|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
41st & 42nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Third Committee Approves Three Texts on Women’s Issues — Welcoming ‘UN Women’,
Condemning All Violence against Women, Establishing International Widow’s Day
Fourth Text Recommended Will Have General Assembly Condemn Torture;
Also Hears from General Assembly President, Concludes Debate on Refugees
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) took action today on three draft resolutions — all adopted without a vote — that would have the General Assembly welcome the establishment of UN Women, declare 23 June every year International Widows’ Day and condemn all forms of violence against women and girls.
The draft resolution entitled Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly — approved by consensus in the presence of General Assembly President Joseph Deiss of Switzerland — would have the Assembly welcome progress made towards achieving gender equality, but stress the challenges and obstacles that remain in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action.
The wide-ranging 25-paragraph text would also have the General Assembly welcome the establishment of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women — UN Women — and urge Member States to ensure that it is adequately funded so that it can “promptly and effectively plan and carry out its mandate”.
María Luz Melon of Argentina, Vice-Chair of the Third Committee, led consultations on the draft resolution. She expressed hope that 2010 would be a turning point on the path to gender equality. The commitment of Member States to UN Women was reflected in the draft, she said, adding that its Under-Secretary-General, Michelle Bachelet, was “a natural leader” with the experience needed to build the entity as an institution.
Another draft resolution would have the Assembly decide, with effect from 2011, to observe International Widows’ Day on 23 June each year. Member States, the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations would be called upon to give special attention to the situation of widows and their children, according to its text.
The representative of Gabon, the main sponsor, said widows had the right to lead a dignified life. The resolution was a source of hope for widows all over the world who needed active solidarity.
A draft resolution on intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women would have the General Assembly strongly condemn all acts of violence against women and girls, no matter who perpetrates them. Co-sponsored by France and the Netherlands, it includes a paragraph that stresses the importance of States refraining from invoking religion as a way of avoiding their international obligations to end violence against women.
Several regional groups and developing countries, while joining consensus, expressed reservations about that paragraph. They included Pakistan, whose representative explained that misuse and misinterpretation of religion - not religion itself – was a problem, and that religion had served to enhance the dignity of women for decades. The representatives of Sudan and Libya questioned its reference to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute.
Turning to another human rights issue, the Committee adopted a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The representative of its main sponsor, Denmark, noted that torture was explicitly banned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet it persisted in all parts of the world. The General Assembly had a particular responsibility to speak out against it, he added.
In other business, the Committee concluded its debate on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, hearing from a number of countries that have been hosting large numbers of refugees. Recalling that humanitarian assistance is an Arab and Muslim tradition, the representative of Yemen nevertheless asked the international community for more help to accommodate refugees from the Horn of Africa.
Her counterpart from Iran, which still hosts many Afghan refugees, said greater international support for reconstruction in Afghanistan would ensure successful voluntary repatriation. The representative of Malta acknowledged UNHCR’s assistance in helping it deal with large numbers of migrants from Africa and invited other Member States to help with resettlement. His counterparts from Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia described the efforts being made in their countries in the aftermath of conflict in the Balkans, while Canada spoke favourably of the progress UNHCR has made in internal reforms.
Also speaking on refugees today were representatives of Kuwait, Belarus, Ukraine, Iraq, Republic of Korea, Georgia, Bangladesh and Azerbaijan. The observers of the International Organization for Migration, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
The representatives of Algeria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 9 November, to hear the introduction of, and take action on, a number of draft proposals.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to hear an address by the President of the General Assembly and conclude its discussion of refugees.
It was also expected to take action on four draft resolutions entitled: Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/65/L.55), Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/65/L.17/Rev.2), International Widows’ Day (document A/C.3/65/L.19) and Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment A/C.3/65/L.26/Rev.1).
It was also expected to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and on the promotion and protection of human rights.
General Assembly President
JOSEPH DEISS, the President of the General Assembly, said that it was not frequent that the President of the General Assembly came as a visitor to the Committee, but as he had discussed with the Third Committee Chair and other chairpersons at a recent lunch, he intended to meet with all six Committees. In coming to the Committee today, he wanted to acknowledge and thank it for its contribution to the work of the General Assembly. Its discussions could significantly alleviate the workload of the plenary. When he made the proposal, the Third Committee chair told him that he was a bit reluctant, because “customers don’t enter the kitchen” and he considered the Committee meetings the “kitchen where things are prepared”. What he could see from looking at the schedule was that the meeting was the 41st since 4 October, so he could say that the Third Committee was one of the busiest kitchens in the Organization. That work was important because it was necessary to have the best possible division of labour between Committees and the plenary. Everything the Committee was doing and clarifying would help save time at the General Assembly. Efficient conduct of business was an element in strengthening the General Assembly as a whole.
Stating that it was a particular feature of the Committee that delegates came from Geneva, he expressed hope that that could contribute to bringing two of the Headquarters of the United Nations closer together, as well as lead to better mutual understanding between Geneva and New York. They were experiencing that in relation to the review of the Human Rights Council, noting the extensive debates, including dialogues with the High Commissioner and special procedures of the Human Rights Council, in the midst of negotiating this year’s resolutions. He expressed pleasure that the Committee was progressing in its work and hoped that discussions, including 500 speakers to date, were proceeding in a constructive atmosphere. As one of the three pillars of the United Nations, human rights remained central to the mission of the Organization, which was why the importance of addressing the issues before Third Committee was recognized by the entire membership.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee then took action on the draft resolution entitled Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/65/L.55).
Welcoming progress made towards achieving gender equality, but stressing the challenges and obstacles that remain in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action, the wide ranging 25 paragraph text draft resolution would have the General Assembly welcome the establishment of UN Women and urge Member States to ensure that it is adequately funded by providing core, multi-year, predictable stable and sustainable voluntary contribution so that it can “promptly and effectively plan and carry out its mandate”. The obligation of States to exercise due diligence to prevent violence against women and girls, provide protection to the victims and to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of violence against women and girls is reaffirmed, and the Secretary-General is requested to redouble efforts towards the goal of 50/50 gender balance at all levels throughout the United Nations system.
MARÍA LUZ MELON ( Argentina), Vice Chair of the Third Committee, who led consultations on the draft resolution, expressed hope that 2010 would be a turning point towards equality between men and women, as it was the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Programme and Action and the year in which UN Women was created. The commitment of Member States to UN Women was reflected in the draft. The Under-Secretary-General of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, was a natural leader with the experience to lead to build the entity as an institution. Member States were called upon, in the draft resolution, to ensure that UN Women will get sufficient funding so that it could begin to operate fully and on schedule. Delegations were thanked for their participation and flexibility in preparing the draft.
The draft resolution was then approved without a vote.
MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon), the Chair of the Third Committee, said the draft resolution would be one of three small memories that the President of the General Assembly could take away with him. Its adoption by consensus was a symbol of the way the Third Committee carried out its work. Some 60 draft resolutions would be adopted during this session; some would be adopted by vote, but the Committee would do its best to adopt as many as it could be consensus.
He then presented Mr. DEISS with his two other small memories: an umbrella that also served as a cane (“your position is a lofty one and sometimes there are certain slips, and you are in a city that is slippery in all seasons”) and with a “chéchia” hat (“an African gift that people get when they reach the top”). He wished the President of the General Assembly great success; he in return expressed thanks.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
The representative of Turkmenistan introduced a draft resolution entitled enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/C.3/65/L.24). He said it took note of the decision of the Economic and Social Council of 22 July 2010 that would see Bulgaria, Cameroon, Croatia, Togo and Turkmenistan become members of the Executive Committee.
The representative of Sweden then introduced a draft resolution on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (document A/C.3/65/L.58). The Nordic countries, year after year, sponsored the resolution on the refugee agency, focusing on new developments or themes. Consensus on this year’s draft had been achieved during informal discussions in Geneva and, with some modifications to the Geneva text, in New York. The text draws attention to the 60th anniversary of UNHCR and, in its operative paragraphs, notes how reform initiatives at UNHCR were entering a consolidation phase. A common concern for refugees had been shared during negotiation on the draft and the main sponsors were confident it would be adopted by the Third Committee by consensus.
Statements on Refugees
HASAN ABULHASAN ( Kuwait) said that his delegation had considered the report of UNHCR, commended the progress with regard to refugees and noted the importance of the humanitarian community increasing its efforts. Kuwait expressed concern about the increase in the number of internally displaced persons in Africa, totalling 11.6 million people, or over 40 per cent of the number of internally displaced persons worldwide. Believing in the importance of the issue of refugees and, in order to improve the situation of refugees and other vulnerable groups, Kuwait supported the work of the Office by means of presenting voluntary contributions. Kuwait had increased its contributions five-fold, from $200,000 to $1 million annually. The country also hosted a UNHCR office, so that it could provide humanitarian necessities to refugees.
With regard to its Palestinian brothers and sisters, Kuwait had continued to work to decrease the suffering of Palestinian refugees, which totalled 4,700,000 people, by presenting humanitarian assistance and aid, he said. Kuwait funded infrastructure projects through voluntary annual contributions of $1.5 million to cover needs, such as food supplies, of Palestinian people suffering under the unjust blockade, especially in Gaza. Kuwait provided that support out of a belief in justice, as Israeli practices obstructed humanitarian activities. Kuwait also stressed the importance of the humanitarian situation of displaced persons in Iraq. Meeting their needs was a global responsibility. Kuwait had contributed $1 million to UNHCR to be spent on internally displaced persons in Iraq, or those who were forced to leave for other places. Kuwait thanked the Office for its help in Iraq, as well as in Syria and Jordan, which hosted refugees, and wished it success in providing services.
LARISA BELSKAYA ( Belarus) said that her country shared concerns about the contraction of humanitarian space, as conflicts became more complicated. Besides efforts taken by UNHCR to guarantee the protection of internally displaced persons and refugees, an important factor was the strengthening of coordinated actions between UNHCR and other United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations. To tackle the issue of refugees, it was necessary to expand international solidarity. It was also necessary to find new partners and attract private donors, as they proceeded with the resettlement of refugees and their reintegration into society. With regard to the budget, oversight in spending and over the dispersal of funds was important, to guarantee strict fulfilment of the UNHCR mandate and to ensure it did not duplicate efforts or divert funds from other organizations.
Belarus sought to undertake measures to guarantee the protection of refugees, she said. Since 1997, refugee status in Belarus had been sought by over 3,000 people from 48 countries. Belarus wished to expand its cooperation with UNHCR and during a visit to her country in July 2010, UNHCR had signed an agreement to that. Belarus wanted to expand the scale of joint projects, and was ready to offer the services of its international training centre in Minsk concerning the combat against human trafficking.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) said his country would co-organize two events with UNHCR to commemorate the anniversaries of the 1951 Convention on the status of refugees and the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness. A round table would be held in November on asylum and statelessness and a celebration would be carried out next June for World Refugee Day.
He recalled the situation in the Balkans during the 1990s and said his country had shown its humanity by accepting thousands of displaced persons. At the times, refugees and the displaced had made up a quarter of the population. A national strategy had been adopted as part of the search for a sustainable solution for displaced persons in the territory. At the end of 2009 his country had 16,711 refugees; 5,769 from former Yugoslavia republics and 10,985 from Kosovo. Voluntary return was encouraged. As of today, for example, 2,650 displaced persons had voluntarily repatriated to Kosovo. He said a sustainable solution for refugees and the internally displaced had components that were humanitarian, economic, political and security related issues. In his country, progress toward that solution was linked with European and Euro Atlantic integration. Regional cooperation was vital, both at the bilateral and regional level. Implementation of commitments was also vital, as in those enshrined in a ministerial communique emanating from a Belgrade conference in March.
FEODOR STARČEVIČ (Serbia), aligning his delegation with the statement delivered by Belgium on behalf of the European Union, said as a country in a region that still faced the problem of a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons, he wanted to inform the Committee of recent national and regional initiatives aimed at resolving the protracted displacement situation. In addition, as a country identified by UNHCR in 2008 as one of the five countries in the world with a protracted refugee situation, with 86,000 refugees from the countries in the region and more than 200,000 internally displaced (IDPs) people from Kosovo, Serbia was committed to finding a just solution for the displaced population. In that connection, in March, Serbia hosted the Regional Ministerial Conference on the topic, in which participants committed themselves to intensifying regional cooperation through a concrete set of activities in order to close the chapter of displacement in the region. One of the most relevant activities for resolving issues was the consolidation on data and refugees; to that end, Serbia submitted all the required data related to the exchange of statistics, in accordance with a matrix prepared by the United Nations.
In its Global Plan of Action on protracted situations, UNHCR emphasized the need for providing assistance and finding durable solutions in a spirit of international collaboration, solidarity and burden-sharing. As a follow up to the Regional Conference in Belgrade, an international donor conference was envisaged in order to discuss the setting up of a multi-donor fund to assist in the process of return, or local integration of refugees. While the conference aimed to provide resources for the most vulnerable, he was aware the main responsibility for the overall scope of the refugee problem was with the countries in the region. Another issue was the problem of IDPs from Kosovo, mainly Serbs and Roma, who had not been able to return for more than a decade. The Secretary-General expressed deep concern about the continuing harassment of Kosovo Serb returnees. In addition, to security issues, there was a lack of housing, poor living standards, unemployment, and restrictions on access to education and movement. Access to property rights remained a major obstacle. Creating a safe environment for the return of internally displaced persons to the province remained a challenge for the international presence and other stakeholders.
MAHMOUD BARIMANI ( Iran) said his country still hosted almost 1 million Afghan and Iraqi refugees. Their protracted presence had imposed many soci-economic pressures, yet voluntary repatriations have been slow in the past five years, with only half a percent of refugees going back to countries of origin every year. Voluntary repatriation was the preferred solution; resettlement in third countries was equally important. Local integration was not an acceptable and applicable solution, especially for countries “where protracted refugees exist”.
Referring to Afghans who had been voluntarily repatriated, only to return to Iran, he said Afghans needed more assistance from the international community, delivered via the Afghan national authorities, based on a plan of action that would cover employment, shelter, education and health. Iran had gone far beyond its international commitments in supporting refugees, providing not only employment and training opportunities, but also generous subsidies for essential commodities. The implementation in Iran of a “targeted subsidies law” would affect everyone, including refugees; the international community was expected to address that new condition appropriately.
NEVEN MIKEC ( Croatia) said it was important for UNHCR to continue to rely on a comprehensive assessment of needs as an important method for addressing real and concrete protection gaps on the ground. That was critical for ensuring that scarce resources were allocated to those most vulnerable. The reliable assessment of needs was an important starting step, not only in refugee crises, but also in the process of identifying and implementing durable solutions. The High Commissioner had also provided a useful means for responding to protracted refugee situations, as was currently taking place in South-eastern Europe. The regional ministerial event that took place in Belgrade in March had confirmed the political will to strengthen regional cooperation, with the view to bringing the refugee chapter of that region to an end, by focusing on the real needs of the most vulnerable.
He said that the implementation of measures at the national level to create conducive conditions for durable solutions should effectively continue. Croatia had implemented a number of measures, including repossessing property and reconstructing war-damaged housing units and infrastructure, among others, and had introduced the housing care programme that enabled former tenancy right holders to satisfy their housing needs in Croatia. That programme had been supplemented with a new Action Plan in July, proving for clearly set measurable targets and increased implementation transparency. However, similar housing support for those former tenancy rights holders wishing to integrate locally should be provided for in host countries. That approach was in line with the 2005 Sarajevo Declaration providing for the voluntary choice of each refugee to return or integrate. Only the similar offer of the appropriate durable solution could allow free individual choice to become reality. Every refugee situation was unique and required a sensitive and creative approach, even when political will was granted.
MEAGHAN SUNDERLAND ( Canada) said that her country was committed to supporting UNHCR in its mandate and remained committed to finding durable solutions to the issue of refugees, particular in protracted situations. Strong partnerships were needed to deliver effective outcomes to those in need, as was strengthened cooperation to respond to the challenges of displaced persons, including vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers. Canada was deeply concerned about unscrupulous smugglers who were exploiting the asylum system. Paying smugglers tens of thousands of dollars to smuggle individuals was not acceptable. Canada would be introducing toughness to its immigration policies, as well as fairness to those waiting patiently to immigrate to Canada. Too many refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons were also trapped in limbo, waiting for their opportunity to go home or resettle elsewhere. Canada wished to resolve the problem of protracted situations through strategic resettlement. Canada’s resettlement program was generous, having resettled 10,000-12,000 refugees. With legislation, Canada would increase that number by 20 per cent, or 2,500 each year. Canada would implement reform legislation and provide $500 million to help those in need. It would also promote the prompt removal of failed claimants seeking asylum.
She hailed initiatives to improve predictability and coordination of the humanitarian response, and encouraged discussion of how UNHCR could contribute in other areas, particularly in protection from national disasters, while shouldering its principle mandate regarding refugees. UNHCR could not provide services in places where the necessary conditions were not present, so her Government called for international humanitarian space. She supported UNHCR in enhancing its capacity to take people under its wing and meet their needs. She also welcomed the planning structures and the management of the budget, and encouraged ongoing commitment to responsibility and transparency thanks to oversight. Only through a comprehensive approach could a solution be found to forced displacement. Coordination between bodies was needed to review non-traditional problems, and refugees should be empowered to take a role in decisions that affected their lives. She reiterated her Government’s commitment to work with Member States, UNHCR and its partners to meet the needs of displaced persons, and encouraged increasing international cooperation in new areas, such as irregular migration and clandestine border crossing.
YANA BOIKO ( Ukraine) welcomed UNHCR’s emergency management activities, as well as its urban refugee policy, stating that the activities of UNHCR in assisting Governments with the voluntary repatriation of refugees or their integration into societies of host countries could not be underestimated. Further, she noted that the increase of UNHCR activities by more than 60 per cent since 2006, with essentially the same number of staff worldwide, showed the positive impact of the reforms undertaken by the organization.
“The Ukraine reaffirms that the protection of refugees, prevention and reduction of statelessness are primarily the responsibility of States, in appropriate cooperation with the international community and with respect to international law,” she stated. In that regard, she noted that her country had processed some 24,000 asylum claims from foreign or stateless persons during 1996-2010 in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On refugees” and the 1951 Refugee Convention. At the moment, she said 2,334 individuals had refugee status in the Ukraine. As regarded the protection of rights of stateless persons, she underlined that her country was guided by the Law of Ukraine ‘On nationality’ amended in 2005 to comply with the 1997 European convention on nationality. During 2009, she noted that 2,434 stateless persons had acquired Ukrainian nationality by that simplified procedure.
SAVIOUR BORG ( Malta) said that because of Malta’s location in the centre of the Mediterranean, his country was exposed to “huge influxes” of illegal immigrants. Although the number arriving by sea had declined in the past year, there remained a considerable number from previous years who had been granted international protection under international and European Union law. However, problems in supporting those beneficiaries had arisen because of Malta’s limited absorption capacity, which, due to the country’s high population and small labour market, were inherent to the country’s demographics and geography, rather than any shortcomings on the part of his Government.
UNHCR, among others, acknowledged the disproportionate pressures faced by Malta, and was contributing through the Pilot Project for intra-European Union settlements of Malta’s beneficiaries. His country’s aim was to resettle between 1,500 and 2,000 of its beneficiaries. However, the actual number of settlements had been much lower and further efforts were needed to address that. He also noted the recently established European Union Asylum Support Office, which was being hosted by Malta, and whose aim was to harmonize different national asylum procedures toward a consistent European Union-wide asylum policy. Concluding, he urged that other Member States assist in the resettling of his country’s beneficiaries, thus offering a durable solution, which was difficult for his country to ensure due to its limitations. He called upon the international community, particularly countries of origin, to improve the current situation.
AHLAM ABDULLAH ALMOFLHI ( Yemen) said war, instability and other factors had caused people to seek safety and stability, creating refugee problems that were hard to remedy, despite international efforts. Efforts had to be redoubled in order to find solutions. Humanitarian assistance was an Arab and Muslim tradition and Yemen attached great importance to looking after refugees from the Horn of Africa.
For decades such refugees had come by the hundreds of thousands, she said. Camps to shelter them had been created in cooperation with United Nations agencies, despite economic, safety and other issues, as well as the financial cost associated with such hospitality. A radical solution was the best approach; to that end, Yemen has sought to find a solution to the Somali crisis. Refugee flows to Yemen had economic, safety and social repercussions; it appealed to the international community to step up its support.
YAHYA AL OBAIDI (Iraq), noting how the report indicated that the security situation in Iraq had deteriorated since the 2010 elections and that that had impacted on the number of refugees, said that the March elections had taken place without any security problems and that had been a measure of success in the democratic process in Iraq. It was unfortunate that terrorist actions were interfering with the democratic successes and pushing back what had been accomplished, particularly by attacking Iraqi civilians and sowing seeds of discord among Iraq citizens. The Government had employed efforts to eliminate terrorism, leading to the arrest of Al Qaeda members. Iraq was ensuring the repatriation and return of refugees to their original homes, and had not had an increased flow of refugees. Efforts that Iraq agreed to with regard to the rapid repatriation of displaced persons and refugees in and out of Iraq included allocating monthly food resources to alleviate suffering until final repatriation to their homes.
All of the families of internally displaced persons or refugees on the outside were also provided with financial support from the Government in the form of monthly checks. Through consulates and embassies, financial aid had been provided to Iraqi refugees, channelling money to refugee centres where they lived. Repatriation took place at all entry points of the country, and refugees were exempt from taxes to encourage them to return. Internally displaced persons and refugees who were working in public offices were guaranteed the possibility of returning to their original posts. Students were guaranteed a place in the university where they studied previously. Costs of repatriation were covered, be it by land or air. Material damages to homes were also covered. The Government had sent a special envoy to Syria, Iran and other countries around Iraq to help in the provision of care and shelter, as well as with voluntary repatriation of refugees to their country. Iraq expressed its gratitude to UNHCR, stating that it would like to continue working with the United Nations to promote human rights, especially those of internally displaced persons.
JEONG-A YU ( Republic of Korea) said new forms of forced displacement were emerging, for which rationalized responses should be found. Her country shared a number of concerns with UNHCR, specifically with regard to the violation of the principle of non-refoulement. Many refugees had been forced to return to their countries of origin despite the risk of prosecution that awaited them there. The Republic of Korea called on all States to recognize the threats to life and freedom of those who flee the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
Her delegation supported the work of UNHCR vis-à-vis issues related to internally displaced persons, she said. It also noted the discussions underway on the role of the refugee agency in responding to natural disasters. It was hoped that it would interact closely with Member States on that issue in order for a consensus to emerge. With regard to protracted refugee situations, the Republic of Korea had begun the naturalization of long-staying refugees and a reception centre was to be operational in 2012.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia) said the number of internally displaced persons due to conflict had reached an estimated 27.1 million, of which 11.6 million, or 40 per cent, were displaced by conflict in 21 Sub-Saharan countries at the end of 2009. He called on Member States to support Chaloka Beyani, a Zambian, who had been appointed the first Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, so he could carry out his mandate. To strengthen refugee protection, in August, Zambia had begun to re-register and re-verify them, using UNHRC’s progress database with biometrics in order to give them electronic identity cards. The system aimed to ensure credible data to protect refugees and search for durable solutions to refugee-related problems. The repatriation programmes involving Rwanda, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had gone well. Current political conditions in Rwanda justified UNHCR’s recent adoption of a road map to end the Rwandan refugee problem, which would ensure that only those who met the requisite criteria would continue to benefit from asylum protection beyond December 2011.
He commended the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for its commitment to the safe, dignified return of its peoples, and UNHCR for aiding refugees interested in returning, a move that led to the closure of two refugee camps in Zambia. He lauded the UNHCR country office’s planned re-registration and re-verification exercise in Mayukwayukwa, which revealed that more than 4,000 Angolan refugees wanted to return home. Despite progress, the protracted refugee situation continued to pose challenges for Zambia. To resolve that, Zambia would continue to prioritize and bolster voluntary repatriation and discuss with UNHCR other options, such as local integration, bearing in mind the diverse socioeconomic and legal implication of that option.
SHALVA TSISKARASHVILI ( Georgia) said that the inability of hundreds of thousands of Georgians displaced from their homes to return was one of its most compelling issues. Hundreds of thousands of Georgians had been driven from the Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region, which was under foreign occupation. Despite calls from the international community and efforts by Georgia, those people had been prevented from going home. More than 400,000 displaced persons from various backgrounds all were bound by a common experience, in that they were victims of waves of ethnic cleansing, which had been confirmed by international institutions, including the United Nations. Those few who had returned continued to suffer from problems, including security, loss of their ethnic identity and denial of rights, including to property and education in their native tongue. The adoption of the General Assembly resolution about the right of Georgian refugees was a powerful manifestation of the will of the international community to stand up for rights of those persons.
Georgia took today’s opportunity to call for its opponents to constructive engagement and allow displaced Georgians to return home to their communities. The United Nations’ participation in talks in Geneva between Georgia and the Russian Federation was important, as was the establishment of a working group. Due to the unconstructive position of counterparts, however, Georgia was concerned about the lack of progress. Despite the challenges, Georgia was committed to undertaking the necessary conditions for internally displaced persons in Georgia. Measures implemented by Georgia included adopting a strategy for integrating internally displaced persons; extending social assistance through programmes for the vulnerable; regular updates of the action plan, which was approved last May; providing internally displaced persons with their own public buildings as temporary shelters; constructing new settlements and offering education and medical programmes. Much needed to be done, but Georgia was committed to enhancing assistance to victims of ethnic cleansing. Georgia hoped that the international community could make an impact by denouncing violations.
A.K. ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) stated that the nation remained steadfast in its commitment to providing shelter, safety and welfare to the Myanmar refugees. “From a point of national empathy,” he noted that the nation had hosted a large number of refugees for more than two decades “despite recognizable resource constraints”. Furthermore, Bangladesh considered voluntary repatriation as the only viable option for the return of refugees to their homeland. That said, the nation regretted that no repatriation of Myanmar refugees had taken place since 2005. That longstanding problem, he asserted, had contributed to a number of related security, economic, social and environmental problems. Today, there were 28,586 registered Myanmar refugees. In addition, over the years, several hundred thousand people had crossed the border illegally and were living within the country.
Since the majority of the countries hosting refugees were either developing countries or least developed countries - such as Bangladesh - he stated that local integration was not a solution at all. He therefore urged UNHCR to encourage and resume voluntary repatriation activity by addressing and mitigating the root causes. On the question of third country resettlement of Myanmar refugees, the nation did not see much benefit, stating that it further complicated repatriation and contributed to “pull factors” across the border. Therefore, Bangladesh called upon donor countries to look at the issue from a regional context and engage with the nation to find a durable solution to the refugee problem.
ASIF GARAYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that new forms of displacement were being created, directly or indirectly, by population growth, urbanization, food and energy insecurity, water scarcity and climate change. Full access to the asylum system should be given to all persons who may need international protection. As a country still suffering from the problem of internally displaced persons, Azerbaijan commended the work of UNHCR and hoped for more efforts to find solutions.
Approximately one in nine persons in Azerbaijan was a displaced person, giving it one of the largest displaced populations in the world, he said. Occupation had made them internally displaced persons in their own country. It was impossible for them to wait for decades to return to the land of their origin. At the same time, significant numbers of settlers had been encouraged to move into occupied areas depopulated of their Azerbaijani inhabitants. The result was “unacceptable conditioning” within an ongoing process to resolve the conflict that undermined the exercise of the right of return. The High Commissioner was called upon to pay utmost attention to the matter within his mandate.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that emergency response to natural disasters would most likely be what was needed by the international community, especially in light of 2010’s catastrophic natural disasters, from the earthquake in Haiti to the flooding in Pakistan. Through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, IOM, UNHCR and its partners in the humanitarian community were working closely with relevant Governments to ensure effective and successful assistance and protection. Further, IOM was co-leader of the camp coordination and camp management cluster, providing assistance to natural-disaster induced internally displaced persons.
Maintaining a “clear focus on the human dimensions” of those in need of assistance, she said that IOM’s comprehensive approach to migration included a wide range of policy, research and programmatic activities, from providing humanitarian response to displacement caused by natural disaster to promoting adaptation to gradual environment degradation through migration and development activities. The complex issues surrounding migration could not, however, be effectively addressed without inter-agency cooperation and the development of common and complementary approaches. To that end, IOM was working with UNHCR and the Representative of the Secretary General on the human rights of internally displaced persons to further consider those matters, as there was an obligation to develop innovative strategies that effectively responded to the needs of today’s refugees, displaced persons and vulnerable migrants.
PIERRE DORBES, observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said one of the most daunting challenges of the day was posed by internal displacement. In situations of armed conflict, the displaced were mostly civilians and many had been forced to flee homes and endure harsh conditions because of violations of international humanitarian law. Taking measures to limit deliberate attacks on civilians reduced successive displacement and improved prospects for return. A needs- and rights-based approach towards assistance allowed for impartiality and a consideration of the needs of host families and communities who bore the consequences of large population displacements.
He said that ending displacement was often beset with difficulties, including political considerations that could leave the displaced in limbo. Upon return, obstacles included settlement of land by others, damaged infrastructure and lack of housing or public services. Governments and humanitarian organizations must be prepared to expend considerable development efforts and resources. An interesting example of a successful regional effort was provided by the recently adopted Kampala Convention providing a framework for protecting and assisting the displaced in Africa. The convention was still in the ratification process, but already implementation was being discussed by the International Committee and the refugee commissioner’s Office.
ANNE CHRISTENSEN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), focused on two issues, namely addressing displacement caused by natural disasters, and the humanitarian challenges posed by rapid urbanization. The increasing frequency of natural disasters, coupled with a number of emerging threats and trends, were leaving more people vulnerable to the effects of disasters and inflicting greater damage, loss and dislocation on vulnerable people worldwide. To respond to such disasters, IFRC adopted a needs-based approach to ensure that the most vulnerable received assistance, and which took into account gender, age, and disability - irrespective of legal entitlements.
Food insecurity was a significant challenge linked to displacement, with approximately one billion people going undernourished, 75 percent of whom lived in rural areas. Such food insecurity could prompt migration to the outskirts of towns in search of better conditions. This year’s World Disasters Report focused on urban risk and highlighted the many challenges awaiting vulnerable migrants in urban settings. For the first time in human history, more people live in urban than in rural environments. Many urban dwellers faced precarious conditions, in informal settlements where infrastructure and essential services were lacking. Some 2.57 billion urban dwellers ere exposed to unacceptable levels of risk fuelled by rapid urbanization, population growth, poor health services and local governance, and in some instances a rising tide of urban violence. More needed to be done to keep pace with such developments, and to build safer and more resilient communities in rural and urban settings alike. Drawing on lessons from recent disasters affecting urban settings, and working with city leaders, civil society, and other partners, IFRC would work to improve its preparedness and response in complex urban environments.
Right of Reply
The representative of Algeria, in exercising the right of reply to Morocco’s statement, said that, with regard to surveying the number of people, Algeria had indicated that it was prepared for that to be done. That came under the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which was responsible for that activity. Regarding supposed human rights violations in the Tindouf camps, he believed that Morocco should stop putting up obstacles, as there were hundreds of refugees in the camps who wanted to leave. There were thousands of Saharawis who left their territories to draw attention to repeated serious human rights violations of the Saharawi population by Morocco. An 18-year-old had been killed, while his only crime was stealing food and medication from a truck for people grouped in protest.
The Saharawi refugee population was living within a non-autonomous territory where the census conducted by the United Nations was subject to the intransigence of Morocco with regard to appropriate rights. It was unfortunate that Morocco tried to mislead the international community regarding assistance. The donor community had done what it needed to do, in order ensure that the needs were met. Algeria was pleased to see proper aid to Saharawi refugees, and asked the Moroccan delegation to reread the World Food Programme’s statement and report about what was happening in the camps. That was the only reference point for donors that provided complete transparency. Algeria hoped for a solution for the Saharawis regarding the issue of self-determination.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
In the afternoon session, the Committee first heard a statement from the representative of Belgium, on behalf of Armenia, Mexico, Senegal and Thailand. He recalled a workshop organized in Geneva on 3 and 4 May by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that identified concrete ways and means to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and regional mechanisms in the field of human rights on a day to day basis. Following up on that workshop, the main sponsors of the Human Rights Council resolution ( Armenia, Belgium, Mexico, Senegal and Thailand) concluded that the Council was the best-suited forum to bring together different actors in the field of human rights, including regional mechanisms. Therefore, they would table an action-oriented resolution on the topic at the 18th session of the Council, and in the spirit of rationalization, it would no longer present a biennial resolution on regional arrangements for consideration by the Third Committee and the General Assembly.
The Committee then heard the introduction of a number of draft resolutions, beginning with one entitled Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (document A/C.3/65/L.29). The representative of Finland, the main sponsor, said the draft resolution was traditionally presented by Finland or Sweden on behalf of the Nordic countries every two years. It aimed to stress the importance of protecting individuals from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the need to investigate killings and to bring the perpetrators to justice. New elements this year sought to incorporate recommendations from the Special Rapporteur on the issue, concerning situations where prisoners control prisons, the need to systematically study vigilante killings with a view to taking action to curtail such killings, and a proposal for expert consultations on the human rights applications of new technologies. Following two weeks and several rounds of informal negotiations, there were still open issues that needed to be concluded, but it was sincerely hoped that the draft could be adopted with a wide consensus.
Introducing a draft resolution entitled Protection of migrants (document A/C.3/65/L.34), the representative of Mexico said that, in addition to the co-sponsors listed, Paraguay, Bolivia and Senegal had also joined the list. With regard to the resolution’s content, the co-sponsors had decided to work on the basis of the text adopted in 2009, reinforcing certain elements in that text. It had been useful to reuse agreed-upon concepts with the goal of strengthening political commitment towards the protection of human rights of migrants. One new aspect of the resolution was the vulnerability of migrants vis-a-vis organized crime and the encouragement of States to tackle that challenge. It also emphasized the importance of the human rights perspective, which was a priority in recent high-level thematic discussions.
The co-sponsors believed that it was important to refer to the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and requested that it be done in a way to show that the Convention influenced policies and protected those rights. They would be ready for adoption of the resolution by consensus, possibly next week. Additional delegations that agreed to act as co-sponsors were Chile, the Philippines, El Salvador, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Benin, Mali, Tajikistan and Haiti.
Introducing the draft resolution on Human rights in the administration of justice (document A/C.3/65/L.35) was the representative of Austria. He said his country had a long history of presenting resolutions on the subject of the administration of justice at the Third Committee, the Human Rights Council and the Commission on Human Rights. This year’s draft took into account key recent developments, such as the recommendations of the United Nations Crime Conference and the Third Committee’s adoption of rules regarding the detention of women prisoners. A focus has been put on juvenile justice, with States encouraged to deprive juveniles of their liberty only as a last resort, and on the detention of the primary caregivers of young people. Austria was confident that the Committee and the General Assembly would, as in the past, adopt the draft without a vote.
Introducing a draft resolution entitled elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members (document A/C.3/65/L.37), the representative of Japan said that, in addition to 70 co-sponsors, the Governments of Andorra, Belgium, Colombia, Finland, Indonesia, Israel, Poland, Portugal and Viet Nam were co-sponsors. Leprosy was one of the oldest and most threatening diseases, but a cure had been found and medical treatment had been successful. With early diagnosis and treatment, leprosy could be cured. However, fear of leprosy was deep-rooted, and there was a misguided notion that it was highly contagious or hereditary. Those who had contracted the disease suffered from discrimination, even after they had been cured, so opportunities for employment and marriage, for example, were low.
The issue had been discussed, including in the Human Rights Council since 2008, and the Council’s advisory committee had submitted guidelines for combating discrimination. The co-sponsors believed the resolution would draw the attention of all States to the issue. While the resolution was still in the process of being negotiated, they hoped it would be adopted by consensus. Additional Governments that agreed to act as co-sponsors were India, Albania, Italy, Jordan, Nicaragua, Greece, El Salvador, Estonia, Benin, Bolivia, Romania, Moldova, Ecuador, Mali and Hungary.
The representative of Cuba then introduced a draft resolution on Human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/C.3/65/L.39), on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. The resolution was presented on an annual basis to the Third Committee and the General Assembly in order to address the use of unilateral coercive measures by some states. Such measures were not in keeping with international law, and impacted on relations between States, putting up obstacles to trade, territorial rights and other aspects of human rights. It would have the General Assembly strongly object to such measures that undermine the sovereignty of States, and call upon States to immediately put an end to such measures and to fulfil their international obligations.
Introducing a draft resolution entitled Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/65/L.40), the representative of Cuba said that, in addition to co-sponsors currently listed, China, El Salvador and the Philippines had joined as co-sponsors. The final document of the fifteenth summit of heads of State of the non-aligned movement expressed the decision to present a draft resolution in the area of human rights. The text was presented on an annual basis and attempted to recognize that strengthened international cooperation regarding human rights was key. The amendments introduced were basically geared towards making technical updates and stressing the role of international agencies working in human rights. He expressed thanks to all delegations for their support.
Again on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on the right to development (document A/C.3/65/L.41). For the Non-Aligned Movement, that was a particularly important right, as its heads of State and government had reaffirmed at their most recent summit. This year the resolution would highlight the commemoration in 2011 of the 25th anniversary of the Declaration of the Right to Development by the United Nations. Technical adjustments were incorporated as well.
Speaking now in a national capacity, she introduced a draft resolution on the right to food (A/C.3/65/L.42). That right had been recognized in many human rights instruments, yet despite the efforts that have been made by States and organizations, around 1 billion people lived in hunger, with the vast majority of them to be found in developing nations. Updating last year’s resolution, the draft states that hunger is an outrage that demands international action. Organizations and others would be called upon to end the food crisis, defend food security and ensure the enjoyment of the right to food for all people in the world.
Introducing a draft resolution entitled promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all (document A/C.3/65/L.44), the representative of Cuba said it was co-sponsored by a large number of Member States, and was also joined by Ethiopia, Libya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, El Salvador, Grenada and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. In formally submitting the draft, the co-sponsors wanted to provide continuity following discussions in Geneva and New York over the years. It reaffirmed that all peoples had the right to peace and that preserving it was a fundamental obligation of all States. It encouraged States to respect and put into practice the principles of the United Nations Charter in their relationships with other States without distinction of their social and political systems. Education was vital for fostering peace, and States and non-governmental organizations were encouraged to contribute effectively to this endeavour.
The Cuban delegation, on behalf of co-sponsors asked the rest of the States to co-sponsor and provide their support to the resolution, so that it could be adopted by the Committee, sending a message of commitment to peoples’ right to peace. Additional Governments that agreed to co-sponsor the resolution included: Namibia, Mali, Vanuatu, Cameroon, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Congo, Lesotho and Benin.
The representative of Cuba also introduced a draft resolution entitled promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (document A/C.3/65/L.45), saying that co-sponsors included Ethiopia, Libya, Uzbekistan, Laos and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It was submitted on annual basis to the Committee, due to the importance of promoting the democratic international order, taking into account the economic crisis. It agreed to the reaffirmation of how an equitable democratic international order would provide human rights, and stressed the importance of having the United Nations work urgently for an order based on equity, sovereignty, common interest and international cooperation, regardless of economic and social systems. Modifications introduced referred to a dialogue of religions and strengthening international cooperation. Additional Governments that agreed to co-sponsor the resolution included: Mali, Swaziland, Vanuatu, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, India, Liberia, Cameroon, Burundi, Cambodia, Benin, Niger, Jamaica and Honduras.
The Committee then heard the introduction of a draft resolution entitled situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea A/C.3/65/L.47). The representative of Belgium, the main sponsor, said that while the human rights situation in that country was extremely serious, some positive steps had been seen in the past year, and those had been taken into account in the text. Substantive changes on the ground needed to be seen, however. Serious concern about the use of torture, inhuman conditions of detention, public executions, absence of due process and the rule of law, large numbers of prison camps, the use of forced labour, and restrictions on repatriated citizens were expressed in the text, which also urged the Government to allow full, free and unimpeded access to the country by the Special Rapporteur. The delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been informed of the draft, but, as in the past, it had refused to participate in discussions. It was hoped that the draft would be adopted with the broadest support.
The same representative then introduced a draft resolution on the situation on human rights in Myanmar (A/C.3/65/L.48). The reports of the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur had confirmed that the overall human rights situation in Myanmar remains a deep concern, he said. There were still many prisoners of conscience, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, while restrictions had been imposed on the upcoming elections. Fundamental freedoms remained severely restricted and a wide range of human rights violations were being perpetrated with impunity. The draft resolution welcomed some positive steps undertaken by the Government regarding humanitarian assistance and forced labour, and it was hoped that the Government would cooperate fully and constructively throughout the Universal Periodic Review process. Discussions had taken place with the country concerned and it was hoped that those could be maintained. The text would be amended to take into account the 7 November elections and, hopefully, positive developments regarding prisoners of conscience.
Introducing a draft resolution entitled Situation of human rights in Iran (document A/C.3/65/L.49), the representative of Canada said that, in 2009, a resolution concerning the human rights in Iran was adopted, expressing serious concern. In accordance with the General Assembly’s request, a report was issued last month, highlighting the numerous areas of concern, including the intensified crackdown on human rights, arbitrary detentions and allegations of torture. Other serious human rights violations that gave cause for concern included the use of torture, including flogging and amputation; the dramatic increase of the death penalty and stoning; continued discrimination against minorities amounting to persecution; restriction of freedom of assembly and opinion; and widespread failings of due process. The situation was egregious and needed international attention.
The resolution was carefully drafted to ensure the accuracy and findings of the Secretary-General’s report, he said. It called on Iran to address concerns in the Secretary-General’s report and respect fully its obligation concerning human rights in law and practice. It called for abolishing the use of stoning and suspension of strangulation, public execution and execution of individuals under 18 years old, as well as for the elimination of discrimination against women, girls and minorities, strengthening national human rights institutions in accordance with the Paris principle, and cooperation with human rights experts, including facilitating visits for those who had repeatedly requested them. It was hoped that States would join in supporting the resolution.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee then took action on a draft resolution entitled Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/65/L.17/Rev.2).
By its terms, the General Assembly would strongly condemn all acts of violence against women and girls, whether perpetrated by the States, private persons or non-State actors, and call for the elimination of all forms of gender based violence in the family, community or where perpetrated or condoned by the State. Through operative paragraph 8, it would stress the importance of States strongly condemning all forms of violence against women and refraining from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination, as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against women.
The text goes on to reaffirm that the persistence of armed conflicts is a major impediment to the elimination of all forms of violence against women, and calls on States and the international community to give priority attention and increased assistance to the plight of women and girls living in such situations. Several measures that States can take to address the issue are spelled out in the draft, which also stresses the contribution of ad hoc international criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court to ending impunity and urges States to consider ratifying or acceding to the Rome Statute.
The representative of France, on behalf of its co-sponsor the Netherlands, read oral amendments to the text. Similar resolutions had been adopted in past years by consensus, he recalled. This year, on the basis of the report of the Secretary-General, the draft focused on prevention of all forms of violence against women and children. The co-sponsors endeavoured not to mention particular forms of violence against women, or to identify particular groups, so as to ensure the draft could be accepted as widely as possible. Explaining operative paragraph 8, he said that, like all members of the Third Committee, the co-sponsors had been concerned about the possible invocation of religious considerations to justify violence against women. All States had an obligation to combat such violence.
The representative of Benin, on behalf of the African Group, said proposed amendments had been submitted last week in reaction to the unilateral manner in which the co-facilitators had conducted negotiations. Very few concerns had been taken into account, but the Group believed it was necessary to show flexibility in order to achieve consensus on such an important resolution. The elimination of all forms of violence against women was a leitmotif for all Governments and not the sole preserve of a few countries or delegations. There should be more transparency in the future.
The representative of Morocco, on behalf of the African Group, said the Group had participated actively and constructively in the informal negotiations. Concerns had been expressed about operative paragraph 8, but unfortunately they had fallen on deaf ears. A blind eye should not be turned to the fact that the Beijing Plan of Action was an organic whole that should not be dealt with in a partial matter. The Arab Group stressed that its understanding of operative paragraph 8 was that it contained nothing to imply that religions urged violence against women. On the contrary, for thousands of years, religion has safeguarded all human beings, particularly women. The Arab Group also stressed the need for sponsors to be flexible and to respond to the concerns and worries of all Member States.
The observer for the Holy See referred to the same operative paragraph. During negotiations, his delegation had questioned the inclusion of such language, as if religion could support some form of violence against women. Religion was important in the promotion of the advancement of women. People of all faiths condemned violence against women. The Holy See was committed to the promotion of human rights of all people everywhere.
The representative of the Russian Federation said, with regards to operative paragraph 8, that a line had to be drawn between harmful practices and traditional values. The former were to be condemned, while the latter had a positive side which contributed greatly to human rights and freedoms. It was hoped that, in the future, the co-sponsors would take that into account and avoid confusion and creating rifts in the Third Committee.
The Committee then adopted the draft resolution, as orally revised, without a vote.
Explaining her delegation’s position and speaking also on behalf of Italy and Poland, the representative of Germany noted the draft’s reference to the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. She reiterated, however, the place of fundamental and legally binding international human rights instruments in addressing human trafficking and the protection of its victims.
The representative of Libya said her country’s decision to join consensus did not mean that it had change its position vis-à-vis the Rome Statute.
The representative of Sudan said his delegation shared reservations about the draft’s reference to religion and violence against women. The language used was not suitable. Regarding the International Criminal Court, it would have been better to avoid thorny issues. The Court was still a matter of contention between Member States, some of which did not acknowledge its role. The Court had become a symbol of politicization and Sudan distanced itself from any paragraphs that referred to it.
The representative of Venezuela said that, for a second consecutive year, her country was not co-sponsoring the resolution. It was satisfied by the last-minute decision by the co-facilitators to reinsert the same wording regarding indigenous peoples as in the past. Excluding indigenous peoples would have been seen as discriminatory. Venezuela would also have liked to have seen a reference in the draft to the Bretton Woods institutions, as their policies had made States spend money in a manner that promoted marginalization and poverty, thus making women more vulnerable to violence.
The representative of Pakistan called the draft an important step in sending a collective message to rest of world that the 192 Member States stood together on the issue of violence. Pakistan shared the same position on operative paragraph 8 as the Arab Group and the Holy See. Misuse and misinterpretation of religion was the problem, not religion itself, which had served to enhance the dignity of women for centuries. It was hoped that, in the future, a spirit of cooperation would prevail from the beginning of the negotiating process that would result in a more comprehensive text, equally owned by all.
The Committee then took action on the draft resolution on International Widows’ Day (document A/C.3/65/L.19).
Emphasizing the need to give special attention to the situation of widows and their children, including those living in rural areas, the draft resolution would have the General Assembly decide, with effect from 2011, to observe International Widows’ Day on 23 June each year, and to call upon Member States, the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, within their respective mandates, to give special attention to the situation of widows and their children. The Secretary-General would be asked to take necessary measures, within existing resources, for the observance by the United Nations of International Widows’ Day.
The representative of Gabon, the main sponsor, said that the draft resolution was underpinned by two concerns: the institutionalization of an International Widows’ Day; and the need for the international community to lend attention to the plight of widows and their children. Widows had the right to lead a dignified life, and the resolution was a source of hope for widows all over the world who needed active solidarity. The co-sponsors were grateful for participants who enhanced the draft by taking into account the concerns of widows and children from all regions of the world, and hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.
The representative of Jamaica, then, said the Government was taking the floor to explain its position, as it wished to endorse the draft resolution. The enhanced focus on widows and children could help in the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which advanced the empowerment of woman and children, and ensure that the situation of widows received more attention at the international level. The life expectancy of women was longer than men, so they needed support systems throughout their life cycle. Millions of children of widows were also vulnerable, as they were prone to a lack of education, abuse and malnutrition. Widows were vulnerable to poverty, discrimination, prejudice and social isolation, as well as HIV/AIDS and other infections. The observance of International Widows’ Day would show their plight. Governments could also promote institution-building programmes that provided the opportunity to increase men in the process. For example, Jamaica had established a male desk in the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in order to have a dialogue between men and women regarding the implementation of a strategy against gender bias.
The Committee then adopted the resolution, without a vote.
After adoption of the resolution, Gabon said that, on behalf of the co-sponsors, it was pleased by the adoption, which constituted a milestone in the United Nations’ efforts to address the concerns about widows around the world, and it was hoped that the Assembly would confirm the vote in the plenary.
The Committee then took action on the draft resolution entitled Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/65/L.26/Rev.1).
It would have the General Assembly condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through intimidation, and state that it can never be justified. The Assembly would emphasize that States must take persistent, determined and effective measures to prevent such actions. Any action or attempt by States or public officials to legalize, authorise or acquiesce in such actions under any circumstances, including on national security grounds, would be condemned. The Assembly would also call upon States parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to fulfil their obligation to prosecute or extradite those allegedly involved in torture. It would also call upon States to take appropriate measures to prevent and prohibit the production and trade in equipment used to inflict torture or other forms of punishment.
The representative of Denmark, the main sponsor, made an oral revision to the text. He recalled that in article 5, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one shall be subject to torture or cruel forms of punishment. Yet, the Special Rapporteur’s reports on torture had demonstrated that torture was still being use in all parts of the world. It took place in secret and despite official denials. The General Assembly had a particular responsibility to speak out. The draft resolution was the result of several opened-ended consultations and bilateral meetings.
The draft resolution was then adopted as orally revised without a vote.
Right of Reply
In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it completely rejected the draft resolution introduced by the European Union and Belgium as an anti-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea resolution. It was a politically motivated document of plot and fabrication that had nothing to do with human rights. The alleged violations listed did not exist in his country, where the human rights of people were guaranteed in practice. The principle purpose of the resolution was to distort and fabricate the situation, create an atmosphere of international pressure and overthrow the socialist system that had been chosen by the people. The main sponsors of the resolution were misleading public opinion, while indulging in human rights violations on their own territories, such as racial discrimination and mistreatment of immigrants. The countries that drafted such a text should reflect on their history before slamming the human rights situation of other countries. His country opposed and rejected not only the resolution by the European Union, but also any resolutions that fostered confrontation and mistrust in the international human rights forum.
The representative of Iran also stated deep regret about draft resolution L.49, which the representative of Canada had introduced concerning human rights in Iran. It was obvious that the draft resolution had nothing to do with human rights, but was a politically motivated exercise to serve the narrow political purpose of Canada and other co-sponsors. It, in no way, corresponded with actual human rights in Iran and its content reflected flawed, inaccurate and unfounded allegations, to which Iran would respond in due time. It also lacked objectivity in substance and procedure and should be totally rejected.
If Canada was really concerned about human rights, it should correct its own human rights record. Canada and other co-sponsors were, themselves, implicated in human rights violations for which they must be held accountable. Canada’s minority groups, including African Canadians and aboriginal people, continued to face discrimination in all walks of life. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had also noted with concern that a disproportionate number of aboriginal and indigenous women and girls continued to suffer from a high level of discrimination and violence. By presenting the draft resolution, Canada was using the human rights mechanism for its political ambitions. Iran requested that States reject it.
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