Draft resolutions that would see the General Assembly address such topics as the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the impact of mercenaries and globalization on human rights were among 13 texts approved today by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved texts that would, by their terms, have the Assembly condemn attacks on journalists and, in October 2017, host a high-level meeting at the seventy-second General Assembly session to review the coordination of international efforts against trafficking in persons.
By a vote of 170 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 4 abstentions (Cameroon, Honduras, South Sudan, Tonga), the Committee sent to the General Assembly a text that would have the world body reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine. The vote was called by Israel, whose representative said a two-State solution could only come about if the Palestinians sat down with his country at the negotiating table. The representative of the State of Palestine welcomed the approval of the text, saying it sent a strong message for Israel to alter its policy and end its occupation.
The Committee approved, by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 53 against, with 6 abstentions (Colombia, Fiji, Kenya, Mexico, Switzerland, Tonga), a draft that would have the Assembly condemn recent mercenary activities in developing countries, call upon States to investigate the possibility of mercenary involvement and condemn any form of impunity granted to perpetrators of mercenary activities. Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, regretted a lack of clarity in the efforts carried out by the working group on the issue, as he explained why its Member States would cast dissenting votes against the text.
By a vote of 128 in favour to 53 against, with 2 abstentions (Greece, Papua New Guinea), the Committee approved a text on the impact of globalization on human rights. Luxembourg, speaking for the European Union, said its Member States would again vote against that text, saying that globalization could have positive as well as negative effects and that it should be considered in a more comprehensive matter.
A draft resolution on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order was approved by a vote of 121 in favour to 53 against, with 5 abstentions (Chile, Costa Rica, Lesotho, Mexico, Peru).
Approved without a vote were draft resolutions on the situation of women and girls in rural areas, follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights, national human rights institutions and the protection of and assistance to displaced persons. The Committee also approved, without a vote, texts on persons with disabilities at the United Nations and strengthening the Organization’s crime prevention and criminal justice programme.
In other business, the Committee took note of a report from the Secretary-General on the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/70/90-E/2015/81) and his note transmitting the report of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime on its seventh session (document A/70/407).
Also speaking today were representatives of Mongolia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Mauritania, Guyana, Argentina, Cuba, United States, Egypt, Mexico, Greece, Russian Federation, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Norway, Canada, Armenia, Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran, Belarus, Sierra Leone (for the African Group) and Nigeria, as well as the Holy See.
The delegates of Israel and the State of Palestine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 24 November, to continue its work.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee took up a draft resolution on “Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas” (document A/C.3/70/L.24/Rev.1).
By that text, the Third Committee would have the General Assembly urge Member States to attach greater importance to the improvement of the situation of rural women and girls. The Assembly would, by the text, request the relevant organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, in particular those dealing with issues of development, to address and support the empowerment of rural women and their specific needs in their programmes and strategies.
Further, the text would have the Assembly invite Governments to promote the economic empowerment of rural women, including through entrepreneurship training, and to adopt gender-responsive and climate-sensitive rural development strategies and agricultural production, as well as to ensure that the needs and priorities of rural women and girls were systematically addressed and that they could effectively contribute to poverty alleviation, hunger eradication and food security and nutrition.
The representative of Mongolia said, as a general comment, that the revised text reflected a number of important up-to-date issues such as the role of rural women at the forefront of coping with the impact of climate change, natural disasters and post-conflict situations. It also addressed the lack of quality and timely disaggregated data that would help to measure progress and ensure that no one was left behind. The title of the resolution had been extended to “girls” in 2015, in light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Language from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had also been applied to paragraphs regarding women’s health and the right of rural women to own and lease property.
Acting without a vote, the Third Committee then approved the draft.
The representative of the Holy See said women were critical agents for change in their families and their communities. They had been disproportionately affected by climate change and conflict. He then expressed reservations with sections of the text referring to reproductive rights and gender.
Libya’s speaker said her delegation had joined the consensus on the text in view of the importance of addressing the needs and inclusion of rural women. She affirmed, however, Libya’s reservation to the reference of “reproductive rights” throughout the text, as that was contrary to Libya’s domestic legislation and values.
The representatives of Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania expressed the same reservations to the reference of “reproductive rights”.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/70/L.68).
By its terms, the General Assembly would call upon States parties to fully comply with their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol. The Assembly would, by the text, urge States parties to consider limiting the extent of any reservations that they lodge to the Convention. The text would also have the Assembly urge all Member States that have not yet ratified or acceded to the Convention and its Optional Protocol to consider doing so. It would also have the world body to recognize the important role of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), and urge Member States to increase funding for the budget of the entity.
The representative of Guyana, Vice-Chair of the Committee, thanked UN-Women for its support in the drafting of the text.
The Committee then approved the text without a vote.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/70/L.42).
That resolution would have the General Assembly reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine. It would also have the Assembly urge all States and 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.
Committee Chair OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said a recorded vote had been requested.
Speaking in explanation of vote prior to the vote, the representative of Israel said that only Israelis and Palestinians, sitting together at the negotiating table, could make the difficult compromises needed to forge a lasting peace. The Palestinians had continued to undermine peace efforts with unilateral steps. The text was a clear example of encouraging the Palestinians to take further unilateral steps rather than go back to the negotiating table. Israel was willing to make painful compromises, but the Palestinians had not recognized it as the homeland of the Jewish people. It was easier to speak from a United Nations podium than to negotiate. All peoples in the world had the right to self-determination, but Israel would vote against the text because the solution to the conflict did not lie in New York, but in direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Israel supported a two-State solution, but that solution had to be based on mutual recognition and security on the ground. Unilateralism was a step backwards. As such, he said, Israel was calling for a vote and it would vote against the text.
The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 170 in favour, 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States) and 4 abstentions (Cameroon, Honduras, South Sudan, Tonga).
The representative of Argentina welcomed the approval of the text. His country was in favour of Israel’s right to be recognized by all and to live in peace and security. It was hoped that the text would contribute to achieving the self-determination of the Palestinian people.
The representative of the State of Palestine expressed satisfaction over the overwhelming support of the resolution, which sent a clear message to the occupying Power that its policy was not tolerated and had to be ceased. That resolution was in no way an obstacle to the peace process. On the contrary, it was promoting peace and recalling the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Israel’s opposition to the text highlighted its refusal to work towards a two-State solution. Rather than denying Palestinians rights, it was time that the occupation was brought to an end and that peace and security between Palestinians and Israelis became a reality.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on the “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.3/70/L.58).
By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would condemn recent mercenary activities in developing countries in various parts of the world, in particular in areas of conflict, and call upon States to investigate the possibility of mercenary involvement in accordance with national law and applicable bilateral or international treaties. That resolution would also have the world body condemn any form of impunity granted to perpetrators of mercenary activities and to those responsible for the use, recruitment, financing and training of mercenaries and urge all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law, to bring them to justice.
The speaker from Cuba thanked Member States that had co-sponsored that draft resolution.
Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the delegate from Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, recognized the negative human rights impact that mercenaries could have. The lack of clarity in the efforts made by the working group on the issue was regrettable as it continued to work on a legally binding instrument. It was also regrettable that the working group had taken up the issue of foreign fighters, which was not included in its original mandate. The European Union would therefore vote against the draft resolution.
By a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 53 against, with 6 abstentions (Colombia, Fiji, Kenya, Mexico, Switzerland, Tonga), the Third Committee then approved the draft resolution.
The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, stated his full support to the right to self-determination of people living under occupation. The resolution just approved should be interpreted in accordance with other United Nations General Assembly resolutions, as well as decisions of the Decolonization Committee.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Israel’s delegate said that stabbings by radical Islamists had increased and regretted that the Palestinians had refused to recognize the Israeli State. He reiterated his Government’s determination to work towards a lasting peace whereby the rights and security of Israelis was guaranteed.
The representative of the State of Palestine, exercising the right of reply, said Israel had launched three wars against trapped Palestinians, had destroyed their homes and evicted them, and continued to occupy them. Such actions were really far from working towards peace. The Palestinians were frustrated and would continue tirelessly to stand up for their rights.
Continuation of Action
The Third Committee next took up a draft resolution on the “Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order” (document A/C.3/70/L.30).
By that text, the Committee would have the General Assembly affirm that everyone was entitled to a democratic and equitable international order and that a democratic and equitable international order fostered the full realization of all human rights for all. The world body would urge all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, social justice, equality and equity, human dignity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, and to reject all doctrines of exclusion based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Committee Vice-Chair GREGORY KEITH DEMPSEY (Canada) said a recorded vote had been requested.
Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, recognized the issues in the text to be important. However, there were a number of elements in the report of the independent expert on the topic and in the draft text that went beyond the human rights agenda of the United Nations. The European Union was unable to support the text and would vote against it.
The draft was then approved by a vote of 121 in favour to 53 against, with 5 abstentions (Chile, Costa Rica, Lesotho, Mexico, Peru).
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina said, having voting in favour of the text, there was concern over the extraterritorial application of national legislation in disputed areas of sovereign States.
The representative of the United States noted her country’s long-standing position on the right to development, saying there was agreed international understanding on that right. All countries were encouraged to invest in a better future by pursuing development that respected human rights.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “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.3/70/L.31).
That draft resolution would have the General Assembly call upon all Member States to base their activities related to the promotion and protection of human rights on the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant international instruments. It would also request the Human Rights Council to take into account the present draft resolution for the strengthening of United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity.
The Committee then approved that draft resolution without a vote.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights” (document A/C.3/70/L.43).
The draft would have the General Assembly recognize that the promotion and protection of all human rights is first and foremost the responsibility of the State. It would also emphasize that development should be at the centre of the international economic agenda, and reaffirm that narrowing the gap between rich and poor, both within and between countries, is an explicit goal at the national and international levels. The text would also have the Assembly call upon Member States and the United Nations system to promote inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable economic growth for managing globalization so that poverty is systematically reduced.
Mr. DEMPSEY, Committee Vice-Chair, said a recorded vote had been requested.
The representative of Egypt asked who had requested a recorded vote.
Mr. DEMPSEY said the delegation of the United States had made the request.
The representative of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, said he would not be supporting the text. The globalization agenda was highly important for the European Union, but consideration of the impact of globalization should be tackled in a more comprehensive manner. The text failed to reflect that. Globalization could have an impact on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, but not all human rights were directly affected and it would be wrong to generalize the consequences. The impact must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, as globalization was a multifaceted phenomenon and it should be considered in an in-depth manner. The draft focused on the negative impacts of globalization while overlooking the positive effects. Globalization could offer a means to address the most serious problems such as extreme poverty. Member States of the European Union had been unable to support the text in past years and they were still not ready to do so today.
The Committee then approved the text by a vote of 128 in favour to 53 against, with 2 abstentions (Greece, Papua New Guinea).
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Mexico said his delegation had voted in favour of the text. It was important to follow up on the theme of human rights in context of globalization. His delegation would have considered it desirable for the text not to refer to Human Rights Council resolution 26/9 regarding the development of a legally-binding international instrument on business enterprises and human rights. Negotiations on such an instrument would be premature at the current stage.
The Committee next took up a draft resolution on “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” (document A/C.3/70/L.48/Rev.1).
By that text, the Committee would have the General Assembly unequivocally condemn all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations. The world body would urge Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction, to bring perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes to justice, and to ensure that victims and their families have access to appropriate remedies.
Further by the text, the General Assembly would call upon States to ensure that measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security are in compliance with their obligations under international law and do not arbitrarily hinder the work and safety of journalists.
The representative of Greece, making a general statement on behalf of the text’s main sponsors, said that the negotiators had tried to include all concerns in the draft. It addressed the issue of violence against journalists and impunity and its approval would highlight the international community’s stand against violence against journalists.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in explanation of position after the action, welcomed the sponsors’ openness in conducting the negotiations. She expressed concern over restrictions imposed on journalists, particularly the blocking by certain Member States of television channels. Increasing the definition of “journalists” by including all those Internet users was counterproductive, she said, preferring not to include non-professional media workers in the draft text in 2016.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights” (document A/C.3/70/L.49/Rev.1).
That draft text would have the General Assembly recognize the role played by national institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights by the Human Rights Council, including its universal periodic review mechanism. The text would also have the Assembly welcome the growing number of States establishing national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. It would also urge the Secretary-General to continue to give high priority to requests from Member States for assistance in the establishment and strengthening of national human rights institutions.
The delegate from Germany, hoping the draft would be approved by consensus, said the text would recognize that the added value of national human rights institutions to the international human rights system extended beyond the Human Rights Council. Indeed, it called for greater involvement of those institutions by United Nations agencies in New York, including UN-WOMEN.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed her support of the text, adding that her country had three human rights institutions acting in compliance with the Paris Principles.
Australia’s delegate underlined the crucial role played by those institutions at national, regional and international levels. The Human Rights Council was a model of best practices for the participation of national human rights institutions and called for similar involvement with other United Nations human rights mechanisms.
Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft.
Explaining her delegation’s position after the action, the representative of the Russian Federation underlined the important role of national human rights institutions in monitoring human rights protection by all sections of the society. She expected that national human rights institutions would continue cooperating with United Nations mechanisms in respect of the mandate of those bodies and of their intergovernmental nature.
India’s delegate regretted that the text had sought to establish national human rights institutions as systematic actors within the United Nations system and recalled that their primary objective was to work towards the improvement of domestic legislation.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on the “Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons” (document A/C.3/70/L.51/Rev.1).
By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would recognize that internal displacement was not only a humanitarian, but also a development challenge, and call upon States to provide durable solutions and address possible obstacles in that regard. It would also urge all countries to integrate the 2030 Agenda into their respective national policies and development framework.
By the text’s terms, the Assembly would express particular concern that many internally displaced children lacked access to education owing to attacks against schools, destroyed school buildings, insecurity, loss of documentation, language barriers and discrimination. The world body would, by the text, call upon States to ensure the right to a quality education for such children, without discrimination of any kind. The Assembly would also urge all Governments to continue to facilitate the activities of the Special Rapporteur, in particular Governments with situations of internal displacement.
The representative of Norway said the text reaffirmed key human rights and humanitarian principles, as well as a commitment to the large and growing number of displaced persons around the world. It was a biennial resolution traditionally approved by consensus and it was hoped that would be the case against this year.
The text was then approved without a vote.
Canada’s representative said he was pleased that an improved reference to protracted displacement had been included in the text, which also referred to climate change. His country recognized that the science was undisputable and that urgent action was required on climate change.
Sudan’s delegate said his country had been exerting the utmost efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people, including those who had been internally displaced. He expressed reservations with regard to preambular paragraph 16 and disassociated his delegation from the reference to the International Criminal Court.
The delegate of Armenia regretted that a proposal concerning preambular paragraph 13 and the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols had been obstructed. Nevertheless, his delegation had supported the text.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Towards the full realization of an inclusive and accessible United Nations for persons with disabilities” (document A/C.3/70/L.56).
By its terms, the General Assembly would affirm that the United Nations has an important role to play in protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. It would also request the Secretary-General to continue to raise awareness on the issue within the United Nations system, including its agencies, funds, programmes and regional offices, as well as among staff members. The text would also have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report on the status and application of existing regulations relating to reasonable accommodation and best practices and views of Member States on the rights of persons with disabilities.
The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking on behalf of the main sponsors, introduced the text and said that the United Nations should lead by example in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. He welcomed the inclusion of the needs of persons with disabilities within the 2030 Agenda and noted that much remained to be done in terms of accessibility within the United Nations system. He expressed the hope that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.
The Committee then approved the text without a vote.
Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution on “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity” (document A/C.3/70/L.8/Rev.1).
By that text, the General Assembly would urge States parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption to continue to provide full support to the review mechanism adopted by the Conference of States Parties, and would encourage them to strengthen the capacity of their respective criminal justice systems to investigate, prosecute and punish all forms of crime. The world body would also urge all Member States to provide the fullest possible financial and political support to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime by widening its donor base and increasing voluntary contributions, in particular general-purpose contributions, so as to enable it to continue, expand, improve and strengthen, within its mandates, its operational and technical cooperation activities.
Further to the text, the Assembly would call upon Member States to strengthen cooperation at international, regional, subregional and bilateral levels to counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters and would urge Member States to introduce effective national and international measures to prevent and combat illicit trafficking in cultural property and to take decisive steps to prevent, combat and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, on both the supply and demand sides.
The representative of Italy, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the main sponsors, said that a coordinated and effective mechanism to combat transnational crime was needed. The text aimed to build on consensual language from previous years and balanced the need to combat crime of all forms and the need to respect and protect human rights and the rule of law.
The draft resolution was then approved by the Third Committee without a vote.
Iran’s delegate, speaking in explanation of position after the text’s approval, expressed the view that the Financial Action Task Force referred to in operational paragraph 32 was not a United Nations entity, nor was it a body established as a result of an intergovernmental process. Its decisions were biased and politicized. In that regard, Iran would disassociate itself from operational paragraph 32, he said.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “Improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons” (document A/C.3/70/L.13/Rev.1).
By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would urge Member States to consider ratifying or acceding to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. It would call upon Member States to continue their efforts to criminalize trafficking in persons in all its forms while providing protection and assistance to the victims with full respect for their human rights. It would also decide to convene a high-level meeting at the seventy-second session of the General Assembly, in October 2017, immediately after the general debate.
The representative of Belarus said operative paragraphs 3 and 4 in the published text should be deleted. It was a technical mistake that they had appeared. Five years ago, the General Assembly had sent a clear message that the international community had the will and the means to end modern slavery. Belarus was convinced that partnership was a key tool towards that goal. The connection between the eradication of human trafficking and sustainable development were stressed in the text, which also called for holding a high-level meeting during the Assembly’s seventy-second session. The text would be a key step towards the coordination of actions in eliminating trafficking in persons.
The Secretary then read a statement of programme budget implications.
The delegate of the United States welcomed “the coming adoption” of the text. The President of her country had identified the fight against human trafficking as one of the great human rights causes of our times. Its victims could be found in factories, fields, brothels, conflict zones and even private homes. Every day, lives were stolen, broken, bought and sold in every country of the world. The General Assembly had made partnership a fourth pillar in the fight against human trafficking, alongside prevention, prosecution and protection. With the 2030 Agenda, Member States had renewed the call to end trafficking in persons. The call for a high-level meeting was welcomed by the United States, which looked forward to robust participation by all Member States, the private sector and civil society.
The Committee then approved the text without a vote.
Speaking after the approval, the representative of Sierra Leone, on behalf of the African Group, said the adoption of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, in July 2010, by the General Assembly, had been a big step that now needed consolidation. He hoped the high-level meeting would be organized with full respect for the sovereignty of Member States. The African Group was deeply concerned over the inadequate funding of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and called upon Member States to realize the adequate funding of its regular budget. The African Group stood ready to actively engage in the preparation of the high-level meeting, including the elaboration of modalities “with the full implementation of the non-objection basis” regarding the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) without Economic and Social Council consultation status.
The representative of Luxembourg, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, reiterated the group’s strong commitment to fight against trafficking, which was an affront to human dignity. He welcomed the introduction of the resolution by Belarus, as well as its readiness to take views into account during the negotiation process. He also noted, with appreciation, that the approval of the resolution had no budget implication. Noting the decision to convene a high-level appraisal meeting of the General Assembly in 2017, he stressed that the participation of international, regional and sub-regional organizations, as well as civil society organizations, would have to be ensured through an open and transparent accreditation procedure.
Nigeria’s speaker, aligning with the African Group, welcomed the Committee’s approval of the text. She noted the importance of addressing the root causes of trafficking, which were often multifaceted and had social and economic aspects. She then underlined the importance of cooperation in combating transnational crime.