this end: ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief to all, without distinction; implement all accepted universal periodic review recommendations relating to the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief; ensure that no one within their jurisdiction is deprived of the right to life, liberty or security of person because of religion or belief; and end violations of the human rights of women, and devote particular attention to abolishing practices and legislation that discriminate against women, including in the exercise of their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief.

Bulgaria, introducing the draft resolution L.20 on behalf of the European Union, said freedom of religion or belief constituted a major priority for the European Union human rights policy, a fact reflected in the Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief adopted by the European Union Ministers in 2013, which committed the European Union to wide-ranging political, diplomatic and funding support in this domain.  It was working hard to make those commitments a reality, including through substantial funding through a wide range of financial instruments such as the European instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.   This year, it had made only minor technical changes to the resolution.  It was essential to focus on the implementation of the resolution and the commitments previously undertaken by the Human Rights Council.  A stable text should serve to assist in achieving that goal.  The European Union welcomed the contribution made by the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religious or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, and called on all States to cooperate with them in the fulfilment of his mandate.  It also thanked all those permanent missions and representatives of civil society who engaged in the preparation of this resolution, and in particular, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for its constructive engagement.

The draft proposal was then adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Right to Food

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.21) on the right to food, adopted by a vote of 46 in favour, 1 against and no abstentions, the Council considers it intolerable that… nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of 5 are attributable to undernutrition, and that… about 815 million people in the world suffer from chronic hunger; and expresses its deep concern that… the number of hungry people in the world is unacceptably on the rise and the vast majority of hungry people live in developing countries.  The Council expresses its great concern that… women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger, food insecurity and poverty, in part as a result of gender inequality and discrimination; and encourages all States to mainstream a gender perspective in food security programmes and to take action to address de jure and de facto gender inequality and discrimination against women, in particular where such inequality and discrimination contribute to the malnutrition of women and girls.  The Council stresses the importance of fighting hunger in rural areas; urges States to give adequate priority in their development strategies and expenditures to the realization of the right to food; calls upon States to heed the urgent United Nations humanitarian appeal to assist countries facing drought, starvation and famine with emergency aid and urgent funding, and underlines that if no immediate response is received, an estimated 20 million people, most of whom are women and children, risk losing their lives; takes note of the report of the Special Rapporteur, calls upon all Governments to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in her task by supplying all necessary information requested by the mandate holder and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the implementation of the present resolution to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth session.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (46): Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Venezuela.

Against (1): United States.

Abstentions (0)

Cuba, introducing the draft resolution L.21 on behalf of the co-sponsors, thanked all delegations, especially the co-sponsors.  The resolution would provide ongoing treatment of this issue.  There were many bilateral exchanges during the drafting of the proposal to ensure its wide acceptance and include the position of other countries and avoid controversial issues.  Some proposals could not be included, as they would change the text, but still the proper balance had been struck.

Switzerland, in a general comment, thanked the sponsors and said that the right to food was a priority for Switzerland which was why it had co-sponsored the resolution.  Switzerland supported multilateral trade so changes expressed in the draft concerning the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration were appreciated.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that over 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin and Yemen were facing famine and starvation.  The resolution rightly acknowledged the calamity facing millions of people and called on States to support the United Nations emergency humanitarian appeal.  However, the resolution also contained many unbalanced and unwise provisions that the United States could not support.  Despite efforts to streamline the text, the resolution continued to discuss trade-related issues, which fell outside the subject-matter and the expertise of the Council.  There were inaccurate suggestions of links of trade negotiations of the World Trade Organization to the right to food.  The United State supported the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The resolution mischaracterized certain human rights, including by referring to rights that had not been recognized, suggesting a hierarchy of rights.

United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stated that it continued to implement economic, social and cultural rights as defined in the relevant Covenant and that it remained committed to fulfilling obligations under the Covenant.  The United Kingdom had been giving it effect through legislative and administrative measures.  The Covenant, however, had not been incorporated into domestic law and the United Kingdom was not obliged to do so.  Notwithstanding those issues, the United Kingdom supported the draft resolution and would vote in favour.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution by a vote of 46 in favour, one against and zero abstentions.

Action on Resolution on the Effects of Foreign Debt and Other Related International Financial Obligations of States on the Full Enjoyment of All Human Rights, Particularly Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.22) on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, 4 against and 16 abstentions, the Council stresses that the economic reform programmes arising from foreign debt should maximize the policy space of developing countries in pursuing their national development efforts, taking into account the views of relevant stakeholders in a way that ensures balanced development conducive to the overall realization of all human rights; and reiterates its request to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to pay more attention to the problem of the debt burden of developing countries, in particular of least developed countries, and especially the social impact of the measures arising from foreign debt.  The Council takes note of the work of the Advisory Committee on the activities of vulture funds and their impact on human rights, and requests the Committee to submit the final report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (27): Angola, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Against (16): Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (4): Afghanistan, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

Cuba, introducing draft resolution L.22, said the draft resolution paid tribute to the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights.  Cuba hoped these principles would help States fulfill their obligations towards human rights, particularly during financial difficulty.  It regretted that there remained some countries that still did not recognize the connection between foreign debt and the enjoyment of rights.  Cuba hoped the draft resolution would be supported with the broad majority of the Members of the Council.

United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it believed that it was important that the Council maintain a focused mandate in protecting and promoting human rights.  The Council was not the right forum to discuss foreign debt.  For these reasons, the United Kingdom would call for a vote on this draft resolution and vote no on it.

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against the draft resolution.  It appreciated the efforts of the proponents to streamline the draft resolution and to address some of Brazil’s concerns.  However, it considered that the development of guiding principles for economic reform policies was a task which demanded comprehensive governmental negotiations.  By requiring the Independent Expert to carry out such a task, the Council may be unduly interfering in the internal affairs of States.  Brazil believed that an economy in disarray could not but negatively impact the realization of human rights.  After a recession caused by uncontrolled spending, Brazil had ensured the sustainability of its current programmes.  Without these adjustment programmes, it would not have been possible to enact programmes that benefited the poorest segments of society.  After a year of adjustment programmes, Brazil had seen improvements in society benefiting the poorest.  Social policies without fiscal tightening were nothing but empty promises.  Brazil was committed to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution by a vote of 27 in favor, 16 against and four abstentions.

Action on Resolution on the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.23) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council recognizes that respect for cultural rights is essential for development, peace and the eradication of poverty, building social cohesion and the promotion of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding between individuals and groups, in all their diversity; and decides to renew, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, to enable the mandate holder to continue to work in accordance with the mandate established by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 19/6.

Cuba, introducing draft resolution L.23 as orally revised, explained that the text aimed to renew the mandate of Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, which was essential for safeguarding human rights.  Human and financial resources should be allocated to the Special Rapporteur to strengthen the mandate.  Cuba hoped that the draft resolution would be adopted without a vote. 

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stated that it continued to support the promotion of cultural diversity, pluralism, tolerance, cooperation and dialogue among people from all cultures.  In that spirit, the United States was pleased to join consensus.  Nevertheless, it was concerned that the concept of cultural diversity, particularly when espoused in a human rights context, could be misused.  Cultural diversity should neither be used to undermine or limit the scope of human rights, nor to justify or legitimize human rights abuses.  In addition to the right of individuals to share in scientific advancement and its benefits referenced in the current resolution, there was a right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution as orally revised without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Question of the Realization in All Countries of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.24) on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights, adopted without a vote,  the Council calls upon all States to give full effect to economic, social and cultural rights by, inter alia, taking all appropriate measures to implement the Human Rights Council resolutions on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights; calls upon all States that have not yet signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to consider doing so as a matter of priority, and States parties to consider reviewing their reservations thereto; and encourages enhanced cooperation between the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and programmes, mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and other human rights treaty bodies whose activities have a bearing on economic, social and cultural rights.  The Council also requests the Secretary-General to continue to prepare and submit to the Human Rights Council an annual report on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights under agenda item 3, with a special focus on the role of economic, social and cultural rights in empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

Portugal, introducing resolution L.24 on behalf of 42 co-sponsors, said that the draft resolution had built upon previous omnibus resolutions adopted by the Council on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights worldwide, encouraging the ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocol.  The realization of economic, social and cultural rights was a priority as reflected in the report presented by the Secretary-General to this session of the Council.  The draft resolution recognized that working towards sustainable and resilient societies required States to mitigate risks of natural and human made disasters, such as those arising from the climate change impact and unsustainable planning.  The resolution was the result of two rounds of informal consultations and extensive bilateral discussions with all interested delegations.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was pleased to join consensus on this resolution and welcomed the emphasis on the links between resilience and the enjoyment of human rights.  The United States was not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the rights contained therein were not justiciable as such in the United States courts.  While reaffirming the rights of all, including refugees and migrants, the United States had to disassociate itself from the language in preambular paragraph 5 reaffirming the New York declaration.

The Council adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.25) on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, adopted without a vote, the Council takes note of the completion, in December 2017, of the tenth session of the Forum on Minority Issues, addressing the rights of minority youth; and urges States, while bearing in mind the theme of the tenth session of the Forum on Minority Issues… to take appropriate measures by, inter alia: taking legislative, policy or practical measures to ensure that minority youth have equal access to education of equal quality; providing minority youth, wherever possible with adequate opportunities to learn their own language or to have instruction in their own language, while ensuring that minorities also receive instruction in the official languages; refraining from adopting policies or education strategies segregating students into different educational institutions or classes based on their minority status; reviewing any legislation, policy or practice that has a discriminatory or disproportionately negative effect on minority youth; promoting the representation of minority youth in decision-making processes at the local, national and international levels, especially those concerning youth and minority policies; requests the High Commissioner to continue to present an annual report to the Human Rights Council containing information on relevant developments that contribute to the promotion of and respect for the provisions of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; and requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to continue to provide all the human, technical and financial assistance necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues and for the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner in the area of rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.

Austria, introducing draft resolution L.25 on behalf of a group of countries, said they wished to continue the strong engagement of the Human Rights Council on this important topic, as well as the consensual approach they had been able to take so far.  This year’s draft focused on minority youth, building on the conclusions and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur following the tenth Forum on Minority Issues.  The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Minorities asserted that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities contributed to the political and social stability of States in which they lived.  Unfortunately, the reality for many minorities all over the world remained dire.  Persecution, discrimination and marginalization based on their ethnic identity, religious beliefs or nationality were on the rise while the world was also confronted with a dramatic increase in hate speech and hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities facilitated by contemporary means of communication and the ease of expressing hatred online.  Drawing on key international standards on minority issues, the draft resolution provided a number of concrete provisions aiming at addressing some of the challenges faced by minority youth.  Particular attention was given to the role of inclusive education, the participation of minority youth in public life, the promotion of culture of diversity, the protection of minorities during conflict and the participation of minorities in reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts.

The Council then adopted the draft proposal without a vote.

Action on Resolution on High-Level Intersessional Discussions Celebrating the Century of Nelson Mandela

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.26) on High-level intersessional discussion celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to convene a high-level intersessional panel discussion on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, in the context of promoting and protecting human rights through social justice, reconciliation and democratic ideals, on Friday, 27 April 2018, which coincides with the date when Mandela and millions of South Africans cast their vote for the first time in a fully representative democratic election in 1994.  The Council requests the High Commission to invite to the intersessional high-level debate, the participation of eminent personalities who had worked with Mandela and those that embody his virtues on various global platforms in the advancement of human rights; and also requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare and submit a summary report on the high-level intersessional panel debate at the thirty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council.

Togo, introducing draft resolution L.26 on behalf of the African Group, explained that the text called for the convening of a high-level intersessional discussion to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.  The event was timely given the celebration of the seventieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Nelson Mandela embodied the values and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration.  The African Group expressed hope that the draft resolution would rally everyone around those values, and that everyone would be inspired by Mandela, promote his legacy, and condemn human rights violations wherever they occurred.

Slovakia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, thanked the African Group for the timely proposal to celebrate the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who had fought a lifelong battle for peace, reconciliation, understanding and human rights.  That should be an inspiration for everyone.

South Africa, in a general comment, reminded that in a year when the international community celebrated the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, many people were deeply concerned that the values espoused by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action appeared to be lost.  South Africa was therefore deeply gratified that the Council claimed Mandela as its own with the adoption of the draft resolution.  It expressed hope that the draft resolution would reassure the youth the world over, and confirm that everyone was bound by common values. 

Belgium welcomed the draft resolution on celebrating the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, who had played an essential role in the process of democratization of his country for freedom, dignity and justice.  His fight had taken over a global dimension.  He had fought for the respect for the diversity of cultures, religions, ethnic and national origins.  And his fight continued to inspire the every-day combat of all those who tried to promote these rights.  The holding of the debate was an important time to reflect on the significance of this date and Mandela’s fight for human rights.  This was why Belgium fully supported the adopting of this draft resolution without a vote.

The Council then adopted the draft proposal without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Right to Work

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.28) on the right to work, adopted without a vote, the Council expresses deep concern that inequalities are widening and there are not enough jobs, including quality jobs; and encourages States to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its Goal 8 on promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, and its targets; and calls upon States to put in place cohesive and comprehensive policies and to take the legislative and administrative measures necessary for the full realization of the right to work for all, including women.  The Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare an analytical report… on the relationship between the realization of the right to work and the enjoyment of all human rights by young people, with an emphasis on their empowerment…, to indicate the major challenges and best practices in that regard, and to submit the report to the Human Rights Council prior to its fortieth session.

Egypt, introducing the resolution L.28, on behalf of main sponsors, namely Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Romania and Egypt, expressed thanks to delegations, civil society, treaty body members and the Office of the High Commissioner for their engagement during the two rounds of informal consultations.  L28 was a follow-up to the Council resolutions 28/15, 31/15 and 34/14 on the right to work, adopted by consensus and reaffirming the right already enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Realization of the right to work, especially for young people, had been an instrumental necessity for preventing instability and ensuring social transformation as well as preventing extremism.  L.28 further expanded on challenges facing young people, women and persons with disability in relation to the right of work.  The draft resolution requested the High Commissioner to present to the fortieth session of the Council a report of major importance on the relationship between the realization of the right to work and the enjoyment of all human rights by young people with an emphasis on their empowerment.  The draft resolution was focused on the right to work and employment and job creation, but it reiterated that work was decent and respected internationally agreed standards.  The International Labour Organization was commended for its work and initiative.

Greece, also introducing L.28, was pleased to be part of the sponsors along with Romania as two Member States from the European Union.  Greece believed that the Sustainable Development Goals related to the right to work.  The majority of comments from other delegations had been incorporated in the draft resolution text and the spirit of discussions was consensual so delegations were commended for their work.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution on the right to work without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Cultural Rights and the Protection of Cultural Heritage

In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.30) on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage, adopted without a vote, the Council calls for the safety and security of cultural rights defenders involved in the protection of cultural heritage to be protected, including by investigating and, where appropriate, bringing to justice anyone alleged to have harmed them.  The Council requests the High Commissioner to convene, before the forty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council, and in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, relevant agencies and other stakeholders, a two-day workshop in Geneva with the participation of experts from all regions of the world to develop appropriate tools for the dissemination of an approach to the protection, restoration and preservation of cultural heritage that promotes universal respect for cultural rights by all; and to submit to the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth session a report thereon.

Cyprus, introducing L.30 on behalf of the core group of countries, said a large number of Member States – over 70 – had already co-sponsored the draft.  Over the course of the first three weeks of the session, the core group had held open, inclusive and transparent deliberations, including three open-ended informal consultations.  This interactive process had guided the work in revising, enriching and complementing the initial text it had drafted, resulting in the tabled version of the draft which was now before the Council for adoption.  Drawing extensively on the text of resolution 33/20 adopted by consensus in September 2016, the draft resolution was founded on the realization that the destruction of, or damage to, cultural heritage had a detrimental and irreversible impact on the enjoyment of cultural rights.  It unconditionally condemned all such unlawful acts and invited the adoption of effective strategies by States aimed at prevention destruction.  It underlined the important role that the Council could play alongside all other relevant international actors in global efforts to protect cultural heritage.  The draft also welcomed all initiatives for the voluntary return of cultural property and called for enhanced international cooperation in combatting the organized looting, smuggling and theft of cultural objects, as well as in returning stolen, looted or trafficked cultural property to its countries of origin.  Moreover, it recognized that technology and in particular the Internet may enable new forms of curating, sharing and engaging with cultural heritage and highlighted the important contribution made by cultural rights defenders involved in the protection of cultural heritage, whilst calling for the protection of their safety.  Finally, it called upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene a two-day workshop in Geneva with the participation of experts from all regions of the world in order to develop appropriate tools for the dissemination of an approach to the protection of cultural heritage that promoted universal respect for cultural rights by all.

United States, in a general comment, said it had been unwavering in its commitment to protect and preserve cultural heritage around the world, and to prevent trafficking in cultural property that funded criminal and terrorist networks.  With respect to operative paragraph 9, the United States stressed that the international community recognized that human rights were held and enjoyed by the individual, not by collectives, although individuals may exercise their human rights in concert with others.  Separately, the international community recognized that indigenous peoples, as collectives, enjoyed certain additional, collective rights, as set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

United Kingdom, in a general comment, remained concerned about the destruction of cultural heritage and fully supported its protection in armed conflict.  It fully appreciated the draft resolution.  However, it was of the opinion that the Human Rights Council was not the appropriate body to protect cultural heritage.  The United Kingdom was concerned that the draft resolution dealt with international humanitarian law in a simplistic way.  Notwithstanding these issues, the United Kingdom supported the draft resolution, and hoped it would be adopted by consensus.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18.065E