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Guest Blog: Juli King '18 Accompanies Professor Bennoune to United Nations

Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, Mar 17, 2017

Professor Karima Bennoune, in her role as United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, presented a report at the meeting of UN Human Rights Council on March 2 in Geneva. She was joined by King Hall students Juli King ’18 and Reema Pangarkar ’18. Juli wrote about her experience and contributes this guest entry to the Dean's Blog:

Juli at UN
Pictured: Juli King '18 stands outside of the meeting room of the UN Human Rights Council next to a print bearing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Throughout the week at the United Nations in Geneva, Reema and I were able to attend the high level segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council and interactive dialogues with various Special Rapporteurs, as well as several side events.

The high level segment is a forum for UN member states to comment on their own and other countries’ human rights records. After member states have commented, each state has the right to reply to any allegations made against its human rights record. This part of the discussion becomes quite interesting as countries begin to go back and forth during the right of reply on who has a worse human rights record or who is at fault for a certain human rights situation.

We were able to sit in on several Special Rapporteur interactive dialogues, including those of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. During interactive dialogues, Special Rapporteurs present their most recent country visit reports and their most recent thematic report. The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, presented her thematic report focused on the financialization of housing and the right to adequate housing. After the Special Rapporteur presented her report, members of the Human Rights Council are given the opportunity to respond, to which the Special Rapporteur is then able to respond.

Reema and I also attended side events hosted by permanent country missions to the UN or by non-governmental organizations, including side events on the human rights situation in Crimea, on the role and protection of human rights defenders and an informal consultation of a draft resolution on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights. The side event on Crimea brought together many countries who expressed concern about the human rights abuses occurring in this region and how long these violations have been occurring without adequate response from the international community. At the side event on the protection of human rights defenders, we heard from Joe Moses, a community leader from the Paga Hill community in Papa New Guinea. Mr. Moses described his work and the threats he said he faces for that work. At the end of the session, the representative of the government of Papa New Guinea spoke on the government’s position on the situation. One of the most interesting parts of attending the HRC was seeing governments respond to allegations against them.

Overall, attending the United Nations Human Rights Council was a wonderful opportunity, one that students are not able to get in a purely academic setting. We are thankful to Professor Bennoune and the law school for allowing us to attend the United Nations in Geneva for the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council.