GENEVA: Kuwait has presented its file for boosting and safeguarding human rights at the domestic level to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during the Universal Period Review (UPR) session. Addressing the UNHCR session, Kuwaiti Minister of Finance, Acting Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel affirmed Kuwait’s cooperation with the concerned international team and adherence to mechanisms for boosting and protecting human rights, in partnership with civil society organizations. Kuwait, since its founding, has been seeking to build a society advocating principles of human rights; a community keen on safeguarding these rights against any violation, she said.
Human rights are among Kuwait’s priorities, in line with the Islamic sharia (law) and the 1962 (national) Constitution, Minister Aqeel said, praising the regular reports’ presentation by the member states as an opportunity to practice self-criticism, pin point negative and positive aspects in this sector. She indicated at the desire to examine experience of sisterly and friendly states at this level, “where we aspire to revamp our policies and internal practices with respect of human rights.”
UPR is a process that involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. It is a state-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. At the external level, Kuwait looks forward to cooperating with the international community, namely states and organizations, for sake of attaining more development and prosperity, the Kuwaiti minister added.
Minister Aqeel, in her presentation to the UNHRC session, shed light on the national efforts to improve Kuwait’s ranking in the global prosperity index, where it has succeeded to move from the level 80 in 2017 to 66, from among 149 states, in 2018. Moreover, Kuwait improved its ranking from 45 to 39, among 156 states, in the index of happiness in 2018.
Minister Aqeel, in her presented report, has indicated that wealth cannot bring happiness to people, noting that satisfaction can be attained through political freedoms and solid social bonds. These are, she said, are much more significant and effective factors than high income. Aware of these necessities, Kuwait has taken the path to attain objectives at these levels for its people.
Moreover, Kuwait has established the permanent national committee, headed by the foreign ministry, to prepare reports and follow up on recommendations related to human rights-headed by the foreign ministry. This commission, which comprises representatives from all concerned authorities, seeks to honor the state commitments toward contracting committees and presenting reports as scheduled, she said, noting that its good work had drawn praise from the former commissioner of the UNHCR Prince Zaid bin Al-Hussein during a session of the council. The latter visited Kuwait in 2017.
Keen on cooperation with the UNHCR, Kuwait hosted the special rapporteur on human trade in September 2016. Also in the same year, it received the team tasked with indiscrimination against women in law. In 2018, Kuwait played host to the rapporteur for rights of people of special needs. Currently, Kuwait is coordinating date for a visit by the rapporteurs charged with the right of housing, modern-time slavery and the team tasked with human rights, trans-national companies and business institutions. Moreover, Kuwait had hosted delegations from many NGOs namely Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, she said.
Discrimination against women
Kuwait’s 2015-2020 development plan envisions a set of objectives to help nations eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. The project includes allowing women to engage in all sectors including the political field, as well as launching a national strategy to end violence against women, she said. Moreover, 25 CEOs of private companies signed “principles of enabling women,” as these national companies will be enlisted on the UN website and closely monitored, she added.
Meanwhile, Aqeel said Kuwait focuses on protecting the rights of disabled people, as the country issued law no 8/2010 and joined the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013. Kuwait also launched the Public Authority of the Disabled Affairs (PADA), which established a committee for students with disabilities, a committee for health affairs and others. The minister affirmed that big part of Kuwait’s development plan focuses on allowing the disabled to play a vital role in society.
In the provision and access domain, a building code has been issued, a national framework set, training workshops organized and legal and official steps taken, all aiming at giving access to Kuwait City, she said. Kuwait has also adopted a recruitment strategy through training programs targeting people with special needs, the minister added.
The Kuwaiti government is working pursuant to a clear-cut blueprint to resolve the issue of stateless residents (bedoons), she said, citing a relevant recent cabinet plan based on significant principles, primarily justice and equality, she noted. She said this category is viewed as having humanitarian considerations with political dimensions based on the fact that nationality is an unquestionable sovereignty matter. This principle, she maintained, has been established in international relations and enshrined in several pieces of national legislation.
In this regard, Aqeel spoke highly of His Highness the Amir’s instructions intended to address the problems of this group just out of humanitarian reasons. Accordingly, the Kuwaiti Cabinet adopted a decree in 2011, giving its consent to the initiative of the central agency of illegal residents to provide continued humanitarian, social and civil services to illegal residents.
For instance, they are offered health, education, food supply and job services just like Kuwaiti citizens, she boasted. But, the minister affirmed that the number of illegal residents dropped from 220,000 before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 to 120,000 following liberation, then down to 85,000 in late 2018.Since the agency was created in 2010, 14,042 illegal residents have adjusted their positions by showing their own original official documents, she added.
In the area of contract workers, the minister said Kuwait has always provided guarantees in line with 19 World Labor Organization agreements. In this context, Kuwait adopted the private sector’s labor law No 6/2010 and set up a manpower agency that serves over 1.6 million employees of 171 nationalities, she remarked. She cited Law no 68/2015 regarding domestic workers as an example to follow thanks to its multiple warranties, pointing out a new women center that offers help and legal protection and health services and free meals to women.
Just out of its interest in criminalizing human trafficking in line with the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Kuwait enacted Law No 91/2013 in this regard, she boasted. Furthermore, the cybercrime law includes strict penalties against anyone who may create a website or post online information bearing on human trafficking, the minister warned.
As for the promotion of citizens’ capability-building in the domain of human trafficking, the Kuwait Institute for Judicial and Legal Studies organized several courses for judges and prosecutors working in this area, the minister noted. The cabinet further issued a decree authorizing a national strategy to fight human trafficking, she indicated.
In line with a Kuwaiti Cabinet resolution, the permanent committee tasked with enforcing the ban on human trade and immigrants’ trafficking had been formed. It was headed by the minister of justice and included members representing various authorities. One of its most significant achievements was adoption of a national system prohibiting human trade, she said, re-affirming Kuwait’s conviction that human rights issues have international and humanitarian aspects.
According to such an approach, the State of Kuwait continues providing humanitarian aid to those suffering from poverty, diseases, hunger, natural catastrophes, crises resulting from wars across the world, as a basis of human Rights, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Number of countries that had benefited from Kuwait till 2018 reached 106, minister Aqeel elaborated, noting that the Kuwaiti assistance aimed at funding projects in transport, water, sewage, agricultural, irrigation, industrial and energy sectors.
Furthermore, Kuwait was in solidarity with victims of humanitarian crises throughout world. It had hosted three international conferences for aiding Syrian refugees and the displaced and took part in the fourth and fifth conferences that had been held for the same purposes. Continuing, Aqeel said Kuwait earmarked $1.9 billion for supporting the humanitarian situation in Syria in addition to presenting $20 million for securing humanitarian needs in Iraq. – KUNA