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FeaturesUN-Sri LankaUNHRC adopts ( 32 in Favour , 15 Abstain ) resolution to ensure Civil Society participation at UN bodies

UNHRC adopts ( 32 in Favour , 15 Abstain ) resolution to ensure Civil Society participation at UN bodies

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The Council reaffirms the right of everyone to unhindered access to and communication with international bodies; and urges States to take all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of intimidation or reprisals. ”

Action on Resolution on Cooperation with the United Nations, its Representatives and Mechanisms in the Field of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.17/Rev.1)OpenElement on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 1 against and 15 abstentions, as orally revised, 

The Council reaffirms the right of everyone to unhindered access to and communication with international bodies; and urges States to take all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of intimidation or reprisals. 

The Council requests the Secretary-General to designate a United Nations-wide senior focal point to engage with all stakeholders, in particular Member States, to promote the prevention of, protection against and accountability for reprisals and intimidation related to cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms, and to encourage a prompt and effective unified response to such acts; 

Requests all representatives and mechanisms of the United Nations to continue to include in their respective reports to the Council or to the General Assembly a reference to credible allegations of intimidation or reprisal, as well as an account of action they have taken in this regard.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (31): Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Libya, Maldives, Montenegro, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Sierra Leone, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, and United States.

Against (1): Gabon. ( Later apologised for mistaken against vote  and said they want to recored a YES vote.- SLB)

Abstentions (15): Angola, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Separate votes were held on amendments to the resolution – L.40, L.41, L.43, L.44, L.46, L.47 and L.48 and on a paragraph – and they were all rejected.

Hungary,
introducing draft resolution L.17 on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, said the Council had to recognise that intimidation and reprisals against those who were cooperating with the United Nations could undermine the credibility and the well functioning of the organization as a whole. Several delegations had suggested the appointment of a United Nations system wide senior focal point to address these issues in a systematic and coherent manner, to better prevent reprisals and to promote protection against and accountability for these acts. Hungary appreciated the Secretary-General’s personal dedication to the matter. The focal point would be an existing high-level person within the United Nations structure, responsible for providing a unified and coordinated response from the United Nations system to all alleged cases of intimidation and reprisals. According to the Secretary-General’s reports, there were more and more cases and so it was clear that there was a need for continued dialogue on these issues. The co-sponsors found it very important that States, apart from adopting specific legislation to combat reprisals and issuing guidance to national authorities in this regard, contributed to the better understanding by the international community of this detrimental phenomenon that threatened the very essence of the United Nations system. Hungary made oral revisions to the text.

Russia, introducing amendments L.40, L.42 and L.49 to the resolution, expressed regret that an amendment had to be submitted to such an important draft resolution. It was particularly difficult because Russia saw cooperation as the founding principle of the work of the United Nations and a gauge for the effectiveness of the work of the organization. The main authors of the draft seemed unwilling to carry out an equal dialogue and a number of States remained unheard. There had been no other choice than to submit a formal amendment to the text. Amendment L.40 underscored that such cooperation was important in the work of the United Nations. The proposal was the sole paragraph which referred to cooperation while the resolution itself talked about the cooperation with the United Nations and its mechanisms. Russia withdrew amendments L.42 and L.49 from consideration of the Council.

Venezuela, introducing amendment L.41, said that it considered that this could contribute to consensus on the draft resolution. Cooperation with the United Nations system was crucial for the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world. It was important that the amendments be supported to give greater equilibrium to the text and contribute to the institutional package which should be the hallmark of the Human Rights Council.

China, introducing amendments to L.17 on behalf of a group of countries, welcomed the participation of non-governmental organizations in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures of the United Nations to cooperate constructively and to promote human rights. Cooperation with the United Nations should be based on the provision of reliable information. If some organizations provided unsubstantiated information, this would only overburden the system. Regrettably, the co-sponsors did not accept the amendments proposed by China in order to ensure that the text was balanced. Civil society was only one part of all stakeholders.

India, introducing amendments to L.17 on behalf of a group of countries, thanked the co-sponsors for their flexibility and for having made changes to the draft resolution in line with comments of like-minded countries. In a spirit of constructive cooperation, India made oral revisions.

Pakistan, introducing amendment L.47 to the resolution, said that it supported the spirit of the resolution in its entirety. Governments had to take appropriate measures at the national level to address acts of intimation and reprisals against persons that had cooperated with the United Nations and its mechanisms. The decision should be left with the respective Governments. There was likelihood that countries already had such mechanisms in place to address the issue. The amendment precisely addressed the issue.

Ireland, speaking as a sponsor on behalf of the main sponsor Hungary, said that the participation by civil society in the Human Rights Council was vital to the work of the Council and to the United Nations as a whole. They all had an obligation to ensure that engagement took place without intimidation or reprisals. It was clear that a pro-active and coherent approach was needed. The Human Rights Council had a responsibility to address such cases of intimidations and reprisals. With regards to L.40, following negotiations, this proposal would be acceptable with one modification. On L.41, the President of the Council had the responsibility to ensure the proper functioning of the Council. On L.43, the sponsors continued to believe that everyone had the right to unhindered access to and communication with sub-regional, regional and international bodies without fear, intimidation or reprisals. A new right was not being created. On L.44, they did not believe that the paragraph had a place in the resolution and had to be rejected. The Council did have the responsibility to address human rights issues not just within the context of the Council but also throughout the entire United Nations system. It was important to underscore that appointment of a focal point did not imply the creation of a new mechanism. There was no need for the proposed amendment L.47.

Ethiopia, in a general comment, supported the amendments put forward by India, which would enable the resolution to take into consideration the concerns of many delegations.

Switzerland, in a general comment, said that civil society made it possible for the Council and other United Nations mechanisms to keep in touch with reality. The protection of members of civil society needed to be a priority. Therefore Switzerland fully supported the adoption of the draft resolution as put forward by Hungary. The appointment of a Focal Point would be useful to monitor and prevent reprisals or intimidation directed against individuals who had cooperated with the United Nations. Acts of intimidations and reprisals against civil society were unacceptable. Civil society should be able to communicate freely with the United Nations. Therefore, Switzerland would vote against the proposed amendments.

Germany, in a general comment, said that it was regrettable that traditional consensus was now seriously challenged and that such a resolution at the United Nations level was being met with such strong opposition. The debate was being watched by civil societies all over the world. Several of them made their position very clear and they were commended for their courageous stance. Germany supported the resolution and opposed all amendments.

Austria, in a general comment, said that it found it sad that consensus on this topic might be seriously challenged. Only a few days ago, the Secretary-General had re-emphasized that intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with the United Nations was unacceptable. Austria was firmly convinced that the Council had the responsibility to address human rights issues not just within the context of the Council but also throughout the entire United Nations system. The focal point did not imply the creation of a new mechanism and it was recalled that the Secretary-General had himself said that it was time to go beyond reporting.

Maldives, in a general comment, said that last year’s panel on the issue of reprisals provided a number of insights. The purpose of the resolution was not to establish new mechanisms but to ensure that the existing ones were effective and efficient. The proper functioning of the Council required the participation of civil society. The appointment of a focal point would be a step forward in the right direction to protect civil society from reprisals. Maldives fully supported the original draft as proposed by Hungary and would vote against all amendments.

Costa Rica, in a general comment, said this issue was truly important to the Council. The active participation of civil society in the activities of the Council had to be free and safe. The Council gave a voice to people suffering from human rights violations. The issue was crucial to the political message which the Council sent to civil society and States, especially those who committed acts of intimidation or reprisals against civil society delegates. What was the point of the work carried out by the Council if it had no impact on the ground? There were a significant number of amendments proposed and if one looked carefully at them, they completely watered down the resolution. Costa Rica would vote against all of the amendments and appealed to the Council to adopt this important text as tabled by Hungary.

Switzerland,
in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.41, said the role of the President had frequently been discussed during informal consultations and it seemed that diverging views were irreconcilable. Preventing intimidation and reprisals was an organizational and procedural matter. Switzerland would vote against this amendment.

Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.44, said that it may be evident that civil society had the responsibility of submitting credible information, but accepting this in the draft resolution would be sending the wrong signal. Switzerland would vote against draft amendment L.44.

India, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it had earnestly engaged during the negotiation of this draft resolution. Unfortunately, the main sponsors of the resolution could not accommodate India’s proposals. India supported the theme of this resolution and firmly believed that reprisals against civil society were unacceptable and had to be addressed. However, a United Nations wide mechanism such as the focal point was not necessary. The Council should establish that the numerous existing human rights mechanisms were not able to address this question. The focal point would have an overview of the United Nations system as a whole and this decision should be taken by the General Assembly. The Human Rights Council was not the competent body to appoint a mechanism, which would deal with other United Nations bodies that did not deal with human rights. Such an action of the Council would be violating the institution-building package. The appointment would carry with it huge financial implications as a new senior post would be created. The General Assembly, where all countries were represented, was the appropriate body that should take such decisions. India requested a vote on operative paragraph 9 and would abstain. India also requested a vote on paragraph 8 and would vote against it.

Indonesia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its firm position that human rights should be enjoyed by all. Taking into consideration the nature of reprisals, the issue needed an unqualified response from the international community. However, this issue needed more comprehensive discussions at the General Assembly, which would ensure a unified response to this issue. Indonesia regretted the attitude adopted by the main sponsors, which was counter-productive and led to distrust among partners. Indonesia could not support this draft resolution and would regretfully abstain on this resolution.

Switzerland,
in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.41, said the role of the President had frequently been discussed during informal consultations and it seemed that diverging views were irreconcilable. Preventing intimidation and reprisals was an organizational and procedural matter. Switzerland would vote against this amendment.

Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.44, said that it may be evident that civil society had the responsibility of submitting credible information, but accepting this in the draft resolution would be sending the wrong signal. It would vote against draft amendment L.44.

India,
in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it had earnestly engaged during the negotiation of this draft resolution. Unfortunately, the main sponsors of the resolution could not accommodate India’s proposals. India supported the theme of this resolution and firmly believed that reprisals against civil society were unacceptable and had to be addressed. However, a United Nations wide mechanism such as the focal point was not necessary. The Council should establish that the numerous existing human rights mechanisms were not able to address this question. The focal point would have an overview of the United Nations system as a whole and this decision should be taken by the General Assembly. The Human Rights Council was not the competent body to appoint a mechanism, which would deal with other United Nations bodies that did not deal with human rights. Such an action of the Council would be violating the institution-building package. The appointment would carry with it huge financial implications as a new senior post would be created. The General Assembly, where all countries were represented, was the appropriate body that should take such decisions. India requested a vote on operative paragraph 9 and would abstain. India also requested a vote on paragraph 8 and would vote against.

Indonesia,
in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its firm position that human rights should be enjoyed by all. Taking into consideration the nature of reprisals, the issue needed an unqualified response by the international community. However, this issue needed more comprehensive discussions at the General Assembly, which would ensure a unified response to this issue. Indonesia regretted the attitude adopted by the main sponsors, which was counter-productive and led to distrust among partners. Indonesia could not support this draft resolution and would regretfully abstain on this resolution.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it supported all the arguments set forth with regards to operative paragraph 8.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that most people would like a clarification as to whether the vote was for the amendment as proposed, rather than on the paragraph.

REMIGIUSCZ A. HENCZEL, President of the Human Rights Council, said they were voting on operative paragraph 8. Delegations in favour of the paragraph were voting yes, and those that were for its deletion could vote against.

Operative paragraph 8 of L.17/Rev.1 was retained after a vote, upon the request for a separate vote by India, supported by Venezuela.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the situation was slightly complicated. It requested a vote on the resolution in its totality. It deplored that despite all efforts made, the main promoters of the initiative kept their intransigent position and did not take into account the various proposals made to find a balanced text which was acceptable to all.

Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had constructively engaged with co-sponsors of the resolution. Unfortunately, its concerns were not accepted. Proliferation and duplication of mechanisms was not helpful, especially at a time when the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was facing funding issues. Appointment of a focal person should have been further discussed with the broader United Nations membership. Pakistan would abstain during the vote.

Malaysia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the title of the draft resolution under consideration did not reflect accurately the content of the text. Malaysia was supportive of the objective of the draft resolution; however it could have been improved by including alternative wordings. This issue should be discussed by the General Assembly, especially with regard to the details of the mandate of the envisaged Focal Point. Malaysia would abstain on draft resolution L.17.

Draft resolution L.17 was adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 15 abstentions, 1 against.

Gabon said that it was keen on the protection of human rights and United Nations mechanisms and apologized to the Council. There was a mistake in the vote. The instructions given were to vote in favour of draft resolution L.17/Rev.1 and Gabon would like it to be recorded that it voted yes in the draft resolution.
OHCHR

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