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Ukraine And Rising Global Insecurity, Test For Us All, Says UN Rights Chief

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War in Ukraine continues to cause mayhem and “destroy the lives of many”, and it is everyone’s responsibility to limit the global food, fuel and financial crisis” that it has sustained, the UN’s top rights official told the Human Rights Council on Monday, in her last session as High Commissioner.

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Nearly four months since the Russian invasion, Michelle Bachelet used her final keynote address to the Geneva forum, to urge Member States not to give up on the post-COVID-19 plan “to recover better”, and not repeat the kind of devastating global financial meltdown which took place in 2008.

Failure to stick to what was agreed during the dark days of the pandemic – to ignore its lessons, and above all, to not put people first in this global recovery – threaten to leave people and economies even less able to resist new shocks than they are now, the UN rights chief insisted.

“We gathered in multilateral fora, in high level debates and donor meetings and spoke of global solutions and of putting people at the centre of our efforts”, she said.

“We committed ourselves to learning the lessons of the pandemic, and to recover better. Eager to avoid the devastating consequences of the austerity that followed the 2008 financial crisis, the international community agreed to change course: building – together – transformative societies and towards greener economies that will be more resilient to crises. We are now facing a vital test of that commitment. And we need to meet it.”  

Bachelet has made ‘profound difference’, declares UN chief

In response to her announcement that she would not be seeking a second term as High Commissioner, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, issued a statement, praising her “relentless service” in the top rights job.

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“From her earliest days in Chile, with enormous personal sacrifice, she has been on the frontlines of the human rights struggle all her life”, said the UN chief.

“In all she has done, Michelle Bachelet lives and breathes human rights. She has moved the needle in an extremely challenging political context – and she has made a profound difference for people around the globe. She continues to have my full support. I will always value her wisdom, strong voice and success in ensuring that human rights underpin the actions of the United Nations.”

Ms. Bachelet’s term ends on 31 August. 

Marathon session

At the beginning of the Council’s marathon four-week summer session – a week longer than usual to cope with an ever-growing workload – Ms. Bachelet highlighted the need for all countries to respect the climate commitments they’d made in 2015 in Paris, and also the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda – whose financing gap has now widened to some $4.3 trillion per year.

“Without a significant boost in financial resources, we will not be able to achieve the SDGs,” the High Commissioner explained, adding that far greater international cooperation and solidarity for developing nations was key, particularly with regard to the galloping debt relief payments that they face.

“The role of international financial institutions is critical in supporting indebted countries,” she said, noting that international human rights law “provides the framework for this support…ensuring that measures adopted do not result in discriminatory outcomes, in particular for the most marginalized”.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights attends the 50th session of Human Rights Council.

Country alerts

In keeping with tradition, the High Commissioner’s opening address covered many country situations of concern, from Chile to Honduras – where her Office has provided support to tackle femicide – to Haiti, in response to growing gang violence in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

It also covered Israel, where Ms. Bachelet called for a criminal investigation into last month’s killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Ms. Bachelet also updated the Council on her recent official visit to China, and on her Office’s as-yet unpublished report into the situation of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang “including broad arbitrary detention and patterns of abuse” in detention.

The report “is being updated” on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, Ms. Bachelet explained, telling journalists later on the sidelines of the Council that she expected it to be released before her mandate ended.

Turkey, the UK, Guatemala and Singapore were among several other countries to be called out by the UN rights chief for ongoing rule-of-law concerns, while “unconstitutional changes of power” in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea and Mali also elicited encouragement from Ms. Bachelet to the de-facto authorities to “yield power to civilian-led Governments with democratic legitimacy”.

Any such transition should be “inclusive” and address the “wider grievances of the populations and build democratic societies grounded in accountability and rule of law”, the High Commissioner insisted.

UN News

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