Bringing in the Sheaves: VIVAT International at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Kachi Adindu CSSp

Availing of preparatory proceedings, the VIVAT International office in Geneva fully engaged in the regular sessions of the 54TH Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Report on these activities had already been incrementally released to the contact persons. As such, this feedback is essentially a kind of general recap of the events already reported, with the exception of a few additions. VI made one oral and one video intervention and a couple of joint statements during the session.

VIVAT International Oral and Video Statements

21/09/2023: Item 3: General Debate at the 54th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Migrant Crisis in Belgium. Oral statement delivered by Kachi Adindu

KEYPOINTS: VIVAT International requests Belgium’s Council of State to sustain its policy of non-discrimination in the provision of adequate shelter for all migrants, especially single male asylum seekers who have serially been left out through administrative oversight of the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Nicole De Moor.

26/09/2023: Item 4: General debate on the human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. Video intervention delivered by David Hundeyin

KEYPOINTS: Nigerian investigative journalist David Hundeyin has been a refugee in Ghana since 2020, trying to escape the wrath of the corrupt and vindictive administration in Nigeria. He faced extraordinary rendition by the current administration in Nigeria because of the widely publicized indicting revelations of his investigative journalism. VI gave him the platform to appeal to the UN to protect him from Refoulement (the act of illegally forcing a person, e.g., a refugee, to return to a cruel jurisdiction the person is running away from). The support VI granted to Mr Hundeyin is in line with Pope Francis’ declaration that ‘‘The protection granted to refugees is not simply a concession. Refugees are not mere objects of assistance but rather subjects of rights and duties. In fact, they are often victims of humanitarian emergencies that they have had no part in creating. Therefore, the principle of safe and voluntary repatriation must be scrupulously observed in the treatment of refugees. No person should be returned to a country where he or she could face grave human rights violations or even worse life-threatening situations.’’

Joint Statements with the Holy See and other International Organizations

11/09/2023: At the 11th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions – General Exchange of Views.

KEYPOINTS: The Holy See and co-signatories appreciate the commitment of Iraq to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and also thank the UN for the work carried out in preparation for the 11th Meeting of States Parties. The statement also congratulated Nigeria for its ratification of the Convention, as well as South Sudan for acceding to it. It noted that any additional State Party to the Convention represents a renewed impulse to achieve universality, which will further ensure that there will be fewer victims in the future and that those who already have tragically been affected can be properly assisted.

13/09/2023: Item 2: General Debate of the 54th Session of the Human Rights Council.

KEYPOINTS: Highlights and reminds all states, parties, and stakeholders of the high points of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all it entails. It cautions that: ‘‘Today, efforts need to be redoubled in the face of pressure to reinterpret the foundations of the Declaration and to compromise its inner unity so as to facilitate a move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests.’’

14/09/2023: Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

KEYPOINTS: Notes the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation and shares the concern that an estimated 2 billion people worldwide do not have regular access to drinking water. Even more unsettling is the fact that the majority of these people lack access to water and sanitation due to human causes, including toxic mining practices, unsustainable irrigation, and the overexploitation of aquifers.

20/09/2023: Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development.

KEYPOINTS: Notes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development and reiterates the importance of adopting an understanding of this right that is holistic, as well as the need for a multistakeholder approach to ensuring its effective implementation. The statement reiterates what Pope Francis had said on numerous occasions: the conventional understanding of development solely in economic terms is insufficient since it places material growth at the center, which risks and leads to a societal model that exploits the human person and the environment in a frantic pursuit of profit. Human beings must never be considered material goods to be consumed and discarded.

05/10/2023: Item 9: Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on his oral update on drivers, root causes, and human rights impacts of religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.

KEYPOINTS: The statement thanks the High Commissioner for his update and takes the opportunity to reiterate its grave concern at the serious and systematic nature of the violence and human rights violations perpetrated against Christians, Jews, Muslims, and members of other religions. It cites and deplores the recent appalling incidents of the burning of the Quran as just the tip of the iceberg. It reemphasizes Pope Francis’ strong condemnation of such appalling acts because “Any book considered sacred by its people must be respected out of respect for its believers, and freedom of expression must never be used as an excuse to despise others, and to allow this must be rejected and condemned.’’

09/10/2023: Item 10: Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and on the report of the international experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

KEYPOINTS: The Holy See welcomes the reports of the High Commissioner and the Team of International Experts on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The co-signatories remain deeply concerned about the alarming human rights situation in the DRC. The statement re-echoes Pope Francis’ vehement condemnation of large-scale human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo and his regret on the perennial crisis: ‘‘It causes indignation to know that the insecurity, violence and war that tragically affect so many people are disgracefully fuelled not only by outside forces but also from within, for the sake of pursuing private interests and advantage”. The statement concludes with a reiteration of the Popes appeal during his last visit to DRC: “one has the impression that the international community has practically resigned itself to the violence devouring it [the Congolese people]. We cannot grow accustomed to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, causing millions of deaths that remain mostly unknown elsewhere. What is happening here needs to be known. The current peace processes, which I greatly encourage, need to be sustained by concrete deeds, and commitments should be maintained. […The citizens of the DRC] are infinitely more precious than any treasure found in this fruitful soil!”

09/10/2023: 74th Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner’s Programme for Refugees.

KEYPOINTS: The Holy See continues to follow with great concern and sadness the conflict in Ukraine and its repercussions, without forgetting other conflicts affecting many parts of our world. The statement reminds the world that the number of forcibly displaced people, which at the end of last year exceeded 108 million, once again portrays an appalling image of the absence of peace and unspeakable suffering that afflicts our human family.

Joint Statements with Partner NGOs

18/08/2023: With Amnesty International, Franciscan International, and Others: OPEN LETTER RE: INDONESIA’S CANDIDACY FOR ELECTION TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL.

KEYPOINTS: The letter urges the Government of Indonesia to submit its voluntary pledges and commitments ahead of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly. The pledges and commitments should address the most pressing human rights issues in Indonesia.

14/09/2023: With APG23 and partner NGOs. Biennial Panel Discussion on unilateral coercive measures and human rights: “The impact of unilateral coercive measures and over compliance on the right to development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”

KEYPOINTS: The statement raises concern about how Unilateral Coercive Measures constitute an obstacle to implementing the Declaration on the Right to Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It goes on to highlight that UCM exerts enormous suffering on populations of the target countries, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable people.

20/09/2023: With APG23 and partner NGOs. Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to development

KEYPOINTS: The statement observes that our world is living in a different but equally damaging wave of economic colonialism. This phenomenon finds its roots in a deep individualism upon which today’s world order is grounded. International Solidarity is imperative. The need for cooperation and cohesion in carrying on collective actions and achieving common goals becomes stronger every day. It is vital to see cooperation not just as a tool for solving problems but also as a no-profit-oriented instrument guided by the principles of participation, respect for sovereignty and self-determination, avoiding interactions based on donor-receivers dynamics, and building an equal exchange instead.

21/09/23: With Edmund Rice International and partner NGOs. Item 3: General debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to development. Video statement delivered by Jamer Lopez.

KEYPOINTS: While commending the Expert Mechanism on their report and advisory note to member states, the co-signatories expressed disappointment that the report ignored mentioning Peruvian indigenous leaders brutally murdered in the various regions of the Amazon. Recommends that the Peruvian state accelerate access to justice for all murdered Amazonian leaders, especially those in the outer Toto community.

21/09/2023: With APG23 and partner NGOs. Item 3: Interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the right to development.

KEYPOINTS: The statement urges the UN to make progress on the implementation of the right to development since the draft international covenant on this right will be forwarded to the General Assembly and two very important Summits are to take place very soon: the SDGs Summit and the Summit for the Future. The expectation is that the Expert Mechanism will actively contribute to making the voices of the most vulnerable people and countries at last heard in their claim for the right to development to be protected, respected, and fulfilled.

09/10/2023: With Human Rights Monitor and Partner NGOs. Report on human rights abuses in Indonesia: To the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. For the consideration of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance; Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

KEYPOINTS: This is an update on the situation of IDPs in various regencies across West Papua. Reports on the current situation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from (1) seven districts in the Maybrat Regency, Papua Barat Province; (2) the districts Kiwirok and Serambakon, Pegunungan Bintang Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province; (3) the districts Dekai and Suru-Suru, Yahukimo Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province; and (4) the Kramongmongga District, Fakfak Regency, Papua Barat Province. This is updated information that complements three previous submissions made by the HRM in 2022 regarding IDPs from Maybrat, Kiwirok, and Suru-Suru. It also offers new information on the recent IDP situation in Serambakon, Dekai, and Kramongmongga.

10/10/2023: With Human Rights Monitor and Partner NGOs. Report on human rights abuses in Indonesia: To the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. For the consideration of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

KEYPOINTS: Security force members killed five indigenous Papuans in the Fakfak Regency, Papua Barat Province, and tortured 12 Papuans during a police raid in Nduga Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province. The victims seek justice, and the attention of the UN is drawn to the situation.

VIVAT International Co-sponsored Side Events

Apart from the activities captured above, VI equally co-sponsored two side events with partner NGOs before and during the 54th regular session of the Human Rights Council. The first event took place on July 4 and addressed the Human Rights and Humanitarian Crisis in West Papua, Indonesia. The result was a strongly-worded letter to the Diplomatic Mission of Indonesia warning the government of Indonesia that the group will stand against their candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council if the human rights situation in West Papua does not improve. The second side event co-sponsored by VI was on September 29. The session brainstormed on the “Faith for Rights” Approach to Promoting Peace. This was an interreligious engagement that explored how religion could be utilized as a potent tool for advancing human rights.

Filipinos Celebrate Barrio Fiesta in Geneva

From the peaceful and eco-friendly city of Geneva, the seat of the UN Human Rights Council resounds the drums and dances of festivities of many ethnic nationalities. Though we take our business very seriously, we also make time to unwind and socialize. So like true disciplines, the master of the advocacy mission occasionally invites us to untie our bows and rest our arrows awhile and to go somewhere fresh to refresh.

Barrio Fiesta was recently held at St John XXIII Parish, Geneva. It was a celebration of rich and sumptuous Filipino delicacies. You wished you were there! The event was hosted by FCCG (Filipino Catholic Community Group), HOLD (Handmaid of the Lord), MFC (Missionary Families of Christ), and other parish volunteers who made this event truly enriching and memorable. VIVAT Team representative was there to felicitate with colleagues who were part of the event as a show of solidarity. Such events remind all of us at the United Nations that our indigeneity and diversity cannot be overshadowed by an overstretch of short-sighted globalism. Our diversity and indigeneity must be celebrated, not just tolerated.

Kachi Adindu CSSp