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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY ; BEGINS DIALOGUE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS

Meeting Summaries

 

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity


The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, and began an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Obiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, said human rights based international solidarity in the context of climate change arose partly due to the physical interdependence between humankind and nature, which had no political boundaries. The asymmetrical distribution of wealth through the global economy also reinforced the profoundly unfair reality that those who had contributed the least to the problem tended to feel its greatest effects. As temperatures rose, inequalities were compounded. He spoke about his visit to Qatar.

Qatar spoke as a concerned country.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said that international solidarity and cooperation were crucial to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. They were, in fact, international obligations. Some speakers called for the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” to be upheld and strengthened. While welcoming the report, some speakers requested a greater focus on Africa, as it was the most affected region.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were the European Union, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, UN Women, Holy See (video message), Togo, Cuba, Russian Federation, Djibouti, Angola, Libya, China, Ecuador, Malaysia, Venezuela, Tunisia, Philippines (video message), Jordan, Indonesia, Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Bahamas, Algeria and Chad.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor : Earthjustice, Terra de Direitos (video message), Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, China Society for Human Rights Studies (video message), Conselho Indigenista Missionario (video message), International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, South Youth Organization (video message), Alsalam Foundation, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Iraqi Development Organization and Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement.

The Council then started an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Anita Ramasastry, President of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, speaking via video message, noted that the Working Group’s thematic report focused on how the business and human rights agenda and anti-corruption efforts, when linked, could increase respect for, and protection of, human rights. Corruption negatively impacted people’s enjoyment of human rights. The Working Group’s report built on this important foundation and shone a light on the need for States to act in a more integrated fashion to ensure that companies actively prevented corruption and ensured respect for human rights. She spoke about the Working Group’s visits to Georgia and Honduras.

Georgia and Honduras spoke as concerned countries.

Speakers welcomed the report connecting business and human rights with the anti-corruption agenda, expressing their support for the human rights based approach to the fight against corruption. The international community must be vigilant, particularly in light of the COVID-19 health crisis, and there must be increased cooperation between different inter-governmental bodies. Both States and companies had to adopt a sustainable, people-centred approach in order to build back better during the COVID-19 recovery phase.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were the European Union, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Russian Federation on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, State of Palestine, Belgium, Japan, Ecuador, Armenia, Venezuela, Philippines (video message), Syria, Spain (video message), Jordan, Indonesia, Morocco, Mozambique, Ireland, Nepal, United Kingdom and Ghana.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations : Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (video message) and Centre Europe - tiers monde.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive discussion with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The interactive dialogue started in previous meetings and a summary can be found here and here .

In the discussion, speakers agreed that “conversion therapy” was discriminatory, and caused lasting psychological damage, expressing particular concern about its effects on children. The Independent Expert’s views were requested on the notion that human rights violations such as so-called “conversion therapy” may be justified by religious institutions, and about the ways these justifications could be countered. Violence against persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity was of great concern to speakers, who identified a variety of national practices implemented to stamp it out.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in concluding remarks, expressed concerns that the format of the interactive dialogue - which stretched over three days and was interspersed with other interactive dialogues - had proven an impediment to stakeholders whose input had informed the report and whose work would be affected by it. He warned against a missed opportunity to ascertain the relevance of the Council, reinforcing the misconception that what happened in Geneva had nothing to do with the lived experience of people on the ground.

Speaking during the interactive dialogue were Brazil, Malta, Georgia, Iceland and Italy.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor : Stichting CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality (video message), Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC Nederland (video message), European Region of the International Lesbian anf Gay Federation, Asociacion HazteOir.org, International Lesbian and Gay Association , Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights - RFSL, Right Livelihood Award Foundation and International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Speaking in right of reply were Iran, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

The Council will next meet on Friday, 10 July at 10 a.m. to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and begin its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. The interactive dialogue with the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises will resume at 3 p.m. on Friday.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity started in previous meetings and a summary can be found here and here .

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers thanked the Independent Expert for the comprehensive report, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had left the most marginalised, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, even more vulnerable, as they faced multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Speakers agreed that “conversion therapy” was discriminatory, and caused lasting psychological damage, expressing particular concern about its effects on children. They asked the Independent Expert for his views on the notion that human rights violations such as so-called “conversion therapy” may be justified by religious institutions, and about the ways these justifications could be countered. Violence against persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity was of great concern to a number of speakers, who identified a variety of national practices implemented to stamp it out. Speakers noted that “conversion therapy” specifically targeted youth, as well as persons experiencing mental illness and distress, further contributing to deteriorating their mental state, calling on States to implement legal provisions and to outlaw the practice. The inclusion of references to “corrective rape” in the report, a deplorable act that was often committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender women, was welcomed, and speakers noted that States rarely provided support to victims. The report’s particular attention to transgender identity and the effects of “conversion therapy” on transgender persons, amounting to attempts at cancelling their very personhood, was also welcomed by speakers.

Concluding Remarks

VICTOR MADRIGAL-BORLOZ, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity , in concluding remarks, thanked those present for their supportive statements and constructive criticisms. As regards best practices, he referred to a combination of public policy, legislation and access to justice, along with a wide political commitment to social inclusion. He expressed concerns that the format of the interactive dialogue - which stretched over three days and was interspersed with other interactive dialogues - had proven an impediment to stakeholders whose input had informed the report and whose work would be affected by it. He warned against a missed opportunity to ascertain the relevance of the Council, reinforcing the misconception that what happened in Geneva had nothing to do with the lived experience of people on the ground.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity on International solidarity and climate change ( A/HRC/44/44).

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity on his visit to Qatar ( A/HRC/44/44/Add.1).

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity on hisvisit to Qatar -- Comments by the State ( A/HRC/44/44/Add.2).

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity on his visit to Qatar -- Comments by the State ( A/HRC/44/44/Add.2/Corr.1 ).

Presentation of the Reports by the Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity

OBIORA C. OKAFOR, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, thanked Qatar for hosting a visit in September 2019, and the Governments of Costa Rica and Bolivia for their positive reception of country visit requests and hoped to be able to undertake these as soon as travel became feasible again.

An important goal of his report was to better illuminate the role of human rights-based international solidarity in responding to climate change, which was a common concern of humanity. It was important to address this topic, given the tragic impacts of climate change across the world. Human rights-based international solidarity in the context of climate change arose partly due to the physical interdependence between humankind and nature, which had no political boundaries. The asymmetrical distribution of wealth through the global economy also reinforced the profoundly unfair reality that those who had contributed the least to the problem tended to feel its greatest effects. As temperatures rose, inequalities were compounded. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities grounded each State’s pledge under the Paris Agreement – known in that treaty as a “nationally determined contribution”. The Paris Agreement also committed States to pursue common efforts to limit the rise in the global temperature to 1.5C to significantly reduce the risks posed to vulnerable States and peoples.

However, there was still a deep chasm between States’ behaviour thus far, including their pledges, and what was needed to prevent further climate change and to avoid the grave dangers that this portended. Given the insufficiency of State and corporate action, indigenous peoples, cities, civil society groups, subnational jurisdictions, and others, had been pursuing “climate justice”, emphasising a human rights approach to the impacts of climate change on socially vulnerable peoples. Some countries, however, were setting examples of positive expressions of human rights-based international solidarity in this area, while some regional laws and practices had also contributed significantly to enhancing human rights-based international solidarity in the context of climate change.

Regarding his visit to Qatar, the Independent Expert praised Qatar’s robust support for international development and cooperation, which concretely demonstrated the State’s commitment to international solidarity. Qatar should do more to take climate change into account in its development practices, in order to better safeguard the human rights of the most vulnerable populations in Qatar and abroad. The present COVID-19 pandemic had left a massive amount of disease, death and despair in its stride, and continued to seriously trouble the world even in its wake, and as a result the Independent Expert urged States to adopt the draft UN Declaration on Human Rights and International Solidarity.

Statement by Concerned Country

Qatar , speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Independent Expert for the transparent, constructive and fruitful manner in which he had conducted his visit and drafted his report. The report reflected many of the measures adopted by Qatar to uphold its national and international commitments based on human rights. Qatar was the first Gulf country to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures mandate holders. Taking note of the recommendations outlined in the report, Qatar would take on a number of them, including the addition of human right education components in national curricula. Qatar had adopted a foreign policy aimed at achieving world peace and development through cooperation. This implied helping developing countries to implement the 2030 Agenda, including those impacted by disaster, conflict and climate change. To address the negative impact of climate change, Qatar had endeavoured to increase renewable energy sources and combat air pollution, inter alia.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers agreed with the urgency regarding the climate crisis and the importance of international solidarity expressed by the report. They emphasised the importance of implementing the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and that some countries were more heavily affected by the climate crisis than others, even though they had not caused it in the first place. Due to this continuing flagrant asymmetry of responsibility for the crisis, a need arose for regulating transnational corporations that heavily contributed to climate change. Speakers also agreed with the report that there was a need to reform the current international system to better protect those who were not responsible for the climate crisis. International solidarity was of utmost importance when tackling systemic crises such as climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic had brought this even sharper into view. Other speakers noted that not all countries were ready to sacrifice their geopolitical ambitions for the benefit of all humanity, as some States continued to use unilateral coercive actions, actions that were counterproductive to strengthening international solidarity. As highlighted by the Independent Expert, women and girls suffered a disproportionate impact from climate change, yet existing climate funding did not include provisions for ensuring that women acted as decision makers. No region was immune from the threat of climate change, as dwindling water resources, floods and droughts were just some of the threats to every country.

Interim Remarks

OBIORA C. OKAFOR, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, thanked those present for acknowledging the need to do more to address climate change. In that regard, symmetries in terms of causation and in terms of impact required the continuation of international and domestic efforts. In the face of the current health crisis, international solidarity was critical. On best practices, he referred to interesting albeit imperfect initiatives such as the Green Climate Fund and the Clean Development Mechanisms.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers said that international solidarity and cooperation were crucial to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. They were, in fact, international obligations. Some speakers called for the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” to be upheld and strengthened. While welcoming the report, some speakers requested a greater focus on Africa, as it was the most affected region. Climate change posed an existential threat to humanity, speakers emphasised. Solutions for climate resilience, while initially costly, may prove economical in the long-term, some speakers said, while others underlined the value of “structural projects” to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. International solidarity was not only a principle, but also a human right, some speakers stated. States needed to contribute to international solidarity efforts by increasing the ambition of their mitigation and adaptation objectives and by illustrating their human rights commitments in the new or enhanced national determined contribution to be presented this year under the Paris Agreement. Developed countries and other States in a position to do so must urgently scale up the provision of climate finance to remedy the many shortcomings identified in the Independent Expert’s report with regard to the quantity and quality of climate funding, speakers stated.

Concluding Remarks

OBIORA C. OKAFOR, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, in his concluding remarks, thanked participants for their excellent questions. International assistance in the area of mitigation and adaptation was crucial to prevent the poor from being disproportionately affected, as was sharing technology to similar ends.

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises ( A/HRC/44/43 ).

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on its visit to Georgia ( A/HRC/44/43/Add.1 ).

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on its visit to Honduras ( A/HRC/44/43/Add.2 ).

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises ( A/HRC/44/43/Add.4 ).

Presentation of the Reports

ANITA RAMASASTRY, President of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises , speaking via video message, noted that the Working Group’s thematic report focused on how the business and human rights agenda and anti-corruption efforts, when linked, could increase respect for, and protection of, human rights. Corruption negatively impacted people’s enjoyment of human rights. The Working Group’s report built on this important foundation and shone a light on the need for States to act in a more integrated fashion to ensure that companies actively prevented corruption and ensured respect for human rights. The COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the fact that corruption linked to business activity could have serious human rights impacts. For example, as governments tried to secure essential medicines to treat COVID-19 patients, they needed to guard against fraud and bribery in health-care supply chains that may lead to devastating human rights abuses. The Working Group had observed during many of its country visits that businesses had used bribery and trading in influence to gain illegal economic advantages while simultaneously imperilling the rights of vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous communities and minority populations. State agencies that interfaced with business needed to operate in a coherent manner, for example by linking incentives in procurement, trade and finance to anti-corruption and human rights commitments.

While many companies had implemented anti-corruption compliance programmes, responding to criminal laws against bribery, they had largely not followed suit in relation to human rights. Corruption was not a victimless crime but the question of who a victim was remained contested. While legal definitions were narrow, a definition of a victim that acknowledged the extent of the impact that corruption had on the enjoyment of human rights by people or communities impacted by such acts would greatly assist remedy efforts. Given the pandemic and the corruption which may ensue, the need for concerted action could not be understated. The special session of the General Assembly against corruption, to be held in 2021, would provide opportunities to continue this dialogue.

Regarding the visit to Georgia, the Working Group was encouraged by the ongoing efforts to implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and welcomed the inclusion of a business and human rights chapter in the 2018–2020 National Action Plan on Human Rights. However, it had found little evidence of the effective implementation of the chapter and had suggested measures to strengthen its content and institutional framework.

The Working Group welcomed the commitment of the Government of Honduras, under the leadership of the Ministry of Human Rights, to implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a critical element for the protection of human rights and sustainable development. A central challenge remained the lack of a robust legal and institutional framework to protect against business-related human rights abuses.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Georgia , speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Working Group for its visit, during which fruitful discussions had taken place with stakeholders. The Government would implement a human rights strategy, which would cover businesses. At the legislative level, amendments to labour legislation were underway to strengthen labour rights and impose restrictions on occupying more than one position for those who held positions with increased risks. Efforts were being made to ensure the compliance with occupational safety and prevention regulations as well as the prevention of forced labour, inter alia. The Government had adopted the 2019-2020 strategy on labour and employment strategy as well as a related plan of action. Occupational accidents had declined, including COVID-19 infections, thanks to labour inspections. Georgia reiterated its support to the mandate of the Working Group, stressing that its recommendations would be considered.

Honduras , speaking as a concerned country, said that within the framework of the obligations to promote and protect human rights, it considered that knowledge generation and education were fundamental pillars for the empowerment of all actors involved. To this end, it had held bilateral meetings and workshops on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in order to level out knowledge on the subject, fostering a dialogue with activities of reflection and analysis. Within the framework of the agreement between the Secretariat for Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a new round table on business and human rights had been created. Honduras hoped to diligently implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and in turn make progress in implementing the sustainable development objectives of the 2030 Agenda.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers welcomed the report connecting business and human rights with the anti-corruption agenda, expressing their support for a human rights based approach to the fight against corruption. The international community must be vigilant, particularly in light of the COVID-19 health crisis, and there must be increased cooperation between different inter-governmental bodies. Both States and companies had to adopt a sustainable, people-centred approach in order to build back better during the COVID-19 recovery phase. In light of the pandemic, it was also necessary to improve the working conditions of health workers and protect supply chains. The standards in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were not yet fully reflected across the world, as they represented only one blueprint for action - both responsible States and companies must implement them, at the same time improving collaboration, transparency, policy coherence and their own accountability. It was time to move from policy to practice in anti-corruption efforts. Some speakers were deeply disturbed by the attempts of some States to use their national resources to corrupt international organizations and human rights watchdogs, using offshore tax havens. Corruptive practices clearly went beyond national borders, requiring international cooperation. It was observed that the report did not look into the impact of unilateral coercive measures in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, and speakers called on the Working Group to pay attention to the ways in which these measures affected human rights, including the right to life.

Interim Remarks

ANITA RAMASASTRY, President of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises , noted that States should call on companies to respect the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. When there was evidence of corruption, States should consider the human rights impact when prosecuting. The Working Group was committed to identifying and publicising specific practices to ensure policy coherence across States. The Working Group supported many States' efforts to create a mandatory obligation for human rights and anti-corruption due diligence. In terms of many of the recommendations, they were building on previous work - regarding cooperation for instance, there was a prior focus and materials available for States to consult. As part of the 2030 Agenda, it was the companies’ responsibility to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, do no harm, and remedy any negative effects their businesses had on people.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers asked the Working Group how an equitable distribution of medical products related to the COVID-19 pandemic could be realized and achieve universal access to health care. Speakers paid tribute to the many human rights defenders who had flagged business-related human rights violations and noted the report’s sobering conclusion that “lives may be lost when bribes are paid”. The private sector had a major role to play in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Some speakers urged governments and businesses to continue sharing best practices, touting their countries’ legislation and practices that sought to harness the governments’ purchasing powers to tackle corruption and promote human rights.

Speakers noted that next year marked the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and urged further efforts to ensure their full implementation. Other speakers stated that it was false to affirm that the persistence of human rights violations by transnational companies lay in the lack of implementation of the Guiding Principles, as it ignored the intrinsic and constitutive failures of the principles : the fact that they were voluntary and ambiguous with regard to the obligations of States and companies. Some speakers called on States to grant national human rights institutions an explicit mandate, broad jurisdiction and powers to pursue business and human rights issues, including a role in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses.

 

HRC20.068F