Highlights: Week Two of the 20th Session of the HRC

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.

This week began with interactive dialogues on independence of judges and lawyers, trafficking and violence against women. The Human Rights Council also held its annual day of discussion on women's human rights. On Wednesday debate was focused on the human rights situations in Syria and Belarus, and the week finished with a panel on the promotion and protection of human rights in a multicultural context and a general debate on the UPR. Here are some more details about a selection of meetings from this week:

Interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women

The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women highlighted the issue of traditional practices which are harmful towards women and the difficulty of eliminating both these and gender stereotypes.  She focused on domestic violence in Jordan, Italy and Somalia and called for these states to combat violence against women at the institutional level. During the general debate, states concurred that the achievement of gender equality is an important aspect of the elimination of violence against women.

Interactive dialogue on Syria

The dialogue began with the statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who called for an end to all violence in Syria and said she was 'gravely concerned' about the deteriorating situation. The Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the UN & the League of Arab States, Jean Marie Guehenno stated that the Action Group on Syria aims to convene in Geneva on 30th June to discuss a solution to the crisis, at ministerial level. The Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented their report, acknowledging both government and anti-government forces' violence, but nevertheless holding the government responsible for the escalation of the conflict through its repression of protests.  A general debate followed, in which many states called for the observance of the 6 point peace plan.  There was a clear division between states who support regime change (including the European Union) and those who reject foreign intervention in Syria's internal politics.

''Time is running out...the people of Syria desperately need the international community to come together now...before it is too late'' Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the UN & League of Arab States

Panel on human rights in a multicultural context

The Human Rights Council held a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in a multicultural context, including through combating xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance. It was underlined that growing multicultural societies include persons of diverse backgrounds based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. 
Panelist Mr. Singh, from the University of London, pointed out that both weak and strong democracies have to strengthen their mechanism to protect cultural (ethnic) minorities in accepting norms of human rights. In this context, he mentioned that European Union States' debate about national values and increased integration, reinforcing the rights of the national community, can lead to the exclusion of others as minorities; the rise of islamophobia is a problematic consequence of this process. To avoid this, states recommended awareness campaigns via education, culture, sport and media.

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