GENERAL EFFORTS CALLED FOR TO ELIMINATE ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, WITH FOCUS ON ENDING IMPUNITY, UNDER TEXT APPROVED BY THIRD COMMITTEE

6 November 2008
GA/SHC/3936

GENERAL EFFORTS CALLED FOR TO ELIMINATE ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, WITH FOCUS ON ENDING IMPUNITY, UNDER TEXT APPROVED BY THIRD COMMITTEE

6 November 2008
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3936
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Third Committee

38th Meeting (AM)


GENERAL EFFORTS CALLED FOR TO ELIMINATE ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN,


WITH FOCUS ON ENDING IMPUNITY, UNDER TEXT APPROVED BY THIRD COMMITTEE


Also Approves Drafts on International Year of Human Rights Learning;

Role of Ombudsman, Other National Institutions in Protecting Human Rights


The General Assembly would call for greater efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, with a focus on ending impunity, by the terms of one of three draft resolutions approved by consensus today by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).


Violence against women and girls persisted in every country in the world and was a major obstacle to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, said the representative of Belgium, speaking also on behalf of the Netherlands, the two main sponsors of the draft.  The General Assembly had shown the “necessary leadership” by adopting resolutions on the issue of violence against women in its previous two sessions.  The current draft was now being put forward to give concrete follow-up to those resolutions. 


More specifically, the draft would have the General Assembly call on the international community to support national efforts to promote the empowerment of women, gender equality, and the development and implementation of national action plans on the elimination of violence against women and girls.  At the same time, it would urge States to continue developing national strategies and more systematic, comprehensive, multisectoral and sustained approaches, by using best practices to end impunity and a culture of tolerance towards violence against women.


While the draft was approved by consensus, revisions to a paragraph referencing the contributions of the International Criminal Court were cause for concern among some delegates, including some of those co-sponsoring the draft.  The nine delegates who spoke on the issue voiced their unanimous support for the role of the International Criminal Court in ending impunity for acts of violence committed against women. 


The second draft resolution approved today was a text on the role of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights.  The representative of Morocco, the draft’s main sponsor, said the text would send a note of encouragement to the ombudsmen and mediators who were working in over 120 countries.  Following its approval, France’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, emphasized the contribution civil society and non-governmental organizations could make to the functioning of national human rights institutions. 


The draft resolution on the International Year of Human Rights Learning, also approved without a vote, addressed “illiteracy in the field of human rights”, according to the representative of the draft’s main sponsor, Benin.  Such illiteracy manifested itself in the actions of individuals who might understand the universal principles of human rights, but did not apply them in their daily functions within their communities.  By a General Assembly resolution adopted in the sixty-second session, Member States decided that the year beginning 10 December 2008 would be proclaimed the International Year of Human Rights Learning and would be devoted to activities to deepen human rights learning.  The current draft resolution would urge Member States to develop regional, national and local programmes of action aimed at broad-based and sustained human rights learning at all levels, along with international strategies towards the same end.


Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of 11 draft resolutions, including one on the situation of human rights in Iran.  The representative of Canada, introducing the draft, said the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, introduced to the Committee last month, had clearly noted Iran’s inadequate record of cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  In response, Canada was tabling the current draft resolution, along with 41 co-sponsors, to reflect the Secretary-General’s findings.  Member States had a collective responsibility to call attention to serious situations and the Third Committee -- as the only body with universal membership responsible for addressing human rights issues -- must live up to its responsibilities in that regard. 


While recognizing the right of any delegation to raise issues of relevance to the Third Committee, the representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Committee should focus on policy-oriented discussions, so as to guide the international community and the Human Rights Council on ways to further enhance the promotion and protection of human rights.  The consideration of country situations should take place within the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review Process, which enabled the United Nations to act with impartiality, prudence and consistency.  The draft resolution introduced would, therefore, undermine the authority of the Human Rights Council and would hinder the smooth functioning of the Universal Periodic Review process. 


Other draft resolutions introduced today included texts on missing persons, the right to food, and human rights and extreme poverty, as well as a draft on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights.  Drafts on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; respect for the right to universal freedom of travel and the vital importance of family reunification; the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; and equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies were also introduced.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 11 November, to hear the introduction of draft resolutions relating to social development, advancement of women, indigenous issues, crime prevention and criminal justice, and international drug control, and to take action on a number of draft resolutions already introduced.


Background


The Third Committee met today to take action on three draft proposals and to hear the introduction of 11 draft resolutions.


Before the Committee was the draft text on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/63/L.12/Rev.1).  That draft expresses concern about the continued level of impunity for acts of violence against women worldwide and would have the General Assembly urge States to end such impunity by prosecuting and punishing all perpetrators.  At the same time, it calls upon the international community to support national efforts to promote the empowerment of women, and invites the Bretton Woods institutions and calls on United Nations bodies to intensify efforts.  The draft would also have the Assembly recognize that violence against women and girls persists in every country in the world and that was a major impediment to achieving internationally agreed development goals, in particular the Millennium Development Goals.


The draft resolution on the role of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/C.3/63/L.20) would have the General Assembly recognize the important role those persons and institutions played and underline the importance of their autonomy and independence.  It would also have the Assembly encourage Member States to consider the creation or the strengthening of such roles and to give serious consideration to implementing the recommendations and proposals of their Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions, with the aim of addressing claims of the complainants, consistent with the principles of justice, equality and rule of law.  The draft includes a request that would have the Secretary-General report on the implementation of the resolution at the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly.


The draft text on the International Year of Human Rights Learning (document A/C.3/63/L.24), also before the Committee, recalls General Assembly resolution 62/171, which proclaimed the year commencing on 10 December 2008 the International Year of Human Rights Learning, and would have the Assembly reaffirm its conviction that every woman, man, youth and child can realize his or her full human potential through learning about all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It would also have the Assembly urge Member States to develop international strategies and/or regional, national and local plans of action aimed at broad-based and sustained human rights learning at all levels, in coordination with civil society, the private sector, academia and parliamentarians, and with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council.


The Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of a number of other draft resolutions, including draft texts on:  the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/C.3/63/L.25); human rights and extreme poverty (document A/C.3/63/L.27); globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/C.3/63/L.28); the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/63/L.29); missing persons (document A/C.3/63/L.36); the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/63/L.40); the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (document A/C.3/63/L.41); the right to food (document A/C.3/63/L.42); respect for the right to universal freedom of travel and the vital importance of family reunification (document A/C.3/63/L.43); the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (document A/C.3/63/L.44); and equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies (document A/C.3/63/L.45).


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The representative of Austria, introducing the draft resolution on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (A/C.3/63/L.25) and speaking on behalf of the co-sponsors of the draft, said that the effective promotion of minority groups would contribute to overall political stability and peace and could only be achieved through tolerance, mutual understanding and effective pluralism.  The subject of the draft text before the Committee was of particular importance and, as such, Austria had traditionally presented this resolution in the General Assembly.


In the past, she said the resolution had often been adopted by General Assembly by consensus.  The current draft contains updates on the work of the High Commissioner and the Independent Expert in regard to the promotion of the rights of minority groups.  In closing, she said that the contributions made during the broad consultations undertaken over recent weeks would be included and result in a revised version of A/C.3/63/L.25 and expressed her hope that such a version would be approved and adopted without a vote.


Introducing the draft resolution on human rights and extreme poverty (A/C.3/63/L.27), the representative of Peru said that the problem addressed in the text of the draft was at the very centre of the commitments States had agreed upon at different world summits, including the commitments enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals.  The draft reaffirms that extreme poverty and exclusion were “an attack on human dignity itself” and that meeting such a challenge would require the implementation of coherent policies over the long term, such as the strengthening of State capacities.  The draft also recognizes the need to promote human rights and the importance of considering human rights issues in all efforts to combat extreme poverty.  In addition, the special needs of women, children, and indigenous groups living in extreme poverty is mentioned.  The draft calls on the international community to undertake greater efforts to meet the needs of those living in extreme poverty, and he expressed his hope that, as in the past, the draft resolution would illicit a positive response from Member States


The representative of Egypt, introducing the draft resolution on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/C.3/63/L.28) on behalf of the 59 co-sponsors, said that the growing number of co-sponsors adding their names to the draft over the years attests to the growing impact of globalization on humanity.  The draft text was not intended as an effort to pass value judgements on the phenomenon.  Rather, it was an attempt to grasp the multidimensional aspects of globalization, including resulting changes in technology and other fields.  It also attempts to asses the impact of the rising global food, fuel, and financial challenges:  “The Three F’s”.  While noting that some persons wished to call those “Three F’s” crises, “this is not a call for panic”, he said.  The greatest challenge now was to find a way to not add another “F-word” to the other three:  failure.


Continuing, he said that the draft text was an honest attempt to assess the impact of globalization on humanity, in the hope that a greater understanding of those impacts would help the international community better meet those challenges.  The preambular section accentuates the need to further explore the myriad effects of globalization on the enjoyment of human rights, while accentuating the need to explore further.  It also highlights the primary role of the State in the promotion and protection of human rights, and the effects of globalization on such a role.  The operative section addresses a number of issues including, among others, the need to mainstream and address migration in the context of globalization.  It also underscores the right to development as a key concept in the international human rights agenda.  He expressed his hope that the reflections made by many States in the Secretary-General’s past reports, and in his future reports, would help to enhance the worldwide understanding of globalization and would help to avert the negative aspects of that phenomenon.


The Committee then turned to the draft text on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (A/C.3/63/L.29), introduced by the representative of Gabon.  Speaking on behalf of Economic Community of Central African States, he said the Centre had had a hand in building the capacity of States in the subregion to promote and protect human rights, by supporting the national creation of mechanisms for the protection of those rights, as well as by contributing to raising awareness about instruments related to human rights.  In addition, the Centre worked to foster democracy, rule of law and conflict prevention, and was playing a role in promoting peace and sustainable development.  Its activities were of great importance to the subregion, given that it was marked by various crises and conflicts.  He was pleased that General Assembly resolution 62/221 had made available additional funds to allow the Centre to carry out its mission.  He also expressed gratitude to countries that had contributed to its drafting, and hoped that the Committee would approve the text by consensus.


Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution on missing persons (A/C.3/63/L.36), which was introduced by the representative of Azerbaijan.  He said consultations on the text had created an opportunity for open and constructive dialogue on the issue, involving all interested delegations.  He thanked those delegations that had extended their support to the draft, as well as others that had actively participated in its preparation.  The text had been based on General Assembly resolution 61/155, adopted without a vote at the sixty-first session and by relevant resolutions adopted by consensus by the then Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council since 2002.  All previous resolutions had received broad support and had contributed to increased attention to the problem of missing persons, and on the need to take steps to address that phenomenon.  The text would reaffirm the right of families to know the situation surrounding missing relatives, and would call on States to take appropriate measures to that end.  The phenomenon of missing persons, especially in connection to armed conflict and where the disappeared persons had been made victim of serious human rights violations, had a negative impact on efforts to end conflicts.  The draft stressed the need to address missing persons as part of the peacebuilding process and rule of law mechanisms, in a manner that was transparent and involved participation from the public.


The draft also touched on recent developments regarding the issue, he said, including those mentioned by the Secretary-General in his report on the matter (document A/63/229), and at a panel discussion in September held within the framework of the Human Rights Council’s ninth session.  The text referred to forthcoming activities in that field, undertaken by the High Commissioner on Human Rights and by the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council in its study on best practices on the problem of missing persons.  Given the importance of ensuring follow-up on the issue of missing persons, he said he would appreciate if all Member States would extend their full support to the text.


Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran (A/C.3/63/L.40), introduced by the representative of Canada.  He said a year had passed since the Assembly had adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in that country, at which time it had expressed serious concern and called on the Secretary-General to produce a report on the matter.  The Secretary-General had duly issued a report last month (document A/63/459), which, while noting some positive developments in the country, had confirmed, with supporting evidence, the persistence of matters of serious concern, as had been previously identified by the General Assembly.  He referred the Committee to that report for further detail on issues involving torture, cruel treatment and punishment, the execution of juvenile offenders, public executions, treatment of minorities, harassment of women’s rights activists and so on.  He also referred delegates to the text of the resolution.


He added that the report had clearly noted Iran’s inadequate record of cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  Pages 18 to 20 of the English version of the report had discussed a lack of cooperation with the special procedures and treaty bodies.  It was in response to those situations that Canada had tabled the resolution, along with 41 co-sponsors.  The text had been clearly drafted to ensure accuracy and to reflect the Secretary-General’s findings.  As members of the United Nations, States had a duty to promote the protection and the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It was their collective responsibility to call attention to serious situations.


He said the Third Committee, which was the only body with universal membership responsible for addressing human rights issues, must live up to its responsibilities.  It must now consider the Secretary-General’s report and take action on it.  It must further resolve to bring those concerns into question in a manner that lent consistency to its actions.  Indeed, the text contained references to the roles of both the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee.  He noted that, when the General Assembly created the Human Rights Council, it never decided to abdicate its own role in the realm of human rights or that of the Third Committee.


Rather, he added, the Human Rights Council was meant to strengthen the United Nations work in that field, not to weaken it or to diminish the responsibility of the General Assembly.  While he was supportive of the Universal Review Process, he pointed out that reviews of every country took place only every four years.  He said it was meant as an additional mechanism, not a substitute.  The Third Committee, Human Rights Council and others all had a role to play in upholding human rights, and States must cooperate with each body and ensure that each fulfilled its role.  He voiced hope that States would join the co-sponsors of the draft in giving the report the consideration that it merited, and to join in supporting the resolution.


The representative of Iran took the floor, but was interrupted by the Chair, who recalled that it was the Committee’s practice not to engage in a debate after the introduction of a draft resolution.  Member States would have the opportunity to make statements when the Committee moved to take action on the draft, he said.


The representative of Iran said that, while he fully respected the Chair’s ruling on matter, the representative of Canada, introducing the draft, had made statements that included observations beyond the content of the resolution.  He had alluded to a “principal viewpoint” on how the United Nations should function, which did not belong to the procedure or process used in the introduction of draft resolutions.  As such, he felt entitled to respond to those statements, especially since his country was the subject of that draft.  He, therefore, sought the Chair’s indulgence to allow him to continue with his remarks regarding comments and content of that draft.


The Chair once again sought the cooperation of the representative of Iran in following the Committee’s established practice.  He again reminded the representative that opportunities would be given to all States to express concerns with respect to elements contained in the resolution or interventions made regarding it.  But, he asked that the representative refrain from doing so at this juncture, so as to allow the Committee to proceed with its work in an orderly manner.  He assured the representative that time would be made later to discuss the substance of the resolution according to the procedures of the house when the draft came up for action, as well as during informal consultations on the draft.


The representative of Iran asked if it was possible for him to speak at the end of the session in the form of a right of reply or through any other procedure that the Chair deemed fit, to which the Chair responded that he would agree to a right of reply at the end of the session.


The representative of Argentina then introduced the draft resolution on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (A/C.3/63/L.41), on behalf of the co-sponsors of that draft.  The text of the International Convention referred to in the draft was the result of a long series of negotiations and had been adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December 2006.  The new draft resolution supports a national process for the establishment of that Convention and calls on States to consider signing or ratifying the Convention, if they had not already done so, as a priority.  It also calls for a report on the status of ratification.  She acknowledged the strong cooperation and positive spirit of the consultations held over the draft text in recent weeks.  Such cooperation had been shown by both signatory and non-signatory States, and she expressed her hope that the draft resolution would be approved and adopted by consensus.


The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft resolution on the right to food (A/C.3/63/L.42), said that the draft text was an initiative that Cuba traditionally presented, on an annual basis, and one that regularly received the broad support of Member States.  Currently, the world was experiencing a “most severe” food and financial crisis that had a very negative impact on the enjoyment of the right to food, especially for those living in the countries of the South.  The number of hungry persons had increased to 923 million people worldwide.  For the first time, the new Human Rights Council held a special thematic session to study the “enormously important” question, and she acknowledged the rapid and effective reaction of the Council in that regard.


Continuing, she said the consideration of the right to food in the Third Committee must continue to be done in a holistic manner.  As such, the draft text before the Committee does not refer solely to the current food crisis but also gives a longer-term overview of the right to food.  The draft also refers to other aspects of the right to food, including the need to expand food production, intellectual property rights in respect to the fulfilment of the right to food, and South-South cooperation, among other issues.  Because of the severity of the food crisis in 2008, she respectfully requested that other Member States beyond those that traditionally gave their support consider co-sponsoring the draft.


Cuba’s delegate also introduced the draft resolution on the respect for the right to universal freedom of travel and the vital importance of family reunification (A/C.3/63/L.43), which she said was traditionally presented on a biannual basis.  Cuba, along with many other nations in Latin America, noted with great concern reports that some countries had adopted policies that increased the restrictions imposed on documented migrants in relation to family reunification.  The draft calls upon States to abstain from adopting such measures, especially those that negatively impacted on the right of foreign nationals to send remittances to their families in their countries of origin.  She said the draft contained minimal changes from pervious resolutions, as the problem continued to exist.


The third draft resolution introduced by Cuba, on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (A/C.3/63/L.44), affirms that all individuals had the right to a democratic and equitable international order, which would encourage the realization of human rights for all.  The draft addresses the permanent sovereignty over natural resources and wealth, as well as the right of all peoples to development.  As mentioned in reference to the draft resolution on the right to food, the current food and financial crises had reduced the effective enjoyment of human rights by all.  As such, she called on Member States to join the current co-sponsors of the draft and to reaffirm their commitment to implement a more fair and equitable international order for all persons.


Action on draft resolutions


The representative of Belgium, speaking also on behalf of the Netherlands, reminded the Committee that, earlier in the year, his delegation had introduced the draft resolution on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (A/C.3/63/L.12/Rev.1).  Before moving to take action on that draft, he made a number of minor oral revisions to the text, including one that would see the re-wording of operative paragraph 18, so that it would read:  “Stresses the contribution of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals through ensuring accountability and punishing perpetrators of violence against women, as well as the contribution that the International Criminal Court can make.”


Violence against women and girls persisted in every country in the world and was a major impediment to achieving gender equality, development, peace, and the Millennium Development Goals, he said.  Two years ago, when the General Assembly adopted resolution 61/143 by consensus, and last year, when it adopted resolution 62/133, the Assembly showed the necessary leadership for the serious problem of violence against women.  In an effort to give concrete follow-up to those resolutions, the Netherlands and Belgium, with the support of France, had proposed the draft text, which gave a focus to the fight against impunity and the culture of tolerance in respect to violence against women.  The draft urges States to develop national strategies and a more consistent, multisectoral and sustained approach to the issue, while making use of best practices.  The draft also calls on the international community and the United Nations system to support those national efforts.  It also welcomes the work of United Nations bodies, programmes and specialized agencies on the issue and the launch of the Secretary-General’s campaign to put an end to violence against women.  Participants in the open informal consultations undertaken over recent weeks had shown a great deal of flexibility, with a view to achieving balance on an important issue for all parties.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution, as orally revised, by consensus.


Speaking in explanation after adoption of the text, the representatives of Costa Rica and Liechtenstein both expressed their concerns regarding the changing of the wording of operative paragraph 18, which had been orally revised.  While both delegations supported the resolution and joined the consensus, both felt that the contribution and support of the International Criminal Court should be recognized.  The representative of Liechtenstein said her delegation also objected on procedural grounds, due to the manner in which the text had been revised.


The representative of Israel expressed his delegation’s dissatisfaction on the language introduced in operative paragraph 12 of the resolution.  His delegation supported a clear statement referring to gender-based violence and that remained his delegation’s understanding of that paragraph.  He regretted that Israel’s concerns were not reflected in the text but, in a spirit of cooperation, his delegation had decided to join the consensus.


The observer from the Holy See welcomed the resolution, which rightly recognized that all violence against women and girls should be eliminated.  Failure to address such acts would be a violation of international law and a breach of the responsibility of each State to protect its citizens.  He said the Holy See would continue to provide support -- both physical and spiritual -- to all victims of such violence.


The representative of Japan said her Government had undertaken the utmost effort to address the issue of violence against women and, as such, had joined the consensus on the draft resolution.  However, she noted that her delegation’s understanding of operative paragraph 11 was that the contents of that paragraph did not conflict with the principle of discretionary prosecution, which was an established part of the national legal system.  At the same time, the implementation of operative paragraph 11 would be conducted in a way to ensure the full protections for victims.


Like Costa Rica and Lichtenstein, several other speakers expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which changes were made to operative paragraph 18, including the representatives of Brazil, Slovenia, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Venezuela and Sweden, each of whom expressed the belief that the International Criminal Court could make an important contribution to ending impunity with regard to violence against women.  The representative of Venezuela further added that the acceptance of such last minute changes to the text of draft resolutions would not set a precedent for future negotiations.


Drawing attention to operative paragraph 12, the representative of Colombia said his country had interpreted the reference to “the international community” as not affecting the role of States to respond against and prevent human rights violations in their territories, and when investigating, charging and punishing those responsible for violating such rights.  Indeed, Colombia had made some proposals with regard to that paragraph which had not been appropriately considered, due to shortage of time.  The term “as appropriate”, which appeared in the English version of the text, should be reflected in the Spanish translation.


Speaking in explanation of position after action, the representative of the United States drew attention to operative paragraph 4, which referred to the Secretary-General’s report on rape in conflict situations.  The Assembly had called on the report to identify situations in which rape was used to advance political and military objectives, and she voiced regret that that report had said little about that practice.  She went on to say that operative paragraph 12 contained “politicized language” and was an example of “legal imprecision” that would seem to detract attention from the need to stem violence against women and girls.  In relation to operative paragraph 13, which would stipulate that amnesty should not apply to crimes of sexual violence, she took the phrase “killing and maiming” to refer to deliberate acts targeting women and girls.  With regard to operative paragraph 18, she said as the International Criminal Court had never tried or convicted a single case, it could not be said to have had a significant role in ending impunity.  Finally, she said her Government did not consider references in preambular paragraphs 3 and 4 to the Beijing Declaration, the International Conference on Population and Development and their reviews, to create or recognize the right to, or constitute support for, abortion.


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The representation of Cuba introduced the draft resolution on the equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies (A/C.3/63/L.45), which had been omitted during the introduction of the other draft texts.  She said that the resolution called on State signatories to treaties to undertake measures to ensure the equitable geographical distribution in the membership of human rights treaty bodies.  For Cuba, that was an important issue, since such action would help strike a better gender balance within those bodies, would reinforce the principles of those bodies, and would help ensure that members would be elected and would exercise their functions on an individual basis.  She said her delegation wished to avoid the lack of diversity that had appeared in some treaty bodies, and she, therefore, called on Member States to support the draft.


Action


The Committee then took up the text on the role of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/C.3/63/L.20), which it adopted without a vote.  The representative of Morocco, its main sponsor, said the text would send a note of encouragement to the Ombudsmen and mediators who were working in over 120 countries.  In submitting the draft, Morocco was acting on its desire to promote dialogue among Member States, in light of what appeared to be an increase in “opposition” and “confrontation” within the Committee.  But, he expressed the conviction that despite any difficulties, there was a determination on the part of the international community to unite and work towards common goals.


Following action, the representative of France, on behalf of the European Union, voiced appreciation over the negotiations and recalled the principles invoked in General Assembly resolution 48/134 on strengthening institutions such as the Ombudsman.  He wanted to emphasize the contribution of civil society and non-governmental organization to the functioning of national human rights institutions.  The present resolution should be seen as linked to the general issue of the promotion and protection of human rights. 


Because he could not add himself to the list of co-sponsors since the text had already been acted upon, the representative of Colombia announced verbally that he would have liked to have been a co-sponsor, which the Secretary duly noted.


Moving to the draft resolution on the International Year of Human Rights Learning (A/C.3/63/L.20), the Chair noted that the draft did not contain any budgetary implications.  The representative of Benin, the main sponsor of the draft, said that a number of minor changes had been made to the text, following consultations, including one that would change the end of operative paragraph 2 to read “bearing in mind the complementary effort undertaken within the framework for Human Rights Education.”


“Illiteracy in the field of human rights” continued to be a concern and was found in all segments of society, within the elite and among the masses, he continued, while noting that one could be literate, overall, but still illiterate in human rights.  Giving an example of such illiteracy, he said that individuals might understand the universal principles of human rights, but might not make it a way of life, or part of their daily actions while carrying out their community functions.  That gap in human rights learning would be addressed by the International Year.  The basic distinction between human rights “education” and human rights “learning” lay in the difference between education and learning itself.  The word “education” had been co-opted and referred more to indoctrination by those who determined who would be taught and how subjects would be taught.  Learning had not been co-opted in such a manner and authentic learning was a positive experience undertaken by individuals.  In closing, he appealed to all Member States to undertake and promote that type of human rights learning, with a view to improving human rights and achieving the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution, as orally revised.


Right of Reply


The representative of Iran, addressing the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran (document A/C.3/63/L.40) that had been introduced earlier, said the text was a vehicle designed to serve the political exigencies of its sponsors, and was an abuse of the Third Committee.   It was a manifestation of the hostile and confrontational approach taken by Canada against Iran. 


Raising a point of order, the representative of Canada remarked that the Committee was now getting into a discussion on the substance and motives behind a resolution, which should have nothing to do with the process of introducing a resolution.  As such, the intervention being made by the representative of Iran was out of order. 


The Chair then explained that any member had a right to reply to statements made during a session, and invited the representative of Iran to proceed.


The representative of Iran said he believed the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in his country had been instigated by an isolated, bilateral, judicial dossier, which the Government of Canada was using as a tool at the multilateral level.  The text on Iran, which had been introduced over five consecutive years, was a ritual whose objective was to exert pressure on Iran, and whose contents were void of merit or legitimacy.  The draft would have the Assembly take note of the Secretary-General’s report on Iran, against which his Government had several reservations, as stated at the time of its introduction.  The resolution was consistent with the report and portrayed the human rights situation and development in Iran in a negative manner, rendering it a mere compilation of repetitive allegations from previous years. 


He also noted what he called the “procedural deficiencies” in the draft’s tabling.  Like the other members of the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran strongly concurred with, and acknowledged, the right of any delegation to raise issues of relevance to the Third Committee.  But he was convinced that greater attention should be given to the distribution of work amongst the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council.  The Third Committee should focus on policy-oriented discussions, so as to provide policy guidance to the General Assembly, and to guide the international community and the Human Rights Council on ways to further enhance the promotion and protection of human rights.  The consideration of country situations fell in the purview of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review Process.  The review process enabled the United Nations to act with impartiality, prudence and consistency.  The draft resolution introduced this morning would undermine the authority of the Human Rights Council.  Further, it would hinder the smooth functioning of the Universal Periodic Review process and overlapped with it. 


He said his Government was determined to stop the continuous abuse of the Third Committee through the use of Rule 116 of the Rules of Procedure, as had happened in previous years.  Indeed, he noted the negative ramifications that the adoption of the resolution on Iran had had on the Committee in past years.  After examining the votes garnered by Iran on its no-action motion in 2006 and 2007, he was confident that, with the support of the Committee, his Government would help the Committee overcome its hurdles by changing its counterproductive exercise of voting on no-action motions.  Also with the Committee’s support, he said he hoped his Government could stand up against the repetition of the Canadian ritual of tabling its resolution on Iran.  He urged them to respect division of work amongst the various bodies of the United Nations.


The representative of Canada reminded the Committee that the draft resolution was being co-sponsored by 42 States.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.