Representative of Belarus Calls for Vote, Cites ‘Dubious’ Social Conduct, Negative Aspects of Geneva-based Body
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved six draft resolutions today, covering a range of topics, from promoting the rights of refugees and indigenous peoples, to combating glorification of Nazism and enforced disappearance.
The annual draft resolution on the Human Rights Council report — approved by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 4 against (Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel, Myanmar), with 60 abstentions — received the most attention, with representatives of Venezuela, Eritrea and Burundi, while supporting the text, objecting to country-specific mandates, and the observer for the European Union abstaining on procedural grounds, on the assumption that the Committee would no longer consider resolutions on the Council’s report.
The representative of Belarus, in requesting the vote, rejected the draft on grounds that the Council’s imposition of “dubious models” for social conduct do not instill trust or respect. “Simply put, over time the Human Rights Council has discredited itself,” she asserted.
By the text, the Assembly would take note of the report of the Human Rights Council, including the addendum thereto, and its recommendations.
In other action, the Committee approved five draft resolutions without a vote.
The first, titled “Cooperatives in social development”, would have the Assembly invite Governments and international organizations to build the capacity of cooperatives — especially those run by the poor, young people and women — so that they can empower people to transform their communities. It would also invite Member States to enhance food security and focus efforts on smallholders, women farmers, and agricultural and food cooperatives, to create enabling domestic and international environments.
Another draft titled “Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” would have the Assembly decide to increase the number of members of the Executive Committee from 102 to 106 States and request the Economic and Social Council to elect the additional members at a meeting of its management segment in 2020.
Meanwhile, a draft titled “Rights of indigenous peoples” would have the Assembly expand the mandate of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples to support the participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations business and human-rights and climate-change processes, and continue to observe the International Day of Indigenous Peoples on 9 August. It would also proclaim 2022–2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages to draw attention to the loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve and promote them.
By the draft resolution titled “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the General Assembly would call for the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It would also urge those States parties that have not yet done so to consider making the declaration under its article 14, thus providing the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with the competence to receive communications from individuals or groups within their jurisdiction claiming to be victims of a violation by a State party of any of the rights set forth in the Convention. It would further urge States to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination by all appropriate means.
By a final draft on “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance”, the Assembly would request the Secretary‑General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to increase efforts to assist States in becoming parties to the Convention. It would also request United Nations bodies to continue their dissemination of information on the Convention, to promote understanding of the instrument and assist States parties in implementing their obligations.
In other business, the Russian Federation’s delegate introduced a draft resolution on “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes”.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 November, to take further action on draft resolutions.
The Committee first turned to the issue of social development, taking up the draft resolution titled “Cooperatives in social development” (document A/C.3/74/L.16), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Mongolia, introducing the draft, said cooperatives contribute to all aspects of inclusive social development and the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Cooperatives exist in almost every field of human activity. Mongolia has worked to improve the text by emphasizing the outreach by cooperative enterprises and their contribution to social justice, and by focusing on the favourable regulatory environment promoting the creation and growth of cooperatives. As a result of extensive consultations with Member States, he made an oral amendment to operative paragraph 11 bis, reading as follows:
“Encourages Governments to take appropriate measures to adopt or develop legislation and policies that provide women with equal access to land and support women’s cooperatives and agricultural programs and enable women’s cooperatives to benefit from public and private sector procurement processes and increase trade.”
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.16” without a vote.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United States clarified that General Assembly resolutions are non-binding documents that do not create rights and obligations under international law, nor do they change the state of customary international law. This statement applies to actions related to all Third Committee agenda items. The United States continues to promote women’s equality, she said, adding that when the subject of a resolution is women and girls, her preference is to use these terms rather than gender for greater precision.
She said the United States cannot support references to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute that do not distinguish sufficiently between parties and non-parties. Nor can the United States support language that would promote abortion or the right to abortion, as there is no international right to abortion. The United States does not recognize abortion as a family-planning method. The United States submitted formal notice of its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and references to that agreement are without prejudice to its position. The right to development does not have an agreed international meaning, she said.
Next, the Committee turned to the draft resolution titled “Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (document A/C.3/74/L.57), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Iceland, introducing the draft also on behalf of Burkina Faso, Mali and Malta, stressed the importance of increased participation in the work of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. His delegation took note of the decision taken by the Economic and Social Council, on 23 July and 15 October 2019, concerning the enlargement of the Executive Committee. With this resolution, the Assembly will formally enlarge the Executive Committee from 102 to 106 States, in accordance with the interests of Burkina Faso, Iceland, Mali and Malta to join as full members.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.57” without a vote.
The Committee next turned to the draft resolution titled “Report of the Human Rights Council” (document A/C.3/74/L.56), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Human Rights Council is a milestone for the protection of human rights for all based on a cooperative approach that avoids double standards. Reaffirming resolution A/RES/65/281, by which the Human Rights Council’s status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly is maintained, she affirmed support for the Council’s work and looked forward to adoption of the resolution by consensus.
The Chair noted that a recorded vote had been requested.
The representative of Belarus, before the vote, explained her country’s motivation for requesting a vote. She welcomed the consistency of the African Group in supporting a tradition that has a positive impact on the institutional memory of the Third Committee. While Belarus, in principle, agrees with a resolution on the matter, it cannot support the substance of a draft focused on the universal approach of Council activities over the last year. The number of negative aspects and the imposition of “dubious models” for social conduct do not allow Belarus to trust or respect the Council. Thus, it will vote against the resolution. However, that decision does not diminish the African Group’s position. “Simply put, over time the Human Rights Council has discredited itself,” she said.
The representative of Venezuela reaffirmed the importance of the Human Rights Council as a supreme instance of cooperation among Member States. While Venezuela will work constructively with it, she condemned the adoption of special procedures on the human-rights situations in specific countries, and rejected the pattern of addressing such concerns for politically motivated ends. She called for ending selective resolutions and said Venezuela will support the draft.
The representative of Eritrea expressed support for the draft, owing to her country’s firm belief that the Third Committee should discuss the work of the Council. Support should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the report, as Eritrea opposes all politically motivated mandates, such as that on the “situation of human rights in Eritrea”, as it is the result of a politically motivated agenda.
The representative of Burundi, while reaffirming the importance of the Human Rights Council, objected to the use of it to serve other interests. She expressed concern over resolutions that specifically target certain countries, including Burundi.
The representative of Finland, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern over this initiative largely based on procedural grounds. As the Third Committee has already been able to follow up on recommendations of the Human Rights Council on an individual basis, the Committee does not need to address them in a generic manner. By asking the Committee to take note of the entire Human Rights Council report, the resolution ignores the agreement on the allocation of the report to the plenary and the Committee. The Committee should only consider, and when necessary take action on, the recommendations contained in the report. It was his understanding that this question had been settled and that the Third Committee would no longer consider resolutions on the Human Rights Council report. It was enough to consider the report in the General Assembly plenary, and the European Union expressed its views on the work and functioning of the Council at that time. Thus, the European Union will abstain from the vote.
The representative of the Philippines said the resolution on the human-rights situation in the Philippines was adopted by a minority of Human Rights Council members, and therefore she questioned its validity. She expressed concern about country-specific resolutions that serve only to name and shame, and for such reasons, the Philippines will abstain from the vote.
The representative of Israel, recalling that the Council is mandated to be guided by non-partiality, said his country will vote against adoption of the report because it should be presented by “a very different Council”.
The representative of Liechtenstein, also speaking for Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, said the Council has established itself as an authoritative voice on the protection of human rights. She expressed disappointment that the resolution disregards the understanding reached by having the Third Committee take note of the Council report, undermining the Council’s mandate.
The representative of Myanmar said his delegation will vote against the draft resolution because the report contains country-specific resolutions that were not adopted by consensus.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 4 against (Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel, Myanmar), with 60 abstentions.
The representative of the United States said her country has never seen any need for this annual resolution and will thus address any concerns with the report when it is presented for adoption in the General Assembly plenary.
The representative of Iran, in explanation of vote after the vote, said it is deeply regrettable that despite the proper functioning of the universal periodic review, countries continue to pursue policies of confrontation and narrow political agendas. The politicization of human rights through the introduction of country-specific resolutions does not further the cause of human rights. Rather, it harms the prospects for cooperation. Iran disassociates itself from the part of the report that includes the situation of human rights in Iran, and thus abstained from the vote, he said.
Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution “Rights of indigenous peoples” (document A/C.3/74/L.19/Rev.1), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Bolivia, presenting the draft resolution, said there are 370 million indigenous peoples around the world, constituting 6 per cent of the global population. Indigenous peoples are guardians of the world’s resources, yet they represent the poorest populations, facing multiple challenges. The draft resolution contributes to legal policies aimed at protecting indigenous peoples, including preserving indigenous knowledge and addressing the challenges of climate change. It also underscores efforts by Member States to combat illegal trafficking of indigenous peoples and provide the necessary assistance to indigenous communities so they can participate in various United Nations forums. Recalling that 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, he expressed Bolivia’s support for the resolution.
The representative of Brazil stressed his country’s commitment to the protection of indigenous peoples and to the revitalization and preservation of indigenous languages. While joining consensus on the draft, he nonetheless disassociated from preambular paragraph 7, referring to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to which Brazil is not a signatory.
The representative of Ecuador, associating with Bolivia, said the draft resolution demonstrates important progress that has been made for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system. Ecuador is committed to preserving and revitalizing indigenous languages, he said, stressing that 40 per cent of them are at risk of disappearing. In this context, he called for urgent measures to be taken nationally and internationally.
The representative of Canada recalled that her country recently passed historic legislation, co-developed with indigenous partners, to help ensure the vitality of indigenous languages in Canada. The Government will be in a position to consider the ways in which it can give meaningful effect to the International Year of Indigenous Languages, working in partnership with indigenous peoples.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.19/Rev.1” without a vote.
The representative of Hungary disassociated from preambular paragraph 7.
The representative of Chile, recalling that his country does not participate in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, disassociated from preambular paragraph 7.
The representative of Slovakia, also speaking for Bulgaria and France, stressed his country’s commitment to defending the rights of all indigenous peoples and fully respecting the universality of human rights. However, his delegation cannot agree with a reference to collective rights of indigenous peoples contained in the draft resolution. A formulation referring to the rights of persons belonging to indigenous peoples would be preferable, in keeping with the principles of human rights.
The representative of the United States reaffirmed support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons, which is not legally binding and expresses aspirations that her country seeks to achieve. She recalled United States institutions that have returned assets to Native American communities and — referring to the draft resolution — noted that sexual harassment is not always violent, as violence requires physical force.
The representative of Libya, stressing the great importance his country attaches to the rights of indigenous peoples, expressed reservations on preambular paragraph 7 and reaffirmed the sovereignty of countries to determine their migration policies.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (document A/C.3/74/L.62), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of the Russian Federation, introducing the draft, said that in 1945, the founders of the United Nations were convinced that the Nazi ideology would become history. The Nuremberg Trials condemned the crimes of those who trampled on the equality of people. However, there are still some who attempt to review the decisions of the Nuremberg Trials and rewrite history. This is unacceptable and sacrilegious. The draft resolution makes reference to very real trends that must be countered. Today, various manifestations of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance persist and are increasingly being justified by freedom of expression. However, it is up to the international community to determine whether Nazi ideology will become a subject for historians or whether it will receive “a second wind”, he said, noting that mistakes were made in the Russian version of the text and corrections were sent to the Secretariat.
The Chair noted that a recorded vote had been requested.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the fight against the glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism is as relevant as ever today. The international human-rights conventions and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was the United Nations response to the crime of Nazism. And yet, there are attempts to deny and falsify a common history, and to review the fundamentals of the universal global order. The draft pertains to relevant human-rights issues against a backdrop of a migration crisis. There is now more xenophobic rhetoric calling to evict immigrants. Every year, there are marches to glorify Nazis and their acolytes. Approving the draft is a duty to those who created the United Nations and to future generations, he said, asking the Chair which delegation had requested a vote.
The representative of the United States, in a general statement, opposed the draft resolution, most notably for its attempts to legitimatize Russian Federation disinformation narratives. The United States, together with democratic allies, made contributions to the victory over Nazism in 1945, and condemns all racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It is also committed to freedom of expression. The United States fought for the freedom of all rights, including to free expression and peaceful assembly. The United States has voted against each new version of this draft resolution since 2005 to protect against unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression. These efforts have been ignored. The United States is compelled to vote “no” on the draft resolution, he said, calling on other States to do likewise.
The representative of Ukraine, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said that more than 70 years ago, Ukrainians sacrificed themselves and made an enormous contribution to the struggle over Nazism. An extremely high price was paid as over 8 million Ukrainians lost their lives during the Second World War. He condemned all forms of Nazism and neo-Nazism, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. However, the draft resolution has nothing in common with the fight against Nazism; the penholder attempts to monopolize the victory over the Nazis in pursuit of political interests. Ukraine had proposed a number of edits to the draft, but none of them were included and its impartial approach was ignored by the Russian Federation. He commended the cynical attempt of the Russian Federation to present itself as a champion of combating neo-Nazism, while glorifying Stalinism.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 2 against (Ukraine, United States), with 55 abstentions.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union in explanation of vote after the vote, underscored the bloc’s commitment to the fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerances. Equality and non-discrimination are core values of the European Union. The fight against contemporary forms of extremist and totalitarian ideologies, including neo-Nazism, must be a priority for the international community. A resolution should address this topic in a balanced manner with a clear focus on human rights. The European Union worked to strengthen the human-rights aspects of the text, and some of the changes made were based on its suggestions. However, he expressed regret that the draft does not address all forms of racism in a comprehensive way. The fight against racism must include the teaching of history and should not be misused for politically motivated issues.
The representative of Canada, speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of several countries and condemning any form of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, said the draft resolution contains important elements contributing to the fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. However, he expressed regret that changes proposed by numerous delegations to broaden its scope to reflect contemporary forms of racism were not sufficiently addressed.
The representative of Belarus, in a general statement, said that unfortunately the draft resolution was not adopted by consensus. Indeed, consensus is important in the context of burgeoning racist or xenophobic groups around the world. He expressed great concern of such ideologies spreading among young people through digital technologies, stressing that such dangerous trends require a response.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” (document A/C.3/74/L.51), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Morocco, introducing the draft also on behalf of Argentina and France, said consensus had been achieved on the draft, which aims at focusing actions to combat enforced disappearances. The “new areas” covered by the draft invite and urge States to respond to the Working Group regarding allegations of enforced disappearance said to have taken place in their territory, and to provide relevant and detailed information in order to allow for follow-up.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.51” without a vote.
The representative of the United States said her country is not party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adding that the obligations laid out in preambular paragraphs 6, 7, and 8 only apply to States parties to the Convention, and that the draft resolution creates no new rights and obligations.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes” (document A/C.3/74/L.11).
The representative of the Russian Federation, introducing the draft, said no country can fight the increasing threat posed by cybercriminals alone, as cybercrime is a transnational phenomenon. Regional measures are insufficient. Many countries are drawing up specialized legislation or do not have any at all. Further, the international community does not have a legal basis for cooperation, nor does it have great terminology in this field. An international legal instrument is needed, which considers the reality of all countries without exception, based on the principles of sovereignty and non-interference. The goal is to create a special committee to work on a universal tool kit. To set out the work modalities of this platform, delegates should meet in 2020 in New York for an organizational session. Then, the mandate of the open-ended intergovernmental expert group on cybercrime in Vienna will expire and its recommendations will be adopted and reflected in a future draft convention. The future committee will draw up a universal instrument, and the convention will be underpinned by existing instruments and best practices that have already proved their worth.