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23rd Session

23rd session of the Human Rights Council
27 May to 14 June 2013
Geneva

 
 
Introduction

The 23rd session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) was held in Geneva from 27 May to 14 June 2013. Several hundred participants including UN member States, UN bodies, NHRIs and non-governmental organisation representatives participated in the session.

A total of 32 NHRIs from across all regions, including the APF as regional coordinator for Asia Pacific and the ICC Working Group on Business and Human Rights contributed to the Council session through various means including participation in plenary meetings, presentation of oral  and video statements and submission of written contributions.

Contributions were made on the following substantive issues: the human rights of migrants; human rights and transnational corporations; right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association; right to education; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; business and human rights; women’s human rights; UPR; sexual orientation and gender identity; and the 2013 Secretary General reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process respectively.

The high level of NHRI engagement was, however, not proportionately reflected across the various segments of the Council session. The Council witnessed the active participation of a few NHRIs on various substantive issues, and a large number of predominantly European NHRIs contribute through a joint oral statement on the thematic issue of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The level of engagement between NHRIs and Special Procedures mandate holders was particularly low compared to previous sessions. A higher level of NHRI engagement was witnessed in deliberations concerning the adoption of UPR reports.

The OHCHR and ICC strategic priority of advancing the human rights of women and girls was a key thematic focus of the 23rd Council session, to which the ICC contributed.

A significant highlight of the session was the adoption, by consensus, of the third Council resolution on NHRIs sponsored by Australia. The resolution acknowledges the important role NHRIs can play in promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls.

The ICC was represented through remote participation by the ICC Chair Adv. Lawrence Mushwana, and the in person participation of ICC Geneva Representative a.i. Bruce Adamson and Assistant ICC Geneva Representative Sarah Pallesen.

All NHRI contributions to the 23rd Council session, including oral statements, written submissions and video recordings of the various meetings of the session can be accessed on this page below.

NHRI interaction with Special Procedures

Out of the thirteen A status NHRIs concerned by Special Procedures HRC 23 country mission reports, only four NHRIs contributed to the interactive dialogue with Special Procedures.

The Greek National Commission for Human Rights contributed on the findings of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants’ country mission to Greece.

The three UK NHRIs1 contributed on the findings of the Special Rapporteur on peaceful assembly and association’s country mission to the UK.

Both oral interventions were delivered upon request by the ICC Geneva Representative and on behalf of the Paris Principles compliant NHRIs concerned.
 
The NHRIs of Ecuador and India respectively made written submissions to the Council prior to the session on the country mission report on Ecuador by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, and the country mission report on India by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary.
 

NHRI participation in general debates

The majority of NHRI contributions were made during the general debates of the Council.

On the general debate, item 3 regarding the panel on business and human rights the Canadian Human Rights Commission welcomed the UN Secretary General and UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights’ call to reflect the mainstreaming of business and human rights in the post-2015 development agenda goals, strategies, policies and practices.

On the general debate item 3, regarding the work of the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations the Canadian Human Rights Commission as Chair of the ICC Working Group on business and human rights informed the Council that it the ICC Working Group will continue to provide guidance and tools to NHRIs on the UN Guiding Principles. Capacity building tools, including regional and thematic training supplements, side events, a website compendium of proven practices, and a series of fact sheets developed in collaboration its other key institutions, continue to be developed by the ICC Working Group for the benefit of NHRIs.
 
A representative from the Australian Human Rights Commission presented at the HRC annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights, which is organised pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution No 6/30. The focus for this year’s discussion was on prevention and elimination of violence against women. The AHRC representative spoke on the linkages between wrongful gender stereotyping and violence against women and domestic violence as a workplace issue. During the general debate, the ICC Chair gave a video statement affirming the ICC’s commitment to give priority to women’s public and political participation, economic and social rights, health and reproductive rights, and to address violence against women and girls.

On the same agenda item, the Canadian Human Rights Commission brought the Council’s attention to the disproportionate burden of violence born by indigenous women and girls in Canada. The Commission used the opportunity to urge the Government of Canada to take specific, named actions to address and prevent the roots causes of violence.

On the general debate, item 8 regarding follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, ICC Geneva Representative speaking on behalf of the ICC, welcomed the Secretary General reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process respectively. The Geneva Representative noted with appreciation the Secretary General’s emphasis on recent improvements in the accreditation process of national human rights institutions; and welcomed the 2013 report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, which acknowledges that NHRIs and their members and staff can be considered as human rights defenders.

On the same agenda item, the Australian Human Rights Commission on behalf of 28 other NHRIs2 delivered a statement on sexual orientation and gender identity. The statement expressed concern for the systemic and continuing human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and of intersex persons in all regions of the world; and called on the Human Rights Council to encourage States to accept recommendations and implement commitments made through the UPR process related to sexual orientation and gender identity. It stressed that NHRIs play a crucial role in protecting and promoting the rights of LGBT people.
 
Adoption of Working Group UPR reports

The NHRIs of France, Luxembourg and Serbia contributed with oral statements during the plenary meetings, before the adoption of UPR reports of their respective countries.

The Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines Loretta Rosales participated as a panellist on the ‘Contribution of Parliaments to the Work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review’ panel. In her opening remarks, Loretta Rosales discussed how NHRIs and their respective parliaments can work together to implement international human rights standards as exemplified in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, India, Philippines and South Africa. She also discussed how parliaments can play a stronger role in the entire UPR process.
 

Council adopts its third resolution on NHRIs

A successful outcome of the session was the Council’s adoption by consensus of its third resolution on NHRIs (A/HRC/RES/23/17). The resolution was presented by Australia and co-sponsored by a cross regional group of states. It is available here in AEF, S.

The resolution gives a thematic focus to the contribution of NHRIs towards promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls, while recognising the important role played by NHRIs in the Council, including its UPR, the work of Special Procedures mandate holders and UN treaty bodies.


As a direct result of ICC advocacy led by the ICC Geneva Representative with support by the APF, the resolution gives recognition to the most recent:

  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defender, which focused on NHRIs and acknowledges that NHRIs and their members and staff can be viewed as human rights defenders;
  • Report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, and its recommendations regarding the role NHRIs can play in creating a coherent institutional architecture for women’s human rights and gender equality; and
  • The commitment of NHRIs to give priority to women’s political and public participation, economic and social rights and health and reproductive rights, and efforts to address violence against women and girls as reflected in the Amman Declaration and Programme of Action.

In order to streamline the work of the Council, its resolutions on NHRIs will henceforth be presented on a biennial basis. This will ensure that the UN Secretary General’s reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process respectively coincide with his reporting to the General Assembly in odd-numbered years. The Council resolution on NHRIs will run in alternate even-numbered years, with the next one presented at the 27th Council session in September 2014.

Further to ICC advocacy in relation to this year’s Council resolution on NHRIs, the ICC Geneva Representative a.i. provided wording to strengthen references made to NHRIs in the Council resolution on the Working Group on discrimination against women presented by Colombia and Mexico (A/HRC/RES/23/7). The resolution is available here in A, E, F, S.

As a result thereof the resolution on discrimination against women makes the following reference to NHRI:

  • Recognizing that gender responsiveness is an essential part of the role for effective NHRIs as established by the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (The Paris Principles) adopted by General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993;
  • Calls upon States to improve resources for NHRIs and specialized mechanisms for women’s human rights and gender equality.


ICC activities in support of NHRI engagement at HRC 23

Further to advocating for the adoption of the Council resolutions, the ICC Geneva Representative a.i. with the support of NIRMS provided assistance and advice to NHIRs and regional coordinators in their engagement with the Council, both prior to and during its 23rd session.

Activities included: Identifying opportunities to engage; assisting in the preparation of written submissions and oral statements presented to the HRC; co-drafting and obtaining cross-regional support for the 2013 resolution on NHRIs; organising meetings and liasing with key stakeholders; delivering statements on behalf of A status NHRIs and reporting back.


Conclusion

The 23rd session of the Council witnessed a relatively low level of NHRI engagement in light of previous sessions and the many opportunities for engagement afforded to NHRIs as a result of ICC advocacy.

These include the right to:

  • Contribute to all agenda items of the Council’s programme of work;
  • Intervene immediately after the country concerned during the interactive dialogue, following the presentation of a country mission report by a special procedure mandate holder as well after the country concerned during the adoption of adoption of UPR Working Group reports; and
  • Deliver pre-recorded video statements.

The ICC strongly encourages NHRIs to exercise these rights and stands ready to assist NHRIs effectively engage with the various mechanisms of the Council.

In preparation for the 24th Council session in September 2014, the ICC Geneva Office will seek to actively involve the ICC regional networks in ensuring broad cross regional representation of NHRIs on all agenda items of the Council.

While in person NHRI participation at Council sessions is an invaluable opportunity to engage directly with UN human rights mechanisms, pre-recorded video statements presented before the Council serve as an effective and powerful tool of engagement for NHRIs who may not be able to travel to Geneva. The ICC encourages NHRIs to make use of this tool.

A major success for the ICC at this session was the adoption, by consensus, of the resolution on NHRIs which in line with the thematic focus of the Council, focuses on the role of the NHRIs in promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls. 

 

 

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1 The three UK NHRIs are Great Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.
 
2 The statement was delivered on behalf of the A status NHRIs of the following states: Australia, Albania, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Philippines, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and Ukraine.
 

 
 
 
  
  
  
There are no items to show in this view of the "NHRIs Contributions" document library.

 

  
  
  
expand Title : Comments of the Indian Human Rights Commission on the report of the UN Special Rapporteur ‎(1)
expand Title : Information presented by International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC)Text of Amman Programe of Action  ‎(1)
expand Title : Information presented by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) Text of the Amman Declaration ‎(1)

 

  
  
  
expand Title : Report of the SR ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by the SR on the human rights of migrants ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement of the Greek National Commission for Human Rights ‎(1)
expand Title : Webcast of ID with SR on HR of migrants ‎(1)

 

  
  
  
There are no items to show in this view of the "Panel on the Contribution of Parliaments to the work of the HRC and its UPR" document library.

 

  
  
  
expand Title : Statement by the Canadian Human Rights Commission ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by the WG on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises ‎(1)
expand Title : Webcast of ID with WG on HR and transnational corporations ‎(1)

 

  
  
  
expand Title : Statement by the 3 UK NHRIs ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by the SR on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by the UK as country concerned ‎(1)
expand Title : Webcast of ID with SR on peaceful assembly ‎(1)

 

  
  
  
expand Title : Statement by the Canadian Human Rights Commission ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement on behalf of Mr. John Ruggie, Chairperson-Rapporteur, United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights ‎(1)
expand Title : Webcast of panel on business and human rights ‎(1)

 

  
  
  
expand Title : Canadian Human Rights Commission's statement on women's human rights ‎(1)
expand Title : ICC Statement on women's human rights ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by member of the CEDAW Committee ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by the SR on violence against women, its causes and consequences ‎(1)
expand Title : Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ‎(1)

 

  
  
  
expand Title : A ‎(2)
expand Title : E ‎(2)
expand Title : F ‎(2)
expand Title : S ‎(2)
expand Title : UPR of France ‎(2)
expand Title : UPR of Luxembourg ‎(3)
expand Title : UPR of Serbia ‎(2)

 

  
  
  
expand Title : HRC 23 SG report on Activities of the ICC in accrediting NHRIs in compliance with the PP ‎(1)
expand Title : HRC 23 SG report on NHRIs ‎(1)
expand Title : ICC statement on SG reports on NHRIs ‎(1)
expand Title : Joint NHRI statement on SOGI ‎(1)