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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid