Third Committee Approves Resolution Condemning Human Rights Violations in Syria, by Vote of 122 in Favour to 13 Against, with 41 Abstentions

22 November 2011
GA/SHC/4033

Third Committee Approves Resolution Condemning Human Rights Violations in Syria, by Vote of 122 in Favour to 13 Against, with 41 Abstentions

22 November 2011
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4033
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

49th & 50th Meetings (AM & PM)

Third Committee Approves Resolution Condemning Human Rights Violations in Syria,

by Vote of 122 in favour to 13 against, with 41 abstentions 

 

Also Approves 9 Other Texts on Range of Issues, Including Social Development,

Disabilities and Development Goals, Child Rights, Palestinian Self-Determination

Strongly condemning the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, the General Assembly would call for Syria to immediately put an end to all human rights violations, to protect their population and to fully comply with their obligations under international human rights law by a text approved by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, at the conclusion of its current session.

Following the defeat — by a vote of 20 in favour to 118 against, with 29 abstentions — of a “no action” motion on that text, the Committee approved the draft resolution on Syria by a vote of 122 in favour to 13 against, with 41 abstentions.

The five-paragraph draft would have the Assembly call on Syrian authorities to implement the Plan of Action of the League of Arab States in its entirety without further delay.  In that regard, it would invite the Secretary-General, in accordance with his functions, to provide support, if requested, to the League’s observer mission in the Syria, consistent with its decisions of 12 and 16 November 2011.

By further terms, the Syrian authorities would also be called on to comply with Human Rights Council resolutions S-16/1 and S-17/1, including by cooperating fully and effectively with the independent international commission of inquiry.

Speaking on behalf of the text’s 61 co-sponsors, the representative of the United Kingdom said the draft was a “one-off” response to the ongoing and widespread human rights violations that had existed in Syria since March. The draft did not create any new mechanisms or procedures, he stressed, while underscoring that its approval would send a strong signal to Syria and its people that the ongoing human rights violations unfolding there must come to an end.

Saying that “sedition, political hegemony and sabotage” lay behind the proposed text, Syria’s representative — who also called for the “no action” motion with support from Nicaragua and Venezuela — argued that consideration of human rights situations should be undertaken in the Human Rights Council, not the Third Committee.

He acknowledged that, like all Member States, Syria had some solvable problems.  But, its comprehensive reform process, across many socio-political and economic walks of life, must be national in nature, and not follow from politically motivated United Nations texts. Moreover, the text was both unbalanced and adversarial. Among other things, it made no mention of the armed groups abusing the security of Syrian citizens, as well as the safety of public and private properties.

Pointing to its invitation to Syria to cooperate with and fully implement the Arab League’s Plan of Action, he said his Government had not only signed the initiative, but received the Arab Committee charged with following up on it and participated in a joint meeting with that Committee’s members.  It had also accepted the draft protocol for the dispatch of Arab monitors to observe the full implementation of the Plan of Action.

During action on the text, several delegations echoed concerns over the text’s political motivations.  Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Cuba’s delegate said the draft was a clear exploitation of the topic of human rights and violated the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity.  She cautioned that its approval would have a negative impact on the international human rights machinery.

Expressing similar alarm, Venezuela’s representative suggested such country-specific texts were part of the geopolitical power game and were a vehicle for satisfying neo-colonial desires for others’ resources.  Far from contributing to the resolution of the issue, the draft text undermined efforts being promoted internationally.

In contrast, Egypt’s representative said his country’s vote in favour of the resolution reaffirmed its governmental and popular support for the pursuit by all peoples in the Arab region and beyond to realizing their aspirations for a better future.  The recently added preambular paragraph 8 included clear language reaffirming the commitment of all Members States to refrain in their international relations from the use or the threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.  Consequently, the text could not be interpreted as an invitation for foreign intervention.

Also today, the Committee approved 10 other texts — six of them by consensus and four by recorded vote.  By one consensual text, the Assembly would decide to convene a one-day high-level meeting, at the level of Heads of State and Government, on 23 September 2013, the Monday before the start of its sixty-eighth session’s general debate, with the overarching theme “The way forward:  promoting a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond.” 

By the draft on the girl child, which was also approved without a vote, the Assembly would call on States to address the root factors of child and forced marriages, including by undertaking educational activities to raise awareness regarding the negative aspects of such practices.  It would urge them, among other actions, to enact and strictly enforce laws to ensure that marriage is entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses and to ensure that the information on the legislation against the practice is well known.

The four-part draft resolution on the rights of the child — which this year highlighted the rights of children with disabilities — achieved consensus only after two recorded votes were held on proposed amendments from Pakistan and Syria.  By its terms, the Assembly would stress the importance of international cooperation in building national capacity for improving the living conditions of children with disabilities in every country, in particular in developing countries.

As in the past two sessions, the draft resolution on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action required a recorded vote, of 126 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands and United States), with 43 abstentions.

A number of delegations who took the floor during action highlighted the transparent manner of the negotiations led by Argentina, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.  Noting that the Group of 77 and China had strived for consensus, Switzerland’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, pointed out that those four countries supported the text this year.

Others — including Poland, on behalf of the European Union— suggested that a more streamlined approach could reunite the whole membership again on the issue.  Indeed, a shorter, more focused resolution might help States achieve the clear message the United Nations hoped to convey to the world, he said.

A recorded vote was also required for the draft resolution on the right to development, which the Committee approved by a vote of 140 in favour to 5 against ( Canada, Israel, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States), with 28 abstentions.  That text would have the Assembly recognize that, despite continuous efforts on the part of the international community, the gap between developed and developing countries remains unacceptably wide, that most developing countries continue to face difficulties in participating in the globalization process and that many risk being effectively excluded from its benefits.

The draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was approved by a vote of 166 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the United States), with 4 abstentions (Cameroon, Haiti, Togo and Venezuela), while the draft resolution on human rights and cultural diversity was approved by a vote of 118 in favour to 52 against, with 2 abstentions (Armenia and Serbia)

Other texts approved without a vote today addressed:  implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly; the right to food; and the tentative programme of work for the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly.

Speaking during action today were the representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United States, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, France, Kuwait, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, China, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Israel, Russian Federation, Singapore, Thailand, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United Republic of Tanzania,Philippines, Angola (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Benin, Pakistan, Uruguay, Peru, Barbados, Jamaica, Portugal, Mexico, Algeria, India, Canada and Paraguay.

The Observer of the Holy See and Palestine also spoke.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its work for the current session by taking action on several draft resolutions, including on:  implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/66/L.11/Rev.1); High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Realization of the Millennium Development Goals and Other Internationally Agreed Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities (document A/C.3/66/L.10/Rev.1); the girl child (document A/C.3/66/L.24/Rev.1); and the rights of the child (document A/C.3/66/L.25/Rev.1).

Also:  global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/C.3/66/L.68/Rev.1); the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/66/L.61); human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/66/L.34/Rev.1); the right to development (document A/C.3/66/L.35/Rev.1); the right to food (document A/C.3/66/L.38/Rev.1); situation of human rights in Syria (document A/C.3/66/L.57/Rev.1); and tentative programme of work for the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/66/L.72).

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up the draft resolution on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/66/L.11/Rev.1), which was presented with oral revisions by the representative of Argentina, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  It approved the draft text as orally revised.

By that text, the Assembly would express deep concern that the ongoing adverse impact of the world financial and economic crisis, the volatile food and energy prices and food insecurity and the challenges posed by climate change, as well as the lack of results so far in the multilateral trade negotiations, have negative implications for social development.  It would call upon international financial institutions and donors to support developing countries in achieving their social development, in line with their national priorities and strategies by, among other things, providing debt relief.

The Assembly would further underline the importance of adopting effective measures, including new financial mechanisms, as appropriate, to support the efforts of developing countries to achieve sustained economic growth, sustainable development, poverty eradication and the strengthening of their democratic systems.  It would stress that, while economic growth is essential, entrenched inequality and marginalization are an obstacle to the broad-based and sustained growth required for sustainable, inclusive and people-centred development, and recognizes the need to balance and ensure complementarity between measures to achieve growth and measures to achieve economic and social equity to affect overall poverty levels.  It would also stress that stability in global financial systems and corporate social responsibility and accountability, as well as national economic policies that impact other stakeholders, are essential in creating an enabling international environment to promote economic growth and social development.

By further terms, the Assembly would request the United Nations funds, programmes and agencies to mainstream the goal of full and productive employment and decent work for all in their policies, programmes and activities, as well as to support State efforts.  It would stress that the benefits of economic growth should be distributed more equitably and that, to close the gap of inequality and avoid any further deepening of inequality, comprehensive social policies and programmes, including appropriate social transfer and job creation programmes and social protection systems, are needed.  Governments would be urged to develop, with the cooperation of relevant entities, systems of social protection and to extend or broaden, as appropriate, their effectiveness and coverage, including for workers in the informal economy.

The Assembly would, by other provisions, stress that the international community shall enhance its efforts to create an enabling environment for social development and poverty eradication through increasing market access for developing countries, technology transfer on mutually agreed terms, financial aid and a comprehensive solution to the external debt problem.  It would also stress that international trade and stable financial systems can be effective tools to create favourable conditions for the development of all countries and that trade barriers and some trading practices continue to have negative effects on employment growth, particularly in developing countries.

Speaking after action, the representative of the United States said it was pleased to join consensus on the resolution.  The United States was committed to accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, and strongly endorsed the resolution’s highlighting of the need to respect all human rights in  the context of development.  It also supported attention in the resolution to the rights of indigenous peoples.  However, the United States had reiterated many of its previous concerns about the resolution, which mischaracterized the current state of food and security issues.  External economic factors could certainly affect countries’ development, but it mattered more whether countries’ policies addressed the needs of their citizens.  The resolution continued to overlook the need for developing domestic agricultural policies to foster economic growth.  The United States did not believe that there was a world food crisis, and that opinion was supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Syria (document A/C.3/66/L.57/Rev.1), which was presented by the representative of the United Kingdom.  On behalf of the 61 co-sponsors, he said the resolution had been tabled in response to the ongoing and widespread human rights violations that had existed in Syria since March, despite calls from the United Nations and the League of Arab States to cease those violations.  Further, Syria had failed to implement the Plan of Action it had agreed to with the Arab League.

He stressed that the current draft text was a “one-off” response to the situation in Syria.  It drew attention to the Plan of Action of the League of Arab States and highlighted the continuing violence and human rights violations in Syria.  It also called for cooperation by Syria with the international commission of inquiry established by the Human Rights Council.  It did not create any new mechanisms or procedures, but was a unique response to the events taking place on the ground.  He hoped all Member States would support the resolution, thereby sending a strong signal to Syria and its people that the ongoing human rights violations must come to an end.

Cuba’s representative, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated the position expressed at the Movement’s meeting of Heads of State and Government in Bali in 2011.  Paragraph 95 of the Bali outcome document emphasized the role of the Human Rights Council as the body to review human rights situations in countries around the world, through its Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  The Bali document also expressed profound concern regarding the selectivity of adopting resolutions on countries in the General Assembly.

She stressed that the current draft text was a clear exploitation of the topic of human rights and had clear political motivations behind it, violating the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity.  Moreover, the draft would have a negative impact on the international human rights machinery.  For those reasons, the Non-Aligned Movement called on all Member States to vote against the draft text.

Syria’s representative, adding his voice to that of Cuba’s delegate and subscribing to her statement, said he had taken the floor to call for a “no action” motion as it was known in the English language – the language of Shakespeare.  Consideration of human rights situations should be undertaken in the Human Rights Council, not the Third Committee.  Noting that Syria had completed the Universal Periodic Review, he said it had accepted a large number of recommendations, thus confirming the Government’s commitment to protecting human rights.

He said Syria took pride in the fact that its written history extended over a 10,000-year period and that it had been a haven for the three divine religions.  It had taken principled positions in support of States whose internal affairs had been interfered with.  Syria had also voted in favour of granting independence to countries colonized by European and Western States.  Indeed, Syria had always supported those States that sought help in critical situations, while many others were behaving cowardly on account of political pressure.

Like all Member States, Syria had some solvable problems, he said.  It was in need of pressing ahead in implementing a comprehensive reform process across many socio-political and economic walks of life.  Invoking the provisions of the Charter and international law, he argued that that reform must be national in nature, and not follow from politically motivated United Nations texts.  Nor should it take the form of launching a diplomatic, political and media war and some of the text’s co-sponsors should cease their media campaigns of incitement.  Those States should encourage armed groups to put down their weapons, cease any engagement in violence and participate in a national dialogue.

He went on to say that the actions by some of those States constituted part of the problem.  How could human rights in Syria be reformed at the time when the co-sponsors imposed economic sanctions against Syria?  How could they claim to be helping Syrian citizens while they withheld electricity from Syria?  How could they host meetings of the armed opposition groups, allowing them to issue declarations?  He noted that last week, on one single day, 90 persons had been assassinated.  Of those 90, 79 had been among the ranks of the Syrian army and the Armed Forces and those losses constituted deep wounds for Syria.

For its part, Syria had hoped to see the same enthusiasm by the draft’s co-sponsors for supporting the Palestinian people, he said.  Yet, ethical short-comings and short-sightedness by some had prevailed.  None of the fact-finding missions established by the United Nations to address the situation in Palestine had been carried out.  Only half of the partition resolution had been implemented, while the other half was forgotten.

He emphasized that accusing certain States of human rights violations was a politicization, as well as an unethical enterprise, on the part of the Third Committee.  He called on States to examine their conscience, including by keeping apprised of the facts separately from exaggeration and politicization.  He rejected the projects of sedition, political hegemony and sabotage.  Former colonial powers would not be allowed to interfere in internal affairs anew.  For all those reasons, he urged States to vote in favour of a “no action” motion.

Noting this call for a “no action” vote, the Chair invited two representatives to speak in favour of that motion.

Nicaragua’s representative said her delegation was truly concerned about the proliferation of resolutions targeting certain countries.  Those were not about operation and objectivity, but selectivity and double standards.  Those States that were concerned about the situation of human rights in other countries should first examine the situation in their own countries.  If they still felt it was morally appropriate to address the situation in other countries, they should do so through the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  She noted that country-specific resolutions, which were only aimed at developing countries, did nothing to further the cause of human rights.  Thus, Nicaragua supported the “no action” motion and called on all developing nations to do so, as well.

Venezuela’s delegate also endorsed the “no action” motion, underlining her country’s principled opposition to resolutions targeting specific countries.  The draft in the Third Committee and the plenary of the General Assembly was unjustified and should be immediately suspended.  The text undermined the principles of dialogue, cooperation and non-selectivity, among others.  Far from contributing to the resolution of the issue, the draft text undermined the efforts being promoted internationally.  Action on it was undertaken by superpowers who proclaimed themselves defenders of human rights, even though reality revealed their hypocrisy.

The Chair then invited two representatives to speak against the “no action” motion.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said the situation in Syria could not be ignored.  His Government had, on a number of occasions, attempted to call on the Syrian authorities to work towards ending the violence there and to undertake true dialogue and reform.  Those appeals had not met with a favourable response, however, and given the situation facing the Syrian people, Saudi Arabia had worked to put in place a plan to end the violence without foreign intervention.  That plan sought to help Syrians live in peace and dignity.  While it had been accepted by Syria, obstacles to its implementation remained in place.

He confirmed that Saudi Arabia was aware of the honourable role played by Syria throughout history.  Yet, the international community must send a message to the Syrian people; otherwise the people would conclude they were being ignored and that was unacceptable for the United Nations.  Stressing that the resolution was about a State in a certain situation, he appealed for States to vote against the “no action” motion, particularly since it supported the Arab League’s Plan of Action.

France’s representative noted that the current draft text responded to a single, unique situation.  It was needed because Syria had rejected the Arab League’s Plan of Action and the number of those being killed increased daily.  He noted that the text reflected the efforts by regional countries, which sought to promote human rights in Syria.  France would vote against the “no action” motion and urged all States to do likewise.

As the Committee moved to take action on the “no action” motion, the Chair reminded them that a “yes” vote meant they supported the motion, while a “no” vote meant they did not. The Committee then rejected the “no action” motion by a vote of 20 in favour to 118 against, with 29 abstentions.

The Committee then turned to the draft text as orally corrected.

Syria’s representative said one of his colleagues had just said his Government supported the cessation of violence by all parties – armed parties – in Syria.  That was a position agreed to by Syrian authorities.  However, the draft text was devoid of that point.  It had no balance and took an adversarial position.  That colleague’s country hosted a satellite facility that constantly incited the Syrian street, with a view to fuelling sedition there.  While he felt sorry for mentioning that fact, he stressed that he would refrain from mentioning the country out of respect for Arab traditions.

Underlining the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, he noted that it was enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Syria was surprised that the co-sponsors cited the Charter, despite their own violations of that document.  Also strange was the invitation to Syria to cooperate with and fully implement the Arab League’s Plan of Action, since Syria itself had not only signed the initiative, but received the Arab Committee charged with following up on it and participated in a joint meeting with that committee’s members.  It had also accepted the draft protocol for the dispatch of Arab monitors to observe the full implementation of the Plan of Action.

Further stressing that the draft did not mention the armed groups that abused the security of Syrian citizens and the safety of public and private properties, he said all countries would resist such groups.  Some of the text’s co-sponsors still insisted on the non-presence of those groups in the text because they were fully responsible for sponsoring those groups, both by arming and financing them.  While the draft text had been presented by three European States, it was no secret that the United States was the mastermind behind it.  The text had nothing to do with human rights, but with the United States’ agenda against Syria.

He also noted that he had provided to the Secretary-General, the President of the Security Council and the Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee a list of the names of the terrorists who had smuggled arms across the Syrian border.  Syria had also provided to the Secretary-General and the Security Council semi-periodic updates on reforms in Syria, including the establishment of national verification committees and the release of innocent detainees.  Despite that transparency, none of the supplied information had been included in the draft text, which turned a blind eye to the situation.

Regretful of that fact, Syria noted that the co-sponsors themselves had a black record in the field of human rights.  Some of the European States, as well as the United States, invaded other States and imposed sanctions against sovereign States in the developing world, preventing them from achieving their right to development.  The United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany and Canada had also punished the Palestinian people simply because they exercised their rights in a democratic process.

He stressed that the actions by some co-sponsors – which aimed to divert the focus on the Israeli occupation - constituted a “wrong reading” that would turn the clock back to an era of ignorance.  Syria would not go along with them.  In that regard, he noted that some States had said they would curtail their assistance to the Palestinian people if they presented their application for membership to the United Nations.  Indeed, the United States had withdrawn support to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for accepting Palestinian membership.

He called on all States to stop participating in the conspiracy, as embodied in the words of the spokesperson of the United States State Department, who advised the “terrorists” not to surrender their arms as part of the amnesty offered by the Syrian Government.  The promotion, by some of the text’s co-sponsors, of the demands of the radical opposition to overthrow Syria’s authorities was a coup attempt supported from abroad, not a reform process.  Moreover, what was promoted as the “Arab Spring” was a new version of the Sykes-Picot colonial convention to build a “new Middle East” that was supposed to be led by Israel, and was based on a new fragmentation of the region’s countries on a sectarian, ethnic and religious basis.

Arguing that the draft text would not control Syria’s decision to move forward in the reform process, he said the current manoeuvres would not prevent Syrian authorities from protecting their country and its people from foreign ambitions.  Thus, Syria called for a recorded vote on the draft resolution and urged all States to vote against it.

Kuwait’s representative asked that her State be added to the list of co-sponsors to the draft resolution.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Iran said it was the principled position of his country, as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, to oppose country-specific resolutions in the Third Committee.  While there were relevant United Nations mechanisms for the same purpose, the Third Committee would not be the right and competent place to address the issue.  The Government of Syria had presented its country reports to the 12‑nation Universal Periodic Review working group, in a professional environment.  Unfortunately, the Third Committee was “beating the very familiar wrong drum” of the Human Rights Commission, which had not been in harmony with the promotion and protection of human rights.  By rejecting the resolution, the Committee could denounce mischief-making by the sponsors.  Equality and sovereign rights of the State were the condition for cooperation among all States; therefore, his delegation would vote against the draft text.

The representative of Venezuela, aligning with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said her delegation rejected the individual condemnation of States through use of their human rights situations, which had become part of the geopolitical power-game.  It was not a human rights issue, but merely a way to satisfy neo-colonial desires for the resources of other countries.  Some powers were trying to convict other countries, using the noble principles of human rights for the sole purpose of satisfying their interests in domination.  Venezuela applauded the efforts of Syria to establish dialogue with the opposition.  Diplomacy was for peace, not war.  It was time for dialogue, not violence.  Venezuela would be voting against the resolution, and urged all delegations to do the same.

Cuba’s representative said those harmful and selective practices of double standards in human rights issues had been the cause of the dissolution of the Human Rights Commission five years ago.  International cooperation based on the principles of objectivity, unconditionality and non-selectivity was the only way to protect human rights.  Unfortunately, that was not the purpose of the text.  It represented clear political motivations, and that was why Cuba would be voting against the draft resolution.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his delegation was strongly concerned about continued country-specific resolutions.  The resolution was politically motivated and aimed at overthrowing the political and social system in Syria, under the guise of human rights.  Yesterday, his own country, along with Iran and Myanmar, had been targeted in country-specific resolutions, and today Syria was targeted.  If the practice of country-specific resolutions continued, no one knew which country would be selected tomorrow.  His delegation strongly opposed the draft resolution and would be voting against it.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Syria by a vote of 122 in favour to 13 against, with 41 abstentions.

By that text, the Assembly would strongly condemn the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and torture and ill treatment of detainees, including children.  It would call on the Syrian authorities to immediately put an end to all human rights violations, to protect their population and to fully comply with their obligations under international human rights law, and call for an immediate end to all violence in Syria.

Further to the text, the Assembly would call on Syrian authorities to implement the Plan of Action of the League of Arab States in its entirety without further delay.  It would invite the Secretary-General, in accordance with his functions, to provide support, if requested, to the League of Arab States observer mission in Syria, consistent with the League’s decisions of 12 and 16 November 2011.  Finally, it would call upon the Syrian authorities to comply with Human Rights Council resolutions S-16/1 and S-17/1, including by cooperating fully and effectively with the independent international commission of inquiry.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, Ukraine’s representative said it had voted in favour of the draft resolution under the understanding that its second operative paragraph calling for an end of violence referred to all parties in the confrontation.

China’s representative said his country always believed constructive dialogue was the only right way to approach human rights, while country-specific resolutions were not a constructive way to end differences.  At the same time, it called on Syria to end violence and install order as soon as possible, and endorsed the Arab plan.  For those reasons, China had voted in favour of the “no action” motion and abstained on the draft resolution.

The representative of Viet Nam said his delegation had voted against the draft resolution under its principled position of not supporting country-specific resolutions.  At the same time, it noted concern about the situation in Syria and called upon all parties there to put an end to violence, put an end to the conflict and engage in constructive dialogue.

Malaysia’s representative said his delegation had abstained from the vote, and took note that Syria had taken steps to engage with the international community, including its participation in the Universal Periodic Review process.  Malaysia was a firm believer in the non-confrontation approach on all matters, including human rights, and supported sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Human rights should not be politicized, including through selective targeting of countries.  The Government of Syria had a positive role to play in the process, and the best approach of the international community was respectful dialogue.

The representative of Israel expressed support for the draft resolution.  The Syrian delegate’s “cynical attacks” on his country today were just an effort to divert attention from the matter at hand and he would not bother with a response, he said.  Israel stood ready to engage with its neighbours in the region to promote peace and stability.

Egypt’s representative said his delegation had voted in favour of the text in reaffirmation of its governmental and popular support to the pursuit by all peoples in the Arab region and beyond to the realization of their aspirations for a better future.  Its favourable vote took into account several important considerations, starting with Egypt’s support, based on its own revolution of 25 January 2011, for the demands by the Syrian people for fundamental reforms that would enable them to live in freedom, dignity and democracy, to achieve better living standards and to ensure the full respect of the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He further noted that the draft resolution had been improved over the past few days, making it more consistent with the leading Arab position adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States at the level of Foreign Ministers at its two meetings on 12 and 16 November.  Thus, the draft was based on the full and immediate implementation of the Plan of Action proposed by the Arab League, which, among other things, called for the immediate cessation of military actions and the dispatch of an observer mission to Syria.  At the same time, it was based on ensuring the honest implementation of the two Human Rights Council resolutions 16/1 of 29 April and 17/1 of 22 August, including guaranteeing Syria’s cooperation with the independent fact-finding mission.

Finally, the text preserved the unity of Syria and its territorial integrity and could not be interpreted as an invitation for foreign intervention.  Indeed, the recently added preambular paragraph 8 included clear language reaffirming the commitment of all Members States to refrain in their international relations from the use or the threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.  In a clear assertion of the importance of reaching a comprehensive political settlement for the deteriorating situation in Syria, it also stressed that States would refrain from acting in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his country had consistently opposed unilateral country-specific resolutions.  History showed such texts were ineffective.  States themselves were responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights and it fell to the international community to provide technical assistance.  While national dialogue was needed, the efforts of the Syrian authorities should not be overlooked.  Further, the opposition groups should not boycott those efforts.  The Russian Federation believed it was inadmissible to use force or intervention in Syria.  The human rights situation in any country could be a source of concern for the international community.  However, those issues should in no instance be used as an excuse for interference.

Singapore’s representative said his Government maintained a principled opposition to country-specific resolutions.  However, its abstention should not be taken as pronouncing a position on the human rights situation in Syria, nor the mistreatment of citizens.  He called on all States to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Thailand’s representative said her delegation registered serious concern for current violence in Syria and its sincere hope for the return of peace there.  It also hoped the recommendations resulting from the Universal Periodic Review would be implemented.  Nevertheless, Thailand had abstained in today’s vote on the basis of its opposition to country-specific texts.

The representative of Costa Rica said his country had voted in favour of the resolution on the basis of its concern about the situation in Syria.  He recalled that the Human Rights Council, which had the necessary tools to look into certain cases that concerned the international community, was the ideal forum for looking into such matters.  Costa Rica would not co-sponsor the current draft and supported the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the Human Rights Council as the optimal body for protecting human rights.  However, the international community must not abdicate its responsibility for denouncing human rights violations and address them specifically, as had been done today.

Ecuador’s representative regretted the politicization in the Third Committee, which was not the forum to deal with human rights situations.  That was why his Government had supported the “no action” motion and subscribed to the statement made by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.  Ecuador adhered to equality and non-selectivity in considering human rights and believed that specific countries should not be targeted.  Further, all States should abstain from making threats concerning territorial integrity.  Only dialogue would enable effective resolution.  For those reasons, Ecuador had voted against the draft text.

The Committee then took note of several documents under agenda item 69 (a), including:  the report of the Human Rights Committee (document A/66/40(Supp)(Vol.I) and document A/66/40(Supp)(Vol.II)), the report of the Committee against Torture (document A/66/44(Supp)), the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/66/217), and the report of the Secretary-General on measures to improve further the effectiveness, harmonization and reform of the treaty body system(document A/66/344).

Also:  the r eport of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture(document A/66/276), the n ote by the Secretary-General submitting the report of the Chairs for the human rights treaty bodies on their twenty-third meeting(document A/66/175), and the note by the Secretary-General on the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment(document A/66/259).

Under agenda item 69 (b), the Committee took note of:  the report of the Secretary-General on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/66/342), the r eport of the Secretary-General on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (document A/66/284), the n ote by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (document A/66/285), the n ote by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (document A/66/330), and then the n ote by the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (document A/66/289).

Also:  the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (document A/66/283), the n ote by the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (document A/66/254), and the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the independent expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (document A/66/271).

And:  the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and on the right to non-discrimination in this context (document A/66/270), the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education (document A/66/269), the n ote by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights(document A/66/265), and the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (document A/66/290).

The Committee also took note, under agenda item 69 (c), of:  the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (document A/66/358) and r eports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the international independent commission of inquiry on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire (document A/66/518).

Under agenda item 69 (d), it took note of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/66/36(Supp)).

The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Realization of the Millennium Development Goals and Other Internationally Agreed Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities (document A/C.3/66/L.10/Rev.1), which was presented by the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania.

In an oral statement of programme budget implications arising from the draft resolution, Secretary OTTO GUSTAFIK said the text’s approval would result in no additional programme budget implications for the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012‑2013.

Speaking in explanation of position before action, the representative of Poland, on behalf of the European Union, extended thanks to the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania for their leadership in conducting negotiations.  The European Union agreed with the goal of the meeting and hoped the modalities would lead to substantive and fruitful discussions to push forward the agenda of persons with disabilities.  However, the bloc had been surprised by the position of some States that did not seem to favour the participation of civil society in the meeting.  The Union’s interpretation of operative paragraph 7 was that, within the Assembly, Member States would be able to challenge objections by other States in the presence of some members of civil society.  That was one reason why the Unionhad not been able to co-sponsor the text.

The representative of the Philippines said her delegation had worked to come up with a text that would enjoy the broadest possible support and would bring this issue after 30 years to the General Assembly.  She thanked delegations for their contributions and flexibility.

Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft resolution.

By that text, the Assembly would decide to convene a one-day High-level Meeting of the General Assembly, at the level of Heads of State and Government on 23 September 2013, the Monday before the start of the general debate of the sixty-eighth session, with the overarching theme “The way forward:  promoting a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond.”  The event, which shall be funded within existing resources, would aim to strengthen efforts to ensure accessibility for and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts.

Among other modalities, the Assembly would further decide that the High-level Meeting would comprise a plenary meeting and two consecutive informal interactive round tables, with the round tables to be chaired by Member States at the invitation of the President of the General Assembly.  The themes for the round tables would be decided by the President of the General Assembly in consultation with Member States.  The Assembly would further decide that the High-level Meeting would result in a concise, action-oriented outcome document supporting the aims of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities.

The Committee then took note of the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/66/124) and the report of the Secretary-General on the world social situation 2011:  the global social crisis (document A/66/226).

In the afternoon, the Committee next took up the draft resolution on the girl child (document A/C.3/66/L.24/Rev.1), which was presented by Angola’s delegate, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  The Committee approved the draft consensus, as orally revised.

By that text, the Assembly would stress the need for full and urgent implementation of the rights of the girl child as provided to her under human rights instruments, and urge States to consider signing and ratifying or acceding to:  the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocols thereto.

The Assembly would call upon all States to place enhanced emphasis on quality education for the girl child.  It would further call on them, with the support of international organizations, civil society and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate, to develop policies and programmes, giving priority to formal and informal education programmes, including age-appropriate sex education, with appropriate direction and guidance from parents and legal guardians, that support girls and enable them to acquire knowledge, develop self-esteem and take responsibility for their own lives.

Further to the text, the Assembly would urge States to ensure that the applicable requirements of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for the employment of girls and boys are respected and effectively enforced and that girls who are employed:  have equal access to decent work, and equal payment and remuneration; are protected from economic exploitation, discrimination, sexual harassment, violence and abuse in the workplace; and are aware of their rights and have access to formal and non-formal education, skills development and vocational training.

States would be called on to take appropriate measures, with the support of international organizations and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the media, to address the root factors of child and forced marriages, including by undertaking educational activities to raise awareness regarding the negative aspects of such practices.  They would also urge States:  to enact and strictly enforce laws to ensure that marriage is entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses; to enact and strictly enforce laws concerning the minimum legal age of consent and the minimum age for marriage and raise the minimum age for marriage where necessary; to ensure that efforts to enact and implement legislation to end child and forced marriages engage all stakeholders and agents of change; and to ensure that the information on the legislation against the practice is well known and generates social support for its enforcement.

The Assembly would further urge all States to enact and enforce legislation to protect girls from all forms of violence and exploitation, including female infanticide and prenatal sex selection, female genital mutilation, rape, domestic violence, incest, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, child prostitution and child pornography, trafficking and forced migration, forced labour and forced marriage, as well as marriage under the legal age.

Deploring all cases of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children, especially girls, in humanitarian crises, including those cases involving humanitarian workers and peacekeepers, the Assembly would urge States to take effective measures to address gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies and to make all possible efforts to ensure that their laws and institutions are adequate to prevent, promptly investigate and prosecute acts of gender-based violence.  It would also welcome the efforts undertaken by United Nations agencies and peacekeeping operations to implement a zero-tolerance policy.

Speaking in explanation of position after action, the observer of the Holy See said his delegation was concerned that the resolution could create a misleading impression that early pregnancy constituted a health risk, a fact not supported by the report of the Secretary-General on the girl child.  The Holy See welcomed in the text the inclusion of the role of parents in the upbringing and development of girls, but reaffirmed its reservations with the resolution, especially regarding its references to “sexual and reproductive health” since the Holy See did not consider abortion or abortion services to be a dimension of such terms.  Regarding the term “family planning”, the Holy See in no way endorsed contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

The representative of the United States said his delegation was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution, and was committed to bettering the lives of women and girls, not because it was just the right thing to do, but also because it was the smart thing to do.  It co-sponsored the resolution today under the understanding that its reaffirmation of prior documents referred to those who had previously approved them, he said.

Next, the Committee turned to the four-part draft resolution on the rights of the child (document A/C.3/66/L.25/Rev.1), which was presented by the representative of Poland, on behalf of the European Union, as well as the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.  Noting that the text had enjoyed unanimous support in recent years, he said it preserved the “omnibus” format and, this year, highlighted the rights of children with disabilities.  He read out numerous oral revisions to the text and expressed hope that those changes would allow the draft text to be approved without a vote.

Following a request by Benin’s representative, who spoke on a point of order, for a brief suspension of the meeting, the Chair suspended the meeting for 10 minutes.

Reconvening the meeting, the Chair gave the floor to Poland’s delegate who made another revision to the end of paragraph 46 (f) that would add the words “bearing in mind relevant international norms and regional particularities”.  Following that revision, the Chair read out additional co-sponsors.

Before further action on the draft text, Pakistan’s representative said his delegation had engaged with its colleagues during negotiations on the text.  Pakistan had proposed one amendment that was not supported by the text’s main co-sponsors, but had, he believed, enjoyed the support of other co-sponsors.  Thus, he proposed that the text be amended to include a new paragraph 46 (g) that would have the Assembly decide “that all mandate holders should exercise their functions independently and in full observance of their respective mandates”.

Syria’s representative said her delegation would offer an oral amendment that she thought would take into consideration Pakistan’s proposed amendment.

Thanking Pakistan for its strong support for the draft resolution, Poland’s representative said the amendment was not acceptable to the text’s main co-sponsors and requested that his colleague withdraw the proposed amendment.

Following Pakistan’s decision not to withdraw his proposal, Poland’s representative called for a recorded vote on the amendment.

The Chair noted the call for a recorded vote.

Speaking on a point of order, Uruguay’s delegate asked when there would be time for general statements.

The Chair assured her it would be soon, and certainly not after the vote.

Making a general statement before the vote, Uruguay’s delegate noted the lengthy negotiations behind the current text.  She lamented that in a matter as delicate as the rights of children with disabilities, the text might not be adopted by consensus as it had been in recent years.  She said States should bear in mind to the degree possible the concerns of all.  The broad number of co-sponsors suggested its support.  Her delegation would vote against the amendment.

Malaysia’s representative said the promotion and protection of children should be a priority in the development agenda of all States.  He voiced support for the amendment.  It was the understanding of his delegation that the text’s reference to the Optional Protocol did not apply to those countries that had not yet acceded to that protocol.

The representative of Peru recalled that the resolution was the fruit of long months of negotiation and the text before the Committee reflected the positions of many delegations.  Her delegation would vote against the amendment to preserve the integrity of the text.  She hoped the text would ultimately achieve consensus.

The representative of Barbados requested clarification that the proposed amendment would be the final paragraph in the draft resolution.

Pakistan’s delegate said it would indeed be the last paragraph.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation believed the proposed amendment would improve the text.  It would, therefore, vote in favour of Pakistan’s proposal.

Stressing again that the text was the result of extensive and constructive negotiations, Poland’s delegate said it had the broad support of its co-sponsors.  As presented today, it was based on the last version presented to the negotiating delegations.  Moreover, it was an important draft and his delegation would be deeply disappointed if it did not enjoy consensus.  Referring to the proposed language, he noted why it was unacceptable to his and other delegations.

Speaking on a point of order, Pakistan’s delegate stated that the amendment being read out by Poland was not the correct text.

Assuring him that it was, Poland’s delegate said the amendment, as written, implied that the mandate holders were operating outside their mandates, which was not the case.  He urged all delegations to vote against the amendment.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States echoed earlier comments that the text was the result of long and constructive negotiations.  The United States would oppose all amendments from the floor on the basis that the plenary of the Third Committee should not be used as an informal negotiation.  But, while some delegations might not be fully satisfied with all parts of the text, discipline must be exerted.

He went on to stress that although the independence of mandate holders must be maintained, Pakistan’s proposed language indicated that the amendment was aimed at one particular mandate holder.  Moreover, its proposed placement under the “decides” paragraph was not appropriate in a text on the rights of the child.

Jamaica’s delegate said her Government was committed to upholding the rights of the child, as well as children with disabilities.  Saying her delegation supported the spirit of the proposed amendment, she recalled that last year, one Special Rapporteur had accused the Jamaican representative of speaking in their personal capacity when they read out a statement prepared in their capital.  Moreover, that accusation was made publicly in the Third Committee.  Jamaica’s support for Pakistan’s proposal did not in any way diminish its support for the rights of the child, nor for the draft resolution, which Jamaica would continue to co-sponsor.

Taking action on Pakistan’s proposed amendment, the Committee rejected it by a vote of 48 in favour to 78 against, with 21 abstentions.

Making a general statement after action, Syria’s representative offered an amendment to the third preambular paragraph.

Speaking on a point of order, the representative of the United States asked if it was the appropriate time for such a proposal.

The Chair said it was.

Continuing, Syria’s representative proposed that the phrase “and all Geneva Conventions of 1949” be added to the end of third preambular paragraph.

The representative of the United States said that, as a co-sponsor, his delegation would like to call a vote on the amendment.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said he had called for the vote and would vote against the proposed amendment.  The paragraph which Syria sought to amend was agreed language from last year, and if it was agreed during negotiations, it would be better to stay with it.  The paragraph was perfectly acceptable to the United States.  As a matter of discipline and process, such matters should not be addressed at this stage, he said.

Poland’s representative said it was against the amendment because it would like to preserve the integrity of the text, which was the result of extensive consultations.  It would be voting no to the amendment proposed by Syria and respectfully asked other delegations to vote no.

The Committee then rejected the proposed oral amendment by a vote of 26 in favour to 78 against, with 27 abstentions.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution as orally revised.

By the terms of the four-part text, the Assembly would urge States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols thereto.  It would call upon States to ensure the enjoyment by all children of all their civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights without discrimination of any kind.  It would also urge all States parties to intensify efforts to comply with obligations under the Convention to protect children in matters relating to registration, family relations and adoption and other forms of alternative care.  States and the international community would be further called on to create an environment in which the well-being of the child is ensured.

The Assembly would also urge States to take or strengthen, as appropriate, legislative and other measures to effectively prevent, prohibit and eliminate all forms of violence against children, in all settings.  It would call on States to promote and protect all human rights of all children in particularly difficult situations and to implement programmes and measures that provide them with special protection and assistance; to respect and protect the rights of children alleged to have infringed or recognized as having infringed penal law; to prevent, criminalize, prosecute and punish all forms of the sale of children; to develop and implement programmes and policies to protect children from abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, commercial sexual exploitation, child prostitution, child pornography, child sex tourism and child abduction; and to enact and enforce necessary legislative or other measures, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, to prevent the distribution over the Internet and in all other media of child pornography.

Condemning in the strongest terms all violations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict, the Assembly would also urge all States and other parties to armed conflict that are engaged in the recruitment and use of children, in patterns of killing and maiming of children and/or rape and other sexual violence against children, and in attacks on schools and/or hospitals, as well as in all other violations and abuses against children, to take time-bound and effective measures to end them.

The Assembly would further call upon all States to translate into concrete action their commitment to the progressive and effective elimination of child labour that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, and to eliminate immediately the worst forms of child labour.

Reaffirming that all children with disabilities should have full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children, the Assembly would stress the importance of international cooperation in building national capacity for improving the living conditions of children with disabilities in every country, in particular in developing countries.  It would call upon all States to include, within the overall context of policies and programmes for the realization of the rights of the child, for all children within their jurisdiction, relevant provisions for the realization of these rights for children with disabilities. 

In terms of follow-up, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General submit, at its sixty-seventh session, a comprehensive report on the rights of the child, with a focus on indigenous children.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representatives for Children and Armed Conflict and on Violence against Children would be requested to continue to submit reports to the Assembly and the Human Rights Council on activities undertaken to fulfil their mandates.  The Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography would also be asked to submit reports to those two bodies.  The Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child would be requested to present an oral report on the work of the Committee and engage in an interactive dialogue with the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session.  Finally, the Assembly would decide to continue its consideration of the question at its sixty-seventh session, focusing section III of next year’s resolution on the rights of indigenous children.

Speaking in explanation of position, the observer of the Holy See said his delegation was grateful the resolution called upon all States to take measures to prohibit the forced abortion and sterilization of children on grounds of disability.  Such practices constituted human rights violations, and in that regard, his delegation was dismayed that the original language proposed by the co-facilitators – to prohibit such practices by law – was not accepted by every delegation.  He also stressed ongoing reservations about references to “sexual and reproductive health” in the resolution; the Holy See did not consider abortion to be a dimension of health and in no way endorsed the employment of contraceptive techniques as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.  His delegation was also dismayed that some delegations would not reject discrimination against children on the basis of disability during their prenatal development, which was where they were most threatened.

Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Syria said it had joined consensus in its belief for according special status to childhood in the interest of the international community.  Syria deployed serious efforts in the field of childcare and growth.  It expressed its regret that the international community was not shouldering its responsibilities by including a clear cut reference in the resolution for children suffering under occupation, particularly those with disabilities.  She called on those occupying territories to take on their responsibilities, as their mines had killed and maimed children.  Syria reserved the right to interpret some paragraphs on adoption and certain forms of care in a manner that conformed with its national legislation.  The Under-Secretary-General on children and armed conflict should also not forget the suffering of Syrian children under occupation in Golan.

The representative of the United States said his delegation was extremely pleased to co-sponsor the resolution and was also extremely pleased it had been adopted by consensus.  The resolution highlighted the important issue of protecting children with disabilities, and the United States was committed to working with partners around the world in that effort.  The United States had co-sponsored the resolution under the understanding it did not recognize and change customary interpretations of any treaty or law, he said.

The Russian Federation’s representative said children’s issues were a key area of social policy of her country and it had joined the co-sponsors of the resolution.  At the same time, it would like to register concerns on what occurred today during co-sponsoring of the draft.  The fundamental position of the main co-sponsors was only in promoting their interests, not taking into account the interests of others.  They should remember that being an initial co-sponsor was not only a right, but also a responsibility.  Ultimately, the resolution would be implemented throughout the world.  In the future, the Russian Federation would like to hope that the initial co-sponsors would be more transparent and balanced in their approach when voting on the issue and would not present their opinions as the only ones valid, or correct.

The committee then took note of the report of the Committee on the rights of the child (document A/66/41); the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (document A/66/228); and the report of the Secretary-General on the girl child (document A/66/257).

Next before the Committee was the draft proposal on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/C.3/66/L.68/Rev.1), which was presented by the representative of Argentina, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.  He read out a number of oral revisions.

The representative of Israel said the Jewish people knew the evils of racism all too well.  In light of the history of its people, Israel had always been a strong advocate in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Ten years ago, it had joined other countries in Durban in the hope that a plan would be developed to fight racial discrimination in all parts of the world.  She wished that the meeting had not been hijacked by a small group of States determined to demonize Israel.  She also wished that those States that were committed to fighting racism had spoken up more strongly in favour of the text.

Sadly, however, Durban had been hijacked by a group of States that wanted to condemn Israel more than racism, she said.  Nor did other States speak up.  Israel had consequently withdrawn from that meeting and had not participated in any of its follow-up events.  While her delegation recognized the transparent manner of the negotiations on the current draft resolution, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action remained at the heart of its text and Israel could not support it.  Indeed, it would only be able to do so if the text dropped the paragraphs that contaminated the original Programme of Action.  For those reasons, Israel requested a recorded vote on the draft text and urged other States to vote against it.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said his country was profoundly committed to fighting racism and racial discrimination.  It would continue to work in partnership with all nations of good will to uphold human rights and to combat racism and racial discrimination.  It would work with all nations to build enduring political will in that regard.  It also remained deeply concerned about speech that advocated national hatred, particularly when it was an incitement to hatred and violence.  However, the United States believed that robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, outreach to religious groups and protection for freedom of speech were the best defences against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Noting that the reservations of the United States to the Durban process were well known, he recalled that it had withdrawn from the review conference because that meeting endorsed the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in its entirety.  The United States had supported declaring 2011 the United Nations Year of People of African Descent and had worked to develop programming to that end throughout the world.  The United States regretted that the current text included elements that required it to vote “no”.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Poland’s delegate said the bloc shared concerns that victory in the fight to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance had not been attained.  It worked to fight racism in an effective and sustainable manner.  Ten years after the meeting in Durban, the European Union remained fully committed to the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  In that fight, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination remained the essential framework.

The European Union had sought to ensure, among other things, that the text conformed with international law and that it recalled that States had primary responsibility to combat racism.  Several operative paragraphs – namely 6, 10 and 13 - introduced restrictions to the freedom of expression that were not in line with international law.  Moreover, the resolution failed to take a balanced approach.  It did not recognize the role that freedom of expression played in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  The Union also regretted any mention of specific groups; clear references to particular religions or beliefs should not be part of a text that aimed to combat racism.

Suggesting that a shorter, more focused resolution might help States achieve the clear message the United Nations hoped to convey to the world, he pleaded with the Group of 77 and China to rethink their approach to the draft in the future.  Indeed, a more streamlined approach would reunite the whole membership again on the issue.  Finally, he noted that the member States of the European Union would abstain in the vote.

Switzerland’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, noted that those countries had supported the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as well as all follow-up meetings, although they had been required to abstain in previous votes on this text.  Yet, this year the Group of 77 and China had strived for consensus and accommodated many of the proposals made by those delegations and they would vote in favour of the text today.

Portugal’s representative, aligning with the European Union, voiced appreciation for amendments to reflect diverging views and to improve language on incitement.  It also recognized the agreement to postpone for a year to proclaim a Decade for the People of African Descent.  However, Portugal was still required to vote against the draft.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution as orally revised by a vote of 126 in favour to 5 against ( Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands and United States), with 43 abstentions.

Expressing grave concern at the lack of progress made in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, in particular key paragraphs 157 to 159 of the Programme of Action, by the text, the Assembly would recognize and affirm that a global fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and all their abhorrent and evolving forms and manifestations is a matter of priority for the international community.

It would express its unequivocal condemnation of all forms of racism and racial discrimination, and would express deep concern at inadequate responses to emerging and resurgent forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Further, the Assembly would call upon all States, in accordance with the commitments undertaken in the Durban Programme of Action, to take all measures necessary to combat incitement to violence motivated by racial hatred, including through the misuse of print, audio-visual and electronic media and new communications technologies.

The Assembly would also express grave concern that universal ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has not yet been reached, despite commitments under the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and would call upon those States that have not yet done so to accede to the Convention as a matter of urgency.

It would take note of the reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and would encourage relevant stakeholders to consider implementing the recommendations contained therein.  The Assembly would also recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas directed against all religious communities, communities of people of African descent, communities of people of Asian descent, communities of indigenous people and other communities.  It would also express concern at recent deeply marked tendencies within numerous societies to characterize migration as a problem and a threat to social cohesion.

The Assembly would reiterate its recommendation that future meetings of the Human Rights Council and its relevant mechanisms focus on the follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action be scheduled in a manner that allows broad participation and avoids overlap with the meetings devoted to the consideration of this item in the General Assembly.

It would also request the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its sixty-seventh session a report on the implementation of the present resolution, with recommendations, and would decide to remain seized of this important matter at its sixty-seventh session.

Making a general statement after the vote, the representative of Mexico thanked the Group of 77 and China for presenting the text and the handling of this important topic.  For the record, Mexico disagreed with the elimination of the removal of the reference to the Convention of protection of migrant workers and their families, which had been contained in the text last year.  In the fight against discrimination, racism and xenophobia, this was relevant – migrants had been a victim of this scourge the international community had been fighting against.

Ecuador’s representative said he wished to join the statement made by Mexico’s delegation.

The Committee then took note of the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on its seventy-eighth and seventy-ninth sessions (document A/66/18) and the report of the Secretary-General on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/66/328).

Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/66/L.61), which was presented by Egypt’s representative.

The Chair said that a recorded vote had been requested on the resolution.

The representative of Egypt asked which delegation had requested the vote.

The Chair said that Israel had requested the vote.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, Israel’s representative said that history had shown that peace had to be negotiated.  Only Israel and Palestine could negotiate that peace.  While Israel had demonstrated its preparedness to recognize Palestine’s right to self-determination, Palestine must recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that it had had the right to live in peace.  The resolution failed to even call the Palestinians to enter into bilateral negotiations with Israel.  Peace would not be achieved through disingenuous resolutions such as this one, and for those reasons her delegation had called for the vote and would vote against the resolution.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a vote of 166 in favour to 5 against ( Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the United States), with 4 abstentions ( Cameroon, Haiti, Togo and Venezuela).

By that text, the Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine.  It would also urge all States, as well as the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system, to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, Argentina’s representative reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to form an independent free State within its 1967 borders.  That was why it voted in favour of the resolution.  Israel also had the irrevocable right to have its border recognized and live in peace, he said.  Self-determination had nothing to do with the case of the Malvinas Islands, which had to do with territorial integrity.  That was a particular issue pertaining to decolonization, and could only be resolved through negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom.

Algeria’s representative said his country had voted yes to the resolution, and requested it be added to the records.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in right of reply to Argentina’s representative, said his country attached great importance to the principle of self-determination, which underlay its position on the Falkland Islands.  There could be no negotiation on the Falkland Islands with Argentina unless at some time the islanders so wish.

Making a general statement after the vote, the observer of Palestine expressed gratitude to all countries who voted in favour of the resolution.  The near unanimous vote in favour came at a unique time in the struggle for freedom of the Palestinian people as they sought to become Members of the community of nations.  Along with expansion of its illegal settlements, the vote by Israel showed it rejected a peaceful coexistence side-by-side.  The right to self-determination was not one of the permanent status issues – it was a given inalienable right for all people, including the Palestinian people, and it had been delayed too long.  The two-State solution for peace, which enjoyed broad international support, was threatened by Israel’s settlement campaign, which was the main obstacle to peace, as well as the expansion of its wall.  That was the real threat to peace, not the resolution.  Palestine continued to appeal to the international community to “stand for right before might” and to bring to an end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.

Responding to the United Kingdom, Argentina’s representative reiterated what his Minister of Foreign Affairs said on 21 June 2011 to the Special Committee on Decolonization.  The Malvinas Islands, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas were an integral part of Argentine national territory and were illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.  They were subject to a sovereignty dispute, as recognized by various international organizations.  The United Kingdom’s illegal occupation had led to the adoption of numerous resolutions, all of which recognized the existence of that dispute and called on the two Governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina to renew negotiations and to find a lasting and peaceful resolution to the dispute.  He reaffirmed Argentina’s sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.

The Committee then took note of the report of the Secretary-General on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/66/172).

Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/66/L.34/Rev.1), which was tabled by the representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The chair noted that a recorded vote had been called.  Responding to Cuba’s inquiry on which delegation had called for that vote, the Chair said Poland, on behalf of the European Union, had done so.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, Poland’s delegate, on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc had actively participated in negotiations on the text.  Saying the Union attached great importance to cultural diversity, she noted that UNESCO had already clarified the definition of “cultural diversity”, which could only be promoted if human rights were guaranteed.  Among other things, that included guarantees for media pluralism.  Moreover, cultural diversity implied a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms.  While regional, cultural and religious particularities must be borne in mind, it was the responsibility of States to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals.  Human rights, which were universal, should never be entangled in cultural relativism.  With that in mind, the Union had proposed the insertion of a paragraph reaffirming the guiding principle that no one may infringe on human rights guaranteed by international law.  The Union failed to understand why that proposal could not be accommodated this year.

The Union was also concerned about references to “universally accepted human rights,” she said.  That wording could lead to misunderstandings.  The Union regretted that its proposal to avoid such wording had not been retained.  Moreover, it was very disappointed to be confronted by a text in which none of its proposals had been incorporated.

For those reasons, she said the European Union requested a recorded vote.  The member States of the European Union would vote against the draft text and would request other States to do so as well.

The Committee then approved the draft text by a vote of 118 in favour to 52 against, with 2 abstentions ( Armenia and Serbia).

Convinced that the promotion of cultural pluralism and tolerance towards and dialogue among various cultures and civilizations would contribute to the efforts of all peoples and nations to enrich their cultures and traditions, the Assembly would, by that text, recognize that all cultures and civilizations contribute to the enrichment of humankind, and, in order to promote international peace and security, would commit itself to advancing human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as to encouraging tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples.

The Assembly would call upon States, international organizations and United Nations agencies, and would invite civil society, to recognize and promote respect for cultural diversity for the purpose of advancing the objectives of peace, development and universally accepted human rights.  It would request the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to continue to bear in mind fully those issues in the course of its activities, and would also request the Office of the High Commissioner and invite UNESCO to support initiatives aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue on human rights.

Requesting the Secretary-General to prepare a report on the implementation of the resolution and to submit the report to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth Session, it would decide to continue consideration of the question at its sixty-eighth session.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United States said his country believed that all Governments were responsible for protecting the human rights and freedoms set forth in international law.  Cultural diversity had played a critical role in the country’s history, but his delegation remained concerned that the concept of cultural diversity could be misused to legitimize human rights abuses.  The text raised cultural diversity to an essential objective, while failing to protect human rights law.  A more balanced understanding of cultural diversity and human rights law was presented in Human Rights Council resolutions.

Costa Rica’s delegate said operative paragraph 4 could not be understood as accepting cultural multilateralism.  She defended the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights.

India’s representative requested that his delegation’s vote be recorded as “yes”.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the right to development (document A/C.3/66/L.35/Rev.1), which was also introduced by Cuba’s representative.  She read out a number of oral revisions.

Making a general statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt’s representative said the right to development and the right of peoples under foreign occupation and domination to self-determination were fundamental for promoting a culture of peace and maintaining friendly relations among nations.  Equal treatment should be given to civil and political rights and to cultural, social and economic rights, including the right to development.  Indeed, the right to development was an integral human right and must be affirmed for everyone.

Stressing that unilateral economic and coercive measures negatively impacted that right, he said the Movement reaffirmed the need for a new global order that, among other things, eliminated poverty and promoted full and decent employment and social inclusion.  It was imperative to address the current crisis with a view to promoting human development and taking actions to promote sustainable development and economic growth.  The United Nations should also mainstream the right in its policies and programmes.

The draft text was, he said, a genuine attempt to fulfil the aspirations of its peoples, and the Movement welcomed the participation of the European Union during negotiations.  It hoped that further efforts would be made to bridge the gaps on that important draft in the future.

The Chair noted that a recorded vote had been called.  Responding to Cuba’s inquiry regarding which delegation had called for that vote, he said the United States had done so.

Making a general statement before the vote, the representative of the United States said her delegation was interested in finding a way to make the right to development a less divisive issue on the international stage.  To that end, she noted President Obama’s announcement of a new policy for development and for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  She also underscored that the achievement of development goals would be supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Notwithstanding those points, she said the United States must call for a vote since it believed the text did not reflect the consensus views.  Further, it should not include unrelated material on controversial topics being addressed elsewhere.  In particular, she noted the difference in the number of operative paragraphs – 44 versus 8 – between the Assembly’s text on this issue and the text of the Human Rights Council.  For its part, her delegation could not accept a text that contemplated the development of a legal instrument of a binding nature.  Although the core concerns of the United States had not been addressed, it would continue to engage with the Open-ended Working Group.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the right to development was an integral part of human rights.  His country remained a major donor providing development assistance in many different regions and it had clearly demonstrated that it comprehended the scale of the right to development.  While it would honour its commitments to development assistance and called on other States to do the same, the United Kingdom believed it was primarily the responsibility of States to further the right to development.  No such responsibility existed between States.  At the same time, the definition of the right to development was ambiguous.  His delegation also believed that the work of the Open-ended Working Group must not lead to the creation of a legal instrument of a binding nature.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a vote of 140 in favour to 5 against ( Canada, Israel, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States), with 28 abstentions.

By that text, the Assembly would express deep concern over the lack of progress in the trade negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and would reaffirm the need for a successful outcome of the Doha Development Round in key areas such as agriculture, market access for non-agricultural products, trade facilitation, development and services.  Also deeply concerned about the negative impacts of the global economic and financial crises on the realization of the right to development, it would stress poverty eradication as one of the critical elements in the promotion and realization of the right to development and that poverty is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted and integrated approach in addressing economic, political, social, environmental and institutional dimensions at all levels.

Further to that text, the Assembly would endorse the conclusions and recommendations adopted by consensus by the Working Group on the Right to Development of the Human Rights Council and call for their immediate, full and effective implementation by the OHCHR and other relevant actors.  It would also recognize that, despite continuous efforts on the part of the international community, the gap between developed and developing countries remains unacceptably wide, that most of the developing countries continue to face difficulties in participating in the globalization process and that many risk being marginalized and effectively excluded from its benefits.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of Member States, United Nations organs and bodies, specialized agencies, funds and programmes, international development and financial institutions, in particular the Bretton Woods institutions, and non-governmental organizations.  It would also request him to submit a report to the General Assembly at its sixty-seventh session and an interim report to the Human Rights Council on the implementation of the present resolution, and would invite the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development to present a verbal update to the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, Canada’s representative said the right to development was an important bridge between all rights.  But, while Canada had supported the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development, it had serious concerns about the establishment of a legally binding instrument.  Thus, it had voted against the draft resolution.

Also before the Committee was the draft resolution on the right to food (document A/C.3/66/L.38/Rev.1), tabled by the representative of Cuba.  The Committee adopted the draft resolution with oral revisions.

By that text, the Assembly would recognize that the complex character of the global food crisis, in which the right to adequate food is threatened to be violated on a massive scale, is a combination of several major factors, such as the global financial and economic crisis, environmental degradation, desertification and the impacts of global climate change, as well as natural disasters and the lack in many countries of the appropriate technology, investment and capacity-building necessary to confront its impact, particularly in developing countries, least developed countries and small island developing States.

Resolved to act to ensure that the human rights perspective is taken into account at the national, regional and international levels in measures to address the global food crisis, the Assembly would also express its deep concern at the number and scale of natural disasters, diseases and pests, as well as the negative impact of climate change, and their increasing impact in recent years, which have resulted in massive loss of life and livelihood and threatened agricultural production and food security, in particular in developing countries.

Acknowledging the High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis established by the Secretary-General, and supporting the Secretary-General in his continuing efforts in this regard, the Assembly would consider it intolerable that more than one third of the children who die every year before the age of five do so from hunger-related illness, and that the number of people who are undernourished is about 925 million worldwide, and that an additional one billion people are suffering from serious malnutrition, including as a result of the global food crisis, while the planet could produce enough food to feed everyone around the world.

Calling for the early conclusion and a successful, development-oriented outcome of the Doha Round of trade negotiations of the WTO as a contribution to creating international conditions that permit the full realization of the right to food, the Assembly would urge States to give adequate priority in their development strategies and expenditures to the realization of the right to food.

Taking note with appreciation of the interim report of the Special Rapporteur, it would support the realization of his mandate, and would request the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide all the human and financial resources necessary for its effective fulfilment.  The Assembly would also call upon all Governments to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in his task, and request him to submit an interim report to the General Assembly at its sixty-seventh session on the implementation of the present resolution and to continue his work.  Finally, it would decide to continue the consideration of the question at its sixty-seventh session.

The representative of the United States said it was pleased to join consensus on the resolution – her country was committed to accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.  The resolution reiterated previous language on the continued world food crisis; while the United States agreed there were food crises in several regions and certain volatility in food markets, it did not, along with many others, believe there was a world food crisis -- that had been reaffirmed by the FAO.  The resolution also did not mention the role of conflict in food insecurity, she said.  As many as 700,000 people in the Horn of Africa were currently starving, and many thousands of children had died; the United States had had provided aid to fight that famine.

The United States also was not part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and did not treat the right to food as an enforceable resolution.  This resolution’s references to Member States’ obligations was applicable only as much as they had assumed obligations, and its acknowledgements of previous documents were applicable to documents to which States had agreed.  By joining consensus on the resolution, the United States also continued to support countries in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, she said.

Canada’s representative said it supported the progressive realization of the right to food and was pleased to have joined consensus on the resolution.  However, it had concerns that in operative paragraph 28 there were issues that did not appear in the TRIPS agreement.  Canada’s understanding of the resolution was that it did not make further interpretations on the agreement.

Switzerland’s representative said it was pleased to have joined consensus but was displeased by the absence of negotiations.  The resolution could be enriched, and therefore for the first time since 2002  Switzerland could not join the list of co-sponsors.

Paraguay’s representative said his delegation was unfortunately absent during the vote on human rights and cultural diversity, and asked that it be included in the vote in favour.

The Chair recalled that the Main Committees of the General Assembly were encouraged, in operative paragraph 15 of resolution 65/315, to discuss their working methods and to brief the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly.  He said that, with the Committee’s agreement, he would circulate a copy of the oral draft report that had been prepared for that purpose and present it to the Ad Hoc Working Group when it convened its session next year.

Finally, the Committee approved its tentative programme of work for the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/66/L.72).

Closing remarks

Thanking delegations for their work, Chair DATO' HANIFF HUSSEIN (Malaysia) said his chairmanship had not been easy.  Yet, flexibility and good sense prevailed, thereby allowing the Committee to complete its work.  He hoped the issue of the order of speakers would soon be resolved.  He had faced a number of substantive issues and it was important that a successful outcome had been reached for many, if not all delegations.  This was, he noted, what made the Third Committee so exciting.

The Committee heard statements from representatives of the regional groups, as well as poems from the United Kingdom and Egypt, and then the Chair declared the meeting officially closed.

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