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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES EXTREME POVERTY AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

22 June 2018

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.  The Council also heard a statement by Paul Oquist, Private Secretary for National Policy of Nicaragua.

Mr. Oquist reiterated the commitment of the Government of National Reconciliation and Unity of Nicaragua to maintaining constructive dialogue and to restoring peace and stability.  To that end, Nicaragua had created the Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace to find out and analyse, on a case-by-case basis, each event of violence that had occurred in the country recently. 

During the presentation of his reports on a visit to the United States and to Ghana, and on the impact of the International Monetary Fund on social protection, Mr. Alston noted that the combination of extreme inequality and extreme poverty in the United States created conditions for small elites to trample on the human rights of minorities.  He praised Ghana’s exemplary cooperation but stressed that for Africa’s fastest growing economy, to still have one in eight of its people living in extreme poverty, was deeply problematic.  Mr. Alston said the International Monetary Fund must show it had learned the lessons of its past failures and take the spending social protection floors seriously.
 
Ms. Jimenez-Damary said that in the past twenty years, the number of internally displaced persons had doubled, and reaffirmed that the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement remained an essential framework for the human rights-based approach to internal displacement.  The needs of internally displaced persons had to be integrated in humanitarian and development policies, she said.  Reporting on her country visits, the Special Rapporteur noted that El Salvador faced the challenge of high levels of internal displacement caused by an epidemic of gang-related violence, while in Libya, there was a displacement crisis of huge complexities.

Ghana, El Salvador, Libya and Niger spoke as concerned countries.  National human rights institution from El Salvador, Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador, addressed the Council in a video statement. 
 
In the interactive segment, speakers asserted the need to adopt human rights-based, multidimensional approaches to resolving extreme poverty and stressed that social protection programmes were key to alleviating the plight of the poor.  To that end, States and human rights organizations must work closely with the International Monetary Fund and scrutinize its work.  However, several speakers stressed that funding for social protection programmes must not obscure the need to direct funding to other sectors.
 
Delegations voiced their concern over the increasing number of people displaced by conflict and natural disasters.  The increased vulnerability and hard-to-reach nature of internally displaced populations complicated the provision of humanitarian assistance.  The problem was further exacerbated by climate change issues.  While progress had been made since the creation of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, efforts were falling short in the face of the continually rising number of internally displaced persons.
Speaking in the clustered interactive dialogue were: European Union, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Austria on behalf of a group of countries, France on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan, State of Palestine, Colombia, Norway, France, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Senegal, United Nations Children’s Fund, Estonia, Australia, Tunisia, Sudan, Paraguay, Iran, Togo, Botswana, Netherlands, Albania, Venezuela, China, Honduras, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Cuba, India, Azerbaijan, Council of Europe, Bangladesh, Georgia, Portugal, Bolivia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Philippines, Kenya, Serbia, Syria, and France.

The following non-governmental organizations also participated: Conectas Direitos Humanos; Indigenist Missionary Council (in a joint statement with Franciscans International); American Civil Liberties Union; Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries; United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation; Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil; Center for Reproductive Rights; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF); Association of World Citizens; European Centre for Law and Justice; Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee; Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA; Prahar; Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation and Alsalam Foundation.

Armenia, Brazil and Azerbaijan spoke in the right of reply.


The Council will reconvene at on Monday, 25 June at 9 a.m. to hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises and with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. 

It will also hear the presentation of thematic reports by the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; hold a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights including the right to development; and hold an interactive discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.


Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/38/33).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights - mission to the United States of America (A/HRC/38/33/Add.1)

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – mission to Ghana (A/HRC/38/33/Add.2)

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (A/HRC/38/39).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons – mission to El Salvador (A/HRC/38/39/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons – mission to Libya (A/HRC/38/39/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons – mission to Niger (A/HRC/38/39/Add.3).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons – comments by El Salvador (A/HRC/38/39/Add.4).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteurs on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, presented three reports, one on the United States, one on Ghana, and one on the International Monetary Fund and social protection.  Mr. Alston noted with regret that United States Ambassador Nikki Haley had characterized the Human Rights Council as a cesspool, and had chosen to withdraw from it just days before his presentation.  Speaking of cesspools, Mr. Alston said that his report drew attention to those that he had witnessed in Alabama as raw sewage poured into the gardens of people who could never afford to pay $ 30,000 for their own septic systems in an area remarkably close to the State capital.  Turning to his report on the United States, Mr. Alston noted that the United States had the highest income inequality in the Western world, and that could only be made worse by the massive new tax cuts overwhelmingly benefiting the wealthy.  At the other end of the spectrum, 40 million Americans lived in poverty and 18.5 million of those lived in extreme poverty.  The Trump administration had pursued a welfare policy that consisted primarily of steadily diminishing the number of Americans with health insurance (‘Obamacare’); stigmatizing those receiving Government benefits by arguing that most of them could and should work, despite evidence to the contrary; and adding ever more restrictive conditions to social safety net protections. 

Addressing the criticism of the Trump administration directed at his report, Mr. Alston said that indeed, the economy of the United States was currently booming, but the question was who was benefiting.  Last week’s official statistics showed that hourly wages for workers in “production and nonsupervisory” positions, who made up 80 per cent of the private workforce, actually had fallen in 2017.  The benefits of economic growth were going overwhelmingly to the wealthy, Mr. Alston stressed.  When one of the world’s wealthiest countries did very little about the fact that 40 million of its citizens lived in poverty, it was entirely appropriate for the reasons to be scrutinized.  The United States position, expressed by Ambassador Haley, seemed to be that the Council should do far more to hold certain States to account, but that it should exempt the United States and its key allies from such accountability. 

In relation to his visit to Ghana, Mr. Alston praised the Government’s exemplary cooperation.  The relatively new Government had adopted a slew of new policies, some of which aimed to improve the situation of those living in poverty.  But for Africa’s fastest growing economy to still have one in every eight of its people living in extreme poverty (and one in every five living in poverty), and for 28.3 per cent of Ghanaian children to be living in poverty, was deeply problematic.  Ghana was at a crossroads.  It needed to tackle corruption seriously, to increase government revenues through an equitable and consistently implemented tax system, and to expand existing programmes such as the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty programme, and the National Health Insurance Scheme to address poverty more effectively and directly. 

Speaking of the International Monetary Fund and social protection, Mr. Alston noted that the stakes for the Fund were high.  First, it had to show that it had learned the lessons of its failed austerity policies of past decades.  Second, it had to demonstrate that it could come up with prescriptions that promoted fiscal consolidation while not inflicting misery upon the poorest members of society.  And third, it had to transcend its image of the unreflective purveyor of neo-liberal economic policies that had generated widespread resentment of globalization and helped to provoke the rise of populism in many countries.  It was no coincidence that the Fund had shown a newfound interest in promoting social protection.  Last month it had announced that it was moving to develop a new ‘strategic framework on social spending’, designed to ensure that its adjustment policies would protect rather than undermine social insurance and assistance, as well as basic education and health programmes for the poor.  But if the Fund was to show that it had really learned the lessons of its past failures, it must take the social spending floor seriously, in a way that had not been done up until now.  The biggest challenge for the Fund was whether it could show that it was prepared to break with the neo-liberal economic policies that it had been advocating for decades and which were clearly linked to the rise of populism in the world. 

Finally, Mr. Alston paid tribute to the outgoing High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein for his superb contribution to the defence of human rights.

CECILIA JIMENEZ-DAMARY, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said that 2018 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and in the past 20 years the number of internally displaced persons had doubled.  Over 40 million people were internally displaced because of conflict, and 25 million people were displaced each year as a result of disasters. The projections dictated that climate change alone could uproot over 143 million people by 2050.

The Guiding Principles remained an essential framework for the human rights-based approach to internal displacement.  In 2017, a 2018-2020 Plan of Action was endorsed to Advance Prevention, Protection and Solutions for internally displaced persons, calling for a strategic action through national action and with international community support.  Numerous factors contributed to prolonged internal displacement, including limits on national capacity, political will, and absence of implementation of international standards in domestic laws.  The needs of internally displaced persons had to be integrated in humanitarian and development policies, ensuring that no one was left behind.  The report provided an overview of the activities undertaken, the ongoing challenges and the actions to be taken by States, regional actors, the United Nations and the international community to better implement the Guiding Principles. 

During the past year, three official country visits had been conducted.  El Salvador faced the challenge of high levels of internal displacement, caused by an epidemic of gang-related violence.  She commended recent efforts undertaken by the El Salvador Government included the launch of the profiling study on internal mobility due to violence.  Part of the Safe El Salvador Plan also expressed protection for victims.  However, a national legal and policy framework remained urgently needed. 

In Libya, specifically Tripoli and Misrata, there was a displacement crisis of huge complexities.  There was both limited capacity of the Government as well as constrained access and inadequate coordination among humanitarian actors.  The Ministry of State for Displaced Persons Affairs had been established, however, the lack of a coherent approach hampered the ability of the Government to respond.  This could be improved through the development of a roadmap based on the Guiding Principles, a step which was welcomed by the Government.  The situation in areas controlled by non-state armed actors had to be acknowledged as those groups had obligations under international law to protect civilians.  International partners were encouraged to ensure funding and initiatives within the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, particularly protection to the Tawerghans currently in the desert, as well as the unfolding crisis in Derna. 

Niger was facing a humanitarian and displacement crisis in areas bordering Mali in the Tillaberi region, and Nigeria in the Diffa region.  There was increasing insecurity in Tillaberri resulting in 14,600 internally displaced persons.  Government authorities undertook important measures through a community approach.  In Diffa, the protracted situation would benefit from more interventions by development actors, but it remained critical to maintain a response in line with humanitarian needs.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Ghana, speaking as a concerned country, said its commitment to human rights remained strong and welcomed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights’ recognition of Ghana’s progress towards achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Poverty in Ghana had been reduced notably over the past decades and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals was a priority for the Government.  Inequality often affected rapidly expanding economies such as Ghana.  As a result, the Government had implemented a number of interventions aimed at reducing inequality.  A school food programme was in place and covered over two million students.  Projects were also underway to ensure that community dams were constructed to provide year-round water for irrigation, enhance agricultural productivity and increase net exports of foodstuffs. 

El Salvador, speaking as a concerned country, said the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on El Salvador detailed plans aimed at tackling violence and criminality and providing victims with access to justice mechanisms.  As of March, El Salvador had been undertaking a study to understand the nature of internal displacement caused by violence.  El Salvador emphasised that the Government was taking action to assist those displaced by violence.  Efforts were aimed at guiding civil society institutions assisting victims and at providing State care and protection to victims.  A national roadmap focused on all victims of violence and was based on a human rights approach.  Ongoing cooperation with the United Nations human rights system was a priority as successful approaches to these problems would have to include diverse stakeholders.

Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador, in a video statement, pointed out to the human tragedy caused by internal displacement, which affected the most vulnerable populations and was caused by organized crime.  Because of public complaints of serious human rights violations, the Government had recognized the gravity of the situation.  Nevertheless, initial steps should lead to the adequate protection of victims.  Making serious human rights violations visible had been a real challenge in El Salvador, and effective protection measures for victims were still lacking to protect the victims of forced internal displacement.  The Procuraduría reiterated its commitment to continue working for the defense of the most vulnerable people in El Salvador.

Libya, speaking as a concerned country, stressed that the Special Rapporteur had come to Libya and had been welcomed at the highest level and that she had had an opportunity to visit all centres for internally displaced persons that the Government had prepared until the situation allowed for their return to their homes.  The Government had established a committee, led by the Minister of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, to ensure that the inhabitants of Tawerghan could return to their city, and this had taken place recently.  The Government of Libya aspired to have greater cooperation with the Human Rights Council through capacity building and technical cooperation in order to improve human rights.

Niger, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur for her interest in the country and for her excellent collaboration with the Government of Niger.  Niger had long known the problem of internal displacement due to droughts and food crises during the 1970s and 1980s, which was why it had established a national early warning and management system in 1989.  However, due to Boko Haram attacks, the number of internally displaced persons had increased as of 2015, amounting to 130,000.  In response, Niger had ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the Kampala Convention), which sought to reinforce and promote national measures to eliminate the primary causes of internal displacement.  Niger had also set up the Ministry for Humanitarian Action to manage humanitarian crises and internal displacement. 

Interactive Dialogue

European Union considered access to social welfare to be a key pillar to development.  Warning that current discussions on migrants risked overshadowing the plight of internally displaced persons, it was stressed that internal displacement could lead to cross-border movement, making it a regional and global issue.  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the ratification of the Kampala Convention and said that in Africa millions were displaced because of conflict, disasters and climate change.  The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had to consider the impact of their measures on social welfare.  Austria, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that Austria, Honduras and Uganda, as sponsors of the resolution on the mandate holder on the human rights of internally displaced persons, would participate in the Steering Group to provide support for the implementation of the GP20 Plan of Action.  What were the main challenges faced by the mandate? 

France, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, agreed that resolving extreme poverty warranted a human rights approach.  States were called on to establish development policies for the poor, particularly for the most vulnerable groups.  Pakistan agreed that the International Monetary Fund had frequently adopted a rigid one-size-fits-all approach, thus not helping the poor by imposing hard choices on resource-constrained Governments.  The Special Rapporteur was asked to elaborate on his recommendations to the International Monetary Fund.  State of Palestine stressed that, since its birth, Israel had engaged in the forcible displacement of Palestinians and Palestine could not continue to be the exception to international rules, principles and standards.  The Special Rapporteur was encouraged to address the issue of internally displaced persons, including in conflict areas and in situations of foreign occupation.

Colombia noted that poverty reduction, including extreme poverty, was a key priority for the Government of Colombia and that they were using a multidimensional approach to address it.  Norway said it was a pen-holder for the biannual resolution on internal displacement at the General Assembly.  Internal displacement was a major challenge as they were among the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations at risk, demanding increased attention.

Statement by the Private Secretary for National Policy of Nicaragua

PAUL OQUIST, Private Secretary for National Policy of Nicaragua, reiterated the commitment of the Government of National Reconciliation and Unity of Nicaragua to maintaining a constructive dialogue and to restoring peace and stability.  To that end, Nicaragua had created the Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace to find out and analyse, on a case-by-case basis, each event of violence that had occurred in the country recently.  Nicaragua believed that international organizations could play an important role in building trust and verifying compliance with the agreements made, and had thus invited the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its working group to contribute to bringing an end to violence, and had also invited a delegation of the European Union.  Nicaragua recalled the work done jointly with the Organization of American States, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which had carried out an investigation in the country.  Nicaragua was convinced that those joint initiatives would end internal violence, restore mutual trust and strengthen the process of peace-building, said Mr. Oquist, noting that in a polarized country, it was not possible to impose the will of only one party but there should rather be a mutually acceptable solution.

Interactive Dialogue

Croatia said the issue of internally displaced persons required particular attention, especially within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Croatia asked what the most effective approach to development and implementation of laws and policies on internally displaced persons was.  Egypt stressed that the United Nations played a key role in assisting internally displaced persons, however, international organizations must not interfere in the internal matters of States.  On extreme poverty, Egypt said reforms must seek to improve the social conditions of people living in poverty.  Iraq said it had been hit by waves of internal displacement caused by terrorist activities, and underscored the need to develop national plans of action to deal with such crises as a means to alleviate the plight of displaced persons.  

Senegal said the International Monetary Fund’s new framework for social protection would strengthen its work, and emphasized that spending on social services must not distract from the need to direct funds to other sectors such as infrastructure.  Senegal stressed that there must be a comprehensive, multi-sector approaches to preventing displacement that also took climate change into account.  United Nations Children’s Fund stressed the role of social protection in assisting children, and expressed support for efforts to promote social protection worldwide.  Governments must strengthen political support for social protection and target assistance towards the youngest children.   Noting that conflicts and disasters displaced 30.6 million people around the world in 2017, Estonia agreed that not enough had been done to address the increasing scale of the problem, even if some progress had been made over the past two decades.  How could the root causes of internal displacement be addressed?

Australia echoed the recognition of the primacy of a state’s responsibility for protecting internally displaced persons and stressed that a better understanding of the demographics, the drivers, and legal and institutional frameworks for internally displaced persons, as well as of obstacles to humanitarian assistance, were critical to addressing internal displacement.  Tunisia called for cooperation of national, regional and international mechanisms to mobilize resources and ensure protection of displaced persons.  A general approach towards fighting extreme poverty had to be adopted, bearing in mind human rights dimension.  Sudan invested efforts to provide for needs of internally displaced persons and thanked partners for their efforts.  Root causes of displacement had to be tackled and international organizations were called to assist in that endeavour.

Paraguay agreed on the role of the social protection systems as a guarantor of the minimum level of justice and fairness and asked how the International Monetary Fund could include issues of economic inequalities in its actions.  Iran noted that inequality was growing swiftly across the globe due to vicious nature of global economy and international financial system.   The right to development needed to receive high profile and had to be an integral part of every policy and operational activity.  Togo noted that the International Monetary Fund seemed ignorant of the impact its policies had on human rights of people.  Togo welcomed international cooperation and multi-party measures which were mobilizing resources in order to reduce displacement.

Botswana noted that social safety nets and pro-poor economic growth policies could assist many people to enjoy their human rights.  Social protection floors, when available, would allow beneficiaries to escape abject poverty by providing access to basic services.  Netherlands underlined the importance of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement; countries faced with that phenomenon had the obligation to ensure the human rights of internally displaced persons.  Precise data were necessary to draw appropriate policies and solutions, and it was important to be in touch with persons who needed assistance.  Albania called on all countries to implement policies to effectively fight extreme poverty at all levels.  Turning to internal displacement, it asked the Special Rapporteur about measures that States could undertake to prevent internal displacement and support durable solutions for internally displaced persons. 

Venezuela agreed that internally displaced persons needed to be included in national decision-making processes, particularly with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals.  It regretted that the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty had made negative comments about Venezuela, reminding him that Venezuela was not a concerned country.  China said it had achieved food security for its population of more than 1.1 billion, and the fastest and greatest poverty alleviation in human history: 68 million people had been lifted out of poverty in the past five years alone.  Internal displacement had its origin in many factors and must be tackled at its roots, while countries must show the main responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights of internally displaced persons in their territories.

Comments by the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, responding to objections to his report by Venezuela, recalled that he and his colleagues had sent a very detailed allegation letter to Venezuela late last year and stressed that, as a Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, he would not apologise for drawing attention to the absolutely dire and chronic conditions in Venezuela.  Action to alleviate extreme poverty would come from fiscal policy: if the fiscal priorities were focused only on the promotion of growth or on the reduction of budget deficit, and no room was left for human rights - including social protection - then “we’ve lost the game, we’re focusing all our attention on a box that is almost empty”, emphasized Mr. Alston.   Moving forward, human rights experts and others must increase their engagement with debates on fiscal policy and what the International Monetary Fund was or was not doing. 

Mr. Alston also noted that most delegates in the room, who were of human rights background, would not be relevant – domestically -  to the International Monetary Fund which principally spoke to finance ministries.  Those ministries usually had a very narrow focus and were not aware of many of the human rights issues.  Thus, the space for dialogue, at the national and international level, between human rights entities and financial entities must be broadened.  The Special Rapporteur also addressed the important issue of targeting in social protection programmes, which was mostly unscientifically based on “proxy means test”, resulting in a very high exclusion of people deserving of inclusion, and an equally high rate of inclusion of people who did not deserve to be there.  Thus, in many instances, social protection programmes were not really targeting or helping the poor.

Interactive Dialogue

Honduras noted the important impact of the International Monetary Fund on the social protection particularly in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were a framework for addressing internal displacement in Honduras.  Malaysia stated that human rights community had to undertake serious scrutiny of the work of the International Monetary Fund.  It was pertinent to address the root causes of the internal displacement in order to identify long-term durable solutions.  Russia affirmed that resolving crisis of mass displacement relied on political solutions and asked the Special Rapporteur to focus on internal displacement in Syria and Ukraine.

Cuba said that structural adjustment programmes of the International Monetary Fund had reduced social benefits, leading to a rise in extreme poverty which affected millions of people across the world.  India noted the evolution of the International Monetary Fund from a purely monetary organization that tackled financial crisis to an institution that regulated polices of human rights, military expenditure, corruption, inequality and gender equality.   Azerbaijan said that it spent more on the needs of internally displaced than any other country dealing with displacement, and invited the Special Rapporteur to visit the “liberated villages of Azerbaijan” and witness the excitement of returnees with her own eyes.

Council of Europe welcomed the recommendation to further explore the nexus between internal displacement and international migration.  Internally displaced persons should have access to sustainable housing, social benefits, compensation for lost property, access to justice, voting rights, and a sense of belonging.  Bangladesh agreed that a gradual and proactive approach to embedding social protection was required, both by the International Monetary Fund and governments, for fiscal sustainability in order to ensure social sustainability.  Georgia reminded that after several waves of ethnic cleansing and Russia’s military aggression in 2008, followed by the occupation of Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, hundreds of thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes.  The Government had made significant efforts to provide them with decent durable solutions. 

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in his concluding remarks, thanked all the delegations for their comments and commended the greater use of sign language by the Council, which made the proceedings more accessible to persons with disabilities.  Mr. Alston hoped that the dispute between the United States and the Human Rights Council would not be permitted to obscure the importance of issues highlighted in his report.  In any country, particularly a wealthy one, the persistence over a very long period of time of 40 million people living in poverty must be a cause of concern; it should be viewed as a human rights issue and be understood as undermining, in the longer term, the quality of democracy and the enjoyment of the civil and political rights.  Rather than simply dismissing the report, it would be possible to engage in a serious dialogue with the United States on some of the many specific issues dealt with in the report, concluded Special Rapporteur.

Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

CECILIA JIMENEZ-DAMARY, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said that the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were based on human rights laws and, where applicable, international humanitarian law.  Underlying the nexus between development and humanitarian efforts was the centrality of the protection and the promoting of the human rights of internally displaced persons; this nexus could not work without human rights.  The new way of working advanced by the United Nations system towards collaboration critically depended on breaking the silos in substance and methodology, which the Special Rapporteur said was a part and parcel of her work to mainstream human rights in the United Nations system.  

One of the priorities of the mandate was the participation of internally displaced persons, which in 2017 was a theme of her report to the General Assembly.  Internally displaced persons’ participation in all humanitarian and development approaches underlined by human rights was crosscutting, said Ms. Jimenez-Damary.  Internally displaced persons must be viewed as partners and not merely as beneficiaries, and must participate in crafting responses to all stages of displacement, in particular concerning durable solutions to displacement.  Many internally displaced persons were disenfranchised from the right to participate politically in their countries, an issue she would target in future efforts.  Local authorities were front-line operators in addressing issues affecting internally displaced persons, said the Special Rapporteur and, pointing to a study by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on protracted displacement, called on States to integrate the protection of internally displaced persons into national development plans.

Portugal said that the report on internal displacement noted a serious increase in the number of internally displaced persons due to conflict and violence, natural disasters, climate change and development projects.  The Special Rapporteur was asked to elaborate on main needs and difficulties which were identified at the national level during his visits.  Bolivia assessed as timely the report on extreme poverty which had shown the impact that the fiscal consolidation of the International Monetary Fund had on human rights.  Since 2006 and the leadership of President Morales, Bolivia had reduced extreme poverty from 38.2 per cent to 17.9 per cent.  Ukraine found itself at the epicentre of a global crisis as cited in the report.  The Russian aggression in Ukraine had forced two million people to flee conflict-affected areas and the Ukrainian authorities had achieved substantive progress in the implementation of durable solutions, but a global crisis needed a global response.

Nigeria said that as a result of the concerted efforts by the Nigerian Government in ending internal displacement, some internally displaced persons had started returning to their homes.  Nigeria had been massively investing in the area of poverty alleviation through economic diversification and social intervention programmes.  Philippines said that the Guiding Principles were vital in promoting the global agenda to reduce displacement and States had to recognize important challenges stemming from displacement.  What could be done by the Council to ensure that the International Monetary Fund promoted social protection?

Kenya underlined the relevance of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.  Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans had known internal displacement due to conflicts, evictions and natural disasters.  Kenya asked the Special Rapporteur to reflect on the need for an international convention on internally displaced persons.  Serbia said that the United Nations was the only international mechanism capable of coping with the problem of internal displacement.  Serbia had been taking care of internally displaced persons for years, in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.  Syria stated that the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were not the fruit of inter-State negotiations, but were produced by experts instead.  As such, they were not binding in nature.  States were responsible to provide aid to internally displaced persons.  France shared concern about the unprecedented increase in the number of internally displaced persons worldwide, and voiced deep attachment to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.  As for social protection, it was a key aspect of sustainable development.  France called on countries to combat poverty.       

Conectas Direitos Humanos pointed to severe Brazilian austerity laws and said the spending ceiling established in Brazil would lead to increased child mortality.  The organization called on the International Monetary Fund to adopt genuine changes on its impact on social protection and to diversify its perspective.  Indigenist Missionary Council in a joint statement with Franciscans International, supported the Special Rapporteur’s criticism of the International Monetary Fund’s fiscal policy.  The impoverishment of indigenous peoples in Brazil could be attributed to decreased funding for indigenous institutions.  American Civil Liberties Union said recent policy advanced in the United States was detrimentally affecting poor communities.  In Puerto Rico, the link between poverty and the denial of political rights was clear.  The organization was also concerned about the increasing criminalization of poverty in the United States.

Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries said indigenous people were systematically deprived of natural resources.  Guatemala was home to great inequality and limited investment in social services.  Lack of funding, especially in health services, had resulted in the deaths of people affected by the recent volcanic eruption in the country.  United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said the Libyan reconciliation agreement did not reflect international human rights law.  The Agency suggested adopting the August agreement drafted with the tutelage of the United Nations Secretary-General.  International organizations were urged to assume responsibility over the situation in Libya.  Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil said generalised violence in Mexico was resulting in the forced displacement of thousands of people.  Families were being forced to flee as a result of threats, including kidnapping and death.  The Mexican Government had yet to acknowledge the issue as a problem.

Centre for Reproductive Rights said that 40 million people were living in poverty in the United States, where authorities were creating barriers to comprehensive health care.  The United States had the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy countries and black women were three to four times more likely to die from child birth than white women.  Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF) said that the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty illustrated the racial, class, gender, education, and civil rights inequalities in the United States.  The funding of the inflated national defence budget had increased while funding for human rights, social services and access to nutrition and healthcare had been reduced.  Association of World Citizens drew the Council’s attention to Yemen where up to 3 million internally displaced persons were suffering without proper humanitarian assistance.  It was essential to stop the war, implement the Guiding Principles and carry out the disarmament of non-state actors.

European Centre for Law and Justice said that Christians were experiencing a humanitarian crisis in Niger because of Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen, resulting in the death of 100,000 people and the displacement of 2 million people.  If not stopped, those attacks would spread to neighbouring countries, as seen already in Chad and Cameroon.  Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee drew attention to the fact that the status of internally displaced persons was often confused with refugees in spite of clear legal differences.  India did not have domestic legislation for internally displaced persons and the Council should urge India to adopt such legislation.  Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA said that natural disaster-induced displacement had to be treated with equal importance as conflict-related displacement.  In India, natural disasters were cause for the displacement of thousands of displaced persons every year and were a proof of the Government’s apathy as shown in the case of the Assam flooding.

Prahar expressed concern about the human rights of internally displaced persons.  In India, illegal immigration had caused the displacement of many people.  Indigenous communities in the north-east of the country were marginalized due to unfiltered immigration through the adoption of a new citizenship law in 2016.  Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation drew attention to the situation of internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka, namely of Tamils.  Some 42,000 Tamils remained displaced in the country.  The ongoing land grabs and pervasive militarization of the north had prevented the return of internally displaced persons.  Alsalam Foundation, in a joint statement with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, underlined that the conflict in Yemen had seen some 2 million civilian internally displaced persons.  Due to the ongoing attack on Hodeida, an additional 200,000 more people could be displaced due to violence, with children being the most vulnerable. 

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

CECILIA JIMENEZ-DAMARY, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, reiterated that implementing the provisions of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement rested on States and they remained the sole framework on the matter.  It was important to keep the human rights of internally displaced persons on the Human Rights Council’s agenda, as their numbers demanded that their human rights should not be neglected.  The Special Rapporteur said she would focus on the national implementation of the Guiding Principles and expressed her desire to follow-up on recommendations made to States that had hosted visits by the mandate.  Peer exchange of good practices and challenges remained a priority for the Special Rapporteur.  A panel would be held on 26 June on the matter, organized by the United Nationals Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a side event would be convened on 27 June to provide a platform for internally displaced persons to communicate their needs.

Rights of Reply

Armenia, in a right of reply, said that when a country was unable or unwilling to address the displacement, international humanitarian community had to step in.  It was regrettable that Azerbaijan was using every opportunity at the Council for anti-Armenian propaganda, said Armenia, recalling that the use of military force to supress the realization of the right to self-determination had marked the beginning of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  The issue of the return of all displaced persons remained.  Azerbaijan had recently been making aggressive statements towards Armenia, encouraged by the absence of international community, said Armenia, and urged Azerbaijan to focus instead on making life easier for refugees.

Brazil, in a right of reply, said that the acute fiscal imbalance in the country had been addressed by the constitutional amendment.  Over the last few years, a number of measures had been introduced to secure social protection programmes, ranging from student loans to assistance provided towards families, while the budget for health and education had been preserved.  Concerning the indigenous peoples, Brazil noted that there were 462 demarcated indigenous territories, which covering 13 percent of the national territory.

Azerbaijan, in a right of reply, regretted that the political discourse in relation to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had worsened and said that all delegations in the room recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.  The conflict should be resolved in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter, the speaker continued.  The conflict was one of the main causes of the dire situation in Armenia and while it persisted, internal problems in Armenia would remain.  New Armenian leadership was populist and seeking to manipulate public opinion.  The population of Azerbaijan was ten million, meaning that one in ten citizens was an internally displaced person.

Armenia, in a second right of reply, said that a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh belonged to the international negotiation group.  Armenia wished for Azerbaijan to undergo a political changes similar to those recently undertaken by Armenia.

Azerbaijan, in a second right of reply, said that at least 57 delegations had recognized Armenia as an aggressor state, stating that the conflict should be resolved in line with the United Nations Charter.  In 2015, the European Court of Human Rights had issued a verdict stating that Armenia bore the main responsibility for a violation of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18.088E