Backgrounder Article from  Global Affairs Canada

Advancing human rights

UN Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council (HRC) is the primary forum in the UN system for responding to and monitoring human rights situations globally. It has 47 member states.

The HRC engages both member states and global civil society organizations and is the primary UN forum that convenes regularly to address global human rights issues. It is here that reports from the high commissioner for human rights and special mandate holders, as well as the outcomes of universal periodic reviews, are presented and discussed by UN member states. Council resolutions on pressing human rights concerns are negotiated by state delegations. The HRC responds to urgent human rights situations through innovative and selective use of special sessions, special mandate holders and commissions of inquiry.

Canada is a strong supporter of the international human rights system and the HRC’s role of monitoring and promoting states’ implementation of their human rights obligations.

The 31st Regular Session of the Human Rights Council is taking place from February 29 to March 24, 2016, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) supports the high commissioner for human rights and has a general mandate to protect and promote human rights, thereby serving as a strong and credible force in denouncing human rights abuses. Roughly half of its workforce is deployed in field missions, delivering technical assistance, advice, monitoring and reporting services in some of the most challenging situations in the world. Canada announced a contribution of $15 million over the next three years to support the OHCHR’s work.

Mine Ban Treaty

Canada played a leading role in the establishment of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (also known as the Ottawa Convention or Mine Ban Treaty) and subsequent efforts toward its implementation and universalization. Canada was the first country to sign and ratify the Convention, considered by many as among the world’s most successful disarmament treaties.

Through the collective efforts of states, international organizations and civil society, 162 countries are now party to the Convention, the number of known direct victims has been reduced from more than 26,000 per year to fewer than 3,400, at least 38 states have ceased production of anti-personnel mines, more than 48 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed and more than a billion square metres of land have been cleared or otherwise deemed mine-free and returned to productive use.

Conference on Disarmament

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) was established in 1979 as a key component of the UN disarmament machinery. It is composed of 65 members, who meet for three sessions per year under six presidencies, which rotate in alphabetical order. The 2016 presidents are Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland and South Korea. The CD is the only forum for multilateral disarmament negotiations that brings together China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States (the five “nuclear weapon states” recognized as such in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) with India, Israel and Pakistan (the three nuclear weapon states not recognized in the Treaty) and North Korea.

Canada believes in the importance of the CD as a multilateral disarmament negotiating body and supports efforts to reform it in order to help address its near 20-year impasse.

Canada believes that the negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty is the best means to return the CD to its mandated role. A fissile material cut-off treaty would be a binding and verifiable international agreement to prohibit the production of fissile materials (for example, highly enriched uranium and plutonium) for use in nuclear weapons. 

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Hon. Stéphane Dion Global Affairs Canada Government and Politics

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