27 October 2020

Third Committee Delegates Call for Rights-Centred Approaches to Building New Food Systems, Preserving Biosphere, Managing Mass Graves, as Expert Dialogues Continue

Mass graves form an “underground map of atrocity” that stretches across human history, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, stressing that while dozens of such burials were found in 2020 alone, no single, coherent human rights framework exists for the respectful management of these sites.

Agnès Callamard, one of six Special Procedure mandate holders updating the Committee on broad questions of human rights, said mass graves are so widely used that they stretch across the planet’s entire surface, citing expert Adam Rosenblatt.  One found this year contains the remains of 30,000 people.

While frequently associated with conflict and human rights violations, she said they can also be linked to human trafficking or drug wars, natural disasters or indeed the current COVID‑19 pandemic.  She called on States to support the development of standards for the respectful, lawful management of mass graves.

Engaging with Ms. Callamard about her report, some delegates distanced themselves from her findings — among them the Russian Federation’s representative, who objected to the report’s scope and subjective assessments.  Turkey’s representative likewise disagreed with references to mass graves found in Syria, stressing that the word “genocide” cannot be used arbitrarily.  Most others pledged to help end extrajudicial executions, with the United Kingdom’s delegate emphasizing that “we cannot allow these practices to continue unchecked”, and the representative of the United States condemning the “bloody repression of democratic voices” in Venezuela, among other practices elsewhere.

Tackling the topic of business-related abuses, Anita Ramasastry, Chair of the Working Group on business and human rights, said the worst forms of business-related violations tend to take place in conflict settings.  She underscored the need for heightened due diligence from businesses operating in conflict areas to ensure their activities do not fuel tensions and violence.

Later in the day, David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, detailed the many ways environmental damage impinges on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, and took Governments to task for failing to meet any of the targets set in 2010 to conserve biodiversity.  His report thus outlines actions to preserve the biosphere through a rights-centred approach that notably recognizes indigenous peoples’ lands and protects environmental defenders.

Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, pointed out the irony that the most vulnerable food producers — pastoralists, fisherfolk and workers in the fields, factories and kitchens — are also the world’s hungriest people.  He similarly advocated building new food systems based on human rights principles.

Also briefing the Committee today were Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; and Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 October, to continue its discussion on the protection and promotion of human rights.

Interactive Dialogues — Truth, Justice, Reparation

The Committee began the day with interactive dialogues featuring presentations by:  Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Anita Ramasastry, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Mr. SALVIOLI, presenting his report (document A/75/174), said it focuses on the need for a gender perspective in the design and implementation of national transitional justice strategies and mechanisms, including the processes of truth-seeking, accountability, reparation, guarantees of non-repetition and memorialization.  Such an approach is needed to provide a comprehensive response to women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons who are victims of serious human rights violations, in order to ensure their participation in such processes.  The report outlines recommendations to Governments for the implementation of gender-responsive transitional justice mechanisms, including in truth-seeking initiatives, reparation programmes, prosecutions, participation, memorialization, and guarantees of non-repetition.  In order to guarantee non-recurrence, States must modify discriminatory legal provisions, improve representation by gender, develop training programmes for their officials, and revise manuals and educational materials to move away from structures that reproduce patriarchal patterns.  Memorialization processes also must fully include a gender perspective.  He highlighted the need for effective participation of women, girls, LGBT persons and victims of gender-based violence in the design and implementation of transitional justice programmes.

In the ensuing dialogue, an observer for the European Union recommended that particular attention be given to the equal participation of women and the integration of a gender perspective into all peace and security initiatives.  She recommended that special attention be given to persons belonging to communities historically subjected to discrimination, and asked the Special Rapporteur for examples of how to include civil society in truth and justice processes.

The representative of Argentina pointed to the investigation of crimes against humanity by the National Human Rights Secretariat as a sign of her country’s commitment to ensuring truth, justice and reparation.  Argentina is committed to finding those responsible for creating “dark history”, she said, noting that since 2009, the Secretariat has strengthened its participation in proceedings and been involved in reparations.  Argentina has investigated business responsibility related to death and sexual abuse.  Since the start of the pandemic, the Secretariat has initiated measures to cooperate with judicial proceedings involving crimes against humanity.

The representative of the United States asked about strategies for ensuring that victims and civil society can effectively provide input to reparations programmes.  Welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s report and efforts to incorporate a gender perspective in the formulation of transitional justice strategies, he expressed support for efforts to promote truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence as a component of preventing atrocities, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Civil society should be involved in the design of transitional justice, he added.

The representative of China expressed support for the Special Rapporteur’s focus on gender equality and the violation of women’s rights in the truth-seeking process.  Pointing out that China was the first to report the epidemic to the World Health Organization (WHO) and to share the genetic sequence of the coronavirus, he said the United States, on the other hand, has deliberately downplayed the dangers of the virus, violating the right to truth and undermining people’s right to life and health.

Mr. SALVIOLI replied that there are several ways in which civil society can be involved, drawing attention to the role of civil society in Colombia’s transitional justice process, as well as the important contributions of civil society in Brazil.  To overcome impunity, providing capacity training for justice officials is essential, he said, underscoring the importance of a gender-based approach and stressing that unless human rights are upheld, transitional justice processes will fail.

Also speaking was the representative of Switzerland.

Transnational Corporations

Ms. RAMASASTRY, presenting her report (document A/75/212), underscored the need for heightened due diligence from businesses operating in conflict-affected contexts, to ensure their activities do not fuel tension and violence.  It is well documented that the worst forms of business-related human rights abuses tend to take place in conflict-affected areas.  The Working Group launched a project in 2018 to shed light on practical steps that States and businesses can take to prevent and address such abuses in these settings, through input and consultations with States and civil society organizations, as well as business representatives and experts in various parts of the world.  The report outlines measures that can be taken to avoid stimulating or exacerbating conflict or negatively impacting peacebuilding, including proposed triggers and indicators that should lead to heightened action by States, business, and by the United Nations.  The report also examines specific challenges posed by post-conflict reconstruction, including access to remedy and transitional justice.  It flags three areas for the General Assembly’s attention:  the need for United Nations bodies to develop a strategy on business, peace and security, with support from States; a better understanding of how businesspeople and companies should participate and be held accountable as part of a transitional justice process; and a multi-stakeholder initiative to set out guidance and standards for the responsible provision of cyberservices in conflict-affected areas.  The Working Group is disseminating the findings of the report among States at the General Assembly, as well as with key actors from civil society and business, to generate follow-up on this critical topic.

When the floor opened for questions and comments, several representatives responded to affirm their support for the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, with some asking how its framework can be better implemented, and others questioning the need to develop additional standards for businesses operating in conflict-affected regions.

In this context, the representative of the Russian Federation said the Guiding Principles are “a balanced document” aimed at preventing the threats businesses may pose to human rights, and “not to impose new and in many cases debatable standards”, adding that he views the proposal of the Working Group as an “unjustifiable” attempt to expand the scope of the Guiding Principles.

Meanwhile, an observer for the European Union, welcoming the report’s call for heightened action, asked the Chair to elaborate on how Governments and businesses can encourage a conflict-sensitive approach during the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The representative of Luxembourg said businesses in conflict-affected areas operate under the supposition that they are “neutral parties”, although their presence in fact can influence the course of an armed conflict.  She asked how effective remedies, as described in the Guiding Principles, may be defined and guaranteed in conflict-affected areas.

Meanwhile, the representative of Spain, associating himself with the European Union, asked how States can better combat hate speech and counter misinformation.

The representative of Qatar looked forward to lending support to the Working Group, through a proposed visit to her country.

The representative of the United States underscored the need for States and businesses to focus on the right to remedy.  She asked what steps countries can take to enhance coordination with the Working Group to address linkages between business and human rights and the anti-corruption agenda.

Ms. RAMASASTRY, responding briefly, welcomed the “tremendous support” for the United Nations Guiding Principles and said the Working Group will ensure they are part of any engagement in peace and reconstruction efforts, through steps taken within the United Nations system and financial institutions.  Responding to the delegate of the Russian Federation, she said no new standards have been proposed; the report merely elaborates on how Guiding Principle 7 — on supporting business respect for human rights in conflict-affected areas — can be used as a tool in specific situations by States and businesses.

To the representative of Luxembourg, she said an elaboration on how businesses can conduct due diligence has been recently posted on the Working Group’s website.  Businesses can use their leverage in contributing to peacebuilding, in addition to acting as an economic engine.  “They can do good by doing no harm, in addition to being present,” she stressed.

Turning to the issue of hate speech, she underscored the crucial need for a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop standards in this regard.  More broadly, the Working Group is continuing its focus on responsible business conduct and will elaborate on what this looks like in practice, she said.

Also speaking were the representatives of Japan, Switzerland, China and Ireland.

Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

Ms. CALLAMARD said this year’s report offers a rights-based approach to the management of mass graves.  Dozens of mass graves were found in 2020 alone — one containing the remains of an estimated 30,000 people — and yet there is no single, coherent human rights framework for the treatment of these graves.  The current approach, tied to the standards governing enforced disappearances and forensic investigations, is too narrow.  The report sets out a comprehensive, normative account of all rights and obligations embodied in mass graves, and stresses that the treatment of these sites must be rooted in the principle of non-discrimination.  “Those marginalized or persecuted in life are also those who are at greatest risk of never being identified in death,” she asserted.  Further, a rights-based process demands listening, debating and assessing the diverse claims over mass graves, with families playing a central role.  She called on States to support the development of standards for the respectful, lawful management of mass graves, and to subject the same to a regularized process of international mapping and recognition.

During the subsequent interactive dialogue, most delegates welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report, reiterating their commitment to ending extrajudicial executions, while others distanced themselves from the report, among them, the representative of the Russian Federation, who objected to the report on the grounds that it goes beyond the Special Rapporteur’s remit and encroaches on other mandates.  He recalled a complaint made by his country and several others during the last meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and expressed regret over the lack of respect for such complaints.  Judging from recent interviews by the Special Rapporteur in which she airs her “subjective opinions”, it is clear that “numerous reprimands” by aggrieved Member States do not work, he said.

The representative of Turkey expressed disappointment over the report’s suggestion that mass graves in Syria were discovered in relation to Armenian genocide.  “Genocide is a crime strictly defined under international law,” codified in the 1948 Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, he said, stressing that “the word should not be used randomly or arbitrarily”.  Such characterization made by any actor in the absence of judgment given by tribunal lacks legal status.

Taking a different view, the representative of the United Kingdom strongly condemned any instances of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, stressing that extrajudicial killings are a clear violation of human rights, the impact of which deeply affects the families and communities of victims, as well as undermines the rule of law.  “We cannot allow these practices to continue unchecked,” he stressed, asking the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the best ways to harness technological developments to safeguard, protect and investigate mass graves.

The representative of the United States, expressing deep concern over the growing number of extrajudicial killings globally, condemned “the illegitimate Maduro regime’s bloody repression of democratic voices, which has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings, according to United Nations reports.”  She drew attention to Nicaragua, where the [José Daniel] Ortega regime has overseen the brutal elimination of its political opponents, and raised concerns over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.  She noted Government efforts in Saudi Arabia to prosecute individuals involved in the reprehensible murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  She voiced further concern over killings by Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), underscoring that these acts often constitute terrorism or other serious violations of international humanitarian law.  She asked the Special Rapporteur how the international community can best coordinate a global response to the growing problem of unlawful killings by State actors.

The representative of Sweden stressed the importance of prevention, expressing support for the Special Rapporteur’s proposal to undertake a comprehensive review of laws and best practices regarding the investigation and responses to threats against journalists and media workers or human rights defenders.  He asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on how Member States can strengthen the prevention of and protection against threats and attacks on these groups and others targeted for their peaceful expression and activities.  She also asked what steps States can take to ensure rights-based approaches to the handling of mass graves.

The representative of Pakistan said mass graves are predominantly associated with extrajudicial killings in situations of armed conflict or foreign occupation.  He expressed concern over the mass graves in illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, asking the Special Rapporteur about steps she would recommend to India for a credible and independent investigation into all mass graves in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.  Since 1989, thousands of innocent Kashmiris have been extrajudicially killed by India’s occupying forces, he asserted.

Ms. CALLAMARD, in response, reiterated her commitment to focus on mass killings committed by non-State actors, including Al-Qaida.  There are several civil society initiatives seeking to develop standards that non-State actors can endorse, she said, emphasizing that the main step is to first recognize human rights obligations and then take action to hold perpetrators to account for their international law violations.  International pressure must be brought to bear on Venezuela and the Philippines, where mass killings are currently taking place.  Accountability for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi has not been delivered, she clarified, more broadly drawing attention to the failure to prosecute the killings of journalists or human rights defenders.  In response to the Russian Federation’s delegate, she said, “Russia is yet again politicizing my work and mandate.  She said she “could not disagree more” with how that representative described her work, stressing that complaints made by the Russian Federation and other countries remain very generic.  She stressed the importance of technology, including satellite imagery and drones, in identifying mass graves.

“We stand ready to assist India when it is determined to investigate the allegations of killings and pursue justice for the victims,” she replied to the representative of Pakistan.

Also speaking were representatives of the Russian Federation, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy and an observer for the European Union.

Safe and Healthy Environment

In the afternoon, the Committee continued its virtual interactive dialogues on the broad theme of human rights, with presentations by:  David R. Boyd, the Special Rapporteur on the issue on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; Marcos A. Orellana, the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; and Michael Fakhri, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

Mr. BOYD, introducing his report (document A/75/161), called for urgent action to conserve, protect and restore the biosphere, warning that failure to do so will have profound consequences for the enjoyment of the rights to life, health, food, water, adequate standard of living and culture.  Unfortunately, States have failed to meet any of the 2010 Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biodiversity and have not responded with appropriate urgency to the challenge of conserving nature.  Instead, States encourage harm to the environment through $500 billion in subsidies — an amount that is five times the funding provided for environmental protection.  He described ways in which environmental destruction impinges on the enjoyment of human rights:  damage to mangroves, for example, increases the risk of death when cyclones occur, thereby affecting the right to life.  A healthy ecosystem providing a buffer against emerging infectious disease bolsters the right to enjoy good health.  The report outlines actions to protect the biosphere, following a human rights‑centred approach, such as recognizing the land rights of indigenous peoples, including collective ownership structures.  The report highlights hundreds of inspiring practices taken by States to protect biodiversity, including the European Green Deal and the African Great Green Wall.  Accelerated action is required to protect nature, he said, emphasizing that the pandemic illustrates the terrible cost of ignoring the warnings of scientists.

When the floor opened for questions and comments, an observer for the European Union called for a holistic response to the linked issues of biodiversity protection and pollution, as reflected in the European Green Deal, and asked what could be done to enhance a rights-based approach to biodiversity and the environment by public partnership.

Meanwhile, the representative of Norway expressed concern about the continuing vulnerability of environmental human rights defenders, who are frequently criminalized, and asked how protections for them can be strengthened.

The representative of Egypt asked about measures that can be taken to tackle the scarcity of water, when human activity creates imbalances that impact health and the environment.

The representative of Mexico asked about actions the Special Rapporteur will carry out in implementing a human rights‑based approach to protecting the biosphere, and about whether he aims to forge links with other United Nations human rights bodies that pertain to the rights of indigenous people.

The representative of Brazil asked how the report’s recommendations should be implemented, given countries’ different stages of development.

The representative of Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Council’s Core Group on Human Rights and the Environment, asked how the pandemic compels States towards protecting the environment and biodiversity, and about the benefits and challenges of a rights-based approach.

Mr. BOYD, responding, noted that the fundamental right of every person to live in a safe, healthy environment is recognized by 87 per cent of Member States.  Every year, air pollution leads to 7 million premature deaths.  However, the right to a safe and healthy environment is not recognized by a United Nations resolution, he said, urging all States to undertake action on this as soon as possible.  The impact of such an action will spark stronger environmental policies and legislation, he said, adding that the resolution on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation — passed 10 years ago — has helped an additional 1.5 billion people gain access to safe water and sanitation in the intervening years.

Turning to the protection of environmental human rights defenders, he said it is critical to prevent them from being targeted:  “They are heroes for the planet, though they are often labelled anti-development and terrorists.”  The rights of indigenous people who play the role of human rights defenders must also be recognized, he stressed.

To the representative of Egypt, he said that his next report will address the issue of water, including its scarcity and contamination of water sources.

To the representative of Costa Rica, he said that as States focus on finding a vaccine for the coronavirus, they must also act to prevent zoonotic disease outbreaks and implement the WHO’s One Health strategy.

Recalling the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) appeal for “rapid, systemic and transformative changes” to address the nature crisis, he urged States to phase out fossil fuel, shift to a circular economy, and to recognize the right of everyone to life in a healthy, safe environment.

Also speaking were representatives of Malaysia, Colombia, Monaco, Ethiopia, Germany, Cambodia and Kazakhstan.

Environmentally sound management, disposal of hazardous substances

Mr. ORELLANA, presenting the report (document A/75/290) of his predecessor, Baskut Tuncak, said he will follow three priority areas:  environmental justice and racism; gaps in the global chemicals and wastes architecture; and the human rights responsibilities of business for toxic exposure.  Environmental injustice has been the driving force behind the mandate on “toxic waste”, established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1995, to confront the flow to the global South of waste originating in the global North.  Global environmental injustice is perpetuated as wealthy countries export highly hazardous pesticides and toxic industrial chemicals, banned in their own countries, to poorer nations lacking the capacity to control the risks.  States have a duty to “prevent and minimize” exposure to hazardous substances to protect against preventable diseases and disabilities, he said.  The Human Rights Council has encouraged the implementation of 15 “Principles on the protection of workers from exposure to toxic substances,” developed by Mr. Tuncak.

He went on to stress that States continue to permit impunity in the private sector.  While toxic exposures can be reduced in pesticides, manufacturing, extractive industries, consumer products and nuclear power and weapons, States’ failure to compel businesses to conduct human rights due diligence is creating more toxicity for the planet and its people.  Adequate information on risks and safer alternatives can prevent harm.  Yet, information about the safety of tens of thousands of chemicals in the market and workplace, and emissions, is not available or accessible.  The systematic denial of effective remedies perpetuates impunity for human rights violations emanating from hazardous substances and wastes.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported last year that the global goal to minimize the adverse impacts of chemicals and waste by 2020, as agreed in the World Summit on Sustainable Development nearly 20 years ago, would not be achieved.  It is critical to inject a rights-based approach to the global post‑2020 chemicals and waste framework.

Following the presentation, an observer for the European Union commended front-line workers battling the pandemic and pointed out that the current crisis underlines the need to reduce the risk of contagion for such individuals.  Also highlighting the dramatic effects of exposure to hazardous substances in other settings, he called on Member States to ensure a strong regulatory environment governing such materials.  Noting that the report underscores the importance of the right to information, he asked the Special Rapporteur how States can ensure that this right is fully implemented.  He also asked how States can best address elements of inequality and environmental justice when designing policies to manage waste at global, regional and national levels.

Syria’s delegate then asked about the impact of oil operations that are conducted without regard to health and safety.

Mr. ORELLANA responded that States have the responsibility to prevent toxic exposure for every person, while businesses must give effect to these protections, warning that there are more than 350,000 chemicals on the market, and there is insufficient information on most of them.  Workers have the right to know the current information about actual and potential exposure to toxic substances.  Health and safety information about toxic substances must never be confidential, and he rejected the idea that intellectual property rights can be used as an argument otherwise.  Moreover, the public must be able to access information, and States and private entities must be held accountable for upholding that right.

Drawing attention to indigenous peoples who suffer from pollution and radioactive waste generated by extractive industries on their territories, he called for environmental justice and a focus on vulnerable groups.  Those who are marginalized are most affected by toxic exposure and disproportionate threats to life and health, he said, noting that their vulnerability is exploited with the disingenuous narrative of necessity and economic development.  Access to information is also crucial in securing effective remedies, as it enables society to address environmental toxic risks by anticipating adequate responses to prevent harm.

Right to Food

Mr. FAKHRI introduced his report (document A/75/219), which looks at the right to food in the context of international trade law and policy.  He said it was his first report since he began his mandate in May, the same time that the COVID‑19 pandemic began turning into a global hunger crisis.  The World Trade Organization (WTO) still has not resolved food security issues that reach back to the Doha round of trade talks in 2008 and the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.  The Agreement on Agriculture, which came into force as part of the WTO in 1995, has been a barrier to helping people fully realize their right to food.  It did not create a free and fair international food market, and the report lays out long-standing criticisms of the agreement, integrating the issues of food and human rights.  It provides institutions with a map to negotiate new international agreements and demonstrates that food producers and workers are among the most vulnerable.  They often are the hungriest.  The report also outlines three human rights principles for food and international trade.  The first is dignity, which is at the core of human rights and the right to food, as people must be able to nourish their bodies.  The second principle is self-sufficiency, which allows communities the opportunity to make their own decisions, as domestic production can be mixed with trade.  The third principle is solidarity.  With solidarity, there is an “economics of cooperation”, he said, noting that the economics relies on organizations governed by principles of horizontal cooperation and coordination, not profit and ceaseless growth.  This could include mutual benefit societies, trusts and cooperatives, he added.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates underscored the negative effects that COVID‑19 has had on food security around the world.  Some also discussed the propriety of unilateral coercive measures that further threaten States’ ability to ensure their populations are adequately fed.

The representative of Egypt, speaking for the African Group, said the COVID‑19 pandemic has highlighted the central importance of the right to food.  She asked Mr. Fakhri to elaborate on how food sovereignty can be articulated in national policy to ensure that all people have access to food.  She also inquired as to what steps the international community should take to negotiate a new international food agreement.

Similarly, an observer for the European Union stated that the pandemic has shown the relevance of food security, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and prevent the use of the same as a weapon of war.  She asked how Member States, United Nations agencies and regional and international organizations can strengthen their cooperation to continue making food security a top priority.

Also focusing on the consequences of COVID‑19, the representative of Djibouti pointed out that the pandemic will exacerbate the food crisis in Africa, where agricultural production has already been hindered by climate change and loss of biodiversity.  Stressing that international trade must account for food security and the Sustainable Development Goals, he asked if the report’s recommendations regarding trade mechanisms are realistically achievable given the twin crises of COVID‑19 and a retreat from multilateralism.

Emphasizing the importance of unhindered trade, Cuba’s delegate stressed that the impact of COVID‑19 is worse in the global South and that a new international economic order is needed to implement a universal right to food.  Expressing a desire for a world without sanctions and unilateralism, she asked if Mr. Fakhri had analyzed the impact of unilateral coercive measures — such as the United States’ embargo against her country — on the right to food.  She further inquired if it is legitimate that one country can prevent another from buying food to feed its people.

Azerbaijan’s representative, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, concurred, also expressing concern over the volatility of global food prices and emphasizing the importance of promoting sustainable agricultural and food systems.  She also urged that food not be used as an instrument of political or economic pressure, and that States should refrain from using unilateral coercive measures that affect trade related to food in contravention of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

Mr. FAKHRI, responding briefly, said he and his predecessors held the view that economic sanctions are cruel and unquestionably violate people’s right to food, in some cases to the extent of incarnating a crime against humanity.  He will continue to monitor the situation raised by Cuba, among other countries.

Turning to farmers’ rights, he called for the strengthening of their right to save and sell seeds in informal and formal markets, which, while currently recognized, is not articulated in detail.  This right is important from a food sovereignty perspective, so they can grow diverse crops that are responsive to worsening climate change.  It must be preserved, amid an international regime that instead prioritizes intellectual property rights through patenting plant genetic resources.

To the question on the pandemic’s impact on food security, he underlined the need to protect food workers, who are “essential, though they are treated as expendable”.  Rules must be framed and implemented; they cannot be voluntary or words on paper.  He called for States to ensure land tenures are adequately protected, noting that the wealthy and powerful are consolidating their power through land grabs and forcing the poor and vulnerable off their land.  The role of human rights remains ambiguous at the United Nations Food Systems Summit, he said, adding that agroecology must be included in its agenda.  Moreover, States can implement tools generated by the Committee on World Food Security, such as voluntary guidelines on land tenure.  They can also turn to treaties and policy mechanisms by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to protect food workers.  Underscoring the need for communities to determine how they eat and what they eat within stable and fair markets, which is “unfortunately not the case”, he called for States to turn to the annual meeting of the Committee on World Food Security in Rome to enhance these issues.  “Trade, agriculture, and food cannot be left to the World Trade Organization, which has made it more difficult to fight hunger,” he stressed.

For information media. Not an official record.