Experts in Third Committee Discuss Harmful Impacts of Coercive Measures, Right to Development as Delegates Urge Respect for Human Rights
A shift in States’ legal obligations when countering terrorism, the negative impacts of unilateral coercive measures and the right to development were among the many topics experts covered in briefings to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates engaged with them in lively interactive dialogues.
Describing a distinct shift in Security Council regulation in the decade following 9/11, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, said assertive, broadly crafted Council resolutions replaced treaty-making as the primary influence over States’ legal obligations, which, in turn, has negative effects on the advancement of human rights protection.
Well-entrenched constitutional protections embedded in national legal systems in many countries are being rendered irrelevant or powerless, she said. Such broad law-making could impinge on sovereignty and exclude debate among States, citizens and civil society. Fast drafting, a lack of engagement with civil society in determining legal, political and social effects, and a lack of accountability for rights violations are among the elements common to Council resolutions on fighting terrorism, she explained.
Along similar lines, unilateral coercive measures entail some form of collective punishment, said Idriss Jazairy, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of those measures on the enjoyment of human rights. The practice is not justified under international humanitarian law. Civilians affected should be considered as living in a war zone, and thus, covered by basic protections. During the interactive dialogue, he stressed the need for a United Nations-administered database, as the absence of reliable data on unilateral sanctions obstructs assessment of their human rights impacts.
Turning to the right to development, Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the topic, said South-South cooperation embodies principles enshrined in that right: respect for sovereignty, equality and mutual benefit among them. The methods best‑suited for making a right to development operational will depend on the sector, local needs and circumstances, resources and the actors involved, he stressed.
In addition, Diego Garcia-Sayan, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Zamir Akram, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development; and Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order presented their reports.
Speaking in the general debate were representative of Nepal, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Tonga, Armenia, Ghana, Afghanistan and Togo, as well as an observer of the Holy See.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 18 October continue its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met today to continue its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights. For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4235.
Interactive Dialogues – Countering Terrorism
FIONNUALA NÍ AOLÁIN, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, said that in the last year, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Pakistan have borne a particularly harsh brunt of the violence caused by terrorism. Having met with victims of terrorism in France and Belgium, she called for sustaining the commitment to victims by ensuring their health, psycho-social, rehabilitative and reparative needs are met. In all aspects of her work, she prioritized meetings with non-governmental organizations and expressed concern over the lack of such engagement by the counter‑terrorism architecture, citing a proposal by the Office of Counter-Terrorism to establish a Civil Society Unit as a “welcome” development.
Her report charts a distinct shift in Security Council regulation in the decade following 9/11: from treaty-making as the dominate mode of legal regulation in counter-terrorism to assertive and broadly crafted regulatory resolutions having a primary role in shaping States’ legal obligations. The shift has had a negative effect on the advancement of human rights protection, with well-entrenched constitutional and domestic protections rendered irrelevant or powerless in the new regulatory landscape. Broad law-making could impinge on sovereignty and operate to exclude debate among States, citizens and civil society on co-safeguarding human rights and security. Council resolutions share common elements: fast drafting and debate; a lack of engagement with civil society in determining any legal, political, social and cultural effects; and a lack of benchmarking of or accountability for human rights and humanitarian law violations.
On how to understand the place of human rights within United Nations counter‑terrorism regulation, she said that for the first time, resolution 1624 (2005) contained an operative paragraph mandating States to comply with their international human rights and legal obligations. Past resolutions carried significant regulatory consequences for human rights protection but lacked human rights terminology, she said, citing terms such as “terrorist act”, contained in resolution 2178 (2014), that are unconnected to a definition and fail to satisfy the principle of legality. She expressed concern over the implications of setting up watch lists, and developing biometric databases, Advance Passenger Information systems or Passenger Name Record capacity. Her report finds that the impact of generic mentions of human rights — without explicit guidance contained in the same text — is minimal to non-existent. Council practice must not impinge on protections outlined in national constitutions and procedures, she recommended, affirming the abiding need for an agreed upon definition of terrorism. Further, the human rights implications of General Assembly resolutions must be benchmarked against an agreed impact analysis. States should consider a human rights review for Security Council resolutions that have a quasi-legislative character.
In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of the United Kingdom said terrorism efforts must respect the rule of law, asking how the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) can enhance respect for human rights in relevant resolutions.
The representative of Belgium underscored the need for a common definition of terrorism and asked about elements that are essential to include in that context.
The representative of Ireland asked how the global terrorism architecture can foster more inclusive debate and participation, especially with civil society.
The representative of Iraq said the 2006 United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy encourages national, regional and international efforts. He advocated strengthening State capacity, stressing that Iraq’s security forces have always respected human rights in their war on terror.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed surprise at the attention given to the Security Council in connection with terrorism. "To examine the actions of the Security Council on this problem does not fall within the competence of the Special Rapporteur," she said, adding that the latter had become "hostage” to the current trend of criticizing all Council activities. She asked the Special Rapporteur to reject this "harmful approach".
The representative of Mexico urged that civil society and human rights defenders participate in such discussions, stressing the need to also mainstream the gender perspective. He asked how States can ensure sanctions, are more transparent and whether it is possible to more clearly study the impacts of technology on terrorist activity.
Ms. NÍ AOLÁIN, responding, said civil society’s access to the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate is limited and should be increased. It is also important to treat victims of terrorism as rights holders, as they are not a category apart from other rights bearers. She called on States to address the return of fighters through a human-rights mechanism, noting that children of armed fighters are most vulnerable, and States are obliged to ensure their return to the country of origin.
There is a precise and clear definition of terrorism established by her predecessor, she recalled, which establishes acts, violence, and a focus of civilians as requirements for there to be terrorism. Regarding the misuse of counter-terrorism, she said her Office received numerous complaints indicating that States implement legislation that is not rights-compliant. Often, a sizeable portion of counter-terrorism legislation is used against people exercising their human rights. Greater data and transparency would shed light on these practices.
Replying to the Russian Federation’s delegate, she pointed out that the global Counter-Terrorism Strategy establishes human rights as one of its pillars. It also delineates boundaries of agreement on the importance of human rights in a counter-terrorism context. Human rights are treaty-based and well-defined: they are a set of legal obligations, not mere reference. There is a need to make the existing regimes — including sanctions — more transparent.
DIEGO GARCIA-SAYAN, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, said society benefits greatly from the existence of an independent judiciary and lawyers who can exercise their profession independently. It allows judicial decisions to be rendered impartially based on the law. It sets solid grounds to safeguard human rights, notably the protection of journalists, environmental defenders and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer activists. The present threat to judicial independence and integrity derives from political interference on check-and-balance systems, organized crime networks and corruption. If the international community articulates coordinated policies and strategies, the fight against systematic criminal activity with global ramifications is more efficient.
He stressed that bar associations can play a role in safeguarding the independence and integrity of the legal profession, notably by cooperating with State institutions in the organization and provision of legal aid to the poor. They also contribute to public debates on legal reforms, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law. Underlining the importance of respecting their independence, he said attacks and State repression of lawyers and their organizations represent an egregious violation of their freedom of association. The growing threat posed by the politicization of the judiciary seeks to weaken or thwart justice, he said, citing an increasing number of complaints about political interference in judicial decision making. In that context, the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary must be updated to notably include judicial councils and respond to new threats posed by corruption and organized crime. He called on States to encourage discussion and put forward proposals in the United Nations to that end.
When the floor was opened for questions and comments, the representative of the European Union asked about the role of bar associations in society, as well as for examples of best practices in the behaviour of lawyers and the administration of legal aid services.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, noting developments within the judiciary and underscoring the importance of impartial judges, asked about the type of training that should be offered to judges and lawyers to foster judicial independence.
The representative of Morocco asked for an evaluation of progress achieved in dialogue and interaction with stakeholders, including bar associations.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed hope that the Special Rapporteur would address the challenges facing lawyers and judges.
The representative of Turkey rejected the reference in the Special Rapporteur’s report to the 2016 state of emergency in her country, noting that the measures taken fully complied with Turkey’s human rights obligations and the rule of law.
Mr. GARCIA-SAYAN said legal training and education on the rule of law must be strengthened, noting that lawyers can make a significant contribution to that end. Bar associations contribute to the promotion of human rights and development of democratic public institutions. When they are subject to political interference, all of society is affected.
In addition to criticisms, the report also outlines positive developments, such as a growing awareness in the international community and in society that the independence of justice is valuable and concerns society as a whole. Numerous communications received by the Office confirm this trend, he said.
When the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary were established 30 years ago, the legal profession faced brutal and direct repression. While this still exists, the interference is now subtler. There is also a new threat: the effects of corruption and organized crime networks seeking to penetrate the judicial system to ensure their impunity.
Replying to the questions by the Russian Federation’s delegate, he said he cannot comment on a specific situation, as he does not have all the facts and the setting is not appropriate.
Regarding comments by Turkey’s delegate, he reiterated his invitation to hold discussions on the ground and assured that if there have been positive developments, he will be the first to report them.
Unilateral Coercive Measures
IDRISS JAZAIRY, Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, presenting the fourth report to the General Assembly, gave an overview of developments affecting certain sanctions regimes. On Syria, there is an urgent need to engage on making the mostly dormant humanitarian exemptions operational. It is an irrefutable fact that sanctions there, though presented as a response to local human rights violations against civilians, are only exacerbating suffering. On Zimbabwe, the sanctions cannot be said to be “limited” or “targeted”, as the people and companies affected represent the vast majority of the economy. Turning to Palestine, he said he had issued a joint statement with other Special Rapporteurs in April, echoing the United Nations’ grave concern over Israel’s use of force, which had led to the killing of mostly unarmed protesters in Gaza. The Special Procedures have called for an immediate end to the 11-year blockade on Gaza.
Elsewhere, he deplored the 2017 tightening of United States sanctions against Cuba, and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, cited the impact of sanctions on access to critical health care. United States sanctions against the Russian Federation are widely believed to jeopardize the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, he said, noting that in Sudan, a 2017 decision by the United States to uphold the lifting of sanctions has not fully materialized. Detailing the impacts of such measures in Qatar, Iran, Venezuela and Belarus, he said more generally that the absence of reliable data on unilateral sanctions obstructs assessment of their human rights impacts, and that the establishment of a United Nations administered database is crucial. International sanctions often fail to discriminate between combatants and civilians, as required by international humanitarian law. For instance, de facto blockades seeking to create economic isolation entail some form of collective punishment. This practice is not justified. Affected civilians should be considered as living in a war zone and covered by protection afforded by international humanitarian law.
The representative of Bahrain reaffirmed the measures his country had taken concerning Qatar and asked if the Special Rapporteur would help resolve the dispute between them.
The representative of Sudan expressed concern over the impacts of unilateral sanctions against his country on its development and enjoyment of human rights.
The representative of Qatar reiterated the invitation for the Special Rapporteur to visit, asking if he could provide information about his methods used in the quiet diplomacy he is conducting with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The unjust blockade violates the United Nations Charter and threatens global security.
The representative of Iran, referring to United States sanctions against his country, expressed concern that Washington D.C. is punishing States that abide by Security Council resolutions. He asked if coordinated action could be taken by human rights mandate holders, keeping in mind the impact of sanctions.
The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern over the impacts of sanctions, under which almost a third of humanity suffers. He asked how the United Nations can ease the impact of those measures, perhaps by helping affected countries with the purchase of medication and food.
The representative of the Russian Federation said unilateral sanctions are ineffective and called on the Assembly to focus on fostering dialogue.
An observer of the State of Palestine said the illegal blockade has led to a severe human rights crisis in Gaza, asking what actions can be taken to hold Israel accountable under international law, with a view to ending its military occupation, war crimes and illegal blockade.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates asked whether there is a legal implication to the terms “sanction” or “coercive measures”, as used in the Special Rapporteur’s report, or whether they are they interchangeable.
The representative of Cuba called for an end to the United States-imposed sanctions against the country.
The representative of Israel provided context on the situation in Gaza, saying that rockets were being fired into Israel. The economic situation there is not solely for Israel to address; the Palestinian Authority is not releasing payments for infrastructure and fuel, a fact that must be considered when discussing such hardship. He asked about promoting dialogue when dealing with a terrorist organization.
Mr. JAZAIRY, replying to comments by Bahrain’s delegate, acknowledged that measures taken against Qatar did not amount to a blockade but rather an embargo.
He referred delegates to footnote number 2 in his report, stressing that the document only refers to unilateral coercive measures, as the measures taken by the Security Council are legal from the standpoint of international law. The initiators of his mandate have said that, by nature, sanctions do not comply with international law, but other countries believe that some sanctions indeed adhere. He recommended requesting the International Court of Justice to adjudicate on this issue.
Criticizing sanctions is good but defusing the disagreements that led to their imposition is better, he said. In blockade situations, war becomes more likely, and this is unacceptable. He expressed willingness to visit Qatar, not to engage in “naming and shaming”, but rather to help fix disagreements and create conditions that would allow sanctions to be lifted. He recalled that is Office is unable to determine the legality of actions in this context.
There is already a resolution requesting all special rapporteurs, among others, to consider the negative impacts of unilateral coercive measures and coordinate with his Office, he said. On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he stressed that the Council sanctions fall outside his mandate’s purview. Regarding the comments by Saudi Arabia’s representative, he pointed out that both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have accused him of being biased, which leads him to think he might be discharging his mandate impartially.
The representative of Qatar said he looks forward to the Special Rapporteur’s visit, noting the transparency of the invitation and encouraging him to adhere to his mandate.
An observer of the State of Palestine asked the Special Rapporteur to respond to the issues raised earlier.
Mr. JAZAIRY replied that Special Rapporteurs must tell the truth, even if it displeases countries. There must be a degree of accountability for States that carry out actions that negatively impact human rights in other countries. Such actions can create a de facto jurisdiction, he said, citing the case of States that prevent the export of medical equipment to treat cancer. The way the European Court of Justice deals with similar issues should be examined closely and potentially extended to other countries.
NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal) said his country mandated a national human rights commission to ensure honour, protection and promotion of human rights. The Constitution safeguards the rights of every person, group and community, embracing the country’s multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural specificities, and provides for the creation of independent constitutional commissions which are mainstreamed into national political, economic and social development. A State party to 24 international human rights instruments, Nepal established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. A member of the Human Rights Council, it continues to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in a fair, equitable manner.
Mr. GONZALEZ (Colombia) said it is a fundamental goal to foster the conditions for overcoming conflict, noting that his country has signed the most international agreements on human rights. The Government’s commitment to protect those rights is expressed through early warning and prevention efforts, among others. Human rights will continue to be a priority.
Mr. BOKWALA (Democratic Republic of Congo) said his country ratified the Rome Statute and had cooperated with the International Criminal Court. It also has been delisted for not using children in armed conflicts and is cooperating with the United Nations on all issues related to the protection of human rights. He encouraged all countries to include rights protections in their national legal systems.
Right to Development
ZAMIR AKRAM, Chair-Rapporteur on the Working Group on the Right to Development, said the Working Group was set up to monitor and review progress in the promotion and implementation of the right to development, and analyse obstacles to its full enjoyment. At its last session, it held its first interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to development, and other experts on the realization of that right in the context of the 2030 Agenda. Other issues addressed include the international dimensions of the right to development, illicit financial flows, jurisprudential developments before the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights, and challenges to the implementation of the right to development and the Sustainable Development Goals, with States presenting information on their efforts.
The Working Group also continued its consideration of the draft right to development criteria, he said, but no consensus was reached. It also considered the elaboration of standards for implementing the right to development. In its conclusions, the Working Group recommended the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) take measures to ensure a “balanced and visible” allocation of resources. The Human Rights Council, at its third session, endorsed the recommendations and stressed the importance of the core principles — equality, non-discrimination, accountability, participation and international cooperation — contained in the conclusions. It decided the Working Group should begin the discussion to elaborate a draft of a legally binding instrument on the right to development through engagement. The Working Group is moving into a new phase, negotiating a legally binding instrument on the right to development — a formidable task — and he recommended advancing in a constructive spirit.
When the floor opened for questions, the representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said profound changes to the international economic structure are needed to ensure the full enjoyment and realization of the right to development. He urged Member States, relevant United Nations bodies, as well as international financial and trade institutions to mainstream the right to development, in line with the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the right to development is intrinsically linked to the protection of most vulnerable groups. The decision of the thirty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council is before its time: for now, developing new standards and indicators is not necessary. It is more important to develop a general approach for the international community to implement this category of rights.
The representative of Cuba said the right to development is one for individuals as well as peoples. Her country opposed attempts to reinterpret or limit this right and she called on those present to ratify the Working Group’s proposal.
The representative of Iran highlighted the nexus between the 2030 Agenda and the right to development, outlining his expectation that the United Nations will mainstream that right in all its activities. As a country targeted by unilateral illegal sanctions, Iran understands that the poor, among others, are bearing the brunt of these inhuman measures. Depriving a whole population of its rights, including to development, is reprehensible.
The representative of China said the right to survival and development are fundamental human rights. Member States should abide by the United Nations Charter and promote the establishment of a more equitable and reasonable international order. Stressing the importance of poverty eradication, he called on United Nations human rights agencies to prioritize the right to development.
The representative of Pakistan recalled that the Declaration on the Right to Development identifies obstacles to development and calls for an enabling environment. Efforts of the Working Group Chair are important and must support all members, he said, emphasizing the importance of South-South cooperation.
The representative of Morocco said the international community should work to revitalize the global partnership for development. She asked how the existing political impasse within the Working Group can be explained and overcome.
Mr. AKRAM, on the impasse in the Working Group, replied that there is a lack of political will among States to overcome their differences, with developed and developing countries “stuck” in how to implement the right to development. Rather, efforts should focus on instruments that have been mutually agreed upon by consensus — the United Nations Charter, Vienna Declaration on human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals among them — which have overlapping areas where the right to development is consistent: the right to work, to education, to housing and to health. It is essential to take small steps on the path to building broader consensus and he recommended a show of political will and compromise.
Interactive Dialogue – Right to Development
SAAD ALFARARGI, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development, said that several regional consultations, being convened this year and next, will aim at identifying good practices in designing, implementing, monitoring and assessing development policies and programs that are sustainable and inclusive. A specific methodology for country visits to assess implementation of the right to development is being formulated, with Cabo Verde being the first visit in November. Citing the Declaration on the Right to Development adopted in 1986, he noted that South-South cooperation has become a vital element in international sustainable development efforts and an important complement to North-South cooperation in addressing global development challenges; it has strengthened rather than substituted North-South cooperation. Highlighting South-South partnerships’ remarkable expansion in recent years, he said that the 2015 international policy documents have provided new momentum for that region’s cooperation as a means to realize the right to development.
South-South cooperation embodies principles enshrined in the right to development, including respect for State sovereignty, equality, mutual benefit, inclusiveness and national ownership, he continued. Describing challenges such as unequal power relationships, difficulties in implementing inclusive and participatory processes and mitigating adverse human rights impacts, among others, he stated that South-South cooperation holds much promise for the future. However, States and other stakeholders must incorporate a right-to-development perspective into the design, financing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of South-South cooperation processes. The methods best suited for implementing that perspective will depend on the sector, local needs and circumstances, resource availability and the different actors involved. Innovative methods such as participatory budgeting could provide useful ideas.
The representative of Comoros, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the right to development is an inalienable right, calling on the United Nations to ensure the fruits of globalization are available to all.
The representative of Indonesia said South-South cooperation has a vital role in the 2030 Agenda. However, there are gaps and she requested information on a holistic view of development. She also asked how to promote greater South-South cooperation and partnerships and use the human rights impact assessment.
The representative of the European Union highlighted the importance of a rights-based approach to development.
The representative of Sudan said that while the right to development appears to be a far-off goal, he sought more insight on best practices for implementing it in the context of man-made disasters and technological divides.
The representative of Iran said South-South cooperation is not a substitute but a complement to North-South cooperation.
The representative of Brazil asked which South-South cooperation best practices should be used to fulfil the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of Cuba said companies and civil society have a role to play in helping to fulfil the right to development.
Mr. ALFARARGI replied that South-South and North-South cooperation go hand in hand. Further, the regional discussions he organized seek to obtain first-hand assessments of given situations and thereby define best regional approaches to implementing the right to development. Any kind of sanction affects human rights, but his Office is neither equipped nor qualified to address this issue, he said, expressing openness to receiving suggestions on topics that his next reports will cover.
Democratic, Equitable International Order
LIVINGSTONE SEWANYANA, Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, said he intends to address the forms and practice of democracy. There is a need to examine governance practices across the world to identify obstacles to the growth of democracy and equitable development. The right to participate in public affairs is essential to a democratic and equitable international order. It applies to local affairs but extends to international forums, such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All stakeholders should share control over development initiatives, decisions and resources that affect them. On corruption, he highlighted the value of private‑public partnerships, the enforcement of labour rights and environmental protection and the commitment of businesses to respect rights. He pointed out the dangers faced by anti-corruption campaigners and other rights defenders active in the field of good governance, underscoring the importance of analysing the connection between the repression of civic activity and increased inequity.
He said the emergence of global governance forums shows that decisions are made on a multilateral basis outside of international organizations. The Group of Seven (G7), the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum play a role in defining the international order’s framework and function. As such, it is worthwhile to study their constitutions and practices and develop recommendations to strengthen their contributions to democratic governance and the respect for human rights. Turning to global economic challenges, he acknowledged they disproportionately impact those in precarious economic situations, such as women, persons with disabilities and older persons. Austerity measures and classical approaches to international investment have proven insufficient. He expressed his will to look at how the international community can better respond to these challenges and promote a more democratic, equitable world order. Moreover, he intends to explore the nexus between youth, fragility, violence and opportunity. Youth are severely underrepresented in national and international governing bodies and enjoy only limited space in multilateral settings, he stressed.
In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said there is no single model of democracy and underscored the need to respect sovereignty. While recognizing the promotion of democracy at the national level, he recommended democratizing the global governance system, as well as accelerated efforts to establish democratic institutions and sound economic policies.
The representative of Cuba said everyone has the right to a world order where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is fully implemented. The right to development and human rights are interdependent, he argued, pointing out that the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Mr. SEWANYANA replied that rights, development and the rule of law are not separate; they affect everyone, whether in the South or the North. There are many problems underlying the current impasse, notably the principle of sovereignty, which he described as a double-edged sword — States invoke or flout it depending on the situation. The United Nations Charter provides a good basis to achieve peace and security and realize human rights. The international community must therefore re‑examine current practices without “reinventing the wheel”.
Ms. GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea) underscored that politicized and selective forms of addressing rights contributes more to confrontation and derailment, rather than promoting human rights. Spotlighting the need to address the root causes of human rights challenges ‑ and commending those countries that have shown genuine interest in promoting human rights everywhere ‑ she said Eritrea participates in the Universal Periodic Review and is making strides in implementing its 92 areas of recommendations. Peace, security, development and human rights are mutually reinforcing and, in turn, allow the international community to reassess the root causes and interconnectedness of challenges. Addressing them properly will help promote respect for human welfare and dignity.
VILIAMI VA’INGA TONE (Tonga) said the human rights of his country’s people are intricately tied to the integrity of its terrestrial and marine environments, particularly in the face of climate change and sea-level rise. Welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s report and the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, he also noted that efforts to realize those rights cannot be accomplished by one nation alone. Concerted efforts ‑ in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility ‑ are needed, he stressed, urging all countries to take action. Expressing concern about the global scourge of drug abuse, he called for a balance to be struck between treating the matter as a criminal concern and one related to public health.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) called attention to his country’s new Government, which came to power following a non-violent peaceful revolution let by the people. The revolution was momentous, with youth and women at the forefront, fully exercised in their fundamental freedoms of expression and belief. The revolution galvanized citizens to participate in civic life and has since given them a sense of confidence in taking part in public affairs. Currently, Armenia is preparing for Parliamentary elections, which is another major step towards democratic transformation. His country is fully determined to embark on a new generation of reforms that will result in enhanced political pluralism. In addition, it is a strong proponent and advocate of the promotion of human rights around the world. This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Such events are milestones that reaffirm the collective determination for the promotion of human rights.
MARTHA A. A. POBEE (Ghana), aligning herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, stressed the need to ensure effective functioning of treaty bodies and timely periodic reporting by States to United Nations instruments. The backlog of reports and non-compliance must be urgently addressed, she emphasized, urging the intensification of capacity-building programmes to assist States in preparing their national reports. Further, Ghana’s Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice advances respect for human rights through public education, research and monitoring. Another programme de-congests prisons and promotes the rights of prisoners, notably those in remand. The Government also adopted several laws to guarantee economic and social rights standards regarding healthcare, high school education, and gender equality, amongst others.
NAZIFULLAH SALARZAI (Afghanistan), underscoring that human rights are at the core of the Afghan Constitution, said that the Government is strongly committed to their full realization through institutions that include an independent human rights commission. Afghans freely exercise freedom of speech and the media is open and vibrant. However, the basic right to life is threatened by the on-going war against the people, with 1,692 having died in the first half of this year alone. As women and children suffer disproportionately from this conflict, the Government has been enacting legislation to protect them under the relevant international rights instruments to which the country is a party. Progress has been phenomenal compared to the dark times under the Taliban. In addition, a national action plan on women, peace and security has been launched to ensure women’s significant participation at all levels of the peace process and protect them from all forms of violence. The country adheres to the seven core international human rights conventions to which it is a party and just this year ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Afghanistan is also active on the Human Rights Council, garnering international support to protect the rights of victims of terrorism.
Mr. DZINADZA (Togo) cautioned against politicizing human rights and called for more dialogue. Human rights protection is essential and he advocated tackling threats through early warning and follow-up measures. Togo was re-elected to the Human Rights Council for the 2019-2021 term and would adopt a comprehensive approach, notably in efforts to bolster the rule of law. A priority will be realizing social and economic rights, especially for women and children, persons with disabilities and older persons. Togo adopted a new criminal code which includes making torture indictable, he stressed, calling for a greater international cooperation on human rights issues.