9 November 2007
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3904

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Third Committee

41st & 42nd Meetings (AM & PM)


Third Committee Asks Assembly TO designate international year


for human rights learning


Red Cross Cautions against Preferential Treatment

For Displaced People over Other Categories of Victims


As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today concluded its review of the right of peoples to self-determination, this afternoon, acting without a vote, it approved a draft resolution, as orally amended, that would have the General Assembly designate an international year for human rights learning, commencing 10 December 2008.


Another 18 draft resolutions, on a wide array of critical human rights issues, were also introduced during the afternoon session for action by the Committee at a later date.


Two other drafts slated for introduction were deferred, while action on a text on Eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations, including as instruments to achieve political or military objectives was also deferred.


According to the representative of Benin, who introduced the text, an international year for human rights learning would speed up the process of appropriation of all human rights and their full realization.


The other draft resolutions introduced to the Committee today ranged from key issues such as the right to food, through the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the fight against terror, to country-specific drafts that drew rights of reply from the States concerned.


The representative of Canada, for example, introduced a text on the situation of human rights in Iran that highlighted confirmed instances of torture and cruel and degrading treatment or punishment in the country.  The representative of Iran, in a right of reply, countered by saying the draft was a catalogue of baseless information.  


Portugal’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, introduced a text which expressed deep concern about the situation of human rights in Myanmar, including the recent violent repression of peaceful demonstrations.  The representative of Myanmar, responding to Portugal by right of reply, said the draft had been overtaken by events; the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and on Other Political issues, Ibrahim Gambari, had confirmed positive developments after his recent visit to Myanmar, and had released a statement that noted that Aung San Suu Kyi [General Secretary of the National League for Democracy] was ready to cooperate with the Government towards a successful dialogue.  The European Union’s draft, however, failed to reflect the positive developments that had been unfolding in Myanmar.


Earlier today, as the Committee concluded its discussion on the right of peoples to self-determination, with statements from 20 countries and four international organizations, there was strong all round support for the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  On the worsening issue of internal displacement, which many delegations felt needed to be substantively addressed at both national and international levels, many cautioned, however, about actions to address that issue that could detract from other ongoing efforts to assist refugees.


The Observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross cautioned against preferential treatment for displaced persons over other categories of victims, since it would give the impression that displaced persons were the worst affected, while non-displaced persons were better off.  In fact, he noted, people left behind sometimes faced even more dire circumstances than the displaced, be they the elderly, disabled or wounded, and others who were physically unable to leave. 


Zambia was currently hosting refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and other countries, that country’s representative said.  When humanitarian disasters occurred, the first countries of asylum for those fleeing were usually facing development challenges and resource constraints, and that led to tensions within the host countries, he added.


The representative of Thailand stressed that every effort should be made to tackle the root causes of displacement in the countries of origin.  Voluntary repatriation should continue to be the preferred solution in dealing with displacement, but when that was not feasible, the international community should step forward to share the burden and responsibility in providing third-country resettlement.


Statements on the rights of peoples to self determination were also made today by the representatives of Belarus, Côte d’Ivoire, Canada, Serbia, Morocco, Yemen, South Africa, Kenya, India, Armenia, United Republic of Tanzania, Mauritania, Republic of Korea, Uganda, Algeria, Syria, Kuwait, Iran and Venezuela. 


Representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and the International Organization for Migration also spoke today.


The representatives of Pakistan, United States, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Mexico, Austria, and Cuba also presented draft resolutions today for introduction or deferral.


The representatives of Morocco, Algeria, Belarus and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of their right to reply.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 November, to begin taking actions on draft proposals.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion on the right of peoples to self-determination.


The Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on:  Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (A/C.3/62/L.56); Strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (A/C.3/62/L.30); Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/C.3/62/L.31); Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia (A/C.3/62/L.38); Human rights and cultural diversity (A/C.3/62/L.39); Protection of migrants (A/C.3/62/L.40); Human rights in the administration of justice (A/C.3/62/L.45); Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (A/C.3/62/L.46); Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (A/C.3/62/L.47); Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (A/C.3/62/L.48); The right to development (A/C.3/62/L.49); Human rights and unilateral coercive measures (A/C.3/62/L.50); Promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all (A/C.3/62/L.52); The right to food (A/C.3/62/L.53); Strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (A/C.3/62/L.54); Respect for the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms and in solving international problems of a humanitarian character (A/C.3/62/L.55); Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/C.3/62/L.37); Situation of human rights in Myanmar (A/C.3/62/L.41); Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/C.3/62/L.43); and Situation of human rights in Belarus (A/C.3/62/L.51).


The Committee was further expected to take action on a draft resolution on the advancement of women.  The draft resolution was entitled, Eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations, including as instruments to achieve political or military objectives (document A/C.3/62/L.16/Rev.1 and amendments thereto contained in documents A/C.3/62/L.58 and A/C.3/62/L.59).  For more background information on this draft resolution, please see press release GA/SHC/3903.


The Committee was also expected to take action on “Celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” with a draft resolution entitled International Year of Human Rights Learning (document A/C.3/62/L.28/Rev.1).


By the terms of this text, the Committee would have the General Assembly proclaim 10 December 2008 as the International Year of Human Rights Learning, devoted to activities to broaden and deepen learning on those rights.  The text would also ask the Assembly to call upon Member States to intensify their efforts, throughout the year and beyond, to promote human rights learning and education at the local, national and international level, and encourage cooperation at all levels and with all relevant stakeholders. 


Statements


SERGEI A. RACHKOV, the representative of Belarus, said the current law in his country on refugees, adopted in 1995, was fully in line with the universally recognized requirements of international refugee law.  The Ministry of Internal Affairs had provided a single State policy on forced migration.  Since 1997, more than 3,000 foreigners from 44 countries had appealed for asylum in Belarus; in recent years, however, the number had been decreasing.  Legislation on refugees, in many cases, made them equal with citizens of Belarus.


More favourable conditions for the integration of migrants had been created in Belarus, with assistance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), he said.  5 million dollars had been received from UNHCR to provide legal, social, medical and material assistance to the most vulnerable and needy refugees, as well as to local people who lived where refugees lived.  Dormitories had also been constructed to accommodate refugees.  An important element of cooperation with UNHCR had been the improvement of relevant legislation.


JEAN-BAPTISTE AMANGOUA ( C ôte d’Ivoire) said national conflicts had led to a great movement of refugees and displaced persons in his region.  During those conflicts, there had been a progressive decline in the effectiveness of national economic, social and political structures, including the structures that historically welcomed and protected refugees.  Finding a solution to the issues of refugees and displaced persons required a focus on the causes of conflict.  Member States should provide the necessary resources to the High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure that the Office could achieve success in its work.


His Government was committed to achieving the objectives laid out by the High Commissioner, he said.  In particular, it was focused on meeting the nutritional needs of refugees and supporting their full socio-economic reintegration into society.  National repatriation and reintegration initiatives had already been implemented.  Overall, countries should focus on creating peace in conflict zones to allow refugees and displaced persons to voluntarily return to their homelands.  To establish a culture of peace, States should focus on the creation of democratic structures and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  He said African countries were aware of the need for good governance within the judiciary and the police.


Ensuring an equitable distribution of resources among citizens, and access to proper health care and education would help avoid the societal frustrations that often led to revolts and bloody conflicts, he said.  Regional economic integration was necessary for Africa’s success, and the United Nations as well as the international community as a whole should assist Africa in that process.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) could play a particularly pivotal role in that respect. 


CAROLINE MIREAULT ( Canada), welcoming the 10 commitments set out by UNHCR, placed priority on the one addressing solutions to protracted situations of displacement.  To secure comprehensive remedies to those situations, she urged Member States to make concrete investments in sustainable peace and to expand local integration opportunities as well as resettlement programmes.  Other priorities were the structural and management reform process, strengthened coordination and defined cluster responsibilities for the agency.


In that context, she welcomed the High Commissioner’s commitment to partnership and called on other agencies to work together with UNHCR in line with their core mandates.  To assess the optimum scope and nature of the agency’s operations, she encouraged it to define more precisely the meaning of “persons of concern”, given the increase in the number of such persons this year.


Finally, she expressed appreciation for UNHCR’s commitment to protection, particularly its concern with children at risk, advising that age, gender and diversity should be mainstreamed into protection activities.  She noted with concern the growing number of Member States on UNHCR’s Executive Committee who were not signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol.  In closing, she seconded the High Commissioner’s statement that beneficiaries must always be at the centre of refugee concerns.


SLAVKO KRULJEVIC ( Serbia), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons had strong domestic and international implications for Serbia.  Unfortunately, throughout the past year, no significant progress had been made on those issues.  He said the return of displaced persons to Kosovo and Metohija after eight years of international presence in the province was symbolic, emphasizing that the lack of progress was due to the absence of security and the generally low level of human rights protection.  Under Security Council resolution 1244(1999), the United Nations Mission in Kosovo had an obligation to ensure all the necessary preconditions for a sustainable return of displaced persons, which could not be achieved until the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights was guaranteed.  He said although displaced people were entitled to all the rights enjoyed by the citizens of Serbia during their displacement, the situation continued to be very difficult, with the number of those displaced on the rise.


He reiterated that voluntary returns were the best solution for displaced persons, and considered voluntary repatriation and local integration parallel and complementary.  Serbia had invested its best efforts to promote both.  The lack of housing and the financial resources to address those issues were, however, the biggest problem.  Restitution of property and full respect for occupancy/tenancy and property rights were of paramount importance for refugees, as they decided between repatriation and local integration.  He hoped that through the signing of the Sarajevo Declaration all parties involved in the process would make every effort to overcome existing problems.  Despite a comprehensive road map for the implementation of the Declaration, without outstanding issues in the road map of Croatia settled, involved parties could not proceed with the implementation of the Joint Implementation Matrix.


LOTFI BOUCHAARA ( Morocco), said the humanitarian situation today was becoming more complex, as conflicts were totally different to those of the cold war era.  And, intra-State conflicts were now characterized by diverse non-State actors and arms trafficking, which made them difficult to stop.


Given those circumstances, he reiterated the fundamental principles that must guide UNHCR’s work, particularly in long-standing conflicts.  The agency must be present in refugee camps, as it was inconceivable that any of its activities could actually benefit refugees if it was refused access or limited to intermittent visits.  Furthermore, its mandate must be clearly respected, in line with the status accorded to it under international conventions.  UNHCR must also denounce practices that left refugee populations at the mercy of armed groups or allowed their rights to be flouted.  The separation of civil populations from armed elements must be a cardinal principle for the Office.


On census reporting, which was fundamental to all serious humanitarian action, he said it was foolish that UNHCR had been denied its right to count the very people it was charged to protect.  If a host country denied the agency its right to conduct a head count, that should be denounced as a violation of international law.  Given the temporary situation of refugees, UNHCR must employ internationally agreed solutions, among them voluntary repatriation in conditions of dignity and respect.  It should also take all necessary measures to enable refugees to express their wishes for their future.


WAHEED AL-SHAMI ( Yemen) said his country had been at the forefront of States that had signed the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its Optional Protocol; lofty national goals were therefore pursued on the basis of Arabic and Islamic traditions.  Yemen had been the victim of an influx of thousands of refugees due to problems in Africa, notably in Somalia.  Since the beginning of 2007, some 14,000 African refugees had arrived.  Despite its economic situation, Yemen had discharged its humanitarian responsibilities, received those refugees, set up camps for them and provided various forms of protection.  His country had also tried to find radical solutions to help end the conflict that had prompted the influx.


The influx of refugees had an adverse impact on Yemen, he said.  Besides being a major economic burden, there were also health, social and security problems, as well as problems that stemmed from an infiltration of weapons.  He praised the tremendous efforts undertaken by UNHCR to provide protection, security and safety to refugees as well as humanitarian assistance.  Yemen was committed to cooperating with UNHCR, and supported the agency’s internal reforms; it also called upon donor nations and organizations to increase support to those countries that were hosting refugees.


D. MASHABANE ( South Africa) thanked the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, for his recent visit to South Africa.  His country supported the three “durable solutions” identified in the UNHCR report, and believed that those solutions were critical in solving the problems faced by refugees.  South Africa likewise encouraged the agency to continue its efforts in Africa, and welcomed the increased expenditure on resettlement.  The decrease of other types of financial assistance was regrettable.


The role of UNHCR in relation to internally displaced persons should be debated.  Mixed migratory flows were another challenge which needed to be addressed so that the institution of asylum was not compromised.  The focus on organizational and structural reform was welcome, and those reforms should promote increased resources for operations in Africa.  Addressing global priorities identified, he said there was a need to address health, nutrition, HIV and AIDS, and sexual as well as gender-based violence.  Austerity measures should not continue to negatively affect those areas.  South Africa would like to be updated on the set of procedural guidelines being developed to support the “process related reforms”, especially the new resource allocation model.


LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) said his delegation associated itself with the statement made on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  He was concerned that the number of refugees had increased in the first half of the year.  New emergencies had produced a new wave of internally displaced persons and refugees, and it was disturbing that over half of the world’s displaced people were in Africa, which was still the continent most affected by conflict-related internal displacement.


Zambia, with a tradition of hosting persons seeking refuge, was currently hosting refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and other countries.  In the last years, his country had focused on voluntary repatriation, yet there was still a significant caseload of refugees who were reluctant to return to their home countries for various socio-economic reasons.  While Zambia remained committed to local integration of these refugees, the issue was “emotive” and required the concurrence of Zambia’s citizens.  The last years’ steady reduction of resources and services provided to refugees by the international community was of great concern to Zambia.  When humanitarian disasters occurred, the first countries of asylum for those fleeing were usually facing development challenges and resource constraints, he said, and that led to tensions within the host countries.  Refugees and internally displaced people were the responsibility of the international community.  Consideration should be given to establishing a humanitarian credit regime where countries might receive additional assistance for looking after refugees.  The onus was on the international community to address the root causes of displacements and step up its efforts in the areas of prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.


MICHAEL D. KINYANJUI ( Kenya) said his country had a long history of hosting refugees.  Its experience showed that refugees were increasingly facing difficulties because of diminishing resources and security concerns.  As host to more than 200,000 refugees, Kenya underscored the importance of maintaining the civilian nature of refugee camps.  Some of the refugees had come into the camps with illegal weapons, which found their way into other parts of the country where they were used by “criminal elements”.  There was a need for the international community to help Kenya in addressing those security concerns, particularly in the countries of origin.


He said voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement in third countries were the most important durable solutions to addressing the refugee problem.  Drought and floods, particularly in the past year, had caused a rise in numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in the region.  Efforts had to continue towards creating conducive conditions that would enable refugees to return home in conditions of safety and dignity.  The provision of microcredit and other sustainable economic empowerment initiatives would increase the self-reliance of refugees and also reduce tension with the host communities over meagre resources.  He thanked United Nations organizations working in Kenya for their help and support, particularly in respect of the recent influx of Somali refugees.


MOHAMMAD SALIM ( India) said greater attention had to be paid to new challenges arising from internal displacement.  More clarity from the High Commissioner regarding UNHCR’s renewed focus on internally displaced persons was needed; the agency’s role in situations involving such persons should be on the basis of explicit requests made to it by the States concerned.  The maximum burden of hosting and protecting refugees had been borne by developing countries; their concerns needed to be addressed to a far greater degree.  There were enormous problems in identifying people with a well-founded fear of persecution; capacities had to be developed to differentiate between refugees and economic migrants.


He said the most durable solution, in the view of India, was voluntary repatriation, and developing countries of origin should be given assistance to facilitate such repatriation.  Resettlement, especially in countries that had the economic means, was also a possibility.  The implications of local integration were far-reaching and needed to be considered carefully.  He said efforts to enhance the accountability and transparency at UNHCR had to continue; the Organization also had to preserve its impartiality in operations and its non-political character.  Implementation of the 1951 Convention on refugees had often suffered from a lack of political will in some parts of the world, and a lack of means in other parts of the world.  Violations of provisions of the Convention were a reminder that international protection should be seen not only through the prism of adherence to certain instruments.  That Convention, to which India was not a signatory, did not address the problem of massive refugee flows or such factors as mixed migration.  India’s commitment to humanitarianism, however, was second to none; it hosted a large number of refugees and programmes relating to them had been managed entirely from India’s own resources, with a protection regime based on fundamental rights guaranteed in India’s Constitution.


ARA MARGARIAN ( Armenia) said UNHCR had been “instrumental” in assisting the Armenian Government in addressing the tremendous burden created by over 400,000 refugees from Azerbaijan.  The Agency had also been very helpful this year in analyzing the asylum legislation and devising, with IOM, a new draft of it.  Another issue was the internally displaced population in Armenia from the border regions as a result of the conflict in Nagorno Karabagh, he said.


The security situation in Iraq had not left Armenia immune from the plight of the population there.  For the last year, Armenia had seen an influx of Iraqi-Armenians who had turned for refuge and help to their motherland.  The dire conditions in which they had to depart from Iraq left them without any means of sustenance, thus making them an extremely vulnerable group in need of urgent assistance.  He expressed Armenia’s thanks for the decision by the Central Emergency Response Fund to allocate $300,000 towards the winter needs of those Iraqis who had found refuge in Armenia.  His delegation looked forward to support from UNHCR to find durable solutions for that group of people in Armenia.


JUDITH MTAWALI (United Republic of Tanzania) said the number of returnees needing assistance continued to rise.  While her country was involved in the voluntary repatriation of both Burundians and those from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it still hosted nearly a half-million refugees living either in camps or old settlements.  To be successful, repatriation needed to be sustainable, meaning that basic services should be made available to the returnees and security issues addressed.  The international community should ensure the availability of resources for host countries to create conditions conducive to return, including the reintegration of the internally displaced.


Further, she said that as a host country, hers had experienced devastating impacts on the environment due to the high numbers of refugees who had lived there for decades.  Assistance was needed for rehabilitating the environment and infrastructure in those areas, while development assistance was needed for host communities sharing their scant resources with refugees.  Hosting refugees was not just a matter of generosity but a burden and responsibility the entire international community should share.  To ensure a durable solution, three approaches were being pursued simultaneously:  voluntary repatriation, resettlement in a third country, and local integration by naturalization.  Policy implications were being analyzed.  What also needed to be addressed was the related issue of increasing numbers of illegal immigrants, particularly from the Horn of Africa.


JIDDOU OULID ABDERRAHMANE ( Mauritania) referred to the measures that his Government had taken to ensure the dignified return of refugees from Senegal and Mali.  A steering committee had been set up, and it had made a field visit to refugee camps in those two countries.  In cooperation with UNHCR, his country had been finalizing an arrangement for the return of refugees.  That effort grew out of the strong will of the Government, which had made national unity and protection of human rights a priority in its development programme aimed at entrenching democracy and the rule of law.


BUMHYM BEK ( Republic of Korea) welcomed the ongoing reforms by UNHCR, including field-oriented decentralization, the new budget structure, out-posting to Budapest and the cluster approach.  The Agency urgently needed the strong support of transit and destination countries, particularly at a time of broader and mixed migration, which could turn into a thorny political issue.  In that light, increasingly tight border controls were cause for concern.


The refugee problem must be addressed from a humanitarian perspective, he said, adding that human security must not be subjected to the “Olympian logic” of national, political, economic and social stability.  The principle of non-refoulement must also be strictly followed.  The status of refugees should therefore be enlarged to all those in dire and fearful situations, and standards of protection strengthened.  He drew attention to the difficulties faced by stateless persons, including ethnic Koreans from the former Central Asian Soviet Republics, calling for their citizenship to be restored.


MARGARET AWINO-KAFEERO ( Uganda) said that as a result of the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army, over 2 million Ugandans had been forced into internal displacement and refugee camps.  There, they endured terrible conditions, with overcrowding and disease.


In addition to this, Uganda also hosted thousands of refugees from other countries in the region, she said, thanking UNHCR for its assistance, which amounted to more than $20 million.  She also emphasized the importance of stability in the Great Lakes region in order to control the issue of internally displaced people and refugees in the region.


SALIMA ABDELHAK (Algeria), referring to migrants who risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aden, said that the responsibility for protection and assistance rested with countries of origin, transit and reception.  There needed to be cooperation between all parties, including international financial institutions, to address the structural causes behind migration on the African continent.  The mandate of UNHCR had been made more complex by the growing number of internally displaced persons and the mixed flow of migrants; such new missions, however, must not be undertaken to the detriment of the protection of refugees.


For three decades Algeria accepted refugees from Western Sahara, she said.  They had been staying in camps at Tindouf, but their situation had become more difficult following a decision by UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) to halve their assistance to them.  That decision was based on a disputable and unfounded re-evaluation of the numbers of those refugees.  That was a violation of the Geneva Convention and the right to food; considerable efforts must be made by UNHCR to help those people who were in a prolonged state of dependence, in line with its apolitical status.  The fate of Saharawi refugees hinged on the implementation of a United Nations resolution that called for a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara; registration of the population of Western Sahara, including refugees, was part of that process.


WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said that resolving the plight of refugees required more correct and sincere actions.  In the case of Iraq, the international community had to support political conciliation, ensure the withdrawal of foreign forces, assist reconstruction, and help the Iraqi Government and people to achieve security and stability.  Doing so would ensure the return of Iraqi refugees.   Syria did not agree with resettling Iraqi refugees anywhere in the world, as they would be displaced and lose their identity and heritage; they should return home.  Syria had long addressed the situation of Palestinian refugees on the basis of that same principle.


Syrian borders had seen massive flows of Iraqis since March 2003, when their country was invaded, she said.  That influx had continued; according to figures in UNHCR’s report there were about 1.25 million Iraqi refugees in the country, but the real number was more than 1.5 million.  Rising numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers had put a heavy burden on Syria’s economic infrastructure, and had negative repercussions on health, social services and the daily living conditions of Syrian people.  The total number of refugees in Syria numbered more than 2 million, or 12 per cent of the overall population.  Humanitarian assistance had amounted to $1.6 billion.  The Syrian and Iraqi Governments had cooperated in setting up mechanisms to provide assistance and to facilitate the return of refugees once security and stability had been restored.  Syria appreciated the role played by UNHCR, and hoped the international community would help all refugees, including those affected by foreign occupation.


ABDULAZIZ AL-DEKHAIL ( Kuwait) said that his delegation had taken note of the High Commissioner’s report, which had referred to a growing number of refugees receiving assistance from UNHCR.  The number of internally displaced people had increased significantly, while the millions of refugees in the world required everyone’s help.  Kuwait supported UNHCR by way of a yearly contribution, hosted an office of the Agency, and provided every form of assistance to it.  He commended the Office on progress made and the flexibility of its activities to meet the needs of its beneficiaries.


Kuwait provided assistance to refugees throughout the world, and that included the Lebanese who had been made refugees as a result of Israel’s flagrant aggression.  Their return home had been made difficult because of the need to rebuild what Israel had destroyed and the laying of mines.  Kuwait provided a voluntary contribution to UNHCR’s regular budget of up to $1.5 million.  He stressed the importance of the role of voluntary organizations, within Kuwait, in aiding refugees.


HAMID NIKOOHARF TAMIZ ( Iran) said his country sponsored Afghan refugees and displaced populations despite inadequate international assistance and at a time when it was confronted with its own economic challenges.  At times, the refugee and displaced population inside Iran exceeded 3 million.  That, coupled with frequent mass influxes, had negatively impacted Iran’s socio-economic situation.  More than 50,000 of the more than 200,000 registered Iraqi refugees remained in Iran and were hoping to return home.  Those refugees needed adequate international assistance and should not be forgotten.  Due to the continued violence and unrest in Iraq, there were some 2.5 million refugees and 2 million internally displaced Iraqis.  A ready response was needed to manage probable waves of refugees.


Iran had been very supportive of Afghan and Iraqi refugees and displaced persons and their newly formed Governments through support of voluntary refugee repatriation, the granting of more than 3,000 scholarships to Afghan university students, and support for infrastructure reconstruction, among other things.  In order to sustain refugee repatriation and support the living standards of families who intended to return legally to Iran to work after they had been repatriated, his Government would issue work permits for one of the members of any family who returned to Afghanistan during the implementation of the voluntary repatriation programme sponsored by the Government of Afghanistan and UNHCR since 2002.  Given the presence of more than 950,000 Afghan refugees and displaced persons in Iran, and the slowness of repatriation, he stressed the importance of resettlement in third countries.  Receiving countries should increase their capacity to host refugees and displaced persons.  It was not his country’s responsibility to receive 10 per cent of the world refugee population while others made no commitment to share the expenses.


YAKUELINE PETERSEN ( Venezuela) said the situation of internally displaced people should not in any way undermine the clear mandate UNHCR had for refugees.  Venezuela had ample knowledge of the situation of refugees and internally displaced people, not only in South America but worldwide.  Her country’s commitment could be seen in domestic legislation that was in compliance with international norms, and in the measures adopted by her Government to help the community life of refugees in Venezuela.  In border areas, Venezuela cooperated with UNHCR, and that collaboration was of great importance.  In implementing lasting solutions, Venezuela had integrated those who applied for refugee status and others though social programmes which guaranteed employment, education and equality.


The increase in refugee figures as reflected in the High Commissioner’s report was cause for concern.  Her country was also alarmed by the increase in stateless people as well as the increase in the number of displaced people.  She reiterated that refugees were the prime responsibility of the State from which they originated.  In order to provide greater assistance, it was necessary for UNHCR to include more detailed information in the report on criteria, so Member States could better follow up their responsibilities to assist the Agency in the execution of its mandate.


DON PRAMUDWINAI ( Thailand) said constructive and sincere cooperation with the host Government had to be the starting point for any humanitarian endeavor.  Every effort should be made to tackle the root causes of displacement in the countries of origin.  Voluntary repatriation should continue to be the preferred solution in dealing with displacement, but when this was not feasible, the international community should step forward to share the burden and responsibility in providing third country resettlement.


Thailand welcomed the ongoing process of structural and management change in UNHCR, and believed that the Agency would emerge from its reform process as a more effective and efficient organization.  For Thailand, international burden sharing and constructive relationships between the UNHCR and host countries would continue to be the guiding principles.


DOMINIQUE BUFF, observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), noted that international humanitarian law was binding on all parties to conflict, and if they were to comply fully with their obligations, much displacement and devastation would be prevented.  Often, however, State and other authorities were unwilling to discharge their responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict.  The ICRC did all it could to prevent violations of international humanitarian law, but humanitarian action alone could not ensure comprehensive protection for affected populations.  Judicial, political, economic and at times security and military actors must also act.  He then noted that action in one domain could not substitute for another:  for example, humanitarian action could not substitute for political action.


Addressing internally displaced persons, he cautioned against preferential concern for them over other categories of victims, since it would give the impression that displaced persons were the worst affected while non-displaced persons were better off.  In fact, people left behind sometimes faced even more dire circumstances than the displaced, be they the elderly, disabled or wounded, and others who were physically unable to leave.  Finally, attention should be given to the causes of displacement, so that the international community could engage in preventive efforts.


MICHAEL SCHULZ of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it was not enough for national Governments to declare commitment to displaced peoples.  They must act to ensure that protection and assistance was provided under all circumstances, including preventing sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.  Working under the theme “Making every mother and child count”, the IFRC itself had sought to address mother and child health through an integrated approach that was designed to enable displaced persons and others to live in dignity, with expectations of safe motherhood, and with basic reproductive health care built into emergency programmes.  Those issues would be discussed in Geneva later in the month, at the thirtieth international conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.


He stressed, however, that the Federation did not distinguish between refugees, internally displaced persons and others as it worked to tackle the humanitarian consequences of international migration.  It shared the views expressed by the High Commissioner of Refugees about the importance of addressing “mixed flows” and ensuring that the mixtures that were now so currently common   did not deprive people of their rights or opportunities when seeking to repair their damaged lives.  That subject would be taken up at the IFRC international conference as well.


AXUMITE GEBRE-EGZIABHER, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), said that shelter and secure tenure were the fundamental elements of human settlements.  The capacity to plan and manage those was the responsibility of Governments.  It was during crises that such responsibility was most affected.  Failure to act instantly and thoroughly on issues such as housing, land and property dispute resolution often led to renewed conflicts when people returned to their places of origin.  That had been clearly demonstrated in Southern Sudan, East Timor and other countries -- insufficient attention to land and property rights in peace agreements as well as return planning had led to renewed fighting and loss of lives.


Assessing and recommending alternatives, she said culturally contextual, transitional shelter approaches were the cornerstone of UN-Habitat’s engagement in the immediate aftermath of crises.  In line with the increased number and complexity of emergencies, UN-Habitat had significantly strengthened its capacity to respond to new and ongoing disasters.  The Agency had responded to virtually all recent emergencies, and currently had more than 550 staff working on activities in Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Liberia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Serbia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.  For the past decade, the Organization had been consistently operational in more than 35 countries, responding to humanitarian shelter and protection needs while contributing to establishing conditions for return and reintegration, as well as peace and stability.


LUCA DALL’OGLIO, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said a complex challenge had emerged vis-à-vis the preservation of international protection, given the increasingly “mixed nature” of population flows and the growing awareness of the complexity of population mobility.  A safe and principled management of migration, which remained attentive to the rights of all migrants while ensuring international protection for refugees, was a global challenge.  He noted that the modalities of cooperation between UNHCR and IOM were changing, although third country resettlement and voluntary repatriation continued to constitute a large and important part of collaboration between the two entities.  On the other hand, providing assistance to internally displaced persons, coming to the aid of displacement victims as a result of climate change, and developing governmental capacity to deal with mixed population flows were new issues to be dealt with by the two bodies.


He said a revived annual consultation between UNHCR and IOM at the executive head level set the framework for regular dialogue on common challenges.  The most recent meeting in May had provided an opportunity to discuss issues prominent on the United Nations reform agenda and migration debate.  He emphasized that the Global Migration Group represented a promising mechanism to bring together intergovernmental partners at the policy and operational levels, to provide consolidated expertise, and to support the Global Forum on Migration and Development.  Turning to the cluster approach, he said IOM had been heavily involved in its implementation and elaboration.  Continuing, he said that in order to avoid overlap, increase effectiveness and exploit synergies, UNHCR and IOM agreed to a unified approach, with joint leadership of cluster proceedings at the global level.  Noting that it was at the programme level where work brought the two agencies together, he drew attention to a joint regional seminar on Building Capacity to Manage Migration in the Caribbean that was under way.  During the event, participants would discuss contingency planning for mass migration and refugee emergencies, responses to the challenges of human trafficking and ways to strengthen regional integration, as well as legal frameworks to better respond to migratory flows and to migrants and refugees.


Rights of Reply


The representative of Morocco, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, noted how his counterpart from Algeria had spoken of the camps at Tindouf.  If help was to be provided to the refugees there, the decisions of UNHCR’s Executive Committee had to be implemented and the mandate of the Agency respected.  He added that if Algeria had a problem with UNHCR’s figures, there should be a census at the Tindouf camps.  If refugees were to be truly protected, then the conclusions of UNHCR on separating civilians from armed elements had to be respected, together with freedom of movement.


The representative of Algeria, responding to Morocco, said UNHCR’s mandate was the protection of refugees, and that was an apolitical calling.  She noted that a census was part of a proposed settlement of the Western Sahara issue.  Why had assistance to refugees been reduced in the absence of such a census?  Given the settlement plan that had been accepted by Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), the decision to reduce assistance without a census could not be understood.


The representative of Morocco said that a Kafka-like discussion was unfolding.  The situation went back to 1975, yet in humanitarian terms it was still at point zero.  It was Algeria that had denied UNHCR a census at the Tindouf camps.  Morocco, the international community and donors could not accept an Algerian veto on the Agency’s implementation of its mandate.  It was very strange that Tindouf was the only case in the world where the refugee population had not changed by a single individual; in 1975, Algeria had said there were 165,000 refugees there, and now it claimed that number was unchanged, as if there had been no births or deaths.  That was strange.


The representative of Algeria said the issue of refugees from Western Sahara was a political one that could not be disassociated from the question of Western Sahara.  Several resolutions adopted by international community had called for a referendum to be held, and yet none had been conducted.  As for demographics, if one followed up the thinking of UNHCR and the WFP, then half of the Saharawis at Tindouf had died, and there had been no births.  Algeria hoped that negotiations under United Nations sponsorship could lead to the Saharawi people having a census and a referendum.


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The representative of Pakistan introduced a draft resolution entitled Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination(document A/C.3/62/L.56).


He said the right of peoples to self-determination was the cardinal principle on which all other human rights were based.  Many international summits had reaffirmed that right, and its realization had helped people free themselves from colonialism and similar forms of rule, he said.


The current resolution was similar to last year’s, and he hoped that it would be passed by a consensus, as had traditionally been the case.


The representative of the United States then asked for the introduction of the draft 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.3/62/L.30) to be deferred.


The representative of Egypt introduced a draft entitled Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/C.3/62/L.31).  He said it was an annual draft, and that the growing number of co-sponsors attested to the importance of addressing the ramifications of globalization on humanity.  It did not prejudge the course of globalization or make value judgments.  Rather, it sought to decipher the impact of globalization on the enjoyment of all human rights, in the hope that the international community would be able to respond to rising global opportunities and challenges.  The right to development was highlighted in the draft, as well as the need to integrate developing countries into a globalized world, thus providing an impetus to mitigate the gap between North and South.  An opportunity existed to narrow or even cross the fault lines that had emerged with regards to the human rights aspects of globalization.


The representative of Georgia was then scheduled to introduce a draft resolution entitled Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia (document A/C.3/62/L.38).  She said that due to technical reasons, the delegation was not able to introduce the draft resolution today and asked for its postponement until the following week.


The Chairman, RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica) granted the request.


The representative of Iran was then scheduled to introduce a draft resolution entitled Human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/62/L.39).  He asked to defer the introduction of the draft for a half hour, in order to be able to receive the results of a meeting on the text that was running parallel to the Committee’s meeting.


The Chairman granted the half-hour’s extension.


The representative of Mexico then introduced a draft resolution entitledProtection of migrants (document A/C.3/62/L.40).


He said the draft would emphasize the need to protect the human rights of migrants at a time when flows of migrants had increased.  The draft would express concern over the legislative measures adopted by some States which could restrict the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants.  It would further urge all States to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, irrespective of their status, and ensure that laws and policies, including laws on terrorism and human trafficking, did not negatively impinge on the human rights of migrants.  The draft would also urge all States to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  Also, the text would strongly condemn racism, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance against migrants, “and the usual stereotypes”.  It would require Member States and international organizations, as well as civil society, to ensure that the perspective on the human rights of migrants would be included in all debates on international migration and development.  He hoped the draft resolution would, as in previous years, be approved by the Committee by consensus.


The representative of Austria, introducing the draft on Human rights in the administration of justice (document A/C.3/62/L.45), stated that an independent and impartial judiciary as well as access to justice were essential for the rule of law and human rights.  The draft had been submitted on a biennial basis; the sixtieth session of the General Assembly had adopted it by consensus.  The Secretary-General had submitted a report on the topic to the Human Rights Council, which that body was expected to take up in 2008; the current draft was therefore mainly procedural, inviting the Council to continue its consideration of human rights in the administration of justice.  It also included updates on juvenile justice and women in prison.  She hoped that the draft would be approved without a vote.


She then introduced 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.3/62/L.46).  Promotion of such rights could only be achieved through tolerance, mutual understanding and pluralism, she said.  Austria had presented such resolutions to the General Assembly, the former Commission on Human Rights and now the Human Rights Council.  She noted the Council had adopted a resolution to establish a forum on minority issues, and that at its annual session in March 2008, it would review the mandate of the Independent Expert on minority issues.  On the basis of consultations, the Austrian delegation was confident that the draft would be approved without a vote.


The representative of Mexico, introducing a draft resolution entitled Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/C.3/62/L.47), said that terrorism was a serious problem for States, yet human rights had to be a fundamental principle of measures adopted to combat it.  In addition to reaffirming the international community’s duty to ensure that all measures in the fight against terrorism were compatible with human rights law, the draft resolution had been updated to identify the remaining challenges.  It included an appeal for greater cooperation among States to support the work of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, as well as other special procedures in the field.  The Mexican delegation was holding informal consultations on the draft resolution, with a view to it being approved by consensus in the Committee.


The representative of Cuba introduced the draft entitled Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/62/L.48) on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.  The draft recognized that the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on cooperation, dialogue and a strengthening of the capacity of Member States to implement human rights.  The draft also stipulated that the promotion and protect, and full realization, of human rights and fundamental freedoms should be guided by universality, non-selectivity, objectivity and transparency, in a manner compatible with the United Nations Charter.  The Non-Aligned Movement was confident that all States would lend their support to the draft to ensure its approval by consensus.


He then proceeded to introduce the draft entitled The right to development (document A/C.3/62/L.49), also on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, which assigned a high priority to that topic.  The draft built upon past declarations, which had confirmed the right of development to be an inalienable human right.  The United Nations must work towards the preparation of a legally binding instrument on the right to development, which ultimately should be put on an equal footing with all other human rights.  Hopefully, the draft would enjoy consensus or, at least, overwhelming support.


The Committee Chairman, RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica), said it appeared that the representative of Cuba was staging a marathon.


The Cuban representative went on to introduce the draft on Human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/C.3/62/L.50).  Despite what had been recommended by the General Assembly, the former Commission on Human Rights and the current Human Rights Council, such measures continued to be adopted.  The draft underlined that such measures, which violated international law and the United Nations Charter, had negative consequences on development and affected populations in countries where they were applied, especially women and children.  Such measures also set up obstacles on the path to the enjoyment of all human rights.  Food and medicine had been used as instruments of political pressure.  The draft urged countries that had enacted such measures to respect international law and to fulfil their obligations under international instruments to which they were party.  He hoped that draft would also be approved with overwhelming support.


Next, the representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution entitled Promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all (document A/C.3/62/L.52).


She said she was pleased to introduce that draft, as the text highlighted the sacred right of people to peace.   Cuba reaffirmed the need to promote peace and peaceful solutions to international disputes, and also underlined the principle of non-intervention in the national jurisdiction of States, among other matters.  She requested Member States to support the draft resolution and reaffirm their commitment to living in a world of peace.


That delegation then introduced a draft resolution entitled The right to food (document A/C.3/62/L.53).  She said that the problems of food insecurity still had a global dimension, becoming much worse in the African continent.  Around 854 million people living in developing countries were lacking sufficient food to meet their basic needs.  That was a violation of their fundamental human rights.  Without consolidating a political, social and economic environment, which was stable at the national and international level, it was impossible to attach proper importance to that right.   Cuba affirmed that hunger constituted an outrage against human dignity, which required urgent measures at all levels to eliminate it.   Cuba encouraged all States to bring about the full utilization of the right to food, and commended the Special Rapporteur on the matter, Jean Ziegler, who would soon complete his mandate.   Cuba encouraged the next Special Rapporteur to continue to promote that right and encouraged the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to continue lending all human and financial resources in support of the Rapporteur’s mandate.  On behalf of the 67 co-sponsors of the draft resolution, Cuba was pleased to request the other Member States, which traditionally supported the initiative, to join the list of co-sponsors and reaffirm all human beings’ right to nutritious food and not to suffer from hunger.


The Committee Secretary then made a technical correction to the draft resolution, saying that the list of co-sponsors should also include Cuba, which had been omitted.


The representative of Cuba then introduced a draft resolution entitled Strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/C.3/62/L.54).


The representative thanked the Secretary for his correction, and, moving on to the matter of the draft resolution, said that the actions of the United Nations in the field of human rights could not be carried out without respect for the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity.  It was vital to have a thorough understanding of the problems that arose in all societies, as well as full respect for the political and social reality of each one.  In the text before the Committee, Cuba had emphasized that international cooperation in the field had to contribute to strengthening international peace and security.   Cuba requested that all delegations lend their support to the resolution.


The representative of Cuba then introduced a draft entitled Respect for the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms and in solving international problems of a humanitarian character (document A/C.3/62/L.55), which would note the obligation of all Member States to promote respect for international law and to make substantial contributions to international humanitarian activities.  Such cooperation would not only improve trust and confidence between peoples, but lead to a more just world.  Enhanced international cooperation in humanitarian problems, in full compliance with the Charter of the United Nations, was the aim of the draft.  As a staunch defender of multilateralism, Cuba urged all countries to participate in human rights dialogue and to observe the principles and norms of international law, including human rights and humanitarian law.  He also invited all delegations to vote in favour of the draft.


The committee then reverted to the introduction of the draft resolution on Human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/62/L.39), with the representative of Iran noting that it reaffirmed that all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and that States had a duty to promote and protect human rights, bearing in mind national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds.  He said that a number of informal and bilateral consultations had produced a text that had been agreed upon by all.  He then read out a number of revisions to the text.


The Secretary first made a number of editorial corrections before giving the floor to the representative of Portugal to introduce a draft resolution. 


The representative of Portugal then introduced, on behalf of the European Union, a draft resolution entitled Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/62/L.37).  He first praised the cooperation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with international agencies such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and the openness shown by the Government after floods had created problems.  The sponsors of the draft resolution welcomed the progress made at the six-party talks and also recognized progress made in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


He expressed great concern, however, at serious human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which included instances of torture, the imposition of the death penalty, and punishment for those who left the country without permission.  The draft expressed equal concern at violations of economic, social and cultural rights in the country.  The text would urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to end human rights violations in the country by tackling the root causes leading to refugee outflows, and not criminalizing the victims.


The draft also expressed very serous concern at the Government’s refusal to allow the Special Rapporteur into the country, and urged the Government to cooperate, and to extend to United Nations agencies all necessary access, allowing them to carry out their mandates.  The Government was further encouraged to respond to the issue of abductions.  The co-sponsors of the draft believed that the General Assembly should not stand silent at the plight of the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and hoped that the resolution would be adopted with the broadest possible support.


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea then asked the Chairman be allowed to respond to the statements made by Portugal’s delegation.


The Chairman asked the Committee to recall its longstanding policy not to have a long round of statements following the introduction of draft resolutions.  He said that according to the rules of procedure, it might be more appropriate to wait until the end of the meeting.


The representative of Portugal then introduced a draft on the Situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/62/L.41), on behalf of the European Union and all co-sponsors.  He said that the draft expressed deep concern about the situation of human rights in Myanmar, including the recent violent repression of peaceful demonstrations.  It built upon concerns that had been expressed by the international community through the recent convening of a special session of the Human Rights Council.  It urged Myanmar to show restraint and refrain from carrying out further arrests, and called for full respect for human rights and for those who violated human rights to be brought to justice.  Some positive steps taken by the Government of Myanmar were acknowledged in the draft, including the decision to allow a visit next week by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; it was hoped that he would have full, free and unimpeded access after four years of not being allowed into the country.  The draft also asks the Secretary-General to continue to provide his good offices and to continue to discuss human rights and democracy with Myanmar, and to offer technical assistance to its Government in that regard.  It was hoped that the Government would give serious consideration to proposals made by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General.  Negotiations with Myanmar on the text had taken place, but in spite of the efforts made, consensus could not be reached; the sponsors were open to further consultations.


The Secretary first made a number of editorial corrections to a draft resolution before the Committee.


The representative of Canada then introduced the draft resolution entitled Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/62/L.43).  He first made a number of minor corrections to the text before beginning his statement.  Almost a year had passed since the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he said.  It was clear that the concerns expressed had not been addressed by the Government of Iran, and the situation of human rights in that country continued to deteriorate.  There had been confirmed instances of torture, and of cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


The draft resolution had been carefully drafted to ensure accuracy and to reflect the developments since the adoption of the last resolution on the issue.  His delegation brought the draft forward, he said, because Canada was “genuinely concerned” about the continued denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Government of Iran to its people.  It was the collective responsibility of the international community to call attention to this unacceptable situation.


The representative of the United States then introduced the draft resolution entitled Situation of human rights in Belarus (document A/C.3/62/L.51), on behalf of the European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Norway and Switzerland.  He said that the situation of human rights in Belarus had continued to deteriorate, despite the adoption of a resolution on that country by the General Assembly last year and in 2004, and three times by the Commission on Human Rights.  With the loss of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus last summer, it was more imperative that the Assembly closely examine the serious abuses that had been occurring in that country.  The draft noted that local elections in January 2007 had failed to meet international standards, that intimidation of the political opposition had increased, and that political parties planning to take part in parliamentary elections next year faced liquidation and deregistration.  Curtailment of press and academic freedoms were also addressed in the draft.  Adoption of the draft would send a message of hope to the people of Belarus.


Following a point of order raised by the representative of Greece regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Chairman reminded delegations to refer to countries by their proper names.


Action on Draft Resolution


The representative of the United States was then scheduled to introduce a draft resolution entitled Eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations, including as instruments to achieve political or military objectives (document A/C.3/62/L.16/Rev.1 and amendments thereto contained in documents A/C.3/62/L.58 and A/C.3/62/L.59).  He said his delegation was not yet prepared to introduce the text for action, and requested a postponement until next Thursday, 15 November.


After asking the Committee if it was the wish to defer action, the Chairman then deferred action on the draft, as requested.


The representative of Benin introduced a draft resolution entitled International Year of Human Rights Learning (document A/C.3/62/L.28/Rev.1)


By the terms of the text, the Committee would have the General Assembly proclaim 2008 as the International Year of Human Rights Learning, devoted to activities to broaden and deepen learning on those rights.  The text would also ask the Assembly to call upon Member States to intensify their efforts, throughout the year and beyond, to promote human rights learning and education at the local, national and international levels, and encourage cooperation at all levels, as well as with all relevant stakeholders.


The representative of Benin said he was privileged to be able to introduce the draft resolution to the Third Committee.  In the proceedings, the Secretary had drawn the delegation’s attention to some technical aspects, so Benin had rephrased operative paragraph 4 and replaced it with a new paragraph.  Also, in order to accommodate more co-sponsors, a new preambular paragraph had been agreed, he said.  Words had been added to operative paragraph 5, he said, in order to make it clearer.


He thanked all the draft’s co-sponsors and congratulated them for their willingness.  An international year for human rights learning would speed up the process of appropriation of all human rights and their full realization.  His delegation hoped the draft would be adopted by consensus.


The Secretary then asked the representative of Benin to once again repeat the changes in the operative paragraphs, as they were not entirely clear.


The representative of Benin repeated his list of changes to the operative paragraphs.


The Secretary then asked the representative what the changes would actually mean in terms of a time frame.


The representative of Benin said it would be at the end of the international year of human rights learning when a plenary meeting would take place.  The way it now stood, the year would not end before the meeting took place, but during the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution, as orally revised, without a vote.


Right of Reply


The representative of Belarus, responding to his counterpart from the United States, and saying that credit should be given where credit was due, noted that for the first time in three years, the co-sponsors of the draft resolution about his country had approached his delegation with the draft before its submission to the Secretariat, although the main co-sponsor stopped short of holding consultations.  More inspiring, he added, were the good feelings of hope and optimism that had been expressed at the Human Rights Council, which held the promise of human rights being considered in a fair, non-selective and impartial way.  He said “a rabbit driven into a corner would fight back”, but Belarus was no rabbit; it had the strength and self-respect not to give in to threats, intimidation and haughtiness.  Could the promotion of human rights be addressed with votes in the General Assembly?  Voting legitimized a divide, he said.  It never healed, nor did it bring people closer.  The co-sponsors, if they were strong and righteous, might consider withdrawing their resolution; if not, they might face a “no-action” motion, which for Belarus would be an instrument of last resort.


The representative of Myanmar referred to the country-specific draft introduced by the representative of Portugal on behalf of the European Union.  Had there been a genuine desire for consultation, the main sponsor should not have waited until the twelfth hour to provide a copy of its text.  Last year the draft had been presented to Myanmar two days before introduction; this year it had been three days before.  Moreover, the text was intrusive and, compared to last year, harsher.  It would not contribute to the efforts that had been made by the good offices of the Secretary-General.  Indeed, the draft had been overtaken by events; the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and on Other Political Issues, Ibrahim Gambari, had confirmed positive developments after his recent visit to Myanmar, and had released a statement that noted that Aung San Suu Kyi [General Secretary of the National League for Democracy] was ready to cooperate with the Government towards a successful dialogue.  Cooperation with the United Nations was the cornerstone of Myanmar’s foreign policy, and his country would continue to support Mr. Gambari’s efforts.  The European Union’s draft failed to reflect the positive developments that had been unfolding in Myanmar.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his delegation neither recognized nor accepted the draft that had been introduced earlier by Portugal on behalf of the European Union.  It was a manifestation of politicization and selectivity in addressing human rights situations that ran counter to the will of a majority of Member States.  It was an act of hostile forces in the European Union and the United States, aimed at destabilizing the country and undermining its socialist system by distorting its human rights situation and creating an atmosphere of international pressure.  The worst cases of human rights violations today were the killing of innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the name of a war on terror. The European Union was well advised to mind its own business by eliminating contemporary forms of racism in its own countries.  Draft resolutions presented by the West which targeted developing countries would only result in confrontation and mistrust.  The draft on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea contained misinformation from elements opposed to his country.  The European Union would have to shoulder responsibility for the draft.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the draft, and it would oppose all other politically motivated resolutions aimed at specific developing countries.


The representative of Iran said the draft resolution introduced by Canada suffered from major and substantial conceptual problems and deficiencies.  In Iran’s opinion, the draft resolution was a blatant abuse of the General Assembly’s time and agenda.  The ideas expressed were a decade old, he said, and the author tried desperately to convey a catalogue of baseless information.  The Third Committee was not the right place to raise such ideas, he said, and added that the draft resolution was wrong in stating that Iran did not accept the visits of Special Rapporteurs and other special mandate holders.  In fact the country was more cooperative with these than the average country.  At a time when action was to be taken, he said, he would share more thoroughly with the house how out of touch the draft resolution was, and said someone should ask the Canadian delegation if it didn’t have any fresh ideas to share.


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For information media • not an official record