Ethiopia at the High-Level Segment of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva….

Mrs. Hirut Zemene, State Minister of Foreign Affairs headed Ethiopia‟s delegation at the high level segment of the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, last week. The delegation included Dr. Addisu Gebre Egziabher, Commissioner for the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission, as well as representatives from the Attorney General‟s Office and the Foreign Ministry. The Council opened its session on February 27 hearing addresses from UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres; the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thompson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra‟ad Al Hussein; and Didier Burkhaulter, the head of Switzerland‟s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Their statements underlined the
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International Community‟s strong commitment to the implementation of internationally agreed human rights instruments and the better realization of global peace, development and human rights. A total of 107 dignitaries and high officials attended the Council‟s High Level Segment, the largest ever participation in the High Level Segment.
In her address to the Council, Mrs. Hirut referred to the current celebrations of the 121st anniversary of the victory of Adwa. Adwa, she pointed out, was a permanent reminder of Ethiopia‟s strong commitment to self-determination, to the promotion of human dignity, to independence and to equality. The State Minister stressed that Ethiopia was continuing to attain the full realization of universally recognized Human Rights through the implementation of its successive development policies. These, she pointed out, were reducing poverty significantly and achieving substantial socio-economic progress. She detailed the Government‟s engagement with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to fulfill Ethiopia‟s international human right obligations at the national and regional level. In her statement, the State Minister said that in spite of the recent disturbances and unfortunate loss of life in Ethiopia, peace and stability had been restored through concerted efforts of the people and the Government. She said the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had conducted a thorough and independent investigation. Ethiopia‟s House of People‟s Representatives had adopted the Commission‟s reports and Mrs. Hirut highlighted the measures the Government was now undertaking to address the legitimate concerns identified by the Commission.
…and the State Minister’s sideline meetings ….
On the sidelines of the Human Rights Council session, Mrs. Hirut held a number of meetings and bilateral discussions. Talks with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra‟ad covered the overall situation in Ethiopia. Mrs. Hirut gave details of what was being done in terms of investigating possible human-rights violations identified by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and endorsed for actions by the Ethiopian Parliament. She noted the Government‟s commitment to implementation of the results of the ongoing investigations in cases that have not yet been finalized. The High Commissioner said he was much encouraged by developments in Ethiopia and the recent report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, which had been communicated to his Office. He emphasized that given the progress of the country, challenges had to be addressed properly in a manner that would realize concrete results. This meant, among other things, resolving the communication gap in satisfying the needs of the young and accelerating responses to their demands. They agreed to continue their close consultations on this. They also agreed to work on the opening of the East and Southern Regional Office of the Commission for Human Rights in Addis Ababa.
In bilateral discussions with the South Sudan delegation led by First Vice-President, General Taban Deng Gai, the focus was on intensifying economic and political cooperation between Ethiopia and South Sudan on the basis of the understandings reached last week during the visit of President Salva Kiir to Ethiopia. General Taban Deng emphasized the recent improvements in South Sudan and the restoration of calm in the country. He underlined that Addis Ababa was a second home to the South Sudanese people and said Ethiopia‟s progress in all spheres was an example not only to South Sudan but also to all developing countries. Mrs. Hirut said the recently signed agreements would further strengthen and speed up trade relations and people-to-
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people cooperation between the two countries. She also stressed Ethiopia‟s commitment to support the South Sudanese people in the spirit of good-neighborliness.
In talks with Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, State Minister Mrs. Hirut explained Ethiopia‟s ongoing efforts to sustain the positive trend of the last decade‟s economic growth, to eradicate poverty and the emphasis on development. She thanked the ITC for its technical cooperation in the areas of trade facilitation and investment promotion, and in cooperation with India and China. She appreciated the support that it was extending to the coffee sector. She also welcomed ITC activity in poverty reduction, job creation and women-focused activities. Ms. González explained what ITC was doing and what it was planning to do in Ethiopia. She emphasized that Ethiopia was among the focus countries of ITC activity in Africa and explained the possibilities of exploring further technical cooperation projects. She also provided details of the on-going process in opening-up ITC‟s first regional office in Addis Ababa; and they agreed to engage their legal experts to finalize the host country agreement. They also agreed that Ethiopia should initiate a project proposal to launch new areas of technical cooperation.
Other sideline meetings included Mr. Alok Sharma MP, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Their discussions covered bilateral relations and cooperation in the work of the Security Council and recent resolutions in the Council. Mrs. Hirut also met with Mr. Bandar bin Mohammed Alabian, Minister and President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, as well as the heads of the Delegations of Indonesia and Kirgizstan.
…and discussions with the Ethiopian Community in Switzerland
The State Minister met with leaders of the Ethiopian Diaspora in Switzerland on Tuesday (February 28), briefing them on the current situation in Ethiopia, focusing on the state of emergency, its implementation and outcome, envisaged political reforms, and the economy. The State Minister said the government had handled human rights concerns very carefully throughout implementation of the state of emergency. Currently, almost all detainees had been released and the situation was now calm with the country back to normal. She noted that the measures taken by the government included endorsement of the report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission whose recommendations were being given due attention. The government was also undertaking reform programs to address the challenges of unemployment, corruption, maladministration and rent-seeking behavior as well as providing an equitable share of wealth.
She detailed the economic profile of the country, noting the impact of the El-Nino effect, the most severe drought in the last 50 years. This year, with an Indian Ocean Dipole, there were still about 5 million people currently affected by the drought. Despite this, the country achieved a growth of 8% last year. The Government with our development partners and the International Community were working together hard to address the crisis. She detailed measures being undertaken to realize the GTP II goals and the government‟s to speed up the structural transformation from agriculture to industrialization. It was expanding the industrial parks and these were already showing good results with more to come in jobs. The Government was also working hard to encourage and attract more investment and tourism, enhance remittances,
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diversify the economy and exports as well as expand infrastructure and push ahead with the construction of GERD. The State Minister encouraged the community to organize events this month to help celebrate the sixth anniversary of GERD‟s construction of the dam and contribute further to its support.
Following the discussion she entertained questions and comments on impediments faced by the Diaspora in Ethiopia. These included the need to speed up the issuing of new passports and Yellow Cards for Ethiopians, building a new Ethiopian Cultural Centre in Geneva, addressing illegal transfer of remittances and the importance of dealing with the destructive behavior of some elements in the Diaspora. Participants commented on the bureaucratic hurdles and corrupt practices they had faced during investment operations and encouraged the government to implement fully Diaspora engagement incentives such as the Diaspora Housing Program in Addis Ababa.
State Minister Hirut expressed her sincere appreciation for the contributions and participation of members of the Diaspora. She said the government was committed to support and facilitate the Cultural Center and it was already working together with the Diaspora to promote legal money transfers, facilitate investment processes and would continue to deal with extremist groups that challenged the country‟s national security. The State Minister concluded in expressing her sincere appreciation for the contributions and participation of the Diaspora and encouraged all to continue their support for Ethiopia‟s development.