During the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, OYSU representatives were invited to participate in a number of important events. On September 13th they presented at an event focusing on barriers and difficulties faced by minority representatives at the UN. Under the title “Minorities’ Participation at the UN” representatives of different unrepresented nations gave account of their first-hand experience as human rights activists at the UN and in particular of the difficulties that they themselves, as well as their colleagues, faced in accessing UN fora or taking the floor. OYSU representatives brought attention to the dangerous position human rights activists find themselves in as representatives of minority communities. Further, they gave account of harassments and threats by national authorities to stop activists from reporting human rights violations at fora such as the Human Rights Council, even on UN premises. At this event a training Pack for underrepresented diplomats was introduced; a useful instrument to organize and facilitate trainings on advocacy skills, as well as the UNPO-TJC-Oxford report on State-bullying tactics.
Bringing together victims and activists, the side-event, entitled “Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2017: A Dream for Unrepresented Nations and Peoples?” on September 14th offered a platform for speakers to discuss the significance of freedom of religion or belief as a human right. They also tackled the wide-ranging consequences of the systematic denial of this freedom by authoritarian or repressive regimes, based on their experience or first-hand accounts of persecution. OYSU representatives stressed that In the Ogaden region today, the muslim population cannot practice their religion freely, without being labelled terrorists by the Ethiopian authorities, or being targeted through the infamous Anti-Terror legislation. Since the Ogaden region is closed off from the rest of the world, Ethiopian authorities can create their own narrative about what is happening in the region, using allegations of terrorism as a justification for cracking down on the liberation movement in the area.
On September 14th, the Society for Threatened Peoples, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Ogaden People’s Rights Organization (OPRO) organised a side-event to the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This conference, entitled “From Humanitarian Crisis to Human Rights Emergency in the Ogaden Region”, aimed at bringing attention on the dire humanitarian situation in the Ogaden region, stressing the issues of drought, famine and the cholera epidemic. The event shed light in particular on the human rights violations that this situation entails and on how the Ethiopian State’s disregard for human rights allowed for this crisis to exacerbate further. The first panel, entitled “Humanitarian distress in the Ogaden region”, served as an introduction to the humanitarian crisis currently occurring in the area, underlining how the situation is also made possible by the State’s disregard for human rights. Entitled “From humanitarian crisis to human rights emergency”, the second panel of the conference explored how the humanitarian situation affects people’s fundamental rights and how urgent humanitarian action is also a question of human rights in this context. Presenters stressed that if information about the predictable shortage of rains had been shared with the pastoralists in advance, the drought wouldn’t have had as much impact on their lives. It was stated that “an early warning system is needed but the authoritarian government, the lack of freedom of expression and the media prevent it from existing”. Presenters also highlighted that the agro-pastoralist life is already a difficult one but that the human rights crisis in the region makes it worse. The Ethiopian government refusing to sound the alarm to preserve the image of the country is a violation of the people’s rights, including that to health.
Please find here the oral statement for the Annual Discussion on the Integration of a Gender Perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its Mechanisms.