Fifty-fifth Session, Palais des Nations, Geneva, 28 July – 15 August 2003

55th SESSION, GENEVA, 28 JULY – 15 AUGUST 2003


Franciscans International Evaluation Of The Session
Franciscans International Advocacy Role
Highlights Of Franciscans International Statements
Highlights Of The 55th Session Of The Sub-Commission
Franciscans International Follow-Up To The Sub-Commission

Background To The Sub-Commission
2003 Sub-Commission Agenda
2003 Sub-Commission Composition And Officers
Franciscans International Delegation


“I believe that we must continue to insist on faithful compliance with
international human rights obligations and that you[ the Sub-Commission] have a role to play in analyzing this issue and helping us uphold this principle.
It is a matter of utmost, fundamental importance.”

Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Opening speech to the 55th session of the UN Sub-Commission.

This report would like primarily to inform members of the Franciscan Family of the involvement of the office of Franciscans International in Geneva in the works and deliberations of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The think-tank role that the Sub-Commission is mandated to exercise by the Commission on Human Rights provides FI with the opportunity to contribute to several studies and to involve other Franciscans enjoying a specific expertise on a concrete topic. For example, our prominent role in furthering the Franciscan message on extreme poverty is greatly due to the collaboration offered by Yves Soudan OFM, Professor of Economics at the Catholic Institute for Human Rights in Lyon (France).

Our partnership with the Dominicans and their NGO – Dominicans for Justice and Peace – also continues to be successful in such UN meetings as, together, we can raise more issues to the attention of the international community and transmit more broadly our Franciscan values into the public debate.

Further, we hope that our web page ( has been helpful to keep you updated about our statements and other initiatives during the session. This report can also be downloaded from our site and we encourage you to disseminate it among interested brothers and sisters of your community.

If you see any topic that the Sub-Commission is entrusted to study for its next session and to which you would like to contribute, please do not hesitate in contacting our office. We will be happy to give you additional details and assistance on the subject as well as to facilitate your participation to the meeting itself.

Alessandra Aula
Senior Advocacy Officer
FI Geneva /September 2003

Franciscans International considers the overall balance of the 2003 session of the Sub-Commission positive for the advancement of the promotion and the protection of human rights worldwide. Avoiding sometimes sterile and politicized debates, the Sub-Commission was able to adopt 43 resolutions and decisions all by consensus and, even some of them, at the unanimity.
On the issue of the administration of justice, Franciscans International welcomes the Sub-Commission’s pronouncement on the unacceptable increasing pressure which is exerted, both at the multilateral and bilateral levels, to hinder the implementation of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and its appeal that all States must observe the principles of the Statute. We are also supportive of its request to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to appoint its expert member, Mr. Decaux (France) as Special Rapporteur on the universal implementation of international human treaties. In his studies, Mr. Decaux will have to identify international and domestic obstacles to such implementation, to look for effective ways and means in the matter, and to identify the most effective means of ensuring actual universality of human rights. At a moment where the concept of universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights is challenged from different quarters, this decision is highly appreciated.
FI is pleased to note that the Sub-Commission approved the Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights. This document covers the right to equal opportunity and non-discriminatory treatment, the right to security of persons, the right of workers, the respect for national sovereignty and human rights, obligations with regard to consumer protection and to environment protection as well as general provisions for their implementation. Also, on the issue of extreme poverty, experts agreed to tackle this scourge as a violation of human dignity and all human rights, civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural and to adopt an operational approach based on the principle of justiciability of rights.
The language on human trafficking, contained in the resolution on contemporary forms of slavery, is clearly oriented to ensure victims’ protection and assistance. In particular, we support the references made to articles 6,7,8 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which recognize victims as such and their rights as not contingent on their cooperation with the prosecution of their exploiters.
In response to the CHR request to prepare a concept document establishing options for the implementation of the right to development and their feasibility, the Sub-Commission decided to ask expert member, Ms. O’Connor (Jamaica), to prepare a working paper identifying and analyzing possible alternatives that will enable the Sub-Commission to respond fully and as effectively as possible to the Commission. This issue was probably the most dividing among experts. An amendment proposed by Mr. Eide (Norway) to establish an informal working group to assist Ms. O’Connor in light of the complexity of the task and the short time available (two years instead of the usual three years granted by the CHR) was withdrawn after a long discussion. Opponents, including Ms. Zerrougui (Algeria) and Mr. Yimer (Ethiopia) raised procedural concerns and their intention to avoid any preferential treatment in relation to other working papers. Regrettably, political motivations emerged from both sides during the debate.
Stronger attempts should still be made to shape the “new” format of item 2 (violations of human rights in any part of the world) since the Sub-Commission cannot adopt any more resolutions dealing with countries. As it is very difficult to envisage that it will re-acquire this attribute, it would be important that a common effort is seriously undertaken to devise thematic studies that can further a more interactive discussion on this point of its agenda. More constructive discussions might also favor a renewed participation by countries from all regional groups as some of them have been practically absent those past years.
At its next session, the Commission on Human Rights will be called to elect half of the members of the Sub-Commission. FI strongly encourages governments to choose qualified, independent candidates that can help in consolidating the unique position that the Sub-Commission enjoys within the UN human rights system.
As an independent, international NGO, we will continue to collaborate with this body through our active participation in some of its working groups as well as by contributing to the realization of its ongoing studies.

There are multiple ways for NGOs, like ours, to intervene in the Sub-Commission. This section relates about our efforts in advocating for change in some specific issues that are at the core of FI programs and services. Definitely, there is a good space for civil society to interact with Sub-Commission’s experts and to make progress in the implementation of human rights. Therefore, we believe that it is important to devote, in the future, more energy prior to the session itself in feeding experts with inputs and recommendations to be reflected in their working papers and reports.
Also of great importance is the following chapter containing highlights of the statements (written and oral) that we presented this year to the Sub-Commission as it gives an overview of the first-hand information that FI is able to provide as well as of our capacity to be involved in several issues through networking with other NGOs.Contemporary forms of slavery
Franciscans International successfully channeled some our field concerns in the report that the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery submitted to the Sub-Commission. In particular, the information on forced and child marriages in Zambia and the importance of the role of free compulsory education, especially for girls provided by Sr. Anna Mwansa FMSA and the references made to the situation and exploitation of Afro-Asian migrant workers in Lebanon by Sr. Lily George FMM were recalled in the document.

Further, FI closely worked with Mr. Pinheiro (Brazil) in proposing text for the human trafficking section of the resolution on contemporary forms of slavery. We are happy to note that experts undertook most of the proposals that we suggested to them, including:
• To call upon States to recognize that human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and, hence, to criminalize it in all its forms and to condemn and penalize traffickers and intermediaries;
• To urge governments that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others of 1949, the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, including the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children;
• To urge States to allocate resources for comprehensive programs designed to provide assistance to, protection for, healing reintegration into society and rehabilitation of victims;
• To urge States to devise, enforce and strengthen effective measures at the national, regional and international levels to prevent, combat and eliminate all forms of trafficking through comprehensive anti-trafficking strategies which include legislative measures, prevention campaigns and information exchange;
• To recommend that the General Assembly consider declaring a United Nations year against trafficking in persons, especially women, youth and children, in order to protect their dignity and human rights.

Extreme Poverty
During the last session of the CHR, Franciscans International joined an informal NGOs coalition to study closer the relationship between extreme poverty and human rights. FI was directly involved in drafting a joint written statement, organizing strategy meetings with the concerned experts and introducing several proposals for the resolution. In particular, we worked hard for the adoption of language underlying the centrality of the human being in the struggle to eradicate extreme poverty and social exclusion. Hence, we are encouraged that the Sub-Commission unanimously decided:
• To request the authors [Sub-Commission experts Ms. Motoc., Mr. Yokota, Mr. Guisse, Mr. Decaux and Mr. Bengoa have been requested to prepare a joint working paper on this topic] to present conclusions and recommendations in order to contribute to work on the draft declaration on extreme poverty and human rights and other international and regional initiatives;
• To encourage the authors to adopt an operational approach to extreme poverty based on the principle of justiciability of rights and the need to give States clear obligations and objectives, assigning all countries collective responsibility for combating extreme poverty all over the world;
• To request the authors to favor an approach towards extreme poverty which strengthens bonds of solidarity and social inclusion mechanisms, giving the very poorest people the capability to exercise all their rights and enjoy respect for their human dignity;
• To encourage the establishment, with input from the various parties and population groups concerned, of a range of indicators for keeping track of situations of extreme poverty, the related needs and changes in them.

Rights of the child
Franciscans International was invited to attend a consultation organized by the Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a global network of NGOs. The discussion aimed at exploring how to best reinforce attention to children in the Sub-Commission’s work for instance by mainstreaming children’s rights under each relevant agenda item. In order to respond to this important concern, which has specific repercussions in our program on human trafficking, we accepted to be part of a smaller group charged to investigate references to child rights standards in the reports and recommendations of the Sub-Commission and to identify strategies to promote them further in future Sub-Commission meetings.
West Papua / Indonesia
During the Sub-Commission, Franciscans International facilitated the presence in Geneva of Br. Theo van den Broek OFM (Director, Office for Justice and Peace, Diocese of Jayapura) and the following human rights defenders from Papua: Ms. Frederika Korain (Office for Justice and Peace, Diocese of Jayapura), Ms. Edoardus Kaize (Office for Justice and Peace, Diocese of Agats), Ms. Zandra Mambrasar (ELSHAM), Dr. Agus Irianto Sumule, Mr. Haji Mohammad Saleh Nur and Rev. Noach Nawipa.
Our office explained them the challenges NGOs face in implementing UN human rights mechanisms and invited other colleagues to speak to them. Fr. Philippe LeBlanc OP (Director, Dominicans for Justice and Peace) provided some case studies of co-operation between Franciscans and Dominicans for human rights at the UN in Geneva while Mr. Clement John (Program Executive, World Council of Churches) illustrated the work of the churches for justice and peace at the international level, as well as how to co-operate in the future. The group attended some meetings of the Sub-Commission and had a lengthy, productive discussion with diplomats at the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the UN.
The delegation from Papua was also invited to Caux, Switzerland for the annual Initiatives of Change gathering, where they brought the issue of human rights violations and abuses, as well as news of other related developments which affect the future of the troubled Indonesian province, to the attention of that international audience.

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UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
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UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights