Consultation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Mid-term Report
23 March 2022
Opening Remarks by Ms. Pauline Tamesis, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cambodia
H.E. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee
Excellencies, my UN colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
I am pleased to be present here today, albeit virtually, at the ‘Consultation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Mid-term Report’, which the United Nations in Cambodia is co-organising with the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC).
Let me recall that Cambodia was reviewed for the third time in the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in January 2019. In July 2019, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) officially accepted 173 out of 198 recommendations received, and noted the remaining 25. I was pleased that the United Nations in Cambodia, at the time, also collaborated with the Cambodian Human Rights Committee to organise a workshop to disseminate the UPR recommendations and discuss follow-up.
It has been over two years since the Royal Government of Cambodia accepted the UPR recommendations. At this stage, Member States are encouraged to submit a voluntary report to the Human Rights Council on the progress they have made in implementing the recommendations.
The RGC has developed its own report to take stock of progress in the implementation of the recommendations from the third UPR review. This consultation is organized with the objective of sharing this assessment and encouraging feedback from various stakeholders, including line ministries, civil society and development partners on the status of implementation of the recommendations. I encourage the RGC to consider the comments received today and to submit its mid-term report to the Human Rights Council as part of Cambodia’s follow-up to the last UPR review and in preparation for the next one.
As the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Cambodia, I would like to stress how unique and important the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review is for the United Nations system as a whole. Why? Because it stands for some of the key values of the United Nations. Let me name three: universality, equality and cooperation.
Universality. The UPR ensures that each Member State of the United Nations undergoes a review of its human rights performance by its peers. This means that all countries will be reviewed for all their human rights obligations. These obligations cover the whole range of human rights including, for example, gender equality, treaty ratifications, land rights, political participation, labour rights, access to justice, education, health, child protection - to name just a few.
This also highlights that, if I may borrow the words of our Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, that “human rights are universal and indivisible. One cannot pick and choose, favouring some while disdaining others.”
[The second key value embodied by the UPR is] Equality. The UPR covers all states and is based on the principle of equal treatment for all States, whether big or small. Every country’s review is carried in the exact same way without discrimination.
[The third key value promoted by the UPR is] Cooperation. The UPR is a peer review and carried out in a spirit of cooperation among all member States. Therefore, an important aspect of the UPR is the creation of space for human rights dialogue, not only between States but also with civil society, United Nations agencies and development partners. Importantly, the UN’s Human Rights Council strongly encourages the involvement of all stakeholders in all stages of the UPR, including the follow-up to the recommendations.
While the Government’s role in the implementation of the recommendations is crucial, let me stress that civil society can play a key implementation role throughout the implementation cycle of the UPR, including on the local and provincial level. In this spirit, the follow-up to the UPR presents Cambodia with a valuable opportunity to exchange views among civil society and the Government, as well as other stakeholders, on human rights in Cambodia – providing a solid basis for the implementation of the UPR recommendations and more generally, for the implementation of related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Because, to quote Secretary-General Guterres again, “every measure to uphold human rights helps deliver sustainable development and peace”.
Take for example the recommendation to “strengthen efforts to guarantee birth registration for all persons born in Cambodia, including minorities and populations difficult to reach, such as border communities” (110.135 by Mexico). A child without birth certificate will be unlikely to go to school, or access other crucial social services. Implementation of this recommendation is, therefore, crucial to ensure no one is left behind and everyone can reach their full potential in life, that all have an equal opportunity to contribute to sustainable development.
Another example are the recommendations related to political participation, such as, for example, recommendation 110.103 to “Promote dialogue among political actors, freedom and the rights of the people and the democratic process, in order to unite the people towards development; in this process, ensure an environment in which the rights of all political actors, civil society, the media and others are respected and their activities are not constrained”. The implementation of this recommendation, linked not only to participation but to fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and assembly, is at the heart of SDG 16, which seeks to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies. In this regard, I also encourage the Royal Government of Cambodia to consider dropping charges against members of the political opposition, especially those who are part of ongoing mass trials.
The COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years has added to the challenges which Cambodia, along with the rest of the world, has had to overcome to navigate a “new normal”. In this regard, implementing the recommendations relating to non-discrimination and groups in situations of vulnerability will also go a long way to ensure that no one is left behind as we recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will contribute to achieving SDG 10 aimed at reducing inequalities. These include, for example, the recommendation to “Continue to strengthen social policies in favour of the people, with special emphasis on the most vulnerable sectors (rec 110.56 by Venezuela); or to “Introduce an anti-discrimination law that guarantees and explicitly prohibits all kinds of discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics” (rec 110.45 by Iceland). During my conversations with LGBTI community in Cambodia, they have continuously identified the obtention of legal marriage equality as a priority to protect their rights and reduce the high levels of discrimination they face. The UN supports recommendations by Iceland, Netherlands, and Canada, to allow same-sex couples to marry, in order to promote equality for all Cambodians.
It is, therefore, particularly welcome that the Cambodian Human Rights Committee invited the United Nations in Cambodia to co-organize a consultation on its mid-term report on implementation of the UPR. In bringing together national and international stakeholders, today’s event is an important step in a collaborative effort towards the full implementation of the UPR recommendations.
In this spirit, the UN in Cambodia welcomes this opportunity to support the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and all participants here today in this endeavour. For the United Nations as a whole, promoting dialogue on human rights is a priority. I encourage the CHRC and the various line ministries present to take into account today’s discussions as they continue to plan and coordinate the implementation of the various UPR recommendations despite the new challenges which the COVID-19 pandemic may have added to the existing ones. I would also like to reiterate the United Nations in Cambodia’s offer to continue supporting the Royal Government of Cambodia in this effort.
I wish you a very productive consultation. Thank you.