At the side-lines of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, which took place from March 2nd to 27th, 54 panel discussions were organized by Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Geneva, and 154 side-events were hosted by NGOs as well as national human rights institutions (NHRIs).

The Geneva Centre observed that the side-events were divided, as usual, into two categories: thematic and country situations. As concerns the thematic parallel events, the main topics discussed were “freedom of religion and belief”, which had two resolutions adopted by consensus, and “women’s and children’s human rights”, notably in the context of armed conflicts. Regarding country-related side-events, the majority of these focused on the Middle East and North Africa region.

While acknowledging the pressing need to strengthen the effectiveness of international human rights mechanisms, to combat impunity as well as to strengthen accountability and respect for human rights in this particular geographical area, the Geneva Centre believes that most of the side-events were organized, de facto, to biasedly attack certain countries on the basis of a selective, double standards approach.

The Geneva Centre also noted that traditionally active NGOs during the Human Rights Council continue to focus primarily on the Gulf region, whereas their work is often described as world-focused. In particular, out of the 37 side-events concentrating on the MENA region, no parallel events targeted other countries where human rights violations are copious, including some European Countries. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that most of the sources consulted for the preparation of these side-events are based on unreliable information provided by biased media outlets, as the main purpose remains blaming and shaming the targeted country, rather than demonstrating the positive steps undertaken or providing concrete, feasible solutions.

In this context, the Geneva Centre recommends MENA countries to engage in a more constructive manner in any future side-event, as well as to organize their own panel discussions in order to reflect their views, strategies and communicate their good practices. The ultimate goal is to protect and promote human rights by means of a comprehensive and objective process that serves all societies, far from any form of politicization and selectivity.

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