The Universality of Human Rights, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights

A side event to examine the cultural rights approach to the universality of human rights, and the close relationship between universality and cultural diversity.

The universality of human rights is one of the most important principles codified in international
law. It is the central idea of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a foundational
aspect of the entire human rights system. But as we mark the 70 th anniversary of the adoption of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 2018, universality is under sustained
attack, from both the political right and left, from State and non-State actors, including
extremists, fundamentalists and populists around the world, and even from some academics,
including those who misuse culture and cultural rights justifications.

Simultaneously, respect for cultural diversity is also threatened. For some, cultural diversity is
still wrongly understood as being in opposition to universality, who misuse it as an excuse for
violations of the very universal human rights within which its enjoyment is explicitly embedded.
It is also denied by those who seek to impose monolithic identities and ways of being, and who
advocate various forms of supremacy and discrimination.

The UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, will also discuss her current
report to the General Assembly (A/73/227) focusing on the current threats to universality, calling
for foundational renewal and vigorous defence of this principle, and recognition of its close
interrelationship with cultural diversity.


Naureen Shameen, Manger, Advancing Universal Rights and Justice Initiative, AWID


  • Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, poet and essayist, Literature Nobel Prize Winner (1986)
  • Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur on the field of cultural rights
  • Zarizana Adul Aziz, Director of Due Dilligence Project


Event flyer

‘A New Sense of Urgency’: Preventing Rollback and Ensuring Gender Justice for All

A side event organized with the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women during the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council on 22nd June at 1pm.


In its pivotal report to the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in law and practice (WGDAW) highlights, among other things, progress made thus far in achieving rights related to gender, reproduction and sexuality, and emphasizes the central need for all to better address the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that reinforce and sustain each other to marginalize different groups of women and girls.

At the same time, the WGDAW boldly draws our urgent attention to the remaining gaps and obstacles that remain to the achievement of gender justice. Progressive and feminist activists working at the national, regional and international levels today face an environment of deadlocks, retrogressions and backlashes that undermines rights related to gender, reproduction and sexuality; opposes the universality of human rights; and aims to fragment, weaken and co-opt the human rights system.

The anti-rights actors and movements today threatening rights and fostering systemic discrimination flow from interlocked phenonema and oppressions. Rising authoritarianism in political governance; increasing inequality and corporate capture of the state; xenophobia and militarism; and rising (mis)use of culture, religion, tradition and nationalism to gain and bolster power now pose considerable challenges to the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights across the world. And gender justice and bodily autonomy and integrity is a key preoccupation and target of such anti-rights movements.

As the Working Group flags, this atmosphere of retrogressions extends across contexts, and into the international human rights system itself. It its seminal report, it observes how concepts such as “complementarity”, ‘equity” and “protection of the family” have been used to undermine women’s rights by challenging universal human rights to equality and non-discrimination; and that the concept of gender itself has been challenged, misunderstood and misused to tear away at the edifice of rights protections for women and girls worldwide.

We commend the Working Group for its innovative, progressive and brave work over the past six years and join in their call to all actors to unite in an effort to protect, promote and fulfil women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights, and gender justice, while fighting against retrogressions. In doing so, an intersectional approach and strong coalition and institutional work is essential.


  • Foster mutual understanding of critical issues and challenges – analyze the current context of rising backlash and corrosion of women’s human rights – including rights related to gender, sexuality and reproduction – at the national, regional and international level.
  • Share information on and discuss civil society strategies to push back against anti-rights organizing and tactics that aim to undermine the universality of human rights.
  • Articulate and discuss key recommendations for UN officials, member states and civil society.

WATCH the live stream via AWID’s Facebook page

FOLLOW the live tweets via AWID’s Twitter account

JOIN the conversation using the hashtags #RightsAtRisk and #HRC38

Eliminating Online, Digital and ICT Facilitated Violence


Eliminating Online, Digital and ICT Facilitated Violence Against Women and Girls

Come join the discussion to explore the next steps to address online, digital and ICT-facilitated VAWG,
the potential of a human rights framework to analyze States’ and digital intermediaries’ responses to
VAWG in digital contexts, and recommendations on what can be done to curb and ultimately eliminate
online, digital and ICT-facilitated VAWG.


  • HE Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN Ambassador Rosemary McCarney

Featured speakers:

• Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and
• Zarizana Abdul Aziz, Due Diligence Project
• Jan Moolman, Association for Progressive Communications
• David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of
opinion and expression

UN Trans Advocacy Week 2018

Monday, 18 June

9am – 12pm
The Independent Expert on SOGI present its new report to the HRC
Room XX, United Nations Office at Geneva, Palais des Nations.

12 – 3pm
The Special Rapporteur on Health presents its new Report to the HRC
Room XX, United Nations Office at Geneva, Palais des Nations.

3 – 4:30pm
Side event at HRC
Mainstreaming gender identity and expression in feminist and gender equality work
Room XXIV United Nations Office at Geneva, Palais des Nations.

Tuesday, 19 June

10am – 1pm
Open Consultation on legal gender recognition and depathologization with the Independent Expert on SOGI.
Room XI, United Nations Office at Geneva, Palais des Nations.

1:30 – 3pm
UN Research Institute for Social Development panel
Where do we go from here: Safeguarding Trans People’s Rights
Room XXIII, United Nations Office in Geneva, Palais des Nations

6:30 – 8:30pm
Meet & Greet.
La Réplique (at Theatre Saint-Gervais), Rue du Temple 5,

Thursday, 21 June

3 – 4:30pm
Side Event at HRC
“The Yogyakarta Principles +10 and the protection of the rights of transgender people”
Room XXIII, United Nations Office at Geneva, Palais des Nations


Rights Eroded: The Effect of Closing Civic Space on WHRDs

Rights Eroded: The Effect of Closing Civic Space on Women Human Rights Defenders Twenty Years after the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders


  • H.E. Ambassador Hans Brattskar, Permanent Representative of Norway
  • Dr. Ivana Radačić, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice
  • Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • Dr. Laurel Fletcher, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, International Human Rights Law Clinic, UC Berkeley School of Law
  • Maryam Al-Khawaja, Special Advisor on Advocacy for Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Vice Chair, Urgent Action Fund Board of Directors
  • Shalini Eddens, Director of Programs, Urgent Action Fund

HRC38 Event Flyer WHRDs Rights Eroded AWID RAFTO UAF

UN GA: The Impact of Fundamentalism and Extremism on the Cultural Rights of Women

A discussion of the report presented by the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights


Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Rafida Bonya Ahmed, author, human rights activists and moderator at Mukto-mona blog; visiting

research scholar at UT Austin; widow of Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy

Sheema Kermani, activist, theater practitioner and dancer; founder of Tehrik-E-Niswan in Karachi,


Wanda Nowicka, Chair of Equality and Modernity Association; Honorary President of Polish Federation

for Women and Family Planning

Cole Parke, LGBTQ and Gender Justice Researcher at Political Research Associates, USA

Wai Wai Nu, Director of Women Peace Network Arakan, Myanmar

Video message from Nayantara Sahgal, writer

Date: Thursday 26 October 2017

Time: 5-7pm

Venue: Conference Room 11, UN Headquarters, New York, NY

RSVP by 23 October 2017 to with subject line “GA side event”

HRC36 Panel: We Persist – Using human rights law and standards to advance the right to access safe and legal abortion

In support of the September 28 Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, the Sexual Rights Initiative is organising an event during the 36th regular session of the Human Rights Council.

The event will highlight the ways in which States, civil society, the UN system, and others can use human rights law and standards to advance the right to access safe and legal abortion. It is intended that this exchange of practices and experiences will inspire further action and collaboration among States, development partners, and civil society towards realising abortion related rights for all.


Lucinda O’Hanlon, Adviser on Women’s Rights, Women’s Rights and Gender Section, OHCHR


H.E. Martha Maurás Perez, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Chile to the UN

Ronald Johnson, Scientist, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO

Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Vice Chairperson, Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition, South Africa

Julánia Armando Langa, Legal Advisor, Cabinet of the Minister of Health, Mozambique

*Simultaneous interpretation will be available in Spanish and Portuguese

Can’t make it? Follow the highlights on Twitter via @SexualRights and @AWID


IACHR 165 Ordinary Period of Sessions

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere.

Hearings will be held on matters involving all OAS countries.

IACHR 164 Extraordinary Period of Sessions

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere.

Hearings at this session will be held on matters involving Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Cuba, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, United States, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

High-Level Political Forum 2017

The meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development in 2017 convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, will be held from Monday, 10 July, to Wednesday, 19 July 2017; including the three-day ministerial meeting of the forum from Monday, 17 July, to Wednesday, 19 July 2017.

The theme will be “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world“. The set of goals to be reviewed in depth will be the following, including Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, that will be considered each year:

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

In 2017, 44 countries have volunteered to present their national voluntary reviews to the HLPF.