UN adopts new policies

The UN gets a lot of flack for just merely talking. And is that all they do? Is there more substance to them or were they put in place to make us feel like we’re all part of something? What do you think?

Below is a portion of policy decisions made at their meetings. You can see all of them here.

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS SIX
RESOLUTIONS AND ONE DECISION
ON DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
WOMEN AND FREEDOM OF
EXPRESSION, AMONG
OTHERS

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Human Rights Council
MORNING

2 October 2009

Defers Action on Resolution Concerning Report of Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict to March Session

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted six resolutions and one decision on a wide variety of subjects, including on freedom of opinion and expression; elimination of discrimination against women; the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights; the effects of foreign debt and other related international and financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights; draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights; Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Myanmar; and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind in conformity with international human rights law.

At the request of the sponsors, the Council deferred action on the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which deals among other things with the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, to its March session.

Under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, the Council adopted four resolutions and one decision. On the freedom of opinion and expression, the Council expressed its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative racial and religious stereotyping, continued to rise around the world; and called on all parties to armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law.

Concerning the elimination of discrimination against women, the Council called upon States to fulfill their international obligations and commitments to revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex and remove gender bias in the administration of justice, taking into account that those laws violate their human right to be protected against discrimination. It called on States to ensure full representation and full equal participation of women in political, social and economic decision-making as an essential condition for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a critical factor in the eradication of poverty.

On the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, the Council strongly condemned the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, which had a negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights, and decided to hold a panel discussion on the matter at its thirteenth session.

With regard to the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner to allocate sufficient budgetary resources for the implementation of the activities envisaged in resolution 11/5, including the organization and holding of regional stakeholder consultations on the draft general guidelines on foreign debt and human rights during the present term of the mandate holder.

Concerning the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights, the Council invited the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty to submit a progress report presenting her recommendations on how to improve the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights to the Council no later than its fifteenth session, to allow the Council to take a decision on the way forward with a view to a possible adoption of guiding principles on the rights of persons living in extreme poverty by 2012.

Under its agenda item on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, concerning a resolution on Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Myanmar, the Council expressed grave concern at the recent conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and called for her immediate and unconditional release; and called upon the Government of Myanmar to release all political prisoners, immediately and unconditionally, enabling them to participate fully in the 2010 elections.

Under its agenda item on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, in 2010, a workshop for an exchange of views on how a better understanding of traditional values of humankind underpinning international human rights norms and standards can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Speaking in introduction of resolutions were Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, France, Sweden on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan and Russia.

Speaking in general comments were South Africa, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Slovenia, United States, Norway, France on behalf of the European Union, Brazil, China, Cuba, Philippines, Russia, Indonesia, Bolivia, Norway,

Speaking in explanations of vote before the vote were France on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Cuba, Chile, India, Senegal, Mexico, Japan, United States, Argentina, Indonesia, and the Republic of Korea. Uruguay also spoke in a general comment.

Speaking in explanations of vote after the vote were Japan, Nigeria and Ukraine. Speaking as a concerned country was Myanmar.

The Council will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to continue to take action on draft decisions and resolutions before concluding its twelfth regular session.

General Statement

PABLO A. TAPIE (Uruguay) said before continuing with resolutions, Uruguay wished to express absolute solidarity with the people of the Philippines and Indonesia for the calamities that had struck them. These people should have the backing and solidarity of the Human Rights Council. Uruguay wished to salute, as it wished that sport was a bridge for peace, the cities that were candidates for hosting the Olympic Games, which would be chosen today. Uruguay also wished to congratulate Egypt for the brilliant way in which the Championship had been organised, showing how important sport was as a bridge between civilisations.

Action on Resolutions Under the Agenda Item on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights

In a resolution on Freedom of opinion and expression (A/HRC/12/L.14/Rev.1), adopted without a vote, the Human Rights Council reaffirms the rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; expresses its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative racial and religious stereotyping continue to rise around the world; calls on all parties to armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law; recognizes the moral and social responsibilities of the media and the importance that the media’s own elaboration of voluntary codes of conduct can play; invites the Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to carry out his activities in accordance with its resolution 7/36 and all relevant Council resolutions and decisions; requests the Secretary-General to provide the assistance necessary to the Special Rapporteur to fulfil his mandate effectively; requests the Special Rapporteur to submit an annual report to the Council and the General Assembly on the activities relating to his mandate; and decides to continue its consideration of the issue of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with its programme of work.

The resolution was introduced by Egypt and the United States on Thursday afternoon and a summary of the introduction can be found in press release HRC/09/124 of 1 October 2009.

PITSO MONTWEDI (South Africa), in a general comment, said that South Africa wished to thank the President of the Council for having given the South African delegation the opportunity to get final instructions from their capital. The issue of freedom of opinion and expression had always been highly politicized in the deliberations of this Council. South Africa for its part had always ensured that its engagement was informed by current provisions of international human rights law. As a country, South Africa respected the principles and the Charter of the United Nations, and all its legislative measures were compatible with international human rights law. As a country, South Africa had ensured that all requisite declarations were consistent with all pertinent human rights treaties. South Africa was therefore concerned at deliberate efforts to undermine international human rights law. Regrettably, the text of L. 14/Rev.1 represented a major setback for South Africa, which would have wished to see a reaffirmation of the provisions of general recommendation number 15, which provided for the prohibition by law of any dissemination of racial discrimination. South Africa was also concerned about the lack of clarity in operative paragraph 4; South Africa’s preference was not for a confusing language as had been used in this paragraph.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the European Union thanked the main sponsors for bringing forward this important issue at this session. The freedom of opinion and expression was a fundamental human right that every member of the Council had to uphold, promote and protect. The cornerstones of the European Union’s value systems were their beliefs in tolerance, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom of religion or belief. They demanded that all people of the world were able to enjoy their right to hold opinions without interference. Restrictions on the right to freedom of expression should be no more extensive than permitted by human rights law. Respect for the freedom of expression and opinion was vital for strengthening democracy, combating racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance. Optional Paragraph four of the current resolution constituted a final compromise for the European Union since they firmly believed that debate on how to deal with these issues had to be grounded in international human rights law, which protected individuals in the exercise of their freedom of religion or belief. Human rights laws did not and should not protect belief systems. Hence, the language on stereotyping only applied to stereotyping of individuals and not of ideologies, religions or abstract values. The European Union rejected and would continue to reject the concept of defamation of religions and also rejected the misuse of religions or belief themselves for incitement of hatred. Further, the notion of a moral and social responsibility of the media as expressed in the resolution went well behind the “special duties and responsibilities”. The European Union could not subscribe to this concept in such general terms. States should not seek to interfere with the work of journalists and had to enable editorial independence of the media.

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