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COUNCIL HOLDS DIALOGUE WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON MINORITY ISSUES, STARTS GENERAL DEBATE ON HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES AND MECHANISMS

Hears Presentation of Reports of the Forum on Minority Issues, the Social Forum, and the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures
14 March 2018

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.  It also heard the presentation of reports of the Forum on Minority Issues, the Social Forum, and the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, and started its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Presenting his report, Mr. de Varennes explained that the report identified statelessness, ethnic conflict, incitement to hatred, hate speech, and the fundamental right to education as priority areas for minorities.  Minorities remained extremely vulnerable, facing multi-faceted discrimination and hate speech, and required collective and determined action by all concerned parties.  At the end of 2017, he had conducted wide-ranging consultations with several minority groups to help identify approaches to overcome obstacles faced by those groups.  The Special Rapporteur pledged to apply a regional approach to identify the main concerns that minorities faced, in order to make the mandate more approachable.
 
In the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, speakers said the legislative framework on the rights of minorities must provide favourable conditions for social cohesion.  The world was seeing a surge in xenophobia, particularly in face of the migrant and humanitarian crises.  They agreed that the preservation of cultural heritage and the use of languages and religious practices should be allowed to all persons.  Empowering minorities, in particular youth, could contribute to advancing various aspects in social, economic and environmental spheres.  Speakers noted that despite progress in some countries, there was an increase of hate speech, xenophobic rhetoric, and incitement to hatred by extremist parties.  There had to be a broader framework to combat structural prejudices and discrimination.

Speaking were European Union, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Croatia, Senegal, Tunisia, Switzerland, United States, Austria, Hungary, China, Ukraine, Myanmar, Greece, Venezuela, Iraq, Mexico, Georgia, Romania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Nepal and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: World Council of Arameans (Syriacs), World Jewish Congress, Alsalam Foundation, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), Minority Rights Group, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil, Asian Legal Resource Centre, and International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education -OIDEL-(in a joint statement with Catholic International Education Office).

Presenting the report of the Forum on Minority Issues, Mr. de Varennes informed that the tenth session of the Forum had focused on minority youth.  Minority youth activists had held a series of panel discussions on education, participation in public life, digital media, and youth as agents of peace and stability.  Discussions had focused on the benefits of teaching minority youth in their own language and the benefits of teaching tolerance and the value of diversity.  States were urged to take measures to guarantee that minority youth had equal access to quality education.

Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo, Co-Chair Rapporteur of the Social Forum and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting the report of the Social Forum, said it had taken place from 2 to 4 October 2017, focusing on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of the HIV epidemic and other communicable diseases and epidemics.  The Social Forum had recommended that all stakeholders improve the coordination of health and human rights-related work in a manner that broke silence, and it had urged States to adopt evidence-based policies to tackle stigma, discrimination and criminalization of affected populations.

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, presenting the report of the Coordination Committee, explained that Special Procedures continued to ensure appropriate coordination among them, to maximize their impact and avoid duplications.  Special Procedures had come together to have a stronger voice in the United Nations processes.  The capacity to reach out at all levels and to bring various perspectives, outside of Geneva and New York, back to the United Nations, was one of the main added values of the Special Procedures. 

In the ensuing general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers noted that it was important that the Human Rights Council be well placed to address the human rights crises of 2018 and beyond.  Still, it could be more efficient in handling its work.  Dialogue inside and outside the Council must create an enabling environment for civil society organizations.  Efforts also had to be taken to ensure greater participation of small States within the Council.  Implementation of recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review should not lag behind and international norms had to be transformed into reality on the ground. 
 
Speaking were Australia on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia, European Union, Portugal on behalf of a group of countries, United States, and South Africa. 


The Council will resume its work on Thursday, 15 March at 9 a.m., when it will continue and conclude its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.  The Council will then consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Czechia, Argentina, Gabon, Ghana, Peru, Guatemala, Switzerland and Republic of Korea. 


Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues (A/HRC/37/66).

Presentation by the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

FERNAND DE VARENNES, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, said his report identified statelessness, ethnic conflict, incitement to hatred, hate speech, and the fundamental right to education as priority areas.  These were areas of great importance to minorities.  The report also identified the general approach of the mandate as raising the concerns of minorities as human rights issues.  Minorities were too frequently marginalized, he asserted.
The previous Special Rapporteur had been able to finalize a practical handbook on the language rights of minorities, a project that still required clarification.  Mr. de Varennes said he had continued advancing the situation of the Roma population by holding a workshop on the matter in Argentina.  The workshop provided a platform for Roma communities in the Americas with an opportunity to interact with each other, with Government officials, and with civil society actors.  Discussions were aimed at empowering the Roma population.  His work would continue to focus on addressing the issues faced by Roma around the world.

The report listed his participation as an independent expert in a series of meetings related to advocacy and raising the profile of minorities.  He highlighted an event held in New York last year to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities.  These events stressed that upholding the rights of minorities was key to achieving peace and upholding stability.  Statelessness presented a clear challenge in this regard and remained a primarily minority issue.  Minorities remained extremely vulnerable, facing multi-faceted discrimination and hate speech, and required collective and determined action by all concerned parties.

Mr. de Varennes said that at the end of 2017, he had held wide-ranging consultations with several minority groups to help identify approaches to overcome obstacles faced by these groups.  The Special Rapporteur pledged to apply a regional approach to identify the main concerns of minorities as a way to make the mandate more approachable.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

European Union said it would be interested to learn from the Special Rapporteur which practices had proven effective to counter narratives of hatred targeting minorities and to prevent violence.  The European Union also asked how multidimensional and inter-sectoral forms of discrimination against women and children from minorities could be addressed comprehensively, and how their participation could be strengthened.  Brazil, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said many stateless persons belonged to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities and could thus face marginalization in countries in which their families had settled for generations.  It encouraged the Special Rapporteur to approach the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness in a holistic manner.  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the legislative framework on the rights of minorities must provide favourable conditions for social cohesion.  The world was seeing a surge in xenophobia, particularly in face of the migrant and humanitarian crises.  The preservation of cultural heritage and the use of languages and religious practice should be allowed to all persons. 

Montenegro said empowering minorities, in particular youth, could contribute to advancing various aspects in the social, economic and environmental spheres.  In order to benefit from youth potential, Montenegro was undertaking activities to ensure inclusive learning environments for minority students to feel equally valued.  Russian Federation supported the topics selected by the Special Rapporteur and in particular welcomed his focus on preventing issues of manifestation of hate speech and xenophobic rhetoric.  Access to quality education for minorities, including on linguistic grounds, required the profound attention of the Human Rights Council and in this regard Russia would continue to support the Forum on Minorities Issues.  Pakistan said there could be no two opinions regarding the adverse impact of statelessness and the denial of the citizenship rights to minorities on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.  Education was the best way to empower minorities.  The world must counter the negative narratives and empower minorities.

Croatia was of the view that ethnic and multicultural diversity, the spirit of understanding, mutual respect and tolerance contributed to the enhanced development of countries.  Croatia paid particular attention to the rights of Roma, especially of Roma youth and women.  Senegal reminded that its national Constitution forbade any discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion, as well as any regional propaganda that could harm internal State security or territorial integrity.  To promote the rights of linguistic minorities, Senegal had established literacy programmes for the most spoken languages.  Tunisia drew attention to violations of the rights of many minorities across the world, most notably of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.  Racial discrimination, intolerance, hate speech and Islamophobia all led to exclusion and marginalization. 

Switzerland said that as a culturally and linguistically diverse country, it considered diversity to be a wealth that was essential for any society that wanted to evolve as inclusive and non-discriminatory.  It welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s intention to include in his report positive contributions to the peaceful resolution of conflicts that affected minorities.  United States shared concern about stateless members of minority groups that were targeted with violence, such as Christians and other religious minorities in Iran, the Yezidis in the Middle East, and Tibetans in China.  What specific tools would help identify possible areas in which violence might be used against members of minority groups? 

Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

FERNAND DE VARENNES, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, said hate speech was of increasing concern around the world.  There was a need to recognize who was being targeted by hate speech.  Under his mandate the issue of hate speech and intolerance would be addressed through consultations and expert gatherings.  He suggested the creation of specific guidelines that identified the vulnerability of minorities.  There was no easy solution, the appropriate balance between freedom of expression and protection for vulnerable communities was the priority.

Turning to issues faced by women and children, he said his mandate would seek to identify how these groups were being marginalized.  Statelessness was a major contributor to the alienation of these minority populations.  Most of the mandate’s thematic priorities particularly affected women and children.  Mr. de Varennes said he would focus on the right to education, a priority issue when considering children, and noted that statelessness exacerbated lack of access to education.  Only by recognizing the particular needs of minorities could specific measures be developed to address the rights of women and children.  Addressing violence aimed at specific minorities also required asking why minorities were being targeted.  The root causes of ethnic conflicts must be identified.  Often, ethnic conflicts involved long-standing grievances and there was a need to recognize that such grievances did not emerge in a vacuum and progressed over time.  There was no clear recognition of problems related to violence against minorities.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

Austria said that attention to the violation of minority rights in initial stages would contribute to the culture of prevention in the United Nations, and would save lives and foster development.  What were the ways to prevent violations of minorities rights and was there already a road map in place?  Hungary welcomed that access to adequate education for minorities would be among key priorities for the mandate.  The aim of enhancing the role of State language could not justify limitations on existing linguistic rights of national minorities, as seen by the example of the Ukrainian education law.  China was a multi-ethnic country of 56 groups which had their autonomy and whose minority rights were protected.  The United States had made unfounded accusations concerning minority rights in China, at the time when racism was emerging again in the United States.

Ukraine affirmed that national minority issues had not triggered the ongoing conflict on the territory of Ukraine, but minority rights had been affected as a result of the external aggression.  How would the Special Rapporteur assess the fact that in the Russian-occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea, between 2013 and 2017, the number of young people taking instructions in the Ukrainian language had dropped by 35 times.  Myanmar was home to over 100 ethnic groups which had been coexisting in peace and harmony.  The Government was committed to making every effort towards national reconciliation and peace through promoting trust among ethnic groups.  Greece said that the increasing presence of hate speech was putting minority rights under severe threat.  Greece upheld the human rights of the Muslim minority of Thrace whose status had been established by the Lausanne Treaty and constantly sought to improve their social integration through education and employment opportunities.

Venezuela noted that despite progress in some countries, there was an increase of hate speech, xenophobic rhetoric, and incitement to hatred by extremist parties.  There had to be a broader framework to combat structural prejudices and discrimination.  Iraq was committed to protecting the rights of all its minorities and securing social cohesion.  In spite of violations perpetrated by ISIS against the Christians, Yezidis and other minorities, the Government had nevertheless worked to create conducive conditions for their return to the homeland.  Mexico reiterated its readiness to continue working with the Special Rapporteur.  It asked about the obligations of States to intervene when cases of hate speech, xenophobic rhetoric and incitement to hatred occurred. 

Georgia fully supported the Special Rapporteur’s intention to adopt a comprehensive approach to minority rights.  Combatting hate speech and violence against minorities were the most important priorities.  Romania highlighted the importance of interculturality as a value of humankind and as a key factor to tolerance, mutual respect and stable societies.  Romania’s policies were aimed at preservation, development and protection of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity.  Sudan thanked the Special Rapporteur for his efforts and welcomed the holding of the Forum in November which allowed minorities to speak of violations of their rights and the needs for their rights to be respected.  Sudan as a pluri-cultural country had participated in the Forum and considered minorities to be a component of the society that contributed to harmony and coexistence.

Afghanistan shared the concern of the Special Rapporteur that conflicts involving minorities, hate crimes against them, and their persecution were increasing around the world.  The Constitution of Afghanistan guaranteed the equal rights of every person before the law and recognized the official use of minority languages in areas where the majority of people spoke those languages.  Organization of Islamic Cooperation said while the world celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities, there continued to be old and new manifestations of discrimination against minorities in different parts of the world.  In the European Union over two thirds of the national parliaments now included political parties with extreme positions against Muslim and other minority communities.  Slovenia said the Special Rapporteur in his report had mentioned ambiguities and uncertainties about the status of different minorities, had said that the scope and meaning of the term “minority” needed to be explored, and had noted that he would endeavour to clarify the concept of minorities using different approaches and analyses.  Slovenia asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on this.

Nepal said its Constitution guaranteed rights and provided safeguards against discrimination based on race, caste and tribes, inter alia.  The Government had a policy of zero tolerance on caste-based discrimination and legal and institutional measures had been put in place to this effect.  Sectoral development policies were also being implemented to ensure social justice.  Democratic Republic of the Congo said particular attention was required from the international community to assist minorities.  These vulnerable and marginalized human beings also had the right to life, quality education and to a life in an environment without discrimination.

World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) said that as a distinct minority, Arameans had been targeted by many parties in Syria and Iraq.  Recently a mass grave had been discovered in Mosul and several other mass graves from previously ISIS-held areas had been uncovered so the Special Rapporteur was urged to report on such issues to ensure the survival of Arameans.  World Jewish Congress said that in the United Kingdom anti-Semitic incidents had reached the highest level in over 30 years.  On social media, a recent study registered a 30 per cent increase in anti-Semitic trends along with twice as many posts denying the Holocaust in January 2018 as compared to the same period in 2016.  Alsalam Foundation noted that Saudi Arabia systematically discriminated against minorities, in particular the Shia minority, in the employment sphere, in politics, in access to cultural sites and in the judicial system, while Saudi textbooks slandered and degraded religious minorities.  What steps could be taken to eliminate hate speech and xenophobic rhetoric? 

International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) noted a significant gap in the Asia Pacific region for minority rights protection, making the United Nations the only venue for minorities in the Asia Pacific to bring voices outside their countries.  The Special Rapporteur was encouraged to examine the situation of Dalits in South Asia and Burakumins in Japan.  Minority Rights Group said that ethnic hatred and conflicts in the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia had made an unprecedented number of people leave their homes.  Xenophobia and hate speech were on the rise in Europe and North America.  Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil said that human rights defenders of indigenous people, as well as others had been facing stigmatization and torture, while policies against exclusion had been overlooked, particularly in cases of foreign investment.  Mexican authorities had failed to provide for a safe environment where human rights could be defended.

Asian Legal Resource Centre said the rights of minorities in Asian countries were a matter of collective concern.  Muslim girls faced violence in Pakistan and Muslims in the south of Thailand continued facing discrimination.  Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar still faced violence and Muslims in Sri Lanka were amongst the most recent populations to face violent acts.  Governments were behaving in a manner that kept minorities vulnerable.  International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education -OIDEL-(in a joint statement with Catholic International Education Office) welcomed that the right to education was identified as a priority by the Special Rapporteur.  Education was a cultural right and education must be culturally rooted.  To guarantee respect of the cultural dimension of education and of minorities rights, States must fund alternative schools.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

FERNAND DE VARENNES, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, in concluding remarks, said one of the points he had retained from the discussion on minorities issues was how to strengthen the mandate in the direction of the prevention of violation of minority rights.  There were a number of steps that would allow the United Nations to move forward in this regard.  One was to realize that human rights were deeply engrained in the universal, international human rights system, and to realize what it meant concretely, to have human rights for minorities in education, in conflict prevention and in all other areas.  The minority rights dimension had to be more integrated in all the work of all human rights, if the role of the United Nations in minority rights was to be strengthened.  On whether there was a roadmap in this direction, he informed of a series of meetings with stakeholders that had been held, in order to strengthen a regional approach and to be more accessible to the challenges of minorities.  Having a Forum on Minorities in Geneva was a very strong commitment, but more accessibility was necessary, and this required a regional approach.  This regional approach had been started, with the first meeting planned to be held in southeast Asia, with the aim of making the mandate as accessible as possible, particularly in the Asian region. 

Regarding how to address the legacy of ethnic conflict, including of ISIS in Iraq, he said it was important to rectify the legacy of such conflicts.  Unless the root causes and the legacy of hatred were addressed, a lasting solution would not be possible.  One of the tools that the mandate could offer was the appreciation of religious and ethnic minorities.  Peace could only be achieved if the prior conflict had been addressed.   Finally, Mr. de Varennes addressed the questions on whether the term minorities needed to be explored, informing that a clarification on the meaning of the word “minority,” was already available.   He emphasized the importance of looking into that clarification, because some of the uncertainties on minorities were linked to that misunderstanding.  Even within the United Nations there was disagreement on whether some communities should be regarded as minorities or not.  Thus, clarification of the misconceptions as to what constituted a minority was underway, and he soon hoped to have a working definition that was clear and concise and that responded to many situations.  Finally, he informed that the rights of minorities and their languages would be part of the process of the thematic priority.  The extent of the right to education, in respect to language, would be clearly defined from a regional and international point of view.  

Documentation

The Council has before it the Recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its tenth session (A/HRC/37/73).

The Council has before it the Report of the 2017 Social Forum (Geneva, 2-4 October 2017) (A/HRC/37/74).

The Council has before it the Annual report of the special procedures (A/HRC/37/37/Add.1).

Presentation of the Report of the Forum on Minority Issues

FERNAND DE VARENNES, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, said his mandate included guiding the Forum on Minority Issues.  The tenth session of the Forum was held late last year with a focus on minority youth.  As in the past, there was a high level of participation, including from a large number of youth from minority communities.  Young men and women had been invited to share their experiences.  Minority youth activists had held a series of panel discussions on education, participation in public life, digital media, and youth as agents of peace and stability.  The wide-ranging focus of the Forum had provided an opportunity for youth to address international bodies such as the United Nations.  Discussions had focused on the benefits of teaching minority youth in their own language and the benefits of teaching tolerance and the value of diversity.  States had been urged to take measures to guarantee that minority youth had equal access to quality education.

Mr. de Varennes said participants had drawn a link between the level of minority participation in public life and the level of discrimination in certain States.  They had noted that the denial of citizenship disproportionately affected minorities.  Statelessness prevented vulnerable groups from participating in public life.  Challenges and opportunities had been identified related to the use of diverse media platforms to promote minority issues.  Participants had suggested that social media must be used as a tool for social change and States must guarantee freedom of expression in the digital media realm.  Still, States had been urged to proactively counter racism, xenophobia, and hate speech.  The energy and enthusiasm of minority youth had led to the recommendation that minorities could take ownership of the Forum, including through a more regional approach.

Presentation of the Report of the Social Forum

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO, Co-Chair Rapporteur of the Social Forum and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, informed that the Social Forum had taken place from 2 to 4 October 2017, focusing on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of the HIV epidemic and other communicable diseases and epidemics.  The event had provided space for a vibrant multi-stakeholder dialogue on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of health.  The Social Forum had recommended that all stakeholders improve the coordination of health and human rights-related work in a manner that broke the silence.  At the international level, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization and other organizations could enhance their cooperation to address human rights issues.  At the national level, relevant governmental bodies should adopt common understandings to protect the human rights of affected groups by including their needs in national plans and policies.  Participants had maintained that the Sustainable Development Goals and the human rights framework were mutually reinforcing.  Human rights should guide the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Countries had been encouraged to report on human rights in the context of HIV and other communicable diseases and epidemics during their Universal Periodic Reviews and other periodic reports, as well as in their voluntary national reviews to the High Level Political Forum. 

Ms. Farani Azevedo noted that the implementation of target 3.8 on achieving universal healthcare coverage, including financial risk protection and access to quality essential healthcare services and to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines, was crucial to the fulfillment of the right to health.  The Forum had urged States to adopt evidence-based policies to tackle stigma, discrimination and criminalization of affected populations.  Stakeholders should collect disaggregated data on how epidemics impacted different populations and allow affected communities to participate in its analysis.  States should take into account empirical evidence related to the decriminalization of drug use and harm reduction initiatives in formulating national policies.  Governments should address power imbalances by including the voices of marginalized communities in policy design and implementation.  They should be empowered through the provision of quality education, health literacy, sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious foods, safe drinking water and sanitation, affordable medicines, employment and access to justice.  The Social Forum had observed that healthcare workers should be empowered and recognized as agents who could promote and protect the human rights of patients and communities.  The policies related to intellectual property rights and relevant international agreements in the field of health should take into account a human rights-based approach, Ms. Farani Azevedo concluded. 

Presentation of the Report of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures

CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, said the report tried to capture what the Special Procedures had done in a year, for example in terms of visits, themes addressed in their reports, contributions setting standards, or communications sent.  The addendum contained a wealth of information, including a one-page factsheet showing all their activities.  This factsheet also gave information on the composition of the system, including the number of mandates and gender balance which stood at 44 per cent of female mandate holders and 56 per cent of male mandate holders.  The report showed that Special Procedures worked as a system whereby mandate holders coordinated with each other, undertook joint activities, and reached out to multiple stakeholders at the national, regional and international level.  This system was aimed at feeding the other United Nations processes with recommendations and was composed of experienced individuals, coming from different countries and backgrounds, who put their expertise together to promote and protect human rights.  This combination of expertise was an asset for this Council and the United Nations in general.  Hence the current number of mandates was not an impediment but rather a strength to the functioning of the Human Rights Council. 

As illustrated in the report, Special Procedures had continued to ensure appropriate coordination among them, to maximize their impact, and avoid duplications.  This translated in the growing number of joint communications, as well as joint country visits.  Special Procedures had come together to have a stronger voice in the United Nations processes.  Last year for example, several mandate holders had focused their reports on issues related to the Global Compact on Migration.  Others had addressed issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals and yet others had focused their reports on issues related to prevention, early warning, conflict or humanitarian crises.  It was hoped that all these contributions would be considered in the context of the ongoing discussions within the United Nations.  The report illustrated that Special Procedures were active outside of Geneva and New York.  This capacity to reach out at all levels and to bring various perspectives back to the United Nations was one of the main added values of the Special Procedures.  In this context, throughout the year the mandate holders sought closer cooperation with the wider United Nations system as well as the regional mechanisms, in particular to ensure that their work was integrated into the work of the Organization and that their recommendations were followed-up, including in the field.  One of the main goals of the Special Procedures was cooperation with States and other stakeholders to advance human rights globally.

Ms. Devandas Aguilar informed of the worrisome trend whereby mandate holders had become the subject of public and personal attacks for carrying out their work.   As the Council embarked on yet another process of strengthening, she called upon all to preserve the Special Procedures system, and in particular to maintain the space given to mandate holders in the Council.  The Council also had the responsibility to give sufficient attention to their work and findings.  In recent years, the Council had already reduced the time dedicated to Special Procedures in its programme of work, affecting the quality of the debate and the possibility for States to enter into a meaningful discussion with them.  Mandate holders of Special Procedures were concerned about the potential new limitations that would further reduce their annual and only interaction with the Council.  They encouraged States not to go in that direction.  They were well aware of the constraints faced by the Council.  However, they expressed hope that sustainable measures would be taken to address these problems in a way that would preserve and strengthen the engagement with mandate holders, in particular the interactive dialogues.  In conclusion, Ms. Devandas Aguilar hoped that the report would help respond to questions that States may have about what Special Procedures did, how they cooperated with each other and what their impact was. 

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

Australia, speaking on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia, said it was important that the Human Rights Council be well placed to address the human rights crises of 2018 and beyond.  Still, the Council could be more efficient in handling its work.  Dialogue inside and outside the Council must create an enabling environment for civil society organizations.  Efforts must also be taken to ensure greater participation of small States within the Council.

Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union noted with satisfaction the results of the treaty body capacity-building programme and concurred with the Secretary-General’s conclusions on the gender imbalance within the treaty body system.  The European Union noted with concern reports on the violations of the rights of indigenous peoples and said the Universal Periodic Review must remain non-selective.  Member States must proactively work toward implementing recommendations made during the review process.

Portugal, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said there was no better way to mark the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than to work toward achieving the goals set within it.  Implementation of recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review must not lag behind and international norms must be transformed into reality on the ground.  Implementation and follow-up activities required greater attention.

United States said the Human Rights Council had done much to advance the cause of human rights.  However, taking sensible measures to improve the efficiency and representation of the Council would be beneficial.  The United States supported measures being taken to increase the efficiency of the Council as a means to ensure it could respond in a timely manner to human rights crises. 

South Africa concurred with recommendations that considered minority youth as agents for peace and stability.  Youth could play a pivotal role in reconciliation processes.  South Africa supported recommendations that States take concrete actions to combat hate speech and intolerance.  Turning to the HIV epidemic, South Africa would upscale testing and treatment in order to increase the number of people with access to anti-retroviral medications.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18.045E