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Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force Event – 10/18/2011

November 29, 2011

by Yumeno Toyoda, Intern

On October 18th, 2011, The Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force of the United Nations Association of the USA, presented a program on the work of UN in Human Rights.   The initial topic was to be “Promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” with Mr. Frank La Rue, who has served as the UN Special Rapporteur on this topic since 2008.  Copies of his latest report to the UN General Assembly (document A/66/290) were distributed at the meeting.  As Mr. La Rue was unexpectedly unavailable, Ms. Felice Gaer, the Chair of the Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force, spoke about the Human Rights Special Rapporteurs in general and somewhat about the intended topic of the evening. . The UNA-USA Southern New York Division and the UNA-USA Council of Organizations co-hosted the program, which was held in the conference room of the Foundation for the UN Global Compact.

Ms. Felice Gaer spoke about human rights issues, especially the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the “access to broadband connection” and “access to the Internet and the rights to education” around the world. She said that in some countries the government controls network access and the government filters civilians’ internet access to Facebook and other social networking services. She explained that controlling network access is bad for education and it leads to lack of information among civilians.

Ms. Gaer started by explaining the nature of Special Rapporteurs in Human Rights, how these came about and how their work is changing.

Human rights is an issue that is becoming increasingly recognized as important in recent years, she said, though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 and first a UN Commission on Human Rights, now upgraded to a Human Rights Council, have been dealing with the subject, under the authority of the UN General Assembly. To address various human rights problems, the United Nations has named 47 Special Rapporteurs to countries which need technical assistance or where abuses have been reported. Also they research specific subjects to help these countries improve. The United Nations initiates some missions by special rapporteurs attached to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which has grown in numbers of staff and capabilities over the years. 

The main purpose of special rapporteurs is fact-finding.  They can verify, assess and report on complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations. The special rapporteur can send an urgent letter or appeal from the UN to the government that has allegedly committed the violation, and report to the Council. This is part of the basic UN concern to protect all human rights for the people who live in all countries.

 In conclusion Ms Gaer stressed that living in this world, human rights can be affected in many fields, so people and international organizations should think more about this and act to make the world a much better place for everyone.

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