21Η ΣΥΝΟΔΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΣΥΜΒΟΥΛΙΟΥ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΙΝΩΝ ΔΙΚΑΙΩΜΑΤΩΝ ΤΟΥ ΟΗΕ
Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
We would like to recall that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) editors defined all human rights as “equal and inalienable”, as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” and as being based on “the inherent dignity of all members of the human family.” It is clear enough that human rights must be of the same content and importance throughout the world. Otherwise, what would be the meaning of declaring their universality? According to the UDHR and the Charter of the United Nations, human rights are fundamental for everyone without distinction of any kind. It is, therefore, worth questioning how can it be that, sometime now, the idea of existence of certain customary practices or traditions allowing declination from the universality of human rights, always against the universally recognized human rights, is being supported with no reference to the United Nations instruments. Human rights are not to be served “à la carte.” National customs or traditions should be respected, unless they contradict human rights.
What is more, Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action expressly declares that “it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural system, to promote and protect all human rights.” United Nations instruments could not be more specific. Contrary opinions could result in a serious devaluation of the whole human rights system as defined by the United Nations. This kind of arguments undermine the values code of social coexistence established by the United Nations and can result in acts of barbarity that human conscience cannot even imagine.
In addition, we would like to draw the attention to the substantive provisions of the Declaration on the practical implementation of the equality rules, and to the important layout of the article concerning the express principle that the traditional customs and practices contradicting the current admirable Human Rights system - declared by international law universal, indivisible and interdependent – shall yield, which has started to be doubted repeatedly, as in the case of the Council resolution 12/21 2009, calling for revision of this rule or the recent draft Resolution presented by the Russian Federation (A/HRC/21/L.) during this session, which we consider as rather vague. Although the Council Resolution was rejected, the attempt to impose it continued more specific and less clear, beginning with the burqa and other specific issues related to women mainly, but not only to them.
What is more, we would like to call attention to the fact that the United Nations bodies take their decisions according to the principle of consensus, rather than the majority rule. This is a practice that may seem of no importance, even “desirable” for certain people, but is rather a critical one, as it could have an important impact on the substantive protection of human rights. It is not based on any United Nations instrument. The spreading of the practice of the consensus system undermines the democratic principle, applying in democracies from the time of the Athenian democracy to the present. It leads to the prevalence of views of the minority (even a single person) against the majority. Thus, occasionally comprehensive decisions are not delivered, but watered-ones.
The so promising and successful first 50-year operation of the UN has changed direction, creating the fear of walking to the fate of the League of Nations. Fortunately, the risks started to be understood, especially by the civil society.
We should impede the drafting of more non-binding provisions, like all other declarations, and that is why we would like to express our disagreement on the convocation of one more World Conference on Women (so-called “Beijing+20”) considering it as not necessary, as it will conclude to another non-binding text, probably making the already long texts of conclusions of Beijing and Beijing +10 conferences even longer.
The real necessity is to implement in practice the sufficient rules on gender equality, set forth in the binding provisions of the international conventions on human rights and on women’s rights, starting with the CEDAW (1979), to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (2000) and to implement the Draft Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (2006). The role of the two UN competent bodies - UN Women and Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) - should also be strengthened.
Indeed, the fact that the customary traditions and practices contradicting human rights remain effective in certain states will definitely open a great number of breaches to the admirable human rights system which constitutes the noblest achievement of the humanity. This is why we think that the Member-States and all the NGOs having consultative status with the UN must collaborate relentlessly in supporting any rule on human rights acquired after struggles of many centuries.
by Gerasimos Arsenis on behalf of
Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights
Item 3: SR on extreme poverty
12 September 2012
We all agree now that eradicating extreme poverty is not only a moral duty but a legal obligation. Indeed, eradication of extreme poverty is a necessary precondition for human rights to exist, in real life.
Our Foundation supported from the outset the Millennium Declaration which, inter alia, deals with the issue of poverty (articles 11, 12, 15, 20, 27, 28 and 29) and has supported all efforts to advance the draft of the guiding principle on extreme poverty and human rights and has made several contributions to substantive issues.
Unfortunately, there has been undue delay in the finalization of the draft of the guiding principles, with the result that we are now finding ourselves in the midst of a global economic crisis, unprepared to effectively deal with the question of poverty. We are defenceless in witnessing the sliding of the middle class to poverty and of the poor to extreme poverty.
The final draft of the guiding principles, indeed covers a wide field of specific issues relating to extreme poverty. But to declare principles is not enough. Norms without sanctions have no teeth. We should add teeth to our principles. I realise, of course, that we are far away from the stage where violations of human rights will result in sanctions of similar severity as in the cases of violations of rules concerning, say, international trade or finance. But, we should take a first step in that direction.
In this respect, I propose that consideration should be given to the possibility of establishing, under the auspices of the Council of Human Rights, an international observatory to monitor policies of economic adjustment, especially those in which international organizations have a direct involvement. Such an observatory will enable us to evaluate, on a regular basis, the extent to which economic adjustment policies affect the extremely poor or may induce a process in which segments of the working population are led to live in poverty.
Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights
Item 8. Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action
The effective application of paragraph 5, chapter I and paragraph 28, chapter II of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
I refer to our written statement A/HRC/15/NGO/43. The Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights and others have already called attention to the adverse implications of Council resolution 12/21 which, contrary to obligations undertaken in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of action, aligned the Council in favour of a re-examination of the relation between traditional values and practices and human rights.
Laudable exceptions to this dangerous tendency, are the laws prohibiting the full-face veil in public places passed in France and Belgium; and placing certain restrictions on the practice in Morocco, Syria, Turkey and several other Muslim countries.
We regret that In June 2010 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared its position against a general ban of full veiling.
Is the full-face veil religious attire? Neither the Koran nor any other religious work requires it. Nor does it comprise part of a religious ritual or manifestation as does the cassock worn by priests.
The covering of a woman's face is to deny her the ability to communicate her personality, rendering her in effect invisible. It is a grave violation of a human right -- equality for all without discrimination. In practice it violates: the right of the woman to freely develop her personality, the right to work outside the home, the right to choose one's spouse freely, the right to exercise political rights including running for public office, the right to good health, and the right of the child to an education directed to belief in equality of the sexes and equal respect for both parents.
We reaffirm the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action as well as paragraph 230 (g) of the Bejing Platform for Action on the predominance of human rights over traditional values and practices. All traditions and laws imposing the full-face veil are contrary to the universality of human rights and should be abolished in every country in the world so as to render to every woman the visibility of her personality, her freedom and her equality.
September 28, 2010