Human Rights Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with its Advisory Committee and Starts Interactive Dialogue

OHCHR

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with its Advisory Committee and started an interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations. The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Patrycja Sasnal, Chair of the Advisory Committee, presenting the Committee’s annual report, which covered its twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth sessions, said that as the Council’s think tank, the Advisory Committee was continuing its study into the impact of new technologies for climate protection on the enjoyment of human rights. The Advisory Committee was also continuing its study into the advancement of racial justice and equality. Ms. Sasnal said the Advisory Committee had continued its practice of identifying proposals for further research, within the scope of the work set out by the Council. These proposals included human rights implications of the use of new and emerging digital technologies developed in the military domain used for law enforcement and security purposes, and assessing the human rights impact of neurotechnology.

In the discussion with the Advisory Committee, some speakers highlighted the great importance of the work of the Advisory Committee as an expert mechanism which served as a consultative body to the Council. Some speakers welcomed the proposal of the Advisory Committee to study the human rights implications of the use of new and emerging digital technologies developed in the military domain used for law enforcement and security purposes, as well as the proposal to assess the impact of neurotechnology on human rights. The impact of new technologies on climate protection on the enjoyment of human rights was also a new and timely topic. Speakers looked forward to a thorough analysis, which could help advance a human rights-based approach to climate action and particularly ensure the protection of the most vulnerable.

Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said several global trends had emerged from the annual report of the Secretary-General on reprisals. First, surveillance of those who cooperated or attempted to cooperate with the United Nations continued to be reported in all regions. Another concerning trend was the impact and use of restrictive legislation that prevented and punished cooperation with the United Nations. Another global trend was self-censorship, or the choice not to cooperate with the United Nations or to do so under conditions of anonymity due to fear of retaliation. Intimidation and reprisals were reported from countries where a degree of space to cooperate with and report incidents to the United Nations existed. The Office was particularly sensitive to the risks affecting women victims and witnesses as well as women human rights defenders and peacebuilders.

In the discussion on reprisals, many speakers were alarmed by the continued reports of intimidation and reprisals against those engaging with the United Nations in the field of human rights, as well as against civil society in general. Reprisals and intimidation against those who cooperated with the United Nations constituted a serious attack, not only against those courageous enough to stand up for human rights, but also against the very essence and proper functioning of the United Nations system itself. All States should respect and protect persons, in particular civil society organizations and human rights defenders cooperating with the United Nations system, and take all necessary measures to end, prevent, investigate and ensure accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, and report back to the Council on action taken.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with José Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. In concluding remarks, Mr. Calí Tzay said that all were aware of the crucial role of indigenous women, but they needed to safeguard and protect that role. Indigenous women’s scientific knowledge needed to be recognised, and their right to this acknowledged internationally. There should be meetings to negotiate the appropriate international frameworks to safeguard and protect indigenous women’s scientific knowledge, protecting it from the appropriation of that knowledge without sharing in the benefits.

In the interactive dialogue, many speakers thanked the Special Rapporteur for the report and welcomed the first in-depth study dedicated to the important contributions made, and the challenges faced, by indigenous women and girls. They supported the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and its renewal. Indigenous peoples’ knowledge was needed to address current crises. The scientific knowledge of indigenous women, and their intimate relationship with nature, meant they had a key role to play in managing the risks and impacts of climate change, protecting biodiversity, and achieving sustainable development. Some speakers were concerned that despite indigenous women’s irrefutable life-saving knowledge, they faced unique challenges in retaining and revitalising their role as knowledge keepers. Speakers also lamented the loss of indigenous languages, saying this was an obstacle to the transmission of indigenous women’s knowledge to future generations.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Advisory Committee were European Union, India, Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba, Russian Federation, China, Poland, Angola, Greece, Botswana, and Tunisia.

Also speaking were Sikh Human Rights Group, Centre for International Environmental Law, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, and iuventum e.V..

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on reprisals were Lithuania, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Canada on behalf of a group of countries, Uruguay on behalf of a group of countries, Austria on behalf of a group of countries, Latvia on behalf of a group of countries, Ireland on behalf of a group of countries, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Palestine, France, Iraq, Germany, and Cuba.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the rights of indigenous peoples were European Union, Denmark on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries, Guatemala on behalf of a group of countries, China on behalf of a group of countries, Ecuador, Colombia, Australia, Paraguay, Luxembourg, Mexico, UN Women, Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Russian Federation, China, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, United States, Bolivia, Nepal, Canada, New Zealand, Malawi, Holy See, Philippines, Marshall Islands, Ukraine, Cambodia, and Iran.

Also speaking were Jubilee Campaign, Franciscans International, Lutheran World Federation, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Non c’è pace senza giustizia, Elizka Relief Foundation, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES, and Maloca Internationale.

Speaking in right of reply were Nicaragua, United Kingdom and Mauritius.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-first regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 3 p.m. this afternoon to conclude its interactive dialogue  on the report of the Secretary-General on reprisals, followed by the general debate on agenda item five on human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The interactive dialogue with José Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Many speakers thanked the Special Rapporteur for the report and welcomed the first in-depth study dedicated to the important contributions made, and the challenges faced, by indigenous women and girls. They supported the mandate of the Rapporteur and its renewal. Indigenous peoples’ knowledge was needed to address current crises. The scientific knowledge of indigenous women, and their intimate relationship with nature, meant they had a key role to play in managing the risks and impacts of climate change, protecting biodiversity, and achieving sustainable development. Indigenous women played a vital role in developing, producing, and applying vital knowledge, and passing this down through generations, which was a precious inheritance to indigenous peoples as well as the rest of the world.

More needed to be done to promote the roles of indigenous women as the bearers of knowledge and language, creating measures allowing them to play a greater role in programmes relating to their culture. Speakers called on all States to adopt gender responsive approaches to science and technology which incorporated indigenous women’s knowledge. The importance of public policy to foster the development of indigenous women, and include them on an equal footing, was also highlighted. Speakers supported the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to recognise indigenous women as legitimate rights holders of their knowledge and to adopt national legal and policy frameworks that protected their knowledge and intellectual property.

Some speakers were concerned that despite indigenous women’s irrefutable life-saving knowledge, they faced unique challenges in retaining and revitalising their role as knowledge keepers. Indigenous women were disproportionally affected by the loss of lands, territories and resources owing to climate change, and were under-represented in consultative processes and political decision-making. The role of indigenous women was hindered by racism, gender discrimination, and violence. The lack of disaggregated data on indigenous women hampered research and impeded the design of policies and programmes that addressed the forms of discrimination they faced. It was essential to address the multiple intersectional forms of discrimination faced by indigenous women, in order to preserve their role as guardians of knowledge and decision-makers.

Speakers also lamented the loss of indigenous languages, saying this was an obstacle to the transmission of indigenous women’s knowledge to future generations. Some speakers also expressed concern about the history of violations against indigenous peoples in some countries, and the continued denial of rights to indigenous peoples to this day. Indigenous peoples in some countries were facing persecution and suffering due to their religious beliefs, and the Council was urged to take action.

A number of speakers discussed national efforts to promote the rights of indigenous peoples in their countries, including through promoting intercultural health through the implementation of policies and programmes in the national health system. Some countries had adopted a comprehensive approach to the management of cultural heritage, and had implemented policies to support and contribute to the cultural initiatives of ethnic groups. Special focus was also given to plans and programmes aimed at the elderly and women, for their special role in the transmission of heritage and their contribution to the maintenance of collective memory. Some speakers described policies which had been developed, to recognise, develop, and promote indigenous knowledge systems. Governments were also working to ensure that the intellectual property of indigenous peoples was accredited to the rightful owners.

Interim Remarks

JOSÉ FRANCISCO CALÍ TZAY, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said some very interesting comments had been made so far. There was a great deal of interest on the report focusing on indigenous women in the context of handing down technical knowledge. Indigenous women faced tremendous obstacles in developing, using and handing down scientific knowledge. With regard to climate change, if the rights of indigenous women were protected and they were empowered, that was an important step: the report contained recommendations on how to protect indigenous women’s land rights, access to resources, and promote their participation in land management.

Women had to be included through positive actions in order to enhance their participation in politics and play a meaningful role, not just for women, but for indigenous peoples as a whole. In such an event, when issues such as climate change and biodiversity were discussed, indigenous women needed to be involved. This could be done through strengthening their institutions so that they could play a leading role, being interlocutors in public debate. There was also a need to ensure that Government services and institutions had the necessary approach, tailored to make appropriate use of indigenous peoples’ knowledge. Indigenous women played a vital role in maintaining indigenous languages, which were disappearing at an alarming rate. The decision to establish the Decade of Indigenous Languages 2020-2030 was an important step, as indigenous languages were essential in transmitting indigenous knowledge and tradition, and for preserving that knowledge. On collective memory, it was time to talk about the massacres that had occurred, not only to ensure apologies, but also to avoid repetition.

Discussion

In the continued discussion, many speakers welcomed the report which underscored the roles of indigenous women, and its special focus on the role of indigenous women as scientific and technical knowledge keepers. Indigenous women were custodians of a collective accumulation of important traditional knowledge and skills related to agriculture, health care and natural resource management. These skills were also transmitted to their children and grandchildren in their vital role as mothers and grandmothers, teachers, and caregivers. The world recognised that indigenous peoples’ knowledge was needed to address the current environmental crises, including climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Speakers reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stating that progressive steps had been taken to align national policies with international standards. Countries had developed road maps around indigenous peoples, with equal opportunity. Efforts to safeguard native indigenous languages in certain States were also highlighted.

Some speakers were concerned that indigenous lands in certain areas faced intensive exploitation, particularly natural and energy resources, stressing that those encroaching on indigenous lands were committing crimes. The Special Rapporteur’s conclusions on violence against indigenous women and girls were concerning, and speakers outlined key elements of their national strategies to eliminate family violence and sexual violence. Speakers were also concerned that indigenous women were often absent from decision-making processes. The voice of indigenous peoples was a crucial part of discussions on best practices to advance indigenous rights and issues.

Concluding Remarks

JOSÉ FRANCISCO CALÍ TZAY, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, thanked everybody for their interest in the report and for their encouraging and interesting remarks. All were aware of the crucial role of indigenous women, but they needed to safeguard and protect that role. Indigenous women’s scientific knowledge needed to be recognised, and their right to this acknowledged internationally. They were the lawful custodians of that knowledge. There should be meetings to negotiate the appropriate international frameworks to safeguard and protect indigenous women’s scientific knowledge, protecting it from the appropriation of that knowledge without sharing in the benefits.

Indigenous women played a role in protecting from climate change, and they should be involved in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and in collecting data on the impact of climate change on indigenous women. Particular attention should be paid to indigenous women and girls who were disproportionately affected by the loss of land and territories. Work on indigenous health must recognise the significant impact of climate change on women, while systemic and endemic racial discrimination must be tackled in accessing health services, as well as justice and emergency care. Without this, none of the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples could be safeguarded effectively.

Mr. Calí Tzay said that the role of land was vital for handing down cultural identity, so land must be restored to indigenous women and protected from undue invasion. The transmission of the scientific and technical knowledge of indigenous women was linked to the way they used their land and natural resources, and the link to the land and environment was being undermined by the disproportionate impact of climate change. Indigenous women were active agents of change in society, and agents of stability and security. Their scientific and traditional knowledge was a way of ensuring environmental justice, and it must be safeguarded, as they resumed their role as community leaders.

Interactive Dialogue with the Advisory Committee

Report

The Council has before it the report of the Advisory Committee on its twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth sessions held in February and August 2022 (A/HRC/51/48).

Presentation of Report

PATRYCJA SASNAL, Chair of the Advisory Committee, presenting the Advisory Committee’s annual report, which covered its twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth sessions, said as the Council’s think tank, the Advisory Committee had a key role in researching and reporting on important and emerging areas of human rights. The Council was able to draw on the expertise of the Advisory Committee to delve deeper into human rights issues, with its reports becoming a catalyst for the Council’s work on a wide range of themes. The Advisory Committee was continuing its study into the impact of new technologies for climate protection on the enjoyment of human rights. The Committee was also continuing its study into the advancement of racial justice and equality. As per the mandating resolution 48/18, this topic involved a consideration of the patterns, policies and processes contributing to incidents of racial discrimination and proposals to advance racial justice and equality.

Past experience had demonstrated that the Advisory Committee had the capacity to work on more than two mandates in parallel. In view, therefore, of this recurring issue of a lack of new mandates, and taking into account paragraph 77 of resolution 5/1, the Advisory Committee had continued its practice of identifying proposals for further research, within the scope of the work set out by the Council. These proposals brought to the Council’s attention areas which could benefit from the Committee’s expertise, including on human rights implications of the use of new and emerging digital technologies developed in the military domain used for law enforcement and security purposes, and on assessing the human rights impact of neurotechnology. The Advisory Committee was a tool for the Council to explore further emerging human rights issues. Inclusive engagement, including through this interactive dialogue, would assist with achieving this goal.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, some speakers highlighted the great importance of the work of the Advisory Committee as an expert mechanism which served as a consultative body to the Council. Speakers commended the Advisory Committee’s most recent work, stating that it was essential that the Advisory Committee continued its role as a think tank for the Council, urging States and the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to provide support to the work of the Advisory Committee.

Some speakers welcomed the proposal of the Advisory Committee to study the human rights implications of the use of new and emerging digital technologies developed in the military domain used for law enforcement and security purposes, as well as the proposal to assess the impact of neurotechnology on human rights. The impact of new technologies on climate protection on the enjoyment of human rights was also a new and timely topic. Speakers looked forward to a thorough analysis, which could help advance a human rights-based approach to climate action and particularly ensure the protection of the most vulnerable. Some speakers said that the current model of development, centred on the capitalist system, generated large imbalances that caused poverty, inequality, and discrimination, which added to the devastating effects of climate change. Geo-engineering could have great impacts on the enjoyment of human rights but could also have severe impacts on eco-systems and diversity.

Speakers said the report prepared by the Advisory Committee highlighted the lack of racial equality in the world, and the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects on the most vulnerable people. There was a need to combat racist and xenophobic manifestations and hate speech more effectively. The study also addressed the eradication of poverty, marginalisation, social exclusion and economic inequality, which were manifestations of systemic racism.

Some speakers said it was important for the Advisory Committee to prepare a report on the problem of systemic racism, and address and explore the root causes, including slavery. There was a need to develop common understandings of this issue and to address racial discrimination with specific goals. States needed to address racism and discrimination through the implementation of targeted public legislation and policies to address groups subject to racial discrimination. Some speakers said that the imposition of illegal unilateral coercive measures worsened the situation by limiting the capacity of States to meet the basic needs of populations, including those arising from the impact of climate change. Some speakers regretted that no consultations with indigenous peoples were conducted throughout the report.

Concluding Remarks

PATRYCJA SASNAL, Chair of the Advisory Committee, took note of the remarks expressed, and thanked all for their support and interest in the research proposals made, hoping they would be voted into mandates for the Advisory Committee. Consultations would be conducted with representatives of indigenous peoples before drafting, she assured. There were various forms of consultations which the Committee conducted: formal consultations, during the meeting, and in between they developed a questionnaire, available online, and anyone, including representatives of the most vulnerable, could fill it in, and this was received as input. There were also consultations held informally, not during the session. As the topics were complex, and involved many stakeholders, the Advisory Committee was avoiding any possibilities of bias.

The Advisory Committee hoped the Human Rights Council would continue to use the Committee as its think tank for the progressive development of human rights law. The Advisory Committee possessed the capacity to really recommend which way the developments and reforms in human rights law should go, including in very cross-cutting topics that were new and had to do with technology, such as neuro-rights. Development was such that the human rights system could hardly catch up with them, and there was constant need to delve into the new complex issues and try to take the temperature of the changes in technology. The Committee believed it was capable and motivated to research these.

FEDERICO VILLEGAS, President of the Human Rights Council, said the Advisory Committee gave the Council light on many of the challenges that it had to deal with, and in future it could help the Council find middle ground between technology and human rights, as it would be here forever and would always be needed.

Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Secretary-General on Reprisals

Report

The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General with a compilation and analysis of alleged reprisals against those who seek to cooperate or have cooperated with the UN its representatives and mechanisms (A/HRC/51/47).

Presentation of Report

ILZE BRANDS KEHRIS, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said several global trends had emerged from the annual report of the Secretary-General on reprisals. First, surveillance of those who cooperated or attempted to cooperate with the United Nations continued to be reported in all regions. In 20 countries, United Nations actors addressed allegations of monitoring and surveillance, online and offline, with growing and worrisome evidence of online surveillance and cyberattacks. Another concerning trend was the impact and use of restrictive legislation that prevented and punished cooperation with the United Nations. In 40 per cent of the countries included in the report, laws and regulations in place had been used to deter or punish individuals and organizations for their cooperation with the United Nations based on counter-terrorism, national security arguments, or laws governing activities of the civil society. In some cases, this led to civil society expressing fear of the consequences of cooperating with the United Nations, resulting in them discontinuing cooperation, or declining to engage with the Office of the High Commissioner.

Another global trend was self-censorship, or the choice not to cooperate with the United Nations or to do so under conditions of anonymity due to fear of retaliation. In at least one third of the countries included in the report, United Nations interlocutors had either refrained from engaging with the Organization, requested that their identity be withheld, or exercised self-censorship for fear of further retaliation. Ms. Brands Kehris paid special tribute to those who put their trust in the United Nations by sharing their testimonies. She saluted their courage.

The report focused on allegations that the United Nations had been able to verify, however, this did not represent the full picture, said Ms. Brands Kehris. Intimidation and reprisals were reported from countries where a degree of space to cooperate with and report incidents to the United Nations existed. The absence of retaliatory action or reports did not mean that intimidation and reprisals did not happen. The Office continuously worked to improve methodology, data collection and analysis, as well as the documentation and reporting on incidents and situations, including on self-censorship. The Office was particularly sensitive to the risks affecting women victims and witnesses as well as women human rights defenders and peacebuilders. Of the nearly 350 individual cases included, about 60 per cent were women who faced violence and threats for their engagement with the United Nations. Ms. Brands Kehris said that the United Nations needed to better support, empower, and protect those who engaged, often in response to mandates established by Member States.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, many speakers were alarmed by the continued reports of intimidation and reprisals against those engaging with the United Nations in the field of human rights, as well as against civil society in general. Reprisals and intimidation against those who cooperated with the United Nations constituted a serious attack, not only against those courageous enough to stand up for human rights, but also against the very essence and proper functioning of the United Nations system itself. All States should respect and protect persons, in particular civil society organizations and human rights defenders cooperating with the United Nations system, and take all necessary measures to end, prevent, investigate and ensure accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal and report back to the Council on action taken. The digital transformation created opportunities for increased participation in international fora but also bore serious risks related to access, privacy and confidentiality.

Meaningful engagement with civil society actors and human rights defenders, including women and environmental human rights defenders, formed a cornerstone of the work of the United Nations human rights system and made an essential contribution to the effective functioning of this Council. Reprisals and intimidation affected the critical work of human rights defenders, as well as impeding their work. Some speakers said that a large number of reprisals were directed at women, indigenous peoples, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and it was critical for the international community to continue to send a message of no-tolerance for those who helped to raise critical voices. In many cases, reprisals were not isolated, they were part of a pattern of erosion of civil society. Reprisals against people or groups who tried to cooperate with the United Nations system were unjustifiable and should be treated with contempt. Civil society and human right defenders needed a safe and enabling environment to participate freely online and offline.

Some speakers asked, among other questions, how to ensure effective remedies for victims when they were continuously threatened and repressed by their own governments, which had the duty to ensure their human rights and fundamental freedoms. What was the number one priority in increasing the trust in the digital sphere among those courageous enough to share information and testimony with the United Nations on sensitive issues? How could the work and the digital participation of civil society and human rights defenders be strengthened while limiting risks and concerns related to their safety and privacy in the process? What concrete action could be taken with regard to reprisals in a gender-transformative manner?

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/09/morning-human-rights-council-holds-interactive-dialogue-its

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