5 October 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Third Committee Opens Session with Calls for Solidarity in Efforts to Stem Vast Social Development Impact of COVID-19

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened its seventy-fifth session today, with the epic impact of COVID-19 dominating its general debate on social development, as Governments called for solidarity in rebuilding national health, judicial and social protection systems that serve everyone equally, without exception.

In opening remarks, Chairperson Katalin Bogyay (Hungary) said that although the Committee is gathering in “challenging times”, the goal to uphold a common agenda remains unchanged.  “Given our shared aspirations, I urge us all to seek cooperation and mutual understanding in our work,” she said.  Describing the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the Bureau has worked closely with delegates to find common ground on new working modalities, including remote and virtual options.

Throughout the day, most representatives took the floor in a socially distanced General Assembly Hall, while others presented their remarks in pre-recorded videos.  Together, they painted a blighted picture of social development through the lens of a pandemic that is upending years of hard-won gains in upholding the rights of women, children, indigenous peoples and migrants, as well as progress in combating homophobia, racism, hate crimes and xenophobia. 

The Committee heard from blocs of countries that denounced violence against women, highlighting the rise in domestic violence as victims are trapped in quarantine at home with their abusers.  They also shined a spotlight on the changing nature of transnational crime, which has thrived online even as geographical borders have closed in the fight against the coronavirus.

Several Governments also drew attention to their own unprecedented efforts to cushion the shock of the virus on vulnerable communities.

In other business, the Third Committee adopted its work programme and elected two Vice-Chairs:  Ahlem Sara Charikhi (Algeria) and Khaled Mohammed Al Manzlawiy (Saudi Arabia).  They join Vice-Chair Pilar Eugenio (Algeria) and Rapporteur Myriam Oehri (Liechtenstein), also elected to the Bureau.

On the work programme, the representative of the Russian Federation, also speaking for Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and Syria, rejected the systematic policy of the host country to apply the Headquarters Agreement in a discriminatory manner, and thus, undermine the independent exercise of sovereign rights and privileges.  In particular, he rejected the denial of visas to 18 delegates, as well as to a foreign minister.  “This practice is nothing more than a deliberate attempt aimed at disrupting the full and efficient discharge of our responsibilities at the United Nations thus limiting rights and privileges of our countries,” he said.

He also asked whether the decision to include pre-recorded video statements in the United Nations summary records aligns with the rules of procedure, particularly as related to “present and voting” criteria, to which a secretariat official replied that such practices are in accordance with the modalities proposed by the Bureau in light of COVID-19. 

The representative of Cuba expressed satisfaction that the Committee had made efforts to find modalities that accommodate delegates.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 6 October to continue its general debate.

General Debate:  Morning Session

Throughout the morning session, delegates — through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic — shared their views on key social development issues, such as gender equality, racial discrimination, and forced displacement and migration.  They primarily focused on the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable:  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities, the elderly, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, and women and children, among them.

The representative of Japan expressed support for developing country efforts to build resilient health and medical systems, taking full account of the aggravated impact of COVID-19 on women, children, persons with disabilities, refugees and people in conflict.  He expressed concern over the spread of violent extremism, hate speech and intolerance, stressing that freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as such, must be upheld in every country.  “We must not allow the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls to undo the progress made in gender equality over the past decades”, he said, underscoring Japan’s commitment to building back a better society.  He underlined the need to prevent domestic violence within Japan, while also continuing to empower women globally, including through assistance for addressing sexual violence in conflict.

The representative of Philippines said his country embarked on a migrant repatriation programme at a scale never before seen.  While thousands of Filipino migrants serve on the front lines to combat the pandemic, more than 345,000 others were repatriated because of job losses.  “Thousands of seafarers are still onboard vessels that cannot dock due to COVID restrictions”, he said, calling for international cooperation to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.  The Philippines is committed to being a leader in gender equality, even when faced with the challenge of COVID-19.  The country also places a premium on the rights and wellbeing of children, he said, noting that his Government remains vigilant against the online sexual exploitation of minors.  He further drew attention to older persons and persons with disabilities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are at a higher risk of mortality from it.

The representative of Egypt, speaking for the African Group and aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed support for the World Health Organization (WHO).  Noting that COVID-19 affected countries’ socioeconomic structures, slowing progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he underlined the need for treatments and vaccines that are accessible to all people.  Pointing to key human rights instruments — notably the Beijing and Copenhagen Declarations, he drew attention to female genital mutilation, a practice with serious health implications that still affects many women and girls worldwide, many of whom are in Africa.  He further identified the COVID-19 pandemic as a contributing factor to inequalities that exist between children in developed and developing countries.

Several countries highlighted national efforts to address these challenges, with the representative of Namibia, aligning himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Group and the Group of 77, described his country’s strong leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Among other efforts, the Government activated a National Health Emergency Coordination Committee under the Ministry of Health and Social Services, introduced an incident management system and strengthened the National Public Health Emergency Operation Centre, which is now the central base from which all national COVID-19 responders operate.  Education was among those sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, with schools forced to close for months.  He further drew attention to the increasing incidence of gender-based violence, particularly within domestic relationships, stressing that more must be done to prevent such abuse.  “Human rights have never been more important than they are now”, he said, at the same time warning against politicizing universal fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Malaysia, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), emphasized the bloc’s collective response to the pandemic, noting that COVID-19 had only led to a “slight pause” in its ambitious social development plans, as laid out in “ASEAN Vision 2025” and the Hanoi Plan of Action.  He described actions laid out in a ministerial meeting held in June, including strengthening regional cooperation to address vulnerable groups disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and securing the health and safety of social workers.  He added that ASEAN’s ministerial bodies continued to implement plans previously put in place to strengthen social protection, to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities, and to eliminate violence against children.  Although countries had closed their borders during the pandemic, “criminal elements” had also taken their operations online.  However, ASEAN continues to implement its 2016-2025 Plan of Action in Combating Transnational Crime.  As reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the pandemic has increased people’s vulnerability to human trafficking.

The representative of the Bahamas, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underscored the importance the bloc attaches to promoting and protecting children’s rights.  COVID-19 has disrupted the education of more than 5 million students and 200,000 teachers across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, including within special education.  While Governments are working to provide online tutoring, resource limitations are affecting access and threaten to widen socioeconomic gaps.  CARICOM also recognizes the essential role that women play in the socioeconomic and political development of the region.  CARICOM continues to work to implement Regional Programmes to address the harmful effects of violence against women and girls.  The challenges faced by the region, which is characterized by porous borders, trans-shipment of drugs and emerging threats in the domain of cyberspace, have not disappeared.  She commended the crucial role played by law enforcement and security officials in maintaining law and order across the region.

Mozambique’s representative, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said SADC Governments have a long history of promoting gender equality.  Calling gender discrimination “one of the greatest impediments to development”, he said by contrast that the promotion of gender equality is an effective means for ending poverty.  The Community is committed to removing all barriers to the achievement of gender equality at the regional and national levels through the implementation of gender-responsive legislation and policies.  Turning to racism, he said the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination still requires strong implementation mechanisms.  The SADC region hosts a number of migrants with diverse origins, including refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons.  The complexity of managing these communities demands both attention and resources, he said, noting that SADC recently adopted the Common Regional Policy Framework on the Management of Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

An observer for the European Union, said respect for human rights — including women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of their fundamental freedoms — must remain at the heart of global COVID-19 recovery efforts.  It is unacceptable that civil society actors and human rights defenders engaging with the United Nations are subject to reprisals and he rejected that some are still denied access to United Nations events without valid reasons and that non-governmental organizations are repeatedly denied accreditation by the ill-functioning NGO Committee.  Expressing strong support for the International Criminal Court, he said the European Union does not recognize the results of the recent election in Belarus, rejecting the disproportionate use of force against its citizens.  He also drew attention to systematic, widespread and gross violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, violence in Myanmar, abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria — notably the deliberate targeting of civilians, forced disappearances, and torture — and the erosion of rights in Hong Kong that were to be protected until 2047 — as he reiterated the European Union’s commitment to combat impunity and ensure accountability of perpetrators.

The representative of China, also speaking for Angola, Antigua, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, expressed concern over unilateral coercive measures that contravene the Charter of the United Nations and international law.  The lifting of unilateral coercive measures is particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, underscoring the need to safeguard medical equipment and supplies.  “Global solidarity and international cooperation are the most powerful weapon to combat COVID-19,” he said.  Drawing attention to the George Floyd case, he said the most vulnerable continue to endure police brutality.  Indeed, social inequalities persist.  People of African descent suffer from higher rates of COVID-19 mortality as compared to other segments of the population, a fact that reflects a contemporary form of racial discrimination, he said, also expressing deep concern over the situation of migrants in detention centres.

The representative of Nepal, speaking for the LGBTI Core Group, a cross regional group formed in 2008, underlined the importance of protecting LGBTI persons from violence and discrimination, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Similarly, States have a responsibility to respect human rights defenders, he said, welcoming the statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on this topic.  The issue of gender-based discrimination is of a particular importance, as LGBTI persons have faced a higher rate of violence during the pandemic, he said, stressing the need for greater access to medical care and vaccines.  Governments must ensure that international human rights are at the centre of attention and that no person is left behind.  He recommended finding practical ways to strengthen international human rights treaties.  “Standing up against violence and discrimination should not be a matter of controversy,” he said.

The representative of Canada said women are shouldering a disproportionate share of childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Similarly vulnerable are older people, indigenous peoples, religious and ethnic minorities, and LGBTI communities, he said, pointing to child, early and forced marriage and women’s rights as Canada’s priorities.  “This is our wake-up call,” he said, quoting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, also drawing attention to human rights violations in Iran and China.

Several other delegates described the transformative power of multilateralism and the importance of international cooperation in tackling COVID-19, with Ghana’s representative, speaking for the Group of 77, describing its far-reaching social and economic consequences.  Indeed, the long-term effects of COVID-19 on social development reach beyond the health sector.  Already vulnerable populations face disproportionately worse conditions, while decades of social development progress is likely to be reversed.  The recognition of COVID-19 vaccines as global public goods will help countries overcome the pandemic and build the momentum for sustainable development.  Third Committee discussions should thus focus on the impacts of COVID-19 and on action-oriented strategies to address different forms of inequality, with the aim of implementing the World Summit for Social Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outcomes.  Multilateralism and international development cooperation should be strengthened, he said, noting at the same time that “South-South cooperation should complement rather than be seen as a substitute for North-South cooperation.”

Along similar lines, Azerbaijan’s representative, speaking for Non-Aligned Movement, said there is no single model of democracy.  Underscoring the importance of General Assembly resolution 67/19, which accorded Palestine non-member observer status at the United Nations, she reaffirmed that all human rights — including to development — are universal, inalienable and interdependent, and should be handled with a non-selective approach, with respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference, impartiality, transparency as guiding principles.  Expressing deep concern over highly volatile food prices, which challenge the human right to food, she called for a comprehensive international response to the food crisis and underscored the importance of strengthening the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) early warning system in that regard.

The representative of Mexico said “it is time to renew our commitment to multilateralism”.  Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, open dialogue, pursuit of understanding and compliance with the universal human rights system are needed more than ever.  Noting that Mexico is a strong advocate of cooperation that accords with international law, he drew attention to the rights of vulnerable persons and advocated for feminist foreign policies.  The international community must work to end all forms of discrimination and violence, he stressed, underscoring also the need to end racism, xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes.  Indeed, COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges to the enjoyment of fundamental rights, she said, calling for guaranteed global access to vaccines.

General Debate:  Afternoon Session

In the afternoon, delegates continued their general debate on social development matters, highlighting similar themes about the dramatic extent of the COVID-19 crisis and calling for reinforced solidarity in addressing the epic fallout.  Many stressed that any action taken to mitigate the spread of the virus must always respect human rights standards and drew attention to cases in which they have not been met.

Against that backdrop, the representative of Slovakia, aligning himself with the statement delivered by the European Union, said that “we are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, but we should not allow it to become a crisis of human rights.”  As the pandemic progressed, the rates of domestic violence escalated, bringing enormous suffering, particularly to women and children.  He underscored the effects of the pandemic on children, who are suffering from both domestic violence and restricted access to education.  He expressed deep concern over the situation in Belarus, condemning the violence against peaceful protesters, media workers, and representatives of civil society and opposition, calling for inclusive dialogue, free elections, and the re-establishment of democracy and rule of law.

The representative of France expressed concern about the “crumbling of multilateralism” and the human rights violations taking place in conflict areas.  He called for Human Rights Council resolution 25/32 to be guaranteed, and for countries to fight against impunity and ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel, without which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights becomes “irrelevant”.  “There is no progress, we have observed setbacks,” he stressed.  He emphasized three priorities to be addressed in light of challenges posed by the pandemic:  the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls “which are being flouted throughout”; the protection and defense of freedom of expression; and the protection of human rights defenders and journalists.

Echoing these concerns, Slovenia’s representative, aligning herself with the European Union, called for a more robust human rights system.  The pandemic has exposed inequalities and is testing Member States’ willingness to not leave anyone behind.  Turning to gender equality, she said women in Slovenia remain underrepresented in politics and business, shoulder more household work, and experience violence.  “We cannot expect a society whose leadership does not properly represent women to reflect its population’s needs.”

Meanwhile, the representative of Liechtenstein said COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated inequalities around the globe, adding that the measures implemented by States to contain it have resulted in far-reaching restrictions on fundamental freedoms.  “It is therefore of paramount importance to ensure that they are necessary, proportionate, limited in time and fully reversible if the circumstances allow,” he noted, expressing deep concern about measures to counter the pandemic that undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights to health, privacy and education, gender equality and core civil and political rights.  “Our international response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be guided by solidarity, cooperation and the rule of law.”  He drew attention to ongoing human rights violations in Syria and Myanmar, calling for accountability.  Identifying the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking as Liechtenstein’s core priority, he recalled the country’s contribution to the “Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking” initiative.

The representative of Czech Republic, aligning with the European Union, underscored the need to strengthen funding for human rights mechanisms and special procedures.  The pandemic must not be used as an excuse to silence dissent, he said, expressing concern with the deteriorating human rights situation in a number of countries, notably Belarus, where peaceful protesters were being deprived of liberty and even tortured for exercising their basic rights. “This is unacceptable,” he stressed.  He went on to express concern about the closing space for civil society in the Russian Federation, where serious curbs had been placed on the abilities of non-governmental groups to operate.  In a similar vein, he also expressed concern about the human rights situations in other places, including “illegally annexed Crimea”, the Xinjiang region of China, Venezuela and Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, the representative of Israel noted that the restrictions required to fight the pandemic are used by some as political tools and justification for limiting access and arresting journalists.  “Some are taking advantage of the fact that the world’s attention is focused on the pandemic to further their malicious agendas and commit crimes against their own peoples, as well as others,” he said.  Underlining the need for cooperation, he pointed to “one of the most significant achievements of the last few decades in terms of peace negotiations”:  a peace treaty between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The representative of Tunisia said the shift in national and international focus towards combating the pandemic puts pressure on resources normally devoted to human rights and gender equality worldwide.  Noting that the lockdown of millions of people inside their homes has exposed them to domestic violence and other risks, he underscored that the impact of the pandemic has been disproportionately negative on vulnerable groups and women and girls suffering from multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.  Pointing to the crucial role of non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders, he stressed the importance of a partnership between Government authorities and civil society, and expressed concern over the growing number of non-governmental groups that risk being excluded from the conversation around key human rights issues due to the lack of resources to engage with the United Nations virtually.

The representative of Finland, aligning with the European Union, underscored concerns around violence against women and girls, calling for the end of “this shadow pandemic”.  “It is not an objective in itself, it is crucial to achieving other Sustainable Development Goals.”  There is a need to strengthen sexual and reproductive rights, including guaranteed access to scientifically accurate, age-appropriate education.  Turning to indigenous people’s rights, which intersect with issues of labour rights, climate change and corporate abuse, she welcomed the new Secretary-General report on enhancing participation of indigenous people and expressed concern on attacks on human rights defenders in remote conflict areas.

Echoing such concerns, the representative of Australia noted that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, girls, older people, LGBTI persons, and indigenous people, stressing the need for more inclusive recovery efforts.  The pandemic has led to an escalation in gender-based violence, as well as reduced access to sexual and reproductive services.  Noting that Australia is the vice chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, he stressed the need for women’s empowerment.  Spotlighting disinformation, he stressed that it “costs lives and creates fear and division”.  Australia is “deeply disturbed” by the arbitrary arrest of foreign nationals, whose rights to access justice and consular support are guaranteed under international law.

The representative of Peru called for any vaccine that is developed to be declared a global public good, “since no country is free from fresh outbreaks”.  Noting that the pandemic has exacerbated global inequality and impacted the poorest, she called for more inclusive development, and deeper international cooperation and solidarity.  Peru will present a resolution to uphold human rights and ameliorate extreme poverty.  Emphasizing the importance of responding to the needs of indigenous people in a “culturally appropriate fashion”, she stressed that older indigenous people “must be a priority group for the vaccine once it is available”.

Meanwhile, the representative of Cuba, aligning with Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the pandemic had led to lost ground in social development, adversely impacting the rights of women, children, indigenous people, and leading to an increase in racism.  She called for an elimination of unilateral measures, which “impose the vision of one country over others”.  Condemning the United States’ sanctions on her country, she said they were a “flagrant systematic violation of human rights of all Cubans and the main obstacle to our development”.  Even in the midst of the pandemic, the United States had heightened its blockade, she said, adding that it hampered Cuba’s efforts to respond to the problem.  Cuba has sent 52 medical brigades to 32 countries to help treat the pandemic, which represented a “genuine example of South-South cooperation”, despite the United States’ accusations to the contrary.  Meanwhile, the United States is “promoting xenophobia to divert attention from their terrible work controlling the pandemic”, she stressed.

The representative of Lebanon said “time stopped” when a deadly explosion occurred in Beirut on 3 August.  Although thousands of volunteers mobilized in response, the magnitude of the tragedy had left a lasting impact.  As many as 600,000 children were left with psychological trauma, and 183 educational facilities sustained damage, affecting 77,000 children.  She called on partners to help Lebanon surmount the persistent hurdles.  She outlined a number of policies to strengthen human rights, including a bill that criminalizes sexual harassment, and a unified contract to protect migrants introduced by the Ministry of Labour.

The representative of Honduras, aligning with the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, said throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence had increased around the world, and women’s health care access had been adversely impacted.  She emphasized the plight of migrants, who are dependent on the informal economy, and live in environments where social distancing is impossible.  She underscored the need for a holistic response to irregular migration and affirmed the need for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The representative of Estonia, aligning with the European Union, said that the pandemic threatens to reverse decades of collective effort to strengthen the rights of women, as enshrined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  She urged States to refrain from Internet shutdowns, and from curbing the freedom of human rights defenders.  She called for an end to the “continuing brutality against civil society” in Belarus, condemning the torture of peaceful protestors, and calling for the “will of electors” to be honoured.  She also expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Crimea, which is occupied by the Russian Federation, adding that she is “disturbed” by the “campaign against Crimean Tartars”.  She reiterated a call for access to international observers, including from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and including places of detentions in the area.  Touching on the grave rights violations unfolding in Myanmar, and the situation in Syria, where access to aid is being denied and deliberate attacks are being carried out on schools and hospitals, she called for greater synergy between Geneva and New York.

The representative of Myanmar said his country is implementing policies to reform public institutions and to strengthen the rule of law.  He outlined various measures undertaken to address inequality, job creation and corruption, noting that since 2016, Myanmar has doubled its spending on health and education.  It is moving towards a harm reduction approach while tackling drug problems and is cooperating with neighbouring countries to combat serious regional issues, such as trafficking in persons.  The pandemic has affected migrant workers, impacting their remittances, and forcing some to return, he said.  Myanmar is taking measures to ensure their rehabilitation and reemployment.

Also speaking in the general debate today were representatives of Belgium, Chile, Afghanistan, Colombia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Russian Federation, Philippines, Chile, Namibia, Mexico, Ghana, Slovakia, Tunisia, Liechtenstein, France, Czech Republic, Israel, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Argentina, Egypt, Bangladesh, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden, India, Viet Nam and the United Kingdom.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, quoted the German Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels, who said, “If you tell a lie and keep repeating that lie, people will believe you sooner or later.”  He went on to state that this was the “unfortunate approach” followed by Western countries, including the representative of the European Union.  “Lying is a speciality of Western countries,” he continued, citing the example of the Baron Munchausen, “a classic of German literature”.  He said that some countries are “trying to cover up their economic terrorism”, stating that coercive unilateral measures have led to many Syrian children living in homes without heating.  He condemned the illegal actions of Governments imposing sanctions on Syria, stressing their dire consequences on Syrian people.  He also took exception to the statement of the representative of Canada and noted that indigenous people had been sterilized in that country’s hospitals.  “Such incidents amount to genocide,” he said.

The representative of China, also speaking in exercise of right of reply, said the statements by the Czech Republic, Canada and the European Union in relation to his country were a far cry from the facts.  China is protecting the people and ethnic groups of Xinjiang.  The Government has invited 1,000 people to visit Xinjiang and has also extended the invitation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Since 2019, Hong Kong has witnessed violent activities that no country would tolerate.  It is imperative to enforce Hong Kong’s security by closing legal loopholes.  China is a “rule of law” country where everyone is equal before the law.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in response to the statements made by the representatives of Japan and the European Union, rejected all groundless allegations against his country.  Japan has no right to talk about the human rights of others.  During its colonial rule against Korea, Japanese imperialists slaughtered more than 1 million innocent Koreans and forced 200,000 Korean women into sexual slavery.  Furthermore, Japan should stop acts of national discrimination against Korean residents in Japan.  To accusations made by the representative of the European Union, he said that “the so-called human rights issues he mentioned have never existed and cannot be allowed to exist in our country”.

The representative of Ukraine, responding to comments by the representative of the Russian Federation, said that country has for centuries suppressed the Ukrainian language and forcibly replaced it with Russian in all spheres of public life.  The Russian Federation continues its temporary occupation of Ukrainian territories and is not in a position to tell Ukraine how to protect its citizens’ rights.  He asked when the Russian Federation would adhere to and implement the International Court of Justice order in the case of Ukraine v. Russian Federation regarding the abolition of racial discrimination.

The representative of Canada, responding to comments by the representatives of China and Syria, said that the premise behind their statements is that there is no such thing as international human rights and no country has the ability to comment on any such violations in any other country.  A further premise is that, because all Member States come to the chamber with their own human rights abuses, they have no right to comment on the abuses of others.  Both premises are false.  The first is false because the United Nations has reaffirmed the universality of human rights.  Secondly, in the case of Canada, both representatives noted Canada’s problems with indigenous people and therefore had no right to talk about Tibet, Hong Kong and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  However, as the Prime Minister of Canada has made clear, Canada has accepted responsibility and has established commissions of truth and reconciliation.  There are no such commissions in China and Syria.

The representative of Japan said the claims made about his country by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are groundless.  Regarding abductions, he said the issue must be resolved without further delay, as the families of the victims continue to age.  Under the Stockholm Agreement, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea promised to carry out investigations on all Japanese nationals concerned.  The independent commission of inquiry took up the issue of abduction and called for the return of victims to their country of origin.  On the matter of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea residents in Japan, there is no law discriminating against them.  All persons living in Japan, regardless of their nationality, are obliged to observe Japan’s laws.

The representative of Syria, taking the floor for a second time, said Canada is a partner of the European Union with regard to unilateral coercive measures.  These are measures that are considered by the United Nations as illegitimate and an illegal means of imposing a dictate on a country in breach of international humanitarian law.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, taking the floor for a second time, said to Japan’s delegate that history cannot be changed.  There is no place for Japan to evade its responsibilities over its past crimes against humanity.  The abduction issue was long solved thanks to efforts made by his country.

The representative of China, taking the floor for a second time, said Canada has fully exposed its ignorance and hypocrisy.  Canada also poses as a lecturer on human rights despite its own tarnished history.  Regarding Hong Kong and Xinjiang, he said it was not a human rights issue, but rather, represented China’s efforts towards the rule of law and in ensuring livelihoods, peace and security.

The representative of Japan responded to the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by saying that country had promised to carry out investigations on all Japanese nationals concerned, including abductees.  The two countries should bring peace to North-East Asia to overcome mutual mistrust and work together for a bright future.

The representative of Canada, to the comment by China’s delegate, referred to the case of Ms. Meng, who is under house arrest and limited in her movements because of an extradition treaty that Canada has with the United States.  In response to this, China’s Government arbitrarily arrested and detained two Canadian citizens, without consular access or humane treatment, in a Chinese prison.  Canada shall continue to raise their case and those of others who have been harshly treated and arbitrarily detained.

For information media. Not an official record.