x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE 'resolute' in its efforts to tackle human rights issues

The UAE is "resolute" in its efforts to tackle human rights issues, the head of the government delegation to the UN Human Rights Council said.

Labourers like these men in Abu Dhabi stand to benefit from human rights reforms.
Labourers like these men in Abu Dhabi stand to benefit from human rights reforms.

GENEVA // The UAE is "resolute" in its efforts to tackle human rights issues, the head of the government delegation to the UN Human Rights Council said yesterday. Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and the Federal National Council, reiterated the UAE's commitment to improving human rights. "The UAE takes the issues of human rights very seriously and is resolute in dealing with them," he said in an interview.

He spoke after the country's first-ever United Nations human rights review, which he said the UAE considered a way to examine its own record. "Through this process, we can find out where our loopholes are and the things that we can do to rectify them immediately. "The most significant challenge that the UAE faces in efforts to improve the record on human rights is on the issue of labour, with all of its details," he said.

"It is an issue that encompasses so many sub-issues." Dr Gargash said comments at yesterday's meeting made by countries with "significant relationships" with the UAE regarding its labour market, such as India, the Philippines and Pakistan, showed they understood the issue. However, he said, some comments - he would not say by whom - showed an unfamiliarity with its complex nature. "Some interventions in this area were repetitive and disconnected with recent developments."

He said a similar gap in understanding was evident during the discussion on women's issues, with some delegations presenting the "stereotype" of women in the Arab world. Nevertheless, Dr Gargash said many of the comments were "encouraging and supportive". He cited remarks by the delegate from the Philippines as particularly "helpful". But, while the UAE is open to discussions in many areas, there were several issues raised during the session, such as capital punishment and the rights of homosexuals, that Dr Gargash described as "non-starters".

"The process has to be doable within our own framework," he said. Several delegations raised the issue of introducing the concept of human rights into the education system, something the nation is planning to do. Promoting a human rights culture in the UAE depends on education, Dr Gargash said. He said the human rights assessment and the UAE's responses to questions from the delegations were received positively "because it was a serious and well-documented effort".

"This was the same approach we tried to convey in our opening statement, where we painted a picture of significant progress. "But at the same time, we highlighted areas of challenges." zconstantine@thenational.ae