The 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council took place from 22 February to 24 March 2021. Below you will find information on some of the key sexual rights-related
- Panel discussions
- Oral statements
- UPR Statements
- SRI side event
- Civil Society Demands Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
IWRAW Asia Pacific, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and SRI delivered a joint statement endorsed by 71 organizations denouncing vaccine nationalism, the stockpiling of COVID-19 vaccines and the stonewalling of a temporary TRIPS waiver proposal by rich countries.
On this topic, see also the joint statement delivered by Action Canada and 19 other organizations based in the Global North.
- Civil Society Demands Accountability for Erosion of Civil Society Space at the Human Rights Council
SRI delivered a joint statement on behalf of 12 organizations demanding accountability for states’ commitment to the real and effective participation of the people in decision-making, including at the Council. On this topic, see also the joint civil society letter endorsed by 13 organizations, including SRI.
Resolution on access to vaccines
Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic -
Led by Ecuador and Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and co-sponsored by 15 other countries as of 23 March 2021, the resolution was adopted by consensus.
Two resolutions on COVID-19 and vaccines were introduced and negotiated: one was led by Ecuador and the other by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) coordinated by Azerbaijan. Despite hearing that the two resolutions might remain separate, they were eventually merged and tabled as a single resolution. This merged resolution was stripped of previous references to advance purchase agreements and its negative impacts on access to vaccines, fiscal challenges including debt burdens faced by developing countries, the impact of unilateral coercive measures, references to international humanitarian law and medical obligations of occupying powers in occupied territories, and all but one reference to stockpiling. This weakening of the text highlights the reluctance of predominantly Northern states who continue to defend and deploy intellectual property regimes and capitalist ideology, as well as states’ refusal to hold corporations accountable to human rights standards. It echoes the blocking by rich countries of negotiations at the World Trade Organization on a proposal by India and South Africa for a waiver of certain aspects of intellectual property on COVID-19 medical tools and technologies, including vaccines. There have also been widespread calls from civil society and UN agencies for a people’s vaccine.
The adopted resolution which was orally revised, expresses concern over the disparity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution between developed and developing countries and acknowledges the significance of international cooperation and effective multilateralism and improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines and other health products across the whole value chain. The resolution also acknowledges that the pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities and its disproportionate effect on women and girls including increased incidence of domestic violence and the interruptions of sexual and reproductive health services.
Crucially the resolution calls upon states “to remove unjustified obstacles restricting the export of COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in an unequal distribution in access to them between developed and developing countries, and to promote equitable global distribution and universal access to vaccines, in order to further the principles of international cooperation and solidarity.” It reaffirms the right of all states to use all the flexibilities of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and interpret the Doha declaration in a manner supportive to facilitating access of vaccines to all. It mandates states to bolster coordination with the private sector for rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines. It further asks all stakeholder, partners and donors to urgently support funding and close the funding gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its mechanisms, such as the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility. The resolution urges states to refrain from taking any economic, financial or trade measures that may adversely affect equitable, affordable, fair, timely and universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, in particular in developing countries. Finally, it mandates a report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights implications of the lack of affordable, timely, equitable and universal access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and the deepening inequalities between States, to be presented to the 49th session of the Human Rights Council (March 2022). It also requests the High Commissioner to organize a panel discussion on the issue at that same session.
Other relevant resolutions
- Question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights (led by Portugal) - A/HRC/46/L.13
- The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights (led by Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, except Colombia and Peru) - A/HRC/46/L.4
- Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: the roles and responsibilities of police and other law enforcement officials (led by Denmark) - A/HRC/46/L.27
- Human rights and the environment (led by Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, Switzerland) - A/HRC/46/L.6/Rev.1
- Effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (led by Cuba) - A/HRC/46/L.10
- The right to food (led by Cuba) - A/HRC/46/L.11
- The negative impact of the non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights, and the importance of improving international cooperation (led by Cameroon on behalf of the Group of African States) - A/HRC/46/L.14
- Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (led by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) - A/HRC/46/L.18
- High-level panel discussion on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States in the Work of the Human Rights Council (led by Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guyana, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Senegal, Singapore, Sudan, Switzerland, Togo, Turkey and Vanuatu) - A/HRC/46/L.23
- The Council also decided to extend the mandates of the following Special Procedures for another 3 years: the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights (A/HRC/46/L.12, led by Cuba), the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment (A/HRC/46/L.6/Rev.1, led by Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, Switzerland), the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism (A/HRC/46/L.15, led by Cameroon on behalf of the Group of African States) and the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy (A/HRC/46/L.28, led by Austria, Brazil, Germany, Liechtenstein, Mexico)
Sexual Rights-related Panel Discussions
Annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming
The Council held its annual panel discussion on promoting the mainstreaming of human rights throughout the United Nations system. This year the theme was “The state of play in the fight against racism and discrimination 20 years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and the exacerbating effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on these efforts.” The panelists were Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, and Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO.
Meeting on the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights
Mandated by resolution 43/21, the Council held a meeting under item 3 on the theme of the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights.
Debate on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent
The Council held its annual meeting for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, focusing on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent. The panelists were Prof. Rozena Maart, Director of the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Alicia Quevedos Canales, specialist at the Ministry of Culture of Peru, Pradip Pariyar, from the Samata Foundation and Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and Marie-Sarah Seeberger, from the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps.
The Council also held its Annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities, focusing on Participation in sport under article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which you can watch here with closed captions in English, as well as its annual Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals, which you can watch here with closed captions in English and international sign language interpretation.
SRI Oral Statements
- Statement with CREA on the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full dialogue on UN Web TV.
- Statement during the dialogue with the Independent Expert on Foreign Debt. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full dialogue (part 1 and part 2) on UN Web TV.
- Statement during the General Debate on Item 3 from SRI partner the Federation for Women and Family Planning on behalf of the Great Coalition for Equality and Choice denouncing the increasing restrictions to the bodily autonomy of women and girls in Poland. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full debate (part 1 and part 2) on UN Web TV.
- Statement during the General Debate on Item 8 denouncing the bargaining of human rights through vaccine nationalism and vaccine ‘diplomacy.’ Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full debate (part 1 and part 2) on UN Web TV.
- Statement with the Coalition of African Lesbians during the panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming, the fight against racism 20 years after the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full dialogue on UN Web TV.
- Statement with the Coalition of African Lesbians during the meeting on the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full discussion on UN WebTV.
- Statement with Action Canada and its National Youth Advisory Board during the Debate on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full discussion on UN WebTV.
Joint oral statements
- Joint statement (available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic) by IWRAW Asia Pacific, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Sexual Rights Initiative and endorsed by a total of 71 organizations delivered during the General Debate on Item 3 on the human rights obligation to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly to highlight civil society perspectives from the Global South on this topic. Watch it here with closed captions in English.
- Joint statement (also available in French) during the General Debate on Item 3 from SRI partner Action Canada and 19 other organizations from the Global North denouncing their governments’ vaccine nationalism, hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines and blocking the proposal of a TRIPS waiver at the WTO. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full dialogue (part 1 and part 2) on UN Web TV.
- Joint statement on behalf of 12 organizations denouncing the erosion of civil society space in the Human Rights Council. Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full debate on UN Web TV.
- Joint civil society letter by 13 organizations, including SRI, on civil society participation at the Human Rights Council
- UPR outcome of Croatia: joint statement with B.a.B.e. (Be active Be emancipated). Watch it here with closed captions in English and watch the full discussion on UN Web TV.
- UPR outcome of Honduras: joint statement with the Right Here Right Now Honduras. Watch it here with closed captions in English. Watch the full discussion on UN Web TV.
- UPR outcome of Malawi: joint statement with Community Health Rights Advocacy, Female Sex Worker Association and African Sex Worker Alliance. Watch it here with closed captions in English. Watch the full discussion on UN Web TV.
- UPR outcome of Maldives: joint statement with a collective of young people from Maldives. Watch it here with closed captions in English. Watch the full discussion on UN Web TV.
- UPR outcome of Panama: joint statement with Mujeres con Dignidad y Derechos de Panamá & RedTraSex. Watch it here with closed captions in English. Watch the full discussion on UN Web TV.
- UPR outcome of the United States (not delivered orally). Watch it here with closed captions in English and read the full statement here. Watch the full discussion on UN Web TV.
Launch of the UN Advocacy Tool
During this HRC session, SRI and IPPFWHR presented the newly improved and updated UN Advocacy Tool. This database compiles UN intergovernmental resolutions, UN expert guidance from Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, and technical information from UN agencies on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). It has been re-designed and updated to facilitate advocacy, research and policymaking, and to contribute to accountability for SRHR obligations and commitments.
The panelists for this launch were H.E. Ms. Monique T.G. van Daalen, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in Geneva, and Melissa Upreti, Vice-Chair of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls.