General Assembly Monitor: November - December 2015
GENERAL ASSEMBLY MONITOR
4 November - 1 December 2015

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opinion

PARTICIPATION OF NHRIS BEYOND THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: A SHIFT FROM ‘IF’ TO ‘HOW’

On 23 November, the Third Committee of the General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution that shifts the discussion about the participation of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the UN system from ‘if’ to ‘how’. Ambassador Harald Braun of Germany explains his view on the positive implications of the new resolution... more
OPINION

Q&A WITH GEIR SJØBERG OF NORWAY ON THE NEW RESOLUTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Geir Sjøberg, Policy Director for Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, answers our questions on the new resolution on human rights defenders - including its strengths, challenges and the road to implementation..more

 

thematic developments

General Assembly adopts important resolution on human rights defenders in face of opposition from China and Russia

For the first time in its 16-year history, a vote was called on the UN General Assembly’s resolution on human rights defenders. Despite this attack from China and Russia, who called for the vote, the adoption of the text by a clear majority of States is a step forward in protecting those who face risks and attacks for their work to defend human rights.

The resolution includes a number of new, important and substantive provisions, on the vital role of advocacy and the work of human rights defenders in contributing to sustainable development and the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, and on the responsibilities of businesses to engage, consult and protect defenders... more

States must not turn their backs on human rights defenders

ISHR has been part of a concerted advocacy campaign in the lead up to adoption of the resolution on human rights defenders, including leading more than 150 other NGOs in a joint letter to States calling on them to support the resolution... more

Participation of national human rights institutions at UN will close implementation gap on the ground

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) should soon be able to participate alongside States in the work of the UN following the passage of an important resolution at the UN General Assembly.

NHRIs are independent institutions established to monitor, promote and protect human rights at the national level and to ensure that State law, policy and practice complies with international human rights law. 

In adopting the resolution by consensus, the General Assembly's Third Committee has spoken as one for the first time to encourage UN mechanisms and processes to facilitate and enhance the participation of A-status NHRIs in their work... more

CIVIL SOCIETY A CRUCIAL ‘MIRROR OF REALITIES ON THE GROUND’, HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL PRESIDENT TELLS THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The President of the Human Rights Council has told the General Assembly that civil society is ‘a mirror of realities on the ground’, fundamental to the Council’s work and ‘at the core of human rights’. He called for better protection of civil society representatives by the UN and defended NGO participation at the Human Rights Council.. more

RESOLUTION ON THE SAFETY OF JOURNALISTS
 
A resolution on 'The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity', which contained significant new paragraphs, passed by consensus. There were 83 co-sponsors of the text.

The resolution recognises the efforts by States to review and, where necessary, amend laws, policies and practices that curtail the work of journalists, in line with international law. For the first time, it also calls on States to implement legal frameworks more effectively, and to ensure that measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security don’t hinder the work of journalists. The latter paragraph reflected recommendations made by the Secretary General in his report to the GA on the issue. Finally, the resolution references the safety of journalists, covering demonstrations and protests, noting States should take into account the ‘specific role, exposure and vulnerability’ of journalists.
 
Whilst consensus on the text was maintained, there was opposition to the inclusion of the term ‘media workers’. Most references to ‘media workers’ were retained in the text, but Russia noted its objection to the term during adoption, preferring the phrase ‘media professional’ so as to exclude bloggers.

AFRICAN GROUP CRITICISES WORK OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
 
As is the case every year, several delegations objected to the report of the Human Rights Council being considered by the Third Committee, on the grounds that the Council is subsidiary to the plenary of the General Assembly and should only be considered by that body.
 
The resolution adopting the report of the Council passed by a vote of 111 in favour to 2 against (Belarus, Israel), with 59 abstentions. It was put forward by its traditional sponsor, the African Group, which used the opportunity to criticise the Council for its work on sexual orientation and gender identity. The group expressed strong concern at the imposition of so-called 'concepts pertaining to social matters that have no reference in international human rights law', noting that the lack of international agreement or consensus would undermine a balanced and egalitarian approach to human rights.
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country resolutions

The UN Third Committee adopted four country resolutions: on the DPRK, Iran, Myanmar and Syria  
 
Myanmar

The resolution on Myanmar, which passed by consensus as in previous years, was negotiated in the context of general elections held in the country. States welcomed the ‘peaceful and competitive conduct’ of the elections in the resolution, but expressed serious concern over ‘political disenfranchisement and discriminatory disqualification of candidates', including in regard to religious and ethnic minorities... more
 
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

In presenting the resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the European Union noted the human rights violations in the country were ‘without parallel in the contemporary world’. The vote was similar to last year’s, with the resolution passing 112 - 19 with 50 abstentions. Action by the Security Council in regard to DPRK was a major focus of the resolution and statements made by States during the adoption... more 

Iran

The recent nuclear agreement struck between Iran and the P5+1 countries in July provided a backdrop to negotiations on the Iran resolution. Introducing the resolution, Canada, the main sponsor, noted the Iranian government’s lack of cooperation with human rights mechanisms, with the exception of the UPR. Several States including Chile and Japan said Iran needed to accept the request of the Special Rapporteur to visit the country... more

Syria 

The resolution on Syria, introduced by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and co-sponsored by 61 States, was presented by the Saudi Ambassador. Whilst some States make reservations on country-specific resolutions, he said, this resolution should be considered differently to other country contexts, as the situation in Syria was ‘unparalleled in the world'... more

human rights defender profiles

SHARON HOM WORKING ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA

‘My first trip to Mainland China changed everything. I started to see the whole picture, that of a country beginning to rebuild. This was my entrance into international human rights; I saw an incredible opportunity to use law to make a difference.’

Sharon Hom works on human rights in China. She explains her journey from domestic work to international human rights advocacy... more

STEPHANIA KOULAEVA WORKING ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA

‘It’s difficult not to support people who are being oppressed, it’s difficult not to join with them in solidarity.’

Stephania Koulaeva, a human rights defender from Russia, explains the ever-expanding scope of her human rights work. Her organisation, Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial (ADC Memorial) is the only organisation in Russia that combats discrimination on such a wide range of issues, including women's rights, LGBTI rights and the protection of human rights defenders... more

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