magnify
Home International Organisations Archive for category "General Assembly" (Page 2)

What is the Future of the SOGI Mandate and What Does it Mean for the UN Human Rights Council?

Last June, human rights defenders the world over celebrated the historic step taken by the Human Rights Council (HRC) to create a UN Special Procedures mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity. It had taken years of advocacy by the LGBTI and wider human rights community, and careful manoeuvering within the UN system to attain this belated but historic victory. For many years, LGBTI issues were addressed through reports and resolutions on extra-judicial and arbitrary killings and on violence against women, as well as through joint statements by UN member States.  However, since the ground-breaking Toonen vs Australia decision of the Human Rights Committee in 1994, the UN system has gradually improved with respect to the recognition and the level of attention it has paid to the particular threats faced by the LGTBI community. In relation to the HRC specifically, there has been a gradual build-up to the appointment, from a subject specific resolution in 2011 (17/19), which commissioned a special report  (HRC/19/41) by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to a panel discussion in March 2012, to a follow-up resolution in 2014, and an updated report in 2015.

Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 which created the SOGI mandate was not universally endorsed by States; indeed, it was adopted by a vote of 23-18 with 6 abstentions, a noticeably high number of opposing votes in the light of general voting patterns, even among similarly contentious mandates, such as the ones on unilateral coercive measures (vote of 31 in favour, 14 against and 2 abstentions); international solidarity (33 in favour, 12 against, 1 abstention); and the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (29 to 14, with 4 abstentions). Vitit Muntarbhorn, the expert charged with carrying out the mandate, was appointed in September in line with the rules of procedure of the HRC. Although reports of the Council are subject to endorsement by the General Assembly (GA), in practice this is generally a formality. As is typical following appointment by the Council, Mr. Muntarbhorn has already begun working on this long overdue mandate.

However, in an unprecedented move, the work of the mandate is now being threatened by the African Group of UN Member States, Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Should Commitments to Implementation Factor into Elections to the Human Rights Council?

Published on November 8, 2016        Author: 

Following the recent celebration of the UN Human Rights Council’s tenth anniversary, one of the key questions for its next decade is how it can play a more effective role in promoting the implementation of human rights standards and norms and its own and other UN bodies’ recommendations. This shift is critical given the serious deficiencies in implementation, despite the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s call almost 15 years ago for a focus on the ‘implementation of the commitments we have made’ in an ‘era of commitment and implementation’. The recent Universal Rights Group Glion III report points to ‘important signs that UN Member States are increasingly turning their attention to the question of implementation, and how best to support it’ including within the Council. Recently, the President of the Council remarked that the Universal Periodic Review process holds ‘great potential to lead the charge’ in this regard. Tomorrow, the Council’s UPR Working Group will hold a half day panel discussion on ‘national reporting processes and structures’ as a key means to achieving implementation.

On 28 October, the UN General Assembly held elections for 14 new vacancies in the Human Rights Council. In this post, I ask whether and how the election process could provide a further lever to the burgeoning implementation project within the Council. I use the example of the UK’s recent re-election to illustrate how a deeper connection between implementation and election to the Council could be made, particularly through pledges to establish national implementation and follow-up mechanisms.

Expectations of Council Members

In 2006, the General Assembly in Resolution 60/251 outlined the requirements for membership of the Council as: (1) ‘the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights’ (2) the submission of ‘voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto’ (4) the ‘uphold[ing of] the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights’ (5) ‘full[] cooperat[ion] with the Council’ and (6) agreement to ‘be reviewed under the universal periodic review mechanism during their term of membership’. The Resolution also indicated that the commission of gross and systematic human rights violations could result in the suspension of membership. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Embedding Human Rights in Internet Governance

In Resolution 56/183 (2001), the UN General Assembly welcomed the creation of an inter-governmental World Summit on the Information Society (‘WSIS’) to address the digital revolution and the increasing digital divide between the global North and South. During the Summit’s two phases (Geneva, 2003 and Tunis, 2005) a common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-orientated Information Societyemerged. A key objective was therefore to harness the power of information and communications technology (ICT) to secure the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

A decade on, and against the backdrop of the recent transition from the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes is underway. Delegations met last week for the Second Preparatory Meeting of the UN General Assembly’s Overall Review of the Implementation of the Outcomes of the WSIS (‘WSIS+10 Review’). The aim of this meeting was to engage member States and other stakeholders to reach a consensus on critical issues, such as the goals of Internet governance, the relationship between WSIS and development and how to address human rights related to ICT. Oral statements and written submissions served as the basis for developing the current Zero Draft into a Second Draft. The WSIS+10 Review will culminate in a High-Level Meeting on 15-16 December, at which an Outcome Document will be adopted.

Treatment of human rights in the Zero Draft is inadequate. A sub-section on human rights is included within Internet governance and there are other brief references scattered throughout the Draft. However, human rights are not presented as a foundational principle of Internet governance, but are rather narrowly confined to issues of freedom of expression and the right to privacy. In this post and in our response to the Zero Draft as part of an ESRC Funded Large Grant on Human Rights and Information Technology in an Era of Big Data, we argue ]for a more systematic approach to human rights in this process, in order to reflect the full scope of the human rights issues raised by the use of ICT and big data.

Opportunities and Challenges Presented by the Use of ICT and Big Data

Technology has the potential to produce an impact on all aspects of society. The use of ICT is becoming essential to the conduct of government operations, to business, and to individuals’ day-to-day lives. ICT and human rights have become inextricably intertwined, and this is set to continue in line with progress towards the Information Society. This interconnectivity means that ICT has concrete human rights implications, which can be both positive and negative. Significantly, however, the full extent of ICT’s human rights implications are not yet known.

The transformative potential of ICT and big data for the protection and promotion of human rights is becoming increasingly apparent. For example, digital platforms have facilitated local and global dialogue between human rights defenders, minorities and other democratic voices, giving rise to the phrase ‘liberation technology’. Analytics and the use of big data can assist in the identification of otherwise invisible forms of vulnerability and discrimination. This information can be utilised to target interventions and to facilitate efficient resource allocation and can therefore be employed to facilitate the achievement of the SDGs. For example, in relation to ‘good health and well-being’ (Goal 3), the adoption of e-health and m-health (where health services are delivered electronically or via mobile devices) can lead to cost-effective access to health care. Equally, the analysis of data drawn from a significant number of electronic health records (big data-based analytics) can be used to identify appropriate treatments and facilitate early intervention, reducing future health care costs. Technological assistance in the identification of vulnerability and discrimination also facilitates ‘reduced inequalities’ (Goal 10), and can assist in tackling the ‘digital divide’.

However, the inappropriate use of ICT and big data has the potential to interfere with the enjoyment of human rights and thereby undermine the opportunities for realising human rights and attaining the SDGs. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 
Comments Off on Embedding Human Rights in Internet Governance

Governing the Future with Sustainable Development Goals: Hopes and Challenges

Published on October 16, 2015        Author: 

The summit of world leaders that took place at the UN General Assembly in New York at the end of September marked an unusually harmonious moment in international politics. In the summit 193 countries acted in concert to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are set to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the beginning of 2016.

The new development agenda builds on the MDGs, and its Preamble declares that the SDGs are to complete what the MDGs failed to do. The final MDG report, which was released a week before the summit, shows that while progress has occurred in many spheres of global development, there have also been plenty of uneven achievements and shortfalls. These range from the world’s poorest remaining very unevenly distributed across regions and countries, to targets in improving maternal health not being fully met.

The SDGs reach far beyond MDGs in terms of their ambition, and they come with enormous potential. For example, instead of aiming to reduce extreme poverty rates the SDGs have set the bar higher with the aspirational target of eradicating extreme poverty everywhere. The new development agenda is also of unprecedented scope. While the MDGs comprised of 8 goals and 18 targets, the SDGs have 17 goals and there has been a nearly ten-fold increase in the targets to 169. The new agenda also recognises that some important development challenges, such as gender equality, are crosscutting issues that need to be taken into consideration in the implementation of all goals.

There are also positive developments in relation to human rights. Historically the relationship between MDGs and human rights has been tenuous, and the link between the two has been mostly implicit and under-developed. The MDGs have been criticised from a human rights perspective – among other thingsfor their non-participatory design process, for providing a ‘fig leaf of legitimacy’ to authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, for enshrining goals that are less ambitious than those present in the human rights paradigm, and even for undermining international human rights law standards. The new agenda is more explicitly tied to international human rights instruments. The agenda states that the SDGs are grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights treaties, and that they seek ‘to realize the human rights of all’ (Preamble, Paragraph 10). In other words, human rights can be understood as both the foundation and the aim of SDGs. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Surveillance without Borders: The Unlawfulness of the NSA Panopticon, Part II

Published on November 4, 2013        Author: 

This is Part II of a post assessing the international law implications of the U.S. National Security Agency’s global spying program. Part I focused the general international law implications of the program. This part focuses on potential violations of human rights law and breaches of the law of diplomacy.

Constitutional fundamental rights binding the European states

In probably all surveilled states, citizens enjoy a constitutional right to privacy which has been affected by secret surveillance measures by the NSA. Fundamental rights embodied in European constitutions bind only the territorial state, not the USA. The territorial states’ responsibility under their own constitutional law could be involved through their condonement, toleration, or by just refraining from protesting against surveillance measures by the NSA.

In Germany, the secrecy of communication is protected by Art. 10 of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG). This fundamental right may be lawfully restricted. The principal relevant legislation in Germany is the Gesetz zur Beschränkung des Brief-, Post und Fernmeldegeheimnisses as of 26 June 2001, colloquially called the G10-Act. This Act allows for measures to repel “dangers to the troops of the non-German contracting parties of the NATO treaty” (§ 1 of the G10-Act). That Act allows for different types of restrictions of the fundamental right to privacy, for example “strategic limitations”. But all restrictions are tied to specific conditions, for example, “concrete clues” must exist to found a “suspicion”. Also, the Act only authorises specific German agencies to perform surveillance measures, notably the German intelligence service (Bundesnachrichtendienst). Third, specific procedures must be respected. Finally, the affected persons must be informed ex post, and they are guaranteed access to non-judicial remedies. None of these preconditions have been met in the course of NSA-surveillance. It remains to be seen whether German authorities have violated citizens’ fundamental right to privacy by tolerating NSA measures. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

The Legality of Military Action in Syria: Humanitarian Intervention and Responsibility to Protect

Published on August 28, 2013        Author: 

It now seems fairly clear that the US and the UK are set to take military action in Syria in the coming days in response to the recent chemical attacks there. The UK Prime Minister, UK Foreign Secretary and the UK Secretary of State for Defence have all asserted that any action taken in Syria will be lawful. But on what grounds will military action in Syria be lawful. As is well known, United Nations Charter prohibits the use of force in Art. 2(4), as does customary international law. The UN Charter provides 2 clear exceptions to the prohibition of the use of force: self defence and authorization by the UN Security Council. It is almost certain that there will be no Security Council authorization. In a previous post, I considered the possibility of a (collective) self defence justification for the use of force in response to a use of chemical weapons. The scenario contemplated then is very different from the situation that has emerged, and the language used, at least by the UK, does not hint at a use of force on the basis of national interest. However,  President Obama in a CNN interview last week did seem to speak of self defence when he said “there is no doubt that when you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale  … that starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.” A justification for force on this basis would sound like preemptive self defence in a way that is very close to the Bush doctrine. I find it hard to see the Obama administration articulating a legal doctrine of preemptive self defence claim in this scenario.

So, absent Security Council authorization and a self defence claim, would the use of force be lawful? This is a question receiving a lot of media attention in the UK and I spent much of yesterday fielding this question in various media interviews (here on Channel 4, on BBC Radio 5 live [around the 1hr 10 min mark] and here on the Syria Deeply website.) In an earlier post I considered the legality of arming rebels in Syria and concluded that there was no strong legal basis for doing so. Well, the same is true of direct military action. It is hard to make the case that international law allows the use of force in this scenario or that the use of chemical weapons makes the case for lawful military action easier. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Incorporating UN General Assembly Declaratory Texts into Domestic Law?

Published on February 4, 2013        Author: 

Last week in Canada, with federal MPs returning to Parliament amidst the continuation of countrywide protests by indigenous peoples, an opposition MP introduced a private member’s bill (Bill C-469) to require the Canadian government to ensure that all federal laws are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/61/295). I’ll state clearly at the outset that this isn’t the first such proposal of its kind, with two other private member’s bills with the same general intent of giving domestic legal effect to the Declaration having been introduced in June 2008 (Bill C-569) and February 2009 (Bill C-328), later reinstated in March 2010. But the discussion that has ensued with respect to enacting domestic legislation to give a non-legally binding declaratory text status and pull within domestic law raises interesting questions for our understanding of the sources of international legal obligation (versus the sources of aspiration and political commitment), as well as concerns about the impact of UN efforts that raise unmet expectations. On the other hand, this may simply strike readers in other jurisdictions as very strange, at least in those jurisdictions where there is no chance that a domestic court would ever rely upon, or even cite, a General Assembly resolution text.

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 
Comments Off on Incorporating UN General Assembly Declaratory Texts into Domestic Law?