25 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4019

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

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

31st & 32nd Meetings (AM & PM)


Landmark Election in Tunisia Superb Demonstration of UN Providing Advice, Support,


while Fully Respecting National Leadership, Ownership Third Committee Told

 


Political Affairs Head Introduces Report on UN Electoral Assistance:

Also Hears from Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights


Tunisia’s recent historic vote held this past weekend showed how the United Nations can help bolster democratic transitions and peace, while fully respecting national leadership and ownership of elections, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.


B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations’ work on enhancing elections and the democratization process, said that over the last two years, the Organization had supported 50 countries, and requests for assistance continued to arrive.


“Let me just say, by way of example, that the landmark constituent assembly elections held this past weekend in Tunisia are a superb demonstration of how the United Nations can provide Member States with the kind of expert advice and support they request, while fully respecting national leadership and ownership in the process,” he said.


Outlining the report as part of the Committee’s discussion on ways to enhance the promotion of human rights, he said it contained several recommendations on ways to improve coordination and funding of electoral assistance.  The United Nations hoped and believed that elections — the “will of the people” as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — could help bring democratic transitions and build peace.  Yet, they were fundamentally political events that could not be dealt with on a purely technical basis.  Support should also offer mediation and good office, if requested.  There should also be attempts to address underlying problems before elections, for example, by designing political institutions to prevent a monopoly of power.  “The true measure of an election is whether it engenders broad public confidence in the process and trust in the outcome,” he concluded.


Earlier in the day, the Committee heard from Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, as it concluded its week of interactive discussions between Special Rapporteurs and Representatives.  The Special Rapporteur criticized the growing policies that sought to punish and undermine those living in poverty.  There was a trend to castigate the poor as lazy, but, in fact, they were prevented from overcoming their situation by such measures as the banning of begging, demolishing neighbourhoods to “renew” urban spaces and their disproportionate detention or imprisonment.


Although States across the globe were struggling to deal with impacts of financial and economic crises, she said the need to adopt austere budgets did not legitimize laws and policies that violated the rights of the poor.


“Not only do such measures undermine human rights, but also the cost of implementing them often greatly outweighs the costs that would be incurred in addressing the root causes of poverty and exclusion,” she said.  “If resources dedicated to policing, surveilling and detaining people living in poverty were instead invested in comprehensive right-based social protection systems and public services, including housing, States could drastically improve the lives of the poorest and, at the same time, ensure more inclusive and secure societies.”


Also today, Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introduced a number of reports of the Secretary-General.


In other business, the Committee heard the introduction of six draft resolutions on promotion and protection of the rights of children, rights of indigenous peoples, implementation of human rights instruments, and promotion and protection of human rights.


The Committee’s general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, which was scheduled to begin today, was postponed following continued disagreement over the order of the list of speakers.  The Chair withdrew his proposed list of speakers following lengthy informal consultations in the room.  He requested that regional groups submit a proposal for the speaking order by 10 a.m., Wednesday, 26 October.


Pending agreement on the order of speakers, the Committee will reconvene at that time to begin its general discussion.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.  It was expected to hear from the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and to hear the introduction of several draft texts before beginning its general discussion on human rights.


It had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (document A/66/265).  The report analyses several laws, regulations and practices that punish, segregate, control and undermine the autonomy of persons living in poverty.  It states that such measures have been adopted with increasing frequency over the past three decades, intensifying in recent years, owing to the economic and financial crises, and now represent a serious threat to the enjoyment of human rights by persons living in poverty.


The report notes that the ways in which States and social forces penalize those living in poverty are interconnected and multidimensional, and cannot be analysed in isolation.  For the purpose of the report, the Special Rapporteur identifies four areas of concern:  laws, regulations and practices which unduly restrict the performance of life-sustaining behaviours in public spaces by persons living in poverty; urban planning regulations and measures related to the gentrification and privatization of public spaces that disproportionately impact persons living in poverty; requirements and conditions imposed on access to public services and social benefits which interfere with the autonomy, privacy and family life of persons living in poverty; and excessive and arbitrary use of detention and incarceration that threatens the liberty and personal security of persons living in poverty.


Among its recommendations, the report urges States to promote ethical journalism and encourage the adoption of codes of conduct that end the negative portrayal of persons living in poverty, homeless persons, unemployed persons and social benefit recipients.  It also says social benefit systems must comply with human rights norms, including the rights of persons living in poverty to privacy and family life and to take part in the decisions that affect them.  A review of all detention and incarceration policies and legislation is also recommended as a way to identify and remove laws and practices which discriminate against persons living in poverty.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/66/274), which covers the period from September 2010 to September 2011 and complements a second report of the Secretary-General to the Human Rights Council of 7 February 2011 (A/HRC/16/76), covering activities from January to December 2010.  Among other things, the report contains information on activities undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) to assist in establishing and strengthening national human rights institutions.


The report also provides an overview of measures taken by Governments and national human rights institutions, as well as support provided to the international and regional activities of national human rights institutions.  It further details technical assistance to national human rights institutions and cooperation between those institutions and international mechanisms to promote and protect human rights.  Information regarding the work of national human rights institutions with respect to specific thematic issues is also included.


The Secretary-General’s report on the right to development (document A/66/216) contains an overview of the activities of UNHCHR relating to the promotion and realization of the right to development, including in the context of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development.  The report also presents a compilation of the conclusions and recommendations adopted by consensus by the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Right to Development, with a view to contributing to intergovernmental deliberations on the future course of action in the effective implementation of the right to development.  Among its own conclusions is that new efforts are needed to overcome political and polarized debate, to mobilize support from a wide public constituency, and to encourage international organizations to fully integrate all human rights, including the right to development, into their work.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s annual report on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/66/272), which is submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 65/217 (2009).  That resolution requested the Secretary-General to continue to collect views and information from Member States on the implications and negative effects of unilateral coercive measures on their populations and to submit an analytical report thereon.  The report includes the replies received by the UNHCHR, which includes responses from Argentina, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Iraq and Kuwait.  Among other things, the report notes that all responding States were unequivocal in their objection to the use of unilateral coercive measures.


The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/66/293), which summarizes views on ways to address the issue that were expressed in replies from Governments of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cuba, Kuwait, Panama, Peru, Senegal and Serbia, as well as from the World Trade Organization (WTO).  In its conclusions, the report says States should consider and assess the impacts of trade, investment and development policies on human rights before making trade and investment commitments.  It also encourages States and businesses to observe the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which provide a global standard for preventing business-related human rights abuses.


The upcoming Rio+20 Conference should focus on addressing the rights of the most vulnerable sectors of society, with human rights dimensions of sustainable development featuring prominently in talks, the report says.  States should also work to conclude Doha Round negotiations to ensure an open, rules-based, fairer trade system that guarantees respect for all human rights.


The report of the Secretary-General on combating defamation of religions (document A/66/372) focuses on implementation of General Assembly resolution 65/224 (2009), including the correlation between defamation of religions and the intersection of religion and race, the upsurge in incitement, intolerance and hatred in many parts of the world and steps taken by States to combat this phenomenon, including policies with regard to religious holidays and recognizing religious diversity, multiculturalism or pluralism as part of national character.


It highlights the significant role of the media and other partners to promote public education in tolerance and understanding, noting that dialogue is effective in promoting peace and address discrimination at all levels.  It also notes the international human rights system is studying ways to address discrimination on the basis of religion and belief while balancing this right with freedom of opinion and expression.


The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on promotion and protection of human rights with regard to cultural diversity (document A/66/161).  The report provides a summary of views on recognition and importance of cultural diversity by Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Georgia, Guatemala, Iraq, Mauritius, Mexico, Oman, Serbia, Spain, Syria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uzbekistan, as well as the Observatory of Diversity and Cultural Rights at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.  The written comments were submitted after OHCHR invited States, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations to submit their views on the issue.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/66/325), which provides an overview of the work carried out by that Centre, as well as the most significant developments in its operations from September 2009 to August 2011.  The report also presents the Centre’s strategic thematic priorities for the period 2010-2013.  On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Centre’s activities, in 2011, the report analyses the feedback on the Centre’s work, impact and future directions received from an online survey addressed to Governments, subregional organizations, civil society organizations, the United Nations system and bilateral development partners.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the International Year of Human Rights Learning (document A/66/225), which provides information about initiatives undertaken at the international level during the period from August 2009 and June 2011 to advance human rights education and learning in follow-up to the International Year.  It highlights activities carried out in the context of the World Programme for Human Rights Education and the drafting and adoption by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training.  The report concludes that United Nations initiatives, such as the World Programme, the United Nations Declaration and the International Year, contribute to increasing global awareness of human rights and the role of human rights education and learning as significant instruments in promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world.


The Secretary-General's report 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/66/314) describes the activities of the United Nations system in providing electoral assistance to Member States over the past two years.  United Nations electoral assistance is provided only at the request of a Member State or on the basis of a resolution of the Security Council or the General Assembly.  The report indicates that the demand from Member States for United Nations electoral assistance remains high.  During the biennium, the United Nations assisted over 50 countries.


As the focal point for electoral assistance activities, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs is responsible for the Organization’s electoral policy and for ensuring system-wide coherence and consistency in all United Nations electoral activities.  In those tasks, he is supported by the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs, which also assists with the design and staffing of United Nations electoral activities and maintains both the roster of electoral experts and the Organization’s electoral institutional memory.


The report highlights progress in the coordination of electoral assistance both within the Organization and with outside actors.  The report also notes the various funding vehicles for electoral assistance and the need for Member State contributions.  It further notes work done by the Organization in the area of gender and elections.  The United Nations continues to prioritize assistance to making election processes inclusive, with attention to ensuring that women and underrepresented groups are able to take part in the political life of their country.  That increasingly includes advice on the application of relevant provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, including, in particular, its provisions regarding temporary special measures.


The report notes that, although the vast majority of the world’s electoral processes are conducted peacefully, elections can on occasion trigger violence.  Most often, technical shortcomings are not the fundamental cause of violence, but merely the spark that ignites deeper-rooted social, economic or political tensions.  To contain those risks, mediation and good offices, can be made available upon request to supplement technical advice, preferably in collaboration with regional or subregional organizations.


The report also deals with issues of sustainability and cost-effectiveness, calling for them to be central considerations in design and provision of electoral assistance, whether by the United Nations or other bodies.  It urges Member States and donors to consider carefully the cost of elections, and of electoral assistance, in the light of other development needs.  The report notes an intention to prioritize in the next biennium the improvement of coherence, predictability and accountability in delivery of electoral assistance.  Such efforts should be built upon the clear leadership role in all matters related to electoral assistance assigned by the General Assembly to the focal point for electoral assistance matters.


The report concludes with an emphasis on governance.  Investments in elections will not yield sustainable peace and development without independent and professional judiciaries, open, pluralistic media, a robust civil society, a credible government and effective governance at all levels.


Introduction of draft texts


The representative of Zimbabwe, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), introduced the biennial draft resolution on the girl child (document A/C.3/66/L.24).  Noting that the girl child faced multiple challenges in many parts of the world, she said the SADC region remained committed to keeping this issue on the international agenda until the girl child claimed her rightful place as an equal in all societies.  To that end, this year’s draft text had no major differences from previous iterations.  Mechanical and substantive changes had been made to accommodate language and developments arising from outcome documents of a number of high-level summits and major summits held in 2010 and 2011.  In that regard, new language also sought to deal with major challenges affecting the girl child, including abuse, violence and exploitation.


Further stressing the multiple challenges of girls, including those with disabilities, she said many throughout the world were caught up in a vicious cycle of poverty.  For that reason, SADC countries stressed the need for girls’ access to education, skills training and eventually employment and decent work.  It would also provide girls with a chance to access better health care.  Specifically, the draft’s proposed theme was child-headed households.  She hoped States would devote adequate attention to the phenomenon and make efforts to reign it in.  She noted that informal consultations had already begun on the text.


The introduction of the draft text on the rights of the child (document A/C.3/66/L.25) was postponed.


Next, Bolivia’s representative introduced the draft text on rights of indigenous peoples (document A/C.3/66/L.26) and noted that constructive consultations that were under way.  The 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was now an international instrument and the great challenge was ensuring its implementation.  To that end, the draft called for the convening of a one-day high-level meeting to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Declaration’s adoption on the sixty-fourth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Additionally, that meeting would serve as an input to the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and should include Member States, observers, entities of the United Nations system and selected indigenous representatives from the seven socio-cultural regions.


Sweden’s delegate, on behalf of the Nordic countries, then introduced the draft text on international covenants on human rights (document A/C.3/66/L.23).  Among other things, he recalled that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights made up, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the so-called International Bill of Human Rights.  This year’s text differed from previous sessions.  It was short and procedural, retaining only its indispensable operative paragraphs.  The draft urged the universal ratification of the international instruments, as well as the minimization of derogations and reservations.  It also sought to instil timely and efficient reporting by States and acknowledged the work of the Committees charged with monitoring the covenants.  By proceeding with this short and procedural text, the Committee would allow that these issues stayed on the agenda, while giving time to reflect on how to proceed regarding treaty body reform.


Brazil’s representative next introduced the draft resolution on World Down Syndrome Day (document A/C.3/66/L.27), which, he said, was a simple and straightforward text using language adopted from Assembly resolution 62/139 (2007) on World Autism Awareness Day.  The current text sought to raise awareness of Down Syndrome and to allow States to recognize 21 March as World Down Syndrome on a voluntary basis.  More than 60 countries already celebrated Down Syndrome Day on that day.  Noting that three informal consultations had already been held on this text, he anticipated that a revision would be forthcoming.  He also anticipated a consensus adoption with broad sponsorship.


The representative of Denmark then introduced the draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/66/L.28).  She noted that four meetings had already been held on the draft, which recalled that freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was a non-derogable right that must be protected at all times with no exceptions.  Thus, the language asserting that absolute right had been strengthened and States were called on to observe that absolute prohibition.  The text also addressed other measures States should take to prevent torture, including by encouraging them to register all allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  Language aimed at addressing the victims of torture was included.  The text also addressed issues related to solitary confinement based on the Special Rapporteur’s report.


Finally, Mexico’s delegate introduced the draft resolution on Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/C.3/66/L.29).  Stating that the innovative and inclusive process for negotiating that Convention must be maintained, he stressed it would be impossible if the Committee established to monitor that Convention could not meet its obligations because of its lack of resources and limited working time.  Currently, the Committee was meeting twice a year in one-week sessions — which was the least amount of time of any treaty body.  Further, 66 states were scheduled to submit their initial report soon and, with the time available, a State submitting its report now would have to wait eight years for its review.


In that context, the Committee was requesting an extension in the working weeks allotted to it, he said, noting that the draft resolution sought to support the Committee’s work.  The co-sponsors understood that the budgetary and financing situation was quite complex.  However, support must be shown to the international human rights instruments or the international human rights system would be weakened.  He noted that the pace of the Convention’s ratification was unprecedented.  That was why the cosponsors expected that the draft text would have the wide support of Member States.


Statement of Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights


MAGDALENA SEPÚLVEDA CARMONA, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, said that since she took up her position three years ago, more than 100 million more people had been pushed into poverty amid the world financial and economic crises.  There had been some considerable progress:  poverty had been clearly established as a human rights issue.  But, poverty was still often the result of wrong policy choices by State authorities and other powerful economic entities.  “Poverty is often a cause, as well as a result, of a complex system of human rights denials in which violations of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights interact and mutually reinforce each other with devastating effects,” she said.


Too often, she said, public policies misattributed the situation of the poor to simplified, stereotypical causes like laziness, irresponsibility or criminality.  As a result, those policies only further entrenched the deprivations of those they were supposed to benefit, she said.  No group of persons was subject to more punishment, more segregation, more control and more distain than people living in poverty, she said.  The reality was that nobody wanted to be poor.  “Unfortunately, measures that penalize, segregate and undermine the autonomy of people living in poverty have been adopted with increasing frequency over the past three decades, intensifying in recent years due to the economic and financial crises,” she said.


Her report described how States undermined the poor through measures such as banning begging, sleeping and eating in public parks and plazas — or even appearing poor or sharing food in public spaces.  “These laws are being implemented in a context in which the economic and financial crises have resulted in an unprecedented increase in foreclosures and evictions, forcing a growing number of families to live on the streets.  Instead of using public funds to assist these families, some States are instead carrying out costly operations to penalize them for their behaviour.  These laws only serve to push greater numbers of individuals into the criminal justice system, completely ignoring the root causes of homelessness, often punishing homeless people for harmless, life-sustaining behaviours,” she said.


People living in poverty were pushed to the outskirts of cities as public spaces and transport facilities were privatized and gentrified, while projects to “renew” urban spaces were used to demolish entire neighbourhoods and remove and relocate the poor, she said.  Those policies increased segregation and social exclusion, while also obstructing people living in poverty from improving their lives and contributing to society.  “When they are moved away from urban centres, persons living in poverty become geographically remote from jobs, markets, education and health centres, and their situation only deteriorates,” she said.  States were also increasingly adopting intrusive welfare regulations that subjected those receiving social benefits to extensive surveillance and scrutiny measures and harsh legal sanctions.  Often, she said, benefits were suspended or cancelled for failure to meet onerous conditions, pushing people further into poverty.  People receiving social benefits also faced extensive discrimination and stigmatization when interacting with government departments and the justice system, and when looking for jobs or housing, she said.


The “shameful reality” was that those who lived in poverty were disproportionately detained or imprisoned, she said.  That was not because they were more prone to criminality, but rather because unfair regulations made it more likely that the poorest and most marginalized remained in detention, particularly when they awaited trial.  Being detained cut their community connections, forced families to sacrifice assets spent on food and education, subjected them to harsher conditions that could lead to health problems, and made it difficult to access employment when they returned to communities.


“These trends are not isolated measures with isolated ramifications,” she said, rather, they are indicative of an increasing tide of penalization and segregation of the poorest and most vulnerable.  There is something seriously wrong with our societies if the most marginalized and disadvantaged are treated this way,” she said.  Persons living in poverty were often portrayed as authors of their own misfortune, who could remedy their situation by simply “trying harder”.  Those prejudices and stereotypes were reinforced by biased and sensationalist media reports that particularly targeted those living in poverty, who were victims of multiple forms of discrimination, such as single mothers, ethnic minorities, indigenous people and migrants.


Those penalizing measures did nothing to tackle the root causes of poverty and exclusion, she said.  They prevented people living in poverty from enjoying a whole range of human rights, including the rights to an adequate standard of living, to freedom of expression and association, and to social security.  It was clear States across the globe were struggling to deal with impacts of the crises, but the need to adopt budgetary austerity did not legitimize the adoption of laws and policies that punished the poor.  “Not only do such measures undermine human rights, but also the cost of implementing them often greatly outweighs the costs that would be incurred in addressing the root causes of poverty and exclusion,” she said.  “If resources dedicated to policing, surveilling and detaining people living in poverty were instead invested in comprehensive right-based social protection systems and public services, including housing, States could drastically improve the lives of the poorest, and, at the same time, ensure more inclusive and secure societies.”


Question and Answer Session


Peru’s delegate asked what measures should be implemented to combat stigmatization of individuals living in situations of extreme poverty to ensure that they did not continue to be marginalized and treated as second-class citizens.


Welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s report, China’s representative expressed hope that she would continue her work in a fair manner that was in strict compliance with her mandate.  As a special mechanism under the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur had a great role to play in eradicating poverty in the world and protecting the rights of the poor.  The Chinese Government hoped she would play a greater role in ensuring that the United Nations and other organizations shouldered their obligations to mobilize resources, including efforts by multilateral organizations.  Developed countries must be further urged to shoulder their commitments for official development assistance (ODA), as well as to forgive debts.  States should also be encouraged to take stock of experiences in reducing poverty in developing countries and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  For its part, China was the only country that had realized the Goal of reducing poverty by half.


Further praising the efforts and work of the Special Rapporteur, Brazil’s delegate said that with fewer than four years to go before 2015, the elimination of poverty, hunger and malnutrition must underpin the international community’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  While the world was on track to halve extreme poverty within the agreed time frame, progress had been uneven between and within countries.  The law of averages often hid stark disparities that still must be solved.  The global financial and economic crisis might have passed its most extreme phase, but its impact continued.  For its part, Brazil had undertaken a number of measures to reduce poverty.  A comprehensive cash transfer programme had been initiated and was linked to education and maternal assistance.  More recently, it had launched a strategy in July aimed at poverty’s complete eradication.


Indonesia’s delegate said his Government had integrated poverty reduction strategies in its development plans.  Among other things, one action plan outlined actions and goals for a period of five years.  It included cash transfers, food assistance and scholarships to low-income families and for early age schooling.  The Indonesian Government considered the Special Rapporteur’s policy recommendations to be well-grounded.  However, taking into account the difficulties of the least developed countries, there was a relative absence of practicality in some of the recommendations, particularly given the capacity constraints and limited financing of those countries.  While the cooperation of the international community was essential in addressing those gaps, he wondered if the Special Rapporteur could share her thinking on ways to ensure that developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, could implement her recommendations.


Chile’s delegate asked what practical measures could be taken to empower the poor.  How could the voices of the poor be heard, so they could affect polices, which in turn affected them?  He also underscored the importance of climate change and its affect on the environment and people.  In addition, the economic crisis meant that assistance funds for the poor were even more limited.  Natural disasters also affected developing countries, adding to the difficulties in helping the poor.


The representative of Malaysia agreed that poverty was a multi-dimensional issue that includes social exclusion and inequality.  In his country, poverty had been reduced through a national plan and attendant efforts.  Malaysia believed that multifaceted Government action with community support — including poor people themselves — was needed.


The representative of the European Union asked what recommendations the Special Rapporteur could make to ensure that the development and implementation of poverty-reduction policies was carried out with the participation of the people they targeted.  Also, what more could be done to counter the stereotypes regarding people in poverty.  What could be done to improve the access to legal assistance of people living in poverty?  Could she share best practices in both cases?


Responding, Ms. SEPULVEDA thanked delegations for their comments, noting that many of those that had taken the floor had a strong commitment to fighting poverty.  Responding to Indonesia, she agreed that international cooperation was important.  Developed States must continue to make efforts toward implementing the 0.7 gross domestic product (GDP) ODA commitments and complying with the Paris Principles.  At the same time, developing countries must fulfil their commitments to using the funds received effectively and to prevent corruption.


She said the issue of participation was a fundamental right of people living in poverty.  From a human rights standpoint, their participation in the design and implementation of programmes to eradicate poverty was a prerequisite for their sustainability.  Indeed, programmes for people living in poverty would have little effect if they could not participate in all aspects of their creation and use.  However, policy-makers too often performed superficial assessments of that participation.  They tick off the “participation box” if they attend a meeting with poor women and men.  However, a human rights approach required asking deeper questions.


She went on to say that the asymmetries of power in different cultures and groups should also be taken into account in designing a consultation process.  If that was not done, the process would never have full participation.  Moreover, to be effective and truly participatory, the consultation process must address economic, transportation and time constraints to participation.  To that end, she highlighted the misconception that poor people had a lot of time as one major prejudice against them.  In that regard, many programmes placed undue burdens on women, assuming they had the time to ensure different aspects of implementation.  Those issues should also be incorporated in consultation processes and policy design.


Stressing that there were many good examples of effective participation, she said human rights should not be discussed in the abstract, but put into practice.  To that end, her report included details on how the principles of participation, accountability, transparency and access to information could be put in place in various policies.


Introductory Statements


Introducing the Secretary-General’s biennial report 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, B. LYNN PASCOE, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic elections.  Recently, the will of the people had been expressed with great vigour in various countries of the world and demand for United Nations electoral assistance remained strong.  The Organization had assisted over 50 countries in the past two years, and requests continued to arrive.  “Let me just say, by way of example, that the landmark constituent assembly elections held this past weekend in Tunisia are a superb demonstration of how the United Nations can provide Member States with the kind of expert advice and support they request while fully respecting national leadership and ownership in the process,” he said, noting, “It was an inspiring day for Tunisia and the region more broadly.”


“The United Nations provides electoral assistance on the clear basis of national ownership,” he said.  “We offer different kinds of assistance, tailored to different countries and different contexts, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all.”  To further improve electoral assistance, the report makes several recommendations on coordination and funding, as well as giving more attention to the political nature of elections.  The Secretary-General would prioritize efforts to improve coherence, predictability and accountability and ensure that all assistance projects were impartial and sustainable, respecting national sovereignty and ownership.  Assistance should also be provided in an integrated manner in all contexts, whether or not it was provided through a formally integrated field mission, he said.  The Secretary-General also encouraged Member States to consider designating the United Nations — or another organization, if preferred — to help ensure coherence among electoral assistance providers.


In regards to funding, all assistance should aim for long-term sustainability and national ownership, with clearly-defined end states.  Member States and donors should also consider the recommendation of the African Union Panel of the Wise that States should fund elections from national budgets as soon as possible, he said.  The report also encouraged Member States to consider further voluntary contributions for electoral assistance to the Trust Fund in Support of Political Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund, as well as to the United Nations Democracy Fund and the Fund for Gender Equity.


The United Nations hoped and believed that elections could help bolster democratic transitions and build peace, but they were fundamentally political events that could not be dealt with on a purely technical basis.  “Since elections all too often run the risk of violence and political turmoil, we must ensure that support available to Member States includes not just technical advice, but mediation and good offices, if requested, preferably in collaboration with regional and subregional organizations,” he said.  There should also be attempts to address underlying problems before elections through encouraging the design of political institutions to prevent a monopoly of power and political marginalization of the opposition, and after the election to support dialogue, and encourage statesmanship in victory and in defeat.


“The true measure of an election is whether it engenders broad public confidence in the process and trust in the outcome,” he said.  An election run honestly and transparently, respecting basic rights, with the effective and neutral support of State institutions and responsible conduct of participants (leaders, candidates and voters) is most likely to achieve an accepted and peaceful outcome.”


Introducing a number of other reports from the Secretary-General, IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said the report of the Secretary-General on the human rights of migrants (document A/66/253) contained a summary of communications received from governments on the promotion and protection of their rights, as well as information on the activities of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Committee monitoring the Convention on the protection of Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  Similarly, the report on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/66/161) provides a summary of answers solicited on that issue.


He said the Secretary-General’s report on combating defamation of religions (document A/66/372) focused on the correlation between defamation of religions and the intersection of religion and race, the upsurge in incitement, intolerance and hatred in many parts of the world and the steps taken to combat this phenomenon.  The report on globalization and its impact on the fully enjoyment of human rights (document A/66/293) provided an insight into globalization’s challenges and shared initiatives undertaken to mitigate its adverse effects on human rights.  It also presents recommendation on ways to address globalization’s impact.


He further outlined the report of the Secretary-General on the activities for the International Year for People of African Descent (document A/66/342), as well as his report on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/66/272).  The consolidated report of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to development (document A/66/216), among other things, described activities related to realizing that right.  It also contained the recommendations of the Open-ended Working Group on the Right to Development on the future course of action in effectively implementing that right.


The report on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/66/204) referred to recent development within the United Nations on those issues, he said.  It says that significant inconsistencies remained between domestic counter-terrorism legal frameworks and practices and international human rights standards, including vague and broad definitions of terrorism, the lack of legal safeguards related to due process and fair trial guarantees, and the practices of torture and ill-treatment of terrorist suspects.  The report recalls that effective criminal justice systems based on respect for human rights and rule of law, including due process and fair trial guarantees continued to be the best means for effectively countering terrorism and ensuring accountability.


He went on to note that the report on the International Year of Human rights Learning (document A/66/225) provided information about initiatives undertaken at the international level from August 2009 to June 2011, while the report on the activities of the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/66/235) surveyed the work carried out by the Centre from September 2009 to August 2011.


He further detailed two reports on the human rights situations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran (documents A/66/343 and A/66/361), noting the former called on the authorities to urgently prioritize its resources to fulfil the rights to adequate food and health, while the latter highlighted recent patterns and trends in Iran, including the report spike in executions and the intensified crackdown on human rights defenders.  The report on Iran also set out areas of cooperation between Iran and the United Nations human rights system, welcoming, among other things, Iran’s signing of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.


Recalling that the Human Rights Council in March 2011 scrutinized the human rights situation in Iran and adopted a resolution establishing a new Special Rapporteur, he welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s recent meeting with the Iranian Mission in New York.  He said that the Secretary-General, in his report, renewed his call on the Iranian Government to receive the Human Rights Council’s special procedures in conformity with the standing invitation it issued in 2002, as well as the new Special Rapporteur.  He also looked forward to the proposed visit to Iran by the High Commissioner of Human Rights and urged the authorities to give her unrestricted access to civil society and persons of concern and to seize the opportunity for constructive dialogue.


Statements


Before opening the floor for the general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, the Chair said that the order of speakers had not been resolved yet.  That issue had been discussed in detail during open-ended consultations that he had led.  While he was aware of all positions, the consultations had reached no conclusion.  He had subsequently been given authority to reach an interim arrangement.  The Committee had proceeded on that basis for the last two weeks.  Today’s order was not fixed, he stressed, but had been decided on a rotational basis.  It was his proposal that the Committee proceed on that rotational basis until the issue was resolved.  However, given current informal consultation in the back of the room, he wondered if the delegations of the European Union and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had anything to report to the Committee.


Responding, Belize’s representative requested that the meeting be suspended for 15 minutes for those informal consultations to proceed.


The Chair then suspended the meeting.


Reconvening the meeting after informal consultations, the Chair said the matter could not be resolved today.  Given the lack of consensus, he withdrew the list of speakers.  He would allow the regional groups to meet today.  He himself would produce a new list of speakers based on the consultations heard today.  He hoped to proceed tomorrow on the basis of that list, or on the basis of an alternate proposal, which he hoped regional groups would be able to submit by 10 a.m.


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For information media • not an official record