5 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4085

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

40th Meeting (AM)


Self-Determination Integral to Basic Human Rights, Fundamental Freedoms,

 

Third Committee Told as It Concludes General Discussion

 


The right to self-determination was an integral element of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it concluded its general discussion on that subject, and on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.


“It is only through the realization of this very basic right of people to determine, with no compulsion or coercion, their own future, political status and independence that we can begin to address others such as dignity, justice, progress and equity,” said the representative of Maldives.  Yet millions of people were stripped of the right to determine their own fate, due either to military intervention, aggression, occupation or to exploitation by foreign Powers.


The representatives of both Bolivia and Jordan echoed that sentiment, emphasizing that respect for the principle of self-determination was a precondition for the enjoyment of other human rights, and no other right could be fully enjoyed without it.  Among many others, the representative of the United Arab Emirates noted that the Palestinian people were deprived of the right to self-determination, which was universal.


Israel’s representative and the observer for the State of Palestine engaged in a series of exchanges, in exercise of the right of reply, with the latter saying that Israel had deliberately ignored the universally recognized International Bill of Human Rights as well as all aspects of international and humanitarian law, for more than four decades.  “Speaking of peace while engaging in its destruction makes a mockery of the international community’s support for the two-State solution and diminishes the viability of two States, obstructing a real peace agreement from materializing,” she added.


Israel’s representative emphasized that only the parties involved need sit at the peace table, reiterating his country’s readiness and ability to make the difficult concession it was required to make.  “Only the two parties involved can find the right way to create two States living next to each other.”


The observer for the State of Palestine responded by declaring: “The right to self-determination belongs to all, and doesn’t come after negotiations.”


Other participants were speakers representing Australia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Azerbaijan.


Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan.


The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 6 November, when it is expected to hear the annual briefing by the High Commissioner for Refugees.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its general discussion on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination.  For background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4084 of 4 November.


Statements


SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLIZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that his country’s renewed foundation in 2009, embodied in its political constitution, had been prompted by groups traditionally marginalized by colonial Powers.  Such groups had become protagonists of all measures aimed at restoring identity values to indigenous peoples, women and persons of African descent, among others.  Bolivia had not only ratified the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the outcome document of the Second Durban Review Conference, it had also translated those instruments into the national Law against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination.  The law established mechanisms and procedures for preventing and punishing racism in all its forms and for consolidating public policies for its elimination.  On self-determination, he said respect for that principle was a precondition for the enjoyment of other human rights, and for that reason, Bolivia demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied Arab territories, including Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights.  Bolivia also supported the right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination, he added.


TANISHA HEWANPOLA ( Australia) said her country attached a high value to the right to freedom of religion or belief.  Everyone was free to adopt a religion without coercion, a right protected by the constitution and reflected in national laws.  Governments must foster environments of tolerance and ensure respect for the freedom of religion or belief, as well as the freedoms of opinion and expression.  Emphasizing the importance of cultural diversity, she said it should be enjoyed, genuinely accepted and embraced, pointing out that, to coincide with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, her country celebrated Harmony Day each March for everyone who called Australia home — from its traditional owners to those who had come from many other countries around the world.


FATHIMATH NAJWA ( Maldives) said the right to self-determination was an integral element of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.  “It is only through the realization of this very basic right of people to determine, with no compulsion or coercion, their own future, political status and independence that we can begin to address others, such as dignity, justice, progress and equity,” she noted.  Yet, millions of people were stripped of the right to determine their own fate, either due to military intervention, aggression, occupation or exploitation by foreign Powers.  She strongly deplored the exploitation of people in the name of development and the use of natural resources in territories traditionally occupied or used by indigenous groups, without regard to their cultural integrity or preservation.  On Palestine, the Maldives supported a two-State solution, in accordance with the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine.


NONA GAE LUNA (Indonesia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said people of African descent still faced “arduous challenges” around the world, and for that reason, her country encouraged the concerted efforts to make the proposed international decade for people of African descent truly effective.  If used properly, it “will be beneficial for the international community as a whole”, not only for people of African descent, she said, underlining the important role played by the media in that respect.  Media could help combat stereotypes often fostered in the name of freedom of expression, because Governments could not succeed in doing so on their own.  Indonesia had demonstrated its staunch commitment to the eradication of racism at the national level by creating a national human rights commission tasked with, among other things, monitoring existing laws that could contravene the principle of tolerance, and by fostering reconciliatory dialogue between diverging groups.  The Government had also created the Inter-religion Harmony Forum, alongside 22 other Governments, she said, adding in that context that the draft of a multinational instrument had been proposed in 2012.  Such instruments should be the product of international consensus, she emphasized.


ALIA AL DHAHERI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that respect for universal human rights was enshrined in the United Nations Charter, calling on Member States to assume their responsibility and create a world free of discrimination, she listed the initiatives her Government had undertaken at the national level, including its banning of torture.  Although an Islamic country, the United Arab Emirates hosted more than 200 nationalities that lived in freedom and peace while freely exercising their religion and beliefs, she said.  The Government also ensured that the human rights of migrants living in the country were respected, including their right to equal access to laws, which was guaranteed by the independent judicial system.  Other measures put in place to promote social and economic development included the allocation of 22 per cent of the national budget to education sector as a mean to promote equality, peace and justice.  On self-determination, she pointed out that the Palestinian people were deprived of that universal right.  Israel’s illegal settlement and expansion policies required the United Arab Emirates to call upon the Security Council to take serious measures towards the establishment of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, she said, requesting full United Nations membership for the State of Palestine.


AMJAD MOHAMMED SALEH AL-MOUMANI (Jordan), echoed other speakers in emphasizing that the right to self-determination was one of the most important ones because none could be enjoyed without it.  Also, the International Court of Justice had reiterated the need for “granting the right of people to self-determination”.  In that context, the Palestinian right to self-determination was a core issue in the Middle East, he emphasized, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian State, within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as it capital.  Jordan also called upon Israel to stop building illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) highlighted several measures that could be taken in the fight against all forms of discrimination.  Given the interplay and mutually reinforcing character of racism and poverty, efforts to eliminate the former must be undertaken in conjunction with poverty eradication and human development, he said.  Intercultural dialogue, tolerance and respect for diversity were essential tools for combating racial discrimination and related intolerance, he said, adding in that regard that education espousing a culture of peace could go a long way towards bridging divides and promoting tolerance and mutual trust.  Governments bore the primary responsibility for weeding out hatred and intolerance, while protecting all within their national boundaries through the implementation of national laws.  Freedom of expression was one of the essential elements of a democratic and tolerant society, he said, urging vigilance against the spread of racist prejudice and religious intolerance.


NADYA RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, said Israel had deliberately ignored the universally recognized International Bill of Human Rights, as well as all aspects of international and humanitarian law, for more than four decades.  The obvious manifestation of that was its construction of settlements and related infrastructure in Occupied Palestine.  Although the international community was united in its view that the settlements were illegal and posed a serious obstacle to the realization of peace, Israel continued to carry out its colonial expansionist measures, she said, identifying the illegal settlements as settler colonialism.  It was rooted in racism and racial discrimination since it negated the most basic rights of the indigenous people, their national rights and even their very existence.  “Speaking of peace while engaging in its destruction makes a mockery of the international community’s support for the two-State solution and diminishes the viability of two States, obstructing a real peace agreement from materializing,” she stressed.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s decision to accord Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations, she called upon the international community to undertake more serious, practical measures to compel Israel to halt its illegal settlement activities and all other unlawful polices in Occupied Palestine.


TOFIG MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) emphasized the critical need to pay greater attention to persistent racial prejudice and negative stereotypes, hate speech by public officials and media, and violent attacks on groups with a “view to creating ethnically homogenous societies”.  Particular attention should be paid to policies and practices aiming to alter the demographic balance of occupied territories and preventing forcibly displaced populations from returning to their homes.  It had been internationally recognized that Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan were under Armenian occupation, he said, adding that the creation of a “monoethnic culture” in that area, as well as the establishment of a separatist regime, constituted an integral part of Armenia’s policy of hatred.  The international community, including relevant United Nations bodies, had repeatedly expressed their serious concerns about the spirit of intolerance prevailing in Armenia, and the country’s discriminatory policies, he noted.


Right of Reply


The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the history of the Middle East showed that peace could not be negotiated from the outside, and that only the countries involved needed to sit at the peace table.  Israel’s peace talks with Jordan and Egypt had resulted in positive and peaceful agreements, he noted.  Ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians had produced positive results thus far, he said, reiterating his country’s readiness and ability to make the difficult concessions it was required to make.  Only the two parties involved could find the right way to create two States living next to each other, he said, underlining his Government’s willingness to recognize Palestinian aspirations, but calling upon Palestine to recognize Israel.


The representative of Armenia, responding to the statement by the delegate from Azerbaijan, said that intervention was intended to distort and misrepresent the struggle of the peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh and their right to self-determination.  Azerbaijan was occupying the region, forcing its people to become refugees and internally displaced persons.  Azerbaijan was claiming something it did not own, he added.


The observer for the State of Palestine said it was convenient for Israel not to admit that it was an occupying Power, but despite Palestine’s aspirations for peace, the occupation existed and inflicted suffering on millions of people.  “The right to self-determination belongs to all, and doesn’t come after negotiations,” she emphasized, asking how genuine the peace talks could be when the reality on the ground showed the theft of Palestinian territory, indiscriminate arrest and detention, displacement of families, and the imprisonment of more than 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.  By claiming to make genuine peace policies and to support Palestinian aspirations, Israel was making a mockery of the United Nations, she stressed.


The representative of Azerbaijan said the comments by Armenia’s delegate illustrated that country’s efforts to mislead the international community.  Under the Soviet legal system, the unlawfulness of any attempt either to unify Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia or to ensure its secession from Azerbaijan without that country’s consent had been confirmed at the highest constitutional level.  Accordingly, Azerbaijan was entitled to independence within its Soviet-era territorial boundaries, he said.  He then recalled a 1993 Security Council resolution condemning the use of force against Azerbaijan, and the occupation of its territory, while demanding immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces.  The Council had confirmed Nagorno-Karabakh’s status as part of Azerbaijan, and reaffirmed its respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan as well as the inviolability of its international borders.


The representative of Israel called for an end to the “blame-game”.  Recalling the 2001 United Nations resolution on the right to self-determination, he pointed out that throughout the 20 years from 1947 to 1967, when the territory had been under Arab control, no attempt had been made to establish a Palestinian State.  Only now was a serious attempt being made to address that issue, he added.


The representative of Armenia said it was impossible to remain silent before the lies pronounced by Azerbaijan’s delegate, who was not interested in a peaceful solution.  Regarding the 1993 Security Council resolution, he said Azerbaijan was violating it and misinterpreting the Council’s calls for a ceasefire.


The representative of Azerbaijan said the remarks made by Armenia’s delegate were full of distortions and misinterpretation, emphasizing that the Security Council resolution was the only authority on the matter.  It declared Armenian claims null and void, he stressed.  The peoples to which the principle of self-determination applied had been clearly defined, and the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh did not fit any of those categories.  “I am convinced that careful reading of international documents would dissuade the Armenian representative from making irrelevant comments,” said in conclusion.


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For information media • not an official record