Human Rights Council
10 September 2008
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES RIGHT TO FOOD IN THE CONTEXT OF THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS
Concludes Discussion on Toxic Waste and Indigenous Peoples
The Human Rights Council this morning heard a presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and held an interactive dialogue with him in which speakers particularly focused on recommendations to address the global food crisis and its root causes. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive debate with the Special Rapporteurs on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous product and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people
Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presenting his report, said it analysed the global food crisis and detailed a range of necessary and possible responses that would be required by a human rights framework. By considering those suggestions, the Council would be addressing the impact of the food crisis on the enjoyment of the right to food. The report also suggested that respecting and promoting the right to food required response both at international and national levels. The urgency of action was no excuse for failure to ensure appropriate institutional responses. His report also pointed out the role of speculation in the futures market of primary agricultural commodities in increasing volatility in food prices, and singled out the question of agrofuels as an example of the range on which the international community would need to develop an urgent consensus that was firmly anchored in human rights considerations.
In the interactive dialogue on the right to food, while States did not always agree on the roots of the crisis – in particular on the role supply and demand and biofuel production played in creating the current situation – all agreed with the need to come up with a viable response to the crisis and the need for international assistance. Discussion in the Council of the global food crisis was a moral and not only procedural obligation, a speaker said. The Rapporteur had correctly pointed out that efforts to increase the level of agricultural production would not be adequate. Help was needed for those who were hungry and malnourished. Human rights protection should be part of the response to the world food crisis, all agreed. Many expressed their support for the Council’s efforts to address the human rights dimension of the problem, including by recently holding a special subject on the global food crisis in the context of rising food prices, which it was hoped would not only contribute to the debate, but would impact on access to food on the ground.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the right to food were Cuba, India, France on behalf of the European Union, Egypt on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Republic of Korea, China, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and El Salvador.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogues begun yesterday afternoon with the Special Rapporteurs on indigenous people and toxic waste. In a discussion on indigenous peoples, many countries expressed their support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on this theme, as well as for the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which would be celebrating the first anniversary of its adoption this month. Indigenous peoples constituted a special group that had contributed a lot to humanity, yet in many countries they were becoming vulnerable groups. They had to be given a stake in State and in democratic governance, but as rights-holders they had responsibilities too, namely to promote the spirit of partnership and to maintain dialogue with other stakeholders.
On toxic waste, speakers said that the participation of the Special Rapporteur in activities organized under the Ninth Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention and the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions would help to streamline the human rights dimension in the discussion on toxic wastes. An estimated 44 million tons of toxic waste were being shipped mostly to developing countries every year. So far, neither the countries involved in export nor those at the receiving end of the effects of exposure to such chemicals and toxic wastes had done much to address this problem with the seriousness it deserved. Many factors still hampered identification of those responsible; corporations and their defenders exploited all loopholes to evade their responsibility and to offer redress to victims. Several speakers emphasized the need for a broader origin-oriented approach to the illicit movement and dumping of toxic wastes, as often receiving countries, mostly developing ones, did not have the capacity to handle storage and disposal of toxic waste.
S. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, in concluding remarks said that it was important to include a gender perspective in his work, since the voices of indigenous women had to be heard. He was also concerned with topics such as languages, the extraction of natural resources and others as raised by several delegations. However, he had refrained from laying out a research programme because of the recent establishment of the expert mechanism of the Council. He did not want duplication with the expert mechanism and his role was rather to focus on specific problems where he wanted to advance solutions. Indigenous peoples’ voices had to be heard and sensitivity to their concerns had to be built up.
Okechukwu Ibeanu, Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous product and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, in concluding remarks, said that it was important to ensure that information effectively reflected the situation and difficulties of peoples at the grass roots back to Governments. Other important factors were capacity-building, international cooperation, access to information and institution-building. He also underlined the importance of the linkage between the environment, human rights and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on toxic waste and indigenous people were Canada, Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Nepal, Guatemala, the Russian Federation, China, Chile, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Algeria, Finland, Nigeria, Peru, Iran, Botswana, Kenya, Colombia, Georgia, Ghana and Denmark.
Also speaking in that interactive debate were representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: the New Zealand Human Rights Committee; the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; the Colombian Commission of Jurists; the Society for Threatened Peoples; the Indian Council of South America; the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches; and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.
When the Council resumes its work this afternoon, it is scheduled to listen to a statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mauritania before concluding its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
Document on the Right to Food
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter (A/HRC/9/23), which looks at the negative impact on the realization of the right to food of the worsening of the world food crisis caused, inter alia, by the soaring food prices, and highlights the impact of the choices to be made on the right to food, placing them in the framework of States’ obligations domestically and internationally. The Special Rapporteur suggests that a human rights framework be adopted in order both to identify the measures needed to respond to the new situation created by the surge in prices and to guide their implementation. This approach will target the most vulnerable segments of the population, who are most severely affected by the crisis or who may least benefit from the remedies. In particular, mapping food security and vulnerability, and ensuring accountability for violations of the right to food should be a priority of States. In recommendations, among others, the Council is encouraged to develop an international consensus on agrofuels, based not only on the need to avoid the negative impact of its development on the international price of staple food commodities, but also on the need to ensure that the production of argofuels respects the full range of human rights and does not result in distorted development in producer countries.
Presentation of Report on the Right to Food
OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said that one of the reasons for the increase of food prices was that the production of agrofuel. Should this be suspended or should it be further promoted to improve the livelihood of framers? Should farmers be protected from the possibility of raising tariffs? Human rights were a guide in framing the problem. They helped to define a benchmark in the process. The human rights framework was there to provide them with tools for accountability and remedies for victims.
Turning to his report, Mr. De Schutter said that the body of the report analysed the crisis and detailed a range of necessary and possible responses that would be required by a human rights framework. By considering these suggestions, the Council would be addressing the impact of the food crisis on the enjoyment of the right to food. The report also suggested that respecting and promoting the right to food required response both at international and national levels. At national level, implementing the right to food in the context of the crisis required States to develop deliberate strategies to ensure that their policies and initiatives addressed food issues comprehensively. Advancing human rights required appropriate legislative and institutional frameworks. The urgency of action was no excuse for failure to ensure appropriate institutional responses. The Council should remind all States that human rights obligations required them to take a number of actions. Adequate monitoring mechanisms were needed. The impact of new policies on the right to food had to be assessed. States also had to ensure accountability and national strategies had to include the sectors of the population that suffered the most from the lack of food security. National strategies also had to address the food price crisis and enjoyment of the right to food more generally.
Mr. De Schutter said that international human rights law required international assistance and cooperation to achieve enjoyment of the right to food for all. In the coming months he would analyse in more detail the operation of food aid programmes and their impact on enjoyment of the right to food. His report also pointed out the role of speculation in the futures market o primary agricultural commodities in increasing volatility in food prices. Also singled out was the question of agrofuels, as an example of the range on which the international community would need to develop an urgent consensus that was firmly anchored in human rights considerations. The Council had to make clear that there was no clash of priorities between the need to combat climate change and protect the environment and that of increasing food production and protecting human rights. Growing evidence demonstrated that the full lifecycle of many agrofuels and their consumption of fertile land, massive amounts of water and energy, meant that they were not a long term alternative to fossil fuels. With the exception of sugarcane in Brazil, the environmental impact of other agrofuel currently produced from food crops did not seem particularly positive. The Council should call for the prompt adoption of international agreements and guidelines that would ensure that investment into, and development of, agrofuel was closely scrutinized.
Mr. De Schutter observed that the global increase of food prices had caught everyone by surprise. The poor were hungry, not because there was no food, but because they could not buy the food that was available. The Council should remind States and international agencies that respect for human rights obligations provided powerful protection against aid being misused or policies being misdirected.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said discussion in the Council of the global food crisis was a moral and not only procedural obligation. They had witnessed the tireless efforts of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to bring the topic to the attention of all, including by speaking on the human rights perspectives to the Food Crisis Panel recently, but the results had fallen short of expectations.
They had witnessed alarmed reactions to the global food crisis from individuals and organizations, including the Council. People continued to die of hunger and millions were caught in the food crisis. They, paradoxically, could escape only with help of those they condemned for causing the crisis. Cuba noted one of possible responses to the global food crisis could be turning the global war budget into the global food budget.
RACHITA BHANDARI (India) said that the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations merited special consideration. The Rapporteur had correctly pointed out that efforts to increase the level of agricultural production would not be adequate. Help was needed for those who were hungry and malnourished. An effective strategy to seek a durable solution to the world food crisis included the rectification of trade-distorting policies by elimination of agricultural subsidies in developed countries. Also, they should make available to the developing countries modern farming technologies, drought and pest-resistant seeds, advanced irrigation systems and improved fertilizers. There was a pressing need for a green revolution in developing countries. Furthermore, the global energy crisis and the link between oil and food prices including via bio-fuels had to be addressed. It would be helpful to learn from each others’ positive experiences. India, for example, had taken several measures to achieve food security.
JEAN -BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union had welcomed the holding of the special session on the right to food. The report of the Special Rapporteur was an important step in the right direction. His regret that so far discussion about possible solutions had not sufficiently been based on human rights was noted. The rights of people living in extreme poverty had to be central in their deliberations and guide them in their debate. The balanced way in which the Special Rapporteur had addressed possible solutions was also welcomed. The European Union believed that it was foremost up to States themselves to take the necessary measures to meet these challenges. The attention paid to small farms by the Special Rapporteur was also welcomed. The Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had a special role to play in the realization of the right to food.
HISHAM BADR (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that the global food crisis had had a disproportionate impact on African countries, especially African least developed countries. As the Special Rapporteur on the right to food noted in his report, the food prices increase had been brutal and unprecedented. The special session had underscored the need to mainstream a human rights perspective in addressing the global food crisis in order to achieve policy coherence and support remedial action.
The underlining causes of the global food crisis still had to be recognized on the international level and included, but were not limited to, disparity between demand and supply, limited agricultural land, and allocation of agricultural land for bio fuels. The African Group supported the notion that human rights frameworks and approaches had the potential to keep the debate and discussions about the global food crisis on the right track. Also noted were States’ responsibilities and obligations under the international law which needed to be applied to the global food crisis, including the obligation to provide international cooperation and assistance. The African Group reiterated its repeated warning that the international community had not been giving appropriate attention to the global food crisis and renewed the call for a debate on global food crisis.
SYED ALI ASAD GILLANI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, said that to find a long-term and durable solution to the world food crisis a thorough analysis was needed, such as that given in the Special Rapporteur’s report. Slow supply, drought, the fall of the dollar, global financial volatility, trade-distorting subsidies were some of the issues noted in the report. Pakistan added that a number of countries that have been exporting countries in the 1970’s had now become net importers. Farm prices and consumer prices had to come closer together and benefits should go to the farmers. Households which were most vulnerable should be shielded from price increases.
The Organization of Islamic Conference welcomed the global partnership on food. It was important to note that international aid to developing countries was inadequate and had declined in recent years. In fact, donors had neglected aid. Help was needed by those affected, and food supplies had to be increased in the short-term. In a medium and long-term perspective, food import restrictions and the impact of climate change had to be addressed, among others.
SEOK-HEE KANG (Republic of Korea) said that the current global food crisis was leading to greater hunger and malnutrition, not just threatening global development efforts. The swift response of the international community led by the Secretary-General was welcomed, in particular the establishment of the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis. It was noted with appreciation that the Human Rights Council had also contributed to the global response by holding a special session on this issue.
An analysis of the current food crisis revealed that there were three dimensions to this phenomenon – humanitarian, development and human rights. No one should be arbitrarily deprived of the right to adequate food. It was believed that OHCHR and Special Rapporteur, as well as the Council, could make a constructive contribution. However, the role of the Council needed to be limited to the aspect of human rights. It was time to take an urgent and comprehensive action.
KE YOUSHENG (China) thanked the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and endorsed the recommendations outlined in his report. The Council had recently had a special session on the food issue, where consensus had been reached. China considered access to food was a fundamental human right. The global food crisis was a threat to developing countries and least developed countries in particular and undermined achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
China called on developing countries and relevant United Nations bodies to help developing countries confront the food crisis and realize the right to food in a balanced manner. China assured, on its own, food security for its 1.3 billion people, all the while incorporating human rights notions. China expressed its willingness to join other countries in dealing with the global food crisis.
JEFFREY HEATON (Canada) said that human rights protection should be part of the response to the world food crisis. In that regard, international cooperation was particularly important. In response to the world food crisis, Canada had boosted its support also in local procurement. Canada called on all donors to fully untie their donations. It welcomed the acknowledgement of the especially negative impact on women and girls of the world food crisis. Canada asked whether the Special Rapporteur would share best practices in that regard?
ALEXANDRE GUIDO LOPES PAROLA (Brazil) said that Brazil was strictly committed to the respect of the right to food for all. Of most concern was the human rights dimension of the full fulfilment of the right to food. Brazil was confident that the Declaration on Action against Hunger and Poverty, adopted in September 2004, would continue to be implemented. Innovative financial mechanism and the creation of the United Nations Development Programme Fund to strengthen international cooperation against hunger and poverty were concrete examples of effective measures.
Having supported the special session of the Council on the right to food, Brazil was hopeful that its follow-up would contribute to the debate. At the international level, all activites dealing with the issue should follow a coordinated approach. The High-Level Conference on World Food Security had thus been a majar event. The fight against hunger was a central axis in the Brazilian strategic programme “Zero Hunger”. Biofuels were not the villain that menaced the food security of poor nations. On the contrary, it could be an important means of economic or social development. Agricultural subsidies applied by some developed countries had substantially adverse, direct and structural effects to the full realization of the right to food. To overcome the present crisis, a successful conclusion of the World Trade Organisation Doha Round was clearly required.
AKIRA MATSUMOTO (Japan) welcomed detailed presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and noted its concern over negative impact the global food crisis had on human right of people worldwide and especially in developing countries and least developed countries. Japan applauded the Human Rights Council for its timely recognition of the magnitude of the problem and for deciding to address it from human rights perspective.
Japan had been proactive in addressing the issue of global food crisis and raised the issue in high-level meetings and gatherings, such as Food and Agricultural Organization-sponsored High-Level Conference and during the G-8 summit in Japan. Moreover, since January 2008, Japan had committed approximately $1.1 billion in food and food aid. During this sixtieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, they had to renew commitments and determination to work towards the freedom from want for all people. Japan would continue to proactively address the issue of soaring food prices and work towards ensuring right to food for all.
ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had supported the resolution on the right to food in the General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council. The food crisis threatened hundreds of millions of people, despite Government commitments to reduce hunger. The world actually produced enough to feed everyone. Saudi Arabia welcomed the World Fund for Food Security. It was necessary to redouble their efforts to address the crisis. For its part, Saudi Arabia had donated $500 million, which had resulted in a surplus for the World Food Programme. The Human Rights Council also had the role to respond the food crisis. Saudi Arabia hoped that this session had an impact on access to food.
MARIANA OLIVERA WEST (Mexico) thanked the Special Rapporteur on the right to food for a wide-ranging and analytical report. The information provided in the report was going to be extremely useful in developing a viable response to the global food crisis. Mexico was convinced of the need for urgent action by the international community and fully supported the Special Rapporteur on the right to food on developing responses within the framework on the right to food. It was also vital to take into account the implications of denial of the right to food on other human rights.
Mexico also agreed with the need to provide a global response and to avoid partial approaches. To that end, greater dialogue was needed between relevant mechanisms, including the Council, OHCHR, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and other mechanisms of the human rights system. It was important to mainstream human rights into this dialogue and accord them necessary priority. In that context, Mexico welcomed the upcoming meeting in Rome on the global food crisis and stressed the key role of international community in addressing the global food crisis and in complementing national responses.
MARIO ERNESTO CASTRO GRANDE (El Salvador) agreed with the reasons for the world food crisis identified by the Special Rapporteur. Regarding the right to land, El Salvador noted that according to the report land tenure should be ensured. That was a very important issue. El Salvador would like the Special Rapporteur to draw a distinction between different measures that could be adopted, since not all would involve agrarian reform.
Continuation of Interactive Dialogue on Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Adverse Effects of the Dumping of Toxic and Dangerous Products and Wastes
JEFFREY HEATON (Canada) said that Canada was a strong supporter of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of indigenous peoples, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples. Canada also had a strong interest in a number of important emerging international indigenous issues, including violence against indigenous women; the relationship between good governance, healthy communities and economic development; indigenous children in custody care; culturally relevant gender-based analysis; links between language and cultural retention and issues such as governance, education, and urban indigenous people.
Canada remained committed to the effective machinery of the United Nations system dealing with the issue of indigenous people. It was hoped that they would be able to continue to have an open and constructive discussion with the Special Rapporteur.
SYED ALI ASAD GILLANI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, said that the participation of the Special Rapporteur in activities organized under the Ninth Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention and the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions would help to streamline the human rights dimension in the discussion on toxic wastes. The Organization of Islamic Conference noted the need for a broader origin-oriented approach to the illicit movement and dumping of toxic wastes that addressed the problem in a comprehensive manner. It expressed hope that the Special Rapporteur would especially focus on this issue, as often receiving countries, mostly developing ones, did not have the capacity to handle storage and disposal of toxic waste.
The Organization of Islamic Conference strongly supported the current mandate and urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make more resources available for the effective implementation. With regard to the report, the Special Rapporteur was requested to elaborate on what mechanisms could be put in place to ensure that obsolete pesticides did not reach developing countries and how the technical and financial capacity of developing countries could be built so as to dispose of such obsolete pesticides.
DINESH BHATTARAI (Nepal) said that, as a multiethnic country, Nepal attached great importance to the work of the Special Representative on indigenous rights. As Nepal was in the important phase of writing its Constitution, the rights of indigenous people were receiving due focus and attention. In 2002, Nepal had established an independent statutory body exclusively to work for the development of indigenous people. Reservations and a quota system had been established to ensure fair representation of all communities in all State apparatus and decision-making bodies, including the Parliament, civil service, police, army and all public sector employment.
CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala) said that this month they would see the first anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Guatemala was pleased to see that the Special Rapporteur was ready to build on the past achievements. One of the reasons behind the renewal of the mandate had been the necessity to tackle a number of remaining issues. It was important to effect real changes in areas such as social policy and development. Guatemala expressed its satisfaction over the working methods the Special Rapporteur wanted to put in place. Everyone had to ensure that the Declaration became reality.
ROMAN G. KASHAEV (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation agreed with the Special Rapporteur’s idea that States should have a leading role addressing the problems of the indigenous peoples. It attached most serious attention to the issue of indigenous peoples and informed the Council about the measures it had been taking to protect their rights. Those included development of special legal instruments and state instruments to protect the rights of indigenous people, including under the land, fiscal and water codes. Annual subsidies were being allocated from the federal budget for indigenous peoples. All resources would be mobilized towards sustainable development of indigenous people, including development of traditional economic activities and delivery of education, health and cultural services for those living in traditional indigenous areas.
The Russian Federation noted that the Federal Ministry was organizing a number of events related to this area, such as the First World Congress of Finno-Hungarian People, and the organization of the Second International Seminar of Experts on the Interaction Between Business and Indigenous People was under way.
KE YOUSHENG (China) said that indigenous people constituted a special group which had contributed a lot to humanity, yet in many countries they were becoming vulnerable groups. China was committed to protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples. China also drew attention to the negative and serious impact of toxic waste on human rights and suggested that the United Nations organize campaigns to raise public awareness on this issue.
CARLOS PORTALES (Chile) thanked Mr. Anaya for the presentation of his first report, which provided an exhaustive analysis of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Chile, there had been substantial progress in improving the conditions of indigenous peoples since the implementation of the 1989 pact between the Government and the indigenous people. However, many indigenous people were still saying that their issues were not being addressed enough. There was also a perception that society was still not accepting multiculturalism as a whole. Several measures were planned in Chile to improve the situation of indigenous people. The Government was committed to ensure the human rights of all Chile’s inhabitants.
JESUS ENRIQUE G. GARCIA (Philippines) outlined the legal framework for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, which went beyond the obligatory aspects of the Declaration. Indigenous peoples had to be given a stake in State and in democratic governance, but as rights-holders they had responsibilities too, namely to promote the spirit of partnership and to maintain dialogue with other stakeholders. The Philippines asked the Special Rapporteur how he envisaged the relationship between his mandate and the Council and encouraged him to continue building constructive relationship.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said that an estimated 44 million tons of toxic waste were being shipped mostly to developing countries every year. Those countries knowingly or unknowingly accepted that toxic waste. Eventually the people of those countries suffered from diseases and died of the consequences. Bangladesh urged to keep the goal of the highest possible attainment of health in mind and welcomed the Basel Convention. Bangladesh was also concerned that the mandate on toxic waste suffered from resource constraints. That should not be the case; the mandate should receive appropriate consideration from the Council.
JOSE A. MORATO TAVARES (Indonesia) said that Indonesia was confident that the new Special Rapporteur on indigenous people would conduct his mandate with professionalism. His report showed that he had already established a firm grip on his mandate. It was noted that the Special Rapporteur had mentioned the International Labour Organization in his work. In view of the growing emphasis on issues such as the ownership of cultural heritage and traditional knowledge in the activities of the World Intellectual Property Organization, did the Special Rapporteur envisage a closer cooperation between that organization and the United Nations human rights system?
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) expressed its adhesion to the affirmation in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples that the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples had to be compatible with the principle of territorial integrity and political unity of States. Algeria had a question. Paragraph 63 of the Report suggested that the Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples would be the basis for the assessment of the Universal Periodic Review and would guide recommendations of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review regarding the indigenous peoples. Given that Council resolution 5/1 set out that international instruments could only be used as part of the review process if the State concerned was a party to it, how was that possible?
Regarding the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, Algeria regretted that the differences in interpretation of paragraph 5 of article 17 of the Basel Convention delayed rapid implementation of the Ban amendment, prohibiting the export of toxic waste from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries to developing countries. Algeria confirmed its support to the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for another three years and extension of the mandate to include all movements of toxic and dangerous products and waste.
PEKKA METSO (Finland) said that it would like to hear more about the Special Rapporteur’s concrete plans to enhance the coherence and coordination within the United Nations system with regard to the rights of indigenous peoples. Finland noted that the Special Rapporteur paid a good deal of attention to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In that connection, it would like to know what measures the Special Rapporteur envisaged taking to raise awareness of the Declaration and to promote the cooperation between States and indigenous peoples. Finland added that it was working towards ratifying ILO Convention No. 169 (concerning indigenous and tribal peoples) as had been recommended to Finland when it underwent the Universal Periodic Review process.
OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria) expressed appreciation to the Special Rapporteur on toxic waste for his excellent report. Following the dumping of a boatload of toxic waste in Koko, Nigeria, in 1988, African countries had called for a ban on toxic waste dumping. That ban had finally been adopted by consensus at the United Nations Basel Convention in 1995, but it had yet to enter into force. Many countries had failed to ratify the Convention. Several other Conventions on this topic had also not been fully implemented.
Nigeria had become a party to the Basel Convention in 1993, but it had not been effectively implemented so far due to limited resources and a lack of technical capacity. So far, neither the countries involved in export nor those at the receiving end of the effects of exposure to such chemicals and toxic wastes had done much to address this problem with the seriousness it deserved. Many factors still hampered identification of those responsible; corporations and their defenders exploited all loopholes to evade their responsibility and to offer redress to victims. Nigeria firmly supported intensifying the efforts of the Rapporteur in this area.
ALEJANDRO NEYRA SANCHEZ (Peru) attached great importance to the work of both Special Rapporteurs. It agreed with the vision of the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights outlined in his report.
Peru noted it had played important role in drafting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in adoption of important instruments for protection of rights of indigenous peoples by the United Nations about a year ago. Further, Peru agreed with the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples on the importance of cooperation between indigenous peoples, State and civil society in implementing the Declaration. Peru took note of the non-compliance mentioned in the report and said that its silence had been due to backlog of pending reports rather than due to lack of interest on Peru’s part.
ASADOLLAH ESHRAGH JAHROMI (Iran) said that the Special Rapporteur had observed in his report the importance of recognizing the contribution indigenous people made to humanity. Iran would now like to know how this realization of that contribution could take place. Also, in view of the fact that some countries had voted against the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Iran asked how the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples could be realized?
O. RHEE HETANANG (Botswana) said that Botswana welcomed the report on indigenous people. The conclusions of the Special Rapporteur in his report were noted, particularly the recognition that the implementation of the Declaration and other relevant State obligations were not free from obstacles and difficulties of all sorts. They also agreed with the conclusion that implementation of the Declaration hinged on each party, States and indigenous peoples. The invitation to the Special Rapporteur to visit Botswana was reaffirmed.
MARIA NZOMO (Kenya) thanked the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and ensured him of its cooperation. Kenya had addressed the issue of indigenous people, including marginalized groups, through the Kenyan Universal Periodic Review. Also, it had implemented a number of recommendations the Special Rapporteur made during his visit to Kenya.
Kenya commended the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights for his hard work in achieving the objectives of his mandate. Illicit movement of toxic and dangerous products and waste was of a particular concern to developing countries and of a great importance to Kenya. In the Nairobi Declaration, States had committed to finding a lasting solution to that problem. Kenya was convinced that a multi-disciplinary approach was the way to successful address this issue and fully supported the Basel Convention and the work of the United Nations Environmental Programme.
ALVARO ENRIQUE AYALA MELENDEZ (Colombia) recalled that its country was home to 84 indigenous peoples speaking 64 different languages and thus possessed a very advanced legislation in this area. Colombia would soon provide the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples with information he had requested in his communication of 20 March 2008. The Colombian Constitution guaranteed the rights of indigenous peoples, and Colombia had ratified ILO Convention No. 169 concerning indigenous and tribal peoples. Moreover it was underscored that Colombia had put tens of thousands of hectares of land at the disposition of the Yucpa peoples.
TAMAR TAMASHVILI (Georgia) said that indigenous people were contributing to the richness of civilization and culture, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. As had been noted by the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, non-discrimination was a general clause applying to everyone. It would be interesting to hear the Special Rapporteur’s views on the interrelationship of his mandate with the mandate of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
MERCY YVONNE AMOAH (Ghana) thanked the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. It noted the importance of his mandate for the lives and livelihoods of people, and the fact that, as stated in the report, environmentally sound management and adherence to the Basel Convention were essential for the achievement of almost all of the Millennium Development Goals.
Ghana also agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the importance of addressing the movement of the toxic and dangerous products and wastes at the point of origin. Because of poverty, developing countries continued accepting hazardous products that threaten agriculture and food production, fuelling the vicious cycle of poverty. Ghana wanted to know what measures Special Rapporteur recommended to break this cycle? Ghana also asked the Special Rapporteur how would the expansion of his mandate to include all movement of toxic and dangerous products and waste facilitate the fulfilment of his mandate and inquired his views on the best way to bring into discussion the question of the human rights impact of the waste trade.
ARNOLD SKIBSTED (Denmark) welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report on behalf of the Danish Government and the Greenland Home Government. Denmark had always supported the respect of the rights of indigenous peoples. It emphasized the importance of an ongoing dialogue with the Rapporteur on how the Council could assist the Rapporteur in his work. In particular, Denmark thought that it should be of highest priority to promote the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Denmark asked on which issues the Rapporteur would like to engage in a dialogue with countries and other stakeholders.
KATHARINA ROSE, of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people and in particular his comments on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Commission had translated the Declaration into Maori. They also agreed that, as the Special Rapporteur had noted, it was important to develop a strong relationship between the Government and indigenous people.
SIMIA AHMADI, of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, highlighted the longstanding efforts of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues to draw the attention of the international community to shipwrecking yards. In Bangladesh and China, for example, hundreds of children had suffered accidents, sometimes fatal, while their health had been endangered by toxic products. The Federation recommended that the Special Rapporteur visit the seaports of those countries and promote adherence of shipwrecking yards to standards in order to protect human rights. It also noted that the victims of Probo Koala tragedy in Cote d’Ivoire had yet to be compensated and requested strong message be sent that Africa was not cheap ground for dumping of toxic and dangerous products and waste.
ISABELLE HEYER, of the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), said that the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a new and very important Declaration. In Colombia, indigenous peoples were still victims. The exploitation of natural resources had led to forced displacement of indigenous people. No consultations with indigenous peoples by the Government had been undertaken. That showed that the Colombian State did not implement the rights of the indigenous peoples. The Commission was concerned that, when the Declaration had been adopted in the General Assembly Colombia had abstained and made objections. There was a lack of will from the Government of Colombia to respect the indigenous peoples and their rights.
TENZIN KAYTA, of the Society for Threatened Peoples, referred to the joint communication to China by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights of indigenous peoples, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, on the “alleged severe impact of resettlement programmes and forced evictions that are currently being implemented in Tibetan areas of the People’s Republic of China”. China’s response on the matter was welcomed, but the issue of consent of the Tibetans involved was fundamental. A documentary released this year by British Television had revealed that “the nomadic way of life [was] being forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans were stripped of their land and livestock and were being resettled in [...] camps”. The Chinese Authorities had recently announced that in the next five years 73,000 Tibetan nomads would be moved in the Gannan. The Special Rapporteur was urged to closely monitor the situation Tibet, including by seeking to undertake a fact-finding mission.
RONALD BARNES, of the Indian Council of South America Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition, noted that the plural form of the term indigenous “peoples” had to be understood to include the Universal Periodic Review application of the right that applied to all peoples and rejected the singular use of the term, as it was result of the politicization and selectivity by States who took discriminating positions on the scope and application of the rights of indigenous peoples. As for the indigenous peoples right to self-determination, the Indian Council of South America noted that the right to territorial integrity of States applied to the extent that those particular States had historical obligations to ensure the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples. It requested the delegation of the United States to clarify their response and remark on the treaties North America Indian Nations had with other Indian Nations.
MARIA SUMIRE, of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (CCIA/WCC), said that Peru was going through a phase where legal steps were one thing but reality was another. Some of the Government’s measures violated the right of indigenous peoples. The Commission gave an example of land lease in Peru which violated the rights of indigenous peoples and had led to a food crisis.
DEANNE FOWLER, of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on indigenous people. Following his recent visit to Brazil, the Centre wanted to note that farmers there had unlawfully occupied the land of indigenous people. Farmers had carried out attacks on several indigenous villages. That was clearly in contradiction with the Declaration of the rights of indigenous people. Indigenous reservations had to be respected and protected. The Special Rapporteur was urged to monition that situation.
Concluding Remarks by Special Rapporteurs on Indigenous People and Toxic Waste
S. JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, in concluding remarks, said that it was important to include a gender perspective in his work, since the voices of indigenous women had to be heard. That was going to happen in upcoming seminars, which the Special Rapporteur would attend. Regarding his interest in thematic studies, the Special Rapporteur noted that he was concerned with topics such as languages, the extraction of natural resources and others as raised by several delegations. However, he had refrained from laying out a research programme because of the recent establishment of the expert mechanism of the Council. The Special Rapporteur did not want duplication with the expert mechanism and his role was rather to focus on specific problems where he wanted to advance solutions.
Furthermore, Mr. Anaya said that indigenous peoples’ voices had to be heard and sensitivity to their concerns had be built up. His role was to help to open or improve lines of communication. Concerning assistance from the Council, he wished for an encouragement of the States by the Council to be responsive and allow creativity. Regarding cooperation with the International Labour Union, he asked for technical assistance and support in conflict resolution. Finally, on the issue of the “non-existence” of indigenous people in China, there was sensitivity to this subject in many countries and that he advocated a human-rights-based approach.
OKECHUKWU IBEANU, Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous product and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, in concluding remarks, addressing the question of what should be done in order to reduce the effects of dumping toxic waste, said that public information was crucial. It was important to ensure that information effectively reflected the situation and difficulties of peoples at the grass roots back to Governments. Other important factors were capacity-building, international cooperation, access to information and institution-building.
Turning to the improvement and expansion of the mandate, Mr. Ibeanu noted that there had been a question by Ghana on the coverage of licit movement and how it would enhance the mandate. He said that there were many situations where technically licit movement could become a sort of derogation from human rights. For example, the licit shipping of obsolete computers and cell phones could become a serious violation of human rights.
In conclusion, Mr. Ibeanu pointed out that there were three issues that were now clear. First, the impact of toxic waste on human rights was widespread. Developing countries were now placed between development and disaster. Second, concerted cooperation at the international level was very important to address this issue. Here, he underlined the importance of the linkage between the environment, human rights and the attainment of Millennium Development Goals. The third point was the importance of information and public awareness. Countries had to invest in that matter. The simple point of labelling toxic material in local language was something easy to implement.
For use of the information media; not an official record