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Good morning, this is Michelle. Just five months before UN climate talks are held in yet another petrostate, rights defenders warn of yet another clampdown as Baku gets an early start in muzzling dissent.

This week, the Human Rights Council will wrap up its summer session, while Indigenous peoples gather in the Palais to discuss progress on countries’ commitments to uphold their rights.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

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The Oil Rocks oil rig and industrial settlement in the Caspian Sea, about 100 km from Baku, Azerbaijan, 6 September 2023. (Keystone/EPA/Maxim Shipenkov)

Rights and wrongs ahead of Baku's Cop29 hosting. After recent climate conferences in Egypt and Dubai, Azerbaijan will be the next authoritarian petrostate to host this year’s climate change conference. Activists are hoping that the event will help bring global attention to worrisome human rights trends within the country.

Geneva Solutions

What to watch this week

🤝DECISION WEEK. The Human Rights Council is wrapping up on Friday what has been a relatively calm session. As we recently reported, gender stands to be the main issue of contention at the meeting, with Russia already tabling seven amendments on a proposal about human rights and HIV/Aids, for instance, to scrap any mentions of sexual and reproductive rights or sexuality. The UN body’s 47 members are due to consider the draft resolution and the amendments on Friday.

Newcomer. The council is also expected to appoint Mai Sato as the new UN rights expert on Iran, taking over from Javaid Rehman. The Japanese scholar is an associate professor at Monash University in Australia, who has focused her work on the death penalty, a key human rights issue in Iran, which carries out the highest number of recorded executions. She runs Eleos Justice, an NGO working to abolish the death penalty in the Asian region, and serves as an independent expert for the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

🪃INDIGENOUS GROUPS IN TOWN. Indigenous groups will gather in Geneva this week for a UN expert meeting to discuss the state of their rights worldwide and, more specifically, the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN in 2007. Among the key discussions on the agenda is how to make sure Indigenous rights are upheld during peace negotiations and after a conflict ends.

✈️TRAVEL LOG. The UN human rights expert on Sudan, Radhouane Nouicer, landed in Port Sudan yesterday and is planning to be there until Thursday. The Tunisian diplomat was planning to meet with the Sudanese authorities, displaced communities, humanitarian groups and other organisations.

It’s the Tunisian diplomat’s first visit to the country since war broke out nearly 15 months ago and the second since his appointment. It comes just days after the Rapid Support Forces reportedly seized a key city as the militant group advances toward the port city, where the Sudanese government and the UN are based.

After 15 months of conflict, the UN has warned that 750,000 people are on the verge of famine as they remain cut off by the fighting.

📖Read our past interview with Nouicer: ‘Sudan crisis has taken on epic dimension,’ says UN human rights expert

Also on the agenda

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Is Switzerland losing its leadership in digital governance? Geneva, the birthplace of the World Wide Web and once a beacon to digital governance, is seeing its light grow dim. Faced with stiff competition, budgetary constraints post-Covid and geopolitical tensions, the capital of multilateralism is struggling to maintain its position in the field. Last month, the Internet Society decided to give up its offices in Geneva after a thirty-year presence in the city, in one warning sign of NGOs facing a high cost of living and a lack of funding. Geneva has also missed out on new opportunities. In 2022, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) picked Luxembourg for a new office dedicated to cyberspace.

Grégoire Barbey, journalist at Le Temps, will discuss his recent investigation along with Dr Jovan Kurbalija from DiploFoundation, Francesca Bosco of the CyberPeace Institute and ambassador Thomas Schneider from the Swiss Federal Office of Communication. They will delve into the critical questions: Is Switzerland losing its edge in digital governance? Do the country's authorities still have the ambition to sustain Geneva's international digital leadership?

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