ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL, BY RECORDED VOTE, DECIDES TO INCREASE MEMBERSHIP OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

ECOSOC/5678
22 July 1996

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL, BY RECORDED VOTE, DECIDES TO INCREASE MEMBERSHIP OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

22 July 1996


Press Release
ECOSOC/5678


ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL, BY RECORDED VOTE, DECIDES TO INCREASE MEMBERSHIP OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

19960722

As it continued its general segment, the Economic and Social Council this afternoon decided, by a vote of 51 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions, that the membership of the Commission for Social Development should be expanded to 46 members and that it should meet annually. (For details of the vote, see Annex III.)

The text on the follow-up to the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and the Commission's future role was subject to three separate votes. Before the above action on the text as a whole, the Council voted on two separate paragraphs. It decided by a vote of 46 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Australia, Belarus, Japan, Russian Federation), on the following geographical distribution of the Commission's expanded membership: 12 for African States; 10 for Asian States; nine for Latin American and Caribbean States; five for Eastern European States; and 10 for Western European and Other States. (See Annex I.)

Acting on another provision of the draft, the Council also decided by a vote of 45 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 5 abstentions (Australia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Japan, Russian Federation), that the Commission should meet annually, beginning in 1997, for a period of eight working days in New York. (See Annex II.)

Explaining his country's position on the draft, the representative of the United States said he could not support the draft as it did not conform with reform in the United Nations. Moreover, there was no demonstrable need for the Commission to meet annually or to increase its membership. Explanations of position were also made by the representatives of Lebanon, Belarus, Japan and Australia.

The Council also adopted two decisions on the recommendation of the Social Development Commission. By the first decision, it established an ad hoc informal open-ended support group to assist the Commission in preparations for the International Year of Older Persons (1999). By the second decision,

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it took note of the Commission's report on its special session and approved the provisional agenda and documentation for its thirty-fifth session.

Statements in the debate on social development matters were made by the representatives of Jamaica, Republic of Korea and Ukraine. Representatives of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and of the World Federation of Trade Unions also spoke.

Further this afternoon, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, José Ayala Lasso, addressed the Council. Introducing his report, he said that among the activities of the United Nations human rights programmes in various countries his Office was continuing to follow events in Burundi. He had briefed the Human Rights Commission on the deteriorating human rights situation in that country. In April, the first group of human rights observers had been dispatched to Burundi, he said, adding that efforts were under way to evaluate how to implement their recommendations.

The representative of Costa Rica made a statement on human rights questions.

In other action, the Council took note of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

Speaking on that subject, the Acting Chairman of the Special Committee, Utula Utuoc Samana (Papua New Guinea), reported on a regional seminar held at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, from 12 to 14 June. Among the issues discussed at the seminar were the impact on Non-Self-Governing Territories of heavy dependence on imports; global warming; natural disasters; and the protection of marine resources against over-exploitation. The representative of Lebanon also spoke on decolonization matters.

In addition, statements on the advancement of women were made by the representatives of Belarus, China and Pakistan, as well as by a representative of Franciscans International.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 23 July, to continue consideration of social, humanitarian and human rights questions.

Council Work Programme

The Economic and Social Council met this afternoon to continue its general segment, focusing on social, humanitarian and human rights questions.

The Council is expected to take action on the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission for Social Development, including an eight- part draft resolution on the follow-up to the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and the Commission's future role. (For background, see Press Release ECOSOC/5675, of 19 July.)

Also this afternoon, the Council is scheduled to take up the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and human rights questions.

In connection with the former, the Council has before it a report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Declaration on decolonization (document A/51/212); the report of the President of the Council on consultations held with the Chairman of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Declaration's implementation (document E/1996/85); and the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/51/171-E/1996/75).

In his report on the implementation of the Declaration on decolonization (document A/51/212), the Secretary-General states that in accordance with General Assembly resolution 50/34 on that same topic, he transmitted the text of the resolution to United Nations institutions. Summaries of the replies received are given in document E/1996/85.

The report of the President of the Council on consultations with the Chairman of the Special Committee contains observations on activities carried out by various United Nations agencies in support of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. It states that during the year, members of the Council and the Special Committee followed closely the work of their respective bodies relating to the item. The President considers both useful and essential that such contacts and cooperation continue to be maintained and strengthened to mobilize the maximum possible assistance to the peoples of the remaining Non- Self-Governing Territories.

The report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/51/171-E/1996/75) covers the period from June 1995 through May 1996. It states that the development effort suffered a serious setback beginning on 25 February when a series of suicide terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 60 persons, prompted the Government of Israel to implement a series of countermeasures, including the closure of the occupied territories, thus, preventing the movement of goods and people from there. "For the Palestinian economy and for the fiscal position of the Palestinian Authority,

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the closure had devastating consequences." Domestic unemployment rose sharply. The decline in economic activities in the territories and of employment in Israel led to a sharp reduction in Palestinian Authority revenues.

In response to the closure of the territories, the report states, the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories proposed a framework for a plan aimed at an easing of the closure and the establishment of a donor-funded emergency employment creation programme. The United States subsequently announced that the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Government and the Government of Norway, representing the donor community, had agreed to the framework put forward by the United Nations. Over the following weeks, steady increases were recorded in the movement of goods into and out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the overall volume of trade remained low.

New priorities were put forward by the Special Coordinator in April, according to the report. United Nations organizations developed their proposed 1997 programmes in response to needs and priorities identified by the Palestinian Authority. The United Nations documents will be presented to donors at the next World Bank-led consultative group meeting to be held later this year.

Reports before the Council on human rights questions include the report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on its thirteenth and fourteenth sessions (documents E/1996/22 and Add.1); report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (document E/1996/41); extract from the report of the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-second session (documents E/1996/L.18 and Add.1); and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document E/1996/87).

The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights describes events and activities which "illustrate the practical implementation of the United Nations human rights programme". The report contains information on the High Commissioner's activities in Tunisia; Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro); Abkhazia, Georgia; Burundi; Rwanda; Zaire and South Africa.

Among the activities undertaken in the context of the right to development was the planned holding, in July, of a workshop of the World Bank and the United Nations to address issues of human rights and sustainable development in the context of cooperation between the two organizations, the report states. The High Commissioner seeks to develop a system-wide approach to the implementation of the right to development through such measures as identifying technical cooperation projects to support that right, and ensuring that United Nations organs are better aware of the activities of the United Nations agencies with respect to the right to development.

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Concerning the impact of system-wide savings measures on the human rights programme, the report states that resources available to it from the regular budget had to be reduced by $2.6 million, or approximately 6 per cent. Furthermore, a vacancy rate of 6.4 per cent is to be maintained in the staff. Serious efforts were being made to minimize the negative implications of those measures. "Nevertheless, it must be stressed that the capability of the human rights programme depends on an adequate and reliable mix of regular budget resources and voluntary contributions from governments and private entities."

Appealing to countries to support current requirements for field activities, which amount to $25 million per year, the High Commissioner states that several countries, including a number of developing countries, have expressed great interest in making voluntary contributions in support of human rights field activities.

Statements on Decolonization

UTULA UTUOC SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Acting Chairman of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, said that, generally, the specialized agencies had continued to extend their assistance to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Substantial funds had been earmarked by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for that purpose.

During its recent regional seminar held at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, from 12 to 14 June, the Special Committee had had the opportunity to hear the views of representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories on various problems affecting their respective political, economic and social development, as well as to review the constraints faced by them. Among the issues discussed at the seminar were heavy dependence on imports; global warming; cooperation to mitigate the effects of natural disasters; and the protection of marine resources against over-exploitation.

Non-Self-Governing Territories required increased assistance from all international institutions designed to prepare the people for the exercise of their right to self-determination, he said. The Special Committee had prepared a draft resolution on that issue for consideration by the members of the General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) which should receive its full endorsement.

HICHAM HAMDAN (Lebanon) said that his Government supported the work of the Special Committee. Decolonization should remain foremost on the agenda of the United Nations, he stressed.

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Statements on Human Rights

JOSÉ AYALA LASSO, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that 91 out of the 99 resolutions adopted by the Commission on Human Rights had been adopted by consensus. That fact reflected a new level of cooperation. The unanimity of views on such important issues reflected international concern for human rights. Of particular interest had been consensus agreement regarding the right to development. The Centre for Human Rights was endeavouring to support that right in a tangible and coherent fashion. It would be co-sponsoring a seminar on the right to development, and would recommend practical measures towards the implementation of that right at the national, regional and international levels.

International cooperation was a decisive factor in the world-wide effort to make human rights a global priority, he said. The need for close international cooperation for human rights was now largely recognized by all governments. United Nations human rights programmes aspired to assist governments and civil society bodies to make progress towards making human rights a reality. There was no country in which human rights performance was fully satisfactory, he said.

Describing his activities in the field, the High Commissioner said that from 26 to 29 June he had visited Tunisia to discuss human rights. He had received the full cooperation of the country's authorities. Field activities of the United Nations human rights programme continued in parts of the former Yugoslavia. "We provide training for the international civilian police and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, assist the High Representative responsible for civilian aspects of the peace implementation, and support the work of the Special Rapporteur and the expert in charge of the special process dealing with missing persons in the former Yugoslavia."

The Office of the High Commissioner was continuing to follow events in Burundi, he said, adding that he had briefed the Human Rights Commission about the deteriorating human rights situation in that country. In April, the first group of human rights observers had been dispatched to Burundi. Efforts were under way to evaluate how to implement their recommendations.

He noted that the human rights field operation in Rwanda was the largest United Nations presence in that country. Its mandate included monitoring violations of human rights and addressing the serious situation in the country's prisons and detention centres. The Office was continuing to prepare for the establishment of a field presence in Abkhazia, Georgia, in Colombia and in Zaire.

EMILIA CASTRO DE BARISH (Costa Rica) said that the High Commissioner had given the Council reason for optimism. Her Government believed that dialogue

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with governments was essential; that was an essential element of human rights activity in any region.

Statements on Social Development

CHERRYL GORDON (Jamaica) said the task of follow-up to the Social Summit was tough. She noted the decisions taken by the Commission for Social development at its recent session and said her delegation supported those decisions. She stressed that the most tangible way for delegations to show their support for social development was by active participation in the Commission. She hoped that with its expanded structure and membership the Commission would be more effective.

EUN HA PARK (Republic of Korea) said, to ensure appropriate implementation of the Social Summit outcome, mechanisms should be in place in three levels -- the Commission for Social Development, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. She expressed regret that not enough seats had been allocated to Asia in the envisaged expansion of the Commission and said that should not be seen as a precedent. She stressed that the goal of poverty eradication called for active participation of all organs of the United Nations system, the Bretton Woods institutions and members of the civil society.

BEATRICE VON ROEMER, of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), said her organization had been disappointed that the Commission had not been able to adopt more action-oriented language on poverty eradication. She urged governments to include trade unionists in their panels, as had been done at the Social Summit.

FRED GABOURY, of the World Federation of Trade Unions, said his organization was not opposed to globalization, if it meant greater trade and cooperation. However, in the name of deregulation and liberalization, countries were being forced to open their economies to transnational corporations. Governance was being transferred from nations to those corporations. As part of the follow-up to the Social Summit, he suggested a deeper look at the "shock therapy" prescription being given to economies in transition. He called on all nations to respect the principles contained in the United Nations Charter.

YEVHEN KOZIY (Ukraine) said the special session of the Commission for Social Development had laid out a solid basis of its future action. The recommendations in the draft resolution, particularly those relating to links with the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), Bretton Woods institutions and United Nations funds and programmes, were important. He noted the multi-year programme and stressed the need for timely documentation. He stressed that the question of expansion of membership should be considered by the Assembly.

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Action on Social Development

The Council then took up the draft resolution contained in the report of the Social Development Commission.

The representative of the United States called for a recorded vote on the paragraphs dealing with the membership, frequency and duration of the Commission's sessions (paragraphs 16 and 17) of the draft resolution on the follow-up to the Social Summit and the Commission's future role. Also, it wanted a vote on the resolution as a whole.

The representative of Lebanon said, although his country would vote for the expansion of the membership of the Commission, it was not happy with only 10 seats being allocated to Asian States.

The Council then adopted, by a vote of 46 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Australia, Belarus, Japan, Russian Federation), the draft's provision (paragraph 16) deciding that the Commission should be composed of 46 members elected from among the States Members of the United Nations or members of the specialized agencies according to the following pattern: 12 for African States; 10 for Asian States; nine for Latin American and Caribbean States; five for Eastern European States; and 10 for Western European and Other States. (For details of the vote, see Annex I.)

Next, by a vote of 45 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 5 abstentions (Australia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Japan, Russian Federation), the Council adopted paragraph 17 of the draft, by which it decided that the Commission should meet annually, beginning in 1997, for a period of eight working days in New York. (See Annex II.)

The Council then proceeded to consider the draft resolution as a whole.

Speaking before action, the representative of the United States said his country could not support the draft as the text did not conform with reform in the United Nations. Moreover, there was no demonstrable need for the Commission to meet annually or to increase its membership.

The draft resolution was then adopted by a vote of 51 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. (See Annex III.)

Speaking after action, the representative of Belarus said his country supported the strengthening of the activities of the United Nations. At the same time, it believed that the bulk of its activities should be intensive and that should be within existing budgetary resources. Therefore, it could not support the holding of more frequent sessions of the Commission or the expansion of its membership.

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The representative of Japan said that her Government had voted in favour of the resolution as a whole, but had abstained in the votes on the separate paragraphs. The Commission should be revitalized so that it could effectively follow up on the Social Summit. Japan did not believed that expansion of the Commission, or annual meetings, were appropriate in a time of budgetary difficulties.

The representative of Australia said that her Government would have voted in favour of the individual paragraphs if it had been convinced that those elements of the resolution could be implemented within existing budgetary resources.

Next, the Council adopted, without a vote, the draft decisions on the establishment of a support group to assist the Commission for Social Development in the preparations for the International Year of Older Persons (1999) and on the report of the Commission for Social Development on its special session.

Statements on Advancement of Women

IGAR GUBAREVICH (Belarus) said that the Commission on the Status of Women had an essential role to play in the follow-up to the Beijing Conference. Dialogue in the Commission among delegations had been positive. Belarus welcomed the decision of the Commission to recognize that the situation of women in transition economies required additional international support.

ZHANG FENGKUN (China) said that the general debate in the Commission was an essential activity; the time limit on that debate should not be shortened. Non-governmental organizations had made great contributions to the work of the Commission; the Council should facilitate the work of non-governmental organizations from developing countries by providing direct assistance in support of their participation in New York meetings.

MUHAMMAD NAJM AKBAR (Pakistan) said that his Government had wished to support this morning's draft resolution regarding the situation of Palestinian women.

Sister MARY THERESA PLANTE, of the Franciscans International, recommended that better accounting be taken of recent changes in the sex ratio at birth in relation to prenatal sex selection. The concept of "son preference" should be addressed directly as a harmful attitude and practice linked with female infanticide. The free market today was not viable. It was based upon unsustainable first world consumption, unregulated transnational corporations, virtual slave labour and third-world debt based largely on military spending.

(annexes follow)

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Economic and Social Council Press Release ECOSOC/5678 44th Meeting (PM) 22 July 1996

ANNEX I

Vote on Paragraph 16 of Draft on Follow-up to Social Summit

Paragraph 16 of the draft on follow-up to the Social Summit was adopted by a recorded vote of 46 in favour to 1 against, with 4 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

Against: United States.

Abstaining: Australia, Belarus, Japan, Russian Federation.

Absent: Congo, Ghana, Sudan.

(END OF ANNEX I)

Economic and Social Council - 10 - Press Release ECOSOC/5678 44th Meeting (PM) 22 July 1996

Economic and Social Council Press Release ECOSOC/5678 44th Meeting (PM) 22 July 1996

ANNEX II

Vote on Paragraph 17 of Draft on Follow-up to Social Summit

Paragraph 17 of the draft on follow-up to the Social Summit was adopted by a recorded vote of 45 in favour to 1 against, with 5 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

Against: United States.

Abstaining: Australia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Japan, Russian Federation.

Absent: Congo, Ghana, Sudan.

(END OF ANNEX II)

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Economic and Social Council Press Release ECOSOC/5678 44th Meeting (PM) 22 July 1996

ANNEX III

Vote on Follow-up to Social Summit

The draft resolution on follow-up to the Social Summit, contained in the report of the Commission for Social Development (document E.1996/29), was adopted by a recorded vote of 51 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

Against: United States.

Abstaining: None.

Absent: Congo, Sudan.

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For information media. Not an official record.