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MORNING - Indigenous Peoples’ Deep-Seated Care for Water and Water Bodies is a Genuine Expression of Sustainability and an Eco-System Approach such as the World is Now Trying to Implement, Special Rapporteur Tells Human Rights Council

Meeting Summaries

 

Council Concludes General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Oral Update on Global Human Rights Developments and the Activities of the Office of the High Commissioner

 

The Human Rights Council this morning started its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, who presented a report on indigenous peoples’ rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. The Council also concluded its general debate on the High Commissioner’s oral update on global human rights developments and the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner.

Mr. Arrojo-Agudo said that indigenous peoples were the original inhabitants of the world, but were now marginalised, and in many cases living in situations of extreme poverty, suffering from an array of injustices, and yet they had retained their traditional views and ancestral knowledge. They were able to address the issues of safe access to drinking water from this perspective - managing land, resources and water. Their deep-seated care for water and water bodies was a genuine expression of sustainability and an eco-system approach, such as the world was now trying to implement, considering water as a common good and not as a merchandise.

However, indigenous communities were frequently marginalised in decision-making concerning water, Mr. Arrojo-Agudo said. Many countries denied the very existence of their indigenous peoples, denying their right to self-determination, and their access and management of water, using the pretext of national sovereignty to exploit the water systems. This was reflected across the globe. Governments were obliged to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, guarantee their rights to access to water resources, and allow them to participate in decision-making processes and planning of these resources.

The interactive dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report came as the Council started its consideration of its agenda item three on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

In the discussion on safe drinking water and sanitation, speakers welcomed the report’s recommendations to promote indigenous peoples’ access to safe drinking water and sanitation and a human right-based approach to development. More than two billion people still lacked access to drinking water. Unsafe drinking water and lack of access to sanitation were threats to indigenous persons’ health. Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation disproportionately affected indigenous women and girls. The global water crisis was exacerbated by the commercialisation of water and climate change. Indigenous peoples needed to participate in the development of policies regarding water and sanitation. Several speakers described national efforts to improve drinking water supply and sanitation facilities for local indigenous communities.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the High Commissioner’s oral update on global human rights developments and the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner, under its agenda item two on the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General.

In the general debate on the oral update, many speakers congratulated Volker Türk for his appointment as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, and expressed their appreciation for the work of Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing High Commissioner. It was the Office’s duty to document and expose violations wherever they occurred, and to protect the victims. It was critical that all countries united to hold violators of human rights accountable, and ensure access to justice for all victims. The Office should continue to monitor the situation of indigenous peoples across the world, and to apprise the Council of the situation. Climate change impacted the availability of food resources and the whole food chain, and could cause millions of people to have to migrate from their places of origin and their homes. Migration, food insecurity and the climate were global challenges, requiring global answers created by the international community. The time to act was now.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report were the European Union, Iceland on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries, Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the African Group, Peru on behalf of a group of Latin American countries, State of Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, Sovereign Order of Malta, Egypt, Colombia, France, India, Djibouti, Cuba, Morocco, the United Nations Children’s Fund, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Germany.

Speaking in the general debate on the oral update of the High Commissioner were Tanzania, as well as the following non-governmental organizations:Conectas Direitos Humanos on behalf of Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Direitos Humanos, Human Rights Watch, Il Cenacolo, Partners For Transparency, United Nations Association of China, China NGO Network for International Exchanges, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Al-Ayn Social Care Foundation, American Association of Jurists on behalf of Asociación Española para el Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos AEDIDH and Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients, World Organisation Against Torture, FIAN International e.V., Chinese Association for International Understanding, Women's Human Rights International Association, International Muslim Women's Union, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, World Muslim Congress, International Union of Socialist Youth, International Service for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Promotion du Développement Economique et Social - PDES, Réseau Unité pour le Développement de Mauritanie, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, China Association for NGO Cooperation, International Action for Peace & Sustainable Development, Justiça Global, Sikh Human Rights Group, Al Salam Foundation, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, iuventum e.V., Franciscans International on behalf of Genève pour les droits de l’homme : formation internationale, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man on behalf of a group of organisations, Center for Global Nonkilling, Global Action on Aging on behalf of a group of organisations, Conselho Indigenista Missionário CIMI, Global Appreciation and Skills Training Network, Maloca Internationale,Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Association culturelle des Tamouls en France, Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, Global Life Savers Inc, Fundación Luz María, Mouvement National des Jeunes Patriotes du Mali, Iraqi Development Organization, Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Solidarité Suisse-Guinée, Association D'Entraide Médicale GuinéeSynergie Feminine Pour La Paix Et Le Developpement Durable, Zero Pauvre Afrique, Pars Non Trading Development Activists Co, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, and Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l'homme .

Speaking in right of reply were Egypt, Morocco, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, India, Cuba, Qatar, China, Cambodia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Israel, Indonesia, Algeria, Iran, and Pakistan.

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 fifty-first regular session can be found here.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 3 p.m., when it will conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Oral Update on Global Human Rights Developments

The general debate on the High Commissioner’s oral update on global human rights developments and the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner started on 13 September and summaries can be found here and here. The presentation of the High Commissioner’s oral update can be found here.

General Debate

Many speakers congratulated Volker Türk for his appointment as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, and expressed their appreciation for the work of Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing High Commissioner. It was one of the most difficult jobs in the world, a speaker said, and it was vital for the High Commissioner to be a beacon for human rights throughout the world, playing a key role in prevention, for example through using inter-sessional briefings to bring issues to the Council’s attention. It was the Office’s duty to document and expose violations wherever they occurred, and to protect the victims.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had a duty to pay attention to the voices of non-governmental organizations, a speaker said, and to not distort the truth. Positive signals from the top level could improve a country’s situation. It was critical for the future of the United Nations system that all countries united to hold violators of human rights accountable and ensure access to justice for all victims. Many speakers highlighted violations of human rights in various countries and regions.

As the world was still striving to emerge from the pandemic, it was imperative that measures that warranted respect were taken to ensure development as well as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind. Guidance was vital from the Council so that economic, social and cultural rights could be realised, and all Member States should ensure that they continued to work with the Office of the High Commissioner to ensure transparency in this regard, some speakers said. It was essential that plans seeking to eradicate hunger be part of a coherent policy aimed at all the multi-sectoral elements of the issue, including human rights.

The recruitment of child soldiers was prohibited under international law, and was considered as a war crime. Parties that recruited children for armed conflict were added to the List of Shame held by the United Nations Secretary-General, and the Human Rights Council should give greater attention of this matter, as it was a gross violation of children’s human rights. Conflict relief must be provided by the international community with the corollary that there must be justice, reparation, and equality before the law as an outcome to the conflict. War was illegal under the United Nations Charter, and required an intervention by the Security Council. People refusing to serve in illegal wars, claiming the right to life and conscience, refusing to kill, were peace makers deserving protection, including asylum rights. Paying for war was never enough to protect future generations from the scourge of war. All States should improve direct financing for peace, to allow the world to become more serene, and focus on other threats, such as climate change.

Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples had increased year over year across the world, affecting thousands of indigenous persons, some speakers said. The Office should continue to monitor the situation of indigenous peoples across the world, and to apprise the Council of the situation. Countries should address the legacy of colonialism, and how it impacted the rights of indigenous peoples as well as of other groups.

Climate change impacted the availability of food resources and the whole food chain, and could cause millions of people to have to migrate from their places of origin and their homes. The direct link between food security and migration was clear, and the remote causes should be attacked, not the poor people facing the consequences, whilst being stigmatised by political propaganda. Migration, food insecurity and the climate were global challenges, requiring global answers created by the international community. The time to act was now.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

Report

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation , Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, addressing the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation of indigenous peoples (A/HRC/51/24).

Presentation of the Report

PEDRO ARROJO-AGUDO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, presenting his report, said it referred to indigenous peoples who were the original inhabitants of the world, but were now marginalised, and in many cases living in situations of extreme poverty, suffering from an array of injustices, and yet they had retained their traditional views and ancestral knowledge. They were able to address the issues of safe access to drinking water from this perspective - managing land, resources and water. For indigenous peoples, water was the blue soul of life, part and parcel of the interconnected whole, including land, human beings and human communities, which was why they promoted inter-territorial management, based on deep-seated care for water and water bodies. This was a genuine expression of sustainability and an eco-system approach, such as the world was now trying to implement, considering water as a common good and not as a merchandise.

Community management was an example of the democratic management of water, living up to the commitment to not leave anybody behind. Indigenous women carried out the sacred mission of caring for water for future generations, whilst educating others in this care. However, indigenous communities were frequently marginalised in decision-making concerning water. Many countries denied the very existence of their indigenous peoples, denying their right to self-determination, and their access and management of water, using the pretext of national sovereignty to exploit the water systems. This was reflected across the globe. Mining, often open-pit, destroyed territories, springs, wetlands and aquifers, and polluted the waters with toxic discharges. The large hydroelectric dams that continued to be built flooded homes and lands essential for the life of indigenous peoples, forcing their displacement, aggravating their situation of vulnerability, and hindering their access to drinking water. Large projects of pretended environmental protection, that were really for tourism purposes, were also promoted in indigenous peoples’ territories, whose ecosystems and biodiversity had been conserved for centuries by the indigenous peoples. Agro-livestock practices polluted water resources around the world.

Governments were obliged to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, guarantee their rights to access to water resources, and allow them to participate in decision-making processes and planning of these resources, said the Special Rapporteur. Governments, financial institutions, the United Nations and others were obliged to monitor the implementation of the human rights of indigenous peoples, especially their human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, where their activities impinged these rights, as well as to actively cooperate with them. The Special Rapporteur concluded by asking the forgiveness of indigenous peoples, as a white man, a descendent of colonial powers, for the exploitation that had been perpetrated, and thanked them for their wisdom and knowledge that was shared with the world.

Discussion

In the discussion, speakers welcomed the report’s recommendations to promote indigenous peoples’ access to safe drinking water and sanitation and a human right-based approach to development. More than two billion people still lacked access to drinking water. Unsafe drinking water and lack of access to sanitation were threats to indigenous persons’ health. Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation disproportionately affected indigenous women and girls. Displacement caused by conflict and development seriously affected indigenous peoples’ access to safe drinking water. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation was a human right and a precondition to human wellbeing.

Policies and guidelines were necessary to protect human rights defenders working to secure access to water and sanitation in indigenous territories. Indigenous knowledge of water systems was a vital resource that needed to be promoted and protected. The global water crisis was exacerbated by the commercialisation of water and climate change. International corporations needed to show due diligence regarding development that affected indigenous peoples. An ecosystem approach to water management was necessary. Sustained investment in reliable water systems for indigenous peoples was needed, especially in arid areas. Indigenous peoples needed to participate in the development of policies regarding water and sanitation.

Several speakers described national efforts to improve drinking water supply and sanitation facilities for local indigenous communities.

 

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not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.

 

HRC22.083E