Human Rights Issues Discussed in Minsk

On February 18, 2015, Minsk hosted a discussion on human rights issues in Belarus, which was attended by representatives of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations in Belarus Office and The Belarusian Helsinki Committee. The event was organized within the framework of the “Public Dialogue” project implemented by the Center for Strategic & International Studies in partnership with the Foreign Policy and Security Research Center on the basis of the BSU International Relations Faculty.

As noted by Sanaka Samarasinha, UN Resident Coordinator to Belarus, at the moment the UN sees no obstacles to the dialogue on human right issues in the country. According to him, the UN has cooperated with the government in Belarus for many years now in implementing a number of conventions on human trafficking, eliminating discrimination against women and protecting children's rights. During Minsk meeting Mr. Samarasinha expressed his gratitude to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Protection for successful cooperation, stressing that the moment has come to strengthen cooperation between Belarus and the international community to address the implementation of human rights. Among other factors, it has to do with providing technical aid to various state authorities in Belarus and exchanging practical experience in the area.

Sanaka Samarasinha (on the right), UN Resident Coordinator to Belarus, Vadim Pisarevich (on the left), Deputy Head of the Global Policies and Humanitarian Cooperation Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus  

The UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus said that the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the Republic of Belarus for 2016-2020 is being finalized at the moment. The new framework programme has been developed for the past nine months with input from non-governmental organizations, state institutes and the government. The UN office in Belarus assumes that in Belarus the framework programme will deal with human rights in environmental, social, economic and other contexts. Representatives of international organizations and of Belarusian government have a common understanding of the goals in the field of human rights within this programme and in the realization of international commitments undertaken by Belarus.

Sanaka Samarasinha, UN Resident Coordinator to Belarus: "The United Nations does not use human rights as a pressure tool, be it political pressure or otherwise. We at the UN just wish to support the country in implementing the obligations it has willingly undertaken. For the past two years I've been leading a dialogue to make sure that Belarus becomes signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has already been signed by more than 150 countries all over the world. Today a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed his hope that Belarus will sign this document this year."

According to the UN Office in Belarus, there are 530 thousand of people with disabilities in the country, so the issue of implementation of their rights is extremely important.

Also, this year Belarus will report to the United Nations on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was ratified as far back as 1981. In spring the country will provide the United Nations Human Rights Council with a report on the implementation of recommendations on human rights in Belarus, which Belarus received five years ago. As Sanaka Samarasinha previously noted, in 2010 the country received 124 international recommendations on the implementation of human rights. UN Member States will evaluate the efforts undertaken by Belarus in the context of country commitments.

The United Nations will also seek funds to enact their intentions on providing Belarus with technical aid to implement best international practices in law enforcement.

Sanaka Samarasinha, UN Resident Coordinator to Belarus: "Some people believe that Americans, Europeans and Belarusians are incapable of gathering round one table and talking about human rights. I think these are fallacious ideas that have to be dealt with, whether we are talking about equal wages and job opportunities for men and women in this country, about protecting certain groups of people, youth or children, or about combatting domestic violence and human trafficking."

Aleh Hulak (to the right), Chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee

At the same time, as the UN Resident Coordinator to Belarus claimed, implementation of certain international recommendations entails a number of challenges. One of such issues is the creation of a National Institution to Promote and Protect Human Rights in accordance with the Paris Principles, while another is the process of abolition of the death penalty. Even so, the representative of the Organization noted, in all his time in Belarus he never met any obstacles or resistance to having a dialogue on human rights.