Third Committee Approves 11 Draft Resolutions, as Tensions around Safe Drinking Water, Youth Policies Force Recorded Votes on Previously Agreed Language

GA/SHC/4222
17 November 2017
Seventy-second Session, 49th Meeting (AM)

Third Committee Approves 11 Draft Resolutions, as Tensions around Safe Drinking Water, Youth Policies Force Recorded Votes on Previously Agreed Language

Representative of Kyrgyzstan Decries Text as Imbalanced, Proposes Amendments

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved 11 draft resolutions today, ranging from the protection of human rights when countering terrorism, to safeguarding access to drinking water and sanitation, and creating youth-effective policies.

Most of the day’s drafts were approved without a vote, among them, one titled “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”, by which the Assembly would urge States in such efforts to comply with their international law obligations on the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Clarifying her position, the United States delegate said that while she had joined consensus, her Government did not recognize any obligation under international human rights law to prevent terrorism or protect people from it.  On that point, the representative of the Russian Federation said the fight against terrorism must balance the interests of society with the protection of human rights, and be carried out in accordance with international obligations.

The Committee approved a draft resolution on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, by a recorded vote of 173 in favour, to 1 against (Kyrgyzstan), with 3 abstentions (New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey).  By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm those rights, as components of the right to an adequate living standard, were essential for the full enjoyment of all human rights, especially that to life.

Its passage followed the Committee’s rejection of two oral amendments proposed by Kyrgyzstan’s delegate, who said suggestions made by her delegation had been excluded.  The text was not balanced.  The first amendment, to preambular paragraph 26, was technical in nature, she said, as the Russian version of the draft resolution was not in line with the English version.  It was defeated by a vote of 17 in favour, to 106 against, with 33 abstentions.

She said the second amendment, to operative paragraph 9, sought to bring clarity in accordance with international law.  It was rejected by a vote of 19 in favour, to 105 against, with 31 abstentions.

Spain’s delegate, a main sponsor of the draft resolution, defended the paragraphs in question, stressing that they contained agreed language and had been adopted by consensus in previous Assembly resolutions.

The omnibus draft resolution titled “International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem” was approved without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would call on States to intensify efforts to address the drug problem based on the principle of common and shared responsibility, and through a comprehensive and balanced approach.

A draft resolution titled “Policies and programmes involving youth”, approved without a vote, would have the Assembly stress the need to strengthen the capacity of national statistical offices to collect age-disaggregated data in reporting on the youth dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  It would also urge States to address gender stereotypes that perpetuated discrimination and violence against girls and young women, notably by encouraging men and boys to take responsibility for their behaviour.

The Committee rejected an oral amendment to that text, proposed by Saint Lucia’s delegate, who said the language of the draft resolution must reflect that in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The amendment was defeated by a recorded vote of 45 in favour, to 99 against, with 20 abstentions.

Senegal’s delegate, in calling for the vote, said the Third Committee should decide whether information and services on sexual and reproductive health were important.

However, Estonia’s delegate, on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret before the vote that oral amendments had been introduced on paragraphs that had been extensively discussed.  The paragraphs in question reflected a strong middle ground on critical youth issues and he decried the lack of compromise.

Also today, the Committee approved drafts concerning: combating intolerance, freedom of religion, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the rights of minorities, the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, albinism, and the International Year of the Family.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 20 November, to continue its action on draft resolutions.

Action

Human rights questions, alternative approaches to their enjoyment

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), introduced a draft resolution titled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief” (document A/C.3/72/L.37).  The draft was a follow-up to the consensus resolution approved last year.  There had been a global resurgence of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, he said, and populist leaders built platforms on fomenting incitement to that.

The representative of Syria said his country was not a member of the OIC, and would therefore like to co‑sponsor the draft resolution in Syria’s national capacity.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

By its terms, the General Assembly would condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.  It would call on all States to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect by, among other things, creating a mechanism within Governments to identify and address potential areas of tension among different religious communities, and assisting with conflict prevention and mediation.

The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the draft resolution was a call to States to respond to intolerance with full respect for international human rights law.  The bloc condemned violence based on religion or belief and any incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, she said, adding that it was equally attached to freedom of opinion or expression as it was linked to freedom of religion or belief and other freedoms.  Indeed, freedom of expression was a tool for combating religious discrimination, and any restrictions on it should meet the requirements set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  As the draft stated that intolerance could generate hatred and violence, he reiterated that religious hatred was a threat to fundamental freedoms, and that it was the primary responsibility of States to counter that intolerance.  On that basis, the European Union would join consensus.

The representative of the Russian Federation said she had joined consensus on the draft resolution, adding that combating intolerance on the basis of religion or conviction was important, as was developing intercultural dialogue between religions and confessions.

Next, the representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced a draft resolution titled “Freedom of religion or belief” (document A/C.3/72/L.38).  She said the promotion and protection of the freedoms of religion and belief as a universal right were essential priorities of the Union’s policy.  Promoting understanding was of utmost importance to creating inclusive environments and she urged States to provide adequate legislative protections to those freedoms.  The draft stressed the importance of protecting such rights in the face of religious extremism around the world and not only accounted for the right to believe, but also to change one’s beliefs, and the rights to freedom of association and assembly.  The draft also expressed support for the Special Rapporteur on the matter who had noted increasing religious intolerance worldwide.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would stress that everyone had the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and strongly condemn violations of that freedom, as well as all forms of intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief.  Restrictions on the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief were permitted only if limits were prescribed by law; were necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or were non‑discriminatory and applied in a manner that did not vitiate the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief.  The Assembly would urge States to ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provided adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief to all without distinction.

The representative of Spain, also speaking on behalf of Germany, introduced a draft resolution titled “The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation” (document A/C.3/72/L.39/Rev.1).  He noted that after substantial changes had been made to the resolution in recent years, the drafters had opted for a cautious approach to preserve consensus on the important issue of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.  The draft resolution now addressed specific challenges, such as the impact of climate change.  Noting the coincidence that the resolution would be adopted a few days before World Toilet Day, he added that much remained to be done to ensure full access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan said not all the proposals made by her country had been reflected in the text, and that the draft was still not balanced.  She then introduced two oral amendments, the first on preambular paragraph 26 which was technical in nature, saying the resolution in Russian was not in line with the English version.  The second proposed amendment to operative paragraph 9 was to bring clarity in accordance with international law.

The representative of Spain expressed disappointment over the two proposed amendments, saying the paragraphs in question contained agreed language and had been adopted by consensus in previous Assembly resolutions.  The proposed amendment on the preambular paragraph would delete a substantial part of it, he said, noting that transboundary water resources were an important issue for several delegations.  The second amendment sought to change language which had been agreed for several years.  The main sponsors of the draft resolution did not support the resolution for reasons of both substance and procedure, he said, calling for a vote on the amendments and urging all delegations to vote no.

The Secretary of the Committee informed the representative of Kyrgyzstan that a process known as “concordance” after adoption would align the legal meanings between the various official languages of the United Nations, asking the representative whether she was requesting one vote on both amendments or separate votes on the two amendments.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan confirmed that she was requesting two separate votes on the two proposed amendments.

The representative of Austria spoke in defence of preambular paragraph 26 on both procedural and substantive grounds, saying the facilitators had worked relentlessly to find consensus acceptable to all sides.  It was a finely tuned and balanced paragraph, and contained an important qualifier on international water course law.  Austria would vote no and urged all member States to do the same.

The Committee then rejected the proposed amendment on preambular paragraph 26 by a recorded vote of 17 in favour to 106 against, with 33 abstentions.

The representative of Panama thanked Spain and Germany for the draft resolution, saying it was alarming to consider the number of people without access to the right to water.  The language submitted in operative paragraph 11 was agreed language, and was based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Panama would vote against the two amendments suggested.

The Committee then rejected the proposed amendment on operative paragraph 9 by a recorded vote of 19 in favour to 105 against, with 31 abstentions.

The representative of Spain in a general statement said the votes on the amendments should have been sufficient to make the point to Kyrgyzstan, noting that the draft had traditionally been adopted by consensus.  Spain urged all Member States to vote in favour of it.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan, in explanation of vote before the vote, reaffirmed her country’s intention to carry out the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation at the national level.  Human rights to water and sanitation could not be considered an obligation of one State to another, and should be limited to the national framework.  Today, her delegation was compelled to vote against the draft resolution.

The representative of South Africa, in explanation of vote before the vote, said her delegation had participated actively in negotiations, and expressed concern that the resolution delinked from the right to development.  She noted the absence of the notion of justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights from the text.  The resolution had been watered down, she said, and South Africa would therefore abstain in the vote.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution as a whole by a recorded vote of 173 in favour, to 1 against (Kyrgyzstan), with 3 abstentions (New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey).

By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, as components of the right to an adequate living standard, were essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life and all human rights.  Among other things, it would call on States to identify patterns of failure to respect, protect or fulfil the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for all persons without discrimination, and address their structural causes in policymaking and budgeting within a broader framework.

The representative of Argentina, in explanation of vote after the vote, said his country supported the progressive development of international human rights law.  The importance of having safe drinking water and sanitation had been recognized in various documents, and providing those resources was a State responsibility.  Argentina had voted in favour, despite its position that it was a right each State must ensure to subjects under their jurisdiction, and not to other States.

The representative of the United States said her country was committed to addressing global challenges and had made access to safe drinking water a priority.  The United States had voted yes on the understanding the draft resolution did not imply that States must implement obligations from instruments to they were not party.  Water resources management was distinct from international human rights law, and the draft did not create international legal obligations.  While agreeing safe water and sanitation were critically important, she noted that, although climate models projected changes in natural disasters, there was no consensus in the scientific community.  The United States dissociated from operative paragraph 2 due to the language on which it was based.

The representative of Japan said he voted in favour of the draft as his country placed high priority on water and sanitation.  Still, Japan remained cautious in considering the rights as inalienable.

The representative of Mexico introduced a draft resolution titled “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” (document A/C.3/72/L.44/Rev.1), saying drafts should be “living” texts that were regularly updated.  Mexico had submitted a text focused on the most relevant issues, with emphasis placed on protecting the rights of minority groups and strengthening the role of civil society.  At the same time, a condemnation of the recruitment of children in acts of terror had been included, he said, urging States to protect girls and boys in accordance with international obligations.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would urge States while countering terrorism to fully comply with their international law obligations on the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  It would urge all States that had not yet done so to sign, ratify, accede to or implement the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  Further, it would encourage United Nations bodies and international, regional and subregional groups to step up efforts to ensure respect for international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, as well as the rule of law.

The representative of the United States said she did not recognize any obligation under international human rights law to prevent terrorism or protect persons from terrorism.  A report called for in the draft was not an effective use of resources.

The representative of the Russian Federation said she had joined consensus, as the issue was among the most complicated items under the agenda item.  States should recognize terrorism was designed to destroy human rights and could not be justified by any means.  Combating terrorism must retain a balance between the interests of society and protection of human rights, she said.  Counter‑terror cooperation should only be carried out with legitimate States, she stressed, noting that national legislation must accord with international obligations.

Next, the Committee heard from the representative of France who introduced a draft resolution titled “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” (document A/C.3/72/L.47), which she said hailed the work of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and welcomed cooperation among relevant bodies.  Its major new feature was to highlight campaigns to increase the number of ratifications of the Convention.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would express deep concern over the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various world regions, including arrest, detention and abduction, and by the growing number of reports concerning harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses of disappearances or relatives of persons who have disappeared.  It would request the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to increase efforts to assist States in becoming parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The representative of Japan welcomed the draft’s approval, referring to enforced disappearances as a grave matter.  He demanded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to release Japanese abductees and encouraged States to ratify the Convention.

The representative of Austria introduced a draft resolution titled “Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” (document A/C.3/72/L.51/Rev.1*).  She said that, 25 years since the Declaration had been adopted, it remained highly relevant and a key reference for United Nations work.  Based on ongoing consultations, she expressed confidence the Assembly would adopt the draft by consensus.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would among other measures call on States to ensure the protection of children belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities who were at risk of, or had experienced violence, and to give special attention to the specific needs of older persons and persons with disabilities belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.  It would further call on States to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

The representative of Cameroon, on behalf of the co‑sponsors and 11 countries belonging to the relevant regional group, introduced a draft resolution titled “Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa” (document A/C.3/72/L.55).  Created in 2001, the centre was mandated to train staff in activities involving human rights and democracy.  The draft sought to enable the centre to report on such activities with continued Assembly support.  Updates had been included, she said, adding that the centre was an important actor in the field.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner, taking note of the organizational change initiative in the Office of the High Commissioner, to continue to provide additional funds and human resources within the existing Office resources to enable the centre to respond positively to growing needs in the promotion and protection of human rights, and in developing a culture of democracy and the rule of law in the subregion.

The Secretary then invited delegations to make rights of reply under agenda item 72.

Right of reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in response to comments by his counterpart from Japan during the approval of draft resolution “L.47”, condemned Japan’s politicization of the issue.  His country had fulfilled its commitment to solve the abduction issue, he said, adding that Japan was the world’s worst human rights violator and a criminal State.  Japan was the only country evading recognition for its past crimes.

The representative of Japan said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had made promises in the Stockholm agreement and should implement that accord.  Japan had served as a non‑permanent member of the Security Council 11 times, he noted, and made a positive contribution to international peace and security.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country had done more than enough to solve the abduction issue, but Japan was using it for its own interests.  Its contribution amounted to “nothing” compared to its past crimes.

The representative of Japan said the remarks of the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were not based on facts.

International drug control

The representative of Mexico introduced the omnibus draft resolution titled “International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem” (document A/C.3/72/L.8/Rev.1), which was a follow-up to the 2016 United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly, and encouraged States to participate in the preparatory debates with a view to exchanging information and best practices.  The draft strengthened a gender perspective, which must exist in programmes related to the world drug problem, he said, noting the importance of strengthening existing data collection and analysis tools.  It was in the context of the General Assembly that the international community could give priority to strategies agreed during the Special Session.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would call on States to engage in effective cooperation and practical action to address the world drug problem on the basis of the principle of common and shared responsibility.  It also would urge States to address the socioeconomic factors related to the world drug problem through a comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach, and to increase the availability, coverage and quality of scientific evidence-based prevention measures and tools targeting relevant age and risk groups in multiple settings.

The Chair then proposed to the Committee that it would, in accordance with General Assembly decision 55/488 of document A/72/255, take note of the “Report of the Secretary-General on international cooperation against the world drug problem.”

The Committee then took note of the Secretary-General’s report on international cooperation against the world drug problem.

Social development

The representative of Malawi introduced a draft resolution titled, “Persons with albinism” (document A/C.3/72/L.10/Rev.1), which sought to address social development challenges faced by persons with albinism and was the outcome of intense negotiations.  It took into account existing international mechanisms on the matter.  He urged States to address the causes of attacks against persons with albinism, stressing that the draft encouraged States to end impunity for such violence and called for speedy and effective investigations into them.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would express concern that persons with albinism were disproportionately affected by poverty, and that women and girls, in particular, were targets of witchcraft-related attacks.  The Assembly would call on States to address the causes of discrimination against persons with albinism by introducing awareness campaigns, and to ensure that measures to promote access to education, health care and employment for persons with albinism were carried out.

The representative of the United States said she had joined consensus and noted that the text did not imply that States become party to instruments to which they were not already party.  International instruments were relevant to addressing stigmas and violence, and such discussions could be greatly informed by considering the causes of discrimination.

The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution titled, “Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond” (document A/C.3/72/L.14/Rev.1).  Presenting an oral revision to operative paragraph 6 and reaffirming commitments to improve the well-being of all, he said the draft’s approval would allow for focus on integrated family development programmes.

The representative of Mexico said he would join consensus but expressed disappointment as the draft made no reference to different types of families and “alternative families”.

The representative of Estonia, on behalf of the European Union, attached great importance to family-related issues.  Recognizing the crucial role of parents and caregivers, he said families made valuable contributions to strengthening society.  Emphasizing States’ legal obligations to protect individual family members, he said families continued to change in line with economic and social development.  He expressed regret that the Union’s suggestions had not been reflected in the draft, noting that it understood all references to “family” in the draft to reflect an inclusive interpretation of the term.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution as orally revised without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would invite States to invest in family-oriented policies and request the Secretary-General to submit a report at its seventy‑fourth session, through the Commission for Social Development and the Economic and Social Council.

The representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the main sponsors and Moldova and Senegal, introduced a draft resolution titled, “Policies and programmes involving youth” (document A/C.3/72/L.15/Rev.1*), noting that youth issues affected all Member States irrespective of their social or geographical situations.  One important element in the text was to stress that all priority areas were mutually reinforcing, she said, adding that the draft acknowledged the contribution of youth representatives to international fora.  Only a constructive approach from all delegations would advance the resolution to the benefit of world youth, she said, underscoring the collective efforts made to achieve a balanced text.

The representative of Saint Lucia said national policies were developed to support young people so they might excel in society.  She proposed an amendment to operative paragraph 10, noting that her country was a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and specified that the amendment was made in Saint Lucia’s national capacity.  The language in the text must reflect that in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The representative of Senegal, speaking also on behalf of Moldova and Portugal, the other main co‑facilitators and co‑sponsors, said the open and inclusive process represented a positive common denominator on a subject that was important to all.  It could be demanding to find common ground on a transversal issue such as youth, he noted, recalling that operative paragraph 10 was based on language agreed at the highest level and endorsed in various consensual Assembly resolutions.  The Third Committee should decide whether information and services on sexual and reproductive health were important, he said, calling for a vote on the amendment.

The representative of Estonia, on behalf of the European Union, in an explanation of vote before the vote, expressed regret that oral amendments had been introduced on paragraphs that had been discussed extensively.  The paragraphs in question reflected a strong middle ground on critical issues related to youth.  He expressed regret over the lack of a spirit of compromise and would vote against the amendments, inviting others to do the same.

The representative of Canada, also on behalf of Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, said the amendment aimed to weaken language on gender equality that had been agreed during other resolutions.  The paragraph contained carefully developed compromise language, he said, and the tabled version referred to education in full partnership with parents and guardians.  The proposed amendment upset the carefully balanced compromise, and his group would vote against it.

The Committee then rejected the proposed oral amendment by a recorded vote of 45 in favour to 99 against, with 20 abstentions.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution as a whole without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would stress the need to strengthen the capacity of national statistical offices to collect and analyse age-disaggregated data in reporting on the youth dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  It would urge States to address gender stereotypes that perpetuated discrimination and violence against girls and young women, notably by encouraging men and boys to take responsibility for their behavior.

The representative of Saint Lucia said in explanation of position that the Convention on the Rights of the Child spoke to the responsibilities of parents.  The formulation as reflected in the current operative paragraph relegated the role of parents and legal guardians to a partnership.  Parents and the family played an important role in guiding children.  As that was not the case in the current paragraph, Saint Lucia disassociated from consensus on operative paragraph 10.

The representative of Sudan reiterated her disassociation from paragraphs in which there was no consensus, notably references to sexual and reproductive health.

The representative of the United States disassociated from operative paragraph 8 as the language therein would have no bearing on future negotiations.  Language on foreign occupation also politicized the draft, which also failed to account for the essential role of youth in countering violent extremism.  She expressed commitment to equal access to education at all levels and urged States to comply with applicable international obligations, adding that educational matters in the United States were largely determined at the state and local levels.

The representative of the Holy See expressed full support for all programmes that promoted the best interests of youth.  Welcoming the general intentions of the draft, he expressed concern over the lack of consensus around the promotion and protection of youth migrants.  Language in operative paragraph 10 had been taken out of context and would remain a contentious matter.  Sexual reproductive health and services applied to a holistic concept of care and his delegation did not consider abortion a part of those terms.  He reiterated the responsibility of parents in the education and upbringing of their children.

The representative of Israel said that despite engagement on the text, politicized language remained in place, and he urged facilitators to remove such language in the future.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Libya, called youth “the cornerstone of the future” and said they should participate in policymaking.  He had joined consensus on the draft but disassociated from operative paragraph 10, as it did not make a good reference to the role of parents in education.  The paragraph would be implemented in line with national policies.

The representative of Mauritania said he had voted in favour of Saint Lucia’s amendment as the role of parents in education must be a matter of consensus.  He disassociated from operative paragraph 10, as it presented “inconvenient language”, and further disassociated from non‑consensual practices in the draft.

For information media. Not an official record.