Foreign Minister Baerbock is travelling to Geneva on 27 February to attend the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council and the Conference on Disarmament. Geneva is the second headquarters of the United Nations, next to New York. The Human Rights Council, the Conference on Disarmament and the UN International Law Commission convene in the Palace of Nations, which used to serve as the headquarters of the UN’s predecessor organisation.
52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
In the Human Rights Council the focus will be on Russia’s ongoing human rights violations in Ukraine. During the 52nd session, the HRC Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, established last year, will present its first report. Germany supports the work of the Commission and is also working to extend the latter’s mandate to cover the kidnapping of Ukrainian children by Russia in line with the joint German-Dutch initiative on this issue. Prior to her departure, Foreign Minister Baerbock stressed:
“Human rights are universal and non-negotiable. Across the world, however, they are being trampled underfoot: in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, in Iran, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In the United Nations Human Rights Council, we denounce injustice for what it is and work to ensure accountability. Our progress may often appear slow and slight, but every resolution, every commission of inquiry and every rapporteur appointed is a brick that makes the wall between justice and injustice stronger.”
With regard to Iran, the Foreign Minister will call upon the Iranian regime to respect the rights of the protesters and finally grant the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission, which was founded in November at Germany’s initiative, access to the country.
Conference on Disarmament
With Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the chances of developing the arms control and disarmament architecture further have been blocked for the foreseeable future. Russia’s recent decision to withdraw from the New START Treaty and the country’s obstruction of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference last summer are just two negative examples. The debate in Geneva will centre on how to handle this difficult situation. Foreign Minister Baerbock issued the following statement on this:
“At a time when a nuclear power is violating the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, negotiating forums like the Geneva Conference on Disarmament are more important than ever. Every inch of progress counts here. Because disarmament and arms control remain an essential component of our security. We must not allow a small number of states to endanger the security of each and every one of us by undermining rules designed to serve us all. With our efforts towards disarmament, we stand on the side of international law. And that is a position of strength.”
In this context, Foreign Minister Baerbock will reiterate in Geneva that Germany’s support for Ukraine in the form of arms supplies to enable it to defend itself does not contradict Germany’s engagement in the area of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. Rather, both approaches are designed to defend the international rules-based order.
Donor conference for Yemen
The annual donor conference to overcome the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is taking place in Geneva at the invitation of the United Nations, led by Secretary-General António Guterres and co-hosts Sweden and Switzerland. According to the United Nations, the worldwide largest humanitarian crisis within a single country is raging in Yemen. In 2023, 67% of the population, 21.6 million people out of 32.6 million, will be dependent on humanitarian assistance, of whom 11.1 million are children and 3.1 million internally displaced people. Food price increases related to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine have further exacerbated the situation. Foreign Minister Baerbock will announce additional support to the tune of 120 million euro.
Recently, it has become increasingly difficult to reach the people in Yemen with humanitarian assistance. The situation for Yemeni women in particular has deteriorated further, which also hampers the work of female humanitarian aid workers. The Foreign Minister will broach both issues and call for improvements.