The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its high-level segment, hearing from 23 dignitaries. It then began its general segment.
Speaking this afternoon in the high-level segment were Juana Alexandra Hill Tinoco, Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador; Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan; Abdoulaye Diop, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali; Roberto Álvarez Gil, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic; Vincent Biruta, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda; Mayiik Ayii Deng, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan; Godfrey Yeboah Dame, Attorney General and Minister Justice of Ghana; Imelde Sabushimike, Minister of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender of Burundi; Mohamed Saeed Alhilo Dongs, Minister of Justice of Sudan; Machana Ronald Shamukuni, Minister of Justice of Botswana; Emine Dzhaparova, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine; Mbayu Félix, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon; Vlad Cuc, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova; Candith Kwati Mashengo-Dlamini, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa; Yill Otero, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama; Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Megi Fino, Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania; Ángeles Moreno Bau, Secretary of State for Foreign and Global Affairs of Spain; Julissa Mantilla Falcón, Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe; Sima Bahous, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Women; Diene Keita, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Populations Fund; and Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Speakers said, among other things, that human rights were at the centre of all global issues the world confronted today. This placed a special responsibility on States and the international human rights mechanisms and bodies to revisit approaches and responses. The permanent challenge was to transform the ambitions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into permanent change on the ground. Through international bodies, it was possible to come up with shared agendas to address major issues of the day that were common to all countries and multi-dimensional. Human rights law had to be taken on, respected and acknowledged. Whilst all nations were sovereign, they all had the obligation to put the interests of their peoples first.
Speakers said that international financial institutions needed to undertake special measures to support developing countries in protecting basic rights to food, livelihood, and a decent living. Issues of climate change, underdevelopment, global finance, and inequalities needed to be viewed from a human rights lens. Meaningful assistance from the international human rights machinery was needed by developing countries to fulfil the basic human rights and development needs of their citizens. More needed to be done as many people around the world were living without hope, purpose or dignity, with widening poverty gaps, rising unemployment, and inequalities within and among States.
Functional human rights systems were vital for the continued promotion of world security, and all States should commit to the principle to protect, standing against human rights violations and conflicts wherever they occurred. There was need for a Council that could prevent future human tragedies and act as a strong platform for defending human rights. It was the shared responsibility of the international community to restore peace and justice, including in Ukraine. The Russian war had shattered global economic governance, and made vulnerable countries even more vulnerable to threats. Economic inequality led to social and political unrest, leading to human rights abuses. However, conflict should not be a pretext to slow down human rights-led initiatives.
During the statement made by the Russian Federation, some delegations left the room.
The Human Rights Council then moved on to its general segment, where speakers said, among other things, that there were great challenges to the international system given the escalating issues around the world, including climate change and increasing conflicts. This year was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by representatives of countries globally, and which set out that human rights were universal and indivisible, and essential for development and peace. States were called upon to respect and implement their international obligations.
Speaking in the general segment were Malawi, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Luxembourg, Gulf Cooperation Council, Sri Lanka, and Oman.
The next meeting of the Human Rights Council will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, 3 March, when it will continue its general segment.
JUANA ALEXANDRA HILL TINOCO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, said since June 2019, El Salvador had begun a process of transforming the country in order to enhance the well-being of the population and uphold democracy. For decades, there had been exclusion from opportunities for development for the majority of the population, but today they enjoyed freedom, opportunity and safety. The protection and promotion of human rights were a fundamental pillar of the work of the current Government. A deep-seated transformation of human rights from early years had been undertaken, with a re-casting of national standards, improving living conditions for children, and ensuring the country had the necessary tools to ensure a dignified life, allowing all to realise their dreams in the future.
Over many decades, great numbers of El Salvadorians had been obliged to migrate, leading to a breakdown in family structures. El Salvador was now a proponent of orderly migration through its labour programme, seeking to include Salvadoreans who had moved to other countries, providing them with support so that they could be employed in dignity. Steps had been taken to eradicate the root causes for the departure of thousands of nationals. El Salvador was no longer on the list of the world’s most violent countries, and had become South America’s most secure country, with the elimination of criminal gangs. There was hope once again. The greatest challenge faced by El Salvador in its recent history was ensuring that peace and security could prevail across its territory, and millions of Salvadoreans were in favour of the actions undertaken by the Government, enabling them to regain a sense of peace and security.
HINA RABBANI KHAR, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said human rights were at the centre of all global issues that the world confronted today. This placed a special responsibility on States and the international human rights mechanisms and bodies to revisit approaches and responses. Pakistan remained fully committed to human rights at home and abroad. The country had initiated an inter-ministerial process to reflect on the recommendations of the fourth Universal Periodic Review cycle, which was recently undertaken. The focus remained on safeguarding and promoting the rights of minorities, women, children, transgender persons, persons with disabilities, and those adversely affected by the devastating floods last year.
India’s project to colonise the illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and permanently alter its demography continued with impunity and was an affront to the sanctity of the global human rights’ edifice, and a brazen defiance of international law. The two Kashmir reports by the Office of High Commissioner testified to the litany of India’s systematic suppression of Kashmiri rights. Ms. Khar called on States to demonstrate consistency and speak out for the protection of the rights of the Kashmiris. Pakistan reiterated strong condemnation for the recent intentional burning of the Holy Quran in three countries. International financial institutions needed to undertake special measures to support developing countries in protecting basic rights to food, livelihood, and a decent living. Issues of climate change, underdevelopment, global finance, and inequalities needed to be viewed from a human rights lens. Meaningful assistance from the international human rights machinery was needed by developing countries to fulfil the basic human rights and development needs of their citizens.
ABDOULAYE DIOP, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, said that the military intervention in Libya had destabilised the Sahel region, and as a consequence, for more than a decade, Mali had endured insecurity, terrorism and transnational organised crime. Malian forces had had to undertake large-scale offensive actions to prevent and combat attacks by extremist groups, as part of its sovereign mission to secure the territory and protect civilians. Mali was fully aware of the State’s primary responsibility for the protection of civilian populations. The Government had invested in the fight against impunity in all its forms and deployed significant efforts to investigate all allegations of human rights violations, including those made against the defence and security forces.
The Government of Mali reaffirmed its desire to continue its cooperation with the relevant mechanisms, including the United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, whose mandate it would continue to support, provided that it fell strictly within the framework of technical assistance and capacity building. Mali was of the belief that such an approach would enhance and strengthen national institutions. Mali reiterated its call for the rationalisation of the many existing mechanisms in order to avoid an overlap of powers and an excessive pressure of work on the Malian administration. Mali’s Government also reiterated its readiness to cooperate with all of its partners, with strict respect for Mali’s sovereignty.
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ GIL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, said this year, the world was commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in this context, it was essential to acknowledge the vital role that the Human Rights Council played in preserving the unique nature of the rights enshrined in the Declaration. The permanent challenge was to transform the ambitions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into permanent change on the ground. Human rights were a fundamental pillar of work that was needed to meet the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Through international bodies such as the Council, it was possible to come up with shared agendas to address major issues of the day that were common to all countries and multi-dimensional. Human rights law had to be taken on, respected and acknowledged. Whilst all nations were sovereign, they all had the obligation to put the interests of their peoples first.
Human dignity was a fundamental principle, and the Dominican Republic had, in pursuit of this goal over past years, increased its participation in international fora. Equality, equity, inclusiveness and non-discrimination were also at the fore for the Dominican Republic, as was the belief in a world of equality where all had access to rights, to which end it had cooperated actively with the mechanisms of the Council, including those focusing on vulnerable groups such as older persons. The country faced challenges, as did others, and that was why it was working to educate its citizens and engage in responsible governance, guided by the principles of universal justice. In the twenty-first century, when the international community might have hoped to have overcome the challenges of conflict, these were on the rise: peace was the cornerstone of human rights, and the Dominican Republic would continue to work for peace, under the aegis of the United Nations, the prime forum for peace and global security.
VINCENT BIRUTA, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda, said Rwanda had been reviewed through the Universal Periodic Review for the third time in January 2021 and was preparing to conduct the mid-term evaluation of progress. Rwanda remained committed to upholding its human rights obligations, as enshrined in the Constitution and other national, regional, and international standards. The situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo was a major human rights challenge for the international community. However, the conflict there was started by, and was the responsibility of, the Government of Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was a dishonest political stunt to turn a domestic conflict about the fundamental rights of Congolese citizens into an accusation against Rwanda at the Council. Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had refused all peace plans from regional processes.
Rwanda objected to the characterisation of Congolese refugees as a “false pretext”. These refugees were people with rights, who fled because of the governance problems at the root of the conflict, targeted by hate speech and killings incited by the Government because of their ethnicity. The preservation of the genocidal militia by the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a major cause of the conflict and human rights abuses in the eastern part of the country, and a serious threat to Rwanda’s security. The Council should not countenance the type of hypocrisy and double standards proffered by the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
MAYIIK AYII DENG, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, said South Sudan had continued to improve its human rights record, despite the imposed targeted sanctions and arms embargo that had hindered the Government’s efforts to impose the rule of law and protect its citizens from human rights abuses. The noticeable improvements it had made had been recorded and mentioned in the various reports of the Human Rights Commission. The recent ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation to South Sudan by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, had demonstrated more proof that South Sudan was secure, peaceful and stable, and not as projected in reports, including the human rights reports.
Based on the significant progress made by the Government of South Sudan with regard to human rights, as well as the noticeable achievements underscored in the implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement, South Sudan should receive encouragement and reward. South Sudan appealed to all members of the Human Rights Council to end the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and to support moving consideration of the situation in South Sudan to item 10 in the Human Rights Council, in order to benefit from technical assistance and capacity building. South Sudan also needed support to lift sanctions and the arms embargo imposed on the country.
GODFREY YEBOAH DAME, Attorney General and Minister Justice of Ghana, said Ghana believed that the Human Rights Council would continue to provide a strong basis for the construction of a solid and durable edifice for the promotion and protection of human rights in the world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a milestone document in the history of human rights and its celebration was important because it reminded the world of the inalienable rights that all persons were entitled to as human beings, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political, national, or social origin, property, birth etc. Similarly, the Vienna Declaration and its Programme of Action were the culmination of a long process of review and debate over the status of human rights machinery in the world, and their anniversary was an opportunity to place proper emphasis on developing effective international cooperation for the realisation of universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
The Universal Periodic Review process was of great importance, as, among other things, it provided an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they had taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and also to overcome the challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The Universal Periodic Review process also encouraged the sharing of best human rights practices around the globe, and helped countries see where they fell short so that they could correct themselves. The Government of Ghana strongly believed in the right to development for all its people, and therefore fully concurred with the fact that the right to development was an inalienable human right by virtue of which all peoples were entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development. More needed to be done as many people lived around the world today without hope, purpose or dignity, with widening poverty gaps, rising unemployment, and inequalities within and among States. The international community should move beyond political debate and focus on practical steps to implement the Declaration for the betterment of this world.
IMELDE SABUSHIMIKE, Minister of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender of Burundi, said Burundi was fully committed to promoting and protecting human rights and respected its international obligations in this area. Human rights were a priority in Burundi’s constitution. After the civil war, Burundi had established several mechanisms to promote and protect human rights, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Institution of the Ombudsman’s Office, and the National Observatory for the Prevention of Genocide, among others. On the judicial level, reforms in the justice sector had also been introduced to restore the rule of law. The Government had adopted a national strategy for legal aid in 2018 in order to improve access to justice for vulnerable groups. To decongest prisons, Burundi had begun applying community service instead of prison time for certain infractions.
Informal mechanisms for access to credit for women had been introduced. A national capacity building programme for women had been established to contribute to the strengthening of access to resources for women. The promotion of gender equality had also been prioritised, evidenced through the percentage of women occupying positions of responsibility. The Burundian Constitution highlighted the importance of the political participation of women, and introduced a quota of a minimum of 30 per cent of women in political positions. These quotas were already being exceeded. A new law had been introduced to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Burundi. The establishment of a department of inclusive education was an important step in the promotion of the right to education for children with disabilities. The Government continued to implement recommendations received from independent expert committees, which ensured the implementation of international treaties on human rights.
MOHAMED SAEED ALHILO DONGS, Minister of Justice of Sudan, said 2023 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. This constituted a great opportunity to evaluate the progress achieved during the past decades, which would help to build an integrated vision towards the future of human rights issues. Sudan was going through a transitional phase, surrounded by a number of challenges. However, with the determination of the national forces and with the support of friends, Sudan had stepped on the path of consensus and unanimity.
Sudan extended its sincere thanks and gratitude to all countries that had supported it in the voting process that took place at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 11 October 2022, which enabled it to renew its membership in the Human Rights Council. Sudan was committed to implementing the voluntary pledges it had made. Sudan planned to continue with its efforts to develop the human rights situation, including legislative reform in terms of reviewing laws and ensuring their compatibility and consistency with international treaties, international standards of human rights, and international humanitarian law.
MACHANA RONALD SHAMUKUNI, Minister of Justice of Botswana, said functional human rights systems were vital for the continued promotion of world security. Botswana was committed to the principle to protect, calling for all States to stand against human rights violations and conflicts wherever they occurred. It was also committed to adopting a human rights-based approach in governance through a range of measures, including protecting the rights of women, the vulnerable, youth, the elderly, and others. In this context, it was undergoing a holistic Constitutional review, allowing it to view legislative reform and development. By appearing before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Botswana had updated its reporting status.
As the world approached the milestone of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Botswana recognised the unique role and position of the Human Rights Council within the United Nations framework, and urged all to bear in mind the need to strengthen its work in the area of conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction, and non-recurrence of conflict. States, civil society, regional organizations, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be adequately equipped to implement the outcomes of various human rights mechanisms in a systematic and cross-cutting manner. Botswana remained committed to the universality of human rights and ensuring that its citizens could hold Governments accountable for the full enjoyment of their human rights.
EMINE DZHAPAROVA, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said last week marked one year of Ukrainian resistance after the Russian full-scale war against Ukraine. Today, due to joint efforts, the main violator of human rights in the world was not present at the Council. Ukraine believed one of the main responsibilities of the Council was to react in a timely manner to human rights violations that required its urgent attention. Ukraine needed a Council that could prevent future human tragedies and act as a strong platform for defending human rights. Ukraine was pleased that the Council had established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. In October 2022, the Commission of Inquiry had confirmed in its report that Russia had committed war crimes in Ukraine. Now, it was the shared responsibility of the international community to restore peace and justice. It was a matter of paramount importance to establish a Special Tribunal to hold Russian war criminals accountable.
Ukraine appreciated the work being carried out by the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine in documenting atrocities committed by Russia. Over one year, Russia had already committed over 70,000 registered war crimes in Ukraine and deported thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. It was important to realise that when aggression was not stopped, it only grew bigger. Last week, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an important resolution supporting the vision of peace in Ukraine based on the principles of the United Nations Charter. Ukraine called on the Council to facilitate the implementation of this resolution and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Peace Formula.
MBAYU FELIX,Minister Delegate to the Minister of External Relations of Cameroon, said Cameroon was best known as the pupil of the United Nations and was fully aware of the many issues and challenges that needed to be addressed in order to bring about the better world that all wished for. Cameroon noted that despite all of the initiatives taken to strengthen multilateralism, it had hardly succeeded in keeping the spectre of precariousness and uncertainty away from humanity. Many hotbeds of tension continued to reel throughout the world and this had made peace and security a rare commodity. Violence and other violations continued to be perpetrated against women and children; discriminatory and dehumanising practices flourished; while intolerance and outright extremism continued to undermine the full enjoyment of basic rights such as the right to life, health and education.
With regard to the current conflicts that had plunged the world into mourning, Cameroon had always advocated dialogue, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and non-violence. With regard to economic and social challenges, Cameroon was strongly committed to the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s 2063 Agenda. Its 2030 National Development Strategy (NDS30) was in line with this ambitious global programme that the United Nations proudly defended. Cameroon was also committed to turn the African Continental Free Trade Area into a concrete reality across the Continent.
VLAD CUC, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, said since February 2022, the world had a new reference point, and could not speak of human rights given the illegal aggression against a neighbouring country by Russia, creating a great humanitarian crisis, with an enormous impact on civilians, the environment and businesses. Almost 700,000 refugees had crossed into Moldova since the beginning of the war, and almost 80,000 had stayed, mostly children, requiring special care. Russian missiles had violated Moldovan airspace multiple times. The war in Ukraine had severely impacted the world system, affecting the system of good governance. Those responsible must be held to account.
The Russian war had shattered global economic governance, and made vulnerable countries even more vulnerable to threats. Economic inequality led to social and political unrest, leading to human rights abuses. However, conflict should not be a pretext to slow down human rights-led initiatives. The Republic of Moldova was committed to pushing forward justice reform and fighting corruption and money-laundering, among other measures. The world should address women’s rights, supporting their participation in decision-making processes. It was vital to support human rights across the world, leading to a more just, democratic and equitable world.
CANDITH KWATI MASHENGO-DLAMINI, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, expressed solidarity with and concern about the people caught up in conflicts across the world, and urged the international community to prioritise peace and dialogue. Today South Africa assumed a seat in the Council from the period 2023 to 2025, in the midst of war, natural disaster, climate change and in the aftermath of COVID-19. Political solutions remained key to sustainable development and the fulfilment of human rights; this could not be achieved through wars. South Africa believed the Council had a duty to combat the scourge of racism, including white supremacy. South Africa would continue to work with all partners to combat all forms of discrimination, and work towards greater promotion and protection of women, children, persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
South Africa believed that the Human Rights Council should secure the human rights of all peoples without any distinction. South Africa supported the struggle of the Palestinians and the people of the Western Sahara living under occupation. The Council should remain true to its mandate of promoting and protecting all human rights, in a fair, just and non-selective manner. There was a need to focus on all rights equally, and ensure that more resources were allocated towards fulfilling economic, social and cultural rights. South Africa would work to support implementation of the activities of the Decade of People of Africa Descent, and those of the newly established Forum of People of African Descent.
YILL OTERO, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, said that the true promotion and protection of human rights in conjunction with peace was a dynamic task that required a justice and social equity approach – as well as a multidimensional understanding that made every effort to dispel all types of discrimination, violence and oppression that hindered the development of nations. International cooperation and compliance with international treaties was a legal and also an ethical obligation. A renewed world should be the goal, where the rule of law, international cooperation and solidarity prevailed. Panama continued to sponsor multilateral spaces that promoted an inclusive dialogue and were capable of building governance to strengthen institutions and sustainable development.
Despite the effects caused by COVID-19, Panama had demonstrated with tangible actions the will to comply with its international obligations. In 2021, Panama celebrated the Bicentennial Pact “Closing Gaps” – which had been a response to calls to address access problems to drinking water, health and quality education, among other challenges. The growing migratory flows constituted one of the great challenges on the global agenda, which Panama had not escaped. It was of vital importance that the complex phenomenon was addressed with joint responsibility, in a proactive, comprehensive and timely manner, and with a human perspective, as the only way to prevent the crisis from further deepening. Panama was concerned about the well-being of migrants and highlighted the importance of remembering that it was human lives that were part of the migratory flows – and that there must be efforts to protect them.
SERGEY RYABKOV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that by adopting the United Nations Charter, States declared that they were decisive in reaffirming faith in human rights, the dignity and worth of the human person, and the equal rights of men and women and of nations, large and small. These crucial provisions of the United Nations Charter were further developed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted following the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. The burgeoning global crisis, the impacts of the pandemic and the climate crisis continued to have an effect on human rights and socio-economic development. The international community needed to join forces urgently and ensure greater international cooperation. However, some States were striving to take advantage of the current situation, exerting pressure on other countries, and trying to impose their view of human rights across the world, brushing aside cultural, religious and other specificities, aiming to replace the international norms of human rights law.
Unilateral coercive measures harmed individual people, but this did not stop some countries from using them to punish dissident Governments and undermine political stability, in order to serve their geopolitical interests. It was primarily Western countries that aimed to perpetuate the conflict in Ukraine, providing heavy weaponry which led to war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law. Meanwhile, the Kyiv regime systematically undermined fundamental human rights and freedoms, in violation of its international obligations and Constitution, adopting laws on total “Ukrainisation”. The greatest repression was visited upon the Russian language, a native language for millions of Ukrainians. Under the pretext of combatting Russian separatism, there was a stepping up of repression by the Kyiv regime, banning political parties, and neo-Nazis operated openly in the country. The collective West had diverged from democracy, and there was growing discrimination in European countries against national, religious, ethnic and other minorities, promoting “Russiaphobia”. Russia would consistently uphold the principles of cooperation with the States in the Council to find current solutions to human rights issues.
MEGI FINO, Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, said this year the world would commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it was hoped a free, sovereign Ukraine would be witnessed during this jubilee year. Albania as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, together with the United States, had submitted a resolution strongly condemning the unjustified and illegal aggression in Ukraine. As one of the States that referred the situation of Ukraine to the International Criminal Court, Albania would continue to support the pursuit of accountability, and supported the initiative to set up a Special Tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.
As a member of the Human Rights Council during the term 2015-2017, Albania had rendered its contribution on the global commitments to issues such as the rights of national minorities, intolerance and discrimination, and had actively promoted gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the rights of groups at risk because of discrimination. Gender equality and the empowerment of Albanian women and girls were key objectives of the Albanian Government. The advancement of gender equality and combatting violence and discrimination remained Albania’s priority. Albania had decided to present its candidacy to the Human Rights Council for the term 2024-2026. If elected, Albania’s overarching goal would be to work within the Council and the United Nations system to ensure universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals without discrimination.
ÁNGELES MORENO BAU, Secretary of State for Foreign and Global Affairs of Spain, reaffirmed Spain’s commitment to an international order based on respect for human rights and multilateralism. The current international context of uncertainty, complexity and growing polarisation had endangered respect for human rights. The unjustified and illegal aggression against Ukraine had aggravated the situation, caused enormous suffering to the Ukrainian people, and generated serious consequences at the global level. Spain supported the freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as expressed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Spain reaffirmed its support for international efforts to ensure accountability. The war had exacerbated existing crises, such as food insecurity and inequality caused by the pandemic. This had impacted the most vulnerable and eroded the right to a decent standard of living, as well as access to food, healthcare and social services. Technology, which offered ample opportunities for a more inclusive development, had been used as a tool to silence those who thought differently. Although the international situation was grim, there had been signs of hope. A good number of countries had abolished the death penalty and others had decriminalised consensual same-sex relations.
JULISSA MANTILLA FALCÓN, Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said it was vital to tackle the many factors which ensured that discrimination against women’s rights continued: discrimination and gender violence had a disproportionate effect on women, with certain inter-sectional forms of vulnerability, including women belonging to minorities, women with disabilities, and elderly women. Protection systems had recognised women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination, but this remained a huge challenge throughout the world, as women faced forms of violence that were culturally normalised and unpunished, preventing women’s participation in political life and decision-making organizations. Ensuring the participation of women in all domains required dismantling discrimination, both in public and private life.
In 2021, the Inter-American Commission had its very first board entirely made up of women. Today, it was a duty of States to adopt all necessary measures to eliminate gender violence and discrimination against women, ensuring their full enjoyment of rights in democracies that were fair and representative, with restructuring of traditional gender norms, and a change to cultural patterns that stood in the way of women exercising their rights on an equal footing.
MARIJA PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, said it had been more than a year since the Russian Federation launched its brutal, illegal, and continuous aggression against Ukraine, causing immense suffering. It was vital that international organizations continued to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and do everything possible to help them during this difficult time. The Council of Europe had developed an action plan for resilience, recovery and reconstruction to help Ukrainians. Steps were being taken to help national authorities address the physical and psychological needs of Ukrainian refugees, and to ensure that those responsible for Russia’s terrible crimes were held accountable.
Experts from the Council of Europe were helping Ukraine’s Prosecutor General investigate human rights abuses in order to establish a register of damages, as a first step towards a compensation mechanism for victims. This work would build on the expertise, experience and jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, and would benefit from the support of the United Nations. In May, Reykjavik would host the Fourth Summit of the Council of Europe’s Heads of States and Governments, which would be an opportunity for leaders to recommit to European standards and values. It would allow them to agree on specific priorities that would guide work in supporting Ukraine. Other work was ongoing to end discrimination against minorities and vulnerable groups, to combat violence against women and domestic violence, and to ensure that new and evolving challenges were not allowed to undermine individuals’ fundamental rights.
SIMA BAHOUS, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Women, said human rights defenders were needed now more than ever. While in Afghanistan this year, Ms. Bahous said she had witnessed how decades of progress on women’s rights could be reversed overnight – and noted the courage and resilience of women in Afghanistan who had refused to be erased from public life. It was crucial to stand with these women, and with any other girls or women whose rights and freedoms were under attack. The time to act was now. The world had witnessed a major pushback on the rights of girls and women and was not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. It might take years to remove the discriminatory laws and close the gaps in legal protections for women and girls.
Against alarming trends, specific and direct action must be taken to put women’s human rights at the centre of solutions. United Nations Women would continue with its support work and would deploy sexual- and gender-based violence investigators to all human rights investigations mandated by the Council to ensure they were well documented in support of access to justice. Together the agenda must keep moving forward and it must remain crucial to take every opportunity to bring voices to the Human Rights Council and deliver on commitments to women and girls around the world.
DIENE KEITA, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, said 29 years ago women’s rights activists galvanised the political will leading to the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, leading to its historic Programme of Action. Many of these were young women, with an unwavering commitment to sexual and reproductive rights. As a result, the emphasis of population issues was changed to a human rights-based approach. Today was an era of enormous loss of gain on gender equality due to a range of issues, thus the world was falling short for women and girls, in particular those left behind due to intersectional discrimination and pervasive social norms that continued to view women as subordinate to men.
The United Nations Population Fund was moving beyond words and commitments to action, supporting Member States in expanding choices for women and girls and ensuring that they benefited in the most serene way of their rights in a diverse and changing world. A critical contribution to strengthen cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review process would be made at the next session of the Council, when the Fund would submit a report on how it could drive gender-equality on the ground, through such measures as gender accountability and working to operationalise human rights norms at the national level, with accountability for sexual and reproductive rights, and supporting the normative levels by engaging with mechanisms. In view of the strong human rights dimension, the Human Rights Council had a unique contribution to make in advancing the cause of gender equality, playing a unique convening role so that the voices of unique population groups, such as women, young people, and persons of African descent, were taken into account.
GILLIAN TRIGGS, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said when it was established by the General Assembly in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was tasked with providing international protection and seeking permanent solutions for individuals under its mandate. 2022 was a particularly challenging year, with over 100 million people displaced. During this year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had worked in partnership with States and other stakeholders to protect and assist displaced and stateless individuals across 137 countries and numerous emergencies. This had included work to prevent and respond to refoulement, to support the development of asylum systems, to promote the best interests of refugee children, to combat gender-based violence, and to work towards lasting solutions to displacement.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees strove to promote the right of all persons to a nationality and the elimination of statelessness. They were witnessing important expressions of solidarity, inclusion and compassion. Governments, the private sector and individuals had contributed life-saving support to refugee crises globally. In December in Geneva, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would be hosting the second Global Refugee Forum, which would be an opportunity to show commitment to support refugees and stateless persons. States, businesses, civil society and refugees would have the opportunity to make pledges and build on the work of the Council.
Malawi said it believed in the universal promotion of human rights and firmly believed in the collective human effort to enhance human rights globally. Malawi was seeking election to the Council for the term 2024-2026 and had increased its engagement with all human rights mechanisms. Malawi had collaborated with the United Nations and as a result had made significant strides in advancing human rights and sustainable development. It had also taken steps to promote gender equality and to combat child labour. Malawi had taken steps to address the needs of vulnerable populations. Malawi reaffirmed its commitment to promote and protect human rights, particularly economic and social rights. It was of the belief that political independence was meaningless without tangible improvement in the lives of its people.
United Arab Emirates said the United Arab Emirates had rushed to heed the call of humanitarian duty for the neighbouring countries of Syria and Türkiye after the earthquake, sending 972 tons of relief supplies, search and rescue teams, and other forms of aid. The United Arab Emirates was deeply committed to the cause of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Since the adoption of its national report by the third Universal Periodic Review of the Council, the United Arab Emirates had made significant progress in implementing the recommendations adopted. The last two years, as the United Arab Emirates marked its fiftieth anniversary, had witnessed the adoption of a large package of legal documents aimed at improving the situation in the country, contributing to the protection and promotion of human rights, including the gender balance strategy and a climate strategy, all constituting a long-term Government programme. There were great challenges to the international system given the escalating issues around the world, including climate change and increasing conflicts.
Algeria said that since the citizenship movement of February 2019, Algeria had witnessed a new dynamic, starting with the organization of presidential elections. Algeria reiterated the importance of the resolutions already adopted by the United Nations Security Council, as well as the International Court of Justice, which considered that the conflict in Western Sahara was a decolonisation issue that could only be resolved through the activation of the principle of self-determination. Algeria called on States and the Council to respect and implement their international obligations and assume their responsibilities towards the Sahrawi people under occupation.
Luxembourg said the illegal and unjustified war of aggression that Russia was conducting against Ukraine threatened the international order that was founded on the principles of the United Nations Charter. In Russia, the repression against civil society had worsened. Human rights were universal and indivisible, and no situation could be ignored by the Council. Luxembourg called on China to respect its international obligations in terms of civil and political rights, notably in Xinjiang. China should be ready to discuss, in the Council, the report of the High Commissioner on the situation in Xinjiang. The Council must not turn away its gaze from the crimes against humanity in Myanmar and other different countries. The situations in Syria, Yemen and Nagorno-Karabakh were also being followed with concern by Luxembourg.
Gulf Cooperation Council said this year was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by representatives of countries globally, and which set out that human rights were universal, indivisible, and essential for development and peace. The reinforcement of human rights was a priority for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, given their belief in dignity and human rights, as enshrined in Islamic Sharia law. The Gulf Cooperation Council was concerned about the spread of religious hatred, and called for the reinforcing of the family in countries as key to live up to commitments in the human rights field. It was working through transparent dialogue with partners and was committed to support the United Nations and its agencies in order to protect international peace and security and implement international law, away from politicisation and selectivity.
Sri Lanka said the domestic institutions for reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka continued to carry out their work towards achieving important post-conflict recovery and healing. The Committee had identified issues to be addressed expeditiously, including developing a truth-seeking mechanism, drafting a new counter-terrorism law, establishing an office for overseas Sri Lankans, preparing a rapid development plan for the north and the east, and addressing matters related in particular to missing persons, resettlement and land. Sri Lanka rejected resolution 51/1, which was adopted without the consent as the country concerned. These resolutions were unhelpful and would polarise Sri Lankan society.
Oman said it was committed to promoting human rights as enshrined in international law, while being mindful of religious, cultural and national perspectives underpinned by Oman’s basic law. Development imbalance in the world was one of the root causes of conflicts and it stood in the way of exercising other rights. Therefore, the challenge was to provide mechanisms to allow for civil development that was conducive to achieving all rights to elevate the living standards of people and to preserve the dignity of mankind. Oman noted that to bombard the Council with secondary issues would weaken its efforts to focus on important issues such as ending occupation and racial discrimination, and would undermine peace processes. Oman called on the international community to provide efficiency to help end the occupation and suffering of the Palestinian people to enable them to exercise their rights on par with other nations of the world.
Source: UN Human Rights Council