The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an ‘intergovernmental body within the United Nations (UN) system made up of 47 states responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.’ While the UN has adopted the broad goal of addressing human rights in the UN Charter, UNHRC serves as the main forum for dialogue and intergovernmental cooperation on a variety of human rights issues. The Council was established through the UN’s adoption of Resolution A/RES/60/251 and is tasked with the responsibility of addressing and making recommendations with regard to particular human rights violations.
Topic A: The Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Conflict and Post-Conflict Regions
The role of a human rights defender involves addressing civil, economic, political, and social rights to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and freedoms. In March of 1999, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in order to provide support and protection for the individuals and groups who work to defend those rights. Those at risk include journalists, health professionals, aid workers and NGOs, and those equipped to monitor and report on violations of humanitarian law. Despite these efforts to provide protections for these groups, human rights defenders continue to face threats of violence, systematic human rights violations, and limited deployment of public institutions, heightened in regions of conflict and instability. They also face physical violence, as members of these human rights groups have been victims of abductions, forced disappearances, assassinations, public stigmatization, or defamation. Two challenges that human rights defenders continue to face are the prevalence of organized crime and the lack of training or outright corruption of law enforcement officials. Though the Declaration secures the means for defenders to promote and protect rights in these conflict zones, these groups still anticipate legal protection under national law to properly protect against interference in their essential freedoms and task of peacefully upholding humanitarian law. The UN Human Rights Council must work to ensure that these human rights groups are able to work as key agents for change in upholding human rights and fostering worldwide peace and security.
Topic B: Promoting the Rights and Welfare of Civilians in Yemen
The long armed conflict in Yemen has permanently damaged the quality of life of the Yemeni people, and Yemeni citizens suffer through regular human rights violations. In Resolution 36/31, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights established a group of international and regional experts to examine and report these violations. Over 600 victims, witnesses, and other sources were interviewed by this group of experts, along with examinations of documentary and open-source information, to create an account of exactly how the Yemeni people were suffering. The report documented cases how all parties in the conflict have used child soldiers, have attacked civilian targets, and have robbed food and supplies intended for civilian relief. Politically, there are also many restrictions on the acceptance and distribution of humanitarian aid. Yemenis still face poor treatment in arbitrary detentions, violations of their freedom of expression, and widespread sexual violence. The human rights violations in Yemen have been a primary focus area of the United Nations Human Rights Council for years, and the situation in Yemen has been deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by the United Nations. Civilians in Yemen are suffering daily due to the continued armed conflict, and it is the responsibility of the Human Rights Council to protect these innocent civilians.