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MORNING - Human Rights Council Starts General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Meeting Summaries


Hears Address by the Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan


The Human Rights Council this morning started its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. Women’s rights, the COVID-19 pandemic, the death penalty, the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the consideration of human rights issues, and racism were among the subjects raised.

The Council also heard an address by Anar Karimov, Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan, who said that Azerbaijan was a unique bridge on the crossroads of east and west, north and south, where different cultures, civilizations and religions met and existed in harmony. He regretted that Armenia’s occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan had been accompanied by atrocities that had led to the ethnic cleansing of millions of civilians. Armenia’s actions against Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage during the conflict also constituted a violation of international human rights law and amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity under international criminal law. However, in order to conceal its hate crimes, Armenia had consistently denied access to fact-finding missions over the years of occupation. Mr. Karimov regretted that his country’s appeals to UNESCO to investigate war crimes by Armenia had been ignored throughout 30 years. He concluded by stating that wars, confrontations and conflicts always represented a serious threat to the cultural heritage of humanity and had a devastating effect on culture and heritage, including through intentional destruction of significant markers of identity.

In the general debate, many speakers highlighted the importance of ensuring women’s rights. Some said that the unequal distribution of care work was one of the main root causes of gender inequalities. Care functions disproportionately allocated to women and girls created a major barrier to the full, equal, effective, and meaningful participation of women. They called on States and the human rights system to further discuss avenues to promote equal caregiving responsibilities of parents, flexible work practices, and to discuss access to care and participation in care responsibilities based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination. More needed to be done with regard to the promotion of the full, effective, equal and meaningful participation of women in decision-making processes, including in security sector reform, in peace talks and negotiations, and in arms control and disarmament processes. Speakers said that resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council and other relevant resolutions and statements addressed the human rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations and that although the contribution of women to peace building was increasingly recognised, the role of women in preventive diplomacy had so far been quite limited. They therefore called upon all Member States to strongly commit to ensure that women had a seat at every table, that they were heard, and that they could contribute to find solutions and prevent conflict.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers said that it had exacerbated inequalities among countries, and noted with concern the existing disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, as more than 70 per cent of vaccines had been administered in a small number of countries, while several countries had not been able to initiate mass vaccination. Speakers called for the elimination of obstacles that restricted the production and export of vaccines, and urged countries to facilitate the acquisition, access and distribution of vaccines. Some speakers said that the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines was a human right and they supported the World Health Organization’s position against the booster shot for now, saying that the longer it took to deliver the first two shots to less privileged regions, the more time the world gave the virus to mutate, which would reduce the efficacy of vaccination. Some speakers said that as a result of the pandemic, developing countries were faced with reduced fiscal space and a growing liquidity crisis. Consequently, they said, their debt burdens had increased, impeding their efforts to counter the effects of public health and climate emergencies. They worried that these developments were accentuating inequalities within and among countries and societies and called for the redoubling of collective efforts, especially towards the mobilisation of development financing, technology transfer, capacity building, and reforming the global financial architecture.

The death penalty constituted a serious violation of human rights and human dignity, some speakers said as they unequivocally opposed its use at all times and under all circumstances. They were concerned about the resumption of its use in several countries where a de facto moratorium had previously been in place. Speakers further stated that many countries did not have official public figures on the number of people on death row and that places of detention of those on death row were not always known. They were concerned about the lack of transparency in this regard and said it was problematic as it did not allow prisoners on death row to have access to their lawyers or to maintain contact with their families and loved ones. Some speakers said that the lack of transparency was a reality in any country that continued to apply the death penalty. They mentioned that these included the lack of disaggregated data on persons sentenced to death, their profile, their charges and the imminence of their execution; the lack of transparency on the methods of execution; the lack of transparency as an obstacle to the effective representation of persons sentenced to death; and the lack of transparency in the right to pardon and remission of sentence. They all advocated for the universal abolition of the death penalty and called on States to ensure access to full, accurate and reliable information about its imposition and execution.

Some speakers emphasised the importance of the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the consideration of human rights issues , and called for the elimination of double standards and politicisation. They regretted the selective focus of the Council on certain human rights issues and situations as it ran counterproductive to the Council’s mandate of global promotion and protection of all human rights. Speakers emphasised that the human rights agenda, including the Council’s contribution towards the prevention of human rights violations, must be pursued in a fair manner with due respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter such as national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States.

On racism, speakers rejected racism based on colour, creed, religion, language and ethnicity and supported the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. They called for a renewed commitment to combat xenophobia, intolerance, stigmatisation, stereotyping and violence targeted against persons based on their religion or belief. Some speakers also rejected Islamophobia, in all its forms and manifestations, directed through online or offline hate speech, populist rhetoric and anti-migration policies.

Speaking in the general debate were: Pakistan, Slovenia, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Ecuador, Norway, China, Bahrain, Armenia, France, Venezuela, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Cuba, Russian Federation, Nepal, Namibia, China, Pakistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Germany, Qatar, International Committee of the Red Cross, Ecuador, Switzerland, Finland, Iraq, South Africa, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United States, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgie, Afghanistan, United Nations Children’s Fund, Algeria, Nigeria, Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Timor-Leste, Botswana, United Nations Environment Program, Comoros, Sweden, Iran, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Lebanon, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Gambia and Mauritius.

The Global Alliance of National human Rights Institutions took the floor, as did the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme de la France .

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience , National Association of Vocational Education of China, International Federation of ACAT, China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetian Culture, Soka Gakkai International, Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center, Chinese Association for International Understanding, Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, The Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development, Centre Europe - tiers monde, Disability Association of Tavana, Fundacion para la Mejora de la Vida, la Cultura y la Sociedad, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Beijing NGO Association for International Exchanges, Women's Human Rights International Association, Prahar, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Edmund Rice International Limited, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peoples, Sikh Human Rights Group, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII , International Fellowship of Reconciliation, China Family Planning Association, Make Mothers Matter, PRATYEK, Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l'homme , Alsalam Foundation Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Integrated Youth Empowerment, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, YouChange China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, Beijing Changier Education Foundation, Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, American Association of Jurists, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, World Muslim Congress, Partners For Transparency, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Promotion du Développement Economique et Social, Iraqi Development Organization, Ingenieurs du Monde, CIVICUS, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Association Internationale pour l'égalité des femmes, European Centre for Law and Justice, The, Il Cenacolo, Rahbord Peimayesh Research & Educational Services Cooperative, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Jameh Ehyagaran Teb Sonnati Va Salamat Iranian, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Peace Brigades International, VIVAT International, International Action for Peace & Sustainable Development, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, World Evangelical Alliance, Meezaan Center for Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Elizka Relief Foundation, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Villages Unis, The Next Century Foundation, Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Tumuku Development and Cultural Union, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi , Stichting Global Human Rights Defence, Centre for Gender Justice and Women Empowerment, Global Welfare Association, Réseau Unité pour le Développement de Mauritanie, South Youth Organization, World Barua Organization, Liberation, Center for Organisation Research and Education, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Association Ma'onah for Human Rights and Immigration, Global Appreciation and Skills Training Network, Alliance Creative Community Project, Asian Legal Resource Centre, International Career Support Association, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, International Career Support Association, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule, Society for Development and Community Empowerment, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, Health and Environment Program, Escuela del Estudio de la Intuición Enseñanza de Valores and Beijing Changier Education Foundation.

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-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to conclude the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights. The Council will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.