Posts Tagged ‘UN’

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/

Uncalculated Risks: attacks on human rights defenders in name of development

July 30, 2019

The Campaign is made up of defenders and those who work with them on issues of development and human rights – community organizations, human rights and environmental groups, defender security organizations, transparency and accountability NGOs, and indigenous peoples and women’s networks. It is hosted by the Coalition for Human Rights in Development. You can find the Campaign Declaration and list of participant organizations here. In June, the Coalition for Human Rights in Development (CHRD) launched a landmark report with the Defenders in Development Campaign, exposing the risks of mega-infrastructure  and other ill-planned development projects on human rights defenders (HRDs). The report laid out 25 case studies demonstrating that HRDs are facing increasing threats and attacks in the context of their resistance to activities undertaken in the name of development, including harassment, physical violence, criminalisation, arbitrary detention and murder.

The Findings:

  • Threats and attacks against human rights defenders in the context of development activities are widespread.
  • Though they take many different forms, the threats and attacks often start with the labeling of communities, groups, and individuals as “anti-development.”
  • The imposition of development activities without the consent or meaningful consultation of local communities and marginalized groups is one of the key root causes of threats for defenders in development.
  • Development finance institutions have a duty to respect human rights and to ensure that their investments are not putting people at risk.
  • Yet too often, development interventions exacerbate risks for defenders due to lack of adequate attention to the rights and interests of local communities and marginalized populations, and to the contextual risks and power imbalances that may cause them to bear negative impacts or to be made vulnerable.
  • Early warning signs of potential threats to defenders are often missed or ignored.
  • DFIs have a wide range of resources and influence that can be utilized to change the risk equation for defenders under threat, but often fail to proactively develop this leverage or are reluctant to utilize the leverage they have.
  • DFIs often remain silent in the face of threats and attacks, or responses come too little, too late and defenders and communities are left without protection or remedy for harm.
  • Several DFIs are beginning to grapple with threats to defenders in development, but much more is needed.

Effectively addressing the shrinking space for participation in development processes and the growing threats to defenders will require not only a change in policy and practice, but a fundamental shift that places human rights and local communities at the center of how development is conceived and implemented.

Landmark report finds attacks on human rights defenders in name of ‘development’ on the rise

Human rights defenders of minorities having a hard time in the UN finds UNPO

July 19, 2019

On 17 July 2019 the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is launched a report, Compromised Space: Bullying and Blocking at the UN Human Rights Mechanisms, with its partners at the University of Oxford and Tibet Justice Centre which details how China, Russia, Iran and other repressive regimes are manipulating the United Nations Human Rights System to block and attack those seeking to hold them accountable for gross human rights violations perpetrated against minorities, indigenous communities and other unrepresented peoples…

The report is based on three years of study conducted by the UNPO and its partners at the University of Oxford and the Tibet Justice Center, supported by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. It is based largely on interviews and testimonies from 77 human rights defenders working on behalf of minorities, indigenous communities and other people living in nation states whose political systems do not create governance structures representative of all. It identifies a systemic attack on the United Nations human rights system by these governments, led largely by China, Russia and Iran, designed to shield them from accountability for human rights violations and crimes against humanity. This includes efforts to deny civil society groups participatory status at the UN (so called “ECOSOC status”), to bully and block them when they are able to access the UN, to crowd out the UN space with “GONGOs” – government-sponsored organisations posing as NGOs – and to harass, intimidate and take reprisals against activists and their families, whether at home or abroad.

Among the indicative findings of the report are the facts that:

China has regularly detained or imprisoned activists from its Southern Mongolian, Uyghur and Tibetan communities who have sought to travel to the UN, with such success that, for example, no Tibetan from Tibet who is acting independently of the Chinese government has ever managed to leave Chinese- occupied Tibet to testify at the UN in Geneva or New York, and then return safely;

Russia, in order to shield itself from accountability for its crimes in Russian-occupied Crimea, has asked for rules of participation in forums, such as the UN Minority Forum, to be changed to restrict NGO participation to groups acceptable to Russia, and its Crimea occupation authorities have attacked Crimean Tatar activists and destroyed or confiscated their passports in order to prevent their travel;

Iran regularly engages in practices designed to intimidate activists from their minority communities, even while they are operating within the United Nations buildings, and have taken out reprisals against the family members of these activists still living within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The story of Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress and Vice President of the UNPO, is indicative of all of these actions. Mr. Isa and his organization have regularly been denied ECOSOC status at the United Nations, his access to the UN buildings and events have been restricted due to Chinese demands, he and his supporters have been followed and harassed in the UN building, his mother was held in China’s anti-Muslim concentration camps as a result of his work and for many years his ability to travel freely around the world was frustrated by Chinese efforts to involve European and other states in his persecution by falsely labelling him a “terrorist”.

Reacting to the launch of the report, UNPO’s General Secretary, Ralph Bunche, stated that “the report presents the disturbing finding that the United Nations Human Rights system, which is the only outlet for many peoples living under repressive regimes to seek accountability for crimes committed against them, is being systemically undermined by perpetrator regimes. Unfortunately, democratic states are not doing nearly enough to push back against this phenomenon and in some instances are even adopting the conduct that we see from the repressive states. The withdrawal of the USA from the UN’s Human Rights Council has certainly not helped matters, but other states are simply not doing enough to counter this problem and protect human rights defenders.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT HERE

https://unpo.org/article/21583

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.

Human rights in the response to HIV: a UN consultation

June 6, 2019

HIV and AIDS used to be a major and controversial topic. It has now moved a bit to the background but is still most relevant. This also shows some of the good work the UN is doing that many people dont know about:

In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 38/8, a consultation on human rights in the response to HIV was held in Geneva on 12 and 13 February 2019. It was attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of Member States and of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, special procedure mandate holders, experts and members of civil society, including persons living with, presumed to be living with, at risk of or affected by HIV. During the consultation, participants examined best practices, evidence, lessons learned and the challenges faced when removing human rights barriers and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV in regional and subregional strategies. Participants discussed issues and challenges pertaining to the respect for and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV, with a focus on regional and subregional strategies and best practices. The full report published on 1 May 2019 can be found in the link below. These are the recommendations made at the consultation.

Recommendations

Participants made a number of recommendations during the consultation, particularly with regard to regional and subregional strategies and best practices:

(a)States should remove structural barriers, including discriminatory laws and policies, and apply human rights-based approaches to the response to HIV, putting people living with HIV at the centre of their policies, programmes and practices. In order not to leave anyone behind, States should increase their efforts to reach the most marginalized women and adolescents, key populations vulnerable to HIV, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sexworkers, people who use drugs, transgender people, and persons in prisons and other closed settings. Communities should be involved in the design, implementation and delivery of policies, programmes and practices.

(b)States should review their laws in accordance with international human rights law. In order to improve the human rights aspect in the response to HIV, States and their parliaments could collaborate at the regional and subregional levels to develop human rights-based normative content to inspire the domestication of laws at the national level. In order to reach Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 and to leave no one behind, States should adopt legislation, policies and practices that decriminalize sex work, drug use, same-sex relations, and gender identity and expression, and provide access to gender recognition.

(c)In order to improve the effectiveness of the response to HIV, States should strengthen cooperation at the regional, subregional and global levels to support and invest in programmes and services that promote the right to health and the rights of people living with HIV.

(d)Strengthened accountability is vital to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV, including the right to health, are promoted and respected. States should collaborate with regional human rights mechanisms and engage with them in good faith, and follow up on decisions and sentences made by such bodies with a view to effectively implementing them.

(e)National human rights institutions and civil society have an important role to play in strengthening human rights accountability. The shrinking space for civil society is a key driver in leaving behind people living with HIV, particularly key populations. States should respect, protect and promote civil society space, provide an enabling regulatory and funding environment that allows civil society to work at the national, regional and subregional levels, and repeal laws that create barriers to the activities of civil society bodies. Civil society should be empowered to collect data, address human rights violations, participate in policymaking and decision-making, implementation and monitoring, including on issues relating to HIV and the rights of people living with HIV. In order to improve its effectiveness,civil society could cooperate at the regional level on joint advocacy efforts, including with regional mechanisms.

(f)In the current context of shrinking donor funding for HIV and health programmes, including in newly transitioned middle-income States, programmes aimed at removing barriers to human rights can be affected, particularly with regard to the rights of key populations. The retraction of global health funding in States transitioning to middle-income, without corresponding investment by domesticfunds, can lead to the loss of funding for services and rights programmes and advocacy for key populations, making them even more vulnerable. The Human Rights Council could develop guiding principles for health donors, which would be based on human rightsand should be formulated in coordination with UNAIDS and in consultation with States, key populations, communities and donors.

(g)States should review and adopt legislation, programmes and policies to combat stigma and discrimination, violence and abuseagainst people living with or at risk of HIV, with particular attention to key populations. States should work with United Nations agencies, civil society, communities and key populations to invest in programmes, education and other actions to eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination in all areas of life, including through the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination. Regional and subregional networks have an important role to play in raising awareness and eliminating stigma and discrimination.

(h)States should ensure that universal health coverage promotes both the health and rights of all persons, including the most marginalized, such as people living with HIV and key populations, and addresseshuman rights barriers to health. States should ensure that human rights, including the right to health of persons living with HIV, are integrated into discussions on universal health coverage, including in the lead-up to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on universal health coverage and in its outcome document

UN Human Rights Council

Breitbart tries its hands on the Italian migration situation

May 24, 2019

The screamng headline “Italian media has alleged that pro-migrant activists and leftist politicians are behind an attack by the United Nations on the immigration of policy of populist Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.” is a give away. It is indeed from Breitbart News (24 May 2019). I will not often refer to this source but thought that it would good to see what kind of nonsense is produced and effectivley reaches a lot of people. I will let the piece below speak for itself, including the almost comical notion that UN Rapporteur Michel Forst should not work with Front Line Defedners.

For the migration defenders context in Italy see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/. Read the rest of this entry »

Lack of funds forces lack of oversight by UN

May 20, 2019

wrting for IPS on 20 May 2019 relates that the “    

The Geneva-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says six of the UN’s 10 treaty bodies are being forced to cancel their sessions this year due to financial reasons. The situation has been described as “an unprecedented consequence of some UN member States delaying payments due to the Organisation.” Anna-Karin Holmlund, Senior UN Advocate at Amnesty International, told IPS: “Amnesty is deeply concerned by member states’ delay in paying their assessed contributions, which will have a direct effect on the ability of the UN to carry out its vital human rights work.” By 10 May, only 44 UN member states – out of 193 — had paid all their assessments due, with the United States owing the largest amount.

The OHCHR said last week the cancellations meant that reviews already scheduled with member states, as well as consideration of complaints by individual victims of serious human rights violations — including torture, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances -– will not take place as scheduled. “The cancellation of sessions will also have numerous other negative consequences, and will seriously undermine the system of protections which States themselves have put in place over decades,” said a statement released by the OHCHR.

The chairpersons of the 10 Committees are deeply concerned about the practical consequences of cancelling these sessions and have sent a letter to the UN Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, requesting they, together with Member States, explore ways of addressing this situation, “as a matter of urgency.”..

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/05/uns-mandate-protect-human-rights-takes-another-hit/

Civil Society and human rights NGOs are fighting back but against odds

May 5, 2019

This article by  (IPS) was published on 10 April 2019 in the context of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), which took place  in Belgrade. Under the title “Civil Society, Once the “World’s New Superpower,” is Battling Against Heavy Odds” it describes how human rights NGOs have come under pressure in recent years

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once described civil society organizations (CSOs), as “the world’s new superpower” ..but that political glory has continued to diminish over the years against the backdrop of repressive regimes, hard right nationalist governments and far right extremist groups.

Perhaps the most virulent attacks on NGOs are on their attempts to provide protection and security to migrants and refugees in the “dangerous crossings,” from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea and the Mexico/US border. “There are now serious restrictions in civic space on every continent,” says the annual State of Civil Society Report 2019, released last week by the Johannesburg-based CIVICUS. And it singles out the Italian government’s decision to impose a hefty fine on one of the world’s best-known humanitarian organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while also freezing their assets, impounding their rescue vessel and investigating their staff for human trafficking…in retaliation for their efforts to save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. There were also instances of civil society activists being charged, tried and convicted in the United States for providing water supplies for migrants crossing the deadly Sonoran desert on the US/Mexico border. As these attacks continue, international institutions are “struggling” to help shore up these NGOs because these institutions, including the United Nations, are “hamstrung by the interests and alliances of powerful states.”

The report points out these institutions did little to respond to the great challenges of the day– failing to fight overwhelming inequality and also were largely silent on human rights abuses of states such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan while letting down the people of Syria and the Rohingyas of Myanmar, among many others.

Asked if there is a role either for the United Nations or its member states to protect CSOs under attack, Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, told IPS the UN is making some efforts to put the issues of attacks on CSOs and activists in the spotlight. In December last year, he said, the President of the UN General Assembly, in a symbolic event, awarded the UN human rights prize to three civil society activists and an organisation dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/20/human-rights-defenders-receive-their-2018-un-prizes/]

Recently, on March 21, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a first-of-its-kind resolution on the protection of environmental human rights defenders, said Tiwana. The UN Secretary General has a designated senior official to lead efforts within the UN system to address intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN system. And, he said, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women regularly champion the work of CSOs and women human rights defenders respectively. “However, in light of the growing restrictions on civic space, around the world, and even at the UN itself, these efforts are often not enough,” complained Tiwana. This is in part because the UN itself is also under pressure from (undemocratic) governments that restrict civil society at home, and wish to do so at the UN as well.

He said the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that measures civic freedoms finds that only 4% of the world’s population live in countries where the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are adequately protected…

“Our 2019 State of Civil Society Report points out, that the UN is hamstrung by the actions of powerful states that refuse to play by the rules including the US, China and Russia”. Tiwana said a number of rights repressing states are joining international bodies. In 2018, for example, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Eritrea, joined the UN Human Rights Council….

Second, states are withdrawing from international institutions and agreements, with the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate and undermining UN resolutions on Palestine and the Occupied Territories. Philippines has pulled out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a bid to avoid international accountability for widespread human rights violations including attacks on civil society. In 2018, the new Global Compact for Migration also saw a string of states with hardline migration policies pull out between the agreement of the deal and its signing.

Third, rogue leaders are bringing their styles of personal rule into international affairs, ignoring existing institutions, agreements and norms, acting as unilateral strongmen or striking bilateral deals with other hardmen, undermining multilateralism and making it harder to scrutinise their actions, Tiwana noted. Potentially everything seems up for negotiation and nothing can be assured at the international level, even the 70-year-old international human rights norms that underpin civil society action, he warned.

The writer can be contacted at thalifeen@ips.org

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/04/civil-society-worlds-new-superpower-battling-heavy-odds/

Angelina Jolie addressed UN forcefully on crucial role of women

May 4, 2019

Angelina Jolie Addresses Women's Rights at the UN

UNTV via AP Video

And just in case you missed it, on Friday 29 March 2019, Angelina Jolie warned at the UN that the world “will remain stuck in a cycle of violence and conflicts” as long as nations continue to put almost every other issue ahead of women’s equality, rights and participation. In her speech to the annual meeting of foreign and defense ministers, the Oscar-winning actress focused primarily on women, but she also talked about the importance of multilateralism and the growing refugee crisis. She showed again that she is an excellent speaker [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/27/angelina-jolie-gives-2017-sergio-vieira-de-mello-lecture-on-15-march-2017/].

Jolie, who is a special envoy for the UNHCR, added in a keynote address to a ministerial meeting on U.N. peacekeeping that “denying half a population representation in peace negotiations or in government is not the route to long-term stability.” There are many examples around the world of successful and inspiring women, she said, “but women and girls are still the majority of the victims of war,” over half the world’s refugees, and “the vast majority” of victims of rape and sexual violence. If the world accepted the principle that those affected by a problem should be charged with determining a solution, Jolie said, “then the majority of the world’s peace negotiators, foreign ministers and diplomats would be women.” But she quickly said: “We all know the reality.” The reality, Jolie added, is that unequal power relations, “abuse of power, gender bias, violence and lack of justice” have kept many women in a subordinate and vulnerable position internationally.

She pointed to missile strikes on schools and hospitals, families bombed in their homes, chemical weapons dropped on neighborhoods, besieged areas unable to get aid, and mass rapes.

We seem incapable of upholding minimum standards of humanity in many parts of the world,” Jolie said. “That this comes at a time when humankind is richer and more technologically advanced than ever before is all the more painful.”

She recalled that there were fewer than 20 million displaced people when she started working with the UNHCR. “Today there are over 65 million people displaced, and the numbers are rising,” Jolie said. ” Peacekeepers who commit violations must be investigated and prosecuted, she said, and there must be no impunity for crimes committed against women and girls during conflict. Above all, Jolie said, the world needs to understand “that women are themselves protectors: As mothers. As peacekeepers. As human rights defenders.” “As long as we continue to put almost every other issue ahead of women’s rights and participation we will remain stuck in a cycle of violence and conflict. We will have learned nothing. And our institutions will count for less than they should,” Jolie said.

Role of women in peace and security being rolled back (WSP@20)

April 30, 2019

On 22 March 2019 (a global gender, peace and security consultant and a former executive director of the New York–based NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security) posted this piece “The WPS agenda is almost 20, but it’s not time to celebrate yet”:

Next year, the United Nations women, peace and security (WSP) agenda turns 20, and with that will come high-level commemorations to mark this important anniversary. However, 2020 can’t be viewed only through a celebratory lens, as fundamental challenges continue to plague the agenda. Women’s civil-society organisations working on peacebuilding, conflict prevention and gender equality remain drastically underfunded, even though investment in gender equality is a proven conflict-prevention strategy. Women human rights defenders are increasingly targeted, while the international community remains largely silent. Of most concern, women also continue to be locked out from formal peace processes……

The recognition [in 2015/16] that all crises and conflicts have gendered elements is a positive development that can be attributed to the collective push in 2015 for context-specific implementation of the WPS agenda. Then came 2017 and the US-led cuts to peacekeeping budgets. The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security was among the organisations to raise the alarm that gender posts were being disproportionally cut and downgraded. That came less than 18 months after the Security Council adopted resolution 2242, its eighth WPS resolution, which among other things called for the systematic deployment of senior gender advisers to provide strategic gender advice throughout all phases of missions and processes.

In 2017, language in the mission mandate for Afghanistan relating to women’s rights and participation and girls’ education was removed under the guise of streamlining the mandate. Fortunately, those provisions were reinserted in the 2018 version of the mandate following significant advocacy from WPS civil-society organisations and key council members. The removal of gender roles and WPS references in mandates showed how fragile gains are and how easily gender provisions will be cut for cost saving or political expediency.

A study commissioned by UN Women found that women’s participation increases the likelihood of a peace agreement lasting 15 years by 35%. That finding is systematically referenced by WPS-friendly governments as evidence of the agenda’s importance. Despite all the positive statements, women continue to be absent from peace negotiations. Peace agreements also remain devoid of gender provisions.

We only have to look at the past four months to get a grim picture of how exclusive talks continue to be. Libyan women were largely missing from high-level peace talks held in Italy in late November 2018. Yemeni women were sidelined from the January 2019 talks in Stockholm, and Afghan women were excluded from the closed US–Taliban talks in Doha. Over the past few years, Afghan women have repeatedly warned of the dire consequences that closed-door talks with the Taliban could have for women’s rights.

Last year, the UN secretary-general reported that 2017 was the first time in two years that most of the signed peace agreements that the UN had helped to broker lacked any gender references. Expressing his concern at this downward trend, he called for a redoubling of efforts to promote gender-inclusive processes and agreements. The question remains: how has this backsliding been permitted, given that so many national governments now align themselves with the WPS agenda, have implemented national action plans and support the proliferation of regional women mediators’ networks. It seems that WPS continues to be sidelined in favour of other political priorities.

The WPS agenda was established as a result of a groundswell of advocacy from women activists around the world demanding equal access to peace and security decision-making. Nineteen years later, the fight to ensure women’s participation has yet to be won, but women peacebuilders haven’t given up. In 2020, the resilience and determination of conflict-affected women should be celebrated.

Essential elements of the WPS agenda are being roadblocked due to a lack of political action. It’s time for states that call themselves friends of the agenda to draw a line in the sand and cease supporting talks that exclude women.