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Seventieth Session,
52nd Meeting (AM)
GA/SHC/4158

Approving Nine Texts, Third Committee Asks World Body to Urge Respect for Human Rights When States Tackle Terrorism, Address Refugee Crisis

Efforts to clamp down on terrorists must, at the same time, comply with all human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, the Third Committee heard today as it approved nine texts, including on counter-terrorism, freedom of religion or belief, combating religious intolerance and promoting cultural diversity.

Among those draft resolutions, the Committee, acting without a vote, approved a text on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.  By that text, the General Assembly would reaffirm that all counter-terrorism measures should be implemented in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

Also by the text, the world body would urge all States to safeguard human rights, including the right to non-discrimination, the right to privacy and the right to a fair trial, while countering terrorism.  Also addressing the refugee crisis, the Assembly, by the terms of the draft, would urge States to ensure that all border control operations are clear and fully respect international law, and to fully respect non-refoulement.

The representative of Mexico, one of the main sponsors of that text, stressed the importance of ensuring that measures to counter terrorism respected human rights, gender equality and non-discrimination.  He welcomed the fact that the draft resolution contained elements on the need to protect and respect the work by civil society organizations and humanitarian agencies in the context of counter-terrorism efforts.

Explaining his delegation’s position after the approval of the text, Egypt’s speaker regretted that the draft resolution had failed to give due consideration to the effect of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights and to serious human rights abuses by terrorist groups.  The protection of human rights while countering terrorism should include the rights of victims of terrorism, he said.

Elaborating on related issues, the Committee, acting without a vote, approved a draft resolution on freedom of religion or belief.  By that text, the General Assembly would reaffirm that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion or belief and that States had an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against persons belonging to religious minorities.

Also approved without a vote was a text that would have the Assembly express deep concern at the continued rise of the number of incidents of religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative stereotyping of individuals on the basis of religion or belief around the world.  The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union in explanation of position, highlighted the importance of protecting freedom of expression as a powerful and essential tool for combating religious discrimination, hatred and violence.

On a similar topic, a draft resolution on cultural diversity, approved by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 54 against, with no abstentions, would have the Assembly affirm the importance for all peoples and nations to hold, develop and preserve their cultural heritage and traditions in a national and international atmosphere of peace, tolerance and mutual respect.  Luxembourg’s delegate, who had requested a vote on behalf of the European Union, voiced concerns about the reference in the draft resolution to “discriminatory treatment against cultures and religions”, which shifted the focus away from the individual as a rights holder.  Expressing a similar position, the speaker from the United States noted that the concept of cultural diversity in the draft resolution could be misused.

The Committee also approved by recorded votes a draft resolution on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (126 in favour to 53 against, with 1 abstention) and on the promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies (124 in favour to 54 against, with 1 abstention).

Draft resolutions on the integration of volunteering into peace and development, the right to self-determination and the rights of persons with disabilities were approved today without a vote.

Also speaking were representatives of Japan, Togo, Pakistan, Argentina, Spain, New Zealand and India.

The representative of the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Monday, 23 November.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up a draft resolution on “Integrating volunteering into peace and development: the plan of action for the next decade and beyond” (document A/C.3/70/L.15/Rev.1).

The text would have the General Assembly recognize the importance of integrating volunteerism into the planning and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and encourage the United Nations system, civil society and the private sector, in partnership with Member States, to support those efforts and promote a conducive environment for volunteerism and volunteers to enhance the sustainability of development results.  It would, by the text, also invite the collaboration of the United Nations Volunteers programme and other organizations, such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in jointly organizing a global technical meeting in 2020 to further strengthen the engagement and contributions of volunteers with regard to the 2030 Agenda.

Presenting the draft resolution, the representative of Japan said the Secretary-General’s plan of action recognized volunteering as an effective mechanism to implement the 2030 Agenda and called for strong partnerships among relevant stakeholders to promote volunteerism.  In the draft text, Member States were requested to give full consideration to the plan of action and encouraged to integrate volunteerism into their national development strategies.

Making a general statement, Togo’s delegate said youth unemployment remained a major concern and access to jobs was a key element for social integration.  To address the issue of unemployment, the Government had initiated a programme aimed at providing 200,000 jobs for young people.  Further, a national volunteer initiative had been created, with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support, to strengthen young people’s skills and improve their competitiveness for the job market.  So far, the initiative had reached 6,000 young volunteers and would be extended to the elderly.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

Next, the Committee took up the text on the “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/70/L.60).

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 as a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights and for the preservation and promotion of such rights.  The Assembly, by the text, would declare its firm opposition to acts of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, call upon States responsible to immediately cease their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories and deplore the plight of refugees and displaced persons.  The text would also have the world body ask the Human Rights Council to continue to give special attention to violations of human rights, especially the right to self-determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation.

Pakistan’s speaker, making a general statement, said the right to self-determination was a central principle of the United Nations Charter.  The extensive exercise of that right during the last century had effectively closed the dark chapter of colonization and enabled the emergence of several nations as sovereign members of the United Nations, she noted.  The General Assembly’s consistent support for that important resolution in previous years had reaffirmed the continued relevance of the right to self-determination and had sent a strong message of support to all occupied and subjugated people of the world.  She expressed the hope that the resolution would once more be approved by consensus.

Acting without a vote, the Third Committee approved the draft resolution.

Speaking in explanation of position after the approval, the representative of the United States noted that the text contained many provisions that were inconsistent with international law and States’ practices.

Argentina’s delegate expressed full support for the people still living under occupation and underlined that the draft resolution had to be interpreted in accordance with international decisions on the issue.

Spain’s speaker warned against the wrong interpretation of the United Nations Charter and decisions relating to the right of self-determination.  She called on the United Kingdom to cooperate with regard to the situation in Gibraltar.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom, reaffirming a long-standing commitment to the people of Gibraltar, confirmed that the United Kingdom would not enter into a negotiation process to which the people of Gibraltar did not adhere.

The Committee then took up the draft text on the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto” (document A/C.3/70/L.25/Rev.1).

By its terms, the Assembly would call upon States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention and Optional Protocol and invite the Secretary-General to intensify efforts to assist States to become parties to both instruments.  It would also, by the text, encourage States to intensify efforts to advance the rights of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The President of the General Assembly would be invited to convene a high-level panel meeting in late 2016 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention, aimed at promoting its universalization.

Making a general statement, the representative of New Zealand, speaking on behalf of Mexico and Sweden, thanked Member States for their constructive engagement and underlined that the draft resolution called upon States to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

A speaker from India, welcoming that action, emphasized the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of sustainable development strategies.

The Committee then took up the draft text on “Human rights and unilateral coercive measures” (document A/C.3/70/L.32).

By its terms, the Assembly would urge all States to cease adopting or implementing any unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States.  It would also, by the text, strongly urge States to refrain from promulgating and applying any such measures that impeded the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.

By the draft, the Assembly would condemn the inclusion of Member States in unilateral lists under false pretexts, including false allegations of terrorism sponsorship.  It would also reaffirm the request of the Human Rights Council that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights organize a workshop on the impact of the application of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights by affected populations.

Committee Chair OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said a recorded vote had been requested.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 126 in favour, 53 against and 1 abstention (Palau).

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United States said the promotion and protection of human rights was the primary responsibility of States.  She noted that the draft text was a direct challenge to the principle of sovereignty.

It then took up the text on the “Promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies” (document A/C.3/70/L.33).

By its terms, the Assembly would reiterate that States parties to United Nations human rights instruments should take into account, in their nomination of members to human rights treaty bodies, that those committees shall be composed of persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.  It would also reiterate that, in the elections to the human rights treaty bodies, strong consideration shall be given to equitable geographical distribution of membership and to the representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems.  The Assembly would, by the text, recommend the introduction of flexible procedures when considering the possible allocation of seats on each treaty body on a regional basis and set out a number of criteria in that regard.

The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States in explanation of vote before the vote, said that the human rights treaties contained provisions relating to the composition of their respective committees.  It was, therefore, not the place of the General Assembly either to modify treaty provisions or to ask the States parties to do so.  In addition, he said, treaty body experts were not representing States and were elected in their personal capacity.

By a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 54 against, with 1 abstention (Costa Rica), the Committee then approved the draft text.

It then took action on a draft text on “Human rights and cultural diversity” (document A/C.3/70/L.38).

By its terms, the Assembly would affirm the importance for all peoples and nations to hold, develop and preserve their cultural heritage and traditions in a national and international atmosphere of peace, tolerance and mutual respect.  The Assembly, by the text, would recognize the importance given to cultural diversity in the 2030 Agenda and express its determination to prevent and mitigate cultural homogenization in the context of globalization through increased intercultural exchange guided by the promotion and protection of cultural diversity.

Also by the text, the Assembly would emphasize that tolerance and respect for diversity facilitated the promotion and protection of human rights and underline the fact that tolerance and respect for cultural diversity and the universal promotion and protection of human rights were mutually supportive.  The Assembly would, by the text, urge all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, justice, equality and equity, human dignity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, and to reject all doctrines of exclusion based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Committee Chair Mr. HILALE (Morocco) said a recorded vote had been requested.

Cuba’s delegate asked which delegation had made the request.

Responding, Mr. HILALE said it was Luxembourg’s representative, on behalf of the European Union.

Making a general statement, the speaker from Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, underlined the importance of promoting cultural diversity, which could be achieved only if human rights and fundamental freedoms were guaranteed.  Further, he said, media pluralism and freedom of assembly and association were essential for the expression of cultural diversity.  The European Union was concerned about the reference in the draft resolution to “discriminatory treatment against cultures and religions”, which shifted the focus away from the individual as a rights holder.  To that end, the delegation would vote against the text.

By a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 54 against, with no abstentions, the Committee then approved the draft.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the delegate from the United States noted that all Governments were responsible for promoting and protecting human rights while ensuring the full enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.  She pointed out that the concept of cultural diversity in the draft resolution could be misused.

Next, the Committee took action on a draft resolution on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief” (document A/C.3/70/L.40/Rev.1).

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, organizations and groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about religious groups, in particular when condoned by Governments.  The Assembly would also, by the text, express concern that the number of incidents of religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative stereotyping of individuals on the basis of religion or belief, had continued to rise around the world.  The world body would, by the text, call upon States to take a number of actions, as called for by the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect.

Making a general statement on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the representative of Egypt said the draft’s main sponsors had made a number of amendments as suggested during informal negotiations.  Among those amendments was the deletion of preambular paragraph 18bis and operational paragraphs 3 and 8e.

The representative of Luxembourg, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, saw the draft resolution as a call to States to respond to acts of discrimination, hostility or violence on the grounds of religious beliefs, in accordance with international law.  It was important that the international community consolidated its collective response to counter all those who wanted to use religion as an instrument to fuel division, extremism and violence.  In that regard, freedom of expression was a powerful and essential tool for combating religious discrimination, hatred and violence.

Continuing, he underlined the great value and crucial role of dialogue in countering religious hatred and pointed at the key role played by civil society organizations, religious entities and the media.  Religious hatred was a threat to human rights and States had the primary responsibility to protect and promote human rights, including of persons belonging to religious minorities, religious communities and vulnerable groups.  He then condemned attacks on religious places and welcomed the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in promoting intercultural dialogue.

Acting without a vote, the Third Committee then approved the text, as orally revised.

It then took up the text on the “Freedom of religion or belief” (document A/C.3/70/L.41/Rev.1).

By its terms, the Assembly would strongly condemn violations of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, as well as all forms of intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief.  It would, by the text, recognize with deep concern the overall rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence, regardless of the actors, directed against members of many religious and other communities in various parts of the world, including cases motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia, and prejudices against persons of other religions or beliefs.

The Assembly would, by the text, reaffirm that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion or belief.  It would also recall that States had an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against persons belonging to religious minorities, regardless of the perpetrator, and that failure to do so might constitute a human rights violation.  The world body would emphasize that, as underlined by the Human Rights Committee, restrictions on the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief were permitted only if limitations were prescribed by law; were necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; were non-discriminatory; and were applied in a manner that did not violate the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or beliefs.

The delegate from Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the draft text was the result of extensive consultations carried out in a spirit of cooperation.  It was imperative to intensify efforts to promote freedom of religion or belief.  In that regard, he urged all States to step up their efforts and implement all accepted universal periodic review recommendations.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

For information media. Not an official record.