Side-events during the Human Rights Council

Throughout the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, we will organize and co-sponsor a number of side-events where experts and human rights defenders discuss key thematic and country specific issues.

Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka
• 28 February 2019 • 13.30 – 14.30 • Room XXIV, Palais des Nations

In September 2015, following the adoption of resolution 30/1 by the Human Rights Council, the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to implement a number of recommendations made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. These included the establishment of a commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence, an office of missing persons, and an office for reparations.

However, since then national and international civil society organizations have repeatedly voiced concerns about the government’s slow progress. This side-event will be used to provide an update on the implementation of resolution 30/1 and offer proposals for future action by the Council.

Fishing for Social Justice: Sailing between poverty and human rights
• 1 March 2019 • 13.30 – 14.30 • Room XXIII, Palais des Nations

The consumption of fish is an essential source of protein for many people, especially in densely populated countries where the overall intake is low. Beyond their contribution to food and nutritional security, fisheries are also a source of income and livelihood for 59.6 million people. In 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas, which specifically includes fisherfolks among its rights-holders. Nevertheless, small-scale fishers and their communities remain invisible in the debates within the UN Human Rights System and in many States.

This side-event will provide an opportunity to explore common strategies States and UN entities can take towards the realization of small-scale fishers’ and fishworkers’ rights, and tools that the rights holders themselves could use to hold their governments accountable.

Violence against women human rights defenders in Brazil
• 1 March 2019 • 15.00 – 16.00 • Room XXIV, Palais des Nations

Human rights defenders in Brazil face extreme risk, working in a context where they are increasingly exposed to violence and criminalization. Since 2015, 145 defenders have been killed in the country – the highest number worldwide. Women human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable, being subject to gender-specific threats and attacks in addition to the risk they already face.

This side-event will provide a platform for defenders and human rights experts to share their testimonies, discuss strategies to mitigate risk, and explore options to confront a context where violence against women happens with impunity.

Exploring the economic and social dimensions of the rights to life
• 6 March 2019 • 13.30 – 15.00 • Room XXIV, Palais des Nations

The Human Rights Committee’s adoption of a new General Comment on Article 6 of the ICCPR – the right to life – expands the understanding of this ‘supreme’ right, and acknowledges its strong interdependence and indivisibility with economic and social rights.

The event will explore the economic and social dimensions of the right to life and how the concept of a ‘life with dignity’ has influenced legal developments at the regional, national, and international levels. Panelists will critically examine whether recent developments have the potential to advance economic and social rights, including by providing a stepping stone towards full access to justice for persons living in poverty.

Mining disasters: Testimonies from Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
• 6 March 2019 • 15.00 – 16.00 • Room XXIV, Palais des Nations

In January 2019, a tailing dam in the Brazilian state Minas Gerais breached, killing over 166 people. This is not the first time such a disaster occurred in the country: in 2015, the collapse of the Fundão dam in Mariana left 19 dead. The environmental impact is felt to this day.

Issues of unsafe business practices, state negligence, and impunity are not confined to Brazil. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mining has left the population exposed to harmful metals. Human rights issues extend to working conditions, destruction of livelihoods, and gender-based violence.

This side-event will provide a platform for human rights defenders with first-hand experience of the damage caused by extractive industries. Based on their testimonies, experts will discuss key developments in human rights law, including those pertaining to business accountability for human rights abuses and environmental damage.

You can also watch a recording of the side-event.

The human rights situation in Indonesia
• 7 March 2019 • 14.30 – 15.30 • Room XXV, Palais des Nations

In February 2019, the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace delegation of the World Council of Churches visited the Provinces of Papua and West Papua, which was the first high-level civil society mission to do so in almost a decade.

Delegates met with a wide-range of stakeholders, including representatives of the government, security forces, and civil society actors. Persistent human rights issues continue to plague the territories, including the failure to implement the 2001 Law on Special Autonomy and to provide accountability for past abuses. The displacement of the indigenous populations is of particular concern: numbers provided by the Indonesian Center of Statistics in 2010 indicate that 52% of the population is now non-Papuan, compared to only 4% in 1970.

During the side-event, panelists will present the findings of the recent mission to Papua, discuss ongoing human rights violations and explore how the future of indigenous Papuans can be protected within existing international human rights frameworks.

You can also watch a recording of the side-event.