Supporting civil society’s agenda for human rights

UN Office in Geneva. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux
UN Office in Geneva. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux

LWF intervenes at UN Human Rights Council

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) intervention at the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), 11-29 September, included oral statements on the human rights situation in Indonesia and South Sudan, the promotion of measures to guarantee transitional justice around the world, and the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) as partners in development work.

The LWF was also among 18 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) that presented a statement on security for humanitarian workers and access to humanitarian relief for people in need in Myanmar’s Rhakine State. The annual HRC sessions in Geneva include reports on the human rights situation in several countries and thematic reports from independent UN experts.

Indonesia: Freedom of religion or belief

The LWF, the Indonesian human rights organization IMPARSIAL and the interfaith network JAII expressed disappointment that the government had not accepted significant Universal Periodic Review recommendations on freedom of religion or belief. They said contradictory regulations are still in use, citing minority communities that still face obstacles when it comes to using or establishing a place of worship.

In the oral statement, they noted the death penalty imposition had increased, with 18 executions and a total of 134 death sentences in a span of two and a half years, and called for a moratorium on the death penalty and an independent investigation. They urged President Joko Widodo to uphold his 2014 election pledge to “always have due regard for human rights.”

A meaningful dialogue in South Sudan

Contributing to an interactive dialogue on South Sudan, the LWF emphasized that no military solution would resolve the long-standing political stalemate and civil conflict in the country. The LWF, which runs a humanitarian development program in the country, appealed to all parties including the regional and international community, to address the root causes of the conflict and to commit to a genuine, holistic and inclusive national dialogue and reconciliation process in South Sudan.

Truth, justice and reparation

On truth, justice and reparation, the LWF commended the Special Rapporteur for the activities undertaken and accompanying report, highlighting the “role of local actors, civil society organizations, religious groups and traditional mechanisms as important stakeholders for formation and realization of sustainable transitional justice mechanisms.”

The LWF however challenged the rapporteur to look at how mechanisms of restoring justice can address the special needs of women, girls, children and other most vulnerable groups during violent conflicts. Noting also the exclusive focus on civil and political rights, the LWF sought the establishment of measures that ensure the full recognition of a victim’s economic, social and cultural rights.

Faith-based organizations are well placed in linking the local, the national and global levels of development work, and hence giving voice to the poor and the vulnerable people for whom the right to development is lagging behind.
LWF oral statement to the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Linking the local to the global

During an interactive dialogue on the right to development, the LWF expressed appreciation for the Special Rapporteur’s commitment to engage all relevant stakeholders including civil society in an open, inclusive and participatory manner.

Emphasizing FBO’s vast experience and close links with the local people who are the primary target of initiatives for sustainable development, the LWF wondered if faith bodies were perceived as development partners and what their inclusion would entail.

“Faith-based organizations are well placed in linking the local, the national and global levels of development work, and hence giving voice to the poor and the vulnerable people for whom the right to development is lagging behind,” the LWF stated.

Myanmar

In the INGO’s statement during an interactive dialogue on Myanmar, heartfelt sympathy was extended to those who lost loved ones and suffered during the recent violence in Rhakine State.

The organizations emphasized commitment to the common values and principles anchored in impartiality and humanity. “We offer and provide our assistance to the most vulnerable and needy in an independent, neutral and impartial way. We do not side with any party in a conflict, nor do we make any distinctions in our assistance with respect to race, religion or ethnicity.”

The INGOs called upon the “government of Myanmar to re-establish access to conflict-affected areas to ensure the delivery of life-saving services, and to safeguard the health and security of humanitarian workers providing assistance to affected communities.”