With 40 Million Forced into Modern Slavery, Third Committee Expert Urges States to Protect Rights of Women, Girls, Companies Must Remedy Violations

GA/SHC/4244
26 October 2018
Seventy-third Session, 35th & 36th Meetings (AM & PM)

With 40 Million Forced into Modern Slavery, Third Committee Expert Urges States to Protect Rights of Women, Girls, Companies Must Remedy Violations

Globally, more than 40 million people are subject to modern forms of slavery — 71 per cent of them women and girls — a grave human rights situation exacerbated by gender inequality, poverty, cultural norms and discriminatory laws that demand change, the Special Rapporteur on the topic told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Urmila Bhoola, one of four mandate holders to address the Committee, said gender inequalities and discrimination are the primary drivers of slavery for women and girls.  Stereotypes on suitable forms of employment for women also perpetuate conditions leading to their exploitation.  For example, women are overrepresented in the care economy, and in accommodation and food services, while men and boys working in construction, fishing and manufacturing are especially vulnerable.

Because most forms of slavery occur in the private sector, she said it is imperative that businesses comply with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  More research on the specific experiences of men and women is needed, efforts which ensure that legislation recognizes the gendered impacts of slavery.  Further, tailored laws can highlight the fact that women are not a homogeneous group.

Issues of gender also pervade the agricultural sector, said Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food.  Most countries are experiencing a “feminization of agriculture”, with women increasingly left to carry the full burden of such work in addition to their unpaid care responsibilities at home.  Their heightened risk of exploitation threatens to undermine their rights and well-being of their children.

She said States bear the primary duty to respect the rights of agricultural workers, adopting corrective measures when laws adversely impact those fundamental freedoms.  Companies participating in global supply chains also have a direct responsibility to respect the rights of their workers, and uphold global labour standards. However, corporate social responsibility is voluntary and no substitute for the enforcement of protective regulatory standards by the State.

Also today, the Committee continued its general debate on the promotion and protection of human rights, with delegates outlining national programmes, legal reforms and steps on the international level to foster cooperation.  Touching on the diversity of ways to chart a course, China’s delegate said there is no one-size-fits-all model; relevant United Nations bodies should serve as bridges for dialogue.  Security is the most paramount human right, he asserted.

Along those lines, Turkey’s delegate expressed concern about the re‑emergence of extremist political currents and ideologies, which translates into new forms of racism, such as xenophobia nationalism, anti-Islam and anti-Semitism movements and Islamophobia.  Egypt’s delegate said a number of countries exploit human rights in partisan ways to pressure others, highlighting European countries’ exploitation of migrants.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” Brazil’s delegate said, on behalf of the LGBTI Core Group.  Standing against violence should never be a matter of controversy.

Also briefing the Committee today were representatives of the United States, Republic of Moldova, Australia, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Japan, Nicaragua, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Peru, Canada, Costa Rica, Belgium (on behalf of the United Nations Treaty Bodies Strengthening Process), Philippines, Libya, Sudan, and Thailand.

Representatives of Cuba, Syria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, Russian Federation and Japan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Also presenting reports were Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy; and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 29 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4235.

Trafficking in Persons

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said trafficking is primarily a human rights violation that should be addressed within a human rights framework.  Yet, it is mostly apprehended as a security issue and often overlooked in conflict and post‑conflict responses.  Women must be seen not only as victims or potential victims of trafficking but also as agents of change, playing a crucial role in the prevention of trafficking and re-trafficking, especially in displacement and post-conflict settings.  Preventive measures should therefore be considered as both live-saving interventions and a means of stemming violence against women.  Measures should also be put in place to protect women in vulnerable positions, notably refugees and displaced persons. Stressing the need for transformative justice, she said these efforts should always include provisions on sexual and reproductive health.

The participation of women in peacebuilding can raise awareness about their particular vulnerabilities to trafficking and establish community-based protective networks, she added.  There is a need for a systematic, human rights- and gender-based approach to address the needs of trafficking victims, regardless of the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.  The inclusion of a gender perspective is essential for accessing economic and social rights, because conflict and its aftermath are themselves gendered.  Stressing that a key aspect of relief and recovery is reparations for violations, she warned that failure to address trafficking for the purposes of exploitation can result in its permanent entrenchment in countries going through a post-conflict rebuilding phase.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Switzerland asked about possibilities to improve the exchange of information between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council to guarantee human rights-based approach.  She also wanted to know about examples of integrating trafficking into the peacekeeping agenda.

The representative of the United Kingdom, recalling his country’s “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking”, asked for guidance on mobilizing agencies and enhancing cooperation on the ground.

The representative of Qatar recalling her country’s establishment of a national committee, was interested in how the women, peace and security agenda can be integrated into the four pillars of anti-trafficking work.

The representative of the European Union asked about best practices for engaging non-State actors.  He also asked for recommendations on how to address the stigma of gender-based violence and obstacles to victims’ reintegration.

The representative of Russian Federation, noting that the Special Rapporteur’s mandate must adhere to existing resolutions, expressed concern about encroaching on the work of the Security Council.  Broadening the Security Council’s work on trafficking is counterproductive — there is no need for it to engage in special communications with the Human Rights Council.  With resolution 1325 (2000) in place, the Special Rapporteur is stepping “far beyond” her mandate, she said, cautioning her against independent policy making as a way to casually manipulate legal mandates.

The representative of Indonesia, noting that Indonesia co-founded the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process), together with Australia, said its biggest achievement is the engagement with the business sector.  She asked for ways to take a human rights approach with law enforcement.

The representative of Liechtenstein, stressing that trafficking in persons is a lucrative business, asked the Special Rapporteur to assess initiatives his country has established for the business and financial sector.

The representative of Belarus called for boosting efforts to fight trafficking in the context on new challenges and threats.  As children often fall victim to traffickers through the Internet, she drew attention to a resolution to fight trafficking by using information and communications technology and asked how the Special Rapporteur can help to uphold it.

The representative of South Africa, pointing out that his country is part of the Bali Process, which led to the arrest of over 50 suspects, said women and girls are lured into trafficking through technology.  He asked how States can strengthen cross-border cooperation without having harmonized data capturing systems.

The representative of Myanmar on women, peace and security drew attention to a national law adopted in 2005, along with an action plan to complement resolution 1325 (2000).  He asked how to ensure the compliance of non-State actors and how the United Nations can prevent women and girls in refugee camps from becoming trafficking victims.

The representative of Israel, noting that surrogacy in her country is also used for human trafficking purposes, stressed the importance of developing an international framework.  On international surrogacy of Israeli citizens, she asked about the Special Rapporteurs’ views on improving cooperation in this area.

Also speaking were representatives of Bahrain, Syria, United States and Greece.

Ms. GIAMMARINARO said that, while she takes the Russian Federation’s comments seriously, her mandate is not about policymaking but rather independent reporting.  She is not promoting a completely new approach to this issue:  the Security Council has acknowledged the existence of a link between trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence.  Sexual violence in conflict is “highly gendered”, she stressed.

Field missions play a pivotal role, she added, citing the task force led by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that was instrumental in fostering cooperation between various United Nations agencies in the field.  Staff specialized in identifying vulnerabilities to trafficking should cooperate with both security and development components.  “Everybody should learn how to speak the same language,” she stated.

She pointed out that an agreement banning gender-based violence and discrimination has been signed with 24 non-State actors, and there is no indication it was violated to date — a promising example that could be replicated.  Given that vulnerabilities are high during natural disasters, anti-trafficking measures should be implemented in these settings as well.  Also, their inclusion in national action plans could improve international cooperation, she added.

Slavery

URMILA BHOOLA, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, said that, globally women and girls form the overwhelming majority of people whose rights are violated through forced labour, servitude, forced marriages and slavery-like practices.  Research shows that contemporary forms of slavery are clearly gendered in nature.  The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report, released in 2017, finds that some 40.3 million people were subjected to contemporary forms of slavery — 71 per cent of them, women and girls.  Gender-based inequalities are the primary causes of slavery, and particular factors heighten the risk:  poverty, cultural and social norms, lack of social protections, discriminatory access to education, the low economic value ascribed to women’s labour in the productive and “reproductive” sphere, lack of access to land and decent work.

She said these factors are compounded by displacement, global migration, impunity and insecurity, as well as by intersecting aspects:  race, religion, ethnicity, caste, social status, marital status, age and disability among them.  To end slavery, the violations which create the conditions for the practice to thrive must stop.  States must fully comply with their obligations to respect and fulfil human rights.  They must also ensure the promotion of gender equality and women’s human rights by redressing the socioeconomic disadvantages experienced by women in all areas of life, tackling gender stereotypes and stigma.  As most forms of slavery occur in the private sector, it is imperative that businesses comply with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and ensure adequate remedies for violations.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Qatar noted that the report’s statistics depict a grim picture.  Describing her country’s efforts, she highlighted national measures to criminalize forced labour and slavery.

The representative of the European Union asked for recommendations on how regional organizations can incorporate a gender-based approach into anti-slavery efforts, and in particular, include women and girls in the design of programmes aimed at eliminating contemporary slavery.

The representative of the Liechtenstein, stressing the need for gender sensitivity in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, asked about decreasing the risk that migrant women and workers will fall victim to slavery.

The representative of the United Kingdom said contemporary slavery happens in every country, irrespective of economic level.  Recalling the 2017 “Call for Action”, he highlighted the need for effective strategies, notably to bolster law enforcement.  The United Nations must drive the fight against slavery and he asked about the Organization’s role in that regard.

The representative of the United States stressed the importance of collecting and analysing data, and requested information about the Special Rapporteur’s reference to a worldwide antislavery movement led by women.

Ms. BHOOLA replied that some countries have intergovernmental and inter‑ministerial bodies fostering women’s empowerment and seeking to increase their economic opportunities through a holistic approach.  The role of regional bodies is critical at both the policy and research level.  Involving women as agents of change is also important.

She underlined that the risk of slavery related to global migration reflects the decrease in decent work globally.  Migrant women are particularly at risk, notably those who work in domestic settings.  The State can play a key role in regulating recruitment practices by addressing fraudulent practices and safeguarding the right to access to justice.  It is also necessary that the law of host countries recognize women performing domestic and care labour as workers.

The United Nations’ role in consolidating cross-cutting initiatives that incorporate a gender-perspective is crucial.  Policy gaps and States’ failures to meet their international obligations must be addressed.  On data collection, she spotlighted the work already done by various organizations that facilitate gender‑specific responses to issues faced by women in the workplace and global economic context.  Urging action to end contemporary forms of slavery, she said “one victim affected is one too many”.

Right to Food

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said that after a prolonged decline in global hunger, the number of undernourished people is again on the rise.  According to the most recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports, one in every nine individuals is affected by chronic food deprivation.  Child stunting, wasting and adult obesity continue to coexist at unacceptably high levels in several countries.  To achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030, it is crucial to ensure adequate, accessible and available food for the global population.  Describing the critical role of agricultural workers — who are among the world’s most food insecure — she said they comprise one third of the global workforce.  Many are employed by the industrial food system, which seeks to maximize efficiency at the expense of workers, who are increasingly grappling with low wages, dangerous work conditions and a lack of social protection.

She said the agricultural sector is among the most dangerous industries, owing to pesticides and time spent in extreme temperatures.  Workers’ enjoyment of their right to food requires a living wage.  However, agricultural wages are low, paid late and not adjusted.  Workers are “paid by piece” and payment depends on the number of buckets harvested.  Further, they must meet quotas imposed by their employers to earn a decent wage.  Agricultural work is excluded from national occupational safety and health regulations, she said, explaining that an average 170,000 workers are killed at work annually, while other accidents go unreported.  Workers are exposed to toxic pesticides, a grave concern, especially for pregnant workers and their children.  Describing the ongoing feminization of the agriculture sector, she stressed that supply chain companies have a responsibility to respect workers’ rights to food, and human rights standards.

The representative of Comoros, speaking on behalf of the African Group, described the challenges agricultural workers face in enjoying their right to food and expressed concern about their severe work conditions.  Welcoming a Human Rights Council presentation in March 2019 on fishing industry workers, she asked how to ensure that multinational companies promote and protect workers’ rights when there is not yet an international legal instrument in place.

The representative of Turkey expressed concern that the barriers faced by agricultural workers’ right to food have been insufficiently addressed.  She asked how the United Nations will take a holistic approach to their needs, as they comprise one third of the global work force.

The representative of Cuba, referring to the report’s paragraphs 15, 26, 52, 57 and 69, said United States strategies had caused Cubans to suffer hunger; in 2017 Cuba lost $413 million as a result.  He denounced that States are not allowed to unilaterally apply measure to restrict the enjoyment of their right to food, citing a draft resolution to be submitted on ending the United States blockade.

The representative South Africa, on land redistribution, said land will be given back to those who retained it before colonization and apartheid.  She stressed the need for a legally binding instrument to hold transnational enterprises responsible and asked for ways the international community can ensure adherence to the Declaration.

The representative of the European Union, stressing the role and responsibility of supply chains, drew attention to the synergies between private and public sectors.  He asked how to improve cooperation among stakeholders — notably civil society, academia and the public sector — and about fostering better implementation of the existing legal framework to protect pregnant women in the agricultural sector.

The representative of Viet Nam asked for good practices in pesticide regulation and for steps to reduce pesticide use.

The representative of Indonesia asked about the most effective ways to cooperate with all relevant parties in reaching agricultural workers in remote areas, and about improving synergies among the various stakeholders.

Ms. ELVER underlined that efforts to support the unionization of workers, notably for women, led to positive results for Africa’s development.  It is important for United Nations agencies to adopt a holistic approach, as promoted by the Sustainable Development Goals.  She stressed the need for deeper cooperation with States to fulfil her mandate.

The blockade in Cuba runs counter to human rights as it affects ordinary people’s livelihood, access to water, food, housing and health care, she stated.  This is an important issue that the United Nations should address, but the decision on the best course of action ultimately rests with Member States, not Special Rapporteurs.

Responding to a query by South Africa’s delegate, she pointed out that there are several countries trying to regulate this issue, citing work by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as especially valuable. Further, the recent adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas will help bolster human rights. Responding to Turkey’s delegate, she said the Committee on World Food Security has worked in a holistic manner, through a decision-making mechanism that includes various stakeholders.

Right to Privacy

JOSEPH CANNATACI, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy, said privacy has never been more at the forefront of political, judicial or personal consciousness than now as the tensions between security, corporate business models and privacy continue to take centre stage.  The past year has been productive — full of engagement with civil society, Government, law enforcement, intelligence services, data protection authorities, companies and others — which has forged leadership for this important human right.  After Edward Snowden revealed details of United States and United Kingdom surveillance and intelligence-sharing programmes, applications were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights concerning the bulk interception of communications, intelligence-sharing and obtaining of communications data.

He said the Court recently found that bulk interception is not inherently incompatible with human rights, provided safeguards are in place and there is no other way in which legitimate objectives could be reached.  It also found that sharing intelligence with foreign Governments did not violate Articles 8 or 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  However, the United Kingdom’s bulk interception regime, as operated to 2016, did violate Articles 8 and 10, due to inadequate safeguards.  “Its findings are very significant,” he said, encouraging Governments to consider them their practices and frameworks.

 In addition, he said Australia’s Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment is “fatally flawed”, poorly conceived and risks endangering security by possibly introducing vulnerabilities to the cybersecurity of all devices:  mobile, tablets, watches and cars included.  The bill undermines human rights and has an overly high level of discretion on the use of exceptional powers.  It lacks judicial overview, its proposal to introduce software into devices is “disturbingly akin” to Government hacking, and it was introduced after inadequate consultation.

He said an international approach to addressing all such challenges is required, and all countries need an approach that avoids weakening encryption.  He commended the Netherlands which recognized that national action is not separate from the international context, and the lack of options for weakening encryption produces without compromising security.  Describing efforts by the Thematic Taskforces, he said progress was moving well.  Data is a key economic asset “like capital and labour”.  Open data should not contain unit-level records, while privacy rules should be harmonized at the global level, and corporations must recognize the sovereignty of indigenous peoples over data about them.

In opening the floor to questions, the representative of Australia said the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment does not introduce weaknesses into technology, but rather, provides a framework to request or oblige providers to assist law enforcement where access to data is possible.

The representative of the European Union welcomed the report’s focus on frontier issues, encouraging the Special Rapporteur to further examine this topic.  On the misuse of personal data, he noted the adoption of new data protection regulation aimed at protecting all residents’ privacy.  He asked how the Special Rapporteur’s proposal for a binding international instrument adds value to existing privacy regulation.

The representative of Germany expressed concern about systematic breaches to the right to privacy.  Collecting data on religious and political views can be used to repress targeted groups.  He stressed the need for efforts to establish a human rights framework for the right to privacy, welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s upcoming country visit to Germany.

The representative of Brazil noting that data storage breaches often feed commercial and political propaganda, asked how respect for the right to privacy helps to avoid the spread of propaganda. 

Mr. CANNATACI, responding to Australia’s representative, said his role is “that of a critical friend”.  Sometimes legislation does not meet the objectives it was meant to achieve.  What is proposed in Australia is dangerous:  it could lead to instability and unforeseen consequences.  He encouraged the Government to rethink the matter and indicated his availability to assist in improving the legislation.

He echoed concerns expressed by the European Union’s delegate but stressed that the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation does nothing about surveillance — it is not what it was designed to do.  All 28 members of the European Union are also members of the Council of Europe and, as such, signatories of the convention on data protection.  All Member States should follow the example of Tunisia and Uruguay among others, and consider the convention to achieve minimal standards, notably on surveillance.  Further, they should refrain from implementing measures that encroach on privacy unless necessary, introduced by law and proportionate in a democratic context.  The relation between democracy and privacy must not be lost, he said, emphasizing that some Governments use technology to infringe on privacy, rather than protect it.  He called on States to tighten the legislation on oversight of surveillance.  Unfortunately, political will at the United Nations is insufficient for exploring a legal instrument that would address remaining issues, such as jurisdiction in cyberspace, he noted.

Responding to Germany’s delegate, he said he intends to hold a special session on political profiling, notably in relation to social media use.  He cited the Cambridge Analytica scandal — which saw 85 million users’ data breached and surreptitiously used to political ends — to underscore the crux of the issue:  data is collected by corporations and then accessed across borders.  By its very nature, this issue cannot be addressed by a given country alone.  It would be useful to develop a United Nations framework, identifying principles that can stem abusive access to information, be it domestic or cross-border.  This question will be examined in his upcoming reports, he assured.

Statements

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Member States of the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Intersex (LGBTI) Core Group, said protecting these communities from violence does not require the creation of new rights; the human rights of all individuals — including LGBTI persons, without distinction — are outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” he said, citing the establishment of the mandate the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation as a major achievement.  While countries share the strong commitment to eliminate violence against individuals based on sexual orientation, gender identity or sex, LGBTI people continue to be victims of serious rights violations. Standing against violence should never be a matter of controversy.

WU HAITAO (China) said security is the most paramount human right.  States should uphold the Charter, strengthen collective security mechanisms and build a robust bulwark for peace.  They must also promote global development, which has a bearing on human rights, and he called for greater exchange and cooperation.  There is no one-size-fits-all model for human rights, and the relevant United Nations bodies should serve as bridges for dialogue, refraining from pressure and confrontation.  Global governance should be improved, with multilateral human rights institutions discharging their duties objectively, in strict compliance with their mandates.  China has charted a course of human rights development with Chinese characteristics, he said, promoting mutually reinforcing progress on democracy and well-being.  Such practice demonstrates that human rights can be protected in more than one way.

KELLEY A. ECKELS-CURRIE (United States) condemned human rights violations, aggressions and arbitrary detentions in Iran, “Burma”, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, China, the Russian Federation, Cambodia, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Turkey.  On the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, she said the United States continues to seek all relevant facts, stressing it will not tolerate brutal attacks to silence Mr. Khashoggi.  She also condemned extrajudicial killings and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Concerning Burundi, she recalled that human rights crimes there amount to crimes against humanity, according the Commission of Inquiry, and denounced the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s airstrikes in Yemen.

VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova) said his country’s human rights policies are guided by United Nations treaties, regional conventions and those emanating from the Council of Europe, including the European Convention on Human Rights.  This signifies a high level of accountability and monitoring.  The Republic of Moldova holds regular dialogues with the European Union, and in recent years, legislative changes were made to ensure people’s access to justice.  Another new and important piece of legislation refers to the humanization of criminal policy, which entered into force in December 2017, bringing the national criminal law and practice in line with Council of Europe standards.

Mr. PLAYFORD (Australia) said his country used its first year on the Human Rights Council to increase advocacy and engagement on human rights.  In March, Australia presented an Incoming Members Pledge in which new Council members affirmed their commitment to supportive and constructive engagement, an innovative effort to strengthen its effectiveness.  In June, Australia upheld its commitment to increase civil society engagement, supporting two representatives to attend the Council’s thirty-eighth session.  In August, as part of an event on leaving no one behind, it partnered with Canada in presenting challenges faced by indigenous people who also identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or inter-sex.  In September, Australia presented its biennial resolution on National Human Rights Institutions, and in October, the Foreign Minister launched Australia’s whole-of-Government strategy for ending the death penalty.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) associating with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Group of Friends of Older Persons and the “LGBTI” Core Group, described his country’s national human rights plan.  He advocated strengthening cooperation with special procedures and treaty bodies, noting that Argentina was elected for the fourth time to the Human Rights Council for the period of 2019-2021.  Committed to guaranteeing human rights of the most marginalized groups, he expressed regret that the current legal framework is not specific enough to guarantee the rights of older persons.  “We all are born equal and free,” he said, stressing that efforts to guarantee the most basic right to life of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons must be reinforced.  Argentina has ratified all existing regional and international instruments to abolish the death penalty, he added.

AMIRBEK ZHEMENEY (Kazakhstan) said the Government has ratified all key international human rights conventions and issued a standing invitation to special procedure mandate holders.  While underscoring his country’s active engagement with United Nations treaty bodies, he expressed concern over their functioning.  It is important that committees’ concluding observations reflect more accurately the discussions that took place during the review process.  Committees also should focus on their specific mandate and issues pertaining to relevant conventions.  Further, multilingualism and the equality of all six official languages are important for their effective functioning, he stated.

ANNA SUZUKI (Japan), highlighting human rights issues in various areas, began with the Democratic Republic of Korea and Japanese citizens it had abducted.  Observing that the victims and their families are aging now, she underlined the importance of the immediate return of all abductees.  Japan is determined to take any necessary measures by “breaking the shell” of mutual distrust with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and directly facing the Government in resolving the issue.  Turning to Myanmar, she said the engagement by United Nations agencies will be key in realizing the “safe, voluntary and dignified” repatriation of the displaced population.  On Syria, she emphasized that international human rights and humanitarian laws must be fully observed in any fighting.  Finally, he expressed concern about the deterioration of human rights and the humanitarian situation in Yemen, where an immediate ceasefire should be urgently established, followed by a recommencement of the peace process.

JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua), aligning herself with CELAC, stressed the importance of consensus and respect for each country’s cultural and religious characteristics to promote and protect human rights.  Nicaragua fosters regional stability, peace and security.  It has doubled its gross domestic product (GDP), while its development indicators are positive, notably for gender equality and civil security.  The Government acts as a barrier against international organized crime, terrorism and narco-trafficking in the region.  Chief among its achievements is the reduction of poverty, including extreme poverty, which was halved in recent years.

KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said egregious human rights abuses result, without exception, from those places where national sovereignty is trampled and social inequality is rampant.  Citing the examples of Syria, Iraq and Libya, he said discriminatory practices prevail in Western countries, which also attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of independent States or seek regime change.  Expressing his opposition to politicization, selectivity and double standards in addressing human rights, he said each year the United States and other Western countries “railroad” the resolution against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, citing fictitious “human rights issues”.  In contrast, people in his country enjoy dignified and equal lives in a stable environment, he said, pointing to hypocrisies in those Western countries’ efforts to prevent aid and medication deliveries badly needed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  “We demand that the inhumane and barbarous Security Council ‘sanctions resolutions’ be lifted immediately,” he said.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran), describing atrocious images of young children in cages or torn apart from their mothers, said such phenomena echo the situation in the United States, where racial disparities before law enforcement have resulted in the incarceration of a disproportionate number of minorities, hate speech by politicians and such bigoted measures as the “Muslim Ban”.  Internationally, Washington continues to destabilize legitimate Governments and support Israel’s atrocities.  Meanwhile, in Europe, discrimination and hate speech are on the rise, while Israel’s policies of intimidation, occupation and racism persist.  Describing the “genocidal” United States unilateral sanctions against Iran as a crime against humanity, he spotlighted a recent International Court of Justice order demanding that the United States remove obstacles to the free export to Iran of medicine, foodstuff, agricultural commodities and other necessities.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) said the Government has undertaken significant efforts to achieve a genuine culture of peace, using past lessons to build a better future.  As a founding member of the Human Rights Council and one of its current members, Peru is committed to participating on the basis of legitimacy, and without any discrimination nor political selectivity.  Acknowledging that extreme poverty prevents the full enjoyment of human rights and weakens democracy, he said Peru’s social policies have made gains in health, education and child malnutrition.

KAITLYN SHELAGH ELIZABETH PRITCHARD (Canada) said today’s interconnected and rapidly evolving world is testing the resilience of international human rights norms and the effectiveness of the multilateral human rights system.  The Universal Periodic Review is an essential tool for States to hold each other accountable and help each other improve.  Canada’s reviews have helped it face the ways in which it has fallen short, notably on the rights of indigenous peoples.  Country-specific resolutions also help highlight situations of concern and focus global attention on issues that must be addressed more than once every four years.  Canada will keep striving for a world in which all people are equal in dignity and rights.  It recognizes the fundamental importance of this work to create an efficient, inclusive and innovative voice to enhance global security and sustainable peace.

MOHAMED ABDELRAHMAN MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt) said human rights violations persist around the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa.  Other phenomena affecting human rights are organized crime, trafficking, bigotry and xenophobia.  A number of countries exploit human rights in partisan ways to pressure other countries, he said, highlighting European countries’ exploitation of migrants and use of excessive force, citing the rise of the extremist right.  Human rights must be anchored in measures in a non-politicized manner and addressed in a fair, transparent manner. Cultural and religious differences must also be taken into account, he said.

RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDÓN (Costa Rica), aligning himself with CELAC, the “LGBTI” Group and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, drew attention to the millions of men, women and children who have been displaced, as well as the anti‑democratic attitude of Governments that use force to repress social movements.  He expressed concern over the regression of human rights.  It is crucial to bolster the independence and autonomy of national human rights institutions.  With a view to the 2020 review of resolution 68/268, he advocated open and inclusive discussions on ways to strengthen the system.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the United Nations Treaty Bodies Strengthening Process, said the treaty system is a fundamental pillar for the setting of legal standards in the field of human rights.  Treaty bodies play an essential role in monitoring these universal standards.  As the system gained importance, challenges emerged with a report backlog, non-reporting and duplicated efforts.  The strengthening process, which resulted in General Assembly resolution 68/268, is essential in order to modernize the system and improve its effectiveness.  The Secretary-General’s report identifies steps for improving its functioning.  Streamlining its work methods is among the most pressing challenges, he said, voicing regret that the simplified reporting procedure is being implemented only on a pilot basis by several treaty bodies.  Special attention should be paid to the reporting calendar, which will allow countries to better fulfil their reporting obligations.

PATRICK JAMES AVELLANO RUIZ (Philippines) said sustainable development and human rights are interdependent — a notion reflected in his country’s national development plan.  Social justice will be pursued, and law and order will prevail, he assured.  The Government is drafting a human rights plan and it investigates all credible alleged violations.  Also, the Philippines participates in the Universal Periodic Review, thus bolstering the relevance of the Human Rights Council.

INASS A. T. ELMARMURI (Libya) reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to human rights and all related international instruments to which it is a party.  However, she reaffirmed the importance of sovereignty and Libya’s right to reject or express reservations about texts, including those that contravene national laws.  Libya will resist attempts to impose Third Committee decisions, notably those taken without consensus.  It has ratified the international agreement on the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as drafted legislation and implemented programmes to provide them with protection and foster their political participation.

NAWAL AHMED MUKHTAR AHMED (Sudan) called for implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, underscoring Sudan’s commitment to human rights.  Highlighting the inclusion of women in the development plan, and protections for older persons, she said Sudan has been removed from the list of countries recruiting children.  The Independent Expert visited Sudan in 2018 hailing improvements and weapons collection efforts.  The Universal Periodic Review is the ideal instrument for implementing human rights obligations.

AYŞE İNANÇ-ÖRNEKOL, (Turkey) expressed concern about the re-emergence of extremist political currents and ideologies, which translates into new forms of racism, such as xenophobia nationalism, anti-Islam and anti-Semitism movements and Islamophobia.  Amid far-right and anti-immigrant discourse, especially in Western countries, migrants and other vulnerable groups fall victim to unequal treatment, prejudice, stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, intolerance, hostility, violent attacks and hate crimes at alarming levels.  When fundamental rights and freedoms are in question, Turkey always aims at full compliance with international obligations and enhancement of its democracy, she said, underscoring that freedom of expression, assembly and association are safeguarded by the Constitution.

YANISA CHUCHOTTHAVORN (Thailand) said her country has been building partnerships to promote and protect rights in a manner that is integrated with efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.  Thailand’s latest national human rights plan expands its scope to explicitly cover such groups as sexual minorities and human rights defenders.  It has also been active in addressing rights in the context of transnational corporations and other businesses, as well as in the case of detainees.  To protect the rights of migrants, Thailand became party to the Forced Labour Convention and is amending its legislation accordingly.  To help all countries translate international human rights standards into reality, technical cooperation, capacity-building, sharing of best practices, constructive engagement and education can bring about positive impact on the ground.

Right of Reply

The representative of Cuba, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said accusations by the United States testify to its manipulation of human rights issues against the developing world.  The United States uses the Committee to launch attacks against countries of the South that do not comply with its whims.  Yet, it is not in a position to give lessons about human rights, he stressed, citing violations in Guantanamo and the killing of persons of African descent.  The United States should increase its ratification of international human rights treaties and denounce atrocities committed against the Palestinians.  Further, it should lift its embargo which constitutes a flagrant violation of Cuba’s rights.

The representative of Syria said the United States has no right to lecture on international law and human rights, as it violates the international human rights instruments.  Syria and the region suffered from United States actions in the Security Council, aggravating the political situation in Syria.  He denounced the United States’ use of prohibited weapons and the destruction of Raqqa.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said accusations made by the United States reflect deep-rooted policies against his country and go against the spirit of the joint statement the two countries recently signed.  Calling the United States a “wasteland of human rights”, he cited racial discrimination, sexual violence and executions of civilians by law enforcement officials — crimes which could not be imagined in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He added that Japan has no right to talk about the human rights situation of other countries.  It invaded the Korean Peninsula, where it abducted millions of Koreans and imposed slavery on numerous women.  It should reflect on these crimes and apologize.  The abduction issue mentioned by Japan’s representative has been addressed and he urged that Government to apologize and provide compensation for its past crimes.

The representative of China said the United States delegate made baseless claims about the situation in China.  Nationals from six Muslim countries were prohibited from entering the United States due to Islamophobia.  Meanwhile, racial discrimination is prevalent in the country, and torture of prisoners continues in Guantanamo.  He expressed hope the United States will reflect on its own problems.

The representative of the Russian Federation said Crimea and the city of Sebastopol are part of the Russian Federation, based on a free and sovereign vote of their people.  The statement about Russian aggression in Ukraine seeks to justify Kyiv’s terror against its own people.  In Syria, the Russian Federation is undertaking counter‑terrorism activity.  By contrast, the United States carried out airstrikes on a Syrian mosque, causing people to die.  She called on the international community to respond to these incidents.

The representative of Japan said figures cited by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are based on factual errors and his allegations are groundless.  Japan has contributed to peace and prosperity in the region and the world. Moving forward, Japan will not systematically use the right of reply to respond to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but that doesn’t mean it agrees with its declarations.  It also cannot accept the idea that the abduction issue is resolved.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should return all abductees to Japan as soon as possible.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the Japanese authorities recently violated the rights of Koreans by seizing their goods when they entered Japan, noting that the abduction issue was solved thanks to efforts by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The representative of Japan, outlining legislation governing the import of goods from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to her country, said the allegations of discrimination do not reflect reality.  The abduction issue has not yet been resolved.

For information media. Not an official record.