01/11/2002
Press Release
GA/SHC/3711



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

32nd Meeting (PM)


HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTING PROCESS NEEDS IMPROVEMENT, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD


Due mainly to a lack of resources, small developing States often faced tremendous difficulties in fulfilling their reporting obligations to international human rights treaty bodies, the representative of Australia told the General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).


In a brief meeting this afternoon, which concluded the Committee's consideration of two items related to human rights mechanisms -- international human rights Conventions and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action -- that representative stressed the reporting process was one of the obvious and crucial areas for improvement to which States could contribute directly.


Non-reporting, overdue and poor quality reporting were consistent problems, he said, speaking on behalf of Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Chile.  Both developed and developing States must aim to submit shorter, more focused reports and keep core documents up to date.  Human rights treaty bodies themselves had acknowledged this situation and had stressed the need for technical assistance to help smaller States meet their commitments.


The representative of Indonesia highlighted the importance of assisting emerging democracies and developing countries in their implementation of human rights instruments.  He stressed that each country, in accordance with national priorities, culture, custom and resources, must determine the priorities in the evolution of democracy, including human rights initiatives.  Emerging democracies required support from established democracies, but the face of democracy must be shaped in the national image.


While supporting universal ratification of human rights instruments -- including the Vienna Programme of Action -- the representative of Burkina Faso said socio-economic circumstances and challenges in developing countries made human rights reporting burdensome.  However, despite the current difficulties faced by Burkina Faso, the Government was doing all in its power to meet its human rights obligations and commitments.


The Committee began its work this afternoon by hearing the introduction of two draft resolutions.  The representatives of Uruguay and Costa Rica, respectively, introduced texts on the rights of the child, and on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.


Also making a statement concluding the Committee’s consideration of matters related to the implementation of human rights instruments was the representative of India.


Also addressing the Committee on the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was the representative of Indonesia.


The Third Committee will reconvene on Monday, 4 November at 10 a.m., and will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.


It also heard the introduction of two draft resolutions, on, respectively, the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, and implementation of human rights instruments.


Before delegations was an omnibus resolution on the rights of the child (document A/C.3/57/L.25), by which the Assembly would recognize the need for:  the realization of a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development; the protection of the child from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment; the provision of universal and equal access to primary education; and the implementation of the commitments on the education of children contained in the Millennium Declaration.


The resolution consists of seven parts.  Part One is on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, wherein the Assembly once again urges the States that have not done so to sign and ratify or accede to the Convention as a matter of priority, and urges parties to withdraw reservations that were incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.


Part Two deals with the protection and promotion of the rights of children, and provides recommendations to the Secretary-General, States and intergovernmental agencies on identity, family and birth registration, health, education and freedom from violence.  Part Three also makes recommendations to those actors on the promotion and protection of the rights of children in particularly vulnerable situations and non-discrimination against children.  Particularly vulnerable are children working and/or living on the streets, refugee and internally displaced children, children with disabilities and migrant children.


In Part Four, on the prevention and eradication of the sale of children and of their sexual exploitation and abuse, including child prostitution and child pornography, the Assembly would call upon States to enact, enforce, review and revise laws and to implement policies, programmes and practices to protect children from and to eliminate all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation, taking into account the particular problems posed by the use of the Internet in this regard.


Part Five covers the protection of children affected by armed conflict.  According to the text, the Assembly would, among other things, condemn the abduction of children in situations of armed conflict and into armed conflict, and urge States, international organizations and other concerned parties to take all appropriate measures to secure the unconditional release, rehabilitation, reintegration and reunification with their families of all abducted children.  It would also urge States to bring perpetrators to justice.


The progressive elimination of child labour is addressed in Part Six, which states that the Assembly would call upon States to assess and examine systematically the magnitude, nature and causes of child labour and to elaborate and implement strategies for the elimination of child labour contrary to accepted international standards.  Special attention would be given to specific dangers faced by girls, as well as to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the children concerned.


In the final part of the draft resolution, the Assembly would, among other things, request the Secretary-General to prepare a report on progress achieved in realizing the commitments set out in the final document of the twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly, entitled "A world fit for Children".


The Committee also had before it a draft text on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/C.3/57/L.30), which would have the Assembly adopt the Optional Protocol and request the Secretary-General to open it for signature, ratification and accession at United Nations Headquarters in New York from        1 January 2003.


The draft includes an Annex, which contains the full text of the Optional Protocol.  Article One states the Protocol’s objective, namely to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  The Protocol will have no procedure for reservations by States parties.


Article Two of the draft Protocol establishes a Subcommittee on Prevention to carry out, within the framework of the Charter and in cooperation with States parties to the Convention, the functions laid down by the Protocol.  Article Five details the Subcommittee’s structure.  That body will initially consist of       10 members, but at the 50th ratification or accession to the Protocol, the number will increase to 25.  Due consideration will be given to equitable geographic distribution and to the representation of different forms of civilization and legal systems of States parties among members who should be persons of high moral character, having proven professional experience in the field of the administration of justice.


Each State party may nominate up to two candidates (Article Six).  Article Eleven of the draft protocol details the Subcommittee’s mandate.  Accordingly, that body should visit places of detention and make recommendations concerning the protection of detainees from torture or other cruel and degrading punishment.  It should also maintain direct, and, if necessary, confidential, contact with national preventive mechanisms and offer them training and technical assistance to help strengthen their capacities.


Article Thirteen describes the visiting procedures of the Subcommittee, and Article Fourteen details the obligations of States parties under those procedures, including that those parties shall agree to unrestricted access to all information concerning the number of persons held in detention, as well as to information on their treatment.  It states that objection to a visit could be made only on the urgent and compelling grounds of national defence, public safety, natural disaster or serious order which would temporarily prevent such a visit.  The existence of a declaration of a state of emergency as such shall not be invoked as a reason to object to a visit.


Articles Twenty-five and Twenty-six detail the financial provisions of the Subcommittee, noting that expenditures incurred in implementation of the Protocol shall be borne by the United Nations, and that a Special Fund shall be set up to help finance the implementation of the Subcommittee’s recommendations.


Introduction of Drafts


The Committee began its work this afternoon by hearing the introduction of two draft resolutions.


The representative of Uruguay introduced the omnibus text on the rights of the child (document A/C.3/57/L.25), which this year, she said, featured the commitments made at the conclusion of the General Assembly special session on children held last May.  She noted that the text also highlighted the situation of children with disabilities, kidnapping or sequestering of children by one or more of their parents and strategies to combat sexual exploitation of children.


The representative of Costa Rica then introduced the draft on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/C.3/57/L.30).  He said the Protocol –- designed to establish a preventive system of visits to prisons or other places of detention -– belonged to a new generation of human rights instruments which sought cooperation with States instead of confrontation.  After 10 years of negotiations and deliberations, the draft before the Committee represented the best possible text that could be adopted on the issue by the Committee.


Following that introduction, the representative of Japan said it had been regrettable that open negotiations on the draft had not yet been held.  Since all Member States would be creating a new human rights instrument, all negotiations surrounding it should be discussed in an open manner.  Japan would reiterate its request to the sponsors of the draft to hold broad informal consultations.  It would also reiterate its request that the Secretary-General provide a complete statement of the programme budgetary implications of the draft.


The representative of the United States echoed Japan’s concerns, saying his own delegation did not know what the financial implications of the draft would be, but believed that they would be significant.


The representative of Guatemala drew the Committee’s attention to several technical errors in the Spanish language version of the draft.


Statements


MS. OUEDRAOGO (Burkina Faso) said Burkina Faso was in favour of universal ratification of human rights instruments, including the Vienna Programme of Action.  The Vienna Programme of Action would have an impact on the promotion and protection of human rights.  Despite difficult socio-economic circumstances, the Government of Burkina Faso was doing all in its power to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of human rights treaty bodies.


She stressed, however, that improvements could be made in the current functioning of human rights reporting.  Much could be learned by human rights treaty bodies from the functioning of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Burkina Faso supported the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Inhuman, Cruel and Degrading Punishment or Treatment and stressed that its creation and implementation must not be hindered by any budgetary questions. 

AJIT KUMAR PANJA, Member of Parliament of India, said the adoption of the Vienna Declaration had been an important landmark in the field of human rights and stood today as perhaps the broadest possible consensus on human rights issues achieved by the international community since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The 10th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration would be celebrated in 2003.  In the intervening years, significant developments had taken place, and important progress had been made in the area of human rights.  In India, increasing awareness and consciousness of human rights had grown, both as a result of popular participation in democratic processes and increased empowerment of all segments of society.


The Vienna Declaration had recognized that respect for human rights, democracy and development were mutually reinforcing, he said.  However, international human rights had not been free of distrust.  Perceptions of selectivity, double standards and politicization continued to devalue the debate.  The promotion and protection of human rights were common endeavours by the entire international community.  As the 10-year anniversary of the Declaration approached, all global actors must enhance their efforts in achieving the noble goals of the Declaration, as confidence needed to be built in efforts at international cooperation.


He drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that all reports had been made available in a timely manner.  On the documents concerning implementation of human rights instruments, he said that improving and strengthening the United Nations human rights monitoring bodies needed to be undertaken in a coordinated manner.  In keeping with the traditions of the United Nations in adopting a consensual approach on matters of significance, it was India’s hope that Member States would find a way to reach agreement and further their cooperation on enhancing the human rights treaty bodies.


JAMES CHOI (Australia), speaking on behalf of Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Chile, said the human rights treaty bodies were entrusted with the critical task of monitoring the implementation by States parties of their obligations under the six core United Nations human rights instruments.  However, this system was facing many challenges that were eroding its overall ability to effectively address human rights issues of concern.  There was much that could be done on a practical level by States parties, the treaty bodies, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other components of the United Nations human rights system, working together, to improve the system.


The committees were themselves adopting a more proactive approach to improving their working methods.  Several treaty bodies had begun holding open forums with States parties, and he urged all the committees to hold such meetings on an annual basis.  He saw such meetings, and the annual meeting with the treaty body chairs, as a valuable opportunity for States and the committees to engage in productive dialogue on issues of common concern.  The recent enhancement of interaction between the treaty bodies and special rapporteurs was also appreciated, and he urged that that cooperation continue on a regular basis.


The reporting process was one of the obvious and crucial areas for improvement, to which States could contribute directly.  Non-reporting, overdue and poor quality reporting were consistent problems.  He said States must aim to submit shorter and more focused reports, in a timely manner, and to keep core documents up to date.  Small developing States often had difficulties in

fulfilling their reporting obligations due to a lack of resources.  The treaty bodies had acknowledged this situation and underlined the important role of technical assistance to help smaller States meet their commitments.


Statement on Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action


DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said his country placed a high priority on implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, of 1993.  The Vienna Conference had served to refocus the efforts of the international community onto the most important issue of promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.  The Vienna Programme of Action had led Indonesia to adopt its first National Plan of Action on Human Rights for 1998 to 2003.  Today, the second five-year plan was being drafted, which would build upon the success of the first plan, he said.  The first National Plan of Action had established a timetable for the achievement of concrete goals in four areas:  the ratification of international human rights instruments; education on human rights issues; implementation in priority areas concerning human rights; and the domestic implementation of international human rights instruments. 


The past five years had been an eventful epoch in Indonesian history, he said.  Indonesian society had been undergoing a fundamental transformation into a democratic society, while also suffering through a severe economic crisis.  But in just this short period of time, Indonesia had made a great deal of progress in establishing institutions, which in other countries had evolved over decades or even centuries.  He stressed that each country, in accordance with national priorities, culture, custom and resources, must determine its priorities in the evolution of democracy, including human rights initiatives.  Emerging democracies required support from established democracies, but the face of democracy must be shaped in the national image.


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