Fifty-seventh General Assembly
26th Meeting (AM)
PERSISTENT INEQUITIES, NEW FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION FEATURE, AS THIRD COMMITTEE
CONTINUES DEBATE ON RACISM AND SELF-DETERMINATION
Five Texts on Advancement of Women Approved without Vote
Current manifestations of racism were not natural human reactions, but rather social, cultural and political phenomena born of war, military conquest and slavery, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda told the Third Committee (Humanitarian, Social and Cultural) this morning as it continued its consideration of racism and self-determination.
Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), he said that present inequitable social and economic conditions were caused largely by those historical wrongs. The CARICOM countries, therefore, endorsed initiatives to address persistent inequities through such vehicles as meaningful and speedy debt relief, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, (NEPAD) and the establishment of an anti-discrimination unit in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
While some delegations expressed their deep concern about the increase in new and more insidious forms of racism and discrimination, others linked issues of self-determination and racism to the situation in the Middle East, and to the growing trend of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim stigmatization following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
Lebanon’s representative, stressing the implicit link between the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination, said that the latter referred to a number of distinct human rights, including the right to freedom from persecution on the grounds of race. Throughout history, those rights had been violated in a number of ways, and in many places were still denied to various people. No people were better than others, he added, they were only more heavily armed.
China’s representative urged governments and the international community to adopt the approach of a physician treating a disease by addressing its root causes, as well as its symptoms. Human rights education was necessary, as were exchanges and dialogue among different races and cultures. The international community must seek a common ground, respecting differences and promoting development in harmony, he said, noting that only then could the soil that nourished racism be removed and harmony and joint development of all races and cultures be achieved.
The Committee began its work this morning by approving five draft resolutions on the advancement of women. Throughout the texts, the Committee maintained its deep conviction that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the outcome of “Women 2000”, the Assembly’s twenty-third special session, must be translated into effective action by all States, the United Nations system and other concerned organizations.
A draft resolution, on working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour, would have the General Assembly stress the need to treat all forms of violence against women and girls, including crimes committed in the name of honour, as criminal offences, punishable by law, and call upon all States to continue to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate such crimes through legislative, administrative and programmatic measures.
Though that resolution was approved without a vote, the delegations of Pakistan, Egypt and Iran expressed concern about the selective nature of its focus and emphasized that the text presented honour killings as if they were the only crimes committed against women.
Also approved without a vote were texts covering: the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women; improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system; elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of “Women 2000”; and follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. They will be submitted to the General Assembly for final adoption later in the session.
The Committee also heard statements by the representatives of Iraq, Liechtenstein, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Barbados, Mauritania, and Belarus.
Israel’s representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Also making a statement was a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 28 October, to continue its joint consideration of the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) met this morning to continue its joint consideration of matters related to the elimination of racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination.
It was also expected to take action on several draft resolutions on items relating to the advancement of women. Four of those texts –- on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); working towards the elimination of crimes of honour; improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system; and elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of “Women 2000” -- were introduced on 17 October 2002. (For background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/3703.)
The fifth text before the Committee this morning, on Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/57/L.28) had been submitted by the Chairman on the basis of informal consultations.
By that text, introduced this morning by the representative of Chile on behalf of the Chairman, the Assembly would recognize that sustained political will and commitment at the national, regional and international levels are essential elements for the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Action Plan and the outcome of “Women 2000”. It would also have the Assembly call upon governments to continue to integrate a gender perspective in the implementation and follow-up to recent United Nations conferences, summits and special sessions, and in future reports on the subject.
Action on Drafts
Following the introduction of some corrections to the text by the representative of Sweden, the Committee approved the draft resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/C.3/57/L.19) without a vote.
The representative of the United States said that the draft, as well as the record of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, raised a number of concerns that his delegation was currently reviewing. Moreover, the United States was concerned about language in the text calling on States to "ratify" CEDAW, rather than to "consider ratifying" the Convention. Accordingly, the United States delegation disassociated itself from the consensus on the text.
The representative of Singapore felt it was inappropriate to insist that States parties regularly review permissible reservations, with a view to withdrawing them. The purpose of reservations was to allow as many countries as possible to become parties to international treaties at the earliest opportunity, while providing flexibility to States parties in their compliance with the obligations of the treaty or convention, as required by the particular circumstances of each State party. The apparent trend to discourage reservations was a counter-productive step that would only make it more difficult for countries to become parties to international treaties.
Taking up the draft resolution on Working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour (document A/C.3/57/L.20), the Committee also approved that text without a vote, following technical revisions by its main sponsor, the Netherlands.
Following that action, the representative of Pakistan said his delegation had joined the consensus in the spirit of cooperation, but maintained its view that selectivity was not the best way to address violence against women.
The representative of Egypt said her delegation had also joined consensus, but with many reservations, the most important of which was that the text presented honour killings as if they were the only crimes against women. Other widespread forms of violence also deserved collective action, she said, expressing the hope that an improved future text would touch on all forms of violence against women.
The representative of Iran felt that any initiative towards eliminating honour crimes should adopt a non-selective and balanced approach, reflecting manifestations that had already been agreed upon at Beijing. Iran had proposed some suggestions, but realized later that they would not be accepted. His delegation had joined the consensus on the understanding that after two years, a measure addressing all forms of violence against women would be considered.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution on Improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document A/C.3/57/L.21) without a vote, following some technical corrections.
Following that action, the representative of Japan expressed concern over some of the language, particularly that relating to ensuring equitable demographic representation, in particular for developing countries, countries with economies in transition or small-island developing States. Some Member States were not equitably represented or were underrepresented in the United Nations system -- Japan among them –- but did not fit that category, she said, adding that those sections of the text did not fully take into account all underrepresented nations. Japan strongly hoped that the language in question would be reviewed at the Assembly’s next session.
The Committee then approved the draft on Elimination of all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000” (document A/C.3/57/L.22), following several minor corrections introduced by the representative of Pakistan.
The Committee then took up the final draft resolution, on Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/57/L.28), approving that text without a vote.
SAID SHIHAB AHMAD (Iraq) said that the struggle against racism and racial discrimination had occupied a special place within the United Nations, since racism affected the dignity of man and was a serious violation of human rights. Despite constant efforts on an international scale, including the important results of the Durban World Conference, humankind suffered from new forms of racism and discrimination that led to political, cultural, economic and social problems. Racism had taken on more insidious forms that were difficult to fight and resolve through legislation, including Internet sites developed after 11 September 2001 that spread anti-Muslim propaganda and hatred.
He said his country had suffered from discrimination through the unfair embargo imposed on it since 1991, which affected mostly children, women and older persons. In addition, the daily American attacks undermined the economic and social unity of the Iraqi people. He also stressed that the discrimination against the Palestinian people by the Zionist entity flagrantly violated their most basic human rights. Equality could not prevail without the fight against racism and to protect people who still suffered from racism and discrimination, he said, calling on the international community, through the United Nations, to assume its responsibility in that battle.
PATRICK LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that current manifestations of racism and racial discrimination were not naturally instinctive reactions of the human being, but rather a social, cultural and political phenomenon born of war, military conquest, slavery and indentureship, among other factors. However, CARICOM also recognized that the present inequitable social and economic conditions were caused largely by those historical wrongs. CARICOM therefore endorsed initiatives to address persistent inequities through vehicles such as meaningful and speedy debt relief, and initiatives like the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
He said that CARICOM had been a strong advocate of the establishment of an anti-discrimination unit, based in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to implement measures contained in the Programme of Action of the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, and to facilitate implementation of the Durban Declaration. CARICOM also welcomed the adoption by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in November 2001, of its resolution on the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition. The UNESCO's historic role in those issues was well known, in particular the successful Slave Route Project, which endeavoured to break the deafening silence surrounding the emotional issues of the Atlantic slave trade, through public review of scientific knowledge about that most difficult period in world history.
Of particular note in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had been the convening, last July in Mexico City, of the Latin America-Caribbean Regional Expert Seminar, he said. That Seminar had been organized as an exchange of ideas on how to implement the letter and spirit of the Durban decisions in the region. The seminar had called on governments of the hemisphere to carry out national plans of action and adopt national policies, beginning with extensive consultations with the population groups concerned, to combat racism. It also called upon States to ensure that their national action plans emphasized the need to combat racism within the criminal justice system, making specialized human rights training available to criminal justice personnel.
PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) said that his country was small, with 34.4 per cent of its resident population comprising nationals from 80 other countries. Integration was therefore a key responsibility, not only of the Government, but also of all members of Liechtenstein’s society. He stressed that the road to the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had been very rocky and the contents had been controversially discussed.
While Liechtenstein did not agree with all parts of the Durban texts, the World Conference and its outcome were a major and necessary further step towards the elimination of racism, he said. The Durban texts constituted the main foundation for his country's National Action Plan, which was presently being worked out, to prevent and eliminate racism and xenophobia. The recommendation concerning the integration of a human rights perspective in the training of Liechtenstein police officers had already been taken up, he added.
Racism was often the result of vague fears of "otherness", perceived as threatening one's own culture or identity, he noted. It was a defence strategy built on the false premise that culture was static and must be protected against anything foreign. He stressed that creating awareness and acceptance of "difference" and change was at the heart of all efforts to eliminate racism and xenophobia. That seemed all the more pertinent in the inhospitable climate with which human rights promotion and protection had had to contend since 11 September 2001, he said.
ABDELOUAHAB OSMANE (Algeria) said that even as humankind was failing to come to grips with past evils such as colonialism, slavery and prejudice, new manifestations of racism and xenophobia were on the rise. Those forms, often based on attitudes of racial supremacy, domination and exclusion, were now affecting various social groups like migrants and ethnic and religious minorities. Sadly, human differences had not become a source of richness and exchange but an excuse for persecution and marginalization, as well as a tool to satisfy nationalist agendas and to aggravate racist propaganda. He stressed that Durban had marked an important step in international efforts to combat all forms of racial discrimination, and it was now the duty of humankind to ensure that the Durban Declaration did not become a “dead letter”.
He recalled that in the wake of Durban, his country had supported the creation of an anti-discrimination unit within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Secretary-General’s proposal for the nomination of five independent experts to further promote implementation of the Conference’s outcomes.
Turning to the right to self-determination, he said it had been supported and affirmed throughout the work of the Organization. International efforts to stamp out discrimination and prejudice would not be complete as long as millions of people were denied the right to choose their own destiny, he said, noting that 16 countries remained on the United Nations decolonization agenda. It was up to all global actors to work to restore peace and security in the Middle East, and in Africa, the people of Western Sahara were waiting to exercise their right to self-determination.
XIE BOHUA (China) reiterated that the key to a lasting peace in the Middle East was the restoration of the Palestinian people's rights, including their right to national self-determination, so that the question of Palestine could be solved expeditiously in a fair and reasonable manner. But while the right to self-determination applied to peoples under foreign aggression and occupation, it must not be misinterpreted to mean a mandate for, or an encouragement of, actions to dismember or violate the territorial and political integrity of sovereign States. In recent years, there had been ceaseless attacks on China, aiming to undermine its sovereignty under the pretext of the self-determination principles. Such activities willfully trampled upon universally recognized international principles and constituted a flagrant provocation to China's sovereignty and the will of the entire Chinese people, he said.
Regarding racism, he said that in their efforts to eliminate racism and racial discrimination, governments and the international community must adopt the approach of a physician treating diseases and address the root causes, as well as the symptoms. Human rights education was necessary, as were exchanges and dialogue among different races and cultures. The international community must seek a common ground, respecting differences and promoting development in harmony, he said, noting that only then could the soil that nourished racism be removed and harmony and joint development of all races and cultures be achieved.
MAI TAHA MOHAMED KHALIL (Egypt) said racism was one of the worst scourges afflicting society and hindering the promotion and protection of human rights. While the Durban Conference and its outcomes were important steps in the international fight against racism, Egypt was deeply concerned about the rise in discrimination and prejudice throughout the world, particularly against immigrants and refugees. The reports before the Committee had also noted increasing nationalist attitudes and religious discrimination, particularly in the wake of the tragic events of 11 September 2001, as serious forms of contemporary racism. Egypt would call for a thorough examination of such issues, she said, urging the international community to speak with one voice on all matters concerning racism and racial discrimination.
The common denominator that could not be ignored was the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, she said. Egypt could not disregard the most merciless type of racism perpetrated against the Palestinian people, who were being discriminated against on their own lands. Noting that the Durban Declaration called on the international community to condemn and move to eradicate all forms of racism wherever it occurred, she called on Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories and to return to negotiations on the basis of land for peace and of the relevant United Nations resolutions.
HAZEM MOHAMED KERKATLY (Saudi Arabia) noted that, for more than half a century, the Palestinian people had suffered from repression and Israeli occupation, which violated all basic human rights. Israel showed no regard for the value of Arab lives, having killed and hunted Arabs since the inception of the State of Israel. Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in several instances during its occupation, he added.
The Palestinian people had the right to self-determination, independence in a sovereign State, freedom and dignity, he said. Their resistance struggle was legal and legitimate, since all relevant international instruments had condemned the occupation. Israel, however, seemed to attach little importance to United Nations resolutions and the opinion of the international community.
The continuation of the chain of violence and counter-violence was a direct result of the expansion of Jewish settlements and the confiscation of Palestinian lands, he said. Palestinians were deprived of food, work and the freedom of movement, he stressed, urging the international community to support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
JUNE CLARKE (Barbados) said that, despite a history marred by the injustices of slavery, Barbados had developed into a cohesive multi-ethnic society, in which the rights of individuals were respected and the core values of tolerance and equality were held high and assured to all. It was precisely for that reason that the recent decision taken at the African and African Descendants Non-Governmental Follow-Up to the World Conference against Racism was so unfortunate. While the meeting's stated purpose had been to build on the progress achieved at Durban, the divisive resolution it had adopted had, regrettably, done little to advance the cause for which governments had fought so long and hard in South Africa.
She said that the African and African Descendants' Caucus formed on the sidelines of the Durban Conference had decided to hold a non-governmental organization follow-up meeting in Barbados. However, the conference had adopted a resolution which effectively barred persons of non-African descent from participating in their proceedings. Since the conference had been held in Barbados, the Government had found it necessary to issue a statement clarifying its position: Barbados did not support segregation in any form or racism in any guise, an appeal that, to the Government's deep disappointment, had not been acted upon. That regrettable occurrence was a reminder that there was still much to be done, she said, pointing out that past injustices against humanity could not be redressed if race was used as a basis for exclusion and segregation.
MAHFOUDH OULD DEDDACH (Mauritania) described slavery and colonialism as the roots of racial hatred and stressed that the international community should work to restore the rights of Syrian and Lebanese people living in occupied lands. Mauritania’s Constitution enshrined equality in its first article, and punished racial or ethnic propaganda. It also offered the possibility of invoking international instruments in domestic legal forums.
He expressed his country's concern at the rise of discrimination against Muslims and Arabs around the world, particularly following the tragic events of 11 September 2001. Emphasizing that the Koran stipulated tolerance, he said that all Muslims were free to have their own beliefs and consciences and that Islam promoted respect for human dignity and rejected violence.
Mauritania, aware of the interdependence of human rights, had created the position of Human Rights Commissioner in order to unify the Development Goals of promoting human rights and poverty eradication, he said. That position would be complemented by the signing of a technical cooperation agreement with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which would aim to elaborate a national action plan on human rights. Stressing the international community's enormous responsibility to follow up on the Durban Declaration, he said it must express the willingness and desire to improve the appropriate measures so that today and in the future, societies would not be faced with the scourge of racism.
SAMI ZEIDAN (Lebanon) noted that racism and self-determination were interconnected, saying that self-determination referred to a number of distinct human rights, including the right to freedom from persecution due to race. Throughout history, those rights had been violated in a number of ways, and in many places, were still denied to various people. He stressed that the main problem with Zionism in the Middle East was the occupation, not the racism. The racism, aggression, militarism and expansionism were only the outward manifestations of the occupation. Noting that racism bred hostility, and
hostility bred threat, he said that one of the things that kept governments from misbehaving was the fear of punishment, something to which one country in the Middle East was unfortunately immune.
Threat had become the name of the game, he said, describing it as a cunning game of reversal. Threat was thus attributed to hostility and hostility reverted back to racism. Concerning anti-Semitism, he said that Arabs -- a Semitic people -- had also suffered from alternative forms of anti-Semitism manifesting itself as anti-Arab discrimination. One example was the tragic events of 11 September and the resulting stigmatization of Muslims and Arabs, who were supposed to be "hand-in-glove with the terrorists". No people were better than other people -- only more heavily armed, he concluded.
Ms. KUPCHINA (Belarus) said that all the elements required to fight racism and racial discrimination were included in the Durban Declaration. The struggle must be addressed at all levels and in the political, economic and social dimensions of racial discrimination. National governments were best equipped to defeat racism and racist attitudes at the point of their inception, and to that end, all people in Belarus were equal under the law, which guaranteed freedom of religion and expression and prohibited the advocacy of racial hatred and racial violence.
She said that despite all efforts by the international community to eliminate racism, it had not ceased to exist, but had only evolved into contemporary, and in some cases, more troubling forms. The continued existence and emergence of political platforms espousing doctrines of racial superiority, ethnic exclusivity and dominance were of particular concern to Belarus, she said, noting the increasing abuse of modern technologies to spread racial hatred and xenophobia over the Internet. She called on the international community to extend every effort to hinder and eradicate such trends, and emphasized the importance of promoting changes of attitudes among the youth, particularly through human rights education.
CAROLINE LEWIS, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the agency's upcoming Global Report on the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation, under the follow-up to the Declaration on Fundamental Rights and Principles at Work, would be a major contribution to the follow-up to Durban. It was hoped that the Global Report would be instrumental in mobilizing political commitment and donor support for ILO action to combat racial discrimination at work. In the run up to the Global Report, a series of concrete activities was already under way or planned, including projects to promote equality and non-discrimination in employment of the Dalit and Roma peoples. The ILO had also extended its research on the situation of migrant workers in Europe and prepared a compendium of "good practice" on anti-discrimination remedies in that respect.
The ILO Committee of Experts had consistently emphasized that the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, national extraction and social origin was fundamental to building multicultural societies, she said. The organization continued to call upon States, not only to put in place an appropriate legislative anti-discrimination framework, but also to ensure non-discrimination in practice. That appeared particularly crucial in post-conflict situations and all the more so in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, she concluded.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that some colleagues had taken the opportunity of today’s discussion to support the cause of defamation, violence and suicide bombing. No other people but those of Israel had ever been subjected to such hatred, and no other country had been so vilified, he said. Still, after all the harsh words had been spoken, peace would come only after acts of terror had ceased.
He said that the sole damage caused by accusation and recrimination, violence and terror was that done to the cause of human rights. Cheapening language, portraying the victims of terrorist attacks as aggressors, and accusing the very people who had been victims of Nazi aggression of engaging in acts similar to those perpetrated by that regime, did not help efforts to work towards peace. The only damage was to human rights, he reiterated.
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