Posts Tagged ‘António Guterres’

43rd session HRC: UN Secretary General launches Call to Action on human rights

February 25, 2020

UN Secretary-General António Guterres attends the High Level Segment of the 43rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Photo/Violaine Martin
On 24 February 2020, with human rights under attack, António Guterres unveiled a blueprint for positive change. People’s basic human rights – their birth-right – are “under assault”, he said as he launched a Call to Action aimed at boosting equality and reducing suffering everywhere. “Human rights are our ultimate tool to help societies grow in freedom,” he told Member States on the opening day of the UN Human Rights Council’s 43rd session in Geneva. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/24/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-43rd-human-rights-council/]

In his speech he detailed a seven-point blueprint for positive change and issued an appeal for solidarity. “People across the world want to know we are on their side,” he said. “Whether robbed of their dignity by war, repression of poverty, or simply dreaming of a better future, they rely on their irreducible rights – and they look to us to help uphold them.” Echoing the call for change, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that although threats to human rights, development and peace were on the rise, so were the practical, actionable solutions to these issues.

In his pledge to utilize the full weight of his office and the UN family to fulfil the Call to Action, Mr. Guterres highlighted the enduring value of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Highlighting the document’s proclamation that human rights are ‘humanity’s highest aspiration’, Mr. Guterres insisted that all States had a responsibility to protect and promote people’s “dignity and worth”. National sovereignty “cannot be a pretext for violating human rights”, Mr. Guterres insisted, while also maintaining that greater equality “strengthens States and societies, thereby reinforcing sovereignty”.

Positive change is possible, the UN chief insisted, recalling his own experience living under dictatorship in Portugal, which finally gave way to a democratic movement when he was 24 years old. Other “human rights struggles and successes inspired us”, the UN chief said, noting how these had secured the end of apartheid in South Africa and colonial rule. One billion people have also been lifted out of poverty in a generation, he continued, and there have also been major advances in improving access to drinking water, along with big declines in child mortality. ..

Chief among these challenges are several protracted, unresolved conflicts that have left families trapped in war-torn enclaves, “starved and bombed in clear violation of international law”, he said.  Human trafficking also affects “every region of the world”, the UN chief noted, leaving women and girls “enslaved, exploited and abused”, unable to realise their potential.  Journalists and civil society are also under threat, with activists jailed, religious groups and minorities – including indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and the LGBTI community – persecuted under “overly broad definitions of national security”.

Global hunger is also increasing, Mr. Guterres said, before highlighting a series of 21st century issues linked to huge problems that affect all countries: the climate crisis, population growth, urbanization and the dark underbelly of technological progress. “People are being left behind. Fears are growing. Divisions are widening,” he said. “Some leaders are exploiting anxieties to broaden those gaps to breaking point.”

Introducing his Call to Action blueprint, Mr. Guterres explained that its aim was to “transform the ambitions of the Universal Declaration into real-world change on the ground”.

Heading the seven-point protocol is a call to put human rights at the core of sustainable development – a reference to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed to by the international community in 2015 under the Agenda 2030 banner. “The vast majority of the goals and targets correspond to legally binding human rights commitments made by every Member State,” Mr. Guterres said. “When we help lift people out of abject poverty – when we ensure education for all, notably girls – when we guarantee universal healthcare…we are enabling people to claim their rights and upholding the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda to leave nobody behind.”

Among the other priorities, the UN Secretary-General highlighted that much more needs to be done to prevent violence against women. “Violence against women is the world’s most pervasive human rights abuse,” he said, in a call to “every country” to support policies that promote gender equality, repeal discriminatory laws…ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights, and strive for women’s equal representation.

Turning to 21st century challenges, Mr. Guterres reiterated that the climate crisis was “the biggest threat to our survival”. It has already threatened human rights around the world and would continue to do so in future, he noted, before underscoring people’s right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable planet that the Call to Action is designed to achieve. Young people will be empowered to participate in this process, the UN chief insisted, so that they do “not simply speak, but to participate and shape decisions that will affect their future”.

Finally, on the challenges posed to human rights by new technology, Mr. Guterres explained that progress in this field “are too often used to violate rights and privacy through surveillance, repression and online harassment and hate”. Facial recognition and robotics should never be used to deepen inequality, he insisted, while also reiterating his call for online-ready human rights norms such as the Internet Governance Forum.

Following this announcement Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director, said: “…We hope this will translate to a genuine, effective and coordinated UN response to address ongoing human rights crises around the world – from the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar, to the systematic targeting of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia and the mass internment of almost one million Uighurs in China – and to hold states to account. “We welcome any initiative that seeks to put human rights front and centre at the UN across its operations. To ensure the success of this initiative, the Secretary-General must lead by example in his willingness to speak up when abuses are taking place, and must ensure adequate funding for the protection of human rights within the UN. Mr. Guterres has described his new initiative as a call for action. Now we need to see the action.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/02/1057961

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/02/un-action-plan-on-human-rights-bold-leadership/

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 »