Change-makers highlight Belarus, women’s rights at 47th session of UN Human Rights Council
Five Right Livelihood Laureates from around the world addressed the UN Human Rights Council in the past weeks thanks to Right Livelihood’s status as a UN-accredited non-governmental organisation. They drew the UN rights body’s attention to the situation in Belarus, Afghanistan, Egypt and Western Sahara, as well as the rights of indigenous women.
During the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which was held virtually from 21 June to 14 July, states discussed a range of issues, including women’s rights, freedom of association and assembly and the situation in Belarus.
2020 Laureate Lottie Cunningham Wren said that ending discrimination against indigenous women must be an integral part of ensuring women’s rights worldwide, warning of the added challenges indigenous women often face.
“The violent invasion of third parties, settlers in indigenous territories, in addition to causing the forced displacement of entire communities, disproportionately affects indigenous women, children and adolescents,” Cunningham said.
2012 Laureate Sima Samar told UN experts that every woman must be able to access reproductive health services, noting that Afghan women were at risk of losing access to contraception and other essential services as the country was facing growing insecurity.
“Access to reproductive health is a basic human right, it is not a luxury,” Samar said.
2016 Laureate Mozn Hassan told the Council that preventing and punishing sexual violence in Egypt remained a serious problem as victims were often discouraged from reporting such crimes and abusers evaded punishment.
“In the Egyptian context, patriarchal social norms coupled with deeply discriminatory State practices not only fail to deliver justice to survivors but further subject them to re-victimisation and victim-blaming,” Hassan said.
2019 Laureate Aminatou Haidar warned that civil society activists in Western Sahara endured harassment, beatings and imprisonment as Moroccan authorities were systematically cracking down on their freedom of assembly and association.
“In Western Sahara, violations of the right to create associations have been part of a pattern of repression targeting any Sahrawis in favour of independence,” she told the Council.
In a joint statement with 2020 Laureate Human Rights Center “Viasna,” Right Livelihood told the Council that Belarusian authorities must end the persecution and jailing of civil society activists and release all political prisoners.
However, just a week after our statement, Belarusian authorities began an unprecedented crackdown on civil society organisations, including Viasna. Viasna founder and chairman Ales Bialiatski was detained along with several other Viasna members. We remain extremely concerned about the situation, which shows Belarusian authorities’ brazen disregard for fundamental human rights.
Additionally, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern over the continued detention of Iranian lawyer and 2020 Laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh in a report presented to the Council. Guterres warned that Sotoudeh’s family had also been targeted by Iranian authorities.