Week Two of the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council

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GENEVA – The second week of the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council focused on the promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. A number of Special Procedures mandate holders presented their reports to the Council including:

Mr. Oliver De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

He felt encouraged by the measures taken by States over the last years with regards to implementing the right to food. The fact that it was given a prominent position in the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development was a sign of their proven commitment. However, without strong tools for accountability, the goals will not make a difference for the world’s most marginalized populations, he said.

The main focus of the report is women’s right to food and the obstacles they face in access to employment, social protection and the productive resources needed for food production. In his report, Mr De Schutter underlines that gender equality is even more important today given the feminization of agriculture. Time consuming unpaid domestic burdens are obstacles for women's enhanced responsibility for household economics, he said. In order to reduce hunger and malnutrition, he recommended that States support women as farmers and strengthen their bargaining position in the household by better diversion with regards to household tasks.

Ms. Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing

Marginalized groups including refugees, migrants, minorities and indigenous women are often subject to tenure insecurity, she said. The crisis manifests itself in various forms including displacement, forced evictions and human rights abuses. In the absence of an international agreed definition of tenure, standard setting for State’s are incomplete with regards to how long and where a tenant can live in a given accommodation.

Ms. Rolnik also emphasized the detrimental impact of conflict and natural disasters on tenure security. Another area of concern was the issue of land grabbing. It is a big factor contributing to the insecurity of tenure and affects many of the millions of urban dwellers living under insecure arrangements. She called upon the international community to develop more specific and comprehensive human rights and operational guidelines on security of tenure.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue

Botswana, Senegal and Sierra Leone underlined that women are often the main breadwinners in families while also being most affected by food insecurity. All factors that hamper women’s access to food must be analyzed and actions taken. In this regard, enhanced public awareness and public education remain key to dismantle obstacles, they said. Switzerland maintained that is was of highest importance to challenge the distribution of domestic roles between men and women and to include a holistic gender approach when dealing with food security. On the other hand, Egypt and Pakistan argued that it is no solution to forcibly alter arrangements that men and women voluntarily have assumed in the domestic area.

Thailand echoed the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing saying that forced evictions remain a crucial combat in terms of tenure insecurity. Venezuela, working to confront the housing deficit in the country, emphasized that secure tenure is a fundamental part of the right to adequate housing. However, USA maintained that the right to tenure is not a right under international human rights law.

Mr. Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture

His report focused on abuses in health-care settings. It states that women are particular vulnerable to violations labeled as health treatment. Such violations include denial of medical services linked to abortion and female genital mutilation. People with disabilities constitute another vulnerable group which often face discrimination by medical institutions. Mr. Mendez said that solitary confinement and deprivation of liberty grounded on disability is to be considered as inhuman treatment and torture. Moreover, he urged States to ban all non-consensual and forced medical interventions and recommended them to combat homophobic ill-treatment including forced sterilization.

Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Her report focused on the essential role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) defending and promoting human rights. In their mandate to fight against impunity and promote policy change and mainstreaming in favor of human rights, NHRIs complying with the Paris Principles can be considered human rights defenders in their own right, she said. In order for them to be credible it is key that they are independent from States and enjoy a robust mandate. Furthermore they should be able to receive and follow up on individual complaints, said the Special Rapporteur.

She recommended States to publicly recognize and support staff of NHRIs and refrain from unduly interfering with the independence and autonomy of NHRIs. Turning to civil society she urged NGOs to advocate for the establishment of NHRIs fully compliant with the Paris Principles in countries where such institutions do not yet exist.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue

Cuba argued that the right to health is denied to millions of peoples due to an unjust world order and argued that the Special Rapporteur based her report on dubious facts. Russia and Egypt regretted that, in their view, the Special Rapporteur aims at redefining the crime of torture and its scope. This will only weaken the international consensus on the issue, they said. Austria, Denmark, Estonia and USA took the opposite standpoint, commending her for broadening the scope of ill-treatment and focus on marginalized groups.

Algeria, Egypt, Gabon and Pakistan highlighted that activities of NHRIs must be in line with national legislation. Human rights defenders are not a particular rights group enjoying immunity from the jurisdiction, they said. Belarus regretted that Ms. Sekaggya was not able to define the differences between human rights defenders, political activists and terrorists. India took the floor saying it was unfortunate that human rights defenders focus their work on civil and political rights while largely ignoring economic, social and cultural rights.

States including Australia reiterated Ms Sekaggyas call for NHRIs to be considered as human rights defenders and expressed alongside Austria, Estonia, Norway and Slovenia the need to sensitize governments to the important work of NHRIs and other human rights defenders. Belgium, Costa Rica, Czech Republic and Poland were all deeply concerned that too many States leave the Special Rapporteurs' requests for visits unheeded and urged them to cooperate effectively.


Further presentations during the week included reports by:

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