I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Montenegro* , Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechstenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this statement.
We are extremely concerned about the funding situation affecting the UN’s human rights mechanisms and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The 25% cut to the travel expenses of UN representatives, including Treaty Body Experts and Special Procedure mandate holders, and other budget cuts, may impact the capacity of various human rights mechanisms to carry out their mandates effectively. Cuts to the UN general budget should not disproportionately affect the functioning of the UN’s human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Human rights, and the normative system based on human rights, play a key role in ensuring peace and security and sustainable development, the other two pillars of the UN. In working closely with the UN Secretary-General and the High Commissioner, the Council has the potential to take early preventive action and contribute to accountability. Cutting human rights funding, means undermining the United Nations in its entirety.
The EU would like to thank the UN Working Group for its report on the 2018 Forum on Business and Human Rights. The large number of participants from all stakeholders was matched by quality discussions showing progress in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, while pointing to challenges particularly in the third pillar, Access to remedy. The focus on ‘’Business respect for human rights – building on what works’’ was very much welcomed and we look forward to the 2019 Forum in November: "Time to act: Governments as catalysts for business respect for human rights".
The EU is committed to working globally with all States and stakeholders to make genuine progress on the Business and Human Rights agenda, and ensuring greater efforts to prevent, investigate, punish and address adverse human rights effects of business activities. The EU appreciates the growing, important attention on women’s rights in relation to business activity in the report and the Human Rights Council more broadly.
We take note of the Human Rights Advisory Committee’s study on the 'Contribution of development to the enjoyment of human rights' looking at legal, institutional, conceptual and interpretative aspects. The EU fully supports a human rights-based approach to development, recognises the central role of human beings as subjects of development, and remains strongly committed to promoting respect, protection and the fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, these elements mutually reinforcing each other. We urge all States to respond to cases of alleged reprisals and to provide information to the Human Rights Council on measures taken to prevent and address acts on intimidation or reprisals, including on cases raised in the reports of the UN Secretary General.
Support for human rights defenders, or HRDs, is one of the major priorities of the EU’s external human rights policy. The EU guidelines on HRDs outline concrete measures for protecting HRDs at risk, including the provision of emergency aid, and encourage EU and EU Member States to take a proactive approach towards HRDs. Political support granted by the EU to HRDs goes hand in hand with dedicated financial assistance granted via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, which allows the EU to provide HRDs with tangible means to work, to reinforce their capacities and to grant them protection when needed.
*Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.