From the Human Rights Council

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Date: 02/10/2007

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Human Rights Council discusses implementation of Vienna Declaration, technical assistance and capacity

(HREA-Moderator’s note: The United Nations Human Rights Council discussed the Vienna Declaration, capacity building and HRE during its sixth session, which just concluded. Below is a press release with the proceedings).

UNITED NATIONS Press release, 27 September 2007, Human Rights Council.

MORNING,

The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and on technical assistance and capacity building. Numerous delegations expressed concern about the situation in Myanmar and called for restraint and cessation of acts of violence against peaceful demonstrations.


In the general debate on follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, delegates said that these texts affirmed that the protection and promotion of all human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community. The promotion and protection of the right to development and the creation of an equitable economic environment demanded greater government resolve. The right to education was also a key element of the Vienna Declaration. It was important for the Council to take into account national and religious particularities to promote respect for diverse faiths and civilisations.

A large number of speakers expressed concern about the current developments in Myanmar, appealing to the authorities to exercise utmost restraint in handling demonstrations and reminding them of their responsibility under international law for the safety of all peaceful demonstrators. The speakers called on the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari; to engage in dialogue with members of the democratic opposition; and to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

On the agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building, delegations stressed that offers of technical assistance and capacity-building constituted one of the most efficient and effective means of protecting and promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. However, specific cultural, religious and development contexts needed to be taken into account in technical assistance and capacity building. When sensitivities were thus addressed, success in human rights promotion could be guaranteed. Also, one of the core elements of technical assistance was its voluntary nature.

Also this morning, in consideration of the review, rationalization and improvement of the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the African and Asian Groups requested the deferral of the discussion of the mandate of the Independent Expert, as well as consideration of L.19 to the next regular session of the Council.

Speaking this morning were the representatives of Egypt on behalf of the African Group, Sri Lanka on behalf of the Asian Group, Portugal on behalf of the European Union, Switzerland, Cuba, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Canada, Brazil, India, Slovenia, Netherlands, Philippines, Bangladesh, Peru, Republic of Korea, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Australia, Chile, Morocco, Finland, United States, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Costa Rica. A representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund also took the floor.

Also speaking were representatives of Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme; Friends World Committee for Consultation (QUAKER), on behalf of of several NGOs1; Interfaith International; International Service for Human Rights; Union de l’action féminine; International Federation of Social Workers; International Commission of Jurists; Soka Gakkai International; International Federation of University Women and International Alliance of Women.

The Human Rights Council will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to begin voting on draft resolutions and decisions before it suspends its sixth session on Friday, 28 September.

Review of Mandate of Independent Expert on Human Rights in Democratic Republic of the Congo

AMR ROSHDY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group wished to defer discussion of the review, rationalisation and improvement of the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as consideration of L.19, to the next regular session of the Council. It also wished to express appreciation for all regional groups that had indicated their support for the request.

SUMEDHA EKANAYAKE (Sri Lanka), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, seconded the proposal made by the Egyptian delegation.

AMR ROSHDY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, thanked the President and his correct recollection of events. As long as the situation was politicised, matters would still continue to go on like this. There was still a way to go before achieving universality of human rights. The African Group looked forward to the March session where the mandate of the Independent Expert on the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be reviewed.

General Debate on Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

FRANCISCO XAVIER ESTEVES (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action stated that all States were responsible for ensuring and promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. The protection and promotion of all human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community, and the European Union took this responsibility very seriously. In this context, the European Union was following with great concern events as they were currently unfolding in Burma/Myanmar. Freedom of expression and association were fundamental rights which should be guaranteed by all States. The European Union therefore called upon the Burmese authorities to respect these rights, and appealed to the authorities to exercise utmost restraint in handling demonstrations and reminded them of their responsibility under international law for the safety of all demonstrators. The Council should keep the situation under close review.

MURIEL BERSET KOHEN (Switzerland) said the Vienna Conference had reaffirmed the solemn duty of States to fulfil their human rights obligations in conformity with the United Nations Charter and other instruments. Switzerland was alarmed by recent events in Myanmar. Switzerland requested immediate cessation of acts of violence against peaceful demonstrations, release of political prisoners, and dialogue with the groups representing all the people of Myanmar. Myanmar should cooperate henceforth with all United Nations mechanisms.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights had marked an important and unique time in the history of human rights. It was no accident that at this conference the right to self-determination of persons was recognized. The Human Rights Council should give critical attention to this issue. An historic step had happened by creating this Council. The Universal Periodic Review would truly ensure universality of the human rights. All nations would be assessed through equal footing. The promotion of international cooperation in the field of human rights was important. There were important areas that required the attention of this Council. New issues were the protection of the third generation; recognizing the right to international solidarity; progressing towards a healthy environment and working on climate change and global warming.

MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action built a historic normative bridge between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two Covenants as well as several international conferences held in the 1990s which affirmed that the human person was the central subject of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The human person should actively participate in the realisation of these rights and freedoms. All human rights were universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. It was important for the Council to take into account national and religious particularities to promote respect for diverse faiths and civilisations. Poverty, deprivation and social exclusion led to extremism. There was a need to revive the spirit of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action to fight the growing defamation of religions, particularly its most pernicious form – Islamophobia. It was time the Council started to think about drafting an international convention on combating defamation of religions. The Council symbolised the international community’s resolve to ensure universality and faithful implementation, and the new Universal Periodic Review mechanism would be a giant step towards universalisation of the protection and promotion of human rights.

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada) said United Nations Member States had reaffirmed, through the Vienna Declaration, their solemn commitment to fulfil their obligations in promoting universal respect for human rights. Across Burma, thousands had come out on the streets to protest. Canada urged the Government of Myanmar to show restraint, engage in dialogue with members of the democratic opposition, respect all human rights and freedoms and release Aung San Su Kyi and other political prisoners. The Human Rights Council had a responsibility to address the situation.

SERGIO ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Draft UN Guidelines for the Appropriate Use and Conditions of Alternative Care for Children, said that the document was focused on the rights of children deprived of parental care. It was the result of a broad process of consultations between UNICEF and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The endorsement of the Committee on the Rights of the Child was welcomed. The issue should be addressed in the draft of the resolution on the rights of the child that would be presented by Portugal at the sixty-second session of the General Assembly. As coordinator of the Group, Brazil highlighted the importance that all regional groups created awareness of the Guidelines.

EVA TOMIC (Slovenia) said the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action affirmed that the protection and promotion of all human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community. In this spirit, Slovenia wished to express its concern regarding the ongoing developments in Myanmar. It was, together with the wider international community, following the situation very closely and with growing concern. Slovenia called upon the authorities to refrain from using violence in any form against the protestors, and to allow for a full exercise of the fundamental freedom of expression and assembly of the Myanmar people. The authorities should engage in constructive cooperation with relevant United Nations human rights and other mechanisms, and should allow for a broad and open national reconciliation process, with due respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The authorities in Myanmar should also release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.

SWASHPAWAN SINGH (India) said the delegation of India was concerned about events in Myanmar and was monitoring the situation there. India hoped for a peaceful solution through dialogue and a process of broad-based national reconciliation and political reform.

BOUDEWIJN J. VAN EENENNAAM (Netherlands) said that the Vienna Declaration stated that all States were encouraged to promote human rights. In this context, the Netherlands followed with deep concern the events in Myanmar. The call of the people of Myanmar for democracy was supported. During his last visit to the country, the Independent Expert had urged the Burmese authorities not to use force. When human rights were violated, the Human Rights Council had the obligation to react and act.

ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines) said the Philippines attached great importance to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all was embodied in this historic document. The Council should note that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called for the realisation of the right to development. To date, this right to development still suffered from a lack of attention from the international community and Member States. This year, and in succeeding years, all should work together to ensure that the right to development was given to the peoples who were members of the United Nations. With regards to the right to health, the international community had worked hard to help those afflicted with leprosy, but there was still social stigma attached to the afflicted, and the Government of the Philippines joined all those who were working to stamp this out. The Council should pay particular attention to this group.

MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was a milestone. It was necessary to combat torture on the one hand, but equally important to tackle hunger and ensure none were deprived of their rights on the basis of race, creed or other characteristics on the other. It was important to step up international cooperation on protection for human rights. Tackling poverty through the promotion and protection of the right to development demanded greater government resolve, and the creation of an equitable economic environment was critical.

DONG-HEE CHANG (Republic of Korea) reaffirmed the commitment of the Republic of Korea to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The Republic of Korea was concerned about the current situation in Myanmar. It called on the Government of Myanmar to restrain its use of force. The people of Myanmar should be able to proceed with the democratisation of the country in a peaceful way.

ALEJANDRO NEYRA SANCHEZ (Peru) said Peru was concerned about the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Peru was worried about the violent repression of demonstrations, which had claimed lives according to reliable sources. Excessive use of force, detention of peaceful demonstrations and abuse of force were only some of the human rights violations. The Government of Peru firmly supported the good offices of the Envoy sent by the United Nations Secretary-General, namely Ibrahim Gambari, and his visit to Myanmar was important. The Government of that country should welcome him, and should respect fully all human rights, including the right to peaceful demonstration.

HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan) said Japan had been calling on the Myanmar Government to exercise restraint. Japan hoped the problems would be solved through dialogue and that Myanmar would cooperate with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General.

HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said that the Vienna Declaration recalled that the protection of human rights should the first preoccupation of governments. Sweden condemned the situation in Myanmar and the violent repression currently taking place. Persons should be protected from human rights violations. The Myanmar authorities should retrain from the use of force. An inter-political dialogue should take place.

WEGGER STROMMEN (Norway) said according to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the protection and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms should be considered as a priority objective of the United Nations and a legitimate concern of the international community. The Government of Myanmar should refrain from all use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, and take a forward-looking approach, and start an inclusive dialogue with the opposition and representatives of ethnic groups. Norway condemned the gross and systematic violations of human rights in Myanmar, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees and political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The Government should respect its international obligations, and cooperate fully with the United Nations human rights and development mechanisms.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said New Zealand had been concerned by developments in Fiji, including emergency regulations that were a further obstacle to the restoration of democracy. Human rights violations in Fiji were continuing and deaths in police custody were of special concern. The current leadership of the Fiji National Human Rights Institution had compromised its credibility and New Zealand regretted the withdrawal of the Fiji Human Rights Commission from participation in regional and global meetings.

New Zealand again urged restraint in Myanmar. Peaceful protest was a fundamental human rights and it was unacceptable to use violence in the suppression of these demonstrations.

MICHAEL TIERNEY (Ireland) said that Ireland was gravely concerned about the current situation in Myanmar. The use of physical force against monks who were exercising their basic rights of freedom of expression was a grave violation. The Government of Myanmar was urged to meet their longstanding promises to the people. The Government of Myanmar should work in cooperation with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy.

MOUSSA B. NEBIE (Burkina Faso) said that in support of the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international community had adopted the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which required all stakeholders to become more involved in the protection and promotion of human rights all over the world, and had led the international community to enter into a more decisive phase with regards to human rights. However, there were economic, political, social and cultural disparities within the world. Burkina Faso had, in this regard, created a number of institutions in order to promote human rights, as well as taking other important measures, and reforming the judiciary. However, whatever the efforts of the Government, these were not enough to respond to the needs of population with regards to human rights. For Burkina Faso, this was mainly due to a lack of resources, which impeded the full realisation of commitments in the field of human rights. The international community should continue its efforts of cooperation and assistance for effective enjoyment of human rights everywhere in the world.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria) said the Vienna World Conference was a watershed in the diplomatic agenda. Transformation of institutional structures was one of its results, and the staging of other World Conferences, on women, population and other issues, another. But the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had not received the same treatment as these in that there had not been subsequent reviews of progress made. Reform in relation to the Human Rights Council, especially the Universal Periodic Review, had been a progressive measure but was insufficient if not accompanied by the engagements agreed on in Vienna in 1993.

CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said that the Vienna Declaration contained landmark global human rights commitments. It had foreshadowed important elements in the current system. Human rights challenges had to be met through effective and credible action in the Council. National institutions did and could work at the grass roots level to protect and promote human rights in tangible ways. It was pleasing to see robust, independent institutions established in many regions. But it required vigilance. In Fiji it remained of serious concern that the independence of the national human rights commission had been compromised. In Sri Lanka the existing national institution had an important role to play in ensuring effective monitoring of the situation. Ensuring the independence of national institutions required governments to work cooperatively. This could help States achieve their duty under the Vienna Declaration. Also the Government of Burma should ensure that international standards of human rights were afforded to all its citizens.

JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said Chile was greatly concerned about situations where the freedom and dignity of peoples were under threat. With regards to the situation in Myanmar, Chile condemned and rejected any attempt to restrict the freedoms and human rights of the people of that country, and called upon the Government of Myanmar to refrain from any forms of violence against peaceful citizens. The principle of fundamental freedoms was vital for the rule of law and the democratic system. Chile, at the last General Assembly, had voted in favour of the resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and had urged its Government to allow participation of all political parties, and to resume dialogue forthwith with all political players. The time had come for Myanmar to implement a peaceful transition towards democracy – this could begin by freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners. The international community would appreciate such a gesture.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was of great importance as a road map to promoting and protecting human rights. It had given voices to non-governmental organizations and national human rights bodies and Morocco supported all constructive contributions from these quarters. Political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights were interdependent. The right to education had been a key element of the Vienna Declaration and human rights education was a particularly valuable area that Morocco was actively developing at the national level. Equal opportunities and fundamental rights of women was another area of activity.

PEKKA METSO (Finland) emphasised that in the Vienna Declaration, States confirmed their will to support human rights and that the promotion and protection of human rights had to be a priority of the United Nations. States had also agreed that the Council should work towards the prevention of human rights violations. Finland was following the situation in Myanmar with great concern. It was important to urge the Government to exercise restraint and to recall that it would be made accountable for everyone’s life.

WARREN W. TICHENOR (United States) said the United States admired those who struggled for human rights throughout the world, and had often urged the Council to enlarge its focus to consider a number of urgent human rights situations. The situation in Burma was of concern, in particular the reports of the armed forces shooting at and attacking peaceful demonstrations. The junta was called upon to exercise restraint, and stop the violence. It should release immediately and unconditionally those who had been imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views. The regime should immediately begin a genuine dialogue with its own people. The Council should take strong action to underscore, clearly and unequivocally, that Burma should fulfil its human rights obligations to allow peaceful protest and grant citizens their freedom.

CAROLINE BAKKER, of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said there were currently no international instruments providing clear guidance to those seeking to improve the protection of children without parental care. This gap was recognized by UNICEF and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and there had been much participation in the issue from governments and international organizations, non-governmental organizations and academics. The initiative by Brazil to take this issue forward was very encouraging, and the draft guidelines were to be commended and supported by the international community and the Human Rights Council.

KATHARINA ROSE, of Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme, said that national institutions were bodies established under national legislation for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights. They were an indispensable part of a strong national human rights protection system. The Vienna Conference marked a historical moment in the recognition and promotion of the concept of national institutions and had reaffirmed the constructive role they played. International support for their establishment and strengthening was seen as on key element to improve the domestic situation. The attention and support given by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in this matter was highly valued.

RACHEL BRETT, of Friends World Committee for Consultation (QUAKER), on behalf of of several NGOs(1), said millions of children around the world grew up without the care of their parents and even more were at risk of losing this care. The international community should cooperate in devising guidelines for the appropriate use and conditions of alternative care for children. A working group of international non-governmental organizations had developed a first draft of such guidelines, in cooperation with UNICEF and with broad consultation. There should be global backing, especially from the Human Rights Council, to enable these to be adopted by the General Assembly in 2008.

SIDATI EL GHALLAONI, of Interfaith International, said that in Morocco, there had been real progress on several fronts, and genuine emancipation in terms of human rights. Morocco had been courageous and self-critical in reviewing its human rights performance. The body concerned with equality and conciliation had opened up to multiple voices across the country, and there was greater recognition for the rights of women, rights to education and schooling, and to healthy childhood. This was an example of how the spirit of Vienna could be implemented.

CHRIS SIDOTI, of International Service for Human Rights, said that the Vienna Declaration remained a common basis for human rights work at all levels. Its recognition of the universality of human rights was unquestionable. The Declaration had made important recommendations. At the national level, the establishment of national institutions had been supported. This had led to the four or five fold increase in their number. The High Commissioner’s support in this matter had also been critical. The Council was urged to continue the Commission’s practice of annually considering the role and contributions of these institutions. The Vienna Declaration had also affirmed the importance of the continuation of the Special Procedures and thus the Council should take a continuous interest in them.

GAJMOULA EBBI, of Union de l’action féminine, said thousands of non-governmental organizations carried out hard work in civil society aimed at publishing the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action with the aim of improving the situation of human rights. In Morocco, enormous improvements and reforms in this context had taken place, including on the rights of the child. Any society and any people which wished to be free and live in prosperity should try to consolidate and strengthen their efforts along these lines, and work to achieve a free and just society. Major progress had been made in this respect in Morocco, however, there was concern for the situation of women and children living in the Tinduf camps, and there should be a final, just solution to be found in this regard, a real peace.

JOSEPH WRONKA, of International Association of Schools of Social Work, said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had made tackling extreme poverty a key issue, and had established the important role of non-governmental organizations in protecting and promoting human rights. Governments should provide more funds for non-governmental organizations to attend the Council’s meetings. The Declaration had also emphasized that abuse of children should be actively combated, including paying due attention to exploitative advertising, media violence, poor diet, consumerism and alienation.

LUKAS MACHON, of International Commission of Jurists, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action stipulated the responsibility of Governments to provide prevention and protection against violations of human rights. The Council’s attention was called to the situation in Myanmar. The recent arrests of peaceful protestors were condemned. The Human Rights Council, along with other UN bodies, were called to act decisively in order to prevent the bloodshed in Myanmar. The Government should be condemned for the continuing violations of human rights. It should cease to use violence and should cooperate with the UN Secretary-General’s envoy. First hand evidence should be submitted to the Council no later than 31 October 2007.

General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

CARLOS PEREIRA MARQUES (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Council had the mandate and the responsibility to address situations of human rights violations. One of the main tools it had to help alleviating existing problems was its ability to combine addressing human rights situations with offers of technical assistance and capacity-building, which constituted one of the most efficient and effective means of protecting and promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. One of the core elements of technical assistance was its voluntary nature. There was a need for a structured process with benchmarks and a time frame. Liberia, Burundi, Haiti, Nepal, and Colombia were examples where international cooperation to protect and promote human rights was producing very satisfactory results. Cooperation and technical assistance should be based on a mutual commitment to common values, such as democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance and sustainable development.

AMEER AJWAD OMER LEBBE (Sri-Lanka) said that the Human Rights Council had a clear mandate to start afresh to think of technical cooperation in order to avoid reverting to the past practice of the Commission, which had the topic previously linked to the imposing of resolutions mostly against developing countries. There was a solid platform to bring a new development dimension in this matter. Such technical cooperation should be demand driven, based on beneficiaries’ needs. It should be provided in consultation with the concerned Member State and with its consent. The overall objective should aim at enhancing the endogenous capacity of the receiving State to identify and address critical human rights problems. The capacity building of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should focus on enhancing developing countries’ own capacities for the development of their national protection system, for it’s design and implementation and for the development of human rights strategies. Sri Lanka had benefited from various technical cooperation programmes of the OHCHR.

IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI (Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the fundamental principle was that technical assistance and capacity building should be provided at the request of the State concerned. Specific cultural, religious and development contexts needed to be taken into account in technical assistance and capacity building. When sensitivities were addressed, success in human rights promotion could be guaranteed. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should make use of experts capable of addressing country-specific needs. In opening country offices, the consent of the host country was not the only requirement. Countries of the region should also be consulted on the venue and mandate.

IDHAM MUSA MOKTAR (Malaysia) said the Human Rights Council’s founding resolution recognised that the protection and promotion of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue. They should be aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States to comply with their human rights obligations. While technical assistance and capacity-building could and did play a very useful role in improving the protection and promotion of human rights at the national level, a number of principles should always be borne in mind – chief of these was the importance of ensuring that the provision of technical assistance and capacity building was undertaken in consultation with and with the consent of the country concerned. It was hoped that the intended goal of ensuring the enjoyment by all people of all human rights, including the right to development, would move closer to a reality.

MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said that technical assistance and capacity building was important notably for least developed countries. The Universal Periodic Review was another remarkable addition to the human rights system. A variety of problems could lead these countries to be unable to respond to their obligations, especially under the Universal Periodic Review. The international community should help them in this context. The capacity of States to enjoy human rights overall should be supported. But the county itself should decide if it needed such help or not.

CHRISTOFFER BERG (Sweden) said that the General Assembly had decided that technical assistance and capacity building should be one of the Council’s main tasks. How could the Council monitor its work in these areas? How could it become perceptive to gaps and emerging requirements? A central task would be managing the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review process. While these would not generate an overall master plan for each country, they would have crosscutting pertinence and value to the technical assistance issue and the Council should be aware of the need to grasp this.

LAURA THOMPSON (Costa Rica) said human rights education was an instrument for promoting human rights values and beliefs which allowed all persons to implement their rights. This was a long-term undertaking, the effects of which permeated society as a whole, and contributed to the dignity of all, promoting participation in a society where the human rights of all were respected. The World Programme for Human Rights Education was an excellent means to promote human rights by means of introducing a concrete strategy and providing a framework for concrete action and a network for grass-roots contribution. Capacity building for organizations working in education was therefore important. States, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations should support and encourage the implementation of the first phase of the Action Plan for the World Programme.

MOUSSA B. NEBIE (Burkina Faso) said that the achievement of sustainable progress in human rights needed a rational national and international policy. The reinforcing and maintaining of the Special Procedures was important. The role of civil society on the ground was also important. Special attention should be given to countries undergoing a crisis. Human rights education was one of the best ways to ensure the achievement of a sustainable human rights promotion.

JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said it was undeniable that there was great economic and social fragility in many developing countries and that these factors generated instability and uncertainty from a human rights perspective. A hurricane or epidemic could easily tip a fragile situation over the brink. In this regard, technical assistance and capacity building mandates should be continued and international cooperation should be stepped up. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be strengthened to achieve this. Chile supported the initiative of Costa Rica on universal human rights education.

KAZUNARI FUJII, of Soka Gakkai International, said the proposal of Costa Rica to extend for two more years the first phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education was supported. The initial three years had not been sufficient for the focused implementation of the first phase, and the extension was appropriate and necessary. The extension would enable all actors and civil society to promote the dissemination and the development of human rights education tools, so as to make information about human rights protection available in all countries. Member States should continue consideration of human rights education and learning in the future sessions of the Human Rights Council.

CONCHITA PONCINI, of International Federation of University Women, in a joint statement, said that education was an entry point for individual beings to develop their ability to understand what it meant to be a good citizen. But one could not perform in a vacuum. Education had to be given in a certain context. In pursuit of effective capacity building for human rights, the Human Rights Council was called to promote human rights education in primary and secondary school at all levels. It was also at the primary and secondary levels of education where the basic principles of gender equality and non-discrimination were the most effective entry point for the understanding of the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

HELENE SACKSTEIN, of International Alliance of Women, said education, particularly human rights education, was the most effective preventive tool against human rights violations. There should be universal consensus to support and promote human rights education. Children might then become sensitive adults, aware and respectful of their roles and the roles of others, regardless of skin colour, gender, religious affiliation or place of birth. The Council should consider developing ways to assess implementation of the World Programme of Human Rights Education and integrate this into the Universal Periodic Review.

Note:

(1) Joint statement on behalf of: Friends World Committee for Consultation (QUAKER); of SOS – Kinderdorf International; ECPAT International; Foster Care Organization International; Plan International Norway; International Save the Children Alliance; International Alliance of Women; and International Federation of Social Workers.

(For use of the information media; not an official record).

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