News

20 Jun

Support ISHR's June fundraising appeal to help human rights defenders pursue their work across the globe. 

19 Jun

The practice of censorship in the twenty-first century is changing, but is no less effective at closing down dissent. A new report by the UN expert on freedom of expression speaks to a range of developments, and makes pointed recommendations, on how to move forward. But ISHR asks: what does this look like with respect to China?

19 Jun

In 1998 the world made a commitment to promote and protect the rights of defenders.  Twenty years on, what real difference has the UN Declaration - and subsequent UN resolutions and recommendations - made to the lives of human rights defenders in Colombia and Tunisia?  A new report by ISHR and partners provides insights and proposals for change.

19 Jun

Respect for human rights – and a commitment to uphold these rights through multilateralism and the rule of law – is the only pathway to peace, security and sustainable development.

13 Jun

The 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 18 June to 6 July 2018, will consider issues including sexual orientation and gender identiy, freedom of association, assembly, expression and women's rights. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Burundi, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Belarus among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda.

Top human rights expert says human rights is treated as the 'Cinderella' of three UN pillars

15.11.2012
 

On 24 October 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, presented her report to the 67th session of the General Assembly’s Third Committee.  Ms Pillay's statement focused on the crisis in Syria, the treaty body strengthening process and the  lack of funding for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  She also summarized the work and activities of the OHCHR worldwide.  In the interactive dialogue, Member States discussed these issues as well as the protection of human rights defenders, discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and recent tensions surrounding freedom of expression.

OHCHR’s role in the treaty body strengthening process proved to be the most controversial topic discussed during the dialogue. Ms Pillay reminded States that  strengthening of the treaty body system was necessary for the effective functioning of the human rights system, and noted that her report on the treaty body strengthening process was a culmination of discussions with all relevant stakeholders.  

Pakistan, Switzerland, South Africa, Bangladesh and Angola welcomed OHCHR’s role in the treaty body strengthening process.  A key concern for some States was OHCHR’s decision to move the New York meetings of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Human Rights Committee to Geneva. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the African Group, Russia and Bangladesh expressed discontent about this decision. Some States questioned the financial benefits of the move, while others noted that the committee experts were not consulted. Ms Pillay countered that consultations had taken place, however, the move was essential for budgetary reasons.  The Office had overspent extra budgetary funds by $40 million, so she had asked her staff to make a 7.85 percent cut.  The decision to move the meetings from New York to Geneva was part of this cut.

Some States also expressed concern about an OHCHR letter that requests States to disclose their standing national reporting practices and coordinating mechanisms.  CARICOM and Liechtenstein questioned whether the request would place an additional undue burden on Member States. Russia and China vehemently argued that the request was a violation of General Assembly resolution 66/254 (2012), which established the intergovernmental consultative process on reform of the treaty bodies.  Ms Pillay clarified that the intention was for Member States to share best practices, leading to a fruitful discussion that would ultimately benefit States.

Ms Pillay and various Member States expressed much concern over the limited resources available to OHCHR. OHCHR is under financial constraints, due in part to the support the Office provides to the Human Rights Council, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and an ever-growing number of special procedures. Liechtenstein, Algeria, Chile, Malaysia, Morocco Norway, and Switzerland questioned how OHCHR would address underfunding. Ms Pillay responded that OHCHR was looking to Member States for financial support as less than 5 percent of the regular budget covers all human rights mechanisms.  She noted that although human rights is one of the three pillars of the UN, it is often ignored. “This tradition of keeping human rights as the Cinderella of the three pillars must be addressed,” she said.

Voicing her concern about the protracted violence and escalating bloodshed in Syria, Ms Pillay noted that protection of human rights,  while a daunting challenge, is the raison d'etre of the UN.  She had briefed the General Assembly and the Security Council on Syria, reiterating to States that outright disrespect for human rights cannot be tolerated, and that the UN must act as a protector of these rights. While taking into account important political concerns, it was urgent to find ways to avert massive loss of civilians and human rights violations.  International law obliged States to protect their people, and where a State manifestly failed to carry out that obligation, the international community should take urgent measures to protect the Syrian people. The European Union (EU), Liechtenstein, Malaysia, and United Kingdom (UK) expressed support for OHCHR’s work in addressing human rights violations in Syria.  Syria continued to question Ms Pillay’s evaluation of the conflict, arguing she relentlessly criticized the Syrian government while ignoring offenses of the opposition.

Both Chile and the UK expressed concern about human rights defenders. Chile declared the UN must guarantee security for those who defend human rights. Echoing Chile, the UK referred to the disturbing trend of reprisals, questioning what the international community could do in order to end reprisals. An attack on human rights defenders for cooperating with the UN is an attack on UN principles.  Ms Pillay expressed disappointment that defenders continued to be threatened, harassed, and killed for engaging with the UN system.  She reminded Member States of their obligation to conduct investigations and provide effective remedies for victims of reprisals.

Ms Pillay highlighted that OHCHR had conducted a study of LGBT rights, and she hoped it would encourage further dialogue between the States on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.  Pakistan noted  that Member States remain divided on the issue, and Iran encouraged the High Commissioner to avoid reports on controversial issues that fall, in its view, outside internationally recognised norms.  The United States (US) was fully supportive of OHCHR’s advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.

Highlighting recent tensions between freedom of expression and respect for religion, Ms Pillay stressed that international human rights law provides a framework to protect freedom of speech while sanctioning incitement to hatred. She discussed the various workshops held by her office to try to reconcile the tension between freedom of speech and incitement to hatred.  Malaysia, Algeria, Bangladesh and Iran condemned religious hatred, arguing that with freedom comes responsibility.

Numerous member States expressed alarm about Israel’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council. Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Pakistan, Morocco and UK were concerned that Israel’s rejection of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) threatened the universality of the system. Ms Pillay assured delegations that she was making every effort to ensure universal participation. OHCHR had asked Israel to reconsider its disengagement. Ms Pillay stressed that the UN was set up for all by all and there was a fundamental obligation to participate in the world body.

Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism calls for improved due process in Al Qaida sanctions regime

16.11.2012
 

On 2 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Mr Ben Emmerson, presented his second report (A/67/396) to the General Assembly’s Third Committee.[1]

The Special Rapporteur's statement focused on the need for the Security Council to align its Al Qaida sanctions regime with international human rights law norms, most notably minimum standards of due process. In particular, he recommended amending the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson,[2] which investigates removal requests regarding individuals and entities from the sanctions list. Though the Ombudsman role was created in 2009 to enhance due process protections, it continues to have many weaknesses. These include that States are under no obligation to disclose information to the Ombudsperson, and that the Ombudsperson has had significant difficulty in obtaining sensitive information. In addition, adverse judicial rulings, in particular by the European Court of Human Rights, have undercut the perceived legitimacy of the sanctions regime and its ability to enforce its decisions.

In the Special Rapporteur's view, the Council should, under Chapter VII powers, establish an independent adjudicator with jurisdiction to review and overturn a designation by the Committee.  Such a regime would be different from the former one as it would require the Security Council to abide by the recommendations of the Ombudsperson.

Eight countries contributed to the dialogue, which centered on the effectiveness of the sanctions regime since its inception in 1999.

Mexico and Pakistan inquired whether some of the recommendations could be applied to other sanction cases and regimes. The Special Rapportuer noted that he had focused on the Al-Qaida regime as it had been  the target of sustained legal challenges. 

The European Union (EU), Liechtenstein, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) all praised the improvements in the sanctions regime since 1998. However, they questioned the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that current due process procedures fall short of international human rights law. In their view,  the Ombudsperson process is robust, and operates with respect to the fundamental aspects of due process.

Iran raised the issue of targeted killings, and asked if the Special Rapporteur would take the topic up in future studies.  The Special Rapportuer said his next report to the Human Rights Council would review the minimum international standards related to the accountability of public officials who had collaborated with a torture-rendering State.  He also mentioned that he had begun a study on the use of drones, which he would present to the General Assembly in 2013.

 

[1] The report is available here.

[2] The Office of the Ombudsperson was established by Security Council resolution 1904 (2009) and amended by resolution 1989 (2011). It was created to aid the Al Qaida Sanctions Committee by investigating de-listing requests, and making recommendations on them. The regime requires States to impose measures such as asset freezes, international travel bans and arms embargoes on individuals and entities designated by its own sanctions committee to be associated with Al Qaida.

 

New UN expert on transitional justice presents first report to General Assembly

22.11.2012
 

On 2 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr Pablo de Greiff, presented his first report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee.[1]

In his statement, the Special Rapporteur laid out the foundations of his mandate and called on States to translate into practice their commitments to the idea that redressing past violations is vital for the rule of law.

The Special Rapporteur commended the creation of his mandate by the Human Rights Council. He also praised Member States for having recently adopted a Declaration which expresses the international community’s strong commitment to the rule of law that goes beyond a purely beyond legal formalism - which has proven greatly ineffective - and includes protection of human rights. He referred to apartheid South Africa and Pinochet's Chile to highlight that a formal understanding of the rule of law does not offer guarantees against gross human rights violations, and in some cases can be used to strengthen abusive power.

The Special Rapporteur also elaborated on how the promotion of transitional justice measures can contribute to the rule of law through the implementation of the four pillars of the mandate: truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.  He underscored how certain measures, such as truth commissions, criminal prosecutions, reparations for victims and institutional reform can enhance the rule of law at the domestic level. However he also regretted that some governments remain reluctant to adopt these measures, or try to  trade off one measure against another.

Five countries participated in the dialogue. All the participants expressed appreciation for the victim-centred approach endorsed by the Special Rapporteur. Several States, including Switzerland, were interested in the next steps of the Special Rapporteur, and how he intended to reinforce links among the four pillars.  Chile, Morocco, and Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the gender-dimension of his work, and Norway inquired about marginalized minorities.

In his responses, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern about how few transitional measures had served women and marginalized communities, In regards to moving forward, he planned to hold a  series of consultations at the regional level to explore how countries had redressed massive violations.  He would also carry out country visits, and in due course, provide advisory and technical services.

Lastly, he reiterated the importance of appropriate redress. The fundamental challenge for the effective strengthening of the rule of law, he stated, is that transitional justice must integrate the four pillars, and that it must be designed and operated with acknowledgement of the past.

 

[1] The report (A/67/368) is available at http://www.un.org/en/ga/third/67/documentslist.shtml

 

Governments Condemn Extrajudicial Executions in Seminal UN Vote

22.11.2012
 

(Joint press release)

(New York) An international coalition of organizations dedicated to human rights celebrated the historic vote in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, on November 20, to pass resolution A/C.3/67/L.36 condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  The vote reversed the events of 2010 when the same body voted to strip the resolution of reference to “sexual orientation.” The UNGA also expanded upon its commitment to the universality of human rights by including “gender identity” for the first time in the resolution’s history. 

The resolution, which is introduced biennially in the Third Committee, urges States to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling upon states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. It was introduced by the Government of Sweden and co-sponsored by 34 states from around the world.

For the past 12 years, this resolution has urged States "to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including... all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation."  Apart from Human Rights Council resolution 17/19 it is the only UN resolution to make specific reference to sexual orientation.  This year, the term “gender identity” was added to the list of categories vulnerable to extrajudicial killings.

At Tuesday’s session, the United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, presented an amendment that would have stripped the resolution of reference to “sexual orientation and gender identity” and substituted “or for any other reason.”  The UAE proposal was rejected in a vote with 44 votes in favor, 86 against, and 31 abstentions and 32 absent.  Another failed effort, led by the Holy See, would have stripped all specific references to groups at high risk for execution; however it was never formally introduced. 

The Third Committee also retained language expressing “deep concern” over the continuing instances of arbitrary killing resulting from the use of capital punishment in a manner that violates international law, which some States led by Singapore attempted to have deleted. The Singapore proposal was rejected in a vote with 50 votes in favor, 78 against, and 37 abstentions and 30 absent. 

The full resolution passed with 108 votes in favor, 1 against, 65 abstentions, and 19 absent.

Many governments, including Brazil, the United States and South Africa, among others, spoke out to condemn the proposed amendment to remove reference to sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Government of Japan ended the silence that has often characterized the Asian Group’s participation on LGBT rights at the UNGA by stating, “We cannot tolerate any killings of persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our delegation voted against the proposed amendment to this paragraph because we think it is meaningful to mention such killings from the perspective of protecting the rights of LGBT people.”  

Some governments condemned the reference to sexual orientation and gender identity, including Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Trinidad and Tobago stated that specific reference to “gender identity” presented a “particular challenge” for the country.  Speaking frequently, the Government of Egypt stated that it was “gravely alarmed at the attempt to legitimate undetermined concepts like gender identity” by equating them with other forms of discrimination such as that based on race, color, sex, religion, and language.  In reference to sexual orientation and gender identity, Egypt stated, “We are alarmed at the attempts to make new rights or new standards.” 

The vote affirms the resolution’s dramatic conclusion in 2010. At that time, the Third Committee removed the reference to “sexual orientation” by a vote of 79 in favor, 70 opposed, with 17 abstaining and 26 not voting and was silent on “gender identity.” However, in a remarkable turn of events, the resolution was later introduced before the full General Assembly, which voted to reinstate the language by passing it 93 to 55, with 27 abstentions and 17 absent or not voting.

The states’ decision on Tuesday to support the inclusion of “sexual orientation” and introduce “gender identity” into the resolution is one more in a series of positive developments the UN and in regional human rights systems where there is increasingly recognition of the need for protection from discrimination regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The successful expansion of the resolution to include “gender identity” on Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day dedicated to those murdered as a result of their gender identity or expression, was particularly significant.

THE VOTE

  • For a full vote on the Singapore Amendment click here.  For a photograph of the vote click here.
  • For a full vote on the United Arab Emirates Amendment to remove sexual orientation and gender identity click here.  For a photograph of the vote click here.
  • For a full vote on the passage of the Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Resolutions click here.  For a photograph of the vote click here.

Joint news release by:

Action Canada for Population and Development, Canada

Anjaree Thailand, Thailand

Amnesty International

Arc International

COC Nederland, Netherlands

FARUG, Uganda

For-SOGI, Thailand

GAYa NUSANTARA, Indonesia

GATE: Global Action for Trans* Equality

Human Rights Watch

International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia (IDAHO)

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

International Commission of Jurists

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Kaos Gay Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association, Turkey

The Norwegian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organisation (LLH), Norway

Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad (OTD), Chile

RFSL The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, Sweden

Russian LGBT Network, Russia

SAYONI, Singapore

SPECTRUM, Uganda

SPoD, Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, Turkey

TLF Share, Philippines

Transgender Europe (TGEU)

Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR), Turkey

President of Human Rights Council condemns continuing reprisals, requests more resources for Council

30.11.2012
 

On 14 November 2012, the President of the Human Rights Council (the President), Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre, presented her report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee in New York.

In her statement, the President summarized some of the key developments in the Council in 2012, including the ongoing consideration of the human rights situation in Syria; the creation of new mandates on Eritrea and on Belarus, and on the effects of Israeli settlements on human rights; the adoption of resolutions on 17 countries; and the organization of 16 panel discussions, including  on freedom of expression on the Internet, and on access to justice for  indigenous peoples.

The President stressed the importance of civil society contributions to the Council, which were indispensable to its work and credibility. However, she was disappointed at continued reprisals against those cooperating with the UN system. She underscored that it was essential for human rights defenders to carry out their work in a safe and open environment, and in particular, she referenced paragraph 30 of HRC Resolution 16/21. In this provision, the Council strongly rejects acts of intimidation and reprisals, and urges States to prevent and ensure adequate protection against them. She also highlighted the strong stance of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the issue during his September address at the Council, and in a high-level panel on reprisals.

The President highlighted several other Council resolutions, including one recommending the General Assembly to allow participation of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) at the General Assembly.  She also welcomed the constructive discussion in June on the line between freedom of expression and incitement to hatred and violence, which was an important follow-up to Council resolution 16/18 (2011).  That resolution, among other things, emphasizes the interdependence and mutually reinforcing bond of freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

She also appealed to States to keep up the momentum of the first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycle, noting that the second cycle, already underway, will be crucial in dealing with follow up on human rights in a non-confrontational and depoliticized manner.

One of the major challenges facing the Council is the lack of resources for the numerous activities it undertakes. In particular, the President noted that the conference services required more resources, including for translation of UPR documents into all languages .  She also requested that resources from the regular UN budget cover webcast coverage of Council and UPR meetings, as the webcasts are the only official archive of those meetings.

In the interactive dialogue, most States praised the Council's progress, though a few pointed out some issues that required further attention.  Mexico said there was room for improvement in how the Council addressed national situations, while Liechtenstein regretted that the Council had not taken sufficient action regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain. Liechtenstein also questioned the usefulness of the “traditional values” debates.  China and Cuba expressed concern about the Council's lack of attention to economic, social and cultural rights. Russia, Syria, Bangladesh, Cuba and China accused  the Council of selectivity and double standards, practices which could lead to the discrediting of the Council, as happened with the Commission on Human Rights, its predecessor. China also disagreed with the General Assembly practice of taking up the Council’s report before the Third Committee considers it. As the premier human rights body, China believed the Third Committee should review it first.

Mexico, Turkey, Switzerland and South Africa agreed that the Council needed more resources, though Mexico urged the Council and Third Committee to look closely at their division of labour and avoid duplication of efforts. Turkey highlighted the need for more transparency around voluntary contributions to the Office, and for easily accessible information on sources and funding allocation to the Office.  Switzerland urged States to maintain their voluntary contributions, while increasing their portion of the regular budget for the High Commissioner.

The United States (US) , Switzerland, European Union (EU), and Japan asked for advice about how best to ensure the implementation of recommendations during the UPR’s second cycle. Apparently referring to Israel decision to suspend  relations with the Council, Liechtenstein expressed concern about the threat to the universality of the UPR.

In closing, the President again invited States to consider providing additional resources to the Council and for OHCHR. Funding was very much needed, including for technical cooperation, local offices and general support for fieldwork.

General Assembly grants Palestine 'Non-Member Observer State' status

02.12.2012
 

On November 29, the anniversary of the General Assembly resolution on the partition of Palestine and the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution granting Palestine the status of “non-member observer state”. In 2011, the Palestinian's bid for recognition as a full member of the United Nations stalled when it was unable to garner sufficient support in the Security Council, and faced the threat of a veto from the United States.[1] However, unlike the bid for full membership, recognition as an observer state only required a simple majority of the 193 Member States of the General Assembly.[2]

The resolution was approved with 138 states voting in favour, 9 against and 41 abstentions. Five States did not vote.[3] The United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Panama and Israel voted against the resolution (see full vote record here). European Union (EU) countries were almost evenly split between voting for and abstaining, with only the Czech Republic voting against. This was a significant change from the EU votes last year on Palestine’s membership in UNESCO, showing a marked increase in support.[4] The majority of African, Asian and Latin American and Caribbean States voted in favour of the resolution.[5]

Sudan introduced the draft text. In addition to Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, and Ron Prosor, the Ambassador of Israel to the UN, 40 States spoke at the adoption of the resolution.[6] Israel expressed that the resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority, will not enable it to join international treaties, organizations, or conferences, and cannot serve as terms of reference for peace negotiations because it says nothing about Israel’s security needs.

Mr Abbas did not make any specific reference to other international bodies or treaties that Palestine would aim to join, including the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many States have expressed concern in recent days that such action by Palestine would jeopardize the peace process. However, human rights groups are urging States that have been pressing Palestine to forgo membership in the ICC to end such pressure and support universal ratification of the ICC treaty.

Of the nine States that voted against the resolution, only Canada, the USA and the Czech Republic spoke. All shared the view that the resolution undermined the prospects for a two-state solution and that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations. Of the 41 countries that abstained, many expressed concern that the resolution would have an adverse impact on negotiations. In addition, many States that voted in favor of the resolution affirmed that this was not a formal recognition of Palestine as a State.[7] Presumably referring to the potential for Palestine to pursue action against Israel at the ICC, many expressed concern that ‘unilateral actions’ are counter-productive and threaten the viability of the two state solution. Others, including the UK, Japan and Italy, referred more overtly to the ICC issue, with the UK stating that it abstained for lack of assurances that Palestine would forego such actions.

Though attention has been focused on the ICC, a significant development for human rights defenders is the fact that Palestine’s new status may also open the door for ratification of core human rights treaties. Human rights treaty-monitoring and reporting would be an important development towards promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

[1] According to Article 4 of the UN Charter, full membership requires a recommendation by the Security Council. See also  XIV of the UN Rules of Procedure

[2] The granting of observer status is based purely on practice, and there are no provisions for it in the UN Charter. The practice dates from 1946, when the Secretary-General accepted the designation of the Swiss Government as a Permanent Observer to the UN. Observers were subsequently put forward by certain States that later became UN Members, including Austria, Finland, Italy, and Japan. The Holy See is currently the only other observer State.

[3] Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, and Ukraine.

[4] Compared to the UNESCO vote in 2011, five EU countries switched from abstain to yes (Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal and Georgia); three EU countries switched from no to abstain (Germany, Netherlands, and Lithuania); and one country switching from no to yes (Sweden).

[5] In Africa, only Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Rwanda and Togo abstained. Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Madagascar did not vote. Of 54Asian States, only eight abstained (Fiji, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Tonga, Vanuatu), four voted no (Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau) and Kiribati did not vote. In GRULAC only six States abstained (Bahamas, Barbados, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Paraguay) and Panama voted no.

[6] Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Tanzania, The Russian Federation, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA.

[7] Including Belgium, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway and Papa New Guinea. As of November 2012, 131 States had formally recognized the State of Palestine.

 

Third Committee holds course on death penalty, makes historic gains on SOGI rights

21.12.2012
 

The 67th session of the General Assembly’s (GA) Third Committee saw the re-hashing of a number of by now predictable debates between States, including on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual and reproductive health and rights, traditional values, and the death penalty. Fragile gains were consolidated and setbacks avoided, though significant achievements were minimal.

Thematic Developments

Reference to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) survives attempted deletion in extrajudicial executions resolution

This year’s resolution on extrajudicial executions added ‘gender identity’ to the list of vulnerable groups that States were specifically urged to protect. Two attacks on the SOGI language were waged in negotiations. Some States[1] proposed deleting the entire list of vulnerable groups, in a bad faith attempt to ‘streamline’ the text with generic language referring to all of them. Other States[2] proposed to simply delete the SOGI language. In the end, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) tabled an amendment to delete the SOGI language, which was overwhelmingly defeated.[3]

Hard fought consensus prevails on violence against women resolution

As expected, negotiations on the violence against women resolution were lengthy and difficult, against the backdrop of the traditional values debate at the Human Rights Council (HRC).[4] New language on sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights was retained in the end, though only in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which, amongst other things, states that abortion should not be promoted as family planning.[5] Notably, Chile withdrew its co-sponsorship of the text this year, due to the language on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. Efforts by the co-sponsors (France and the Netherlands) to further expand the language on custom, tradition, and customary practices to include language on 'modifying social and cultural patterns of conduct' were not successful.

GA adopts new resolution on female genital mutilation (FGM)

A new resolution on FGM was passed by consensus. Though the resolution urges States to pursue education and training that incorporates a social perspective and is based on human rights and gender-equality principles, the resolution falls short of categorising FGM as a human rights violation, as some Western European and Others Group (WEOG) States and human rights defenders had hoped.

Somewhat surprisingly, discussions around several sensitive issues were relatively uncontroversial. The resolution refers to sexual and reproductive health and not the more divisive ‘reproductive rights’. In addition, though previous UN resolutions have referred inconsistently to FGM as a harmful ‘traditional’ practice, the language on traditions was not included in the initial draft, nor accepted during negotiations.[6]

Global momentum continues for abolition of the death penalty

The GA adopted its fourth resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty[7] reaffirming the UN's growing commitment towards abolition. The text was adopted by vote, with a slightly larger margin than in 2010.[8] New improved language this year includes additional safeguards for the application of the death penalty, including for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age and for pregnant women. 

The passage of the resolution was tense, though less acrimonious than in previous years. Retentionist States argued throughout the negotiations that there was no international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty, that the death penalty was not prohibited under international law, and that its application was a matter for individual States to decide.[9] Key detractors[10] proposed hostile amend­ments along these lines in the Third Committee to weaken the text but all were defeated.[11]

Third Committee grapples with potential revival of defamation of religions

It was unclear this year whether the GA would find consensus on two texts related to religious intolerance following the release of an inflammatory video "The Innocence of Muslims" prior to the GA session. An overriding concern was that the OIC might bring back a defamation of religion text. However the OIC remained committed to the cooperative approach that first prevailed in the HRC in March 2011 and GA in 2011. The GA this year adopted another consensus resolution on combating intolerance and incitement to violence against persons, based on religious beliefs that omitted any specific references to defamation of religion or blasphemy. 

As in previous years, the GA also adopted an EU-sponsored resolution on freedom of religion and belief without a vote. [12] However maintaining consensus came at a price; in exchange for the OIC dropping defamation language from its own resolution, the EU also had to make multiple concessions, including giving up new language on protection of religious minorities, and on the right to conversion.

Country Resolutions

This session saw some fairly significant developments in the country resolutions. The Third Committee again took up four country-specific resolutions on human rights:MyanmarIran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Syria.[13]However, in a marked departure from previous years, the Third Committee adopted two of the four resolutions by consensus: Myanmar and the DPRK. This marks the first time since 2006 that the Third Committee adopted a country-specific resolution by consensus.

Consensus on the Myanmar resolution was expected, and the result of intense negotiations between the sponsors of the text (EU) and the country concerned. The resolution continues to call for reforms but also acknowledges positive steps taken in the last year. The ongoing violence against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State threatened the fragile consensus, as some OIC states (including Qatar and Iran) threatened to call a vote due to insufficient language addressing the issue. While human rights defenders were pushing for stronger wording,[14] many still see the resolution as having proven its worth as an important tool for engaging with the government of Myanmar to encourage further reforms and improve the human rights situation in the country. Whether this will in fact be the last resolution, as stated by the representative of Myanmar at the adoption, remains to be seen. Notably, the usual language referring to the continued consideration of the question at the next session of the GA has been replaced by a more vague formulation to ‘remain seized of the matter’.

Some viewed the unexpected consensus on the DPRK as a positive development, presuming that the DPRK did not call a vote for fear of an embarrassing defeat in the face of an ever greater number of States supporting the resolution. Others are concerned that the DPRK’s disassociation from the consensus after the adoption is simply indicative of a new form of rejection by the State of the resolution.

This was the first time that the DPRK resolution was adopted by consensus since it was first introduced in 2005. The resolution on Myanmar was first adopted in 1991 and was adopted by consensus until 2006 when the Human Rights Council was created — which many States regarded as the proper venue for country specific resolutions. The move to consensus of these two resolutions therefore begs several questions, including whether States are moving beyond the debate on whether it is appropriate for the GA to consider country specific resolutions. Some would point to the spate of GA resolutions this year and last on Syria as evidence of the GA’s relevance in addressing country-specific human rights situations. Some would also point to the absence of no-action motions on resolutions.[15]

Two of the four resolutions continued to be voted: Iran and Syria. The resolution on Iran was passed by 86 YES votes, 32 NO votes and 65 abstentions.[16] The resolution on Syria passed with 135 YES votes, 12 NO votes and 36 abstentions.[17]

The resolution on Syria was led by Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with strong regional co-sponsorship.[18] As was the case in the Third Committee last year, no Arab country voted against the resolution. However, in contrast to last year’s Third Committee resolution, Russia and China moved from abstentions to voting against the resolution. Several States who voted for the resolution expressed unease about the resolution’s one-sidedness insofar as it inadequately condemns human rights violations by the opposition.[19]

Votes in favour of the resolution on Iran (86) stayed constant compared to Third Committee last year (86) but unfortunately decreased compared to the 2011 GA plenary (89). Overall, the vote count in Third Committee reflects a large number of shifts in position. In terms of backsliding, changes of note include: the shifting back from abstaining to NO by Egypt and Kuwait and from YES to abstaining by Tunisia, Rwanda, Gambia, Tanzania, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia. There is some speculation that the backsliding is due—at least in part—to the fact that Iran is now chairing the non-aligned movement (NAM), an organisation that maintains a principled position against country-specific resolutions at the GA. More positive developments include the shift from abstaining to YES by Serbia, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, from NO to abstain by Algeria and Comoros, and from NO to being absent by Myanmar.

Institutional Developments

Three treaty bodies made requests for, and were granted, additional funding this year: the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee Against Torture (CAT), and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). CAT[20] again received an additional week per session in 2013 and 2014, for a total of four additional weeks.[21] CRPD[22] was granted two pre-sessional weeks plus two additional regular session weeks bringing the total number of weeks to five. CRC[23] was also granted the additional meeting time it requested.[24] However, the necessary funds for the CRPD and CRC requests were rolled into the regular budget for 2014-2015, delaying implementation.[25]

Though consensus was achieved on all three requests, these were not well received by some of the traditionally fiscally conservative States. The United States disassociated from the consensus on all three, while the UK singled out the CRC in particular for disassociation. Japan did not disassociate from consensus, but made statements after each adoption expressing its concern about the budgetary implications.

Negotiations on the OHCHR strategic framework follow smooth course despite initial concerns

The human rights component (Programme 20) of the UN’s proposed strategic framework for the period 2014-2015[26] was taken up by the Third Committee this year.[27] In past years, several States[28] have used the process to press for more oversight of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by the Human Rights Council, while others have vigorously defended the High Commissioner and her Office's independence. Though it was anticipated that Programme 20 negotiations might centre around this divisive issue, fortunately no standoff occurred.[29] Positively, a number of attempts by Russia, Cuba, and China to significantly weaken language relating to the OHCHR's role and mandate were roundly rejected by OHCHR and supportive States,[30]including a Russian proposal to remove all references to OHCHR's cooperation with civil society or NGOs. However, some minor changes were made to the text relating to OHCHR's engagement with Member States, OHCHR's relationship with civil society, the treaty-body strengthening process, and legislative mandates.

Despite consensus on these changes, the resolution containing Programme 20 was adopted by vote because Israel, along with the US and Australia, disagreed with the emphasis on the Durban Declaration and Programme for Action (DDPA) in the text.[31]


[1] Holy See, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

[2] Russia and Syria.

[3] The vote count was 44:86:31 (for:against:abstentions).

[4] See here for more information.

[5] Egypt (on behalf of Arab Group), Holy See, Iran, Pakistan and the Russian Federation opposed these references.

[6] See here for more information on the traditional values debate at the UN.

[7] Led by Chile and Micronesia on behalf of a cross-regional task force.

[8] The vote count was 111:41:34 (for:against:abstentions). The Central African Republic (absent in 2010) voted YES this year. and did South Sudan (which did not exist in 2010). (In Third Committee the vote was 110:39:36). The resolution is a biannual one, last seen in 2010 at the 65th session. In 2010, resolution was adopted by a vote of 109:41:35 (in the GA plenary).

[9] Singapore, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, Botswana, China, Egypt.

[10] Egypt, Singapore, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, and Botswana.

[11] The amendments attempted to either remove new language from the resolution (the call for States to provide  specific death penalty statistics), reaffirm State sovereignty, or assert a State's right to chose its own legal justice system.

[12] The EU changed the name of the resolution this year from "elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief" to "freedom of religion and belief" which is consistent with HRC resolutions by the EU on the same issue. 

[14] Particularly on: freedom of expression, association and assembly; the situation of prisoners; and the National Human Rights Commission.

[15] Human rights defenders have long decried the use of no-action motions, which prevent the continuation of a debate and allow States to avoid taking a position on politically sensitive issues.

[16] The vote in the Third Committee was 83 YES votes, to 31 NO votes, with 68 abstentions.

[17] The vote in the Third Committee was 132 YES votes, to 12 NO votes, with 35 abstentions,

[18] By Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

[19] Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Brasil, and Jamaica. As a result of the resolution's perceived one-sidedness, Nigeria moved from supporting the text to abstaining and Ecuador continued to vote against the resolution.

[20] This resolution was run by Denmark.

[21] The CAT was previously granted an additional week per session in 2010, for 2011 and 2012.

[22] This resolution was run by New Zealand, Mexico and Sweden.

[23] This resolution was run by Slovenia and Costa Rica.

[24] The request was to work in two chambers at one pre-sessional working group meeting in 2013 and at one regular session to be held in 2014.

[25] At issue with the CRC request was the fact that the budget division at the UN had included the cost of 10 common core documents in the budget implication document, while the CRC is not the only committee that would benefit from those documents.

[26] The strategic framework is the principal policy directive of the UN, which serves as the basis for programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, with effect from the biennium 2014-2015.

[27] The Strategic Framework was reviewed in June by the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) of the GA. However, negotiations in the CPC broke down, and consideration of the report was deferred to the GA's Third Committee.  A summary of some of the developments that led to this breakdown is available in ISHR's Alert: A forecast of the 67th GA session, p.11, here.

[28] China, Cuba, Russia, among others.

[29] Egypt and Mexico co-facilitated the negotiations.

[30] EU, Australia, US, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

[31] 161 countries voted in favour of the resolution, 3 voted against (US, Israel, Canada) and 7 abstained.

 

States should reject procedure that results in exclusion of non-government organisations from UN

01.02.2013
 

A group of leading international human rights organisations, including the International Service for Human Rights and Amnesty International, have called on the UN to ensure that non-government organisations are not excluded from key UN meetings.

The call was made in response to a resolution proposing that an NGO could be excluded from a high-level international meeting on immigration and development if any state objected to the participation of that NGO on any grounds whatsoever.

“Non-government and civil society organisations have a critical role to play at the UN, ensuring that the voices of people on the ground are heard and understood. This is particularly the case on issues such as migration, poverty alleviation and development, where NGOs are the experts,” said Madeleine Sinclair of the International Service for Human Rights.

The proposal to exclude any NGO on the basis of any objection by any state reflects a concerning trend to restrict NGO access at the UN.

“Unfortunately the 'no-objection' procedure has become prevalent in a range of meetings at UN headquarters in recent years,” said Ms Sinclair.

“The ‘no-objection’ procedure is severely flawed. Its arbitrary and ad-hoc nature not only risks excluding relevant and valuable voices, but can also lead to censorship and politically motivated exclusion of critical voices,” she said.

“Despite rhetoric supporting the vital role that civil society plays within the UN, the procedure flouts basic principles of accountability, transparency and due process.”

The International Service for Human Rights deeply regrets that, despite the NGO letter, the resolution providing for the exclusion of NGOs was passed by the UN General Assembly. “ISHR calls on all states to reflect on the valuable role of NGOs in promoting and protecting human rights and to ensure that civil society organisations can meaningfully participate in and contribute to UN General Assembly processes.”

Background

In December 2012, fifteen NGOs, including ISHR, issued a joint letter on NGO participation in the draft Migration and Development resolution of the General Assembly.

The joint NGO letter was developed in response to provisions in the draft resolution that could be used to limit the participation of NGOs in the 2013 High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development to those that are ‘relevant’, ‘in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council’ and to whose participation no State objects. The concern is that such language is open to a politically motivated exclusion of NGOs and undue censorship of these legitimate stakeholders.

This ‘no-objection’ procedure for NGO participation, whereby NGOs can be barred from participating if a single State objects, is severely flawed. The arbitrary and ad-hoc nature of the procedure poses a severe obstacle to the effective participation of NGOs, and undermines the planning of meaningful NGO contributions. By its very nature, the procedure risks excluding relevant voices in each of the fora it is applied, and we therefore object to its application. Unfortunately the 'no-objection' procedure to arbitrarily and unfairly restrict NGO access has become prevalent in a range of meetings at UN headquarters in recent years. For example, the ‘no-objection’ procedure was included in a resolution setting out modalities for a 2013 high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the realization of the MDGs for persons with disabilities. The procedure was also used to manage NGO participation in the General Assembly’s treaty body strengthening process in 2012.

The 'no-objection' procedure was included in a revised resolution issued by the drafters, though consensus could not be found. The resolution was put to a vote (by the EU). The result of the vote was: 110 for, 2 against, 46 abstaining. Click here for a breakdown of votes by region (Click here for a breakdown of votes by region). Canada and the US voted against the resolution. The rest of the Western Europe and Others Group abstained. All of Latin American and Carribean States voted for the resolution, with the notable exception of Mexico, which abstained. All of the Eastern European Group abstained except Russia and Belarus, which voted in favour of the resolution. All Asian states voted in favour of the resolution with the exception of Japan, Korea and Cyprus, which abstained.  

The US, EU, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Norway all referred to the NGO participation issue in their explanations of vote. China is the only State that spoke in support of the 'no-objection' procedure. The US specifically referred to the NGO letter, explaining that they shared our concerns that the 'no objection' procedure could be used to limit participation without transparency or due process.

It is our hope that this result will lead to further scrutiny of the use of the 'no-objection' procedure as accepted practice at the General Assembly and that States will build on this momentum to reject the procedure in future resolutions dealing with modalities for General Assembly processes.

 

General Assembly extends intergovernmental process on treaty body strengthening

21.09.2012
 

In the final hours of the 66th session of the General Assembly on 17 September 2012, Member States adopted a consensus resolution extending the intergovernmental process of the General Assembly on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system (66/295).

The intergovernmental process began with General Assembly resolution 66/254 on 23 February 2012. That Russian-led resolution and the intergovernmental process it created were marred with controversy and 66 States abstained from the vote. Click here for an earlier ISHR news story on the adoption of that resolution.

Part of the controversy stemmed from the fact that the intergovernmental process began as the OHCHR-initiated ‘Dublin process’ on treaty body strengthening was still ongoing. The Dublin process involved a series of multi-stakeholder consultations since late 2009 and was to culminate in a report by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in early 2012. The report, which was to provide a basis for decisions by all stakeholders on which proposals to implement and how, was delayed to allow for further consultations with States.[1] In the meantime, the intergovernmental process was launched, leaving its relationship with the Dublin process and the High Commissioner’s report unclear. Ultimately the High Commissioner’s report was released at the end of June, following which the co-facilitators of the intergovernmental process (Iceland and Indonesia) held consultations with States on 2 July and again from 16-18 July 2012.

The July 2012 consultations

While States continued to argue about the relevance of the High Commissioner’s report,[2] the co-facilitators of the intergovernmental process essentially used it as the basis for drawing up a list of issues for discussion during the State consultations. The discussions amongst States covered four broad areas: the proposal for a comprehensive reporting calendar;[3] methods of work; the reporting process; and capacity to implement.

Several states supported the idea of a comprehensive reporting calendar in principle but voiced concerns that the proposed cycle of reporting would be unsustainable and very costly. A number of states also supported the High Commissioner’s suggestions to increase the visibility and accessibility of the treaty bodies through webcasting and videoconferencing.[4] Several NGOs, including ISHR, voiced their concerns with the suggestion in the High Commissioner’s report that formal sessions between treaty bodies and NGOs be public, as this would heighten the risk of reprisals against those cooperating with the treaty bodies. In that regard, many NGOs and States[5] welcomed the focus on reprisals in the High Commissioner’s report, in particular the suggestion to establish treaty body focal points on reprisals as a first step.

Several hard-lined States also put forward negative proposals. A group of States calling themselves “the cross-regional group” or “CRG”[6] presented a unified front in the consultations. Among other things, the CRG called for a code of conduct and accountability mechanism for treaty body experts, equitable geographical representation in the treaty bodies, and increased transparency of interaction between the treaty bodies and non-state stakeholders. Though States supportive of the independence and strengthening of the system were vocal in their opposition to such measures as a code of conduct, they were in general less coordinated in their response.

NGO participation

Another troubling aspect of the intergovernmental process from the start was the inadequate provision for the participation of key non-state stakeholders, in stark contrast to the broad consultations facilitated by OHCHR in the context of the Dublin process. Resolution 66/254 requested the President of the General Assembly (PGA) to work out “separate informal arrangements, after consultation with Member States” that would allow treaty bodies, NHRIs and “relevant” non-governmental organizations to provide input and expertise, “bearing in mind the intergovernmental nature of the process”. Several states who abstained from resolution 66/254 continued throughout the consultations to call for greater participation of other stakeholders.[7]

In the end, two NGO representatives were invited by the co-facilitators to participate in panels during the State consultations in mid-July[8] and NGOs were able to observe the discussions amongst States and take the floor during side events. Separate NGO consultations were also held on 4 September 2012. NGOs without ECOSOC accreditation[9] were subjected to a procedure whereby States could object anonymously to their participation without providing a reason or any recourse to the concerned NGO.[10] This was particularly controversial as language limiting participation to ECOSOC accredited NGOs was negotiated out of resolution 66/254 and NGO engagement with the treaty bodies has never been limited in such a way.[11] Alkarama, an NGO that regularly contributes to the work of the treaty bodies, was prohibited from participating because of an objection from Algeria. During the NGO consultations, USA, Canada, Switzerland, Israel and the EU challenged the ‘non-objection’ procedure, stating that there was no agreement on its use, while China, Russia and Algeria argued that the rule is well established for non-accredited NGOs in General Assembly proceedings.

Statements at the adoption of the resolution extending the intergovernmental process indicated that States were still divided on NGO participation. Russia on behalf of the CRG called for strict compliance with resolution 66/254 and the intergovernmental nature of the process while the USA stated that NGOs must continue to be included in all aspects of the discussion.

The way forward

The co-facilitators concluded their work in the 66th session with a non-substantive progress report to the PGA that describes the State and NGO consultations. In that report, the co-facilitators’ recommend that a comprehensive cost review of the treaty system be provided by the end of 2012.

Regarding the timeline, States were divided in the negotiations about whether the resolution should prescribe a fixed end to the process within the 67th session[12] or should not be constrained.[13] Reflecting the different State positions, the resolution rather vaguely “decides to extend the intergovernmental process … with a view to identifying” concrete and sustainable measures in the next session.

As the General Assembly is now gearing up for its intense Committee work during the autumn, the intergovernmental process has been put on hold until early 2013. In the meantime, the Third Committee of the General Assembly will be confronted by requests from several treaty bodies for temporary additional funding to deal with their backlogs. Language to the effect that the continuation of the intergovernmental process would not prejudice such temporary measures was negotiated out of the resolution, leaving the prospects for those requests uncertain.

 


[1] OHCHR held consultations with States in New York on 2 and 3 April in an effort to satisfy those that that felt States had not been sufficiently consulted in the Dublin process.

[2] In particular, hard-lined States responsible for creating the intergovernmental process argued that the High Commissioner’s report should be just one aspect of the basis for discussions.

[3] This proposal would organize the current reporting deadlines into a single comprehensive reporting calendar, based on a periodic five-year cycle. Within this five-year period, there would be a maximum of two reports per annum due for a State that is a party to all the treaties.

[4] Canada, Costa Rica, Ireland, El Salvador, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Thailand, Switzerland, USA, Liechtenstein, Colombia, the African group and CARICOM. States in the CRG were supportive of webcasting and videoconferencing only with the consent of the State Party concerned and suggested that all meetings, including those with non-state stakeholders be webcasted.

[5] Including the EU, Australia, Israel, USA, Thailand, and the African group.

[6] Belarus, Russia, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba, Pakistan, Syria, and Venezuela.

[7] Including Switzerland, USA, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, Australia.

[8] ISHR participated in a side event on “The role of the UN system and civil society in supporting Member States and their capacity to implement” and Amnesty International participated in a panel discussion on the “Capacity to Implement”.

[9] ECOSOC status provides NGOs with access to a range of fora at the UN and is granted by ECOSOC on the recommendation of the Committee on NGOs. The Committee has come under criticism in recent years as the Committee is known for excessive politicization and the balance of the Committee’s membership tends towards States that do not support a vibrant civil society at the UN. Click here for an earlier ISHR article about the ECOSOC NGO Committee.

[10] This procedure, whereby decisions to allow NGOs to participate are taken on a ‘non-objection’ basis has become prevalent in a range of meetings at UN headquarters in recent years.

[11] This also resulted in the co-facilitators having to reschedule the meeting from its original date on 31 July because the three working days’ notice they provided was insufficient for Member States to ‘vet’ the non-ECOSOC accredited NGOs wanting to participate.

[12] Including Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Canada, EU, New Zealand, USA, Australia, South Africa.

[13] Including China, the African group, Russia on behalf of the CRG, the Philippines.

 

ISHR concerned by exclusion of NGOs in civil society hearing

17.07.2013
 

(New York -17 July 2013) In a move contributing to the shrinking space for civil society at the international level, three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were barred from participating in an important civil society hearing that was organised as part of the lead up to a United Nations (UN) high-level conference on migration and development. The three NGOs, the Center for International Migration and Integration,[1] Microfy,[2] and the Institute for Human Rights and Business Limited,[3] were excluded from the meeting as a result of one or more member States objecting to their participation.

Pages

Opinion:

By Gigi Alford, Coordinator, Sport and Rights Alliance, Head of Sport and Human Rights, World Players Association, UNI Global Union

Human rights are universal, and sport is no exception. Next week in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid will host a public dialogue with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach to discuss sport’s potential positive impacts and how to hold this sector accountable when it fails to live by its ideals.

Browse our articles:

Region

Country

Topic

Mechanism

1984

ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

1988

ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments

1993

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

1998

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

2000

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

2004

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2005

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

2006

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

2007

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

2011

ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals

2012

Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground

2013

Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders