From left to right - Stephen Jones, Wilson Chowdhry, Elke Tindemann and Paulo Casaca.
A Symposium on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Pakistan was held at the UN Conference Centre in Geneva yesterday (30.10.12). A packed audience comprising of many Pakistani Students heard presentations from diverse humanitarian groups, focused on the socio-economic issues faced by a politically volatile Pakistan. This was one of the first conferences held after the recent publication of a UN report on Pakistan, following the programmed review which takes place every 3 years.
Guest speakers included; Elke Tindemann a former Senator from Belgium who spoke on “The Basic Rights of Women and Children”, Mehran Baluch Nominated Baluchistan House Representative to the EU whose presentation was titled “Kill and dump policy in Baluchistan”, Dr Stig Toft Madsen, Senior Research Fellow at Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Copenhagen who presented "Pakistan: A Consolidated Democracy”, Stephen Jones SADF Consultant on “The EU and human rights in Pakistan” and Wilson Chowdhry from the BPCA who presented on “Religious freedom: state of play.”
Elke Tindemann condemned the shameful shooting incident involving young womens' rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai, she said
" The Universal declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings should be treated equally, with emphasis on 'all human beings. The right to education is for everybody, not just for men and boys.
"What this courageous young woman did, should be an example for all women, and should be a message to the Pakistani goverment to finally empower the laws against discrimination of women and girls."
During his address Dr Madsen said;
"The elections in 2008 created hope of a democratic transition, but that democracy has failed to consolidate since then."
Wilson Chowdhry a long term campaigner for human rights in Pakistan described the situation faced by minorities, he said;
"Life for religious minorities in Pakistan has reached a nadir, they are faced with extreme poverty, overt discrimination and prejudice, and increasing acts of persecution. If these communities are to survive the violent onslaught they face in the 21st century, they will need enhanced proactive support from Pakistani authorities."
Stephen Jones described how human rights issues impact on the EU-Pakistan relationship, he said;
"The EU’s ability to change the human rights situation is limited because of Pakistan’s perceived importance as a strategic partner in the fight against terrorism and NATO operations in Afghanistan."
The event was organised by South Asian Democratic Forum. Paulo Casaca Founder and Executive director for the group said;
"This was the coming together of key figures in the humanitarian cause for Pakistan. The Universal Periodic Review has induced greater scrutiny on socio-economic factors in the developing nation of Pakistan. Our hope is that contributions made by our learned speakers will assist in progress for democratic forces there."
Wilson Chowdhry presenting on minority discrimination. Graphic images illustrated the deplorable conditions in which these communities survive.
Boards along the forecourt of the UN Building described socio-political problems faced by Pakistan.
Malala Yousafzai was remembered for her campaign against gender discrimination.