As Third Committee Unanimously Approves Draft Text on Human Rights in Myanmar, Delegates Express Hope for Smooth Post-Election Transition to New Government
By one of three draft resolutions the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved today, the General Assembly would welcome the peaceful and competitive conduct of the elections held in Myanmar on 8 November 2015, but express serious concern over political disenfranchisement and the disqualification of candidates from the Rohingya community and religious and ethnic minorities.
Approved without a vote, that draft — on the situation of human rights in Myanmar — would see the world body encourage ongoing efforts towards a smooth transition to the next government, with respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the rule of law.
By the draft text, the Assembly would stress the equal application to all of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and call on all national institutions, including the military, to be brought under a democratically elected, fully representative civilian government, with a fully elected parliament.
Accompanying the text was a statement from the Secretary General, contained in document A/C.3/70/L.65, stating that $1,127,200 would be required in 2016 to continue the efforts of his good offices relating to Myanmar.
The representative of Myanmar, who like several other speakers expressed opposition to country-specific resolutions, said he disagreed with several operative paragraphs in the text and regretted that it did not address all the positive developments in his country, including with regard to Rakhine state. But, he said it was in a spirit of cooperation that Myanmar had engaged in negotiations and refrained from calling a recorded vote on the draft resolution.
Several speakers also took the floor to suggest that, in light of ongoing reforms in Myanmar, such a text would no longer be necessary.
In other business, the Committee approved a text titled on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, which would have the Assembly invite States and relevant United Nations human rights mechanisms and procedures to continue to pay attention to the importance of mutual cooperation, understanding and dialogue in ensuring the promotion and protection of all human rights.
Also speaking were delegates from the United States, Singapore, China, Iran, Cuba, Russian Federation, Thailand, Viet Nam, Belarus, India, Philippines, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan and Venezuela, as well as Egypt (for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 19 November, to take action on draft texts.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights” (document A/C.3/70/L.34).
That text would have the General Assembly reaffirm that it is one of the purposes of the United Nations and the responsibility of all Member States to promote, protect and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms through, inter alia, international cooperation and urge States to take measures necessary to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation aimed at addressing the adverse impact of consecutive and compounded global crises, such as financial and economic crises, food crises, climate change and natural disasters, on the full enjoyment of human rights.
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the text.
Speaking in an explanation of position after text’s approval, the delegate from the United States said the draft did not alter the mandate of any international human rights mechanism or change the ability of the General Assembly and Human Rights Council to address human rights issues.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in Myanmar” (document A/C.3/70/L.39/Rev.1).
The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and all co-sponsors, made oral revisions to the text, which she said reflected the “substantial progress” that had been made in Myanmar, including the elections on 8 November 2015. The draft welcomed broader reform efforts in the country and the signing of a national ceasefire agreement with eight armed groups. Several outstanding human rights concerns were addressed in the draft, including the situation of persons belonging to the Rohingya community and other minority groups. The European Union had been working closely with Myanmar and very much appreciated constructive engagement, she said.
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the text, as orally revised, as well as its related programme budget implications (document A/C.3/70/L.65).
The representative of Myanmar, in an explanation of position, reaffirmed his delegation’s strong opposition to country-specific resolutions, which were politicized in nature. He underlined that the universal periodic review remained the sole appropriate mechanism to address specific country situations. In a spirit of cooperation, however, his delegation had engaged in the negotiation processes and refrained to call for a vote on the draft text. The recent elections in Myanmar had taken place in a peaceful, fair and transparent manner. That had been a result of the democratization process that had started more than four years ago.
He regretted to say that the draft text did not refer to all the positive achievements by Myanmar, including regarding the situation in Rakhine state, and disagreed with some of its paragraphs, including references to religion and ethnicity as grounds for discrimination and undue concerns about certain domestic laws. He highlighted his delegation’s rejection to operational paragraphs 12 and 14 of the resolution, relating respectively to the 1982 Citizenship Law and the situation of the “Rohingya”. That term indeed did not exist in Myanmar, he insisted.
The delegate of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, said the group had intended to table a text regarding the situation of the Rohingya, but in a spirit of good faith, it had put that document aside in favour of the draft text, which had been approved by consensus. It was regrettable that Myanmar had not accepted the paragraphs that reflected the concerns of the international community and that the Rohingya and other minority groups had been unable to participate in the elections. But, he hoped that the elections would mark a step forward and that the new Government would address the concerns expressed in the draft resolution.
The representatives of Singapore, China, Iran, Cuba, Russian Federation, Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Venezuela reiterated their principled position against country-specific resolutions and the politicization of human rights issues, and defended the view that the Universal Periodic Review was the appropriate mechanism to address human rights concerns in a spirit of cooperation, non-selectivity and objectivity.
The representatives of Thailand, India and the Philippines said country-specific resolutions regarding Myanmar were no longer needed, while the delegate of Japan expressed the hope that the Government of that county would address the remaining challenges so that a resolution would not be necessary in 2016.