Posts Tagged ‘Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’

Oslo Freedom Forum 2022 starts on 23 May

May 22, 2022

Every year, champions of human rights bring their stories to the Oslo Freedom Forum to shed light on the struggle for freedom around the world.

The theme for the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, CHAMPION OF CHANGE, celebrates both activists, who are themselves champions, and their causes. This theme represents a strong, scalable call to action, inviting you to act and advocate on behalf of activists and in support of human rights. At the Oslo Freedom Forum, we realize that everyone has the potential to effect change — either as a champion on an individual level, or as part of a larger movement.

The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, is from May 23-25 in Oslo at the Oslo Konserthus. You can also follow it as a stream: https://oslofreedomforum.com/?mc_cid=17de5f8b1f&mc_eid=f80cec329e

The 2022 mainstage program includes keynote speakers, who will be shedding light on the struggle for freedom around the world, including:

  • The three women who are leading the democratic movement in Belarus: Maria KolesnikovaSviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and Veronica Tsepkalo, first stood on stage together in 2020 in Belarus, when Aleksandr Lukashenko brazenly stole the country’s elections. They will reunite with us, to provide an update on the Belarusian people’s remarkable multi-year protest, and explain how we can help.
  • Carine Kanimba, daughter of imprisoned “Hotel Rwanda” hero — who saved more than a thousand people during the Rwandan genocide — will share her extremely risky quest to liberate her father, who was was kidnapped by the state in 2020, and is now serving a life sentence in prison for criticizing the Kagame regime. Despite being wiretapped and targeted by Pegasus spyware, Carine continues to speak out to bring justice to her father.
  • At the young age of 26, Zarifa Ghafari became the unlikely mayor of Maidan Shar, a town in Afghanistan filled with Taliban support. Hatred toward her as a woman leader led to the assassination of her father in 2020. Last summer, with her life at risk after the fall of Kabul, she made a daring escape in the footwell of a car, evading Taliban fighters. Today she lives in exile, where she continues to advocate for human rights in Afghanistan, committed to the cause of freedom in her country. 
  • Jewher Ilham’s father, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, has been held under a life sentence since 2014, imprisoned in a concentration camp in China’s Xinjiang region. Jewher has been speaking truth to power, shedding light on China’s forced labor police by testifying before US Congress, publishing op-eds, receiving numerous international awards on behalf of her father, and writing two books on the subject. 
  • In 2012, Syrian activist and Georgetown student Omar Alshogre was detained along with his cousin for demonstrating against the Syrian regime. He spent more than three years in Assad’s infamous jail system, where he endured and survived unspeakable torture. At the age of 20, his mother helped smuggle him out to freedom. His story is a bedrock piece of evidence in the international case to hold the Assad regime accountable for crimes against humanity.
  • One of the 100 most influential women defining the last century according to TIME Magazine, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman, also known as the “mother of the revolution,” “the iron woman,” “Lady of the Arab Spring,” as well as one of the Most Rebellious Women in History, is a notoriously true powerhouse. She is a human rights activist, journalist, politician, and founder of her own international foundation.

John Legend Receives High Note Global Prize 2020 from UN

December 11, 2020

John Legend has become the 2020 winner of the High Note human rights prize. For more on this award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/748829a0-11fb-11ea-a6e6-0b8b95100eab.

For first one see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/28/first-high-note-global-prize-goes-to-cyndi-lauper-for-her-work-with-lgbtq-youth/

I believe in the power of music to inspire us, to connect our hearts, to give voice to feelings for which words alone won’t suffice, to wake us up out of complacency, to galvanize and fuel social movements,” the singer said upon accepting his award. “Artists have a rich tradition of activism. We have a unique opportunity to reach people where they are, beyond political divisions, borders, and silos. And it’s been my privilege to use my voice and my platform to advance the cause of equity and justice.” See: <a href="http://<iframe src="//content.jwplatform.com/players/Ge9Alkkq-zFOPDjEV.html" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" scrolling="auto">//content.jwplatform.com/players/Ge9Alkkq-zFOPDjEV.html

Over his 20-year career, Legend has been closely involved with a variety of causes. In 2007, he started the Show Me Campaign to improve access to education, while the Bail Project has advocated for ending mass incarceration and making it easier for released prisoners to find work by removing criminal background checks from job applications. In his High Note Global Prize speech, he touched on his most recent campaign, #FreeAmerica, which is aimed at broad criminal justice reform.

He went on to highlight his most recent campaign, #FreeAmerica, which works toward criminal justice reform. “As a citizen of the United States, and of the world, I know that for far too long our most essential systems have served to perpetuate inequity and injustice,” he shared. “In order for us to create a just world those systems need to change.”

With this award we celebrate a multitude of advocates, generations of movement leaders who have put their shoulder to the wheel of progress,” he concluded. “I don’t stand here absorbing these accolades for myself. I stand here grateful for their ideas and their energy and honored that I can amplify their voices by using my platform.”

https://latestnewspost.com/news/entertainment/tv-shows/john-legend-receives-united-nations-human-rights-high-note-global-prize/

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/john-legend-united-nations-human-rights-high-note-global-prize-1101344/

Max Richter’s ‘VOICES’ to be broadcast for Human Rights Day by 34 countries

December 9, 2020

A unique global broadcasting event, to coincide with UN Human Rights Day on 10 December, will promote a message of unity through music with the first-ever radio broadcast of Max Richter’s VOICES, incorporating text from the historic 1948 Declaration of Human Rights.

This special performance, produced by BBC Radio 3 and co-conceived by Richter and his creative partner Yulia Mahr, will be broadcast by 37 EBU radio channels from 34 countries, the EBU announced on 7 December 2020.

VOICES is inspired by the opening statement from the Declaration: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” A decade in the making, the piece premiered in London in February 2020, weeks before the pandemic brought unprecedented changes to the lives of citizens worldwide. With months of uncertainty still on the horizon, the recording’s uplifting messages of community and hope have particular resonance. 

Max Richter and Yulia Mahr said, “Thinking back now to the premiere of VOICES in February feels like visiting another world. In these strange and anxious times, it is a great privilege to be able to mark Human Rights Day by presenting the work again, despite the pandemic. We are thrilled about the partnership with the UN Human Rights office and the collaboration with BBC Radio 3 and the EBU, which have made it possible to perform our work once more. In this challenging time in human history, the text of the Declaration is more important than ever.”

Víctor Fernández, Chief, Communications Section, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “Collaborating with Max Richter, BBC Radio 3 and the EBU on Human Rights Day was a natural way for the United Nations Human Rights Office to promote the global human rights message through high quality music. 

“VOICES is a musical interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and music, like human rights, is universal. Both have the power to unite, to inspire and to promote peace and understanding. This concert on BBC Radio 3, broadcast via the EBU, helps ensure that the principles enshrined in the Declaration reach a wide audience.”

This is the second time that the EBU has collaborated with Richter. During Easter 2020, as the world was closing down, EBU radio channels across Europe presented the composer’s eight-hour work – Sleep – to audiences in 20 countries as a moment of hope in unprecedented times. VOICES will continue that tradition.  

The BBC Radio 3 broadcast of VOICES will be presented by Elizabeth Alker and features soprano Grace Davidson; violinist Viktoria Mullova as soloist; British actor Sheila Atim as the narrator; the Tenebrae choir; the Max Richter ensemble – with Richter himself on keyboards and electronics; and conductor Robert Ziegler.

https://www.ebu.ch/news/2020/12/37-ebu-radio-stations-to-broadcast-max-richters-voices-for-un-human-rights-day

UN pulls Anti-Torture Conference from Egypt to seek other regional venue

August 21, 2019

The UN has postponed the anti-torture conference due to take place in Cairo, following an outcry from human rights defenders who accused the organisation of “whitewashing” the Egyptian government’s abuses. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/20/controversial-u-n-decision-to-hold-conference-on-torture-in-egypt/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/postpones-anti-torture-conference-cairo-outcry-190820193249344.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/20/un-postpones-anti-torture-conference-in-cairo-after-backlash

Controversial U.N.decision to hold conference on torture in Egypt

August 20, 2019

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will co-host the regional conference with the government’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on 4-5 September. Some 80 participants, both government and non-governmental, from 19 Arab countries are expected to attend. U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, who in February had said torture was endemic in Egypt, told Reuters: “It is a fairly standard type of event.”…

Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said the idea of Egypt hosting such an event was a joke. “More ironic is that this is through the National Council (for Human Rights), the role of which is to always polish the government’s image and complicity in the human rights situation,” he said. NHCR president Mohamed Fayek will give a welcome address at the conference’s opening ceremony, according to an agenda seen by Reuters….In 2017, Egypt raided and shut down the Nadeem Center, which documented alleged human rights abuses and treated torture victims.

In the meantime on 19 August 2019 the NGO EuroMed Rights announced that it has declined the invitation and in an open letter addressed to UN High Commissioner, Ms Michelle Bachelet, EuroMed Rights expresses its deep reservations about the decision to hold this conference in Egypt, a country where torture is systematically practised by the security forces, and in collaboration with the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, which acts under the auspices of the government. The letter recalls that detainees and prisoners in Egypt are frequently subjected to abuses which amount to torture, including electric shocks, beatings, suspension by limbs and rape. Read full letter here

https://kfgo.com/news/articles/2019/aug/15/rights-groups-criticize-undecision-to-hold-conference-on-torture-in-egypt/927888/

UN spokesperson on human rights puts a simple question on gun violence

August 9, 2019

Although not directly linked to human rights defenders (but they are often the victims of gun violence) the above statement by the Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reacting to the weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, raises the straightforward question: why should any civilian anywhere be able to acquire an assult rifle…??

 

See also in this context: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-rights-experts-bigoted-statements-make-politicians-complicit

https://www.mrctv.org/videos/un-rights-official-why-should-any-civilian-anywhere-be-able-acquire-assault-rifle

Joint letter by 22 States to Human Rights Council re China’s Uighurs

July 12, 2019
A Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in Yangisar, south of Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region
China is reportedly holding one million people, mostly ethnic Uighurs, in internment camps in Xinjiang Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

UN ambassadors  – including Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan – co-signed the letter released Wednesday and sent to the Human Rights Council president, Coly Seck, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Rights groups and former inmates describe them as “concentration camps” where mainly Muslim Uighurs and other minorities are being forcefully assimilated into China’s majority ethnic Han society. The letter expresses concern “about credible reports of arbitrary detention… as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.” It calls on China to stop arbitrary detention and allow “freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang.” The authors, who include ambassadors from across the EU as well as Switzerland, requested that the letter become an official document of the Human Rights Council, which ends its 41st session in Geneva on Friday. Chinese officials describe the camps as voluntary “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking Uighurs receive job training.

The letter may have been the only available option with China having enough support in the UN Council to vote down a formal resolution. See also: ttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-xinjiang-rights-idUSKCN1U721X?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=5d28c3e00ca7240001cb2eef&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

On the same day Human Rights Watch commented: Most importantly, the joint letter sends a strong message that we are moving beyond the era of selectivity, and that no country, large or small, is exempt from the scrutiny of this Council. We understand that the joint letter remains open for additional signatures, and we encourage those delegations that have not yet signed to do so. We are particularly disappointed that OIC member states have not yet engaged meaningfully or credibly with the human rights situation affecting Muslims in Xinjiang, while they have spoken out on other situations. This risks fueling perceptions of double standards and politicization; supporting the constructive joint statement would be a useful step towards addressing such perceptions.

We also welcome China’s acceptance of a UPR recommendation to respond positively to a country visit request by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

We would suggest that China could benefit from technical assistance by drawing on the expertise of other UN Special Rapporteurs, such as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of human rights while countering terrorism. Given that China has advanced the need to counter terrorism as its rationale for mass programs directed at Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang, the Special Rapporteur could offer useful guidance on whether there are more rights-respecting ways to counter terrorism than mass surveillance, detaining over a million Muslims, and stripping an entire population of its rights to freedom of religion, privacy, culture and expression.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-awad/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/11/more-than-20-ambassadors-condemn-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-in-xinjiang

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/independent-reporting-xinjiang-abuses-requires-unfettered-access-not-stage-managed

More short films on each article of the UDHR

November 27, 2018

Further to my post on the series of short films – one for each article in the 70-year old Universal Declaration of human rights [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/15/each-article-in-the-universal-declaration-on-human-rights-has-its-human-story/], there now more out to watch: see e.ghttps://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights/videos/380180556054710/.

Michelle Bachelet, new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, gives major interview

October 18, 2018

In August 2018, Michelle Bachelet, twice-elected President of Chile was confirmed as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, replacing Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/]. Minutes after she was approved, UN chief Antonio Guterres told reporters he was “delighted” by the news of her official appointment, describing Ms. Bachelet, a “pioneer”, has been “as formidable a figure in her native Chile, as she has at the United Nations”. Shortly after assuming office in early September, Ms. Bachelet was in New York for the General Assembly’s high-level general debate. She spoke then with UN News on the rights situation around the world, the priorities for her tenure, and how can rights be better protected. It was published on 17 October 2018.

Bearing in mind her own personal experience of being detained and tortured in Chile, the interview started with a question on how she overcame the hardships she suffered under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (file photo) ILO/M. Creuset

Michelle Bachelet: ….there was a period of my life that I really hated what was happening – I had so much rage. But afterwards, I started thinking, “you know what, I do not want this to happen anymore in Chile or in any other country of the world. So, what can I do to contribute, that Chile will be a peaceful, democratic society?” So, I sort of put all my energies on that, and that is why I started working on defence issues to be able to speak to the militaries, because I never thought I was going to be Minister of the Defence or President of the Republic.,,I would say it permitted me to understand that, first of all, lessons learned, and if you really want some objective, and in a possible, constructive way, it can be done.

As the High Commissioner, you have come in a time when human rights are under serious attack globally. What your priorities are going to be?

Michelle Bachelet: …. first of all, of course, my priorities are to do what my mandate tells me to do, to be the voice of the voiceless. But also to engage with governments so they respect human rights, protect people from rights violations, and promote human rights.

….But one of my particular priorities from the Secretary-General is prevention. I am not saying I will succeed on that, maybe not. But I will try to design a system where we can have early warning signs and try to think on early action. …..

Right now, some countries do not want to cooperate with OHCHR or question the worth of the Human Rights Council. How do you plan on bringing everyone together?

Michelle Bachelet: In my opening statement, I spoke about, that consensus could be possible, that we should not lose ourselves in sterile disputes. Of course human rights is a very political thing and you see that here in the General Assembly, in the Security Council, so it is not in the Human Rights Council, by itself.

I mean, countries have their visions, their interests, and sometimes, they are not interested in some issues. But what I have been doing is meeting, not only with the whole council, but with groups of countries in Geneva such as the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, the African countries, the Arab countries, the Asia-Pacific countries, the West European and Other countries, the Eastern European countries, speaking but also listening. Because, sometimes, you know what you have to do, but the way you do it can be more successful than others. Sometimes you need to speak out. Sometimes you need to strategize in terms of saying, look, it will work better if we do diplomatic prevention, if we start engaging the government. But today the world is complicated, and it is very polarized in some issues………

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What progress do you think has been done in the past 70 years?

Michelle Bachelet: …..Think of 1948: how many countries allowed women to vote, for example; how many respected of freedom of speech. If you think of the different aspects of the human rights, even in more complete things that usually people do not think of as human rights, but they are human rights: on health, on education, on sanitation, on housing. The world today is better than 70 years ago. But having said that, there are a lot of threats, there are a lot of threats for multilateralism, there is a lot of threat and pushback on human rights. …We see a pushback, we see that in some documents, human rights is not mentioned, and when you ask, they say, “it is mainstream.” And if it is mainstreamed, it is fantastic, because everybody’s doing their job. But if it is invisible, mainstream, that is not a good thing. On the other hand we see human rights defenders and civil society having their space shrink. They have been under attack. Journalists have been killed.

So there is a lot of challenges. The only thing I can say is that the struggle for human rights probably will never end, because it is a process where you advance, but there will be always people who want to push back, and that could be governments or that could be armed groups. The task of the UN is to ensure and promote the whole human rights system. And I will do what I have to do about it, but it cannot be only the task of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it has to be the task of the whole UN system….

I would like to ask you about protecting those who protect: human rights defenders are often targets of abuse and violence. How can they be better protected?

Michelle Bachelet: Well, the curious thing is that, as we are celebrating the 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are celebrating 20 years of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. And in November 2017, a resolution on the protection of human rights defenders was approved unanimously by the General Assembly.  No country voted against it. So, the issue is: on paper things can look very good, but reality is another thing. I think we have the task of making people accountable for the things they have approved. Second, to monitor implementation of those agreements that everybody has made, and engage governments, and in the cases where things are happening, holding them accountable and responsible for the killings, the torture, the detentions of many human rights defenders.

You have been a very important defender of women’s rights. How is that going to continue, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?

Michelle Bachelet: The thing is that, people tend to see OHCHR as only concerned with civil and political rights, and that is not it. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states the rights for migrants, for children, for women; right to health, to education. It is very comprehensive. Even though I am not intending to replace any other agency, I always speak about gender issues, gender empowerment. This morning I was speaking about women who are women’s human rights defenders, who have been attacked, threatened with rape.

I will be always raising the voice for women, trying to support their capacities, and building partnership with UN Women, as we have spoken with Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF to see how we can create synergies. …..

One of the most pressing issues for the entire world is climate change. How are human rights linked to the environment?

Michelle Bachelet: ..There are so many concrete consequences that will be effects in people’s lives and their rights. That is why we also believe that working strongly to combat climate change is a very essential task, including of the High Commissioner. I think also that we need to be more part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and how we support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ..

And climate change is of huge importance, because I have seen places where there is no more water and people who depend agriculture, mainly women, and now have to think how they get their incomes. With climate change, we have seen, and scientists tell us … about worsening natural disasters and extreme weather, forest fires. And all of these will have a lot of consequences for the life of people. It is very important to work very closely on that, too. I completely agree with the Secretary-General when said that this is one of the major, major challenges that we have.

Full interview at: Human Rights

Without more extra-budgetary funding human rights work in the UN is in trouble

March 1, 2018
In a year that deep cuts were made to UN budgets, resourcing for human rights also activities took a big hit. The UN General Assembly’s approved approximately 50% less funding for some human rights posts than requested. Funds to support the work of treaty bodies were cut, but the need to adequately fund treaty bodies was reaffirmed, establishing a mandate for future resource requests.

Decisions directly affecting human rights activities were caught up in a powerful push – particularly by the US – for deep cuts to the proposed biennium budget. The approved UN regular budget for 2018 -2019 of $5.397 billion, is almost $200 million below what the Secretary General had sought, and 5% less than the budget approved for 2016-2017.

The percentage of the UN budget directed to support the human rights pillar is already tiny. To then carve off funding for posts already agreed as essential, makes no sense,’ she added. ‘The General Assembly ignores the fact that investing in human rights protection is a smart choice. ISHR’s Tess McEvoy said on 4 January 2018. (for more information on the budget cuts see https://www.ishr.ch/news/unga72-human-rights-funding-takes-hit-key-mandate-reaffirmed).

On 27 February 2018 the OHCHR announced that Norway has pledged to increase its funding for the UN Human Rights Office, giving some USD 18m dollars – a year over four years. Generally there is impressive support for human rights from Scandinavia (Denmark is doubling its funding for 2018 USD 10m, and in 2017, Sweden was the second biggest donor with some USD16m).

However, even with a record USD142.8m in voluntary contributions last year, the UN Office still fell short of the funds needed to respond to all requests for assistance. Therefore it has just launched  appeal for extra-budgetary funding for 2018 – with as most ambitious target yet, amounting to USD278.3m.

The OHCHR hopes that the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will encourage all UN Member States to make voluntary contributions. If you want to see how much individual States gave to the UN Human Rights Office in 2017, please see: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/AboutUs/FundingBudget/VoluntaryContributions2017.pdf

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22715&LangID=E