News / Middle East

UN Calls for Greater Human Rights in the Gulf

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says more basic freedoms are being seen in Gulf Arab countries, but further progress must be made. For the first time Commissioner Navi Pillay is visiting all six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations during the same mission to get first-hand information of human rights practices in the region.

Speaking at a press conference in the United Arab Emirates Saturday, the fifth stop on her tour, Pillay identified four areas of concern: women's rights, statelessness, the situation of migrant workers and freedom of expression, association and assembly.

In some countries, like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, expatriates outnumber national citizens.  But, many governments in the region have not passed legislation that grants equal rights to foreign workers.

A system known as Kafala exists in most states and requires workers to have local sponsors. Pillay says the scheme allows for illegal practices like confiscating passports and withholding wages. "Many problems have arisen through a lack of protection safeguards in the so-called Kafala, or sponsorship, system that leaves migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation in an unequal power relationship with their employers," she said.

Pillay says women in the Gulf are also unable to fully enjoy their human rights. Like in many Muslim nations, they are unable to make certain choices for themselves or fully participate in public life. In Saudi Arabia females are unable to drive and require a male guardian when they are outside their homes.

Steps towards greater gender equality, however, are being taken. And women now have access to higher education in all six Gulf countries and a minimal number of females hold government posts.

Pillay says her meetings with officials have assured her that the overall situation for human rights in the region will continue to improve. "In all the cases, the heads of state and ministers I have met expressed their interest to continue progress on attaining international human rights standards. I am especially heartened by the fact that, in the four countries where I've held talks with the governments so far, there was agreement that not only are human rights not inconsistent with Islam, but they are achievable," she said.

Pillay says she hopes her current tour will allow the U.N. to provide better support and advice to individual Gulf countries on how to improve their human rights records. "Major social changes cannot take place overnight, and I accept that the pace of change depends to some extent on sufficient popular consensus. This, however, does not forestall the possibility of making bold changes. I am convinced the political will is there, as evidence by the words of Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, who told me: Not only are we willing to move forward, we are planning to move forward," she said.

Pillay will conclude her mission in Oman on April 26.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid