European Union External Action

The EU as a strong supporter of the UN Human Rights Council

22/03/2019 - 16:33
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The EU took a very active stance in the 40th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), which took place from 25 February to 22 March 2019. "The European Union stands for the values we believe in and continues to partner with others to defend and further them. We believe in a strong Human Rights Council and strong engagement in the defence and promotion of human rights in a more challenging world," says Ambassador Walter Stevens, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva.

 

"The EU led or co-led five resolutions at this Council session" explained Ambassador Stevens, adding that "we also strongly engaged in the negotiations and support of resolutions and joint statements introduced by other countries."

The EU led a resolution at HRC40 on the human rights situation in Myanmar. We continue to be deeply concerned over findings that gross human rights violations were committed in Myanmar, many of which amount to grave crimes under international law. "The EU consistently called for the accountability of those responsible for such crimes and acted promptly at the international level by presenting in September a resolution, together with the OIC, to establish an "independent mechanism" to further investigate, " said Ambassador Stevens. The resolution which the EU now presented in March at HRC40 renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and calls for a swift operationalization of the new independent mechanism.

The EU has been at the forefront of bringing the dire human rights situation in the DPRK to the attention of the Human Rights Council for over a decade now. We believe that a better future for the people of North Korea is only possible if the human rights violations perpetrated in the country are addressed as a matter of priority. The resolution, introduced by the EU at HRC40, therefore extends the mandates of the Special Rapporteur and the dedicated accountability team of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Freedom of Religion or Belief constitutes a fundamental priority for the EU human rights agenda. "The recent attacks in New Zealand remind us of the shocking proportions of acts of violence and discrimination that continue to be perpetrated in all parts of the world, based on or committed in the name of religion or belief," says EU Ambassador Stevens. The international community must remain united to promote freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief of all persons everywhere.  The EU therefore introduced a resolution at HRC40, urging States to step up their efforts in this regard and extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for three years. This resolution was presented in parallel with an OIC-led resolution on religious intolerance. Both resolutions were adopted by consensus. 

In most parts of the world, children with disabilities are ten times less likely to attend school. Even if they attend school, they are more likely to drop out early and are often faced with marginalization, discrimination and hurdles to obtain quality education. This is why the EU, together with the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) spearheaded a resolution on the rights of the child at HRC40, with a special focus this year on empowering children with disabilities, including through inclusive education.

In the year where we celebrate the 30 anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child we furthermore presented a resolution which requests the Council to mark this important milestone at its session in March 2020. We are pleased that this resolution received wide cross-regional support.  

Support and protection for human rights defenders continues to be one of the EU’s major and longstanding priorities and we therefore warmly welcome the adoption of the resolution on human rights defenders, with a focus this year on the human rights of those defending the environment. Shrinking space for civil society, including for human rights defenders, requires concerted counteractions.

The EU lent its strong support to several new initiatives, including joint statements on Venezuela and on Saudi Arabia, as well as a resolution on the human rights situation in Nicaragua.

Furthermore, the EU was highly active in the negotiations of many other resolutions, with the aim to seek justice and accountability and promote respect for all human rights. At HRC40 we showed our continued support to the important mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, shedding light on violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law committed in the country. Together with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, it plays a vital role in efforts to promote accountability and ensure that impunity does not prevail for atrocities committed during the conflict.

We equally strongly engaged in resolutions and interactive dialogues on other country situations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Sri Lanka, Libya, Iran, Ukraine and South Sudan.

The EU is a strong supporter of increased efficiency of the Council and we welcome the continued progress in this regard, including the rationalisation of initiatives as we have seen at this session. We are committed to continue to work with all stakeholders in order to strengthen the HRC while protecting its achievements and value added.

The EU organised and co-sponsored a number side events at HRC40, including on Freedom of Religion or Belief with UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed and Jan Figel, EU Special Envoy on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU. We also co-organised several side events on the issue of the rights of the child. On 26 February the EU and China jointly organised a side event on the rights of people with disabilities. More information on side events can be found here.

All EU statements and intervention at the Human Rights Council were published on the EU Delegation's website. Updates were also be regularly posted on the EU Delegation's Twitter account @EU_UNGeneva.

Please also see the EU Council Conclusions on EU priorities in UN human rights fora in 2019

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