|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
43rd Meeting (AM)
Third Committee Approves Text Calling for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
in Global Development Goal Efforts, High-Level Meeting to Assess Progress
Also Approves Texts on Obstetric Fistula, Office of High Commissioner for Refugees
The General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to work towards convening a high-level meeting on ensuring accessibility for, and inclusion of, persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts, under the terms of a draft resolution approved by consensus today by the Third Committee.
Put forward by the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania in the wake of the High-Level Plenary Meeting held in September on the Millennium Development Goals, the draft resolution would have the Assembly urge Member States to explicitly include disability issues and persons with disabilities in national plans and tools designed to contribute to the full realization of the Goals.
It would go on to ask the Secretary-General to “submit information on the implementation of the present resolution to the General Assembly at its sixty-sixth session, with a view to convening, within existing resources, a high-level meeting at the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly on strengthening efforts to ensure accessibility for and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts”. [The sixty-sixth session of the Assembly is to begin in September 2011, and the sixty-seventh a year later.]
Two other draft resolutions were adopted today, also without a vote.
One of them, an annual resolution — offered by the African Group — on supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula, would have the General Assembly call upon States to take all necessary measures to ensure the right of women and girls to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health. It would also call on the international community to support the activities of the United Nations Population Fund and other partners in the global Campaign to End Fistula, in establishing and financing regional fistula treatment and training centres.
The other, on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with Sweden as the main sponsor, would have the General Assembly welcome the important work of the United Nations refugee agency and its Executive Committee, and note with appreciation the progress UNHCR has made in implementing structural and management reforms. It would, also, express concern about the hardships faced by millions of refugees in protracted situations, and emphasize the need for greater international efforts to resolve their plight.
In other business, the Committee heard the introduction of a number of resolutions on issues as varied as racism, the right of peoples to self-determination and promotion and protection of human rights. Also, the Chair of the Committee, Michel Tommo Monthe of Cameroon, appealed to delegations to expedite their work in order for them to conclude on schedule, noting that action remains to be taken on more than 40 draft resolutions.
Speaking during the introduction of reports today were representatives of Sierra Leone, Mali, El Salvador, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, France, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Morocco.
During action on draft resolutions, representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania, Benin, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Guatemala, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Saint Lucia and Sweden spoke, as did the Observer of the Holy See.
The Committee will reconvene on Thursday, 11 November, to take action on more draft resolutions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to hear the introduction of a number of draft resolutions on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; the report of the Human Rights Council; the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the right of peoples to self-determination; and promotion and protection of human rights.
It was also to take action on four draft resolutions, entitled Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities towards 2015 and beyond (document A/C.3/65/L.12/Rev.1), Declaration on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (document A/C.3/65/L.7), Supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula (document A/C.3/65/L.18/Rev.1), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/65/L.58).
Introduction of Resolutions
The representative of Sierra Leone, on behalf of the African Group, first introduced a draft resolution entitled Assistance to Refugees, Returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/C.3/65/L.56). She said the text was not so different from the one adopted by the Third Committee last year with broad co-sponsorship. She made an oral amendment to the text, and noted that the African Group looked forward to adoption by consensus.
The representative of Mali, called upon to introduce a draft resolution entitled Report of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/65/L.57), asked to do so later so as to be able to consult with his colleagues.
The representative of El Salvador then introduced a draft resolution entitled Proclamation of 24 March as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims (document A/C.3/65/L.59), stating that the draft resolution was in line with the Human Rights Council resolution adopted in October to promote the right to truth. It recognized the universality and interdependence of civil, political, economic and cultural rights, and recalled the Geneva Convention and International Convention for the Protection of All Persons. This draft resolution recognized the need to promote the memory of victims of massive and systematic human rights violations and the importance of truth and justice. It was a moral and political duty to pay tribute to those who protected human rights for all and lost lives in these efforts. It particularly recognized the important and valuable work of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who had been actively engaged in promoting human rights in his country. Protecting the rights of the neediest in the country, he became a “voice for the voiceless”. Those efforts cost him his life on 24 March 1980.
In a separate statement read by the representative, the President of El Salvador said that, because they were honouring Monsignor Romero’s life, 24 March was a day of hope. The President recognized that the Monsignor was a victim of illegal violence carried out by a death squad, noting that the members of that violent group had already been identified in an international investigative forum. The Government of El Salvador had accepted the legal validity of those investigative reports before the International Commission of Human Rights, expressed its official recognition of the truth concerning the death of Monsignor Romero and asked for pardons.
The representative thanked the Committee for its support and invited the Committee to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.
The representative of the Russian Federation then introduced a draft resolution on Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/C.3/65/L.50), stating that the draft had become a traditional resolution that was not diminishing in importance, but growing. Noting the sixty-fifth anniversary of the victory in World War II, he said that the victory was historic, since the immediate outcome was the creation of the United Nations. Nobody could deny that was a victory of the forces of good over evil, leading to a system of the protection of human rights. The co-sponsors of the draft resolution were concerned by the growth of extremist groups, such as neo-Nazis and skinheads, who used violence against those with different beliefs. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism had highlighted the related dangers, and the provisions of that report were taken into account when drafting the resolution. He noted that 20 November would be the anniversary of the creation of the Nuremburg Tribunal, which condemned the crimes of those who had violated the dignity of the individual — the forces of evil. Any attempt to revisit those decisions was unacceptable and disgraceful.
The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the co-sponsor Belgium, then introduced a draft resolution on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/C.3/65/L.53). This was an annual resolution, she said, that addressed three elements, as follows: the reports of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the financial situation of that Committee and the status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It was hoped it would be approved by consensus.
The representative of Pakistan then introduced a draft resolution entitled Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/65/L.51). He said the right of peoples to self-determination was a cardinal right and the most basic collective right of peoples and nations. Its realization was an essential condition for the promotion and protection of individual human rights. Several international summits had reaffirmed the right of peoples to self-determination, which was a right that had helped millions to emerge from colonialism, apartheid and foreign or alien occupation. Due to the universal nature of the right, the resolution had traditionally been a consensus resolution, and it was hoped that that would be the case again.
The representative of Egypt then introduced a draft resolution on The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/65/L.52), stating that, for more than five decades, the Palestinian people suffered under the Israelis and were denied human rights. That compelled the co-sponsors to present the draft resolution, until the right to self-determination could be realized. The draft resolution was essentially the same as last year, except for technical updates. Among others, it reaffirmed the right to self-determination, recalling numerous international agreements. It noted the International Court of Justice’s conclusion regarding the construction of the wall, stating that it severely impeded the right of the Palestinian people to self-development. In order to reach lasting peace, there needed to be respect for the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Only upon such a territory could the Palestinians establish a sovereign state and live in peace alongside the State of Israel. He hoped the resolution could be adopted by consensus.
The representative of Cuba then introduced a draft resolution on Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/65/L.54).
He said the resolution was introduced every year, focusing on the problem of mercenaries. The co-sponsors recognized the efforts of the working group and the importance of continuing with the work being carried out by the previous Special Rapporteur, in particular regarding the strengthening of the legal framework concerning the use, financing and training of mercenaries. A legal definition of mercenaries, as well as the establishment of norms, was important to improve the protection of human rights, including right to self-determination. To deal with present threats caused by mercenaries and security services, States were invited this year to consider the draft convention prepared by the working group for a new international legal instrument to regulate these private security services. States were invited to contribute to the open-ended working group entrusted with drafting the new convention.
It was then the turn of the representative of France to introduce a draft resolution on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (document A/C.3/65/L.30). Four years after its adoption by the General Assembly, the Convention has been signed by 87 States, she said. That fact was welcomed in the draft resolution, which called upon all States that have not yet signed it to do so and to accept the competency of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. It was hoped that the Convention would have legal effect by the end of the current session of the General Assembly. The recommendation of the Human Rights Council to declare 30 August each year as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was part of the draft resolution. To this day, forced disappearances have continued to occur all over the world and it was hoped that the draft would be adopted by consensus.
The representative of Azerbaijan then introduced a draft resolution on Missing Persons (document A/C.3/65/L.31). He said it was based on a similar resolution adopted at the sixty-third session of the General Assembly. All previous resolutions had received broad support from Member States and contributed to raising awareness of the issue in the international community. Recent developments were taken into account in the draft, including the report of the Secretary-General and a progress report from the Human Rights Council advisory committee on best practices on the issue of missing persons. The issue of persons reported missing during armed conflict has continued to have a negative impact on efforts to end those conflicts, while inflicting suffering on the families of those missing. The importance of addressing the issue from a human rights perspective and the need to end impunity are stressed in the draft, in which the right of families to know the fate of relatives gone missing in armed conflict situations was affirmed as well. The support of Member States would be highly appreciated.
Before the representative of Belgium introduced a draft resolution on Elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief (document A/C.3/65/L.32), the Secretary of the Committee made minor verbal corrections, noting, for example, that the words “individuals responsible for committing acts of desecration” in a portion of the text would be replaced with “those responsible for destruction”.
The representative stated that the co-sponsors wished to once again underline the fundamental importance of freedom of religion and belief and the role this freedom played in the enjoyment of other freedoms, such as conscience and thought. He highlighted a number of new concerns and issues, such as concern about acts of violence against religious minorities, including by non-State actors. The draft resolution put a special emphasis on the need for laws and regulations, and called for existing laws not to be used in a discriminating way. The co-sponsors were still working to fine tune this text and were looking forward to another round of informal discussions. He thanked everyone for his or her constructive input.
The representative of Colombia then introduced a draft resolution on Programme of Activities of the International Year for People of African Descent (document A/C.3/65/L.33). The purpose of the resolution was to strengthen all efforts aimed at international activities regarding regional and international cooperation for the people of African descent to enjoy economic, civil and political rights and freedoms, including respect for their diversity and culture. The purpose was to unite efforts on the international, regional and local agendas aimed at promoting activities to celebrate the International Year for People of African Descent. During the past weeks, meetings had been held and important contributions were made to improve the text. It was hoped that efforts would be continued so that the draft resolution could be adopted by consensus.
The representative of Peru then introduced a draft resolution entitled Human rights and extreme poverty (document A/C.3/65/L.36). The eradication of extreme poverty was one of the greatest challenges faced by all countries, particularly in the developing world, he said. It was at the heart of commitments made at various international forums, as well as one of the Millennium Development Goals. Eradication was an urgent and important challenge that required resolute action by States. The importance of incorporating human rights in policies and programmes aimed at eradicating extreme poverty was underscored in the draft. In that context, reference was made to the special attention required by women, children, the elderly, the handicapped and indigenous groups living in extreme poverty. The draft goes on to encourage the international community to meet all challenges that exacerbate extreme poverty, including economic and financial crises, food security and climate change. It was hoped that the draft would be welcomed by all Member States and adopted by consensus.
The Secretary made oral amendments to the draft resolution entitled Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/C.3/65/L.38), which was then introduced by the representative of Egypt. It was a sincere and objective attempt to reflect upon the opportunities and challenges represented by globalization, with a view to much-needed cooperation to tackle a major phenomenon in the world today, one that posed new opportunities as well as new challenges.
The representative of Mexico then introduced a draft resolution on Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/C.3/65/L.43), stating that terrorism was a problem and adequate measures must be adopted on all levels. The need to protect people from attacks, however, could not justify actions that ran counter to human rights, which must be fundamental for all measures in countering terrorism. This year’s draft had been bolstered, and there was also a new reference urging States to respect the right to privacy. In order to further strengthen cooperation, the draft asked all working groups that were part of the global campaign to counter terrorism to include a human rights perspective in their work. Finally, the draft asked for the availability of effective measures for victims. The adoption of the draft resolution would send a clear signal that the international community was united while countering terrorism. The co-sponsors would continue to work in a spirit of cooperation and hoped the resolution would be adopted by consensus.
Regarding the introduction by the representative of Morocco of a draft resolution on Combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/65/L.46), the President of the Committee stated his understanding that the co-sponsor wanted to introduce the draft on Thursday.
The representative of Mali then introduced the draft resolution on the Report of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/65/L.57). He said the text was similar to the resolution adopted last year, but incorporating a number of amendments that took into account recent reports and annexes. The African Group would like the draft to be adopted by consensus.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee then took action on the draft resolution entitled Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities towards 2015 and beyond (document A/C.3/65/L.12/Rev.1).
That draft would have the Assembly call upon Governments and United Nations bodies and agencies to include disability issues and persons with disabilities in reviewing progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to step up efforts to include in their assessment the extent to which persons with disabilities are able to benefit from efforts to achieve the Goals. It would call upon Governments to ensure that programmes and policies are inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities. It would also call upon Governments to strengthen the collection and compilation of national data and information about the situation of persons with disabilities following existing guidelines on disability statistics that are disaggregated by sex and age.
By the draft, the General Assembly would go on to request the United Nations system to facilitate technical assistance within existing resources, including the provision of assistance for capacity-building, and for the collection and compilation of national and regional data and statistics on disability. It would request the Secretary-General to provide information on the implementation of the resolution to the General Assembly at its sixty-sixth session with a view to convening a high-level meeting at the sixty-seventh session on strengthening efforts to ensure accessibility for and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, also on behalf of thePhilippines, said that, as the Millennium Development Goals are implemented, it was important for persons with disabilities to be regarded as active participants and beneficiaries of development. The need for more data and statistics on such persons, as well as information on best practices, was stressed in the draft, which also requests an implementation report with a view to convening a high-level meeting on persons with disabilities and development efforts at the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly. The issues of international cooperation and accessibility at the United Nations were also addressed. It was the hope of the main sponsors that the text, which they believed to be a balanced one, would be adopted by consensus.
The draft was then adopted without a vote.
The Chair, MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), then announced that the draft resolution entitled Declaration on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (document A/C.3/65/L.7) would be withdrawn, explaining that the Declaration had been endorsed in 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), which was adopted by the Committee on 4 November 2010.
The Committee took up the draft on supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula (document A/C.3/65/L.18).
That draft would have the Assembly stress the interlinkages among poverty, malnutrition, lack of or inadequate or inaccessible health services, early childbearing, early marriage of the girl child, violence against young women and girls and gender discrimination as root causes of obstetric fistula. It would express deep concern about discrimination against the girl child and the violation of the rights of the girl child, which often result in less access by girls to education and nutrition, reduced physical and mental health and enjoyment by girls of fewer rights, opportunities and benefits of childhood and adolescence compared with boys, and often being subjected to various forms of cultural, social, sexual and economic exploitation and to violence and harmful practices.
The draft would call upon States to take all necessary measures to ensure the right of women and girls to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health, and develop sustainable health systems and social services, with a view to ensuring access to such systems and services without discrimination, while paying special attention to adequate food and nutrition, water and sanitation, family planning information, increasing knowledge and awareness and securing appropriate prenatal and post-natal care for the prevention of obstetric fistula. It would also call on the international community to support the activities of the United Nations Population Fund and other partners in the global Campaign to End Fistula, including the World Health Organization, in establishing and financing regional fistula treatment and training centres, and where necessary national centres, by identifying and supporting health facilities that have the potential to serve as centres for treatment, training and convalescent care. Additionally, it would urge multilateral donors, and invite international financial institutions, within their respective mandates, and regional development banks to review and implement policies to support national efforts to ensure that a higher proportion of resources reaches young women and girls, in particular in rural and remote areas.
The representative of Benin said that the resolution was about saving the lives of women and girls. Obstetric fistula was one of leading causes of maternal mortality in the developing world. When a woman had prolonged labour without timely care, the pressure of the baby’s head could cause damage to her internal organs and pelvis, leading to incontinence and chronic leaking of urine. Misconceptions about the causes often led to stigma. Women were often abandoned by their husbands and family, causing feelings of isolation that led to depression and, in some cases, suicide. Where obstetric fistula was common, women and girls often had little control over their own lives.
Obstetric fistula was almost entirely preventable, yet in thetwenty-first century, at least 2 million women in Africa and Asia were living with the condition, and 50,000 to 100,000 new cases developed each year. The persistence of obstetric fistula was a signal that the health system was failing to meet the needs of women. That was the reason that the African Group had decided to present this resolution, so that the international community could prevent obstetric fistula through access to quality health care. The resolution called for renewed focus to address the issue and specific programmes to save the lives of women and girls. Concrete recommendations on what must be done at the national, regional and international levels to prevent and end maternal morbidity were in the draft. Verbally noting a few small corrections that the editors had missed regarding language agreed to during negotiations, he called upon the international community to give attention to maternal health and expressed hope that the resolution would again be adopted with overwhelming support.
The representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, congratulated the African Group for its decision to promote the draft resolution. Believing that this was an extremely important signal, the European Union committed to ending obstetric fistula. All 27 European Union States decided to co-sponsor the resolution and welcomed that a record number of members decided to do the same.
The representative of Guatemala drew attention to the issue of Benin not appearing in the list of co-sponsors, to which the Chairman of the Committee responded that the resolution was on behalf of the African Group, so all African Group members were there.
The representative of Chile said that the draft resolution was an important text that had historic support, showing that, when the Committee focused on important issues, like the discrimination and stigma suffered by women, ambitious results could be achieved. As stated in dialogue with the Committee, Chile wished to thank the African Group countries for introducing the text when many people had been unaware of this condition, leading to majority consensus and support.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire stated the country’s full support of the statement made by the African Group, noting that it had raised its flag to speak by accident, but having done so, felt that “the more, the merrier” applied in this case.
The Chairman of the Committee then stated his understanding that the Committee wished to adopt the draft resolution as orally revised and that, with no objection, it was so decided.
Speaking after adoption of the resolution, the Observer of the Holy See said that her delegation affirmed support of maternal health, as well as addressing poverty and providing health care; however, terms like sexual and reproductive health, when misconstrued as the right to abortion, did not help women. Her delegation emphasized that the resolution did not create any abortion rights and did not support, for example, the funding of abortion. An approach was necessary that took into account the well-being of women and sufficient health care for them.
The representative of Saint Lucia noted that most women around the world would become pregnant at some point, and said that it was the responsibility of every individual to ensure that women, regardless of age, were able to have healthy, safe pregnancies. She stated that they were far from achieving Millennium Development Goal #5 and eradicating obstetric fistula, which was unacceptable given that it was almost entirely preventable through obstetric care. The adoption of the resolution offered a chance to consider why safe delivery was still out of reach. Poverty and rates of early pregnancy were also high in Saint Lucia, but obstetric fistula did not occur because adequate medical care and care for all complications were provided to all women. That had to be the main strategy concerning obstetric fistula.
It was possible to eliminate the underlying cause of obstetric fistula through skilled birth attendants who would help prevent prolonged labour. Access to emergency obstetric care was not in the resolution, reducing the number of interventions that could be made, which was a disservice. Efforts should be focused in that direction. Poverty, early pregnancy and child marriages were important issues to address, but the priority should be to provide access to emergency obstetric care that prevented women from losing their lives and babies and suffering from obstetric fistula. In joining the consensus, Saint Lucia put on record its request for more resources, such as the provision of skilled attendants.
Finally, the Committee took action on the draft resolution on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(document A/C.3/65/L.58).
By its terms, the draft would have the General Assembly welcome the important work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its Executive Committee, and welcome a UNHCR initiative to facilitate the convening of an intergovernmental ministerial event on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, in consultation with States.
The Assembly would re-emphasize that the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the prevention and reduction of statelessness, are primarily the responsibility of States, working in cooperation with UNHCR and the international community. UNHCR would be encouraged to continue strengthening its capacity to respond to emergencies. It would “note with appreciation” progress made at UNHCR in implementing structural and management change and encourage the refugee agency to consolidate the reform process.
The Assembly would go on to strongly condemn attacks on refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, and express deep concern about an increasing number of attacks against humanitarian aid workers and convoys and, in particular, the loss of life of humanitarian personnel working in the most difficult and challenging conditions in order to assist those in need.
Refoulement and unlawful expulsion of refugees and asylum-seekers would be deplored, and the obligation of all States to accept the return of their nationals emphasized. Concern would be expressed about the particular difficulties faced by millions of refugees in protracted situations; the need to redouble efforts to resolve their plight would be emphasized and the importance of addressing the root causes of refugee movements stressed.
The representative of Sweden, the main sponsor, said the main objective of the draft was to reaffirm the support of the General Assembly for the work of the Office of the UNHCR and its Executive Committee. He said he would not repeat the substance of the draft, as his colleague had done so at its introduction last week. He would simply recall that the text had received consensus-backing in Geneva and in informal consultations in New York.
The Committee then adopted the draft without a vote.
The Chair, MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), said 10 plenary meetings remained over the next two weeks for the Committee to complete its work. Action still needed to be taken on more than 40 draft resolutions. “We are a little behind schedule” and no agenda items had been concluded. Such a situation risked a delay in the presentation of the Committee’s reports to the General Assembly Plenary. “We still have those 10 plenary meetings, but a lot of work to do.” He appealed to all main sponsors to bring negotiations on draft resolutions to a conclusion so that the Committee could take action on them.
The representative of Cuba announced that her delegation would host a party for the Third Committee on Friday, 3 December, to celebrate the conclusion of its work. Participants would enjoy music, dancing and Cuban food. She identified the regional coordinators for the event. “This is everyone’s party” and thanks were expressed for contributions to the international bar.
Mr. TOMMO MONTHE said the Committee, having completed its first phase, or deliberations, could not move on to its fourth “festival” phase without expediting its second and third phases, which involved negotiations (“cooking the resolutions”) and action on draft resolutions, respectively. He appealed to delegations for their support in that regard.
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