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Jakarta Post

What will Indonesia do while in the Human Rights Council?

Geneva   /   Tue, February 25, 2020   /   03:30 pm
What will Indonesia do while in the Human Rights Council? Helping hands: Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (center) joins hands with Rakhine State Chief Minister Nyi Pu (third right) and other officials during the presentation of Indonesian aid to Myanmar’s strife-torn Rakhine state in the capital Sittwe in January 2017. Human rights violations against the minority Rohingya ethnic group in the area have drawn international condemnation. (AFP/Wai Moe)

With Indonesia on the Human Rights Council, there are some ways in which the country can use its role to provide leadership and achieve the goals it outlined in its campaign.

The 43th session of the Human Rights Council commenced this week with Indonesia at the table once again, along with 13 others elected in October 2019.

Indonesia sits alongside 13 new members, namely, Armenia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Namibia, Netherlands, Poland, the Republic of Korea and Venezuela. Indonesia has paid particular attention during its campaign and election. Credibility in human rights record is among the considerations made before a country is entrusted to uphold such a prestigious seat.

The Human Rights Council consists of 47 member states, elected by the members of the United Nations General Assembly by direct and secret ballot. It serves as the highest international body that deals with human rights issues worldwide.

Indonesia’s membership to the council is not without challenges. We see worrying trends in human rights situations around the globe. Trade wars, development gaps and poverty are hurting our efforts to bring about welfare to all. Women are still fighting hard for their rights and equality. Growing xenophobia, racism, intolerance — including Islamophobia — are rampant. Hate speech and the “us versus them mentality” are dividing more communities and nations. The denial of basic human rights for Palestinians is at its worst in the midst of a new plan to build another 9,000 illegal settlements in Har Homa and Givat Hamatoz.

The situation surrounding our work as a council create challenges for us to achieve our best result. The current UN financial crisis and its impact on the work of the council is worrying. There is persistent divide between the prioritization of civil and political rights vis-à-vis economic, social and cultural rights. The discrimination and politicization in addressing human rights issues have not been resolved. Overlapping mechanisms and the proliferation of resolutions among UN organs in resolving the same human rights issues is a big problem the council must address.

These are not just symptoms but issues that could hamper the promotion and protection of human rights. Immediate steps and improvement must be done to overcome these collective challenges.

Against this background, there are three points that can help the council in addressing these issues. First, the prevention mandate of the council must be strengthened. This can be done by redoubling our efforts on the promotion of human rights. There is a saying that “prevention is better than the cure”. With enhanced prevention, comes better promotion and protection of human rights.

Moving forward, the council must focus on how to best prevent human rights violations by strengthening of national capacities and resilience to prevent human rights violations. We also need to creating an ecosystem of peace, from national, regional to international levels and bridging technical as well as enhancing capacity-building cooperation among states in strengthening national capacities. Indonesia has benefitted from this. Indonesia’s cooperation and strengthened national mechanism has enabled us to promote Indonesia’s human rights and share our experiences with countries at regional and international levels.

At the regional level, Indonesia continues to improve the work of ASEAN Human Rights mechanisms. Indonesia has also able to transform the annual Bali Democracy Forum into an important platform for the promotion of democracy in the Asia Pacific. At the global level, as the coordinator of foreign policy and global health initiatives, Indonesia will encourage more innovative partnership and cooperation in global health.

Second, ensuring inclusivity. There should be efforts made for the wider involvement of all stakeholders, particularly women. Investing in women means investing in human rights. Empowering women and upholding their rights will be as equal as addressing the human rights of more than half of our population. Much remains to be done at the Human Rights Council as women and girls still face insecurity and violence, particularly in conflicts.

At the economic front, the challenges are also obvious to close the gap in economic empowerment. As part of our global responsibility, this year, we will focus on improving the role of women in conflict resolutions and human rights protection by providing capacity-building in improving women’s economies and quality of living. We will also hold the second Regional Training on Women, Peace and Security event to empower women as agents of peace, mediators and negotiators. We will also strive to stablish the Southeast Asia Network of Women Peace Negotiators and Mediators, as well as the Afghanistan-Indonesia Women’s Network.

Third, ensuring synergy and collaboration in the work of the council. Obviously, the Human Rights Council cannot work alone. It needs friends, partners, allies and supporters of its work. Partnership is crucial to ensure coordination between Geneva and New York while at the same, reaffirm this council as the main and trusted platform to address human rights issues. If this is the case, we can be optimistic that it can give birth to innovative solutions for long-standing issues such as the conflict in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine, and in Africa.

Better coordination will also resolve the issue of overlapping mechanisms and proliferation of resolutions among the council and other UN organs. Improvements in the effectiveness of the council will also enhance efficiency.

All in all, the council’s work for the better promotion and protection of human rights is far from completed. There is no other option but to make the council’s work efficient.

As a true partner for democracy, development and social Justice, Indonesia stands ready to advance the council’s work with all its members and partners to achieve that.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.