The 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 22 February to 23 March 2021, will consider issues including the protection of human rights defenders, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests-particularly in the United States of America-, freedom of religion or belief, protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, the right to food, among others. It will also hold dedicated debates on grave human rights situations in States including Nicaragua, Venezuela, Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem, Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Eritrea, among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda.
Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council's 41st session, including the extension of the SOGI mandate, adopting the first resolution on the Philippines and extending its scrutiny over Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Belarus and Ukraine. This session witnessed heightened scrutiny of Council members by shedding light on the situations in Saudi Arabia and China. It missed an opportunity, however, to ensure that human rights are not sidelined in Sudan.
Worlwide we are simultaneously witnessing a democratic recession on the part of governments and an increasing appetite for democracy on the part of ordinary people. We must respond with an increased commitment to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, writes UN expert Maina Kiai.
‘If we do not defend human rights defenders, we do not defend human rights’, Germany pronounced during the high-level segment with which the Human Rights Council’s 25th session opened. The statement set the tone for a session in which the role of human rights defenders, the risks they face and the need to protect them, has been forefront.