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This section includes brief guidance notes on a catalogue of specific human rights issues, including some of the most sensitive issues that RCs and UN Country Teams might face in their day-to-day work, with the aim of facilitating a common UN voice on these issues, guided by the normative human rights framework.

* The specific issues below marked with an asterisks were developed from the “Frontier Dialogues” on emerging human rights issues launched in 2016 by the UNDG Human Rights Working Group with members taking the lead on specific issues. The Dialogues included: Expanding Civil Society Space (OHCHR & UN Women); Human Rights and the Prevention of Violent Extremism (UN Women & UNDP); Statelessness (UNHCR & UNICEF); Human Rights and Urbanization (UN Habitat & OHCHR);  Zero Discrimination in Health Care (WHO & UNAIDS); and, Environment and Human Rights (UNEP & OHCHR). These messages were approved by the UNDG-HRWG and have been incorporated into the UNDG Guidance Note herein.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights

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Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) refers to a collection of human rights which are guaranteed in international human rights treaties, other inter-governmental agreements and consensus documents, and national laws. These human rights include civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, all of which are essential for ensuring the equal right of women and men to enjoy the maximum attainable standard of sexual and reproductive health and make decisions concerning their sexuality and reproduction, including the number, timing of birth and spacing of their children, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. For instance, the lack of respect of the right to privacy can deter adolescents and young people from seeking sexual and reproductive health services if adolescent sexuality is stigmatized.
  • Violations of SRHR take many forms, such as denying access to services that only women require, providing poor quality services, subjecting access to third-party authorization or performing procedures without a woman’s consent, including forced sterilization or forced virginity examination.
  • UN treaty bodies such as CEDAW have established that criminalization of services that only women require is a form of discrimination against women, and States should decriminalize sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion, as a matter of priority.
  • Violations of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are often deeply ingrained in societal values and gender stereotypes pertaining to women’s sexuality. In particular, patriarchal concepts of women’s roles within the family mean that women are often valued according to their ability to reproduce. Addressing violations of SRHR will often require addressing these harmful stereotypes as well as traditional practices such as FGM and child, early and forced marriage.
  • The CRPD asserts that people with disabilities have the right to the same standard and services in the area of sexual and reproductive health services as is provided to other persons.

Relevant international standards

The relevant international standards are summarized in the following documents:

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • The UN Country Team can speak publicly for the protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights. For instance, in El Salvador (a country in which abortion is criminalized in all circumstances), the UN Country Team issued a public statement encouraging the implementation of treaty bodies’ and UPR recommendations in the area of sexual and reproductive rights.(20) This was done further to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of a young woman who had sought urgent medical intervention in the course of a pregnancy that was placing her life at risk. The UN system in El Salvador reiterated its willingness to facilitate a national dialogue to advance the promotion and protection of women’s rights. This was followed up with multi-stakeholder dialogues and public appearances, such as at the event to launch Amnesty International’s report on women’s rights in El Salvador, where the RC reiterated the need for the Salvadoran Government to commit to a debate on the decriminalization of abortion.
  • The UN Country Team can also lead operational work on SRHR issues within the country. For instance, in Malawi, a Delivering as One country, the UN Country Team is coordinating an initiative to support a multi-stakeholder dialogue and a national inquiry by the Human Rights Commission into sexual, reproductive, maternal and child health, supported by UNFPA.
  • In certain contexts, focusing on less controversial aspects of sexual and reproductive health rights (e.g. maternal health) can be a good entry point for beginning a discussion about more difficult issues. For instance, in many cases, the largest group at risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth is adolescents. Data of this nature can help trigger discussion about the need for adolescents to have information and access to services, including contraception and safe abortion services. General Comment No. 4 of the CRC asserts that State parties should provide adolescents with access to sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraceptives.

Support and tools available from the United Nations system

  • OHCHR and UNFPA offer, when resources are available, capacity-building workshops that provide basic information on the main human rights standards related to SRHR;
  • Preventing and Responding to HIV-related Human Rights Crisis: Guidance for UN Agencies and Programmes (forthcoming).

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Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

Two broad types of HIV-related human rights crises which require UN Country Team action are:

  • A human rights crisis involving individuals, groups or organizations: Such a crisis usually involves actions such as harassment, surveillance, detention, disappearance, abuse, blackmail, discrimination, compulsory treatment, forced labour, physical violence or threats targeted against individuals, groups or organizations affected by or working in relation to HIV, that endanger their safety and well-being. Those affected may be people living with HIV or members of key population groups (or populations disproportionately affected by HIV, including gay men and other men who have sex with men [MSM], people who use drugs, sex workers and transgender people), their families or associates, or people or organizations who promote or provide HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services to these groups. Such a crisis may be characterized as “acute” and may warrant urgent and immediate action, potentially followed by longer term efforts to ensure that such crises do not recur;
  • A human rights crisis involving laws, policies or programmes: Such a crisis may involve existing or emerging laws, policies, practices or programmes that jeopardize or hinder an evidence- informed, rights-based response to HIV. Examples include laws or practices that criminalize the behaviours of key populations or their organizations, or that comprise barriers to their access to HIV prevention, treatment, care or support services; laws or practices that allow testing, treatment or other medical interventions without informed consent or confidentiality; laws, policies or practices that allow detention without due process; laws or practices that fail to protect against gender-based violence and gender inequality in the context of HIV; laws and policies that deny people in prisons and other closed settings access to HIV prevention and treatment equivalent to the access allowed the general community or that segregate people living with HIV; laws or policies indicating forced or coerced sterilization or abortion of women who inject drugs; and overly broad criminalization of HIV transmission. Such a crisis may be characterized as reflecting “chronic” issues in the country that require concerted attention over an extended period of time;
  • A human rights crisis may be considered HIV-related when: a) it directly involves people living with or affected by HIV or AIDS, and key population groups and/or individuals or groups/organizations advocating on their behalf or that promote or provide HIV prevention, treatment, care and support; and/or b) it creates, perpetuates or increases vulnerability to HIV infection among individuals or groups, or has the potential to do so; and/or c) it jeopardizes or hinders an effective national or local HIV response, including access to HIV-related prevention, treatment, care and support services for people who need them, or has the potential to do so.

Relevant international standards

  • In 2001, all UN Member States committed to strengthening legal and policy frameworks with the objective of eliminating stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and vulnerable groups, and ensuring the full enjoyment of their human rights and their equal access to education, health care, employment, social services and legal protection (UN General Assembly, Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS “Global Crisis – Global Action”: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 2 August 2001, A/RES/S-26/2).
  • Such approaches were affirmed in subsequent political declarations on HIV/AIDS in 2006 (UN General Assembly, Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 15 June 2006, A/RES/60/262) and 2011 (UN General Assembly, Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: Intensifying our Efforts to Eliminate HIV and AIDS: Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly, 8 July 2011, A/RES/65/277).
  • Human Rights Council Resolution on the protection of human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS (A/HRC/19/37) calls on States to ensure respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights in the context of HIV, and encourages them to eliminate HIV-specific restrictions on entry, state and residence, as well as the use of HIV-related deportations. It also urges States to remove laws that hinder the HIV response, to eliminate gender inequalities and violence, to increase the capacity of women to protect themselves from HIV and to promote reproductive rights.

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • UN Country Teams have supported Stigma Index research led by communities of people living with HIV in over 70 countries, which provides evidence of discrimination experienced by people living with HIV and affected by HIV, and have used that data for rights-based AIDS strategies.
    • In Thailand, following reports of people living with HIV being denied health care, the UN Country Team has provided technical support to the National AIDS Strategy, which has as one of its key outcomes reducing stigma and discrimination.
    • In Tajikistan, UNDP, UNAIDS, and UNFPA have led the UN Country Team joint action on the arbitrary arrest of more than 500 alleged sex workers in June 2014, and the UN Country Team’s interventions with the Ministry of Interior and the National AIDS Commission have stopped the police raids as well as alleged mandatory HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. UNFPA has led operational research on effects of the abusive law enforcement on HIV prevention programmes for key populations.
  • In South East Asia, in 2012, 10 UN agencies called for the closing of “compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres”. Since 2011, UNODC, together with UNAIDS and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has organized consultations with governments in the region to support the closing of compulsory treatment detention centres for drug users.
  • In Senegal, in late 2008, nine gay men who were members of a group providing condoms and HIV treatment support were arrested and subsequently convicted and imprisoned for acts against nature and criminal association. A crisis committee was formed in the country consisting of Senegalese organizations, UN agencies, and NGOs, which worked to coordinate the national and international response. Senior staff of UN agencies reached out to senior government officials, the UN facilitated the recruitment of lawyers to represent the accused, and financial support was provided to MSM groups. UNAIDS released a global press release condemning the arrests. Actions were also taken to protect members of the MSM community from violent attacks. Largely as a result of these national and international efforts, the convicted men were released in April 2009.

Support and tools available from the United Nations system

  • Preventing and Responding to HIV-related Human Rights Crisis: Guidance for UN Agencies and Programmes (forthcoming).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons

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Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

  • The UN has called for States to fulfill their obligations under international human rights law to end violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
  • Laws that criminalize consensual relations between adults of the same sex, that criminalize cross-dressing, that place discriminatory restrictions on public discussion of the rights of LGBT persons or the work of LGBT organizations and human rights defenders, all violate international human rights standards and the UN calls for their repeal.
  • Public prejudice against LGBT persons can never justify such laws; rather, it requires States to take specific measures to protect LGBT persons from violence and discrimination and to overcome such prejudice through public education.
  • The UN should stand up for the human rights of everyone, without discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—this is one of the UN pillars.
  • Prejudice, discrimination and violence against LGBT persons have a broad impact on human rights as well as public health, including on the ability of LGBT persons to access prevention and health care services.

Relevant international standards

  • The HRC and the General Assembly have both adopted multiple resolutions condemning violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.
  • Key obligations of States under international human rights law are summarized in the OHCHR booklet, Born free and equal.
  • OHCHR Fact Sheets clarifying relevant international standards.

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • The RC and Country Team can take action to protect and promote the rights of LGBT persons in every context where these rights are violated, even where it is prohibited or restricted by social or religious custom (i.e. taboo) and subject to criminal sanctions; it is a matter of adopting an effective strategy that is adapted to the local context.
  • They can publicly and privately advocate with national authorities and other stakeholders for greater respect for the human rights of LGBT persons:
  • In Papua New Guinea, members of the UN Country Team members wrote a letter to the editor of a national newspaper to respond to negative comments with regard to LGBT persons.
  • They can support public anti-discrimination initiatives, such as the UN Free & Equal campaign, which challenge stereotypes and stigma and raise awareness of human rights violations faced by LGBT persons. RCs have supported national Free & Equal events, including in India.
  • The RC and UN Country Team can encourage and coordinate the team’s responses to emergencies (e.g. to arrests and attacks) as well as technical assistance to national stakeholders (e.g. review of legislation; briefings to Parliament; training of law enforcement officers, members of the judiciary, officials, members of CSOs; implementation of UN and UPR recommendations; policy guidance; support to NHRIs):
  • In Uganda, the UN Country Team advocated with the government, parliament and other stakeholders with regard to the incompatibility of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill with UN human rights standards and public health recommendations, based on an analysis of the law carried out by OHCHR and UNAIDS;
  • In Jamaica, the RC issued a press release condemning the homophobic murder of a transgender teenager;
  • In Ecuador, with the support of the OHCHR Human Rights Adviser to the UN Country Team, the UN provided technical assistance to an inter-ministerial task force on addressing violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.
  • They can support capacity-building of UN staff and national stakeholders on this issue: In Cambodia, the RC supported the work by OHCHR and UNDP to produce a national study on discrimination and violence faced by LGBT persons and to organize the first national LGBT community dialogue on the issue.

Support and tools available from the United Nations system

Death penalty

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Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

  • The United Nations system opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.
  • Because it is irreversible, capital punishment is opposed even when backed by legal process.
  • The global trend is towards abolition. Currently, more than 160 of 193 Member States of the UN have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.
  • An increasingly large number of States from all regions have acknowledged that the death penalty undermines human dignity and that its abolition contributes to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights.

Relevant international standards

  • Several international and regional human rights instruments prohibit the use of capital punishment or encourage its abolition and/or strictly limit its application. In particular, the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, states that “no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed”. Currently, the Protocol is ratified by 81 States. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) specifically prohibits capital punishment “for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age”.
  • In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, international human rights law requires, as a minimum, full compliance with the clear restrictions prescribed in particular in article 6 of the ICCPR. However, in accordance with the last paragraph of article 6, the ICCPR provides that “nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or prevent the abolition of capital punishment in any State party to the Covenant”.
  • Since 2007, the General Assembly has adopted four resolutions (62/149, 63/138, 65/206 and 67/176). These resolutions called on States that maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its abolition, and in the meantime, to restrict the number of offences which it punishes and to respect the rights of those on death row.
  • In accordance with the Guidance Note of the Secretary-General on the UN Approach to Rule of Law Assistance, “the UN will neither establish nor directly participate in any tribunal that allows for capital punishment”.

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • The RC and UN Country Team can play a critical role to advance the abolition of the death penalty, including through actively advocating for the abolition of the death penalty, implementation of relevant international human rights standards and ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. In recent years, several RCs and UN agencies have carried out such activities. For example: In September 2014, the RC in Kiribati sent a letter to the President of Kiribati urging him to reconsider the reintroduction of the death penalty, and thus adhere to the country’s previous endorsement of resolution 65/206 adopted by the General Assembly on 21 December 2010: moratorium on the use of the death penalty;
  • In January 2014, the RC in Papua New Guinea advocated against the reintroduction of the death penalty in the country, including through issuing public statements;
  • Since 2013, UNICEF and OHCHR in Yemen have advocated for the immediate suspension of the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by persons under 18 years of age, and have provided technical support for the establishment of a specialized forensic committee that uses the latest scientific methods to determine the most accurate age of death row prisoners;
  • In December 2013, UNDP and the Ministry of Justice in Viet Nam organized a conference on reduction of the death penalty, and a report has been submitted recommending a reduction.

Support and tools available from the United Nations system

Indigenous peoples

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Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

  • The international community has not adopted a definition of the term “indigenous peoples”. The prevailing view today is that no formal universal definition is necessary; self-identification as indigenous is considered a fundamental criterion and has been the practice followed by the UN and its specialized agencies.
  • Applying the rubric of “indigenous peoples” to certain segments of the population continues to be a controversial issue for some governments, in particular in the Africa and Asia regions where several States have argued that all groups, in a literal sense, may be considered indigenous to the region. However, the concept of indigenous peoples should not be understood to solely be a matter of “who came first” but, rather, to refer to non-dominant groups that are indigenous to the region, self-identify as indigenous peoples and have distinct identities and ways of life, and who face particular human rights issues related to histories of various forms of oppression, such as dispossession of their lands and natural resources and denial of cultural expression.
  • Indigenous peoples’ human rights are not new or special rights separate from fundamental human rights of universal application; rather, they are an elaboration of these rights in the specific cultural, historical, social and economic circumstances of indigenous peoples. Importantly, the rights related to indigenous peoples seek to protect, in addition to individual rights, their collective rights. The recognition of indigenous peoples’ collective rights, such as the right to their lands and resources and to self-determination, is necessary to ensure their continued existence and well-being as distinct peoples.
  • Indigenous women suffer from multiple forms of discrimination within their communities and the larger societies in which they live. Attention should be paid to the diversity that exists among indigenous peoples, and the multiple forms of discrimination that may arise as a consequence.

Relevant international standards

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • The RC and Country Team can raise awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples among government officials, policy makers, NHRIs, CSOs, indigenous peoples and the public at large, for instance through training activities and national campaigns of education on indigenous issues and by supporting participatory structures for indigenous peoples.
  • They can create mechanisms to facilitate dialogue between the UN Country Team and indigenous peoples.
  • They can support indigenous communities, including through the provision of technical and financial support, and their efforts to claim their human rights, including in legal proceedings.
  • The RC and Country Team can assist States to implement the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and concluding observations and recommendations related to indigenous peoples issued by treaty bodies, expert mechanisms and special mandate holders, and recommendations issued in the context of the UPR.

Support and tools available from the United Nations system

Minorities (national or ethnic, religious and linguistic)

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Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

  • There is no definition of who constitutes a minority.
  • The lack of a definition can create problems regarding recognition by the State, which is important to secure the rights of minority groups within a State.
  • Such recognition does not provide minorities with additional rights; rather, it enables minorities to enjoy and secure human rights to which they may not have easy access due to their status as minorities.
  • Recognition of minority status is not solely for the State to decide.
  • Minorities are the ones to decide on their own identity based on objective and subjective criteria.
  • The right of minorities to self-identify on the basis of their national, ethnic, religious and/or linguistic characteristics is related to the obligations of States to ensure non-discrimination against individuals and groups, which is a central principle of international human rights law.
  • A minority is a group that is numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a State and in a non-dominant position, whose members possess ethnic, religious and/or linguistic characteristics that differ from those of the rest of the population and show, if only implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religion or language.
  • In most instances, a minority group will be a numerical minority, but in others, a numerical minority may be dominant or a majority may find itself in a minority-like or non-dominant position. In some situations, a group that constitutes a majority in a country may be in a non-dominant position within a particular region of the country.
  • Minority rights are based on four pillars: protection of existence, protection and promotion of identity, equality and non-discrimination, and the right to effective participation.

Relevant international standards

  • Protection of the rights of minorities and the obligation of States to protect minorities are provided for under article 27 of the ICCPR and article 30 of the CRC.
  • Adopted by consensus, the 1992 Minority Declaration, which interprets the provision of article 27 of the ICCPR, constitutes a central reference in protecting minority rights.
  • The Special Rapporteur on minority issues is to promote the implementation of the Minority Declaration.
  • The Forum on Minority Issues is to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to minorities, as well as thematic contributions and expertise to the work of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues.
  • In the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration, the Secretary-General established, in 2012, the UN Network on Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, to enhance dialogue and cooperation on issues of racial discrimination and minority rights protection among relevant UN departments, agencies, funds and programmes. The Network, coordinated by OHCHR, now comprises 23 UN entities. Through OHCHR, the Network developed the Guidance Note of the Secretary-General on Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and a four-year Network Action Plan that responds to its recommendations. OHCHR and other Network members are implementing activities designed to support the Network in achieving the full aims of the Guidance Note.

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • All three pillars of the UN—human rights, development, and peace and security—are concerned with discrimination and minority rights violations, and efforts to combat them require system-wide engagement and cooperation.
  • The Network Action Plan to support the implementation of the Guidance Note aims inter alia to establish a strong foundation for future UN system efforts to address racial discrimination and protection of minorities while addressing the gender dimension associated with violations. In terms of strategy, priority is placed on the UN Country Teams in order to strengthen the work on anti-discrimination and protection of minorities at the country and regional levels.
  • Under the Action Plan, capacity-building at UN Country Team level is to be achieved inter alia through knowledge exchange on practice, including training on anti-discrimination and minority rights in order to help develop, include and/or support minority-related issues in efforts such as implementation, programmes to combat racial discrimination and protection of minorities.
  • Through training provided to UN Country Teams, colleagues are better equipped with focused knowledge to engage and assist governments in creating conditions for better protection of minorities, including minority women.

Support and tools available from the United Nations system

Human Rights and the Environment*

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Key Messages about human rights and the environment

  • The human rights framework provides an unassailable moral and legal justification for immediate and urgent action to protect the environment for the benefit of all persons. Environmental sustainability and the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights are complementary objectives at the core of sustainable development. Ecosystems and the services they provide directly contribute to the full enjoyment of human rights. States have clear human rights obligations to prevent the adverse impacts of environmental degradation on the enjoyment of human rights and to protect environmental human rights defenders. Additionally, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, do no harm, and exercise due diligence in carrying out their activities. In the event that environmental and human rights harms occur, both States and businesses have obligations to ensure access to effective remedies.
  • A significant number of court cases, national constitutions and legislation, and international instru­ments have acknowledged the close linkages between environmental and human rights law. This has, for example, included laws, policies and jurisprudence related to the environmental aspects of indigenous peoples’ rights to culture, livelihoods, and traditional lands, territories and resources. Environmental law has also dealt with protection of collective intellectual property rights, through principles of benefit sharing, i.e. in the context of genetic resources. The UN has played a crucial role in both catalysing and consolidating the recognition of the human rights environment nexus. However, States have yet to universally recognise a right to a healthy environment or define its content and correlative obligations.
  • International human rights mechanisms have addressed environmental aspects of a number of human rights including the rights to life, religion, and property, health, water, food, and culture. On occasion, they have addressed the right to a healthy environment directly but mainly they have focused on the environmental dimensions of more established rights.
  • Regardless, it is clear that efforts to promote environmental sustainability can only be effective if they occur in the context of enabling legal frameworks that guarantee human rights such as the rights to information, participation and access to justice. Addressing trans-boundary environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and ecosystem management, requires an internationally coordinated response based on common human rights and environmental principles such as solidarity, accountability, transparency, equity, and justice.

Relevant international standards

  • Several multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) recognise the linkages between human rights and the environment.[1]
  • Core human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, include important provisions related to human rights and the environment.
  • Decisions of regional human rights bodies, including the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, have recognised these linkages.
  • The linkages between human rights and the environment have been addressed by global bodies, such as the Human Rights Council, the International Court of Justice, and the World Bank Inspection Panel. For example, the last Human Rights Council resolution on climate change states that “human rights obligations, standards and principles have the potential to inform and strengthen international, regional and national policymaking in the area of climate change, promoting policy coherence, legitimacy and sustainable outcomes”. The most recent HRC resolution on human rights and the environment encourages States “to consider further, among other aspects, respect for and promotion of human rights within the framework of the UNFCCC,” calls for them “to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, including in all actions undertaken to address environmental challenges” and recognizes that “environmental damage can have negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of all human rights”
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly recognises the links between human rights, development and the environment, including biological diversity and climate. The interrelation between environmental sustainability and the different Sustainable Development Goals is based on reducing environmental damage but also on preserving the role of natural resources and ecosystem services in promoting human wellbeing, economic opportunities, and social and ecological resilience.
  • The health of ecosystems, bio-diversity, pollution in all of its forms and climate change are increasingly being recognised as the grave threats to human health, dignity and well-being that they are. For instance, the 2015 Paris Agreement recognises climate change as a common threat to all people and explicitly calls for States to respect, promote and consider human rights when taking climate action.

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • The Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team should raise awareness of the linkages between human rights and the environment among government officials, policy makers, National Human Rights Institutions, indigenous peoples and the public at large, for instance through training activities and national campaigns of education on human rights and the environment.
  • They should promote access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental decision making, including through the provision of technical and financial support, to ensure the accountability of governments, the private sector and environmental or human rights organisations with regard to the impact of their activities on the environment and human rights.
  • They should support stronger cross-sectoral links at national level, which could further efforts toward sustainable development, by providing a framework to integrate human rights, social development, economic development, and environmental protection.
  • The Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team should assist States to implement the provisions of relevant MEAs, to fulfil international human rights commitments, and to develop and adopt environmental policies, laws and regulations that will prevent negative impacts on the enjoyment of human rights while preserving the environment for this and future generations.[2]
  • UN Country Teams should increase their engagement with the human rights mechanisms. To do this, they should draw on thematic expertise through the HRWG and take advantage of the convening role of the human rights mechanisms to help Country Teams to work together as one UN, and build capacity to address the human rights / environment nexus. They should also be prepared to support country and civil society reporting to the human rights treaty-bodies, the universal periodic review of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations Framework Convention on the Climate Change on issues related to human rights and the environment. To this, UN Country Teams and Resident Coordinators should undertake efforts to document instances in which environmental degradation and climate change are impacting the fulfilment of human rights, including the right to development. They should also help monitor human rights impacts of development projects in order to assess whether these projects are benefiting people, particularly those most vulnerable to environmental and other harms.

Supportandtoolsavailable fromtheUnitedNationssystem

[1] These include the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species and many others.

[2] For example, the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can support the adoption of measures, such as planning or land use laws and environmental impact assessment or risk assessment procedures, which commit to inte­grating human rights considerations in the design, prior approval and implementation of all projects, programmes, and activities, whether undertaken by State or non-state actors.

Human Rights and the Prevention of Violent Extremism*

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Key points andmessages that the ResidentCoordinatorshould knowabouttheissue

  • While there is no universally accepted definition of ‘violent extremism’ any definition must be consistent with Member States’ obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law.
  • To be effective, national PVE measures, including strategies and plans, must respect the principle of non-discrimination and address injustices.
  • Member States should address the circumstances in which violent extremism may flourish, including a deeper appreciation of the linkage between a lack of respect for human rights and the conditions conducive to violent extremism.
  • Adopting gender-sensitive approaches is a prerequisite and entails an analysis of how women’s human rights are impacted by terrorism/violent extremism and the responses to these phenomena, as well as the role that women can play in prevention efforts. Any engagement should be defined by interventions that promote and protect women’s human rights, utilizing the international human rights framework and the women, peace and security agenda.
  • Restrictions to the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief need to strictly comply with international law. The complex issue of drawing the demarcation line between freedom of expression and incitement to violence, hatred and discrimination needs to be taken into account, in particular in legal frameworks and criminal justice.
  • Reponses ought not disproportionally impact particular racial, ethnic and religious groups, and racial or religious profiling in policing or law enforcement must be avoided, as it is not only counter to human rights laws, but undermines preventive efforts. Understanding and addressing endemic discrimination, particularly within judicial systems and law enforcement/policing, is critical. Poverty and a lack of economic opportunity fuel violent extremism, therefore efforts are needed to combat social exclusion and marginalization while enhancing respect for economic, social and cultural rights.

Relevant international standards

  • The international community has committed to adopting measures that ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism through the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by the General Assembly in its resolution 60/288 (2006). Member States have resolved to take measures aimed at addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, including lack of rule of law and violations of human rights, and ensure that any measures taken to counter terrorism comply with their obligations under international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law. Biennial review resolutions have confirmed and strengthened this commitment and added the importance of the gender dimension in these efforts.[1]
  • The 2016 Secretary-General Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (A/70/674, 2015) emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to countering terrorism and violent extremism that goes beyond “law enforcement, military or security measures to address development, good governance, human rights and humanitarian concerns”. That approach includes addressing conditions conducive to violent extremism and terrorism and the human rights and gender dimensions of that issue.[2]
  • Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/30/15[3] on human rights and preventing and countering violent extremism, Member States contains human rights guidance for the UN on the subject. The related Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on best practices and lessons learned on how protecting and promoting human rights contribute to preventing and preventing and countering violent extremism (A/HRC/33/29, 2016) provides examples of relevant issues and approaches.[4]
  • The UN’s work in the area of countering violent extremism, human rights and gender is also guided by Security Council resolutions 1624 (2005), 2178 (2014), and 2242 (2015).[5]

RolethattheResident Coordinator and UN CountryTeamcanplay inpromotingthe issue

  • Support to Member States in bringing their PVE efforts in line with Member States’ obligations international human rights law, including by engaging with the UN human rights mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review, human rights treaty bodies and special procedures. Country teams could focus on facilitating dialogues on preventing violent extremism rather than on defining terminology per se. They can work with Member States to avoid the use of sweeping definitions or conflating words with action.
  • If support is provided, the RC and UN country teams need to ensure that responses to violent extremism, terrorism and related threats do not unduly restrict legitimate activities and adversely impact on legitimate activities of persons within their jurisdiction, including journalists, human rights defenders, women’s organization and civil society in general. In promoting human rights standards and the rule of law, and analyzing the potential negative and differential impact on different parts of society, they can support Member States to work to reframe the narrative on PVE to a more positive agenda focused on fostering inclusion, peace and tolerance.
  • The UN country teams can use their convening power to encourage Member States to ensure public participation when legislative and policy measures to prevent and counter violent extremism are developed. This includes engagement of local communities and non-governmental actors, national human rights institutions and independent oversight bodies and it entails building capacities of such actors and empowering youth, families, and women, religious, cultural and education leaders, and others, to participate in such efforts and in countering recruitment to commit acts of violent extremism and promoting social inclusion and cohesion. UN country teams should actively support the preservation of civil society space in general and, in particular, in efforts of PVE. Effective avenues for civic participation contribute to societal cohesion and give voice to people including minorities and those at the margins of society.
  • RCs and UN country teams may need to advocate that any restrictions to the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief must strictly comply with international law, and the need to draw a human rights based demarcation line between freedom of expression and incitement to violence, hatred and discrimination must be taken into account, in particular in legal frameworks and criminal justice
  • Given that poverty and a lack of economic opportunity fuel violent extremism, UN country teams can help shape discourse and action that working jointly to combat social exclusion and marginalization while enhancing respect for economic, social and cultural rights is an effective prevention measures require that all pillars of the UN work closely together and that UN actors sharpen their policy framework and analytical tools for understanding conditions on the ground.
  • UN country teams will need to ensure that PVE measures integrate a gender-sensitive approach, including analysis of how women’s human rights are impacted by terrorism/violent extremism and the responses to these phenomena, and give specific attention to the powerful role that women can play as advocates against violent extremism. The women, peace and security agenda is an important framework to address root causes of violent extremism as it is founded on the importance of women’s participation, leadership and empowerment in conflict resolution, peace building and reconstruction efforts, and aims at demilitarization, disarmament and the prevention of armed conflict.
  • The UN in country will need to establish clear messages on the UN’s “red line” issues when it comes to PVE efforts and be cautious about relabeling development work as PVE. Although this stream of work is attracting a lot of resources, such labeling can be counter-productive, and may do more harm if certain groups or individuals are stigmatized.
  • The UN System – both at HQ and in countries – will need to enhance their analytical capacities and expertise for the development of more comprehensive strategies that can address the root causes of violent extremism, including by engaging with the UN human rights mechanisms and national human rights actors, e.g. NHRIs. They should build better information management systems that act as early warning on closing of political space and escalations of human rights violations and develop strategies anchored in joined up analysis such as the HRuF Regional Quarterly Review to address underlying causes.

Support andtools availablefrom the UnitedNationssystem

[1] See http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/60/288.

[2] See http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/674.

[3] See http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/30/15.

[4] See http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/33/29.

[5] See http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/33/29 for all Security Council resolutions.

Expanding Civil Society Space*

(Print version available here)

Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

  • An autonomous and vibrant civil society plays a crucial role in strengthening democratic governance; facilitating civil society participation in public life, opening issues for public debate and ensuring that people can contribute to the policies and decisions that affect their lives, including the most excluded, marginalized and discriminated against sections of society, expands civic space and the improves the quality of democratic discourse. Allowing voices to be heard, even when they express criticism or unpopular views, is key to expanding civil society space, holding decision makers to account, to ensure that promises are kept, policies are reviewed, lessons learned and improvements made – and brings significant rewards in terms of transparency, accountability, legitimacy of governance and governments and long-term stability.
  • But this requires a guarantee of a secure and safe environment, free from acts of intimidation, harassment and reprisals as a crucial pre-condition for civil society actors- particularly human rights defenders – to carry out their work effectively.
  • There are deeply worrying signs of an emerging trend towards the dismantling or hampering of the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the right to participation in public affairs, access to information and justice, with increasingly harsh repressive measures being used to silence critical voices and to control access to information and capacity to organise and participate. This also includes criminalising or delegitimising dissenting voices, killings or violent attacks on human rights defenders and trade unionists, as well as by reducing resources available and restricting the engagement of civil society actors with UN human rights mechanisms. Women’s rights defenders are often targeted with gender-specific threats and harassment, including threats to their children and lack of support of their families.  This trend of shrinking, and at times closing, civil society space is occurring in all countries, north and south.
  • International human rights standards provide a strong legal framework for the protection of civil society space – including with regards to the human right to participate in public affairs and the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, access to information and justice. These standards can underpin the UN System in speaking out with a common voice against any attacks on public freedoms.

Relevant international standards

  • The human rights to freedom of opinion and expression, association and peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs are guaranteed in international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (articles 19, 21, 22, 25) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (articles 8, 15).
  • They are further guaranteed for all people, without discrimination, including under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (article 3), the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (article 5); Convention on the Rights of the Child (articles 13, 15), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (articles 21, 29, 30), the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance (article 24); and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (article 26). A number of ILO Conventions also protect freedom of association and the right to organise (the Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and the Protection of Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).
  • The right to participate in public affairs is guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (articles 19, 21, 22, 25); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides for the right to form or take part in a trade union and to participate in cultural life (articles 8, 15); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women provides for the right of women to participate in political, economic and cultural life (article 3); International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination prohibits discrimination in relation to the expression, assembly and association, and in conduct of public affairs (article 5); Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and access to information, participation in political and public life, as well as in cultural life (articles 21, 29, 30); International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance provides for the right to form and participate freely in organizations and associations concerned with attempting to establish the circumstances of enforced disappearances and the fate of disappeared persons, and to assist victims of enforced disappearance (article 24); among others.
  • These international standards apply to all branches of the State – executive, legislative and judicial. Any restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly must be provided by law and justified as strictly necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others or for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals.  But these grounds may never be invoked as a justification for the muzzling of any advocacy of multi-party democracy, democratic tenets and human rights.
  • In addition to the human rights frameworks, member states have made a number of commitments to support civil society partnership and participation including in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  and in the Agreed Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women 57, 58, the Political Declaration of the CSW 59, and the CSW 60.

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • Speak out against attacks against freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the right to participate in public affairs. Promote legislation and policies in line with international standards.
  • Establish/strengthen a UNCT network of civil society focal points in the country for reaching out, being aware of the issues and to strategise on the issue of civil society space. Work with UN Women country offices and UN Women Civil Society Advisory Groups (CSAGs) where they exist, for this.
  • Mainstream regular monitoring, review and public reporting on civic society issues and challenges across all UN entities, and identify action to take in case of violations.
  • Ensure safe premises for civil society and provide advice in cases of threats, intimidation or reprisals. In cases of reprisals refer to reprisals@ohchr.org and/or civilsociety@ohchr.org.
  • Create a joint communication strategy to convey at the highest level the importance of the role that civil society plays in sustainable development, good governance, long-term stability and progress.
  • Develop joint strategies to further outreach to different civil society actors at the local and grass-root level and facilitate networking. Address the “access to information” gap with UNCT and civil society actors through a subscriber-based weekly email bulletin service where publicly available reports, studies, calls for cooperation, news, tools and resources are shared. Work with UN Women Civil Society Advisory Groups in countries.
  • Support efforts to mobilise funding channels, including raising awareness of UN-supported funds, such as UNDEF, etc.
  • Throughout the planned activities, processes and consultations the UNCT and all UN entities in country should provide space and facilitate the effective and inclusive participation of diverse and pluralistic civil society actors, contributing in the democratization of UN space by enhancing transparency, accessibility and accountability.
  • Strengthen the convening role between governments, business/non-state actors and civil society.

Support and tools available for the United Nations system

Statelessness*

(Print version available here)

Keypointsand messagesthatthe ResidentCoordinatorshouldknowabouttheissue

  • A stateless person is someone who is not considered to be a national by any State under the operation of its law. It is estimated that there are millions of stateless persons worldwide. Statelessness is sometimes referred to as an ‘invisible problem’ because stateless people may remain unseen and unheard, living on the margins of society. Statelessness can limit access to birth registration, identity documentation, as well as basic rights such as education, health care, legal employment, property ownership, political participation and freedom of movement. Denial of these rights impacts not only the individuals concerned but communities and societies as a whole, as the marginalization linked to statelessness may create social tension and significantly impair efforts to promote economic and social development.
  • Statelessness can be caused by a number of factors including discrimination in nationality laws (on the basis of gender, or ethnic, racial, religious, or linguistic minority status), conflicts between nationality laws, State succession, lack of safeguards to prevent statelessness in nationality laws, and lack of birth registration or other documentary proof of identity. Forced displacement can also be both a cause and consequence of statelessness. It can be a driver of forced displacement or voluntary movement across international borders, particularly where it is linked to human rights abuses and poor development outcomes for those affected by it. Statelessness can also result from displacement or migration, particularly where displacement becomes protracted or in situations of irregular migration.
  • Although statelessness may in many contexts be a hidden problem, stateless people are found in all regions of the world. The majority of statelessness people were born in the countries in which they have lived their entire lives. Countries with notably large stateless populations include Myanmar, Kuwait, Côte d’Ivoire, Thailand, Iraq, and the Dominican Republic. Significant populations also live in the more than 20 countries around the world that do not allow mothers to confer their nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers. This can result in children being left stateless when fathers are unknown, missing or deceased.
  • In 2014, UNHCR, the UN Agency mandated to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect and identify stateless persons, launched the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 Years. The Campaign encourages States and other actors to take steps, in accordance with the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness, to address statelessness with a view to eliminating it by the year 2024.

Relevant international standards

Role that the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team can play in promoting the issue

  • The Resident Coordinator must fully acquaint him or herself with the statelessness issues in the country in order to demonstrate clear and strong leadership to resolve the issue. UNHCR, as the agency mandated to address statelessness, is able to provide an in-depth briefing or training to the RC and other members of the UN Country Team to ensure a common understanding of the issues.
  • It is critical for each UN Country Team (UNCT) to develop a joint statelessness strategy that is tailored to the local context and political realities, and which draws on the strengths of the different members of the UN Country team. Such a common strategy should include the development of joint and complementary advocacy messages, as well as the engagement of other actors, including the diplomatic community and civil society actors
  • Because addressing statelessness frequently requires high-level political advocacy, UNCT members may be able to engage more effectively with different government ministries as a group than any one agency can by itself.
  • In the area of human rights, greater coordination by the UNCT could yield positive results, including through the strategic use of UN Human Rights Treaty Mechanisms.
  • The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda offers an important window of opportunity to frame statelessness in the context of development concerns. The UNCT should identify the Sustainable Development Goals (and related Targets) most relevant to addressing statelessness in the country, and advocate for the inclusion and prioritization of activities and associated indicators related to these SDGs in national development plans and the UNDAF. The SDGs also offer a potentially less sensitive entry point to addressing statelessness in certain country contexts, for example, through advocacy and activities aimed at promoting legal identity and belonging (SDG 16.9).

Support and tools available from the United Nations system

Zero Discrimination in Health Care*

(Print version available here)

Key pointsandmessages that theResident Coordinatorshould know aboutthe issue

  • A central promise of the Sustainable Development is to ‘ensure that no one is left behind’. Discrimination in health care, while formally prohibited in national and international law, is widespread and takes many forms, adversely impacting the way health care is delivered and received. Ending discrimination in health care will be instrumental to securing progress towards universal health coverage, ending the AIDS epidemic, and meaningfully advancing human rights, including the right to health.
  • As defined by international human rights law, discrimination includes any act or behaviour that has the intention or effect of impairing the enjoyment of fundamental human rights by all people on an equal footing, including their right to access health care. Discrimination is rarely linked solely to one characteristic of a person. It is often fueled by multiple factors, referred to as intersectional or compounded discrimination. Workers in health care settings also face discrimination from their employers, co-workers, and recipients of care.
  • Discrimination in health care is expressed in varying forms, including physical and verbal abuse; breaches of confidentiality; barriers in accessing services as third party authorization requirements; denial of, or failure to provide adequate health care; violations of autonomy and bodily integrity; and compulsory detention. It is also expressed in terms of persistent gender-based discrimination within the health workforce, where over two-thirds are female.
  • Discrimination is driven by stigma from negative stereotypes of certain populations; discriminatory and punitive laws, regulations, policies and practices; lack of information and rights literacy; as well lack of mechanisms of accountability and redress. Health systems limitations can also contribute to discrimination, including deficiencies in education and regulation, informal employment, and poor working conditions.
  • States have an immediate legal obligation to address discrimination, so health system constraints including lack of resources cannot be used as justification. While States bear this primary duty, a multi-stakeholder response is needed. Communities, political, traditional and religious leaders, trade unions, health workers associations, regulatory bodies, education and training institutions, health care facilities, civil society and media have critical roles to play to stand up against discrimination.
  • An example of good practice is Thailand where, following reports of people living with HIV being denied health care, the UN country team has provided technical support to the National AIDS Strategy and one of its key outcomes on reducing stigma and discrimination. Consequently, HIV-related stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings are systematically monitored, with data collected in 22 provinces. The Ministry of Public Health is rolling out an accelerated system-wide programme in collaboration with civil society, including in-person training and e-learning.
  • In Malawi, the National Association of People living with and affected by AIDS (NAPHAM), in partnership with Airtel and UNAIDS is using an SMS-based reporting system for real-time monitoring of stockouts of antiretroviral medicines and TB drugs and experiences of stigma and discrimination in the health care.
  • Discrimination in health care is a persistent problem that needs to be addressed both in law and in practice and for both individual users of health care and for health care workers, in line with the Shared Framework for Action on equality and non-discrimination at the heart of sustainable development, approved by the HLCP.

Relevant International Standards

  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which guarantees the right to health among other rights, is one of many treaties that sets out prohibited grounds of discrimination. Article 2 (2) obliges each State party “to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
  • The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other treaty monitoring bodies, have also established various prohibited grounds for discrimination, including HIV status, gender, disability, sexual orientation and age (see, for example: General Comment No. 20: Non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights; 2009 (E/C.12/GC/20); General Comment No. 22, The right to sexual and reproductive health; 2016 (E/C.12/GC/22).
  • The supervisory bodies in the International Labour Organization have adopted international labour standards, founded on international human rights instruments. Specifically, Recommendation No. 200 elaborates on the right to not be discriminated against based on real or perceived HIV status, sexual orientation or belonging to a key population in all workplaces in all sectors.

Rolethat theResident Coordinator andUNCountryTeamcanplayinpromoting the issue

  • The UN Country Team and the Resident Coordinator can play a critical role in following-up on the recommendations of the UN Inter-Agency Statement (forthcoming) to effect change on the ground.
  • Eliminating intersectional discrimination in health care settings takes concerted multi-stakeholder action. The UN Country Teams can act as conveners bringing all stakeholders to the table, and allowing for meaningful involvement and participation of communities most left behind to demand an end to discrimination in healthcare.
  • As UNCTs engage in reporting to human rights mechanisms and support national stakeholder engagement with the UPR or treaty monitoring bodies, these represent critical opportunities for accountability for the elimination of discrimination in health care. Intersectionality analysis of discrimination in health care could constitute an important contribution of the UN Country Team.
  • Capacity building of national stakeholders to understand roles, responsibilities and to forge appropriate codes of conduct or local accountability (including redress) mechanisms for health workers and those engaged in the healthcare sector are of equal importance.
  • The UNDAF represents a critical opportunity to analyze determinants of discrimination in health care, groups most affected, and capacity gaps precluding duty-bearers from acting upon this immediate legal obligation. Where available, the SWAP to health systems should include a dedicated focus to eliminating discrimination in health care, to reinforcing responsibilities and rights of health workers, and empowering and protecting them as “human rights defenders”.
  • RCs and UNCTs also need to galvanize stakeholders to act upon SDG 10 and 16 which includes specific indicators on the removal of discriminatory laws and practices.

Supportandtools available fromtheUnited Nations system

Human Rights and Urbanization*

(Print version available here)

Key points and messages that the Resident Coordinator should know about the issue

  • More than 50 percent of the world’s population is now urban and by 2030, the number is expected to rise to 60 percent. During this period, 90 percent of the world’s population growth will take place in the cities, particularly in Africa and Asia.
  • While urbanization has the propensity to extend benefits of development to all, including those who are in vulnerable situations and marginalized, it has generally led to the creation of more slums, more people residing in inadequate living conditions lacking security of tenure of housing and land, and greater disparities, inequalities and discrimination. If not curbed, these symptoms of a deficit to protect, respect and fulfill human rights in cities will only increase in the future affecting many more people.
  • To this end, human rights are imperative in advancing and developing urbanization processes and outcomes that are sustainable and socially inclusive; promote equality, combat discrimination in all its forms and empower individuals and communities. The SDGs and the New Urban Agenda are opportunities for state authorities at all levels to implement their human rights obligations toward all inhabitants and to “leave no one behind”, including women and girls, children and youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples and local communities, slum and informal settlement dwellers, homeless people, workers, smallholder farmers and fishers, refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, and migrants, regardless of migration status.

Relevant international standards

All human rights norms are relevant to the urban context as they are for the rural context. Urbanization processes should be in particular guided by:

  • UDHR: Article 2, 21, 22, 25
  • ICCPR: Article 2, 9, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 25
  • ICESCR: Article 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15
  • ICERD: Article 5
  • CRC: Article 2, 12, 19, 26, 31
  • CEDAW: Article 1,2, 3, 7, 11, 14
  • ICRMW: Article 7, 27, 41, 42, 43, 45
  • UNDRIP: Article 2, 3, 5, 11, 12, 15, 20, 21, 31
  • CRPD: Article 4, 9, 28, 30
  • DEVAW: Article 3

Rolethatthe Resident Coordinatorand UNCountryTeamcanplayin promoting the issue

Urbanization could be a transformative force that can have a major positive or negative impact on the fulfilment of human rights. The RC/UNCTs and UN urban activities and programmes should aim at ensuring positive transformation, and to serve as a means of protecting and promoting the human rights of all inhabitants, includes paying particular attention to:

  • The free, active and meaningful participation of all inhabitants, in particular the most marginalized. Urban and spatial development should be done with and for all of a city’s inhabitants, with the priority being to protect and improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable.
  • The root causes of discrimination, inequalities and violence are addressed – not only on the basis of gender and geography, but also on the basis of race, culture, religion, age, disability and social and economic status.
  • Urban development activities should support the political, social and economic empowerment of all inhabitants and holding national, sub-national and local authorities accountable for their decisions, prioritization and the maximum use of available resources. In practice this requires upholding fundamental rights and freedoms, in particular freedom of speech and assembly, the right to information, consultation and participation in decision-making processes, and the right to vote, among others.
  • Adopt a common positions based on human rights to face particular situations like forced evictions or land grabbing (for instance the UNCT in Cambodia developed and agreed on a “UN Viewpoint on resettlement and evictions”).
  • Integrate urban issues in UNDAF in a coordinated way with rural issues and with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights. Example: Nepal UNDAF 2013-2017.
  • Develop and help supporting the development by authorities and CSOs of human rights indicators to a) assess the progress on human rights issues and of particular groups including the ones that are not general taken into account by state survey (homeless people, people living in informal settlements, etc.); b) to provide a tool for UN programming; c) to provide a basis for dialogue with various partners; d) to provide information for periodic reviews of the country (including treaty bodies, UPR, etc.).
  • Support the establishment of judicial and non-judicial recourse and grievance mechanisms in cities (for instance city ombudsman)
  • Engage in joint activities, trainings and capacity building with local authorities and other local partners.
  • There should also be a mechanism in place used to channel questions from UNCTs to relevant colleagues and mechanisms in the system (colleagues working on urbanization and human rights, land and human rights, economic, social and cultural rights, security and human rights, etc.; the UN Housing Rights Programme; colleagues working on the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure of Land, etc.). Colleagues that have expertise on urban issues and human rights could be deployed for limited period of time within UNCTs.

Supportand tools available from the UnitedNationssystem

(20) See http://www.un.org/spanish/News/story.asp?NewsID=26595#.VVUDR0ZpE-o
(21) See www.unodc.org/documents/southeastasiaandpacific//2012/03/drug-detention-centre/JC2310_Joint_Statement6March12FINAL_En.pdf

 

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Silo Fighters Blog

Getting real on leaving no one behind: Women’s periods and the SDGs in Nepal

BY Stine Heiselberg, Bronwyn Russel | April 19, 2018

Who are Nepal's most vulnerable groups, and how is their vulnerability similar or different from other countries? This wasn't a rhetorical question for the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project (CFP), an inter-agency initiative of the UN in Nepal, but a must-know in order to properly structure their priorities for the 2018-2022 UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Key in answering this question, was to get in touch directly with those vulnerable groups and to listen to their experiences. To target the areas where there's a clear gap, we designed a community perception survey that would allow us to fully grasp why certain populations are falling behind in development progress, and most importantly, to help them catch up. We spoke with members of the UNDAF thematic groups from various UN agencies to develop a questionnaire that would also help us amplify existing data sources for future programming efforts. As a next step, we selected districts by aggregating the Human Development Index (HDI) at the provincial level and identified the provinces with the lowest HDI. Then, we identified districts within those provinces and pulled the data that would reflect as many UNDAF-related areas as possible. In October last year, we mobilized 30 enumerators across nine districts (Kailali, Achham, Bajura, Muhu, Dailekh, Rukum, Mahottari, Sarlahi, and Rautahat) over the course of two weeks. A total of 1,800 respondents completed the survey. To get our hands on qualitative data, we also held 12 focus group discussions in targeted communities facilitated by team members of the Common Feedback Project. This helped to contextualize quantitative findings and provide greater insight into the survey results. Making sense of all the data Once we collected the data, we put on our investigator hats to analyse results and disaggregate overall findings by district, age, gender, ethnicity and occupation. We did this to drill down and pinpoint factors that may influence how people in different regions are experiencing development. By far, the most effective surveys were the ones administered and analysed without pre-existing bias or predictions, which is what we strived for. The final product was a 39-page infographic style report that breaks down the responses based on focus areas, including detailed analysis of the survey feedback.   Some UN agencies are already focusing more in detail on the results that impact their mandate which could guide their future work. Debunking cultural misconceptions One of the things that came up during the surveys is the practice of chhaupadi, through which women are banned from their homes, public areas, temples, and schools during their menstrual periods. According to our findings, this still remains a regular practice even though it was outlawed in 2017. To contextualize these findings, we held focus group discussions to in Dailekh, a district where only half of the population is literate, and the Human Development Indicators are extremely low. From the focus group discussions, we learned that school teachers often ask female students to stay at home for four days during their periods. This is a problem because school girls miss up to one fifth of the school year. Beyond this impact on education, the practice of chhaupadi has far reaching implications. A number of women die annually from animal bites, infections, and smoke inhalation as they stay in unsafe and unsanitary shacks during their period. The good news is that some communities are beginning to understand that this ostracizing practice is damaging and unnecessary. And with collective efforts to raise awareness, this practice can be eliminated. In the western district of Mugu, chaupaddi is now considered a thing of the past, in part, due to the investments at the community level to teach people about the biological aspects of the menstrual cycle and the impacts of excluding women and girls from their communities. In several districts in Nepal, UNFPA and UNICEF are providing life skills education to girls and boys, both in and outside of school. A programme called Rupantaran (which means "transformation") empowers and enables adolescents to become change agents in their communities.   What's next We are committed to giving communities a voice at the table from the very beginning of our planning efforts.  The Common Feedback Project team will continue to support the UN team to integrate feedback from communities into their development plans. As part of this effort, we are currently designing a new community perceptions survey to better understand the dynamics of harmful traditional practices such as chaupaddi. The data collected will inform UN joint programmes to eradicate these practices. We will keep you posted on our findings. Check back with us in the next few months!

Country Stories

Viet Nam Engaging with International Human Rights Mechanisms to Achieve Universal Access to Education

March 8, 2014

The most important reason for us to support mother tongue-based bilingual education is to promote social equality in education by creating equal opportunities for ethnic minority children to have access to quality education. - Mr. ViVan Dieu, Director, Research Centre for Ethnic Minority Education, Viet Nam Institute of Educational Sciences. Abstract As a direct result of Viet Nam undergoing the Universal Periodic Review in May 2009, the government invited six Special Procedures mandate holders of the United Nations Human Rights Council to visit Viet Nam. Four Special Procedures visited Viet Nam during 2010-2011, one of whom was the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues in July 2010. During her visit, the Independent Expert on minority issues engaged closely with the United Nations country team, which contributed to ensuring that her recommendations reflected the realities, priorities and challenges in the country. The recommendations from the Independent Expert proved a valuable tool for guiding and strengthening efforts to move forward on ensuring equitable and inclusive growth in Viet Nam. In particular, her engagement with UNICEF on the issue of bilingual education for children of ethnic minorities resulted in an explicit reference to UNICEF’s work in this area and a recommendation that this approach be supported and expanded in the country. These recommendations added significant weight and credibility to UNICEF’s work on bilingual education, providing UNICEF with an advocacy tool to raise attention and commitment to this approach. Bilingual education has since been recognized by the Ministry of Education as one of the solutions to reducing disparities in access to education. Background The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party of Viet Nam. It has an estimated population of 87.8 million people, of which 14.3 percent belong to one of 53 minority ethnic groups.1 Many of these ethnic groups have their own distinct language, religion and cultural identity and live in remote parts of the country. The rest of the population belongs to the majority ethnic group, known as the Kinh. Over the past two decades, Viet Nam has achieved rapid economic growth and has significantly reduced overall poverty rates from 58.1 percent in 1993 to 14.5 percent in 2008.2 As a result of this growth, Viet Nam attained the status of a middle income country in 2010.3 One of the biggest development challenges that Viet Nam faces in the process of transitioning to a middle income country is the widening gap between rich and poor and between different regions. The ‘feminization of poverty’4 is also a growing challenge. Local customs, patriarchal attitudes and traditions have led to gender inequality in the labour market and in political and public life. Furthermore, ethnic minorities continue to be particularly vulnerable to high levels of poverty and inequality. While in 1990, only 18 percent of those living in poverty belonged to ethnic minorities, by 2008 ethnic minorities accounted for almost 56 percent of the poor.5 In 2012, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted its concern over the lower level of development indicators among ethnic minorities, especially regarding access to health and education.6 Viet Nam faces significant human rights challenges in the area of civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and assembly. Space for expressing views on government policies and practices is also limited.7 Education for ethnic minorities The official language used in schools in Viet Nam is Vietnamese. While the law recognizes that ethnic minorities have the right to use their mother tongue in schools in order to preserve and develop their ethnic and cultural identity, the lack of teaching capacity in minority languages has meant that in practice children are taught in Vietnamese only. As many minority communities have only a limited understanding and proficiency in Vietnamese, this has created a language barrier for many of these children. Lack of access to education in their mother tongue, together with the use of Vietnamese, is considered one of the reasons why the net primary school completion rate among ethnic minority children (61 percent) is significantly lower than the rate for Kinh (86 percent). For minority women the problem of illiteracy is particularly acute; literacy rates for ethnic minority women are just 22 percent, as compared to 92 percent for ethnic Kinh women.8 Strategy Engaging with international human rights processes and mechanisms Since 2008, UNDP has been implementing a capacity-building project on human rights treaty reporting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project has provided an opportunity for the United Nations country team in Viet Nam to engage with and support the government in its interaction with international human rights mechanisms. Supporting engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, human rights treaty body reporting, sharing knowledge on processes and procedures, and supporting the government in organizing visits of Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council proved a useful way to concretize human rights concepts and provide expertise to the government. In May 2009, Viet Nam was assessed under the Universal Periodic Review. This afforded the government an important chance to present an overview of the main opportunities and challenges they faced in meeting their international obligations, as well as to demonstrate progress made toward achieving key commitments under human rights treaties. It also provided an opportunity for the United Nations to support the government to engage effectively with this process. At the government’s request, UNDP, in close coordination with the United Nations country team and with OHCHR Geneva support, facilitated training for government officials on the Universal Periodic Review. As part of this training, UNDP invited other countries from the region (Indonesia and Philippines) that had already undergone the process to share their experiences with Viet Nam. These activities helped build the government’s capacity and openness to engaging with international human rights mechanisms and, in doing so, strengthening the quality of Viet Nam’s engagement in the Universal Periodic Review. Viet Nam ensured representation at the highest level, which reflected the importance given to the Universal Periodic Review by the government. The Universal Periodic Review experience, in turn, generated greater momentum to engage with other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. One of the follow-up measures to the Universal Periodic Review process was the government’s invitation to six Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council to visit Viet Nam. BOX United Nations Special Procedures: The Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Special Procedures are either an individual (called Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert) or a working group, usually composed of five members. Mandate Holders serve in their personal capacities and do not receive salaries or other financial compensation for their work. They rely on government invitations and cooperation to carry out their work. Mandate holders are appointed by the Human Rights Council and their work is supported by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). END BOX Viet Nam received four visits of United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders between 2010 and 2011: the Independent Expert on minority issues (July 2010); the Independent Expert on extreme poverty and human rights (August 2010); the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt (March 2011); and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health (November – December 2011). These visits provided significant occasions for Viet Nam to benefit from the expertise of Special Procedures in its efforts to follow up on the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, and to address key human rights issues in the country. The United Nations country team took a number of steps to maximize the value and impact of these visits and to optimize the benefits of the government’s engagement with the Special Procedures. As a first step, and in collaboration with OHCHR Geneva, the United Nations country team organized workshops for the government to provide guidance on the overall procedures of such visits and the mandates of the Special Procedures. During the visits, the United Nations country team and technical experts from the agencies played an important role by providing the Special Procedures with technical expertise on issues falling within their mandates. This was particularly important in Viet Nam where civil society is developing its capacity to engage in these processes. In turn, being able to draw on this expertise ensured that the Special Procedures report and recommendations reflected the realities, opportunities and challenges in the country. United Nations country team engagement with the Independent Expert on minority issues In July 2010, the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougal, visited Viet Nam. The United Nations country team viewed the visit of the Independent Expert as an opportunity to strengthen and further reinforce government efforts to address widening inequalities and persistent poverty among minority ethnic groups. Supporting the government to achieve inclusive and equitable growth is a core part of the United Nations country team’s development agenda. At the beginning of the visit, the United Nations country team organized a formal briefing with the Independent Expert to discuss key issues, challenges and opportunities. This was followed by in-depth briefings with technical experts from several United Nations agencies. The United Nation’s inter-agency approach proved extremely valuable in this process. Having all United Nations agencies around the same table provided the Independent Expert with a breadth of expertise and knowledge on a wide range of issues affecting her mandate – ethnic minority poverty, cultural diversity, sexual reproductive health for minorities and bi-lingual education. United Nations agencies’ expertise in the relevant areas enabled the Independent Expert to support the agencies’ work. It allowed the Independent Expert to draw on agency expertise to make concrete and useful recommendations that could assist the government to move forward. According to the Independent Expert, her visit was, “a great opportunity to re-introduce Viet Nam to the international human rights mechanisms. It allowed Viet Nam to share its accomplishments and the obstacles it has had to surmount with the Human Rights Council and human rights mechanisms. The government took my mission very seriously. They learned a lot from the mission on what they can expect in engaging with human rights mechanisms.” Engaging the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues in support of bilingual education for ethnic minorities Internationally there has been consistent recognition of the value of bilingual education in improving learning and reducing drop-out rates.9 To examine ways by which this concept can best work in Viet Nam, the Ministry of Education and Training worked together with UNICEF to pilot a project on bilingual education in three provinces (see Box 1). In addition, to generate support among government counterparts for this approach and to ensure the government would benefit from the expertise of international human rights mechanisms, UNICEF, in collaboration with the United Nations country team, strategically engaged with the Independent Expert on minority issues during her visit in July 2010. UNICEF provided the Independent Expert with in-depth briefing notes on the legal framework for ethnic minority languages in education and their rights to use their mother tongue in school. UNICEF also held face to face meetings with the Independent Expert and organized her participation in a mother-tongue teacher training workshop. This participation enabled her to interact directly with teachers being trained. BOX Box 1: UNICEF’s Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education in Viet Nam UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Training to implement and monitor a pilot project on bilingual education since 2008. The pilot project is being carried out in three provinces – Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh – in the minority languages of H’mong, Jrai and Khmer, respectively. Students in each province will complete the pilot programme by 2015. Through the project, teachers are trained in bilingual education techniques and provided special teaching and learning materials developed in consultation with local communities. The project is being carefully monitored for evidence of improvements in the quality of education. The ultimate objective is to feed the research results into a national education strategy that supports bilingual education.10 END BOX Results In the Independent Expert on minority issues’ report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the issue of bilingual education for ethnic minorities featured prominently among the key recommendations. The Independent Expert explicitly referred to the example of UNICEF’s work in bilingual education and recommended that this approach be supported and expanded to other districts. According to the Independent Expert’s report, “the importance of improving the education outcomes of minorities cannot be overstated. Access to quality and appropriate education is a fundamental gateway to development and poverty eradication for minorities in Viet Nam..." The independent expert saw clear evidence that bilingual education ultimately serves to increase the potential of ethnic minority children and communities to learn and use Vietnamese…The government should permit and support bilingual education for ethnic minority children.”11 Her recommendations to Viet Nam were fully in line with the United Nations country team’s overall policy recommendations on minority issues outlined in the United Nations’ One Plan. This is an achievement realized through the engagement and cooperation of the United Nations country team with the Independent Expert during the course of her visit. Most importantly, the visit of the Independent Expert provided a powerful advocacy opportunity for the United Nations’ efforts to promote bilingual education. By validating the methodology that UNICEF and the Ministry of Education were piloting and encouraging its institutionalization, the recommendations provided authoritative inputs for UNICEF to draw upon in advocating for this approach.12 The recognition and support of the Independent Expert added weight and credibility to the methodology, providing a significant recommendation for its acceptance in the country. The Ministry of Education has now formally recognized that bilingual education is one of the solutions to strengthen ethnic minority children’s education.13 Moreover, early results from the UNICEF Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education are promising. As a whole, children enrolled in the programme are performing better than minority children not enrolled in the programme in language competency tests in both their mother tongue and Vietnamese. They also outperform ethnic minority students not in the programme in listening comprehension and mathematics. As a result of the encouraging results from the Action Research, this approach is increasingly being recognized as a good practice, both nationally and in the region. One provincial department of education and training has opted to use its own funds to more than double the number of bilingual education classes; 344 Mong ethnic minority children are now enrolled in these classes. Three additional provinces, Dien Ben, An Giang and Ninh Thuan, have also expressed interest in the methodology and have committed to applying the approach. The Provincial Department of Education and Training is supporting these efforts and has scaled up mother tongue-based bilingual education so that each school year from 2011 to 2015, a new group of 210 children aged five will enter mother tongue-based bilingual education classes. Specific policy recommendations on the use of bilingual education have also since been promulgated by the National Assembly and Committee for Ethnic Minorities. In addition, delegations from Myanmar and China visited Viet Nam to learn from this experience. Equally, the report from the Independent Expert raised the visibility and interest in the approach among donors and development partners in Viet Nam. These partners have expressed interest in supporting the follow-up to the Independent Expert’s recommendations. For example, the European Union delegation in Viet Nam welcomed the Independent Expert’s recommendations on the expansion of mother tongue-based instruction and requested UNICEF to prepare a concept note on how this approach could be expanded within the country. The experience of Viet Nam also highlights the important role that the United Nations country team, through its long-term presence in the country, technical expertise and normative mandate, can play in supporting the government to follow up on recommendations of the Special Procedures mandate holders. As noted by the Independent Expert, “the United Nations country team is essential and may be the only possible mechanism for follow up, given the limited capacities of Special Procedures” Since the visit of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Viet Nam’s growing engagement with other human rights mechanisms is leading to greater international exposure on the issue of bilingual education. The country recently reported to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 2012)14 and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (June 2012).15 Both Committees, in their Concluding Observations to Viet Nam, urged the country to increase the provision of bilingual education programmes for ethnic minority children, further supporting and validating Viet Nam’s efforts in this area. Lessons Learned The Universal Periodic Review presents an opportunity for government to strengthen its engagement with all international human rights mechanisms and for the United Nations country team to support government capacity in engaging with these mechanisms. The United Nations country team can play an important role in maximizing the value and impact of the visits of Special Procedures mandate holders. Engaging with the United Nations country team during a country visit allows the Special Procedures to draw upon the expertise of development agencies to offer concrete and useful recommendations that can help the government move forward on human rights issues. Access to quality and appropriate education is a gateway to development and poverty reduction for minorities. The introduction of bilingual education for minority children can help these children to make better early progress and creates strong and culturallyappropriate foundations for their future schooling. The recommendations of international human rights mechanisms can provide valuable and authoritative inputs to integrate human rights into United Nations advocacy, policy and programming initiatives to further development outcomes. The visits of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council can ensure that government efforts to address human rights challenges and to mainstream human rights into development programmes benefit from internationally-recognized expertise. Endnotes UNICEF Action research brief UNICEF, Vietnam and the Millennium Development Goals United Nations in Viet Nam Website United Nations compilation report to the Universal Periodic Review, OHCHR, March 2009, A/HRC/WG.6/5/VNM/2. Viet Nam Millennium Development Goals National Report 2010, p. 114. Concluding Observations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Viet Nam, June, 2012, CRC/C/VNM/CO/3-4. Concerns over access to freedom of information, the independence of the media from the State, freedom of assembly, the ability of individuals, groups and civil society to express their opinions or dissent publicly were noted at the interactive dialogue of the Universal Periodic Review of Viet Nam by the Human Rights Council in May 2009: A/HRC/12/11. Report of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, January 2011, A/HRC/16/45/Add.2. Mission to Viet Nam (5-15 July 2010) UNICEF Annual Report 2010, p. 23. UNICEF Action research brief  Report of the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, 24 January 2011, A/HRC/16/45/Add.2 paras. 85, 87 and 89. Mission to Viet Nam (5-15 July 2010) UNESCO has been a key partner with UNICEF in advocating for and promoting multilingual education in Viet Nam. The 2011 “Management Document on Teaching Vietnamese to Ethnic Minority Students” of the Ministry of Education and Training, explicitly cites the Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education as one of the four solutions to improving education for children of ethnic minorities. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Viet Nam, March 2012: CERD/C/VNM/CO/10-14. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Viet Nam, June 2012: CRC/C/VNM/CO/3-4.