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AFTERNOON - Human Rights Council Continues 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

The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its general debate on 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 general debate, many speakers spoke of national efforts to promote and protect all human rights, while others pointed out shortcomings in a number of countries and regions. Many speakers said that despite progress, human rights remained under constant threat globally: in an increasingly interconnected world, collaborative efforts were crucial in order to harness the positive potential of new and emerging technologies. They offered a series of challenges and opportunities across a wide range of human rights issues, such as the need to protect privacy online, the need to combat cyberbullying, digital tools to prevent climate change, neurotechnology as an emerging frontier issue, and bridging the digital divide fairly and effectively. The principles that the international community committed to in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action must evolve to address these new operational challenges.

Cultural rights were transformative and empowering, and therefore essential to the fulfilment of other human rights, which made them an indispensable part of the whole human rights system. Further, cultural rights should be seen as the bridge between civil and political rights, and economic and social rights. In fact, cultural rights protected the rights of people “to develop and express their humanity, their world view, and the meanings they give to their existence and their development”, through access to tangible and intangible cultural heritage. As such, they were a necessary component to ensure the right to development as envisioned by article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was crucial that all economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights be treated on an equal footing and in an equitable manner.

Some speakers said the Council needed to honour its mandate and take appropriate action, and stand up and establish independent investigative mechanisms to ensure that victims of human rights violations received accountability and justice. The full enjoyment of human rights would only be possible in the context of world progress. The gendered impact of aging impacted disproportionately on women’s rights in many countries: the inequalities that women endured during their lives affected their economic independence in old age, and their rights needed to be upheld, including their rights to housing. States should collect disaggregated data in order to determine the particular discriminations that women suffered.

All human rights were universal, indivisible, inalienable, inter-dependent, and mutually-reinforcing. Some speakers said States retained inalienable sovereign rights to develop their legal systems, in line with their peculiarities and national circumstances, while upholding their international obligations. Thus, any attempt to introduce controversial and non-consensual notions of human rights would be counter-productive and further polarise the international community, with negative consequences for the human rights course. It was therefore imperative to continue multilateral efforts devoid of politicisation and with respect for the sovereign equality of nations.

Unilateral coercive measures violated the rights of nations and of populations, including their right to development, and went against their well-being. The right to development should be achieved through international cooperation, reducing poverty, and eliminating inequalities within and among countries. Unilateral coercive measures or economic sanctions had led to serious healthcare concerns because of the ban on banking transactions and international trade. A huge body of literature confirmed that sanctions harmed vulnerable populations, including patients in general and cancer patients in particular. All United Nations Member States should stop supporting illegal unilateral coercive measures, which were imposed on countries beyond the authority of the United Nations and the rule of law. The Special Procedures mandate holders should speak out for the rights of patients who suffered from unilateral coercive measures in joint statements.

Religious defamation had recently attained an alarming level with burnings of the Koran, some speakers said. Many individuals and communities endured persecution because of their religious beliefs. There had been a tightening of repressive measures and abuses, including by national authorities, against religious minorities in many countries across the world. Believers were often denied the right to express and practice their faith, even when this did not endanger public safety or violate the rights of other groups or individuals. Moreover, the desecration and destruction of places of worship and religious sites, as well as violent attacks on religious leaders, had recently escalated and were becoming appallingly more commonplace.

In a growing number of countries, there was imposition of different forms of censorship that reduced the possibility of expressing convictions both publicly and politically with the pretext of avoiding the offence of the sensibilities of others. In this way, much space for healthy dialogue and even public discourse was lost. As this space decreased, so did the ability to express the fundamental right to religious freedom, as well as to thought and conscience, which were also an indispensable prerequisite for achieving peace and building a just society.

Reprisals against civil society and human rights defenders were condemned. Increased global activity and impactful action on climate change were a priority for several speakers. The protection of the environment was a critical component of efforts to safeguard human rights and promote sustainable development. The progress made at COP27 was welcomed, particularly the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund. The International Court of Justice could play a crucial role in addressing climate change and its impacts on human rights.

Governments around the world should ensure policy and resources support to realise the full, equal and effective participation of women in biodiversity work and environmental governance, and realise their rights to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. States had the duty to provide effective remedies for climate harm and must take all effective measures to address the root causes of the climate crisis, including through the effective regulation of private actors, in particular the fossil fuel corporations bearing the greatest responsibility in the climate crisis, as well as their financial backers.

Developing countries faced many challenges, especially higher inflation, and rising food and energy prices. Developing countries and small economies deserved more attention, they were more vulnerable to food insecurity, energy poverty and economic crisis. The disproportionate impact of the conflict, COVID-19 and climate change was pushing people in developing countries back to poverty, with poor access to food, energy, sanitation and medical supplies. People’s rights to an adequate standard of living, right to health, and right to development were at risk. The international community should support developing countries that were hit hardest by the food and energy shocks, and continue to provide humanitarian and development aid to those in need, especially women and children, and small-scale farmers.

Member States should intensify efforts in the Council to have resolutions that reflected the needs and rights of the people they were elected to serve. Meaningful and inclusive youth participation must be at the core of the Council’s functioning. Further, the Council should increase the substantive language and resolutions on the rights of older persons. Care was a human right: the right to care, the right to be cared for, and the right to selfcare. The right to be cared for was already implicitly enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child: it was the responsibility of States to support parents in their caring and educational responsibilities, and to provide childcare as part of public services. A right to care would unequivocably put obligations on States to provide adequate support to every unpaid caregiver – thereby also protecting the right of any person in need to receive care. A speaker called on the Human Rights Council to consider the recognition of care as a right – a new human right that could help alleviate the inequities and injustices suffered by unpaid caregivers, in particular mothers.

Speaking in the discussion were Greece, Mauritius, Afghanistan, Australia, Namibia, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, United Nations Population Fund, Mauritania, Iran, Holy Sea, Syria, Vanuatu, Belize, and Cambodia.

Also speaking was the Commission of Human Rights of the Philippines as well as International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work, International Support for Human Rights, Stitching CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Integrated Youth Empowerment, Beijing NGO Association for International Exchanges, Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients, Centre for International Environmental Law, Shaanxi Patriotic Volunteer Association, Al-Ayn Social Care Foundation, Women’s Human Rights International Association, Centre Europe – Tiers Monde, China Foundation for Human Rights Development, Jameh Ehyagaran Teb Sonnati Va Salamat Iranian, Rahbord Peimayesh Research and Education Services, Centre for Gender Justice and Women Empowerment, Make Mothers Matter, International Organisation for Right to Education and Freedom of Education, Association Internationale pour l’égalité des femmes, Human Rights Watch, British Humanist Association, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développment, Dominicans for Justice and peace, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, International Lawyers Org, Asociacion, Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran - « ARC » , Edmund Rice International Limited, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc., Amity Foundation, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Association MIMAN, Alsalam Foundation, Beijing Guangming Charity Foundation, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Union of Northwest Human Rights Organisation, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, China Society for Human Rights Studies, VIVAT International, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi , and World Organization of the Scout Movement.

Also speaking were Association Ma'onah for Human Rights and Immigration, Global Action on Aging, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Japan Society for History Textbook, Platform for Youth Integration and Volunteerism, Human Is Right, Interfaith International, World Barua Organization, Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement, Association PANAFRICA, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Beijing Crafts Council, Villages Unis (United Villages), Franciscans International, Minority Rights Group, Mouvement National des Jeunes Patriotes du Mali, United Nations Association of China, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience , The European Centre for Law and Justice, Stichting Global Human Rights Defence, China NGO Network for International Exchanges, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Iraqi Development Organization, United Nations Watch, Action Canada for Population and Development, Humanists International, Advocates for Human Rights, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, American Association of Jurists, Sikh Human Rights Group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, FIAN International e.V., Institute for Human Rights, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, International Commission of Jurists, Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development, Ligue pour la solidarité congolaise, Maloca Internationale, Akshar Foundation, "ECO-FAWN" (Environment Conservation Organization - Foundation for Afforestation Wild Animals and Nature), Alliance Defending Freedom, Africa Culture Internationale, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés, Tumuku Development and Cultural Union, and Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale .

The general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, started in the 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 fifty-second regular session can be found here.

The next meeting of the Council will be on Monday, 20 March at 10 a.m., when it will continue and conclude the general debate under agenda item three, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.


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