#13 The G|O Briefing, September 18, 2020

A non-sequitur at the Human Right Council and a virtual UN General Assembly in New York

This is an onsite, slightly edited republication of the complete G|O Briefing newsletter

Today in The Geneva Observer, the UN’s 75th birthday, of course. But first, let’s pick up where we left off last Thursday with the allegations of non-compliance and breach of the UN Special Procedures code of conduct made against Agnes Callamard and Joe Cannataci. China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia had joined ranks with others to lodge complaints and request a full separate debate before the Council. HRC President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger denied the request.

Initially, member states would have been able to comment on the allegations during yesterday’s session. But that didn’t happen either, as the Special Procedures Coordination Council to which Tichy-Fisslberger had referred the matter concluded that these very serious claims had been presented in a  “manifestly frivolous or untimely manner" and that the group of States had failed “to provide concrete information that would allow for proper examination. Seasoned HRC observers tell The G|O that the matter will most likely not go away but that, for the time being, the kerfuffle has been firmly put on the back burner by Tichy-Fisslberger and the Coordination Council.

The big items on the HRC agenda over its first two days were the High Commissioner on Human Rights’ traditional global human rights update, the request for an urgent debate on Belarus (requested by the EU, which passed and will be held 10 am this Friday (September 18, 2020)), and the discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on Human Rights. However, the first order of business of the 45th session of the HRC as it got underway at the Palais des Nations was for it to agree to apply the same COVID-related measures and the extraordinary modalities for the session (which would be the same as the 44th session).

In New York, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) also got started, for its part, in full virtual mode. Next week (the second week) is when world leaders traditionally stand at the famous green marble podium and address the assembly, and the virtual format will change things quite a lot.