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Motion for a resolution on the EU’s priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions of 2016 – B8-2016-0063

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and optional protocols thereto,

–  having regard to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the violation of human rights, including its urgency resolutions,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the 2015 annual report of the UNHRC to the UN General Assembly,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 are years of major anniversaries as regards the enjoyment of human rights, peace and security: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the 40th and 20th anniversaries of the Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) respectively; and the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security (2000) and of the Millennium Development Goals (2000); whereas these anniversaries coincide with the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, created by an ever-increasing number of individuals forced to leave their homes as a result of climate change, persecution, armed conflict and generalised violence;

B.  whereas upholding respect for human rights irrespective of race, origin, class, caste, sex, sexual orientation or colour is an obligation on all states, and reiterating its attachment to the indivisibility of human rights – whether they are political, civil, economic, social or cultural – which are interrelated and interdependent, and considering that the deprivation of any one of these rights has a direct and adverse impact on the others;

C.  whereas all states have an obligation to respect the basic rights of their respective populations and a duty to take concrete action to facilitate respect for those rights at national level, and to cooperate at international level with a view to eliminating obstacles to the realisation of human rights in all areas;

D.  whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union’s ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity; whereas the human rights situation in its Member States directly impacts on the credibility of the EU’s human rights policy abroad;

E.  whereas the Union’s action in its relations with third countries is guided by Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty, which reaffirms the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and enshrines the obligation for the EU to respect human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and those of the United Nations Charter and international law in its action on the international scene;

F.  whereas respect for human rights should be mainstreamed in all policy areas involving peace and security, development cooperation, migration, trade and investment, humanitarian action, climate change and the fight against terrorism, as these cannot be addressed in isolation from respect for human rights;

G.  whereas the regular sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, the Special Procedure addressing either specific country situations or thematic issues, all contribute to the international effort to promote and respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

H.  whereas some of the members of the Human Rights Council are acknowledged as being among the worst human rights offenders and have a poor record in terms of cooperation with the UN Special Procedures and compliance with their reporting requirements vis-à-vis the UN human rights treaty bodies;

UN Human Rights Council

1.  Reiterates its position that UNHRC members should be elected among states which uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and urges EU Member States to promote human rights performance-based criteria for any state to be elected as a member of the UNHRC; expresses its concerns about widespread and systematic human rights abuses in several member states of the UNHRC, including Russia, China and Saudi Arabia; calls on the EU Member States not to vote in support of the membership of states committing such large-scale human rights violations and to publicise their votes;

2.  Expresses its full support for the independence and integrity of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (‘the Office’) and stresses that it is important to defend this independence, so as to ensure that the Office can continue to exercise its task in an effective and impartial manner; reiterates that the Office needs to be adequately funded and needs to be given full support;

3.  Reiterates its support for the Special Procedures and the independent status of the mandate holders to enable them to fulfil their function in all impartiality; deeply regrets the lack of cooperation demonstrated by some member states, such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, and observer states such as Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan, with thematic special procedures, as well as the lack of cooperation with country-specific special procedures by the countries concerned, including Israel; calls on all states to fully cooperate with these procedures;

4.  Reaffirms the importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with a view to reaching a full understanding of the human rights situation in all UN member states, and reiterates its support for the second cycle of the review; calls again for the recommendations that were not accepted by states during the first cycle to be reconsidered in the continuation of the UPR process;

5.  Stresses the need to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, notably civil society, participate fully in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and expresses its deep concern that severe limitations and ever growing restrictions and intimidation have hampered civil society’s participation in the UPR process;

6.  Calls on the European External Action Service and the Commission to follow up on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations in all EU policy dialogues with the countries concerned in order to explore ways and means of implementing the recommendations through country and regional strategies;

7.  Calls, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the HRC, for an assessment of the Council’s impact, and the extent to which it is fulfilling its mandate and the need for greater attention to be paid to the implementation of its resolutions and other decisions; expresses concern at the practice of states responsible for human rights violations drafting their own resolutions, noting that they often do so not with the intention of actually addressing the situation, but with the aim of shielding their own acts and omissions from international scrutiny; highlights the need to address all country situations on their merits without selectivity; emphasises the importance of integrating civil society participation in all aspects of the Council’s work, and fostering concerted action to prevent and address reprisals;

8.  Welcomes the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Initiative for Change, intended to improve and reinforce the global presence of UN human rights offices with the creation of eight regional hubs to protect and promote respect for human rights by working directly with partners in order to transform the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms into real changes on the ground;

EU Member States at the Human Rights Council

9.  Deplores the division and lack of unity among the EU Member States in relation to a number of country situations over the past year, including on Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen where several EU Member States refused to co-sign the EU joint statement or even actively undermined initiatives by other EU Member States;

10.  Regrets the passivity of some EU Member States at the HRC; regrets that Belarus is the only new country resolution that the EU has decided to lead as a group since the creation of the HRC; calls on all EU Member States at the HRC to show stronger leadership on country situations and to mobilise action on situations that have not yet been addressed by the Council;

11.  Deplores the voting behaviour of EU Member States on a number of issues of critical importance for the Global South and where EU Member States abstained or for the most part voted down resolutions, which were ultimately adopted, such as on the repatriation of funds of illicit origin, private military and security companies, armed drones, foreign debt, the right to education, human rights and international solidarity, unilateral coercive measures, mercenaries, the right to peace, human rights of peasants, racism, people of African descent, the right to development and the promotion of a democratic and equitable world order; regrets also the continued division of the EU Member States at the UN HRC on a number of landmark thematic resolutions including on armed drones, on the right to peace, on the fight against racism and on the right to development;

12.  Considers that the voting record of EU Member States in the HRC sharply contrasts with the EU’s stated commitment to the indivisibility of rights and notably, to economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights, and reflects the EU’s collective failure in successfully contributing to the development of global standards in these areas; calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to report back to Parliament on this situation and to encourage an in-depth review of the EU and Member State approach to ESC rights and so-called ‘new generation rights’ at the HRC; calls for a more principled and non-selective engagement of the EU Member States at the HRC; calls on the EU and its Member States to mainstream human rights in all their activities and positions within the broader UN system;

Civil and political rights

13.  Reiterates that freely electing political leaders, in periodically held genuine elections on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, is a fundamental right that all citizens should enjoy in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

14.  Reaffirms that the existence of freedom of expression and a vibrant and conducive environment for independent and pluralistic civil society are prerequisites to promote respect for human rights;

15.  Is of the view that contemporary digital technologies offer advantages and challenges for the protection of the right to privacy and for the exercise of freedom of expression online throughout the world; welcomes, in this context, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, whose mandate includes surveillance and privacy issues that affect people online or offline;

16.  Reiterates its long-standing opposition to the death penalty, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment in all cases and under all circumstances; emphasises once again that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity;

17.  Commends the substantial progress made so far, whereby many countries have suspended capital punishment while others have taken legislative measures towards abolishing the death penalty; expresses, nevertheless, its regret concerning the reinstatement of executions in some countries over the past few years; calls upon those states which have abolished the death penalty or have a long-standing death penalty moratorium not to reintroduce it and for those still retaining the death penalty, to adopt a moratorium as a first step towards abolition;

18.  Calls on all Member States to implement all necessary measures to ensure that they do not directly or indirectly contribute to the imposition or execution of the death sentence in retentionist states through any means, including the provision of law enforcement support or assistance to the prosecuting authorities that could contribute to a death sentence;

Social and Economic Rights

19.  Regrets that more than 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on the universality and indivisibility as well as the interdependence and interrelated nature of all human rights, that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is not treated by the EU and its Member States on the same footing and with the same emphasis as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as demonstrated by EU voting behaviour in the UNHRC; recognises the UNHRC’s efforts to put all human rights on an equal footing and with the same emphasis, through the establishment of Special Procedure mandate holders related to economic, social and cultural rights; insists that particular efforts should be made, including by the EU Member States, to secure wide ratification of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR establishing complaint and inquiry mechanisms;

20.  Expresses its profound concern about the rise of extreme poverty, which jeopardises the full enjoyment of all human rights; welcomes in this regard the UNHRC Special Rapporteur’s report on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/29/31) and supports his proposals for the elimination of extreme poverty, which include: giving economic, social and cultural rights the same prominence and priority as are given to civil and political rights; recognising the right to social protection; implementing fiscal policies specifically aimed at reducing inequality; revitalising and giving substance to the right to equality; and putting questions of resource redistribution at the centre of debates on human rights;

21.  Is of the opinion that corruption, tax evasion, mismanagement of public goods and a lack of accountability contribute to the violation of citizens’ human rights as they divert funds from state budgets that should be dedicated to the advancement of human rights in much needed public services such as education, basic health services and other social infrastructure; considers that action to ensure respect for human rights, in particular the rights to information, to freedom of expression and assembly, to an independent judiciary and to democratic participation in public affairs, is instrumental in fighting corruption;

22.  Emphasises that minority communities in third countries have specific needs and that their full equality should be promoted in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life;

Indigenous Peoples

23.  Calls on the EEAS, the Commission and the Member States to actively support the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all HRC sessions; calls on the EEAS, the Commission and the Member States to take into consideration that indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and to actively support their participation in the application of the Paris Agreement; urges the EU Member States to request that all Special Procedure mandate holders give special attention to issues affecting indigenous women, youth and persons with disabilities, and systematically report such issues to the UNHRC; urges the EEAS and the Member States to actively support the development of the system-wide action plan on indigenous peoples, as requested by the UN General Assembly in its September 2014 resolution, especially as regards the organisation of regular consultation of indigenous peoples as part of that process;

Human rights defenders

24.  Condemns the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by government forces in a number of third countries; expresses its concern about unfair and restrictive legislation, including restrictions on foreign funding, which is resulting in a shrinking space for civil society activities; calls on all governments to promote and support freedom of the media, civil society organisations and the activities of human rights defenders and to allow them to operate without fear, repression or intimidation;

25.  Calls on all governments to allow civil society organisations and human rights defenders, to cooperate with the UNHRC in the UPR mechanism and to ensure that countries responsible for reprisals against human rights activists are held accountable;

26.  Considers that the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by a number of UNHRC members undermines the credibility of the UNHRC; urges the EU and its Member States to promote an initiative at UN level to outline a coherent and comprehensive response to the major challenges that human rights defenders working on women’s rights, the defence of environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ rights, on corruption and impunity, journalists and other human rights defenders using media, including online and social media, face worldwide and to systematically denounce their assassination;

Business and human rights

27.  Strongly supports the effective and comprehensive implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within and outside the EU and urges EU Member States to adopt and implement national action plans; emphasises the need to take all the necessary measures to address gaps in the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, including access to justice and remedies;

28.  Calls on the UN and the EU to address the question of land rights defenders, who are victims of reprisals including threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, assault and murder, for criticising large-scale land acquisition at the expense of the land and food rights of rural populations in third countries, notably in relation to investments or activities of multinational and European companies; calls for the UN mechanisms and the EU to consistently address the issue of land grabbing as well as land rights defenders as a matter of priority;

29.  Welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to enhance the Accountability and Remedy Project in order to contribute to a fair and more effective system of domestic law remedies, in particular in cases of gross human rights abuses in the business sector; calls on all governments to fulfil their duties in securing respect for human rights, access to justice for victims who face both practical and legal challenges to access remedies at national and international levels, with regard to human rights violations linked to business;

30.  Deplores the negative vote and obstructive behaviour by EU Member States in relation to the establishment of the Open-ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (IGWG) on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights; welcomes the work so far of the IGWG and calls on the EU and its Member States to constructively engage in the negotiations;

Migration and Refugees

31.  Calls on the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to pay utmost attention to the human rights implications of the high numbers of refugees and migrants around the world and to make recommendations in this regard; underscores with dismay that the European external border has become the deadliest border in the world; calls on human rights to be mainstreamed into all border management policies and activities carried out by FRONTEX including the establishment of a complaint mechanism;

32.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, together with the implementation of his recommendations, including the demand to step up work on new ways to provide legal avenues of migration for those in humanitarian situations and to quickly implement reform and to provide and follow up on more resettlement opportunities;

33.  Expresses concern about continued and widespread discrimination against, and violations of the rights of, migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees; calls on all countries to adopt a human rights-based approach to migration, which places the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the centre of migration policies and management, paying particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants, such as women and children; calls on all states to address gender-related violence against women and girls, and stresses the importance of designing migration policy from a gender perspective in order to respond to their particular needs;

34.  Recalls that all states have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or origin and regardless of their immigration status; recalls that the return of migrants should only be carried out in full respect of the migrants’ rights, based upon free and informed decisions and only when the protection of their rights is guaranteed in their country; calls on governments to put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of migrants, and to strictly uphold the prohibition of refoulement; reiterates its call on the EU to ensure that all migration cooperation and readmission agreements with non-EU states comply with international law;

Climate change and human rights

35.  Welcomes the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which covers adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building; insists that the issue of climate change should be mainstreamed in all economic policy areas; urges all states parties which are signatories to the Agreement to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures by mainstreaming climate change in all policy areas; insists that all policies and actions on UNFCCC should be human rights based;

36.  Recalls that the adverse impact of climate change represents an immediate and potentially irreversible global threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, and that its impact on vulnerable groups whose rights situation is already precarious is considerable; notes with concern that climate-related incidents such as the rise of sea levels, and extreme weather changes provoking droughts and floods are expected to lead to even more loss of life, displacement of populations, and food and water shortages;

37.  Calls on the international community to address the legal shortfalls in the term ‘climate refugee’, including its definition in international law or in any legally binding international agreement;

Women’s rights

38.  Stresses the importance of not undermining the ‘acquis’ of the Beijing Platform for Action regarding access to education and health as a basic human right, and the protection of sexual and reproductive rights; emphasises the fact that universal respect for sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to the relevant services contribute to reducing infant and maternal mortality; points out that family planning, maternal health, easy access to contraception and safe abortion are important elements in saving women’s lives and helping them rebuild their lives if they have been victims of rape; highlights the need to place these policies at the core of development cooperation and humanitarian action with third countries;

39.  Welcomes the UN Security Council’s recent resolution 2242 on women, peace and security, which makes women the central component in all efforts to address global challenges, including rising violent extremism, climate change, migration, sustainable development, peace and security; commends the UN Global Study findings on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their involvement has improved humanitarian assistance, strengthened peacekeepers’ efforts, fostered the conclusion of peace talks and helped to counter violent extremism;

40.  Expresses its dismay at the fact that since the emergence of violent extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq or Boko Haram in West Africa, violence against women and notably sexual violence has become an integral part of the objectives, ideology and source of revenue of these extremist groups, and has placed a critical new challenge before the international community; calls on all governments and the UN institutions to step up their commitment in combating these abominable crimes and to restore women’s dignity so that they receive justice, reparation and adequate support measures;

41.  Considers that guaranteeing women’s autonomy, by addressing the underlying inequalities between women and men which render women and girls vulnerable during times of conflict, is one way of countering extremism; calls on the UN and all its member states to take concrete steps to ensure women’s autonomy, their meaningful inclusion in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the peace negotiation and peacebuilding process by increasing their representation at all decision-making levels, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms;

Children’s rights

42.  Recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights, including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence and discrimination and to have their views heard; calls on all signatories to this treaty to honour their obligation; calls on the USA, as the only remaining country in the world not to have ratified this Convention, to accede to the latter as a matter of priority;

43.  Welcomes the planned global study to be launched by the UN to map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground and to assess the concrete possibilities for states to improve their policies and responses; urges all states to support and participate actively in the study;

44.  Notes with concern that a number of persons have been sentenced to death for crimes committed while under the age of 18 and have been put to death in countries around the world in 2015 despite the prohibition on the use of the death penalty for juveniles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

Rights of LGBTI persons

45.  Expresses its concern regarding the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices and of acts of violence against individuals in various countries, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, including the use of the death penalty in some countries; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people in countries where recently introduced anti-LGBTI laws threaten the lives of sexual minorities; expresses its strong concern regarding the so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws limiting freedom of expression and assembly, including in countries on the European continent;

46.  Supports the continuing work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to combat these discriminatory laws, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign, as well as the work of other UN bodies; is concerned at restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI human rights defenders, and calls for the EU to step up its support for them; notes that the fundamental rights of LGBTI people are more likely to be respected if they have access to legal institutions, possibly through registered partnerships or marriage; calls for the HRC to create a Special Procedure or another mechanism to ensure systematic attention to these issues;

Counter-terrorism and human rights

47.  Recalls that the respect for fundamental rights and freedoms is the foundation of successful counter-terrorism policies, including the use of digital surveillance technologies and urges that human rights and the rule of law be upheld in all counter-terrorism activities, which is also at the heart of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy;

Sports and human rights

48.  Denounces the increasing practice by authoritarian states of hosting mega sports or cultural events in order to boost their international legitimacy whilst further restricting domestic dissent; calls on the EU and its Member States to actively raise this issue, including at the UNHRC, and to engage with national sports federations, corporate actors and civil society organisations on the practicalities of their participation in such events, including with regard to the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022, and the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022; calls for the development of an EU and UN policy framework on sports and human rights;

Fight against impunity/ICC

49.  Reaffirms its strong commitment to ending impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community and to providing justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, including those related to sexual violence, and reiterates its strong support for the International Criminal Court (ICC); remains vigilant regarding any attempts to undermine the Court’s legitimacy or independence; expresses serious concern that several arrest warrants have still not been executed; urges the EU and its Member States to cooperate with the Court and provide it with strong diplomatic, political and financial support, including in the UN; calls for efforts to be increased in promoting the universality of the Rome Statute through its ratification, including of the Kampala amendments, and effective implementation;

Drones and autonomous weapons

50.  Reiterates its call on the EU Council to develop an EU common position on the use of armed drones, giving the utmost importance to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and addressing issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; urges the EU once again to ban the production, development, and use of fully autonomous weapons which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention; insists that human rights should be part of all dialogues with third countries on counter-terrorism; deplores the negative vote of France and the UK on the latest HRC resolution on armed drones in counter-terrorism and military operations in accordance with international law;

Human rights and drug policy

51.  Welcomes the joint statement made on October 7 2015 by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions that ‘Executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings’ and that ‘International agencies, as well as States providing bilateral technical assistance to combat drug crime, must ensure that the programmes to which they contribute do not ultimately result in violations of the right to life’;

52.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to make the abolition of the death penalty for drug offences a priority issue in UNGASS negotiations, and reiterates that the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a precondition for financial assistance, technical assistance, capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement policy;

53.  Expresses its support for the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on human rights and drug policy;

EU priorities on country-related issues

Azerbaijan

54.  Welcomes the joint statement on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan delivered during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council, but regrets that a number of EU Member States did not support this joint statement; calls on the EU Member States and other members of the Council to follow closely the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and work towards the adoption of a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers that have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, to fully investigate allegations of torture in detention, and repeal legislations that unduly restrict freedoms of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan; calls on the EU Member States to seek the creation of a Special Rapporteur mandate on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan;

55.  Welcomes the provisional release on humanitarian grounds of Leyla and Arif Yunus, but calls for the immediate lifting of all charges against them; deeply regrets that none of the Azerbaijani prisoners of conscience were freed on the occasion of the latest Presidential pardon;

Belarus

56.  Notes the release of the six remaining prisoners as a welcome step; expresses its profound concern at the continued restrictions on the freedom of expression and freedoms of association and peaceful assembly; condemns the harassment of independent and opposition journalists and the harassment and detention of human rights activists and critics on spurious charges; condemns the continued use of the death penalty;

57.  Calls for the renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 32nd session of the Council, and calls on the government to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and commit to engage in long overdue reforms to promote and protect human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms;

Georgia

58.  Takes note of the meaningful legislative reforms that have resulted in some progress and improvements in the justice and law enforcement sector, the Prosecutor’s office, the fight against ill-treatment, children’s rights, as well as the protection of privacy and personal data and internally displaced persons (IDPs);

59.  Notes, however, that further efforts are needed with regard to ill-treatment, especially regarding pre-trial detention and rehabilitation of victims, to accountability for abuses by law enforcement, to investigations into past abuses by government officials and to minorities and women’s rights; remains concerned about freedom of expression and media and the lack of access by monitors to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia where human rights violations remain widespread; calls on the Georgian Government to take appropriate measures with a view to ensuring a follow-up to the recommendations made in the UPR process;

Russia

60.  Strongly condemns the government’s continued crackdown on dissent by targeting independent NGOs through the so-called ‘foreign agents law’ and the law on ‘undesirable foreign organisations’ that allows authorities to bar international NGOs seen as threatening Russia’s defence capabilities or constitutional foundations and the persistent and multiform repression of activists, political opponents and critics of the regime;

Ukraine

61.  Expresses its grave concern at the continued indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, targeted attacks on schools and use of schools for military purposes by both parties; condemns continued human rights violations in the conflict and fully supports the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; calls for the Government of Ukraine to take steps to allow delivery of certain types of medicines, including opioid substitution therapy (OST) medicines, to improve registration procedures and means of accessing employment and state benefits for those displaced by the conflict, to repeal legislations that may negatively impact on freedom of expression and association, to take concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups, from government-controlled territory to rebel-held areas, and to ratify the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court as a full member;

62.  Calls for EU Member States to support all possible efforts at UN level to fight impunity and to conduct impartial investigations into the violent events and human rights violations linked to the crackdown against the Maidan demonstrations, into the use of cluster munitions by pro-government forces and Russia-backed rebels during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and to address the human rights situation in Crimea and other violations related to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine;

Uzbekistan

63.  Urges EU Member States to work towards a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a dedicated UN mechanism for Uzbekistan ensuring UN monitoring, public reporting and Human Rights Council debate about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, to address Uzbekistan’s record of lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, the continued detention of large number of political opponents, including human rights defenders, continued restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of expression and the media, and continued use of forced and child labour;

Bahrain

64.  Regrets that no progress has been made by the Government of Bahrain in addressing concerns related to the continued detention of many, including human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the lack of accountability for human rights violations including torture and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain;

65.  Calls on the EU Member States to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council through individual statements, a follow-up joint statement or a resolution urging Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association and to ensure impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to swiftly facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other UN human rights mechanisms; reiterates its call for the EU to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the Union and its Member States can actively push for the release of the imprisoned activists and prisoners of conscience;

Israel/Palestine

66.  Calls on the EU to reiterate its position on accountability as mentioned in the July 2015 FAC conclusions, by stating that compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law by states and non-state actors, including accountability, is a cornerstone for peace and security in the region;

67.  In light of this commitment in the July 2015 FAC, and the call on third states in the EU-backed July 2015 HRC resolution to promote respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, urges the EU to call on all parties to conduct credible investigations into alleged violations of international law; to actively monitor and assess compliance of ongoing investigations with international standards on the duty to investigate, including by regularly seeking clarification on the closure of cases; to press for an appropriate follow-up mechanism to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the 2015 UN Commission of Inquiry report and those of previous UN reports; and to call on Israel to cooperate with the ICC’s preliminary examination including by providing access and cooperating with requests for information;

68.  Deplores the refusal of the Israeli authorities to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on OPT, which led to his resignation due to the failure of Israel to grant him access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory;

Syria

69.  Expresses its deep concern at the continued deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in Syria; strongly condemns the abuses, massacres, torture, killings and sexual violence being perpetrated on the Syrian population by the Assad regime, the so-called Islamic State and other extremist and terrorist groups; reiterates its call for a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led political process leading to a genuine political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future; expresses its full support to the ongoing UN-led efforts to reach a political solution to the conflict;

70.  Urges the Human Rights Council to call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take appropriate action in order to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, are held to account, including through referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court;

Saudi Arabia

71.  Reiterates that UNHRC members should be elected from among states which uphold human rights, the rule of law and democracy; strongly disagrees with the decision taken by the United Nations, with EU Member State support, to hand over a key human rights role to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, who was elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council;

72.  Remains gravely concerned about the systematic and widespread human rights violations in Saudi Arabia; calls on the Saudi authorities to release all prisoners of conscience, including the 2015 Sakharov Laureate, Raif Badawi;

73.  Expresses serious concern about the mass execution of 47 prisoners in Saudi Arabia on 2 January 2016, following an alarming increase in the rate of executions in 2015;

74.  Notes with concern reports that among those executed were juveniles, mentally ill persons, and prisoners sentenced to death for non-lethal crimes particularly those relating to the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression;

75.  Calls on the Saudi authorities to co-operate fully with the UNHRC Special Procedures and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; calls on Saudi Arabia to impose a moratorium on the death penalty;

Western Sahara

76.  Calls for the fundamental rights of the people of Western Sahara, including freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to assembly, to be respected; demands the release of all Sahrawi political prisoners; demands access to the territories of Western Sahara for members of parliament, independent observers, NGOs and the press; urges the United Nations to provide MINURSO with a human rights mandate, in line with all other UN peacekeeping missions around the world; supports a fair and lasting settlement of the Western Sahara conflict, on the basis of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions;

Yemen

77.  Expresses grave concern about the dramatic and violet conflict and the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the country; denounces the serious violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses committed by the warring parties, notably the indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that have killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed numerous civilian objects; condemns the expulsion of the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by the Yemeni authorities; calls on the EU to support the establishment of an international inquiry at the Human Rights Council to document violations by all sides since September 2014;

Burundi

78.  Expresses deep concern about the targeted attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and their family members; strongly condemns the political violence, summary executions, human rights violations and abuses and incitement to violence on political, ethnic or other grounds in Burundi, as well as the ongoing impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, including police and security forces, youth groups affiliated with political parties, and officials;

79.  Urges the Burundian authorities to end these violations and abuses as a matter of critical and urgent priority, including by immediately halting killings and attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and real or suspected opponents and critics, and by conducting thorough, impartial and independent investigations with a view to bringing those responsible to justice and providing victims with redress;

80.  Welcomes the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi on 17 December 2015 but regret the delays in holding it; calls for the expeditious deployment of the mission by independent experts, and urges the Burundian authorities to fully cooperate with the mission;

Mauritania

81.  Stresses that, while progress has been made by the Mauritanian Government in taking legislative measures aimed at fighting all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, the lack of effective implementation is contributing to the persistence of such practices; calls on the authorities to enact an anti-slavery law, to initiate nationwide, systematic and regular collection of disaggregated data on all forms of slavery and to conduct a thorough evidence-based study on the history and nature of slavery in order to eradicate the practice;

82.  Urges the Mauritanian authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly, in accordance with international conventions and Mauritania’s own domestic law; calls also for the release of Biram Dah Abeid, Bilal Ramdane and Djiby Sow so that they may continue their non-violent campaign against the continuation of slavery without fear of harassment or intimidation;

South Sudan

83.  Welcomes the Peace Agreement signed by the warring parties on 28 August 2015 to end the civil war, which includes transitional power-sharing, security arrangements and the establishment of a hybrid court to try all crimes committed since the conflict started; recalls that the conflict has claimed thousands of lives and caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and refugees;

84.  Calls on all parties to refrain from committing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, including those amounting to international crimes, such as extrajudicial killings, ethnically targeted violence, conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, as well as gender-based violence, recruitment and use of children, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests and detention;   

85.  Calls on the Human Rights Council to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on South Sudan, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and on military use of schools, and make recommendations for achieving effective accountability;

Venezuela

86.  Welcomes Venezuela’s holding of free and fair elections on 6 December 2015; welcomes the acceptance of the results by the government and opposition forces alike; recalls the importance of upholding the constitution and respecting human rights, and of carrying out the will of the Venezuelan people;

87.  Recalls that the new government will have to tackle a wide range of human rights issues, ranging from impunity and accountability for extrajudicial killings, including by security forces, to arbitrary arrest and detention, political prisoners’ right to a fair trial and the independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly and association and media freedom;

DPRK

88.  Welcomes the resolution adopted by the General Assembly that condemns the ‘long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights’ in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and encourages the UN Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including by considering the referral of the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, and calls on the Human Rights Council to reiterate its call for accountability, including by those responsible for crimes against humanity pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state decades ago;

China

89.  Expresses its deep concern at the ongoing sweeping crackdown on human rights activists and human rights lawyers; points out that more than 200 attorneys and legal staff were summoned or taken away since July 2015 for questioning in the fiercest attempt in decades to silence critics of the regime; is alarmed by the news that the Chinese authorities have formally arrested over the last days on ‘subversion’ charges at least seven human rights lawyers and colleagues held in secret for six months;

Myanmar

90.  Welcomes the holding of competitive elections on 8 November 2015, an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition; remains concerned, however, by the constitutional framework for these elections, under which 25 % of the seats in the parliament are reserved for the military; recognises the progress made so far as regards human rights, while identifying a number of remaining areas of major concern, including the rights of minorities and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

91.  Condemns the severe and widespread discrimination and repression against the Rohingya, which is exacerbated by the fact that this community lacks legal status, and by the rise of hate speech against non-Buddhists; calls for full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya and considers that the four laws adopted by the parliament in 2015, aimed at ‘protecting race and religion’, include discriminatory aspects as regards gender; deplores the fact that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has still not been permitted to establish an office in the country; insists on the need for a full sustainability and human rights impact assessment to be carried out before negotiations on the EU-Myanmar investment agreement are finalised;

Nepal

92.  Welcomes the entry into force of the Nepal’s new constitution on 20 September 2015 which should lay the foundation for Nepal’s future political stability and economic development; hopes that the remaining concerns around the political representation of minorities, including the Dalits, and citizenship laws will be addressed in the near future;

93.  Regrets the widespread lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides during the civil war despite the adoption in May 2014 of the Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearance Act; urges the Government of Nepal to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; condemns the limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of Tibetan refugees; urges India to lift its unofficial blockade on Nepal’s economy which, coupled with the devastating earthquake of April 2015, is causing a humanitarian crisis and pushing almost one million more Nepalis into a poverty-related impasse;

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94.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 69th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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Motion for a resolution on the EU’s priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2016 – B8-2016-0064

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and optional protocols thereto, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),

–  having regard to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the violation of human rights, including its urgency resolutions on the issues,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the 2015 annual report of the UNHRC to the UN General Assembly,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 are years of major anniversaries as regards the enjoyment of human rights, peace and security: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the 40th and 20th anniversaries of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) respectively, and the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security (2000) and the Millennium Development Goals (2000);

B.  whereas upholding respect for human rights irrespective of race, origin, sex, or colour is an obligation on all states; reiterating its attachment to the indivisibility of human rights – whether they are civic, economic, social or cultural –, which are interrelated and interdependent, and considering that the deprivation of any one of these rights has a direct and adverse impact on the others; whereas all states have an obligation to respect the basic rights of their respective populations and a duty to take concrete action to facilitate respect for those rights at national level and to cooperate at international level with a view to eliminating obstacles to the realisation of human rights in all areas;

C.  whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union’s ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity;

D.  whereas the Union’s action in its relations with third countries is guided by Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty, which reaffirms the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and provides for respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law;

E.  whereas respect for human rights should be mainstreamed in all policy areas involving peace and security, development cooperation, trade and investment, humanitarian action, climate change and the fight against terrorism, as these cannot be addressed in isolation from respect for human rights;

F.  whereas the regular sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, and the Special Procedures addressing either the situation in specific countries or thematic issues all contribute to the promotion of and respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

G.  whereas, regrettably, some of the current members of the Human Rights Council are acknowledged as being among the worst human rights offenders and have a dubious record in terms of cooperation with the UN Special Procedures and compliance with their reporting requirements vis-à-vis the UN human rights treaty bodies;

UN Human Rights Council

1.  Welcomes the appointment of Ambassador Choi Kyong-lim as President of the UNHRC for 2016;

2.  Welcomes the UNHRC annual report to the UN General Assembly covering its 28th, 29th and 30th sessions;

3.  Reiterates its position that UNHRC members should be elected from among states that uphold respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and urges UN member states to promote human-rights-performance-based criteria for any state to be elected as a member of the UNHRC; expresses its concerns about human rights abuses in some newly elected members of the UNHRC and stresses that it is important to defend the independence of the UNHRC so as to ensure that it can continue to exercise its mandate in an effective and impartial manner;

4.  Reiterates its support for the Special Procedures and the independent status of the mandate holders, which enable them to fulfil their function in all impartiality, deeply regrets the lack of cooperation demonstrated by some member states, such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, and observer states, such as Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, with thematic special procedures, as well as the lack of cooperation with country-specific special procedures by countries concerned, and calls upon all states to cooperate fully with these procedures;

5.  Reaffirms the importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with a view to reaching a full understanding of the human rights situation in all UN member states, and reiterates its support for the second cycle of the review, which focuses on the implementation of the recommendations accepted during the first cycle; calls again, however, for the recommendations that were not accepted by states during the first cycle to be reconsidered in the continuation of the UPR process;

6.  Stresses the need to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, notably civil society, participate fully in the UPR process, and expresses its concern that severe limitations and ever-growing restrictions have hampered civil society’s participation in the UPR process;

7.  Calls for the EU and the Commission to follow up on the UPR recommendations in all EU policy dialogues with the countries concerned in order to explore ways and means of implementing the recommendations through country and regional strategies;

8.  Welcomes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Initiative for Change, intended to improve and reinforce the global presence of UN human rights offices with the creation of eight regional hubs to monitor and promote respect for human rights by working directly with partners in order to transform the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms into real changes on the ground;

Civil and political rights

9.  Expresses its concern about the constitutional revisions undertaken in some countries, aimed at changing the limit set on presidential terms of office, an issue which has generated election-related violence in some cases; reaffirms that respect for civil and political rights, including individual and collective freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association, are the sole indicators of a democratic, tolerant and pluralistic society;

10.  Reiterates that freely electing political leaders, in periodically held genuine elections on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, is a fundamental right that all citizens should enjoy in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21(3)) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 25); and reaffirms that freedom of expression and a vibrant and conducive environment for an independent and pluralistic civil society are prerequisites for promoting respect for human rights;

11.  Condemns the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by government forces in a number of third countries; expresses its concern about unfair and restrictive legislation, including restrictions on foreign funding, which is resulting in a shrinking space for civil society activities; calls on all governments to promote and support freedom of the media, civil society organisations and the activities of human rights defenders and to allow them to operate without fear, repression or intimidation;

12.  Takes the view that contemporary digital technologies offer advantages and challenges for the protection of the right to privacy and for the exercise of freedom of expression on- line across the world; welcomes, in this context, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, whose mandate includes surveillance and privacy issues that affect people online or offline;

13.  Reiterates its long-standing opposition to the death penalty, torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment in all cases and under all circumstances; emphasises once again that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity, and reaffirms its attachment to the right to life and human dignity of every individual;

14.  Commends the substantial progress made so far, whereby many countries have suspended capital punishment while others have taken legislative measures towards abolishing the death penalty; expresses, nevertheless, its regret concerning the reinstatement of executions in some countries over the past few years; calls on those states which have abolished the death penalty or have a long-standing moratorium on the death penalty not to reintroduce it;

Social and Economic Rights

15.  Regrets that, more than 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelated nature of all human rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is not treated on the same footing and with the same emphasis as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); recognises the UNHRC’s efforts to put all human rights on an equal footing and give them the same emphasis, through the establishment of Special Procedure mandate holders relating to economic, social and cultural rights;

16.  Expresses its profound concern about the rise of extreme poverty, which jeopardizes the full enjoyment of all human rights; welcomes, in this connection, the UNHRC Special Rapporteur’s report on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/29/31) and supports his proposals for the elimination of extreme poverty, which include: giving economic, social and cultural rights the same prominence and priority as are given to civil and political rights; recognising the right to social protection; implementing fiscal policies specifically aimed at reducing inequality; revitalising and giving substance to the right to equality; and putting questions of resource redistribution at the centre of debates on human rights;

17.  Is of the opinion that corruption, tax evasion, mismanagement of public goods and lack of accountability contribute to the violation of citizens’ human rights as they divert funds from state budgets that should be dedicated to the advancement of human rights in much needed public services such as education, basic health services and other social infrastructure; considers that action to ensure respect for human rights, in particular the rights to information, to freedom of expression and assembly, to an independent judiciary and to democratic participation in public affairs, is instrumental in fighting corruption;

Business and human rights

18.  Strongly supports the effective and comprehensive implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within and outside the EU, including through the development of National Action Plans; emphasises the need to take all the necessary measures to address gaps in the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, including access to justice and remedies;

19.  Calls on the UN and the EU to address the question of land rights defenders, who are victims of reprisals including by threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, assault and murder, for criticising large-scale land acquisition at the expense of the land and food rights of rural populations in third countries; calls for the UN mechanisms and the EU Action Plan on human rights and democracy to systematically include land rights defenders in their human rights projects;

20.  Welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to enhance the Accountability and Remedy Project with a view to contributing to a fair and more effective system of domestic law remedies, in particular in cases of gross human rights abuses in the business sector; calls on all governments to fulfil their duties in securing respect for human rights, access to justice for victims who face both practical and legal challenges in gaining access to remedies at national and international levels, with regard to business-related human rights violations;

21.  Notes that an open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, established by a Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution of 26 June 2014, held its first session in July 2015; calls on the EU and its Member States to actively engage in the negotiations on the abovementioned legally binding international instrument;

Migration

22.  Is concerned by the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, created by the increasing number of individuals forced to leave their homes as a result of persecution, armed conflict and generalised violence, and in search of protection and a better life, and who are risking their lives by taking dangerous journeys; calls on the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to pay the necessary attention to the human rights implications of this crisis and to make recommendations in this regard;

23.  Calls on all countries to adopt a human-rights-based approach to migration which places the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the centre of migration policies and management, paying particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants, such as women and children; calls on all states to address gender-related violence against women and girls, and stresses the importance of designing migration policy from a gender perspective in order to respond to their particular needs;

24.  Recalls that all states have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or origin and regardless of their immigration status; recalls that the return of migrants should only be carried out with full respect for the migrants’ rights, based on free and informed decisions and only when the protection of their rights is guaranteed in their country; calls on governments to put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of migrants;

Climate change and human rights

25.  Welcomes the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which covers adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building; insists that the issue of climate change should be mainstreamed in all economic policy areas; urges all States Parties who are signatories to the Agreement to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures by mainstreaming climate change in all policy areas;

26.  Recalls that the adverse impact of climate change represents an immediate and potentially irreversible global threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, and that its impact on vulnerable groups whose rights situation is already precarious is considerable; notes with concern that climate-related incidents such as the rise of sea levels and extreme weather changes provoking droughts and floods are expected to lead to even more loss of life, population displacement, and food and water shortages;

27.  Calls on the international community to address the legal shortfalls in the term ‘climate refugee’, including its possible definition in international law or in any legally binding international agreement;

Women’s rights

28.  Welcomes the UN Security Council’s recent resolution 2242 on women, peace and security, which makes women the central component in all efforts to address global challenges including rising violent extremism, climate change, migration, sustainable development, peace and security; commends the UN Global Study findings on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their involvement has improved humanitarian assistance, strengthened peacekeepers’ efforts, fostered the conclusion of peace talks and helped to counter violent extremism;

29.  Expresses its dismay at the fact that, since the emergence of violent extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram in West Africa, violence against women has taken on a new dimension which is more terrifying than ever, as sexual violence has become an integral part of the objectives, ideology and source of revenue of these extremist groups, and which places a critical new challenge before the international community; calls on all governments and the UN institutions to step up their commitment to combating these abominable crimes and to restoring the dignity of women so that they obtain justice, reparation and support;

30.  Considers that guaranteeing women’s autonomy, by addressing the underlying inequalities between women and men which render women and girls vulnerable in times of conflict, is one way of countering extremism; and calls on the UN and all its member states to take concrete steps to ensure women’s autonomy, their meaningful inclusion in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the peace negotiation and peacebuilding process by increasing their representation at all decision-making levels, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms;

Children’s rights

31.  Recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights, including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence and discrimination and to have their views heard; calls on all signatories to this treaty to honour their obligations;

32.  Welcomes the planned global study to be launched by the UN to map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground and to assess the concrete possibilities for states to improve their policies and responses; urges all states to support and participate actively in the study;

Rights of LGBTI people

33.  Expresses its concern regarding the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices and of acts of violence against individuals in various countries, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people in countries where recently introduced anti-LGBTI laws threaten the lives of sexual minorities; expresses its strong concern regarding the so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws limiting freedom of expression and assembly, including in countries on the European continent;

34.  Reaffirms its support for the continuing work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI people, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign; encourages the High Commissioner to continue fighting discriminatory laws and practices;

Drones and autonomous weapons

35.  Reiterates its call on the EU Council to develop an EU common position on the use of armed drones, giving the utmost importance to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and addressing issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; urges the EU, once again, to ban the production, development and use of fully autonomous weapons, which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention; insists that human rights should be part of all dialogues with third countries on counter-terrorism;

EU human rights mainstreaming

36.  Calls upon the EU to promote the universality and indivisibility of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, in accordance with Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty and the General Provisions on the Union’s External Action;

37.  Reiterates its call for the EU to adopt a rights-based approach and to integrate respect for human rights into trade, investment policies, public services, development cooperation, and its common security and defence policy; stresses also that the EU’s human rights policy should ensure that its internal and external policies are coherent, in line with the EU Treaty obligation;

EU priorities on country-related issues

Belarus

38.  Expresses its profound concern at the continuing restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly, condemns the harassment of independent and opposition journalists and the harassment and detention of human rights activists and critics on spurious charges; condemns the continued use of the death penalty; calls for the renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 32nd session of the Council, and calls on the government to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to commit to engaging in long-overdue reforms to protect human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms;

Ukraine

39.  Expresses its grave concern at the continued indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, targeted attacks on schools and use of schools for military purposes by both parties; condemns continued human rights violations in the conflict and fully supports the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; calls for the Government of Ukraine to take steps to allow delivery of certain types of medicines, including opioid substitution therapy (OST) medicines, to improve the registration procedure and means of accessing employment and state benefits for those displaced by the conflict, to repeal legislation that may have a negative impact on freedom of expression and association, to take concrete measures to prevent the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups in both government-controlled territory and rebel-held areas, and to ratify the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court as a full member; calls on the EU Member States to support all possible efforts at UN level to fight impunity and to conduct impartial investigations into the violent events and human rights violations linked to the crackdown against the Maidan demonstrations, and into the use of cluster munitions by pro-government forces and Russia‑backed rebels during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, and to address the human rights situation in Crimea and other violations related to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine;

Azerbaijan

40.  Welcomes the joint statement on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan delivered during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council, but regrets that a number of EU Member States did not support this joint statement; calls on the EU Member States and other members of the Council to closely monitor the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and work towards the adoption of a resolution calling for the immediate release of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists and bloggers who have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, full investigation of allegations of torture in detention, and the repeal of laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan;

Uzbekistan

41.  Urge the EU Member States to work towards a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a dedicated UN mechanism for Uzbekistan to ensure UN monitoring, public reporting and Human Rights Council debates on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, and to address Uzbekistan’s record of lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, the continued detention of large numbers of political opponents, including human rights defenders, continued restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of expression and the media, and the continued use of child labour;

Syria

42.  Urges the Human Rights Council to call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take appropriate action in order to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, are held to account, including through referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court;

Yemen

43.  Expresses great concern about the grave crisis that has been affecting the country since September 2014, when serious violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses were committed by the Houthis and other Yemeni armed groups, and since March 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition did the same; in particular, condemns the indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes conducted by the latter coalition, which have killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed numerous items of civilian property; whereas the High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to report to the Council on the situation in Yemen at its next session, in March 2016; calls on the EU to support the establishment at the Human Rights Council of an international inquiry to document violations by all sides since September 2014;

Bahrain

44.  Regrets that no progress has been made by the Government of Bahrain to address concerns related to the continued detention of many, including human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the lack of accountability for human rights violations including torture and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain; Calls upon the EU Member States to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council through individual statements, a follow up joint statement or a resolution urging Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release of all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association enact and to ensure impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to swiftly facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other UN human rights mechanisms; reiterates its call for the EU to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the Union and its Member States can actively push for the release of the imprisoned activists and prisoners of conscience;

South Sudan

45.  Calls on the Human Rights Council to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on South Sudan, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and on military use of schools, and make recommendations for achieving effective accountability;

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

46.  Welcomes the resolution adopted by the General Assembly condemning the ‘long‑standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights’ in the DPRK and encouraging the UN Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court, and calls on the Human Rights Council to reiterate its call for accountability, including of those responsible for crimes against humanity pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state for decades;

Countries under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Georgia

47.  Welcomes Georgia’s membership of the UNHRC and the recent UPR on Georgia; notes the meaningful legislative reforms that have resulted in some progress and improvements with regard to the justice and law enforcement sector, the Prosecutor’s Office, the fight against ill-treatment, children’s rights, the protection of privacy and personal data and internally displaced persons (IDPs); notes, however, that further efforts are needed with regard to ill-treatment, especially regarding pre-trial detention and rehabilitation of victims, to accountability for abuses by law enforcement agencies, to investigations into past abuses by government officials and to minorities and women’s rights; remains concerned about freedom of expression and the media and the lack of access by monitors to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, where human rights violations remain widespread; and calls on the Georgian Government to take appropriate measures with a view to ensuring a follow-up to the recommendations made in the UPR process;

Lebanon

48.  Commends Lebanon for the open border and reception policy which it has had for years regarding refugees from Palestine, Iraq and Syria, and calls on the European Union to allocate more resources and to work closely with the Lebanese authorities to help the country uphold the protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers; is concerned, in this context, about the reportedly significant number of cases of child and/or forced marriages among Syrian refugees; encourages the Lebanese Government to consider a reform of the law regulating entry into, residence in and exit from Lebanon, which does not distinguish between asylum seekers and refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other; supports the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in calling for measures to raise awareness among women migrant domestic workers of their human rights under the CEDAW Convention, to which Lebanon is a state party; emphasises, in particular, the need to abolish the ‘Kafala system’ and ensure effective access to justice for women migrant domestic workers, including by guaranteeing their safety and residence during legal and administrative procedures relating to their status;

Mauritania

49.  Stresses that, while progress has been made by the Mauritanian Government in legislative measures aimed at fighting all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, the lack of effective implementation contributes to the persistence of such practices; calls on the authorities to enact an anti-slavery law, to initiate nationwide, systematic and regular collection of disaggregated data on all forms of slavery and to conduct a thorough evidence-based study on the history and nature of slavery in order to eradicate the practice;

50.  Urges the Mauritanian authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly, in accordance with international conventions and Mauritania’s own domestic law; calls also for the release of Biram Dah Abeid, Bilal Ramdane and Djiby Sow so that they may continue their non-violent campaign against the continuation of slavery without fear of harassment or intimidation;

Myanmar

51.  Welcomes the holding of competitive elections on 8 November 2015, an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition; remains concerned, however, by the constitutional framework for these elections, which reserves 25 % of the seats in the Parliament for the military; recognises the progress made so far as regards human rights, while identifying a number of remaining areas of major concern, including the rights of minorities and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

52.  Condemns the discrimination against the Rohingya, which is exacerbated by the fact that this community lacks legal status and by the rise of hate speech against non-Buddhists; calls for full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya and considers that the four laws adopted by the parliament in 2015 aimed at ‘protecting race and religion’ have discriminatory aspects as regards gender; repeats its request that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) be permitted to establish an office in the country; insists on the need for a full sustainability impact assessment to be carried out before negotiations on the EU – Myanmar investment agreement are finalised;

Nepal

53.  Welcomes the entry into force on 20 September 2015 of Nepal’s new constitution, which should lay the foundations for the country’s future political stability and economic development; hopes that the remaining concerns around the political representation of minorities, including the Dalits, and citizenship laws will be addressed in the near future; regrets the widespread lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides during the civil war despite the adoption in May 2014 of the Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearance Act; urges the Government of Nepal to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; condemns the limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of Tibetan refugees; urges India to lift its unofficial blockade on Nepal’s economy which, coupled with the devastating earthquake of April 2015, is causing a humanitarian crisis and pushing almost one million more Nepalis into a poverty impasse;

Oman

54.  Commends Oman for the setting-up of the governmental National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the invitation which allowed the ground-breaking visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Peaceful Assembly in September 2014; expresses the hope that these constructive steps will lead to a more intensive engagement by Oman with UN human rights representatives and independent human rights organisations; encourages Oman to take the necessary steps to alleviate what the UN Special Rapporteur described as a pervasive climate of fear and intimidation in the country, stating that individuals were ‘afraid to speak their minds, afraid to speak on the telephone, afraid to meet’; remains concerned about, and calls on the government to reconsider, in this context, the ban on all political parties and the new nationality law adopted in August 2014, which stipulates that citizens joining groups deemed harmful to national interests could have their citizenship revoked; calls on the EU Institutions and the Member States to offer technical and legal assistance to help Oman create a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations;

Rwanda

55.  Expresses its concern about the human rights situation in Rwanda, including the restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the shrinking of the democratic space for opposition political parties and independent civil society activities, and the absence of a conducive environment for the independence of the judiciary; calls on the Rwandan Government to open up a democratic space in which all segments of society may operate freely;

56.  Is concerned by the proposed constitutional change aimed at allowing the incumbent President to run for a third term; calls on the Government of Rwanda to uphold the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, Article 5 of which lays down that states parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure constitutional rule, particularly constitutional transfer of power, and Article 23 of which states that any amendment of the constitution which infringes on the principles of democratic change of government is illegal;

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57.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 69th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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UNDP and World Resources Institute Launch Report on Engaging the Private Sector to Build Resilience to Climate Change

Dec 8, 2015

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and World Resources Institute (WRI) launched a joint report today during the Paris climate change conference (COP21), highlighting why enhancing resilience in the private sector, led by small business, is vital to building resilient communities.

Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) in developing countries provide around 60 percent of all employment, supporting the livelihoods of billions globally. This segment of the economy is therefore critical to adapting to future climate impacts.

The report, Adapting from the Ground Up: Enabling Small Businesses in Developing Countries to Adapt to Climate Change, is a call to action for policymakers, climate finance providers, and large corporations to engage small businesses in adaptation efforts.

Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP, noted in her keynote speech: “Micro and small enterprises can benefit from increasing their own resilience, and they are well-positioned to develop and sell products and services that strengthen the resilience of their communities. In this way, these businesses become an enabling resource for enhancing the resilience of vulnerable communities worldwide.”

As developing countries seek to mobilize additional resources to limit emissions and adapt to climate change, engaging the private sector is critical to a holistic, cross-sector approach.

The report offers specific policy interventions to help enable this, and outlines six steps decision-makers can use to select the policy options that will work for their business community.

“Even with a strong global agreement, vulnerable communities will need more resources to respond to our already changing world. That’s where small businesses come in,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO, WRI. “Small and micro businesses can help fill the gaps by enhancing resilience of communities. They can help communities through infrastructure better withstand the impacts of climate change, and they themselves can benefit by providing goods and services necessary to make communities stronger.”

Adapting from the Ground Up draws upon a growing body of research and projects on private sector adaptation. It shares examples from case studies of interventions in Cambodia, Nicaragua, Tajikistan, and Zimbabwe, which successfully catalyzed MSE investment in climate adaptation measures in the agriculture sector. The report also presents a number of shorter case studies from projects and initiatives in Benin, Cook Islands, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Namibia, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

The report was officially launched at a high-level event during UNDP’s “Day on Implementation” at COP21.

The report offers a menu of interventions that policy makers can choose from to help small businesses build resilience. The menu includes the following actions:

  • Programs to provide businesses with relevant climate risk information;
  • Technical assistance and training on managing climate risk;
  • Regulatory and fiscal incentives to stimulate risk reduction;
  • Subsidies and tax relief;
  • Research and development or pilots on climate-related products and services;
  • Public spending on infrastructure;
  • Incentives or support for partnerships and cooperatives; and
  • Public risk transfer or risk compensation instruments

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Carl Mercer: carl.mercer@undp.org / +1 (347) 652 5933

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COP21: Food – the big picture*

Power to the people

LONDON, 7 December 2015 (IRIN) - Global food security is not just about how much we grow. To achieve it, we need to look at the bigger picture, particularly at the way in which water and energy needs underpin production.

Climate change threatens all of that. Rainfall variability directly affects crop production, but also energy generation (think of hydropower) – essential to grow, store, process and move food.

Tropical regions are the worst affected. “Not only are the areas closer to the equator more prone to weather extremes such as flood or drought, but smallholder farmers often don’t have the resources to cope with changes in the local climate,” Frank Rijsberman, head of CGIAR, the global agricultural research consortium, told IRIN.

While extreme events used to occur once every 100 years, they can now be expected every few decades. Seasonal weather patterns are also changing, altering habitats often irreversibly. 

Coffee production is one example. In Nicaragua, warmer temperatures and erratic rainfall are forcing farmers to move their plantations to higher ground. The longer-term outlook is not good. Research suggests that climate change will reduce coffee yields, increase pest and disease pressure, and lead to an overall drop in the quality of the crop.

It’s not just coffee but many other crops essential to sustain the diet and economy of rural communities across the world. 

What can be done?

One solution, said Rijsberman, is to develop strains that can endure harsher conditions, such as so-called ‘scuba rice’, which can survive underwater for two weeks. Among other improved varieties of staple crops are drought-resistant maize and the recently developed ‘super bean’, a variety rich in iron developed to tackle malnutrition.

“We have to move away from the idea that feeding the world just means providing enough food to people,” said Rijsberman. “It must also be the right food for a healthy diet. Currently, two billion people lack basic nutrients and improved breeds help tackle that.”

We also have to take a hard look at energy production. Modern intensive agriculture uses large amounts of fossil fuels; artificial irrigation is an energy drain; chemical fertilisers gobble lots of energy to produce, and because they deplete the soil, must be constantly re-applied. Thirty percent of food grown globally is lost each year through inadequate handling and storage – a shocking waste, but also a major energy loss.

“We must change the way we use farm inputs, how we grow and process food, and how we reduce loss and waste,” said Rijsberman. “Ultimately, we have to link the sectoral issues in agriculture, energy, health, and environment – and come up with holistic, integrated and truly sustainable solutions.”

Losing power

Climate change-induced drought is going to have a major impact on hydropower capacity in the developing world.

One of the most badly affected countries right now is Zambia, which after months of poor rains is rationing power supply to both citizens and industries. Both Zambia and neighbouring Zimbabwe receive the bulk of their electricity from the Kariba Dam on the Zambesi River. But as low water levels have become the new normal, industries relying on hydroelectricity, including the agricultural sector, are paying the price. 

In Zimbabwe, power is currently cut for periods of up to 48 hours. The country needs approximately 2,000 MW of electricity per day, but is able to produce only 900.

For rural communities, energy poverty is the norm. The challenge is to increase energy security without using fossil fuels, which not only pollute, but are also prone to price volatility. A spike in diesel prices, for example, has a knock-on effect throughout the food chain – starting at farm production costs and working up to the final consumer price tag.

Africa has long been wedded to hydropower and creaking, dilapidated power grids. But the continent is increasing turning to renewable energy, with a slew of major projects underway. Better energy supply would mean that farmers - among others - could not only improve production in the face of environmental extremes, but also process and store their food more safely.

How can they boost supply?

“In the short-term, we should look for cleaner energy solutions, such as solar-powered irrigation systems to pump water when rivers go dry,” Simon Winter, a researcher at Technoserve, which develops solutions to support farmers, told IRIN.

There are also subtler ways in which energy scarcity impacts rural people. “Lack of energy for food preparation will regulate the kind of food consumed,” Patrick Rader, a Uganda-based food security expert for the international development company Chemonics, told IRIN. “By taking time and effort to source fuels and water, it will reduce the time a family has to process, cook and consume the right kind of food, at the right time.”

There are a host of alternative, environmentally sustainable measures available, including green stoves and water capture systems. But take-up is typically small scale and funded by NGOs rather than as part of a national strategy of adaptation to build resilience to climate change. 

According to Technoserve’s Winter, tackling the food, water and energy nexus at a local level requires the involvement of the communities as well as public and private partners. “Right now, we are addressing the challenge by coming up with shiny innovations and waiting for the markets to invest and scale them up,” he said.

But many of these innovations are not designed with local needs in mind, holding back acceptance. “We need to nurture and develop long-term programmes so new projects can be slowly replicated and adapted to the local environment,” Winter concluded.

At the Paris climate change summit underway this week, African nations in particular are demanding that industrialized countries commit to supporting a low-carbon, climate-resilient development model. They also want a far greater focus on financing for adaptation programmes - a key component to climate action that hitherto has been underfunded.

ldb/oa/ag

* This story was amended on 7 December to add links to IRIN's climate change series: 

COP21: A turning point?

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WFP Helps Farmers Facing Drought in Zimbabwe

This season's failed harvest and the prospect of yet more prolonged dry spells have farmers in Zimbabwe worried. All the more timely then was WFP's decision choose Zimbabwe for the piloting of an innovative new approach to reducing the impact of climate-related disasters.

Farai Maringi, a mother of eight looks up into the clear blue sky, her worst fears confirmed. There is no sight of rain. Neshuro village, like many other parts of Zimbabwe, is set to have below-average rainfall this season – an outcome which many are ascribing to the El Niño weather phenomenon. This recurring global event means different things for different parts of the world but, for Zimbabwe and most of southern Africa, it is likely to result in lower-than-average rainfall over coming months. This is unwelcome news, coming as it does on top of a drought which this year caused one of the country’s worst harvests in living memory.

In response to the impact of climate change and weather-related shocks like El Niño on livelihoods and food security, WFP has partnered with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Government of Zimbabwe on an innovative approach to reducing the impact of climate-related disasters, piloting a Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE) in Mwenezi district of central Zimbabwe.

Based on weather forecasts, FoodSECuRE unlocks funds before disasters, but also ensures that funds are available between cycles of disasters, ensuring that reliable, multi-year funding is available to assist vulnerable people in building their resilience to the effects of climate change. The initiative is being piloted in five countries – Guatemala, Niger, Sudan, the Philippines and Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, funds have been released through FoodSECuRE to support the training of farmers like Farai to grow drought-resistant crops and to change their agricultural practices to conserve both soil and water so that, even if the harvest is bad, people will still have food on the table.

With support from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Mwenezi Development Training Centre, WFP and FAO have provided training in Farai’s village to 50 lead farmers on ‘climate-smart’ agriculture, including the use of fertilizers and drought-tolerant small grains such as sorghum.

The farmers have also been provided with agricultural packs consisting of seeds and fertilizers, and have been trained in business practice, marketing strategies, value addition and record keeping.

“With this training we received from WFP through FoodSECuRE, it should be possible to harvest enough even when there is limited rain,” says Farai.

The idea is that the 50 lead farmers will pass on the lessons they have learned to other farmers, allowing the benefits of FoodSECuRE to reach a total of 500 farmers in Mwenezi.

Analysis has shown that such forecast-based systems can save money, reducing the cost of humanitarian response to weather-related disasters by up to 50 percent. 

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Releasing Disaster Funds Before Crises Would Transform Humanitarian Response

Farai Maringi collecting fertiliser for her crops during training on climate-smart agriculture in Mwenezi, Zimbabwe. Funds were released through the FoodSECuRE initiative based on grim El Nino drought predictions. Copyright WFP/ Tatenda Macheka

ROME/PARIS – As the world negotiates a new climate deal, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), together with German Red Cross (GRC), unveiled a forecast-based approach which would transform the humanitarian system. This new approach will release funds for disaster preparedness and response before the crisis occurs while providing the necessary funds for resilience building activities.

WFP’s Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE) will shift the humanitarian model from a reactive system to one that looks forward and saves more lives, time and money. Both FoodSECuRE and a Red Cross project in Uganda – one in a range of Red Cross-Red Crescent forecast-based financing pilot projects – have been activated in recent weeks to meet climate-related disasters, the dramatic predictions of El Niño and extreme weather.

An anticipatory response not only protects people’s lives: new WFP research shows it also saves money. A 2015 FoodSECuRE analysis in Sudan and Niger shows that using a forecast-based system would lower the cost of the humanitarian response by 50 percent.

FoodSECuRE unlocks funds before disasters, but also ensures that funds are available between cycles of disasters, because only through reliable, multi-year funding will vulnerable people build their resilience to the effects of climate change.

“The humanitarian system is increasingly stretched financially and operationally. More weather disasters require responses in more places and for longer periods. We need new approaches. Now we have the tools to respond before a disaster hits and between recurrent disasters – it’s the only way to help lift vulnerable people out of a cycle of chronic hunger and poverty, for good,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “Turning the FoodSECuRE tool into a meaningful global facility will require mobilizing US$400 million.”

In Guatemala and Zimbabwe, funds have been released through FoodSECuRE in areas where drought risk is high due to El Niño. Farmers have been trained to grow drought-resistant crops and to change their agricultural practices to conserve both soil and water, so that even if the harvest is bad, people will still have food on the table.

Increasing climate disasters, humanitarian needs and short-term financing mechanisms mean that new approaches are urgently required. FoodSECuRE blends scientific forecasting mechanisms with flexible long-term financing that helps people build their resilience.

The Red Cross Red Crescent has seven operational pilot projects of this new approach around the world. “Using state-of-the-art weather and climate forecasts, we can trigger action to prepare for disaster,” says Garry Conille, Under Secretary General of the IFRC. “Now, what is needed is a comprehensive strategy to fund the development and operationalization of forecast-based finance systems at the national and international level.”
    
In Uganda, funds were released from a novel German Red Cross (GRC) preparedness fund to allow the Uganda Red Cross to distribute items based on a flood forecast. With a few days’ anticipation of rising water levels, Red Cross volunteers distributed water purification tablets and flood protection items to hundreds of vulnerable families. This is part of a project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Because of this El Niño that is battering this country, the Ugandan Government and the Uganda Red Cross were able to do some pre-emptive interventions in Uganda,” said Minister Musa Ecweru of Uganda at the Understanding Risk and Finance conference in Addis Ababa. “This is a real departure from our tradition of waiting until it arrives and then we act.”

The German Federal Foreign Office’s Action Plan on Climate, coordinated by the GRC, meanwhile, centres on forecast-based financing pilots by WFP or National Societies in Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mozambique, Nepal, Peru and the Philippines.

#               #                 #

About the World Food Programme

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

Follow WFP on Twitter @wfp_media and @wfp and @RChoularton

About the IFRC

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions.

For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

About the German Red Cross

The German Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and contributes to humanitarian aid worldwide, both in acute emergencies and in long-term development cooperation, currently working in some 50 countries of Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.

For more information please contact:

WFP
(email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):
Fiona Guy, WFP/Rome, Paris, Tel. +39 06 6513 3187, Mob. +39 349 9208584
Frances Kennedy, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 3725, Mob. +39 346 7600806
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel +44 7508 868 997, Mob. +44 7968008474
Gerald Bourke, WFP/New York, Tel +1-646 556 6907, Mob. +1 646 525 9982

IFRC
Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, IFRC public communications team leader
(email: benoit.carpentier@ifrc.org) Tel: +41 79 213 24 13

German Red Cross
Alexandra Rüth, Coordination Climate Change Adaptation, German Red Cross, Berlin
(RuethA@drk.de ) Tel +49 30 85404-326; Follow GRC on twitter @AlexandraRuetha

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Press Releases

  • Breakthrough brings cost of HIV treatment to under $100 per patient per yearNov 27, 2015UNDP has achieved significant reductions in the price of HIV medicines that it procures, bringing down the cost of the most common treatment to an unprecedented US$100 per patient per year in Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Mali, South Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Through these price reductions UNDP is saving US$ 25 million that are being used to put an additional 250,000 people on life-saving HIV treatment.

  • Equator prize to bring Indigenous Peoples issues to forefront of Paris climate conferenceNov 24, 2015Lineup that includes Alec Baldwin, Colin and Livia Firth, Helen Clark, Mary Robinson and music by Amadou & Mariam will honor local leadership on climate change .

  • UNDP Africa launches initiative to help prevent and respond to violent extremismNov 23, 2015UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa today launched an initiative to support African countries to prevent and respond to the growth of violent extremism through a development lens.

  • 40th UNDP-supported country submits its COP21 pledge to tackle climate changeNov 20, 2015UNDP welcomes the presentation of the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) from St. Vincent & the Grenadines, marking the completion of the 40th such INDC supported by UNDP to date.

  • Biking to improve livelihoods in Mozambique: Low-cost branded bicycles drive new BCtA member Mozambikes’ inclusive businessNov 20, 2015Mozambikes, an award-winning Mozambique-based social enterprise, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to improve the lives and livelihoods of 50,000 of the country’s poorest people through the sale of affordable branded bicycles by 2018. The company will also establish a national sales and distribution network to provide an additional 125,000 people with transportation by 2020.

  • New Grant to Support Human Rights in 10 African CountriesNov 19, 2015The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund have signed a US$10.5 million grant to address human rights barriers faced by vulnerable communities in Africa, and facilitate access to lifesaving health care. The grant is the first of its kind and will cover 10 countries including Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, the Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

  • Sierra Leone launches first mobile financial services guidelines.Nov 19, 2015The Central Bank, Bank of Sierra Leone, in partnership with the UN Development Programme and the United Nations Capital Development Fund, launches the country’s first mobile money regulations to accelerate the delivery of financial services to the poor, including women and youth.

  • UNDP Administrator visits AfghanistanNov 18, 2015Ms. Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group, concluded a three day visit to Afghanistan, where she met with the President, Chief Executive, and UN and development partners. Government capacity building, Sustainable Development Goals and Migration, were some of the main issues on the agenda.

  • Indigenous Peoples take steps to have a voice in COP21Nov 18, 2015In partnership with UNDP, Indigenous Peoples from Brazilian Amazon to Pacific Islands hold urgent high-level dialogues with national governments to limit climate change, and ensure rights in new global climate agreement. Their involvement is fundamental in view of new research that highlights the enormous potential of Indigenous People’s solutions to climate change.

  • G20 Leaders: Call to Action on Inclusive BusinessNov 17, 2015Leaders at the G20 Leaders Summit in Antalaya, Turkey issued a call to action to public and private sector representatives, international organizations and civil society to advance the ability of businesses around the world to integrate low-income people into their value chains.

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