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Sri Lanka says multilateralism could still deliver despite challenges

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Addressing the Annual High-level Panel Discussion on Human Rights Mainstreaming on 25 February, Sri Lanka said that having actively engaged in a number of inter-governmental processes, and observing the overwhelming desire of the stakeholders to build consensus and collective outcomes over the last several years, it believed that the “picture is not entirely bleak”, and “there is still hope that multilateralism can deliver despite challenges.” 

Sri Lanka›s Deputy Permanent Representative in Geneva Samantha Jayasuriya stated so, speaking on the theme ‘Human Rights in the light of multilateralism: opportunities, challenges and the way forward’, during the ongoing 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Making further comments, Jayasuriya said the high-level panel discussion came at a time when there were broader concerns on whether the UN multilateral system was able to respond effectively to a rapidly changing global peace, security, and development architecture. She noted that in the recent years, the multilateral outcomes reached through the Paris Climate Change Summit, the Marrakech Global Migration Compact, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to name a few, had taken a human-centric approach, integrating human rights and transforming them into actionable commitments. She stressed, however, that it was time to take a critical look on how and what more could be done to improve UN multilateral processes. 

«The core principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter, such as sovereign equality, non-discrimination, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, remained the guiding light in achieving international cooperation and addressing global socio-economic and cultural issues,» she said, stressing further that the multilateral endeavours should be “effective and timely in delivering responses; fair and objective in approach; enabling and equitable in impact or outcome.”

Jayasuriya also referred to the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), noting that as an instrument of a voluntary nature, the implementation of its elements largely rested in the hands of each sovereign Government. She further commented that, given many of the contemporary issues that the world was grappling with being trans-boundary in nature, solutions to them also needed to be global, based on shared responsibility, exchanging experiences, and best practices and technical know-how. 

She drew the attention of the high level panel to the proposed ‘Global Knowledge Hub’, the ‘start-up fund’, and the ‘connection hub’ of the capacity building mechanism of the GCM, indicating they could only be effective if there was international support forthcoming, in the interest of ensuring safe, orderly, and regular migration. The proposed quadrennial voluntary reporting at the International Migration Review Panel of the UN General Assembly provided, in her view, a platform to gauge the collective progress in respecting the rights of all migrants, irrespective of their legal status.

Focusing on another key area in which multilateralism had played a pivotal role, the panel focused on- climate change, and its close nexus on protecting the human rights of affected people, she said that when key stakeholders responsible for much of the carbon emission stayed outside the climate regime, maintaining the less than 1.5 degrees temperature rise target had become a real challenge, and the full and effective enjoyment of human rights was at stake. Given that the negative impacts of climate change had risen in its magnitude and frequency, often reversing hard-gained socio-economic developments, Sri Lanka’s senior diplomat asked the Council on further measures that it could take to support countries, for their mitigation and adaptation efforts. She further inquired how the ‘Rulebook for implementation of the Paris climate agreement’, as endorsed at the COP 24 could make meaningful change in protecting the rights of the affected.   

Ms. Jayasuriya also referred to the presentation on new digital technologies, and how it could help integrate human rights effectively, while agreeing that digital technologies could yield positive impact for the betterment of the mankind, bringing the world much closer into one global village through state-of-the-art technologies. She noted that interpersonal relations were taking on different shapes and dimension in the digital age. 

The Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, highlighting the importance of ethical and rule-based use of digital technologies, particularly in an era that Artificial Intelligence (AI) was emerging to dominate every aspect of human life, with implications for human rights and international humanitarian law, posed a question to panellists on what form of control humanity needed to have over Artificial Intelligence. 

The High-Level Panel was chaired by Human Rights Council President Coly Seck and comprised of three panellists, namely, International Labour Organization Deputy Director-General for Policy Deborah Greenfield, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori, and Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation Amandeep Singh Gill. President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and Vice-President for Legal Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Laya Joneydi made opening statements at the High-Level Panel.

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