Foreign Ministry consults representatives of civil society organisations before the 56th session of UN Human Rights Council

At the end of May, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs invited representatives of civil society organisations to comment on Finland’s participation in the 56th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The discussions focused on increasingly narrow civic space in countries such as Belarus, Uganda and Myanmar and on the rights of women and girls in the midst of war and crises.

Civil society organisations provide valuable contribution to Finland’s work in Human Rights Council

Deputy Director General of the Political Department Erik Lundberg stressed that civil society organisations (CSO) support the Foreign Ministry’s activities at the UN Human Rights Council by providing valuable advice and expertise. He thanked CSOs for their support for the historic resolution on the rights of intersex people, which the Council adopted under the leadership of Finland at the spring session. At the session, Finland also delivered a broadly supported joint statement promoting the rights and status of women and girls and introduced a draft resolution on the right to adequate housing, emphasising the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Lundberg said that gender equality will be high on the agenda at the summer session. The Human Rights Council will receive a report by Special Rapporteur Richard Bennett on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The upcoming session will also focus on issues related to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The Deputy Director General also underlined that it is important for the international community to promote the implementation of international obligations related to increasing tolerance.

Impacts of conflicts and crises hit the most vulnerable hardest

Representatives of CSOs expressed their concern over how the impacts of crises and conflicts fall on certain groups of people. The impacts of conflicts and of crises caused by climate change are gendered.

CSOs also strongly raised the issue of the rights of the child, which are seriously being threatened in for example, Ukraine, Gaza and Sudan. These conflict situations pose a threat to children’s education, making future reconstruction more difficult.

People with serious mental disorders are in a very vulnerable position, and the effect of war and conflicts on mental health is enormous. CSOs wished that Finland would pay more attention to this. Finland supports the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine established by the Human Rights Council. The Commission of Inquiry has also drawn attention to the need for psychosocial support in its report on violations committed during Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Finland’s HRC membership continues until the end of the year

Preparations are now being made for the 56th session (18 June–12 July) of the Human Rights Council. It will be the second of the three sessions held annually. Finland is a member of the HRC during the term 2022–2024, so the upcoming session will be Finland’s second to last regular session.

The summer session will discuss issues including Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the human rights situation in the Palestinian territory and the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Belarus, Eritrea, Myanmar, Iran, Sudan, Venezuela and Libya.

The topics on the agenda also include the prevention of violence and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities; the prevention of extrajudicial executions; freedom of expression, including the situation of journalists in exile; freedom of assembly; freedom of religion or belief; business and human rights; and digitalisation, including the role of artificial intelligence in racism and in new forms of discrimination.

Special Rapporteur on the right to education Farida Shaheed will present the report on Finland and the report’s recommendations to the Council. The Special Rapporteur made country visit to Finland in autumn 2023. Finland will participate in the dialogue on the report and its recommendations. 

In the negotiations and discussions held by the Council, Finland emphasises the rights of women and girls, gender equality, prevention of violence and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities, freedom of expression and assembly, and prevention of racism. Finland will take part in the interactive dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and in several country-specific and thematic dialogues during the session.