Look back at first week HRC33

The first week of the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council has come to its end. It was an intensive week in which the High Commissioner highlighted the human rights challenges we face on a global level and in which member states engaged actively in numerous dialogues, informals and side events about challenges and threats to universal human rights.

In his openings speech, the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed particular concern about the lack of cooperation on human rights by some countries. He stressed that human rights violations “will not disappear” if a government blocks access to international observers “On the contrary, efforts to refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: what, precisely, are you hiding from us?”
He also made clear that "States may shut my Office out - but they will not shut us up; neither will they blind us".

Subjects like xenophobia and countering terrorism, human rights in humanitarian situations in regions of armed conflict, the right to development and the Sustainable Development Goals have been brought up throughout the various debates. In these debates states, NGOs and the OHCHR repeatedly shared the High Commissioner's concerns about denied accesss and encouraged states to give unhindered access to events on the ground when requested. 

Another worrying trend is the challenges journalists, human rights defenders and civil society are facing. The Netherlands stated:

We are deeply concerned about a global trend of shrinking space for civil society. We believe that free and independent civil society constitutes the bedrock of democratic and responsive governance. Civil society brings human rights and human dignity to the national and international debate, helps to make the case for stronger protection of human rights, and as such is an indispensable partner of the human rights Council. We do not want to go back on one of the major achievements of this Council to create space for the engagement of civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights and the Netherlands therefore fully supports the President's leadership in publicly denouncing all acts of intimidation and reprisal, and call for transparency and non-recurrence. 

Journalists face similar reprisals. We are very concerned that so many journalists are killed each year, simply for doing their job, and only 1 out of 10 of their murderersgets punished. This is unacceptable and we all have a duty to act and to protect the safety and fundamental human rights of each and every journalist.”

During the debate, the members of the Human Rights Council were reminded of the importance of the universal human rights and the impact of OHCHR’s and the Council’s work, by touching stories coming from around the world presented by NGO’s. 

This week, the Human Rights Council will start off with an Interactive Dialogue on the deteriorating situation in Syria. After that, the report on indigenous peoples will be presented followed by a discussion on this subject. The week will be closed by focusing on country-specific human rights issues during the adoption of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR).

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