26 October 2005
High Commissioner Louise Arbour Briefs Third Committee on Efforts to Better Assist States to Respond to Human Rights Challenges
NEW YORK, 25 October (UN Headquarters) -- Responding to a call made at last month's World Summit to move from declarations to implementation, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said that her Office was assessing how it could better assist States in responding to the key human rights challenges posed by poverty, discrimination, conflict, impunity, democratic deficits and institutional weaknesses, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on human rights this morning.
Just as the Summit had committed the United Nations to improving the effectiveness of the human rights treaty bodies, her Office -- in parallel with, and supported by, the General Assembly -- was currently engaged in its own major reform process, Ms. Arbour said, built on the premises that human rights were universal and indivisible, and that no country's human rights record was perfect.
Her Office was also seeking to improve how it engaged with individual States by helping address their specific human rights challenges; how it exercised leadership in the field of human rights; and how it ensured that it maximized its impact through a system of dynamic partnerships. She stressed, however, that the reforms would fail unless the Office was equipped with significantly greater resources.
While absolutely necessary, the process of reform was not without pitfalls, she continued. However, States did not have the luxury of ignoring today's human rights concerns as they better equipped themselves to address tomorrow's challenges. Stressing that the old, unspoken orthodoxies of viewing human rights as being inherently intrusive and antithetical to State interests must be avoided, she said States must instead realize that they were uniquely poised, in the aftermath of the World Summit, to embark on a mutually reinforcing enterprise -- to implement human rights as a critical component of a more just and safe world.
In an ensuing discussion, Ms. Arbour responded to the concerns of several representatives about her Office's reform plan and its budgetary implications, as well as the role to be played by Member States in its implementation.
The representative of Canada specifically questioned the type of backing and budgetary support her Office wanted to receive from Member States to implement the reform plan, while the representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked what a doubling of regular budgetary resources might allow her Office to do more of.
In response, Ms. Arbour said that the most important form of support would be political and budgetary. The first initiative should be the achievement of the promises made during the World Summit, which included a doubling of the budgetary capacity of her Office. Her Office's plan of action rested on a fundamental strategic vision and on resources. In the deployment of any additional capacity that it received, the Office would want to follow the concept that the implementation of all rights could only be achieved in partnership with national Governments.
Questions were also posed by the representatives of China, Iraq, Costa Rica, Libya, Pakistan, Venezuela and Cuba.
At the outset of the meeting, the representative of the United Kingdom introduced a draft resolution on the rights of the child.
Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), introduced some of the reports before the Committee, and Johan Schölvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, made an introductory statement before the discussion on human rights.
The representatives of Italy, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), Algeria, Georgia, Nepal, China and Afghanistan also made statements, as did the Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 26 October, to continue its consideration of human rights questions. It will hear presentations by Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedoms while countering terrorism.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion of implementation of human rights instruments. It was also expected to begin its debate on alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms; human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives; and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Human Rights Questions
The Report of the Human Rights Committee (document A/60/40), covering the eighty-second, eighty-third and eighty-fourth sessions of the Committee, comprises of Volume I, which covers the period from 1 August 2004 to 31 July 2005, and Volume II, which covers the period from 18 October 2004 to 29 July 2005.
A letter dated 13 July 2005 from the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/129) transmits the text of the Declaration adopted by the Heads of State of the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Astana, 5 June 2005).
A letter dated 6 September 2005 from the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/336) transmits the statement by the Heads of State of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations.
A note verbale dated 27 September 2005 from the Permanent Mission of Togo to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/392) is on the final report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the fact-finding mission concerning the violence and allegations of human rights violations that occurred in Togo before, during and after the presidential elections of 24 April.
A letter dated 30 September 2005 from the Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/408-S/2005/626) contains a press release from the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations. The letter deals with the decision of Judge William L. Abbott not to deport the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba, as well as the petition of United States federal prosecutors in Florida to the Court of Appeals in Atlanta for a full review of the ruling in August by a panel of three judges to overturn the trial of five Cubans in Miami and to order a new trial.
Also before the Committee was the Report of the Committee against Torture (document A/60/44).
Alternative Approaches for Improving Enjoyment of Human Rights
The Secretary-General's report on strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/60/134) includes an addendum outlining Georgia's input on this subject.
A note by the Secretary-General on the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities (document A/60/266) contains the report of the Committee on its sixth session from 1 to 12 August 2005.
The Secretary-General's report on the protection of migrants (document A/60/272) welcomes the efforts made by several Member States to report on measures adopted to protect migrants, and takes note of measures adopted to ensure equal treatment of migrants before the law and protection of citizens who have migrated abroad. The Secretary-General is also encouraged by the efforts of those States that have provided extensive reports detailing enforcement and strengthening of protection of migrants. He recommends that, in future responses, States include information on good practices and obstacles with respect to the protection of migrants.
The Secretary-General's report on the right to development (document A/60/286) contains updated information complementing the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the same subject submitted to the sixty-first session on the Commission on Human Rights.
The Secretary-General's report on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/60/299) highlights activities from July 2003 through July 2005 of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to establish and strengthen national human rights institutions, related Member States' activities and consultations by treaty bodies and special mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights with such institutions. The report concludes that more national-level consultations were required during the early stage of creating a national human rights institution, as was civil society's participation to ensure that such institutions were credible and engaged in transparent appointments processes.
The Secretary-General's report on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (documents A/60/301 and A/60/301/Add.1) summarize responses from Georgia, Iraq, Mexico, Oman and Azerbaijan on this subject.
The Secretary-General's report on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/60/305) summarizes input from Azerbaijan, Cuba, Georgia, Iraq and Lebanon on the implications and negatives effects of such measures on their respective populations, as well as preventive steps to curb such aggression.
The Secretary-General's note on civil and political rights, including the questions of independence of the judiciary, administration of justice, impunity (document A/60/321) transmits the report of Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers. The document reports on the situation facing the judiciary in Ecuador and Ecuador's climate of institutional instability; the current debate in the United Kingdom over legal measures applied to suspected terrorists; the Security Council's decision to refer to the International Criminal Court the serious human rights violations in the Sudan; the trials of the Iraqi Special Tribunal; and the creation of a standing Human Rights Council.
The Secretary-General's report on human rights and terrorism (document A/60/326) summarizes replies from Iraq, Ireland, Lithuania, Mexico, Syria, Turkey and Ukraine on terrorism's implications on the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the possible creation of a voluntary fund for victims of terrorism, and methods to rehabilitate and reintegrate such victims into society.
The Secretary-General's report on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/60/333) contains information concerning effective promotion of the Declaration's provisions. The report concludes that it is essential that programmes and projects implemented by the United Nations at the country level include minority-related issues. Mainstreaming the rights of minorities into the work of the United Nations on peace, security and development can significantly enrich that work and enhance its impact.
The Secretary-General's note on protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (document A/60/338 and A/60/338/Corr.1) transmits the report of the Secretary-General's representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Walter Kälin, in which he makes recommendations concerning Nepal; Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo; Turkey; and those States stricken by the tsunami of December 2004.
The Secretary-General's note on the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/60/339) transmits the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani. The report describes how human rights defenders play a fundamental role in preserving and restoring peace and security and argues that, to be effective, international peace and security strategies must give particular attention to protecting human rights defenders.
The Secretary-General's note on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/60/340) states that as no comments were received in response to requests for information, a more comprehensive report will be submitted to the Assembly at a future session.
The Secretary-General's note on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (document A/60/348) transmits the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the issue. It notes the indispensable role of health professionals in promoting and protecting human rights and that the skills drain -- that is, developed countries employing health professionals trained at the expense of, and desperately needed in, developing countries -- undermines the right to health in countries of origin and deepens global health inequality.
The Secretary-General's note on the right to food (document A/60/350) transmits the interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to food, Jean Ziegler. In the report, the Special Rapporteur states that he is gravely concerned that global hunger again has increased in 2004, to 852 million undernourished women, children and men, and by the food crisis across Africa. He calls on Member States to act quickly to respond to food crises in the Niger and other affected States, and to take action to eradicate chronic undernourishment in all countries. The report also states that the right to food must be respected in economic adjustment and trade liberalization measures to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable are not pushed into even greater poverty and hunger.
The Secretary-General's report on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/60/353) provides an overview of the Centre's activities as part of United Nations efforts to promote human rights and democratic principles in Central Africa. Those activities include providing training, technical assistance and advisory services to Governments in the region; support to civil society organizations and peace processes; dissemination of information and documentation on human rights and democracy; and development of partnerships with the Economic Community of Central African States and United Nations agencies operating in Central Africa.
The Secretary-General's note on the human rights of migrants (document A/60/357) transmits the interim report submitted by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante. The report includes some preliminary observations regarding migration and the human rights of migrants, and describes the Special Rapporteur's work methods.
The Secretary-General's report on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/60/374) provides an overview of recent United Nations developments in protecting human rights while fighting terrorism, and salient points emerging from an expert seminar hosted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in June, as well as conclusions aimed at further defending human rights in the counter-terrorism context. It notes that while States have a duty to fight terrorism, their actions must be in line with international human rights, as well as humanitarian and refugee law, which is currently not the case in many instances.
The Secretary-General's note on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (document A/60/384) transmits the report of the independent expert of the Commission on Human Rights on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of human rights, Bernards A. N. Mudho. The report recommends full donor financing for the Group of 8 debt relief proposal; increased support to developing countries to build capacity to undertake debt sustainability assessments and decisions in a transparent and participatory manner; a broader approach to debt sustainability, taking account of developing countries' need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to realize human rights; and a substantial increase in official development assistance (ODA) and grants.
The Secretary-General's note on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance (document A/60/399) transmits the interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir. In the report, the Special Rapporteur draws attention to the importance of cooperation between the special procedures of the Commission and of the preventive and early-warning aspects of her mandate on freedom of religion or belief. The report also includes an update on the status of communications sent to Governments, and observations on the right to choose, change or maintain a religion, and the freedom of religion or belief of persons deprived of their liberty.
The Secretary-General's report on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/60/431) provides follow-up to previous reports' warnings that electoral assistance risks becoming a victim of its own success, noting that despite increased demands in assistance infrastructure, resources have remained the same. Nevertheless, the report notes that, in the past two years, the United Nations role in technical assistance and post-conflict elections had increased in quantitative terms and complexity, and underlines that such assistance illustrated the importance of forging better links between electoral events and parallel processes in human rights, the rule of law and institution-building.
Human Rights Situations, Reports of Special Rapporteurs
The Secretary-General's note on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/60/221) transmits the interim report of Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the subject. The Special Rapporteur concludes that the Government of Myanmar needs to explicitly reaffirm and demonstrate its commitment to implement political and constitutional reform by guaranteeing the full and effective participation of all political actors, political parties and ethnic leaders, in a meaningful and substantive dialogue. He also calls on the Government to ensure the full and effective participation of those political actors who are trying to build a free, open and just society throughout the political transition process.
The Secretary-General's note on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/60/271) transmits the report of the Special Rapporteur on the subject. According to the note, Israel's continued construction of the wall in Palestinian territory and settlement expansion make it clear that the wall is designed to be Israel's border and that the land of the "closed zone" is to be annexed. The international community has made little effort to compel Israel to comply with its legal obligations as expounded by the International Court of Justice. The Israeli Government is determined to defy final status negotiations for as long as possible, so that it can establish as many facts on the ground as possible before negotiations begin. The international community should do its best to ensure that negotiations commence forthwith.
The Secretary-General's note on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (document A/60/306) transmits the report of Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the issue. The report notes discrepancies and transgressions in recent decades in implementing human rights in the country, calls for immediate action to prevent abuses and provide redress, and provides a series of recommendations to the Government to improve the human rights situation.
The report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints (document A/60/324) includes statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and its office on the ground will continue to compile information regarding the issue, in cooperation with the agencies represented in the United Nations Country Team.
The Secretary-General's note on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on assistance to Sierra Leone in the field of human rights (document A/60/349) transmits the High Commissioner's report. It concludes that while progress was evident in achieving the benchmarks set for the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) by the end of 2005, peace remains fragile, and the critical issues of marginalization and exclusion that were the underlying causes of the conflict had yet to be addressed. To consolidate peace and prevent a recurrence of civil war, actions must continue in six critical areas, including closely monitoring, investigating and documenting the human rights situation; continued training and capacity-building; creation of a national human rights commission; justice system reform; comprehensive law reform; and maintaining a strong human rights presence after the termination of UNAMSIL.
A note by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Burundi (document A/60/354) transmits the interim report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi, Akich Okola. The report follows the third mission to Burundi by the independent expert, which took place from 2 to 10 July, and covers the period from January to 15 August.
A note by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Sudan (document A/60/356) states that Sima Samar of Afghanistan, who was appointed by the Commission on Human Rights in August as a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan for one year, will be conducting her first mission to the Sudan in October 2005 and will, therefore, not be able to submit a written report to the Assembly, but will instead make an oral presentation. During the reporting period, the peace process in Burundi has been advancing steadily, there has been significant progress in the legislative process, and the security and human rights situations have improved.
Despite those advances, human rights violations continue to be observed on a daily basis, and reforms in the judicial sector have had limited impact, the note continues. The independent expert urges the parties to ongoing conflict to negotiate and respect non-combatants; encourages the Government to press ahead with the reforms provided for in the Arusha Agreement; and appeals to the international community to support those efforts.
A note by the Secretary-General transmitting the Report of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights on the human rights situation and the activities of her Office, including technical cooperation, in Nepal (document A/60/359) contains information and analysis reflecting the investigations and work of a team of the Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal from 7 May until the end of August, which had been sent after the Government of Nepal signed an agreement with the High Commissioner concerning the establishment of an office in that country. The report states that the office is committed, under its agreement, to operate as a centre for consultations and dialogue, and to provide a climate of trust in Nepal, which has been experiencing a grave human rights crisis.
The Secretary-General's report on the situation of human rights in Turkmenistan (document A/60/367) concludes that continued serious human rights violations in the country indicate a lack of overall improvement. Nevertheless, there is some progress in addressing the outstanding problems and the readiness of the Turkmenistan Government to cooperate with the international community and the human rights mechanisms. Further, the Secretary-General encourages the Government to continue its efforts to prepare and submit reports to the United Nations treaty bodies, to continue its dialogue with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and to implement the recommendations made.
A note by the Secretary-General on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/60/370) transmits the report of the Special Rapporteur on the subject, Martin Scheinin. The report outlines the mandate and emphasizes its key features, including complementarity and comprehensiveness, as well as its proactive nature and thematic approach.
The Secretariat's note on the report submitted by the independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/60/395) transmits the report of Titinga Frederic Pacere, and recommends that all Congolese parties should promote a culture of peace, tolerance, reconciliation, pardon, national unity and patriotism, as well as persuade the population to work for national construction and the rejection of discrimination. Further, the report recommends that all political actors recognize the need to foster dialogue and reject violence and ethnic hatred.
The Secretariat's report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/60/422) is based on the good offices efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to facilitate national reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar. The Secretary-General reiterates his call to Myanmar authorities to make the seven-point road map process toward democracy more inclusive and credible when the National Convention resumes later in 2005 to draw up principles for the new constitution and organize a national referendum. Further, he encourages Myanmar authorities to resume dialogue with all ethnic groups and political leaders as soon as possible, as well as further release political prisoners, lift remaining constraints on all political leaders, reopen offices of the National League for Democracy, and include the aforementioned groups in the ongoing road map process.
High Commissioner for Human Rights
In the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/60/36), the High Commissioner urges the Assembly to help her Office become stronger and better equipped to meet the human rights needs of States, institutional partners and civil society, but first and foremost those of rights holders, in particular victims of human rights violations everywhere.
The Secretary-General's note on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on the achievements of the technical assistance in the field of human rights (document A/60/343) transmits the High Commissioner's report. The report notes that, despite achievement of many of the Bonn Agreement's benchmarks, the human rights situation in Afghanistan was of great concern, largely due to the security situation and weaknesses in governance. The rule of law was emerging slowly, justice sector reform was patchy and impunity often prevailed. People in Afghanistan would not be able to enjoy their human rights until the rule of law was prevalent, impunity was eliminated, State institutions were credible and effective, and women were given the same rights as men.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
MICHAEL O'NEILL ( United Kingdom) introduced a draft resolution on the rights of the child (document A/C.3/60/L.22), which he said was a vital issue in the work of the Committee. While the year 2005 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children were still growing up being denied rights, and their rights were being violated all over the globe. The inherent and unique vulnerability of children made such violations unacceptable, and States clearly had much more to do to highlight the issues that prevented the enjoyment of human rights by all children, as well as to seek responses to those issues.
The draft resolution highlighted the vital role of the Convention, as well as detailed challenges that all States still faced in promoting the rights of children, he continued. This year, the resolution was also being used to highlight the particular vulnerability of children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The destructive force of the disease undermined children's rights on many levels, and, therefore, merited particular attention. The sponsors looked forward to working with delegations on the text, and to attract the support of all delegations, he added.
Statement by High Commissioner
Introducing her report on the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during the past year, LOUISE ARBOUR, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the past 12 months provided a remarkable backdrop for the Committee's meeting, and for the entire session of the General Assembly. The Secretary-General's reform agenda, coupled with the outcome document agreed to at the World Summit, represented an ambitious -- and necessary -- programme of change for the United Nations. The Outcome Document, agreed to by all 191 Member States, was at its core a validation and defence of -- and a collective, unambiguous recommitment to -- universal human rights: that they were both inherently valuable in upholding and sustaining human dignity and integral to the pursuit and maintenance of both peace and security, and development.
From an Organization borne out of the horrific violence of the first half of the last century, and which had since witnessed, often impotently, many further acts of indescribable cruelty perpetrated on a larger scale, the World Summit's consensus on "the responsibility to protect" represented a watershed commitment, she said. The Summit recognized explicitly that every State had the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In doing so, Member States asserted unequivocally their belief in the primacy of the rule of law, and determination to ensure that State sovereignty was not misused as a shield against responsibility and accountability. The Summit also committed the United Nations to improving the effectiveness of the human rights treaty bodies, and her Office was working on proposals for a unified permanent treaty body.
In parallel with, and supported by, the General Assembly, her Office was currently engaged in its own major reform process. In particular, it was assessing how it could better assist in responding to the key human rights challenges posed today by poverty, discrimination, conflict, impunity, democratic deficits and institutional weaknesses. In other words, just as the call had been issued to Member States to move from declarations to implementations, so, too, was the Office refocusing its work accordingly. The approach had been built on the premises that human rights were universal and indivisible, and that no country's human rights record was perfect. The Office was also seeking to improve how it engaged with individual States in helping to address their specific human rights challenges; exercised leadership in the field of human rights; and ensured that it maximized its impact through a system of dynamic partnerships. The reforms, however, would fail unless the Office was equipped with significantly greater resources as contemplated in the Outcome Document, she said.
While absolutely necessary, the process of reform was not without pitfalls, she continued. However, States did not have the luxury of ignoring today's human rights concerns as they better equipped themselves to address tomorrow's challenges. While developing the foundations to move from an era of declaration to one of implementation, States must constantly fight against that process itself becoming but mere declaration. They must implement, as they sought to reform, and they must not become prisoners of process, distracted from the substance of the task. Today's challenges to human rights required a concerted response by the entire human rights community, whether Governments, legislatures, judges, national institutions, civil society, or the United Nations system, including her Office, intergovernmental mechanisms, the treaty bodies and the special procedures. In the discharge of individual and collective responsibilities, the old, unspoken orthodoxies of viewing human rights as being inherently intrusive and antithetical to State interests must be avoided. Rather, States must realize that they were uniquely poised, in the aftermath of the World Summit, to embark on a mutually reinforcing enterprise: namely, to implement human rights as a critical component of a more just and safer world.
Introduction of Reports
BACRE WALY NDIAYE, Director of the New York Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), introduced several reports on alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms and on human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives. He said the conclusions and recommendations of the Secretary-General's report on the right to development were endorsed by the Commission on Human Rights, which extended for one year the mandate of the high-level task force and the working group on the implementation of the right to development. The task force would meet from 14 to 18 November to examine Millennium Development Goal 8, on global partnerships for development, and suggest criteria for its evaluation with the aim of improving effectiveness of partnerships to achieve the right to development.
The Secretary-General's report on effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities stressed the importance of mainstreaming minority issues into the United Nations system's work, including in development and peace, and of disseminating information on international standards and good practices on protecting and promoting the rights of minorities. The report also referred to the recommendation of the Commission on Human Rights, which was endorsed by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to create a voluntary fund to facilitate minorities' participation in activities to implement their rights.
JOHAN SCHÖLVINCK, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities included recommendations to ensure United Nations access for the Committee's work in 2006 in terms of facilities, documentation and increased inter-agency collaboration in anticipation of implementation of the draft convention. During the Committee's 2005 sessions, the Department and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had prepared background documentation to assist Member States and observers negotiating the draft convention, and were now preparing documentation for the Committee's seventh session.
The Department was also exploring ways, within existing resources and in consultation with organizations representing disabled persons, to provide selected documents in Braille, he said. In addition to managing the financing of the Voluntary Fund to facilitate participation of non-governmental organizations in New York sessions, the Department provided non-governmental organizations with an information note on accreditation, registration, funding and participation procedures in English, French and Spanish. It also provided an informational letter on the Committee's sessions and related procedures, as well as specific responses to queries by non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, inter-governmental bodies and other organizations.
In the discussion period following her statement, several representatives questioned Ms. Arbour on the role of Member States in the implementation of her Office's reform plan. The representative of Canada specifically questioned the type of backing and budgetary support her Office wanted to receive from Member States to implement her plan.
In response, Ms. ARBOUR said that the most important form of cooperation was perhaps in terms of political and budgetary support. The first initiative should be the achievement of the promises made during the World Summit, which included a doubling of the budgetary capacity of her Office. It was also important to implement and give effect to the fundamental rights that had been declared, recognized and attempted to be worked out for the last 60 years in the Human Rights Commission. Implementation should be done through cooperation, including technical and development assistance projects. There also needed to be closer partnership between her Office and regional organizations for the protection of human rights, she said.
In further questions relating to the reform of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked what a doubling of regular budgetary resources might allow her Office to do more of, and how States could then assist Ms. Arbour in carrying out those increased functions. Along those lines, the United States representative asked for insight on how the new Human Rights Council could create technical assistance mandates that could more effectively express the on-the-ground needs of countries. China's representative stressed that economic, social and cultural rights were not treated on the same level as civil and political rights, and asked how new resources would be deployed by her Office to make the two kinds of human rights equally effective.
In response, Ms. ARBOUR said that her Office's plan of action rested on a fundamental strategic vision and on resources. The first area that her Office needed to strengthen was its capacity to manage technical cooperation programmes to achieve the level of excellence in the tasks assigned to it, which must be addressed as a manner of priority. In the deployment of any additional capacity that it received, the Office would want to follow the concept that the implementation of all rights could only be effected in partnerships with national Governments.
Pointing to a question from the representative of Iraq on the possibilities for giving additional assistance to Iraq, particularly in preparing reports on the implementation of human rights conventions, Ms. ARBOUR said that the representative's comment was a case in point. There should not be a deployment of a generic package that would be of equal value to all countries. Furthermore, there must be a guard against a perception that successful mainstreaming of human rights would lead to the disappearance of the need to have any kind of human rights capacity. She stressed that mainstreaming would be in addition to any activity undertaken, not an alternative to having a focused, dedicated human rights capacity.
In response to that comment, the representative of Costa Rica said that when talking about mainstreaming human rights, he was particularly concerned about what some people had called "the failure of the success", namely, that treaty bodies were victims of their own success, and that the more successful they were, the more they failed. When asked by the representative about how the dilemma of the success that had generated failure could be solved, Ms. ARBOUR said she was conscious of how ambitious the reform of the United Nations treaty body system would be, and was well aware that the present system was becoming a prisoner of its own success. She believed that now was the time to launch a very serious reflection on the system to ensure that it did not fall under the weight of its own success. The current system suffered from backlogs from which it was unlikely to recover unless there was profound change. The current treaty bodies had virtually no capacity for follow-up because they were dealing with a backlog of reports. It was necessary to have a system that was more accessible and visible, which would inevitably be more authoritative, and whose concluding observations might have the kind of impact it was designed to have. Her Office was in the process of trying to flesh out ideas on the issue in a document, she added.
Answering a question from Libya's representative on the peer review mechanism, Ms. ARBOUR said that the concept of peer review or universal scrutiny would be critical in any reform initiative to avoid duplication. Conceptually, the treaty body review of compliance with human rights obligations was fundamentally different than any similar review that could be undertaken by a newly formed Human Rights Council. The treaty body review would be by a body of experts and could only review commitments, whereas the Council would be an intergovernmental machinery. She believed that the concept of universal or peer review could go some distance in addressing perceptions and possibly realities by ensuring that all Member States were subject to some accountability in front of their peers or fellow States.
In response to a comment from the representative of Pakistan that there was no follow-up action plan regarding poverty, development challenges and globalization, Ms. ARBOUR acknowledged that the alleviation of poverty was the most severe and chronic problem at the present time. Poverty, alongside discrimination and other issues, was the most important human rights violation that needed to be addressed. To do so, the concept of partnerships was particularly important, she said.
When Pakistan's representative expressed concern about the geographic pattern of the staffing problem in her Office, particularly that there was minimal Islamic country representation, Ms. ARBOUR said that, as part of the Secretariat, her Office was bound to apply the geographic distribution rules of the United Nations, and it did so obviously within the constraints of recruitment procedures in place. Personally, she believed that pluralism and the contributions that came from different experiences and cultural diversity was a great advantage, and certainly not a difficulty. She expressed hope that the increase in resources contemplated would give a unique opportunity to pursue an appropriate composition of the Office that would serve all countries.
MARGHERITA BONIVER ( Italy) said the United Nations reform agenda on human rights should be comprehensive and consistent, results-oriented and effective in protecting and promoting human rights; and consensual in order to grant legitimacy and credibility. The new Human Rights Council should not operate in isolation. It should maintain a continuing dialogue with non-Member States and civil society. A smooth transition must be facilitated between the Commission on Human Rights and the Council. The role of special procedures and mechanisms was among the most positive and successful achievements of the current human rights system and should consequently be upheld and enhanced. Member States should make voluntary contributions to ensure the Council's authority and to ensure that it abided by the highest human rights standards.
The fight against terrorism presented the serious challenge of ensuring balance between the pressure to strengthen security measures for citizen's safety and the need to protect civil liberties and constitutional democratic order, she said. A trade-off could not exist. Fighting terrorism nationally and internationally must go hand in hand with ensuring respect for international law, particularly for human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law. Italy's domestic law drew upon principles and guidelines set by the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe. After the terrorist attack in London on 7 July, the Italian Parliament approved counter-terrorism measures to set up, among other things, provisions that criminalized recruitment, training and incitement to terrorism.
ADAM THOMSON ( United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, welcomed the 2005 World Summit's commitment to double the regular budget resources of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the next five years and to mainstream human rights in the United Nations system. He regretted that there had not been more detailed agreement about the structure and mandate of the proposed Human Rights Council, but said he looked forward to working with partners to make the envisioned Council a reality as soon as possible. The Council must have the appropriate tools to promote and protect human rights, and equal weight must be given to civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The Council must be a standing body able to swiftly and effectively address urgent human rights situations and questions. It must preserve and build upon the strengths of the Commission on Human Rights, particularly the system of special procedures and civil society participation.
Prevention and eradication of all forms of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment was a priority, he said, adding that the European Union undertook political, diplomatic and financial initiatives to combat torture and rehabilitate victims worldwide. He urged all countries that had yet to do so to join the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol. He urged all States parties to fully comply with obligations, including submitting overdue reports to the OHCHR, and fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on Torture. In June, the European Union adopted a regulation prohibiting the trade in goods used for capital punishment or to inflict torture or other cruel treatment or punishment. He urged other States to follow suit and offered to provide technical assistance.
DOUNIAZED HENOUDA ( Algeria) said that, while the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action embodied human rights effectively, progress on the ground in ensuring protection and promotion of human right fell far short of the Declaration's objective and in some cases was controversial. There had been progress in achieving human rights to some extent, but no progress had been made in terms of economic, cultural and social rights. True human rights included upholding the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of States. Reform of the United Nations human rights machinery was not meaningful unless its objective was to better serve human rights. The creation of the Human Rights Council and the strengthening of the OHCHR were to draw lessons from past errors and to contribute to fully depoliticizing human rights issues.
Algeria was emerging from a difficult decade marked by terrorism and was focusing on democratization and the establishment of law and order, as part of its overall approach to recovery and development, she said. Those strategies and actions were fully in line with the principle of living free from fear, free from need and with dignity. Algeria's Charter of National Peace and Reconciliation, adopted overwhelmingly during the 29 September referendum, provided measures to consolidate peace and promote national reconciliation through the creation of pluralistic and transparent institutions. Dozens of political parties were active in Algeria and several were represented in the National Assembly. Judicial reform was under way based on respect for rights, freedoms, and individual and collective duties. Algeria was party to international human rights instruments and fulfilled all its treaty obligation and would do the same with United Nations non-treaty mechanisms.
TAMAR TCHITANAVA ( Georgia) said her Government fully supported Ms. Arbour's initiatives to reform the United Nations system of human rights mechanisms. Her Government was certain that those reforms would make common efforts more efficient, and would mainstream the work of Governments, civil society and international and non-governmental organizations. Georgia was a country in transition, a young democracy with a firm willingness to join the family of democratic States. After regaining independence, Georgia had become a member of international organizations and a party to the various human rights treaties and conventions. Most of the human rights mechanisms were incorporated into national legislation, and the relevant governmental bodies closely cooperated with international organizations on issues related to human rights, democratization, and humanitarian affairs.
The preliminary report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, on his visit to Georgia, as well as Georgia's third periodic report to the Committee against Torture, underlined progress made by her Government in eliminating all forms of torture. Considerable progress had also been achieved on creating an independent judiciary. The situation regarding human rights remained extremely precarious in the country's conflict zones, particularly in the Gali district. The returnees to the Gali district were deprived of essential services, as well as social and political rights, and were continuously attacked by the Abkhaz militia and other illegal armed groups. While a number of United Nations resolutions had called on the Abkhaz de-facto authorities to provide security guarantees, more decisive steps were needed. Strong action by the international community, United Nations and other international organizations were of the utmost importance, she added.
MADHU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said that, despite ongoing armed conflict in Nepal perpetrated by terrorists during the last decade, Nepalese authorities were upholding human rights norms and standards. He supported the work of the United Nations special procedures on human rights and of a number of mandate holders. The Special Rapporteurs on torture and disappearances had already visited the country, and Nepal was committed to implementing the recommendations in their reports. It thoroughly and promptly investigated and responded to allegations of human rights violations, including reports of extrajudicial killings. The Government's action in previously reported cases, including the Doramba incident, had been acknowledged in the report of the OHCHR on Nepal.
He said disappearances were not policy-driven and that Nepal thoroughly investigated all allegations of disappearances received from United Nations mandate holders. It provided sufficient information in response to most cases. The number of outstanding cases had, in fact, been significantly reduced. Detainees held under the Terrorists Acts and Destructive Activities Ordinance and the Public Security Act had been treated in accordance with the law. The OHCHR had unhindered access to all places of detention, including army barracks, without prior notice. As acknowledged in the OHCHR report, providing such access had been instrumental in clarifying allegations of arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions. After the lifting of the state of emergency on 29 April 2005, Nepal released all persons detained under the Public Security Act.
WANG GUANGYA ( China) said the Outcome Document adopted at the recent Summit, which approved the establishment of the Human Rights Council and set forth its principal responsibilities, was an important step for the reform of the United Nations human rights machinery. It would undoubtedly have far-reaching impacts on the future of the Organization's work. The Council should solve the long-standing "credibility crisis" faced by the Commission on Human Rights. In reviewing human rights violations, it should formulate fair, objective and transparent review standards and procedures, and refrain from politicization, double standard and selective manners. In that way, the Council could properly handle human rights questions and preserve its authority.
The Human Rights Council should also have full representation and be a forum for dialogue, exchange and cooperation, he continued. Furthermore, it should be aware of the diversity of the world; respect the right of all countries to independently choose their social system and development path; encourage dialogue and exchange among countries through establishing appropriate working methods; and make efforts to explore effective ways for human rights advancement. China was deeply aware of the arduous struggle for peace, the importance of development, and the value of human rights. His Government had adopted a series of effective measures to improve the legal system, accelerate the democratic process, and develop the economy, thus comprehensively raising the level of various human rights enjoyed by the Chinese people. As a developing country, China still had a long way to go before the full realization of all fundamental freedoms and human rights, he added.
MOHAMMAD YUNUS BÂZEL ( Afghanistan) said Afghanistan was committed to protecting and promoting human rights. The Afghan Constitution of 4 January 2004 secured and guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Afghanistan was also adhering to the Bonn Agreement and had made provisions to include women in the official political arena. More than 65 of the 249 seats in the National Assembly were filled by women. The report of the High Commissioner on Human Rights treated human rights in a comprehensive manner. For the first time, it included provisions on the rights of disabled persons.
While he appreciated the new approach of the High Commissioner's report, he noted an imbalance in the attention given to civil, political, social and cultural rights, as compared with human rights concerns. There was insufficient mention of the right to development, including one's right to food, education, health and employment. Those issues should not be overlooked. Afghanistan was indeed committed to socio-economic development and the right to development.
LUCA DALL'OGLIO, Observer of the International Organization for Migration, said that it was estimated that more than 200 million people, or roughly 3 per cent of the world's population, resided outside their country of birth or nationality. In today's era of interdependence, nearly all States were affected by international migration as countries of origin, transit, and/or destination. Both developed and developing countries alike had come to recognize migration as an essential and inevitable component of globalization, with great potential to contribute to the social and economic development of all countries involved. Despite its potential, however, migration, in far too many cases, had been the direct consequence of poverty, unemployment, persecution, armed conflict, and environmental destruction, leading to mass exoduses and displacement of people. Unless appropriate protection, advocacy and monitoring mechanisms existed, some of the gravest violations of migrants' rights would continue to occur and go unreported.
His organization believed that, irrespective of national origin or legal status, migrants shared with all citizens a common humanity and the right to decent, fair and humane treatment. Governments could and must manage migration within a framework of respect for human rights. Beyond law enforcement, that entailed a more comprehensive approach to migration management that proactively prevented migrant abuse and promoted their well-being and dignity. The main obstacle to the protection of migrant rights was not the absence of law, but the failure of States to implement those conventions and agreements that they had freely accepted, he added.
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