TWN Info Service on Finance and Development (Feb09/05)
24 February 2009
Third World Network

Rights Council to discuss economic and financial crises
Published in SUNS #6643 dated 19 February 2009

Geneva, 18 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- The UN Human Rights Council will be holding a Special Session on 20 February on the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights.

The Special Session is being convened at the joint request of Egypt, on behalf of the African Group, and Brazil.

In their request for the Special Session, the African Group and Brazil state that the world is facing global economic and financial crises, in which despite the fact that some will suffer more than others, all will be affected.

In this context, both the African Group and Brazil highlighted several issues:

-- Recent studies point to slowdown and recession in major economies and emerging countries. There is a general understanding that global economic growth will fall; export volumes and revenues will decrease; foreign direct investment would be adversely affected; and unemployment will rise and incomes will fall. Human rights would thus be negatively affected by these crises.

-- As the main human rights body of the United Nations, the Human Rights Council must have a say on the issue from its own perspective and contribute positively to the ongoing international and multilateral efforts, as well as to avoid that these crises become also a human rights crisis.

-- A Special Session of the Human Rights Council will thus provide an equally important forum to raise awareness on the urgency of addressing the economic and financial crises from the human rights perspective. It will offer an opportunity to share concerns when dealing with its effects, as well as to highlight the importance of taking into consideration the human rights dimension of policy decisions.

Among other issues, according to the African Group and Brazil, UN Member States and other stakeholders should discuss:

-- What are the already existing and foreseeable impacts of the economic and financial crises to human rights;

-- How can the international community avoid and alleviate the negative impacts of these crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights;

-- What role should be played by special UN human rights mandate holders on this issue; and

-- Follow-up on the possible repercussions of these crises on human rights.

The joint request also said that representatives of international organizations from different sectors - finance, trade and development, among others - should also be invited to attend the Special Session with a view to provide the UN membership with their assessment on the impacts of the economic and financial crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of all human rights.

The support of one-third of the membership (16 members or more) of the Council is required in order for a Special Session to be convened.

So far, 26 Member States of the Council (out of a total of 47) have supported the request. They are Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Uruguay.

The request was also supported by a number of Observer States: Algeria, Benin, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Nepal, Niger, Panama, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Yemen.

The Special Session on the global economic and financial crises comes one week after the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors, at a meeting in Rome, pledged to accord their highest priority to stabilizing the global economy and financial markets, as well as to avoid protectionist measures and refrain from raising new barriers.

A broader summit of G20 leaders is expected to take place in London in April to discuss the global financial system.

The industrialized economies grouped under the G7 have been hit the hardest by the global economic downturn as a result of the financial meltdown, the origins of which have been traced back to the United States.

The US and other G7 economies have instituted bailout measures and guarantee schemes running into hundreds of billions of dollars for their troubled financial institutions, and several have also come to the rescue of their ailing auto industries which have been making huge losses on the back of the global economic downturn.

The US Congress late last week approved a massive $787 billion stimulus package aimed at kick-starting the ailing US economy, which was signed into law by US President Barack Obama on Tuesday. This was dwarfed by a whopping $2.5 trillion bailout plan for US banks announced earlier that week.

Meanwhile, an initiative is in the works at the United Nations for holding a high-level conference on the global financial and economic crisis and its impacts on development.

The President of the 192-member UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, has proposed the dates of 26-29 May for holding the high-level meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

Discussions are currently underway among members on the organization of the conference. +