Joint Statement on Reprisals led by Ireland and Uruguay – UNGA78 Third Committee
October 17 2023
I have the honour to deliver this cross-regional statement on behalf of Ireland, Uruguay and 80 countries, as well as the European Union.
Civil society actors and human rights defenders are crucial to the work of the United Nations. Without their cooperation, we, the Member States, cannot make informed decisions. Without their safe engagement, the UN entities cannot effectively carry out their mandates and have an impact on the ground.
When individuals or groups face intimidation, threats or harm for cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN, not only do those directly involved suffer, but our collective efforts to achieve sustainable peace, development and justice suffer. We therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms any act of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating, seeking to cooperate or who have cooperated with the UN.
We welcome the latest report by the Secretary-General on this issue, as well as the presentation last week of this report by ASG Brands Kehris to the General Assembly. We also welcome the resolution on this issue passed in the Human Rights Council last week.
We share the Secretary General's concern that, in many countries, across regions, civic space and the protections needed to engage effectively with the UN have increasingly come under attack, both online and offline.
We are particularly alarmed at the trends identified in the report, including;
- An increase in self-censorship or requesting anonymous reporting to the UN due to fear of reprisals;
- An increase in the surveillance, in particular the physical surveillance, of those who cooperate with the UN;
- The use of national laws and regulations, including counter-terrorism and national security laws, to deter or hinder cooperation with the UN;
Chair, the report details that those who have cooperated with the UN have been subjected to serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, torture and rape due to that cooperation. Human Rights Defenders, activists, lawyers and journalists, as well as victims of human rights violations, witnesses and their relatives, are particularly at risk. We are seriously concerned at reports that women and representatives of Indigenous Peoples have been disproportionately targeted for their engagement with the UN.
In recent years the reported number and severity of reprisals has increased. This is an issue across all regions, from Europe to Africa, from Asia Pacific to the Americas. It therefore needs a global response.
We call on all Member States to take bold action. This involves taking measure to prevent and raise awareness about the issues, investigating reports of reprisals, fully complying with international law obligations, and ensuring accountability and remedy. It means actively engaging with the UN, especially with Assistant Secretary-General Brands Kehris and her office, and reporting all incidences of reprisals that occur within their countries.
It also involves supporting and protecting victims and witnesses, as well as civil society and human rights defenders from threats and violence. Best practices include enacting laws and policies for the recognition and protection of defenders, establishing protection programmes for victims and those at risk, offering shelter to those who need it, providing emergency safety grants, and promoting a safe environment, including online, for civil society.
Finally, the UN has a central responsibility in addressing reprisals. We welcome the commitment to a "zero tolerance" approach to acts of intimidation and reprisals, and the steps taken to adopt specific protocols on this issue. We call on the UN to further strengthen its response by ensuring that systems are in place to identify, document, report and follow up on cases of reprisals, and that dedicated focal points are mandated and adequately resourced. We also call on the UN to ensure a system is in place for a coordinated rapid response to incidents of serious reprisals. This should be gender-sensitive and victim- and survivor-oriented. We further call on the UN to ensure the implementation of its commitments through monitoring and reporting on progress made.
Chair, the work we do here at the UN is dependent on the cooperation of those who can provide a view from the ground. The work of the UN across the world is dependent on the cooperation of those who work in their communities. They should never have to face threats or intimidation for engaging with the UN.
Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Fiji, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkiye, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay
UN General Assembly
Every September, world leaders gather in New York to discuss international priorities. Read Ireland’s national statement to the UN General Assembly