23 November 2009
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3969

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

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Third Committee

46th Meeting (AM)


Third Committee Decision Welcomes Outcome of Durban Review Conference,


One of Six Texts Recommended to General Assembly for Adoption


Others Address:  African Refugees; Human Rights Council Report; UN Support

For Elections; Religious Intolerance; Office of the Human Rights Council President


After calling a do-over vote for technical reasons, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved the wording of a decision that would have the General Assembly welcome the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference and endorse its provisions, while deciding to implement the Review’s outcome as part of the wider implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.


That text was one of six approved by the Committee this morning, two involving votes.  In the initial vote on the Durban text, 161 countries had voted in favour to 6 against ( Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Netherlands and the United States), with 12 abstentions (See Annex I).  But, after the Russian Federation reported a technical problem, in which his “yes” vote had been counted as an abstention, the draft passed by a vote of 163 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Netherlands, United States), with 9 (Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania and Tonga) abstentions (Annex II).


The vote was requested by the representative of Israel, who said that, although the Review Conference had touched on certain important elements, her Government refused to lend credibility to a process that was “obsessed” with the Middle East.


As pointed out by Canada’s representative, whose country had not participated in the Durban Review Conference in April, the Review’s outcome document contained language reaffirming the entire outcome document of the original 2001 Durban Conference.  The Canadian Government rejected elements of that earlier Conference, saying they were “politicized”, choosing to disassociate itself from references to the Middle East that it believed could not be construed as a legitimate basis for fighting intolerance.  Canada was among those voting against the text.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution that would have the Assembly take note of the report of the Human Rights Council.  That resolution was originally tabled as a draft decision, which, in a meeting on 19 November, had led the representative of Zambia, the text’s main sponsor, to point out that the choice of calling it a “decision" was not approved by Member States (See press release GA/SHC/3967). 


The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the group had joined consensus on the text despite believing that taking note of the report today had “no added value”.  Among its other misgivings was that there had been no informal consultations on the draft, and that its co-sponsors had not allowed Member States time to consider it.


The resolution, if adopted by the Assembly, would have it acknowledge the recommendations contained in the Council’s report, which as explained by the representative of Egypt, covered its tenth and eleventh sessions, as well as its special sessions.  However, it did not contain a report of the twelfth session, which was yet to be issued because the session had taken place only a few weeks ago.


Even though Israel had joined consensus on the draft, its representative expressed concern over the work and methods of the Human Rights Council, which it believed was continuing to address certain situations in a biased and prejudiced manner, particularly the situation in the Middle East.  But, in joining consensus, Israel had hoped the Council would make a shift to an even-handed treatment of human rights.  Similarly, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took issue with the Council’s treatment of his country, but said his Government would continue to respect human rights mechanisms that treated every country on an equal footing.  His Government, too, had joined the consensus.


Also without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization.  The draft passed despite public disagreement about language contained in one of its paragraphs ‑‑ referring to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Observers ‑‑ leading to a vote on the wording of that paragraph.


The representative of the Russian Federation, who requested a vote on whether to strike out references to the code of conduct, argued that it was never part of intergovernmental negotiations or an inter-State process, but was produced by civil society.  Although his Government was not disputing the substance of the document, it could not agree with an attempt to legitimize a document drawn up by civil society without any inter-State process.


The Committee voted to retain the original wording of operative paragraph 8 by a vote of 121 in favour to 19 against, with 28 abstentions (Annex III).  But afterwards, several States disassociated themselves from the code of conduct and the paragraph mentioning it, including Cuba and Iran.


Member States approved the resolution as a whole without a vote, after a lengthy discussion on procedure involving the representative of Egypt and the Secretary of the Committee over the proper use of Rule 129 of the General Assembly rules of procedure ‑‑ cited by the representative of the Russian Federation as a basis for contesting the wording of operative paragraph 8.  According to Rule 129, had someone objected to his motion, it would have triggered a vote, thus marring consensus.


The remaining draft texts were approved without complications, including a draft resolution on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa. That text would have the Assembly call on African Member States that had not yet signed or ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa to consider doing so as early as possible, in order to ensure its early entry into force and implementation.  It would urge the international community, in the spirit of international solidarity and burden-sharing, to ensure that Africa received a fair and equitable share of the resources designated for refugees, through the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. 


The Committee also approved a draft on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief, without a vote, which the representative of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, said had left a spectrum of concerns still to be addressed.  He said previously negotiated language should not be disregarded for the sake of streamlining, pointing out that certain language served to provide context.


A draft on the Office of the President of the Human Rights Council was also approved without a vote, while action was deferred on two draft resolutions -- on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and on human rights and cultural diversity.


Also speaking in connection with the various draft resolutions were the representatives of Sierra Leone (on behalf of the African Group), Switzerland, Sudan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China), United Kingdom, Norway, United States, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Libya and Venezuela.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 24 November, to consider those, and other remaining, drafts.


Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to take action on the following draft texts:  assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/C.3/64/L.59/Rev.1) under the item “questions relating to refugees”; report of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/64/L.61*) and Office of the President of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/64/L.63) under “report of the Human Rights Council”; adoption of the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference (document A/C.3/64/L.55) under “elimination of racism and related intolerance”; strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/C.3/64/L.26/Rev.1), elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief (document A/C.3/64/L.39/Rev.1), protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/C.3/64/L.43/Rev.1), and human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/64/L.49) under “human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the enjoyment of rights and freedoms”; as well as one resolution under “revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/64/L.64).


Action on Draft Resolutions


The Committee first turned to a draft text on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/C.3/64/L.59/Rev.1), which was introduced by the representative of Sierra Leone, on behalf of the African Group.


That text would have the Assembly call on African Member States that had not yet signed or ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa to consider doing so as early as possible, in order to ensure its early entry into force and implementation.


Affirming that children, because of their age, social status and physical and mental development, were often more vulnerable than adults in situations of forced displacement, the text would have the Assembly recognize that forced displacement, return to post-conflict situations, integration in new societies, protracted situations of displacement and statelessness can increase child-protection risks.  As such, it would acknowledge that wider environmental factors and individual risk factors might generate different protection needs.


The Assembly would, by further provisions, condemn all acts that posed a threat to the personal security and well-being of refugees and asylum-seekers, such as refoulement, unlawful expulsion and physical attacks.  It would call on States of refuge to ensure respect for the principles of refugee protection, including the humane treatment of asylum-seekers.  It would deplore threats to the safety and security of staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations.  In that connection, it would call on States to prevent attacks on and kidnapping of national and international humanitarian workers and to ensure the safety and security of the personnel and property of the Office.  States would be called on to investigate crimes committed against humanitarian personnel and to bring to justice those responsible.


Also by the text, the Assembly would call on the international donor community to provide financial and material assistance that allows for the implementation of community-based development programmes that benefit both refugees and host communities and for the implementation of programmes intended for the rehabilitation of the environment and infrastructure affected by refugees in countries of asylum as well as internally displaced persons.  It would urge the international community, in the spirit of international solidarity and burden-sharing, to continue to fund the refugee programmes of the Office of the High Commissioner and, taking into account the substantially increased needs of programmes in Africa in connection with repatriation, to ensure that Africa received a fair and equitable share of the resources designated for refugees.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft text.


Next, the Committee turned to a draft resolution on the report of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/64/L.61*) which was introduced by Zambia’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group.  By that text the Assembly would, having considered the recommendations contained in the report of the Human Rights Council, take note of the report. It would also acknowledge the recommendations contained therein.


The Secretary of the Committee, MONCEF KHANE, clarified the text had been reissued for technical reasons in the format of a draft resolution, but added for the record that, in the view of the Secretariat, it was a draft decision and not a draft resolution.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft text.


Speaking after the draft’s approval, the representative of Egypt, aligning himself with the African Group, noted that the draft took note of the report of the Human Rights Council at its tenth and eleventh sessions and of its special sessions, and acknowledged the recommendations made to the General Assembly, its parent body.  The report of the twelfth session was still pending issuance and could not be considered at this session -- it contained issues important to Egypt on the right to development and Council’s adoption of a resolution related to that issue.  Another issue of importance contained within it was that of freedom of opinion and expression, on which Egypt had worked jointly with the delegation of the United States.  He noted that the report of the ninth session had been issued on time and was considered at the Committee’s sixty-third session despite the fact that the Council had ended its session only a few days before the Committee began its work.  He expressed hope that the issues that had cropped up this year in relation to the delayed report was dealt with thoroughly in the future to avoid ad hoc solutions, and to ensure that the Council’s reports were not taken up a year later.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his delegation had joined consensus, but reaffirmed its opposition over the resolution contained in the Human Rights Council report contained in document A/64/53. The country-specific resolutions were undertaken in a spirit of selectivity and double standards. As his delegation had already said, such a game would only result in the weakening of the Universal Periodic Review. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to respect those human rights mechanisms that treated every country on an equal footing. It could not, however, accept the singling out of his country by the Human Rights Council.


The representative of Israel said her delegation had growing concerns over the work and methods of the Human Rights Council, as reflected in the report before the committee.  It had, nevertheless, decided to join consensus in the hope that the Council would make a shift to an even-handed treatment of human rights. Regrettably, the Council’s report, which was considered today, continued the path of its predecessor, which tainted its credibility.  It continued to address certain situations in a biased and prejudiced manner, particularly the situation in the Middle East.  Israel joined the consensus, while reserving judgment of the Council’s work and recommendations.


The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled that, on the adoption of the corresponding resolution last year, the Union had stated its concerns and reservations.  Today it still had those concerns.  On 30 October, the report of the Human Rights Council was considered in the General Assembly.  The Union considered that to be the proper place to consider that report.  At the beginning of the sixty-fourth session, the Assembly decided to allocate this report to the Third Committee. Although the Union would have preferred this report to be allocated to the plenary only, it went along with this compromise.  One of the recommendations made by the Council to the Assembly this year had subsequently been the subject of a resolution presented by Brazil. The Union believed that was the better way to consider the Council’s recommendations.  Indeed, each Member State could address each resolution on its own merit.  Taking note of the report today added no value.  Moreover, it did not respect the compromise when it came to the consideration of the report.  Also, no informals were held on this draft and the co-sponsors did not allow Member States time to consider it.  This way of proceeding was unfortunate.  Despite this, the Union had joined consensus on the text.


The Committee then turned to the draft on the Office of the President of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/64/L.63) introduced by the representative of Switzerland.


Underlining the crucial importance of appropriate resources to support the work of the Human Rights Council and its numerous mechanisms, and bearing in mind that the Human Rights Council met regularly throughout the year in no fewer than three sessions per year for a total duration of no less than ten weeks, the draft would have the Assembly acknowledge the recommendation of the Council to establish an Office of the President of the Human Rights Council.  It would request the Council to address the question in the context of the five-year review of its work.


The Secretary, Mr. KHANE, noted that France had withdrawn its co-sponsorship of the resolution.


The draft resolution was approved without a vote.


Next, the Committee took up a draft decision on the adoption of the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference (document A/C.3/64/L.55) developing countries introduced by the representative of Sudan, on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, who made some oral revisions to the text, which were being circulated to Member States on paper.


The draft decision would have the Assembly welcome the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference, decide to endorse the provisions of the outcome document of the Conference, and decide also to implement the outcome of the Durban Review Conference as part of the wider implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.


In a general statement on the text, the representative of Israel noted that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.  In 2001, the Durban Conference had descended in a brazen display of anti-Semitic racism.  The struggle to combat racism was supplanted by those that promoted a racist agenda.  When the General Assembly decided to convene the Review Conference, Israel had reserved its judgement, in the hope that participants would rectify the wrongs of 2001.  But those hopes were misplaced.  During preparations for the review conference, States would not refute the rhetoric that had marred the original conference.  While Israel recognized that the review contained important elements, it had nevertheless reaffirmed the 2001 Durban Declaration.  She reiterated that Israel was fully committed to address, in a professional manner, the scourge of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, but it would not lend credibility to a process that was obsessed with the Middle East.  Thus, she would call for a vote on the text and would vote against it.


The Committee approved the text by a vote of 161 in favour to 6 against ( Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Netherlands and the United States), with 12 abstentions. (See Annex I.)


Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said he had been pleased to have voted in favour.  He then recalled a statement made by the United Kingdom Permanent Representative in Geneva to the Durban Review Conference at its concluding session concerning freedom of expression.


While the representative of the United Kingdom was delivering his explanation of vote, the representative of the Russian Federation raised a point of order to announce that there seemed to have been a technical error.  He had pushed the green button, but his vote had been recorded as an abstention.


In view of the point of order raised, and in the understanding that the Russian Federation was a co-sponsor of the text, the Chair, NORMANS PENKE ( Latvia), suggested that the vote be retaken.  The meeting was suspended for a few minutes, after which the second vote on the draft was held.


(Before actually proceeding to the vote, the representative of Norway also raised a point of order.  It was his intention to co-sponsor the resolution.  The Chair noted his statement.)


Speaking on a point of order, the representative of the United States said it was highly unusual and in contravention of the rules of procedure to redo a vote.  Could the Secretariat explain under what rule of procedure the Committee could redo a vote?  She noted that there were so many instances when a delegation said its vote had not been correctly recorded.  Could the Secretary please explain what rule of procedure the Committee was acting under?


The SECRETARY recalled that the Committee was in the middle of a voting procedure and, regarding the point of order by the United States, said it was indeed highly unusual to re-take a vote on a draft proposal.  However, under rule 181, on the reconsideration of proposals, the Committee could reconsider a proposal.  This is what it was doing by retaking a vote for the current draft on the proposal of the Chair.  It was correct that, in the past, when delegations had pressed the wrong button, the vote was not retaken.  In those cases, the position of the Secretariat was that mistakes could not be addressed.  However, in this place, the representative of the Russian Federation said he had pressed the correct button and this had not been reflected on the board.  This was why the vote was retaken and why it was important that delegation check their votes on the board.


The representative of the United States said that, in this case, if she had heard correctly, the Russian delegation had not asked for a reconsideration of the text.  Thus, the holding of such a vote was invalid and the Committee should stick with the original results for the vote.


The CHAIR thanked the United States but said that he had proposed retaking the vote and no one had objected.  The Committee was, as a result, in the middle of a voting procedure.


The Committee then approved the text by a vote of 163 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Netherlands, United States), with 9 (Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania and Tonga) abstentions (Annex II).


The representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation was pleased to have voted in favour of the draft.  He recalled the closing statement made at the Durban Review Conference by his country’s delegation, which highlighted, among other things, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  He reiterated support for the decision.


Canada’s representative said her Government was committed to eradicating racism internationally and domestically, and supported the strategies outlined at the 2001 Conference.  But, it would continue to reject certain politicized elements of that Conference and had disassociated itself from references to the Middle East, which could not be construed as a legitimate basis for fighting intolerance.  The draft just voted on had sought to endorse the April Review Conference, in which Canada did not participate for reasons of principle.  She also noted that its outcome document contained language reaffirming 2001 in its entirety.  The Canadian Government could not endorse it and had voted against the draft.


In her explanation of vote, the representative of the Netherlands also noted that her country had not participated in the conference and believed the outcome did not meet criteria for combating racism and intolerance.  Thus, it was not able to endorse the document.  The world was still reminded of the need to combat racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and that many people were subjected to discrimination on grounds of race, colour, ethnicity and sex orientation.  The Netherlands was fully committed to stepping up its work in the struggle against intolerance and discrimination, and had undertaken concrete steps to follow up on the 2001 Conference through a national action plan against racism, and by setting up anti-discrimination boards throughout the country.  In addition, it had held discussions with Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights ways to explore areas the in the fight against racism, and in reflection of its appreciation for her work.


New Zealand’s representative said combating racism was vital, and as a multi-racial country was firmly committed to the cause and attached to it high importance.  It had declined to participate in the Review Conference out of concern that it would descend into an unproductive debate, and indeed, the Conference had heard anti-Israeli views that undermined genuine anti-racism initiatives and were abhorrent to her Government, particularly those made at the start of the Conference.  Endorsing the Conference was a step too far, and so her Government had abstained.  But, it did not oppose the general approach of the outcome document.  Having placed those views on the record, New Zealand would move on to address individual resolutions on their merits, in view of its long-standing position on the importance of combating racism wherever and whenever it existed.  Because of the singular important of the issue of racism and intolerance for her country, it would play a constructive role across the racism agenda.


The Committee then turned to a draft resolution on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/C.3/64/L.26/Rev.1), which was introduced by the representative of United States.


By that text, the Assembly would reaffirm that the electoral assistance provided by the United Nations should continue to be carried out in an objective, impartial, neutral and independent manner.  It would request that the Organization continue its efforts to ensure there is adequate time to organize and carry out an effective mission for providing electoral assistance, that conditions exist to allow a free and fair election and that the results of the mission will be reported comprehensively and consistently.


Among other provisions, the Assembly would recommend that, throughout the time span of the entire electoral cycle -- and in accordance with the requesting States’ evolving needs and bearing in mind sustainability and cost-effectiveness -- the United Nations continued to provide technical advice and other assistance to those States and electoral institutions to help to strengthen their democratic processes. Acknowledging the aim of harmonizing the methods and standards of the many organizations engaged in observing elections, it would also express appreciation for the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Observers. States would be called on to consider contributing to the Secretary-General's Trust Fund for Electoral Assistance, which is currently close to depletion.


In her introduction of the text, the representative of the United States orally revised the text to remove references to differences in status ‑‑ race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth –- from preambular paragraph 9, to remove a comma and the phrase “in particular” from preambular paragraph 13, and to insert the phrase “in requesting countries” in preambular paragraph 15 with regard to enhancing election processes.


The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation attached great importance to the principle of holding regular elections.  He expressed gratitude to the United States for the draft that was prepared, as well as that delegation’s openness in taking into account the proposals of other States.  The Russian Federation was ready to subscribe to the majority of the text.  It had doubts, however, on operative paragraph 8, which referred to the code of conduct for international election observers.  Without getting into the document’s contents, his delegation would like to note that that code of conduct was never part of intergovernmental negotiations or an inter-State process.  It was produced not by States, but by representatives of civil society.  His country was not disputing the substance of the document, but it could not agree with an attempt to legitimize a document drawn up by civil society without any inter-State process.


He said the Russian Federation fully agreed with the need to harmonize observation standards, but it light of the above, it was requesting a vote, under Rule 129 of the rules of procedure, on the second part of operative paragraph 8 starting with “and in this regard expresses appreciation for the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Observers, which elaborate guidelines for international electoral observation”.  His delegation planned to vote against this part and he urged other delegations to do the same.


The CHAIR noted a requested vote had been called for.


The SECRETARY said that the vote had been requested on the words:  “and in this regard expresses appreciation for the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Observers, which elaborate guidelines for international electoral observation”.  He said that delegations wishing to vote in favour of that language should push the green button.  Those wishing to vote against that language should push the red button.  Those wishing to abstain should push the yellow button.


Speaking on a point of order, the representative of Egypt said he was not sure he had understood.  The Russian Federation had made the proposal and the vote was on that proposal, was it not?  Those voting in favour of the proposal should, thus, vote “yes”.


The SECRETARY said that the proposal had been made under Rule 129.  It was the same as in voting for the draft.  Those voting in favour of the language should vote by pushing the green button.  Those voting against the language should push the red button.


The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Secretary was perfectly right and had stated the substances of his delegation’s proposal.


The United States representative said it was her understanding that, as the main sponsor of the text, the United States was in favour of the text and would assume that the other co-sponsors were also in favour of the language.  The United States would vote “yes” by pushing the green button.


Egypt’s delegate said he would like to know exactly what was being done.  He believed the proposal was to vote to delete a part of the operative paragraph.


The SECRETARY said the Russian Federation’s delegate had moved to vote on the language in the second part of operative paragraph 8.  Delegations in favour -- in other words, those wishing to retain that language -- should vote by pushing the green button. Those who wished to delete the language should push the red button. He believed those abstaining should know what to do.


The Committee then voted to retain the second part of operative paragraph 8 by a vote of 121 in favour to 19 against, with 28 abstentions (Annex III).


The Chair then announced the Committee would proceed to approve the text as a whole without a vote.


The representative of Egypt said it was his understanding that the Committee would vote on the text, since it had already been announced that voting on some part of a text was the same as voting on the text as a whole.


The SECRETARY said that he wished to clarify an obvious misunderstanding. When he said that when someone requested a vote on a paragraph, they voted on the whole paragraph in the manner they would vote on the text as whole.  They did not vote on the proposal.


The United States representative said that it was the understanding of her delegation that, as the Committee had done last month with the draft on violence against women, if the resolution was unchanged, it was eligible to be adopted without a vote. She asked for the Secretariat to clarify that.


The Secretary confirmed that when particular language on a paragraph was voted on under Rule 129 -- whether or not the language was retained or deleted -- the Committee could then proceed to vote on the draft as a whole without a vote.


Egypt’s delegate said that maybe the delegation of the United States had mentioned a good example.  The vote in that case had been on an amendment. This had been his original question:  Was this an amendment or not?


The CHAIR said this was not an amendment.


The representative of Egypt said that if a vote was taken on an amendment, whether written or oral, it was something outside the resolution.  If it passed it went into the text.  But if there was a vote on a paragraph, it was a vote on the substance of the resolution and under rule of procedure 129 the whole text had to be put to a vote.


The SECRETARY said the Committee faced a similar situation the year before, as many delegates would recall. Rule 129 was slightly confusing.  Under Rule 129, when a motion for division was made, a member of the Committee could, under the rule, object to the move.  That was when 129 kicked in. Thus, as far as the Secretariat was concerned, the second part of Rule 129 was not germane to the situation.  If a motion was voted on or if the paragraph was retained, the Committee may proceed to adopt the resolution as whole.  The text as a whole may be voted on, but that vote had to be requested from the floor.


The representative of Egypt said this was interesting.  Sometimes the Committee looked at the rule and applied only half.  Sometimes it took all.  When, he wondered, did that apply?  A rule was a rule and one unity.  To this end, he proposed to look at the second part of the rule.


At this point the Secretary read out rule 129 in its entirety:  “A representative may move that parts of a proposal or of an amendment should be voted on separately.  If objection is made to the request for division, the motion for division shall be voted upon.  Permission to speak on the motion for division shall be given only to two speakers in favour and two speakers against.  If the motion for division is carried, those parts of the proposal or of the amendment which are approved shall then be put to the vote as a whole.  The representative of Egypt said there was merit in what had just been said.  He requested a suspension, if possible, to consult with others on what he had just learned.  He added that he did not wish to call for a vote.


To add some clarification to the discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation explained that he had tried to formulate the proposal for a change to the text in such a way that would not provoke a vote on the resolution as a whole.  But, if someone were to request for a vote, he would vote in favour of the text as a whole.  His intention in requesting a change to the text had not been to move the Committee to a vote on the draft resolution as a whole.


The representative of the United States said, in light of that clarification and if no one planned to request for a vote, she asked that the Chair move the Committee immediately to action on the text without a vote.


The Chair, Mr. LENKE, then asked for the Egyptian representative’s view on that matter, to which the representative of Egypt said he had managed to consult with others on the text in the brief time since he last spoke.  He noted that there had been no objection to the motion, and that being the case, conceded that Rule 129 did not apply.  He would be happy to join consensus on the draft.


The draft was then approved, as orally revised and without a vote.


In a statement after action, the representative of Cuba noted that changes made by the main sponsor had modified the text in an inappropriate way.  The Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Observers was not negotiated through an intergovernmental process and had not adopted by States.  As such, the Cuban Government would disassociate itself from it.  Further, the Government did not believe in the need for observers at all elections, but only if requested by the States in question.  Where observers were requested, they must respect principles of the United Nations Charter regarding sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the private affairs of States.  It believed that all people were free to determine their political status, and that there was no single model of democracy.  It believed in having the fullest participation in electoral processes.


Iran’s representative explained that his Government had joined the consensus, and welcomed any initiative that was aimed at promoting democratization.  But, while democracies shared common features, there was no single model.  There was also a need to recognize the domestic capacity of States to organize elections.  In that regard, United Nations electoral assistance support should not undermine the capacities of local electoral institutions to administer fair elections.  His Government reserved its position on operative paragraph 8, which refers to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, and disassociated itself from that paragraph.


The representative of Egypt said he had voted against the paragraph as requested by the Russian delegation, although he had joined the consensus on the resolution as a whole.  His Government believed it was only bound to what was agreed by leaders within the context of the African Union, rather than to what was agreed by the African Union secretariat.  He noted that the document was endorsed not by the African Union as an intergovernmental body.  His Government was against bringing texts into draft resolutions if they were not negotiated through an intergovernmental process, whether they were brought in by secretariats or States.


The representative of Libya said he supported the general consensus, but would like to reaffirm the notion that elections were not the sole means of implementing democracy.  Libya had adopted another mechanism, reflecting the choice of its leaders as expressed by the public.


The representative of Venezuela welcomed the fact that the text had referred to democracy as a universal value, as reflected in the free expression of the will of the people to determine their economic, social and cultural systems and with their full participation.  The text also recognized that there was no single model for democracy, and that no model from one country or region prevailed in the world.  Indirect or representative democracy was not the only possible form of democracy; other complementary forms included participative democracy, in which people participated directly in the oversight of, and decisions on, public management.  In Venezuela, that was done through periodic elections for public positions, and four types of referendums ‑‑ consultative referendums, and referendums to revoke public posts, to sanction international conventions, and to overturn laws. 


Continuing, she said poverty and marginalization had a negative effect on the consolidation of democracy.  Without social justice, there was no true quality and hence no true democracy.  Any effort by United Nations to promote democracy should bear in mind the importance of an active citizenry, equity and social justice to democracy.  Regarding electoral assistance provided by the United Nations, she said it should come at the request and consent of States.  States held exclusive authority to hold their own elections.  Electoral assistance by United Nations or other bodies, including national or international non-governmental organizations, should be provided in strict adherence to the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention, and respect domestic laws.  Further, national authorities should coordinate the activities undertaken by the many bodies in providing electoral assistance, whether they were from within and outside the United Nations. 


She stressed that fair elections did not necessarily require international observers, though she acknowledged that they could create a high level of confidence.  All electoral assistance provide at the behest of countries should be conducted in a neutral and independent manner.  As for the preambular paragraph dealing with the media freedom, she noted that free expression brought with it certain responsibilities.  It was important to recognize that individuals had access to timely information that was not manipulated by the press.  Her Government believed that the work of the press should be regulated by the State; the exercise of the free expression brought unavoidable duties.  Freedom of the press was subject to the contents of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other instruments, both national and international.


If all operative parts of the proposal or of the amendment have been rejected, the proposal or the amendment shall be considered to have been rejected as a whole”.


Next, the Committee turned to a draft resolution on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief (document A/C.3/64/L.39/Rev.1), which was introduced by the representative of Sweden.


The CHAIR advised the Committee that the draft contained no programme budget implications.


The representative of Sweden said she would like to make a last minute change to the text and apologized that this had not been proposed earlier. She said a decision had been made to add in between the current preambular paragraphs 3 and 4, preambular paragraph 5 from last year’s resolution, which was adopted by the General Assembly as resolution 63/181. Preambular paragraph 4 would now read: “considering that religion or belief, for those who profess either, is one of the fundamental elements in their conception of life and that freedom of religion or belief should be fully respected and guaranteed”.


The CHAIR asked Sweden to read the new preambular paragraph 4, which she did.


The full draft text would have the Assembly condemn all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief, as well as violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief.  It would stress that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion applied equally to all persons regardless of their religions or beliefs, and without any discrimination as to their equal protection by the law.


Among other provisions, the Assembly would emphasize that freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression were interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing.  It would condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether it involved the use of print, audio-visual or electronic media or any other means.


States would be urged, among other things:  to ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without distinction by the provision of effective remedies where those rights were violated; to ensure that no one within their jurisdiction is deprived of the right to life, liberty or security of person or subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment because of religion or belief; and to ensure the right of all persons to worship, assemble or teach in connection with a religion or belief.


The Assembly would also urge States to do their utmost to ensure that religious places, sites, shrines and symbols were fully respected and protected and to take additional measures in cases where they are vulnerable to desecration and destruction.  They would be urged to promote tolerance by encouraging wider knowledge of the history, traditions, languages and culture of religious minorities existing within their jurisdiction. 


Making a statement in connection with the draft, Malaysia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the OIC opposed all forms of intolerance or discrimination based on religion or belief.  It condemned all acts of violence falsely claimed to be in the name of religion or belief.  The OIC had no fundamental problems with the general thrust of the current text.  It had engaged in consultation with the main cosponsors, who had been open to concerns.  Yet, some issues had not been resolved and the OIC believed the whole spectrum of concerns had to be addressed.  Previously negotiated language should not be disregarded for the sake of streamlining.  Indeed, certain language served to provide context. Dialogue and education needed to be reinforced.  By the time an act of violence occurred, it was too late. Prevention was important. Freedom of opinion and expression was also important. But upholding that freedom could not supersede other rights.  The OIC had decided not to bock the consensus adoption of this text by a vote.  However, its joining consensus on the text did not preclude future comments on future texts.


The Committee then approved the text as orally revised without a vote.


The Committee then moved to take up two draft resolutions -- on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/C.3/64/L.43/Rev.1) and on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/64/L.49) ‑‑ but the main sponsors for both those texts, the representative of Mexico and the representative of Cuba respectively, asked that action be deferred for tomorrow.  The Chair agreed to those requests and adjourned the meeting.


ANNEX I


Vote on Durban Review Conference


The draft decision on the adoption of the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference (document A/C.3/64/L.55) was approved by a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 6 against, with 12 abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Against:  Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, United States.


Abstain:  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Tonga.


Absent:  Central African Republic, Chad, Dominica, Eritrea, Gabon, Kiribati, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Tuvalu.


ANNEX II


Revote on Durban Review Conference  


The draft decision on the adoption of the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference (document A/C.3/64/L.55) in a revote, was approved by a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 5 against, with 9 abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Against:  Australia, Canada, Israel, Netherlands, United States.


Abstain:  Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Tonga.


Absent:  Central African Republic, Chad, Dominica, Eritrea, Gabon, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tuvalu.


ANNEX III


Vote on Words in Op Para 8/Role of United Nations in Elections


The words in operative paragraph 8, concerning the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Observers, in the draft resolution on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/C.3/64/L.26/Rev.1) were retained by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 19 against, with 28 abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu.


Against:  Belarus, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Singapore, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.


Abstain:  Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan.


Absent:  Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Eritrea, Gabon, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mauritius, Nauru, Sao Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Yemen, Zambia.


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For information media • not an official record