UN liquidity crisis: Rights groups call on States to #PayYourDues

UN liquidity crisis: Rights groups call on States to #PayYourDues

As the United Nations face a historic liquidity crisis due to unpaid dues, civil society urges Member States to fulfill their financial obligations, safeguarding critical human rights operations.

The failure of States to pay their membership dues to the United Nations (UN) in full and on time is causing a financial liquidity crisis for the organisation. According to the UN Secretary-General, the UN faced the highest level of arrears in its history at the end of 2023, the impacts of which are being felt by victims and survivors of human rights violations and abuses. As of 15 April 2024, only 100 UN member States have paid their dues in full. Human rights groups call on all member States to pay their contributions in line with their legal obligations under the UN Charter (article 17, paragraph 2)

The UN as a whole, and the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights specifically, have deliberated various measures and proposals to conserve cash, including through freezing the recruitment of staff to mechanisms created by States, and postponements and partial fulfilment of key mandated activities. We remind States that what is being traded off are priorities brought to the UN by human rights defenders and affected populations and agreed to by governments themselves. On the global level, as repeatedly highlighted by the UN Secretary-General, the international human rights system is indispensable to ensure stability by promoting conflict prevention and sustainable development.

The cuts to Special Procedures’ activities, including limitations to the number of country visits and the cancellation of the annual meeting, severely restrict the possibilities for rights holders to directly engage with what has typically been one of the UN’s most accessible mechanisms. It also reduces mandate holders’ access to situations on the ground and the engagement with authorities at the domestic level for positive human rights change and to promote the rights of victims and rights holders.

Decisions forced by the liquidity crisis, among them the announcement of some treaty bodies to cancel pre-sessional working groups and threats to further cancellations including of sessions, are of great concern. Not only would crucial assessments of compliance with the treaties be put on hold, but it would also lead to increased backlogs of both state-party reports for review and exacerbate existing backlogs of individual communications. Attention also needs to be paid to ensuring increased and continuous funding for accessibility for persons with disabilities to allow for their effective participation in all UN treaty bodies.

Investigative mechanisms created to respond to mass atrocities in places including Sudan, Myanmar, Syria, Ukraine, Iran and Israel/OPT, particularly in supporting criminal prosecutions of perpetrators, are already or will be severely hindered in their ability to collect witness and victim testimonies and first-hand accounts through cuts in travel budgets as well as staffing. Many such mechanisms were created following sustained calls for accountability from affected communities themselves, and barriers to their functioning will not only make accountability more remote but will damage the UN’s credibility in addressing such atrocities.

There are real risks that the cash flow crisis will be instrumentalised to impose unnecessary restrictions, particularly on civil society access and participation at the UN. Online and hybrid modalities for participation do not require heavy financial investments, and the gains are meaningful, especially considering factors such as environmental impact, costs of travel, visa restrictions, accessibility for persons with disabilities and the increased risks of reprisals against individuals engaging with the UN.

Finally, the human rights pillar of the UN remains significantly underfunded, receiving only 4% of the regular UN budget. By exacerbating these deficiencies, the UN Member States are sending a clear message that human rights and their implementation are optional and not inalienable. Resolving the cash flow problems this year will not meaningfully or sustainably address the financial challenges of the system’s human rights bodies, mechanisms and processes that are so important to rights holders.

We call on all States to:

  1. Pay their dues to the UN in full and without delay, both now and in future years;
  2. In their deliberations on cost-cutting measures, ensure that all stakeholders are consulted and that a victim-centred approach is taken when considering prioritisation for funding; and
  3. Strengthen the human rights pillar of the UN by substantially increasing its regular budget.

We invite OHCHR to regularly provide civil society with a detailed, accurate and comprehensive picture of the crisis and its impact, as the situation evolves.

Signatories (updated on a rolling basis)*:

  1. 4Métrica
  2. AbibiNsroma Foundation
  3. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
  4. ActionAid International
  5. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
  6. Albinism Society of Eswatini (ASESWA)
  7. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  8. Amnesty International
  9. Anti-Slavery International
  10. Ararteko-Ombudsman of the Basque Country
  11. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  12. Asociación Aquarius Supervivientes
  13. Asociación La Ruta del Clima
  14. Association du Développement et de la Promotion du Développement et de la Promotion de Droits de l’Homme
  15. Association for the Prevention of Torture
  16. AsyLex
  18. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  19. CAN Latin America (CANLA)
  20. Caribbean Association for Youth Development (CAYD)
  21. Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  22. Center for Reproductive Rights
  23. Center for the Human Rights of Children, Loyola University Chicago
  24. Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment & Management (CECIC)
  25. Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR-Centre)
  26. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia
  27. Centre interdisciplinaire des droits de l’enfant – UCLouvain
  28. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  29. Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos – Promsex
  30. Child Rights Connect
  31. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  32. Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law
  33. CHOICE for youth and sexuality
  35. CNCD-11.11.11 (Belgium)
  36. Colectivo de Derechos de Infancia y Adolescencia de Argentina
  37. Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP)
  38. Comité/Club UNESCO Universitaire pour la Lutte Contre la Drogue et autres pandémies (CLUCOD)
  39. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  40. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  41. Convention against Enforced Disappearances Initiative (CEDI)
  42. Coordination des ONG pour les droits de l’enfant
  43. Defence for Children International
  44. Endorois Welfare Council (EWC)
  45. Equality Now
  46. European Network on Statelessness
  47. FIAN International
  48. Franciscans International
  49. Fundación Cónclave Investigativo de las Ciencias Jurídicas Y Sociales (CIJYS)
  50. Geneva Human Rights Platform
  51. Global Detention Project
  52. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  53. Greek Helsinki Monitor
  54. Green Development Advocates (GDA)
  55. Human Rights Defenders Network- Sierra Leone
  56. Human Rights Watch
  57. Humanists International
  58. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
  59. International Commission of Jurists
  60. International Disability Alliance
  61. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  62. International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  63. International Play Association – Canada
  64. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
  65. International Service for Human Rights
  66. Irídia – Center for the Defence of Human Rights
  67. Just Fair
  68. Justiça Global
  69. Kindernothilfe e.V.
  70. Legal Literacy – Nepal
  72. MENA Rights Group
  73. Minority Rights Group – Greece
  74. Namibia Diverse Women’s Association (NDWA)
  75. NGO for Children Confederation
  76. Omega Research Foundation
  77. Oyu Tolgoi Watch
  78. Plan International
  79. Privacy International
  80. PROMSEX, Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos
  81. Psychological Responsiveness NGO, Mongolia
  82. Rede Nacional de Mulheres Negras no Combate á Violência
  83. Réseau des ONG ACTIVES pour le Contrôle du Tabac en Côte d’Ivoire (ROCTA-CI)
  84. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Elections en Guinée – ROSE
  85. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition
  86. Save the Children
  87. Sayanaa Wellbeing Association
  88. Sexual Rights Initiative
  89. Sounds of the Silenced
  90. Southern Africa Region Climate Action Network
  91. Tanzania Child Rights Forum
  92. TB-Net
  93. Terre des Hommes International Federation
  94. The Oil Refinery Residents Association
  95. Transbantu Association Zambia
  96. UCLouvain
  97. Unen khatamj NGO
  98. Universal Rights Group
  99. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network
  100. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calls for “full release” of Cuban activist Yandier García Labrada

Washington D.C., April 5, 2024 – “February 27 (2024) was the last time I saw my brother. He was very thin,” says Iran Almaguer Labrada, brother of Cuban activist Yandier Garcia Labrada (39 years old), who appears in the Opinion 68/2023 of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which was made public in mid-March. In the document, the United Nations mechanism requested the “full release” of the human rights defender, who is also a member of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

The Opinion, adopted in the framework of the 98th session of this Working Group, also asks the State of Cuba to compensate and make reparations to García Labrada; to investigate and punish those responsible for his detention; and to provide information on compliance with this “decision” within a period of six months after its publication, which is October 2024.

“On October 6, 2020, my brother was detained for claiming his rights in a queue (line to obtain food and basic necessities). A repressor pushed him and assaulted him, and then more State Security agents arrived and called the police. He was shouting ‘Down with the dictatorship’,” Almaguer says.

Yandier García Labrada is serving a five-year sentence for the crimes of contempt for authority and propagation of epidemics. Since the beginning of his imprisonment, he has been transferred to various prisons and has suffered isolation, transfers to punishment cells, denial of medical attention, and restrictions on communication with his family members. Since January 19, 2023, he has been held in the Guabineyón 8 correctional work center in the province of Las Tunas. The prison authorities have denied him the benefits of home visits and parole, even though he meets the regulatory requirements.

His brother Iran Almaguer, who suffers from a disease called retinitis pigmentosa which has led him to blindness, says that Yandier Garcia lived with his mother in the municipality of Manatí, in Las Tunas; and since he has been deprived of his freedom, she has suffered serious health problems. “She is hypertensive and has Alzheimer’s disease”.

From the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), the organization that referred the case of García Labrada to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, we demand that the State of Cuba comply with the request made by this United Nations mechanism, in its Opinion number 68/2023. We call for the immediate release of this Cuban activist, who has been unjustly deprived of his liberty for more than three years, as well as all those who remain imprisoned for demanding their rights in this country. We demand that Cuba respect, protect and guarantee the human rights of all its inhabitants, without discrimination of any kind.

We also call on the international community to follow up on compliance with this Opinion, and to continue to condemn the human rights violations occurring on the island.

Dominican Republic: Civil Society Delegation Present at The UPR Pre-Session

Geneva, March 4, 2024 – A Dominican civil society delegation participated in the Pre-session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held on Friday, February 16, 2024, in Geneva, Switzerland, with the technical support of the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality). The delegation was composed of Maria Martinez (Movimiento Socio Cultural de Trabajadores Haiti, MOSCTHA), Manuel Dandre (Red de Encuentro Dominicano-Haitiano Jacques Viau, Jacques Viau Network), Rosalba Diaz (Comunidad de Lesbianas Inclusivas Dominicanas, COLESDOM), Roberto Acevedo (Observatorio de Derechos Humanos para Grupos Vulnerabilizados, ODH-GV) and Jenny Morón (Movimiento de Mujeres Domínico-Haitianas, MUDHA), who were accompanied by Elvia Duque, Senior Race and Ethnicity Program Officer at Race and Equality.

During a week in the Swiss city, the delegation also had the opportunity to conduct advocacy by meeting with representatives of United Nations agencies and representatives of diplomatic missions, where they shared information about discrimination faced by some population groups in the Dominican Republic, in violation of their human rights.

Jenny Morón, of MUDHA, explained the situation of statelessness which, according to civil society estimates, affects more than 209,000 people and which has worsened as a result of Law 169-14, to the point that there are currently four groups whose human rights are affected in one way or another: 1) those who due to their surname and phenotypical characteristics are not associated with the Haitian population and have all their rights; 2) people who initially belonged to Group 1 but the State took away their nationality in 2013 for identifying some link with the Haitian population; 3) those who have been registered in the so-called Special Book (Registration Book for children of non-resident foreign mothers); and 4) those born in Dominican territory but who do not have any documentation or designation of nationality.

Activist Manuel Dandre, of the Jacques Viau Network, shared his experience as a person affected by Constitutional Tribunal ruling 168-13, because despite being born in the Dominican Republic, at the age of 55 the State changed his documents after identifying links with the Haitian population. “Those of us who find ourselves in Groups 2 and 3 have partial or no access to basic rights such as education, employment, transit, etc., and we are afraid of legislative changes that continue to diminish our rights,” he said.

Human rights defender María Martínez, of MOSCTHA, emphasized the crisis faced by the Dominican State in the labor area, with women and the stateless population being the most affected. According to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, more than 95% of women in the country identify their workplaces as places of violence or harassment.

Likewise, activist Rosalba Diaz, from COLESDOM, highlighted that “the lack of legislation that guarantees protection to the LGBTI+ population has generated a great vulnerability of this population” emphasizing in her presentation “the constant cases of mutilation, stigma, and other cases of human rights violations faced by the intersex population even from a very young age, as well as the judicial patterns that undermine the custody rights of lesbian mothers in the Dominican Republic.”

Meanwhile, Roberto Acevedo, of ODH-GV, exposed the lack of access to employment and discrimination suffered by people with HIV/AIDS, because despite the existence of Law 135-11 – which provides for the privacy of information on HIV diagnosis – public institutions perform laboratory tests as part of the process of pre-selection of candidates for jobs, resulting in not employing people who test positive even if they have the necessary skills.

The delegation made a positive balance of the visit because in addition to making visible the crisis that the country is experiencing due to racist, xenophobic, and discriminatory policies, as well as positioning its recommendations, it served to warn about Law 1/2024, which creates a centralized body of the State, with the aim of protecting the interests of the nation and assessing internal and external threats against it. Civil society considers that this law generates the necessary tools to support the State in its work of criminalizing activists and human rights defenders, therefore, the delegation made a strong call to demand its repeal.

In addition, upon the return of the delegation to the Dominican Republic, the approval of Resolution No. 13, dated February 17, 2024, on the processing of birth registration of children of foreigners born in the Dominican Republic, was announced. After a few days of evaluation of this Resolution, at first glance it appears to be a possible solution to several of the issues addressed by this delegation in Geneva regarding the situation of statelessness, but upon a deeper analysis it generates concern because it does not benefit the population in condition of statelessness as it establishes the presentation of documents that they do not possess.

Below, we highlight some of the recommendations presented by this delegation during its advocacy tour at the UPR pre-session in Geneva:

  • Promote the creation of a technical roundtable to accompany, review, and implement the recommendations made in the UPR, with the participation of civil society, a member state of the Council, international organizations, and the Dominican State.
  • Promote a national law on equality and non-discrimination that prosecutes, criminalizes, and punishes racism and discrimination in all its forms.
  • Motivate the State to modify and/or eliminate any legislation, sentence, or provision that is not aligned with international treaties and agreements for the protection of human rights.
  • Motivate the State to sign, ratify, and implement the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI).
  • Prevent statelessness by creating clear, free, and expeditious mechanisms to benefit the victims of Judgment 168.13, given that Law 169.14 has not solved the problem caused by Judgment 168.13. In addition, ratify the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
  • Sensitize the authorities to avoid the criminalization of migration and to eliminate the policy of arrest, deportation, and expulsion based on racial profiling. In addition, take the necessary measures to ensure that no Dominican person is expelled from the national territory because of his or her skin color or descent.
  • Promote interculturality in the field of education and in the media.
  • Promote the protection of the human rights of women and girls in vulnerable situations.
  • Create legislation that integrates the benefits of Conventions 156, 190, and 189.
  • Promote and encourage the social integration of vulnerable groups (people living with HIV/AIDS, drug users) so that they can contribute to their community.
  • Motivate the elaboration and promulgation of the regulations for the application of Law 135-11 on HIV/AIDS, which 12 years later still does not have this important legal instrument.
  • Promote the strengthening of the role of the Ombudsman to promote and defend human rights regardless of gender, nationality, and creed.

Race and Equality thanks MUDHA, COLESDOM, and ODH-GV for obtaining their resources and joining the delegation initially composed of MOSCTHA and the Jacques Viau Network, and invites them to continue building together strategies to counteract the harsh reality that some populations live in the Dominican Republic. We also reiterate our commitment to fight against the different discriminations existing in this country hand in hand with the member organizations of the Jacques Viau Network and the NGO coalition CODHAJUR.


Pictured (from left to right): Elvia Duque (Race and Equality), María Martínez (MOSCTHA), Manuel Dandre (Jacques Viau Network), Rosalba Díaz (COLESDOM), Roberto Acevedo (ODH-GV), and Jenny Morón (MUDHA), in Room XXII, Building E of the United Nations. Geneva, Switzerland.

Nicaraguan Regime Commits Crimes Against Humanity: International Cooperation Urged for Judicial Investigations

Geneva, 29 February, 2024. – Following the release of the second report by the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN), which identifies President Daniel Ortega, Vice President Rosario Murillo, and other senior Nicaraguan state officials as perpetrators of crimes against humanity, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) calls on the international community to collaborate in judicial investigations and other actions before the Universal and Inter-American Systems. Race and Equality also urges for stronger support for GHREN to further its research and achieve real accountability, both at the state and personal levels.

For this latest report, the Group of Experts conducted 642 interviews with victims of state repression and delved deeper into violations and abuses targeting specific groups such as Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, students and academics, members of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, and members of the peasant movement. The GHREN concluded that the regime “is close to permanently wiping out organized critical voices” in Nicaragua.

The GHREN identified key state institutions and officials, as well as other individuals “directly responsible for documented violations and crimes.” These include Gustavo Porras, president of the National Assembly; Rafael Solís, former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice, who has been exiled since his resignation in 2019, and stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality; Marvin Aguilar, Supreme Court Justice; Ana Julia Guido, Attorney General of the Republic; and Luis Cañas Novoa, Deputy Minister and Political Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior.

“Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have not been committing serious violations of the human rights of the Nicaraguan population for years, but for decades. We note as a major step forward that the Group has identified a structure and chains of command within the state, including trusted advisers who carry out repressive acts against dissenting voices from the regime. The international community must – urgently – take legal action and extend sanctions to institutions and individuals identified as perpetrators of crimes under international law,” said Carlos Quesada, Director of Race and Equality.

Moreover, through interviews with 72 political prisoners, the Group corroborated patterns of torture and ill-treatment, and methods of arbitrary detention detailed in the first report. These patterns include searches without warrants, communication restrictions with families and lawyers, and prolonged ignorance of their whereabouts. According to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, comprising of civil society organizations, there are currently 121 individuals (102 men and 19 women) imprisoned for political reasons in Nicaragua, with 111 cases stemming from the events of April 2018, including 12 Indigenous peoples. 

The GHREN also warned that some of the regime’s new persecution strategies “extend beyond Nicaragua’s borders.” These include arbitrary revocation of Nicaraguan nationality, lack of access to official documentation and consular support, the hindrance of family reunification, among others. GHREN documented 317 cases of individuals deprived of their nationality, 145 cases of Nicaraguans barred from entering the country, 21 expulsions of foreigners, 263 expulsions of Nicaraguans, among other human rights violations.

Furthermore, the GHREN briefly addressed the need for the findings of this report to be considered when evaluating governance issues in the supervision and use of resources of International Financial Institutions. The GHREN called on the international community to “condition Nicaragua’s preferential market access on the fulfillment of non-trade policy objectives and/or assess the human rights impact on trade relations with Nicaragua.”

In this regard, Marcelo Azambuja, Legal Officer of Race and Equality, argued that “respect for democracy and human rights are economically relevant and must be considered by the International Financial Institutions in their decisions and activities towards sustainable development in Nicaragua. It is imperative that these institutions formulate and implement, in collaboration with the Nicaraguan State, human rights due diligence policies to identify, prevent, address and remedy the potential and consummate negative impacts associated with their projects and/or resources. Imposing conditions is an effective mechanism to incentivize the end to the crisis and a return to democratic normality and respect for human rights.”

Finally, the GHREN noted that the return to democracy in Nicaragua and the recovery of all that was lost under the Ortega government will require a significant amount of time and resources. In this sense, Carlos Quesada emphasized that “justice cannot be delayed any longer. The international community, particularly the countries allied with the people of Nicaragua, must take prompt action.”


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Living Instrument Guiding the Defense and Protection of Human Rights in the Americas

Washington DC, December 8, 2023.– What are human rights? How can human rights be fully enjoyed? Who has the obligation to ensure respect for and fulfilment of human rights? The answers to these questions are as obvious as they are complex. Despite the fact that human rights are inherent to all people, the enjoyment of these rights is determined by a diversity of factors that every day, in every corner of the world, bring people closer or further away from the goal of living in freedom, justice, and peace.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wants to assert the relevance of the UDHR to the work of defending and protecting human rights carried out every day by civil society organizations and activists in the Americas. Although human rights violations persist and worsen in the region, we believe that the Declaration is the tool that pushes and strengthens the struggle for human rights.

“In these 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to look back and recognize all that has been achieved since its adoption. Thanks to the Declaration, the world, and the Latin American region in particular, today has a solid mechanism for the protection of the rights of all people. From civil society we know that there is a lot of work to be done to achieve full guarantees, especially at the level of the obligations of States, but we see the Declaration as a living instrument that guides our work,” says Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

A Bit of History

Following the atrocities committed during World War II and the creation of the United Nations, the international community set out to create a road map to ensure the rights of all people everywhere and at all times. Thus, on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But how did they get there? The UN General Assembly considered an initial document at its first session in 1946 and then forwarded it to the Economic and Social Council for consideration by the Commission on Human Rights, which was entrusted with the task of drafting what they initially called the “international bill of human rights”.

At its first session in early 1947, the Commission on Human Rights directed its members to formulate a preliminary draft of the charter, which was later taken up by a Drafting Committee composed of representatives of eight countries, which were chosen on the basis of geographical distribution. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR Drafting Committee.

The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 and more than 50 Member States participated in the final draft. In its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eight nations abstained from voting, but none voted against.

Did you know?

Delegates from several countries played a key role in ensuring that women’s rights were included in the Declaration. Hansa Mehta of India is widely credited with changing the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 Learn more.

75 Years Later

That document, which was formulated under the common ideal that all people live in freedom, justice, and peace, has paved the way for the adoption of more than seventy human rights treaties, which are now permanently applied at the global and regional levels. Race and Equality, in its work to defend and protect the rights of Afro-descendant and indigenous populations, LGBTI+ people, and other vulnerable groups, recognizes and champions international human rights law.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a permanent foundation for our work in documentation, capacity building, advocacy, and strategic litigation. To cite one example, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has been a key tool for strengthening allied organizations in their advocacy processes before States and the Inter-American and Universal Human Rights Systems on the rights of persons of African descent.

Meanwhile, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been a fundamental piece in documentation and advocacy processes with partner organizations in the defense and protection of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LBTI+ women. In 2022, Race and Equality supported and accompanied a collective of Peruvian feminist organizations in their participation in the review of the CEDAW Committee in Peru, achieving that it included recommendations to the State based on the demands of lesbian women for the first time.

In these 75 years of the UDHR, Race and Equality recalls that the application of human rights must be governed by the principles of universality, interdependence, indivisibility, and progressivity. We believe that the recognition and respect of the following are imperative: (a) that all persons are entitled to all human rights; (b) that human rights are linked to each other and, therefore, the recognition and exercise of one of them implies respect for and protection of many others; (c) that human rights must be recognized, protected and guaranteed in their entirety, that they cannot be fragmented; and d) that it is the obligation of States to ensure progress in the constructive development of human rights, and that any kind of regression is completely prohibited.

In addition, as a way of honoring these 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have produced an illustration that recognizes the diversity of people in the Americas—and, therefore, the diversity of circumstances that affect them—and symbolically places at the center the Declaration that, in the days of its drafting, Eleanor Roosevelt envisioned it as a document of support, guidance, and inspiration, noting, “this is the first step in an evolutionary process.”

We also recall and put again as a point of reflection an excerpt from the speech “Where do human rights begin?” that Eleanor Roosevelt gave in 1958 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the UDHR:

“Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home. So close and so small that they cannot be located on any world map: each person’s environment, the neighborhood in which they live, the school or university they attend; the farm, factory, or office where you work. These are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity, without discrimination. If these rights don’t mean anything there, they don’t mean anything anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to assert these rights close to home, we seek progress on a larger scale in vain.

CEDAW Committee Calls on Nicaragua to Withdraw Its Denunciation of the OAS Charter and Adopt Measures to Protect Women and Girls

Washington D.C., October 31, 2023.-  Twenty days prior to Nicaragua’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in its Concluding Observations, urged the Nicaraguan authorities to retract their complaint against the Organization of American States Charter. The Committee also urged the State to engage in dialogue and take necessary measures to comply with its observations on the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls in the country.

During the review on 23 October, Ambassador Rosalía Concepción Bohórquez Palacios made a statement calling the Committee “biased” and departed from the review without providing information on budget allocations for the Ministry of Women, the adoption of a national gender equality policy, or measures to ensure that women – particularly those residing in the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean –  benefit from public programs to promote gender equality and eliminating discrimination. The State of Nicaragua has progressively withdrawn from international treaties and has broken commitments to international human rights treaty bodies by not actively participating in their revisions.

Repeal of Laws that Discriminate Against Women

Considering concerning reports spanning the last four years, which have documented 7,000 cases of attacks against women human rights defenders branded as “traitors” and “coup plotters,” as well as the non-implementation of protective measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in connection with 38 cases of women human rights defenders subjected to intimidation and reprisals, the Committee called on the State of Nicaragua to repeal all legislation that discriminates against women on the basis of their political opinions and their participation in political and public life. Among these laws are the Foreign Agents Law (Law 1040), the Special Law on Cybercrimes (Law 1042), and the Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace (Law 1055).

The Committee further pressed the State to immediately release the women detained for their dissenting political views and ensure the safeguarding of their right to life, liberty, and physical and psychological well-being during and after their release. As of 31 August, 16 women were deprived of their liberty for political reasons, according to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners

According to the Committee, the State should adopt a plan of action for the reparation, rehabilitation, and compensation of these women. Additionally, the State should conduct investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of individuals responsible for acts of reprisal and assaults against the women human rights defenders and activists, even if the perpetrators are state agents.

Safe Return of Stateless Women Defenders

In its observations, the Committee also requests the repeal of Law 1145 or the “Special Law Regulating the Loss of Nicaraguan Nationality,” which provides that persons sentenced under Law 1055, the “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace” will lose their Nicaraguan nationality and has left more than 317 persons stateless. This includes women political prisoners, renowned feminist and women’s rights defenders and activists, and journalists.

The Committee concluded that the State of Nicaragua should restore nationality in all instances where women have lost it for political reasons and implement measures to reduce cases of statelessness (1961) in accordance with Article 9 of the Convention, prevent statelessness, and formulate a plan to facilitate the secure return of Nicaraguan women desiring to come back to the country. 

Justice for Victims of Gender-Based Violence and Mothers of Victims of Repression

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of femicides rose to 57 cases, with 220 cases of attempted femicides. These statistics deeply concerned the Committee, which repeatedly highlighted the restrictive definition of femicide in the Penal Code as problematic, as it applies solely to murders of women within relationship contexts.

The Committee also expressed with concern the closure of the National Commission to Combat Violence and the lack of information on the number and enforcement of protection orders and victim support services, including shelter, psychosocial counselling, and rehabilitation for women survivors of violence.

In response, the Committee called on the State to: broaden the definition of femicide to encompass all gender-related murders; implement a national strategy for the prevention of all forms of gender-based violence against women; restore and strengthen the mandate of the National Commission to Combat Violence; and compile data on the prevalence of gender-based violence against women, disaggregated by age, victim-perpetrator ratios, and other socio-demographic characteristics.

The Committee also demanded that perpetrators of gender-based violence against human rights defenders, journalists, women detained during the 2018 protests, and mothers of fatal victims of protest-related repression be properly prosecuted and convicted. It emphasized the importance of providing adequate remedies, including reparations, to the victims.

Laws that Address Intersectional Forms of Discrimination

Furthermore, the Committee expressed concern about the intersecting forms of discrimination faced by Indigenous and Afro-descendant women in Nicaragua, who encounter limited access to education, employment, economic opportunities, healthcare, and participation in decision-making processes within the State. These challenges are compounded by a heightened risk of gender-based violence, including sexual violence and forced evictions of Indigenous women, particularly in territories such as the Bosawás Reserve and the Mayagna Sauni As Indigenous territory, which frequently experience incursions by non-Indigenous settlers.

In this regard, the Committee urged the State to develop legislation and policies addressing intersectional forms of discrimination against Indigenous and Afro-descendant women and girls. Additionally, it called for effective investigations, prosecutions, and penalties for crimes occurring in ancestral territories, along with the provision of appropriate remedies and reparations for victims. 

The Committee stressed the importance of ensuring that Indigenous women obtain land titles and collective control over the land, water, forests, fisheries, aquaculture, and other resources they have owned, occupied, used or acquired.


The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) reminds the State of Nicaragua that the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women entails the obligation to submit reports, participate in constructive dialogues with the CEDAW Committee and comply with the recommendations made by the Committee. Therefore, we urge the State to comply with the recommendations made and to establish communications with the Committee in favor of the protection of women and girls and halt the repression and violence against women defenders, activists, and journalists expressing dissenting opinions. 

Lastly, Race and Equality acknowledges the invaluable role played by Nicaraguan civil society organizations that, despite significant risks, continue to monitor and document the human rights situation of Nicaraguan women inside and outside the country. Their dedication and reporting significantly contributed to this review and the formulation of valuable Concluding Observations, which serve a roadmap for the State of Nicaragua to fulfill its obligations outlined in CEDAW.

CEDAW: Laws Enacted by the Nicaraguan State Threaten Women’s Lives

Washington D.C., October 24, 2023- In the review of the State of Nicaragua, experts from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), expressed their concern about laws that pose serious threats against women human rights defenders and activists, as well as the neglect of Indigenous and Afro-descendant women on the Caribbean Coast, in the context of the closure of civic and democratic space in the Central American country. 

At the beginning of the session, the representative of the State of Nicaragua, Rosalía Concepción Bohórquez Palacios, abandoned the exam in a disrespectful manner. She expressed “total rejection of the malicious, biased, partialized and malicious questions on the report presented by Nicaragua on May 2, 2019.” 

This is the fifth time that Nicaragua has failed to comply with its obligation to actively participate in the periodic reviews carried out by the United Nations treaty bodies for the promotion and defense of human rights in the signatory countries. The Chair of the Committee, Ana Peláez, regretted the State’s position, “however, the work that the Committee has and the obligations and responsibilities that they assume in relation to the States Parties, makes us continue to advance in today’s work.” 

Law 1055: The Law with the Most Effects on Women 

The Committee’s Rapporteur for Nicaragua, Leticia Bonifaz Alonzo, expressed her deep concern that in the Central American country “femicide is not an autonomous crime.” The reforms limit the definition of femicide to the murder of women in the context of a relationship. It is also a matter of concern that victim-aggressor mediation has been incorporated, which increases the risk of impunity and exposes victims to re-victimization and reprisals.

“The figures provided by non-governmental organizations show how violence against women has increased,” she added. 

She then recalled that, between 2020 and 2021, the State issued three laws with content contrary to international human rights instruments:  Law 1040, Law on Foreign Agents which, with the indication that “they have interference in internal affairs,” has made it impossible for non-governmental organizations to accompany, protect and empower Nicaraguan women,  as well as the deprivation of their patrimony and forced abandonment of the country.  Law 1042, known as the “Gag Law” because it violates the freedom of expression of women human rights defenders;  and Law 1055 “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace,” has seriously affected the civil and political rights of women. According to the expert, Law 1055 is the law that has most affected women human rights defenders.

In addition, “there are particular patterns of aggression against women, such as arrests and theft of personal items and the disproportionate presence of members of the armed forces,” Bonifaz said.

Arbitrary Detentions and Statelessness, Latent Threats to Women Defenders

“Women’s participation has been restricted due to gender-based violence against women human rights defenders. Women defenders are under siege in the State party,” warned expert Marion Bethel. In the last four years, women’s rights organizations have documented approximately 7,000 cases of attacks against women human rights defenders.

In addition, women’s human rights defenders and activists who oppose the government face possible loss of nationality in retaliation, leaving them in a situation of statelessness, a condition that hinders the exercise of other rights such as health, education, decent employment and family life. 

“The State party (Nicaragua), through legislative amendments, has arbitrarily deprived some persons of their nationality, and this is contrary to international human rights law,” he told the Committee. 

According to alternative reports from 2023, around 222 people who are stateless are mothers and fathers of children who continue to live in Nicaragua. For the expert, this violation of fundamental rights puts them at greater risk of discrimination and “exacerbates the vulnerability of women and girls who may already be exposed to gender-based violence and human trafficking.” 

Indigenous and Afro-descendant Women in the Absence of Protection

“Violence against women in the autonomous regions along the North and South Caribbean Coast continues to increase, particularly in the case of indigenous women who have legal provisions and protection orders,” said expert Rangita de Silva de Alwis

In August 2021, two women were sexually abused in an attack related to a gold mining dispute in the Mayangna Sauni As territory.

Expert Bandana Rana emphasized the determined struggle of Afro-descendant women as they confront challenges related to the preservation and respect of the treaty that grants them the right to inhabit their ancestral lands, preserving their unique customs and resources. The expert lamented that the incursions of third parties in the Mosquitia have worsened the human rights situation of Afro-descendant women, since “violence is committed against women, girls and adolescents, which includes murders and forced displacement.” 

In relation to health on the Caribbean Coast, expert Dafna Hacker said that “there is a gap between the law and reality,” since in general terms, there is a lack of health services that impacts especially women “due to a high prevalence of malaria, fever, dengue, HIV/AIDS, as well as the remoteness of care centers and the high costs of transportation.”

On several occasions, the Chairperson of the Committee called on the State of Nicaragua to express its point of view on the issues. Nonetheless, an unsettling silence prevailed in all of them. 

Finally, the Chair expressed her deep disappointment and concern over the accusations made by the State in relation to the work of the Committee and its experts “which call into question the loyalty, honor, impartiality, true commitment, and full awareness that all the experts of this Committee make when they assume their responsibilities and duties”. Despite these insults, the President insisted that they are willing to “extend their hand” and “open the doors” to the State of Nicaragua.


The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) rejects the position of the State of Nicaragua, which disrespects the work of the Committee and the civil society organizations that exercise their legitimate right to participate in this process. Both with respect to the Committee and with respect to the organizations, the State refers in disqualifying and inappropriate terms, completely refusing to be held accountable for its actions and seeking to circumvent its international obligations towards women. 

This pattern of non-compliance by the State of Nicaragua with its international obligations in the area of women’s human rights undoubtedly requires a forceful response from the international community.


The committee will submit its concluding observations before the end of the current session. The concluding observations will be adopted at the 87th session in February 2024.

Civil society welcomes the appointment of Graeme Reid as the third UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, celebrates the achievements of Victor Madrigal-Borloz in the role

Geneva, 13 October 2023.- The President of the UN Human Rights Council has appointed Graeme Reid as the incoming holder of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 

The appointment was made today at the United Nations Human Rights Council, after his nomination was proposed last month by the President of the 47 government member body charged with overseeing human rights around the globe. Graeme Reid will take on the role on 1 November 2023.

An anthropologist and researcher from South Africa, Reid – who currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch – is the third person to ever be appointed to hold the United Nations mandate dedicated to addressing specific human rights violations against LGBT and gender-diverse persons, following Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand (2016-2017) and Victor Madrigal-Borloz from Costa Rica (2017-2023).

Civil society organisations worldwide welcomed the decision: “Billions of people continue to live in societies with laws and societal attitudes that put LGBTI persons in danger,” said XYZ organisations worldwide. “With his extensive experience in advocacy and academic spaces alike, and his keen dedication to listening to the voices of grassroots human rights defenders, we trust Reid will be able to further build bridges and remind States of their obligations towards people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities across the globe. As civil society, we look forward to constructive engagement with the new mandate holder.”

The appointment comes at the end of a months-long application process. 23 candidates went through shortlisting, with interviews and final appointment then overseen by Member States of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Earlier this month organisations worldwide had expressed their regret on the lack of women and non-binary persons in the short-list of candidates recommended by the Consultative Group, as highlighted during the recent session of the Human Rights Council. “Ensuring participation and representation of women is crucial to reflect the diverse realities of women’s lives,” organisations pointed out. 

In June 2022, the Human Rights Council successfully renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The renewal recognized and reaffirmed the vital importance of the maintenance of this mandate, as LGBT communities around the world continue to be subject to violence and discrimination on the basis of their SOGI.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the outgoing mandate holder, continues in the role until the end of the month. “Today we also want to celebrate everything that has been achieved over the last six years,” civil society organisations concluded. “Thanks to Víctor Madrigal-Borloz and his work, the world has heard more about the impact of criminalisation of same-sex relations between consenting adults, the need to legally recognise a person’s gender, the barriers to social inclusion and the importance of collecting data related to LGBT lives, the harm caused by so-called ‘conversion therapy’, and more. Madrigal-Borloz has also cast a light on good practices to prevent discrimination, and conducted visits to Georgia, Mozambique, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United States and United Kingdom, building bridges between civil society, political and religious authorities. At a time in which anti-rights forces are more vocal by the minute, and are increasingly targeting our communities as a part of a larger attack against gender equality, it is critical that the mandate’s work continues and is supported by States and civil society alike.”


In the Framework of the UPR Pre-Session in Geneva, Activists will Denounce Human Rights Violations in Cuba

Geneva, August 28, 2023.- This Wednesday, August 30, representatives of Cuba’s independent civil society in Cuba and international organizations working for the defense of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean will gather in Geneva, Switzerland, to denounce human rights violations on the island. 

The event entitled ‘Cuba: Five Years After the Universal Periodic Review (UPR),’ will commence at 1:30 p.m. (Geneva time) at Rue de Varembé 1 (5th floor). This meeting is being held within the framework of the UPR pre-session, taking place from August 29 to September 1 in Geneva, where representatives of civil society organizations from 14 countries, including Cuba, will address the human rights situation in each of these territories.

The panel discussion will feature the lawyer and consultant to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Livia Lemus; the Director of Cubalex, Laritza Diversent; the Director of Strategy at the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, Yaxys Cires; the officer of the Central America and the Caribbean Program of Article 19, Claudia Ordoñez; independent journalist Mario Luis Reyes, and Cuban artist Nonardo Perea.

The panelists will discuss labor and trade union rights, individuals deprived of liberty for political reasons, independent journalism, and freedom of expression on the island. The aim is to raise awareness before international and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as representatives of the states, about the human rights reality experienced in this country prior to the IV UPR cycle, where Cuba will be evaluated in November of this year. 

In 2018, the Cuban state was last reviewed during the III UPR cycle. At that time, Cuba received 339 recommendations, of which it accepted 226, took note of 83, and rejected 30. To monitor the implementation of these recommendations, several independent civil society organizations submitted alternative reports to be considered in the new UPR cycle.

The panel discussion on Wednesday, August 30, will allow attendees to gain more information about what has transpired on the island five years after its last UPR evaluation. 

From Race and Equality, we emphasized the importance of creating such spaces to denounce human rights violations taking place in Cuba. We call upon international and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as state representatives, to listen to the  appeals of independent civil society organizations in Cuba and condemn the repression, harassment, and various forms of violence documented daily in this country.

Colombia: Concern over the territorial expansion of armed groups and their violent strategies of social control. UN High Commissioner.  

Colombia, August 22, 2023.- The Colombian Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented its analysis of Colombia’s human rights situation, in which it recognized the current Government’s approach to human rights, its willingness to address important issues, and its commitment to the protection of human rights, which has resulted in significant and positive changes. However, the Representative in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner Juliette De Rivero, highlighted the concerns and challenges that the Office has observed in the country and that require immediate attention.1 In particular, she expressed concern about the territorial expansion of armed groups and their violent strategies of social control over the civilian population and grassroots organizations, despite dialogue processes offered.  


Increase in massacres in the country    

During the first half of 2023, the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) recorded an 11% increase in the number of verified massacres compared to the same quarter of the previous year. A total of 52 massacres were verified during this period. Most of the massacres were allegedly perpetrated by non-state armed groups and criminal organizations. The most affected departments were Atlántico, Antioquia, Cauca, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Norte de Santander, Putumayo and Valle del Cauca. For its part, the Institute for Development and Peace Studies, INDEPAZ, has registered a total of 59 massacres in the country to date.2  


Violence against social leaders continues to be of concern.  

In the first half of 2023, the OHCHR reported a 19% reduction in cases of homicides of human rights defenders compared to the previous half (July-December 2022). While this decrease is encouraging, the number of killings of human rights defenders in Colombia remains unacceptably high. In total, 46 cases of homicide have been recorded, of which 39 were men and 7 women. Among them, 11 were indigenous, 9 were Afro-descendants, and 15 were campesinos. In addition, 35% of the human rights defenders killed were members of Community Action Boards. To date, INDEPAZ has registered 105 massacres or killings during 2023 in the country. 

In terms of displacement, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported a 33% decrease in cases of displacement compared to the previous six-month period and a 2% increase in cases of confinement during the same period. In addition, the UN Verification Mission has verified two fewer cases of killings of ex-combatants during this period.  


Sexual violence and human trafficking   

During the first half of 2023, the Office has received a total of 42 complaints of sexual and gender-based violence in the context of armed conflict, of which 27 have been confirmed. These complaints have been registered in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Chocó, Nariño, and Norte de Santander. Of particular concern is the situation of trafficking of girls and adolescents for sexual exploitation by non-state armed groups, as well as the rape of women and girls. These differentiated situations demonstrate the need to adopt effective and specific measures to guarantee the protection and effective participation of women, girls and LGBTI+ persons in all spaces of dialogue and decision-making for the comprehensive construction of peace. 

Race and Equality calls on the government of Colombia to take into account the report presented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which points out the existence of human rights violations that require immediate measures to protect the lives and rights of citizens in its national territory, especially in areas of the country that continue to be affected by the armed conflict and illegal armed groups. Regarding the protection of ethnic communities at risk, it is crucial that the State take effective measures to guarantee the full exercise of their individual and collective rights, especially due to the impact of the armed conflict and violence. The national government must work to repair and protect the rights of these communities, who are entitled to special protection according to international standards. 

We also urge the State to carry out a Comprehensive Reform of the National Police with the genuine and effective participation of civil society, especially the victims of racist police violence. Additionally the state should adopt, abide by, and effectively implement international standards against racism and discrimination, such as the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the standards that have been developed to prevent the disproportionate use of force against people of African descent by security forces. 

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