Third Review of Lebanon’s Human Rights situation and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process
Statement by Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon at the ANND virtual meeting to review CSOs UPR report
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s a great pleasure to be with you today and thank you for inviting me to contribute to this very important event.
Firstly, I would like to recognize and commend the work of all the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) who pulled their efforts together to contribute to the UPR process.
As we all know, we are at what many observers consider as one of the toughest times in Lebanon’s history. The country is facing a multidimensional crisis that is weighing heavily and severely on the people, we are witnessing a shrinking of civic space and serious violations of freedom of expression. COVID 19 confinement and economic impact has increased violence against women and children, basic rights including access to basic services are violated every day and finally we see a very worrisome trend of hate speech in all kind of media. More than ever, we need to place human rights at the center of our strategies.
The forthcoming UPR review of Lebanon (to be held on 18 January) provides a unique opportunity to express our collective commitment to promote and protect human rights in Lebanon.
As we all know, the importance of the UPR process lies in its recognition of the role of different stakeholders, including the civil society, as full partners in the assessment and review process, which allow a multilateral dialogue on human rights violations and recommendations.
Since the UPR review process was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006, it has become an important pillar of the UN human rights system. Apart from inputs by civil society actors, the review is informed by assessments made by the UN system. It also benefits from the observations and recommendations of independent experts of the UN human rights treaty bodies and of the special procedures on the UN Human Rights Council.
A unique feature of the UPR process is that it is a State-driven peer review, involving all 193 UN Member States that agreed to submit themselves periodic reviews to assess progress in implementing the Human Rights commitments and obligations set out in the UN Charter; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and in the International Human Rights Treaties ratified by the concerned country.
The UPR recommendations set forth by peer countries and the commitments expressed by the Government of Lebanon to enforce them will guide our UN collaboration with public authorities and will inform our people-centered programmes in Lebanon. Therefore, supporting Lebanon in fulfilling its commitments and stepping up efforts to achieve human rights will help ensure the dignity of people.
The UPR recommendations and commitments also provide important guidance for action needed to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals that Lebanon, among other Member States, committed to achieve. It is through these Global Goals that we want to enable people to claim their rights and to uphold the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind”. And this promise requires us to eliminate all forms of discrimination and prevent all forms of human rights violations.
While the implementation of the UPR’s recommendations lies primarily in the hands of the Lebanese Government, civil society actors play a critical role in monitoring progress, overseeing implementation and assisting public authorities in meeting their full obligations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The role of Civil society in Lebanon has never been so instrumental and critical.
In a country that possesses one of the most diverse, dynamic and vibrant civil societies in the Middle East, the value that CSOs can bring to the reforms, recovery and development trajectory in Lebanon is immense.
Your values are our values: protecting and promoting the rights of everybody, fighting all kinds of discriminations, supporting those most in need, empowering women, creating opportunities for the youth, reinforcing the rule of law, fighting corruption… in one word leaving no one behind.
Your participation as representatives of marginalized social groups has been guaranteeing a democratic and inclusive approach to the UPR process. And for that, we are thankful.
Civil Society’s instrumental role to advance human rights protection was underlined in the “Guidelines for States on the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs” developed in 2018 by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the request of the Human Rights Council. These Guidelines also underscore that the independence and pluralism of civil society actors must be respected, protected and reinforced.
This requires a continuous effort to safeguard the inalienable rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly as well as the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including independent media, which are fundamental pillars of a democratic society and must always be safeguarded.
The UPR review of Lebanon comes at a very critical moment, as it is urgent and vital to restore public confidence and address grievances that triggered unprecedented nationwide public demonstrations amid a dire economic crisis, exacerbated by a public health crisis and the devastating explosions at the Port of Beirut. Ensuring the protection and realization of human rights will be critical for these efforts to succeed.
The need to place human rights at the center of reform efforts is also reflected in assessments and calls to action made by the UN system, including those presented in the Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (the 3RF), which we developed jointly with the European Union and the World Bank Group.
The people-centered 3RF is the result of an inclusive and participatory process where civil society acts as full partner in the oversight and accountability of the 3RF implementation process. They are our essential partner as we work with governments for reforms, human rights and sustainable development.
Now more than ever we need to ensure that “no one is left behind”. We must give special attention to those who are most in need, those unheard, underprivileged, excluded and at highest risk of facing discrimination in accessing basic services and enjoying their basic human rights. Together, we must move to action. We must step up the pace of implementation as we enter a new year of challenges but also of Hope for a better Lebanon.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
But achieving human rights in Lebanon requires deploying further efforts to reinforce Lebanese national protection mechanisms. This entails strengthening an effective and independent judiciary system and protecting the civic space to allow civil society actors to thrive and assume their substantial role to the service of people. It also requires operationalizing the Lebanese National Human Rights Commission and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
These national human rights institutions can play a critical role in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards, only if they are empowered to operate in an independent and proper manner. This was also stressed in the last UPR review, five years ago, and it has been repeatedly noted in the reports of the UN Secretary General to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1701.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The UPR process should contribute to this effort and facilitate engagement and collaboration between all sectors of society to implement reforms that ultimately ensure the realization of human rights in Lebanon.
As the UNSG said: “Societies are stronger when women and men play meaningful role in political, economic, social life, contributing to policy making that affects their lives including by accessing information, engaging in dialogue, expressing dissent and joining together to express their views”. This is at the heart of Leaving no one behind, this is our manifesto in UN, so count on us, count on our support. It’s a collective duty vis-à-vis humanity.
 The Commission is mandated to protect and promote human rights in Lebanon, to monitor and report on human rights, to review the legislation and to receive and process individual complaints on alleged human rights violations.
 The Committee for the Prevention of Torture has the power to visit all places of detention, interview inmates, monitor and report on its findings, and to process individual cases of alleged ill-treatment.