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23 July 2021 | Updated on 23 July 2021

The 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council took place between 21 June and 13 July to review the state of human rights around the world. As the latest session came to an end, what were the wins and the missed opportunities regarding human rights online?

Human rights online and bridging digital divides

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existential threats to civil society and shown the importance of bridging digital divides. The resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet puts an important focus on bridging digital divides and protecting human rights online. States should implement this resolution by taking concrete measures to enhance internet accessibility and affordability and by ceasing internet shutdowns and other disruptions.

In the same line, the resolution on new and emerging digital technologies and human rights promotes a greater role for human rights in technical standard-setting processes for new and emerging digital technologies, and in the policies of states and businesses. It introduces new language that stresses the importance of respecting and promoting human rights in the conception, design, use, development, further deployment and impact assessments of technologies.

Women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights

The resolution on menstrual hygiene management is an important step in addressing deep-rooted stigma and discrimination. However, the increasing number of amendments and attempts to weaken the resolutions on HIV and AIDS are a setback, as is the continued resistance of many states to previously adopted texts on violence against women and girls and preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. Women's rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights should not be instrumentalised.

Racial justice

Historic consensus around racial justice was achieved through a resolution mandating an independent mechanism. This is a testament to the resilience of victims and their families and defenders globally. However, efforts by some Western states, particularly former colonial powers, to weaken the text continue to pose threats to racial justice.

States should cooperate fully with the racial justice mechanism to dismantle systemic racism, end impunity for racialised state violence, ensure accountability and reparations, and address root causes, especially the legacies of enslavement, colonialism and the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans.

On migrants and international borders

On migrants’ rights, the return of a resolution on the human rights of migrants is good news, but the Council failed to respond meaningfully to the severity and global scale of violations at international borders, including connected to pushbacks.

International borders must not be treated as places outside of international human rights law and migrants must not be treated as people outside of international human rights law. Expressions of deep concern in interactive dialogues must be translated into action on independent monitoring and accountability.

States continue to violate human rights

The Council scrutinised Belarus, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Israeli settlements in Palestine, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Syria and Venezuela. However, it once again failed to respond meaningfully to serious human rights violations in various other countries, including Algeria, China, Colombia and the Philippines.

No Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change

The world is facing an unprecedented climate and environmental emergency. Scientists have identified human activity as primarily responsible for the climate crisis, which together with rampant environmental pollution and the unbridled activities of the extractive and agricultural industries, pose a direct threat to the sustainability of life on this planet, as APC’s 2020 Global Information Society Watch on Technology, the environment and a sustainable world: Responses from the global South reports.

More information

Read the full statement

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