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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs