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India elected to UN Rights Council with highest votes

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 13: India was elected with the highest number of votes by the General Assembly to the influential Human Rights Council on Friday with a pledge to combat intolerance. India received 188 votes, the highest polled by any of the 18 countries elected from the 193-member General Assembly.

India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said: "It is a reflection of how the world community sees India and its role in the world. Human rights for us is a matter of natural choice, we are a democracy, we are a robust and vibrant society."

This is the fifth time India is elected to the Geneva-based Council, the main body of the UN charged with promoting and monitoring human rights.

On the Council, Akbaruddin said, "You will find us active on a whole host of things relating to human rights, but also in a non-confrontational way and and trying to promote a balanced approach to human right."

When it nominated itself for the Council, India pledged that it "will continue to support international efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

India's presence on the Council will be important because the previous UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein asked the body to facilitate an international commission of inquiry into allegations of human rights violation in Kashmir.

His successor Michelle Bachelet and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have backed Zeid's recommendation, which Pakistan -- a member of the Council -- is campaigning for. So far, no other country has backed Zeid's call for the investigation.

Bangladesh, which is at the frontlines of dealing with the Rohingya crisis, was also elected elected with 178 votes to the Council to fill one of the five vacancies for three year terms from the Asia-Pacific region.

The regional group endorsed five countries, which matched the number of seats open for election this year, and they were the only countries on the ballot. The other regional candidates were Bahrain, Fiji and the Philippines.

Thirteen other countries representing the other four regions were also elected to the Council.

The United States, which withdrew from the Council earlier this year, received a symbolic one write-in vote.

In January India will join China and Nepal, besides Pakistan, which were elected to the 47-member Council in previous years to serve three-year terms.

When it nominated itself for the Council, India showcased its position as "the world's largest democracy (and) India's secular polity."

In the nomination pledge, India presented a broader approach to human rights, emphasising climate justice, health and poverty alleviation.

India was among the first batch of 47 countries elected to the Council in 2006 soon after it was set up and received an initial one-year term instead of three to facilitate a rotating roster of vacancies each year.

It was again elected in 2007, 2011 and 2014 to three-year-terms.

Countries can be elected for only two consecutive terms and India took a year's break when its term ended in 2017.

Elections were held by secret ballot in the 193-member General Assembly on Friday, although the number of candidates for all the five regions matched the vacancies making it a formality. But it gave countries a choice to refrain from voting for some countries.

On the 47-member Council the seats are allocated based on "equitable regional distribution" giving the Asia-Pacific region a total of 13 seats, with some coming up for election every year.

The African region also has 13 seats, while East European region has six, West European and others seven, and Latin American and Caribbean eight.

India moving from women development to women-led development: Sushmita Dev

By Deepak Arora

Sushmita DevUNITED NATIONS, Oct 8: Despite continuing improvement in realization of their rights, women across the world continue to face discrimination and exclusion. Speaking at the Third Committee meeting of 73rd UN General Assembly here, Indian Member of Parliament (MP) Sushmita Dev stated while more women were now engaged in paid employment outside home, feminization of poverty remained a reality.

Ensuring equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes and ending violence and harmful practices against women have catalytic effects on overall social and economic progress, she said.

Sushmita Dev said India attaches utmost importance to representation of women in decision-making positions. “We are proud that the first President of the General Assembly was Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit from India.”

She said India was moving from women development to women-led development. Reservation of seats for women in local government has enabled more than 1.3 million directly elected women representatives to participate in formulating and implementing gender sensitive public policies in India.

Sushmita Dev said empowerment of women and girls was at the core of India’s efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda.

She said “women are the largest direct beneficiaries of government programmes that provide income security, health insurance and financial inclusion for poor families. As many as 164 million more women in India now have bank accounts which provide them and their family access to loans, social security benefits and insurance.

“Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme addresses empowerment of women over a life-cycle continuum through awareness generation and by encouraging education for girls. Mandatory paid Maternity Leave in India has been extended from 12 weeks to 26 weeks recently, making it the third longest in the world. Crèche facility at organizations having 50 or more employees is now mandatory.”

“Innovative measures such free cooking gas connections to 50 million women and toilets for girls in schools, have created enabling environment for women to participate more actively in economic pursuits,” she added.

Sushmita Dev said India was committed to stop all forms of violence and abusive behavior against women and girls. Provisions in our Criminal Law provides for stringent punishment for offences including all forms of violence, sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking and cybercrimes against women. One Stop Centres (OSC) and help-lines have been set up to support vulnerable women and victims of abuse.

She said there were legal safeguards to protect all women from child marriage, domestic violence and sexual harassment at their place of work. To ensure concerns of women are addressed adequately in law enforcement establishments, steps are under way to achieve a 33 per cent reservation for women in police forces.

Sushmita Dev said India was the first country to deploy an all-women formed police unit as part of the UN Peacekeeping mission UNMIL more than a decade ago. Their influence as role models in Liberia has been widely recognized.

She said “the gender parity achieved in senior management at the United Nations Secretariat is commendable. We also fully support UN Secretary General’s zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse in the organization.”

As one of the early signatories to the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, she said India was at the forefront of multilateral action in effective implementation the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action and the 2030 Agenda with empowerment and equal rights for women as the core strategy.

In conclusion, Sushmita Dev said India remained committed to strengthening international cooperation to promote equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hails India’s sanitation campaign

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 2: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres lauded Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his strong leadership and vision with regard to sanitation that was vital for the well-being of human. He said he entire UN system stands ready to support you. The Secretary General commended India for making the elimination of open defecation a priority at the highest level and throughout government.

Addressing the concluding session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention which marked the launch of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, UN Secretary General said elimination of open defecation is central to sanitation.

The convention is part of Indian government’s ‘Swachhata hi Seva hai’ programme that kicked off on September 15.

Antonio Guterres said to begin marking the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi by honouring his long record of advocacy and action on this vital issue is a fitting tribute to this great human being and example for all us.

He said Mahatma Gandhi was ahead of his time when it came to safe, hygienic sanitation – as he was in so many areas. He demanded the right of sanitation for everyone. And he demanded respect for that right from everyone. And the Clean India Mission builds on his genius and lifelong quest for human dignity.

The Secretary General said it was not only the largest investment, but the largest campaign of people’s mobilization in this area around the world. “It is inspiring to see the international community come together around this important issue. It is essential that we are ready to break taboos and speak out when lives are at stake, even on the most sensitive matters.”

“An estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide still do not have basic sanitation facilities -- I believe that what’s happening in India is quickly changing the statistics -- almost 1 billion still practice open defecation.

“All people have the right to safe water and sanitation. If we are to build resilient societies on a healthy planet and achieve the overarching ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must tackle this issue urgently, as is being done in India.”

Antonio Guterres said “the 2030 Agenda, agreed by all countries, is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity and sanitation plays a part in all three. No country can be content with less than universal sanitation; it is fundamental to sustainable development and India’s example is very much welcome at the present moment.”

He said “Poor sanitation causes disease, stunting, inconvenience and indignity. It exacerbates inequalities between men and women, rich and poor, city and countryside. And it has major implications for human rights and human dignity.

“Poor sanitation is not restricted to households and communities, but requires a holistic approach that includes schools, hospitals, transportation and even tourism facilities.

“Poor sanitation in healthcare facilities carries even more serious risks: more infections, prolonged hospital stays, higher death rates. That was the background to my global call to action in March, for water, sanitation and hygiene in all healthcare facilities by 2030.

Antonio Guterres said “the 2030 Agenda sets out our global aspiration to ensure all people have access to the sanitation they need, and India will be reaching our targets much before 2030. This means women, children, young people, and people with disabilities, the elderly, indigenous peoples, the homeless, prisoners, refugees and migrants.”

“Some of these groups are particularly hard to reach. They must be the focus of our most urgent efforts, if we are to meet our pledge to leave no one behind. That requires innovation, courage, commitment and leadership, as we have seen in the film that we were offered today.

“Eliminating open defecation must be central to efforts to improve sanitation. This practice poses a serious threat to children, contributing to the diarrhea and to malnutrition and stunting that has a lifelong impact.

The Secretary General said improving sanitation was not only the right thing to do, but also economically the smart thing to do.

He said “the World Health Organization estimates that every dollar spent on sanitation generates a return of between $5 and $16, based on lower costs of healthcare, improved worker productivity and fewer premature deaths.”

“Poor sanitation and open defecation have a disproportionate impact on women and girls. They may face an increased risk of harassment and abuse, restrictions on their personal freedom of movement, and increased health risks because of lack of access to sanitation facilities and to menstruation materials.

“Girls cannot wait for safe, clean, private toilets in their schools. And women should not have to wait for sanitation in public spaces and workplaces.

He said Sustainable Development Goal 6 concerns sanitation for all, but this issue is essential to achieving all the SDGs, particularly those on health, nutrition, sustainable cities and gender equality.

'Impossible to build multi-polar world without relevant role of India'

NEW DELHI, Oct 1: On his maiden visit to India as the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said on Monday that it is impossible to build a multi-polar world without a very relevant role of India. He also lauded India saying it is becoming a fundamental pillar of multilateralism.

“India is becoming a fundamental pillar of multilateralism, and at the same time, as we want a multipolar world, it is impossible to build a multi-polar world without a very relevant role of India,” Guterres said.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the UN House, Guterres said India is becoming a global power, and is batting for a comprehensive approach towards development. He said the United Nations should work with India, support its development plans and back its leadership in regard to climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Guterres arrived here Monday as the head of the world body and his visit coincides with the commencement of events marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Ahead of his visit, the UN chief said that India is an “important partner” of the UN in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. Guterres also said there are plans to step up cooperation between the UN and India on strengthening capacity in combating terror financing.

During his visit, Guterres will participate in the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention and call on Modi Tuesday. He will also deliver a lecture at the India Habitat Centre on the theme of ‘Global challenges, global solutions’

On Tuesday, the UN chief will meet Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and participate in the second re-invest and first assembly of the International Solar Alliance, and energy ministers meet of the Indian Ocean Rim Association member countries.

On October 3, Guterres will attend the ‘Champions of Earth’ ceremony here and meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. The same day, he will visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and leave for New York in the early hours of October 4.

Guterres had visited India in July 2016, just months ahead of the election for Secretary General.

 

 

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