The General Assembly proclaimed 31 August as the International Day for People of African Descent today, seeking to promote greater recognition and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies, as it adopted 48 resolutions and one decision recommended by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).
Presiding over the meeting, held in a sparsely populated General Assembly Hall, President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), praised the Third Committee’s commitment to ensuring business continuity despite the challenging work conditions brought on by COVID‑19, embracing a hybrid format of in‑person and virtual meetings that featured dialogue with 64 special procedure mandate holders.
During its half day of action, the Assembly convened in person to pass resolutions that covered a range of issues: from the advancement of women and protection of children, to indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees and a host of social development questions related to youth, family and ageing, to name a few.
Following those themes, the Assembly adopted a consensus resolution on strengthening international cooperation in organ donation and transplantation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal. By its terms, it urged Member States to uphold accountability by preventing, investigating, prosecuting and punishing such trafficking. A resolution on trafficking in women and girls likewise called on States to put in place or to enhance legislative and punitive measures to deter exploiters of trafficked persons — and to ensure their accountability.
Simmering differences over human rights questions bubbled over into votes on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Both resolutions passed — the first by a vote of 123 in favour to 38 against, with 24 abstentions, with the Assembly calling on States to respect international standards around death penalty use, and the second by a vote of 132 in favour to none against, with 53 abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly demanded that States ensure the practice of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is brought to an end.
China’s delegate, noting that he abstained from the vote related to extrajudicial executions, expressed regret that amendments proposed by his country were not approved by the Third Committee. He questioned the resolution’s expansion of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and objected to the use of terms that lack internationally agreed definitions, such as “human rights defenders” and “media workers”.
Meanwhile, the representative of the Maldives, who voted against the resolution on the death penalty moratorium, was quick to point out that his country has a long‑standing informal ban on the practice. Because no law in the Maldives can run contrary to Islam, the punishment is only carried out for convictions of “premeditated murder and deliberate manslaughter”.
On questions of social development, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly, by a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions. It stressed the importance of removing obstacles to realizing the right to self‑determination, underlining that South‑South cooperation is an important element of international cooperation for development as a complement to, not a substitute for, North‑South cooperation.
In one of its most definitive actions, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution on indigenous peoples, deciding to convene a high‑level event in 2022 for the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
The Assembly deferred action on two draft resolutions: “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar”, and “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow‑up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”, pending budgetary considerations to be determined by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
In its one decision of the day, the Assembly adopted the work programme of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) for the seventy‑sixth session.
Also speaking today were representatives of Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Venezuela, Burundi, Canada, Eswatini, Ukraine, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Syria, Cuba, Croatia and the Russian Federation.
Action on Third Committee Draft Resolutions
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, opening the meeting, praised the Third Committee’s commitment to human rights and humanitarian issues despite the challenging work conditions brought on by the COVID‑19 pandemic. It is most impressive that the Committee ensured business continuity, holding in‑person and virtual meetings, which featured 75‑plus hours of interactive dialogue with 64 special procedure mandate holders and 15 United Nations representatives, and consideration of more than 100 reports. Underscoring that the Committee will remain a forum for the intercultural exchange of perspectives, he said that of the 50 resolutions approved, 31 were passed by consensus.
In particular, he commended delegations for passing the resolution on “Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities”, which ensures accessibility and inclusion in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He also welcomed resolutions placing women and girls at the centre of the COVID‑19 response and calling for gender‑responsive policies and measures to end gender‑based discrimination. “COVID‑19 is more than a health crisis,” he said. “It is a human rights crisis. Thanks to you, we are one step closer to the realization of a better world for all of us.”
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein), Rapporteur of the Third Committee, similarly praised the Committee for ensuring it was able to function in unprecedented circumstances, recalling the pragmatic hybrid format of both in‑person and virtual meetings that proved to be efficient and appropriate. In that context, she reiterated the Committee’s commitment to multilateralism and international cooperation, which are even more relevant in times of crisis.
She went on to introduce the following reports of the Third Committee: Social development (document A/75/470); Advancement of women (document A/75/471); Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions (document A/75/472); Report of the Human Rights Council (document A/75/473); Promotion and protection of the rights of children (document A/75/474); Rights of indigenous peoples (document A/75/475); Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/75/476); and Rights of peoples to self‑determination (document A/75/477).
She further presented the Committee’s reports on: Promotion and protection of human rights (document A/75/478); Implementation of human rights instruments (document A/75/478/Add.1); Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom (document A/75/478/Add.2); Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (document A/75/478/Add.3); Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/75/478/Add.4); Crime prevention and criminal justice (document A/75/479); Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes (document A/75/480); International drug control (document A/75/481); Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/75/482); and Programme planning (document A/75/483).
The Assembly began by taking up the report on “Social development” (document A/75/470), containing five draft resolutions. By a vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, it adopted draft resolution I, “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly”, urging Member States to strengthen social policies, paying particular attention to the needs of women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants and others in vulnerable situations. It stressed the importance of removing obstacles to realizing the right to self‑determination, underlining that South‑South cooperation is an important element of international cooperation for development as a complement to, not a substitute for, North‑South cooperation.
The Assembly then adopted the remainder of its resolutions without a vote, namely:
Draft resolution II, “Follow‑up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing”, urging Member States to develop, implement and evaluate policies and programmes that promote healthy and active ageing and the highest attainable standard of health and well‑being for older persons; calling on them to promote equitable and affordable access to sustainable basic physical and social infrastructure for all — without discrimination — and requesting the Secretary‑General to provide all necessary support to the Open‑ended Working Group on Ageing for the organization of its eleventh session, of four days, in March‑April 2021;
Draft resolution III, “Follow‑up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond”, calling on Member States and United Nations bodies, in consultation with civil society, to continue to provide information on their activities related to the International Year and its follow‑up processes; requesting that the focal point on the family within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs enhance collaboration with the regional commissions, funds and programmes; and requesting the Secretary‑General to submit a report to the Assembly’s seventy‑seventh session, through the Commission for Social Development and the Economic and Social Council;
Draft resolution IV, “Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities”, urging Member States, United Nations agencies, international and regional organizations, regional integration organizations and financial institutions to integrate the principles of non‑discrimination, accessibility and inclusion into the monitoring and evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals; and calling on States to eliminate barriers and discrimination against persons with disabilities in accessing support and health‑care services; and
Draft resolution V, “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas”, urging international development partners and Governments to cooperate in ensuring that sufficient and sustainable funds are mobilized by and channelled through existing international financing mechanisms for education — including during the COVID‑19 pandemic — and that they also explicitly target and benefit youth and adult literacy.
Next, the Assembly took up the report on “Advancement of women” (document A/75/471), containing six draft resolutions.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolution I, “Strengthening national and international rapid response to the impact of the coronavirus disease” (COVID‑19) on women and girls”, pledging to take action to ensure the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development during the response to the pandemic. It urged Member States to take measures to prevent and respond to the increase in violence against women and girls amid the COVID‑19 pandemic by integrating evidence‑based prevention, response and protection measures. It also urged them to allocate resources for universal access to health‑care services, including sexual and reproductive health care — such as family planning and maternal health care for women to prevent high levels of maternal mortality and morbidity, as well as the exposure of pregnant women to the virus in health facilities, including while accessing antenatal care and delivery.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution II, “Women and girls and the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID‑19)”, calling on Member States to implement international human rights law obligations and commitments related to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. It urged Member States to prevent, respond to and eliminate sexual and gender‑based violence, in particular domestic violence — including in digital contexts — as well as harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and trafficking in persons by designating protection and health care as essential services for all women and girls. It also called on Member States to bridge the digital divide, as part of efforts to ensure the empowerment of all women and girls.
Next, the Assembly adopted draft resolution III, “Trafficking in women and girls”, by which it urged States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. It called on Governments to intensify efforts to prevent and address, with a view to eliminating, the demand that fosters the trafficking of women and girls, and to put in place or to enhance legislative and punitive measures to deter exploiters of trafficked persons, as well as to ensure their accountability.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution IV, “Intensification of efforts to end obstetric fistula”, stressing the need to address — as causes of obstetric fistula — the links between poverty, lack of or inadequate education, gender inequality, lack of or inadequate access to health‑care services (including sexual and reproductive health‑care services), early childbearing and child, early and forced marriage. The Assembly also requested the Campaign to End Fistula to develop a road map for accelerating action to end this condition within a decade, towards achieving the 2030 Agenda.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution V, “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation”, reaffirming that female genital mutilation is a harmful practice that threatens the physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health of women and girls, and which can be eliminated by involving all public and private stakeholders in society. The Assembly urged States to promote consensus towards the elimination of female genital mutilation, and to protect women and girls who have been subjected to or are at risk of experiencing this harmful practice. The Assembly also urged States to condemn female genital mutilation, calling on them to support programmes that engage local community practitioners of female genital mutilation in community‑based initiatives for the elimination of the practice.
By a recorded vote of 175 in favour to none against, with 11 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted draft resolution VI, “Intensification of efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls”, urging States to take action to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls and to address the structural and underlying causes and risk factors. The Assembly also urged them to ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of women, as well as their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, in accordance with relevant mechanisms.
Next, the Assembly turned to its “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions” (document A/75/472), containing three draft resolutions.
The representative of Norway, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed support for the omnibus resolution on the “humanitarian and non‑political mandate” of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, there were no substantial updates to the text, which had previously been adopted by consensus and enjoys “solid support” from Member States. Therefore, she expressed deep regret that two States called for a vote and expressed hope all Member States would vote in favour of its adoption.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly first adopted draft resolution I, “Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, by which it decided to increase the number of members of the Executive Committee of the Programme of UNHCR from 106 to 107 States and requested the Economic and Social Council to elect the additional member at a meeting of its management segment in 2021.
By a recorded vote of 181 in favour to none against, with 7 abstentions (Croatia, Eritrea, Hungary, Iran, Libya, Poland, Syria), it adopted draft resolution II, “Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, urging States Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto to respect their obligations in letter and spirit. The Assembly called on States and other stakeholders that have not yet contributed to burden- and responsibility‑sharing to do so, with a view to broadening the support base.
By other terms, the Assembly renewed its call on all States and others to provide the necessary support for the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees, urging States to uphold the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements, through measures to prevent the infiltration of armed elements. It likewise called on them to identify and separate any such armed elements from refugee populations, to settle refugees in secure locations and to afford to UNHCR prompt, unhindered and safe access to asylum seekers, refugees and other persons of concern. It deplored the refoulement and unlawful expulsion of refugees and asylum seekers and call on States concerned to respect the principles of refugee protection and human rights.
Next, the Assembly adopted draft resolution III, “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa”, calling on African States that have not yet signed or ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa to consider doing so as early as possible. Further, it noted with great concern that the situation of refugees and displaced persons in Africa remains precarious and the numbers of those populations has dramatically increased. It also deplored the continued violence and insecurity, which constitute a threat to the safety and security of staff members of UNHCR, and urged all parties to conflict to take all measures necessary to protect humanitarian‑related activities.
The Assembly then took up the “Report of the Human Rights Council” (document A/75/473) and the eponymous draft resolution contained therein.
The representative of Venezuela, noting that his delegation voted in favour of the resolution, highlighted the risks of politicization, particularly through the illegal imposition of unilateral coercive measures that affect more than one third of humankind. He stressed the importance of protecting human rights on the basis of dialogue and transparent cooperation.
The representative of China, noting that his country voted in favour of the resolution, said the text unilaterally attempted to change the mandates of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and establish a direct link to the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. China has reservations on contents in the report of the Human Rights Council related to resolution 45/31.
The representative of Burundi, noting that her delegation voted in favour of the resolution, recognized the Human Rights Council as a body competent to address human rights issues. However, she opposed use of this body for political interests, and therefore disassociated from paragraphs in the report dealing with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 3 against (Belarus, Israel, Myanmar), with 60 abstentions, thereby taking note of the report of the Human Rights Council, including the addendum thereto, and its recommendations.
Moving on, the Assembly next considered the report on “Promotion and protection of the rights of children” (document A/75/474), containing two draft resolutions.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolution I, “Protecting children from bullying”, calling on Member States to continue to take all measures to protect children from any form of violence, including bullying — notably cyberbullying — by promptly responding to such acts, and to provide appropriate support to children affected by and involved in bullying. Further, it called on States to support victims with access to evidence‑based, quality programmes, care and counselling for their physical, psychological and social recovery. It also called on States to generate and analyse statistical information and data disaggregated by sex, age and other characteristics relevant in national contexts, and to provide information on disability, related to the problem of bullying and cyberbullying, as a basis on which to elaborate effective public policies.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution II, “Child, early and forced marriage”, without a vote, noting with concern that child, early and forced marriage disproportionally affects girls who have received little or no formal education, and is itself a significant obstacle to educational opportunities and the development of employable skills for girls and young women — in particular, girls who are forced to drop out of school owing to pregnancy, marriage, childbirth and/or childcare responsibilities.
By other terms, the Assembly urged Governments to promote and protect the human rights of all women and girls to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality — including sexual and reproductive health — free of coercion, discrimination and violence. It urged States to adopt and accelerate the implementation of laws, policies and programmes that enable the enjoyment of all human rights, including reproductive rights, in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences. Thus, it also urged States to formulate or review, as needed, appropriate policies, programmes or strategies to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage.
Next, the Assembly took up the report titled “Rights of indigenous peoples” (document A/75/475), adopting the eponymous draft resolution contained therein and thereby deciding to convene a high‑level event during 2022, organized by the President of the General Assembly, for the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, and requesting the Assembly President to support relevant initiatives, within existing resources. By other terms, the Assembly encouraged the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to carry out research on the causes of suicide among indigenous youth and children and good practices on its prevention. It underscored the need to ensure equal protection under the law and equality before the courts for indigenous women and girls, deciding also to continue to observe the International Day of Indigenous Peoples every year on 9 August.
The Assembly then turned to the report titled “Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (document A/75/476), containing three draft resolutions.
The Assembly decided to defer the adoption of draft resolution II, “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow‑up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”, until the budgetary considerations were determined by a meeting of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
The Assembly first adopted draft resolution I, “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”, by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Ukraine, United States), with 51 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly expressed deep concern about the glorification of the Nazi movement, neo‑Nazism and former members of the Waffen SS organization — including by erecting monuments and memorials; holding public demonstrations glorifying the Nazi past, the Nazi movement and neo‑Nazism; and declaring or attempting to declare those who fought against the anti‑Hitler coalition, collaborated with the Nazi movement and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity “participants in national liberation movements”.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution III, “International Day for People of African Descent”, deciding to proclaim 31 August as the International Day for People of African Descent, in order to promote greater recognition and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies. It invited all Member States, United Nations bodies and other international and regional organizations, the private sector and academia, as well as civil society, to observe the International Day, stressing that the cost of all related activities should be met from voluntary contributions.
Next, the Assembly turned to the report titled “Right of Peoples to self-Determination” (document A/75/477), containing three draft resolutions.
By a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 54 against, with 6 abstentions (Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Palau, Switzerland, Tonga), the Assembly adopted draft resolution I, “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self‑determination”.
By its terms, the Assembly requested the Working Group on the use of mercenaries to continue its work on strengthening the international legal framework for the prevention and sanction of the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries, taking into account the proposal for a new legal definition of a mercenary drafted by the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries — as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self‑determination — in his report.
Calling on States that have not yet done so to accede or ratify the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, the Assembly urged all States to take legislative measures to ensure that their territories and other territories under their control are not used for — and that their nationals do not take part in — the recruitment, assembly, financing, training, protection or transit of mercenaries for activities designed to impede the right to self‑determination.
By a recorded vote of 168 in favour to 5 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 10 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted draft resolution II, “The right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination”, reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination, including to their independent State of Palestine. It urged all States and United Nations specialized agencies to continue to assist Palestinians in the early realization of this right.
The representative of Canada, explaining her country’s position, said Canada is a strong ally and a close friend to Israel. Canada is also committed to the goal of comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of the Palestinian State living alongside in peace and security with Israel. Canada’s vote is a reflection of its long‑standing commitment to the right of self‑determination for both Palestinians and Israelis. While disagreeing with some preambular paragraphs, Canada will support this resolution, she asserted.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution III, “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self‑determination”, without a vote, reaffirming that the universal realization of the right of all peoples — including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination — to self‑determination is a fundamental condition for the guarantee and observance of human rights. Declaring its firm opposition to foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, the Assembly called on those States responsible to cease immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories. It also deplored the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons who have been uprooted as a result of such acts and reaffirmed their right to return.
Under its agenda item titled “Promotion and protection of human rights”, the Assembly took note of the eponymous report of the Third Committee (document A/75/478).
Next, the Assembly considered the report titled “Promotion and protection of human rights: implementation of human rights instruments” (document A/75/478/Add.1), adopting without a vote its draft resolution I — “Human rights treaty body system” — and thus recognizing the valuable role of each of the human rights treaty bodies in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It reaffirmed the paramount importance of the equality of the six official languages of the United Nations for the effective functioning of the human rights treaty bodies. The Assembly also reiterated its request that the Secretary‑General submit to the Assembly’s seventy‑seventh session a report on the status of the human rights treaty body system.
The Assembly then turned to the report titled “Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (document A/75/478/Add.2), containing 15 resolutions.
The representative of Eswatini, speaking in explanation of vote, said that during Third Committee action on the draft titled “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty”, her delegation erroneously voted in favour of the draft. Explaining that Eswatini should have abstained, she said her delegation intends to abstain from the vote on this text today.
The representative of Maldives, speaking in explanation of vote on the draft titled “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty”, said the death penalty is a punishment that can be prescribed in limited circumstances. The Maldives has had an informal moratorium on its use for more than half a century. As Islam is the basis of all laws in the country, the death penalty can only be used in cases of “premeditated murder and deliberate manslaughter.” Thus, the Maldives will vote “no” on the draft resolution.
The Assembly adopted draft resolution I, “Human rights and extreme poverty”, without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly emphasized that extreme poverty is a major issue to be addressed by Governments, the United Nations, international financial institutions, the private sector, civil society and community‑based social organizations. It called on States to design recovery strategies based on risk‑informed, sustainable financing policies, supported by integrated national financing frameworks in accordance with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. It also called on States to implement gender‑responsive social protection policies, as well as fiscal policies that promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
Also without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolution II, “The right to privacy in the digital age”, acknowledging that the conception, design, use, deployment and development of new and emerging technologies, such as those that involve artificial intelligence, may have an impact on the enjoyment of the right to privacy, and that the risks to such rights should be avoided and minimized by adapting or adopting adequate regulation or other appropriate mechanisms.
Further, the Assembly called on States to end violations of the right to privacy and to create the conditions for preventing such violations, including by ensuring that national legislation complies with their international human rights law obligations. It also encouraged businesses to enable technical solutions to secure and protect the confidentiality of digital communications, including measures for encryption, pseudonymization and anonymity, calling on States not to interfere with the use of such technical solutions.
Turning to draft resolution III, “Promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all”, the Assembly adopted the text by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 55 against, with 1 abstention (Tonga). By its terms, the Assembly reaffirmed the Declaration on the Right to Peace, adopted on 19 December 2016, and invited States, United Nations agencies and organizations to promote universal respect for this document, stressing that “the deep fault line dividing human society between the rich and poor, and the ever‑increasing gap between the developed and developing worlds, pose a major threat to global prosperity, peace and security.” The Assembly thus urged all States to uphold the Charter of the United Nations in their relations with other States, irrespective of their political, economic or social system, and of their size or geographic location.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution IV, “Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order”, by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 55 against, with 8 abstentions (Armenia, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Liberia, Mexico, Peru).
By its terms, the Assembly urged all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, social justice, equality and equity, human dignity, solidarity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, and to reject all doctrines of exclusion. Further, the Assembly called on all States to fulfil their commitment expressed during the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, reaffirming that a democratic and equitable international order requires realization of the right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources, and the right of all peoples to development and peace.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution V, “The right to food”, by a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, recognizing that hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition have a global dimension, and that these problems are increasing dramatically in some regions in the absence of urgent action. Noting with great concern that millions of people are facing famine, and that poverty, armed conflict, drought and COVID‑19 are exacerbating famine and severe food insecurity, the Assembly called on States to support programmes aimed at combating undernutrition in mothers, in particular during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and eliminating preventable mortality of children under 5 years of age.
The Assembly next adopted, without a vote, draft resolution VI, “Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights”, recognizing that States have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As such, it urged States to take measures to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation aimed at addressing the adverse impact of global financial, economic and food crises, as well as climate change and natural disasters, on the full enjoyment of human rights.
Moving on, the Assembly adopted draft resolution VII, “Human rights and unilateral coercive measures”, by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 56 against, with no abstentions.
Recalling that at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, States were called on to refrain from any unilateral measure not in accordance with international law and the Charter, the Assembly thus expressed grave concern that such measures create obstacles to trade, impede the full realization of social and economic development and hinder the well‑being of people in affected countries, with particular consequences for women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. The Assembly expressed deep concern about States facing both unilateral coercive measures and the impact of COVID‑19. It urged all States to cease implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the norms and principles governing peaceful State relations.
The Assembly next adopted draft resolution VIII, “The right to development”, by a recorded vote of 135 in favour to 24 against, with 29 abstentions. Through the text, the Assembly acknowledged the need for greater acceptance and realization of the right to development at the international level, while urging all States to undertake at the national level the necessary policy formulation. The Assembly supported realization of the mandate of the Working Group on the Right to Development, calling on States to contribute to its efforts to elaborate a draft legally binding instrument on the right to development on the basis of the draft prepared by the Chair‑Rapporteur, as decided by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 42/23 of 27 September 2019.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution IX, “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty”, as amended, with 123 votes in favour to 38 against, with 24 abstentions. Expressing its deep concern about the application of the death penalty, the Assembly called on States to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, in particular the minimum standards, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984. Calling on States to comply with their obligations under article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, particularly the right to receive information on consular assistance, it called on States that have not yet done so to consider acceding to or ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution X, “Missing persons”, without a vote, calling on States to take measures to prevent persons from going missing in connection with armed conflict. The Assembly reaffirmed the right of families to know the fate of their relatives reported missing in connection with armed conflict, and that each party to an armed conflict, as soon as circumstances permit, shall search for persons who have been reported missing by an adverse party. It recognized the need for means of identification and the collection, protection and management of data on missing persons, and unidentified remains, consistent with applicable international and national law.
Next, the Assembly adopted draft resolution XI, “Human rights in the administration of justice”, reaffirming the importance of the full implementation of United Nations standards on human rights in the administration of justice, and invited States to assess their national legislation and practice against them. It recalled that persons with disabilities should not be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and similarly, urged States to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in governance institutions and in the judicial system. The Assembly also called on States to consider establishing, maintaining or enhancing independent national mechanisms to monitor places of detention, and to hold private interviews without witnesses with all persons deprived of liberty, in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).
The Assembly went on to adopt, without a vote, draft resolution XII, “The role of Ombudsman and mediator institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights, good governance and the rule of law”, strongly encouraging Member States to consider the creation or strengthening of independent and autonomous Ombudsman and mediator institutions at the national level, and where appropriate, at the regional or local level, consistent with the principles on the protection and promotion of the Ombudsman institution (the Venice Principles). States were also strongly encouraged to endow these institutions with the constitutional and legislative framework, and to give due consideration to the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles) when assigning these institutions the role of national preventive mechanisms and national monitoring mechanisms.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution XIII, “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief”, expressing deep concern at the serious instances of derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist individuals and organizations, in particular when condoned by Governments. The Assembly condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether involving the use of print, audiovisual or electronic media, or any other means. It also called on States to ensure that public functionaries do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of religion or belief.
Next, the Assembly adopted draft resolution XIV, “Freedom of religion or belief”, strongly condemning violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, as well as any advocacy of hatred based on religion or belief that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether involving the use of print, audiovisual or electronic media, or any other means. It urged States to step up efforts to protect and promote freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, ensuring that legislation is not implemented in a discriminatory manner. It also urged Governments to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, respond favourably to his requests to visit their countries and provide all information and follow‑up necessary for the fulfilment of his mandate.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution XV, “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions”, by a recorded vote of 132 in favour to none against, with 53 abstentions, demanding that all States ensure that the practice of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is brought to an end, and that action is taken to prevent, combat and eliminate it. Among other actions, it urged all States to take all measures required by international human rights law and international humanitarian law to prevent loss of life during detention, arrest, public demonstrations, internal and communal violence, civil unrest and public emergencies, while strongly urging them also to ensure the safety and security of national and international humanitarian personnel.
The representative of China, speaking in explanation of vote, said he abstained from voting on resolution XV as amendments proposed by his country were not adopted. He expressed concern over its use of “human rights defenders”, as there is no unified definition of the term that has been settled on through intergovernmental negotiations. Therefore, he disassociated from preambular paragraph 13 and operative paragraph 7(b), which use the phrase. Further, China disassociates from all references to the International Criminal Court in preambular paragraph 15 and operative paragraph 14. China also disassociates from operative paragraph 14, which refers to media workers, as there is no “clear, unified” definition of the term. He also expressed reservations about operative paragraph 18, which “randomly expands the mandate of the Special Rapporteur” on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Moving on, the Assembly then turned to the report titled “Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives” (document A/75/478/Add.3), containing five draft resolutions.
It decided to postpone to 23 December action on draft resolution IV, “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar”, after its programme budget implications have been considered by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
The representative of the Russian Federation said the reports all contain “falsehoods and baseless accusations”, stressing that “every year, the content of the documents diverges further from reality.” Since the value of such resolutions is “deeply in the negative”, he will vote “with pleasure” against all country‑specific resolutions. Turning to draft resolution III, on the situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, he thanked the 130 delegations who did not vote on this “masterpiece”. To the rest of the delegates, he said “discussions on Crimea have been completed”, stressing that the region remains an integral part of the Russian Federation. “We guarantee human rights of persons throughout the Russian Federation, including in Crimea, and protect them against all threats,” he emphasized. “When will we see the end of Nazi marches and language‑based discrimination in Ukraine?” he asked, adding that the answers would not be found in draft resolution III, whose goal is entirely different. “The puppet masters need you to vote against Russia,” he stressed. “The puppet masters need you to press the green button.”
The representative of Ukraine said the horrors of the Holocaust forced world leaders to advance their approach to human rights. However, today the world is witnessing gross violations by neo‑totalitarian regimes, including some who deliver “Novichok‑style speeches” in this hall, he said. He went on to recall the expulsion of the Russian Federation from the League of Nations for perpetrating crimes against its “peace‑loving neighbour” Finland two days before in 1939, as well as Moscow’s commitment to not use force against States by signing the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. Rather than pursue peace, today’s rulers of the Kremlin have chosen to “reincarnate the cult of Stalin”, by occupying neighbouring countries. He stated that he is compelled to recite history lessons, because “impunity, to a large extent” accounts for the “long menu of complex problems” facing the Third Committee. “Impunity is poison,” he stressed. “It literally kills, whether in Salisbury, onboard Russian passenger flights, and in Syria.” While the Russian Federation pretends it is not an occupying force in Crimea, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court states the contrary. He expressed concern about the plight of those in temporarily occupied Crimea, who face repression and hopelessness. He welcomed the expanded co‑sponsorship of the draft resolution by 40 States, which proffers hope to residents of Crimea and those who have been forced to leave. He called on States to “break the cycle of impunity” and vote in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he “categorically rejects” the resolution on the human rights situation in his country, which he characterized as a “grave politically motivated provocation”. He denounced the “hostile forces”, including the European Union, which supported the draft, in pursuit of “a pipe dream of tarnishing our country’s image” by dredging up “non‑existent human rights issues”. He stressed that the information in the report was “despicably cooked up by riff‑raff defectors”, who sought to overthrow his country’s social system and effectuate regime change. “Such schemes will be faced with strong countermeasures,” he stressed, adding that he will vote against the resolution pertaining to his country, and take a principled position in voting against all country‑specific resolutions.
The representative of Iran likewise said he will vote against the resolution on the human rights situation in his country. “The draft resolution on Iran has nothing to do with human rights,” he stressed, adding that forces of racism, colonialism and interventionism, which have uprooted indigenous people, have come together to table the resolution. He rejected the draft, authored by self‑proclaimed defenders of human rights, who seek to “fetter other States’ sovereignty”. Thus, he will vote against it.
The representative of China said he objected to country‑specific resolutions, due to their confrontational approach and application of double standards. Therefore, China will not join consensus on the resolution concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and will vote against all other country‑specific human rights resolutions.
The representative of Burundi said she will vote against all country‑specific resolutions, as her country favours cooperation and dialogue in addressing human rights issues.
The representative of Zimbabwe said his country will vote against all country‑specific resolutions, which “generate tension and mistrust in human rights bodies and ancillary institutions and are inimical to the spirit of genuine engagement”. He underscored the importance of dialogue in addressing human rights gaps.
The representative of Syria rejected the “politicization” of human rights issues and use of the United Nations to “target” some countries. Recalling that the Charter of the United Nations calls for cooperation among States, she emphasized the need for diplomacy, dialogue and a spirit of “non‑interference” in order to resolve differences and ensure that respect for human rights prevails. She denounced use of the United Nations by some States to implement their “hypocritical political agenda”. Syria will vote against the resolution on the human rights situation in Iran, the Russian Federation and her own country, she said, and will abstain from voting on the resolution related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of Venezuela said he will vote against the country‑specific resolutions, reiterating his country’s “principled position” against their selective nature. He reaffirmed Venezuela’s support for the cause of the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscoring the importance of dialogue in addressing human rights concerns.
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution I, “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, condemning in the strongest terms the long‑standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in and by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including those that may amount to crimes against humanity according to the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, established by Human Rights Council resolution 22/13 in 2013.
By other terms, the Assembly expressed very serious concern about persistent reports of torture, inhuman conditions of detention, sexual and gender‑based violence — including rape — public executions, extrajudicial and arbitrary detention, the absence of due process and the rule of law, and extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, among other acts. The existence of an extensive system of political prison camps, enforced and involuntary disappearances, and the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers expelled or returned to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — and retaliations against citizens who have been repatriated from abroad, which include the death penalty — are among the extensive list of other events about which the Assembly expressed very serious concern. It also expressed very deep concern at the precarious humanitarian situation, which could rapidly deteriorate owing to limited capacity and resilience to COVID‑19.
By a recorded vote of 82 in favour to 30 against, with 64 abstentions, the Assembly next adopted draft resolution II, “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”. While acknowledging Iran’s efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID‑19 on human rights, the Assembly expressed serious concern at the alarmingly high frequency of death penalty use, particularly against minors, in violation of its international obligations. It called on Iran to ensure that no one is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to cease the systematic use of arbitrary arrests and detention, including the practice of enforced disappearance. The Assembly also called on Iran to address the poor conditions of prisons; release women human rights defenders imprisoned for exercising their rights; end rights violations against persons belonging to ethnic, linguistic or other minorities; and ensure free presidential elections in 2021.
Next, the Assembly adopted, by a recorded vote of 64 in favour to 23 against, with 86 abstentions, draft resolution III, “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine”, condemning all attempts by the Russian Federation to legitimize or normalize its attempted annexation of Crimea, including the automatic imposition of Russian citizenship on protected persons and changes to the democratic structure of the population. It strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s disregard for its legal responsibility for the occupied territory, including to respect Ukrainian law.
Next, the Assembly adopted, by a recorded vote of 101 in favour to 13 against, with 62 abstentions, draft resolution V, “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic”, strongly condemning the systematic, widespread and gross violations of international human rights law in Syria and indiscriminate attacks against civilians. It condemned in the strongest terms violence by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people since the beginning of peaceful protests in 2011, demanding that it implement Security Council resolutions 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015) and 2286 (2016). It also urged Member States to create conditions for a political solution, under United Nations auspices, by working towards a nationwide ceasefire.
The representative of Iran, commenting on the resolution related to the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the counterproductive and confrontational practice of selectively adopting country‑specific resolutions undermines cooperation and dialogue. The approach also contravenes the principles of universality, non‑selectivity and objectivity in addressing human rights issues, he said, disassociating from the text.
The representative of Cuba disassociated from the resolution on human rights matters in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, reiterating Cuba’s principle‑based position of rejecting selective and politically motivated resolutions used against developing countries and the unilateral imposition of coercive measures. Cuba cannot join consensus on a resolution seeking to impose sanctions, as this behaviour does not serve the interests of international peace and security, he asserted, underscoring the rights to peace, development and self‑determination.
Under the agenda item “Comprehensive implementation of and follow‑up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action”, the Assembly took note of the eponymous report of the Third Committee (document A/75/478/Add.4).
The Assembly then took up the report titled “Crime prevention and criminal justice” (document A/75/479), which contained four draft resolutions, adopting them all without a vote, namely:
Draft resolution I, “Preventing and combating corrupt practices and the transfer of proceeds of corruption, facilitating asset recovery and returning such assets to legitimate owners, in particular to countries of origin, in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption”, condemning corruption at all levels and in all its forms, expressing concern about the magnitude of corruption, notably the scale of stolen assets and proceeds of corruption, and strongly encouraging States parties to engage in the Implementation Review Mechanism on chapter II, Preventive measures, and chapter V, Asset recovery of the Convention;
Draft resolution II, “Strengthening and promoting effective measures and international cooperation on organ donation and transplantation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs,” urging Member States to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs, and to uphold accountability through such measures as preventing, investigating, prosecuting and punishing such trafficking, and — more broadly — requesting WHO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to continue to provide guidelines to Member States for developing orderly, ethical and acceptable programmes for the acquisition and transplantation of human organs for therapeutic purposes;
Draft resolution III, “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity”, calling Member States to consider the Doha Declaration on integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda to address social and economic challenges and to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and public participation, when formulating legislation and policy directives — and further, to address the threat posed by radicalization to terrorism in prisons; and
Draft resolution IV, “United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders”, commending the Institute for its efforts to promote, coordinate and carry out more activities within its core mandate, including regional technical cooperation related to crime prevention and criminal justice systems in Africa, despite resource constraints; urging States members that have failed to meet their annual assessed financial contributions to pay all or part of their arrears, taking into consideration that member States are to fund 80 per cent of the approved budget; and reiterating its request to the Secretary‑General to continue his efforts to mobilize the financial resources necessary to maintain the Institute with the core professional staff required.
Under its agenda item “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes”, the Assembly took note of the eponymous report of the Third Committee (document A/75/480).
The Assembly then took up the report titled “International drug control” (document A/75/481), containing the draft resolution “International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem”, which it adopted without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly reiterated its call on Member States to attain the goals and targets set out in the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, adopted at its sixty‑fourth session. It also called on them to engage in cooperation aimed at countering the world drug problem on the principle of common and shared responsibility, urging them to ensure non‑discriminatory access to health care and social services in prevention, primary care and treatment programmes.
Turning to its report titled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” (document A/75/482), the Assembly then adopted the draft decision contained therein, outlining the work programme of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) for the seventy‑sixth session.
It also took note of the report “Programme planning” (document A/75/483), which contained no proposed action.
The representative of Croatia, speaking in explanation of vote on the resolution titled “Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, said her delegation mistakenly abstained, but its position, in fact, remains unchanged as supportive of the text.
Assembly President BOZKIR, in his closing remarks, said Third Committee resolutions must be underpinned by actions in policy and practice. “The onus is on us to stand up for the most vulnerable people in society,” he stressed. The Assembly must continue to uphold the inalienable human rights of everyone, everywhere. He concluded by quoting the United Nations Charter, which sought to uphold the fundamental human rights and dignity of every man and woman, as well as nations large and small.