|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
36th Meeting (PM)
Third Committee Approves Text Reaffirming Fundamental Importance of Universal
Realization of Right of All Peoples to Self-Determination
Also Hears Introduction of Drafts on Refugee High Commissioner,
Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, Committee against Torture
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a draft resolution on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination and heard the introduction of three other draft texts, as the Chair urged delegates to conclude consultations on all outstanding drafts in a “spirit of compromise and cooperation”.
By the concise draft on self-determination, the General Assembly would reaffirm that the universal realization of the right of all peoples to self-determination was a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, and declare its firm opposition to foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, as such acts had resulted in the suppression of that right in certain parts of the world. It would call on States to immediately cease their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories and, in particular, the inhuman methods reportedly employed for the execution of those acts against the peoples concerned.
By further terms, the Assembly would deplore the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons uprooted as a result of such acts and reaffirm their right to return home voluntarily in safety. It would request the Human Rights Council to give special attention to violations of the right to self-determination resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation, and request the Secretary-General to report on that question at the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of three draft resolutions on: the elimination of female genital mutilations, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Committee against Torture. The representatives of Burkina Faso, Norway and Denmark introduced those draft texts.
“We have more or less two weeks left”, said Committee Chair Henry L. Mac-Donald (Suriname), noting that the Bureau aimed to place as many draft texts as possible for introduction and action on the work programme for Thursday, 15 November. Extra efforts should be made to introduce all remaining drafts and take action on as many as possible during two additional meetings on Friday, 16 November and Monday, 19 November.
He said the Committee would also meet on Tuesday, 20 November, before the Thanksgiving holiday. It planned to conclude its work on Wednesday, 28 November, in order to submit its reports to the General Assembly plenary “in good time” before the Christmas holidays.
Speaking on the text on self-determination were the United States, Spain, Argentina, Cyprus (on behalf of the European Union) and the United Kingdom, and Argentina also spoke in right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 14 November, to hear a briefing by the President of the Human Rights Council, followed by an interactive dialogue.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to hear the introduction of three draft resolutions on: Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations (document A/C.3/67/L.21); Office of High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/67/L.31); Committee against Torture (document A/C.3/67/L.45).
The Committee was also expected to take action on the draft resolution on the Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/67/L.29).
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
The representative of Burkina Faso, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the draft resolution on Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations (document A/C.3/67/L.21), saying it was a degrading practice that currently 100 million women in the world were victim to, while a further 3 million girls risked being exposed to it. That falsely justified practice had also been exported through migration to regions where it had not been previously known. The first draft resolution submitted to the General Assembly on the subject takes into account all aspects of the practice, and focused on awareness raising, health, training and implementing legislation. It advocates greater harmonization of efforts at the international level to achieve the cessation of the practice.
The representative of Norway then introduced the draft resolution on Office of High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/67/L.31). The Nordic countries had for many years had coordinated the resolution, and this year it was her country’s privilege to do so. The resolution reaffirmed key humanitarian principles and functions, expressing the common commitment to people in need. It also focused this year on birth registration, rescue at sea and arbitrary detention. The resolution was traditionally adopted by consensus, and she trusted this year that would be the case as well.
Next, the representative of Denmark introduced the draft resolution on Committee against Torture (document A/C.3/67/L.45). The draft resolution decided to authorize the Committee against Torture to continue to meet for an additional week per session as a temporary measure and without prejudice to the intergovernmental process of the General Assembly on strengthening and enhancing effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system. The initial decision to request additional meeting time was taken due to the insufficient meeting time for the Committee to undertake its mandated functions, considering especially the substantial backlog of individual communications and State party reports pending before the Committee at that time.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Committee then turned to a draft resolution on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/67/L.29), which was introduced by the representative of Pakistan, who said the Committee had before it an important resolution. The growing number of sponsors every year reflected the importance of that right, upheld by all major summits, declarations and resolutions. It sent a strong message by the international community against all acts foreign oppression. He hoped, as per tradition, it would be passed by consensus.
Speaking before action, the representative of the United States said his country supported the right of peoples to self-determination and so joined consensus on the draft resolution. However, it contained many misstatements of international law and was contrary to State practice.
Acting without a vote, the Committee then adopted the draft resolution by consensus.
By that text, the Assembly would reaffirm that the universal right to self-determination of all peoples was fundamental for the effective observance of human rights and declare its firm opposition to foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, since such acts had resulted in the suppression of the right to self-determination and other human rights in certain parts of the world. Further, it would call on those States responsible to immediately cease their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories and, in particular, the inhuman methods reportedly employed for the execution of those acts against the peoples concerned.
By further terms, the Assembly would deplore the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons uprooted as a result of such acts and reaffirm their right to return home voluntarily and in safety. It would request the Human Rights Council to give special attention to violations of the right to self-determination resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation, and request the Secretary-General to report on that question at the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session.
Speaking after action, Spain’s representative said his country had supported the text and entirely supported self-determination as a condition for the full realization of human rights. However, the international community was currently witnessing situations where authorities established relationships in their own interest and denied colonial links. That was interference and undermined the Charter of the United Nations. In the case of Gibraltar, the original population had left the territory and the inhabitants were installed by the occupying power. The colonial situation in Gibraltar affected the territorial integrity of Spain.
Argentina’s representative said his country fully supported peoples’ right to self-determination. The resolution that had just been adopted should be applied in a consistent way within the Assembly. In the case of the Malvinas Islands, all resolutions on the subject had recognized exclusively the existence of the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom and that the way to resolve the situation was resumption of negotiations for a fair, peaceful and lasting solution to the dispute, taking into account the interests of the population. The Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas were illegitimately occupied by the United Kingdom.
The representative of Cyprus, speaking after action on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation had joined consensus, as the right to self-determination was a fundamental principle of international law. Article 1 of Charter of the United Nations showed the link between respect for that right and the strengthening of peace. Respect for the right to self-determination was an important pillar of the international system. Self-determination was associated with respect for all human rights, democracy and the rule of law, including the principle of equality between citizens. Respect for that right required the holding of free and fair elections in the framework of democratic rights.
He said the thrust of today’s text was too narrow. Everyone had the right to self-determination, which should be exercised in accordance with international law. He would have wanted to see that reflected in the text. Moreover, the text had inaccuracies, as the right to self-determination was attached to peoples, not to nations. It was a precondition for other human rights. His delegation also would have liked the opportunity to discuss the draft with the sponsors. Everyone would have benefitted from that debate.
The United Kingdom representative, responding to remarks by the representatives of Spain and Argentina, said first that, as a separate territory recognized by the United Nations, Gibraltar had individual and collective rights to self-determination, as outlined in the United Nations Charter. The realization of the right to self-determination must be respected in accordance with the Charter. Gibraltar’s self-determination was not constrained by the Treaty of Utrecht, except insofar as it afforded Spain the right of refusal should the United Kingdom renounce sovereignty. Noting that Gibraltar did not share the view that constraint was there, she said the only option was for independence, with Spanish consent. The referendum organized by Gibraltar had been a democratic and proper act.
She also said the United Kingdom had no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. It attached great importance to the right to self-determination. She reiterated the United Kingdom’s position that no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland islands would be held unless and until the islanders wished.
Right of reply
Argentina’s delegate, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, repeated the statement made by Argentina’s President on 14 June to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), which outlined that the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime areas were part of Argentina’s territory illegally occupied by the United Kingdom and were the subject of a sovereignty dispute.
He said that illegal occupation had prompted the General Assembly to adopt a series of resolutions, starting with resolution 2065 (XX), which recognized the existence of the sovereignty dispute and called on both Governments to resume a dialogue to find a peaceful solution. He restated Argentina’s right to sovereignty over those islands and maritime areas, which were an integral part of Argentina’s territory.
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