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Human Rights Council Concludes General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights

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The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Speakers emphasised that human rights defenders were at the forefront of protecting human rights; violence against them was a warning sign of broader human rights violations to come. All human rights defenders who were arbitrarily detained must be released and their work must be protected. Women and girls disproportionately suffered from gender-based violence and men disproportionately committed it. Orphaned children were some of the most vulnerable in all societies, which needed to protect them - their spirit was inspiring. Some speakers stated that it was outrageous that the Human Rights Council supported abortion. Children in conflict were in need of prioritized care, and realistic initiatives from States to support civil society’s efforts in this regard were essential. The rights of non-religious individuals were under assault during the pandemic, as religious leaders all over the world used inflammatory rhetoric to lay the blame for the pandemic on “sinners” and non-religious people. Noting that the world faced three global environmental crises – the pollution crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the global warming crisis, speakers urged the Council to recognize the right of all to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. On transnational corporations, there was a need to ensure that prevention was not limited to due diligence and for legal liability to be determined independently from due diligence.

Despite the pandemic, human rights and human rights education should not be paused to ensure that human rights remained at the core, and were not an afterthought in the COVID-19 crisis. The lack of Internet access in many parts of the world meant that more children than ever were being left behind due to the reliance on distanced online learning as a result of the pandemic. The behaviour of rich countries in the Global North with regards to hoarding the COVID-19 vaccines, putting intellectual property rights and profits before the health and lives of people in the Global South, was unthinkable. The pandemic had intensified the need for cancelling the debt of least developed countries, ending unilateral coercive measures and countering tax havens and corruption. Recalling that States had obligations under international human rights law, speakers drew attention to the consequences of transphobia, notably on how it intersected with racism and affected people of colour. Confused about the meaning of human rights, some people were quick to point out human rights violations in other countries while turning a blind eye to those taking place in their own nations. Speakers expressed concern about efforts to downplay the impact of the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators and trivialize the Holocaust by a plethora of actors coming from a variety of ideological backgrounds.

The call for the creation of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change, following more than a decade of proposals from civil society around the world, must be accepted. Climate change and environmental degradation threatened all human rights and speakers called on the Council to also recognize the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Terrorism had a devastating effect on human rights. Illegal mining, intensive farming and logging in indigenous areas, as well as government-sanctioned land grabs of indigenous lands, were deeply concerning. Speakers urged the Council to take action on the following issues: land mines; the effects of extractive industries and hydro-power on the environment and indigenous rights; the need for the Food and Agriculture Organization to set up a task force on the right to water and its role in conflicts; the need to foster the participation of survivors of torture in the work of human rights bodies; the embezzlement of humanitarian aid; the risks associated with shifting State responsibilities onto businesses; inherent biases of nation-wide standardized education tests that favoured rich and urban students; and the investigation of persons credibly accused of participating in genocide. Transnational corporations had largely succeeded in blocking the standards that were supposed to regulate them: they must not interfere in the Business and Human Rights Treaty negotiations.

Speakers also discussed the human rights violations taking placing in, or involving the following countries and territories: Philippines, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, Myanmar, Tibet, South Africa, Poland, Nigeria, Iraq, United Kingdom, State of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Iran, Japan, Jammu and Kashmir, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, China, Qatar, Yemen, Alaska, Hawaii, United States, Israel, Brazil, Egypt, Canada, France, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Colombia, Guatemala, Somalia, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Gaza, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Burundi, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Morocco, India, Balochistan and Chile.

Oman discussed the human rights situation in its own country.

Speaking in the general debate was Oman, as well as the following non-governmental organizations: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development; China Society for Human Rights Studies; Federation for Women and Family Planning; Edmund Rice International Limited; European Centre for Law and Justice; Al-Ayn Social Care Foundation; Asociacion; Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work; China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture; Africa Culture Internationale; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; British Humanist Association; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre; International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva; Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health; Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism; Partners For Transparency; Beijing NGO Association for International Exchanges; Geo Expertise Association; Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty; African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters; Women's Human Rights International Association; Earthjustice; Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association; Zero Poor in Africa; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; FIAN International e.V.; International-Lawyers.Org; Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development; World Muslim Congress; Guinea Medical Mutual Association; World Federation of United Nations Associations; International Action for Peace and Sustainable Development; Associacao Brasileira de Gays, Lesbicas e Transgeneros; Institute for Policy Studies; Right Livelihood Award Foundation; Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and World Jewish Congress.

Also taking the floor were Action Canada for Population and Development; *Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience; Europe-Third World Centre *; Villages Unis (United Villages); Franciscans International; Christian Solidarity Worldwide; Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture; Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII; Il Cenacolo; Centre for International Environmental Law; VIVAT International;

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc; CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation; United Nations Association of China; Association Internationale pour l'égalité des femmes; Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd; African Green Foundation International; Centre for Justice and International Law; ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Inc.; Solidarité Suisse-Guinée; ABC Tamil Oli; Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme; International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists;*Synergie Feminine Pour La Paix Et Le Developpement Durable*; Justiça Global; Tamil Uzhagam; World Evangelical Alliance; Peace Brigades International; United Nations Watch; International Humanist and Ethical Union; Advocates for Human Rights; Human Rights Advocates Inc.; Alsalam Foundation; Réseau Unité pour le Développement de Mauritanie; Institute for NGO Research; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Amnesty International; Réseau International des Droits Humains; iuventum e.V.; and *Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi *.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke; Promotion du Développement Economique et Social; Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group; China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation; Integrated Youth Empowerment - Common Initiative Group; Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee; Human Rights Information and Training Centre; Association Thendral;*Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul*;*Tourner La Page*; Union of Northwest Human rights Organisation; Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France; Action of Human Movement; Society for Development and Community Empowerment; Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule; International Disability Alliance; World Barua Organization; Global Welfare Association; Centre for Organisation Research and Education; Centre for Gender Justice and Women empowerment; Corporate Accountability International; Sikh Human Rights Group; Alliance Creative Community Project; Family Health Association of Iran; European Union of Jewish Students; and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific.

At the end of the meeting, Azerbaijan, Iran, Armenia, Ukraine, Brazil, China and Indonesia spoke in right of reply.

The general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights started in a previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-sixth regular session can be found here.

The Human Rights Council will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and with the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Venezuela.