World Altered by ‘Neoliberal’ Outsourcing of Public Services to Private Sector, Third Committee Experts Stress, amid Calls for Better Rights Protection
The world has been fundamentally reordered by widespread neoliberal economics that has privatized basic public goods — social protections, education, pensions and criminal justice among them — with often disastrous impacts on the human rights of the extremely poor, experts told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today.
Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, said proponents of privatization — the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and parts of the United Nations — claim the private sector is more efficient, innovative and cost effective. Yet, their projects are often costlier and provide inferior service at considerable profit, all while ignoring human rights standards and shelving compassion. There is a “striking disconnect” of the idealized narrative around privatization and the findings of many studies.
To be sure, privatization is complex and nuanced, he said. But there is a great deal of experience on which to draw, found in the policies of Chile’s former leader, Augusto Pinochet, and Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom. In seeking austerity, Governments trade short-term deficits for windfall profits and push financial liabilities on future generations, he said.
Along similar lines, Leo Heller, Special Rapporteur of Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, said the “neoliberal wave” has likewise weakened the State’s role in the provision and regulation of water and sanitation. The diversity of service providers and resulting power imbalance has affected the enjoyment of those rights, raising questions about accountability.
Also today, the Committee continued its general debate on human rights, with Ethiopia’s delegate noting the “extraordinary” breadth and pace of democratic change in his country. The Government has released high-profile political leaders, made peace with Eritrea after 20 years of hostility, and encouraged exiled opposition politicians to return home and participate in the country’s socio-economic and political affairs.
Myanmar’s delegate similarly said his country has spared no effort to nurture democratic norms and prioritize the early repatriation of verified displaced persons from Rakhine State; it has been ready to receive verified returnees since 23 January.
Human rights will see greater protection when the treaty system is strengthened, said South Africa’s delegate, pointing to significant strides in that regard thanks to streamlined processes, notably simplified reporting procedures.
Greece’s representative said his country sought to maximize cooperation with the United Nations with a standing invitation to its human rights mechanisms. Greece prioritizes the protection of the most vulnerable groups within migratory flows, especially pregnant women, unaccompanied children and persons with disabilities, he assured.
Also speaking in the general debate on human rights today were representatives of Cyprus, Cameroon and Ukraine.
Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education; Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing; and Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, also made presentations during the day’s interactive dialogues.
The representatives of Turkey, Cyprus, Russian Federation and Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 October, to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights. For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4235.
Interactive Dialogues — Right to Education
KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, said the fact that half of the world’s 25.4 million refugees are under the age of 18 calls for medium- and long-term approaches to refugee education. This would foster peaceful and sustainable development in host countries, as well as reconstruction in countries afflicted by conflict, through the return of educated and qualified populations. Only 61 per cent of refugees have access to primary education, as opposed the 91 per cent of children worldwide. Education must be an integral part of emergency responses to refugee crises, she said, stressing that the responsibility to guarantee inclusive quality education to refugees clearly lies with States, as per international treaties. She expressed support for the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as it will improve assistance for refugees and host countries in an international framework.
When possible, education plans and institutions should anticipate and address refugees’ cultural and linguistic differences, she said. It is important that refugee children be able to register directly with schools, and that education plans include flexible learning methods, such as accelerated, non-formal and transitional education. Investments in local education to include refugees have the dual benefit of ensuring young refugees lasting to certified education and improving the learning environment for children from the hosting community. States should also take steps to ensure refugee families are properly integrated into communities, notably by granting them work permits. It is particularly important to ensure that refugee girls have access to school, at all levels, she stressed.
When the floor was opened for questions, the representative of Qatar drew attention to programmes that help refugee girls join school, stressing the importance of providing education to the youngest children living in vulnerable situations. States should expedite legislation to guarantee documents for refugees, she said.
The representative of the United Kingdom cited her country’s support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In 2018, the United Kingdom also endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. She asked how to ensure sufficient data collection on access and quality education around the world.
The representative of the European Union underscored the importance of considering the long-term educational system for refugees, noting that the bloc allocates over 6 per cent of aid to financing education in emergencies and asking about good practices to address this challenge. Refugee girls face a greater disadvantage than boys with lower literacy and he asked for ideas on bridging this gap.
The representative of Indonesia spotlighted his country’s role in providing education within the humanitarian system but described bureaucratic and financing issues around Sustainable Development Goal 4. He asked about the benefits of the Internet and modern technology for refugee education and about ensuring refugees’ involvement in the planning of programmes relating to their right to education.
The representative of Morocco asked about special educational systems provided to refugees, and about professional requirements to be satisfied through education. He also wondered how to guarantee recognition of educational certificates in second countries.
The representative of Cuba noted that Cuba guaranteed universal access to education to all Cubans on 1 January 1995 as a fundamental right. However, guaranteeing quality education for all is limited due to the United States blockade.
The representative of Estonia said local governments provide basic education to all children, including refugees, expressing concern over difficulties in attaining education and noting that Estonia carries out education programmes for young Syrians. She asked about extending globally the “Instant Network Schools” initiative offering online education, and if so, how to support it.
The representative of Portugal said access to education is a basic human right and of utmost importance. Describing a global platform founded in 2013 for Syrian students to continue their studies in Portugal and other countries, he also drew attention to a rapid response mechanism for higher education in emergencies, and asked how to support refugees in national education systems.
The representative of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), describing the importance of the “Building Bridges, Not Walls” report, asked what Governments should prioritize in mainstreaming education into their policies.
The representative of Hungary highlighted the importance of national minorities and the right to education in their mother tongue, which is a “stepping stone” to their inclusion. Schools and kindergarten play a prominent role in transforming national language and culture. Education can break the cycle of conflicts, he said, asking how minority education can benefit society as a whole.
The representative of Ukraine, touching on education reform, said his country pays special national minorities. It introduced new standards for obtaining higher education in the occupied territories.
Ms. KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY responding to questions about inclusion and best practices for children with disabilities and minority issues, as well as the quality of education and training for teachers, said issues centre broadly around curricula, tolerance and peace.
In terms of inclusion, she said educating girl refugees is critical and requires a predictable budget, especially because girls need additional protection and a safe space. The curriculum for girls must include teaching self-confidence, as they need to know that they can survive. In addition, training teachers through a gender approach will in turn help girls reach their full potential. She underscored the need to include children with disabilities, stressing that teachers must be trained how to address their needs. On the integration of refugees into the general education system, she said States must budget and consider planning, and importantly, craft educational policies that include refugees. Teacher training should be carried out along thematic issues, such as values, and include guidance on addressing one’s own emotions when working with refugees. Decisions about national data collection systems must also be considered, she said.
PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the privatization agenda has been remarkably successful in recent years and is promoted aggressively by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), parts of the United Nations and the private sector. The logic of privatization assumes no necessary limits as to what can be privatized: social protection, education, pensions systems, parks and libraries, among other areas, have been targeted. Yet, privatization is premised on assumptions fundamentally different from those that underpin human rights — profit is the overriding objective. Civil society has a vital role to play, but cannot shoulder the burden on its own, as it lacks adequate resources and authority. From the viewpoint of those living in poverty or who are vulnerable to human rights violations, the overall picture of privatization is far from positive, despite the many success stories.
For example, he said, human rights standards are rarely included in privatization agreements. Business performance is carefully tracked but studies on the impact on rights and poverty are rare. A fully human rights-compliant regulatory regime cannot be transferred to the private sector. He warned against the private sector’s unwillingness to take on rights-related obligations, the inability of pared‑down Governments to exercise meaningful supervision and the removal of much economic decision-making from the purview of democratic contestation. Privatization also undermines democracy by marginalizing the role of Governments in deciding on the allocation of public goods and services. This situation calls for a different set of responses from the human rights community. The arrangements for privatization of public goods should specifically address human rights implications. Its impact on human rights and poor and marginalized communities should be systematically studied. He called on private and public actors involved with privatization to set appropriate standards ensuring the collection and publication of data on the practice’s human rights impacts.
The representative of the European Union, noting that extreme poverty is a multi-faceted issue requiring a multi-faceted response, said it is also intrinsically linked to discrimination. Half of all people living in poverty are young girls under 18 years old, many of whom have lower literacy. He asked for examples of successful initiatives targeting girls living in poverty.
The representative of South Africa said there is little indication that human rights monitoring bodies have done much. However, extreme poverty has eased considerably since 1990. Stressing the importance of effective and transparent governance, as well as good fiscal governance, she asked about accountability in the corporate sector where human rights are violated by business activities.
The representative of Eritrea welcomed the report on privatization and reaffirmed support for the work of the Special Rapporteur.
Mr. ALSTON replied that there is a close link between efforts to end poverty and promote the Sustainable Development Goals. He expressed worry that the process of monitoring progress on the Goals does not appear to hold States accountable.
Responding to a question about the girl child, he said the World Bank acknowledges a critique that its $1.90 poverty threshold is insufficient and that it fails to disaggregate within a household. For example, a household could be considered as above the poverty threshold — however, the male head of household receives the lion’s share of the food and other resources, while women, children and the girl child receive much less. It is essential to look at what is happening inside the household, where women and girls fare worse. Not nearly enough has been done in that respect. Much less attention is given to the gender dimensions of poverty than one than would expect, despite the rhetoric around this issue.
It is difficult to monitor human rights, he continued. When privatized, monitoring bodies are poorly equipped to understand actual conditions and set standards that companies will acknowledge and promote. Companies cannot monitor themselves; monitoring bodies must hold them to account. On broader fiscal matters, she described the human rights implications of the United States 2017 tax cuts. The human rights community must end its aversion to engaging with the fiscal community on complex economic issues.
KORNELIOS KORNELIOU (Cyprus) said that during Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus, basic human rights were brutally violated, together with the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots are internally displaced, denied the right to return to home. The unlawful exploitation of their properties, along with Turkey’s deliberate policy of colonizing the occupied areas, with more than 160,000 mainland Turkish settlers, aim to change the island’s demographic character. The remaining enclaved persons experience daily violations of their family life, freedom of expression, religion and property rights. Churches are vandalized and worshippers intimidated. Missing persons is a humanitarian issue and a major concern, as the remains of two-thirds of 2,001 missing persons have yet to be found. Preservation of cultural heritage is imperative for the protection of human rights.
Ms. THEOFILI (Greece), associating herself with the European Union, said her country is fully committed to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Aiming at maximizing cooperation with the United Nations, Greece has extended a standing invitation to international human rights mechanisms. The Government implements an open, transparent and coherent human rights policy, based on the principles of equality, diversity and non-discrimination. In response to the migratory and refugee crisis, Greece will continue coordinating with all relevant stakeholders, including local communities, with an emphasis on burden sharing, addressing the causes and saving lives. Greece prioritizes the protection of the most vulnerable groups within the migratory flows, especially pregnant women, unaccompanied children and persons with disabilities.
MIN THIEN (Myanmar), noting that his country has dealt with internal armed conflicts since independence in 1948 and lived for decades under authoritarian rule, said the rule of law is essential. Through its peace process, the Government is holding Union Peace Conferences and signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement. Myanmar has spared no effort to nurture democratic norms, having acceded to various international conventions and agreements, notably the Paris Principles on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. It is Myanmar’s top priority to take action for the early repatriation of verified displaced persons from Rakhine State; it has been ready to receive verified returnees since 23 January. To alleged human rights violations in Rakhine State, he reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability “where there is evidence” of such abuse.
Ms. BEGALA (Cameroon) recalled that under its resolution to strengthen the treaty bodies, the General Assembly proposed that a simplified reporting procedure be used to elaborate reports and hold interactive dialogues. Cameroon accepted the proposal. Citing two recent reports on torture and the Human Rights Committee, she said the simplified procedure saves time, reducing delays. Conscious of the role that treaty bodies play in delivering human rights, Cameroon is ready to help strengthen the system, she said, noting that the country will continue to submit its reports on time under each of the human rights conventions.
Mr. YAREMENKO (Ukraine) expressed condolences to the victims and their families of the recent deadly attack in Crimea. In the occupied territory, he urged human rights mechanisms to address such issues and invited those missions to follow such developments on the ground. The Russian Federation continues to apply its legislation in Crimea, he said, stressing that violations of civil, social and economic rights are widespread. Dozens of peoples are being unlawfully detained in Crimea, among them Oleg Sentsov, a political prisoner. Expressing gratitude to the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for his appeals to save Mr. Sentsov, he expressed hope that Mr. Sentsov’s situation will remain a focus. He expressed regret that United Nations monitoring missions must carry out their work from the mainland, as access to the peninsula has been denied. In the Donbass region, Ukraine suffers from indiscriminate mines, he added.
Ms. TUFFA (Ethiopia), associating with the African Group and the “Group of 77” and China, said the Constitution gives equal recognition to the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and groups. Ethiopia has implemented its first National Human Rights Action Plan and adopted the Second National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) in December 2016. The action plan now under implementation provides directions for carrying out rights-centred development activities, and mechanisms to strengthen human rights institutions, notably by forging stronger collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The pace and breadth of democratic change in Ethiopia are extraordinary, he said, stressing that the Government has released high-profile political leaders, made peace with Eritrea after two decades of hostility, and encouraged exiled opposition politicians to return home and participate in the country’s socio-economic and political affairs.
Ms. MAKWABE (South Africa) aligning with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), drew attention to the significant strides made in strengthening the treaty system. On the monitoring body, she said the guidelines must take a broader view and incorporate other stakeholders. On racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance, the use of technology should be addressed, as it regrettably aided in the spread of hatred. Member States should take legal measures to criminalize hate speech and movements, she said, noting that South Africa is devising an action plan to combat racism and crimes through the Internet and social media. As contemporary forms of racism are on the rise, she stressed the importance of additional protocols to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Right of Reply
The representative of Turkey, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said her counterpart from Greece presented a one-sided interpretation of history and current affairs. Turkish Cypriots face human rights violations and many are displaced. They showed a commitment to negotiations to resolve the issue, while United Nations mechanisms are being manipulated by Greek Cypriots to incorrectly portray the situation. She called on the international community to immediately end this injustice.
The representative of Cyprus voiced regret over Turkey’s opposition to the international community and numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. The issues in Cyprus resulted from Turkey’s illegal occupation. She called on that country to align itself with relevant United Nations resolutions.
The Russian Federation said Ukraine’s delegate had made a mistake regarding the name of “the Republic of Crimea, which is part of the Russian Federation”. His country is meeting all its obligations under international human rights agreements, he assured. Measures were taken to monitor human rights and bring perpetrators to justice. Ukrainian authorities should regulate the human rights situation in their own country, he said, calling for rejection of Ukraine’s politicized and provocative initiative on a General Assembly resolution.
The representative of Ukraine reiterated that the Russian Federation is an occupying power. Criticizing the ongoing propaganda in Russian media, he said no delegation in the room needs to be convinced that Ukraine is suffering from Russian occupation.
Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation
LEO HELLER, Special Rapporteur of Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, said that, in the water and sanitation sector, different actors have explored the concept of accountability — Governments, international organizations, corporations and non-governmental organizations — in seeking to formulate how it might be applied to the sector’s features. However, there is no agreed definition of accountability. Clarity is needed. The diversity of actors implies that the traditional State-centred human rights framework leaves gaps in the traditional accountability mechanisms, so that when the rights to water and sanitation are affected, it is not clear to whom a particular action might be attributed, how sanctions might be enforced or how a remedy might be applied. Further, globalization and “the neoliberal wave” have often weakened the State’s role in the provision and regulation of services, he said.
The implementation of accountability requires a clear definition of who is accountable, who can hold actors accountable, and for what, he said. Accountable actors must identify the roles of entities whose influence affects water and sanitation service provision, as well as adopt the normative content of the human rights to those services as the basis for performance standards. In providing explanations and justifications, States must answer questions and give the information requested. Accountable actors must maintain clear mechanisms for responding to concerns from affected populations and facilitate information exchange. On compliance through enforceability, it is critical to ensure accountability by imposing sanctions and remedial actions for violations and abuses. He called for effective oversight systems to trace the conduct of actors and to assess whether performance standards are met.
When the floor was opened for questions, the representative of Spain asked about the obstacles countries face in relation to accountability and about good practices in increasing accessibility for marginalized and vulnerable people.
The representative of South Africa said, “water is life and sanitation is dignity”. Principle of accountability is appropriate, as it highlights the importance of implementation. She asked what a principle of accountability entails in the context of the right to water, especially for poor communities.
The representative Switzerland asked to what extent decentralized water management can facilitate or complicate implementation of the principle of accountability.
The representative of Morocco, describing efforts to increase access to water and sanitation, among them, a national programme for sanitation and purification of waste water, asked for good practices on attaining Sustainable Development Goal 6.
The representative of El Salvador asked about accountability gaps among various stakeholders and in the shared responsibility of neighbouring countries.
The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that there are cases when certain States consider water access a political issue, pointed to authorities in Kiev cutting off water channels in Crimea and asked about international legal measures a country can use to address such violations.
The representative of Israel said her country is working on the Red-Dead water project creating new water for the region in conjunction with neighbouring countries of the Dead Sea. She asked about similar border-crossing projects.
Also speaking were representatives of Germany, State of Palestine and the European Union.
The representative of Ukraine, exercising the right of reply, described a “strange” logic by his counterpart from the Russian Federation, notably with the latter country occupying the Crimean peninsula and then “complaining about not providing water for this area.” He questioned why Ukraine should provide water services, as the occupying country is responsible for everything that takes place during the occupation. He expressed hope the Special Rapporteur would explore these issues.
Mr. HELLER replied that the water and sanitation sector suffers from a lack of clarity regarding what accountability entails and how it can be implemented. Few countries have adequate accountability systems. If water and sanitation services providers are profit-oriented, some people are left behind. But when the services are provided by the local government, the needs of all the segments of the population are usually considered more carefully. It is necessary to elaborate more dynamic and expedient mechanism to receive and address the population’s complaints, he stressed.
Regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel, he recalled that his mandate remains available to discuss the issues and visit the region. On Ukraine and the Russian Federation, he recalled that, in situations of war, water supplies should be protected and preserved, and civilians’ access to these supplies must be ensured.
He spotlighted numerous interesting initiatives, such as the Protocol on Water and Health put in place by the United Nations Information Centre in Europe.
LEILANI FARHA, 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, said there is a human rights imperative to upgrade informal settlements. One quarter of the world’s urban population — 870 million people — live in grossly inadequate housing in informal settlements, usually deprived of water and sanitation services and left to construct shelter out of whatever materials they can find, often in constant fear of eviction. The international community must act urgently to address this situation. If informal settlements are egregious violations of human rights, they are also incredible accomplishments, claiming rights to dignity and place. The resilience and capacities of communities must be liberated to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in line with the New Urban Agenda. In that context, upgrading must build on, rather than undermine, communities’ capacities to claim and realize their rights. There must be meaningful accountability regarding the upgrade of informal settlements, which is an obligation of States and international organizations.
She said the over-riding objective of informal settlement upgrading should be the full enjoyment of the right to housing. Yet, too often, projects isolate one or two components of the right to housing only to neglect others. Water and sanitation are often provided by moving residents to a site without access to work and livelihood, for instance. In situ upgrading must be recognized as a right protected by law, when a resident so desires. Evictions should be authorized in the most exceptional circumstances only. Moreover, the right of residents, notably women, to participate in all aspects of upgrading must be ensured. Planning and zoning must foster realization of the right to housing in informal settlements, she said, stressing that these forms of settlements should not be subject to punitive or discriminatory treatment.
The representative of Morocco asked for a starting point for addressing rights‑based housing in efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11.
The representative of South Africa asked to what extent the right to housing is inalienable for all people.
The representative of the European Union asked how the human rights paradigm can improve well-being in slums and informal settlements. Women and girls risk gender-based violence and rarely have access to emergency shelters. He asked for good practices in address to this issue, as well as for procedures to provide safety and security.
The representative of the Russian Federation asked for the Special Rapporteur’s views on improving conditions for receiving humanitarian aid. On informal settlements, he called for addressing issues of armed conflicts and emergency situations.
An observer of the State of Palestine said Israel announced new plans to build settlements, making it easier for the occupying power to annex areas. She asked about measures to protect people there, and about what the international community must do to hold the occupying power accountable.
The representative of Germany asked about the main reasons behind evictions and relocations, and about best practices for upgrading informal settlements.
Also speaking was the representative of the Republic of Korea.
Ms. FARHA replied that the first step States must take is crafting a rights‑based housing strategy. Governments are struggling to deal with the housing crisis because they implement piecemeal approaches rather than develop an overarching strategy based on human rights. International cooperation will be important to upgrade informal settlements. Donors and recipients must form genuine partnerships based in the right to housing — a right which entails accountability, as it can be enforced in courts. Further, the meaning of “adequate housing” is clear: United Nations bodies have defined it, and courts around the world have adapted it to various national contexts.
On sexual violence and the lack of shelter, she referred to paragraph 108 of the report, underscoring the importance that women themselves be consulted regarding the best approach to address the violence they experience. More broadly, the right to adequate housing applies in all contexts, always, and States have a responsibility in that regard. Human rights cannot be undermined or abandoned in conflicts or austerity contexts, she stressed.
Replying to the question about occupied Palestinian territories, she acknowledged that the situation is grave. Her Office has reiterated the human rights imperative for all people, including Palestinians. On development-based displacements, she said communities themselves should be consulted. They can foster the implementation of “ingenious” means of remaining in situ despite natural disasters, by hiring their own architects and engineers, for instance.
Physical and Mental Health
DAINIUS PURAS, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, said mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, copes with stress, works productively and is able to contribute to community. His report addresses the realization of the right to mental health for “people on the move” — a term that captures those who, beyond legal categories, are first and foremost rights-holders — and those in host communities. Some 65.6 million people have been forced from their homes by violence, war, persecution, famine poverty, discrimination or disaster, among other reasons. In tandem, mental health has risen from the shadows to reach the global health and human rights agendas.
He said the most important lesson left by these two patterns is that discriminatory policies, fuelled by hostile attitudes and rhetoric, must be abandoned. Fear and intolerance resulting from negative attitudes not only harms the mental health of people on the move but threatens the development of enabling environments. Leaders and others in political power must be aware that their xenophobic words create hostile emotional and psychosocial environments, flaming mistrust and intolerance in societal life. Respectful human relations must prevail. People on the move add diversity to their host communities and help in job creation by counteracting the effects of ageing populations. “The economic contribution they make can sometimes be more than twice the cost of hosting them in a society,” he said, stressing that laws and policies that institutionalize the separation of children on the move from their families, or complicate family reunification adversely affect mental health and must be immediately eliminated.
The representative of South Africa citing her country’s national strategic plan 2013-2020 to transform health care, noted the high rate of mental disorders among people on the move.
The representative of Portugal asked how States can adopt a people-centred and rights-based programme for people on the move.
The representative of the European Union asked about measures for reducing negative impacts on people on the move, and about best cooperation practices between humanitarian and development actors.
The representative of Lithuania asked about steps for creating a safe and nonviolent environment for children on the move in the context of forced migration.
The representative of Bahrain asked about the most effective policy strategies and best practices for fostering a community-based mental health process.
The representative of Morocco asked about plans to hold events on the margins of the Conference on Migration to draw attention to the mental health of people on the move.
The representative of Colombia, noting that his region is facing a migration crisis, stressed the need to “advance together” in finding a comprehensive approach, as selective measures undermine human rights.
The representative of Iran, recalling that United States sanctions are targeting people most in need of medical care, asked for an assessment of the impact of those measures and about preventing mental health problems in this context.
Mr. PURAS replied that the achievement of the 2030 Agenda will not be possible unless discriminatory practices are abandoned, particularly regarding people on the move and mental health conditions. He cautioned against relying too much on medicalization and spotlighted the role of medical and psychiatric associations in fighting such discrimination. When people on the move have mental health problems they face two types of discrimination. He cited Lebanon as a good example of a country willing to host migrants and refugees and provide them with psycho-social services. States should refrain from creating separate systems to provide services to people on the move, as this can lead to discrimination.
Regarding children, he stressed that detention has a detrimental effect on their development. Young children in particular must feel safe and in contact with primary caretakers. Pointing out that child detention causes long-lasting personality disorders, anxiety and depression, he called on the international community to end this practice. Programmes should not be paternalistic, treating people on the move as passive recipients, but rather, foster involvement, empowerment and inclusion. Refugees and migrants who are health care professionals can contribute to the provision of such services in host countries. He added that crises can lead to positive change if the international community addresses them with an evidence- and human rights-based approach.