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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with Experts on violence against children and on children and armed conflict

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MORNING / MIDDAY

Concludes Interactive Dialogue on Foreign Debt and on the Right to Food, Hears Statements in Observance of International Women’s Day

GENEVA (8 March 2016) - The Human Rights Council today held a clustered interactive dialogue with Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, and Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict. It also concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt, and Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

Speaking in observance of International Women’s Day, the President of the Council, Kate Gilmore, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Canada, speaking on behalf of 116 countries, emphasized the importance of gender equality and eliminating violence against women for the realization of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Ms. Santos Pais welcomed that the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda included a clear target to end all forms of violence against children. It was high time to address the root causes of such violence. In 2014, over one billion children aged 2 to 17 were exposed to violence, which weakened the very foundation of social progress. Thousands of unaccompanied and separated children had reached Europe seeking refuge, and were in need of special protection measures. She referred to the issue of cyberbullying, which could cause profound harm to children.

Ms. Zerrougui drew attention to the continuation of the plight of children in armed conflict in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Israel, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Afghanistan. Those conflicts had led to an increasing number of child casualties and recruitment, and of refugees and internally displaced persons, almost half of whom were children. Obligations of States of origin, transit and destination should not be discarded on the basis of national security, or even just due to popular opinion. Responses to extreme violence perpetrated by armed groups that did not comply with international law risked inflicting further harm on civilians. Emphasis had to be put on the right to education.

In the ensuing dialogue, speakers welcomed the inclusion in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of a specific target to end all forms of violence against children. They emphasized the importance of implementing this Agenda through legislative measures and cooperation. Despite important progress, the human rights of children were still systematically threatened. Violence, sexual violence both online and offline, corporal punishment, the effects of the economic and refugee crises, and ill-adapted justice systems were just a few of the obstacles that needed to be overcome. Speakers acknowledged that information and communications technologies provided new opportunities to children, but noted that they also posed serious risk of harassment and abuse, including cyberbullying. The private sector should play an important role in preventing such online violence against children.

Turning to the situation of children and armed conflict, speakers noted that children in armed conflicts and in territories under occupation faced serious threats. They condemned the recruitment of children by extremist groups, and insisted on the need to consider these children as victims rather than perpetrators, and to rehabilitate them. Speakers highlighted the importance of the right to education in conflict situations and the far-reaching negative impact of attacks on schools, teachers and students during armed conflicts. They agreed on the necessity to prevent recruitment by extremist groups through education, and asked what the private sector could do in that regard.

Speaking were Brazil on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Kuwait on behalf of the Arab Group, Dominican Republic on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Croatia, also on behalf of Austria and Slovenia, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, Belgium, Georgia, Republic of Korea, France, Namibia, El Salvador, United States, Estonia, Russian Federation, Qatar, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, Israel, Council of Europe, Tunisia, Italy, Syria, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Iran, Australia, Malaysia, Libya, Sudan, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Bulgaria, Brazil, Bolivia, Egypt, Angola, Panama, South Africa, Viet Nam, New Zealand, Spain, Thailand, Ecuador, Pakistan, Botswana, Algeria, Colombia, Maldives, Paraguay, Venezuela, Cuba, Nigeria, Germany, Afghanistan, Liechtenstein, Indonesia, Luxembourg, Malawi, State of Palestine, Kyrgyzstan, Benin, Iraq, Morocco, Zambia, Azerbaijan, and Mexico, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Defense for Children International, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausliatrice, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, Organization For Defending Victims Of Violence, Child Foundation, International Humanist and Ethical Union, International Catholic Child Bureau, Iraqi Development Organization, Liberation, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Global Network for Rights and Development, Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society, Al-Khoei Foundation and Association Miraisme International.

Earlier this morning, the Council concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, and Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food. They presented their reports to the Council at noon on Monday, 7 March and a summary of their comments and the first part of the interactive dialogue with them can be found here.

In the interactive dialogue, speakers expressed concern about the fact that armed conflict was one of the main obstacles for access to food. They added that economic inequalities had led to severe hardship for citizens of the global South, which had been adversely affected by the financial crisis, followed by the Ebola crisis. Speakers expressed concern at violations of women’s right to food, particularly in the context of climate change, and condemned violence against women’s rights defenders working on land-related issues. They noted that the undemocratic nature of major financial institutions contributed to the inequalities.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Bohoslavsky said that the right to development posed a limit to what could be considered an acceptable level of inequality from a human rights perspective. It was worth exploring and developing the idea of human rights impact assessments regarding tax policies and tax reforms. A rigid interpretation of the principle that contracts had to be respected was not consistent with legitimacy and international human rights law standards.

Ms. Elver said the right to food was not just related to the sovereign right of States, but that all kinds of financial institutions should be respectful about States’ economic and social responsibility to their citizens. Development aid projects were important as regards the right to food, but had to respect governments’ social and economic policies. Fighting powers trying to use food systems to help their war machine were committing crimes against humanity.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Libya and Sierra Leone.

Also taking the floor were Temple of Understanding, Foodfirst Information and Action Network, Human Rights Advocates, International Muslim Women’s Union, International Commission of Jurists, International-Lawyers.org, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Villages Unis, Arab Commission for Human Rights in a joint statement with the Independent Research and Initiative Centre for Dialogue, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Espace Afrique International, Liberation, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, and World Barua Organization.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. A 2:30 p.m., it will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment and the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.