Politics

From China to AI: How India Voted in the UN Human Rights Body – The Wire


New Delhi: From China’s oldest recurring resolution to bringing human rights into the realm of artificial intelligence (AI), India has had to make some policy adjustments at the recently concluded UN Human Rights Council that continue to flag its geopolitical concerns and of current internal politics.

The UN human rights body, based in Geneva, holds three ordinary sessions a year. The midsummer session ended on Friday, passing 30 resolutions, most of which were adopted without a vote or consensus. However, two of these resolutions that were adopted without a vote, however, had to face amendments from various countries that were voted down.

Of the ten UNHRC resolutions put to the vote, India voted in favor five times, abstained four times and opposed one resolution. Additionally, India issued six statements regarding the resolutions adopted, with only one statement providing an explanation of its vote.

Here’s a look at the notable signs in India’s voting pattern at the 53rd session of the UNHRC that ended on July 14.

A change in his position on a Chinese-sponsored resolution

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India’s only explanation of vote was on a resolution tabled by China on “Contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights” which was approved by 30 votes in favour, five abstentions and 12 votes against.

Western nations, led by the US, UK and EU, voted en bloc against the resolution, while India, Paraguay, Georgia, Chile and Costa Rica abstained.

In its explanation of vote statement, India said it had made proposals for amendments “related to terms and concepts that are not universally accepted and we believe should have been taken into account.”

“As we continue to have reservations about the use of such terms and concepts in the text instead of the language already agreed within the SDG Framework, India abstain in this resolutionthe Indian representative said on July 14.

This vote is significant as it is a recurring resolution that China has tabled every two years in the Council since 2017. It is the first solo resolution written by China in the UNHRC.

India always voted in favor of the Chinese-authored resolution when it was introduced in 2017, 2019 and 2021.

When it was introduced four years ago, India actually praised the Chinese for “accommodating different perspectives and presenting a balanced text.” “We hope that the resolution under consideration will be adopted by consensussaid an Indian diplomat at the UNHRC in July 2019.

The wire it has learned that India changed its position in response to China’s introduction of new language in the text earlier this year. The amended draft resolution now incorporates the phrase “high-quality development”, a term promoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

While this is the oldest resolution on the UNHRC that China has drafted alone, it also introduced a second resolution, “promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights,” in 2018. After India returned to the UNHRC after a recess, voted against this resolution when it was introduced in 2020 and 2021, due to its more blatant references to President Xi’s favorite phrases in the title itself.

China did not resubmit the “mutually beneficial” cooperation resolutions at any of the UNHRC sessions last year, when it was very concerned about the draft resolution submitted by Western countries on Xinjiang. India he had abstained about the draft resolution that was rejected by most countries, but then said that China should “ADDRESS” human rights concerns.

Also read: The unraveling of Prime Minister Modi’s stance on democracy and human rights

India calls for ‘incremental’ steps on AI and human rights

The UNHRC adopted a consensus resolution on “new and emerging digital technologies and human rights”, which sought to adopt a rights-based approach in the field of AI.

While China disassociated itself from the entire resolution but did not call for a vote, India specifically disagreed and disassociated itself from a substantive paragraph that provided a series of instructions on how to protect vulnerable groups from the use of AI.

Among the various issues highlighted in operative paragraph (OP) 3 of the resolution was that data for AI systems is used in a manner consistent with member states’ obligations under international human rights law. In addition, he called for ensuring transparency and accountability so that the use of AI systems does not lead to the spread of disinformation and hate speech, and guarantees freedom of expression, especially if implemented to support content moderation.

The resolution also called at OP6 for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to enhance its capacities to promote human rights in the context of new and emerging technologies, including AI, and to assist member states where necessary. request.

While noting that OP3 has “non-consensus language”, India said that the ambitious expansion of OHCHR capacity envisioned in OP6 “may reduce its functions”.

The Indian diplomat expressed his disappointment that India’s request to “take an incremental approach to the results of the resolution could not be fully met.”

“For the reasons mentioned above, we are forced to disassociate ourselves from OP3. However, in keeping with the importance we attach to the subject of this resolution, we will join the consensus.” she said.

Country Specific Resolutions

Of the six country-specific resolutions, India has abstained on the adopted resolutions related to Ukraine, Syria and belarusas it has consistently done in the past.

India’s only negative vote during the entire session was on the resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in eritrea, the country strategically located in the Horn of Africa. India has been voting against the resolutions on Eritrea since 2019.

Resolutions in UNHRC sessions, prior to 2019, relating to Eritrea were unanimously adopted as they were sponsored by the Africa group, including the resolution to establish the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in 2012. Following Eritrea’s decision better relations with Ethiopia, the Africa group subsequently withdrew its consent. However, starting in 2019, European countries began to table the resolution that led Eritrea and African countries to gather votes against.

India voted ‘yes’ on a resolution calling on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a database of all companies operating in israeli settlements. The resolution won the support of 31 countries, including India, which voted in favor. Thirteen countries chose to abstain, while only three nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic) voted against the resolution. He called for the full implementation of the database, as mandated by resolution 31/36 adopted in 2016, for which India also voted in the affirmative.

While India voted against the Eritrea resolution, it voted in favor of the resolution on Colombia since it was sponsored by the South American country itself. Under the resolution, the commissioner must immediately appoint an international human rights expert to identify obstacles to the implementation of the 2016 agreement.

However, before the resolution was passed, Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), had introduced an amendment that sought to remove language about violence against “persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity” with “persons in other vulnerable situations.” Despite the decriminalization of homosexuality by the Supreme Court, India abstained on the amendmentwhich was narrowly defeated due to the combined votes of the European and Latin American countries.

In support of OIC sponsored resolutions

During this session, India voted in favor of two resolutions introduced by Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC group. One was the resolution on the implementation of the database for companies active in Israeli settlements, while the second was the resolution against religious hatred in the light of the Koran in Sweden.

Although India did not provide an explanation for its vote, it did participate in the Urgent Debate convened in the Council on July 11. Although stating that the Council had to take into account “phobias” against “all religions”, India had not referred to the Swedish incident in its statement.

India has publicly taken an antagonistic position against the OIC, which has criticized New Delhi for failing to take action to stop the violation of the human rights of Muslims in India and in the now-trifurcated state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Also read: Who said what in assessing India’s human rights record: a comprehensive look

Polarization on the rights of women and children

The OIC and Russia focused on two resolutions related to women and girls with numerous amendments. None of the amendments passed, but India either voted in favor or abstained.

Three amendments were introduced after the submission of the Canadian proposal draft resolution on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in criminal justice detention. Although it abstained on two of them, India voted Yeah in Russia amendment. After the amendments were defeated, the draft resolution was adopted by consensus.

There were even more contentious hostile amendments to the draft resolution on the eradication of child, early and forced marriages, which was sponsored by an interregional group of countries. India voted in favor of three of them.

While one was to align the draft with the UNGA results, the other two amendments were to substantially modify the text.

Nigeria and Saudi Arabia sought to add that “proper address” of parents had to be sought regarding the sexual health of girls and boys. Egypt also introduced additional language to clarify that “domestic and intimate partner violence” had to be addressed, according to national legal systems. India voted for both, but all the amendments were rejected.

The sources noted that India voted in favor of the Egyptian amendment as marital rape is not recognized by Indian jurisprudence. The unamended draft resolution was also approved without a vote.



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Raven Asher

Hey there, I'm Raven Asher, a writer and blogger currently studying at McMaster University. My passion lies in arts and culture, and I love exploring and sharing my thoughts on different aspects of this field through my writing. I've been fortunate enough to have my articles featured on several blogs and news websites, which has allowed me to connect with readers from all over the world. Apart from writing, I'm also an avid traveler, and I love experiencing different cultures and learning new things. Join me on my journey as I explore the world and share my insights on everything art and culture!

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