The Right Livelihood Award Foundation joins 750 organisations in welcoming the new High Commissioner for Human Rights
On 10th September, the Human Rights Council opened its 39th Session in Geneva. The session marked the first time the newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, addressed the Council. It was also the first time the Right Livelihood Award Foundation attended the Council meeting, after receiving the ECOSOC consultative status in June.
In her initial remarks, Michelle Bachelet highlighted that the needs of the victims of human rights violations should be the guiding light of the Council. She reinforced her commitment to advocating for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all people, emphasising that she will “strive to be their voice and their strong defender, in complete objectivity, without fear or favour, and to urge all States to protect and promote all human rights, without distinction.”
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation joined over 750 civil society organisations in welcoming the new UN Human Rights chief to the mandate. In a letter signed by local, regional and international organisations, civil society reinforced the importance of her mandate speaking up against violations on the ground:
“Survivors, victims and defenders on the front line in countries where their rights are being violated will rely on you as a human rights champion, to have the courage and conviction to call out violators clearly and publicly, even when it’s challenging or unpopular with government.”
In a time when civil spaces face growing limitations in different parts of the globe, it is crucial for the mandate of the High Commissioner to take a strong stance against human rights abuses. The Right Livelihood Award Laureates under threat in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Afghanistan and Russia, among others, are themselves clear examples of how activism can be met with repression and harassment.
“It is a vote of confidence that one of the victims of repression will be put in charge of this position,” said Right Livelihood Laureate Joan Garcés. Nonetheless, the challenges ahead should not be underestimated, as the mission of the Commissioner is to see that international and regional human rights norms and mechanisms are put into practice. “It is an enormous and very difficult task because it clashes with the interests of states that do not practice them but rather violate them.” he concluded.
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is attending the 39th Session between the 10th and 28th September. In this session, the Council will discuss issues around access to water and sanitation, arbitrary detention, truth, justice and reparations, among others. It will also address different country situations, including Syria, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.