General Assembly Monitor. End of session wrap-up - 3 December 2013

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GENERAL ASSEMBLY MONITOR
End of session wrap up - 3 December 2013
 
8th International Women Human Rights Defenders DayOn the eighth anniversary Jody Williams asks: who is protecting the defenders?... more
 

Opinion

General Assembly resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders

Geir Sjøberg, Lead Negotiator for Norway

Courageous women human rights defenders work around the world to make our societies better. In return, they often face the most severe risks and consequences. This is unacceptable. By tabling this resolution at the UN, we placed the difficult situation of women human rights defenders on the agenda of the international community.

The resolution sends a clear message that violence against women human rights defenders, including gender-based and sexual violence, can never be condoned or accepted under any circumstance... more

UN Photo/Martine Perret
 

HIGHLIGHTS


General Assembly adopts first ever resolution on situation and protection of women human rights defenders


African States undermine efforts to combat reprisals against human rights defenders


Civil society calls on States to properly fund UN human rights programme
 

ISHR ADVOCACY

UN adopts landmark resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders

The adoption of the first-ever resolution on women human rights defenders by the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee is a step forward in protecting those who face risks and attacks for their work to promote human rights, including women’s rights, Amnesty International (AI), the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), and JASS (Just Associates) have said... more
 

States must act to protect un human rights programme from funding deficit

ISHR together with 27 other NGOs has called on Governments to act to prevent substantial budget cuts to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to ensure the Office has adequate funding to fulfill its critical mandate.

The joint letter comes as States gather in New York to negotiate the UN’s budget for 2014-2015 at the General Assembly. It is proposed that core funding to the OHCHR - the UN's lead human rights agency - be slashed by around 5 percent... more

 

An open letter from members of 'The Elders' to UN Member States

In a significant show of support for the UN General Assembly’s resolution on women human rights defenders, members of ‘The Elders’ wrote an open letter to UN Member States urging them to support the resolution... more
 

Nobel Peace Prize winners support UN resolution on women human rights defenders

The resolution on women human rights defenders also received the endorsement of a coalition of women Nobel Peace Prize winners... more
 

New Members of the UN Human Rights Council must protect human rights defenders

States newly elected to the UN Human Rights Council by the General Assembly should commit to protecting human rights defenders and cooperating fully with the Council, ISHR has said. By becoming members of the Council, States commit to ‘uphold the highest human rights standards’, and to cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council and its independent experts... more
 

UN to consider opening door to national human rights institutions

National human rights institutions may soon be able to participate in UN deliberations following a decision by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. The adoption of the German-led resolution, 'National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights', is a major step forward in affirming the essential and unique role that national human rights institutions play in the international community, and the increasing acknowledgment within the UN of the expert and independent advice these bodies can provide.

The resolution requests the UN Secretary General to prepare a report on the feasibility of enabling ‘Paris Principles-compliant NHRIs’ – that is, NHRIs that comply with international standards relating to composition, independence and expertise – to participate independently in UN mechanisms and processes... more

 


HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER PROFILE

Ilwad Elman

Somali woman human rights defender Ilwad Elman is a Woman Human Rights Defender working with the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Somalia. Born in Somalia to two pioneering peace and human rights activists, Elman fled to Canada when civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991. Her father, Elman Ali Ahmed, was a pioneering human rights activist who, to this day, is referred to as the Somali father of peace. After her father’s assassination, Elman returned to Somalia in 2010 to continue the work her parents began at the human rights organization they unded, the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center.

The Elman Peace and Human Rights Center is an NGO working on human rights, protection, peacebuilding, gender justice and education with a geographic coverage throughout South and Central Somalia. The Center supports human rights defenders who operate against all odds for the betterment of the Somali people in a country fraught with risks and constant uncertainty. One of the most important projects spearheaded by the Center is Sister Somalia, the first rape crisis center in Somalia, which provides critical life saving emergency care to survivors as well as educates and empowers women to be in control of their own lives... more


Upcoming Events

SOGI EVENT AT UN ON HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

A notable side event on Human Rights Day this year (10 December), entitled ‘Sport Comes Out Against Homophobia’ is being organised by a coalition of UN Member States, OHCHR, and NGOs. It will take place from 1pm - 2.30pm EST in the UN's ECOSOC Chamber in New York. Speakers will include Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights; Martina Navratilova, tennis legend; Jason Collins, NBA basketball player; Thandeka Mkhuma, human rights activist from South Africa; Hida Viloria, human rights activist from the USA; and Anastasia Smirnova, human rights activist from Russia.
 
The theme for this year's Human Rights Day is ‘20 Years Working for Your Rights’, marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment by the UN General Assembly of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Be sure to follow #unrightsat20 on Twitter for news surrounding UN Human Rights Day.

Banner Image: UN Photo/Martine Perret

 

KEY DEVELOPMENTS AT THE GA

HRC President calls on General Assembly to adequately fund UN human rights programme

Addressing the UN General Assembly, the President of the Human Rights Council welcomed the significant progress made by the Human Rights Council in dealing with human rights issues worldwide in the past year. He highlighted the Council’s decision to designate a focal point on reprisals (Resolution 24/24), the establishment by the Council of a new thematic mandate on the rights of older persons, and of new country-specific mandates on the Central African Republic and on Mali. At the same time, the President stressed the financial challenges faced by the Council, and called on all States to support new mandates arising from Council decisions... more
 

Third Committee adopts country resolution on Myanmar, Iran, North Korea and Syria

The Third Committee adopted four country-specific resolutions on human rights: Myanmar, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Syria. Following last year’s trend, the Third Committee adopted two of the four resolutions by consensus: Myanmar and the DPRK... more
 

General Assembly affirms the right to privacy in the context of surveillance

The Third Committee of the General Assembly has adopted a new resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age. The resolution was brought jointly by Brazil and Germany and cosponsored by more than 70 States. Negotiations on the text were difficult, particularly on human rights violations resulting from extraterritorial surveillance. The so-called ‘Five Eyes’ – the UK, Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand – lobbied successfully to soften language linking human rights violations to extraterritorial surveillance, compared to the initial draft.
 
The resolution has kicked off an important discussion on this issue in the United Nations. The resolution requests the UN High Commissioner to present a report to the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in 2014 on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or interception of digital communications and collection of personal data, including on a mass scale.
 

General Assembly adopts new text on Safety of Journalists

ISHR welcomes a new resolution at this year’s Third Committee on the Safety of Journalists. The resolution was proposed by Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, Greece and Tunisia. It underlines the important role played by all news providers by stating that “journalism is continuously evolving to include inputs from media institutions, private individuals and a range of organizations that seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, online as well as offline.” Importantly, the resolution recognises that journalists can be considered human rights defenders and, in that respect, notes the good practices in certain countries designed for the protection of human rights defenders that might apply to journalists.
 

Secretary-General releases much anticipated cost assessment regarding treaty body costing

The Secretary-General has released a much-anticipated detailed cost assessment to support the inter-governmental process on strengthening the United Nations treaty body system. It is hoped the report will enable the successful conclusion of negotiations on treaty body strengthening by the mid-February deadline set in GA resolution 68/2 in September 2013.
 

African States must not turn their backs on human rights defenders at the UN

In an unprecedented move, a group of African States has sought to undermine the authority of the UN Human Rights Council by opposing a decision of the Council to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders from attacks and reprisals.
 
The group of States, led by Gabon and joined by others such as China and Russia, was successful in securing the passage of a resolution in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly to defer the appointment of a senior UN official tasked with coordinating the protection of human rights defenders. This is despite the Human Rights Council overwhelmingly passing a resolution in September calling on the UN Secretary-General to appoint ‘a United Nations-wide senior focal point’ to combat reprisals and intimidation... more
 

Combating reprisals against human rights defenders who expose torture

All 193 States in the UN General Assembly have joined in condemning intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and others who work to expose and combat torture and ill-treatment. In a significant resolution proposed by Denmark and sponsored by more than 60 other States from all regions, the General Assembly recognised the absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances whatsoever and the absolute imperative of protecting those who work to prevent it... more


General Assembly authorises one additional week of meeting time for Human Rights Committee

On 14 November, the Third Committee of the General Assembly adopted a resolution presented by Finland to approve additional meeting time for the Human Rights Committee. The Committee had originally requested additional funds to meet for an additional week in 2014 and 2015 to deal with reports under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and communications under the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. The final draft authorises only one additional week in 2014 to deal with the backlog of communications.
 
The USA and Canada disassociated from consensus, citing the need for long-term, sustainable solutions and the ineffectiveness of ad hoc measures. Japan, France, the UK and Australia joined consensus but questioned the effectiveness of the ad hoc measure and emphasized the need to focus on long-term solutions through the treaty body strengthening process. Japan questioned the rationale for the additional $1.5 million dollars.
 

66 Human Rights NGOs urge EU to support UN human rights budget

In a joint letter to Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, 66 human rights NGOs from European Union member States, States from the European Partnership and States in cooperation with the European Union stress that the General Assembly’s intent to reduce OHCHR’s budget is a step in the wrong direction.


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