Human Rights Council
20 February 2009
The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its Special Session on the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights.
The Council heard statements from the Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty, a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and representatives from the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and then listened to a series of statements from country delegations and non-governmental organizations.
In the debate speakers expressed concern about the increasing rates of unemployment, wage insecurity and social exclusion, and the impact on fundamental rights such as the right to food, health, and housing as a result of the global economic crisis. Some said the crisis had originated in capitalist countries and had produced a massive undermining of human rights, mainly in developing countries. The world should punish those who were responsible for this crisis, including international organizations who should have been overseeing the proceedings. Many called for solidarity to collectively envisage a human response and global response, and that it was the collective duty of the Human Rights Council to take a leadership role in highlighting the human dimensions of the crisis that required urgent global action. Genuine partnerships were needed to tackle the impact that the majority in the world today, particularly in developing countries, must endure as a result of the crisis.
Speaking this afternoon were representatives of Israel, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Panama, Singapore, Cote d’Ivoire, Botswana, Colombia, African Union, Kuwait, Honduras, Tunisia, Turkey, Islamic Republic of Iran, Holy See, Norway, Iceland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Palestine, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bhutan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Nepal.
Also speaking were representatives of non-governmental organizations from Domicicans for Justice and Peace, Recontre Africaine Pour La Defense des Droits de l’Homme, Nord-Sud XXI, Europe-Third World Centre, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, Arab Commission for Human Rights, and the Indian Council of South America.
At the end of the meeting, Egypt introduced the draft resolution on behalf of the sponsors, saying it reaffirmed that all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. It recalled that everyone had the right to an adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing and housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. It also reaffirmed the collective commitment to the achievement of the internationally agreed goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the first goal of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty by 2015. The resolution further called on States to refrain from reducing international financial resources for development including official development aid and from imposing protectionist measures. The resolution stressed that the crisis should not be used to diminish the responsibility of national authorities to respect their human rights obligations and to continue their efforts for the universal realization and enjoyment of all human rights.
The Council will meet on Monday, February 23, at 10 a.m. to take action on the draft resolution on the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights and close the Special Session.
Statements by Special Procedure and Representatives of United Nations and Other Bodies
MAGDALENA SEPULVEDA CARMONA, Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, said that this session was an important step towards formally recognizing what common people, in particular men, women and children living in poverty, faced every day: the current financial crisis had exasperated the extremely difficult situation of the poor who were already greatly affected by last year’s unprecedented rise in food and energy prices and it was forcing even more people into a life of poverty. Those people who were already lacking access to basic rights, such as the right to food, housing and health, were now faced with a situation where they were struggling to survive. Evidence also indicated that the current crisis was reversing progress achieved in some regions in the reduction of poverty in previous years and it was an obstacle to the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals. 125 million people had already been pushed into poverty as a result of the rise in food prices from 2006 to 2008. Conservative estimates indicated that the current global financial crisis would push 60 million more into poverty.
There was also no doubt among experts that this crisis would significantly increase levels of unemployment worldwide. According to predictions from the ILO, the number of unemployed people in 2009 would increase by somewhere between 18 to 50 million people in comparison to 2007. Labour conditions were also likely to worsen due to the shortage of opportunities.
Evidence from past crises, none of which were nearly as grave as that which was faced now, indicated that some groups were more affected than others. Women were disproportionately affected, due to the multiple forms of discrimination that they suffered from and due to their limited access to social benefits including medical services and social security. In order to mitigate disproportionate effects on women, States must adopt measures to ensure gender equality and make every concerted effort to ensure that women did not suffer disproportionately from the crisis.
The financial crisis required a coordinated and comprehensive response from the international community and they must integrate into their response not only the financial, commercial, and labour consideration but a human rights approach as well. The financial crisis must not be used as an excuse to reduce commerce, and even less to break the commitments made by developed States to provide 0.7 per cent of GDP to development aid. Now more that ever, all States must redouble efforts to prevent an escalation of poverty and ensure that the three pillars of the Charter of the United Nations - security, development and human rights - were considered fully in the search for solutions.
ALEXANDER-LINOS SICILIANOS, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said that the Special Session addressed an extremely complex theme, as evidenced by the project of the draft resolution, which referred to racism and xenophobia. There existed a correlation between racism and poverty and discrimination led to poverty. Poverty and social exclusion strengthened discriminatory attitudes. Romas, particularly women, racial minorities, indigenous peoples and refugees were among the most disadvantaged in States where they lived. Discrimination often began at school and had serious implications for employment, housing, life expectancy, infant mortality and denial of citizenship.
The vicious circle between racism and poverty affected all human rights. Social and economic rights were among the first to be affected and it had been getting worse in crisis situations. They knew that during recent natural disasters the response did not reach most vulnerable groups. The vicious circle affected civil and political rights. What should be done to break that vicious circle between racism and poverty and limit the impact of economic and financial crises on the most vulnerable people? The draft resolution invited States to approach the crisis in an integrated manner, oriented to development. It also stressed the need for international cooperation and for preserving structures for protection of most vulnerable individuals.
Mr. Sicilianos said the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was currently in session and was examining periodic reports from Tunisia, Bulgaria, Congo and Pakistan. The impact of the economic and financial crisis on groups covered by the mandate of the Committee had been addressed within the framework of constructive dialogue with those States.
MICHELE KLEIN-SALOMON, of the International Organization for Migration, said that there were three key messages: the economic crisis should not turn into a migration crisis; that migrants were part of the solution and not part of the problem, and that structural fundamentals remained unchanged – regardless of the downturn. As a precautionary note, it was stressed that the crisis was on-going, in that the scale and scope of the crisis was still unfolding and that there was very little concrete empirical evidence and analysis to date to talk about what the individual impact would be on countries and individuals. Lessons could be learned from past financial crises: one being a downturn through worker lay-offs and the second was the reduction of remittances. The impact was uneven, and did not affect each country in the same way. For instance, the duration and intensity of the crisis; labour market sector (tourism and construction vs. agriculture and healthcare); factors particular to the migrants such as skill level, length of stay, legal status, and gender; and the country of origin all played a significant role. Some key policy responses seen in the past were to target irregular migrants, to restrict the labour market, and to continue to promote the highly skilled labourers. Often migrants did not return to their country of origin, but remained in an irregular status. It was proven that migrants improved economic growth instead of hindering it.
Five key policy issues to focus on included the rights of migrants and protections from discrimination and xenophobia; second, was to keep open regular migration channels; third was to provide assistance for repatriation and reintegration; fourth, was to support migration and development through increased remittances and international cooperation; and lastly, migration should be factored into economic recovery. In responding to ensuring migrant rights and protection from xenophobia, Mrs. Klein-Solomon proposed that States enhance efforts to raise awareness in host countries of valuable economic and social contributions made by migrants, that economic and social rights of migrants be protected, and one key response was to continue integration measures in host countries. In addressing migration and development, some possible policy measures included, among other things, the facilitation of remittance flows by lowering transaction costs, and the greater solidarity between countries of origin and destination was needed to maintain and strengthen the consensus achieved in the last few years on harnessing benefits from a migration and development relationship.
Most fundamentally, stressed Mrs. Klein-Solomon, was that labour mobility was a part and consequence of globalization and the global economy. The interests and needs of migrants needed to be fully factored into any remedial policy measures, including any reforms to the financial system adopted to stimulate the economic recovery.
ALFREDO CALCAGNO, of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that it was still difficult to assess the depth of this crisis. UNCTAD saw 1 per cent reduction in world production and at least 2 per cent reduction in production for developed countries. Mr. Calcagno said that the epicenter of the crisis was to be found in developed countries, but the effects had spread into all countries. There had been a significant drop in raw material prices and a drop in remittances. These measures had strongly affected many developing countries. With the economic and financial crisis and the following slowdown and cut in production, working conditions worsened as well. Additional dozens of millions had to face a reduced access to the labour market. Mr. Calcagno underlined that it was important for countries to work together. A crisis of this scope could not be left to the markets to be solved. It had to be ensured that there was a greater demand and expansionist policies were needed. Not all countries had the same capacities to expand their spending, but this was not the time to increase interest rates. Unfortunately, the world ran the risk of official development aid to be cut.
Mr. Calcagno underlined that public expenditure had to be expanded in the current situation. However, where public expenditure had started to compensate private investment, it had to be planned long-term, it was important that this was part of a strategy to create and maintain work.
It was not yet possible to assess the full scope of the crisis, but it was clear that there were worsening work conditions and many people would see their rights eroded. It was a very serious crisis in terms of the rights of the most vulnerable. A long-term vision was needed in financial investment. It should not be forgotten that this crisis would affect the human rights of future generations.
AMANDA M. GRUNDINSKAS (Israel) said Israel shared the concern of all States as the levels of unemployment and wage insecurity increased; social exclusion and insecurity were on the rise and existing international obligations were becoming more difficult to meet. Israel urged all States to continue to ensure access to all human rights, with special attention to those that might be more compromised in times of financial downturn. Israel was implementing strategies to help the most vulnerable and to further reduce poverty by developing rural areas and transforming subsistence agriculture into an efficient economy.
Israel recalled that the principles of development, security and human rights for all, as reflected in the preamble of the draft resolution, must also be implemented nationally and in parallel to initiatives set forth by the United Nations. Israel called on all States to adopt a bottom-up approach in implementing those principles to enhance the effectiveness of international cooperation and to further initiatives such as Millennium Development Goals.
OMAR HILLALE (Morocco) said that this meeting came at the right time, at a time when the world was faced with a global economic crisis and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights. Fundamental rights such as the right to food and health were impacted by the global economic crises. These rights should be protected and guaranteed, especially in times like these. The right to development was hindered as most of the funds required were dependent on developed nations. The attacks on migrant labourers and their families was another cause for concern, in particular, with the lowering of remittances and increased lay-offs. The economic markets needed to be regularized. Morocco reaffirmed its determination to shoulder its responsibility to assist and strengthen developing countries, and to continue assistance through bilateral and triangular agreements.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that the Human Rights Council must protect the economic and social rights of all people and pay attention to the increase in poverty in the South. Algeria drew the Council’s attention to the fact that migrants saw their civil rights jeopardized by xenophobia. All States had to act together, not only a G-8, but rather a G-192. The present crisis called for solidarity on a regional but also international level. Algeria put emphasis on the need of combating poverty as stated in the Doha declarations. Countries hosting migrants should punish the rise of xenophobia towards them as migrants were highly vulnerable. Algeria welcomed the resolution of the General Assembly to hold a summit conference on the issue. It was up to the Human Rights Council to ensure that the human rights perspective was fully integrated in the process.
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said the rapid impact of the economic and financial crises was taking attention away from other important global issues. Developing countries remained powerless in facing the crisis that had begun in the developed world. This situation may halt development and cause loss of livelihoods. The Human Rights Council had a role to play in alerting the world to the consequences of this crisis, particularly in developing and least-developed countries. The crisis was forcing millions into unemployment, illiteracy, hunger and disease. What were required were global solutions through international cooperation and partnerships.
Yemen stressed that this crisis must not affect the flow of Official Development Assistance, the implementation of international obligations and achievement of Millennium Development Goals. It called for a development of new and transparent mechanisms to protect countries and people from the impact of the crises that they had not caused.
OBAID SALEM SAEED AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates) said that this was an important session. The financial crisis placed a grave responsibility on all countries. The United Arab Emirates was interested in and committed to seeing economic growth in the entire world. The crisis had impeded the development of poorer countries, and hindered the economies of the developed countries. If the economic and financial crisis was not stopped it would result in the unravelling of all the achievements to date. Everyone should work towards realizing real solutions that were sustainable and the United Arab Emirates reiterated its commitment to that. Already underway were a number of preventative measures at the national level to enhance economic and social rights in the country. The United Arab Emirates aimed to achieve economic stability at the international level as well. The dignity of man was among the most fundamental rights, including also the right to health, food, and housing. Poverty, marginalization and malnutrition had become characteristic all over the world in recent times. Economic solutions that were unilateral did not lead to stability, and would eventually dissipate. The Council was called on to urge the international community to take the appropriate steps to find real solutions and put an end to this economic and financial crisis.
GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) said that the world could not remain passive facing this crisis. The crisis had originated in capitalist countries and had produced a massive undermining of human rights, especially in developing countries. The world should punish those who were responsible for this crisis, including international organizations who should have been overseeing the proceedings. Such impunity could not be tolerated. This Council should urge the international community to establish mechanisms to oversee the international financial system. In the same way it must bring about greater equality and social investment in order to strengthen human rights.
UNA ALFU DE REYES (Panama) thanked the Human Rights Council for this session and said that the financial crisis must not deviate attention from the commitments the international community had made to the most vulnerable in the world. The crisis had been growing, deepening and causing greater infant mortality, gender inequality, and increasing food prices, particularly in developing countries. Climate change must be taken into account too, through its impact on food and water security, and migration. If unresolved, those issues could become hotbeds of social disorder.
Panama had a steering council for financial stimulus programme to tackle the crisis. The initiatives were not based on subsidies and bail out packages, but on working with businesses to ensure economic growth. The council also targeted low-income households and those who suffered. They must not lose the sight of the need to draw the global strategy and global solutions, through a transparent and consultative process under the supervision of the United Nations.
TAN YORK CHOR (Singapore) said that it was a small island State with no natural resources, nor land for serious agriculture. Singapore had only one basic, but precious resource - its people, and it had heavily invested in their skills and well being. Singapore earned a living through activities like trade, manufacturing and services, for which there was no choice but to plug into the global economy fully, as there was no way, with 3.5 million citizens, that the Government could sustain a significant domestic economy. Singapore’s global exposure meant that it was among the first to feel the ripples of the global economic slowdown and then the full impact of a deepening recession. By mid-January 2009, the official projection for Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product had been revised downwards three times, to between -2 per cent to -5 per cent. Some analysts since warned of a worse contraction of up to 10 per cent.
With no natural resources to fall back on, Singapore had long learnt to save and put aside a little every year, to build up reserves for a rainy day. Such a day had now arrived, so instead of going for the usual balanced or surplus budget, the Government had announced a budget that would run to an extraordinary deficit of 6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, to be funded in part by drawing on the country’s reserves for the first time. This budget included a big resilience package to save jobs and to ensure the citizens of the country continued full enjoyment of basic rights.
BAKARY JUNIOR BAMBA (Ivory Coast) said that all indicators showed that 2009 would witness a grave economic crisis. Human rights in all countries were threatened, especially in Africa and there especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Forecasts said that there were strong effects on modernization due to scarce investment resources. This crisis also implied anger and it was a great threat to human rights. Ivory Coast called for solidarity to collectively envisage a human response. It suggested the creation of an observatory of the crisis in the Human Rights Council.
O. RHEE HETANANG (Botswana) acknowledged the inherent and grave realities of the global economic and financial crises. It was the collective duty of the Human Rights Council to take a leadership role in highlighting the human dimensions of the crisis that required urgent global action. Genuine partnerships were needed to tackle the inhumanity that the majority in the world today, particularly in developing countries, must endure as a result of the crisis.
Botswana expressed its concern about the potential for the crises in reversing the gains made to fully meet Millennium Development Goals and echoed the message that development assistance should be strengthened. Part of the solution to the economic and financial crises lay in having a universal, rules-based, open and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system. Botswana welcomed the convening of the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly, dedicated to discussing this important subject.
ANGELINO GARZON (Colombia) said that it was very important to hold this Special Session. Many States were already suffering and would continue to suffer as a result of this recent economic and financial crisis. This required a coordinated and effective response. This response should not just be on behalf of Governments, but also the sectors that were wealthy. A democracy could only be called such if it ensured basic rights, in particular for its children. Governments had put forth national, regional and international plans to mitigate this crisis, as well as the relevant United Nations agencies. The response should be fair and equal.
YAKDHAN EL HABI, of the African Union, said the African Union was convinced that the economic crisis would continue to slow down growth and aggravate budget deficits. A number of initiatives had been taken at the African level which had all helped to identify the impact on African countries and had undertaken structural and financial measures. The financial crisis had impacted all countries of the world, although only a minority was involved in the treatment of this crisis and the identification of the measures to remedy it. The African Union called for a more representative and inclusive approach in the search for a profound reform of international financial institutions and the financial system, which were the original cause of the current crisis. The African Union also underlined the need to maintain development aid which should not be reduced due to protectionist measures.
SADIQ M.S. MARAFI (Kuwait) said that this meeting gave a great opportunity to look into the impact of the crisis on various aspects of human rights. One of the most serious consequences of the darkening economic landscape was the explosion of unemployment rates, leading to a rapid increase of populations living in poverty. Protectionist measures would have a severe negative impact.
Kuwait had not saved any effort to meet its obligations not only to its national economy, but also towards the recipients of its foreign development programmes. In January, Kuwait had announced the creation of two billion dollar fund, a Pan-Arab initiative, to enable the private sector, small and medium enterprises to participate in the process of development. Kuwait said that the time for words was over; it was time for serious action in a sprit of solidarity and not division.
J. DELMER URBIZO (Honduras) said that Honduras wholly endorsed the statements made by Egypt on behalf of the African Group and Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. The time had come for developing countries to take a more combative stance, ensuring that all Member States must present a common front when faced with this crisis. The developed world unleashed this crisis, and would try to protect its own interests, to which they had devoted trillions of dollars. The developing countries were the victims of these actions. The Bretton Woods institutions should not lend to large-scale institutions, but rather that aid should be reserved for developing countries. Honduras said that the Council could not allow the balancing of macroeconomics, while the microeconomics had been ignored. All the rights should be enjoyed, and all should be entitled to the opportunity to live an enjoyable life.
ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said that aggravation of the financial crisis had effected a slowdown of growth. It had spared no region of the world. This meant that the full enjoyment of human rights would be hindered, especially the right to adequate housing, the right to work and the right to food. Social solidarity had also been affected. In this context, racial discrimination had become more visible. It was now essential that the Human Rights Council send a clear message to the international community which would mean hope to improve the situation in the developing countries. The international community was called upon to redouble its measures to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The developing countries should shoulder their responsibilities in providing development aid. The recommendations from the Special Session should be widely disseminated.
ASLIGUL UGDUL (Turkey) said that the international community’s primary concern was to address and remedy the macro economic consequences of the crisis. The social and human rights aspects must be born in mind when working out medium- and long-term policies on both national and international levels. Unilateral measures and protectionist tendencies appeared inefficient and sometimes detrimental on a global scale. Reducing Official Development Assistance could cause serious problems for the whole world in the long term and further delay in reaching Millennium Development Goals would be detrimental to everyone’s interests.
States would need to take necessary measures to protect their own people; however, international cooperation and solidarity and a more concerted action by regional organizations would be useful to alleviate the possible impact of the current crisis on the enjoyment of human rights. The priority for the Special Session should be to reach a consensual outcome and give a strong message of determination to address the human rights dimensions of the economic and financial crises, while people should be assured that their rights would be taken into account while dealing with the effects of the crisis.
ALIREZA MOAIYERI (Iran) expressed serious concern at the negative impacts of the current crises on the enjoyment of human rights and in particular economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development. In fact, the impact of the crisis on developing countries had been enormous. Increasing poverty, unemployment, marginalization, underdevelopment, illiteracy, hunger, and malnutrition were among the major short-term ramifications of the current crisis in developing countries and in particular in less developed countries.
In addressing the negative impacts of the current crises on the enjoyment of human rights, one should not ignore the root causes and therefore the obligations and responsibilities of the developed economies. The international financial and economic crises resulted from a regulatory and supervisory failure in major developed countries. It exposed the fragilities and shortcomings of the global financial system, in which profits were privatized and losses were socialized.
Iran firmly believed that as long as there was no reliable financial system in place to support developing countries against the adverse effects of the crises in a timely and appropriate way, and to promote their participation in global economy and poverty eradication, the Millennium Development Goals realization and development would remained merely a dream.
SILVANO M. TOMASI (Holy See) said that they were daily reminded by the media that the economic and financial crisis would endanger the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Also, the crisis would compromise the human rights of millions. The loss of hope endangered peace. The Holy See underlined that the international community had a legitimate right to ask how this crisis could have happened and who was responsible. There was a new need of an ethical base to the partnership of States and citizens. It was also clear that children suffered the most, as infant mortality rate was projected to rise in 2009. Low-income countries depended on remittances and foreign aid which would both be reduced during the crisis. The rise of governments with dubious commitments to democracy was also cause of concern. Recent mistakes would be repeated if concerted action was not placed on an ethical road.
VEBJORN HEINES (Norway) said that the global economic and financial crises would continue to have negative consequences, with the poor and vulnerable being hit hardest. It might as well be the human rights challenge of our time. Millennium Development Goals were key to achieving human development and to protecting human rights. Norway would contribute to making the June High-Level Meeting relevant.
Women were affected particularly hard, which emphasized the need to focus on women’s rights. Pursuing a human rights perspective would put the poor at the centre and would highlight the responsibility of States. This Special Session should pave the way for mainstreaming human rights into development. The economic and financial crises, no matter how severe, must not be an excuse for cuts in programmes for the poor and access to basic social service. Official Development Assistance must not be cut, as consequences would take a long time to heal, as experience had already demonstrated. The Government of Norway had increased its Official Development Assistance to 1 per cent this year.
VETURLIDI THOR STEFANSSON (Iceland) said that the global financial and economic crisis was an extraordinary challenge for Governments today, requiring wise leadership and cooperation by the international community. This crisis also challenged human rights, particularly those of the most vulnerable.
While the scale of the current crisis was still largely unmeasured, it was expected that women and children in both developed and developing countries would be particularly affected. Gender perspectives should therefore be taken into account in relation to the impacts of the crisis on both a long- and short-term basis, including in relation to education, health, security and livelihoods.
It was during these challenging times that the foundations of societies were put to a test. The degree to which human rights and fundamental freedoms were promoted and protected were a strong indicator of how strong these foundations were. Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles were important elements of addressing the effects of the global financial crisis. Indeed, these were also necessary tools to ensure solidarity and burden sharing within societies.
Iceland was one of the first countries to be hit by the global financial crisis, bringing about a collapse of virtually the entire banking system, leading the Government to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund.
JOHN UKEC LUETH UKEC (Sudan) said that the present financial crisis had exacerbated an already alarming situation: more than two thirds of humanity had been suffering from extreme poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease or unemployment. Protection and promotion of human rights in the world could not be addressed without the international community applying itself to the realization of economic and social rights. Developing countries had every right to pursue the realization of those rights as a matter of priority and urgency.
It was disheartening to note the reluctance and the lack of will to achieve the Millennium Development Goals within the agreed time line. Sudan stressed not only the notion of equality of economic rights and political rights, but also that it had to prioritise its Plans of Action. Sudan was proud to have had completed the construction of Merawy Dam on the river Nile that would dramatically increase food production and triple the amount of electricity generated.
IMAD ZUHAIRI (Palestine) said that this crisis was affecting everyone around the world. Individualism emphasized and characterized the crisis, and therefore a coordinated and cooperative effort was necessary to resolve it. The right to food, housing, medical care, social insurance and other programmes needed for assistance were at danger. The Palestinian economy was relatively isolated from the world economy, however, real concern for the Palestinians came from the effects felt from the decline of aid and assistance transfers.
ANGELA MARIA CHAVEZ BIETTI (Guatemala) said Guatemala was like all other countries already suffering the effects of the crisis. This crisis went in hand with other already existing crises. The search for a solution to the actual crisis was not the responsibility of one actor but it was shared between States, international or regional organizations, non-governmental organization, donors, multinational companies, the private sector, the media, civil society and all men and women whose well-being was at stake. This crisis was an opportunity in order to ensure that new structure of cooperation would be built. The crisis was also an opportunity for States to reaffirm their commitments to their people. States would have to put in place appropriate measures. Guatemala was well aware of the scope of its responsibility and was hoping to be strengthened by a dialogue of States with the goal of strengthening the respect and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
JUAN HOLGUIN (Ecuador) noted that the consequences of the crisis were unpredictable in terms of their impact on human rights. Human rights must not be left out of decision-making forums. They saw with great concern that because of the crisis some had been seeking legitimacy for actions that might have negative consequences for human rights, as in the case of migrant workers.
One of the aspects resulting from the crisis was servicing foreign debt. Ecuador had made it a priority, in order to fight poverty and ensure access to basic services. Creation of a fund had been recognised as the best practice. The current financial situation meant it would be difficult to find funds for these programmes. Ecuador believed this forum should discuss converting developing countries foreign debts into public programmes.
DOMA TSHERING (Bhutan) aligned itself with the statement made by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. Bhutan shared the concern expressed by other delegations that the economic and financial crises threatened to undermine what had been achieved, collectively and as individual States, and further imperilled the achievement of the goals committed to by world leaders at the 2000 Millennium Summit. The global economic downturn affected everyone, but it was the most vulnerable segments of society that suffered most acutely and disproportionately from the repercussions. It was not the inability to purchase a second home, the need to forgo vacation plans, or the dilemma of how to trim expense accounts that they must grapple with, but the grittier realities of how to feed their families, whether they would find shelter, and how to meet basic medical costs.
Although far from the financial capitals of the world, in this age of globalization and ever deepening interdependence, Bhutan was not immune to the combined effects of the economic and financial crises. Manufacturing industries and the service sector had been particularly hit hard, with both direct and indirect reverberations on the country’s socio-economic health. Fluctuations in international exchange rates had increased the country’s import bills and production costs, affecting debt servicing and the country’s balance of payments. These had thrown into question the successful conclusion of projects critical for poverty alleviation in the country.
EVGENY LAZAREV (Belarus) said that mankind was encountering a crisis which affected all. In this context there was a direct link between the level of observation of human rights in a country and the degree to which a country was hit by the crisis economically. This crisis had created similar problems around the world, for example loss of employment and loss of housing. This systemic crisis had lowered the capability of developing countries to ensure human rights. It was now necessary to promote the right to development and the promotion of human rights, for example through the Universal Periodic Review.
ABZAL SAPARBEKULY (Kazakhstan) said the financial crisis was affecting every State, in particular in the socio-economic area. More than 10 years ago, Kazakhstan had created a fund for an investment in human development and for stabilisation purposes. The Fund has been functioning well and had already provided some social and pension payments to the most vulnerable in Kazakhstan. Attention must be paid to people who lost housing. Kazakhstan had reduced interest rates on housing credits and had given special State interest on housing loans.
Kazakhstan noted a particular role of the mass media in crisis management and their responsibility to convince the people that the crisis would be overcome. During the crisis, when governments took radical decisions, States must ensure a balance between legal norms, human rights and Constitutions.
DINESH BHATTARAI (Nepal) said that while the Council continued to deliberate, the fast spreading financial and economic crisis continued to compound the number of job losers, people deprived of their livelihood, businesses collapsing and depletion of the means of living. The negative impact appeared to be far reaching with cross-cutting consequences in all spheres of society worldwide. The developing, in particular the least developed countries, and countries emerging from conflict among them, happened to be the hardest hit. The decline in export trade, flow of remittances, tourists, foreign aid and investment adversely affected the economy, and impaired their ability to development. The crisis created a programme-resource gap, and imperilled the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals and other international agreed development goals.
Poverty and deprivation were the biggest threats to the enjoyment of human rights and enhancement of human dignity. The financial crisis had curtailed people’s right to education, suppressed their right to work, and squeezed their right to basic health and housing. It aggravated the vulnerability and marginalization of the poor, weakening the social fabric and threatening political and social stability.
OLIVIER POQUILLON, of Dominicans for Justice and Peace, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, said that in the South as in the North, the most vulnerable people had been hit hardest by the economic and financial crises. Not their comfort but their lives were in danger. Particularly migrants were stigmatized in Nordic countries. Further, budgetary reductions let many States undertake short-term measures and step back from long-term programmes, for example in education. Vulnerable people were deprived of support when they needed it most. The global scope of the crisis required a coordinated global response. In order to combat intolerance and xenophobia of members of minorities and migrants, States had to take all necessary measures. The poorest must be given special attention by the authorities.
BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, in a joint statment with International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, congratulated the Council on this Special Session, held on the World Day of Social Justice, 20 February. It was imperative to promote an economic system with a human face based upon the principles of justice in order to correct injustices of globalisation. The crisis posed questions about democratic governance and social inequality; private and public debt spiralled, threatening survival of certain States.
Exceptional situations required exceptional measures: the world needed a sustainable economic system and had to look at the outcome of the economic and financial crises and how it impinged on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; they had to ensure that profit was equally distributed.
LILY AUROVILLIAN of North South XXI, recommended, among other things, that action must focus on helping the most vulnerable first. An adequate international financial architecture was only as valuable as its contribution to assisting the most vulnerable persons. Those who were most in need, namely, children, the poor, working mothers, the almost half of the world’s population living on less than two euros a day, and other economically disadvantaged individuals, needed to remain in the forefront of any effort to reform the international financial architecture. The fact that Governments both national and local were often intermediaries between the vulnerable and the international financial architecture should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the policies, decisions, and actions of these international actors ultimately influenced the well-being of the neediest. This current financial and economic crisis required a real respect for human rights. The Council was urged to make its voice heard. The Council should urge the General Assembly to adopt a resolution that respected economic, social and human rights.
MELIK OZDEN, of Europe–Third World, said that the financial crisis was a systematic crisis and it affected all of mankind, beginning with the most vulnerable who were not at all responsible. The measures being taken were limited to save the financial system that was at the origin of today’s crisis. But where were the means for the victims of the crisis? The world needed not only new regulations, the world needed a new paradigm that led the financial sphere to the service a new democratic system based on the respect of all human rights. The organization demanded that the United Nations be put at the heart of a reform of the financial system. The G-20 was not a legitimate forum to bring the responses needed to confront this systematic crisis.
JULIE GROMELLON, of the International Federation of Human Rights, said that in times of economic crises the negative effects of globalization had to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. The International Federation of Human Rights believed that one of the causes of the crisis had been the failure of Governments to regulate private actors in order to protect human rights from their actions.
Economic, social and cultural rights of the poor in many countries, already put under pressure by the soaring food prices, had been undermined by the present crisis. Increased attention had to be paid to the most vulnerable and they had to be adequately protected. Developed countries should not take the excuse of the economic downturn to step away from their commitments to assist developing countries to realize human rights.
LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement «Tupaj Amaru», said that financial bankruptcy resulted in real losses. Banks and financial institutions had gone belly up. The Indian Movement urged States to address this quickly and to find the root causes. The reasons given for this crisis thus far were blame placed on citizens and families who took out loans and credits beyond their means. The crisis was not based solely in cash liquidity. Speculative capital was not governed by man. There were real contradictions between capital and work. One needed to look at production and production of capital, which had increased beyond natural limits, which was where the causes needed to be found. This was fuelled by greed for profit. The depressive phase of these actions was the current crisis. The new economic order needed to be profoundly changed as it was immoral.
ALICIA GERSHANIK, of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, stated its concern regarding the impact that the financial crisis had had on the enjoyment of human rights, in particular the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. Some of the consequences on a global level included a drop in investment and lowered productivity. This had generated a drop in salaries and increased taxes and unemployment. All regions had been affected by the crisis which had been unleashed in the United States. It now had to be ensured that the appropriate measures were taken to avoid that the crisis enforced the socio-economical differences and that the greatest damage was not inflicted on the poorest. The Permanent Assembly for Human Rights called on States to renew their commitments that had recently been crystallized in the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
ABDEL WAHAB HANI, of the Arab Commission for Human Rights, expressed its happiness at seeing this initiative of the Human Rights Council. The impact of the crisis on civil and political rights, including the right of expression and right of association, were obvious. There had been instances of police shooting at anti-unemployment demonstrators, causing many deaths. Migratory workers were particularly vulnerable, while migratory policies were being hardened. The Arab Commission for Human Rights regretted that the text proposed for adoption did not refer to regulatory frameworks, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Arab Commission called for the extension and stronger text of the resolution.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that whether there was a financial crisis or not, indigenous peoples were the targets of exploitation to the extent that some had had to sacrifice their very existence due to the lack of political will to protect them against abuses. Indigenous peoples were not minorities; they were peoples with recognized political rights. Indigenous peoples had their own historical development on their territories with their resources until they had been invaded, colonized and exploited. Indigenous people were still denied the right to development despite the fact that indigenous peoples were recognized at every level of development with the right to self-determination, including existing United Nations Charter based rights.
Action on Draft Resolution
HISHAM BADR (Egypt), introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the sponsors, said that the draft resolution was a product of three rounds of open-ended consultations and a genuine attempt by the co-sponsors to constructively engage into the elaboration of a consensual resolution that would mark a united message giving the human rights perspective to international ongoing efforts to address the impacts of the global economic and financial crises. The resolution reaffirmed that all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. It recalled that everyone had the right to an adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing and housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. It also reaffirmed the collective commitment to the achievement of the internationally agreed goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the first goal of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty by 2015. The resolution further called on States to refrain from reducing international financial resources for development including official development aid and from imposing protectionist measures.
The resolution stressed that the crisis should not be used to diminish the responsibility of national authorities to respect their human rights obligations and to continue their efforts for the universal realization and enjoyment of all human rights. It reaffirmed the importance of an open, equitable, predictable, and non-discriminatory multilateral trading systems as this could contribute to ensure the enjoyment of all human rights. The resolution invited the General Assembly to extend an invitation to the High Commissioner to provide input to the high level event of the General Assembly in June building on the deliberations of this special session.
1Joint statement on behalf of: Dominicans for Justice and Peace; Association Points-Cœur; International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education (OIDEL); Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities); International Catholic Child Bureau,
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