Five Years after Creation, Human Rights Council Has Completed Appraisal of Human Rights Situation in Every Country in the World, Third Committee Told
Five Years after Creation, Human Rights Council Has Completed Appraisal of Human Rights Situation in Every Country in the World, Third Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
39th & 40th Meetings (AM & PM)
Five Years after Creation, Human Rights Council Has Completed Appraisal of Human
Rights Situation in Every Country in the World, Third Committee Told
President Says Council Has Also Demonstrated ‘Ability to Respond to Crises’;
Committee Also Hears 22 More Speakers, Concludes Discussion on Refugee Report
Five years after its creation, the Human Rights Council had successfully completed a review of its working methods and, through its Universal Periodic Review mechanism, assessed the human rights situation of the entire United Nations membership, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.
“For the first time in United Nations history, the Council has appraised the human rights situation in every country of the world,” Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre ( Uruguay) said as she introduced the Council’s annual report to the Committee.
Now that the Review’s first cycle — which lasted four years and featured the participation of all 193 Member States, including South Sudan — had been concluded, its second cycle would, beginning in June 2012, be key to ensuring the mechanism’s ultimate success, she said. To that end, she said several changes were being introduced to the Review’s working methods, noting in particular that it would shift to a four‑and‑a‑half year cycle that reviewed 14, rather than 16, countries for three‑and‑a‑half hours each during every session.
Those changes resulted from a year‑long assessment process called for in General Assembly resolution 60/251, which originally established the Council as a replacement to the Commission on Human Rights. She noted that, among other adjustments, the Assembly changed the Council’s annual cycle, aligning it with the Assembly’s schedule. Modifications were also made to the selection process for the special procedures mandate holders.
Apart from the review outcome itself, she said momentum had been created towards a “review by doing” process, based on consensus when possible and using the toolkit already established by the Council’s institutional building package. A task force composed of Bureau members, the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had also been established to follow up on the review.
At the same time, the Council had adopted, at its last session, a record number of 35 resolutions, decisions and President’s statements, bringing the total number of proposals adopted over the last three regular sessions in 2011 to 108, compared to 80 adopted over the same period the year before. Five new special procedures had also been established, bringing the total number of mandates to 44. At the same time, the Council continued to address specific and emerging thematic issues.
“During the past year, the Council has demonstrated its ability to be seized with and respond to human rights crises,” she said, highlighting its special sessions on Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria. In response to the situations in those countries, the Council had established commissions of inquiry and fact‑finding missions to make recommendations in the face of serious human rights violations.
However, the financial implications surrounding urgent procedures – as well as the severe underfunding of the Universal Periodic Review — continued to pose challenges, and she urged States to work with their counterparts in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to address the serious challenges confronting the Council, particularly regarding the establishment of fact‑finding missions and commissions of inquiry.
During the ensuing debate, State delegations welcomed the new practice of holding an interactive dialogue between the Committee and the Council’s president and underlined the flexibility and compromise shown during the Assembly negotiations on the Council’s review. At the same time, others called for further assessment of the special procedures mechanism, suggesting that the number of mandate holders on thematic issues was far too many, and the Council should prioritize them.
Suriname’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, voiced concerns that special rapporteurs and experts were exceeding their mandates. “While the independence of the mandate holders is acknowledged, we are of the view that mandate holders should carry out their activities in full respect of the Code of Conduct,” he said, stressing that those who defied their mandate did not necessarily contribute to an environment for constructive dialogue.
Several delegates said the Universal Periodic Review had, during its first cycle, set an example of how States could cooperate and engage constructively with one another, avoiding the politicization of issues, as well as the unproductive naming and shaming of others. Malaysia’s delegate, however, cautioned that some countries still seemed keen to use the Council as a platform to impose their values on other parties, instead of working together to build an institution based on the principles of dialogue, cooperation, consultation and mutual respect.
Also today, the Committee concluded its consideration of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions. Participating in that debate were the representatives of Belarus, Kenya, Pakistan, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Malta, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Iran, Sudan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Bangladesh.
Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the International Organization for Migration also commented.
Also participating in today’s debate on the report of the Human Rights Council were the representatives of United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the African Group), Nigeria, Philippines, Belarus, Indonesia, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine and Moldova.
The representatives of Latvia, Armenia, Russian Federation and Azerbaijan exercised their right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. Thursday, 3 November, to hear the introduction on several draft resolutions and to take action on draft texts on policies and programmes involving youth and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to consider the report of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Before the Committee was the report of the Human Rights Council (document A/66/53 Supplement No. 53). It contains resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council at its sixteenth and seventeenth sessions and at its fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth special sessions, and the President’s statement adopted by the Council at its sixteenth session.
The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary‑General on the observance of the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims (document A/66/335). The report provides a brief overview of the right to the truth, as well as an account of the extent and nature of the observance of 24 March as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of the Victims. The report concludes that there is a need for greater awareness about the International Day.
Human Rights Council President LAURA DUPUY LASSERRE ( Uruguay) recalled that 2011 marked the fifth year since the Council’s establishment and the outcome of the Council’s review process was adopted by the General Assembly last June. Further, the Assembly decided to change the Council’s annual cycle, aligning it with the Assembly’s schedule, meaning that she would hold the presidency until the end of 2012.
As part of the review follow‑up, she said she had established a task force composed of Bureau members, the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The task force was expected to submit recommendations to the Council at its next session in March. At the same time, the Council was implementing the review outcome in relation to the Universal Periodic Review and the selection of the special procedures mandate holders. The Council would also hold its first yearly high‑level panel on human rights mainstreaming within the United Nations system next March. The panel would provide an opportunity to assess progress, achievements and challenges.
Apart from the review outcome itself, the review process had generated awareness of the importance of cross‑regional work and the use of different tools to engage countries in cooperative work and in positively impacting the situation on the ground, she said. Momentum had been created towards a “review by doing” process, based on consensus when possible and using the toolkit already established by the Council’s institutional building package.
“During the past year, the Council has demonstrated its ability to be seized with and respond to human rights crises,” she continued, highlighting special sessions on Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria, which had been addressed in two meetings. In response to the situations in those countries, the Council had established commissions of inquiry and fact‑finding missions to make recommendations in the face of serious human rights violations. The Council had also increased its interaction with the High Commissioner for Human Rights through interactive dialogues on the basis of her reports and on specific country situations in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Belarus.
She said the Council’s response to the aspirations of people around the world had generated measures to address specific and emerging thematic issues, including through the establishment of a new special procedures mandate on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. In March, the Council would hold a record number of nine panels and thematic discussions on a range of issues, including: the protection of freedom of expression on the internet; discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity; and administration of justice and technical cooperation. While those panels overloaded the Council’s programme of work, they provided opportunities to debate important human rights challenges.
Zeroing in on the report, she said it contained the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Council at its sixteenth and seventeenth regular sessions and at its fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth special session. Panel discussions had been held on, among other things, the rights of victims of terrorism, the human rights aspects of terrorist hostage‑taking, children working or living on the street, the right to adequate health of older persons, the human rights of people of African descent and the realization of the right to development. At its last session, the Council adopted a record number of 35 resolutions, decisions and President’s statements, bringing the total number of proposals adopted over the last three regular sessions in 2011 to 108 compared to 80 adopted over the same period the year before. A number of cross‑regional initiatives had also been held.
She further noted that five new special procedures had been established, bringing the total number of mandates to 44, including the working group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, the Special Rapporteur on Iran and the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire. Its standard‑setting role had also been furthered by drawing on the work of its subsidiary bodies. In addition, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training and the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been submitted to the Assembly for adoption.
Outlining the annual report’s list of resolutions, she highlighted one on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire transmitting the reports of the High Commissioner and the Commission of Inquiry, along with another recommending that the Assembly transmit the Commission’s findings to all relevant bodies. The Council adopted a new resolution on the situation of human rights in Syria, deciding to dispatch a Commission of Inquiry to the country, requesting that it submit a report to the Council before the end of November, as well as its March session, and to transmit the report and update to the Assembly.
She said Council resolution 16/32 on the follow‑up to the report of the Fact‑Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict recommended, among other actions, that the Assembly promote an urgent discussion on the future legality of the use of certain munitions, reconsider the report at its current session and urge the Assembly to submit that report to the Security Council. A resolution had also been adopted recommending the Assembly proclaim 19 August as the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism. Another recommended that the Assembly lift the suspension of the rights of memberships of Libya to the Council. The Assembly was, by another text, encouraged to consider further measures to promote geographical balance in the OHCHR staff.
She reported that the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review concluded the last session of its first cycle on 17 October, noting that all 193 Member States had been considered by the Working Group, including South Sudan. “For the first time in United Nations history, the Council has appraised the human rights situation in every country of the world,” she stressed, adding that the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review would be key to that mechanism’s success.
In that context, she noted that by moving from a four‑year cycle to a four‑and‑a‑half year cycle, the Working Group would review 14 countries in each session instead of 16, while the time available for each review would be extended to three‑and‑a‑half hours. Those adjustments would require some additional financial and human resources, she said. Noting that the Review had been severely underfunded by the Assembly in the past, she called on States to provide previously requested resources or, at least for the time being, the minimum number of permanent posts required to cope with the timely translation of documents. She urged States to work with their counterparts in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to address the serious challenge confronting the Council, particularly regarding the establishment of fact‑finding missions and commissions of inquiry.
Question and Answer Session
The representative of the United States said the Council had made impressive accomplishments over the past year, but still paid disproportionate attention to Israel, undermining its credibility. She then asked what were the steps the Council could take to address human rights issues arising during the Arab Spring, and what could be done to ensure human rights during that transition period.
The observer of Palestine said she would like to address violations in Gaza, which was still reeling from affects of war three years ago and the five year blockade that violated international law. The recommendations of the fact‑finding mission on Gaza were clear and still had not been addressed. How could the situation be addressed and how could those accountable be brought to justice, given the difficulties bringing those issues to the Security Council? What practical steps should the United Nations take to ensure the recommendations of the fact‑finding mission on Gaza were implemented?
The European Union’s representative asked how the Council could follow up on its special session and how could it better follow up on universal periodic review recommendation.
Australia’s representative urged all nations to build on the dialogue of the universal periodic review, bringing civil society into discussion on all reforms. She asked what were the ways consideration of human rights could be further integrated into the United Nations system, including here in New York.
Japan’s representative said he would like to hear what results the Council had achieved so far and what its priorities would be. Also, how would she evaluate the review of the Council.
Switzerland’s representative asked how could developments under her presidency be consolidated, and what spheres of action should the Council fully bolster to pursue its activities. He called for lasting solutions to the question of funding.
Liechtenstein’s representative said it would be beneficial for Members of the Committee to share their views for the funding of Council mandates. His delegation would also be interested to know how she would continue close cooperation and sharing of information between Geneva and New York, and what would be her priorities in the coming year.
Mexico’s representative said, in the most recent sessions there had been a polarization in the stances of delegates, rather than engagement in genuine dialogue. He asked how constructive dialogue could be encouraged, so differences did not necessarily lead to confrontation. Also, what measures could be taken to tackle the growing burden of the Council’s work.
China’s representative said human rights issues should be resolved through dialogue and cooperation, and it was opposed to naming or shaming others. The Council should pay more attention to economic, social and cultural rights to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, she said.
The Russian Federation’s representative said his country would not like to undermine the mandate of the Council — it must and had the right to respond to emergencies and challenges in the areas of human rights. However it was important to avoid any kind of misuse of the activities of the Council. It should be a forum for equitable and mutually respectful dialogue between Member States. Greater attention needed to be focused on finding mutually acceptable resolutions, avoiding politicization in its work. He asked what was the objective and content of the draft resolution on the second cycle of the universal periodic review, which would be considered by the General Assembly.
Morocco’s representative asked what was the role of national human rights institutions within the Council and how could panels contribute to the integration of human rights within the Organization.
Syria’s representative asked whether resolutions this year targeting particular countries meant the human rights situation was perfect in the rest of the world, or was that trend establishing a double standard and contradicting the way to deal with human rights. She further asked what were the mechanisms put forward by the Council to deal with human rights problems in developed countries, such as racism, discrimination, and violations to the right to development through unilateral economic sanctions.
Argentina’s representative asked what role the presidency of the Council could play to raise the profile of the body, and did her office have the necessary resources to further disseminate the work of the Council.
Chile’s representative said the president could rely on his delegation’s good will. The independence of special procedures was of crucial importance, and he hoped they would be duly maintained.
Cuba’s representative said it had submitted numerous resolutions on economic, social and cultural rights and it was important to create a position for an independent expert on a democratic, equitable world order. Cuba was concerned about double standards, but had a desire to cooperate with the Council and welcomed the opportunity to debate in the Committee today.
Costa Rica’s representative noted the importance of the Declaration on human rights training and the Optional Protocol on the rights of the child, and urged the Committee to adopt those resolutions by consensus.
Israel’s representative asked what the Council could do to stop the deadly attacks of rockets and mortars from Gaza on Israeli civilians.
Responding, Ms. LASSERRE said it was important to look at events of the Arab Spring and the transitional processes facing affected countries as an opportunity to consider the human rights situations in each country. In particular, those events provided the chance to strengthen democratic institutions and to bolster the rule of law. The Council stood ready to assist in those efforts with its special procedures, including through the recently established mandates on freedom of association and on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non‑recurrence. In that context, she emphasized that the special procedures could produce thematic, as well as country‑specific, recommendations.
Addressing questions on the Council’s recommendations on the Gaza conflict, she said it fell not only to the Council, but to the delegations most directly involved, to take action. In that regard, Palestine had done so in relation to the relevant agenda item. In addition, the Council had submitted recommendations to the Assembly, which would continue to consider them. She also noted other initiatives within the United Nations to deal with human rights violations, including the work of OHCHR.
She pointed out that the Council had laid down follow‑up mechanisms in relation to action taken during its special sessions. Some reports of the recent fact‑finding missions — notably those regarding Libya and Syria — were still being prepared. Yet, those reports should be seen as valid instruments to support the countries in question.
Hopefully, the impact of the first cycle of the Review would be reflected in the work of the second cycle, she said. However, the scope of the Review would not, in its second cycle, be confined merely to evaluating previous recommendations. Some might say that only some countries appeared to have human rights challenges; that was not the case. Moreover, the Review allowed a national process to be pursued. At the same time, national level consultations could unfold and civil society could present information to the High Commissioner, as well as to other State delegations. The validity and value of the exercise had been demonstrated during the first cycle and it was now time to look at the implementation phase. That would necessarily entail the participation of civil society along with national mechanisms. State delegations would be involved and informed of developments, she added.
Addressing resource questions, she noted that countries could request technical and financial support, not only from the High Commissioner’s office, but from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Year by year the Council would set up panels, because it wanted the entire United Nations system to contribute. Pointing out that the special procedures mandate holders did not receive a salary, she noted that the Council did pay the costs of country visits. She particularly stressed that funding was needed in Haiti, further suggesting that States could choose to contribute to efforts in that country, thereby fostering the transition from platitudes to concrete action.
She said that, while there was always room for improvement, the Council had been acting expeditiously and cooperatively. When situations arose, it was hoped that action could be taken as soon as possible. In that context, items on technical cooperation and on emergency situations offered two channels for action. However, the most important element in those cases had been the commitment and involvement of the State concerned. If that commitment existed, whether it was manifested by a focused approach or a gradual one, it was important to involve national institutions, and not just point fingers.
Underlining the Council’s focus on cooperation, she said that when a State had the desire to resolve a situation, but not the means, it was important for other States to cooperate. At the same time, if countries needed help, they should come forward and ask for it. Another critical element in furthering cooperation was not countering the Council’s work. Sometimes there were efforts to intimidate those who cooperated with the Council’s work and such reprisals were not helpful to anyone — neither to the Council nor to society — and affected people who had merely exercised the human right to freedom of expression.
Continuing, she said the Secretary‑General would soon make recommendations on how to provide resources to support urgent procedures. Currently, the Council’s budget was reviewed once a year and the timing made it difficult to take funding from other previously planned activities, duly considering that emergency situations arose unexpectedly. No Council mandate or mission could be funded by extra‑budgetary funding, because this would mean it was no longer independent. That would be counter to the intentions of the High Commissioner. In addition, it had not yet been possible to establish a funding mechanism for those mandates that was fully efficient. Still, when the Council adopted a resolution, it did not wait until the end of the year to implement it. The urgent nature of a human rights emergency meant that any gap was not permissible.
She stressed that human rights was the third pillar of the United Nations. That could be seen, she suggested, in the suffering and hunger in the Horn of Africa. The root of that problem was the security situation in Somalia and work could be undertaken by different parts of the United Nations system to address the situation.
Regarding the Council’s work and agenda, she said it was critical for delegations to have the initiative, not the Council presidency. All States, not just Council members, could take the initiative. She added that there were sometimes very sensitive considerations and it was desirable to pursue a coordinated approach.
The outcomes of the review process had to be respected, she said, underlining that the review process itself was very valuable and resulted in a number of suggestions being put forward. An assessment of the level of consensus that could be achieved had subsequently been made. That was the dynamic in intergovernmental bodies, particularly those that did not want to wait for years and years to make progress. However, it was clear that to make the council’s efforts effective, practical results were needed.
She said that, among other things, there was now a more focused approach to the selection process for special procedures. She hoped that the special procedures would continue to work independently and in keeping with the Council’s yearly resolutions. There was a Code of Conduct for the mandate holders. They must respect human rights, as well as the principles of the United Nations Charter, and promote dialogue with States. When they wished to engage in certain issues, they must engage in broad‑based consultation to achieve consensus.
She said the main change in the second cycle was increasing from three to three‑and‑a‑half hours per country. In addition, one day was being added to the sessions, allowing more time for State dialogue.
As for the Council’s mechanisms, she noted that, in addition to the Universal Periodic Review, the Council could adopt resolutions. The Council would be delighted if situations in all countries were ideal and no one would have to be called on to speak before it. Ideally, all countries could deal with their own situation, but the world was not perfect and the Council had to use the mechanisms created for it. At this point, not all had been employed, but some countries had come forward to ask for a resolution or dialogue on their country. In that context, she noted requests from Somalia, Tunisia and Yemen.
Her appearance before the Committee was one way to raise the council’s profile, she said. Also, video messages were increasingly being sent. Video conferences had also been held with various regional bodies. Those helped bring the Council out into the world.
She stressed that the Council considered all human rights and she did not see a divide between developed and developing countries. Moreover, there was an obligation to maintain open consultations prior to the adoption of draft resolutions, which provided the possibility to interact.
Turning to the question on whether the Council was considering the attacks on Israel from Gaza, she said references had been made to violence from either side. Whenever country situations — such as in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire — were considered, the actions by all sides were looked at.
Asking a follow‑up question, Syria’s representative thanked the Council president for answering her delegation’s second question. She would have liked it if the president answered the question on human rights violations in developed countries, however. She said that all the lies and allegations in Israel’s comments neglected the following facts: the Council had held a number of sessions to address the violation of human rights in the occupied territories. Further, the Committee had adopted scores of resolutions that condemned Israel’s violations. Indeed, Israel’s crimes had exhausted the United Nations, as well as its budgets. However, the Israeli occupation was still a fact, as were its saddest violations. Those violations did not allow Israel to judge human rights violations anywhere else in the world.
Responding, Ms. LASSERRE noted that she had partially replied to many questions and repeated that human rights violations in developed countries were also viewed in the Council, from the thematic angle during each session. Statements frequently referred to the situation of migrants in Europe, for one example. Special procedures reports were not confined to developing countries and talked about developed countries, often very severely. No one was saying some were good and some were bad. She also noted that many developing countries got a “better grade” in providing water and sanitation.
“The Council is everybody’s Council,” she stressed. There was no Council rule that if a country failed to comply in regard to one particular human right, it could not speak on other rights. Indeed, every country could speak in the Universal Periodic Review process. It was very damaging when countries that received comments from a developed country immediately assumed they were politicized. The Review should be seen as an effective mechanism and countries must take comments in a constructive way.
OMBENI SEFUE (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed support to the Council president and her team and reaffirmed its commitment to the Council’s work. He underscored and emphasized that continued engagement on that subject with all stakeholders was key to arriving at an understanding on the issues of divergence among Member States, and advancing those that Members agree on. Noting the efforts of Council President to lead that body towards a successful outcome in the review process, he expressed particular appreciation for the open format of the second session of the Working Group, which allowed for effective participation of both members and observers, as well as other stakeholders.
He further welcomed the consensual approach and outcome that resulted from the Assembly negotiations on the Council’s review, as well as the coordinated approach between Geneva and New York during the review process. That process should be strengthened. Moreover, everyone would benefit from the new practice of holding an interactive dialogue between the Committee and the Council’s president. The African Group was also pleased that the President could now present the Council’s report to the plenary meetings of the Assembly and the Committee. Yet, adequate resources were needed to meet extraordinary expenses arising from the Council’s resolutions and decisions, and the President should make suggestions regarding financing.
HENRY MAC‑DONALD ( Suriname), on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said several noteworthy initiatives had been realized during the reporting period of the Human Rights Council. Also notable was the extended mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti. However, having special rapporteurs or experts exceed their mandates was a matter of grave concern to CARICOM. “While the independence of the mandate holders is acknowledged, we are of the view that mandate holders should carry out their activities in full respect of the Code of Conduct. Special mandate holders in defiance of their mandate do not necessarily contribute to an environment for a constructive dialogue with States to promote and protect human rights. CARICOM expects the special mandate holders to engage in constructive dialogue with members states in the discharge of their mandate,” he said.
CARICOM was also pleased to note the adoption, without a vote, of the outcome of the mandated Review of the Council. It would continue to support the work of the Council to ensure it continued to execute its mandate, duly taking into account the principles of universality, objectivity and non‑selectivity in the consideration of human rights issues, as well as the elimination of double standards, as enshrined in the resolution establishing the body. It was also good to note that all Member States had participated in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and CARICOM looked forward to its second cycle.
KAYODE LARO (Nigeria), aligning with the statement of the African Group, said his country was pleased to note the Council’s substantial effort to achieve its mandate; the wide range of issues contained in the report and its sheer volume were a refection of the complexity and multiplicity of issues before the Council. The Council was a unique tool for the protection and promotion of all human rights, but a focus on economic, social and cultural rights might be its own contribution towards assisting States in attaining the Millennium Development Goals.
His delegation would like to commend the Council for completing the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and the conclusion of the review process for the work and functioning of the Council. “It is quite remarkable that since the first session of the UPR Working Group in February 2008, this mechanism has attracted 100 per cent participation by States,” he said. Nigeria looked forward to the second cycle of the review and expected it to reinforce the importance of the mechanism as a means of promoting and protecting human rights across the world. People across the world expected the United Nations to protect their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and it was important for States to cooperate to advance the work of the Council.
ANA MARIE HERNANDO ( Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Platform on Human Rights Education and Training, welcomed the adoption by the Human Rights Council last March of resolution 16/1 entitled United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, as it constituted an important step in many respects. Various aspects of human rights education and training had been developed and adopted throughout the years, such as through the Vienna and Durban declarations, which reiterated the importance of human rights education and training. Such training would promote respect for human rights with regard to all individuals without distinction of any kind, such as race, sex, language or religion. The declarations also promoted the role that human rights education and training could play in changing attitudes and behaviour, in order to create tolerant societies.
However, she said that no single document was available that contained all the necessary principles and elements for stakeholders engaged in such work, or those looking to receive training. Nor did they take stock of the more practical lessons learned. That gap was meant to be filled by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. Although non‑binding in a legal sense, the Declaration compiled and structured essential principles in that regard. The new Declaration provided a clear and precise definition, and paved the way for follow‑up initiatives at the national, regional and international level, including through international cooperation. He reiterated the hope that the procedural resolution to be introduced by the Platform under agenda item 64 recommending adoption of the Declaration of the Assembly would receive broad support, not only through its adoption by consensus, but also with an increasing number of co‑sponsors.
IRINA VELICHKO ( Belarus) welcomed the results of the review of the Council, even though not all worthy country proposals, including Belarus’, were taken into account. Belarus was against attempts to introduce new criteria for the Council, which had been attempts to control it. The fact that over the past few years all countries had undergone review spoke for itself. But, a paradoxical situation had arisen in which recommendations were ignored, and instead there were politically motivated reports on countries. There had been unjustified recent attempts by certain countries to give human rights in Belarus an unfavourable review.
The European Union tried to push through an anti‑ Belarus resolution at the 17th session of the Council, but the agenda to push that unsubstantiated assessment had not been supported. Belarus intended to continue living up to its obligations for human rights and cooperating with United Nations bodies. Given the lack of financial resources to implement resolutions and decisions of the Council, rational use of resources of the body should be the guide. Resources should be used to protect the most vulnerable sections of society — and the Council must once and for all end double standards and avoid manipulation of human rights issues by special interest groups.
FARISHA SALMAN ( Malaysia) commended the Council on the success of its review process. Countries had shown great flexibility and compromise in achieving a fruitful outcome. However, despite the understanding reached during the review process, some countries seemed keen to use the Council as a platform to impose their values on other parties, instead of working together to build an institution based on the principles of dialogue, cooperation, consultation and mutual respect. The current trend of politicization of human rights by some had not served the cause of human rights. Some countries continued to emphasize political and civil rights to the virtual exclusion of economic, social and cultural rights. Her Government, however, considered that the former could not be separated from the latter.
Malaysia was heartened to know that the majority of countries were cooperating in the Universal Periodic Review process and it looked forward to the Review’s second cycle, she said. The gap between the last session and the next would give States ample time to take stock of the recommendations received and focus on implementation and development in their countries. The Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance should be strengthened and operationalized to ensure the full participation of all countries in the Review and the implementation of resulting recommendations. Her delegation believed that the Council should be adequately resourced and that further assessment of the special procedures mechanism was needed. The number of mandate holders on thematic issues was far too many, and the Council must prioritize issues. Some could be considered biennially, or more. States should focus on reinforcing the Council’s strengths and not reconstruct, reframe or unravel existing arrangements.
Mr. SIAHAAN (Indonesia), thanking the Member States for supporting the election of his country to the Human Rights Council, stated that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism had made the Council “a unique and more prominent body”. The dialogue concerning each country’s Review had set an example of how States could cooperate and engage constructively with one another, avoiding the politicization of issues, as well as the unproductive naming and shaming of others. Indonesia, as one of the first 14 countries to be reviewed in the second cycle next year, was preparing its national Universal Periodic Review report, highlighting the progress and challenges of the last four years, based on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and the national human rights agenda.
Special procedure mandate holders, he stated, should maintain their professionalism in fulfilling their mandates, by complying with the code of conduct and by building mutual trust with the States. It was time for the Council to comprehensively study the current overall picture of special procedure mandate holders, including their mandates and fundings, in order to avoid potential duplication of work. He added that Indonesia was also concerned about the continuing violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
SOUMIA BOUHAMIDI ( Morocco) said the Council played an important role in contributing to a new culture of active, universal awareness to protect human rights, favouring cooperation over antagonism. Morocco was resolutely committed to continuing constructive dialogue with rights bodies and spared no efforts in strengthening the Council’s effectiveness. Its commitment was apparent during the Council’s review, in which it played a small role. The review was an ongoing process, and Morocco was convinced the Council would continue to improve its functioning over the years.
The Council had already shown great capacity to help protect human rights and respond to emergency situations when they required attention, she said. Today was an opportunity to send a strong signal of support to the Council, and Morocco attached particular importance to the Universal Periodic Review as an innovative and democratic mechanism to improve human rights situations on the ground. Morocco was one of the first countries to submit to the Review and would be one of the first to submit to the second round of the Review, when it began next year.
MONIA ALSALEH ( Syria) underscored her country’s willingness to work with the Council president in an equitable and fair manner. Double standards and politicization must be avoided. Her Government had carefully examined the Council’s report, since it dealt with important issues such as human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Syrian Golan. It also dealt with the Gaza conflict and the aid flotilla. Despite the fact that the Council had asked Israeli authorities to implement its recommendations and not to place obstacles before the inquiry, Israel continued to do so. Meanwhile, as war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity continued to flagrantly commit crimes, the entire world was wondering why there was an exception for those people and why they were not brought to justice.
She underscored that there had been an absence of any effort to address human rights violations in developed countries, including racism, inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees, and attempts to prevent developing countries from developing through sanctions. It was unfortunate that the Council ignored the actions of developed countries, since that undermined the Council’s credibility. She stressed that Council resolutions S-16/1 and S-17/1 concerning Syria were based on false information. Moreover, their title and tone were hateful and unprecedented. What was happening in Syria was a series of criminal acts committed by armed groups against Syria and the Syrian people. Yet, a campaign was being undertaken to weaken Syria and to change its political position on the challenges facing the region. There were also attempts to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs and to destroy its political and military structures. In keeping with its obligations, the Syrian Government had submitted to the Universal Periodic Review. It had accepted 98 recommendations and was studying 36.
OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD ( Egypt) stated that this year the General Assembly had concluded the first review process of the Human Rights Council and adopted the Geneva outcome document on its works and functioning. The results of the review process reinforced important principles and reaffirmed the council’s subsidiary status to the General Assembly, but they were adopted in a voted resolution which undermined a primary objective of the process, which aimed at supporting the Council as a General Assembly tool to promote respect for all human rights. The international community had the responsibility to ensure that the Council carried out its functions within a transparent and cooperative framework and was obliged to prevent the Council from becoming a political tool.
All Member States had made the commitment, he stated, to ensure the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review on all States, on an equal footing and with the participation of civil society, and to deal positively with the special procedures. In return, the mandate holders must perform their duties in accordance with the Code of Conduct and the tasks mandated to them by the Human Rights Council, to be objective in their reporting, and to establish a dialogue, based on transparency and cooperation, with the governments of the States concerned. Mentioning the historic transition Egypt was currently witnessing, he stated that his country believed that human dignity was the cornerstone for ensuring respect for all human rights and international unity was important when dealing objectively with human rights issues.
YANA BOIKO ( Ukraine) said the Council had proved its ability to adequately respond to gross violations of human rights, speak with one voice and send out resounding messages to the international community. The report of the Council showed the increased number of resolutions adopted by consensus; that was positive, but at the same time there were still some issues hindering the constructive work of the Council. Appropriate attention should be paid to the development of mechanisms, including on a conceptual level, to prevent human rights violations and abuses. In that regard, she was pleased to mention the resolution on “the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights”, initiated by Ukraine and co‑sponsored by more than 40 countries, which was adopted by consensus last September.
Her delegation commended the Council’s closer cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. But, she noted the Office, by virtue of its mandate by the General Assembly should remain independent of the Council and not be commissioned by it. Ukraine also welcomed further enhancement of transparency in the selection and appointment process of special mandate holders as an outcome of the Council’s review. To further implement the results of the Council’s review of activities, she urged countries to closely cooperate with the special procedures, honouring issued standing invitations and committing to voluntary reporting on implementation of received Universal Periodic Review mechanisms. “Our delegation believes that we are entering a new time of higher shared responsibility among the members of the international community, in which our collective action in the field of human rights is founded on the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non‑selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation,” she said.
CAROLINA POPOVICI ( Moldova) said the current year had been very important for the future work of the Council. But, important issues remained that required attention, including the lack of needed finances for resolutions, which could jeopardize the effectiveness of the Council, as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights. For its part, Moldova had extended a standing invitation to the special procedures mandate holders and was looking forward to active cooperation with them. The report of the Council reflected the complexity of its agenda; Moldova underwent the Universal Periodic Review mechanism last month in Geneva, and consistently followed a wide participatory approach during the process.
Moldova’s Government had accepted the recommendations of the final report — a clear indication it believed it was a valuable process aimed at improving human rights. The delegation would like to express appreciation to delegations that participated in its Review. Moldova was enhancing domestic legislation on human rights, minority rights, and the social inclusion of minorities and vulnerable groups, among other areas. She also emphasized that ample progress had been launched in the national human rights action plan. Moldova was closely cooperating with European Union member States, and was a state party to all human rights treaties, which would surely lead to an even broader approach to human rights in the country.
Statements on the report of the High Commissioner for Refugees
ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) noted the increasing role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in protecting refugees and migrants in emergency situations. To fulfil its mandate, that Office’s capacities and funding must be increased. Her Government hoped UNHCR would further advance its work in the context of the Global Plan of Action on Combating Human Trafficking. Strategies could be elaborated and implemented to protect refugees from being trafficked.
Noting that cooperation with UNHCR was being implemented at the country level, she said the country agreement had entered into force this year and everything possible had been done to improve the effectiveness of common efforts, she said. The focus should now be on broadening UNHCR’s activities in Belarus, including identifying people who were asylum‑seekers and looking for resources to address local refugees. The training centre in Minsk was being used to develop an international course on statelessness, refugees and migration. Regional courses were also being held. Belarus was pleased with the High Commissioner’s visit to Belarus and the Government looked forward to further efforts in advancing practical efforts on the ground.
MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya), aligning with the statement of the African Group, said his country for over twenty years had hosted refugees from neighbouring countries in two camps. The Dadaab refugee camp in north‑eastern Kenya, created to host refugees from Somalia, currently hosted over 600,000 refugees, making it the third most populous town in Kenya. “The famine, drought and insecurity in Somalia have influenced this influx by Somalis into Dadaab camp. Almost unbelievably, the camp was originally designed to host 90,000 refugees. This influx of refugee population has not only overwhelmed the services and facilities in the camps, but also destroyed the environment and its scarce resources, and bled Kenya’s capacity as a host state,” he said. The deterioration of security was also a worrying trend both inside and outside the refugee camps, with armed groups taking advantage of the lawless situation in Somalia.
“For some reason, we seem to be unable to get the international community, the United Nations and the international and non‑governmental entities that operate in Kenya, to appreciate its full extent, the magnitude of the sacrifice and the burden that Kenya carries. For them, it would appear to be business as usual. The status quo cannot be allowed to continue,” he said, calling for new options to build a more equitable, efficient and effective international refugee burden sharing regime. Kenya was committed to its international responsibilities to protect refugees, but continued instability in Somalia increased the challenge to deliver on its obligations. He called on the international community to support the work being done with the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the Somalia Transitional Federal Government to create safe zones within Somalia for refugees, to alleviate camp conditions.
Kenya also urged the international community to support the strategy for a long‑term solution to the crisis found in the outcome document from the humanitarian crisis summit on the Horn of Africa in Nairobi, 8 to 9 September.. Challenges relating to refugees in Kenya could not be effectively tackled in absence of political stability and security in Somalia. “The root causes of the conflict in Somalia must, therefore, be addressed”, he said. Regional peace and security must be promoted as a preventive measure to avoid a new influx of refugees and ensure voluntary repatriation of refugees back to their countries of origin, or relocation to other countries.
HUZEFA KHANUM ( Pakistan) said her country had hosted the largest refugee population in the world since the 1980s. “We have exhibited extraordinary generosity and hospitality as hosts to Afghan refugees for over three decades. We are still host to over 3 million Afghan refugees. This, however, has had a negative impact on the economic, sociocultural and security sectors. It has also affected the job market and brought public infrastructure under stress. Last year’s floods and the impact of global financial and food crises has further added to the challenges,” she said.
Pakistan had introduced several programmes, including the Afghan Management and Repatriation Strategy for 2010‑12; Population Profiling, Verification and Response, to improve response based on gender and age; and the Refugees Affected and Housing Areas Development Initiative to help address challenges of security, socio‑economic and environmental impact due to the presence of large‑scale refugees on host societies. But, those programmes required international commitment and financial support — most importantly, success would depend mostly on creating pull factors in Afghanistan. “The donor community and the UNHCR should aim at accelerating reintegration, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Afghanistan for the Afghan refugees to return to their homeland. Until their repatriation, the international community must share the responsibility for the Afghan refugees through increased funding for programmes to sustain them and to cope with the challenges of hosting them, and by offering third country resettlements,” she said.
SOUMIA BOUHAMIDI ( Morocco) welcomed the efforts of the High Commissioner in budgeting, as well as in seeking out new and diversified partnerships and initiatives aimed at specific categories of refugees. New mass displacements had been seen in the last year, with many reaching unprecedented scope, particularly in Africa. These issues were compounded by other phenomena and justified the High Commissioner’s constant commitment. Indeed, at the end of 2010, the number of persons falling under the UNHCR mandate had reached 33.9 million. Morocco was concerned about the influx of new refugees in the region and believed it was imperative that UNHCR remain vigilant, preserve the humanitarian space and ensure the protection of human rights.
According to the High Commissioner’s report, at the end of 2010, 7.2 million refugees found themselves in long‑term situations, she said. Specific solutions had been tried in many countries, and Morocco welcomed the fact that many refugees were choosing to return to their countries of origin thanks to voluntary repatriation efforts. Yet, many countries in Africa had fallen outside those efforts. In particular, no progress had been made in the Tindouf camps. In that context, she stressed that the gathering of information on individuals and their families was indispensable in finding solutions, particularly in terms of voluntary repatriation. It was the responsibility of host countries to hold a census to assess and quantify the food needs of refugees. Morocco believed UNHCR must act in line with its mandate, its humanitarian and social mission, and the provision of decisions by the Executive Board, such as the integration and return of refugees. She welcomed the progress made earlier this year in resuming family visits and implementing the confidence‑building measures.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) said resolving the status of refugees and displaced persons was a key priority for his country’s progress on its European path. A strategy covering the period 2012‑2015 had been adopted in July 2011. The adjacent action plan made special reference to the refugee camp Konik, which was mentioned in the European Commission opinion as the most pressing refugee‑related issue. Drafted in collaboration with the UNHCR and the European Union delegation in Podgorica, the strategy entailed a possible solution: full integration into society and voluntary repatriation to countries of origin. It provided measures to enable access to rights, including social protection and health care. Special attention was placed on Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian populations, who were most in need of preferential treatment. The strategy aimed to provide jobs and housing. The voluntary repatriation of refugees and displaced persons would be assisted by Montenegro’s Government and was expected to contribute to bilateral agreements with Kosovo. A Coordination Committee for monitoring the implementation of the strategy and action plan had been set up. The deadline for application by displaced and internally displaced persons for appropriate civil status had been extended until the end of 2012.
He went on to note that Montenegro was now home to roughly 9,800 displaced persons from Kosovo and another 3,900 from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. A series of regulations safeguarding the fundamental rights of displaced persons and refugees, including the settlement of their legal status and social integration, had been introduced. Displaced persons had also been granted the status of foreign nationals with permanent residency. Montenegro was also engaged in regional programmes for permanently solving the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons in the region. A joint declaration was to be signed at a ministerial conference on 7 November 2011 in Belgrade. A regional multi‑year programme had also been agreed on to address the needs of the most vulnerable refugees. He underlined the need for a regional approach and the support from the international and donor community.
FEODOR STARČEVIĆ ( Serbia), aligning with the statement of the European Union, said his country had been experiencing the problem of displacement for almost two decades now. It understood the need for concerted efforts between countries of origin and receiving countries, but it was also aware that sustainable solutions could not be found without the inclusion of all relevant international actors and the donor community. For its part, Serbia had undertaken a number of initiatives with its neighbours and international organizations to tackle the refugee problem in its region. Among them, the Joint Regional Multi‑Year Programme could serve as a good example for the solution of protracted refugee crises in other parts of the world. “We also believe that success in this joint endeavour will give new impetus to cooperation and reconciliation in the region,” he said.
“The encouraging positive developments in the region, however, are overshadowed by the long‑lasting problem of 250,000 internally displaced persons, mainly Serbs and other non‑Albanians, who were forced to leave the Province of Kosovo and Metohija in 1999 and look for shelter elsewhere in Serbia. This is an issue of great concern to us,” he said. These internally displaced persons from Kosovo were kept from returning to their properties by security concerns, as well as numerous legal and administrative obstacles — it could hardly be said they had ever been given an opportunity to freely opt either for return or local integration. The international community should increase efforts to ensure the safe voluntary return of those internally displaced persons; for that, an important role was played by the UNHCR and, although it was fully aware of current and emerging challenges throughout the world, the decision to reduce the UNHCR budget for operations in Serbia was regrettable.
NEVEN MIKEC ( Croatia) said his country decisively implemented a housing programme for former tenancy rights holders, with a view to assuring a sustainable return of refugees and displaced persons. Reconstruction of property damaged in war, as well as repossession of property, had also continued at a vigorous pace. The process of repossession had almost been completed, with only 11 housing units pending repossession, out of over 19,200. “Having achieved significant progress in the implementation of the housing care programmes for all categories of refugees and displaced persons, Croatia expects that other countries in the region will follow this positive practice and develop similar effective projects at their national level,” he said.
The delegation also welcomed that four countries in its region — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia — had agreed upon the Regional Programme on Durable Solutions for Refugees and Displaced Persons, the so‑called Sarajevo Process, which focused on adequate housing solutions for the remaining vulnerable refugees and displaced persons in need. As a new member of the UNHCR Executive Committee this year, Croatia was fully aware of its responsibilities and stood ready to vigorously support global efforts at refugee protection. It fully shared the view that full respect for international principles related to the protection of refugees, in particular non‑refoulement guarantees and ensuring durable solutions, was crucial for providing solutions to challenges worldwide.
XOLELA NOFUKUKA ( South Africa) said his delegation was happy to notice savings were made through efficiency and internal reforms, improving protection and emergency response capacities. “ South Africa remains the highest destination country for asylum seekers in the world. According to our information, a large proportion of those applying for asylum are fleeing political persecution, but many come seeking better economic prospects. Within this context and in an effort to manage immigration more efficiently and effectively in the national interest, we have introduced amendments to immigration legislation and the Refugee Act, to better secure the rights of asylum seekers and refugees,” he said.
Those changes included a policy to separate economic migrants from genuine asylum seekers, he said. There was also a need for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to adopt a regional approach to issues of migration. Mixed migration posed an unprecedented challenge to all States and it required an effective and efficient response to protect their needs and sensitivities. Stronger national, bilateral and regional cooperation was needed, as were improved national policies and legal frameworks. Further, accurate refugee and migration data and analysis would be needed to ensure evidence‑based policies.
KIM SOO GWON ( Republic of Korea) said his delegation was pleased that the efficiency gained through the UNHCR’s internal reform process since 2006 had given it a window of opportunity for launching key initiatives to improve protection and emergency response capacities and to ensure greater accountability to the populations under its care. The Korean Government supported and encouraged constant and unflagging pursuit of comprehensive reform initiatives. As the High Commissioner’s report noted, the failure to respect the universal principle of non‑refoulement had become one of the biggest protection challenges confronting UNHCR. The persistent risk of refoulement facing North Korean refugees was particularly concerning. In that regard, he recalled the concern of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regarding the situation of asylum seekers from that country. Although he was encouraged that Thailand had consistently adhered to that principle, he noted that not all countries in the region did so as standard practice. Thus, his Government urged all States to uphold the principle of non‑refoulement.
Underlining the importance of durable solutions to the increasing number of protracted refugees situations, he said the Republic of Korea was not sparing any effort in strengthening legal, institutional and material infrastructure to improve the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. It looked forward to participating in the upcoming ministerial‑level event in Geneva to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
SAVIOUR F. BORG ( Malta) said the Mediterranean region had always been vulnerable to challenges of illegal immigration, however over the past year that situation had been exacerbated by drought and famine, increasing the number of refugees and internally displaced persons. The report of the UNHCR acknowledged that Malta was one of the countries that had the highest number of asylum seekers in the first half of this year; the Arab Spring also saw Malta taking a strategic role as a logistical and transit base of evacuation operations, with over 17,000 persons repatriated through the country. The launching in June 2011 of the Malta‑based European Asylum Support Office was another important initiative to streamline asylum policies in European Union Member States and improve cooperation between authorities.
“ Malta provides international protection and asylum recognition to over 50 per cent of applicants, a disproportionately high number when considering Malta’s geographic and demographic characteristics. While Malta reaffirms its commitment to abide by its international obligations, at the same time we reiterate our calls to the international community to continue to assist us in the resettlement process of these unfortunate people,” he said. Currently some 2,700 beneficiaries of international protection needed to be relocated from Malta – a figure that may be quite low for larger countries, but Malta had one of the highest population densities in the world. “If one considers the population, area and gross domestic product, 2,700 beneficiaries of protection in Malta would be equivalent to 3.3 million people in the entire European Union,” he said.
WOINSHET TADESSE ( Ethiopia) noted that more than 43 million people worldwide were now forcibly displaced as a result of conflict, persecution and natural disasters. Due to protracted wars, the outbreak of new conflicts and natural disasters, Africa remained home to the largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons. In that regard, she underlined the importance of international cooperation to strengthen UNHCR’s response capacity and to support host countries sharing their limited resources. For its part, Ethiopia had enacted a National Refugee Proclamation in 2004 that established a legislative and management framework for the reception of refugees. It also ensured their protection and promoted durable solutions whenever conditions permitted. In collaboration with UNCHR, Ethiopia had opened new camps and was relentlessly implementing voluntary repatriation, reintegration and resettlement programmes.
The current humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa — particularly the drought and famine in Somalia — had further exacerbated the flow of refugees to Ethiopia, she continued. According to recent reports Ethiopia was currently hosting 250,000 refugees, two‑thirds of whom were Somalis. That huge influx posed enormous challenges and overstretched the Government’s limited capacity. The registration backlog had been cleared up, but the high number of arrivals had created pressure in the screening and registration process. The provision of shelter and basic services had also been constrained, while the arrival of children with acute malnutrition and the high prevalence of communicable diseases further aggravated the humanitarian crisis. Ethiopia was working with UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to provide emergency assistance. Measures had also been taken to identify and assist unaccompanied children and to protect refugees against sexual exploitation and abuse. She called on all donors, humanitarian agencies and the international community at large to scale up their assistance to meet immediate needs and to tackle the underlying problems that had left so many people in danger.
TALGAT ILYASSOV ( Kazakhstan) said that, while mixed migratory movements were not a new phenomenon in the Central Asian region, the last decade had witnessed an increase in their scale, scope and complexity. The flows include people with diverse profiles, motivations and needs. Asylum‑seekers, refugees, labour migrants and victims of trafficking often moved alongside each other, using the same routes and transportation. Kazakhstan was a country of both destination and transit and, while chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 focused on migration regulation as a priority issue for international security. It continued to pay great attention to the issue during its presidency of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It attached great importance to close and fruitful cooperation with the relevant United Nations agencies, including UNHCR.
He further noted that Kazakhstan had joined the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol in 1998. In January 2010, it adopted the law on refuges, which regulated the legal status of refugees and asylum‑seekers in Kazakhstan. The cooperation agreement between the Government and UNHCR came into force on 7 April 2011 and provided further basic conditions for protection. One major step jointly undertaken by Kazakhstan and UNCHR was the Regional Conference on Refugee Protection and Migration in Central Asia, which was held from 15 to 16 March 2011 in Almaty. That Conference increased the understanding of the nature and scale of, as well as the reasons for, mixed migratory movements in Central Asia. A Declaration was adopted and emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation on irregular migration, border security and counter‑terrorism efforts. It also provided for the establishment of the Regional Framework Structure, which would unite the efforts of all stakeholders. In that regard, he proposed convening an international meeting in Astana to discuss the establishment of that structure.
NELI SHIOLASHVILI ( Georgia) said the thousands of people forcefully displaced from their homes remained one of the most appalling humanitarian issues for her country. “Over 400,000 of my compatriots, who have been expelled from the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali in the 1990s and after the 2008 war, are unable to return to their homes, despite tireless efforts of the Government of Georgia and numerous calls by the international community, including Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, backing their right to return,” he said. Those “victims of several waves of ethnic cleansing” had seen the security situation in regions of concern worsen, while the fundamental rights of displaced had been continuously and rampantly violated. “Sadly, the right to return has been subverted by politically motivated obstructionism,” he said.
Georgia attached great importance to the UNHCR participation in the Geneva talks, where those issues were being discussed between Georgia and the Russian Federation. “We are concerned though over the lack of progress due to the unconstructive approach of our counterparts,” he said. But, his Government was committed to ensuring adequate living conditions for internally displaced persons, including a State strategy to establish transparent, fair criteria for extending social assistance programmes to them. Since the war of August 2008, it had also provided internally displaced persons temporary shelters and constructed new settlements, providing durable housing for more than 27,000 displaced families. “While acknowledging that still much remains to be done, the Government of Georgia remains committed to enhancing assistance to all victims of ethnic cleansing,” he said.
AMIR ABBAS LOTFI SARABI ( Iran) said that since the 1970s, millions of people had sought refuge in his country and after 30 years a large number of refugees and displaced persons still lived in safe asylum. The Government had conducted a census earlier this year. It had also formulated two plans to identify vulnerable people in 11 groups, such as female‑headed households and children with no guardians. The health and medical costs of refugees had been partly addressed through the implementation of the first phase of the Comprehensive Supplemental Health Insurance Plan, with the contribution of the High Commissioner’s Office. His delegation hoped that an enhancement of UNHCR’s contribution would allow for better health insurance coverage in the coming year. While Iran appreciated UNHCR’s assistance, however, that Office’s allocated budget did not even meet the needs of 1 million refugees for a single day. In light of the exercise of the “targeted subsidies law” and actualizing process, the Government believed international assistance to refugees in Iran should be increased. In that regard, he underscored the issue of a real needs assessment for the host country.
He noted that Afghanistan, which was the country of origin of Iran’s biggest refugee population, was ranked at the bottom of the human development index. It was, therefore, incumbent upon the international community to provide assistance and sustainable development. A stable Afghanistan, with an efficient economy, would promise a bright future for returnees and pave the way for voluntary repatriation. In contrast, paltry cash and in‑kind assistance offered no inducement for voluntary repatriation and ensured that reintegration would not be permanent. More Afghan refugees would be encouraged to return if the budget allocation for repatriation was spent on settlement arrangements in the returnees’ main destinations and enough attention was paid to settling returnees in their desired regions. It would also help if reintegration costs were paid in cash, under certain circumstances. He hoped that the current stalemate regarding voluntary repatriation would be broken by implementing the Tripartite Commission’s conclusions. The case of protracted refugees could not be solved by focusing solely on the host country, he added.
MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI ( Sudan) said his country’s commitment to the Geneva Convention was founded in its people’s deeply rooted traditions and firm religious values, which called for generosity and hospitality for guests. Sudan had, for decades, hosted large numbers of refugees from neighbouring countries, trying to provide them all necessary services in coordination with UNHCR. Natural disasters and internal conflicts had increased displacement, but Sudan had made a major national effort to help the burden.
To address the root causes of displacement, Sudan had undertaken a number of initiatives, including the signing of the Doha agreement for stability in Darfur, which had led to the return of thousands to their homes, providing them with basic services, such as health and education. The numbers of Sudanese who had crossed to Ethiopia because of rebel acts had not exceeded a few thousand refugees, unlike what was mentioned in the UNHCR report. Sudan’s Government was exerting efforts to restore safety and security to the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, which should soon lead to a return of refugees. The international community and donor countries, however, needed to provide the necessary support for the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees and internally displaced persons so they could enjoy stability, security and prosperity.
YANA BOIKO ( Ukraine) said her Government was confident that the process of structural and administrative reforms being undertaken by UNHCR would allow it to respond more effectively to the urgent needs of its beneficiaries and ensure the transparent use of financial resources. Humanitarian funding sources must be diversified. Her delegation welcomed UNHCR’s readiness to provide, including through its regional representation in Kiev, appropriate expert and technical assistance to her country to implement its action plan for integrating migrants in Ukraine, and reintegrating Ukrainian migrants. In 2011, Ukraine established the State Migration Service. Parliament also recently adopted a law on refugees and persons who needed complementary and temporary protection, as an important step towards developing an asylum system that met international standards and the best practices of the European Union.
Continuing, she noted the fruitful cooperation between her Government and UNHCR. In particular, the activities of the UNHCR Regional Office for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova were addressing urgent problems in providing assistance to immigrants and refugees seeking asylum in Ukraine. A local integration project covering those three countries had been successfully implemented in Ukraine. Its objective was to find the best ways and means to help persons who received asylum to adapt to Ukrainian society. Temporary accommodation centres were functioning in the Zakarpattya and Odessa regions, while a similar centre was being set up in the Kiev region. The regional office had also provided support in reforming Ukraine’s legislation on protection of refugee rights.
FARID JAFAROV ( Azerbaijan) said the lack of agreement on political issues could not be used as a pretext for not addressing the problems caused by continued and deliberate disrespect for international humanitarian and human rights law in situations of armed conflict and military occupation. “The aggression by Armenia against Azerbaijan resulted in occupation of almost one‑fifth of the territory of Azerbaijan, and made approximately one out of ever ninth person in the country internally displaced or a refugee. Azerbaijan continues to suffer from one of the highest proportions of refugees and displaced persons in the world,” he said.
The Government had made a major effort to solve housing problems for the affected population, but still faced problems from the protracted conflict and, now that they had passed an emergency phase, the international community did not pay much attention. “The rights of Azerbaijani citizens residing in Nagorno‑Karabakh and surrounding districts have been severely violated by their expulsion from occupied territories,” he said. “Thus, the primary obligation upon Armenia is to ensure that the occupation of Azerbaijani territories is ended and that the various rights of the internally displaced persons of Azerbaijani ethnicity are recognized and implemented,” he said.
AK ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) suggested that one term should be used consistently when referring to “people of concern”, “persons of concern” and “persons or populations of concern”. With the emergence of new global threats like environmental degradation and climate change, the complexity of today’s displacements were assuming new and menacing dimensions and his Government hoped that UNHCR would devise strategies to address those emerging challenges.
He recalled that the issue of Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh was one of the five protracted situations prioritized under the Global Plan of Action launched by UNHCR in 2008. Although Bangladesh was not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it had been hosting those refugees for more than two decades, even in the face of resource constraints. More significantly, it had upheld, without exception, the principle of non‑refoulement and considered that voluntary repatriation was the only viable option for returning refugees to their homelands. Bangladesh deeply regretted that no repatriation had been taking place since 2005. No information had been provided regarding the outcome of the “environmental impact assessment” that, according to last year’s report (document A/65/12), was supposed to take place in four countries, including Bangladesh. Arguing that there was little benefit in piecemeal, sporadic resettlement of Myanmar refugees, he called on the international community to address the issue from a regional context. Further, the resumption of repatriation activity would demonstrate that the right to return was available to refugees.
PIERRE DORBES, delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said it was important to focus more on preventing circumstances and events that caused people to flee their homes, including: direct violations of international humanitarian law and acts of abuse; fear of impending violence and threats to life, property, dignity and liberty; formal orders to leave, targeting communities and individuals; or poor access to essential services and disruption of economic activities. “Many of the 4.3 million or so internally displaced people that the ICRC assisted in 2010, in partnership with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, were suffering the effects of both recurrent violence and extreme environmental conditions,” he said. “In such complex and critical situations, it is essential to provide emergency assistance and, at the same time, help people regain their self-sufficiency.”
The ICRC carried out a careful and specific analysis of each situation and assessed the way it was likely to evolve, in order to decide where and how best to respond; it had the advantage of being able to build up a holistic needs-based approach, based on proximity and presence on the ground, with the consent of public authorities. “Preventing large-scale displacement is possible and would reduce the suffering and vulnerability of millions of people who flee their homes because of armed conflict and violence. This is dependent on better respect of international humanitarian law,” he said. “Tight coordination with other entities on the basis of their capacities and possibilities for access are key to a continually improving response.”
KATHRYN COOPER, delegate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said her organization’s network of National Societies provided humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable migrants at all stages of the migratory trail. Conflict, natural disasters, climate change, population growth, urbanization and a wide variety of social and economic reasons continued to drive migration within and beyond State borders. In that context, the very concept of “vulnerability” was changing and migration and displacement could no longer be neatly categorized by the old adages of the hapless South and the resilient North. Today, vulnerable migrants were drawn from a broad array of backgrounds and locations and were on the move for an increasing variety of reasons. In that context, the Federation reaffirmed its long‑standing commitment to focus on individual needs, vulnerabilities and potential of migrants.
She said that as the Federation prepared for its thirty‑first International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which would be held later this month in Geneva, a draft resolution was being prepared to address the issue of migration. Its four practical objectives were: to ensure relevant laws and regulations were in place to enable effective assistance to all migrants; to improve border procedures; to enhance cooperation between Governments and the Red Cross and Red Crescent in promoting diversity and non-violence; and to strengthen collaboration between relevant actors to fortify humanitarian assistance and protection provided to vulnerable migrants.
AMY MUEDIN, observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said her organization and UNHCR were called to adapt and respond to new forms of human mobility. IOM’s mandate addressed all situations of migration and mobility, and served as the global cluster lead for natural disaster‑induced internally displaced persons. An example of the remarkable collaboration between the IOM and UNHCR was their assisting of over 200,000 persons from 54 countries seeking to escape hostilities in Libya, she said. Addressing mixed migration flows continued to be a major shared concern, as movements of people were now multidimensional, often involving a variety of people including refugees, displaced persons, victims of trafficking and other migrants. The cooperation between the two agencies was essential to ensure effective support to Governments, while ensuring the safety and dignity of migrants.
Climate change and environmental degradation continued to be of critical importance to both agencies, as well, she said. The cumulative pressures and recurrence of extreme events contributed to the vulnerability of populations, with Somalia and Pakistan cases in point. The agencies would continue to work together with other humanitarian and development partners to enhance knowledge and understanding to tackle displacement, migration and the relocation consequences of climate change and environmental degradation. The IOM had worked side by side with UNHCR with a clear allocation of roles and responsibilities: the UNHCR with the protection mandate, while thereafter the IOM assisted resettlement countries through working directly with identified refugees in preparing and processing their cases, conducting health assessments and cultural orientation sessions, and managing resettlement transportation.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply to yesterday’s statement by the Russian Federation, Latvia’s representative said the Russian Federation’s delegate had apparently deliberately misinformed the international community on the situation of the matter of stateless peoples. Currently, there were only 177 stateless persons residing in Latvia, and the country had constantly reaffirmed its commitment to protecting human rights.
Exercising the right of reply to the statement of Azerbaijan, Armenia’s representative expressed regret and disappointment that Azerbaijan continued to use every agenda item for anti-Armenia propaganda. He had cited exaggerated figures through juggling various reports, for propaganda. How was it possible that a country so rich in oil could not resettle its refugee and internally displaced persons population? she asked. The Government of Azerbaijan was apparently not interested in solving the problem of refugees, and was using them as instruments of political pressure. There were flagrant examples of being kept in camps exclusively to serve for propaganda purposes. Armenia was the first to have to cope with settlement of half a million who were forced to flee in the 1980s. It had no oil fields and was not as wealthy as Azerbaijan, but had implemented programmes for internally displaced persons and was doing its best to integrate them into society. She hoped Azerbaijan would put an end to propagandistic attacks and would focus instead on improving the lives of displaced peoples until a solution was found.
Responding to Latvia and yesterday’s comments by Estonia, the representative of the Russian Federation said he had cited information from international and independent bodies, including UNHCR, on human rights. Unfortunately those who were stateless in Estonia and Latvia continued to suffer, he said.
Responding to Armenia, Azerbaijan’s representative said Armenia had breached international law by seizing and continuing to occupy those territories. The Azerbaijani Government had used its oil revenues to alleviate the welfare of the refugee and internally displaced persons populations in the country, and Armenia needed to renounce its policy of hatred and work on restoring relations.
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