UN@70 - Human Rights at the Centre of the Global Agenda

July 12-13, 2016 - UNHQ New York
At-the-UN/New-York/Human-Rights
By: Jeanne Carroll

High-Level Thematic Debate on Human Rights

The High-level Thematic Debate (HLTD) on Human Rights was held July 12-13, 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Debate, organized by H.E. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, was held under the theme, "UN@70 - Human Rights at the Centre of the Global Agenda." It focused on how to bridge the mutually dependent areas of human rights and sustainable development. The event was included an opening session, a plenary debate, interactive segments on three areas, and a moderated conversation with candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General. A series of side-events were also organized around the event.

The opening session was an opportunity for member states to further strengthen the UN's role in responding to global trends and ensuring greater impact on the human rights situation in our world. Three interactive segments followed:

  1. Combatting discrimination and inequalities;
  2. Building the foundations for human rights - governance, the rule of law and access to justice; and
  3. Enabling active participation in society.

Side-events were held on the 13th sponsored by member-states, citing their concerns, as well as the The representative from Cuba emphasized that the poor and marginalized are unfairly affected by human rights violations while Ecuador further asserted that poverty is not the result of insufficient resources but rather the unfair distribution of those resources. Poland and Australia stressed that human rights must be placed at the heart of conflict prevention. In addition, Austria recalled Ms. Diakhoumba Gassama of Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ) comments which praised the recent work the commission of human rights has been doing particularly in Geneva to allow citizens to be in control of their own body.

During the course of the morning the delegate from Pakistan mentioned that, "we have failed over the last 50 years to achieve the objectives for which the human rights covenants were created" referring to the disregard of self-determination in Kashmir which has been a UN issue since the end of British rule. The Philippine representative brought up the fact that when the blood-less revolution occurred 30 years ago it was the migrant population that suffered most profoundly. Cyprus added that the High Commission must adequately address the issue of immigrants. The speaker from Japan emphasized the need to 'break the silence' and advocate for all victims of human rights violations including abduction of nationals as well as addressing the rights of women. Along that vein, Croatia brought up women's rights as being the single greatest challenge in the implication of human rights worldwide. Sudan continued that, 'good governance and impunity are interrelated' and this must be avoided in order to eradicate a double standard. The Russian Federation suggested that the issue of human rights can only be successfully tackled if all work together.

In order for human rights to have blanket effectiveness, cultural and historical features need also be considered. It is an enormous undertaking but one in which member states are committed to seeing resolved.