14 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4090

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

46th Meeting (PM)


Third Committee Approves Several Texts, Including One Designating 30 July

 

‘World Day against Trafficking in Persons’

 


Members also Reject Attempt to Amend Draft on Enhancing Genuine Elections


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved several draft resolutions today, including a text titled “Improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons”.


By that text (document A/C.3/68/L.17/Rev.1), approved without a vote, the General Assembly would urge Member States to designate 30 July as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, to be observed every year beginning in 2014.


The Committee also approved a draft resolution titled “Human Rights Committee” (document A/C.3/68/L.31/Rev.1), which would authorize “the addition of one week of meeting time for the Committee in 2014, including an adequate level of Secretariat resources, as a temporary measure, in order to address the backlog of communications”.


While the Committee took that action without a vote, a number of delegations expressed reservations about the effectiveness of additional meeting time, as mentioned in operative paragraph 2 of the draft.


The Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “Strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization” (document A/C.3/68/L.41).  In a separate action, however, it rejected a similarly titled draft resolution (document A/C.3/68/L.72) in a recorded vote requested by the Russian Federation and proposing an amendment to an operative paragraph in the latter text.  The vote was 29 in favour to 94 against, with 33 abstentions.


The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft on “Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (document A/C.3/68/L.70).  By its terms, the General Assembly would decide to increase the number of Executive Committee members from 87 to 94.


Introducing that text, the representative of the Czech Republic explained several countries were seeking to join the Executive Committee, Belarus among them.  However, Canada’s representative said that while his delegation supported for the Executive Committee’s expansion, it was opposed to Belarus joining that body due to the deplorable human rights situation in that country.


Several draft resolutions were also introduced today, including recurrent texts such as one titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/68/L.68) and the “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” (document A/C.3/68/L.61).


Saudi Arabia’s representative presented a draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.3/68/L.42), saying it was “in line with a text submitted last year”, and explaining that the human rights situation in that country warranted its resubmission.


Also presenting draft resolutions for the Committee’s consideration were representatives of Liberia and Cameroon, on behalf of the African Group, Fiji, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Pakistan, Egypt, Lithuania, on behalf of the European Union, Mexico and Norway.


Also speaking during the Committee’s action on the drafts were representatives of Finland, on behalf of Nordic countries, Canada, United States, Belarus, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Australia, South Africa, Cuba and Congo.


The Third Committee will reconvene again on Tuesday, 19 November, to hear more introductions and take actions on several draft resolutions.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to hear a number of draft resolutions introduced and to take actions on several others.


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The representative of Liberia introduced, on behalf of the African Group, a draft titled “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa” (document A/C.3/68/L.71).


The representative of Fiji presented, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, a text originally titled “Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (document A/C.3/68/L.69).  He requested that the title be amended to “Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”.


On the question of self-determination, the representatives of Pakistan and Egypt submitted draft resolutions titled, respectively, “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/68/L.67), and “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/68/L.68).


Regarding the promotion and protection of human rights, several draft resolutions were tabled, as follows:  the representative of Lithuania introduced, on behalf of the European Union, a text on “Freedom of religion or belief” (document A/C.3/68/L.49); the representative of Egypt presented a draft on “Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights” (document A/C.3/68/L.47); the delegate of Cameroon submitted, on behalf of the African Group, a draft resolution titled “Follow-up to the International Year of Human Rights Learning” (document A/C.3/68/L.53); the representative of Mexico tabled a draft on “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” (document A/C.3/68/L.61); the delegation of Norway introduced a draft titled the “Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons” (document A/C.3/68/L.63); and the delegate of Saudi Arabia presented a draft on the “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.3/68/L.42).


The representative of Syria said the last text submitted was an attack against his country by a delegation whose last concern was the enjoyment of human rights.  The draft was a further attempt by Saudi Arabia and its allies to interfere in Syrian affairs while ignoring what was really taking place on the ground.  A solution was to be found through cooperation and dialogue among Syrians themselves, he emphasized, adding that it was ironic that Saudi Arabia — a country unable even to establish a parliament and where women were not permitted to ride a bicycle — allowed itself to attack a country like Syria, which had a woman as Vice-President.  The Syrian delegation had met others to explain the “contradictions and counter-truths” in the draft just tabled, which was like “oil on fire” and ignored the positive developments that had taken place on many fronts.  Syria would, therefore, call for a recorded vote once the time came for action on the draft, he announced.


Action on Draft Resolutions


Acting without a vote, the Third Committee approved a draft resolution titled “Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (document A/C.3/68/L.46).


The Committee then approved, again without a vote, a draft titled “Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (document A/C.3/68/L.70).


Speaking before that action, the representative of Canada expressed support for the Executive Committee’s expansion, but voiced opposition to Belarus joining the body due to its “deplorable” human rights situation.


Acting once again without a vote, the Committee then approved a draft resolution titled “Human Rights Committee” (document A/C.3/68/L.31/Rev.1).


The Committee Chair called attention to the programme budget implications associated with additional meeting time for the Human Rights Committee, as proposed in the text.


Speaking before the action, the representative of the United States disassociated herself from the text, explaining that although her delegation supported the need to deal with backlogs, it had reservations about the effectiveness of additional meeting time.


The representative of Belarus said it was regrettable that the draft’s main sponsors had not taken his delegation’s proposals into account during negotiations.


After the action, the representative of Canada disassociated herself from the text, saying that the problem of backlogs would not be solved by an ad hoc financial measure.


The representative of Japan stressed the importance of taking into account the result of the intergovernmental process due in February.  The cost of additional meeting time should be absorbed into the proposed 2014-2015 biennial budget, he added.


The representative of the United Kingdom joined the consensus, but voiced concern about the approach taken on the draft resolution, noting the limitations of the proposed ad hoc measure.


The representative of France associated himself with the consensus but expressed concern over the approach chosen, stressing that his delegation would consider the additional costs in the Fifth Committee.


The representative of Australia said her delegation supported the work of the Human Rights Committee but viewed the proposed measure as a temporary fix.


The representative of the United States then turned to alternative approaches to improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, introducing 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.3/68/L.41).


The representative of the Russian Federation presented a similarly titled draft resolution (document A/C.3/68/L.72) containing an amended operative paragraph 11.


The representative of the United States said her delegation would vote against the proposed amendment because the Russian Federation sought to delete agreed language.  It expressed appreciation of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and endorsed the Code of Conduct.  Recalling a similar request for a recorded vote in 2011, she urged all delegations to vote against the proposed amendment.


By a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 94 against, with 33 abstentions, the Committee rejected the amendment proposed in document A/C.3/68/L.72.


Speaking after that action, the representative of South Africa emphasized that free, fair and regular elections as well as a functioning national electoral body was essential to his country, which was why his delegation had engaged on the draft resolution.  However, he expressed concern over its outlook on practical conditions of elections, arguing that the draft did not take different levels of national development into consideration.  The question of how least developed countries should succeed in their quest for democracy and development had not been properly addressed by the text’s main sponsor, he added.


The representative of Cuba said that while the draft’s final preambular paragraph addressed the question of the post-2015 development agenda, its language did not agree with the Vienna Conference, and the clear links between development and democracy established therein.  The promotion and protection of all human rights should be a focus of the post-2015 development agenda and the selective focus or prioritizing of certain human rights was detrimental to others, she emphasized.


Following its approval of a draft resolution on “Improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons” (document A/C.3/68/L.17/Rev.1), the Secretary informed the Committee of the budgetary implications arising from the text.


Taking the floor before the adoption, the representative of the Russian Federation spoke on behalf of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), saying that it viewed human trafficking as one of the most dangerous criminal activities.  It posed serious threats to any country due to the highly organized nature of the criminal groups involved.  He also noted the cynical view of the criminals, saying they turned their victims into commodities.  Due to the global scale of human trafficking, the CSTO sought concrete actions to combat it, and welcomed the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.


Following the adoption, the representative of Lithuania spoke on behalf of the European Union, reiterating the bloc’s commitment to the fight against human trafficking.  On the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, she said existing synergies could have led to better coordination and that the future appraisal of the Global Plan of Action should be action-oriented and conducted within existing resources.


The representative of Congo clarified that his delegation had abstained in the recorded vote on the amended operative paragraph contained in document A/C.3/68/L.72.


Finally, the Committee approved, without a vote, a revised draft resolution titled “United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders” (document A/C.3/68/L.20/Rev.1).


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For information media • not an official record