On 8 December 2023, the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) announced that a vote is expected in January 2024, possibly on 10 January 2024, to elect the Council’s President for the 18th cycle in 2024 from the Africa Group. The State representatives who have put forward their candidacies are Morocco and South Africa. In a joint letter, NGOs urge all members of the Council to elect the Council President based on Council membership criteria.
Joint civil society statement on outcomes of the UNGA 76 Third Committee
The 17 undersigned civil society organisations mark the conclusion of the UN General Assembly’s (GA) 76th Third Committee session with the following observations on both thematic and country-specific resolutions. We urge all States to implement the commitments they have made in the resolutions discussed below to their full extent.
We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by the UK and joined by a cross-regional group of 80 countries (5 more than last year), calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. We also welcome the resolution adopted at the Human Rights Council in September 2021 on reprisals, inviting the SG to submit the report presented annually to the Council also to the GA from next session.
We welcome the biennial resolution on human rights defenders focussing on the critical role defenders play in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges faced in that regard. We also welcome elements on legal frameworks for their protection and the responsibilities of business. While we are encouraged by enhanced references to surveillance and counter-terrorism measures being used against defenders, we are disappointed that stronger language did not make it into the final text, despite support from civil society and some States. However, we hope that the consensus outcome and 85 co-sponsors, provides a basis for meaningful progress on these issues, and greater protection of defenders.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Policies and Programmes involving Youth by consensus, recognizing the need to fulfill young people’s human rights and as key actors for sustainable development, while acknowledging their important role in decision making processes. The resolution stresses the need to tackle barriers limiting their participation and development, such as unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, HIV/AIDS, SGBV and access to technology. We welcome the strong references to human rights and fundamental freedoms of young people, and the need to note young people’s diverse situations and conditions in national development strategies. Lastly, we welcome calls for a high-level GA plenary meeting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth with the full and effective participation of young people.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on the safety of journalists by consensus. We particularly commend the stronger language on gender-based discrimination and violence faced by journalists, including mandating the SG to publish a report on the safety of women journalists online and offline. While we welcome efforts to mirror some of the progress made in the 2020 UN Human Rights Council resolution, such as paragraphs on extraterritorial attacks against journalists, we regret that some of these progressive paragraphs were not incorporated into this text.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on national human rights institutions (NHRIs), calling on all States to establish strong, independent, adequately resourced, Paris Principle compliant NHRIs, and condemning intimidation and reprisals against them. We particularly welcome the confirmation for the first time that NHRIs are welcome to participate in ECOSOC and other UN mechanisms and processes. Finally, the resolution specifically recognises the important contributions of NHRIs in safeguarding human rights during COVID-19.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on the Rights of the Child by consensus, focusing on children and the SDGs, which reaffirms states’ responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of the child and the need for meaningful participation of children, including girls, in decision making processes. We welcome references to gender-responsive approaches and the inclusion of the recommendation to provide safe and enabling conditions for children facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and protect children from violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation, and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. Whilst progress is welcomed, the language is far from ambitious and not sufficiently inclusive, and we are concerned that the push for consensus has led to otherwise welcome references to, inter alia, decision-making and participation, being weakened by caveats.
We welcome the consensual adoption of the resolution on the Girl-Child presented by the SADC, which highlighted the situation of girls living in rural areas in relation to COVID-19. We welcome references to gender-responsive policies and gendered barriers to girls’ equal enjoyment of their rights such as child, early and forced marriage, early pregnancy, and sexual and gender-based violence, including in digital contexts. However, we were disappointed at the lack of ambitious language on the impact of COVID-19 on the rights of girls everywhere as well as the unbalanced reference to the best interests of the child, which does not reflect international consensus.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. It makes modest gains in language related to menstrual health and hygiene, addressing the stigma faced by women and girls through promoting education and health in and out of school, and in a new reference to sexual and reproductive health in the context of continued access to services. In the urgent climate crisis, we would have liked to see stronger linkages to climate change action.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We specifically welcome calls on States to take measures to ensure the rights, protection and safety of indigenous human rights defenders.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the promotion of democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections. We particularly welcome the inclusion of language recognizing women and girls in all their diversity as well as the obligation of all States to ensure that every citizen has the right to participate in elections equally and to take measures to eliminate laws, regulations and practices that discriminate including based on race, colour, ethnicity, national or social origin, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, language, religion, political views or on the basis of disability.
We note the adoption by consensus of the resolution on Terrorism and Human Rights. While we welcome new language on non-derogable rights, the resolution does not address key human rights challenges relating to State counter-terrorism efforts, including violations of the non-refoulement principle, the rights of children and minorities, the right to privacy, and the misuse of counter-terrorism measures to silence independent civil society. It also continues to lack references to key international treaties, such as the Convention Against Torture and Geneva Conventions.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It underscores the right of persons with disabilities to participate in political and public life equally at all decision making levels. We welcome the reference to extremely low numbers of women with disabilities in political leadership roles, and the call on States to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. We also welcome the calls on States to prevent, monitor and address disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities, and eliminate violence and discrimination against them in armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies.
We welcome the adoption of all the gender related resolutions on a consensual basis. Although most of the previously agreed language on access to sexual and reproductive health-care services was retained, there were no major gains on this issue. Given the various interruptions and lack of access for these services as well as the increase in sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) as a result of COVID-19, bolder and more straightforward commitments should have been included.
We welcome the recognition of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) in the resolution on Follow-up to Beijing and welcome the joint statement by France and Mexico on behalf of 65 member states on the GEF. The Global Acceleration Plan (GAP) adopted at the GEF in Paris is a critical and ambitious framework for action in accelerating gender equality over the next five years. It reinforces Member States’ commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and is predicated on an intersectional approach that takes into account the needs of all women and girls, recognizing multiple and intersecting identities, without any discrimination.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the Violence Against Women Migrant Workers resolution, which includes updates related to COVID-19 and recognizes the valuable contributions of migrant women on the frontlines. We welcome in particular the call for Member States to establish a gender-responsive public health response to the pandemic that provides equitable access to comprehensive healthcare services. We appreciate the specific reference to mental health, psychosocial support, and palliative care but are disappointed that references to sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the COVID-19 context were not included.
We also congratulate and welcome the newly formed Global South Coalition (GSC) that came together and negotiated as a bloc in the Youth resolution, as well as the joint statement on gender resolutions by 77 Member States calling on governments to bear responsibility to uphold their commitments to take decisive action to build a more equal world, for all women and girls.
While we support the below resolutions that highlight violations of human rights in specific countries, we acknowledge the existence of human rights violations in many other countries that also merit the attention of the UN General Assembly and look forward to a time when they are also considered in the Third Committee.
Once again a joint statement condemning the Chinese government’s widespread human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang was presented, this time by 43 Member States from all regional groups. The powerful statement cites credible allegations of widespread and systematic rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children. It also calls on the UN High Commissioner to present an assessment of the situation in Xinjiang.
We welcome the resolution on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with 47 cosponsors. We particularly welcome new references reiterating the importance of credible, independent, and impartial investigations for serious human rights violations against peaceful protesters and political prisoners, to ensuring effective remedies for victims, and to restrictions contained in the newly enacted provisions articles 499 bis and 500 bis of the Islamic Penal Code. We welcome calls on Iran to end rights violations of recognized and unrecognized religious minorities and freedom of expression and opinion, including through the use of internet shutdowns or measures to unlawfully or arbitrarily block or take down websites.
We welcome the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, cosponsored by 32 Member States. The resolution references the wide range of human rights violations and abuses perpetrated in Syria, many of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. We particularly welcome the request for the SG to conduct a study on bolstering efforts to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people in Syria, identify human remains and provide support to families, with the full and meaningful participation of victims, survivors and their families. According to the OHCHR and the Commission of Inquiry on the country, over 130,000 Syrians are missing, detained or disappeared, and this request to the SG is a welcome step towards clarifying their fate.
We regret that the resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, which was adopted by consensus for the first time, does not reiterate many key elements of the UNGA resolution adopted in June 2021 following the military coup in February 2021. We also regret that it fails to comprehensively address, condemn, and call for an end to ongoing and escalating human rights violations by the military, as described in detail by the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar and the SG’s outgoing Special Envoy on Myanmar. However, we acknowledge improved language regarding the ongoing commission of rights violations against and protection needs of the Rohingya, and the expression of solidarity with the Rohingya made by Myanmar’s Permanent Representative.
We welcome the consensus adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We welcome in particular the retention of a call to the UN Security Council to consider the human rights situation in the DPRK, supplemented with a call for the OHCHR to brief it. The Security Council held formal meetings on the human rights situation in the country in December each year from 2014-2017, however in December 2020, the subject was discussed in closed consultations under “Any other Business.”
Civil society, including UN accredited NGOs, continued to be denied in-person access to UN headquarters for the 19th month. This meant civil society was denied physical access for the entire Third Committee session, including access to informal resolution negotiations and basic information about the scheduling of informals. This is despite 61 Member States condemning the exclusion of civil society at the beginning of the session in a joint statement led by Costa Rica and Denmark and urging the Committee to improve meaningful civil society participation and engagement. We call on in-person access to be restored immediately so that civil society can participate in, and contribute effectively to the UN’s work.
Association for Progressive Communications
Bahai’I International Community
Center for Reproductive Rights
Fòs Feminista, International Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice
Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Justice Center
Human Rights Watch
International Disability Alliance
International Service for Human Rights
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
Outright Action International
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human RightsSave as PDF
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