Posts Tagged ‘António Guterres’

UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched

June 19, 2019

The Strategy and Plan of Action guides all United Nations entities, at Headquarters and in the field, to do their part to address hate speech. The Strategy and Plan of Action calls for stronger support to Member States as well as stronger engagement with private companies, civil society and media. It is consistent with and supports other key agendas of the United Nations, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sustaining Peace resolutions and the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Strategy provides ideas on how to address the root causes and drivers of hate speech and how to reduce its impact on societies.

UN secretary-general attacks populists in Charlemagne Prize speech

June 5, 2019

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Aachen | Florian Ebener/Getty Image
The human rights agenda is losing ground to nationalist agendas, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned: “Many people are turning inwards looking at a golden age that probably never was,” he said of populists, religious extremists and nationalists.  Accepting the prize for work done in the service of Europe’s unification, the former Portuguese prime minister said that there is no alternative to the European Union, as no country can meet current challenges alone.

..He called on the Continent to come to grips with some serious challenges, such as migration, climate change and the disruption created by technological developments.

While he noted that many societies are today multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious, Guterres stressed that there is work to be done to ensure that each community is respected and that it feels it belongs to society as a whole.

Guterres also praised Europe’s 1-year-old General Data Protection Regulation, which sets rules for how companies and other entities have to deal with data protection and people’s privacy in the current digital world. The law is a testament to how the EU can ensure the protection of human rights, he said.

On how to revigorate the human rights ides, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/30/positive-communication-is-the-only-way-forward-for-effective-human-rights-work/

70th Anniversary of ACANU: focus on journalists under attack and creation of new human rights award

March 5, 2019

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) organised a public lecture, panel discussion and award presentation in partnership with the Graduate Institute and the Club Diplomatique de Genève on “Press Freedom and Journalists Under Attack” on 25 February 2019.

Photo credit: Magali Girardin

The lecture, delivered by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, addressed issues on the physical attacks and growing number of assaults on the credibility of journalists and media organisations, which are taking a heavy toll on media freedom. It also sought to answer what is spurring the growing hostility and violence and what can be done to protect professional journalists.

Journalists are on the front lines, sounding the first alarm, questioning official accounts, looking into difficult and dangerous issues and – at their best – asking questions that demand an answer and telling truths that must be heard. […] In the face of this sustained campaign of harassment, intimidation and lack of accountability, we – the international community – cannot remain silent. […] I call on Governments and the international community to protect journalists and media workers, and to create the conditions they need to do their essential work, and to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on them.

Nina Larson, President of ACANU, then moderated a panel discussion on the situation facing journalists, which included Peggy Hicks, Director Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders and David Sylvan, Professor, International Relations/Political Science, the Graduate Institute.

During the discussion, Ms Hicks pointed out that “one of the [phenomena] that’s really important for us to look at in this context is the extent to which we have a whole new world of threats in terms of how some of these [attacks] happen online as opposed to offline”. Mr Deloire found that oligarchical control of the media and restrictive laws were like invisible prisons, where “there is no visible victim, there is no blood, no people in jail, but the information can be controlled”. Citing ways that state entities falsely present themselves as independent journalists, Professor Sylvan added that “there are so many alternatives – “fake” or otherwise – to regular news media that the problem now for many journalists is just to try to distinguish what they are doing from the hundreds and hundreds of things that appear similar but are not. So on the one hand, there are many more means – quite apart from physical violence […] of putting sharp restrictions on press freedom, but also there is a much greater demand for this.”

In the final segment of the event, ACANU presented two new international journalism awards, created for the 70th anniversary celebration and to recognise journalists for outstanding work in the face of growing hostility. Jennifer O’Mahony, a British freelancer, was awarded the prize for “Excellence in Reporting” for her article published in The Telegraph: “Algeria dumps thousands of migrants in the Sahara amid EU-funded crackdown”. The ACANU award for “Best Journalistic Coverage of Human Rights” was given to two Geneva journalists, Adrià Budry Carbó of Le Temps and Camille Pagella of L’illustré, for their article, “Piège en haute mer”, published in Le Temps.

For more on this new award and others for the protection of journalists, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/acanu-prize-for-reporting-on-human-rights-issues

http://graduateinstitute.ch/home/relations-publiques/news-at-the-institute/news-archives.html/_/news/corporate/2019/press-freedom-and-journalists-un

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/E955F9CF21E417CDC12583AC006920E4?OpenDocument

http://www.acanu.ch/prize_concept.html

The U.N. Hates Hate Speech More Than It Loves Free Speech

March 4, 2019

In a blog post in Foreign Policy of 28 February J (Executive director of Justitia, a Copenhagen based think tank) tackles the thorny issue of hate speech versus freedom of speech: “The U.N. Hates Hate Speech More Than It Loves Free Speech – The U.N. Secretary General is going soft on one of the most fundamental human rights“. It is an excellent read! Read the rest of this entry »

Opening Statements at 40th session of UN Human Rights Council

February 25, 2019

Also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, gave an opening statement which was of a remarkably ‘soft’ tone.  Here some excerpts:

..Today, we sometimes hear human rights being dismissed as supposedly “globalist” – as opposed to the patriotic interest of a sovereign government. But how can any State’s interests be advanced by policies that damage the well-being of all humans?….

Human rights-based policies are effective. They deliver better outcomes for people – people across the social and economic spectrum, and beyond borders. They prevent grievances, conflicts, inequalities, and suffering and discrimination of all kinds….Steps to ensure the authorities engage in respectful dialogue with civil society make for much better, broader development – and I want to emphasise this point: there cannot be optimal, sustainable or inclusive development when the voices of civil society are absent.

…..In today’s currents, in this uncharted storm of heavy winds and rising seas, careless leadership could carry our countries into catastrophe. Or we can use fundamental principles to steer our vessels to safety in more peaceful waters. Every day, we deal with many challenges across the planet. The world’s eyes have been on Venezuela, especially in the last few days. Just yesterday my Office issued a statement regarding the situation: we hope violence will end, and that respect for human rights will be part of the solution.

This Council, the Treaty Bodies and my Office, including its 72 field presences around the world, are honoured with the mandate to stand up for human rights. I want to emphasise my admiration for the Council’s record in effecting early warning, and in naming experts to issue detailed guidance. The Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review have become essential human rights tools. We need now to ensure not just early warning, but early action to prevent conflict and human rights violations.

I also take this opportunity to emphasise the importance of the Treaty Bodies, whose recommendations are often profoundly relevant.  Mindful of the need to avoid overburdening States with numerous and overlapping recommendations, we will continue working to help decision-makers devise appropriate policy responses.

My Office is sustained by the United Nations principles of impartiality, independence and integrity, and I view it as an essential springboard for the well-being and freedom of women and men across the world.

We will continue to engage with States and forge partnerships with UN agencies, regional and global bodies, business and other stakeholders. We will do our best to strengthen all the international human rights institutions with a sense of common purpose, and coordinated action.
And we will continue to amplify the needs and demands of civil society, to advance the principles of dignity, equality and justice.

——–

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2019/02/25/chief-warns-that-human-rights-are-losing-ground-world/BrFFZ4IXPpiN4QMc4j6TWO/story.html

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24203&LangID=E

 

 Human rights defenders receive their 2018 UN prizes

December 20, 2018

Secretary-General António Guterres (2nd left) and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (left) with winners of the UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights at the General Assembly’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The “clear and profound” guidelines enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “have made it the world’s most widely translated document”, the UN Secretary-General told the General Assembly on Tuesday at an event to commemorate the Declaration’s 70th Anniversary, marked 10 December.

Every five years, The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights is awarded to organizations and individuals which embody excellent activism in defending human rights. [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/united-nations-prizes-in-the-field-of-human-rights]

The 2018 winners are:

  • Rebeca Gyumi of Tanzania, for her work with women and girls. She lead a campaign that prompted the repeal of a Tanzanian law in 2016, which once permitted girls as young as 14 to be married off.
  • Asma Jahangir of Pakistan, a human rights lawyer – whose daughter, Munizae, received the award on her behalf. Mrs. Jahangir, who passed away in February of this year, fought against religious extremism and for the rights of oppressed minorities.
  • Joênia Wapixana (known also as Joenia Batista de Carvalho) of Brazil, who advocates on behalf of indigenous communities.
  • Front-Line Defenders, an Irish organization which works on the protection of human rights defenders.

All were announced on 25 October [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/26/laureates-of-10th-edition-of-un-human-rights-prizes-just-announced/], and celebrated at the ceremonial event on 18 December.

The SG emphasized that “their work, and that of other human rights defenders around the world, is essential for our collective efforts to sustain peace and ensure inclusive sustainable development and respect for human rights for all.”

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/12/1028901

Human Rights Day 2018: just an anthology

December 10, 2018

There is so much going on on this day – International Human Rights Day – that I can only give a cursory overview of some highlights in 2018 like I did in previous years [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/09/sampling-international-human-rights-day-2016-be-a-human-rights-defender/, and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/human-rights-day-2017-in-asia-mind-the-gap/]. Here is my selection of 10: Read the rest of this entry »

20th anniversary of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders starts with crucial draft resolution in the GA

November 1, 2017

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the ‘UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms‘ (in short the UN Declaration on HRDs).  The General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have over the years adopted annual resolutions, informed by reports by the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. However, as this blog and many others can testify, human rights defenders continue to face severe risks and are increasingly targets of actions taken by state and/or non-state actors in violation of the Declaration.  As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Declaration, the Norwegian delegation has just now tabled a draft resolution at the 72nd session of the General Assembly. The text is not officially out yet but the main new elements in the draft resolution are:

  • a high level meeting on HRDs in the General Assembly in New York next year, and
  • a request to the UN Secretary General/OHCHR to put together a comprehensive report on what UN can do to assist States.

Secretary-General Guterres should have no problem accepting such a request as he stated in the Human Rights Council on 27 February this year: “…To human rights defenders, I say: thank you for your courage. The United Nations is on your side. And I am on your side. I remind Member States of their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders can operate without fear of intimidation.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/new-secretary-general-at-human-rights-council-tells-human-rights-defenders-and-i-am-on-your-side/]

The UN Mission of Norway is as usual in the lead in getting this resolution adopted, while facing the danger of hostile amendments. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/]. They have their work cut out and any help in lobbying for this new draft would be most welcome. The text of the draft resolution as tabled follows below (it should be issued soon as an “L” document) in which I have highlighted operative paragraphs 14-17.

Draft resolution – version for tabling Read the rest of this entry »

New Secretary-General at Human Rights Council tells human rights defenders: “And I am on your side”

February 28, 2017

On 27 February 2017 the new Secretary General, António Guterres, addressed for the first time the UN Human Rights Council. For 10 years, he was the “other” High Commissioner (for Refugees), just down the road from the Palais des Nations where he was speaking. Some of his remarks are quoted here (from SG/SM/18456-HRC/25), especially the last paragraph dedicated to  human rights defenders and journalists: Read the rest of this entry »

2017 (6): predictions on Trump and the UN – prophets or Cassandras?

January 26, 2017

The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump

Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Already on 22 November 2016 Colum Lynch posted in “Foreign Policy” an insightful piece entitled: “The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump”.  It records the thinking of senior UN staff and NGO leaders who are going to confront a Donald Trump with a hard-line national security team. They fear that a Trump presidency could spur a global retreat from international human rights principles, marking the dawn of American leadership (see long extracts from the piece below) on green. Now – on 26 January 2017 – Daniel Warner in his weekly blog in the Tribune de Geneve wrote a post entitled: “The U.N., Trump and Cassandra” in which he reports that a bill was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3 calling for the total disengagement of the United States from the United Nations. The bill, H.R. 193 – known as American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017 – has been referred for deliberations to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill – tried before in 2015 – may not pass, but the writer fears it reflects the tenor of the current Trump administration. See his words below marked in blue.

—-

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, informed his staff in the weeks following the U.S. election that they will have to serve as the front line in an international effort to check any excesses on the human rights front. A chief concern, officials say, is that if the U.N. doesn’t call out its most powerful member for straying from universally accepted human rights norms, the rest of the world will be emboldened to ditch them. “We are going to speak up,” one U.N. official told Foreign Policy. “It’ll be rough, but if [Trump] puts any of those ghastly campaign pledges into action we will condemn.”

…..Still, Trump’s campaign pledged to restore waterboarding, deport millions of undocumented migrants, and ban Muslims from traveling to the United States. …

The U.N.’s approach to human rights is particularly tricky for the incoming U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister who headed the U.N. refugee agency for nearly 10 years. Guterres has been an outspoken champion of refugees, pressing European governments, as well as the United States, to resettle far larger numbers of refugees. Two weeks after Trump called for his ban on Muslims last December, Guterres admonished the Security Council, saying, “Those that reject Syrian refugees because they are Muslims are the best allies in the recruitment propaganda of extremist groups.” But Guterres may be constrained as the leader of the United Nations, a job that requires a close relationship with the United States and other big powers. ……

That makes it likely that Zeid will take the lead on human rights. Throughout the U.S. presidential campaign, Zeid, a Muslim prince from the Jordanian royal family, has repeatedly excoriated Trump, telling reporters in December that his threat to ban Muslim travel to the United States is “grossly irresponsible.” In September, Zeid included Trump, along with France’s Marine Le Pen and Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, on a list of “populists, demagogues, and political fantasists” who promoted their arguments grounded in “half truths and oversimplification.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/]

Some U.N. officials say Zeid’s criticism of the U.N.’s most powerful country could strengthen his hand in disputes with other U.N. members, particularly those from the developing world who have long accused the United Nations of applying greater pressure on small powers for breaching human rights norms, while letting the United States and other big powers off the hook. Other U.N. officials fear that Zeid may be exposing the organization to a battle with the U.N.’s most powerful players that he can’t win. In September, Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin formally protested Zeid’s public denunciations of Trump and other European nationalists. “Prince Zeid is overstepping his limits from time to time, and we’re unhappy about it,” Churkin told The Associated Press.

More recently, Zeid tangled with China over his attendance at a ceremony for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, which honored a Uighur economist, Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence on charges of fomenting separatism and violence. A senior Chinese official appealed to Zeid not to attend the event, according to a U.N. official. But Zeid refused, insisting that he had an independent mandate to shed light on human rights violations wherever they occur, including China.

Even before Trump’s election, U.N. officials believed that human rights were under threat from authoritarian governments, including China, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey, which have been engaged in major crackdowns on civil liberties at home. “They are backsliding on human rights, but from a position of weakness,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York City-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “Both [Vladimir] Putin and Xi Jinping are engaging in the worst crackdowns in their countries in two decades, each driven by the terror as to how their countries will react to a weakening economy; they’re trying to snuff out in advance opposition they anticipate.”

Roth said there is a real danger that Trump and other populist leaders will accelerate the curtailment of human rights. “The entire human rights movement is weary about Trump,” he said. “It’s not clear what his values are. That is why his initial appointees are so important.” Dimitris Christopoulos, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, fears Trump’s controversial positions, including torture and deportation, would embolden smaller countries. When big powers, particularly the United States, tread on human rights the world tends to follow. If smaller countries, such as Burundi and Kenya, hear Trump threatening to cast out foreign refugees they may choose to act in kind, Christopoulos said. Saudi Arabia threatened this year to cut funding to U.N. relief programs and to lead a walkout by Muslim states from the United Nations if the U.N. didn’t lift its name from a list of countries that killed or maimed children in armed conflict, according to a senior U.N. official. In its defense, Saudi officials noted that the United States had shielded its closest Middle East ally, Israel, from being included on the same list in 2015. It was only fair, therefore, that Riyadh be spared the shame of being included on the list...

Rights advocates say the rising tide of nationalism and populism in Europe and the United States represents a potentially existential threat to the human rights movement, as governments that once championed the cause on the international stage head into retreat. Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, has railed against “left-wing human rights lawyers” who are seeking the prosecution of British soldiers alleged to have committed war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. She has proposed that London withdraw from key provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights that potentially expose British troops to prosecution. A generation of European nationalist leaders, including Le Pen and Wilders, who had been on the fringe of the European political spectrum, have seen their electoral prospects grow in the face of spreading anti-immigrant sentiment. That has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel as one of the “only outspoken leaders on human rights,” Roth said. In her first statement following Trump’s election, Merkel said she would work closely with Trump, but only on the basis of “democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law, and the dignity of men regardless of origin, skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.”

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Daniel Warner further wrote: Fervent supporter of H.R. 193 and prominent Republican Rand Paul (Rep-KY) said in 2015: “I dislike paying for something that two-bit Third World countries with no freedom attack us and complain about the United States… There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t like the U.N., and I think I’d be happy to dissolve it,” added the Kentucky senator. Or, as John Bolton, once U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and now being considered for the number two spot in the State Department famously said: “There’s no such thing as the United Nations. The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
This time, following the election of Donald Trump and the U.S. abstention on a Security Council resolution to condemn the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements, the bill has a better chance. The mood in Washington of “America First” will try to repeal all multilateral agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as weakening multilateral organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Does the introduction of the bill matter? For International Geneva, it certainly does. While the United States might not withdraw from the U.N., the negative attitude of the current administration towards multilateralism and multilateral organizations will have obvious negative consequences for Geneva, sometimes called “The Rome of Multilateralism.” Even with U.S. participation, the international system will lack United States leadership during the Trump presidency. The visit of the Chinese President to the U.N. Office in Geneva and his speech at Davos were clear signs of shifting multilateral leadership.
I heard a comment from someone within the Washington bureaucracy that gives some hope.  Her feeling was that career civil servants will slow down if not block radical changes in U.S. foreign policy. The slow wheels of government will crush any unilateral attempts by the Trump leadership. The ship of state will carry on with deep divisions between the political appointments and career civil servants. This would be an indirect check on the incoming politicians.
On January 21, one day after Trump’s inauguration, millions marched against the Trump presidency throughout the United States. Millions more marched around the world for women’s dignity and many against Donald Trump as well. Will anyone march to save multilateralism and the U.N?

——

Sources:

The U.N. Human Rights Chief Fixes for a Fight with Trump | Foreign Policy

The U.N., Trump and Cassandra : Le blog de Daniel Warner

see also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/23/2017-4-canadas-year-of-real-human-rights-action/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/24/2017-5-with-trump-us-president-sweden-must-stand-up-for-human-rights/