28/11/2001
Press Release
GA/SHC/3675



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

51st Meeting (AM)


THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES FIVE DRAFT RESOLUTIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, REFUGEES,


DISPLACED PERSONS, MINORITIES, JUSTICE ADMINISTRATION


Draft on Electoral Assistance Approved

By Recorded Vote; Four Others Approved without Vote


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning approved five more draft resolutions, including one text on international electoral assistance as members inched closer to the close of session on Friday.  In addition, delegates heard the introduction of nine draft resolutions that would surface for action over the next two days.


Voting on matters relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, as well as human rights questions, the Committee approved the draft resolutions without much debate.


Only one resolution required a recorded vote -- a text on Strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization.  Among other things, the draft notes that an increasing number of Member States were using elections as peaceful means of discerning the will of the people and confidence-building.


However, the delegate of Cuba said, provisions in the resolution directed resources and extra work to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which would divert the attention, energy and resources of the High Commissioner.  That would prompt the delegation to abstain.  Further, she said, the involvement of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was unacceptable.  Electoral assistance was not just for developing countries.  In fact, some recent experiences in highly developed countries showed serious difficulties could happen in the electoral process, illustrating their need for electoral assistance.


The resolution was approved by a recorded vote of 146 in favour, 0 against and six abstentions (Brunei Darussalam, China, Cuba, Libya, Myanmar and Viet Nam), the resolution was adopted.


The Committee adopted without votes four other resolutions on: Follow-up to the Regional Conference to address the problems of refugees, displaced persons, other forms of involuntary displacement and returnees in the countries of the


Commonwealth of Independent States and relevant neighbouring States; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Human rights in the administration of justice; and Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.


Action on one draft resolution under consideration this morning was postponed after delegations expressed reservations about a footnote in the text.  Speaking on that draft, which was on the protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, the representative of Sudan expressed concern that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons relied on a database that had included information provided by the rebellion movement in the south, as well as organizations operating illegally in Sudan.  The footnote referring to the database in the draft, she said, should be deleted.


While the representative of Norway, a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, agreed to strike the footnote from the copy, the delegate of Sudan said references to the database should also be dropped.  The Norwegian delegate declined, and the matter was postponed until the differences could be worked out.


At the top of the meeting, Mr. Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights read a statement on behalf of

Mr. Francis Deng, the Special representative of the Secretary-General on the Protection of and Assistance to Displaced Persons.  Mr. Deng had been unable to participate in the Committee’s dialogue segment, held from 8 to 12 November. 

Mr. Ndiaye highlighted, among other things, the fact that refugee law was not directly applicable to the situation of internally displaced persons, as international law defined refugees as persons who had fled across international borders.


He went on to say the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement had been presented to the Commission on Human Rights in 1998, and since then, Governments had made statements in the Commission and the Assembly about them, and both bodies had adopted resolutions relevant to those Principles.  To a question on Mr. Deng’s information-gathering, Mr. Ndiaye noted that the Special Representative had visited about 25 countries around the world where he had met with, among others, senior governmental officials, local officials, international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and internally displaced communities.


Also this morning, the Committee heard the introduction of nine draft resolutions, on questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons; human rights questions; human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives; and the report of the UNHCR.


The representatives of Uganda (on behalf of the African Group), Sudan, Norway, Egypt, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union) introduced drafts on:  assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons; assistance to unaccompanied refugee minors; the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect


                                    (page 1b follows)


Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights; human rights and mass exodus; the situation of human rights in Cambodia; the situation of human rights in Myanmar; the situation of human rights in Iraq; and the situation of human rights in Sudan.


The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to take action on drafts related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and human rights questions.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to take action on a host of draft resolutions on matters related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and human rights questions, including alternative approaches for the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


On matters related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions, the Committee had before it two draft resolutions.


By a text on Follow-up to the regional conference to address the problems of refugees, displaced persons, other forms of voluntary displacement and returnees in the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States and relevant neighboring States (document A/C.3/56/L.70), the Assembly would call upon the Governments of the Commonwealth of Independent States, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to strengthen their efforts and mutual cooperation relating to follow-up of the regional conference.


Under a draft resolution on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/56/L.74), the Assembly would urge all States and relevant non-governmental and other organizations in conjunction with the Office of the High Commissioner to cooperate and to mobilize resources with a view to enhancing capacity and reducing the heavy burden borne by States, in particular by developing countries as well as by countries with economies in transition that have received large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers.


On human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Committee was expected to take action on four draft texts.


By a text on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/C.3/56/L.53), the Assembly, noting with satisfaction that an increasing number of Member States are using elections as peaceful means of discerning the will of the people and confidence-building, would request that the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs continue to inform States regularly about requests received and the nature of any assistance provided.


The Committee would also consider a draft resolution on human rights and the administration of justice (document A/C.3/56/L.60).  By that text, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of the full and effective implementation of all United Nations human rights in the administration of justice.  The Assembly would also invite Governments to provide training, including gender-sensitive training, in human rights in the administration of justice, including juvenile justice, to all judges, lawyers, prosecutors, social workers, immigration and police officers and other professionals concerned, including personnel deployed in international field presences.


Under a draft on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/C.3/56/L.61) the Assembly, concerned by the frequency and severity of disputes and conflicts concerning minorities in many countries and their often tragic consequences, would reaffirm the obligation of States to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully and effectively all human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality of the law, in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. 


Under another text, on the Protection of and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (document A/C.3/56/L.63), the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to provide his Representative, from within existing resources, with all necessary assistance to carry out his mandate effectively, and would encourage the Representative to continue to seek the contribution of States, relevant organizations and institutions in order to put the work of the Representative on a more stable basis.


Statement by Special Representative on Displaced Persons


Bacre Ndiaye, the Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, read a statement of Francis Deng, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Protection of and Assistance to Displaced Persons, that answered questions asked to him, in abstenia, on 12 November.


Despite the fact that internally displaced persons were often forced to leave their homes and found themselves in refugee-like situations, he said refugee law was not directly applicable to the situation of internally displaced persons, as international law defined refugees as persons who had fled across international borders.  However, because of the similarity of their situations, certain provisions of refugee law, by analogy, were useful to a certain extent in formulating some of the guidelines to assist the internally displaced.


Asked about the guiding principles developed for internally displaced persons and their acceptance within intergovernmental bodies such as the General Assembly, Mr. Deng answered that the guiding principles were presented first to the Commission on Human Rights in 1998, and since then, Governments had made statements in the Commission and the General Assembly about them, and both bodies had adopted resolutions relevant to the guiding principles.


Responding to a question about the sources of his information, Mr. Deng said there was a wide range of sources, including governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental sources, as well as scholarly and research institutions in countries throughout the world.  One of the major sources of information had been country visits.  To date, the Representative had paid about 25 visits to countries around the world where he had met with senior governmental officials, local officials, representatives of international organizations, international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), representatives of civil society, and internally displaced communities.


The representative of Egypt expressed concern that Mr. Deng was not able to address the Committee in person.  He said that a report that was not worth being presented was not worth being discussed.  The tradition of the Committee was to have interactive dialogues with the Representatives who wrote these reports.


Mr. Ndiaye said Mr. Deng could not make it because he was in the hospital.


Introduction of Drafts


The Third Committee opened its meeting this morning by hearing the introduction of nine draft resolutions on questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons; human rights questions; human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives; and the report of UNHCR.


On items related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, the Committee heard the introduction of two draft resolutions.


The representative of Uganda, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft resolution on Assistance to Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons (document A/C.3/56/L.72), by which the Assembly would urge the international community, in a spirit of international solidarity and burden-sharing, to continue to fund generously the refugee programmes of the UNHCR and, taking into account the substantially increased needs of programmes in Africa, to ensure that Africa receives a fair and equitable share of the resources designated for refugees.


The representative of Sudan introduced a draft resolution on Assistance to Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (document A/C.3/56/L.73), by which the Assembly would urge UNHCR, all United Nations organizations, other international organizations and NGOs concerned to take appropriate steps to mobilize resources commensurate with the needs and interests of unaccompanied refugee minors and for their reunification with their families.


On matters related to human rights questions and the implementation of human rights instruments, the Committee heard the introduction of three draft resolutions.


The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/C.3/56/L.62).  By that text, introduced by the representative of Norway, the Assembly would note with concern that in may countries, persons or organizations engaged in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms are facing threats, harassment and insecurity as well as misuse of civil and criminal proceedings as a result of those activities.


The Assembly, noting with further concern that of countries in all world regions, impunity for threats, attacks and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders persists, would call upon all States to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.


The Committee also heard the introduction of a draft resolution on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/C.3/L.64).  By that text, introduced by the representative of Egypt, the Assembly, recognizing that globalization affected all countries differently and makes them more exposed to positive as well as negative external developments, would affirm that the international community should strive to respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by globalization in a manner that ensures respect for the cultural diversity of all.


The representative of Canada then introduced a draft resolution on Human rights and mass exodus (document A/C.3/56/L.65).  By that text, the Assembly, stressing the importance of adherence to international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law in order to avert mass exodus and to protect refugees and internally displaced persons, would reaffirm the need for all Governments, intergovernmental bodies and relevant international organizations to intensify their cooperation and assistance in worldwide efforts to address human rights situations that lead to, as well as the serious problems that result from, mass exoduses of such persons.


Further by the draft, the Assembly would emphasize the responsibility of all States and international organizations to cooperate with those countries, particularly developing ones, affected by mass exoduses of refugees and displaced persons.  It would also welcome the fiftieth anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and would note the continuing relevance of its provisions to the situation of people in mass exoduses. 


On human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, the Committee heard the introduction of four draft resolutions.


The representative of Japan introduced a draft resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia (A/C.3/56/L.68), by which the General Assembly would request the Government of Cambodia to follow up the recommendations made by the international human rights treaty bodies regarding the reports submitted by the Government, and call upon that Government to meet its reporting obligations under all international human rights instruments to which Cambodia is a party.  The Assembly would further request the office in Cambodia of the High Commissioner to continue to provide relevant assistance.


The representative of Sweden introduced a draft resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/56/L.55), by which the General Assembly would strongly urge the Government of Myanmar to ensure full respect for all human Rights and fundamental freedoms, including economic and social rights; to fulfil its obligations to restore the independence of the judiciary and due process; to end the impunity of and bring to justice any perpetrators of human rights violations, including members of the military; and to investigate and prosecute alleged violations committed by government agents in all circumstances.


The representative of Belgium introduced a draft resolution on The Situation of Human Rights in Iraq (document A/C.3/56/L.57), by which the General Assembly requests the Secretary-General to provide the Special Rapporteur with all necessary assistance in carrying out his mandate, and decides to continue the examination of the situation of human rights in Iraq at its fifty-seventh session, under the item entitled “Human Rights Questions”, in the light of additional elements provided by the Commission on Human Rights.


The Committee also had before it a resolution on the situation of human rights in Sudan (document A/C.3/56/L/58*), also introduced by the representative of Belgium, by which the Assembly would express its firm belief that progress towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict in southern Sudan within the context of the peace initiative of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development will contribute greatly to the creation of a better living environment and respect for human rights in Sudan.


Further by the text, the Assembly would also express deep concern at the impact of the ongoing conflict on the situation of human rights and its adverse effects on the civilian population, in particular women and children, and the continuing serious violations of human rights by all parties to the conflict, including the occurrence of cases of extrajudicial summary or arbitrary execution resulting form armed conflict, the use of civilian premises for military purposes by the Sudanese army and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement, and the forced displacement of populations, in particular in areas around the oilfields. 


Action on Drafts


After hearing the introduction of nine drafts, the Committee took up a host of other draft resolutions on matters related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and human rights questions, including alternative approaches for the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


On matters related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions, the Committee had before it two draft resolutions.


The first one was a text on the follow-up to the regional conference to address the problems of refugees, displaced persons, other forms of voluntary displacement and returnees in the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States and relevant neighbouring States (document A/C.3/56/L.70).  The resolution was adopted without a vote.


The next draft dealt with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/56/L.74).  The resolution was adopted without a vote.


On human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Committee was expected to take action on six draft texts.


The first was about strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/C.3/56/L.53).


Explaining her delegation's position before the vote, the delegate of Cuba said Cuba recognized that the United Nations played a positive role in electoral assistance.  It recognized that an increasing number of countries requested and received electoral assistance, and this was covered by the draft resolution in front of the Committee.  Cuba appreciated the Trust Fund that helped with electoral assistance.  That was why Cuba participated constructively in the negotiating process in this draft resolution.  Cuba had hoped that consensus could be reached.  From the beginning, Cuba offered several amendments, and was in contact with the sponsors of the draft.  Consensus was close, but none of Cuba's proposals were taken into account.


However, she said, Cuba had serious reservations that the resolutions would affect resources and work.  There was already a structure devoted to electoral assistance.  The current resolution would involve the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and this would divert the attention, energy and resources of the High Commissioner.  Further, as a developing country, Cuba believed it was unacceptable to have the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) involved.  Some recent experiences in highly developed countries showed serious difficulties could happen in the electoral process, illustrating their need for electoral assistance.  Electoral assistance was not just for developing countries.  Electoral processes, whether or not assistance was given, was a matter of the internal operations of the State.  That was why Cuba could not join consensus and would abstain.


By a recorded vote of 146 in favour, 0 against and six abstentions (Brunei Darussalam, China, Cuba, Libya, Myanmar, Viet Nam), the resolution was adopted (Annex I).


The representative of Poland, speaking on behalf of Community of Democracies, said support of electoral assistance would have to continue.  There was no democracy without periodic and genuine elections.


The Committee also considered a draft resolution on human rights and the administration of justice (document A/C.3/56/L.60).  It was adopted without a vote.


Explaining her delegation's position after the vote, the representative of the United States said her country joined the consensus as an expression of its support in the protection of human rights in the administration of justice.  However, the United States disagreed with several provisions.  Particularly, her Government believed countries should not be asked to bear in mind treaty obligations for treaties a country had not accepted.


Another draft was on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/C.3/56/L.61).  It was adopted without a vote.


Lastly, the Committee had before it a draft resolution on the Protection of and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (document A/C.3/56/L.63).


Explaining her delegation's position before the vote, the representative of Sudan said her country worked with others in offering amendments which could have led to consensus.  It was regrettable that informal consultations had not been held on the matter.  No amendments offered were taken into consideration.  Sudan, with all due respect and appreciation to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, had asked for discussions and comments on his proposals.  Therefore, Sudan did not consider itself obliged to support the resolution.  The Special Representative came to Sudan recently and met with high-ranking Government officials.  While reading the part of the report concerning Sudan, officials were surprised to learn that the database upon which the Special Representative relied had included information provided by the rebellion movement in the south, as well as organizations operating illegally in Sudan.  The footnote referring to the database in the draft should be deleted.  Sudan deeply regretted and expressed its deep concern that the report did not include any governmental source.  There was plenty of information and figures available on the protection of displaced persons.


The representative of Norway said the footnote was not in the documentation provided to the Secretariat.


The representative of Sudan appreciated Norway's clarification.


The representative of Libya said the footnote complicated matters.  The representative of Norway said there was no reference to it in the original draft. 

Before there was a vote, it should be certain this amendment would be deleted from the draft.


The representative of Norway proposed deleting the footnote.


The representative of Sudan thanked the delegation of Norway.  Sudan had no objections to deleting this footnote.  However, deleting the footnote would mean that any reference to the database be deleted as well.


The representative of Norway said there had been two open informal consultations on the resolution.  This text had been discussed, and the reference to the database should not be deleted.


The representative of India said action on this should perhaps be postponed for the time being.


The representative of Djibouti said the delegation supported the proposal made by India.


Action on the resolution was delayed until a later date.


(annex follows)


ANNEX I


Vote on Strengthening UN Role Concerning Elections


The draft resolution on strengthening the United Nations role in enhancing the effectiveness of elections and promoting democratization (document A/C.3/56/L.53) was approved by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Against:  None.


Abstaining:  Brunei Darussalam, China, Cuba, Libya, Myanmar, Viet Nam.


Absent:  Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Grenada, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.


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