Statement UNGA66 CARICOM Human Rights
21 November 2011 / 07:36
I am honoured to speak today on behalf of the Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that are members of the United Nations on agenda item 69 sub-item (b): Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights an fundamental freedoms.
CARICOM appreciates the comprehensive reports submitted by the Secretary General pertaining to the subject under discussion and we would like to thank the special mandate holders for introducing these reports and for the interaction with member states in the ensuing dialogue.
CARICOM Members remain guided by the fundamental principles of good governance, the rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all. In this regard we acknowledge the responsibility of national Governments to guarantee that, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as laid down in several international instruments to which they are party, are fully upheld. In the Charter of Civil Society, leaders of the region expressed their determination to ensure continuing respect for internationally recognized civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
In this regard CARICOM wishes to note the Regional Workshop on the Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles in the Caribbean held in March in Trinidad & Tobago and organized in collaboration with OHCHR and the Commonwealth Secretariat. This workshop emphasized the relevance of national human rights institutions, as key actors in strengthening human rights promotion and protection.
Development gains over the past years and decade are being reversed as a result of multiple interrelated crises, with developing countries and vulnerable populations disproportionately affected. Challenges remain with respect to pervasive poverty, increasing inequalities between and within countries, the spread of infectious diseases, armed conflicts, intolerance, environmental degradation and natural disasters.
These crises could lead to further erosion in the enjoyment and progressive realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of the most vulnerable members of our communities.
While CARICOM reiterates the interrelatedness and indivisibility of all human rights it is concerned that the economic, social and cultural rights seem to have been relegated to lesser importance.
CARICOM states underscore the primary responsibility of governments to implement the right to development but at the same time the importance of international cooperation in providing an enabling environment cannot be overemphasized.
As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development this year and prepare for the Rio+20 process next year, let us renew our commitment to a human centered approach to development as agreed in the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. CARICOM countries reiterate their strong support for the human person as the central subject of and the main beneficiary of the development process. The human rights dimension of sustainable development should therefore be part of the Rio+20 discussions.
At the 10th Caribbean week of agriculture recently held in Dominica it was highlighted that “the rising food prices, spurred by persistently high energy prices, continue to present very clear challenges to our collective agricultural sector and ultimately regional food and nutrition security”. This does not only lead to increasing levels of poverty and destitution, but more importantly puts a strain on the realization of the right to food.
In October 2010 the CARICOM Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) endorsed a Regional Policy for Food and Nutrition Security, grounded in the commitments made by CARICOM member states in adhering to the “Right to Food Convention”, as well as those made at the World Food Summit in 2009. This policy aims to, inter alia strengthen long-term sustainable agriculture, food security, nutrition and rural development programmes to eliminate the root causes of hunger and poverty, including through the progressive realization of the right to adequate food.
To that end some member states have adopted policies to change consumption patterns and advocate for what is called “eat what you produce”. These policies also contribute towards the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, which are currently a silent killer in the region, by educating the populace to consume nutritionally balanced foods. A contribution to the realization of the right to the highest attainable standard of health is also embedded in these policies.
Raising agricultural production is critical to food security. Therefore challenges, such as high energy prices, unfair competition rules, market opportunities for developing countries, especially small island developing states and mitigating the effects of climate change, should be adequately addressed.
CARICOM notes the report (A/66/270) of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and the particular focus on post-disaster settings against the background of the increasing prevalence of disasters worldwide that have more devastating effects than ever before.
The Caribbean region, a disaster-prone area, has firsthand experience with regard to guaranteeing the right to adequate housing, in the case of natural disasters and emergencies. We concur with the special rapporteur that disadvantaged groups in the society usually bear the brunt of the effects following a natural disaster.
Not only the right to housing is compromised when disasters hit but also the right to health, water and sanitation, education, for instance. A comprehensive approach is therefore of utmost importance in the post-disaster, recovery and reconstruction response.
The Special Rapporteur regrettably notes in her report that the international community has focused on the immediate needs in Haiti, following the January 2010 earthquake, however specific pledges to support permanent housing requirements have yet to be materialized.
In this regard, we call on the international community to continue making good, on their promises to the Government of Haiti and the Haitian people and support the reconstruction efforts to ensure that all Haitians can enjoy their universally recognized human rights.
CARICOM countries, the majority of which are not represented in Geneva, welcomed the opportunity provided by the New York Chapter on the Review of the Human Rights Council. We are pleased that the outcome was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly. Any future exercise of the review of the recently established Council should in CARICOM’s view focus on the remaining challenges for this organ to optimize its functioning. The future review on whether to maintain the status, to be held at an appropriate moment, no sooner than ten years and no later than fifteen years from the adoption of the GA resolution, constitutes a reasonable compromise.
Furthermore CARICOM is pleased to note that the General Assembly institutionalized the ad-hoc arrangements that were put in place since the establishment of the Council as it relates to the allocation of the agenda item to both the Plenary of the General Assembly and to the Third Committee.
The additional interactive dialogue with the President of the Council in the Third Committee will provide an opportunity to all Member States, in particular, those with limited or no representation in Geneva, to meaningfully participate in the debate regarding the work of the Council.
We have to build on the positive experiences of the past years of the Human Rights Council and ensure that it continues to execute its mandate, duly taking into account the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the consideration of human rights issues as well as the elimination of double standards, as enshrined in the resolution establishing this body.
Human rights education is an essential contribution to the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to fostering tolerance and respect for the dignity of others. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights as well as several other human rights instruments recognize that human rights education could serve to strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit supported the promotion of human rights education and training at all levels. CARICOM is therefore pleased to note the adoption by the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/RES/16/1) the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, as concrete example of the resolve of member states to increase attention to human rights education. We look forward to the adoption of this Declaration by the General Assembly.
In closing Mr. Chairperson,
At the dawn of this new millennium political leaders committed themselves to a set of lofty goals, contained in the Millennium Declaration and also committed to a timeframe of 2015 to realize these targets. CARICOM is of the view that concerted action is needed from all stakeholders to improve the well-being of the world’s 7 billion people.
CARICOM member states pledge their continued commitment to the progressive realization of all human rights for all.