Watch the video here (Chapter 4 on the right)
This session the Council has built on the landmark resolution adopted in March on the protection of human rights defenders. We warmly welcome the adoption of a record number of resolutions recognising the important role of human rights defenders, including the resolutions on the human rights of migrants, and the independence of judges and lawyers, as well as several country specific resolutions, including on Eritrea and Belarus. We now call on States to translate this international consensus on the need to support and protect human rights defenders into a practical reality.
We also welcome the Council’s commitment to extending specific protection to women human rights defenders, as expressed in the resolutions on the elimination of discrimination against women, violence against women and on freedom of expression and women’s empowerment.
While welcoming resolutions that affirm the importance of protecting and supporting the work of human rights defenders in diverse contexts, we reiterate our concern at the worsening trend towards attacks and restrictions on defenders, including illegitimate restrictions on access to funding. While this is foremost a concern for the human rights situation on the ground, it should also be a concern here at the Council, with such restrictions inevitably diminishing the capacity of NGOs to engage with international mechanisms.
This Council voted two years ago to ‘remain seized of the priority issue’ of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We urge the Council to adopt a follow-up resolution and to ensure that the UN pays systematic attention to these concerns. We also call upon States to implement the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on this issue.
Turning to country specific resolutions, we commend the leadership demonstrated by the African Group, the OIC and others in highlighting situations of concern and contributing positively to the Council’s response. We particularly welcome the more active and regular OHCHR reporting enabled by the texts on the Central African Republic, Guinea, South Sudan and Somalia, all of which provide important opportunities for human rights defenders to have their voices heard at the international level.
We also welcome the PRST on Myanmar, in which the Council expresses its deep concern at the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, and calls on the government to put a stop to violence and to expedite the opening of an OHCHR office. The Council should continue to pay close attention to this issue.
Finally, Mr President, we thank you and the Secretariat for strongly supporting NGO participation and for ensuring that NGO speaking time was not unduly restricted. As the world’s peak human rights body, this Council has a leadership role, through its own practice, in protecting space for civil society participation in its important work.