VIEWED NARROWLY AS RIGHT TO SECEDE, SELF-DETERMINATION COULD THREATEN TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF STATES, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

29 October 2002
GA/SHC/3708

VIEWED NARROWLY AS RIGHT TO SECEDE, SELF-DETERMINATION COULD THREATEN TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF STATES, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

29/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3708

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

29th Meeting (PM)

VIEWED NARROWLY AS RIGHT TO SECEDE, SELF-DETERMINATION COULD THREATEN

TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF STATES, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

Discussion of Self-Determination, Racism Concludes

As the General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded consideration of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination this afternoon, the representative of Liechtenstein warned that the right to self-determination, if viewed narrowly as the right to secede, could threaten international stability and the territorial integrity of States.

Thus interpreted, he continued, the right to self-determination was more likely to create problems than to offer solutions.  However, viewed more broadly as entailing various forms of self-administration and self-governance, it could offer new perspectives on peaceful coexistence falling short of secession and separate statehood. 

Many conflicts occurred because people seeking ways of asserting their distinctive identity found that they had no means by which they could give expression to their distinctiveness, he said.  As a consequence, they viewed independence as their only option, even though it was the one option the State of which they were part was likely to resist to the end –- by force, if necessary.  Such internal conflicts, whether smouldering or escalating, had the capacity to spread beyond the borders of the State in question, with consequent dangers for international peace and security.  

The representative of Armenia said that during the recent decade there had been blatant attempts to deny the right to self-determination by questioning its essence and applicability.  Referring to the situation in Nagorno Karabakh, he said an effective promotion of the right to self-determination was possible only in the framework of a democratic society, where the right of individuals to fully participate the political and public life was guaranteed.

These days the problem of defining the subject for application of the right to self-determination and the limits of this application had become increasingly sophisticated and delicate, said the representative of Azerbaijan.  One of the most difficult problems facing the international community was to find a harmonious solution linking the right to self-determination with the principle of territorial integrity of States.  Territorial integrity and political unity of independent States must be preserved, she said.

Also addressing issues of self-determination, the representative of Israel said the modern story of Israel had been defined by its struggle to defend the right to self-determination of the Jewish people.  Israel respected the rights of its neighbours to self-determination; however, the right to self-determination was not a blank cheque be used to legitimize actions undertaken in its name.  It was a right that must be exercised with respect for the rights of others to self-determination as well. 

The observer for Palestine said that in this age of decolonization, it was unacceptable that the Palestinian people continued to languish under settler colonialism imposed by Israel.  It was urgent that the international community -- particularly the United Nations -- took swift and concrete measures towards the realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  Attempts to merely calm the situation on the ground without addressing the core issue of that right would continue to fall short of a genuine solution.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Japan, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Nepal, Australia and Syria.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Pakistan, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Israel, and Armenia.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 30 October, to begin its consideration of human rights instruments.

                Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue and conclude its joint consideration of the elimination of racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination.  (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3705 of 23 October.)

Statements

KAY FUSANO (Japan) said all countries had issues of racism and discrimination to address.  Therefore, each country must implement appropriate prevention, education and protection measures, bearing in mind the general principles agreed upon in Durban.  Japan was strongly committed to fighting discrimination and continued to work to achieve a society in which each person was respected as an individual, regardless of his or her race or background.  She stressed the importance of preventing racism and discrimination, as well as promoting appreciation of cultural diversity through education.  Racists were not born, but created from ignorance and prejudice.  Japan's mission, therefore, was to combat ignorance and prejudice with education, so that young people would have respect for the dignity and worth of the human person. 

Further efforts were required to deepen mutual understanding among different races and ethnic groups.  In particular, she stressed the importance of youth exchange, as the youth of today would be the driving force behind the society of tomorrow.  Japan had been making efforts to promote youth exchanges and bring foreign students to Japan in cooperation with local governments and universities, and hoped that young people from different racial, cultural and religious backgrounds would become better able to understand and respect each other through such exchange programmes. 

                STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica) said, while it was clear that more could have been achieved at last year’s Durban World Conference against Racism, it was important to recognize that that important Conference had produced a clear acknowledgement that racism and racial discrimination were serious violations of fundamental human rights.  Another significant step at Durban had been the recognition of slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity, as well as the recognition and identification of xenophobia and contemporary or subtle forms of racism.  He said Jamaica was concerned that the reports before the Committee had emphasized an increase in discrimination and xenophobia in various parts of the world.  Migrants and refugees continued to be specifically targeted, as that trend increased.

He urged states with discriminatory immigration laws and law-enforcement activities -– including initiatives aimed at combating terrorism -– to address that issue as a matter of urgency.  Jamaica would also urge effective legal and administrative measures to curb the racist propaganda and illegal activities of extremist groups.  The continued practice of racial profiling in some jurisdictions also raised concerns and required effective and urgent action.  He said success in those efforts would demand effective action to promote universal respect for all human rights.  It would also require full implementation of the Durban documents and full attention to all victims of racial discrimination, including people of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, including appropriate reparations as outlined by those documents.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that, despite half a century since the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, it was a sad commentary on the times that racial prejudice, xenophobia and intolerance still persisted.  At Durban, Member States had sought to take a collective approach to combat racism and racial discrimination in all their forms.  The outcome amply provided the international community with a solid foundation for further action, as well as initiatives in the global struggle to eliminate racism.  But the challenge remained -- the scourge of racism manifested itself in a variety of ways like a hydra-headed monster.  National governments were responsible for weeding out hatred and intolerance.  Special efforts must be made to protect all groups of society, especially vulnerable groups.  The basic human rights of all must be guaranteed.

In Bangladesh's effort to eliminate racism, a multi-pronged approach to address its root causes was being developed.  It was necessary to carry out human rights education to increase awareness between peoples of the world.  It was also necessary to promote understanding among different races and cultures to emphasize the unity in diversity that existed in the world, he said.  Effective national measures needed to be adopted with the participation of civil society.  Finally, international cooperation needed to include such areas as the new information and communications technologies that, unfortunately, were often misused to spread hate and xenophobia.

NAFTALI TAMIR (Israel) said that for his country the equality of all human beings was a cherished ideal.  Israel had worked tirelessly, throughout history, to protect and defend the rights of its myriad ethnic and religious groups and believed that the diversity of its society was a source of richness and strength to be celebrated.  It had been dismaying that the Durban Conference, intended to serve as a major forum for the advancement of human rights and the elimination of all forms of discrimination, had turned into a platform for singling out one country -- Israel -– and an attempt to brand it as a “racist international pariah”.  The Palestinian delegation and its supporters in the non-governmental organization community and other States had permitted the travesty of Durban to transpire.  Israel profoundly regretted that an opportunity to make significant steps for human rights had been squandered on petty political objectives.  

He said the Durban Conference closed on 7 September 2001.  Four days later, fanatic terrorists, the tragic embodiment of the poisonous marriage between hateful intolerance and religious fundamentalism, turned a bright September morning into a nightmare of death and devastation.  The 11 September attacks on New York and Washington had awakened the world to many new dangers, namely threats posed by radical intolerance and lack of respect for the most basic human right of all –- the right to life.

While the United Nations had been hesitant to acknowledge it, anti-Semitism had mounted a startling resurgence over the past year.  Anti-Semitic violence and rhetoric had intensified and was on the rise around the world.  He said the trend had been clearly and frighteningly manifested in the adoption by some Arab and Muslim countries of the distinct brand of Jew-hatred that once been the sole domain of European fascists.

He added, however, that hatred of Jewish people was hardly limited to those with a distinct anti-Israel agenda.  Even in enlightened, progressive societies, anti-Semitism was no longer taboo.  If the international community could not bring itself to unequivocally condemn such hatred, why should individuals be expected to do so, he asked.  Israel would continue to support efforts to ensure that ideals of peace and justice were reached by all, and hoped that responsible members of the international community would join in that campaign.

The modern story of Israel had been defined by its struggle to defend the right to self-determination of the Jewish people, he said.  Israel respected the rights of its neighbours –- both the Arab States and the Palestinian people –- to self-determination.  Israel had no desire to dominate the Palestinians or to control their destiny.  The right to self-determination was not, however, a blank cheque that could be used to legitimize an action undertaken in its name.  It was a right that must be exercised with respect for the rights of others to self-determination as well.

MOVSES ABELIAN (Armenia) said the world map and the composition of the United Nations would have been drastically different today if, subsequent to the Second World War, several people and nations around the globe had not been given their right to self-determination -- emancipation from colonial domination and oppression to gain independence and national sovereignty, and a secure right to their own land and identity.  Despite this, during the recent decade there had been blatant attempts to deny the right to self-determination by questioning its essence and applicability

In his part of the world, people had to combat the consequences of past wrongdoing, he said.  In Nagorno Karabakh there had been both colonial domination by the Soviets and foreign occupation by Azerbaijan.  The latter had been given jurisdiction over this Armenian region illegally and unjustly by an arbitrary decision by Stalin in 1921.  As a result, during the following decades, the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh had suffered a consistent policy of discrimination and ethnic cleansing.

Democracy and the rule of law were key factors in the exercise of peoples' right to self-determination, he said.  An effective promotion of the right to self-determination was possible only in the framework of a democratic society, where the right of individuals to fully participate in political and public life was guaranteed.  It was self-evident that only a democratically elected leadership, which enjoyed a popular mandate, would be able to legitimately participate in the final negotiations that affected the status of its own people.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, observer for Palestine, said the realization of the right of many peoples to self-determination and the achievement of freedom and independence of a great number of nations were among the most important accomplishments of the past century.  During that time, the world had also witnessed the eradication of many forms and manifestations of colonization, subjugation, alien domination and foreign occupation.  Nevertheless, many challenges remained as new forms of colonization, and different faces of discrimination and injustice, had begun to emerge in many parts of the world.  In this age of decolonization, it was unacceptable that the Palestinian people continued to languish under settler colonialism imposed by Israel.

It was urgent, she said, that the international community, particularly the United Nations, take swift and concrete measures towards the realization of the self-determination by the Palestinian people.  That was a right enshrined in the Charter and embodied in many human rights instruments.  Every year that passed in which the Palestinian people were denied their right to self-determination was another year of suffering in desperate living conditions.  Attempts to merely calm the situation on the ground without addressing the core issue of that right would continue to fall short of a genuine solution.  The enjoyment of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people was essential for achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.

She said the Palestinian people were entitled to their self-determination as well as the right to establish an independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Israel must understand that the Palestinian people would not accept less than real freedom after suffering more than half a century of oppression and injustice.  Palestinians would continue to hold steadfast to their inalienable rights and continue to believe that one day they would participate as a Member State of the United Nations.  The continued occupation, coupled with constant use of military force, would not make the Palestinian people give up their legitimate struggle for self-determination and freedom.

LALA IBRAHIMOVA (Azerbaijan) focused on the situation in her country.  Azerbaijan was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country and its national policy was planned and carried out with due regard for legitimate interests of minorities.  Discrimination between human beings on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin -- incompatible with democracy and fundamental human values -- constituted a serious threat to friendly and peaceful relations among nations, and also endangered peace, security, stability and development in the world.  The issue of self-determination was one of the basic rights and fundamental principles of international law, she said.  In fact, one of the purposes of the United Nations was to develop friendly relations among nations, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. 

These days, the problem of defining the subject for application of the right to self-determination and the limits of this application had become increasingly sophisticated and delicate.  The most difficult problem was to find the harmonic solution linking the right to self-determination with the principle of territorial integrity of States.  Some minorities proclaimed their intention to achieve double, triple or multiple self-determination for their peoples.  Peoples who had already determined their destinies within their own sovereign national home-States.  Such measures were supported by means of armed aggression and occupation of territories of one sovereign State by another.  Azerbaijan believed the territorial integrity and political unity of independent States must be preserved. 

RAM B. DHAKAL (Nepal) said the notion of racial superiority was socially unjust, politically dangerous and scientifically false.  The international community must strive to ensure the elimination of all forms of racism and prejudice.  The Durban Conference had been a major leap forward for the wider international community to address the root causes of racial discrimination, xenophobia and contemporary forms of intolerance.  Nepal welcomed the fact that issues concerning the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples, women, migrants and refugees had also been high on the agenda of that Conference.  He added that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should continue to promote the implementation of the Durban documents.

He said there was a need for world governments to adopt gender mainstreaming policies to improve gender relations and promote equality between men and women at all levels, particularly in employment and access to basic services.  Nepal’s national agencies were engaged in promoting the implementation of all human rights instruments, and focused on particularly vulnerable groups, such as women and children.

JAMES CHOI (Australia) said the Australian Government was unequivocal in its opposition to racism and was committed to strong action to address it.  It remained the Government's firm view that the international community could only combat racism if forward-looking, positive and concrete measures at the national, regional and international levels were implemented.  This was the approach taken by Australia during the World Conference against Racism.  Australia had been deeply disappointed that its desire to achieve practical outcomes had been impeded by divisive political discussions. 

Australia had demonstrated that it was open to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms in its efforts to address racism issues domestically, he said.  To this end, Australia had invited the Special Rapporteur on Racism to visit Australia and had facilitated an extensive programme of meetings to provide him with a broad spectrum of views.  It had, therefore, been disappointing to note that the report presented to the Commission on Human Rights contained a number of serious errors of fact and failed to adequately comprehend complex issues, such as the process of reconciliation with Australia's indigenous people.  It was equally disappointing that the Special Rapporteur had chosen not to take into account any of the extensive comments or corrections that the Australian Government passed over prior to the report's release. 

Australia remained committed to fighting the scourge of racism and would further encourage its people to take a stand against racism, prejudice and intolerance to help build a peaceful, productive environment for future generations, he said. 

PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) said it was commonly believed that the United Nations had successfully concluded the process of decolonization quite some time ago.  Unfortunately, however, by leaving that issue behind, the organization had also turned its attention from the right to self-determination.  Sadly, self-determination was often treated as something like an “ugly duckling” in the pool of human rights.  But that principle was a prerequisite to the enjoyment of all human rights.  The potential of the right to self-determination remained to be explored to its fullest extent.  The exercise of the right of self-determination could not be equated with attaining independence –- within or outside the framework of decolonization.

Rather, it was the ongoing process through which peoples and communities freely determined their political status and freely pursued their economic, social and cultural development, he said.  Many conflicts occurred because people seeking ways of asserting their distinctive identities found they had no accepted means by which they could express their own distinctiveness.  As a consequence, they viewed independence as their only option.  Liechtenstein was convinced that, if applied in a meaningful way, the right to self-determination could contribute to stability and to preserving the territorial integrity of States.  However, viewed narrowly as the right to secede, that right was more likely to create problems than to offer solutions.  Viewed more broadly as entailing various forms of self-administration and self-governance, it could offer new perspectives on peaceful coexistence falling short of secession and separate statehood.

RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) commended the work of Special Rapporteur Diene and encouraged him to continue his important work and to discharge his duties with objectivity and purpose.  She stressed that the elimination of racism had been a top priority on the agenda of the international community for decades; however, it seemed that issue would remain on the agenda of the international community for decades to come.  It was a serious scourge, and the increase in racism was a major source of concern.  Modern media seemed to glorify one civilization over another civilization.  This feeling of superiority only caused hatred and hostility between peoples and constituted a threat to peace and stability in the world. 

She noted with concern the increase in discrimination and racism towards the Arab and Muslim world.  Sadly, racism and discrimination against them had not been properly addressed in the report of the Secretary-General on racism.  The report had also disregarded the fact that anti-Semitism was not the monopoly of one single group and religion, and that Arabs also belonged to the Semitic race.  The situation in the region was getting worse, due to the racism shown in the practices of the Israeli armed forces against Arabs in the occupied territories.  Israel's actions violated international law, and no country, Israel included, was above the law.  The United Nations had not been able to put an end to the oppression and arbitrary practices against the Palestinians.  The United Nations had not been able to come to the rescue of the Palestinian people, largely due to the lack of international pressure. 

Rights of Reply

In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Pakistan said the genesis of the Kashmir dispute rested in the denial by India to all the people of Jammu and Kashmir of their right to self-determination.  Whatever India might say, the position of the United Nations and the international community had been elaborated in relevant Security Council resolutions, which had highlighted that the fate of Kashmir rested with the people who lived there.  India remained in violation of several of those resolutions and should, therefore, be subject to international sanctions. 

He said India waxed poetic about the fights against terrorism and the fight for democracy, but the reality was that India was a place were political fascism and religious chauvinism were on the rampage.  Pakistan would reiterate its call for the establishment of an international criminal tribunal for the ghastly murders of India’s Muslims.  The political might and power of India must not be allowed to obstruct the course of justice.

Also in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Egypt commended the courage of the representative of Israel for making his statement -– one which had accused all the participants at the Durban World Conference against Racism as being out to unjustly brand Israel as a racist country, and which had also labeled all Arabs and Muslims as fascists.  The representative wondered how Arabs such as himself could be called anti-Semitic.  For his part, his Semitism did not need to be verified because his people had been living in their country for more than 7,000 years.

He said that the representative of Israel had concluded his statement by saying he respected the rights of its neighbours to self-determination and that the process of genuine negotiations could lead to peace.  The Egyptian delegation would give the Israeli representative a chance to translate noble words into deeds.  It was prepared to present its draft resolution calling for the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people through the peace process and would invite Israel to sign the list of co-sponsors to prove that he meant what he said.

The representative of Azerbaijan, exercising her right of reply, said in response to the statement by Armenia that she had clearly tried to mislead the Committee by distorting the situation in the region.  The United Nations had already recognized that situation, she said.  This Committee had passed resolutions on the situation, as well as the Security Council.

The representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, said that, unfortunately, certain delegations seemed to use racism as a political weapon and a tool, rather than seeing it as a scourge of the world that needed to eliminated.  The Palestinian-Israeli conflict might be many things, he said; however, it was not based on racism.  The exploitation of the agenda item to advance the Palestinian cause served neither the Palestinians nor the cause the Committee was here to serve. 

The representative of Armenia said the reference to Armenian aggression by the representative of Azerbaijan was totally incorrect.  The fighting in Nagorno Karabakh was not the result of armed aggression, but the forced resort to self-defence against efforts to finalize the programme of ethnic cleansing in the region.  She added that Armenia had used its good offices with the authorities in Nagorno Karabakh to help bring about a solution to the conflict.

The representative of Egypt asked the representative of Israel to define “child,” particularly what Israel considered the age of childhood for Palestinian children and for Israeli children.  He also reminded Israel that the list of co-sponsors was still open.

The representative of Azerbaijan, exercising her second right of reply, stressed that the Armenian community in Nagorno Karabakh enjoyed all its economic and social rights.

A representative of Armenia, exercising her second right of reply, said Nagorno Karabakh had never been part of an independent Azerbaijan.  Previously, it had been incorporated into the Soviet State.

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For information media. Not an official record.