Posts Tagged ‘Netsanet Belay’

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/

The State of the African Regional Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

October 21, 2019

African rights bodies are frustrated at every turn by the lack of cooperation and support from African Union (AU) member states who desperately try to undermine their independence and autonomy, according to a new report published by Amnesty International. The new report, The State of African Regional Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms, found that the continent’s rights bodies are working in harsh conditions whereby their decisions are blatantly ignored and their pleas for proper funding and human resources persistently fall on deaf ears.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/11/the-ngo-forum-and-the-65th-session-of-the-african-commission-on-human-and-peoples-rights/]

Africa’s human rights bodies are being wilfully subverted. The African Union’s Executive Council must resist these efforts and take its responsibility to monitor and enforce compliance with the decisions of the human rights mechanisms seriously,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Director for Research and Advocacy.

The report offers an assessment of the performance of three of Africa’s regional human rights institutions between January 2018 and June 2019: the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission); the African Child Rights Committee; and the African Court.

It found that out of the continent’s 54 countries, five (Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia) have not submitted a single report on the human rights situation in their countries since they ratified the Africa Charter for Human and People’s Rights. Many countries that submitted their human rights reports to the African Commission during the reporting period did so after delays in excess of a decade. Gambia and Eritrea set records by submitting their reports 21 and 19 years late respectively.

In the timeframe in review, the African Commission sent 83 urgent appeals to states over concerns of human rights violations. Of these only 26 (31 percent) received a written response. The African Commission further requested 27 country visits, of which only 13 were authorized in principle, and just five materialized.

Despite facing many stubborn challenges, African human rights bodies registered a relatively impressive record in developing new norms and standards including developing a draft treaty on the rights to social protection and social security. The African Commission also published seminal studies on transitional justice and on human rights in conflicts. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court) issued 25 decisions. However, only Burkina Faso had fully complied with the court’s decisions by the end of the reporting period. Some countries, including Tanzania, partially complied, while Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Libya and Rwanda didn’t comply at all.

Both the African Commission and the African Court face a chronic backlog problem because of a slow pace in determining cases. They must urgently develop plans to speed up determinations and ensure strict adherence to time limits for parties, especially state parties,” said Netsanet Belay.

The report also highlights an onslaught on human rights defenders in Africa. Between January 2018 and June 2019, appeals for protection of HRDs accounted for 71 percent of all appeals issued to state parties by the African Commission. HRDs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Egypt were the worst hit, the Africa Commission issuing 11 and 10 urgent appeals respectively to their governments. These were closely followed by Burundi with seven urgent appeals, Cameroon and Algeria each with six, and Uganda and Sudan, each with five appeals.

It is extremely alarming that governments across Africa have singled out human rights defenders to try to silence them and bring an end to their activism through brutal attacks, harassment, unlawful arrest and detention. Attacks on human rights defenders are an attack on the rights of all the people whose freedoms they are fighting for.
Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Director for Research and Advocacy

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https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/africa-states-frustrate-continental-rights-bodies-efforts-to-uphold-human-rights/