x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UN set to review UAE’s progress on migrant rights and women

A delegation from the UAE will outline country's efforts in promoting women's empowerment, workers rights and political participation.

Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, will present the UAE national report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, will present the UAE national report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

DUBAI // The UAE’s efforts to increase political participation, empower women and safeguard the rights of migrant workers will be detailed at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council today.

At the council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Government officials will list the domestic laws, national policies and recommendations implemented since the last review in 2008.

The second national report will also examine the challenges the country faces and its plans to tackle them. It refers to the historic 2011 elections for the Federal National Council, at which the number of voters increased from 6,595 to almost 130,000.

“The elections were unprecedented in terms of wider participation by citizens in the political process … the number of members of electoral colleges was increased to no fewer than 300 times the number of seats allocated to each emirate in accordance with the constitution, there being no discrimination between women and men in this regard,” the report states.

“By this decision, the Government has honoured its obligations under international instruments on political and women’s rights.”

The council examines the rights record of all 192 UN member states every four years. The UAE’s first report, prepared by a committee headed by Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and FNC Affairs, was submitted in December 2008.

It showcased the strides made in education, health and affordable housing, but conceded improvement was needed on workers’ and women’s rights and in combating human trafficking.

After the last review, the UAE adopted 38 out of 74 human-rights recommendations made by the council. It rejected some others, including calls to abolish the death penalty, extend freedom of assembly and association, and grant migrant workers more rights.

One of the recommendations to be accepted was to allow Emirati women married to non-citizens to pass their nationality on to their children. In December 2011, Sheikh Khalifa, the President, announced that children of Emirati women married to foreigners could apply for citizenship once they turned 18.

Today’s delegation, again led by Dr Gargash, will list existing laws that have been amended, new legislation and approved Cabinet decisions.

They include new protection for people with disabilities, prohibiting the sale or supply of tobacco to children under 18, establishing a manual on standards for shared housing of workers, protection of the rights of people living with HIV and regulating care for foster children.

The report also mentions laws that have been drafted and approved by the Cabinet but have not yet been applied. They include regulating the employment of domestic staff, raising the compulsory school age to 18, children’s rights, health insurance and a federal bill on combating infectious diseases.

The delegation will also acknowledge the obstacles the country faces and the work that needs to be done.

The report promises “special attention” to strengthen the role of national mechanisms to promote and uphold human rights.

“One of the state’s main objectives … is to consider the possibility of establishing national human-rights institutions that would include Government and civil society representatives,” the report says.

Authorities will also evaluate existing strategies on women, children, employment and human trafficking.
The report was compiled in March last year after workshops and meetings with civil society organisations and government bodies.

pkannan@thenational.ae