Fifty-sixth General Assembly
40th Meeting (AM)
PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM POVERTY, HUNGER, POOR HEALTH UNLIKELY
TO ENJOY HUMAN RIGHTS, DELEGATES STRESS IN THIRD COMMITTEE
Importance of Right to Development, Maintenance
Of International Peace, Security Emphasized as Human Rights Debate Continues
It was unrealistic to envisage that people who were suffering from lack of development, poverty, hunger and poor health could fully enjoy their human rights, several delegations stressed this morning to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural).
Representatives insisted that the right to development was one of two major preconditions to ensure the universal protection and promotion of human rights. The second crucial element, maintaining international peace and security, was also emphasized as the Committee continued its debate on human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The representative of Thailand said human rights and development were two sides of the same coin, and should be addressed in tandem. People should be at the center of social and economic development efforts. They had to be protected from other scourges and social ills, including disease, narcotic drugs, armed conflicts, terrorism and other types of transnational organized crime.
At the same time, he continued, development could not be truly sustainable if individuals remained vulnerable to torture, oppression and discrimination, or were deprived of their rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to food, education, and health care. In addition, he said, the freedom of choice and free conscience, and the opportunity to develop one’s full human potential also should be respected.
The representative of Eritrea said globalization was not only threatening to further marginalize the developing world and alienate its masses, it was also hampering the ability to exercise the rights and duties enshrined in numerous international human rights instruments, including the right to development.
Narrowing the development gap between countries was crucial to the realization of universal human rights, said the representative of China. Underdevelopment had seriously hindered the capacity of developing countries to protect and promote human rights. With the rapid spread of globalization and economic expansion, the situation for poor countries was deteriorating with each passing day.
He said it had also been consistently shown that without a peaceful environment, protection could be guaranteed for neither human rights nor civil, political, economic and social rights. He said the 11 September terrorist attacks on the host country were not only an enormous tragedy for the American people but an enormous new challenge to the international community’s efforts to maintain peace and security.
The representative of the United States concurred. He said that despite the horrors of the terrorist attack, the international community could not truly win the war against terrorism unless human rights were protected. There could be no expediency, no compromise, no lapse in vigilance. Promoting and strengthening human rights and democracy throughout the world was an integral part of the multilateral war on terrorism.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Cuba, Egypt, Morocco, Japan, Venezuela, Mali, Greece and Indonesia.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were delegates from Kenya and Pakistan.
The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate on human rights questions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to continue its formal debate of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said that in the aftermath of World War II, the international community had reaffirmed its faith in the basic rights of man. However, the goal of the full realization of all human rights for all had remained elusive. Central objectives such as the eradication of poverty, and full participation of all human beings in decisions that affected them had unfortunately been ignored, and continued to be ignored. For globalization to fully realize its potential to benefit humankind, there had to be a new world order, based on justice and solidarity, that would also benefit the third world. The realization of human rights had been hampered by some countries of the north, which made themselves judges of the world. They pointed fingers while doing nothing themselves to eradicate poverty, provide medicines for curable diseases, and give shelter to the homeless.
He said that was the context of the human rights debate before the terrorist attacks of 11 September, which Cuba had condemned. The criminal actions of
11 September deserved condemnation across the world, but the war being waged to find the alleged guilty party also constituted a flagrant violation of the most basic of human rights, the right to life, as innocent civilians were being killed. Basic civil and political rights were being limited as the First World countries aimed to battle terrorism. Legislative and administrative policies had been adopted, or were being considered, by a number of countries, such as prolonged detention without access to lawyers, and the legalization of political assassination. This was evidence of the magnitude of the challenge facing human rights. The unfavourable situation facing the countries of the south had become more acute in the last two months.
The international community should not allow this deception to prosper. National liberation activists were not terrorists -- nor were people who took stands against globalization, he said. Just after the terrorist attacks, which occurred just after the World Conference against Racism, a racist wave arose that attacked Arabs and Asians and other people who looked like people from the Middle East. Governments had to open the way for dialogue and respect for diversity and adopt legislation that would combat new forms of racism. Although the cold war had ended, billions of dollars were spent every year to build up the most powerful militaries in the world. The right to development would continue to be unattainable unless immediate and effective action was taken. Cuba hoped that dialogue would prevail, even if there were differences of opinion. His Government did not demand that other governments give up their opinions, and Cuba would not give up its own opinions.
MAI KHALIL (Egypt) believed human rights, humankind’s cornerstone principle, should be respected and promoted by all. Those rights should be given the same prominence on the international agenda as social, civil and political rights, but promotion of civil rights should not become an excuse for meddling in the internal affairs of States. Indeed, human rights should not be used as a political tool. There should be no double standard in applying international humanitarian norms.
In that regard, her delegation found it strange that many States continued to note human rights violations in some regions while ignoring the situation in the Palestinian occupied territories. Her delegation continued to be gravely concerned by the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. There was no question that those violations contravened international law. Egypt’s attention had been drawn to the statement made yesterday on behalf of the European Union. That statement had noted human rights abuses in many countries -- none of them in the European Union. She regretted that the Union’s representative had not mentioned the humanitarian situation in its Member States, particularly the continued discriminatory treatment of their Muslim and Arab populations.
SICHAN SIV (United States), his country’s ambassador to the Economic and Social Council, said the Khmer Rouge had taken power in Cambodia 26 years ago, and in the following years 2 million people died. He lost his mother, older sister, brother and their families. His life, like that of every educated Cambodian, had been in danger. Human rights was not a theoretical concept. The United States was determined to remain true to this important cause. Despite the horrors of
11 September and the response to the awful attack, the coalition could not truly win the war against terrorism unless human rights were protected. There could be no expediency, no compromise, no lapse in vigilance. Promoting and strengthening human rights and democracy throughout the world was an integral part of the multilateral war on terrorism. It was also a duty to affirm every person's right to be free from coercion and oppression.
Mr. Siv said a deep moral obligation to one another required that human rights violations be confronted wherever they occurred. Now more than ever, the international community had to join together. It must promote peaceful, tolerant societies which respected the rights of all their citizens, and which worked to free them from marginalization and deprivation. Now more than ever, the international community must help ensure that each person had a voice, a pathway to democratic freedoms, and the ability to meet his or her own personal aspirations. That was a long-term process. The conditions that supported the full enjoyment of universal human rights were clear -- free and fair elections; freedom of speech and of the press; investigation and punishment of human rights violations and violators; protection of human rights from violence and government threats; and freedom for majority and minority groups alike to adopt the religion of their choice.
He said the United Nations system and multilateral development institutions were playing a key role in support of transparency, accountability and good governance. The international community must help to improve those efforts. There needed to be a strengthening of existing multilateral organizations whose reasons for being were to promote freedom and democracy. Democracy did not provide a 100 per cent guarantee that every citizen's human rights would be respected all the time. But it came closer to that goal than any other form of government. In that vein, international efforts on electoral assistance had to be solidified to ensure that all countries had free and fair elections.
The threats to freedom, human rights and democracy were very deeply felt in the United States on 11 September, he said. Those threats were seen in other parts of the globe on a daily basis. They had their origin in places where basic human rights were not respected. The international community therefore had to work tirelessly to build and strengthen the institutions and processes that promoted and protected human rights and the rule of law. Those were immense tasks, but the commitment must remain strong. The time had come to make respect for human rights the first concern of all nations, governments and people on earth.
AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) said, while it was clear that achieving universal human rights was the goal of the international community, it was also clear that there were considerable obstacles to achieving that goal. It was necessary, then, to work to ensure international cooperation to achieve other objectives such as the elimination of poverty. It was also important to combat racism. Global partners must promote, above all things, the noble principles of tolerance and respect for cultural diversity.
She went on to say that the issue of human rights could not be separated from the issue of the right to development. Human rights could not be guaranteed as long as flagrant inequalities existed between the haves and have-nots. Reversing that trend required intensification of international cooperation. Indeed, developing countries could not overcome the dehumanizing effects of poverty. It was also important to ensure that just and equitable economic structures must be established.
Her country’s Constitution had highlighted the importance of human rights. There had been considerable progress which had lead to the strengthening of national institutions. Morocco had also launched policy reform initiatives in many areas, particularly labour codes and policies concerning the rights of children. Efforts to harmonize legislation with international humanitarian norms had also been stepped up. All those efforts had been based on the profound conviction of all Moroccan people to inculcate a culture of human rights throughout their culture. She added that the input of civil society had been critical to the Government’s work in all areas. Morocco was also aware of the importance of supporting international human rights instruments. She urged global partners to sign the international Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Their Families as soon as possible.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said international peace and security were preconditions for the promotion and protection of human rights. It had been consistently shown that without a peaceful environment, protection could not be guaranteed for human rights or civil, political, economic and social rights. The tragic experience of two World Wars and the large scale human rights violations that spread in their wake had highlighted the need, within the United Nations and the wider international community, to focus on maintaining peace and security while respecting sovereign equality.
Regrettably, he continued, hot-spot conflict regions, including the Middle East, remained unresolved and threatened not only international peace and security but also the basic human rights of local populations. He sincerely hoped that Palestine and Israel would resolve their disputes through peaceful negotiations in order to realize a durable peace in that region. He added that the 11 September terrorist attacks on the host country were not only an enormous tragedy for the American people but an enormous new challenge to the international community’s efforts to maintain peace and security.
He went on to say that the Chinese Government had long condemned terrorist activity in all its forms and supported international cooperation to combat that scourge. At the same time, since the objective of the fight against terrorism was to protect and promote human rights, any means undertaken must meet that end. The international community should attach importance to civil, political, economic and social rights as well.
The Chinese people and Government had made great strides in promoting and protecting all human rights in recent years, he said. His country had been enjoying rapid economic growth and social stability. In order to strengthen the rule of law, China was undertaking comprehensive judicial reform and had begun to establish a system of legal assistance throughout the country.
Narrowing the development gap between countries was crucial to the realization of universal human rights, he continued. Underdevelopment had seriously hindered the capacity of developing countries to protect and promote human rights. With the rapid spread of globalization and economic expansion, the situation for poor countries was deteriorating with each passing day. The international community had now recognized the right to development as an essential human right, and the Commission on Human Rights had established a working group to examine that issue. He hoped that at the upcoming third meeting of the group participants would fully demonstrate their political will to promote the right to development and identify obstacles to the realization of that right, particularly at the international level. The working group should focus on concrete proposals aimed at overcoming obstacles and not dwell on academic concepts.
YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said the General Assembly this year would discuss the human rights situations in Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar and the Sudan. The purpose of those discussions should be to promote and protect human rights, and not to level accusations. Resolutions should accurately reflect the situations in the countries under discussion, with respect to both violations to be remedied, and any positive developments to be encouraged. Instead of deploring how far a country had to go, it should be commended for how far it had come, and encouraged to continue and accelerate to improve the situation.
Mr. Motomura said Japan was greatly encouraged by a number of positive changes in Cambodia. The decision of the Government of Cambodia to hold a commune election in February of next year was an important step. With regard to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Japan welcomed the promulgation of the Law on the Establishment of Extraordinary Chambers last August. It was hoped that Cambodia and the United Nations would reach an agreement without delay. Concerning Myanmar, Japan fully supported the efforts of the special envoy of the Secretary-General, who had been playing a crucial role in facilitating the dialogue. The positive developments there in the past year were welcomed, such as the release of more than
180 political prisoners. Japan also called on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance, including in the field of HIV/AIDS, with a view to meeting urgently the basic human needs of the people of Myanmar.
Regarding Afghanistan, he said Japan had always been deeply concerned about serious human rights violations, particularly in the Taliban-controlled areas, which included massacres, detentions and executions of civilians, as well as gross abuses of women and girls. Under the extremely fluid military situation in Afghanistan, it was important that all parties concerned adhered to the principles and obligations of international humanitarian and human rights laws and standards. Japan joined the international community in appealing to all parties concerned to properly protect and promote human rights in the areas under their control.
AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said globalization was not only threatening to further marginalize the developing States and alienate their masses; it was also preventing them from exercising the rights and duties enshrined in numerous rights instruments, including the right to development. The globalized world went beyond inter-State relations, and there needed to be a joint definition of the conditions and values that would make globalization the common order of the future. It was necessary to ensure that it represented diverse multi-party interests. More than ever before, it had become clear that terrorism had become a threat to the enjoyment of human rights. The international community must, therefore, in the name of the ideals, norms and principles enshrined in the numerous human rights institutions, wage a collective and unremitting struggle to eliminate that scourge.
Mr. Tekle said it was also encouraging to note that the world had witnessed tremendous advances in human rights and that most States had signed the essential human rights instruments. They had also committed themselves to the faithful implementation of the landmark Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. However, the signing or accession of conventions and treaties had not, in many cases, led to scrupulous adherence. In some cases, in fact, States had systematically violated human rights with wilful abandon.
One of those violators was Ethiopia, he said. In spite of the Comprehensive Peace Treaty signed between the two countries, Ethiopia continued to violate the major international human rights conventions, as well as significant provisions of international humanitarian law. The Addis Ababa regime continued to deport Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, and held more than 400 political prisoners and 1,600 prisoners of war. It also continued to confiscate property and forced Ethiopians of Eritrean origin to carry identification cards, thus exposing them to stigmatization, harassment and routine attacks by police and security agents.
For the last three years, the world had been listening from diverse sources to horror stories related to the human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian laws by Ethiopia, he said. It had been a silent witness as the Addis Ababa regime pursued its brutal policies systematically and unrelentingly. The regime persisted in its barbarities with impunity only because it fully realized that the international community, including the various human rights agencies and mechanisms, preferred to remain silent in its case, while they had been vocal and swift in denouncing lesser evils elsewhere.
MARIA CRISTINA PEREZ DE PLANCHART (Venezuela) said that in the last session of the General Assembly, her Government had said its new Constitution guaranteed all human rights. Promotion, protection and defence of human rights was a basic political objective for her Government, and it was assigned the highest priority in both domestic and international policy.
She said United Nations Member States were ethically bound to take a position against terrorism, terrorists, and those who supported terrorists. What happened on 11 September was macro-terrorism; it did not just affect the United States, and the response had to be multilateral. In many ways, 11 September was an attack against all peace-loving peoples. There were Venezuelan compatriots who perished in the attacks. Her delegation believed that terrorism had to be approached from different fronts, with special emphasis on the causes of those acts. Marginalization and social inequality were just some of the issues that had to be addressed to ensure that kind of violent expression did not rear its head again. Venezuela was advancing an inter-American initiative containing guidelines that would address those causes called the Social Charter. While that contribution was significant for Venezuela, it was small for the needs of the people of Afghanistan.
Venezuela, she said, had presented a report to the Human Rights Committee earlier this year. The recommendations and observations of the Committee were already being sent to the relevant national agencies so they could consider implementing the suggestions. Last year, Venezuela had turned in its second report to the Committee against Torture and it was waiting for an invitation to present the report to the Committee. The special session of the General Assembly devoted to HIV/AIDS was of central importance to countries like Venezuela which had adopted prevention strategies, as well as strategies dealing with social integration. The Government agreed with the High Commissioner for Human Rights when she said the full promotion and protection of human rights was needed to slow the spread of the disease.
NOUHOUM SANGARE (Mali) said despite broad recognition of the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, violations of those rights still persisted. It was important that governments ensured respect for human rights. The necessary institutions must be established within countries to ensure humanitarian norms were safeguarded. Cultural pluralism and cultural dialogue must also be promoted. That would be the way to highlight the crucial importance of diversity among nations.
The right to development must not only be proclaimed, it must be supported and promoted, he said. All must work to ensure that inequalities were overcome. It was also important to address the issue of impunity. The role of national institutions should be emphasized. The capacity of such institutions should be strengthened, particularly in the area of education. Also, the role of non-governmental organizations was crucial to all efforts to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.
He said it was important to ensure the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Action Programme. Mali was a country that had committed itself to fully implementing all mechanisms to protect human rights. It had also created a national plan aimed at protecting civil and political rights. Other initiatives included special television and radio programmes aimed at promoting human rights information. A civil mediator had also been appointed to hear complaints of human rights violations. The University of Mali also taught courses in international human rights. Finally, he added that the protection and promotion of human rights was the obligation of each individual.
APIRATH VIENRAVI (Thailand) said it was unrealistic to envisage that people suffering from lack of development, poverty, hunger and poor health would enjoy fully their rights. At the same time, development could not be truly sustainable if individuals remained vulnerable to torture, oppression and discrimination, and were deprived of their rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights to food, education, and health care, the freedom to exercise their choice and free conscience, and the opportunity to develop their full human potential. Human rights and development were two sides of the same coin, and should be addressed in tandem. People should be at the centre of the social and economic development efforts. They had to be protected from other scourges and social ills, including disease, narcotic drugs, armed conflicts, terrorism and other types of transnational organized crime. Special attention should also be given to the needs of those in difficult situations, including women, children, older persons, persons with disabilities, as well as those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Thailand, he continued, was committed to human rights promotion, not because it was a global trend, but because it believed in its value. Indeed, human rights, democracy and anti-racism were firmly embodied in its Constitution, which explicitly guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Thai people. His Government adhered to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. Since last year, his Government had put in place frameworks and mechanisms to reinforce its efforts to promote human rights and democracy. Last July, his Government had established the National Human Rights Commission, which would work with other independent organs to promote and protect human rights, and to make the Government more transparent and accountable.
He said Thailand believed that the endeavour to promote and protect human rights would be more effectively served through dialogue and cooperation, not through politicization and confrontation. Thus, the international community should ensure that the differences and diversity which existed within and among societies were respected. But that should not impede the realization of universal human rights. Partnerships between governments and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, should be promoted. It was also incumbent upon the international community to match the words of the Millennium Declaration with deeds in the march on that noble path for the good of all humankind.
EVANGELOS DENAXAS (Greece) said his Government was deeply concerned about the persisting grave violations of human rights in Cyprus after the invasion of the island and the military occupation of its northern part by Turkish forces
27 years ago. An account of the long list of human rights violations there had been given yesterday by the delegate from Cyprus. Despite numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, as well as resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights, which all had been ignored by Turkey, 37 per cent of Cyprus's sovereign territory remained under Turkish military control. A systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms had been carried out in the occupied territory by Turkey through the implementation of policies, such as the forcible eviction and displacement of persons from their homes and land, expulsion of the enclaved Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the occupied territories, and the systematic plundering of the Cypriot cultural heritage.
He said the nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots who had been forcibly displaced by the Turkish invading forces were still being prevented from returning. They continued to be arbitrarily deprived of their homes and property in the occupied area, the latter being illegally distributed to other persons, such as members of the Turkish forces and settlers from mainland Turkey. Last May, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Turkey had violated 14 articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and security, the right to freedom of thought, and the right to freedom of expression.
He said that, despite the efforts since 1974 of the Government of Cyprus and the families of the missing persons, no progress had been achieved towards a humanitarian solution of that tragic problem. The international community should not try to avoid hard choices by merely calling on all sides concerned to find a solution. There was, in this case, one side which accepted United Nations resolutions and one which did not. The international community should spare no efforts to persuade Turkey to cooperate constructively so that a comprehensive settlement could be achieved.
MARTY NATALEWAGA (Indonesia) said his country was continuing a reform process that had been under way for several years. When full reform was complete, a much more comprehensive strategy for the protection and promotion of human rights would be in place. It had become clear that the path to protecting those rights lay within the democratic process and adherence to the rule of law. In that regard, much progress had been made to strengthen institutions and capacity-building. Indonesia had enhanced its human rights legislation for the protection and promotion of all. It was fair to say that his country was in the midst of great political change. It was working hard to correct the mistakes of the past and to initiate a full financial recovery in the wake of the 1997 financial difficulties.
He said his country was working hard to bring its human rights legislation in line with new national and international realities. All laws that were, by nature, discriminatory were being repealed or amended. As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, Indonesia had long supported initiatives to combat racism and all forms of discrimination. Other measures being taken at the national level included continuing investigations of gross violations of human rights so that perpetrators would be brought to justice. The National Commission on Human Rights had reaffirmed its commitment to bring to justice violators of human rights and would continue to guard against impunity.
On technical assistance, he said, it was greatly regretted that a project on the administration of justice, organized in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, would be implemented only after his Government had met several conditions. That was unacceptable. Establishing conditionalities on the provision of technical assistance was contrary to the provision of such assistance. Therefore, in the absence of substantial progress, the Government feared the programme would lapse. Still, the Government would move forward with the establishment and staffing of an ad hoc human rights court. Indonesia’s commitment to human rights was real and had been reflected in efforts to enact meaningful change. While that change might not be moving at a pace that
was acceptable to some, what should not be overlooked was how far the country had come in such a short time.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Kenya, exercising the right of reply, said the serious allegations levelled against Kenya by Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, were shocking, surprising, most unfortunate, misplaced, misleading, uncalled for and totally out of touch with reality. This debate was taking place concurrently with the general debate of the General Assembly. The topic of the moment was terrorism and the concerted efforts under way to tackle that plague. In the general debate, African States had called upon the international community to seriously address situations and conditions which were being exploited by terrorist organizations. Some of those conditions and situations went back to the dark ages of the slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism, in which Africans were brutalized, abused and exploited as objects.
He said Kenya was an island of peace in the sea of storm. It had hosted thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries and the staging post for United Nations humanitarian relief operations in the region. Nairobi, the capital, was home to the highest number of foreign journalists and correspondents in Africa, who would, at a moment's notice, report on the so-called shortcoming on human rights to the international community. The representative of Belgium, in his address, deplored the lack of freedom of association, lack of freedom of the judiciary and the excessive use of force by security organs. His delegation took grave exception to the language and accusations mentioned yesterday. The allegations were dismissed, and it was hoped the representative of Belgium would be guided by the facts on the ground.
The representative of Pakistan, exercising his right of reply in response to the statement made yesterday on behalf of the European Union, said he did not wish to open the European Union’s closet which was filled with the sad skeletons of its member States’ participation in slavery, colonialism and persecution of those with black skin. Their selective approach was reflective of their persistent use of double standards. If the European Union had taken an objective approach it would have seen that in several of its member States, indigenous populations were treated worse than dogs because their skin was dark. Self-righteousness was a cardinal sin, he said. Double standards ran a close second. Those self-proclaimed custodians of civil rights were guilty of both.
He said there were no restrictions on political activity in his country. Ethnic violence was a global phenomenon, often fuelled from abroad. That was an important issue that needed to be addressed by all nations. Women in Pakistan were active in the social and political life of the country. To ensure their participation and empowerment, one third of all seats in local parliaments were reserved for women. The country was also determined to root out all crimes of abuse against women, particularly so-called honour killings.
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