From Geneva, Switzerland, I bid you Assalamu’alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.
Friday afternoon was just a chance to settle down with the hotel check-in and visit the registration desk to collect the security pass for entry into the United Nations Building, or popularly known as Palais Des Nations. Security is strict for entry to the building for the session.
Here in Geneva, everything is bilingual. For the next few days, therefore, I am a ‘déléguer’, (here’s hoping to test my limited recollections of the French language). However, most sessions will give interpretations to the 6 UN working languages.
I was here for the first time in 2005 for an educational tour. It is indeed a great feeling to be able to return to this beautiful city. To speak of Geneva as a city of peace is almost self-evident. Palais des Nations is the UN’s European headquarters and the second largest UN centre after the one in New York. The Palais’s landlord is the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the Secretary-General’s branch office. UNOG maintains the Palais and delivers those invisible but very important services, such as simultaneous interpretation, document translation and printing, which are indispensable to the UN’s intergovernmental activities.
We had a brief opportunity to tour the UN building later in the evening. Three large UN organisations occupy most of the Palais offices: UNCTAD, the Economic Council for Europe (ECE) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). A number of smaller organisations are operating at the Palais too.
We were informed that despite the many areas studied and events undertaken in the Palais offices, its main deliverable is conferences. According to the information brief, the Palais is the world’s largest conference centre, hosting about 10,000 conferences annually (just imagine the hectic schedules). Along with human rights activists from around the world, the conferences are attended by Geneva’s silver-tongue horde – the largest group of diplomats in any city in the world.
Due to Palais’s considerable conference and meeting facilities, other offsite international organisations also rent the bulk of its meeting rooms for one or two weeks a year for their annual member state gatherings. During these events, large parts of the Palais assume the identities of, such as, the World Health Organization (WHO) or the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The event which I have my eye on is perhaps most intriguingly Malaysia’s UPR session on 24th October 2013. The UPR information website tells me that the session will include presentation of reports by the government, comments by National Human Rights Institution and Human Rights NGOs, as well as recommendations by other states– there will be a rich mix of representative organisations here over the few days. It will be exciting to see a balanced geographic mix: speakers from most UN member countries all have their chance to speak or give comments on Malaysia’s human rights record.
We are very much looking forward to hearing from and meeting with people from the campaigning world who all have specific missions of addressing human rights issue on their agenda. Our mission is equally interesting. This will be the first time that a group of Muslim organizations will be observing the UPR process, with a long-term strategy of engaging in future UPR sessions as accredited organizations, and submitting our own set of reports to the UNHRC for consideration in future UPR sessions. On Malaysia’s UPR this year, I have written a few articles about it so please browse this website and hopefully I will be able to make you enjoy the updates I will be sharing in the forthcoming days.
Only that how much I’ll be able to cover in the time remains to be seen, but I’m prepared to critically monitor such an important agenda on Malaysia’s UPR review day.
Back home in Malaysia, I have read news of COMANGO’s denials that their report submitted to the UNHRC has demands to undermine the position of Islam in Malaysia and promoting LGBT rights. I have pointed out some of COMANGO’s unreasonable demands in an earlier piece here.
COMANGO has blatantly misled the Malaysian public in their press statement. The coalition is at best, one more blunder away from having to disband itself as a credible ‘human rights champion’. And now they are trying to divert the attention by accusing that we have not read the report; that we are not accredited organizations, and so on and so forth.
In actuality, although retailed by local newspaper and some news websites, the references I made in my previous articles originate from COMANGO’s own report released on 11th March 2013. This is helpfully reproduced, in full, on this website. We can also read news of their own briefing to the Members of Parliament here. In both the report and briefing, we clearly know for a fact that they have included demands on matters that undermine the position of Islam in Malaysia, including absolute freedom of religion, and LGBT rights.
It seems to me that COMANGO needs to get their acts together and read their own report. Currently, they are contradicting themselves – this is the blunder that has affected their own credibility and could bring them down.
Avenue Louis- Casai, Geneva Switzerland