29/11/2001
Press Release
GA/SHC/3676



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

52nd Meeting (AM)


THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES, WITHOUT VOTE, 10 DRAFT RESOLUTIONS


ON HUMAN RIGHTS, WOMEN, CULTURAL DIVERSITY, REFUGEES


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved 10 resolutions without votes, including texts on human rights and cultural diversity, and the responsibility of States to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In addition, the Committee heard the introduction of three draft resolutions on which the Committee is expected to act on Friday.


Committee members, focused on finishing their session by tomorrow's deadline, adopted texts relating to the advancement of women, situations involving refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions, and on matters relating to human rights questions and the implementation of human rights instruments.


Although no votes were taken during the session, several delegations explained their positions -- and expressed their reservations -- after the adoption of the texts.


For example, in a draft resolution approved today on human rights and cultural diversity, the text reaffirms that all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and the international community must treat all of them globally.  But the text also specifically stated cultural and religious background had to be borne in mind in the protection.  The representative of Chile said her delegation joined consensus, but felt specificities should not be used as a pretext for the protection of human rights.


Another draft resolution approved today 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, prompted the delegate of Syria to say that while her country did not want to force a vote, the text should have directly said States should not interfere with the internal operations and policies of other States.  Interventions should not be selective, she said.  Transparency and objectivity should be considered in the work of the United Nations. 


Egypt, explaining its support of a draft approved today on the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons, said it was too important to address the plight of the 25 million internally displaced persons in the world to hold up the draft.  But, he said, the Guiding Principles that steered the work of


the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons had never been negotiated on or agreed upon in any intergovernmental body.  The Special Representative should consult with countries when he was drafting his reports.  Until that was done, the question of the Guiding Principles would overshadow the work of the Committee every year.


On the advancement of women, delegations approved a text on the situation of older women in society, which would have the Assembly urge Governments to take measures to enable all older women to be actively engaged in all aspects of life, as well as to assume a variety of roles in communities, public life, and decision making.  Governments would be further urged to develop and implement policies and programmes in cooperation with civil society, including the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned, to ensure older women’s full enjoyment of human rights and quality of life.


On matters related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions, the Committee approved without a vote two texts, one on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and the other on assistance to unaccompanied refugee minors. 


On other matters related to human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Committee approved four texts without a vote.  Those included drafts on human rights education, the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, human rights and mass exodus, and on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.


Earlier in the meeting, the Committee heard the introduction of three draft resolutions on matters related to human rights questions:


The delegation of Mexico introduced two of those texts, on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, and on the Protection of Migrants, respectively.  The representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, introduced a draft resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to take action on all outstanding draft resolutions.


Background

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


On the advancement of women, delegations had before them a text on the situation of older women in society (document A/C.3/56/L.21/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would urge Governments to take measures to enable all older women to be actively engaged in all aspects of life, as well as to assume a variety of roles in communities, public life, and decision making, and to develop and implement policies and programmes in cooperation with civil society, including the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned, to ensure their full enjoyment of human rights and quality of life.


Committee Vice Chairman, Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez (El Salvador) reported on the consultations on a draft resolution on the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of “Women 2000”, the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.  He told delegations that following complex but fruitful negotiations on the proposed Chairman’s draft, an agreed, compromised and delicately balanced text that included the concerns of all delegations had been achieved.  It was important to recognize the flexibility displayed by all delegations during the negotiations.


The draft related the main activities that had been developed by all United Nations system bodies to implement the framework of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action as well as “Women 2000”.  Particular emphasis had been made on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the United Nations system.  He added that a slight amendment had been made to the language of the text in light of the ongoing negotiations surrounding the Durban World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance.  The final text would be before the Committee for action tomorrow.


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


By a draft text on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons (document A/C.3/56/L.72), 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 Office of the High Commissioner 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.


Under another draft on assistance to unaccompanied refugee minors (document A/C.3/56/L.73), the Assembly would urge the Office of the High Commissioner, 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.


The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General, which is an audit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Operations in Albania (A/56/128).  The document details the findings of a November 2000 audit, which found, among other things, procurement by the UNHCR and its implementing partners did not always meet the agency's procurement standards, nor did it achieve best value for money.  In addition, the document reports that assets and commodities were not properly tracked, and thus could not be fully accounted for.


On matters related to human rights questions and the implementation of human rights instruments, the Committee had before it seven draft resolutions.


By a text on human rights education (document A/C.3/56/L.40) the Assembly would invite all Governments to reaffirm their commitments and obligations to develop national strategies for human rights education, which are comprehensive, participatory and effective, and which can be embodied in a national plan of action for such education as part of their national development plans.


Under a draft resolution on enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/56/L.42/Rev.1), the Assembly would call upon Member States, specialized agencies and intergovernmental organizations to continue to carry out a constructive dialogue and consultations for the enhancement of understanding and the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and would encourage NGOs to contribute actively to this endeavour.


Under a draft on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/56/L.49), the Assembly would affirm the importance for all peoples and nations to hold, develop and preserve their cultural heritage and traditions in a national and international atmosphere of peace, tolerance and mutual respect.  It would also urge all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, justice, equality and equity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, and to reject all doctrines of exclusion based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.


A draft 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) would have the Assembly note with concern that in many 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 would note with concern that in a number of countries in all regions of the world, impunity for threats, attacks and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders persists and would call upon all States to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.


Under a text on the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (document A/C.3/56/L.63), the Assembly requests the Secretary-General to provide his Representative, from within existing resources, with all necessary assistance to carry out his mandate effectively, and encourages 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.


Under a draft on human rights and mass exodus (document A/C.3/56/L.65), 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.  It 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.


By a draft on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia (A/C.3/56/L.68), the 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; call upon the Government to meet its reporting obligations under all international human rights instruments to which Cambodia is a party; and request the office in Cambodia of the High Commissioner to continue to provide assistance in this regard.


Before the Committee began its work this morning, the Secretary read a note provided by the Office of Conference Services, addressing the concerns several delegations raised yesterday to the inclusion of a Web site address in the footnote of a resolution under consideration.  Action on that text, on Protection of and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (document A/C.3/56/L.63), had been postponed after objections were expressed about the mention, in operative paragraph 14 of the establishment of a global internally displaced persons database.


The Secretary told the Committee that the reference to the Web site had been added in accordance with the standard editorial policy on electronic references, which stated that such Web addresses be provided whenever such databases were mentioned in the text of resolutions to identify electronic sources of information.  Such references served the same purpose as document symbols.  She added that, according to Conference Services, Web site addresses had been cited in all sorts of United Nations documents, including Assembly resolutions, for several years now.  Such addresses had also appeared in several resolutions that had been before the Third Committee as well as the Second Committee and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).


Introduction of Drafts


The Committee had before it three drafts for introduction on matters related to human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and on human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.


The representative of Mexico introduced a draft resolution on the Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities (document A/C.3/56/L.67/Rev. 1), by which the General Assembly would call upon States and the regional commissions, in cooperation with relevant United Nations bodies to hold regional meetings or seminars to contribute to the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on elaborating the Convention by making recommendations regarding the content and practical measures that should be considered in the international convention.


Another representative of Mexico introduced and orally amended a draft resolution on the Protection of Migrants (document A/C.3/56/L.71), by which the Assembly would call upon all States to protect the human rights of migrant children, in particular unaccompanied migrant children, ensuring that the best interests of the children are the paramount consideration.  It would also encourage the relevant United Nations bodies, within the framework of their respective mandates, to pay special attention to the conditions of migrant children in all States and, where necessary, to put forward recommendations for strengthening their protection.


The representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, introduced a draft resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (document A/C.3/56/L.56), by which the Assembly would express its concern at the situation of human rights there, particularly in the zones held by the armed rebels and under foreign occupation, and at the persistent violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law, including the atrocities against the civilian populations, usually committed with complete impunity.  The Assembly would also emphasize that all the forces present in the territory of the DRC should be held accountable for the violations of human rights in the territories under their control.


Further by the text, the Assembly would condemn, in particular, all the massacres and atrocities still being committed throughout the territory of the DRC, and also in the zones held by armed rebels and under foreign occupation, particularly Bugobe, Nyatende, Kamisimbi, Lurhala, Nyangesi, Biambwe, Nbingi, Bunyatenge, Kaghumo, Banyuke, Kirma, Kalemie, Pweto, Rutshuru, Kimbumba, Kimia Kimia, Dungo Mulunga and Kasese Bolanga.  It would further condemn the occurrences of cases of summary and arbitrary execution, disappearance, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, including of journalists, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and people who have cooperated with the United Nations mechanisms.


      Action on Drafts


The Third Committee had before it a host of draft resolutions for action on matters related to the advancement of women, questions on refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and human rights questions, including alternative approaches for the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


On the advancement of women, delegations had one draft text.


The first text was on the integration of older women into development (document A/C.3/56/L.21/Rev.1).  It was adopted without a vote.


Explaining her delegation's position after the vote, the representative of Suriname said it was a historic day for older women.  The Third Committee should be thanked.


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

First, there was a draft on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons (document A/C.3/56/L.72).  It was adopted without a vote.


The next resolution was on assistance to unaccompanied refugee minors (document A/C.3/56/L.73).  It was adopted without a vote.


The Committee also took note of a note by the Secretary-General on the Audit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee Operations in Albania (A/56/128).


On matters related to human rights questions and the implementation of human rights instruments, the Committee had before it seven draft resolutions.


The first draft resolution addressed by the Committee was on human rights education (document A/C.3/56/L.40).


Explaining her delegation's position before the decision, the representative of Haiti said human rights education should be a part of all daily lives.  It was a key to development.


The resolution was adopted, as orally amended, without a vote.


Next was a draft resolution on enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/56/L.42/Rev.1).  The resolution was adopted without a vote


The Committee also had before it a draft on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/56/L.49).  The resolution was adopted, as orally amended, without a vote.


Explaining her delegation's position after adoption, the representative of Chile said her country had joined consensus because it was committed to cultural diversity.  But Chile reiterated its commitment to the universal validity of human rights.  Specificities should not be used as a pretext.


Explaining her delegation's position after adoption, the representative of Canada said recognizing that diversity was important for development, as well as peace and security, and that was why Canada had joined consensus.  However, it was also important for drafts to be consistent with international human rights law.  Canada believed the resolution would be strengthened if it included the close relationship of gender and language.  Although consensus was not blocked, Canada would have preferred a more balanced phrasing with regards to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.  Some parts of the Conference, and its side events, had had a negative impact on cultural diversity.


Another draft before the Committee 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) was adopted without a vote.


Explaining her delegation's position after adoption, the delegate from Syria said Syria had joined consensus, but the declaration of rights and duties of individuals in promoting and respecting human rights meant that States should not

interfere with the internal operations of other States.  Interventions should not be on a selective approach.  In the reference to NGOs, it should be made clear that NGOs should be established and licensed in accordance with national laws.  Transparency and objectivity should be considered in the work of the United Nations. 


Explaining his delegation's position after adoption, the delegate from India said although India went along with consensus, the reference in Operative Paragraph 2 did not mean in any way India endorsed the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders.  That should be made clear.


A following text was on the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (document A/C.3/56/L.63).  The resolution was adopted, as orally revised, without a vote.


Making a general statement, the delegate of Egypt said the number of internally displaced persons in the world amounted to over 25 million.  It was requested that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons consult with the countries concerned when he was drafting his reports.  Until that was done, the question of the Guiding Principles would overshadow the item every year.  Consensus would not be blocked, but it was hoped this discussion could be avoided.


Explaining her delegation's position after adoption, the delegate from Syria said consensus was not blocked because it was important to address the plight of internally displaced persons.  However, Operative Paragraph 6 contained a reference to Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which had not been negotiated or agreed in any intergovernmental body.  She underlined the importance of having international cooperation on that matter.  The Guiding Principles should be submitted to an intergovernmental body.


Another text was a draft on human rights and mass exodus (document A/C.3/56/L.65).  It was adopted without a vote.


The final text was a draft on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia (A/C.3/56/L.68).  It was adopted without a vote.


Explaining her delegation's position after adoption, the representative of Cambodia said Cambodia had always been committed to strengthening democracy, and promoting and protecting human rights.  It cooperated closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Government just last week reached a Memorandum of Understanding with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.


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