Geneva: The UN Human Rights Council successfully adopted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on the UAE in Geneva on Friday, marking the conclusion of the UAE's participation in the current cycle of the UPR.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Mohammad Gargash, announced that the UAE has fully accepted 100 recommendations, partially accepted or noted 61 recommendations and rejected 19 recommendations made by UN member states during the UPR session in January 2013. Among the accepted recommendations is the decision by the UAE to establish a national human rights institution.
Dr Gargash noted with satisfaction that the Council had recognized the significant progress achieved by the UAE in enhancing human rights protection and had applauded the UAE's national process in compiling the human rights report. Dr Gargash thanked all those present for their valuable contributions and was pleased to note the encouraging remarks made in the majority of interventions as the UAE progresses on its path to peace and prosperity.
In his statement to the Human Rights Council's concluding session to adopt the UAE's report, Dr Gargash emphasized the UAE's commitment to the UPR process as a tool to support and enhance national capacity building and improve human rights amongst nations, and declared: "Our domestic and international efforts stem from our national values and cultural heritage, which enshrine justice, tolerance, equality, and international responsibility. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential component of our principles, and we are proud of the progress we have made in improving the quality of life of our citizens."
In addition to these values underpinning the UAE's progress on human rights, he especially noted the continued solid improvement of the labor environment in the legislative and executive field and committed that the UAE will continue on this path of progressively enhancing labor conditions.
Additionally, he emphasized the empowerment of women as a major objective in building a modern and progressive society with confidence in the future. In December 2012, the UAE's Cabinet issued a decree to promote the participation of women on the boards of government agencies and companies, making the UAE the second country in the world with mandatory female presence in board rooms, and the first in the Arab region. The UAE will also serve on the Executive Board of UN Women until 2015.
Furthermore, Dr Gargash emphasized that cultural and religious tolerance continues to be a hallmark of the UAE's agenda and that this is an essential component in building a fair and attractive society.
Dr Gargash subsequently emphasized that the UAE will continue to protect its public security and stability in full compliance with the applicable legal standards of the country. He stated that "Any violations of national laws will be investigated and dealt with in accordance with the laws of our country, and measures provided for by the law will be taken in case of violations."
Dr Gargash also highlighted the pioneering role of the UAE in combating human trafficking in the region, as he announced that the UAE became a formal member of the Bali Process in April 2013. Moreover, he discussed the UAE's efforts to build institutional capacity within government departments to promote human rights, and to create improved legal protection for the expatriate labor force.
In a bid to improve the protection of human rights across the world, once every four years the Human Rights Council holds a public review of each of the 193 member states of the UN to examine where they are doing well and where they can improve. This was the second such review process for the UAE since the UPR was instituted in 2006.
With the adoption of thel UPR report, the UAE's Standing Committee on the Universal Periodic Review will now strive to implement across the government the recommendations that have been accepted and continue to improve its protection and promotion of human rights.
Below is the text of speech by Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash:
On behalf of the United Arab Emirates, I am honoured to return to Geneva to participate in this session of the Human Rights Council, and witness the adoption of the report on the UAE's participation in the Universal Periodic Review.
On 28 January, we engaged in a fruitful and productive dialogue about the UAE's human rights record. The UAE explained its substantial progress on protecting human rights, and we were grateful for the constructive recommendations that we received.
As I said in January, the UAE greatly appreciates the universal review process and the opportunity it gives us to have an open debate with the international community. This mechanism also allows us to review our own record on human rights, ponder our achievements, and identify opportunities for further improvement.
I would particularly like to thank the Troika – Ethiopia, Germany and Thailand – and the Secretariat, for their cooperation in completing the report of the debate.
The UAE works continuously on enhancing its human rights record and, to that end, interacts in a positive manner with the international community on ways to improve it.
Our domestic and international efforts stem from our national values and cultural heritage, which enshrine justice, tolerance, equality, and international responsibility. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential component of our principles, and we are proud of the progress we have made in improving the lives of our citizens.
We will therefore keep up our commitment to strive improving our record, so that we may preserve the values that have made the UAE such an attractive and successful society.
One hundred and eighty recommendations were submitted to us in January, by eighty-eight states. We are thankful for all the observations and recommendations that were presented to us.
The UAE has taken the time to carefully study all those recommendations. Our national Standing Committee on the Universal Periodic Review evaluated all recommendations and extensively consulted federal and local government entities, civil society organizations, and our national assembly – the Federal National Council.
After organizing debates with those organizations and gathering their input, we presented the recommendations to the UAE's Cabinet. The Cabinet subsequently determined the suitability of those recommendations with the UAE's Constitution, national legislation, and culture, and decided to: Fully accept one hundred recommendations; Partially accept seven recommendations; Note fifty-four recommendations; and Reject only nineteen recommendations.
The UAE has readily accepted the vast majority of the recommendations that were made in January. The small number that were rejected, was determined to be in conflict with our legal and cultural frameworks. I am more than happy to discuss later with you why we chose to reject certain recommendations.
But let me now move on to the many recommendations that we did wholeheartedly accept and are ready to implement. The UAE will go the extra mile to ensure the full implementation of these recommendations. I will discuss each main topic in turn.
In the field of continuing legal and legislative reforms at the national level, I am pleased to inform you that a new law to guarantee better protection for children in accordance with international standards is in the final stages of approval. Furthermore, we are in the process of amending our law on combating human trafficking, in order to provide greater safeguards for victims of trafficking in line with the Palermo Protocol. Work is also advancing rapidly to introduce partial amendments to the media law, which would aim to guarantee the freedom of expression and freedom of the press, prevent the penalty of deprivation of liberty for journalists, and take into account recent international developments in journalism and the media.
In the context of strengthening the role of national institutions and mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights, I am pleased to announce that the UAE has accepted the recommendation to establish a national human rights institution. Furthermore, the role of the Federal National Council in human rights protection has been enhanced, as the Council's newly established permanent committee on human rights first met in May 2013. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior in the first quarter of this year created a specialized committee on human rights that aims to increase awareness of human rights standards within law enforcement agencies.
Considering the UAE's relation to international human rights instruments, I can inform you the competent authorities are preparing the necessary studies to consider the withdrawal of a number of reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. We will also ask the Cabinet to approve the UAE's accession to the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the other on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
To strengthen cooperation with existing international human rights mechanisms, we will welcome in the second half of 2013 a visit by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The UAE has also agreed to invite the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. Furthermore, the UAE will shoulder its responsibilities in supporting international organizations concerned with human rights, foremost by continuing to provide financial support to relevant United Nations funds. This includes support to enhance the efforts and activities of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Regarding the creation of a culture of human rights, the UAE – in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner – is to put forward a comprehensive national training and capacity building program for national officials. We will monitor the resources that are needed to successfully execute this training program. Furthermore, the UAE will continue to raise awareness of human rights throughout the country.
In the context of promoting a culture of political participation in the state, please allow me to reiterate the achievements in this field which I already mentioned in January. The UAE has consolidated the foundations of the electoral process, based on a program of political empowerment as announced by the UAE's President in 2005. Furthermore, the Ministry of State for Federal National Council Affairs has launched a number of joint programs with civil society organizations and educational institutions that aim to spread a culture of political participation among members of our society. A specialized department and a national program of support will sustain these efforts in the years to come.
In the area of promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, I am able to announce that we are in the final stages of updating the national strategy for the advancement of women for the period 2013-2017. The UAE has already made serious progress in this field, for example by increasing the number of women in senior decision-making positions. More specifically, the UAE Cabinet issued a decree to promote the participation of women on the boards of government agencies and companies, becoming the second country in the world with mandatory female presence in board rooms, and the first in the Arab region.
On the international level, the UAE will serve as a Member of the Executive Board of UN Women until 2015. In this capacity, we will actively engage in activities to promote women's empowerment in collaboration with other governments. For example, we have decided to support the UK's important initiative to combat sexual violence in conflict situations, which includes a pledge earlier this month of one million dollars towards capacity building in Somalia for this purpose. Furthermore, we will also support initiatives to promote the right to education for girls in various low-income countries.
Regarding the UAE's anti-human trafficking activities, I can inform you that our National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking recently released its sixth annual report in April. With each passing year, the UAE's strategy to counter this crime is becoming more robust and we are achieving encouraging results. The latest report has been designed to reflect the shift from the four-pillar policy to the main international standards of the ‘Five Ps' policy, which includes Prevention, Prosecution, Punishment, Protection and Promotion of international cooperation. As part of this strategy, we are about to launch the second national campaign at the UAE's airports to raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking. Furthermore, I am proud to announce that in April, the UAE became a formal member of the Bali Process and its Ad Hoc Group to address human trafficking.
The UAE has sought, and will continue to seek, to develop its labor laws in order to improve the living conditions for foreign workers, especially domestic workers. The UAE is about to finalize a law to protect domestic workers. This year, the Ministry of Labor has also taken further measures to implement the legislative and procedural protection of contract workers, in order to provide more safeguards. This is aided by organizational units within the Ministry of Labor that focus on labor guidance, protection of wages, and combating human trafficking.
On the international level, the UAE will cooperate effectively with sending countries by signing memoranda of understanding that promote employment, provide safeguards and monitor the difficulties faced by contractual workers in the UAE.
The UAE's Standing Committee on the UPR will lead the work with all relevant government bodies and civil society organizations to ensure proper implementation of the adopted recommendations. We are committed to this goal, and will identify all the appropriate stakeholders and ensure that implementation will happen according to a strict timetable. The Standing Committee will provide a centralized database to compile our achievements on implementation, and I look forward to briefing you on our progress at the UAE's next periodic review session.
Before I conclude my statement, please allow me to thank you and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for your inspiring leadership in this Council and valuable contributions you have made to the functioning of the Universal Periodic Review. The UAE's delegation welcomes with an open mind the questions and suggestions from all those present today.