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Joint civil society statement on the outcomes of UNGA 77 Third Committee

The undersigned civil society organisations mark the conclusion of the UN General Assembly’s (GA) 77th Third Committee session with the following observations on some thematic and country-specific resolutions considered at this session. We urge all States to implement the commitments they have made in the resolutions discussed below to their full extent.

We welcome the joint statement on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, China delivered by Canada on behalf of a cross-regional group of 50 countries. This statement echoes the UN Human Rights Office’s independent, objective analysis and its findings which the UN’s human rights office determined may amount to crimes against humanity, and urges China to implement that report’s recommendations, in particular on enforced disappearance. There was an increase in State support compared to last year, signaling hope for future initiatives to debate the situation and support victims to secure accountability. Nonetheless, there is more work to ensure support from member states, in the EU and globally, as well as from Muslim-majority countries. 

We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by Ireland and joined by a cross-regional group of countries, calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. We welcome that 80 States continued to sign on to the statement but urge more States to sign on to future such statements.

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Social media platforms must act against election-related violence, disinfo, hate

As we approach the midterm elections, it remains painfully clear that social media companies are still failing to protect candidates, voters, and elected officials from disinformation, misogyny, racism, transphobia, and violence. After the 2020 presidential election, Trump backers and MAGA Republicans attacked the United States Capitol in the hopes of undermining the democratic process and stopping electoral vote certification. Before the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, social media platforms like Twitter and Meta knew that white supremacist misogynists were using their platforms to organize violent actions, spread false information claiming Trump had won, and threaten election workers, mostly Black women in places like Georgia. Yet social media companies did little to protect us.

In fact, according to The New York Times, the phrase "Storm the Capitol" was used 100,000 times on social media platforms in the month preceding the attack. Facebook groups had 650,000 posts questioning the validity of the election between Election Day and the January 6 insurrection, including many posts that called for executions and other violence. Most of this violence, both online and at the Capitol, was driven by racist, misogynistic men, and many of them had records of domestic violence or sexual harassment and assault. Similarly, insurrectionists made numerous threats on social media against women leaders in Congress, including threatening to kill Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. These threats were in addition to the regular threats and harassment endured by women of color congressional leaders: A study by ISD Global of 2020 candidates found that women of color candidates receive more abusive messages on social media, with Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez getting the most.

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Castro, Jacobs Call for Biden Administration to Affirm Global Commitment to Protecting Sexual and Reproductive Rights Post¬-Dobbs

Dear Mr. Visek:

We are deeply concerned by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In the wake of this decision, we appreciate Secretary Blinken’s stated commitment to “helping provide access to reproductive health services and advancing reproductive rights around the world.” We write to you today because we believe the Dobbs decision is not only harmful to individuals in the United States who seek safe, legal access to abortions, but it also impacts the U.S. commitment to international human rights and its legal obligations, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which have all been ratified by the United States.

International human rights bodies have affirmed that access to abortion upholds key human rights, including the right to life, health, non-discrimination, information, and privacy. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) contains important and relevant protections for access to abortion. In 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the ICCPR, made clear in General Comment 36 that the right to life, enshrined in Article 6 of the Covenant, includes the right to access safe and legal abortion without the imposition of restrictions which subject women and girls to physical or mental pain or suffering, discriminate against them, arbitrarily interfere with their privacy, or place them at risk of undertaking unsafe abortions. The Committee noted that, under Article 6, State parties may not introduce new barriers to abortion and should remove existing barriers that deny effective access by women and girls to safe and legal abortion.

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Letter Supporting Abortion Rights for Veterans Affairs Patients

Dear Under Secretary for Health Dr. Elnahal:

As organizations committed to protecting and expanding abortion access for all people, including service members, veterans, and their family members, we commend the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) for its Interim Final Rule (“IFR”) on Reproductive Health Services. This IFR will provide essential abortion care and counseling to veterans and their family members in the midst of the current reproductive health care crisis. Access to abortion is essential to veterans’ freedom to make decisions about their health and well-being, and this IFR is a critical action toward ensuring they have control over their bodies, lives, and futures.

As a part of this country’s commitment to providing for the needs of veterans after they leave the military, VA has been directed by Congress to “promote, preserve, or restore the health” of the veterans they serve—and this includes ensuring access to abortion without political interference. Lacking access to abortion care and adequate reproductive health services can have profound impacts, including financial insecurity, increased risk of intimate partner violence, and maternal and neonatal deaths. These impacts are disproportionately felt by marginalized communities in the U.S who have long faced systemic barriers to health care—including Black, Indigenous, and people of color, low-income people, rural populations, LGBTQI people, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

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An Open Letter to the Florida Board of Medicine

We, a coalition of national and community-based organizations, grassroots groups, public officials, faith-based leaders and faith communities, and healthcare professionals who work in Florida, strongly condemn the Florida Board of Medicine’s recent decision to begin the rule-making process to create Florida-specific “standards of care” for gender-affirming healthcare for transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse youth. Despite the Board of Medicine’s claims to be an apolitical body acting on behalf of all Florida residents, the board meeting on August 5th, 2022, revealed an explicitly political agenda. Governor Ron Desantis’ hand-picked appointees on the Board of Medicine initiated these proceedings as one of several policy attacks on LGBTQ+ people in Florida.

We condemn the actions of Governor Ron DeSantis, Surgeon General Ladapo, the Florida Board of Medicine, and the Florida Department of Health, for their intentional misrepresentation of scientific research, their deliberate exclusion of the vast body of scientific research that demonstrates the benefits of gender-affirming healthcare, and their assertion of the explicitly transphobic, scientifically debunked, so-called “social contagion theory.” We also condemn the Florida Board of Medicine’s decision to call on the overtly transphobic, biased, and discredited Dr. Quentin Van Meter. Van Meter’s “American College of Pediatricians” organization is an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group, not a medical authority.

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Google Maps and Crisis Pregnancy Centers Sign On Letter

Dear Mr. Pichai and Mr. Phillips,

We are writing to ask that Google stop accepting advertisements from anti-abortion clinics, including Crisis Pregnancy Centers, due to their intentionally misleading and harmful impacts on people seeking reproductive health services.

As you know, the Supreme Court's ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization opened the door for states across the country to enact restrictions on abortion care, including outright bans and criminalization.

We believe Big Tech companies like Google have the power to protect their users from disinformation, misinformation, privacy intrusions, and harassment when they utilize your search and location services, including Google Maps and Google search.

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President Biden: Stop Israeli Government’s Attacks on Palestinian Civil Society

Dear Mr. President:

We write because your administration’s consistently yielding response to the Israeli government’s escalating attacks against prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups over the past 10 months has put the safety and well-being of Palestinian human rights defenders at serious risk. We call for immediate action in response to the Israeli government’s latest escalation so as to curtail any further imminent repressive tactics by Israeli authorities and ensure Palestinian civil society is free to continue its critical work.

Last week, in a significant escalation, Israeli military forces raided the offices of seven Palestinian human rights and community organizations in the occupied West Bank on 18 August 2022, sealing shut their doors, ordering them closed, and seizing computers and other confidential materials. In the following days, directors of the organizations were summoned by the Israeli military and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) for interrogation. All staff are currently under threat of imminent arrest and prosecution. While many in the international community were swift to condemn the Israeli governments shameful political maneuver in October 2021 designating leading Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” under Israel’s draconian Counter-Terrorism Law, your administration has refused to act or reject this clear attack on Palestinian civil society, and even took affirmative steps including canceling the valid U.S. visa held by the head of one of the targeted organizations. The response so far has only enabled and empowered the Israeli government to sustain and escalate its repression.

The targeted organizations form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades across the full spectrum of issues of global concern, including children’s rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, socio-economic rights, the rights of farmworkers, and justice and accountability for international crimes. They include: Defense for Children International - Palestine, Al Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. They are trusted partners in our collective work to secure human rights for all.

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Letter to Biden Admin: Take Steps to Implement Exceptions for Funding of Abortion Services Abroad

Dear Secretary Blinken and Administrator Power,

As organizations dedicated to protecting and expanding global reproductive health, rights, and justice, including abortion access, we are heartened to hear that you maintain an unwavering commitment to sexual and reproductive health care. The recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision is a public health emergency that has and will continue to threaten the health and lives of people seeking essential health care services, not just for those in the U.S. but also for people globally. We are glad to see those in USAID and the State Department recognizing and calling out the devastation that this decision will bring worldwide and reaffirming your commitment to protect and care for those you serve.

We look forward to working alongside you in this critical endeavor towards reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and dignity for people worldwide. We encourage you to start meeting this commitment today by authorizing USAID reproductive health funding to the full extent of the law. Under current law, U.S. foreign assistance may not be used for abortion services as a means of family planning. This requirement, however, still allows USAID and the State Department to provide funding for abortion services in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. It also allows for abortion service information and counseling. However, USAID and the State Department do not and have never funded abortion services in these circumstances - even though they can do so without breaching any congressionally imposed limits on abortion funding.

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Options to Advance the ILC Draft Articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity

  1. This Memorandum identifies three potential avenues to advance the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Crimes Against Humanity to the next procedural step. It is intended as a practical, not a technical, guide.

 

  1. The Draft Articles on Crimes Against Humanity have widespread support from States, yet opposition from a few States has caused them to stagnate in the United Nations General Assembly Sixth Committee due to the Committee’s tradition of acting by consensus.

 

  1. Option 1 is for the Sixth Committee to act, by breaking consensus, if necessary. It could establish an Ad Hoc Committee to examine the Draft Articles on Crimes Against Humanity. Alternatively, there is precedent for moving directly to a Codification Conference or working directly on the Draft Articles as a Committee of the Whole.

 

  1. Option 2 is for the General Committee to shift the Draft Articles on Crimes Against Humanity to the Third Committee or the Plenary of the General Assembly.

 

  1. Option 3 is to pursue the development of a treaty on crimes against humanity either outside of, or adjacent to, the United Nations.

 

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Options pour faire avancer le Projet d'articles de la CDI sur la prévention et la répression des crimes contre l'humanité

RÉSUMÉ

  1. Le présent mémorandum identifie trois pistes potentielles pour favoriser la progression du processus d’adoption du Projet d’articles sur les crimes contre l’humanité élaboré par la Commission du droit international. Il a une visée pratique et non pas technique.

 

  1. Le Projet d’articles sur les crimes contre l’humanité bénéficie d’un large soutien de la part des États. Cependant, l’opposition de certains États a bloqué le processus au sein de la Sixième Commission de l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies dont les décisions sont traditionnellement prises par consensus.

 

  1. L’option 1 consiste à inciter la Sixième Commission à jouer un rôle proactif pour relancer le processus, en rompant si nécessaire la tradition du consensus. La Commission pourrait mettre en place un comité ad hoc chargé d’examiner le Projet d’articles sur les crimes contre l’humanité. Une autre possibilité serait de se fonder sur un précédent autorisant directement le transfert du texte vers une conférence de codification ou son examen en commission plénière.

 

  1. L’option 2 consiste à inciter le Bureau de l'Assemblée générale des Nations Unies à transférer le Projet d’articles sur les crimes contre l’humanité à la Troisième Commission ou à une séance plénière de l’Assemblée générale.

 

  1. L’option 3 serait de poursuivre l’élaboration d’un traité sur les crimes contre l’humanité soit en dehors de l’Organisation des Nations Unies, soit dans le cadre d’un processus parallèle au système onusien.

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Sector statement on queering atrocity prevention

Queer people’s experience of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is not new. From the British Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Holocaust, the ongoing anti-gay purges in Chechnya, and legal shifts which persecute members of the LGBTQI+ community and allies, LGBTQI+ communities have been, and still are, deliberately targeted by systematic violence and discrimination. Some of these campaigns can be described as mass atrocity crimes, while others sound the alarm and significantly increase risk for the incidence of mass atrocity crimes against LGBTQI+ communities across the world. And yet understanding of this experience is not well-developed nor widely-discussed. In fact, queer people’s experiences can often be deliberately silenced in policy and research on identity-based violence and mass atrocities - a problem which is further compounded by threats to safety faced by queer populations that can make it dangerous for them to make their experiences and expertise heard and accounted for.

As members of the atrocity prevention field, we know that widespread or systematic violent targeting of LGBTQI+ people can often look different from the widespread or systematic violent targeting of ethnic, indigenous, national, religious and racial groups that traditionally dominate the atrocity prevention and response agenda. However, crimes against LGBTQI+ individuals and communities may still meet the conceptual and legal thresholds of mass atrocity crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We know, too, that the absence of LGBTQI+ professionals and queer analysis from atrocity prevention work normalises and institutionalises pre-existing heteronormative and patriarchal structures. This perpetuates the exclusion of LGBTQI+ communities in - and from - atrocity prevention work.

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Open Letter Calling for a Complete and Accurate List of Perpetrators

Dear Mr. Secretary-General

We are writing with regard to your forthcoming annual report on children and armed conflict (CAAC). As you finalize your decisions regarding the annexes and inclusion of other situations of concern, we urge you to ensure the publication of a complete list of perpetrators of grave violations that is evidence-based and accurately reflects data collected and verified by the United Nations Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM). We further encourage you to draw attention to additional contexts where there is credible evidence that grave violations against children have been committed, by designating these contexts as ‘other situations of concern.’

As nongovernmental organizations working to alleviate suffering in humanitarian settings and protect human rights, we strongly support UN Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent resolutions on CAAC, as concrete tools for improving the protection of children in war. The MRM, the annual CAAC report, and its annexed list of perpetrators are a crucial foundation for enhancing the protection of children, ending and preventing violations, and contributing to accountability. These tools are central to drawing the attention of the Security Council to the situation of children, providing an analysis of the variety of violations committed against children, and paving the way for the UN’s engagement with parties to conflict. However, these mechanisms will only remain powerful if they are credible and consistently applied to all perpetrators in all contexts.

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Letter to Human Rights Council on Diverse Appointment for Special Rapporteur on Torture

Dear Ambassador Villegas,

The organizations signing this letter write to you, in your capacity as President of the Human Rights Council (HRC), to request that you adopt measures to ensure that a woman is elected for the first time as the next Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) and to consider geographical representation in your decision.

On July 8th, during the upcoming 50th HRC’s session, you will have the important responsibility of proposing the appointment of several Special Procedure mandate holders, including the next SRT. Created in 1985, the SRT has had a fundamental role in upholding the absolute prohibition of torture, responding to complaints, overseeing conditions of detention throughout the world, and developing fundamental human rights standards and recommendations to promote accountability, reparation and prevention of torture. Yet, none of the 6 experts who have held this role has been a woman, and only one of them has been from the Global South.

As concluded by the HRC’s Advisory Committee in the reporton gender balance in UN human right bodies presented to the HRC on 21 May, 20211, the lack of gender balance in international bodies not only affects women’s right to equality, but it also erodes the effectiveness of the institutions and limits the range of issues and perspectives that should be part of their legal and political agenda2. In the case of the SRT, this same limitation comes as a consequence of the lack of a Global South perspective in such a fundamental mandate.

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Call for Urgent Debate on the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan at the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council

Excellencies,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, urge you to call for and support an urgent debate at the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council regarding the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan. We further urge you to support a resolution responding to this crisis.

Since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country, there has been an enormous deterioration in the recognition and protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including with respect to the rights to non-discrimination, education, work, public participation, health, and sexual and reproductive health. The Taliban has also imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls. Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to expressly prohibit girls’ education.

In the last few weeks, the situation has worsened dramatically, with a Taliban directive that women and girls must fully cover themselves in public, including their faces, and leave home only in cases of necessity. International investigations, witness testimony and video evidence indicate that women human rights defenders and others protesting against the restrictions and violations have been subject to home invasions, threats, abductions, enforced disappearances, and assaults with electric devices and chemical sprays.

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Civil Society Open Letter on New ICC Gender Persecution Policy Paper

Dear Prosecutor Khan:

It is with great enthusiasm that we write to you about the development of the comprehensive policy paper to advance accountability for the crime against humanity of persecution on the grounds of gender.

In the 1990s, MADRE housed the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice, a worldwide coalition of women’s rights activists working to address gender gaps in the draft Rome Statute. In 2018, MADRE and our allies once again led an international coalition that successfully further affirmed the understanding of gender persecution under international law for the draft crimes against humanity treaty.

Today, MADRE is serving as a Secretariat for civil society organizations from across the world to help ensure broad civil society input. To this end, MADRE has compiled and consolidated the priorities and recommendations from organizations across the world for your consideration. As you will see below, 222 feminist organizations and academic institutes from 80 countries and territories have joined this statement of principles and priorities that we now share with you.

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Tigray: Call for Service for CRSV Survivors

To: Pramila Patten

Office of the Under Secretary General Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict ( USG SRSG/SVC)

Re: Service Provision for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Tigray

Your Excellency,

We the undersigned are writing to you at this time in accordance with the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (S/RES/1325) on Women, Security, and Peace, adopted in 2000 that calls on “all parties to the conflict to respect fully international law applicable to the rights and protections of women and girls, in particular the obligations applicable to them under the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the additional protocols” to request for a response to the ongoing siege imposed by the federal government on the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

This siege, characterized by a total blockade of essential services and life-saving humanitarian supplies, has been predictably devastating to the civilian population of Tigray and even more particularly so to the survivors of brutal weaponized rape (Amnesty International, 2021) who have been denied urgent post-rape care as a result (Human Rights Watch, 2021). Even more alarming, domestic ability to provide support for survivors is curtailed completely as a result of the deliberate devastation of the Tigrayan health care system by Ethiopian and allied forces during active conflict and because even the most basic healthcare supplies are no longer available in Tigray (A. Mark Clarfield et al, 2022).

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Abortion and President Biden's State of the Union

Dear President Biden,

People’s access to abortion in this country is in crisis, with attacks coming constantly from all levels ranging from the Supreme Court to state and local governments. That’s why it is imperative that everyone, from the White House to Congress to state and municipal governments to local communities, work hard to protect and expand abortion access.

As you prepare for the State of the Union, we urge you to be clear that protecting abortion access is of paramount importance given both the ongoing crisis in Texas and the likelihood that the Supreme Court will further decimate the constitutional right to abortion later this year. We also urge you to reiterate your support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, critical legislation that would establish a right to abortion throughout the United States and help to guard against the abortion bans and other medically unnecessary abortion restrictions being advanced and enacted by state politicians across the country.

We appreciate your clear call for a “whole-of-government”response to the dire state of abortion access in Texas. Indeed, it is critical that all parts of the administration work tirelessly to protect abortion access in the face of ever increasing threat, building on the work of Vice President Harris, the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra and his staff, and the White House Gender Policy Council, work tirelessly to protect abortion access in the face of ever increasing threats.

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Diaspora, CBOs/CSOs, NGOs Urge President Biden to Implement a Coordinated Response Against the Burmese Military Junta

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned 233 diaspora, CBOs/CSOs and nonprofit organizations from 17 countries, write to urge your Administration to implement a coordinated and comprehensive response to the Burmese military’s shocking and escalating violence since the February 1, 2021, attempted coup. The Burmese military’s systematic violence has resulted in extensive loss of life, daily human rights violations and the forced displacement of tens of thousands, especially in ethnic areas. On the one-year anniversary of the military’s illegal coup, we call upon you to treat the situation with the urgency and decisive action it demands by not only publicly condemning the ongoing brutality across Burma but also implementing a multi-step response plan, which includes coordinating a global arms embargo and sanctioning the military’s oil and gas revenues.

Most crucially, a global arms embargo is necessary to prevent the military from accessing the artillery and air strike equipment that it currently utilizes to indiscriminately attack civilians. This relentless campaign of terror is funded by key oil and gas revenues that allow the military to continue paying their personnel and purchasing deadly weaponry. Thus, cutting off the military’s profits from oil and gas revenues is necessary to strangle a crucial source of funding for the brutal campaigns and militarization currently seen in several ethnic states. Third, supplying cross-border aid is imperative given the countless internationally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been forced to seek refuge in neighboring Thailand, where they shelter in unsanitary, inhumane, and insecure conditions. Lastly, to show true solidarity with efforts to resist the junta’s illegal rule, the National Unity Government must be recognized as Burma’s only governing body to effectively invalidate any power commandeered by the State Administration Council. The primary means to ensure genuine democracy in Burma is to recognize the legitimacy of the political will of the Burmese people and to defund and delegitimize the Burmese military because of what they are: illegitimate usurpers and unconscionable perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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Joint statement on Myanmar UN Security Council open briefing

We, the undersigned 286 organizations stress the need, at an absolute minimum, to convene an open meeting of the UN Security Council to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation and urgent civilian protection concerns in Myanmar as a matter of extreme urgency. As we approach one year since the attempted coup on 1 February, all UN Security Council member states have a shared responsibility to address the crisis in an open setting and share national positions on actions the UN Security Council should be taking. Closed meetings and press statements are not working. We call on Norway as UN Security Council President, the UK as Myanmar “penholder” and all supportive states to table the open debate before the one-year anniversary and require other member states to declare their support.

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