Human Rights Council to Hold its Forty-Sixth Regular Session from 22 February to 23 March 2021
The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold its forty-sixth regular session from 22 February to 23 March 2021 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Council's main annual session will start off with a high-level segment from 22 to 24 February, when dignitaries representing more than 130 countries will address the Council on their governments’ efforts to promote and protect human rights.
The session will open at 9 a.m. on Monday, 22 February under the presidency of Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan of Fiji. On this occasion, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres; the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir; the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet; as well as the Chief of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis, will deliver speeches before the Council. The Council will be meeting in the Assembly Hall, but most statements will be delivered virtually.
During the session, the Council will review reports on a wide range of human rights issues and will engage in over 30 interactive dialogues with human rights experts, groups and mechanisms concerning, among other issues, around 50 countries. It will hear the presentation of about 100 thematic and country reports on a wide range of issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council will also hold an annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming; its biennial high-level panel on death penalty; its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child; its annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities; a meeting on the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights; and a debate on the mid-term review of the International Decade for People of African Descent. The final outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of 14 States will also be considered and adopted, namely that of Andorra, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Honduras, Jamaica, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Panama, and the United States.
First Week of the Session
The forty-sixth regular session will open on Monday, 22 February with the high-level segment, which will continue through 24 February, and during which the Council will notably hear addresses by more than 130 dignitaries, including Iván Duque Márquez, President of Colombia; Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; Andrzej Duda, President of Poland; Gitanas Nausėda, President of Lithuania; Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan; Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland; and Abdalla Adam Hamdok, Prime Minister of Sudan. It will then hold its annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming. This year, the theme of the mainstreaming panel will be “The state of play in the fight against racism and discrimination 20 years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and the exacerbating effects the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had on these efforts”. Panellists for this event will be Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
On Tuesday, the Council will hold its biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty on the theme “Human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to whether the use of the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime rate”, and then resume the high-level segment, which will conclude on Wednesday morning. On Wednesday afternoon, it will hear the presentation of reports on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, Sri Lanka and Nicaragua under item 2 of its agenda - which deals with 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 - followed by interactive dialogues. An interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea will also be held on that day in the afternoon.
An enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Belarus, and an interactive dialogue on the oral update of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Expert on Yemen are scheduled on Thursday morning. This will be followed, in the afternoon, by presentation of reports and oral updates by the High Commissioner on Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Eritrea, Venezuela, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Cyprus. The Council will then hold a general debate, which will continue and conclude the following day. Also on Friday, a meeting on the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights will take place, aiming to share information on good practices and experiences. It will be followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
Second Week of the Session
At the beginning of the second week, the Council will first hold its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, which will focus this year on “Rights of the child and the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Also on Monday, 1 March, turning to item 3 of its agenda on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material. On Tuesday, 2 March, the Council will hold interactive dialogues with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; and the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.
On Wednesday, interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities and the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism are scheduled. The Council will also begin interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, both of which will conclude the following day. Also on Thursday, interactive dialogues will be held with the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. On Friday, in addition to holding an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, the Council will hold its annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities. That debate will focus on participation in sport under article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Third Week of the Session
The Council will open on Monday, 8 March, in the morning with a presentation of various reports, including on the sixth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and the third intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, followed by a general debate. In the afternoon, it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, and begin another interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, which will conclude the following day. The General Debate will resume on Tuesday, 9 March, in the morning, followed in the afternoon by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and the first part of an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which will conclude the following day.
On Wednesday, interactive dialogues are scheduled with the following special mandate holders: the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi; the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan; and the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment since 2014 in Venezuela. Following the presentation of an oral update by the High Commissioner on Venezuela, an interactive dialogue will start on that day and conclude on Thursday, 11 March, in the morning. Also on Thursday, the Council will hear the presentation of an oral update on the United Nations’ involvement in Myanmar and a report on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, followed by a general debate that will conclude on Friday. It will then hold interactive dialogues with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which will be presenting a report looking at the human rights situation 10 years after the crisis began, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, who will be updating the Council on the latest situation in the country, including the events following the recent coup d’etat.
The general debate under item 5, which concerns human rights bodies and mechanisms, will start on Friday, and will be followed by the presentation of reports by the Forum on Minority Issues, the Social Forum, and the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, as well as a debate on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent.
Fourth Week of the Session
After resuming the general debate under item 5 in the morning of Monday, 15 March, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, following which it will begin discussing the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of the following countries: Andorra, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Honduras, Jamaica, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Panama, and the United States.
The consideration of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. The Council will then turn to item 7 of its agenda, “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”, hearing the presentation of reports followed by a general debate, which will continue on Thursday, 18 March in the morning.
Also on Thursday, general debates are scheduled to take place on item 8, which deals with follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and item 9, which concerns racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The general debate under item 9 will be preceded by presentations of reports by the High Commissioner and the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
On Friday, the Council will turn to item 10, “Technical assistance and capacity-building”, first holding an enhanced interactive dialogue on oral updates concerning the Democratic Republic of Congo by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the team of international experts on the situation in Kasai, and then participating in an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Mali. In the afternoon, an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Ukraine is scheduled, along with a high-level interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic.
Fifth Week of the Session
The final week of the session will start with a presentation of the High Commissioner’s country report on Afghanistan, her annual presentation on technical cooperation and the presentation of the report of the Board of Trustees of Voluntary Fund Technical Cooperation. This will be followed by a general debate.
The Council will take action on decisions and resolutions on 22 and 23 March, as well as appoint Special Procedure mandate holders, elect members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and adopt the report of the session before closing the session.
The Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system, made up of 47 States, which are responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. The Council was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March 2006 with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.
The composition of the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth session is as follows:
Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, France, Gabon, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Libya, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
The President of the Human Rights Council in 2021 is Ambassador Nazhat Shameen Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office at Geneva. The Council’s four Vice Presidents are Keva Lorraine Bain (Bahamas), Ali ibn Abi Talib Abdelrahman Mahmoud (Sudan), Monique T.G. Van Daalen (Netherlands), and Yuri Borissov Sterk (Bulgaria).
The dates and venue of the forty-sixth session are subject to change in view of the evolving situation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Information on the forty-sixth session can be found here, including the annotated agenda and the reports to be presented.