- Stacy Dry - Lara
This report will be given this afternoon. I will update this post afterward with pertinent information.
The 30th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva
Stacy Lara, FAWCO's UN NGO Rep at the HRC in Geneva, will keep us informed via blog posts during HRC30.
This report will be given this afternoon. I will update this post afterward with pertinent information.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of International Day of Older Persons, and in conjunction with the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30), the UNECE held a panel discussion on our elderly population. This side event was one of the most well attended sessions I attended during the HRC30 making it clear that addressing concerns over our ageing population are intensifying. However, given that today there is no typical older person, society views continue to lead to discrimination against individuals or groups simply because of their age. This has been labeled ageism and is a persistent form of discrimination, especially against ageing women.
UNECE Executive Secretary, Christian Friis Bach, opened the session. A keynote address by Andreas Edel, Executive Secretary of Population Europe took place followed by distinguished panelists Alana Officer, Senior Health Advisor, Ageing and Life Course, WHO, Xenia Scheil-Adlung, Health Policy Coordinator, ILO and Silvia Perel-Levin, Chair, NGO Committee on Ageing, Geneva.
“Everybody wants to live long but nobody wants to be old,” was the opening statement by Mr. Edel. Judging attendee reaction, everyone agreed. To this point he reminded us that the UNECE is the only arm of the United Nations with a dedicated department on the elderly. He stressed the importance of dignity for the elderly and the need for a supportive environment. He went on to say that dementia is becoming increasingly prevalent across the UNECE region and that the disease has a high social and financial cost that affects not only those with dementia but their caregivers too. Mr. Edel stressed that the issue of dignity and non-discrimination of people with dementia is often overlooked yet stronger focus on research and policy issues such as welfare sustainability and the well-being of caregivers is raising awareness. He made reference to the UNECE Policy Brief Dignity and Non-Discrimination of Persons with Dementia – the full report can be read here.
Ms. Officer announced that coinciding with the 25th anniversary of International Day of Older Persons, the WHO launched their World Report on Ageing and Health Report. Referencing whether 70 years is the new 60 years, she said not quite but it could be with an improved understanding of elderly needs and a realignment of health systems. Ms. Officer stressed that all countries must have an elderly action plan that creates an age-friendly environment.
One of the challenges in developing this comprehensive response to population ageing are common misconceptions and assumptions about older persons that are based on outdated stereotypes. Ms. Officer said that there is no typical older person – that we are all characterized by great diversity in terms of mental health and physical capacity. Also, she reminded us that older age does not imply dependence. This can lead to an assumption during policy development that spending older persons is simply a drain on economics.
To counter the new buzz phrase that “70 is the new 60”, Ms. Officer said that this is not yet the case but it could be with in the future with concerted public health action on aging.
I have read the newly launched WHO Summary World Report on Ageing and Health. The report is an easy read that provides outstanding information on this topic. You can read it here if you’d like.
Ms. Perel-Levin spoke of older persons in relation to the newly adopted Global Goals for Sustainable Development (formerly called SDGs). Happily, she reported that 15 of 17 Global Goals mention elderly which is a vast improvement over the previous Millennium Development Goals.
At a time of unpredictable challenges for our ageing population, for the first time in history, most people can expect to live into their 60s and beyond. At the same time, women’s access to resources and levels of discrimination still differs from that of men. We still have a lot of work to do but improvements can be made with our advocacy.
Until the next blog – Stacy Dry Lara.
“The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.” - Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified United Nations human rights convention.
Every person has the right to be recognized as a person before the law as enshrined in legal instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). Birth registration is the first legal acknowledgement of a person’s existence and the process is required, yes required but in thousands of instances births are not registered. Also, as provided for in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, States are obliged to register all children, without discrimination of any kind, immediately after birth. Birth registration is not only a fundamental right in itself but is also a vital key to ensuring the fulfillment of other rights.
On September 24 during the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30) the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room (room XX) was filled to capacity with Member States, distinguished delegates, NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) as all listened to statements and discussion regarding the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome of the United States.
Before I continue, let me just briefly clarify that the UPR is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 United Nation Member States. The UPR is a significant innovation of the HRC which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe.
During the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30), in packed out room VIII, I attended the bi-annual meeting of Mr. Michael Møller, Director of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), with civil society. As always, the debriefing was heavily NGOs, NHRI and press alongside civil society. In his opening remarks, Mr. Møller told attendees that Geneva continues to play a pivotal role in support of the United Nations peace, development and rights agenda and that the UNOG serves as an important venue for international negotiations and consultations to tackle a number of challenges.
Here are a few highlights from the meeting:
Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace and I attended my first “Library Talk” at the library of the United Nations Office at Geneva. The Library hosts on a regular basis these "Library Talks", geared towards gathering members of the international community in Geneva to discuss subjects of key importance for the United Nations. For the first time in Geneva, four founding members of the "Rising Women Rising World" (RWRW) global initiative will share their views on the future and the important role women have in promoting peace, rights and well-being. RWRW is a diverse international circle of experienced women specialists expanding the full spectrum of human development.
Scilla Elworthy, Founder of Oxford Research Group and of Peace Direct, thrice Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Zahira Kamal, The first ever Minister of Women’s Affairs of Palestine; General Secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union Party; one of three Palestinian women peace negotiators in Oslo.
Thais Corral, Co-Founder of Women’s Environment and Development Organization, and Co-Chair of the Global Leadership Network.
Rama Mani, Senior Advisor, Right Livelihood Award Foundation; Senior Researcher, University of Oxford’s Centre for International Studies; Peter Becker Peace Prize laureate.
Anda Filip, Inter-Parliamentary Union Director for Member Parliaments & External Relations, Former Ambassador of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
"I observe two phenomena happening simultaneously. On the one hand humans are stripping the earth of its natural resources ... On the other hand humans are waking up to an entirely new perception of how the universe functions ... The most powerful forces in that direction are the empowerment of women to share with men the responsibilities of decision-making, and secondly the energy, alertness and skills of young, social entrepreneurs the world over, " Scilla Elworthy.
Rama Mani opened the event with a special performance on “Women’s Voices and Visions for a Peaceful Future” where she portrayed three different women from varying geographical regions and times of crisis and their visions of a peaceful future.
Collectively there vision were clear…suitable, qualified women must occupy key positions in the peace-building process. As women we must strive to set up infrastructures for peace which includes teaching children non-violence strategies from the youngest ages. As society we must make efforts to identify the roots of a crisis so that we can understand what changes need to take place. Based on the RWRW twelve constellations, each panelist envisions a world where people are taught inner-intelligence and self-awareness as a means to stop violence to create a world that works for all. Panelist share the belief that the quality of humanity is vital and the willingness to listen is key to reaction. Jointly, they say sent the message that women must be key participants in making the paradigm shift towards peace and we cannot achieve peace without gender equality.
Until the next blog – Stacy Dry Lara.
At the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30) was the annual panel discussion on integrating a gender perspective throughout the work of the HRC and that of its mechanisms, with a focus on gender parity.
Joachim Rücker, President of the HRC, noted that women represented 3.5 billion citizens worldwide, or more than 50 per cent of the population. Yet in many countries women continue to face a major limitation to effective and equal participation in political, public and economic life.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, observied that the equal representation of women and men in all levels of decision-making, employment, and education was “a crucial indicator of progress towards gender equality.” He said that the world had to stop regarding parity as a token exercise, and grasp that equal representation of women and men across themes and bodies, not only embodied, but also built more just societies.
The HRC was honored to hear remarks from Queen Mathilde of the Belgians who noted that women and men experience different situations of equality which had great repercussions on human dignity, social cohesion, economic growth and competitiveness and commended the HRC for annually holding the gender perspective session. Her Majesty said it is, therefore, fitting that the HRC conducts annual questioning of its functioning so as to realize full equality between women and men. She underline the importance the equal access for women to education, to health services, the participation in political life.
Noting impressive progress in countries legal framework towards more equality, she regrets that there is still a long way to go and that challenges remain worldwide in all economies.
Her Majesty said that women remain the first victims of armed conflicts, noting that evidence is close at hand. She made mention of the many current events that provide far too many examples of how women and girls are considered spoils of war and marked as objects. “These women will remain marked for life in their integrity and their dignity,” regretted Queen Mathilde.
Her Majesty said she is drawn to speak for the rights and freedoms for those women who are victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. She referenced the unacceptable traditions of female genital mutilation, status inferiority, and early and forced marriage.
Queen Mathilde called on women to assert themselves with strength in an effort to change the current gender disparity ideals. Saying that getting involved actively in decision-making at the highest levels women can work to change mentalities towards women. They will be able to promote a higher level of equality in their economic, social, political, and cultural lives. She noted the importance of men in the development of women. Not recognizing how men and women complement each other is to miss the immense potential that lies with this synergy.
To close, Her Majesty stressed gender equality is not a question of redistribution of power to women but more a question of creating conditions so that each women, within her family, her village, her company and her society, she can bloom completely and give the best to herself.
Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, announced the launch of a new leadership network, International Geneva Gender Champions, which aims to enhance synergies and broaden the mainstreaming of gender equality in the work across international Geneva and beyond. If the effort to include women in the implementation of global policies was serious, they should be included in defining policies and actions. The new initiative thus aimed to reinforce the United Nations System-Wide Action Plan for the implementation of the United Nations System-Wide Policy on gender equality and the empowerment of women (UN SWAP).
Tracy Robinson, Rapporteur on Women’s Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, drew attention to the underrepresentation of women in most regional human rights bodies, such as the Organization of American States, which had an all-male human rights court in the Inter-American system. There was a lack of commitment and action of the Member States of the Organization of American States in securing gender parity. States had to care not just what human rights bodies looked like, but how they worked and under which terms of work.
In the interactive discussion that followed, speakers agreed that much remained to be done in achieving gender equality and parity and stressed the prime responsibility of States in combatting discrimination against women in practice and in law. Evidence showed that gender equality was both the right thing and a smart thing to do. Some speakers spoke of the necessity to culturally deconstruct gender in order to remove prejudices. It was also noted that indigenous women and girls were highly vulnerable to violence and discrimination, and that migrant women needed to have access to more opportunities, such as education, in order to fully realize their potential.
Until the next blog – Stacy Dry Lara.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) an astounding 21 million women, children and men around the world are enslaved today, hundreds of years after abolition. This “contemporary” slavery violates an array of human rights and affects people of all ages, gender and races in every country in the world yet the most vulnerable are the most prone to the worst of the situation. Today’s slave trade includes women forced into prostitution, debt bondage, children and adults forced to work in agriculture, domestic work, or factories and sweatshops producing goods for global supply chains, entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts; or girls forced to marry older men, the illegal practice still blights contemporary world.
During the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30) Anti-Slavery International and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights organized a session on “Ending contemporary forms of slavery in supply chains: challenges, strategies, opportunities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
The session was sponsored by the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on contemporary forms of slavery and the Permanent Missions of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, the Netherlands, the Niger and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations Office in Geneva with the support of Franciscans International, International Commission of Jurists and International Dalit Solidarity Network.
The well-attended event, moderated by Ms. Natacha Foucard, Chief a.i., Groups and Accountability Section, Special Procedures Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was outstanding, packed full of noteworthy information. Here’s a sample:
Speaking at the session was UMILA BHOOLA, Special Rapporteur (SR) on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences. She said that the topic has received much public attention lately due mainly to civil society activism and media exposure of slavery in supply chains of global businesses. The SR voiced grave concern about global businesses with supply chains that involve elaborate networks of subsidiaries, franchises, suppliers, contractors and subcontractors who are more likely to practice contemporary forms of slavery, especially beyond the first tier of their supply chains. She went on to say that the range and prevalence of contemporary forms of slavery in the supply chains of specific commodities and sectors, particularly in the informal economy and domestic production for global brands are difficult to study due to the reliability and amount of data collected.
She encouraged States to adopt legislation requiring transparency in supply chains, human rights due diligence, public reporting and disclosure by business. Effective law enforcement is equally important. The SR emphasized that States must put more value on the preventive aspect through tackling the root causes, including poverty, discrimination, stigmatization, inequality and social exclusions of groups most vulnerable to exploitation.
Traceability requires businesses to prove that products were made in “clean production” at every step and free of slavery or slavery-like practices. States ought to take appropriate steps to ensure effective judicial remedies and reduce barriers that could deny access to remedy for victims. Ms. Bhoola underlined the need for voluntary business initiatives to go beyond codes and social audits in order to identify contemporary forms of slavery at the lowest tier of supply chains. As an important challenge in terms of combatting slavery and slavery-like practices in supply chains, she referred to access to an effective remedy for victims. Ms. Bhoola also addressed the possible opportunities within the context of the Agenda for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development Goal 8, target 8.7), which requires development of specific targets and indicators to end modern slavery by 2030.
Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the UN Office in Geneva, Mark Matthews noted that fighting contemporary forms of slavery in the UK is the major priority, especially in relation to the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The victim-centered Act builds upon the existent legal framework to fight organized crime. The Modern Slavery Act 2015, inter alia, establishes the post of an independent Anti-slavery Commissioner; increases the maximum sentence for the offences of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labor to life imprisonment; introduces asset confiscation for perpetrators; and requires commercial organizations to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year on the steps taken, if any, to ensure that these practices are not taking place. The Act’s provisions related to transparency in supply chains, which will be implemented in October, are focused on larger businesses and the Government has decided to set the threshold of revenues at £36 million per year.
Member of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on contemporary forms of slavery Leonardo Sakamoto elaborated on the important assistance provided by the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on contemporary forms of slavery to the victims, including those in supply chains. He made a modern-day success example of Brazil and their efforts to combatting contemporary forms of slave labor. Since 1970s, 50,000 workers have been rescued from slave labor in the country. Mr. Sakamoto told of the “dirty list” established in 2003 which is a register of employers caught using slave labor by the Ministry of Labor and Employment. He said that naming names has been very helpful in this regard, however, in 2014 the Supreme Court granted an injunction to an association of construction companies and the list was prohibited from being published. In response to this situation, the “transparency list” has been obtained by civil society, including Repórter Brasil based on the Public Information Act. Mr. Sakamoto emphasized that slave labor brings businesses competitiveness and profits, and businesses’ behavior change only if there is a risk of economic loss. He noted that the “dirty list” has had this effect since it resulted in companies’ shares falling at the stock market. Mr. Sakamoto commended the Brazilian approach in fighting slave labor and stressed the importance of strong labor inspections lead by the government.
In her intervention, Ms. Virginie Mahin External Communications and Public Affairs Manager Europe, Mondelēz International, presented actions taken by Mondelēz International in addressing child labor in its cocoa supply chain. In 2012 the company, which is the world’s largest chocolate maker, launched Cocoa Life, a $400 million investment over 10 years to empower 200,000 cocoa farmers in its supply chain and reach over 1 million people. Cocoa Life is built on a holistic approach and the belief that thriving cocoa communities are at the heart of a sustainable cocoa supply chain. The company is directly involved on the ground and addresses child labor with awareness raising campaigns and indirectly by addressing its root causes, namely poverty and a lack of development. These efforts, she said are possible with collaboration with the company’s partner non-governmental organizations, such as CARE International, which work with communities to design their own development plans and implement actions to improve farmers’ income, empower women and strengthen access to education.
Referencing the 21 million people worldwide thought to be victims of forced labor, Mr. Benjamin Smith, Senior Officer for Corporate Social Responsibility, International Labor Organization regretted that estimates show that 5.5 million of these are children. They are to a large extent linked to supply chains, mostly for domestic production. The great discrepancy between the resources at the disposal of government enforcement agencies and those generated in illegal profits in the private economy poses significant problems. Plus the inequality of power between companies and workers, especially those in the rural and informal urban economies, where labor inspections are scarce and freedom of association and collective bargaining rights are largely unrealized. Mr. Smith said that supply chains audits are not solving the problem and usually stop at the first tier. However, business are partnering with the ILO to empower rights holders in communities for example in cocoa growing communities in West Africa. The 2014 Forced Labor Protocol offers new clarity and opportunity for State collaboration with business. Mr. Smith assured the audience that ILO will foster coordinated, concerted action among a broad coalition of stakeholders to achieve target 8.7 of Sustainable Development Goals.
In his speech, Dr. Aidan McQuade, Director, Anti-Slavery International commended the fact that the contemporary forms of slavery have received attention in the Sustainable Development Goals framework, yet he deplored the fact that the number of children in slavery has remained unchanged at 5.5 million since 2005. This indicates the urgent need for concerted action to be taken to eradicate child slavery and all slavery. He also highlighted the importance of extending extra-territorial legislation on supply chains and strengthening the international law in this regard. He was critical of auditing as one of the approaches to ensuring business respect for human rights in supply chains since it has not shown to have an impact on reforming supply chains and protecting vulnerable workers. What is needed are independent human rights investigations aimed at detecting the problems in supply chains and addressing them.
The comments and questions in the interactive debate related to the reasons behind the low number of court cases on contemporary forms of slavery in supply chains and the importance of training judiciary, prosecutors and labor inspectors with a view to increase the number and quality of criminal prosecutions. The successful Brazil example in tackling slave labor in supply chains, combining the “dirty list” with labor inspectors in a transparent process, was also discussed, as were Brazil’s plans to focus not only on domestic but also on global supply chains. Furthermore, a mention was made of new challenges, such as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in free trade agreements and the need to monitor these types of instruments when implemented by multi-national corporations. What was stressed in the interactive debate was also the necessity of sufficient coordination of activities at the international level and between multi-national and regional activities tackling slavery and slavery-like practices in supply chains.
Until the next blog -- Stacy Dry Lara.
Businesses, now than ever before, have an impact on children's lives. The size and influence of the private sector have increased dramatically over the past decades and businesses have a powerful and widespread impact on children's lives. Some interactions with businesses such as when companies bring employment, education, investments, new services to the community and improve means to connect families benefit children. Yet, at the same time, businesses can cause and contribute to a range of children’s rights violations such as by polluting the environment in which children live and play or paying young people to do dangerous jobs. For these reasons, it is imperative that governments take action to protect and promote children’s rights in the context of business operations.
The size and influence of the private sector have increased dramatically over the past decades and businesses have a powerful and widespread impact on children’s lives. Some interactions with businesses such as when companies bring employment, education, investments,
During the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30) I attended a session organized by UNICEF and the International Commission of Jurists with sponsors including the Permanent Missions in Geneva of Belgium, Chile, Ghana and Save the Children. The session explored the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) giving special attention to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (Committee) General Comment 16 that addresses vulnerable situations in which children are placed with respect to businesses.
I must admit that the term, “General Comment” was new to me. So, I did some research. General Comments are published by the Committee. The Committee is the highest authority for interpreting the CRC and General Comments either explain individual provisions of the CRC or address issues especially relevant to child rights. The Committee has, for example, written General Comments on a child’s right to be heard, the right to play, juvenile justice and children with disabilities.
In February 2013, the Committee adopted General Comment 16 that addresses what the CRC requires governments to do for children’s rights. Currently, few international treaties specifically address children’s rights and business, but this does not mean that businesses can remain indifferent. On the contrary, businesses have the same responsibilities through corporate social responsibility programs as governments.
General Comment 16 on children’s rights and business outlines strategies for governments, businesses, NGOs, civil society, children, parents and people who work with children. Among other things, General Comment 16:
What does the UN have to say about children's rights and business? There is a publication that offers a reader-friendly version of international guidance on children's rights and business, and it a useful resource for governments, businesses and advocates. The Children’s Rights and Business Explained examines complex legal content in plain language. Click here to access the publication.
Businesses, governments and NGOs have a tendency to work separately with concern for the rights of children. Using guidelines like those of General Comment 16, we, as an NGO, can develop strategies to integrate these sectors to enhance and enforce businesses to respect the rights of children everywhere.
Until the next blog – Stacy Dry Lara.
Coinciding with the 30th session of the Human Rights Council and marking the launch of the World Bank Group’s 2016 report “Women, Business and the Law” the U.S. Mission Geneva held the next salon in their Future She Deserves lunch series. Decision makers, policy makers, negotiators, diplomats, international organizations, business community leaders, academics, thinkers and leading members of civil society from all disciplines at the table together to creatively strategize, collaborate and act for the Future She Deserves.
Using the problem solving technique called catalytic questioning attendees explored the legal challenges and opportunities in the economic advancement of women. The World Bank Group's 2016 report "Women, Business and the Law" offers the latest data on legal and regulatory barriers to women's entrepreneurship and employment in 173 countries.
For a sample of the new study, you can watch this short video Women, Business and the Law 2016: Getting to Equal.
Until the next blog -- Stacy Dry Lara.
With the Millennium Development Goals set to expire at the end of 2015, the time to embrace the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), renamed Global Goals for Sustainable Development (Global Goals), is now. The Global Goals are a sustainable development agenda which includes a set of 17 goals to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. And, according United Nations leadership, success of the post-2015 development framework depends on the full engagement of a multi-stakeholder partnership that includes all United Nations mechanisms, governments and also us, NGOs, along with civil society and the private sector.
As the world looked on global leaders gathered in September at the United Nations in New York to adopt an agenda of unprecedented scope -- 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) and 169 targets titled "Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development." Here in Geneva, at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30), we felt the anticipation and excitement.
During HRC30 I attended a side event on the challenges of implementing the new Global Goals. Welcome remarks were made by Peter Sorensen, Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva, followed by opening remarks by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. Panelists included Joachim Rucker, Ambassador, President of the HRC and Subhas Gujadhurt, Director and Senior Analyst, Human Rights Group.
Lately, the Global Goals have captured much media attention and hundreds of articles can be found on the topic. So, broadly speaking, the jest of this 2-hour side event was that the new vision is systematic, multidimensional - a vision of a universal, human rights-based, gender-sensitive, integrated, environmentally sound and people-oriented sustainable development and the time for implementation has come.
The new agenda for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership will determine the direction of global and national policies for the next 15 years and certainly there will be challenges and opportunities with implementation. To successfully implement the Global Goals there is need for vigorous collaboration and panelists agreed that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism will play a vital role and that it's important for States to embrace the current UPR recommendations as continuation and way forward.
Uncovering the appropriate human rights anchor within each Global Goal can be challenging. I would like to share a publication by the Danish Institution for Human Rights (DIHR) introduced at the side event – The Human Rights Guide to the SDGs. The DIHR has analyzed each of the 17 goals and 169 targets to uncover the human rights element. The intent of the publication is to provide useful insights for governments, UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, NGOs, civil society and the public sector. Rights holders directly addressed in the Global Goals, for example women and children, can use the guide as a reference to locate human rights implications of a certain goal or target.
For example, target 4B states that by 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to people in developing countries. The DIHR Human Rights Guide to SDGs provides specific links between target 4B and the Convention to Eliminate all Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Global Goals are just begining as we adjust our objectives the DIHR guide could be a good resource. To access the full DIHR Human Rights Guide to SDGs click The Danish Institute For Human Rights Guide to SDGs.
Until the next blog – Stacy Dry Lara.
Sessions at the Human Rights Council on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation always resonate with me. I suppose this is because of my connection to FAWCO’s Target Water Program and the fundraising efforts I participated in for the Tabitha Wells for Clean Water, Cambodia as a member of AWC Zurich. During the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30), I listened to an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Leo Heller.
Mr. Heller’s remarks focused on the affordability of clean water and sanitation services stressing that, thus far, this subject had not yet received the attention it warranted. He said that to date, mainstream policies for water and sanitation had focused on service provision without taking into consideration that lower income groups face an inability to pay for these services. Mr. Heller said that the human rights framework should require free services for marginalized groups and that States had to set affordability standards at the national and local levels. He underscored the importance of this issue being part of the Sustainable Development Agenda.
He went on to suggest that States adopt measures to help people who relied on public finance to ensure the affordability of water and sanitation services for all and to reduce inequalities in access; that States re-allocate resources to the most disadvantaged. Mr. Heller proposed that targeting could be based on income, geographic location or types of access. Unless efforts were made to monitor whether services were affordable for all, States and service providers alike would struggle to provide appropriate support to individuals and households. The Special Rapporteur intended to provide support and advice to Member States in formulating and improving the frameworks to monitor inequalities and emphasize participatory processes at national and local levels for the identification and betterment of disadvantaged groups.
With regard to his mission to Kenya, Mr. Heller said that Kenya was one of the first States to explicitly recognize the human right to water and sanitation in national legislation and was undertaking legal and institutional reforms in the areas related to the provision of water and sanitation services. Kenya was encouraged to adopt the national mandatory minimum standards for the legal content of the rights to water and sanitation, elaborate regulations aimed at prohibiting water disconnections of those unable to pay, and to prioritize the most marginalized individuals and groups in law, policy and financing.
Noteworthy to the interactive dialog was a report by Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak. The Special Rapporteur presented his thematic report on the issue of the right to information, which was essential to address and prevent human rights impacts of hazardous substances and wastes. He firmly placed the duty to generate, collect, assess and update information on the States, while saying businesses were responsible for identifying and assessing the actual and potential impact of hazardous substances and to communicate such information.
Mr. Tuncak explained that thousands of different hazardous substances are used by businesses with inadequate information on their properties, uses and waste assessment. Such substances could be found globally in everyday-life products, and could as a result be found in people, including babies, all over the world, which could cause irreversible and devastating health effects. Rates of cancer, diabetes and other illnesses linked to hazardous substances had been on the rise over the past decades, affecting more importantly children, minorities, indigenous people, workers and low-income communities.
Solutions, he said, exist to protect human rights. These required the right to information and the responsibility of businesses, which had the responsibility to develop safer alternatives. Information had to be made available to all without discrimination, and States had the duty to generate, collect, assess and update information, effectively communicate it, and ensure confidentiality claims were legitimate. Businesses were responsible for identifying and assessing the actual and potential impact of hazardous substances and communicating information to other businesses, governments and the public effectively.
I always find it interesting to hear statements by concerned countries and the interactive debate. Here are a few, see what you think:
Nigeria was deeply concerned about the growing cases of illegal dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes in developing countries, which disproportionately affected low income or minority groups. Unless long-term solutions to water shortages and inadequate sanitation were found, future generations would continue to be deprived of the enjoyment of human rights.
Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, reiterated the Community’s position that clean water and sanitation boosted all other human rights and that public policies must be designed to address hazardous substances and waste, which could not be addressed by free markets.
Brazil agreed with the Special Rapporteur that better access to information on hazardous substances could support the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. The cost of providing water and sanitation might be high, but the price of not investing was even higher, while the results were highly visible in the reduction of infant mortality and improvement of quality of life.
India noted that defining affordability and ensuring affordable access remained a complex challenge and it required different interventions in a different context.
China expressed hope that the mandate holders would pay attention to developing countries’ contexts and loopholes in international mechanisms that regulated the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and disposal of hazardous waste.
Until the next blog – Stacy Dry Lara.
During week one of the 30th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30) I attended the NGO Committee on Ageing meeting as well as a side event on human rights of older persons. The side event, sponsored by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission to the United Nations of Austria was supported by the NGO Committee on Ageing. The world’s ageing population is a significant topic now at the HRC with attendance at such side events improving. This gathering was well attended and gender balanced. Panelists shared recent developments in implementing new practices relating to older persons.
There is urgent need for better gender analysis when considering wellbeing and dignity in old age. Older women suffer particularly as gender-based policy making tends that include fractured data analysis. Violence against women is a case in point. The data systems recording sexual and physical violence against women mostly stop at age 49, perpetuating the long-discredited notion that only younger women experience sexual violence. According to the Global Age Watch, women aged 50 and over account for 23.6 percent of the world’s female population making the case for collection, analysis and publication of data on women beyond reproductive age.
Silvia Perel-Levin, representative of the International Longevity Centre (ILC) Global Alliance and Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing Geneva, moderated the panel. In opening remarks Ms. Perel-Levin reinforced the overall goals and objectives of the NGO Committee on Ageing which include furthering the UN mission of building a society for all ages, to raise awareness about ageing and intergenerational issues, and to influence global policy. In this context, the Committee will strengthen its relations with NGOs, and bring diverse voices from local and national levels to an international scale.
In her remarks Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, reminded us that supporting the ageing population is one of the most important efforts and greatest challenges of our times. She reminded us that, currently, there are approximately 901 million women and men over the age of 60 worldwide. By 2050, estimates say this number will have doubled and, for the first time in history, humankind will reach a point at which there are fewer children than older persons in the world.
Here are a few fresh examples from panelists of how their work strives to include older persons in society.
Regarding the Internet. The gap in knowledge about the Internet is large for our older population yet research shows that, once older persons understand the Internet, they embrace it. Panelist Bernhard Jungwirth, M.Ed., older persons and digital media, shared remarkable research results -- in 2008 Internet usage by adults between the ages of 60-69 was 38%; for those over 70 years 14% used the Internet. The same study in 2015 shows that today 70% of older persons between 60-69 years are using the Internet and 41% for those over 70 years.
Unfortunately, the reality is that older persons do face a number of hurdles to adopting digital media and the Internet such as physical challenges, skeptical attitudes about the benefits of the Internet and difficulties learning the new technology. But we can change this. Mr. Jungwirth went on to say that once older persons understand the concept of the Internet, they are eager to learn to use it and go to the Internet almost daily as an integral part of their life. Older persons tell him they feel a sense of freedom and inclusion when they learn to use the Internet.
I thought this was particularly sweet and reminded me of my own grandmother. He shared a question older persons often ask him, "Is the Internet open at night?" When they realize Firefox is available 24/7 older persons are happy they can access the Internet when they want to not during hours of operation.
Panelist Charlotte Strumpel, Austrian Red Cross, “The Sustainable Learning Community,” offered as ways forward to expand and promote cost-free campaigns to motivate older persons to attend information events and senior cyber café sessions. The Austrian Red Cross suggests to establish innovative learning settings and develop targeted course content with large print. They are also promoting older persons as a target group for businesses such as telecom providers and they have set up dedicated “helplines” that offer digital coaches to assist the older persons who call. The Austrian Red Cross is also subsidizing Internet fees for their older persons.
If you know an older person who could benefit from the Internet, then facilitate learning for them. Supporting goals to further the United Nations mission of building a society for all ages, we should constantly raise awareness of ageing and intergenerational issues.
Until the next blog -- Stacy Dry Lara.
In his opening remarks at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva (HRC30), United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, began by describing the image of the 3-year old Syrian boy, Aylan Al Kurdi, that was recently soldered in our minds.
“Shamed and disgraced, the world wept,” he said, “the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Al Kurdi, whose drowned body washed up on the Turkish shore should force nations to confront the frustrations and difficulties of human rights work at a time of ever escalating misery.”
He went on to say that he, along with many of his colleagues, feel exhausted and angry. “Exhausted, because the system is barely able to cope, given the resources available to it, while human misery accelerates. . . And angry, because it seems that little that we say will change this. Unless we change dramatically in how we think and behave as international actors. . .The human rights community will be inconsequential in the face of such mounting violations.”
The High Commissioner highlighted that the people most responsible for migration were those leaders who had failed to uphold human rights and robbed their people of hope. He called on all States to accept scrutiny or criticism and to fully commit to the implementation of human rights recommendations by United Nations mechanisms. He underlined the importance of accountability and said upholding human rights were intrinsic to the obligations of sovereignty.
Zeid reminded the assembled delegates that criticism and scrutiny are a necessary part of international human rights process. Advocacy by the Office and activism by human rights defenders, NGOs and civil society on the ground help a country, not hinder it. A healthy government should respect, not fear, its people.
“We need your support to assist your countries, as well as others,” he said. “Sovereignty cannot be damaged by carefully evaluated commentary. The search for truth can do many things, but it does not weaken, violate or assault. Upholding human rights is intrinsic to the obligations of sovereignty. . . The voice of human rights is raised in support of your governance – to assist in building societies that are resilient, peaceful and prosperous," he added.
In comments following, the United States welcomed the attention of the High Commissioner to the escalating migrant crisis affecting Europe, parts of Asia and Northern Africa and remained dismayed at the lack of respect for international humanitarian law by ISIL. The United States reiterated its ongoing support for the United Nations Special Envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura. Human rights in Sudan remained a source of serious concern, as human rights violations and abuses continued with impunity, including bombing of civilians and sexual and gender-based violence.
Until the next blog -- Stacy Dry Lara.
The 30th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC30) began today. After the summer break, the flurry of activity filled the Palais des Nations in Geneva with expectations for an interesting and successful HRC30. Many informative sessions are on the HRC30 agenda and daily are announcements of side events on a variety of women and children rights issues.
Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council, in his opening remarks underlined the importance of civil society in the work of the Council, and reiterated concerns regarding cases of reprisals and intimidation that had been brought to his attention.
During his remarks the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, expressed specific concerns at the international community’s failure to address the situation in Syria. He said that some countries in the Middle East – Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey – and in Europe – Germany and Sweden – were showing commendable humanity and leadership when it came to hosting refugees and migrants needing protection, and he implored decision-makers in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, as well as Europe, to take swift action to establish effective and principled migration governance and urged European States to put in place an architecture of migration governance that was far more comprehensive, thoughtful, principled and effective, and to expand channels of regular migration and resettlement, which would prevent deaths and cut smuggling.
Also during HRC30, sessions on arbitrary detention, contemporary forms of slavery, rights of older persons, and water and sanitation will be held. An eye-opening panel discussion on impact of world drug problem will take place.
During week two, participants will hear a session with the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, followed by the annual half-day discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples. Also during week two will be a panel discussion on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Important considerations of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcomes for the following States (in order of review): Belarus, United States of America, Malawi, Mongolia, Panama, Maldives, Andorra, Bulgaria, Honduras, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Croatia, Jamaica and Libya will take place this session.
I will upload new blog posts from Geneva several times per week so please check back for important updates that concern our FAWCO pillars.
Until the next blog -- Stacy Dry Lara.