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Good morning, this is Paula. With the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council kicking off tomorrow, we look at how geopolitics impacts the way rights violations in Asia are considered at the forum.

Gender will be a recurring theme during the council’s month-long session, while its president, the Moroccan Omar Zniber, says the liquidity crunch has limited its ability to operate as desired. And a new Graduate Institute study drops as the international Geneva feels the heat of the UN’s liquidity crisis.

photo journaliste

Paula Dupraz-Dobias


On our radar

Photo article

Myanmar refugees rest after fleeing from battles between Karen rebel groups and Myanmar military, at a temporary shelter in the Thai-Myanmar border district of Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, 20 April 2024. (Keystone/EPA/Somrerk Kosolwitthayanant)

Geopolitics at play as Human Rights Council tackles abuses in Asia. War-torn Myanmar and the oppression of Afghanistan’s female population will be among the first topics to kick off discussions at the Human Rights Council on Monday. Geneva Solutions spoke to advocacy group Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development about what’s at stake and how some perpetrators manage to fly below the radar.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

What to watch this week


Gender clash. The four weeks of the Human Rights Council are expected to be dominated by gender-related issues. At least four resolutions on the matter will be considered, including on online sexual and gender-based violence, presented by Belgium, while Chile and Mexico will lead another on discrimination against women and girls. The African countries' group will table resolutions on menstrual hygiene management and female genital mutilation. The new independent expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, Graham Reid, will present his first report on freedom of expression and assembly.

Like at other UN forums, countries are expected to go head to head over the issues with conservative blocs and the anti-right movement trying to stall affirmations of universal rights.

Gaza crimes. An extensive and hard-hitting chronicle of rights violations in the first months of the war, accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, will be presented at the council on Wednesday after being released last week, in what is expected to be a tense discussion. The report by the Commission of Inquiry, led by former rights chief Navi Pillay, said both sides had engaged in gender and sexual-based violence. It said Israel had committed acts such as murder and starvation as a method of warfare and was also said to have committed crimes against humanity of “extermination” among others. Israel has rejected the claims.

Operating on a shoestring. “We have to stay optimistic,” Omar Zniber, the Moroccan ambassador and president of the Human Rights Council said last week of the forum's severely squeezed finances which have left it unable to properly fund some of its operations and special procedures, including a fact-finding mission on the rights violations in Sudan, where a civil war has been raging for over a year.

The mission will provide an oral update to the council this week but nine months into its mandate, it remains significantly understaffed due to the UN’s liquidity crisis and with its final report already due in September, civil society groups including Human Rights Watch have warned that it is unlikely to be comprehensive. They have called for the mandate to be extended - a decision the council won't debate until later this year.

Overcoming roadblocks. Meanwhile, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, and remaining staff in Panama will nonetheless present a report on Venezuela, where the government has continued to refuse access to the team. The reintroduction of the NGO law, aimed at limiting the role of civil society groups, as well as the safety of human rights defenders ahead of presidential elections next month rank high among concerns.

☠️TOXIC IMPACT. UN Environment will host a conference in Geneva on the sound management of chemicals and waste and pollution prevention this week. Similar to the role that the IPCC plays in documenting the environmental effects of climate change, the gathering aims to create a new intergovernmental panel to address chemical waste.

Why it matters. It’s about “making the invisible visible”, Jacqueline Álvarez, Unep’s head of chemicals and health, told journalists at the UN on Friday. With 99 per cent of the world’s population exposed to air incompatible with World Health Organization guidelines, development is also affected. Lead exposure alone is reported to contribute to a seven per cent loss in global GDP, due to its impact on reducing children’s IQ.

- Kasmira Jefford and Paula Dupraz-Dobias

Also on the agenda

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