|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
49th Meeting (AM)
Third Committee Approves Text on Human Right to Safe Drinking
Water and Sanitation, 10 Other Draft Resolutions
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved 11 draft resolutions today, including a text on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
By the terms of that text, approved without a vote, as orally amended, the General Assembly would call on States to ensure the progressive realization of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation for all in a non-discriminatory manner, while eliminating inequalities in access.
Several delegates, however, expressed disappointment that the text had been weakened in order to achieve a strong consensus. They said the definition of the content of the human right to water and sanitation, as agreed by the Human Rights Council, had been deleted, an action Switzerland’s representative called “a regrettable setback”.
Also approved — by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 54 against, with no abstentions — was a text on “Human rights and unilateral coercive measures”, by which the Committee recommended that the General Assembly urge all States to cease the adoption or implementation of unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the United Nations Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States.
The representative of the United States, explaining her negative vote, described unilateral measures as legitimate means for achieving national security and economic objectives.
By a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 54 against, with 1 abstention ( Chile), the Committee approved a text titled “Promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies”. By its terms, the Assembly would recommend the introduction of flexible procedures for allocating seats on each treaty body to each of the five regional groups established by the Assembly in equivalent proportion to the number of States parties to the relevant instrument within that group.
The representative of Lithuania, explaining her negative vote, said the Human Rights Council selected treaty-body experts in their personal capacity or on merit, not on the basis of nationality.
Turning to another action, the Committee approved — by a recorded 126 votes in favor to 3 against (Canada, Palau, United States) with 50 abstentions — a draft titled “Combating glorification of Nazism: inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”.
While expressing their opposition to manifestation of the acts described in the draft resolution’s title, several delegates expressed concern that the text would restrict the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
The Committee approved two other drafts — titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” and “Human rights and cultural diversity”, respectively — by recorded votes.
Acting without a vote, it also approved drafts relating to: the promotion of social integration through social inclusion; child, early, and forced marriage; national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights; follow-up to the International Year of Human Rights Learning; and protection of internally displaced persons and assistance to them.
The Committee also heard the representative of Norway introduce a draft resolution titled “Protecting women human rights defenders”.
In other matters, the representatives of Uruguay and Costa Rica delivered statements on a draft resolution approved earlier this week, on the human rights situation in Iran.
Also speaking today were representatives of Norway, Israel, Argentina, Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Viet Nam, Equatorial Guinea, Belarus, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, El Salvador, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Sudan, India, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Canada and Chile. An observer for the State of Palestine also spoke.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to take action on several draft resolutions, to hear the introduction of one text and to consider outstanding matters.
At the outset, the Committee heard explanations of positions or general statements relating to a draft resolution approved on 19 November, titled “Human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (document A/C.3/68/L.64).
The representative of Uruguay, explaining that her delegation had abstained, noted that although Iran had made progress on human rights, the Government should take all necessary measures to address the relevant issues.
The representative of Costa Rica reiterated that the Human Rights Council, rather than the Third Committee, had the lead role in dealing with country-specific issues, emphasizing that the universal periodic review was the appropriate mechanism in that regard.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
The representative of Norway then introduced a draft resolution on “Protecting women human rights defenders” (document A/C.3/68/L.64).
Action on Drafts
Taking up the first of 11 draft resolutions, the Committee then approved, without a vote, a text titled “Promoting social integration through social inclusion” (document A/C.3/68/L.11/Rev.2).
The representative of the United States voiced concern over a reference in preambular paragraph 15 to official development assistance, debt relief, market access, financial and technical support and capacity-building, saying they were not relevant to social inclusion.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/68/L.68).
The representative of Israel said she did not question the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and reiterated her country’s commitment to the “two-States for two peoples” solution. While Israel was ready to make painful compromises for the sake of peace, it asked the Palestinian authorities to recognize Israel. Advancing resolutions at the United Nations did not translate in resolution on the ground, but various outstanding issues could be resolved by direct negotiations, she said, calling for a recorded vote.
By 165 votes in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 3 abstentions (Cameroon, Paraguay, Tonga), the Committee approved the draft resolution, as orally revised.
The representative of Argentina said she had voted in favour of the draft because it recognized the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
The representative of the State of Palestine said the overwhelming support for the text was a clear reaffirmation of the international community’s commitment to the Palestinian people and to the full realization of their right to self-determination. That right was not up for negotiation, he said, recalling that other countries seeking self-determination in the past had not sought anyone’s permission to pursue it. “The international community has to stand for right above might,” he emphasized.
The Committee then took up a text on “Human rights and cultural diversity” (document A/C.3/68/L.36).
The representative of Cuba asked, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, which delegation had requested a recorded vote.
The Committee Chair said Lithuania had requested it, on behalf of the European Union.
The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc’s member States would vote against the draft because cultural diversity could be promoted and protected only in connection with other human rights, like freedom of expression and assembly. Cultural diversity demanded universal promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, which should not be subjected to relativism, she stressed. Since the wording of the text could lead to the misinterpretation that some human rights were not universal, the European Union had requested a recorded vote.
The representative of the United States said her delegation would vote against the text because, even though cultural diversity and international human rights could be mutually reinforcing, the concept of cultural diversity could be misused to legitimize human rights abuses. In addition, the draft’s language on the right to development was inaccurate, as it did not adequately address the relationship between development and human rights.
By a recorded vote of 127 in favour to 53 against, with 0 abstentions, the Committee approved the draft.
The representative of Costa Rica said she had voted in favour, but some of the language in the draft could be misinterpreted as cultural relativism.
The representative of Viet Nam said he wished to place on record his delegation’s vote in favour of the text.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea said his delegation had voted in favour because cultural diversity was an important component of human rights.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies” (document A/C.3/68/L.38).
The representative of Cuba asked, on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement, which delegation had requested a recorded vote.
The Chair replied that the United States had requested it.
By a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 54 against, with 1 abstention ( Chile), the Committee approved the draft.
The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said her delegation had voted against the text because the composition of the human right treaty bodies was determined by elections. Moreover, their experts were elected in a personal capacity or on merit, not on the basis of nationality. The General Assembly should not attempt to change the internal mechanisms of the treaty bodies, she cautioned, calling for innovative ideas on how to attract the best people to work with them.
The Committee then took up a text on “Human rights and unilateral coercive measures” (document A/C.3/68/L.39).
The representative of Equatorial Guinea said his delegation would now join the voting since it had obtained permission from the capital.
The representative of Cuba asked, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, who had requested a recorded vote.
The Chair said the United States had requested it.
By a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 54 against, with 0 abstentions, the Committee approved the text.
The representative of the United States said her delegation had voted against the draft because it had no basis in international law. Unilateral sanctions and measures were legitimate means for meeting national security objectives and determining economic relations with other countries.
The Committee then returned to the draft titled “Combating glorification of Nazism: inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (document A/C.3/68/L.65/Rev.1).
The representative of Belarus said his delegation would vote in favour, and called on other delegations to do likewise. Belarus supported a call for States to counteract extremist movements and agreed with the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur in the text. Belarus had paid a high price during the Second World War, he recalled, stressing that the crimes committed by the Nazis must not be forgotten.
The representative of the Russian Federation asked who had requested a recorded vote.
The Chair replied that the United States had requested it.
By a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 3 against ( Canada, Palau, United States), with 50 abstentions, the Committee approved the draft, as orally corrected.
The representative of the United States expressed disgust over the glorification of Nazism and the Holocaust, saying her delegation honoured those whose lives had been so tragically lost. While the United States supported some elements of the text, it failed to distinguish offensive expression from acts of discrimination, she noted. The curtailment of freedom of expression and hateful expressions should be handled through a combination of legal protection, proactive Government outreach and protection of the freedoms of religion and expression, among other measures.
The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said she had abstained. The bloc remained committed to the global fight against the glorification of Nazism and other forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It also welcomed a number of improvements to the text, including a change of title and an operative paragraph recognizing the role of media. However, some operative paragraphs contained language restricting the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, she noted.
The representative of Argentina explained that her delegation’s favourable vote should not be interpreted as approving of restrictions on freedom of expression.
The representative of Switzerland said she had abstained because all forms of racism should be treated in an equal manner and dealt with through an “omnibus” draft resolution.
The representative of Norway, explaining that her delegation had abstained, voiced support for the Durban Declaration and Programmes of Action, but emphasized that the fight against all forms of manifestations of racism required a comprehensive approach. Norway was concerned about the narrow scope of the text and restrictions on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
The representative of Sierra Leone said his delegation had voted in favour.
Without a vote, the Committee then approved a draft resolution on “National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights” (document A/C.3/68/L.50/Rev.1).
Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved a text on “Child, Early, and Forced Marriage” (document A/C.3/68/L.29/Rev.1).
The representative of Switzerland, noting in a general statement that the draft’s themes indicated gender equality, said it should therefore have been introduced under agenda item 28 in order to avoid duplication.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said the draft resolution should take religious and other legislation into account under the Vienna Programme of Action, emphasizing that her position was in line with national obligations.
The representative of Uruguay, speaking also on behalf of Costa Rica, said the issues addressed by the draft resolution should not have been placed under the agenda item relating to the rights of the child, because a similar text already existed.
The representative of El Salvador said he was not persuaded of the need to make a direct link between children and forced marriage. El Salvador’s family code allowed 16-year-old minors to enter into marriage if their parents gave their consent. The text did not consider other variables or interpretations of the issues under discussion.
The representative of Qatar said the draft should have taken into consideration the particularities of different countries, as well as the religious and cultural contexts, as acknowledged in the Vienna Declaration.
The representative of Iran, emphasizing that his delegation had joined the consensus and supported the draft resolution’s purpose, said religious and national legislation should be taken into account.
The representative of Mauritania said he supported the text, but called for recognition of special legislation, especially in Muslim countries.
Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved, as orally revised, a draft resolution titled “Follow-up to the International Year of Human Rights Learning” (document A/C.3/68/L.53).
The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons” (document A/C.3/68/L.63/Rev.1).
The representative of Pakistan expressed his reservation on the text, and disassociated himself from the paragraph addressing issues of internally displaced persons and refugees together. The two were separate categories, he emphasized.
The representative of Sudan said he had joined the consensus, but stressed his delegation’s reservation regarding the text’s reference to the International Criminal Court.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution on “The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation” (document A/C.3/68/L.34/Rev.1), as orally revised.
The representative of Uzbekistan, referring to the General Assembly resolution on international water cooperation, said his delegation had not worked on that text and disassociated itself from it.
The Committee then approved the text without a vote.
The representative of Costa Rica expressed regret over the deletion from the text of a paragraph defining the human right to water and sanitation, as agreed by the Human Rights Council. It was for that reason that Costa Rica had withdrawn its co-sponsorship.
The representative of Colombia said he had joined the consensus, but requested clarification on the scope of consultations, as contained in the draft. As a multiethnic and multicultural country, Colombia viewed prior consultations as an intercultural process between two different views of development. Indigenous Colombians were involved in determining the actions to be pursued on projects that could affect their cultural and territorial integrity, he said.
The representative of Switzerland also expressed regret over the deleted paragraph, saying the change was contrary to the views of a vast majority of Member States. It was a regrettable step backwards that harmed the right to water and sanitation, she said, adding that deleting the paragraph weakened the text.
The representative of El Salvador expressed disappointment over the changes made to the draft, and voiced hope for a stronger document in 2014.
The representative of Argentina said each State should ensure the right to water and sanitation within its own jurisdiction.
The United States underlined his country’s commitment to the right to water and sanitation, and referred to his delegation’s specific statements on that issue.
The representative of India said water and sanitation was a broad issue that could not be viewed exclusively from a human rights perspective. Expressing reservations on the human rights-based approach to development, he noted that no agreement had been reached on that question.
The representative of Canada said the right to water did not encompass transboundary issues, and should be addressed at the national level.
The representative of Chile emphasized the importance of water and sanitation in ensuring human dignity, and said his Government had decided to administer it under the internal legal order.
* *** *For information media • not an official record