|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
29th & 30th Meetings (AM & PM)
NEW COUNTER-TERRORISM LEGISLATION COULD UNDERMINE HUMAN RIGHTS,
FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD
Committee also Hears Experts on Violence Against Women;
Right to Food; Effects on Economic Reform Policies, Foreign Debt
Many States had introduced, or planned to introduce, new counter-terrorism legislation that might violate the rule of law and undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today, as it entered its last day of dialogue with independent experts on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, listed secret places of detention, rendition flights, racial profiling and the targeting of minorities, refugees and asylum seekers among examples of the negative impact of counter-terrorism measures on human rights. He also cited the erosion of fair trial standards, such as the right of judicial review of any form of detention and the right to be tried within a reasonable time frame, in many parts of the world.
He drew particular attention to the impact of counter-terrorism measures on the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. In that context, he addressed the issue of listing and delisting terrorist groups, emphasizing the need for clear and precise definitions of terrorism at the national and international levels. He also stressed that the listing of terrorist organizations should be a temporary measure and that entities subject to listing and sanctions must have recourse to adequate safeguards, including judicial review.
Despite his concerns, he noted growing support for the position that respect for human rights was a cornerstone of any successful fight against terrorism. That approach was reflected in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the General Assembly on 8 September 2006 and in the corresponding Plan of Action, which identified human rights violations, discrimination, political exclusion and socio-economic marginalization among conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.
Also addressing the Committee today was Yakin Ertürk, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Ms. Ertürk said violence against women was itself a form of terrorism, which, hopefully, could be overcome through concerted efforts. New mechanisms and legally binding international codes of conduct for transnational non-State actors, including transnational corporations and international organizations, might be required. In order to ensure the universal human rights of women, there had to be a firm stand against both occidental and oriental myths and impositions, she said.
She provided an overview of recent country visits, including to the Russian Federation, Iran, Mexico and Afghanistan. In each of those countries, she had noted that pervasive gender inequality had contributed to high levels of violence against women. In Afghanistan, which she had visited in July 2005, murder in the name of honour; tradition and religion; forced and early marriage; and domestic violence had sustained an environment of fear and insecurity for women. Despite encouraging legal and institutional changes there over the past four years, severe violence against women remained all-pervasive, she said.
Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said the number of people suffering from hunger had increased to 852 million, with a child dying from hunger and malnutrition-related diseases every five seconds. Global hunger was on the rise, despite estimates that the planet produced enough food for all, and even enough for as many as double the current world population. Hunger and famine were, therefore, not inevitable, he said, but were a violation of human rights. The majority of the hungry lived in Asia and Africa, and most of them in rural areas. Small farmers faced hunger as a result of the effects of macro-economic and international trade policies on local markets. The fight against hunger must also include fighting desertification and land degradation, he said.
Mr. Ziegler reviewed the findings from his country visits to Guatemala, India and Lebanon. He also highlighted the situation in Darfur, in the Sudan, where 2.3 million people had been displaced and many hundreds of thousands were living in camps. The World Food Programme was struggling to help the needy but resources were lacking, he said, and problems had been compounded by attacks and threats against humanitarian workers.
The Committee also heard from Bernards A. N. Mudho, independent expert on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, who provided an update on the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative launched by the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations to assist Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. While the Initiative was an important step, its impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and human rights was likely to be less dramatic than initially expected, he said. That was partly because the amount involved, around $1.25 billion per year, was a relatively modest amount compared to the $500 billion debt burden poor countries were saddled with. The Initiative also was limited in scope, involving three multilateral banks and aimed at those countries meeting established criteria, which included only 20 countries, at present.
Mr. Mudho stressed that resources provided by the donor community for debt relief should be truly additional to development aid, a principle that had not always been respected in the past. Noting that each country bore primary responsibility for its own development, he recommended the adoption of country-owned poverty reduction strategies that integrated human rights indicators. He also urged further steps towards a more favourable global trade system.
In other business, the Committee heard the introduction of a draft resolution on trafficking in women and girls, which was presented by the representative of the Philippines. She noted that the draft was intended to address the gap in existing international conventions on trafficking by specifically addressing the gender perspective. More than 1 million people were shipped across and within national borders and sold into modern-day slavery, she said, 80 per cent of whom were females.
The representative of Denmark introduced a draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as another instrument to be used in the international fight against these practices. All Member States were united in their condemnation of torture, he said, but that did not always translate into clear and positive commitment on the ground.
In the thematic debate that concluded the meeting, statements were made by the representatives of Pakistan and Lichtenstein.
The Committee will meet next at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 26 October, to take action on a draft resolution on social development and one on international drug control.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met, today, to continue its general discussion of human rights questions. For additional background, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3856, GA/SHC/3857, GA/SHC/3858 and GA/SHC/3860 of 17, 18, 19 and 23 October, respectively.
The Committee also was scheduled to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/61/L.11) and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/61/L.15).
Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism
MARTIN SCHEININ, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said there was growing support for the position that human rights was a cornerstone of any successful fight against terrorism. That approach was reflected in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the General Assembly on 8 September 2006 and in the corresponding Plan of Action, which identified human rights violations, discrimination, political exclusion and socio-economic marginalization, among conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. He noted that the adopted version of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy no longer gave rise to concerns he had expressed, earlier, in relation to freedom of expression.
The main theme of his current report to the General Assembly was the impact of counter-terrorism measures on the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. In order to clarify the applicable legal standards, he recommended that the Human Rights Committee adopt a general comment on that issue. In that context, he addressed the issue of listing and de-listing terrorist groups, emphasizing the need for clear and precise definitions of terrorism, at the national and international levels. He also stressed that the listing of terrorist organizations should be a temporary measure and that entities subject to listing and sanctions must have recourse to adequate safeguards, including judicial review. As it was primarily Member States that were responsible for the implementation of sanctions, it was their duty to arrange such judicial review, as needed, to ensure that sanctions, imposed as counter-terrorism measures, conformed with international human rights law.
He thanked the Government of Turkey for the exemplary facilitation of his visit there, in February 2006, but noted that requests for visits to countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia and the United States remained outstanding. Thematic issues, to be covered in future reports, included racial or ethnic profiling in the context of countering terrorism; the challenges posed by suicide attacks; the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the fight against terrorism; and the impact of counter-terrorism laws and measures on the right to privacy, specifically as a consequence of broadening powers of surveillance and the sharing of information between different authorities and States.
In conclusion, he noted that many States had introduced, or planned to introduce, new counter-terrorism legislation that might violate the rule of law and undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms. Secret places of detention, rendition flights, racial profiling and the targeting of minorities, refugees and asylum seekers were a few examples of the negative impact of counter-terrorism measures on human rights. In addition, the erosion of fair trial standards, such as the right of judicial review of any form of detention, and the right to be tried within a reasonable time frame were under threat, in many parts of the world, and under attack, by certain Member States.
Responding to a series of questions, posed by the representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union, Mr. SCHEININ first addressed the issue of cooperation and coordination with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders. He said he was working closely with the Special Representative, at the personal level and through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. He noted that his mandate was a complementary one, and that he had no intention of duplicating the work of other Special Procedures.
Responding to a question on the work of the 1267 Committee, established by the Security Council to oversee implementation of sanctions, covering individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he said he would work with the Committee to seek the elaboration of fair and clear procedures for listing and de-listing, in his capacity, as a member of the monitoring team. He also intended to meet with the team to discuss further ways of interaction. He welcomed the suggestion that he should work to identify “best practices”, concerning the issue of judicial review, and said that was something to be done in the future.
Asked, by the representative of Switzerland, how the existing United Nations procedures for listing and de-listing terrorist entities could be improved, he said the first step would be to stick to the principle that including someone on the terrorist list was a temporary measure that would lapse, within six to twelve months. There also was a need for independent review, so that requests, by individuals, automatically would come before a body, independent from the designating authority that would review the original listing. Regarding judicial safeguards, he noted that what was needed, were independent and adequate procedures, if not at the international level, then by Member States.
He was not challenging the sanctions regime as a whole, he said, in response to a question from the representative of Benin. Listing was a form of targeted sanctions, and so, generally, was a step forward in the overall international sanctions regime. It was the procedure for listing and delisting that needed improvement. He noted that recent Security Council resolutions had emphasized that, in implementing counter-terrorism measures, Member States must see to it that they complied with human rights law.
In response to related questions, from the representatives of Turkey and the United States, on the scope of his mandate, he said that issues such as an internationally agreed definition of terrorism and addressing the root causes of terrorism were necessary for a comprehensive approach to counter-terrorism measures. It was important to have a broad approach and to look at all aspects of counter-terrorism strategies, he said.
He had addressed the definition of terrorism, in his first report, as an important methodological point for his mandate. The lack of an internationally agreed definition of terrorism had led to huge problems in addressing the issue with States, which sometimes relied on overly broad definitions that led to abuses. His view was that the definition of terrorism should be based on the centrality of the choice of tactics, namely, attacks on innocent bystanders. In response to other questions, on the importance of defining terrorism, he said that a precise definition would help maintain the clear line, that any act of terrorism was morally and legally inexcusable, regardless of the aim. A clear definition might also help to avoid the abuse of “counter-terrorism” measures to target minorities or indigenous groups, as long as those groups did not engage in the tactics of terrorism.
Asked by the representative of Cuba what criteria he would use, in his future work on the issue of racial or ethnic profiling, he said, the study would be grounded in international human rights law, including the standards established by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and other relevant treaties. He also intended to look at national cases, with a view toward identifying best practices. He stressed that profiling should be based on the conduct of individuals, rather than on their inborn characteristics. In response to a question from the representative of Mexico, on what might help ensure that ethnic minorities were not targeted by counter-terrorism measures, he said it was important to emphasize building bridges between communities. Work to promote multiculturalism was an example of best practices, and he would seek to collect and share such experiences in the future.
Violence Against Women
YAKIN ERTÜRK, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said violence against women was a form of terrorism that, hopefully, could be overcome. The duty of States to prevent and protect women from violence had become a firmly established principle of international law. From a human rights perspective, the challenge was to tackle the root causes and consequence of such violence, at all levels. While the States had primary responsibility to ensure the human rights of each individual, new mechanisms and legally-binding international codes of conduct might be required for transnational non-State actors, including transnational corporations and international organizations.
Providing an overview of recent country visits, she said that, in the Russian Federation, which she had visited, in December 2004, women had been disproportionately burdened by political and economic transition, she said. The revival of archaic notions of gender relations had served to justify gender inequality and widespread violence encountered by women. In the Chechen Republic, there had been continuing reports of violence against women, committed by both Chechen authorities and State agents.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, which she had visited in January and February 2005, the principle of equality had been enshrined in the Constitution, and women’s access to education was commendable, she said. However, gender inequality was a salient feature of society, upheld and perpetrated by patriarchal values and attitudes and State-promoted institutional structures, based on gender-biased and hard-line interpretations of religious principles. The authorities were urged to uphold a moratorium on execution by stoning, pending the outlawing corporal punishments, such as stoning and flogging.
In Mexico, which she had visited, in February 2005, high levels of violence against women had been a consequence and a symptom of widespread gender discrimination and inequality, compounded by discrimination, based on national origin, ethnicity or socio-economic status. The Government, which had become a party to human rights treaties that provide women with protection against violence, while having taken steps to fulfil its obligations, needed to take drastic measures, to address the inadequate coordination between the federal and state levels regarding violence against women, and to make the police and justice sector more responsive.
In Afghanistan, which she had visited, in July 2005, encouraging legal and institutional changes had occurred, in the past four years, yet severe violence against women was all-pervasive, she said. Murder, in the name of honour, tradition and religion, and forced and early marriage and domestic violence, had sustained an environment of fear and insecurity for women. Globally speaking, to ensure the universal human rights of women, there had to be a firm stand against both occidental and oriental myths and impositions.
Responding to questions, from the representative of the European Union, among other countries, regarding a knowledge base on violence against women, Ms. ERTÜRK said that the question of indicators had been on the United Nations agenda for a long time, and that a lot of work had been done. She herself had been conducting a study, the results of which she would share with members of the international community, in hopes that they would contribute to efforts being made at the national level. The International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), of which she had been a director, could have a role in providing a knowledge base on gender issues.
Responding to questions from the representative of Swaziland, among other countries, regarding men, she said that a transformative approach meant change in the way that masculinity and femininity were constructed. The way forward should not be limited to rehabilitation types of programmes, as the problem was not individual men, but rather a gender ideology that allowed violence. One man could be rehabilitated, but problems would still emerge elsewhere. Taboos and taken-for-granted values had to be addressed openly; taboos would only be taboos if they were not discussed. Leaders were in a position to empower either rights or patriarchy; they had a responsibility to make their statements in a way that would question those who felt that violence was within their rights.
Responding to questions regarding a linking of her work and the Secretary-General’s report on violence against women, she said that she had some concrete suggestions, including that her mandate be amended, so that she would also report to the Commission on the Status of Women. Discriminatory law could also be studied, though that would have to be approached systematically, in order to cope with the huge amount of available information.
Responding to the representatives of Iran and Libya, regarding Sharia law, she said that violence against women was a universal problem, from which no country was immune. She said that she was not a religious scholar, but that people were not God and that religious texts could only be approached through interpretation. How could mortal beings deal with such texts to ensure the maximum protection of women, or men for that matter? Regarding women in Iran, she said that much remained to be done for their great potential to be reflected, in the aspirations of the country. Considering their high level of education, the situation of women in Iran was, today, much different than it had been in the past.
Responding to the representative of Mexico, she said that femicide would be addressed in her work on indicators.
To the representative of Libya, she said that rape had been defined as a crime against humanity, and that if he looked at her report on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he would see that she had addressed the matter of women under foreign occupation in a very comprehensive manner.
In response to the representative of the Russian Federation, she could not understand the question, which she had heard through interpretation, but she would be happy to discuss it later, outside the Committee room.
In reply to the representative of New Zealand, who had asked about disabilities, she said that that had been an issue which she had been confronted with often during her travels, that the situation of disabled women was one that had been forgotten, and that -– while protective measures had to be increased –- there had to be a change of mindset towards disability.
Economic Reform Policies and Foreign Debt
BERNARDS A. N. MUDHO, Independent Expert on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, provided an update on recent developments and the potential impact of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), launched by the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations, to assist Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). While the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative was an important step, its impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and human rights was likely to be less dramatic than initially expected, he said. That Initiative would provide beneficiary countries with an additional fiscal space of $1.25 billion per year, over and above that already granted to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative relief. That was a modest amount, compared to the $500 billion debt burden poor countries were saddled with.
The Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative also was limited, with few exceptions, to a restricted number of countries meeting conditions for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative, which included only 20 countries, at present. Moreover, the initiative was limited to only three multilateral banks -- the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the African Development Fund. Other regional banks did not participate, essentially because the donor community had failed to commit resources to compensate them for debt relief. He invited the international donor community to consider compensation for other multilateral development banks, in order to complete the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, in particular, regarding concerned Latin American and Asian countries.
Among lessons learned, he stressed that resources, provided by the donor community for debt relief, should be truly additional to development aid, a principle that had not always been respected in the past. Noting that each country bore primary responsibility for its own development, he recommended the adoption of country-owned poverty reduction strategies that integrated human rights indicators. He also urged further steps toward a more favourable global trade system.
Responding to a question from the representative of Kenya, regarding the nexus between economic reform and the enjoyment of human rights, he said, he thought it was an issue of balancing economic stability, which was the main concern of multilateral institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with pro-poor policies that were aimed at protecting the vulnerable in society. Presuming that public sector reform meant the retrenching of public sector employees, the way to go would be for a country to adopt policies that would provide safety nets for those who were retrenched, such as opportunities for retraining.
Regarding the Doha Round, he said he could not say what the impact would be. What could only be said was that, without its successful conclusion, it would not be possible to have a rules-based trading system that would be equitable to all countries. No amount of debt relief could take the place of the abilities of countries, especially developing countries, to trade and to have access to markets in developed countries. The collapse of the Doha Round could only be negative, at present.
Responding to the representative of Cuba, he said that he was not aware of any new initiative to write off the debts of developing countries, although there had been proposals, from various campaign groups, for the complete cancellation of the debts of the most heavily indebted countries. When it came to illegitimate debt, it had to be recognized that creditors and borrowers had shared responsibility, notwithstanding difficulties, in defining such debt. Regarding a shift of policy, by lenders such as the World Bank, in the past, borrowing countries had to undertake structural adjustments before they could access resources from the World Bank, for example, but over time, that policy had changed to the extent that countries had to formulate their own borrowing policies, and it was, in that way, that the evolution of poverty reduction strategy practice came into play. The World Bank’s policy, now, was to lend on the basis of pro-poor programmes that the borrowers, themselves, had put together.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
Introducing the draft resolution on trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/61/L.11), the representative of the Philippines noted that trafficking was propelled by criminal elements, poverty, armed conflict, discriminatory practices and the lack of respect for human rights. More than 1 million people were shipped across and within national borders and sold into modern-day slavery, 80 per cent of whom were females. The draft resolution was intended to address the gap in existing international conventions, by addressing the gender perspective, she said. The draft emphasized the need for counter-trafficking measures to be based on a solid human rights foundation, the need to address the root causes that encouraged trafficking, and the need for gender- and child-sensitive data collection, among other issues.
The representative of Denmark introduced the draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/61/L.15), as orally amended, which recalled that freedom from torture was a non-derogable right that must be protected, under all circumstances, with no exceptions. The draft would have the General Assembly call upon all Member States to fully implement that absolute prohibition, he said. The Assembly would call upon States to take crucial measures, for the prevention of torture, emphasizing their obligations to act in accordance with the legal principle of non-refoulement. All Member States were united in their condemnation of torture, but that did not always translate into clear and positive commitment on the ground, he said. The draft resolution, if adopted, would be yet another instrument in the international fight against the use of torture and ill-treatment.
Right to Food
JEAN ZIEGLER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said the number of people suffering from hunger had increased to 852 million, with a child dying, from hunger and malnutrition-related diseases, every five seconds. Global hunger had been on the rise since 1996, despite the World Food Summit and the Millennium Development Goals. Yet, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the planet produced enough food for all, and it could produce enough to feed 12 billion people -- double the world’s current population. Hunger and famine were not inevitable, he said, but were a violation of human rights.
He noted the heavy toll, from food crises, across Africa, adding that the effects of conflicts in Sudan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Sri Lanka also had severe impacts on the right to food, for thousands of people. The situation of the right to food remained precarious, in Myanmar and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among other countries. The majority of the hungry lived in Asia and Africa, and most of them in rural areas. Small farmers faced hunger, as a result of the effects of macroeconomic and international trade policies on local markets.
Developed countries had refused to liberalize their own agriculture, even while preaching free trade and unilateral liberalization to poor countries, he said. Dumping of agricultural products, sold at below-cost-of-production prices, in developing country markets would continue to hurt the livelihoods of millions of small farmers, in the least developed countries. He strongly encouraged that massive investment be directed toward rural development, small-scale agriculture and pastoralism to fight food insecurity. Fighting against hunger must also include fighting desertification and land degradation, and he urged all States party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to implement its provisions.
Mr. ZIEGLER reviewed the findings from his country visits to Guatemala, in February 2005, to India, in August 2005, and to Lebanon, in September 2006. Regarding Lebanon, he said that much farmland had been affected by bombing, during the war between Hizbollah and Israel, that had taken place in July-August, and those areas would continue to be affected by hundreds of thousands of unexploded bombs that made access to many fields impossible. He noted that Israel had refused to give the United Nations maps disclosing the mined areas. Referring to the situation in Darfur, where 2.3 million had been displaced and many hundreds of thousands were living in camps, he said, people were dying, as a result of hunger. The World Food Programme was struggling to help the needy, but resources were lacking. Also, the threat to humanitarian workers was an impediment to relief, with at least eight people from United Nations agencies abducted and killed. He could not say who was blocking humanitarian assistance from arriving, but stressed the need to guarantee the right to food. A solution, to ensure the safety of convoys with food aid, must be found, either at the Security Council or elsewhere.
Responding to questions from the representative of Gabon, Mr. ZIEGLER said that human rights had not won the place, in the global collective consciousness, that they should have. The United States had refused to accept certain human rights law, not out of cynicism, but from a position that the world market would ultimately absorb and resolve extreme poverty, destitution and epidemics. That was an argument based on flawed assumptions, he said. Within the United Nations, a rift had emerged, between States that accepted this new era in human rights and others that adhered to neo-liberal theory and believed that there could only be political and civil rights. The market had created exclusion and immense inequalities. Political and civil rights could not be isolated; the fight for the right to food and the right to democracy were the same.
Responding to the representatives of Egypt and Palestine, he said the situation in Gaza had been absolutely dramatic, with 15.9 per cent of people under the age of 15 permanently undernourished. More than 70 per cent of the people had only one regular meal a day, and over 80 per cent lived off foreign aid. It had become a humanitarian tragedy due, essentially, to the military closure measures of the Israeli Government. The security measures invoked had been logical, but they were a clear violation of the right to food. Damage suffered by Palestinian peasants, as a result of the wall, had to be compensated by Israel.
Responding to the representative of Ecuador, among others, he said that out of 6.2 billion people in the world, 4.8 lived in the South, in one of 122 developing countries, and that, as of 31 December 2005, the accumulated foreign debt of those 122 countries was more than $2,100 billion. The G8 commitment in Scotland to reduce the debt, was not enough; the entire debt had to go. As long as it remained at such an immense volume, it would not be possible to liberate capital for social investment, agriculture, irrigation, etc.
Responding to the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said he had asked to visit that country and had not received a response, but that he would be happy to go, to see the food situation there. A new programme had been with the World Food Program (WFP), which had been a welcome gesture, on the part of the Government, although many non-governmental organizations had refused to participate.
Responding to the representative of Libya, he said that privatization was not a solution if the public sector had been functioning well. In Washington’s view, every part of the public sector had to be privatized, but there were social activities that had to be protected by public law. Water privatization, in particular, was wrong.
Responding to the representative of Sudan, he said the humanitarian situation, in that country, had been going on in an intolerable way, producing hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. The Government had welcomed humanitarian aid, but the security of convoys had, very often, not been guaranteed in Darfur, a region as big as France. It was hoped that this problem, and indeed peace, could be resolved, very soon, through negotiations.
Responding to the representative of India, he noted that the Supreme Court of that country had made the right to food a constitutional right, and that there was jurisprudence that would enforce that right -– by way of example, compensation for persons displaced by hydraulic construction.
Responding to the representative of Brazil, he said that agriculture made up only 7 per cent of world commerce. It was the very principled position, of the Third World countries, that had brought to a complete halt the Doha Round. Very strong behind-the-scenes negotiations had been under way between the United States and the European Union, the European Union and the Cairns group, and so forth. If the Doha round did not resume, the World Trade Organization would die, which would not be a bad thing.
Responding to the representative of Lebanon, he said that the Israeli air force had bombed fuel depots, which had leaked into the Mediterranean Sea, completely polluting the coastline to an extent equal to the Exxon Valdez disaster, in 1989, among other incidents. This had meant that the ecological system of the Lebanese coast had been completely destroyed for many years.
Responding to the representative of Finland, who had asked about water harvesting, and whom he addressed as the representative of Ireland, he said that in the north of Brazil, there were more than one million tanks, with a capacity of 17,000 litres each. Those filled up, in the four months of the rainy season, providing enough water to meet the drinking and washing needs of a 15-member family, with some left over for irrigation. Such rain-fed water harvesting had to be promoted; it had proven itself in Brazil and Ethiopia.
Responding to the representative of Mali, he said locusts had been something very strange and terrible for Mail and neighbouring countries. Locusts obscured the sky, then went down into the trees; then, after 24 hours, into the soil, where they destroyed everything. A locust could eat its own weight in a day. The Special Rapporteur recalled witnessing a locust plague in Niger -- it had been very impressive. The international community had to invest in airplanes that could spray chemicals when locusts were still in the sky.
Responding to the representative of Morocco, he said that ecological refugees –- a consequence of desertification -- had absolutely no rights, under the 1951 refugee convention. The concept of ecological refugees was now being considered by Special Rapporteurs.
Responding to the representative of Algeria, he said that transnational corporations had a degree of power that no emperor or pope ever had. They had refused to submit to international human rights standards and to monitoring by the international community. Nestle, based in Switzerland, was the 27th biggest such corporation; it had more power than many Governments, in the water and food sectors. States had to order their multinational corporations to respect human rights abroad, although that effort would require a very long fight.
Responding to the representative of Israel, he said he would have liked to have gone to Israel, but could not, and therefore, he could not speak about the damage done to agricultural lands there, by Hizbollah rockets. It was a matter of Lebanese sovereignty, as to whether Hizbollah was a terrorist organization or not. The Special Rapporteur had met members of Hizbollah in the Government, while in Lebanon, who had been legitimately elected.
Responding to the representative of China, he said that country had achieved food sovereignty, having come from a long history of famine and invested in agriculture and food control. That had been very impressive, for such a large country. China had refused the neo-liberal approach in the World Trade Organization.
Responding to the representative of Myanmar, who questioned the use of the word “precarious” to describe the country’s food situation, he said that that had been the expression used by two non-governmental organizations, and he upheld it.
Responding to the representative of Libya, he said that climate change, desertification and their disastrous consequences had been multiplying. Droughts had been coming in two to three year rhythms, rather than eight to 12 years. The situation had been worsening and worsening and worsening, and the United Nations was becoming aware of the gigantic task of overcoming climate change.
Responding to the representative of Ethiopia, he said it had been the right decision for the country not to have privatized land. Until 1974, private land had been monopolized in a feudal way; it had then been nationalized in a Marxist way. After liberation, the new Government said it would not re-privatize land, so long as extreme poverty was so severe, as the temptation for a peasant family to sell, at a very low price, would be too strong.
BUSHRA REHMAN ( Pakistan) signalled her delegation’s concern about the marked absence of views by the concerned Special Rapporteurs on the rising trend of Islamophobia. Some Special Rapporteurs, including the one on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, had raised questions, of sensitive theological jurisprudence, regarding selective religions, which were completely unsolicited and beyond the purview of their mandates. Many reports on country visits had been presented in the style of a charge-sheet, she said, with a complete failure to discuss the criteria used to select the countries visited, which quite often were developing countries. She noted that the responsibilities of the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions were particularly difficult, adding that they should evenly focus on instances of State terrorism at the hands of occupying forces and indiscriminate summary killings.
Pakistan supported the recommendations of the Working Group on the Right to Development to evolve a set of criteria for the periodic evaluation of global partnerships. Her delegation also highlighted the need for a global examination on the status of implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, as recommended by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Pakistan supported the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur for the international community, under the auspices of the United Nations, to develop a common global strategy to deal with rising religious intolerance.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) focused his remarks on the work of the Human Rights Council so far, and on the relationship between the Council and the Third Committee. The Council’s accomplishments, so far, had not lived up to the expectations most Member States had, he said, adding, however, that it was way too early to pass judgement on the new body. The composition of the Council had turned out to be an essential element in the unsatisfactory results witnessed, since June, with dialogue either not taking place, or taking place only between like-minded groups and countries. Discussions across regions and interest groups that were genuinely aimed at tangible results could be helpful.
His delegation had always advocated for a very clear division of work between the Council and the Third Committee. Given that the Council was still in its infancy, Liechtenstein believed that the Third Committee should not make any decisions which would have an impact on already difficult decisions in Geneva. In particular, it should be understood that resolutions, tabled in the Third Committee, must not affect the review of special procedures, which the Council was mandated to complete by next summer. The General Assembly should take up recommendations forwarded to it by the Council, in particular, the important instruments dealing with the rights of indigenous peoples and with enforced disappearances, he said.
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