KEYNOTE MESSAGE: Ugnayan ng Bayan 2015 - “The Philippine Human Rights Report”Nov 5, 2015
By: Ola Almgren, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative
Distinguished representatives and friends from the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, of the Presidential Human Rights Committee and of the Philippines Alliance of Human Rights Advocates with me here on the podium this morning,
Honorable participants, ladies and gentlemen
Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat! (Good morning to all!)
The fundamental principles of Human Rights are enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, in which the founding members of the United Nations, and the Philippines was of course one of them, later joined by others as they joined the membership of the United Nations pronounced their determination “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” These principles are of course equally enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and it is against this backdrop that I, on behalf of the United Nations here in the Philippines, have the great pleasure to say a few words at the opening of this important event.
Allow me first of all to to congratulate the Government of the Philippines on its election last week to the United Nations Human Rights Council. We are very happy to see the return of the Philippines being a founder member of the Human Rights Council in 2006, re-elected for a second term in 2007, until 2010, and also served as member of the Human Rights Council from June 2011 to December 2014. You election bears witness to the standing in which you are held by the international community for your commitment to promote, defend and act on human rights.
We look forward to following the government’s active participation and leadership in moving forward the human rights agenda both internationally within the Council during its period of membership as well as here in the Philippines.
The Philippines stands out in the Asian region for having ratified eight core human rights treaties and six optional protocols in addition to many other key human rights and humanitarian conventions and treaties. I am very pleased to note that the Government has designated lead government agencies for each of the international human rights treaties, facilitating their implementation, follow-up, reporting and review of progress, challenges and lessons learned in consultation with relevant agencies from government, non-government organizations and basic sector representatives that make up the Philippine society.
The Philippines now of course has the opportunity to be the first in the South East Asian region to be party to all nine of the core human rights treaties if it were also to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
There also have been a number of key legislative enactments since 2012, including the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, the Human Rights Victims and Reparation and Recognition Act and the Domestic Workers Act, to name a few.
We are happy to see that the Philippine government is undertaking various measures to push forward those draft bills that are still pending such as the Freedom of Information Act which the President has urged the Congress to adopt.
The Philippines is party to the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons since 2011. This much-welcomed accession was a positive step towards the protection of Stateless persons.
The same year, the Government of the Philippines made a pledge to take steps towards the accession to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. We remain hopeful that this year will see the realization of this pledge. Such a step would greatly contribute to the global campaign to end statelessness by 2024. Accession to the 1961 Convention would also help the Government of the Philippines better align its laws with international human rights standards on the right to a nationality.
We are pleased to see a section on the agenda dedicated to the protection and promotion of the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs). The UN is concerned with the killings and displacement that have taken place over the past year in the IP communities. We welcomed the Department of Justice’s statement in late September and hope that the process to investigate and prosecute those responsible will be swift, transparent and that their findings will be made public. It is critical that local armed groups are disarmed and disbanded and stopped from engaging in further violence and criminal activities. I hope that during this session there will be a robust discussion on the many current challenges to the full implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) as well as the nexus between economic development projects and the sometimes grave human rights impact it has on the lives of indigenous peoples.
With the changing demographics in the Philippines the obligation to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of the child is a State obligation to nearly 40% of the Philippine population. And while this 40% of the population may not be able to vote in the coming 2016 election, their voice must be heard and their rights and well-being must be at the core of the Philippine human rights agenda.
Child rights is more than redress for violations. It is about ensuring that the State Party undertakes all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of all the rights recognized in the present Convention.
The Convention guarantees non-discrimination and equal rights for all children, everywhere, all the time. At the same time, it recognizes that some children, or groups of children, need special measures to ensure that their rights are fulfilled as other children. Equality in rights necessitates equity in programming and targeting those children who are poor, marginalized and disadvantaged (i.e. indigenous children, children affected by armed conflict, children with disabilities, out-of-school children and adolescents, etc.). With many pressing child protection issues to address and limited resources in the country, there is a need to invest wisely on interventions for the maximum impact. Understanding that issues such as violence against children are cross-sectoral and require the development of a national strategy emanating from a strong and committed multi-sectoral response where the interventions, policies and programmes are informed by evidence and facilitated by a sustained coordinated approach.
Addressing the needs of children in situations of armed conflict is a global protection priority, mandated by the UN Security Council. In 2014, The Philippine Country Taskforce for Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) recorded a total of 162 allegations of grave violations against children. The data represents an increase compared to 2013, which recorded a total of 123 allegations. Such violations continue to be documented in 2015, including against indigenous people children. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is working with UNICEF and the wider UN to finalise and implement a strategy to better protect children. We are also engaged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to implement the Action Plan against the recruitment and use of minors in Mindanao with good progress being made. We believe this is also an important contribution to the overall peace process for Mindanao. Similarly, engagement with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on concrete measures that could build trust is required, and may eventually improve the protection of children in situations of armed conflict. It is critically important that these efforts are sustained and accelerate.
This year, there has been significant government engagement with the UN Human Rights Mechanisms. The government issued invitations to two Special Rapporteurs to undertake country visits – in February there was the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and in July the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs and we look forward to their full reports in 2016. The Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs had the opportunity to discuss the IDP bill with various parts of the government in July and we are hopeful that it can be adopted before the end of the current legislature.
In May, the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture visited as part of its routine visits following ratification of the Optional Protocol, and the UN looks forward to continuing its support to the government to ensure the timely establishment of the National Preventive Mechanism in keeping with the obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).
I cannot let this opportunity pass by without also noting that the Philippines, together with all other Member States of the United Nations have adopted the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York last 25 September. It is a bold, universal, ambitious, and transformational agenda. The SDGs is grounded in international human rights standards and principles, including the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The commitment to “leaving no one behind”, eliminating poverty and reducing inequality and discrimination advances the human-rights based approach.
In this regard, we commend the Government for already having integrated the Human Rights-Based Approach in its current Philippine Development Plan, and we look forward to working with the Government in the continuation of this ground-breaking initiative.
Achieving the SDGs and building shared prosperity is in everyone’s interest and has enormous investment opportunities that will benefit all people and our planet. This is a people-driven agenda built on the foundations of transparency, participation and inclusion.
There is a multiplier effect to addressing human rights issues and each of us here today has important roles to play in advancing this important agenda. Let us ensure that the significant gains so far achieved on the various thematic objectives and the positive momentum are carried forward. I encourage you to link the SDGs in the human rights reporting, advocate for national-level implementation strategies, and continue to be vigilant in its follow up and review process.
Your programme here is comprehensive and covers the full spectrum of human rights. It is very opportune to take stock of human rights developments and to identify what additional measures must be adopted, be it through legislation, policies, technical capacity or political will, to ensure that human rights are enjoyed by all in the Philippines.
This event is also timely in preparing for your reports for the next Universal Periodic Review which is due in 2017. Since it was created in 2008, the UPR has been known as a constructive mechanism that has used an inclusive, transparent and genuine dialogue between states, civil society and national human rights institutions (NHRIs), before and after each review, to foster a national discussion about human rights developments and challenges in each society. The United Nations provided support to the first two cycles, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide support for the implementation of the recommendations through technical cooperation, policy dialogue and an exchange of best practices.
The United Nations also supported the Presidential Human Rights Committee and the Commission on Human rights to establish the UPR Tripartite Monitoring Mechanism—a partnership of state, private sector, and civil society, that monitors progress of compliance to the UPR recommendations. This is indeed an innovation: the first of its kind, and has become a model for the rest of Asia. It is my wish that the lead national government agencies of the different human rights conventions join us in the Tripartite Monitoring Mechanism, and help us strengthen human rights in the Philippines in time for the 2017 cycle.
I would like to close with my warm wishes for the success of your work over the next few days. I and my colleagues at the United Nations look forward to following the outcome of this assessment and to our continued collaboration together on the protection and promotion of human rights in the Philippines.
Mabuhay and maraming salamat!