The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is widely acknowledged as one of the major innovations of the United Nations Human Rights Council. At the outset of its third cycle, it is worth assessing whether the UPR has been delivering on its promise to advance human rights on the ground. Beyond the formalities of the mechanism, the UPR can offer multiple opportunities for protecting and promotion human rights. The objective of the study “Beyond the procedure: The Universal Periodic Review as a catalyst for public debate on human rights” is to assess whether and how the UPR can serve as a catalyst for generating public debates on the situation of human rights in national contexts. The study presents a sample of the type of actions, strategies and methodologies of information, awareness-raising and social mobilization that has been undertaken by stakeholders using the UPR. This selection of practices illustrates the potential of the mechanism to promote public debate, understanding and protection of human rights at the national level. The study is the result of a yearlong project between the Geneva Office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the International Training Center for Human Rights and Peace Education (CIFEDHOP) on the UPR as a human rights awareness raising process.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process, initiated in 2007, in which all UN member states’ human rights performances are examined over a four-and-a-half year period (»cycle«) by other states. The UPR’s stated purpose is to promote and deepen respect for human rights through the provision of feedback to UN member states on their human rights performance. The fundamental, underlying question is to what extent is this a meaningful exercise, or, by contrast, a feel-good exercise without substance?
Free trade has both been negatively affected by and an active contributor to an anti-globalisation backlash in the public opinion of many advanced economies. Further trade liberalisation is increasingly resisted. The increasing resistance against further liberalization comes at a time when the global economy itself is about to become less global. In order to avoid any further politically motivated regression that could lead to tit-for-tat »trade wars« reminiscent of the 1930s there is a need for rethinking trade policy. Trade policies should become more realistic and pragmatic – not overselling its alleged benefits – and stop pushing for an aggressive corporate agenda. Potential losers of trade liberalization must be identified in advance – and adequately compensated. Finally, trade policies must become compatible with and aligned to internationally agreed policy frameworks, such as the Decent Work Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.
03-07 April 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
Since 2015 a project of an ex-ante Human Rights Impact Assessment of the CFTA takes place in close cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the FES Geneva office. At the occasion of the joint Annual Ministerial Conference of the ECA and the African Union Commission (AUC) held in Dakar, Senegal from 23-28 March 2017 a preliminary launch of the project’s results was presented to the high-level stakeholder meeting. The final study will be published in early summer 2017 and contains concrete policy recommendations for the agro-manufacturing sector, informal cross-border traders and with regard to agriculture liberalization. Further, it highlights the need for structural and institutional mechanisms to give voice and remedies to individuals whose rights may be adversely affected by the CFTA. Speakers at this side-event organized by ECA were Caroline Dommen, James Thuo Gathii, David Luke, Chris Nshimbi and Lily Sommer.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is widely acknowledged as one of the major innovations of the United Nations Human Rights Council. At the outset of its third cycle, it is worth assessing whether the UPR has been delivering on its promise to make a difference to the human rights situation on the ground. Beyond the formalities of the mechanism, the UPR offers an opportunity for national public debate and social mobilization which, in turn, contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights. This panel discussion aimed to assess whether and how the UPR can serve as a catalyst for generating public debates on the situation of human rights in national contexts.
One worker dies every minute due to the use of hazardous substances in the workplace. The international human rights framework including a vast number of standards set by the ILO aim to protect workers’ from toxic threats. However, workers’ often lack the right to information on hazardous substances and wastes which is central to the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Governments seem to pay little or at least not enough attention to protect workers’ from toxic threats. This subject which has a long tradition in the trade union’s movement needs to be put higher on today’s political agenda. How to achieve this by joining forces was one of the aims of this interactive meeting. It was jointly organized by the two UN Special Rapporteurs Hilal Elver (Right to Food) and Baskut Tuncat (Implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes) and the FES Geneva office.
In response to debt and financial crises States have adopted fiscal consolidation measures, such as reducing the public sector wage bill or the number of people employed in the public sector, and labour market reforms. Such reforms have often reduced the legal protection of workers and affected the bargaining power of trade unions. In a number of cases, these reforms have amounted to violations of human rights obligations and international labour standards. The thematic report by the UN Independent Expert, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, on the impact of structural adjustment and fiscal consolidation policies on labour and human rights submitted to the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council constituted a basis for this panel discussion (A/HRC/34/57).
This workshop, jointly organized by FES Geneva, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Global Future, a Geneva based NGO, constituted the second meeting of invited experts who take part in the one-year scenario building initiative on Global Migration. The Global Migration Scenarios seek to inform the migration debate among relevant stakeholders and to inspire possibilities to prepare and actively work towards desired futures for migration. This second scenario workshop thus aimed to draw on the expertise of invited experts to explore and understand current trends, critical drivers and emerging challenges and opportunities, which may shape the global migration agenda in the future into different directions.
Since 2015 the Economic Commission of Africa, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the FES Geneva office are undertaking a joint project to realize a Human Right Impact Assessment of the Continental Free Trade Area in Africa. The aim of this meeting was to validate and discuss the preliminary findings of the final HRIA report, specifically from the case studies verifying the various cause-effect channels linking trade measures with potential impacts on right to food, livelihoods, cross-border trade and freedom of movement. The meeting assessed the recommendations to be built into the trade agreement or included in a parallel agreement or side-letter, technical cooperation or capacity-building project and national measures. We also examined the recommendations relating to institutional and structural mechanisms.
Although the CFTA is expected to boost intra-African trade and create aggregate gains for the continent, the distribution of these gains will be key. This session presented a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) of the CFTA with the view to providing policy recommendations for ensuring an equitable and fair CFTA agreement regarding the right to food, livelihoods, employment, and freedom of movement. Speakers included a team of researchers currently working on such a HRIA, namely Prof James Thuo Gathii, Kim Burnett and Chris Nshimbi. The research is embedded in an ongoing project of the Economic Commission for Africa, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the FES Geneva office.
This roundtable, jointly organized by FES Geneva, the Quaker United Nations Office and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, aimed to bring together experts from the human rights, environmental rights and peacebuilding communities to share their experiences in engaging with businesses. Both the rights- based and peacebuilding approach have become increasingly established, with ambitions growing from respecting basic human rights and adhering to the “do-no-harm” principle to contributing to just and fair development and building peace with local participation. The aim of this workshop was to share key lessons from these different approaches and identify points of collaboration and mutual reinforcement.
Should the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas include a right to land and other natural resources? Should this right include individual and/or collective entitlements? And does the draft UN Declaration being negotiated at the Human Rights Council contain agreed language on this right? These are some of the questions that were discussed during the expert seminar on the right to land and other natural resources, jointly organized by FES Geneva, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, the Government of Switzerland and the Permanent Mission of Bolivia to the United Nations in Geneva.
As part of the programme of the 5th Forum on Business and Human Rights this session, jointly organized by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the FES Geneva Office and the Center for Economic and Social Rights, focused on SDG financing, corporate tax regimes and States’ obligations and companies’ human rights responsibilities in that respect. In considering how best to apply the UN Guiding Principles 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' framework to taxation, the discussion explored governments’ positive legal obligations to protect and prevent harmful corporate tax practices, the responsibilities of business enterprises to prevent the human rights risks of their tax planning, and discuss possibilities and obstacles available to ensure the provision of effective remedy for tax abuse.
Inequality does not only encompass economic inequality but includes the unequal distribution of resources, gender inequality as well as access to social services and the justice system. Over the last decades, strong evidence has been collected to suggest these inequalities are important drivers of destructive conflict and create new challenges to sustainable peace. Addressing existing socio-economic inequalities is thus not only crucial to ensure economic development of nations and the full enjoyment of human rights by its citizens but also from a peace and security perspective. This event, organized jointly by FES, QUNO and the IPU, brought together experts to discuss the impacts of societal inequalities on sustainable peace from a human rights and peacebuilding perspective.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has decided to put the concept of SPF at the centre of its activities in the area of social justice. Therefore, FES colleagues and representatives of partner organizations participated at an intense capacity building seminar. It was the second time in 2016 that FES Geneva is running such an event in close collaboration with FES headquarter and respecting country offices. The seminar aimed at providing in depth conceptual knowledge of SPF, a better understanding of possible stumbling blocks for achieving SPF, and assisting to develop projects in the respecting countries. At this November workshop, participants were from Costa Rica and El Salvador.
In cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Geneva Institute for Human Rights, FES Geneva organized an advanced training course on human rights and the UN human rights system to participants of previous regional training courses. Topics included in-depth information on the Geneva-based human rights system, meetings with UN and NGO representatives as well as participation at the 26th session of the Universal Periodic Review and meetings of the UN Treaty Body system.
Independent monitoring and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its structural obstacles and challenges are key factors for the success of the SDGs. It is for this reason, a global alliance of civil society organizations and networks comprising of Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Social Watch, Third World Network (TWN), Global Policy Forum (GPF) with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has agreed to produce an annual Spotlight Report assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the structural obstacles in its realization. The report puts a spotlight on the fulfillment of the 17 goals, with a particular focus on inequalities, responsibility of the rich and powerful, means of implementation and systemic issues. What are currently the main obstacles to achieving the SDGs? Are there transnational spillover effects that influence or even undermine the implementation of the goals? Are the current policy approaches, as they are reflected, inter alia, in the 2030 Agenda, an adequate response to the challenges and obstacles (or are they not fully adequate)? What has to be done? Which specific policy changes (including at international level) are necessary? At this event, co-organized by UN-NGLS and FES, some of the key findings and recommendations of the global Spotlight Report were presented and discussed from various perspectives.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is another envisioned mega-regional economic agreement standing alongside TPP, TTIP, RCEP, and others. The potential in Africa with its high economic and population growth raises important questions as to its potential effects, its winners and losers, and ways to address these associated concerns. Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs) present an important technology of governance with which such concerns can be meaningfully assessed and gathered insights fed back into the policy process. Therefore, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Geneva office decided in 2015 to run a HRIA of the CFTA which preliminary results were discussed at this event hosted by the Institute for International Law and Justice at the New York University and the Africa Law Association.
Organized jointly by FES, the German Institute for Human Rights and the NGO Forum for Human Rights, this annual conference on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Council provided an opportunity to reflect on the work and effectiveness of the HRC. In exploring the question of how the Council can do better in its second decade than in its first, the conference analyzed central structures of the Council. Potential future relationship of the Council with other relevant human rights institutions and mechanisms – such as National Human Rights Institutions, parliamentarians as well as the Development Agenda 2030 and – were explored. Enhancing cooperation and embedding human rights in the work of international mechanisms and debates is critical to ensure that the respective agendas are complementary rather than entering into competition with each other.
Agriculture is at the crossroads of the world’s social, economic, commercial and political system. Its double purpose – producing food but also providing commodities for the global market – makes it a most sensitive topic in trade negotiations. This two-days seminar for policy advisers and trade unionists from various Latin American countries seeked to present first-hand information from Geneva based organisations in order to obtain a deeper understanding on the complex linkages between trade and agriculture policy. The seminar was jointly organized between Nueva Sociedad and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Geneva office.
Trade can create prosperity for all of Africa’s people by increasing opportunities for income generation. But for this to happen, UNCTAD research shows that promoting inclusive trade in Africa requires going beyond targeting vulnerable groups. It will take addressing fundamental enablers so that women, men and youth can benefit from entrepreneurial activity and from trade’s impact on their communities. Central to this is investment in productive capacities such as infrastructure, finance, energy, skills, policies, laws, regulations, and in people. This side-event was jointly organized by UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa, EIF, trapca and FES Geneva. Panellists included inter alia Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, UNCTAD, H.E. Alioune Sarr, Minister of Trade, Republic of Senegal, H.E. Joshua Setipa, Minister of Trade, Republic of Lesotho, Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework for LDCs (EIF).
The leaking of the draft texts of the proposed TiSA offer thepublic significant access to understand the objectives and detail of the intended treaty. This panel brought together trade in services experts that have analysed the proposed text, and offered diverse perspectives as to whether the proposed rules would contribute to inclusive prosperity, democratic decision-making and access to quality, accessible public services as envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals. This side-event was jointly organized by Public Services International (PSI) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Today's international trade world is dominated by digital innovation. Effective participation of ACP States in the digital economy is crucial to their trade and development initiatives. Although internet and mobile connectivity continue to raise, severe gaps remain and trade inclusiveness is by far not achieved. Inequality is growing, and there is urgent need for enhancing domestic and international actions necessary to enable ACP states to implement development objectives including those contained in the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals. This session, organized in close collaboration between the ACP Geneva office and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung tackled the following questions: How can trade policy and trade-related development policy assist ACP countries’ desire to fully benefit from digital innovation? What are the ingredients for an inclusive digital economy? What do ACP countries expect from the WTO in order to increase their capacities to harness digital innovations?
This workshop, jointly organized by FES Geneva, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Global Future, a Geneva based NGO, constituted the first meeting of invited experts who take part in the one-year scenario building initiative on Global Migration. The Global Migration Scenarios seek to inform the migration debate among relevant stakeholders and to inspire possibilities to prepare and actively work towards desired futures for migration. This first scenario workshop thus aimed to draw on the expertise of invited experts to explore and understand current trends, critical drivers and emerging challenges and opportunities, which may shape the global migration agenda in the future into different directions.
Independent monitoring and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its structural obstacles and challenges are key factors for the success of the SDGs. A global alliance of civil society organizations and networks with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has agreed to produce an annual Spotlight Report assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the structural obstacles in its realization. The report puts a spotlight on the fulfillment of the 17 goals, with a particular focus on inequalities, responsibility of the rich and powerful, means of implementation and systemic issues.
Today, there is no question whether a reform of international investment agreements (IIA) is needed but rather what kind of reform. The current system of investment treaties is broken. A system that gives the right to sue governments for the loss of future profits unilaterally to foreign investors in front of private arbitration tribunals. The issue of investor responsibilities is also dealt with in another context, namely within the UN Human Rights system. To what extent are investor responsibilities already part of the current IIA reform debate? How are investor responsibilities currently discussed in the two human rights work streams dealing with the issue? How could a link between the IIA reform debate and the human rights debate provide a way forward towards a new system of just and balanced investment agreements and investment contracts? This and other questions were discussed by Aldo Caliari (Center of Concern), Georgios Altintzis (ITUC) and others.
The African Union is negotiating a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). In April 2015, based on research work undertaken and a multi-stakeholder meeting held in Addis Ababa a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) of the CFTA was proposed at the outset of the negotiation process. The HRIA should provide policy recommendations to be integrated into the design and implementation of the CFTA, aligning with human rights as well as development commitments and priorities.
In that context, a scoping study was prepared with support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Geneva office. With the completion of the scoping study, the next steps for the HRIA ex-ante assessment – culminating in a HRIA report – had to be defined. Therefore, this meeting aimed at consulting with invited participants from international organisations including UNCTAD and ILO, civil society groups and think tanks to brainstorm on the risks identified in the scoping study and how to design the next phase of the HRIA.
This Side Event aimed to explore the links between economic, social and cultural rights and the prevention of destructive conflict and violence as well as sustaining peace. During the meeting, OHCHR launched its June 2016 Report on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Early Warning of Conflict which demonstrates the links between violations of economic, social and cultural rights and violence, social unrest and conflict. The discussion offered space to analyze the role of violations of economic, social and cultural rights as early warning indicators in effective preventive action of conflict.
On occasion of the Joint Committee Meeting between the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Human Right Committee in the afternoon of 23 June, FES Geneva, the Centre for Civil and Political Rights and the Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights invited representatives of civil society to meet with members of both Committee to discuss the importance of civil society engagement with treaty bodies. The meeting focused in particular on mutual practical benefits, implementation and follow-up measures as well as highlighting challenges of engagement and visions for future cooperation.
After long years of negotiations for accession, Russia became member of the WTO in August 2012. Around ten journalists from Russia were invited to get first-hand information about the multilateral trading system - inside and outside the World Trade Organization. The focus of this year’s seminar was lying on the consequences of Russia’s accession to the WTO in the area of market access and the relationship between the WTO and the EEU. The seminar was organized in close collaboration between the WTO, FES Geneva and FES Russia.
This expert seminar, jointly organized by FES Geneva, the International Bar Association and the Geneva Academy, aimed to inform the work of the UN human rights mechanisms in addressing the links between the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights, including States’ human rights obligations in the development and implementation of fiscal and economic policies. By bringing together internationally renowned experts the outcome of this meeting intented to assist States in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals from a human rights perspective, with a focus on economic and fiscal policy measures.
There seems to be a window of opportunity to revive the old idea of a binding social clause in international trade and in global supply chains. The FES-South East Asia “CLS Plus” project aimed at developing a policy-oriented tool to assess and promote the implementation of comprehensive labour and social standards, including but also beyond the Core Labour Standards, in export-oriented industries in Asia in the framework of trade agreements and preference systems. This Geneva based workshop enabled participants to get first-hand information from international experts of trade and labour rights’ policies. Additionally, participants had the chance to further develop the regional project by incorporating the inputs received during this seminar. The FES-CLS+ project was running in the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam.
This event focused on how new forms of “networked production”, intertwining manufacturing and services, shape value creation and appropriation in today’s economy. How does it affect the ways work is being organised? What consequences do these developments have on trade unions and how can unions respond organisationally? These and other questions were discussed based on the presentation by Professor Jörg Sydow, expert of management and inter-firm cooperation at the Free University of Berlin, Germany.
This scoping workshop was the first step in a one-year scenario building initiative jointly organized by FES Geneva, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Global Future. The workshop drew on the expertise of selected migration experts to explore and understand critical drivers and emerging challenges and opportunities which may shape the global migration agenda in the future. The workshop was convened to ensure an understanding of the purpose and scope of the scenario planning activity from the outset and was aiming to identify what the scenarios on migration should include as well as to reach an agreement on the final outcome of the process.
Tanzania was reviewed during the 25th Working Group session of the Universal Periodic Review, on May 09, 2016. Civil society representatives from Tanzania invited to a panel discussion, to present their key concerns on the human rights situation on the ground and on the implementation of the UPR recommendations.
The training, developed especially for staff of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) world-wide, aimed to support participants in
The mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is widely acknowledged as mobilizing the attention of the media and the public of a country. The UPR thus offers a unique opportunity for outreach, information and a public debate on fundamental rights.
Prospects for progress on nuclear disarmament in 2016 seem difficult, despite the establishment in 2015 of an Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) with a mandate to recommend measures to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. This roundtable provided an opportunity to reflect on some of the key issues being raised in the Conference on Disarmament and the OEWG and consider the possibilities for progress on a range of measures, including recommendations for action by non-nuclear, allied and nuclear-armed States.
What exactly is the World Trade Organization and what is it not? How does the multilateral trading system work? What are the most current developments at the WTO? What is the outcome of the last WTO Ministerial Conference? Which other international organizations based in Geneva are involved in trade policy? And how do non-governmental organizations and trade unions assess developments in and around trade policy? These and other questions were dealt with during an intense week of information for journalists from Asia and Africa.
This side event brought together experts to discuss the impacts of inequality in the current economic climate. Topics included economic inequality from a human rights perspective, the role that austerity measures play in fuelling inequalities that negatively impact social protection, how economic inequality relates to other types of inequality and what needs to be done to create more just societies.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has decided to put the concept of SPF at the centre of its activities in the area of social justice. Therefore, FES colleagues and representatives of partner organizations from Georgia, Iraq, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia and Zambia participated at an intense capacity building seminar. This seminar aimed at providing in depth conceptual knowledge of SPF, a better understanding of possible stumbling blocks for achieving SPF, and assisting to develop projects in the respecting countries.
The Core Team of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors had its regular strategy meeting from 7th to 8th March 2016. The Coalition has been effective in its collective international advocacy efforts to demand social security. At this meeting, future projects and working areas were discussed. During the same week, social security specialists from various FES offices around the world participated at an information seminar on human rights based social protection floors.
This side event followed the High Level Panel Discussion on climate change and the right to health and the presentation of the reports by the Special Rapporteur on the environment to the Council in the morning and aimed to outline civil society perspectives. The impacts of climate change on the right to health, human rights obligations by state parties to effectively regulate pollutive industries as well as public health policies were addressed.
50 years ago the General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). But what impact have the Covenants had on the situation of rights holders and what impact do recommendations from the relevant UN Committees have 'on the ground’? This side event strived to explore these questions and further identify current challenges for the Covenants’ implementation from a broad variety of perspectives. Against the backdrop of the universality and indivisibility of all human rights, this interactive discussion further emphasized the interdependence of the two Covenants.
In the aftermath of COP21, a debate on climate-resilient livelihoods and gender inequalities is particularly timely. Unequal distribution of rights, resources and power constrain many women’s capacities to adapt to climate change and disaster. This public event, co-organized with CARE International, strived to identify next steps towards climate resilience and outline the respective roles of civil society, states and UN human rights mechanisms in moving towards gender sensitive responses to the effects of climate change.
The rise of new e-commerce is enabling more developing countries to seize opportunities from online commerce. But significant divides remain: most people and small to medium-sized companies especially in the developing world have yet to use the internet, let alone fully leverage e-commerce for economic opportunity. It is critical to explore ways to ensure that shift from offline to online transactions does not leave people, enterprises and countries behind. Against this background, the workshop brought together a small group of government representatives, international organizations, private companies and other experts to formulate concrete proposals on how to facilitate e-commerce in developing countries. This joint UNCTAD/FES event drew on previous experience with the Aid for Trade initiative and built on existing activities and work by relevant public and private bodies.
This workshop was the first of a series of workshops with government and civil society actors in support of OHCHR’s Accountability and Remedy Project. The workshop series is intended to explore current state approaches, attitudes and barriers to more effective action in the case of business related human rights abuses, as well as potential points of agreement that could help inform future practical and legal developments. This first workshop was aimed at clarifying roles and responsibilities between home, host and other interested states in such situations and came a month prior to a stakeholder consultation on OHCHR’s draft recommendations.
The Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) is a group of leaders from around the world who believe that there is both an urgent need and an unprecedented opportunity to bring about significant reform of the international corporate taxation system. The Commission aims to promote the reform debate through a wider and more inclusive discussion of international tax rules than is possible through any other existing forum; to consider reforms from a perspective of global public interest rather than national advantage; and to seek fair, effective and sustainable tax solutions for development. At this meeting, the Commission continued to strengthen its strategy for various activities in 2016. Participants were amongst others José Antonio Ocampo, Magdalena Sepúlveda, and Joseph Stiglitz.
Visit the ICRICT website for more information about ICRICT
The Geneva based NGO UPR Info organised UPR pre-sessions to bring together Permanent Missions, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to discuss the human rights situation of States one month prior to their review at the UPR Working Group. To the 12th round of the pre-sessions, FES Geneva invited an NGO representative from the Paraguayan human rights coalition Coordinadora Derechos Humanos Paraguay (CODEHUPY). He presented recommendations of the civil society report that was submitted to the Human Rights Council.
Transparency and participation are key human rights principles and generally also good rules of thumb that can transform a trade negotiation from a secret, exclusive process to an open, inclusive one that is acceptable to a wide range of stakeholders. As the CFTA process moves forward and the negotiations begin, it will be useful to envision in advance a plan for transparent negotiations that is inclusive and participatory. By early 2016, a first scoping study of such an assessment will be published thanks to a joint project of OHCHR, UNECA and FES. At this side-event, some of the study’s analyses and recommendations were presented to the public for the first time.
As most developing countries, particularly those from Africa, are excluded from Mega Regional Trade Agreements, their position in the international trading system could face daunting challenges. In addition to lowering tariff rates among their participants, these “mega-regionals” are expected to cover a wide range of behind-the-border trade-related areas. Furthermore, it is crucial for all WTO members to analyse carefully the geopolitical implications of such mega RTAs. The event stimulated discussions about developing countries’ opportunities to address their critical economic and development needs in the context of such agreements. Speakers included Eveline Herfkens, Heribert Dieter and others.
The structure of the multilateral trading system plays a crucial role for further development especially of the Least Developed Countries (LDC). Thus, FES and WTO provided 12 journalists from these countries the opportunity to be present at this year’s Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. During the Conference they were able to report directly on site, to get in touch with the ministers of their country, and to be amongst the first to write about what is happening in Nairobi.
Climate change is an issue of justice and inequality for those experiencing severe impacts of climate change. These impacts — as well as responses taken to address them — threaten internationally recognized human rights. In light of these threats, the Paris Agreement must take steps to address these harms. This side event at the United Nations conference on climate change COP21 thus lended support to the core human rights language in the operative text of the agreement. High-level state, UN and civil society representatives provided a unique perspective on why human rights protections are critically needed as part of the climate change agreement.
This side event to the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, co-organized with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, brought together business, civil society and UN representatives to analyze experiences of different stakeholders with the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The session particularly focused on the examination of current practice of states and business enterprises the area of extractive industries and outlined the potential and remaining challenges for the UNGPs in the context of stakeholder consultations. As such, the session aimed to contribute to the strengthening of multi-stakeholder dialogue and engagement among communities, corporates and governments.
For a number of conflict regions, particularly in Africa, the current concepts designed to prevent or halt natural resource exploitation as funding sources for war and insurgencies appear to be outdated. Sanctions regimes to prevent natural resources from fuelling armed conflict, as devised by the United Nations, as well as due diligence schemes such advised by the OECD or made mandatory for US companies by the Dodd-Frank Act, appear to be behind the curve of the actual developments.
As part of the Geneva Peace Week this session, jointly organised with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, aimed to analyse and update conceptions and unintended consequences on the ground.
In cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Geneva Institute for Human Rights, FES Geneva organized an advanced training course on human rights and the UN human rights system to participants of previous regional training courses. Topics included in-depth information on the Geneva-based human rights system, meetings with UN and NGO representatives as well as participation at the 62nd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the 23rd session of the Universal Periodic Review.
On the occasion of the 23rd UPR session held between 02 – 13 November 2015, Nepal was reviewed by the Human Rights Council.
FES Geneva invited to a public side event where the panelists presented key topics of the civil society report that was submitted to the HRC as background information for the states participating in the review.
Lebanon’s human rights records was reviewed during the 23rd Working Group session of the Universal Periodic Review, on November 2nd 2015. Civil society representatives from Lebanon cordially invited to a panel discussion, prior to Working Group session, to present their key concerns on the human rights situation on the ground and on the implementation of the UPR recommendations in Lebanon.
The dialogue for journalists and NGOs aimed at developing a better understanding of the WTO and the general international trading system. Besides first-hand information on the ongoing preparations for the upcoming 10th WTO Ministerial Conference, the WTO's regular functions and responsibilities were explained in further detail. The dialogue's goal was to serve as a platform for in-depth and critical discussion of Southern Africa's experiences with the multilateral trade regime and its consequences for the region's social and economic welfare. The implications of bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements were also addressed.
Fair taxation can help in fighting inequality, realizing human rights, and ensuring the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). However, a succession of reports of tax dodging by multinational corporations have cast the spotlight on the need for reform of the international tax system. It has also become evident that international tax avoidance makes use of tax havens and the offshore secrecy system, which also facilitates capital flight and money laundering for criminal and terrorist purposes. The G20 gave its support to the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative and provides a welcome opportunity for a much wider debate. While the BEPS project clearly has made progress that would have been thought of as impossible just five years ago, it has evoked additional questions on the overall fitness of the international tax framework. This side event focused on the following questions:
16 October 2015, Geneva, Switzerland
Shared Responsibility and mutual accountability for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals are at the heart of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which was agreed in August this year, and will most likely have been adopted in its current form at the September session of the GA (25-27 Sept 2015). To attain those goals, the agenda contains further sections: “Means of implementation” to explore how this vision could be realized and a section on accountability to create mechanisms to verify that action is indeed taken regarding the means of implementation. This panel discussion shall discuss whether the document provides for sufficient tools to ensure a strong accountability of states to the people, including the “mutual accountability” between states, needed to ensure delivery of the implementation in order to realize the goals in full respect of human rights.
Organized jointly by FES, the German Institute for Human Rights and the NGO Forum for Human Rights, this annual conference focused on the three main themes climate change, non-state armed actors in conflict situations and their respective impact on the enjoyment of human rights as well the rights of the child. Ways how to integrate these issues more comprehensively in the HRC agenda were analyzed and discussed.
Participation was by invitation only.
In June 2015, the African Union summit launched negotiations to achieve a free trade area throughout the continent. This panel discussed the context, scope, and sequence of the negotiations. It reviewed analytical work and approaches to understand the potential impact of the CFTA on intra-African trade expansion, structural change, poverty reduction, incomes, employment, agriculture livelihoods and food security. In particular, it focused on the contribution trade can make to industrialization efforts on the continent, drawing upon the insights from the UNECA’s 2015 Economic Report on Africa which focused on industrialization through trade. It further delineated the potentials of a Human Rights Impact Assessment on the design and process of a regional trade agreement. The session was jointly organized by UNECA, OHCHR and FES Geneva office.
Trade in services “works” to integrate services sectors into the global economy and to open up markets for transnational suppliers of services. Given the explosion of services able to be contracted and delivered online, increasing trade in services can also work to bring new services to consumers across the globe. At the same time, the particular disciplines on regulating services – both domestic and traded – inherent in proposals such as the TISA and the expansion of the GATS in the WTO, may also work to constrain legitimate functions such as the proper public regulation and oversight of the provision of private services, as well as the provision of quality accessible public services. Which trade in services rules work for ensuring global financial stability? Data privacy? Ensuring safety and efficiency in transportation? Ensuring labor rights, including for migrant workers? Which rules work – or do not work – to ensure human rights to health care, education, access to water, and other essential public services.
Trade can be a vehicle for growth, development and poverty reduction. Harvesting the potential gains trade, however, is not neither automatic nor easy. The mere increase of integration into the global economy does not by itself produce a greater developmental impact. Trade works IF developing countries can fully harness the opportunities that come with trade and minimize its potential disadvantages. Decision makers have to work in a variety of policy fields simultaneously and complementary to provide the solid ground for economic and social development. The working session explored the recommendations of policy initiatives aiming at a fair distribution of gains from trade.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) was collaborating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Geneva office on a potential human rights impact assessment (HRIA) of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). The purposes for conducting HRIAs include prioritising human rights in policy-making, strengthening accountability, and empowering rights holders. A screening and scoping assessment will be led by OHCHR as the next step in the HRIA process. This meeting aimed at providing the platform to brainstorm amongst Geneva based experts and the OHCHR consultant, Prof. James Thuo Gathii, around potential scenarios for a HRIA of the CFTA, specifically on agriculture (food security and livelihoods).
Participation was by invitation only.
In its last Resolution on climate change the HRC has “expressed concerns that climate change has contributed to the increase of both sudden-onset natural disasters and slow on-set events, and that these events have adverse effects on the full enjoyment of all human rights”. Incorporating an effective human rights dimension in the universal and legally binding Agreement under negotiation at COP21 in Paris is now of crucial importance. This side event offered an opportunity to hear the joint call of constituencies of the civil society to include strong and effective human rights language in the Agreement in Paris and views of the States leading the UNFCCC process.
Background paper: Last HRC Resolution
Women and girls remain overrepresented in the informal economy, labour-intensive and precarious work, and in low-paid jobs. A more transformative approach is required to infuse human rights with women’s perspective to combine economics with social and human development. Economic emancipation of women through participation in the formal economy and decent conditions of work can only be achieved by a concerted effort of the human rights, labour, trade and development sectors. This side event analysed how existing human and labour rights standards and trade frameworks can respectively advance fair working conditions for women and propose a holistic approach to ensuring rights at work for all women workers.
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung organized in close cooperation with Public Services International (PSI) the Global Labour Tax Summit. Inequality soars while multinational companies with unprecedented profits manipulate their accounts and corporate structures to exploit legal loopholes and facilitate massive theft from the communities that have generated the wealth. The summit examined global tax issues from the perspective of workers and organised labour. It featured expert presentations and strategic discussions about the role that multinational corporations play, examined national and international government actors who set the current inadequate rules, looked for alternatives and commited to action.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, FES supported the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in holding a half-day panel discussion focusing on the multiple human rights abuses faced by migrant workers as well as challenges for States on how to best address these issues. The discussions focused on migrant workers in the Gulf, unaccompanied children in the Americas, and irregular migration flows in the Mediterranean.
Co-sponsored by the Middle Powers Initiative, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Basel Peace Office and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, this forum discussed the outcomes of the NPT 2015 Final Document including the recommendation to establish an Open Ended Working Group to identify effective measures for the full implementation of Article VI of the NPT, including legal provisions required to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.
G20 and the Evolution of the Global Trade and Investment Regime: From Crisis Management to Vision and Leadership?
28 April 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
As a global governance mechanism, the G20 is uniquely positioned to shape the various components of the global trade and investment regime. This event takes place against the backdrop where the pro- and anti-globalization debate has been evolving quickly, with scepticism regarding the benefits arguably gaining substantial popular support, in particular in some parts of the developed world. A week before the third Trade and Investment Working Group meeting in Berlin, this event will address a series of issues linked to today’s new context and the future of global trade and investment regime. The event aims to better understand how the G20 can be most effective in addressing trade and investment issues in 2017, 2018 and beyond. It is jointly organized by ICTSD and the FES Geneva office.
Participation is by invitation only.
2017 Training Course for NHRIs on International Human Rights Mechanisms
01 - 05 May 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
The training, developed especially for staff of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) world-wide, aimed to support participants in
Participation by invitation only
Challenges for the Multilateral Trading System: Perspectives from West Africa
27 - 29 June 2017, Accra, Ghana
The dialogue for civil society and media representatives aimes at developing a better understanding of the WTO and its role in the international trading system. Besides first-hand information on the ongoing preparations for the upcoming 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December this year in Buenos Aires, the WTO's regular functions and responsibilities will be explained in further detail. In addition, subjects of specific interest to the region will be addressed. The dialogue's goal is to serve as a platform for in-depth and critical discussion of West Africa's experiences with the multilateral trading regime and its consequences for the region's social and economic welfare. The dialogue is jointly organized by the WTO and the FES Geneva office.