European Union External Action

Outcomes of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council from an EU perspective

12/07/2019 - 16:16
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From 24 June to 12 July the Human Rights Council (HRC) gathered in Geneva, addressing a wide range of human rights violations and abuses across the globe.


"The need to promote multilateral solutions is more urgent than ever," underlined Ambassador Walter Stevens, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva. "Our approach remains unchanged: We stand firm on respect for human rights and will seek to work with all stakeholders to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the Council, including its role in preventing human rights violations, and we will continue to support the mandate and independence of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights."

Mara Marinaki, Principal Advisor on Gender and on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security of the European Union's External Action Service, attended the Council and reiterated the EU's firm commitment to advancing gender equality, to promoting and protecting the human rights of all girls and women  around the world. The Council discussed several important aspects of women's human rights, including violence against women in the world of work. This discussion could not have been timelier as the new Convention supplemented by a Recommendation concerning violence and harassment in the world of work was recently adopted at the International Labour Conference. The European Union has been very active in the discussions with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since the very beginning of this process two years ago. At HRC41 we strongly engaged in negotiations on gender-focused initiatives, including resolutions on violence against women and girls, discrimination against women and girls, as well as equal pay and child, early and forced marriage. Together with the African Union, the EU co-organised a side event on women's empowerment, discussing innovative ways how to accelerate efforts to support gender equality.

Eamon Gilmore, who took up his function as EU Special Representative for Human Rights in March 2019, attended HRC41 for this first time in his new function. "The EU will continue to address discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and show the European Union's commitment to advance LGBTI equality in the enjoyment of human rights, in the EU and beyond," he said during the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on SOGI. In this session, the EU has constructively engaged in the negotiations of the resolution to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on SOGI. We remain committed to continue our efforts in enabling the Independent Expert on SOGI to make progress in having access to a range of countries, and continue to foster a climate of dialogue to help overcome fears and suspicions.

Due to continued human rights violations in Belarus the EU presented at this session once more a resolution to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. "Over the past years, the EU has taken several progressive steps to engage with Belarus in a meaningful dialogue on its human rights situation," said EU Ambassador Walter Stevens. "However, we deeply regret the continued lack of cooperation by the Government of Belarus with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, who provides an important source of information and independent expertise on the human rights situation in Belarus." We urge the Government of Belarus to begin full cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, to allow her to visit the country in her official capacity and to implement the recommendations of her report.

It is important that the situation in Syria remains high on the HRC agenda and we therefore fully support the resolution adopted by HRC41 on this matter. The resolution reflects the serious surge in violence in North-West Syria, and the dire situation of civilians there, in particular women and children. The resolution also refers to continued reports of violence elsewhere in Syria, including sexual and gender-based violence. Furthermore, we welcome the fact that the resolution puts a specific focus on the plight of the unlawfully detained, missing, and those forcibly disappeared. This is an important topic which the EU also highlighted in an event organised jointly with the US Mission, providing a platform to four former Syrian women detainees to give a first-hand account of their plight. A summary and video of the event can be found here.

The EU also raised concerns on other country situations: We called for a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into human rights violations in Venezuela and we expressed our concern for the human rights situations in Burundi, Sudan, Eritrea, Ukraine, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The persistent lack of accountability for serious human rights violations in Myanmar remains a deep concern for the EU. We therefore encouraged Myanmar to engage with the new Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar established by the Human Rights Council last year and to grant full and unrestricted access to all UN mandates and procedures, including the UN Special Rapporteur, the Fact-Finding Mission and the Independent Investigative Mechanism.

Protecting and upholding the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants remains at the core of EU policies. We therefore supported the adoption by consensus at HRC41 of a resolution on this issue.

The EU co-organised together with civil society and government partners several side events in the margins of HRC41, including on "(Mis)Understandings of Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Expression across the world" and "The 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - Time for transformative action" and "The impact of sexual and gender-based violence on political participation". Further information on EU-organised 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 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