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Seventieth Session,
41st & 42nd Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4150

While ‘Host’ States Shoulder Burden of Massive Refugee Influx, Delegates Tell Third Committee ‘Resources Are Not Unlimited’, Long-Term Solutions Needed

Overstretched resources, critical funding shortages and desperate conditions were among the accounts delegates shared to describe some of the grim consequences of the greatest crisis of forced displacement since the Second World War as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today concluded its discussions on refugees and displaced persons and continued consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights.

Some speakers from countries hosting refugees said while their Governments were shouldering the burden of hosting thousands that had fled conflict, resources were not unlimited.  Serbia’s representative told the Committee her country was doing its best to provide for refugees from Syria, but noted how it had limited human and financial resources to do so.  Afghanistan still held the record for being the leading country of origin for refugees worldwide, yet it was no longer getting the attention it deserved, that country’s representative said.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates’ delegate outlined the various ways in which the Government had extended financial assistance and noted the ongoing situation of Palestinian refugees.  Some speakers said they had passed laws to protect the rights of refugees and had provided shelter as best as they could.

Following up on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), several representatives underscored the need to address the root causes of displacement and to examine the linkage between urgent humanitarian action and longer-term development efforts.  Without addressing the cause, it was unlikely that sustainable solutions would be found to the current crises, some speakers said.  Many appealed for greater support to be extended to UNHCR so the Agency could continue to provide must needed basic assistance and protection.

Delegates also listed obstacles and commitments.  From sub-Saharan Africa, the representative of Kenya, host of the second-largest number of refugees on the continent, said the threat of terrorism and a lack of financial support were among the challenges it was facing.  Cameroon’s delegate similarly discussed the impact of refugee flows from neighbouring States, but added that the Government would continue to shoulder its responsibilities.

From Latin America, Colombia’s delegate noted how 50 years of conflict had seen the displacement of 13 per cent of the country’s population.  Worldwide, she said, about 40,000 people were fleeing their homes every day in hopes of finding protection.  China’s delegate attributed the refugee crisis to regional instability and imbalances in development, and urged developed countries to act in a spirit of burden sharing.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Kuwait, Nigeria, Pakistan, Japan, India, Eritrea, Sudan, Georgia, Ukraine, South Africa, Ethiopia, Algeria and Morocco, as well as the International Organization for Migration, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were delegates from the Russian Federation, Georgia and Ukraine.

In the afternoon session, the Committee resumed and concluded its discussion on the implementation of human rights instruments and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Delivering statements were delegates from Sierra Leone (for the African Group), Colombia, Italy, Cuba, Thailand, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Iran, India, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Iraq, China, Australia, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Mozambique, Jordan, Mongolia, Albania, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Rwanda, as well as the European Union and the State of Palestine.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Israel and the State of Palestine.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 5 November, to hear the introduction of draft proposals and take action on others, as well as to resume and conclude its discussion on human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on questions related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.  For further information see Press Release GA/SHC/4149.

It also continued consideration of its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4139.

Statements

ANWAAR ALTHEFEERI (Kuwait) said events in the Arab world had resulted in huge numbers of refugees and displaced persons.  The crisis in Syria and the harsh conditions faced by Syrian refugees was known to all.  Kuwait had hosted three regional conferences to find resources to help the Syrian people.  More than $7 billion had been raised and $1 billion dollars dispersed, most of it through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  Kuwait was very concerned by the suffering of refugees and displaced persons in Iraq resulting from activities carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  In Yemen, millions of dollars had been provided by Kuwait to cover essential humanitarian needs.  The suffering of Palestinian refugees resulting from the intransigence of the occupying authority and its violation of international law could not be overlooked.  The international community must exert pressure on Israel to enable the Palestinians to exercise their right of return, she said, underlining her country’s support for the Palestinians’ claim to self-determination.

USMAN SARKI (Nigeria) said the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals was a significant development that had the potential to have a positive impact on the well-being of refugees and displaced persons.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had proposed measures and actions to remove obstacles and meet the needs of people living in areas affected by complex humanitarian emergencies.  It was unfortunate that political instability, natural disasters, climate change and armed conflicts had caused the displacement of millions of people.  Describing the rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers as alarming, he deplored the attacks against humanitarian workers on the ground.  Persistent shortfalls in funding remained a major challenge in addressing the growing needs for humanitarian relief, he said, encouraging donors to scale up contributions.  He also urged the United Nations system to continue to assist States in developing early warning and emergency response mechanisms for displaced populations.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said massive human movements were the consequence of conflicts, persecution, poverty and injustice.  The response of the international community, unfortunately, had been slow and inadequate.  “The international community has ignored massive human suffering in the past and the current crisis could mark a new flag of shame,” she warned.  With 60 million displaced people globally, 2015 would be remembered for the largest number of refugees and migrants losing their lives in pursuit of safety.  She regretted that more than half of the total refugee population were children, who suffered from lack of proper nutrition and access to education.  They were also exposed to heightened risks of child labour, sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation.  While funding was urgent and critical to alleviate human suffering, efforts to find durable solutions to protracted situations must be intensified.  For its part, Pakistan had hosted millions of Afghan refugees for more than three decades, but her country’s capacity was not unlimited.  She hoped adequate international support would be provided to resolve the most protracted refugee situation in the world.

TARO TSUTSUMI (Japan) commended the efforts by UNHCR to address the unprecedented refugee crisis and welcomed the high-level discussions on Afghan refugees, held in Geneva in October.  Providing suggestions for coping with the 60 million displaced persons worldwide, he said self-reliance among those individuals must be promoted, with the involvement of host communities, and assistance must be provided to empower them as drivers of development and growth.  It was vital to involve development partners at the earliest stages of a crisis to further enhance collaboration with humanitarian actors.  The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit would be an opportunity not only to discuss that issue, but also to share best practices among stakeholders.  Addressing the root causes of the current migration crisis, particularly the conflict in and around Syria, was also important and Japan would enhance its assistance for affected Syrian and Iraqi populations.

ANTHONY ANDANJE (Kenya) said that as the second largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, his country was committed to implementing international and regional standards for the protection of refugees and displaced persons.  Shared responsibilities and international cooperation were important for addressing the needs of those fleeing their homes.  Kenya was currently facing challenges in addressing the flow of refugees into the country, including the threat posed by terrorism, lack of financial support and overwhelmed humanitarian actors.  Progress had been made for ensuring voluntary returns of Somali refugees, though security concerns remained.  The successful repatriation and resettlement of Somali refugees required the establishment of infrastructure in stabilized areas, including schools and health services, and of efforts for training Somali police forces for ensuring their ability to guarantee security.  The refugee crisis in Europe should be a matter for the entire international community.  It was important to speak out on the root causes of the crisis, he said, as refugees were a symptom of policies that were causing human suffering.

RAHUL KASWAN (India) said forced displacement was more widespread, protracted and on a global scale than ever before.  Escalation in violence, armed conflicts, natural disasters, acts of persecution and discrimination had aggravated the situation.  As the global refugee crisis was testing the limits of the global response, he appreciated the role played by UNHCR in providing protection and assistance to refugees and displaced persons.  However, the Agency and relevant international action should remain within the boundaries of the concept of sovereignty.  For its part, India, as a host to a large number of refugees, had clearly demonstrated its commitment to the principles of protection and non-refoulement.

SEMERE AZAZI (Eritrea) said UNHCR should focus on assisting and protecting refugees, rather than on migrants or persons of concern.  Repatriated Eritreans faced no persecution, but some groups, including UNHCR, had painted a wrong picture by maintaining that returnees would face persecution, thus justifying preferential treatment to Eritreans migrating to other countries for better economic opportunities.  Such preferential treatment for Eritreans and persons posing as Eritreans had become a pull factor and exposed them to people smugglers and human traffickers.  It was common knowledge in countries of destination that many non-Eritreans had been exploiting that unjustified policy to acquire documentation in an otherwise lengthy and difficult immigration process.  Certain camps funded by UNHCR in the region of Eritrea had become centres for political activism and recruitment for armed groups.  Such camps should be under the full control of UNHCR and no unauthorized group or individual, armed or unarmed, should be allowed to enter such camps or receiving centres.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the refugee crisis had resulted from an imbalance in development and regional instability.  Apart from humanitarian assistance, issues such as poverty and social stability had to be addressed by the international community with greater urgency.  The 2030 Agenda was an opportunity to increase support to developing countries, which were hosting more than 80 per cent of the world’s refugees.  Developed countries should act in a spirit of burden sharing, accept refugees with an open and tolerant mind, respect and protect their human rights and extend more financial and humanitarian assistance to developing countries.  The politicization and abuse of international refugee protection mechanisms should be avoided.  Internal reforms within UNHCR, aimed at a rational distribution of resources and assisting developing countries with capacity-building, were supported by China, which had actively contributed funding to the global cause of refugee protection.

MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI (Sudan) expressed his country’s commitment to implementing relevant international standards relating to refugees.  Sudan had hosted refugees from neighbouring countries for decades and had provided services to them with the support of UNHCR.  His country had also adopted a refugee law incorporating international standards into domestic legislation.  He recalled that a significant number of refugees had arrived from South Sudan as a result of the ongoing conflict there and expressed his Government’s will to address their needs and improve living and security conditions in camps.  He then noted with concern the crimes perpetrated against migrants and asylum seekers, including human trafficking, and called on host countries to assume their responsibilities of accepting those persons.  For its part, Sudan had undertaken great efforts despite challenges that had been caused by unacceptable international sanctions against it.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) said Georgia was an origin and destination country for internally displaced persons and refugees and had fully assumed its responsibility in providing durable solutions, within its restricted resources, to affected populations.  As a result of a well-planned and systematically implemented annexation policy of the Russian Federation over the last two decades, the number of internally displaced persons and refugees expelled from their homes had now reached half a million.  Those refugees had declared their willingness to return to their homes, but obstacles erected by the Russian Federation occupation forces had prevented them from doing so.  That issue, she said, should be effectively addressed within the framework of the Geneva international discussions, but it was regrettable that the talks were being artificially politicized and impeded by participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.

ASILA WARDAK (Afghanistan) said her country held the record for being the leading country of origin for refugees worldwide.  However, the Afghan situation was no longer getting the attention it deserved and it would be a mistake to ignore it, regardless of the urgency and scale of newer crises.  The humanitarian crisis was the result of 40 years of political instability, with a significant percentage of Afghan nationals having been born and raised as refugees.  A quarter of the world’s refugees were Afghan nationals, with the vast majority living in Pakistan and Iran.  Voluntary repatriation had been hampered by insecurity and terrorism, while attacks on humanitarian organizations had continued.  Voluntary repatriation and reintegration was a high priority for the National Unity Government, which had undertaken a number of measures in that regard.  Ending foreign aggression and terrorism was the first step to preventing the flow of refugees and the international community had to invest more in bringing peace, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan.

SAEED MOHAMED BAOMRAN (United Arab Emirates) summarized response efforts to crises, including the provision of several million dollars of financial support.  In addition, Syrian refugees had come to the United Arab Emirates where they had found work.  Assistance to Palestinian refugees had also been given by the United Arab Emirates, either directly or through United Nations organizations such as United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Enhanced international cooperation was required to address root causes that included poverty, violent extremism and conflict.  All relevant international resolutions had to be implemented by all States and it was important to enhance the role of the United Nations in the settlement of disputes.

ANDRIY BESHTA (Ukraine) said the structural reform of UNHCR should strengthen its ability to respond to crises while improving transparency for funding allocations.  Ukraine was committed to fully implementing its international obligations, despite overwhelming challenges resulting from the occupation by the Russian Federation.  The Government was making every effort to provide support to internally displaced persons in the occupied territories through comprehensive programmes for support and integration.  One of its main priorities was providing favourable conditions for the return of populations, including through the creation of social facilities and services.  The root causes of displacement in the region, namely the illegal occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the continued military aggression in the east of the country, had to be addressed.  He urged the Russian Federation to implement the Minsk Agreements and its international obligations.  Restrictions in provisions of humanitarian assistance by Russian-supported armed groups would lead to the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation, particularly as winter was approaching, he concluded.

ANA ILIĆ (Serbia) said her country was doing its best to provide adequate reception, assistance, food, medication and temporary accommodation facilities to refugees, but no country could bear that burden alone, she stressed.  Her country had limited human and financial resources to adequately respond to the challenges posed by the crisis.  Cooperation among States, UNHCR and other international organizations was crucial “to close the refugee chapter in history and bring regional stability and reconciliation”.  Concluding, she reiterated her country’s strong commitment to find a durable solution for displaced persons and to help all people fleeing from the brutalities of armed conflict, terrorist attacks and poverty.

LESETLA ANDREAS TEFFO (South Africa) welcomed UNHCR efforts in reinforcing its institutional emergency response capacity through a reconfigured structure and a new policy framework.  Concerned about decreased funding for humanitarian situations in Africa, he appealed for donors to increase contributions.  He also supported the High Commissioner’s call to rethink the financing of operations, in particular the need to strengthen the link between humanitarian and development interventions.  For its part, South Africa had enacted laws allowing individual asylum claims to be adjudicated and protecting the rights of refugees while guaranteeing access to social services.  The ongoing challenges of the current situation in the Mediterranean Sea remained a global concern.  International solidarity, cooperation and responsibility sharing had become critical in addressing that crisis.  Most importantly, fully addressing the root causes of the crisis required high-level political commitment.

DIANA SANTAMARÍA RAMÍREZ (Colombia) said that every day about 40,000 people fled their homes in search of protection.  Colombia had not been spared.  A conflict that had lasted for about 50 years had resulted in 6,415,000 displaced persons, or 13 per cent of the total population of the country.  Among measures initiated by the President in 2011 was the creation of a single registry of victims of displacement, providing disaggregated data with regard to specific events, dates of occurrence, localities and gender, among other factors.  Such data had helped to keep the victims of displacement visible to authorities and society.  A long road had been travelled, but Colombia had not walked it alone, and in that respect the international community, including UNHCR, had been a major partner.

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA (Cameroon) said development activities must not be totally overshadowed by urgent humanitarian action.  Strengthening the partnership between UNHCR and development actors was welcomed and it was necessary to reflect on long-term solutions for refugees, beginning with voluntary repatriation.  Cameroon had known stability and peace for decades, but in recent years it had confronted insecurity provoked by the crisis in the Central African Republic and, in the north, by attacks carried out by Boko Haram.  The result had been disturbances to economic and social life, a climate of insecurity and the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees.  Despite the difficulties resulting from the growing number of refugees from neighbouring countries, Cameroon would do its part, while urging other countries to cooperate in finding common solutions that left no one behind.

FESSEHA A. TESSEMA (Ethiopia) said his country remained concerned about the new emergencies and protracted humanitarian situations, resulting in massive displacements of people.  As a party to the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its Optional Protocol, Ethiopia was the largest refugee receiving country in Africa, with 700,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.  Young refugees that had come from urban areas often found it difficult to stay in refugee camps and had taken dangerous routes to go to a third country.  To address that problem, the Government had developed a new policy that allowed them to live outside refugee camps.  Further, efficient and effective services such as provision of travel documents were provided to those refugees wishing to leave Ethiopia.  In conclusion, he reiterated the Government’s strong commitment to continue to work closely with UNHCR and other partners to further strengthen the existing response mechanisms to humanitarian emergencies.

ASHRAF EL NOUR, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the world was experiencing the highest number of refugees and forced migration since the Second World War.  The human mobility dimension of humanitarian crises was becoming more acute every year and the most tragic aspect of forced migration was the increasing number of deaths at sea.  At the same time, there had been a number of important multilateral processes on development and humanitarian affairs, including the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the 2030 Agenda.  In 2016, the first World Humanitarian Summit would be held, shaping a framework for humanitarian response that was “fit for purpose”.  In that regard, cooperation between IOM and UNHCR was more relevant than ever before.  For its part, IOM had considerably expanded the reach and scope of its humanitarian interventions in recent years, including in response to refugee crises in the Middle East and Africa.

ANN DEER, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said widespread violations of international humanitarian law, which gave rise to large-scale and protracted displacement, should never be accepted as normal.  The ever-increasing numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees were a clear indication that the current international response to armed conflicts was inadequate.  She reiterated her organization’s call for much stronger diplomatic and political engagement on the part of Governments to ensure better respect of international humanitarian law.  States had the primary responsibility to prevent displacement and to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons within their jurisdiction.  That required a clear understanding of the specific vulnerabilities and needs of displaced persons, associated with each phase of displacement.  Continuing, she said that “governmental structures, policies and programmes mean little, unless they are matched by adequate financing and human resources.”  In that vein, development actors should engage from the outset of conflict, working alongside humanitarian actors in a spirit of complementarity.  She insisted, however, that humanitarian actors should not be part of politically driven processes if they were to preserve their ability to reach victims of all sides.

AJAY MADIWALE, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the world was facing the largest displacement crisis since the foundation of the United Nations.  In an increasingly interdependent world, there was no one single cause or solution to that deplorable situation.  A broad range of measures must be undertaken at global, regional, national and local levels.  The international community needed to address short- and long-term needs of displaced populations simultaneously and support refugee hosting countries.  It also needed to provide a coordinated, comprehensive and humane response to the crisis that Europe was dealing with.

BAKHTA SELMA MANSOURI (Algeria) said her delegation was particularly concerned by the situation in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of refugees had grown to 3.7 million and the number of internally displaced persons to 11.4 million.  Concern was also expressed with regard to the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria.  It was important to keep sight of protracted refugee situations, with an emphasis placed on the search for durable solutions that would create conditions for voluntary repatriation.  Algeria had had a long tradition of hosting refugees, including the Sahrawi, who had been waiting for repatriation to their country — the Western Sahara.  The international community was urged to assist the UNHCR programme for those refugees, who relied entirely on international aid, and for donors to extend additional funds to UNHCR in response to the crisis resulting from flooding in the Sahrawi refugee camps.

OMAR RABI (Morocco) said a new record was being set every year for the number of displaced people.  A combination of factors meant that the situation was very complex, requiring much assistance and effort on the part of UNHCR.  Africa had been particularly affected, and it was alarming that the number of displaced persons there had grown for a fourth year in a row.  Efforts undertaken by sub-Saharan countries in responding to that situation were welcomed.  With regard to the situation of the Mediterranean region and Europe, the international community must rethink its approach and bring a humane approach into play.  With regard to Tindouf, the registration of refugees had not been a political activity and it was the responsibility of a host country to enable UNHCR to carry out that work.

Right of Reply

The speaker from the Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, told the delegate from Georgia that it was time to accept the political reality and acknowledge the fact that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were two independent States.  In response to statements delivered by the representative of Ukraine, he called on Ukraine to finally start direct negotiations with authorities in Eastern Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk Agreements and to put an end to humanitarian blockades in the region.  As for the situation of Crimea, he recalled that the people there had used their right of self-determination in full compliance with international standards.

The delegate from Georgia, exercising the right of reply, said that the so-called independence of occupied territories of Georgia, referred to by his counterpart from the Russian Federation, was completely unsubstantiated.  The root cause of displacement in the country was the forced and military occupation by the Russian Federation, she said, adding that Georgia would not stop raising that issue within the United Nations.

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Ukraine called on the Russian Federation and Russian-supported terrorists to put an end to violations of humanitarian law and recalled that there was no mention within the Minsk Agreements of any sort of dialogue between the Ukrainian Government and separatists.

Human Rights

VANDI CHIDI MINAH (Sierra Leone), on behalf of the African Group, expressed deep concern about the mistreatment of the right to development within the United Nations system and called upon the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to put that right at the heart of programmes to assist member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda.  The African Group supported the High Commissioner’s efforts to inject a human rights perspective into the global debate on migration.  Non-discrimination and equality were founding principles of international human rights law, but for several years there had been an attempt to undermine the international human rights system through the imposition of notions pertaining to social issues that fell outside that framework.  Until such time that the international community had defined the scope and application of such notions, OHCHR had to act with restraint.

Turning to the issue of Human Rights Council resolution 24/24, he said the designation of a United Nations focal point for addressing reprisals and intimidation against those who cooperated with the Organization would have a system-wide impact.  Deadlock on that resolution would persist unless all Member States engaged in comprehensive, transparent and inclusive consultations.  One region accounted for 49 per cent of the composition of OHCHR, a situation that was a breach of the principle of equitable geographical distribution set out in the Charter of the United Nations.  He urged the High Commissioner to redouble efforts to correct that imbalance, which had resulted from dependence on extra-budgetary resources.  With regard to the San Jose guidelines, the African Group cautioned against any attempt to codify new norms outside the intergovernmental process.  All United Nations bodies had to refrain from circumventing their mandates through loose interpretations or generalizations of concepts and principles.

PIT KOEHLER, of the European Union Delegation, underlined its commitment to the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights.  It advocated for and lent practical support to the ratification and implementation of international human rights treaties, heartened by the further increase in ratifications of such instruments.  It had greatly benefited from the review of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and it was considering the observations of the Committee in that regard.  The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants was among several who had visited European Union member States.  While strongly committed to the rights of migrants, he said a closer look needed to be focused on the root causes and other driving factors of displacement and migration.

Turning to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, he expressed strong appreciation for its work and paid tribute to the High Commissioner for holding all Member States to account “with determination and impartiality”.  More than ever before, the Office needed independence; to that end, it was incumbent on all Member States to maintain its resources.  Emphasis on the role of independent national human rights institutions in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be strongly supported by the European Union.  With regard to the right of individuals and organizations to unhindered access to and communication with the United Nations, the Human Rights Council had to remain a safe space for the expression of concerns and the raising of issues.  The European Union would speak out in the event that human rights defenders were excluded from debates or suffered reprisals after cooperating with the United Nations human rights system.

ALMA BIBIANA PÉREZ GÓMEZ (Colombia) said her country attached great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular for the most vulnerable communities.  Acknowledging the help provided by the Office, she noted that it had supported her Government in undertaking various measures to fight discrimination while ensuring accountability and the rule of law.  Further, she said, Colombia had ratified the majority of human rights conventions and optional protocols.  Colombia believed that the universal periodic review was an effective mechanism to declare what actions countries had taken to improve human rights situations.

EMILIA GATTO (Italy) said the promotion and protection of human rights was deeply rooted in Italian history, tradition and culture and that the United Nations was the best forum to discuss the issues.  As 2015 marked the Organization’s seventieth anniversary, it reminded all States to step up efforts to ensure the synergic implementation of peace and security, development and human rights.  For its part, Italy had taken several steps to further promote human rights.  Recently, her country had ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances, which marked an important step towards a more comprehensive protection of human rights at home and abroad.

DAYLENIS MORENO GUERRA (Cuba) reiterated her country’s commitment to the principles of non-selectivity and objectivity in discussing human rights.  She also expressed support for the treaty body system, while underlining the importance for treaty bodies not to go beyond their mandate and set up new legal aspects.  No space should be open to the manipulation and polarization of its role, she said, recalling the importance of ensuring geographical balance of membership.  For its part, Cuba would continue its cooperation with treaty bodies through the submission of periodic reports.  Expressing appreciation for the role of OHCHR, she noted that its assistance should come at the request of receiving States only.

Ms. SUKONTASAP (Thailand) said a recently adopted five-year national human rights plan, the third of its kind, would continue to serve as a framework for all government agencies to apply the promotion and protection of human rights more efficiently in the workplace.  Additionally, a number of human rights-related laws had been passed or revised to strengthen the protection of human rights in the country, including in the fields of gender equality, child protection, the prevention of torture and enforced disappearances.  Furthermore, the Government had adopted a strategy to combat human trafficking, focusing on strong law enforcement.  Underlining the important role of the international community, she called for strengthened technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights and reiterated her country’s commitment to engage with the universal periodic review process and with civil society representatives.

GRIGORY LUKIYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said establishing the rule of law and advancing human rights were important for guaranteeing security and stability.  Problems remained in all regions, however, regardless of economic or cultural background.  Though human rights were a legitimate concern of the international community, he raised the issue about their misuse to interfere into internal affairs and advance politically-motivated agendas, through double standards and selectivity.  International human rights law needed to be implemented bearing in mind the political and cultural identities of States.  Interference into sovereign affairs of States had led to tragedies and mass human rights violations, he said, adding that his country would continue seeking political resolutions to conflicts.  The universal periodic review was the only remaining forum that allowed objective discussions on human rights.  For its part, the Russian Federation was supporting the adoption of a resolution on combatting the glorification of Nazism, he said, calling on all delegations to support the text.

SAEED MOHAMED BAOMRAN (United Arab Emirates) expressed appreciation for support by other States that had led to his country’s election as a Human Rights Council member.  Society in the United Arab Emirates was tolerant and multicultural, he said, underlining his Government’s commitment to combating discrimination and protecting human rights for all.  Women’s empowerment was crucial for achieving sustainable development and the United Arab Emirates had had a leading role in advancing gender equality.  The Government would continue its efforts to strengthen international initiatives to protect the rights of women everywhere, particularly with regard to equal access to education.  

OMID ASGHARI OSBOUEI (Iran) reiterated his country’s commitment to fully cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms through the submission of periodic reports to treaty bodies and the acceptance of universal periodic review recommendations.  He regretted that certain States, in pursuit of narrow, politically-motivated objectives, were constantly compromising on the most serious and gravest cases of human rights violations committed by their allies.  Country-specific resolutions contravened the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity, and were therefore irrelevant and harmful to the cause of human rights.  The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called upon all States to refrain from any unilateral coercive measures as they clearly impeded the full realization of human rights, in particular the right of everyone to a standard of living that was adequate for their health and well-being.  His delegation remained deeply concerned about the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on basic human rights.

SUPRIYA SADANAND SULE (India) said States were the primary duty bearers for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Her country valued the expertise of OHCHR in strengthening States’ capacities in the field of human rights and its continued emphasis on principles of impartiality, non-selectivity and objectivity.  To have a more meaningful and sustained impact, any assistance offered by the United Nations human rights machinery should be upon the request of the country concerned.  The Human Rights Council and its mechanisms should avoid falling in the trap of selective country spotlighting and intrusive monitoring.  Instead, the Council should focus on enhancing genuine dialogue and cooperation with Member States.  The unique and positive universal periodic review mechanism was a widely accepted tool.  The international community needed to retain its universality and avoid using it for specific thematic issues that had yet to acquire universal acceptance.

MARÍA CLARISA GOLDRICK (Nicaragua) reiterated its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Government had undertaken various measures to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights, in harmony with nature.  Nicaragua was a party to major human rights conventions.  Further, it had recently adopted a law aimed at preventing violence against women.  Turning to the universal periodic review, she said that Nicaragua had presented a report to the United Nations on what actions it had taken to improve the human rights situations in the country and to overcome existing challenges.

DIYAR KHAN (Pakistan) presented his Government’s efforts to protect the rights of all its citizens, with a particular focus on minorities.  He regretted attempts to create new rights and categories or groups, including subcategories of human rights defenders, and said that international cooperation efforts should rather focus on strengthening and training the police forces.  On the death penalty, he said that the voluntary moratorium had been lifted in 2015 on the unanimous demand of all political parties following a most barbaric and inhuman terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar.  The use of the death penalty in Pakistan was compliant with international law, he said.  Concluding, he referred to the creation of a fully independent National Commission for Human Rights, in accordance with the Paris Principles, which related to the status of national institutions.  That had constituted a major achievement for Pakistan and reflected the Government’s firm determination to fully uphold all human rights.

NADYA RASHEED, of the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, regretted that, one year after his appointment, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 had been obstructed from fully carrying out his mandate.  Israel must be reminded that such cooperation was a fundamental legal obligation, she said.  There was a human rights crisis in Palestine, she continued, as every aspect of life was being infringed upon by the occupying Power.  Terrorist settlers had intentionally killed and injured children, women, men and elder persons.  Land-grabbing and the destruction of houses had continued for the purpose of illegal settlements, leaving thousands displaced and homeless.  About 6,000 Palestinians, including children as young as 8, had continued to be detained and subjected to abuses, including torture.  Israel’s total lack of respect and denial of Palestinian rights had unleashed a wave of aggression, provocation and incitement against the Palestinian civilian population, with more than 73 Palestinians killed since the start of October 2015.  The Palestinian people would continue to suffer until Israel’s occupation ended.  Moving to the situation in Gaza, she said that the illegal blockade had been a primary factor of the current humanitarian crisis.  She then called on the international community to demand that Israel ceased immediately its illegal practices and be held accountable for past violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) said the provision of human rights in the 2030 Agenda was a priority.  Human rights had been declared to be of supreme value in the new Constitution.  Changes had been introduced into the Criminal Code to bring legislation in line with international obligations.  Reform of law enforcement agencies was ongoing, with training being given to police as well as prosecutors, judges and health care workers with regard to ethics, the prevention of torture and the treatment of prisoners.  In all ministries and State agencies, public supervisory boards composed of representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had been established and would serve as an effective platform for dialogue between the State and civil society on human rights problems and the prevention of torture.

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said the promotion and protection of human rights was a fundamental responsibility of each State.  For its part, Japan had been faithfully implementing the universal periodic review findings and all relevant international human rights treaties.  It also had actively engaged in the intergovernmental process of the General Assembly to strengthen the human rights treaty body system.  The international community needed to remain committed to enhancing the effectiveness of that system.  Further, in 2014, Japan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and adopted an act on the elimination of discrimination against such persons.  The Government would continue to implement the Convention and enhance measures to realize their rights with full participation and engagement.

ZAYTOON FARAJ ABDULLAH ABDULLAH (Iraq) said her country stood ready to fulfil its international commitments.  Recently, the Government had undertaken various measures to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.  Further, Iraq had submitted national reports to relevant human rights treaty bodies, which monitored the steps that had been taken to ensure that everyone in the State could enjoy those rights.

YAO SHAOJUN (China), expressing support for General Assembly resolution 68/268 on the strengthening of the treaty bodies, said all concerned parties should implement it in a comprehensive and balanced manner and avoid “cherry-picking”.  It was necessary for treaty bodies and OHCHR to engage into communications with States parties in a thorough and timely manner.  With regard to the San Jose guidelines, each State party had a primary responsibility for protecting individuals from intimidation and reprisals.  Guidelines should be formulated through consultations between States parties and treaty bodies, not unilaterally decided by a meeting of chairs of treaty bodies, she said, adding that disseminating and implementing guidelines prior to consensus was inappropriate.  Participation of NGOs in the deliberations of treaty bodies ought to be in line with United Nations norms and regulations.  Treaty bodies should attach importance to information provided by States parties and information from others should be screened for veracity and reliability.

MS. KULCZER (Australia) noted her country’s candidacy for a seat on the Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 term, and reiterated her country’s position against the use of the death penalty and against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Human rights violations on “an unimaginable scale” had been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Australia was committed to working with the international community to address the situation in that country and to ensure that perpetrators were held accountable.  The establishment of a field office of OHCHR in Seoul was an important development, but collectively more had to be done and the Security Council was urged to address the situation.  Gross human rights violations perpetrated by ISIL and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria and by the [Bashar Al-] Assad regime were a matter of grave concern and the continued suffering of civilians was “absolutely unacceptable”.

MARIAME FOFANA (Burkina Faso) said without peace, development would not be possible, and without the protection of human rights, development would not be sustainable.  For its part, the Government had undertaken several measures to fully ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the country, including the implementation of international human rights treaties and the revision of current Criminal Code.  Further, through new initiatives, Burkina Faso continued to fight discrimination, child labour and violence against women.  The Government had also established an ad hoc inter-ministerial committee to monitor human rights violations in the country.

ACHSANUL HABIB (Indonesia) said his country continued to translate its commitment to human rights into action.  At the end of June 2015, the fourth generation of Indonesia’s human rights Plan of Action had been adopted.  The Plan, recalibrated to be more focused, concrete and measurable, contained strategies on, among other things, the enhancement of the implementing institution and the ratification and reporting of the implementation of international human rights instruments.  Within that context, Indonesia had been preparing new comprehensive laws concerning persons with disabilities, anti-torture, the protection of domestic workers and the drafting of the report of national implementation of international human rights instruments.  The Government was also continuing efforts to fully implement a newly established juvenile justice system, which would better serve children based on restorative justice principles.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), aligning with the African Group, noted his country’s participation in the universal periodic review process, for which it was finalizing the report for its second cycle in January 2016.  He commended OHCHR for the support it had given to the National Commission on Human Rights, particularly in identifying gaps in practices and making recommendations.  Mindful that corruption hampered the enjoyment of human rights and development, Mozambique was committed to becoming a corruption-free society and legislation to that end was being implemented.  With regard to persons with albinism, the Government was putting together a working group that would identify the elements of a strategy to deal with the discrimination and violence they faced.

MUAZ MOHAMAD A-K AL-OTOOM (Jordan) said that his Government had made considerable progress in protecting human rights while respecting Islamic Sharia and international standards.  Significant changes had been made in the Constitution and national legislation on the basis of the separation of power.  Efforts to protect human rights had also been extended to non-citizens residing in Jordan, including refugees.  Further international assistance to protect the rights of migrants was, however, required.  Moving to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he condemned violations resulting from the occupation by Israel.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said that over the past 25 years, Mongolia had carried out extensive and systematic legal reforms.  Its Parliament was considering a revised draft of the Criminal Code and with the its enactment, the death penalty would be abolished in law and practice.  The revised draft also would criminalize all forms of torture, in line with the definition of torture under Article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  The second national report of the universal periodic review had been successfully reviewed in May 2015 and its recommendations served as a “soft” law, a self-monitoring system for the Government on its human rights record and a vehicle for civil society organizations to demand effective implementation from the Government.  The Mongolian Government had recently held a two-day coordination meeting for review stakeholders, in collaboration with the United Nations country team, and more than 40 Governments and national human rights NGOs began a dialogue.  The law on legislation, enacted in May 2015, had introduced a legal requirement for drafters of legislation to receive comments on human rights perspectives from all stakeholders, including civil society organizations and public human rights bodies, he said.

ERVIN NINA (Albania), associating with the European Union, said that as a party to all core United Nations and regional instruments, his country remained fully committed to the universal promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  His delegation also supported the integration of a human rights dimension into the Organization’s policies.  Albania had extended a standing invitation to all special procedures processes in 2009 and had presented its national report in 2014 under the second cycle of the universal periodic review.  Since the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the country had been visited by several mandate holders, he said.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia), associating with the African Group, said one third of the country’s Constitution had been devoted to fundamental human and democratic rights and freedoms.  The Government had submitted periodic reports to respective committees and treaty bodies that monitored the implementation of human rights instruments.  Ethiopia had been reviewed by the Human Rights Council under the universal periodic review twice and recommendations and concluding observations had been distributed to legislative and administrative organs of the federal and regional governments for their follow-up.  Ethiopia had developed its first human rights action plan in line with the recommendations given in the first review cycle and was preparing its second one by taking into account new recommendations.  In addition, the Second Growth and Transformation Plan for the next five years incorporated the issues of democracy, good governance and human rights in its priority agenda.

RIMMA ZHUNUSSOVA (Kazakhstan) said her country was strongly dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Government had supported all initiatives targeting the full enjoyment of rights.  In February, Kazakhstan had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Further, she acknowledged OHCHR for providing technical assistance, which had helped the Government to establish a national mechanism to prevent torture.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) said the promotion and protection of human rights was a high priority for the Government.  Rwanda had ratified almost all relevant regional and international human rights instruments.  In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwanda had followed a human rights policy based on non-discrimination, tolerance and the resolution of problems through dialogue.  Ensuring peace, security and development could not be achieved without strong legislation, she stressed.  Thanks to efforts undertaken by the Government, Rwanda had the hope that its young people would enjoy a future free from genocide, while fully enjoying their rights.  In addition, Rwanda had abolished the death penalty in 2007, after a long negotiating process.

Right of Reply

The delegate from Israel, exercising the right of reply, said that the speech delivered earlier by the Palestinian delegate was shameful and outrageous and did not encourage trust.  Tens of citizens had been killed by Palestinians in the last few days, she said, including children stabbed to death.  Israel was currently providing the best health services to a young Palestinian terrorist that had been injured, contrary to what had been announced by the Palestinian authority, she said.

Also exercising the right of reply, the representative from the State of Palestine said that the delegate from Israel had omitted to refer to the illegal occupation by her country, which was the cause for human rights violations against Palestinians.  Unlike Israel, she said, the Palestinian authorities had always condemned violence against civilians on all sides.  Instead, Israel conveniently considered all Palestinians, including children, as terrorists.

For information media. Not an official record.