Third Committee Approves Text Titled ‘Right to Privacy in the Digital Age’, as It Takes Action on 18 Draft Resolutions

26 November 2013
GA/SHC/4094

Third Committee Approves Text Titled ‘Right to Privacy in the Digital Age’, as It Takes Action on 18 Draft Resolutions

26 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4094
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

51st & 52nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Third Committee Approves Text Titled ‘Right to Privacy in the Digital Age’,

 

as It Takes Action on 18 Draft Resolutions

 

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved 18 draft resolutions today, including one on “The right to privacy in the digital age”.

“Through this resolution, the General Assembly establishes, for the first time, that human rights should prevail irrespective of the medium and therefore need to be protected both offline and online,” Brazil’s representative said, echoing the statement delivered by his President during the opening of the sixty‑eighth session.

The draft, approved without a vote, would have the General Assembly call upon Member States to review their procedures, practices and legislation on the surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data, including mass surveillance, with a view to upholding the right to privacy by ensuring the full and effective implementation of all relevant obligations under international human rights law.

Following the approval, some delegates stressed the need for agreed international human rights mechanisms in relation to ensuring privacy and freedom of expression.  Some expressed regret over the lack of a specific reference to such mechanisms in the draft, while others applauded the consensus as a clear international reaction to the national and extraterritorial electronic surveillance activities conducted by the United States.

The Committee then approved, by a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 4 against ( Canada, Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 27 abstentions, a draft resolution titled “The right to development”.  By its terms, the General Assembly would express deep concern about the negative impact on the realization of the right to development caused by the further aggravation of the economic and social situation, in particular that of developing countries, as a result of the ongoing international energy, food and financial crises, among other factors.  The Assembly would urge developed countries that had not yet done so to make concrete efforts to devote 0.7 per cent of gross national product to official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representatives of the United States and Canada expressed their respective concerns over attempts to create a legally binding instrument.  Canada’s speaker said the right to development could be better implemented by sharing best practices and strengthening existing initiatives.  The representative of the United Kingdom said it was the responsibility of States to create the necessary enabling economic conditions, while the provisions of the draft could also curtail political and civil rights.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”.  By that text, the General Assembly would take note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, which referred to the use of remotely piloted aircraft.  The Assembly would also note the urgent and imperative need to seek agreement among Member States on legal questions pertaining to the use of remotely piloted aircraft.

Pakistan’s representative said their use against innocent civilians was a clear violation of international law and stressed that drone strikes were counterproductive in the fight against terrorism.  He called for an end to illegal drone strikes against his country’s territories.

Taking up another draft resolution, the Committee approved, without a vote, a text titled “Safety of journalists and the issue of impunity”.  By its terms, the General Assembly would condemn unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations.  It would also decide to proclaim 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

Recorded votes were requested for a number of draft resolutions.  The Committee approved a text titled “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” by 119 votes in favour to 53 against, with 9 abstentions ( Colombia, Fiji, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Switzerland, Tonga).

Also approved, by a recorded vote of 112 in favour to 52 against, with no abstentions, was a text on “Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights”.

In another recorded vote — 170 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 5 abstentions (Angola, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Namibia, Togo, Zimbabwe) — the Committee approved a draft resolution on the “United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region”.

By a recorded vote of 120 in favour to 54 against, with 5 abstentions ( Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Samoa), it also approved a draft resolution titled “Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order”.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved several drafts relating to: implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly; violence against women migrant workers; the girl child; rights of indigenous peoples; the right to food; the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; the protection of migrants; strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity; strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity; preventing and combating corrupt practices and the transfer of proceeds of corruption, facilitating asset recovery and returning such assets to legitimate owners, in particular to countries of origin, in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption; and international cooperation against the world drug problem.

Speaking today were representatives of Lithuania (on behalf of the European Union), Israel, France, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Sweden, Singapore, Australia, Qatar, Bolivia, Cuba, Argentina, Iran, Mauritania, Egypt, Sudan, Peru, Brazil, Eritrea, Azerbaijan, Jamaica, Djibouti, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Venezuela, Malaysia, Syria, Bahrain, Paraguay, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and El Salvador.

Also taking the floor was an Observer for the Holy See.

The Committee will reconvene on Wednesday, 27 November, to conclude its work for the sixty-eighth session.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to take action on outstanding draft resolutions.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Taking up 18 draft resolutions, the Committee first approved, without a vote, as orally corrected, a text 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.3/68/L.15/Rev.1).

The representative of the United States said the draft posed a dilemma for her delegation because it was frozen in time and unclear.  Attention to such external economic factors as official development assistance could underplay the importance of country-level commitments, she said, adding that economic and financial issues should be dealt with in the Second Committee.  References to global and other crises must be more up to date.

The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Second Committee was the appropriate place to seek guidance on economic and financial issues.

The Committee then took up a text on “Violence against women migrant workers” (document A/C.3/68/L.22/Rev.1), approving it without a vote, as orally revised.

Turning to a draft on “The girl child” (document A/C.3/68/L.27/Rev.1), it approved that text, also without a vote.

An observer for the Holy See reiterated her delegation’s reservations over references to sexual and reproductive health, while pointing out that the text did not address the rights of the girl child in the womb.

The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed the bloc’s commitment to addressing gender inequality as well as discrimination and violence against girls.  The European Union was also committed to continuing to ensure that all children could unlock their potential.

The representative of Israel, speaking on behalf of a cross-regional group, highlighted the need to address issues relating to child-headed households.  Israel’s support dated back to the relevant conferences and outcome documents of 1994 and 1995, which recognized sexual and reproductive health as critical, she said, noting that 2014 was a pivotal year that marked the twentieth anniversary of that recognition.

The representative of the United States said her delegation had co-sponsored the text because addressing discrimination, violence, health and poverty issues facing girls was the right and smart thing to do.  It was also important to ensure that policies empowered girls to make the right decisions and had access to sexual and reproductive health education and care so they could take responsibility for their lives.

Taking up a draft titled “Rights of indigenous peoples” (document A/C.3/68/L.30/Rev.1), the Committee approved it without a vote, as orally revised.

The representative of France said her delegation had joined the consensus, but collective rights could not prevail over individual rights.  That principle did not, however, preclude recognizing the special rights of indigenous peoples on a territorial basis.

The representative of the United States said her delegation had co-sponsored the draft and stressed the importance of the upcoming World Conference in 2014.  It should ensure effective and meaningful interactions with indigenous peoples, she said, pointing out that her delegation was making efforts to ensure the participation of tribal representatives.  The outcome of a preparatory meeting held in Alta, Norway, was one of many inputs that should be adopted at the Conference.

The representative of Canada said he had joined the consensus and his delegation supported the preparatory process for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  However, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was not binding and did not require Canada to change its domestic laws.

The representative of the United Kingdom said his Government did not accept the concept of collective human rights under international law.  Individuals within groups should not be left vulnerable or unprotected by allowing the rights of the group to supersede the human rights of the individual.

As the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “The right to privacy in the digital age” (document A/C.3/68/L.45/Rev.1), the Secretary read out the programme budget implications associated with it.

The representative of Brazil, co-sponsor with Germany, said: “Through this resolution, the General Assembly establishes, for the first time, that human rights should prevail irrespective of the medium and therefore need to be protected both offline and online.”

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the draft was timely and had been tabled in the appropriate forum.  It was a reaction to the massive electronic surveillance activities conducted by one country that had shocked public opinion.  Emphasizing that infringements of State sovereignty should no longer be tolerated, he said massive espionage activities were targeting Heads of State, who were symbols of State sovereignty, resulting in rampant violations and interference in internal affairs.  Talk of democracy by the United States was hypocritical, he said, stressing that it should therefore abstain from talking about human rights violations in other countries, especially in light of its use of drones against civilians.

The representative of Indonesia welcomed the human rights approach to the right to privacy, underlining his delegation’s strong position against extraterritorial surveillance because it was a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Canada said unlawful and arbitrary surveillance infringed the rights of individuals and welcomed the distinction that the draft resolution made between regular and mass surveillance.  Privacy was linked to freedom of expression, and failure to recognize it could allow censorship, he cautioned, expressing regret also that it made no specific reference to the Human Rights Council’s resolutions on the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The representative of Sweden said the enjoyment of all human rights, online and offline, including the freedom of expression and the right to privacy, had been addressed by the relevant resolutions of the Human Rights Council, and he would have preferred a reference to them in the text approved today.

The representative of Australia said she recognized the Internet’s importance in protecting and promoting other rights, as seen in national efforts to use the Internet to increase access to education and health for people living in remote areas.  Digital communications also provided a platform to advocate for human rights, she said, cautioning that, despite its many benefits, it also posed risks.

The representative of Singapore said no one should be subjected to surveillance, and called upon States to respect the right to privacy.  Noting that her country had been a victim of recent cyberhacking, she expressed hope that delegations had been given additional time for consultations on the draft resolution.

The representative of the United Kingdom expressed regret over the late circulation of the draft, as well as its lack of direct reference to freedom of expression.  The relevant Human Rights Council resolution did address the promotion and protection of human rights online, he said, voicing disappointment that such language was not included in the text just approved.

The representative of the United States said her country had long championed the right to privacy and to freedom of expression as pillars of democracy and reaffirmed the relevant human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Privacy and freedom of expression should be promoted online and offline, she said, adding that seeking, receiving and imparting information were linked to the right to privacy.  Human rights activists used online tools to promote human rights and should therefore be able to use them freely.

The representative of Qatar said her country acknowledged the right to privacy in national legislation and respected the relevant international conventions.

The representative of Bolivia said that the right to privacy was an issue linked to State sovereignty and to the right to defend natural resources.  It was the duty of all States to protect the privacy of their peoples, he said, referring to Edward Snowden’s efforts to uncover massive espionage activities.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/68/L.66).

The representative of Cuba, co-sponsor of the draft, asked which delegation had requested a recorded vote.

The Chair responded that the United States had requested it.

The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the use of private military companies and security companies was regulated by international law.  She encouraged the relevant working group to remain open-minded in considering the possible elaboration of a mechanism for overseeing private military and security companies.  Given the absence of such an important understanding, the European Union would vote against the draft.

By a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 53 against, with 9 abstentions ( Colombia, Fiji, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Switzerland, Tonga), the Committee approved the text.

The representative of Argentina said his delegation had voted in favour and said the draft should be in compliance with other texts of the Special Committee on Decolonization, among others.

The Committee then took up a text titled “The right to development” (document A/C.3/68/L.35).

The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed regret that some delegations had decided to put that important draft to a recorded vote.  He called on all Member States to show the real flexibility and commitment to change their positions for the sake of consensus.

The representative of Cuba asked who had requested the recorded vote.

STEPHAN TAFROV ( Bulgaria), Committee Chair, replied that the United States had made the request.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 4 against ( Canada, Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 27 abstentions.

The representative of Mauritania requested a correction to official records, pointing out that his delegation was not a co-sponsor.

The representative of Canada, explaining her negative vote, said her delegation had recognized the right to development since 1996 but remained concerned about an attempt to create a legally binding instrument.  The right to development could be better implemented by sharing best practices and strengthening existing initiatives, she said.

The representative of the United States also said she was concerned about an attempt to create a legally binding international instrument and about other “unrelated matters” that should be dealt with elsewhere.

The representative of the United Kingdom said her Government supported the right to development through its disbursement of 0.7 per cent of gross national income as official development assistance (ODA).  However, she added, she had not been able to vote in favour of the draft because it was the responsibility of States to create the necessary enabling economic conditions, while the provisions of the draft could also curtail political and civil rights.

The Committee then took up a text on “Safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” (document A/C.3/68/L.40/Rev.1), approving it without a vote.

The representative of Pakistan said that while he supported the text, one of its operative paragraphs seeking the identification of focal points had not been agreed through the intergovernmental process and it was thus premature to call for its implementation.

The representative of Qatar, noting that her delegation had co-sponsored the draft, stressed the critically important role of journalists and the need to safeguard their work.

The Committee then took up a text on “Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights” (document A/C.3/68/L.47).

The representative of Egypt, the draft’s main sponsor, asked which delegation had requested a recorded vote.

The Chair replied that the United States had made the request.

The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said there was no direct link between the effects of globalization and full enjoyment of human rights, which should be examined on a case-by-case basis.  Since the draft focused only on the negative aspects of globalization and not the positive ones, a more balanced approach to the complex issue was needed.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 112 in favour to 52 against, with 0 abstentions, as orally revised.

Representatives of Sudan, Peru, Brazil, Eritrea, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Jamaica, Djibouti, United Arab Emirates and Paraguay all clarified that had they been present during the voting, they would have voted in favour.

The representative of Australia said she wished to put on record that she would have voted against the draft had she been present.

The Committee then took up a text titled “United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region” (document A/C.3/68/L.52/Rev.1), as well as its programme budget implications (document A/C.3/68/L.74/Rev.1), circulated among delegations.

The representative of Syria said that the delegation of Qatar, as the draft’s main sponsor, had contravened the General Assembly’s modus operandi because it should have presented the draft resolution in the Fifth Committee, rather than the Third Committee, since budget and funding issues were outside the latter’s mandate.  Doubting Qatar’s genuine request for additional resources to fund the Centre, while arguing that it did not work as a regional centre but as a national one, she requested a recorded vote.

The representative of Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, said her delegation supported the draft because the Centre helped to expand and promote human rights knowledge by providing assistance to non-governmental organizations working in that field.

The representative of Qatar encouraged all Member States to vote in favour.

The representative of the United States expressed disappointment over the draft’s politicization by one Member State.

By a recorded vote of 170 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 5 abstentions (Angola, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Namibia, Togo, Zimbabwe), the Committee approved the text.

The representative of Japan said his delegation appreciated the Centre’s work but was concerned about the draft’s programme budget implications.

The representative of Djibouti said she wished to put on record that she would have voted in favour of the text had she been present.

The Committee then took up a text titled “Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order” (document A/C.3/68/L.58).

The representative of Cuba, its main sponsor, asked which delegation had requested a recorded vote.

The Chair replied that Lithuania had made the request.

The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that a significant number of actions proposed by the draft resolution exceeded the scope of the United Nations, and the bloc would therefore vote against it.

By a recorded vote of 120 in favour to 54 against, with 5 abstentions ( Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Samoa), the Committee approved the text.

The representative of the United States expressed concern over the draft’s reference to the right to development, adding that the text portrayed the wrong perception of official development assistance.

The representative of Malaysia said he wished to place on record that he had voted in favour of the draft.

The representative of Iran emphasized that the sea area between his country and Arab countries in the vicinity was called the “ Persian Gulf”, and all other names were fabricated with no legal value.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, a draft titled “Strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity” (document A/C.3/68/L.59).

Taking up a draft resolution on “The right to food” (document A/C.3/68/L.60/Rev.1), the Committee approved it without a vote.

The representative of the United States said her delegation recognized the importance of global food security but was disappointed at the draft’s language on trade agreements and trade negotiations, which were outside the Third Committee’s purview.  Its reference to the global food crisis distracted attention from larger issues not mentioned in the text, such as the responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability on the part of nations receiving food aid.

The representative of Canada expressed concern over operative paragraph 31, saying it made a link between the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade‑Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and the concept of food security.

The Committee then turned to a draft titled “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” (document A/C.3/68/L.61/ Rev.1), approving it without a vote.

The representative of Pakistan said that while he had joined consensus, he was concerned that the text was not based on established international legal norms on the extraterritorial use of unmanned aerial systems.  The use of armed drones against innocent civilians was a clear violation of international law, he emphasized.  Drone strikes were counterproductive in combating terrorism, he pointed out, calling for an end to illegal drone strikes in his country.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “Protection of migrants” (document A/C.3/68/L.62/Rev.1), approving it without a vote.

The representative of the United States said she had joined consensus but was mindful of time constraints and would provide a full explanation of her delegation’s position to the Secretariat.

As it took up a drat titled “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity” (document A/C.3/68/L.18/Rev.1), the Committee heard an oral statement of programme budget implications by the Committee Secretary.

The representative of Indonesia said his delegation had joined the consensus but had strong reservations on operative paragraph 17, which referred to the “Financial Action Task Force”.

The representative of Iran said operative paragraph 17 did not accommodate his delegation’s concerns and had still stood without reference to the Financial Action Task Force.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the text.

The representative of Venezuela expressed reservations on some of the texts preambular paragraphs, including one linking illicit trafficking in firearms as well as their parts, components and ammunition with other forms of transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking and other criminal activities, terrorism among them.

The representative of the United States said her delegation had co-sponsored the draft and would share its general statement with the Secretariat.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, as orally revised, a draft titled “Preventing and combating corrupt practices and the transfer of proceeds of corruption, facilitating asset recovery and returning such assets to legitimate owners, in particular to countries of origin, in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption” (document A/C.3/68/L.21/Rev.1).

The representative of Switzerland called for a more inclusive process, saying the text did not reflect her delegation’s proposal on transparency.

The representative of Liechtenstein said, as a starting point, the text should have condemned corruption, which had affected the human rights of millions of people, mostly disadvantaged groups.

The representative of Iran said the reference to “good governance” in preambular paragraph 5 should not be construed as a new concept.

The representative of El Salvador stressed, among other things, the need to have solid institutions and capacity to investigate possible acts of corruption, the importance of strategic partnerships and the role of civil society in combating corruption.  He would welcome more attention to those issues in future discussions.

The Committee then took note of the “Report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and preparations for the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice” (document A/68/128).

Taking up a text on “International cooperation against the world drug problem” (document A/C.3/68/L.19/Rev.1), the Committee approved it without a vote, as orally amended.

The representative of Venezuela said she had joined the consensus but had reservations on operative paragraphs 3 and 4, which linked crimes also mentioned in draft resolution L.18/Rev.1.  She added that she would provide her full statement to the Secretariat.

The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, called attention to the General Assembly special session on drugs, to be held in 2016, saying the Commission on Narcotic Drugs had primary responsibility for preparing for it.

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