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Human Rights Council Advisory Committee Adopts its Rules of Procedure and Closes Debate on the Right to Food

United Nations Human Rights Council

August 6, 2009

World

Discusses New Priorities, including the Human Rights of Elderly People 

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this morning adopted its rules of procedure and methods of work, closed its debate on the right to food, and began its consideration of new priorities, including on the human rights of elderly persons. 
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council further discussed and subsequently adopted its rules of procedure and methods of work, (A/HRC/AC/3/CRP.1), which were presented by Latif Huseynov, Advisory Committee Rapporteur.

Josť Antonio Bengoa Cabello, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, introducing the framework on discrimination in the context of the right to food, stressed that this was a guide framework and not a recommendation. The Working Group on the right to food proposed a framework which included focus on three main themes: the first theme focused on discrimination in the context of the right to food; the second theme focused on good practices; and the third theme focused on anti-discriminatory policies and strategies. 

Jean Ziegler, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said the Working Group had agreed to submit the paper to the Secretariat by December, so they could prepare it for the January meeting, but in January the Committee would only be able to amend the document, and not request new research, as the report had to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in March. 

Chinsung Chung, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing the topic of human rights of elderly people within the context of the Committee's new priorities, said that vulnerability, discrimination and human rights violations on the basis of age needed special attention and targeted action. Bringing forward the human rights of elderly people in an integrated manner in the work of the UN human rights mechanisms and highlighting the issues of responsibility and accountability were most compellingly needed at the moment. 

Experts speaking in the discussion were Halima Embarek Warzazi, Emmanuel Decaux, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Mona Zulficar, Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Shigeki Sakamoto, Bernards Andrews Nyamwaya Mudho, Shiqiu Chen, Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Purificacion V. Quisumbing, Josť Antonio Bengoa Cabello, Jean Ziegler and Chinsung Chung. 

Also speaking was a representative of Argentina. 

The Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet next on Friday, 7 August at 10 a.m. to adopt their resolutions to the Human Rights Council before concluding their third session. 

Right to Food 

JOSE ANTONIO BENGOA CABELLO, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said with regard to the study on discrimination in the context of the right to food, he stressed that this was a guide framework and not a recommendation. The Working Group on the right to food proposed a framework which included focus on three main themes: the first theme focused on discrimination in the context of the right to food: in legislation, customary law and culture; in terms of region, subsidies, prices, markets, resources and infrastructure services; against peasants; the right to food and the urban poor; and against women, children, refugees and other vulnerable groups. The second theme of focus was on good practices: peasant agriculture, identity, positive discrimination based on origin, special identity of products only; forms of cooperation including cooperatives, associations, trade unions, cooperatives of women producers and consumers - a core aspect of good practices; addressing issues related to toxic food, genetically modified seeds; education systems and food security; peasants' control of intellectual property related to food; microfinance for poor women, which gave very good results; and good practices related to the urban poor. The last theme of focus was anti-discriminatory policies and strategies: the question of land and agricultural reform; the promotion of different forms of cooperation and association; vertical and horizontal networks between producers and consumers; the rights of peasants; legal and social protection of rural women; and the legal and social protection of vulnerable populations exposed to the risk of hunger and its other human rights implications. 

Jean Ziegler, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, speaking about the working paper on discrimination in the context of the right to food, said the Working Group met yesterday between midday and two o'clock. The Working Group had agreed by consensus not to make any comments. The paper would be submitted to the Secretariat by December so that they could prepare it for the January meeting, but in January the Committee would only be able to amend the document, and not request new research, as the report had to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in March. Any observation or suggestion for research had to be made here and now, therefore. It was of course necessary to take account in the report of yesterday's debate, as some of the suggestions made were not issues taken up in the report. 

SEBASTIAN ROSALES (Argentina) said Argentina welcomed Mr. Bengoa's presentation, which included a series of new elements, but could not at this time comment on them all. There was a series of elements that were of great importance and which they hoped to refer to at a later time. Such elements included the reference to fertilizers, single crop production and genetically modified organisms, which required further study and consideration. The delegation said they wanted to take the floor when the programme of work of the Advisory Committee was put to the Council. 

Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Advisory Committee Expert, asked to what degree regional and international trends on discrimination were factored into the conceptual framework, as he saw the latter very much as a one-State framework. The Committee could not write books and had to focus on issues, but to what extent were international, regional, and global trends going to make a part of the work, he asked. 

Josť Antonio Bengoa CABELLO, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, responding to this question, said that it was important to be modest in order to be effective. The Committee was not the World Trade Organization, and the topics and concerns expressed by Argentina were things that it would be able to work on from the point of view of discrimination in the context of the right to food, however there were points that may not refer to certain countries. On discrimination in terms of regions, this was something that would be stuck to. The more complex topic, which had been dealt with over last years by the World Trade Organization (WTO), was not going to be tackled at all. The Committee was not mandated to replace the Food and Agriculture Organization or the WTO - it was going to examine the human rights issue and discrimination in terms of the right to food, examine good practice and policy, and should come up with something that was modest, but at the same time suitable, effective and positive. 

Human Rights of Elderly People 

CHINSUNG CHUNG, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing the topic of human rights of elderly people within the context of the Committee's new priorities agenda item, said that according to UN statistics, the number of elderly people aged 60 years or over had reached 688 million in 2006 and was projected to grow to almost 2 billion by 2050, at which time the population of older persons would be larger than the population of children 0-14 years for the first time in human history. One out of every 9 persons was now aged 60 years or over; it was projected that by 2050 1 person out every 5, and by 2150 1 out of every 3 would be aged 60 years or over. Considering the situation that millions of elderly people across the world faced unequal treatment or denial of basic rights, specifically in terms of chronic poverty, violence and abuse, lack of education, little or no access to the law, and exclusion from social and political participation, the growing concern over the speed and scale of global ageing was not a matter only related to the economic and social development agenda. A 2006 survey of 17 countries with social pensions showed that 83 per cent of older persons did not receive a social pension. 

Ms. Chung acknowledged that in the UN system there had been ongoing efforts to address the challenges of population ageing and concerns regarding elderly people. The UN Principles for Old Persons was adopted in 1991, which was of a programmatic nature. In addition, the General Assembly had adopted resolutions requesting the mainstreaming of ageing issues in the work of the UN as a whole. Vulnerability, discrimination and human rights violations on the basis of age needed special attention and targeted action, stressed Ms. Chung. They had learnt from the examples of gender and human rights mainstreaming that the human rights paradigm was an indispensable and effective foundation for the promotion and protection of women's rights. In this regard, there was a need to bring forward the human rights of elderly people in an integrated manner in the work of the UN human rights mechanisms and highlighting the issues of responsibility and accountability were most compellingly needed at the moment. Further, she suggested that the studies on the human rights issues of elderly people may start with the collection and analysis of data regarding human rights violations against elderly people, and also assessment and integration of the good practices for the protection of elderly people from human rights perspectives. 

Emmanuel Decaux, Advisory Committee Expert, said he wished to support Ms. Chung's proposal and encourage her in her work, and hoped the Committee would take up this priority. 

Halima Embarek Warzazi, Advisory Committee Chairperson, said the issue was of concern to all people in all countries, and there was a problem with regards to elderly people and their welfare throughout the world. 
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