The Human Rights Council concluded its 27th regular session last week after adopting 32 resolutions on a wide range of issues. Here is the essential.
Civil society space
In a very important resolution, the Human Rights Council calls on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a compilation of practical recommendations to States to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society could operate free from reprisals and insecurity.
The resolution, adopted by consensus, urges States to expand and protect space for civil society, at home and globally, and emphasises the crucial role of a strong and independent civil society in promoting democracy, development and the rule of law. It also condemns the continuing use of laws, such as those relating to counter-terrorism or limiting access to funding, to restrict and criminalise the vital work of activists and NGOs.
Such a resolution is of the utmost importance in the current context of ongoing attacks and reprisals against women’s human rights defenders and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) rights advocates.
Sexual orientation and gender identity
In a ground-breaking resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, adopted by a vote of 25 in favour, 14 against and 7 abstentions, the Council expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to update its report called Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity with a view to sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination.
This resolution follows up on the previous resolution adopted in June 2011, when the Council passed the first ever UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This resolution was introduced by Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay and sponsored by 42 other States. This Latin American leadership on the topic of LGBTI rights reflects the positive steps taken by these countries to promote the universality of these rights, which are not new rights, unlike what certain countries such as Egypt or Pakistan have been stating repeatedly during this session.
We have seen an increasing polarisation of the Human Rights Council over this issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. States such as Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia or Iran emphasised a cultural approach against LGBTI rights, while such rights are universal human rights that should not be infringed by any culture. Every single individual on the planet should enjoy the same rights, regardless of their cultural background.
“Protection” of the family
Once again, the issue of protection of the family has provoked many discussions, both at the Council and in side events. States such as Russia and Egypt have emphasised the importance of the family as the fundamental and natural unit to protect children and preserve heritage, culture, traditions and values. Such a position seeks to promote a narrow and patriarchal concept of the family that denies equal protection to the human rights of individuals who belong to the diverse forms of family that exist all over the world.
The great diversity of families should be acknowledged, as families continue to change with time, societal trends and development. In addition, States such as Australia and Mexico explained that many indigenous families around the world do not fall within the framework of a “nuclear” family, and that such diversity should be respected.
Additionally, the intimacy of the family unit is often the framework of gender-based discrimination and violence. Therefore, the human rights of individual members of the family should be protected rather than the family unit as a whole.
During their side events, some States and organisations insisted on the importance of the family as a traditional framework to protect children. However, what should matter is the protection of children as individual rights-holders in all settings, and the right of children not to be discriminated against on the basis of family status.
If you would like to learn more about the protection of the family issue, read the previous joint statement that WILPF co-signed after the 26th session of the HRC when it adopted a resolution on this matter.
Right to peace
The working group on the draft declaration on the right to peace presented its report during the session to provide some update on the progress of the current negotiations on the declaration. Afterwards, the HRC adopted a resolution on the promotion of the right to peace. It was introduced by Latin American States, and adopted by a vote of 33 in favour, 9 against and 5 abstentions.
The United Kingdom and the United States of America opposed the resolution on the pretext that there is no basis in international law for such a right and that it would modify existing human rights. According to them, peace is not a human right in itself but rather the consequence of the full realisation of all human rights. On the other hand, other States such as Bolivia or Costa Rica reaffirmed that the right to peace is the pre-requisite for the full enjoyment of all human rights.
In this resolution, the Human Rights Council decides that the working group will hold a third session in 2015 to finalise the declaration on the right to peace. WILPF keeps on advocating for this declaration to take into account all the elements of peace, including disarmament, gender equality and social justice. Have a look at our statement to know more.
WILPF’s coverage of the Human Rights Council
In case you missed our blogs reporting on some of the discussions at this 27th session of the Council, you can catch up here:
- WANTED: Transformative justice for women
- Less military spending, more human rights
- Military expenditures vs. human rights: you get what you pay for
- Universal Periodic Review: what happens after the review?
- Change the discourse on Palestine: integrate a human rights perspective now!
- A call for States to put an end to arbitrary detention and torture in Syria
- Armed drones killing human rights?
Interested in human rights and what is going on at the Human Rights Council? Then subscribe to our Update from the Human Rights Council to follow the discussions.