Consensus Text Proclaims 31 August International Day for People of African Descent
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its work today, approving 15 draft resolutions on issues ranging from freedom of religion and combating intolerance, to missing persons and displaced populations in Africa.
In one of its most definitive actions of the day, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on indigenous peoples, which would have the General Assembly convene a high-level event in 2022 for the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. It would also underscore the need to ensure equal protection under the law and equality before the courts for indigenous women and girls.
In another substantial consensus move, the Committee passed a text that would have the Assembly proclaim 31 August as the International Day for People of African Descent. The decision would seek to promote greater recognition and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies. In his introduction, Costa Rica’s delegate recalled the long history of the draft, which began 100 years ago with the First International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World, held in New York. “We are moved to be part of this history today,” he said.
Five drafts were put to a vote, amid intermittently flaring disagreement among delegates. Two of them were called to a vote by Israel: One — which passed by a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 5 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 10 abstentions — sought to uphold the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, while the other took note of the Human Rights Council report, its addendum, and recommendations.
On the latter — which was approved by 115 in favour to 3 against (Belarus, Israel, Myanmar), with 60 abstentions — Israel’s representative said he called for a vote because he harboured reservations about the Council’s ability to provide impartial recommendations. Its mandate ought to be guided by impartiality but it has taken an “obsessive approach” against Israel, while failing to adopt resolutions against some of the world’s worst human rights violators.
Another draft that sparked discord was on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. Shortly after its introduction by Sweden’s representative, who noted its focus on the right to life and the fight against impunity, a group of countries, represented by Egypt, proposed an oral amendment that sought to excise a list of vulnerable groups targeted by violence, including because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Egypt’s representative decried the draft’s “positive discrimination” in favour of such groups, implying that groups that are not listed are not worthy of the right to life, which is certainly not the case.
The amendment failed to pass, following which the draft was approved by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to none against, with 56 abstentions.
In other action, the Committee approved, by consensus, a draft that would have the Assembly express great concern that the numbers of refugees and displaced persons in Africa has dramatically increased. Egypt’s representative, in her introduction, recalled that the continent is home to a third of the world’s forcibly displaced.
Another consensus draft on the universal realization of the right to self-determination would have the Assembly express deep concern over the acts or threats of foreign military intervention and occupation that could jeopardize the right to self-determination. Pakistan’s delegate, introducing the draft, evoked situations in which occupied people are “systematically and brutally” denied that right. In such places, occupiers tend to characterize those undertaking a legitimate struggle for self-determination as terrorists. India’s representative cautioned that this right only applies to Non-Self-Governing Territories and trust colonies, and therefore should not be “abused to encourage secession”.
Also approved today were drafts on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development; a global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism; missing persons; human rights in the administration of justice; freedom of religion; the role of Ombudsman and mediator institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights; and combating intolerance and negative stereotyping.
After approving its provisional work programme for the seventy‑sixth session, the Committee concluded its seventy‑fifth session with delegates from the United Kingdom and Egypt taking the floor on “points of order” in verse, which alluded to themes raised throughout the session, including its abundance of amendments.
The Committee began the day considering the draft resolution titled “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/75/L.7/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Guyana, introducing the draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said COVID‑19 has exacerbated inequalities and negatively impacted achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The consequences of COVID‑19 on social development extend beyond the impact on health, with marginalized populations now facing disproportionately worse conditions and an increased risk of domestic violence. As COVID‑19 is likely to reverse decades of social development gains, the draft recognizes the pandemic’s devastating impact on humanitarian needs, education and access to health care, especially for the poor and people in vulnerable situations.
A recorded vote was requested.
The representative of the United States expressed disappointment that the text addresses issues that are not clearly linked to social development or the work of the Third Committee. The United Nations must respect the independent mandate of other processes of other institutions, including trade negotiations, and must not involve itself in decisions, interpretations or actions in other forums, including the World Trade Organization (WTO). Turning to the draft, she said the term “equitable” is used in multiple contexts, and she cautioned against any unintended interpretations of this term that imply a subjective assessment of fairness, which may lead to discriminatory practices. Regarding references to the World Health Organization (WHO) in operative paragraphs 29 and 69, the United States submitted a notice of withdrawal from WHO, which will become effective on 6 July 2021. For these and other reasons, the United States called a vote and will vote against the draft.
The Committee then approved draft “L.7/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 174 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would urge 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 would stress 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 Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa” (document A/C.3/75/L.46).
The representative of Egypt, introducing the draft on behalf of the African Group, said it constituted a technical update of the draft adopted at the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly. Recalling the Secretary‑General’s report, which said that the number of persons of concern in Africa had increased to 33.4 million at the end of 2019, from 26.4 million persons in 2018, she said the continent is home to a third of the world’s forcibly displaced persons. The draft resolution aims to address the issue by increasing sustainable assistance to host countries, and to reduce flows of refugees. It stresses the need to provide an effective humanitarian response, and to reduce refugee flows. Such a technical update, made due to exceptional circumstances, should not be considered a precedent.
The Assembly then approved draft resolution “L.46” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would call 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 in order to ensure its wider implementation. Further, it would note with great concern that, despite all the efforts made, the situation of refugees and displaced persons in Africa remains precarious and the numbers of those populations has dramatically increased. It would also deplore the continued violence and insecurity, which constitute an ongoing threat to the safety and security of staff members of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would urge States, parties to conflict and all other actors to take all measures necessary to protect activities related to humanitarian assistance.
The representative of Hungary expressed concern about the record numbers of displaced persons in Africa. The pandemic further exacerbates their situation. The international community must assist the displaced, he said, adding that “all displacements are temporary in nature.” Hungary disassociates from operative paragraph 4, as it did not join the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. “International solidarity can take different forms,” he said. “Resettlement is not the way to express this solidarity.”
The representative of the United States expressed concern with the increasing number of refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa, due to conflict or natural disasters. More is required to elevate such issues in the United Nations and globally. “This resolution is a concrete effort to do just that,” she stressed. Moreover, the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement established by the Secretary‑General will help States better respond to the issue. She recalled her country’s 13 November statement that such resolutions are non-binding and do not alter countries’ rights or obligations under international law.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution “Report of the Human Rights Council” (document A/C.3/75/L.44).
The representative of Cameroon, introducing the draft for the African Group, called the establishment of the Human Rights Council a milestone. Its work is based on a cooperative approach. She affirmed the mandate of the Third Committee to examine the Council’s work through the adoption of its report and expressed hope that the draft resolution will be approved by consensus.
A recorded vote was then requested.
The representative of Israel said he called for a vote not because he objected to the content or had reservations about the report, but rather, because he has strong reservations about the merit of the Human Rights Council and its ability to provide sound, impartial accommodations. It has proven that it is not the right forum for promoting human rights. Its mandate should be guided by impartiality, but it has taken an obsessive approach towards Israel and fails to adopt resolutions against some of the world’s worst human rights violators. For these reasons, Israel will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of Egypt said all human rights must be treated fairly and equally. This year, however, there has been a systematic attack on resolutions that cover economic, cultural and social rights, particularly throughout the pandemic. This unconstructive approach undermines the legitimacy of the Human Rights Council. Egypt will disassociate from the draft resolution, as it contradicts the scope of the Council’s mandate. He deplored attempts to expand the boundaries of United Nations mandates, stressing that the Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and all its reports must be sent to the Assembly and not any other organ.
The representative of Germany, speaking for the European Union, expressed concerns about this initiative on procedural grounds. It is unnecessary for the Committee to note Human Rights Council resolutions in a generic manner. He expressed hope that open discussions will be held before the tabling of a draft resolution on this agenda item, he said, explaining that the European Union will abstain from the vote.
The representative of Myanmar said his delegation will vote against the draft, as the report’s references to his country are based on one-sided information and allegations. He called for strict adherence to the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity.
The representative of the Russian Federation said some States forget that the Human Rights Council is a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, which reports to the Third Committee. This draft resolution is more important than ever. He expressed concern over attempts to reform the Human Rights Council, stressing that these decisions should not be taken by the Council itself.
The representative of Venezuela said he will vote in favour of the draft resolution, given the great importance of the Human Rights Council. Venezuela’s contribution to the Council is focused on increasing the quality of results emanating from that subsidiary body.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 3 against (Belarus, Israel, Myanmar), with 60 abstentions.
By its terms, the General Assembly would take note of the report of the Human Rights Council, including the addendum thereto, and its recommendations.
The representative of Burundi said her delegation supported the draft resolution because it recognizes the importance of the Council. Burundi objects to using the Council for “other hidden interests” and politicizing certain issues, and always opposes resolutions that target certain countries, including her own, she said. All human rights progress must happen through dialogue and use of the universal periodic review. She disassociated from all parts of the report that refer to Burundi.
The representative of Liechtenstein, speaking on behalf of seven countries, said the Human Rights Council has established itself as an authoritative voice. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it responded to human rights violations in a timely and effective manner. The role of the Third Committee is to discuss resolutions of the Human Rights Council, while it is the responsibility of the General Assembly plenary to take action on the Council’s report.
The representative of the United States said his delegation views the annual resolution as procedurally unnecessary. The United States continues to object to the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel and has concerns about certain other resolutions adopted over the past year. In addition, the continued membership of the Council by States with poor human rights records undercuts its credibility.
The representative of Iran said it is regrettable that some countries pursue narrow political objectives. Their insistence on the politicization of human rights issues has no bearing on the actual cause of human rights. He said that for these reasons, Iran disassociates from the report’s section on Iran and abstained from the vote.
The representative of China said that his delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution. Regarding Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/45/31, he said it should be noted that this text changed the mandate of the Council granted by the General Assembly, by attempting to establish direct contact between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. China does not support resolution 45/31, he clarified.
The representative of Syria said that item 4 of the Human Rights Council’s programme has entrenched a confrontational approach. Syria does not deny the importance of the Council and is aware of the technical nature of the report. Yet, her delegation cannot ignore parts of the report that refer to Syria, and thus, her delegation abstained from the vote.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled, “Rights of indigenous peoples” (document A/C.3/75/L.20/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Bolivia, presenting the draft resolution, underscored the vital importance of full respect for the human rights of indigenous peoples, who disproportionately face discrimination and xenophobia. Recalling that COVID‑19 has infected more than 55 million people and killed 1.3 million, he said indigenous peoples represent 6 per cent of the global population but are the among those most affected. They are at a greater risk of dying from diseases and suffer excessively from lockdown measures. The draft underscores the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the lives, health and human rights of indigenous peoples and calls on Member States to ensure their protection.
The Committee approved the draft resolution “L.20/Rev.1” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would decide 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 further, request the Assembly President to support initiatives relevant to the successful celebration of the International Decade, within existing resources. By other terms, it would encourage the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), among others, to carry out research on the causes of suicide among indigenous youth and children and good practices on its prevention. It would also underscore the need to ensure equal protection under the law and equality before the courts for indigenous women and girls at all levels.
The representative of the United Kingdom said human rights are universal and apply equally to all, including indigenous peoples. The United Kingdom does not accept that some groups should benefit from human rights that are unavailable to others, she said, rejecting the concept of collective human rights in international law.
The representative of Libya expressed reservations on references in preambular paragraph 9 to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, underscoring the sovereign right of States to determine their national policies.
The representative of the United States, acknowledging the disproportionate impact of COVID‑19 on indigenous peoples, underscored the importance of integrating indigenous languages into the global sustainable development framework. She supported the new emphasis in operative paragraph 31 on eliminating forced labour, acknowledging that indigenous peoples face such conditions due to discrimination and marginalization. She also recommended ending the ambiguity around the term “health services” in the context of women’s health, noting that too often, it is used to promote abortion. Concerning operative paragraph 14, she pointed out that United Nations data is disaggregated by sex, rather than gender, and that in operative paragraph 21, sexual harassment, while condemnable, is not necessarily violent. The term “violence” refers to physical force rather or the threat of physical force, she explained.
The representative of Canada welcomed the draft’s emphasis on working in partnership with indigenous peoples to mitigate the disproportionate impact of COVID‑19 on their health and livelihoods. He further welcomed the draft’s focus on revitalizing indigenous languages in Canada and abroad, and its continued emphasis on the discussions to enhance participation of the indigenous peoples at the United Nations on issues affecting them.
The representative of Bulgaria, also speaking for other countries, said indigenous peoples must be able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as any other person, in full respect of the principles of equality and universality. Human rights are universal rights, which should be applied to each individual, he said, rejecting the notion of collective rights for any group. Adhering to the political and legal tradition of human rights, which is based on individual rights, Bulgaria is unable to support the reference to collective rights for indigenous peoples in the draft.
The representative of Nigeria said his country abstained from consensus based on its well‑considered position that all Nigerian citizens are indigenous to the country, regardless of tribes, languages or religious beliefs. Abstention does not indicate indifference to promoting the rights of the individual, he clarified. “We consider ourselves as one people,” he said, adding that the promotion and protection of fundamental rights of every people and tribe in Nigeria is entrenched in the Constitution.
The representative of Hungary recalled that his country voted against the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in 2018 and does not take part in its implementation. As such, Hungary cannot accept any reference to the Global Compact in the draft.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “International Day for People of African Descent” (document A/C.3/75/L.51/Rev.1), which contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Costa Rica, introducing the draft, said it is a robust text that reaffirms the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and recognizes the tireless struggle to build a just society. It also recognizes the important contribution of women and girls to this struggle. He recalled the “long history” of the draft, which began 100 years ago with the First International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World, held in New York. On this occasion, “extraordinary discussions” were led by Marcus Garvey, who is now regarded as a pre-eminent figure of the Caribbean Basin. He noted that the draft resolution elevates issues, which are vital in the context of racial justice, such as the right to self-determination, freedom of the press, and unlimited education without discrimination and prosperity for all black people throughout the world. “We are moved to be part of this history today, and to give the signal of justice to people of African descent accompanying us,” he stressed.
The Assembly then approved draft resolution “L.51/Rev.1” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would decide 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. Further, it would invite all Member States, all organizations and bodies of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, the private sector and academia, as well as civil society, to observe the International Day in an appropriate manner. It would also stress that the cost of all activities that may arise from implementing the present draft resolution should be met from voluntary contributions.
The representative of the United States welcomed the draft resolution, but disassociated from preambular paragraph 5, which “distracts from the intent of this important resolution” by citing the “divisive” Human Rights Council resolution adopted on 20 June, which targets the United States on its record on policing and race. Further, she expressed reservations with portions of the text that cite the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which contains “overbroad” statements that restrict freedom of expression and “gives vent” to anti-Israel voices. On the Sustainable Development Goals, she recalled the United States statement made on 13 November.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/75/L.45).
The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that Palestinians have suffered due to Israel’s occupation. The draft resolution is identical to the one presented last year, except for technical updates. It recalls the international human rights covenants applicable to the occupied territories and stresses the need to respect the integrity of all occupied Palestinian territory. It also reaffirms the right of all States to live in peace within internationally recognized borders and the right of Palestinian people to self-determination.
A recorded vote was requested.
The representative of Israel said his delegation called for a vote on the draft and will vote against it. He recalled that, under the same agenda item, the Committee adopts a resolution on the universal right to self-determination, which, while far from perfect, is adopted by consensus. It is unclear why an additional resolution for the people of Palestine must supplement it, beyond the political aspect.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.45” by a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 5 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 10 abstentions.
By the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including to their independent State of Palestine. It would also urge all States and specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations to continue to support and assist Palestinians in the early realization of this right.
The representative of Canada, noting that his country is a strong ally of Israel, said it is also committed to the goal of just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian State living in peace with Israel. Canada supports the draft resolution because of its focus on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.
An observer for the State of Palestine said support for this draft resolution is the only possible option for any country that believes in international law. Recalling that the right to self-determination is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, he said an overwhelming majority of countries have been victims of colonialization and the denial of rights. Support for the draft signals a commitment to just and lasting peace. The problem is not the resolutions; it is their lack of implementation. The achievement of peace demands justice, and if all countries act accordingly, peace will be within reach.
The representative of Argentina reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and said his country voted in favour of the draft.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Missing persons” (document A/C.3/75/L.22), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Azerbaijan, presenting the draft resolution, said the text reflects technical updates only and that, since its circulation, no request has been received to hold informal consultations. The draft requests States to pay utmost attention to missing children and to address the legal situation of all missing persons.
The representative of Armenia presented amendments “L.52” and “L.53” to the draft resolution, noting first that “L.52” suggests inserting a new preambular paragraph with the phrase “Supporting the Secretary‑General’s appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in order to address the problem of missing persons in connection with armed conflict”. Amendment “L.53” suggests inserting a new operative paragraph after operative paragraph 2: “Calls upon all States and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, in particular in armed conflict and in post-conflict situations, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations and to ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel to provide appropriate assistance in addressing the issue of missing persons.” Armenia attaches importance to addressing the plight of missing persons, he said, noting that the draft must embrace recent developments related to COVID‑19. The crisis caused by the pandemic has disproportionately hit people affected by armed conflict or in humanitarian emergencies. In this regard, the Secretary‑General’s appeal for immediate ceasefire is particularly important for opening windows to diplomacy, including to address the problem of missing persons, he asserted.
The representative of Azerbaijan expressed disappointment over the submission of irrelevant amendments, noting that the author had never requested discussions about these changes and calling this approach “one-sided”, as it disregards the needs of others, and “inappropriate”, as it sets a negative precedent. The amendments are obscure and do not represent agreed language, she stressed. Both “L.52” and “L.53” are out of context with the draft resolution, and their connection to missing persons is vague. They are politically motivated and serve only the domestic agenda of one delegation. She thus requested a vote on the amendments and said her country will vote against them.
The Committee rejected draft amendment “L.52” by a recorded vote of 18 against to 14 in favour, with 115 abstentions.
The Committee rejected draft amendment “L.53” by a recorded vote of 22 against to 8 in favour (Armenia, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Oman, Suriname, United States, Uruguay), with 114 abstentions.
The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc would be open to considering such proposals when the text reopens next year.
The representative of Georgia said the proposed amendments should have been discussed among all permanent missions during the informal consultations. For this reason, Georgia abstained from the vote.
The Committee then approved “L.22” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would call on States to take measures to prevent persons from going missing in connection with armed conflict. It would reaffirm the right of families to know the fate of their relatives reported missing in connection with armed conflict, and reaffirm 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 would also recognize the need for appropriate means of identification and for the collection, protection and management of data on missing persons and unidentified remains, consistent with applicable international and national law.
The representative of the United States recalled that there is no obligation under international law for States to minimize the military use of civilian infrastructure. Accordingly, the United States understands operative paragraph 5 to refer to the general requirement for States to act in accordance with applicable international law, and not to imply that international law requires States to minimize military use of civilian infrastructure.
The representative of Armenia, expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s appeal for a global ceasefire, said the proposed amendments had aimed to strengthen the collective commitment to the plight of missing persons. It is highly regrettable that the facilitator of the draft resolution had refused any constructive discussion about them, instead opting for politicization of the issue. Armenia presented the amendments in due time. Moreover, Azerbaijan failed to explicitly support the Secretary‑General’s appeal for a global ceasefire, and instead, unleashed a military aggression, which turned out to be the world’s largest outbreak of military hostility during the pandemic — all at the expense of the families of those who have gone missing. Armenia reiterated its principled position that international humanitarian law and human rights law form a crucial framework in the context of armed conflict, he said, attaching great importance to full compliance with the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols and reiterating Armenia’s commitment to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Human Rights in the Administration of Justice” (document A/C.3/75/L.35/Rev.1), which contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Austria, introducing the draft, said the resolution was negotiated in a constructive spirit. In its current form, it strengthens human rights in the administration of justice. Given the productive negotiations, she expressed hope for the text’s approval by consensus.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.35/Rev.1” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of the full and effective implementation of United Nations standards on human rights in the administration of justice and invite States to assess their national legislation and practice against them. It would recall that persons with disabilities should not be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and similarly, urge States to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in governance institutions and in the judicial system. The Assembly also would call on all 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 representative of the United States, while joining consensus, expressed concern over references to treaties to which her country is not a party, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She also does not agree with certain conclusions made in the global study of children deprived of liberty, which is mentioned in the text, and believes that the term “over-incarceration” is insufficiently defined. On the mention of “principles of necessity and proportionality”, she said such considerations are not reflected in international law. Since such matters are to be left to the discretion of States, they should be interpreted as recommendations, rather than obligations under international law. Turning to the unannounced visits called for by the Nelson Mandela Rules, she said such a measure is not necessary, as the United States has bodies that already achieve accountability. Finally, she noted that the age of criminal responsibility varies in individual states of the United States. Concerns with rights-related language pertaining to the pandemic have been addressed in a separate general statement.
In the afternoon, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled “The role of Ombudsman and mediator institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights, good governance and the rule of law” (document A/C.3/75/L.38).
The representative of Morocco, introducing the draft, said the draft resolution recognizes the important role played by Ombudsman and mediator institutions in promoting the rule of law and good governance. It strongly encourages Member States to consider the creation or strengthening of these institutions so they can be independent and autonomous. He expressed hope that the draft would be adopted by consensus.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.38” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would strongly encourage Member States to consider the creation or the 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 would be strongly encouraged to endow these institutions with the necessary 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 Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion and belief” (document A/C.3/75/L.42).
The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of OIC and introducing the draft, said that it has been technically updated in light of the year’s exceptional circumstances and contains no substantial changes to the last resolution adopted at the previous session. He is pleased to present a consensual text and invites all Member States that have not yet done so to sponsor it from the floor.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by consensus.
The representative of the United States referred to her delegation’s 13 November general statement to clarify its views on issues raised in the draft.
By its terms, the Assembly would express deep concern at the continued 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. It would condemn 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 would call on States to ensure that public functionaries do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of religion or belief.
Right of Reply
The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, reminded the representative of Armenia of the trilateral agreement on the complete ceasefire on 10 November. Azerbaijan had expected this development to translate into actions. However, there have been attempts to create confrontation on an issue that requires cooperation. Were Armenia interested in the fate of missing persons, the fate of missing Azerbaijanis would be known by now.
The representative of Armenia accused Azerbaijan’s delegate of politicizing the issue of missing persons. As for common ground, Armenia had proposed cooperation on the issue of missing persons prior to Azerbaijan’s aggression, but that proposal was rejected.
In the afternoon, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled “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” (A/C.3/75/L.50/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Guyana, introducing the draft on behalf of the Group of 77, said 2021 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. As such, the Group presented substantive changes to the draft. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action emphasize that equality and non-discrimination are essential in the fight against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, improving education and combating poverty. The anniversary serves as a reminder that racism and these related behaviours must be eliminated, with greater attention given to people of African descent. She presented an oral amendment, calling for deletion of operative paragraph 19, which does not correctly reflect the decision of the Human Rights Council.
The representative of Germany, on behalf of the European Union, highlighted the bloc’s full commitment to end xenophobia and racism, and expressed deep concern that this objective has not yet been attained. There is an obligation to take measures at the national and international levels, he said, underscoring the common duty to achieve a world free of racism. He also expressed disappointment that neither the draft resolution nor the negotiations have brought delegates closer to consensus.
The representative of Israel called for a vote on the draft, calling the celebration of the anniversary “questionable” and criticizing the 2001 conference in Durban for demonizing Israel.
The representative of the United States expressed deep concern about speech that advocates national, racial or religious hatred, particularly when it constitutes incitement to violence. The best antidote to defensive speech is not a ban or punishment, but rather, a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination, proactive Government outreach to minorities and vigorous protection of free expression. The United States cannot support the draft because it is not genuinely focused on countering racism and xenophobia, she said, criticizing its endorsement of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. For these reasons, the United States will vote against the draft. The text also remains silent on the protection of minority groups in China, a country that regularly oppresses its people, she added.
The representative of the United Kingdom said racism is not limited to any one country, reiterating the United Kingdom’s full commitment to the elimination of racism. He expressed regret over the unwillingness of the co-sponsors to take a more collaborative approach.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.50/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 12 against, with 44 abstentions.
By the 10‑page draft — which spans eight sections — the Assembly would reaffirm the paramount importance of universal adherence to and full implementation of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It would likewise express concern at the lack of progress in elaborating complementary standards to the Convention to fill gaps through the development of new normative standards, and request the Chair‑Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to present a progress report at the Assembly’s seventy-sixth session.
The draft’s other sections cover the following topics: International Decade for People of African Descent; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Group of Independent Eminent Experts on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; Trust fund for the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination; Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; and Follow-up and implementation activities.
The representative of Uruguay disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 21, as her delegation does not prefer the language introduced in the draft.
Right of Reply
The representative of China, exercising his right of reply, rejected the statement by the representative of the United States. Pointing to violent law enforcement, including arbitrary arrest and violent suppression of demonstrations, as well as systematic discrimination against African Americans, he called on the United States to stop politicizing the human rights issue and interfering with internal affairs of other countries.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/75/L.47), which contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Pakistan, introducing the draft, said the right to self-determination is a cardinal principle of the United Nations Charter. It is the fundamental basis of all human rights and international law. He enumerated a number of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council on the right to self-determination, including one noting that the denial of this right is an impediment to world peace and cooperation. “There are situations where occupied people are denied this right systematically and brutally,” he stressed. He noted that occupiers often attempt to characterize those undertaking a legitimate struggle for self-determination as terrorists. “Those so-called terrorists of today emerge as the freedom fighters of tomorrow,” he stressed. The draft reflects global international consensus on the fundamental right to self-determination, he said, expressing hope for its approval by consensus.
The representative of India said his country has played a leading role in the struggle for decolonization. He pointed out that the right to self-determination only applies to Non-Self-Governing Territories and trust colonies, and therefore should not be “abused to encourage secession”. The right does not extend to component parts within independent sovereign States. It is a vehicle for decolonization and must not be used to undermine the territorial integrity of any nation.
The Committee then approved draft “L.47” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm 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 would call on those States responsible to cease immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories. It would also deplore the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons who have been uprooted as a result of such acts and reaffirm their right to return.
The representative of Spain said his country faces a situation in which Powers give the impression that a colonial link has disappeared, due to certain political changes. In Gibraltar, over time, the original population has been replaced by the current people, who were “brought in deliberately” through a military occupation. They are now claiming to exercise their supposed right to self-determination, which is an affront to the descendants of the original inhabitants who have been expelled. He called for a solution through dialogue. “International law and history bear out Spain’s position,” he stressed, calling on the United Kingdom to “come up with a formula that will put an end to this situation, which is an anachronism”.
The representative of the United States said that while his country joins consensus on the draft resolution, some portions are inconsistent with State practice.
The representative of Argentina said the right to self-determination is applicable when an active subject holds that right. Regarding the reference to foreign occupation in operative paragraph 14, it should be interpreted in conformity with applicable United Nations resolutions.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, exercising the right of reply, said the people of Gibraltar enjoy the right of self-determination, which was endorsed in a recent referendum. The United Kingdom restates its commitment to Gibraltar and will not enter into any agreement against their democratically expressed wishes. It will not engage in a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.
The representative of Spain, exercising the right of reply, characterized the situation faced by Gibraltar as a colonial one, which involves a question of territorial integrity, not self-determination. All colonial situations destroy national unity and are inconsistent with the United Nations Charter. Recalling that Gibraltar is included by the United Nations in a list of non-autonomous territories, he said “only the United Nations can decide on the process for decolonization of Gibraltar.” Moreover, he clarified that, according to article 10 [of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht], the United Kingdom continues to occupy parts of Spain’s territory, including the airport of Gibraltar. These spaces were “snatched by force”, he said. The waters around Gibraltar are sovereign Spanish waters, where Spanish vessels can be seen carrying out normal activities, as they have been through time immemorial.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Freedom of religion or belief” (document A/C.3/75/L.36).
The representative of Germany, introducing the text on behalf of the European Union, said that promoting freedom of belief is a priority of its human rights policy. The human right to religion or belief safeguards diversity. It contributes to democracy, the rule of law and peace and security. In light of the pandemic, the European Union carries a strong message that persons belonging to religious minorities and non-believers should not be discriminated against in their access to public services. Freedom of thought or religion also includes the right not to believe. The draft resolution draws attention to the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities, particularly their right to practice their religion freely. Only technical updates have been included in the text.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.36” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would strongly condemn 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 use of print, audiovisual or electronic media, or any other means. It would urge 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 would also urge 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 Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” (document A/C.3/75/L.37), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Sweden, introducing the draft on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the text stresses the importance of protecting individuals from arbitrary or extrajudicial executions, focusing on the right to life and the fight against impunity. Emphasizing that the text has been strengthened through new references to democracy and human rights defenders, he said the proposed amendment to operative paragraph 7(b) is not acceptable and asked its sponsors to reconsider its necessity.
The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of a group of States, introduced an amendment to “L.37”, which recommends that operative paragraph 7(b) be deleted and replaced with a paragraph circulated earlier. Expressing his delegation’s condemnation of all summary executions, he said it is essential that the Assembly adopt an objective position on the issue at hand. Extrajudicial and summary executions are not acceptable. By listing specific groups, the draft resolution implies that other groups not listed are not worthy of the right to life, which is certainly not the case.
The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said he strongly supports draft resolution “L.37”, which aims to protect individuals against unlawful killings. He expressed regret over the decision to present a last-minute oral amendment on long-established language, as this runs contrary to effective multilateralism as well as the core values the United Nations is meant to protect. The paragraph under attack focuses on the obligation of States to conduct investigations into the killings of members of vulnerable groups that are more likely to fall victim to summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings. As such, the European Union will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, objected to the amendment, whose sponsors have proposed to delete the whole list of vulnerable groups that are more likely to suffer deadly violence than others. There are some categories of people who are at risk of being killed and not having their deaths investigated. They have been mentioned in this resolution for over a decade.
The representative of the United Kingdom condemned any instance of extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary execution, expressing support for the text as proposed by Sweden. The draft resolution encompasses a list of people who are at particular risk, and he expressed concern over increasing attempts to deny the human rights of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The text reflects this concern. He urged States to investigate all killings and to bring all perpetrators to justice, encouraging delegates to vote against the hostile amendment.
The representative of Canada, speaking for a group of countries, said it is of utmost importance that the list of vulnerable persons be kept in the draft resolution. The attempt to remove this particular listing is an attempt to remove language on sexual orientation and gender identity. The paragraph calls on States to conduct investigations into the killings of persons in vulnerable groups. It places no obligations on States to change their domestic law on specific groups. States must recognize the particular vulnerability of certain groups to extrajudicial executions. For these reasons, Canada will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Albania, associating himself with the European Union, said no vulnerable groups should be excluded from the list contained in the draft resolution. Therefore, Albania will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Indonesia said the amendment notes that the right to life should be extended to all people without discrimination. By listing certain groups, the draft could exclude others that are not listed.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he agrees that the goal of the draft resolution is to protect all persons from extrajudicial executions. However, lists of groups will never be exhaustive and lead to so-called positive discrimination.
The representative of Syria said his delegation supports the amendment. Syria believes in the strengthening of human rights, including the right to life — a position that is reflected in national legislation. It is necessary to present this amendment because protections must be extended to all, without singling out special cases, such as those listed in the paragraph under discussion.
The representative of Argentina, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said all people have the right to life, and that right must be guaranteed by all States. Governments should provide guarantees against all forms of violence, including those based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The mention of specific groups is indispensable so as to encourage States to guarantee protection of the right to life for those people most at risk from violence.
The representative of the United States said nobody should be subjected to arbitrary execution. Individuals of marginalized populations — including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons — face widespread violence and killings. Deleting references to marginalized groups fails to recognize their human dignity and human rights. This action would be deeply troubling, and the United States will vote “no” on the amendment.
The Committee then rejected the oral amendment to draft resolution “L.37” by a recorded vote of 94 against to 40 in favour, with 21 abstentions.
The representative of Algeria reaffirmed the commitment of her country to support international efforts to eliminate extrajudicial killings. She explained that she did not vote in favour of the oral amendment because it seeks to delete the reference to persons living under foreign occupation.
The representative of Senegal said the list contained in the draft resolution is not appropriate. His delegation voted in favour of the amendment.
The representative of Pakistan, in explanation of vote, condemned arbitrary executions and expressed concern that such killings continue to happen with impunity, particularly in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation. At the same time, he expressed concern over refences to sexual and gender identity, which remain problematic for many delegations. While the right to life should be extended to all persons, Pakistan cannot allow the draft resolution to be used by some countries to impose their beliefs on others. Therefore, Pakistan will abstain from the vote on the draft resolution.
The representative of Sweden expressed regret that a vote has been called on the draft resolution as a whole. At its core is the right to life. It is about the most fundamental responsibilities in this context, including to bring those responsible for such killings to justice.
The representative of the Russian Federation said Sweden demonstrated a constructive attitude during the negotiations. However, many comments were ignored, and as a result, the draft contains several provisions that give rise to concerns. Operative paragraph 7(b) refers to the concept of “gender identity”, which is controversial and not accepted by some Member States. He also expressed concern over attempts to freely interpret the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.
The representative of Egypt said extrajudicial executions must not take place on discriminatory grounds. He rejected any attempt to undermine the international human rights system, including by referencing private conduct that falls outside of the international human rights framework.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.37” by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to none against, with 56 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would demand 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 the phenomenon. Among other things, it would urge 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 Cuba said his delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution but disassociates from certain paragraphs, as it cannot accept references to the Rome Statute or the International Criminal Court. Nor can Cuba accept the term “responsibility to protect”.
The representative of Switzerland welcomed the enhancements made to the draft resolution. Concerning new operative paragraph 10, she underscored that national legislation should be fully consistent with States’ international commitments.
The representative of the Philippines expressed support for the draft resolution but disassociated from preambular paragraph 15, operative paragraph 14 and all other paragraphs referring to the International Criminal Court.
The representative of the United States said her delegation supports existing language on civil society and human rights defenders and welcomes the reference to civil society, as well as to the protection of journalists and media workers. The United States also supports the language on vulnerable groups, including the LGBTI community.
The representative of China said it is regrettable that the amendments proposed by his delegation were not taken on board during negotiations. China abstained from voting on the draft resolution. The term “human rights defenders” lacks a clear definition at the international level and China is opposed to this formulation.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago expressed support for the resolution as a responsible member of the international community. While capital punishment is part of her country’s domestic legal framework, it adheres to due process and international law. She disassociated from operative paragraph 7(b).
The representative of Iran attaches great importance to implementing policies to combat arbitrary executions. However, some references in the resolution do not enjoy international consensus. His country abstained from the vote.
The representative of Iraq disassociated from the draft’s references to the International Criminal Court.
The representative of Egypt said his delegation abstained from voting. Although the text addresses a critical issue, it incorporates unagreed language that undermines its substance and potential consensus.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Draft programme of work of the Third Committee for the seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/75/L.87), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The Committee then approved draft “L.87” without a vote.