Fifty-seventh General Assembly
41st and 42nd Meetings (AM & PM)
COMMON VALUES HAVE LITTLE MERIT IF NOT TRANSLATED INTO CONCRETE, INDIVIDUAL
BENEFITS, SAYS NORWAY, AS THIRD COMMITTEE DEBATE ON HUMAN RIGHTS CONTINUES
Other Speakers Stress Need for Consistent Standards,
Respect for Cultural Diversity When Promoting Human Rights
Common values and principles were of little merit if they did not lead to concrete results benefiting the individual, said the representative of Norway, as the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its consideration of human rights questions in two meetings today.
The responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights lay with each and every State, she continued. However, States did not always honour their commitments. Unfortunately, that was at the core of many of the problems and conflicts in the world today. Human rights were thus not exclusively a national concern, but an international one. She was convinced that only through collective action could States help each other in protecting victims and promoting human rights in all parts of the world.
Stressing the importance of avoiding selectivity and double standards in the promotion of human rights, the representative of Libya said that “commonly” held values often disregarded cultural diversity and caused political insecurity. All States needed to work together to guarantee human rights through respect for cultural diversity.
Regrettably, he continued, human rights machinery and human rights resolutions of the United Nations always focused on countries in the South -- poor and developing countries. In fact, there had never been a human rights resolution on a developed country, even though human rights violations were rife there, as well. When dealing with human rights, it was necessary to apply transparency, objectivity and openness.
The representative of Iran said the process of establishing global norms needed to be premised on a firm determination to recognize and respect cultural diversity as a source of strength and mutual enrichment. States must assume the obligation of promoting understanding, tolerance, dialogue and harmony between various cultures and religions.
All nations and communities worldwide -- with various cultural, religious and historical backgrounds -- shared the concept of universality of human rights,
while maintaining their particularities and observing their specific cultural and religious values. Without respect for cultural and religious diversity, accompanied by a meaningful dialogue among civilizations, the result could very well be conflict, violence and war.
Also speaking during the two meetings today were representatives of Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, United States, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Latvia, Cuba, Libya, Venezuela, Cameroon, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Dominican Republic, Yugoslavia, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Australia.
The representatives of China and Ethiopia exercised the right of reply.
The Observer of the Holy See, as well as representatives of the European Commission (on behalf of the European Community), International Organization for Migration, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., Monday, 11 November, to continue its consideration of human rights questions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met today to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and particular human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and special representatives.
ABDELOUAHAB OSMANE (Algeria) said all humankind was concerned with ensuring human rights. Algeria believed that human rights should be examined in totality
-- not merely as civil and political rights, but social and economic rights as well. Moreover, emphasis should always be placed on ensuring the right to development, and the links between human rights and development should be recognized and promoted. Human rights and democracy -- also undeniably linked -- were not the domain of certain countries. They were rights that should be pursued and enjoyed by all members of the international community. No one country could say that it was the sole arbiter of all human rights. The Charter, as well as international human rights instruments, should not be used as tools to interfere in the affairs of others. Therefore, the United Nations approach to that end should be based on the principle of non-selectivity.
For its part, Algeria had always placed priority on promoting and protecting human rights. He said that last year Algeria had elected a pluralistic National Assembly, and the country now had democratically elected institutions. That had also led to enhancement in other sectors, particularly business and manufacturing.
Throughout Algeria's history, outside forces and terrorist actors had tried to interfere with its efforts to ensure democracy and freedom for its citizens. Indeed, Algeria had paid a heavy toll, but still worked towards the fundamental rights of its citizens. It was urgent to deal with the issue of terrorism in all its aspects. Recent events indicated that the international community should not get bogged down by political rhetoric but should move together toward addressing that serious threat.
AMNA HUMAID AL-ALI (United Arab Emirates) said despite the persistent efforts made by the international community to protect and promote human rights, daily reports in the media reported flagrant human rights violations and crimes against humanity. She stressed the need to take special measures to deal with the lack of social justice, torture, displacement and the widening gap between developed and developing countries. However, international cooperation was required to address issues, and it must take place without any politicization and without any double standards. Developing countries needed increased aid to fulfil their basic right to development.
She stressed that the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel constituted a flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedom. The Israeli occupation forces were responsible for systematic killings, detentions without trial, and displacement -- only a few examples of how Israel was violating the human rights of the Palestinian people. She called upon the international community to support the people of Palestine in their fight for their right to self-determination and added that Israel must immediately stop the violence, end the occupation and pay compensation to the Palestinian people for the losses they had suffered.
Mr. AL-SULAITI (Bahrain) said the great efforts of the King had led to many positive steps toward achieving and preserving human rights and democracy. The elaboration of a National Action Charter had led to Parliamentary elections last year, among other things. He added that thanks to the efforts of the King, the rights of women had also been improved, and today women had the right to vote and could run for political office.
Bahrain continued to promote religious and ethnic harmony, and he was proud to confirm that there were no political prisoners in the Kingdom. Overall, Bahrain would continue enhancing the rights of its citizens toward the guarantee of freedom of expression and dignity for all. Bahrain had chosen the path of dignity and would not abandon it, because ensuring human rights had always been the basis for ensuring dignity, participation and respect for all.
ELTAYEB ABULGASIM (Sudan) said the Sudan, being part of the international community, believed in the indivisibility of human rights and the need for the international community to protect and promote human rights throughout the world. He reminded the Committee that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Vieira de Mello, had focused on the importance of the rule of law in his speech earlier in the week. It was true that through constitutional, legal and social arrangements, human rights could be protected. The Sudan had taken several steps to protect human rights among different sectors of society and had enacted relevant legislation, including that concerning the establishment of Constitutional Courts and setting up of a national human rights commission.
The Sudan had welcomed the Special Rapporteur as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights to evaluate the technical needs of Sudan. In addition to previous steps taken, the Government had made progress in solving the problems of Southern Sudan through peace talks, which he hoped would pave the way for a final settlement. He urged the international community to support the peace talks between the two parties –- the objective was a just and comprehensive peace.
He stressed that some States had adopted measures in response to 11 September that were contrary to human rights instruments. Terrorism could only be fought through the respect for human rights. There needed to be a balance between national and international security and human rights and fundamental freedom.
CINDY COSTA (United States) said her country was committed to the universal principle that active support for human rights must be at the top of the political agenda. Time and again, experience had shown that countries that respected human rights were the most secure and most successful. Freedom fought terror, instability and conflict. Repression had the opposite effect. The United States was committed to cooperating with governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals to encourage democracy, promote accountability and strengthen the rule of law. During the past year, many positive changes had occurred, but there had also been evidence of some continued abuses.
She highlighted the important and sweeping changes that had occurred during the past year in Timor-Leste and Afghanistan, particularly in the areas of education and the advancement of women, as well as positive political changes in Bahrain and Morocco. The United States encouraged the Government of Qatar to forge ahead with its efforts to ensure democracy and the rule of law, and she also hoped Sri Lanka could continue to build on progress made.
Her country had also been encouraged by recent agreement on technical cooperation between the Government of Mexico and the United Nations. In 2001, she continued, Ghana had emerged as Africa’s success story. Multi-party elections had taken place, and the United States applauded the new Government's move toward democracy. Similarly, Senegal was also making strides in areas of due process and protecting the rights of the accused.
Notwithstanding those and other bright spots, there remained countries where human rights abuses continued unabated, she said. The ruling regime in Iraq continued to use torture and fear to rule its citizens. Credible reports noted that Iraq had the world's worst record for disappearances. Freedom of speech was nonexistent. Torture was routinely practiced on persons under arrest, both as punishment and as a means to extract information. The United States was also seriously concerned with the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. The number of public executions and stonings appeared to be on the rise, and punishments such as amputations and lashings had increased. Moreover the Government continued to persecute journalists and students.
In North Korea the situation had not changed -- it was horrible. She said recent reports painted a picture of horrifying brutality, oppression and injustice, most notably the persecution of entire segments of the population for speaking out against the Government. The international community must cooperate on efforts to restore peace and dignity in that ravaged country.
Cuba remained a totalitarian State controlled by President Fidel Castro, she continued. The Government continued to maintain tight surveillance on opponents to the regime and continued to detain human rights activists. In Belarus, a near total lack of accountability continued. The United States was also concerned about the as yet unexplained disappearance of journalist, Heorhiy Gongadze, in Ukraine.
Concerning Chechnya, the United States supported Russia's territorial integrity as well as its continued efforts to suppress terrorism. The United States was also concerned about the situations in Zimbabwe, as well as Equatorial Guinea, where there were credible reports that during the year, prison authorities tortured, beat and otherwise abused prisoners. Clearly, there was much work to be done. The international community must stand behind those countries that had shown the political will to recognize and protect the human rights of their people. But all must remain vigilant in publicizing the widespread abuses in other countries and that the international community would not tolerate such practices.
ALEXANDER SLABY (Czech Republic) said his country shared the view with many other members of the international community that only a society which enabled all its members, regardless of abilities, to fully participate in daily life and the society’s decision making could call itself humanistic and civilized. Not only protection of the disadvantaged, but also the patience and efforts of others to accept their ways of expression and their views on different aspects and function of the social system was what mattered here. This was the prism through which one must view the question of equal opportunities.
The Czech Government wished to be fair and open-minded, but there was still much to be done. In 1998, the Czech Republic had formulated its National Plan on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities based on the Standard Rules, and the Government had already started implementing the ideas of the supplement to these rules presented by the Special Rapporteur on disabilities of the Commission on Social Development.
The Czech Republic was aware of the obstacles faced in the struggle to harmonize the protection of human rights of persons with mental disabilities with their own health protection and with that of people from their closest environment. However, the Czech Republic was determined to achieve good results as soon as possible, he concluded.
KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that today, the United Nations was being compelled to more effectively confront various forms and manifestations of human rights violations. It was important to recognize that national sovereignty was the cornerstone of any country's efforts to ensure the enjoyment of the fundamental rights of its people. If a country was deprived of that sovereignty, it would eventually fail in that goal. With than in mind, the increasing tendency to justify the infringement of State integrity, as well as violating the human rights of aliens and the pretext of anti-terrorism activities, was a cause for increasing concern. Indeed, military action affecting civilian populations, maltreatment of prisoners of war and abusing the name of the United Nations to meet the interest of a few countries could never be justified under any circumstances.
Confrontation and mistrust between countries and groups of countries on human rights issues was mainly due to unfair and inequitable international relations, he said. Moreover, the standoff between countries as to the application of equitable human rights standards continued. All nations had unique cultures and traditions, and all were entitled to the right to independently choose and develop political and economic systems in accordance with the will of their own people.
Responding to an earlier statement by the United States, he said that country once again, in its self-appointed position as international human rights judge, had tediously listed human rights situations in other countries. It was not surprising to hear at the top of the list those countries which challenged the United States’ hegemonic policies of foreign domination and control. It was also not surprising to see that the list did not include those that were perpetrating grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
OKSANA BOIKO (Ukraine) said there was no doubt that the international community must combat terrorism in all its forms and respond to it, not only through legislative and security measures, but with the armory of common values, common standards and common commitments on universal rights. A comprehensive strategy to establish global security must be grounded in promoting respect for human rights through upholding the primacy of the rule of law, fostering social justice and enhancing democracy. Recognizing that the primary responsibility for the full enjoyment of human rights and freedoms lay with States, Ukraine did its foremost to ensure proper implementation of the principles of the rule of law, to create the conditions for economic growth and effective functioning of democratic institutions.
Regrettably, in the statement of the United States, her country had been mentioned in connection with the unresolved cases of murder or disappearance of three persons in Ukraine during last two years. There would be no case of murder or disappearance of a person in Ukraine without authorities conducting a proper investigation. International experts had been invited by Ukrainian authorities to take part in the study, not on the basis of bilateral legal agreements, but exclusively out of the goodwill of Ukraine and its strong willingness to resolve this case. She stressed, however, that it was impossible to define a strict time frame for such a complex criminal investigation.
RENATO R. MARTINO, Observer of the Holy See, said the Hole See had always defended and promoted respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people and was especially concerned that in many parts of the world, discriminatory or intolerant policies continued with regard to minorities in States having an official religion. The right to life, the right to freedom or belief and respect for religious and cultural heritage were the basic premises for human existence. The fact that there were still many places today where the right to gather for worship was either not recognized or was limited to members of one religion alone was a sad commentary on any claim to a more just and peaceful world.
Differences between religious traditions must be accepted, respected and tolerated, he said. When such respect and understanding was not realized, and when the difference in religious belief or conviction led to civil strife and war, there was a need for mutual forgiveness. The Holy See renewed its call to all women and men of faith everywhere, to commit themselves courageously to the path that led to peace, tolerance and understanding. This was an essential element to building a world in which all people could live in peace and harmony with one another.
Ms. OUEDRAOGO(Burkina Faso) said human rights in her country had their legal basis in the Constitution, which proclaimed the main civil and political rights, as well as economic and social rights. Burkina Faso had strengthened respect for human rights among its Government authorities and officials, as well as throughout its wider citizenry. It had established an independent international commission of inquiry and a committee on national reconciliation to address the serious social and political upheaval of the past.
A national department had been established to, among other things, draw up an action plan for the promotion and protection of human rights. A truly independent National Human Rights Commission had also been established. That Commission actively promoted ongoing dialogue between all actors concerned with human rights within the country. She added that ensuring that those and other efforts were strengthened and promoted, Burkina Faso would require further technical assistance for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Burkina Faso was concerned by many cases of human rights violations which currently affected African nations. Those worrisome tragedies, which included ethnic prejudice and discrimination and torture and other ill-treatment, were unacceptable, particularly following the establishment of the African Union and the successful conclusion of the Durban World Conference against Racism. She hoped the establishment of a Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights within the African Union would go a long way toward adequately addressing those problems.
AIGA LIEPINA (Latvia) said after fifty years of foreign occupation, the Latvian Government sought to build an integrated and inclusive society in which a climate of tolerance and mutual understanding among Latvia’s different ethnic and social groups was predominant. Latvia’s comprehensive Social Integration Program defined its long-term strategies in various sectors, including citizenship, language and education. This programme incorporated all the elements necessary for building a modern democracy. It was about providing opportunity across the whole range of society -- rich and poor, male and female, young and old, Latvian and non-Latvian, from the city or from the country. The programme dealt with the integration of minorities, regional integration, social integration, and increased civic participation on the basis of common values -- respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
Latvia believed that comprehensive policies to deal with the complex and cross-cutting issues in the field of human rights must increasingly come to the attention of the democracies of the world. The matter of the development of regional and subregional initiatives to advance strategies that promoted human rights was a matter of priority to Latvia. The report of the Secretary-General stressed the universality and indivisibility of human rights and clearly showed how much the work of international organizations were linked.
MOSTAFA ALAEI (Iran) said cultural diversity was a critical question confronting humankind in the twenty-first Century. Previously isolated peoples and diverse cultures were coming to the fore, making the world increasingly multicultural in the present epoch. The notion of cultural diversity was widely and frequently linked with such basic concepts as human rights, empowerment, inclusion, respect for all, tolerance and self-determination. Key elements as such were profoundly interrelated and mutually reinforcing. All nations and communities throughout the world with various cultural, religious and historical backgrounds shared the concept of universality of human rights, while stressing on their particularities and observing their specific cultural and religious values. Unfortunately, some cultures in history had entered into competition and conflict with their perceived rivals seeking to dominate and conquer them. The result was conflict, violence and war, and in some cases decline and annihilation of the assaulting cultures and identities.
He said the process of norm setting and policy making needed to be premised on developing a global vision for creating an international order in which States undertook a firm determination to recognize and respect cultural diversity as a source of strength and mutual enrichment under that vision. States would also assume the obligations to promote understanding, tolerance, dialogue and harmony between various cultures and religions; and key actors at the national and international levels would denounce and prevent stereotyping, slandering and demonizing other cultures and religions by any media or other communication technologies. Further, States and non-State actors at all levels would denounce and discourage attempts at promoting cultural conformity identified with the imposition of a particular set of cultural attributes over others in the globalizing world.
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said debate on human rights and fundamental freedoms was perhaps more necessary today than ever. The challenge posed by rampant globalization and its attendant spread of neo-liberal ideologies and unsustainable patterns of consumption required overcoming conditions in which only a minority of the world's inhabitants enjoyed the benefits espoused and supposedly upheld by all. The countries and peoples of the South continued to be the victims of such trends. Indeed they existed today as the "masters of their own poverty". In that suffering, the power, wealth and dominance of the industrialized world continued to be cemented. The rich, who continued with their irrational and unsustainable production and consumption patterns, continued to subjugate and marginalize smaller countries.
Cuba, he said, refused to accept the demagoguery of the rich, particularly while they were doing absolutely nothing to eradicate poverty that afflicted over one billion people, or ease the suffering of hundreds of millions of the world's children. Cuba was also concerned by increased political manipulation of human rights matters and instruments promoted by certain northern countries, who persisted to advocate a notion of human rights based on their own flawed models. Here, he echoed the sentiments of the former High Commissioner about politicization and block voting trends underway in the Commission on Human Rights. Those blocks had been set up by developed countries to judge and stigmatize the people of the South and did not aim to promote cooperation or even strengthen the Commission. That was mainly because the countries that had created the situation would be forced to support internationally recognized human rights norms and agreements to which they themselves refused to adhere.
Democracy, he said could only be based on the rights of people to obtain, without foreign interference, the political, social and economic freedom of their own desire. In that regard, Cuba continued to reject the persistent interference in its sovereignty by the Government of the United States. He noted with irony that the President of that country had not been democratically elected but had been appointed by manipulation of the United States Supreme Court and Constitution of the United States. While preaching the primacy of human rights, that country was a nation of corporate fraud and legalized official corruption.
MR. YAGOB (Libya) said human rights were taking on an increasing importance today, in a world which was witnessing a complex reality as a result of globalization. Violation of human rights and globalization had led to a number of economic and social rights being removed as a result of poverty and the widening gap between industrialized countries and developing countries. In that regard, he stressed the importance of developed countries increasing their assistance to developing countries to ensure their right to development and future prosperity. Globalization had set down commonly held values. However, these values often disregarded cultural diversity causing political insecurity.
All States needed to work together to guarantee human rights through the dissemination of human rights and the respect of cultural diversity. The importance of avoiding selectivity could not be overestimated, he said. The United Nations must be used to help small countries that were subjected to pressures that took no account of their historical and cultural diversity. Regrettably, human rights machinery and resolutions of the United Nations always focused on countries in the South. Never had there been a resolution against a developed country, even though human rights violations were rife there too. He added that attention was needed on unilateral coercive measures forcing countries to give up their national political rights. It was regrettable that some countries made use of these measures, ignoring the opinion of the international community.
KJERSTI RODSMOEN (Norway) said human rights were the platform for enabling people to choose and to develop their full potential. Respect for human rights, the rule of law, openness and democracy were values and principles that everyone must share. However, common values and principles were of little value if they did not lead to concrete results to the benefit of the individual. The responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights lay indeed with each and every State. However, States did not always honour their commitments. Unfortunately, this was at the core of many of the problems and conflicts in the world today. Human rights were thus not exclusively a national concern but an international one. She expressed serious concern about the situation of human rights in Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Colombia, Cuba, Central Asia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Myanmar.
The task of fully implementing human rights and living up to commitments was a challenge for all States. She was convinced that through collective action, States could help each other in this endeavour, and that all had a responsibility and an obligation to protect the victims and promote human rights in all parts of the world.
ADRIANA PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela) said her delegation had been heartened by many of the initiatives and programmes highlighted earlier in the week by the newly-appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights. Venezuela supported his belief in the need to promote cultural diversity, and particularly commended the effort to strengthen national institutions in that regard. The notion of encouraging cultural diversity as well as the rule of law was an excellent starting point to ensuring the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms for all. Venezuela also welcomed the High Commissioner's commitment to promoting the right to development.
Still, Venezuela was concerned that a political slant was increasingly being applied to human rights matters. That trend was undoubtedly to the he detriment of the main objective of providing the widest possible enjoyment of human rights for all. She said the Government had placed the highest priority on the promotion and protection of human rights. The participation of all citizens was encouraged. The recent terrorist acts in Bali and Moscow highlighted the fact that the Member States had the inescapable and mandatory commitment to fight terrorists and those that supported terrorist activity. That effort must be tackled from different angles, but emphasis must be placed on addressing the root causes, including poverty, intolerance and marginalization. The culture of respect for human rights must be incorporated into that fight.
She said that Venezuela adhered to many of the international human rights instruments and mechanisms that had been established. That spirit of openness was reflective of Venezuela's commitment to human rights. Venezuela had also taken part in the drafting of the new optional protocol to the Convention against Torture. On the regional front, the Andean Charter for Human Rights had been established last July. Such a regional instrument would provide protection of groups that were not protected by international human rights instruments.
MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said human rights contributed to each man and woman’s dignity, and the Third Committee’s work was therefore an important contribution to peace and security. The maintenance of peace pertained more to the individual than States. In seeking to preserve people from the ills of war, the United Nations had been created. Promoting fundamental rights and freedoms was a substantive process, and most States had acceded to the legal instruments that protected these rights.
However, it seemed today, that it was time to reinvigorate the spirit of Vienna in order to give further momentum to the promotion of human rights he said, stressing the importance of education in promoting, strengthening and protecting human rights. Education alone could make it possible to root human rights values within each individual. More financial support for the High Commissioner for Human Rights was required to allow the drawing up of national education plans.
All segments of all populations needed to be aware of their human rights. Only when people knew their own and others’ human rights could there be social harmony. In this connection, he stressed the importance of Cameroon’s Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in central Africa. It was necessary to promote human dignity and to preserve future generations from the scourge of war.
LASRO SIMBOLON (Indonesia) said that for the past several years, Indonesia had been undergoing a fundamental transformation of its political system, while also struggling to recover from a severe economic crisis. Despite the trying circumstances, Indonesia was gradually establishing the institutions necessary to promote and protect human rights.
Concerning the Interim Report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Timor-Leste, he said that the High Commissioner’s Office had been unable to provide technical cooperation to support the Government of Indonesia in its efforts. It was to his deep regret that technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner had not been implemented, due to the imposition of conditionalities by the High Commissioner’s Office that were extraneous to the agreements made between the Office and the Government of Indonesia.
Given Indonesia’ strong commitment to promote and protect human rights domestically, there was no doubt that his country would bring alleged human rights abusers to justice, and the Government of Indonesia had already moved forward on this matter. Indonesia was ready to resume technical cooperation with the Office without politicization and without conditionalities. Technical cooperation, including the training of judges, prosecutors and defense counselors, was vital for enhancing Indonesia’s national capacity for the promotion and protection of human rights.
PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) said not too long ago, Liechtenstein had hoped to enter an era of the primacy of the rule of law. As a small State, Liechtenstein was particularly drawn to that hope since small States in particular depended and relied on the rule of law. It was therefore with great concern that he observed a certain relaxing in the steadfastness to uphold the rule of law as an overarching principle.
It had often been said that terrorist groups aimed to destroy human rights, he said. Liechtenstein took this to be shorthand for saying that terrorists adversely affected the enjoyment of human rights. States were responsible for the implementation of human rights and consequently were held accountable for human right violations. By stating that terrorists violated human rights, they were implicitly elevated to a status under international law which was not in the interest of States determined to fight them.
If terrorists were by definition not in a position to violate human rights, they nevertheless were able to weaken States’ resolve to promote and protect human rights, as most recent development showed, he said. When neglecting human rights, States ran the risk of undercutting not only their international commitments, but also the principle of the rule of law itself. Terrorists might thus indirectly achieve what they could not actually do themselves -- destroy human rights. The protection and promotion of human rights themselves were preventive measures, for terrorism thrived where human rights were violated and the rule of law was abandoned.
MANUEL FELIX (Dominican Republic) said his country would reiterate its full commitment and devotion to all international and regional instruments devoted to the protection of human rights. It was also in the process of introducing major changes in its Governmental structure to enhance legislation in order to bring domestic policy in line with human rights norms. The Dominican Republic favoured the High Commissioner's view on tirelessly promoting democracy and the rule of law.
Education about human rights was also a key element of ensuring development, he said. He added that the Government had undertaken numerous programmes to enhance the country's legal systems and was attempting to elaborate policies and heighten awareness to human rights matters among authorities, law enforcement officials and the wider citizenry. As a small nation, the Dominican Republic had suffered from various imposed political regimes. But, today however, it was operating in the spirit of democracy and within the framework of the United Nations Charter.
PAOLA AMADEI, of the European Commission, on behalf of the European Community, said human rights and democracy were an essential element in the relationship between the European Union and all its partners, both in the framework of multilateral relations, such as the Cotonou Agreement, and in bilateral accords. Genuine elections were, indeed, an essential foundation for sustainable development and a functioning democracy. Support for election processes had become a key component of the European Union’s external relations policy. It included technical assistance to electoral authorities and to domestic non-partisan observers, as well as the deployment of European Union election observation missions. Achieving the goal of sustainable democracy required political commitment from all parties concerned.
Election observance was not an end in itself, she said. In addition to the increased confidence and transparency provided during the election itself, the purpose of observation was to contribute to the democratization process of a partner country. European Union election observation missions were, as a matter of course, seeking cooperation with other international and regional organizations observing the election process. That entailed regular exchange of information among the international community concerning observer deployment and preliminary findings, with the aim of reaching a convergent assessment on the election process. She concluded by stressing that democracy was not just about elections, but genuine elections were a necessary condition for democracy.
DEJAN SAHOVIC (Yugoslavia) said the greatest achievements of the United Nations system had been in the area of promoting and protecting human rights. From the recognition of the rights of individuals to the creation of international human rights standards and norms, the United Nations had played, and continued to play, a key role in that area. Great challenges remained, however. Human rights continued to be violated regularly and widespread discrimination, human trafficking and other social ills persisted. The recent tragic events in Bali and Moscow, as well as the events of 11 September had painfully reminded everyone that terrorism threatened the most basic human right -- the right to life. The United Nations and the wider international community must respond decisively to terrorism, as well as other human rights violations. However, that response must be in line with international law.
He went on to say that two years ago his country had embarked upon a process of society-building based on democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. To that end, a number of measures had been undertaken and tangible results had been seen. At the national level, the law on criminal procedure had been amended, with a view towards strengthening the protection of human rights in all phases of criminal procedure. A law on religious freedoms had also been adopted and a law on the ombudsperson was being prepared, with adoption expected by the end of the year. The Federal Assembly had adopted a law on the protection and freedoms of minorities, which guaranteed individual, as well as collective, rights to members of national minorities. The Government was also in the process of concluding bilateral agreements with neighbours, and relevant ministries were currently working on a strategy for the integration of the Roma people.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that in his view, all of the global challenges facing the United Nations had a human rights dimension, whether it was the international response to terrorism, the existence of armed conflict in various parts of the world, the crisis of migrant smuggling and people-trafficking, the scourge of HIV/AIDS, or the continued existence of extreme poverty. These were transnational issues that required multilateral engagement. It was crucial to not allow human rights and fundamental freedoms to be denied on the basis of such things as sex, political values, religion, nationality, ethnicity or culture. Human rights could only be upheld through the improvement of the implementation of the international human rights instruments. New Zealand therefore urged all States to ratify these instruments and to fulfill their reporting obligations.
He welcomed the adoption of an Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which would establish an international inspection system to prevent torture. The New Zealand Agency for International Development/Nga hoe Tuputupu-mai-tawhiti was committed to the achievement of a safe and just world, free of poverty, and recognized that development underpinned human rights. In promoting good governance, it also recognized the invaluable role of civil society and “human rights defenders”.
Good governance also meant upholding the rule of law, he said. In that connection, the current global focus on the abolition of terrorism must not override the obligations of all States to protect and promote human rights. He went on to comment on certain situations in particular countries, including Zimbabwe, Iraq, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the Sudan, Chechnya, Nigeria, Myanmar, China, Iran and Afghanistan and Cambodia.
MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) said the democratic process in Kazakhstan was irreversible. She emphasized that the people of Kazakhstan had achieved many positive results in the establishment of a democratic society, with an active civil society. Such a society could not be established without certain attainments in setting up a market economy; among them internal stability, macroeconomic stabilization, inflation suppression, establishment of an effective financial system, and successfully implemented privatization.
Kazakhstan had one of the best records in attracting foreign investments to the national economy, she said. Economic growth in the last two years was 24 per cent. She stressed that a decent standard of living, adequate nutrition, health care, education, decent work and protection against calamities were not just development goals, but human rights. The process of democratization of political life in Kazakhstan was being implemented in several major directions, including the establishment of an independent and efficient judicial status, widening of the credentials of the representative authorities, improvement of election legislation, and strengthening of the civil society institutions.
SAMI ZEIDAN (Lebanon) said his country was convinced that sustainable progress for any State was based on the principle of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms within its own borders and throughout the wider international community. Flowing from that, Lebanon could not but condemn the continued violence and escalating violation of human rights taking place in the Palestinian occupied territories. The international community must ensure that Israel complied with all relevant Security Council resolutions on that issue, as well as those pertaining to Lebanese detainees.
He went on to say that Lebanon believed that providing the widest possible distribution of information on human rights matters was critically important. With that in mind, he stressed the need to ensure that human rights educational materials were translated into Arabic and other languages in a consistent manner. He also said that Lebanon would continue to work to raise awareness, with the promotion and protection of human rights. Human rights were rooted in human knowledge and experience, and the effective promotion of those rights would provide intellectual progress that would shape the philosophical environment for generations to come.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said the scourge of terrorism continued to shake the world. Last year’s General Assembly had been held in the immediate shadow cast by the horror of 11 September. This year, the General Assembly had met with its worst fears about the spread of international terrorism recently confirmed by the bombings in Bali. In the increasingly insecure global environment, it was important to remember the fundamental principle that recognition by government of the inherent dignity, and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, was the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
While Australia was heartened by a growing appreciation around the world that the observance of human rights must be built on the bedrock of good governance and strong and accountable democratic institutions, there was still a long way to go, he said. Australia remained firmly committed to engaging with governments everywhere to further promote that understanding. At the same time, he expressed concern about the human rights situation in Indonesia, Iraq, Zimbabwe, China, Burma, West Bank, Gaza and parts of Israel, Iran, Cambodia and Sudan. In such uncertain times, the international community must not lose sight of the continuing need to pressure governments to recognize and uphold the basic human rights of their citizens. Respect for human rights was the foundation of a peaceful society, and only those societies could contribute to a more peaceful world.
ROBERT G. PAIVA, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said some 175 million people today resided outside the country of their birth or nationality. All were international migrants of one type or another -- whether living abroad voluntarily, or forced by circumstances beyond their control, or seeking a better life or simply a different one. The international community must take a holistic view of migration, one that went beyond purely economic analysis and incorporated the social, cultural and human aspects of the global phenomenon. In that way, the problems related to today’s migration flows could be addressed effectively and humanely, and the positive contributions of migration could be maximized.
Prior to 11 September 2001, there had been a positive trend towards greater focus on successful integration of migrants in multicultural host societies, and the opening of legal migration channels to match labour market need, he said. After 11 September, there had been a decided shift to focus on national security, often at the expense of migrant rights. He felt strongly that, while the fight against terrorism was imperative, the vast majority of persons moving around the globe did so for valid reasons. There was, therefore, a need for better management of migration, in a way that would highlight the positive aspects of migration, reduce exploitation and ensure migrants access to equality of justice and civil liberties.
PREBEN MARUSSEN, Special Advisor for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said his agency was in the process of working with its partner members to set the agenda for its next international conference. That conference would be held in December 2003 in Geneva and would provide an occasion for governments and national societies to sit together to reinforce their faith in the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, namely, humanity, neutrality, impartiality, independence, unity, universality and voluntary service.
He went on to say that vulnerability took many forms and the vulnerability of children was one of the Federation’s most pressing and urgent concerns. There were few sights more moving than children living in communities that had been devastated by the AIDS virus. In such communities, stigma, silence, denial and discrimination undermined prevention, care and treatment efforts and increased the impact of the epidemic on individuals and families. With much work remaining in that area, the Federation had launched a global anti-stigma campaign, utilizing the resources of more than 60 national Red Cross and Red Crescent agencies. Together with partners in the non-governmental organization community, the Federation would work to encourage all those responsible for the care of people affected by HIV. The rights of all children, particularly street children, were almost entirely ignored, especially when their circumstances were aggravated by their connection with the epidemic.
Right of Reply
The representative of China, in right of reply, said that the speech of the United States had been filled with offensive rhetoric, going against the trend of promoting human rights through understanding and dialogue. In terms of content, the rhetoric was the same as that of 10 years ago, despite the progress of the last decade. There had, unfortunately, been lesser progress in the temperament of statements made by the United States.
China had made economic and political achievements, and enjoyed its best human rights record ever, he said. Dialogue on human rights issues did not mean the unilateralism practiced by the United States. It was undemocratic for the United States to impose its social system, way of life and values on others. He advised a little less arrogance and prejudice, a little less attack and confrontation, and more constructive dialogue and understanding.
Also in right of reply to the statement made earlier by Norway, the representative of Ethiopia said his delegation appreciated Norway's welcoming the progress made in the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, he was disappointed with the manner in which the representative of Norway had tried to portray the human rights situation in his country. The human rights situation in
Ethiopia could not be explained away or characterized with the stroke of the pen. His country had exerted tremendous efforts to promote and protect the human rights of its people.
Those who followed the events in Ethiopia consistently and objectively were aware of that. He went on to read a portion of Ethiopia's Constitution, saying that his country did not need any lectures about its human rights record. Ethiopia would continue to promote the human rights of its citizens and he challenged any developed country, including Norway, to say that they were free of human rights violations.
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