HRC 48: Statement for the Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on international order

48th session of the Human Rights Council

Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on international order

Thank you, President.

Action Canada makes this statement on behalf of the #EmptyChairs campaign.

We welcome the Independent Expert’s report that recognizes the pandemic’s impact on civil society participation in this Council and elsewhere. Our contributions are an afterthought and undervalued. This has been undeniable during the pandemic. The multilateral system has always been a space for elites, excluding the majority of the world, and serving as a microcosm of the colonial, ableist, and patriarchal patterns we face daily in our societies. The system is premised upon principles of expediency over inclusiveness. The chronic underfunding of the Secretariat only increases the exclusion.

At some point there was hope that the Council would be a place where states would answer for their actions and where people could seek remedy for human rights violations - but that hope has faded over time. During this pandemic, the UN’s international cooperation mandate has given way to States’ and corporate interests. Barriers to entering multilateral spaces including denial of visas, ECOSOC status requirements, unsustainable cost of travel, lack of translation, lack of access for people with disabilities, technology access and safety issues, and so-called efficiency measures that restrict civil society participation, all take away the nuance and expertise that civil society brings in pursuit of social justice and equality. All of this is symbolized by the empty chairs throughout the UN.

The United Nations is ultimately accountable to us, the people. Now is the time to rethink multilateralism: When it has become so clear that its current modalities are no longer fit for purpose, how do we transform it? Does it continue to be a state-centered initiative? Or can we reshape it so that it is really accountable to the people?