Third Committee Approves Three Texts Addressing Literacy, Crime Prevention, Alternative Development as Debate on Refugees Concludes
Taking action for the first time during the seventy‑first session, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today unanimously approved three resolutions on literacy, crime prevention, and alternative development programmes, and heard the introduction of a draft text on obstetric fistula.
The draft resolution on literacy would have the General Assembly include the sub‑item “literacy for life: shaping future agendas” under its “social development” item in the provisional agenda of its seventy‑third session. Introducing the text, Mongolia’s representative said it sought to promote the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving literacy and numeracy among all youth and a substantial portion of adults by 2030.
A text on preparations for the Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice would have the Assembly request the Commission to approve at its twenty‑sixth session the overall theme, agenda items and topics for the Congress’ workshops.
By the terms of a draft on alternative development, recommended to the Assembly by the Economic and Social Council, the 193-member body would call on States and donors to provide long‑term support to alternative development programmes, including those targeting the illicit cultivation of drug crops.
Senegal’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft resolution on “intensification of efforts to end obstetric fistula”, an issue he said was rooted in poverty and linked to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Also today, the Committee concluded its general debate on refugees, returnees, displaced persons and humanitarian questions, with several delegates underscoring the undue burden refugees placed on developing countries bordering areas of conflict. Ethiopia’s representative pointed out that its open door policy for refugees had made it the number one host country in Africa. Iran’s representative, noting that her country had hosted up to 3 million refugees in some periods, underlined that Iran was providing some 460,000 refugee children with free education. The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, likewise, highlighted his country’s naturalization of some 162,000 Burundian refugees in 2004, stressing: “No country in the world has ever offered naturalization of such a large number of refugees in a lump sum.”
The representative of Mali, a source country for refugees, thanked neighbouring States for hosting them, while underscoring that it was political insecurity which had forced them to flee their homes and seek security. Serbia’s representative, a transit country, pledged that the Government would not “fence out” migrants, but emphasized that a comprehensive solution was needed to share the burden.
Also speaking today were representatives of Monaco, Qatar, Iraq, Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, Lebanon, Eritrea, Japan, China, Sudan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Zambia, Cameroon, India, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Algeria, Pakistan and Madagascar on behalf of the Southern African Development Community. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Georgia, Algeria and Morocco.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 4 November, to hold a dialogue with the President of the Human Rights Council, followed by a general discussion.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general debate on refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and humanitarian questions. It was also expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the advancement of women, and take action on three draft resolutions related to literacy, crime prevention and drug control. For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4183.
BENJAMIN VALLI (Monaco) said the effects of displacement included the separation of families, trafficking and sexual violence. Monaco assisted refugees and had adopted a national covenant to address their needs in an equitable manner. The Government also attached great importance to burden sharing in the hosting of refugees. The right to education was not only a fundamental right, but also a crucial tool in the integration of refugees, he said, stressing that school was a safe place for refugee children.
Ms. AL KHATER (Qatar), noting that thousands of young Syrian lives had been shattered by conflict, said the future generation of an entire country had been marked by violence, trauma and lack of education. Education was vital for social and economic empowerment and the best preventive measure against the threat of radicalization and terrorism. To date, Qatar’s investments in teachers and classrooms had allowed more than 600,000 children in Syrian refugee camps to continue their education. Stressing the need for higher education as well, he said Qatar had urged the international community on numerous occasions to void a lost generation of university graduates to conflict situations. States must invest in preparing future leaders who would be responsible for post‑conflict stabilization and reconstruction in their countries.
Mr. ADNAN (Iraq) said terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) gangs had overrun cities and villages and burned down the homes of civilians, adding that the number of displaced and refugees had reached the thousands. He reviewed Government policies to alleviate their plight, which included providing internally displaced people with identification papers and absorbing displaced students into other educational institutions. Iraq was putting in place plans for people to return home after the liberation of cities, and at a time when Iraq stressed its determination to liberate Mosul and ensure ISIL/Da’esh left all Iraqi territories, the Government would continue to provide for the needs of Iraqi citizens. While Iraq required assistance, it did not need foreign military forces, as it had its own citizens.
MURAT UGURLUOGLU (Turkey) said it was time for the international community to focus on an action‑oriented approach on removing the root causes of displacement, and providing refugees with dignified solutions. Turkey continued to rely on the support and leadership of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Having put people at the centre of its efforts, Turkey had pursued an open‑door policy since the onset of the crisis in Syria. The biggest challenge Turkey continued to face was in education, where despite Government efforts, it had only been able to provide one third of refugees with assistance. The international community must ensure that no generation was lost.
Ms. FAROUQ (Nigeria) expressed her concern about the increasing number of displaced people due to conflict and natural disasters, stressing the importance of protecting the human rights of all migrants. Nigeria continued to engage with regional human rights bodies and had accepted refugees while fighting terrorist groups, which made hosting more challenging. The Government also guaranteed free passage of displaced persons. She called on the international community to pay more attention to the issue of internally displaced persons.
Ms. MXAKATO-DISEKO (South Africa) noted that Africa continued to witness a large number of forcibly displaced persons, creating an increasing burden on host countries, many of which experienced challenging socioeconomic conditions themselves. Forced displacement had instigated the need for collective responsibility based on equitable burden sharing, she said. South Africa supported the outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul in May 2016, which had brought renewed focus to the increasing number of humanitarian crises and decreasing resources with which to address them. As host to a large number of forcibly displaced persons, South Africa was committed in fulfilling its international obligations.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said his country had the highest ratio in the world of refugees and displaced persons both per capita and per square kilometre. The mass influx of Syrian refugees had overstretched its limited resources, seriously affected its economic activity and investment climate, and threatened its security. The only way forward was a global shift in the humanitarian assistance approach, moving from only humanitarian assistance to addressing the development needs of refugees and displaced, as well as those of host communities. Burden and responsibility sharing remained fundamental principles, while sustainable solutions to refugee situations must address the root causes of displacement. The specific context of each situation should be appropriately taken into account.
NEBIL SAID IDRIS (Eritrea) stressed the need to distinguish between refugees and migrants, especially as the two groups had different protection needs. More regular paths of migration must be found, he said, emphasizing that refugees must not be used for recruitment to armed forces or political radicalization. Eligibility guidelines for refugees and migrants must be developed in collaboration with host countries and he requested relevant United Nations bodies to review those guidelines.
HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) noted with concern the unprecedented number of displaced persons, pointing out that most refugees were hosted by developing countries. He called on States to share responsibilities and provide more assistance for host countries. Moreover, countries emerging from conflict should receive assistance to prevent recurrence and to reduce the number of displaced persons. Ethiopia had an open‑door policy for refugees, making it the number one host country in Africa. The Government also had adopted policies to provide basic social services and employment for refugees.
TARO TSUTSUMI (Japan) said follow‑up to the World Humanitarian Summit and the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants was important, adding that Japan would implement the commitments it had announced at each. Noting with appreciation that the “humanitarian‑development nexus” had been stressed throughout the summit meetings, which represented a paradigm shift, he stressed that agencies should collaborate beyond their respective fields. Calling on the international community to implement humanitarian assistance inside Syria, he cautioned against forgetting that displacement on the African continent was critical, noting that discussions around the closure of the Dadaab refugee camps had shown how protracted such crises were.
WU HAITAO (China) said that in the search for solutions to the refugee problem, countries must uphold the United Nations Charter, and settle disputes and disagreements through dialogue and consultations, thus reducing the number of refugees and displaced persons caused by war and conflict. As addressing the issue of refugees required enhanced international cooperation, he said countries of origin, transit and destination must bear their respective responsibilities in line with their capacities. The humanitarian nature of refugee protection mechanisms must be safeguarded from politicization and abuse, he said, noting that China would work to implement assistance initiatives, and stood ready to work with other countries to strive for a durable solution to the global refugee problem.
RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) said her country had received a large number of refugees, despite difficult national circumstances. Being a host country posed significant challenges for Sudan. The Government had amended its refugee and visa laws and was committed to fight trafficking. It also had signed agreements with neighbouring countries to provide assistance to refugees in a coordinated manner, she said, stressing that repatriation was supported for refugees from abroad and from Sudan itself.
SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) said her country hosted many Syrian refugees, who comprised almost 20 per cent of the total population. The Government had provided social services, accommodation and employment for refugees, which had depleted its resources. There was no humanitarian solution, only a political solution, to the conflict in Syria, she said, urging the international community to shoulder its responsibility and calling for assistance. Further, Palestinian refugees must be able to return and be provided with the necessary assistance.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the African Group, said disasters and climate change weighed heavily on the world’s conscience, and international solidarity was required to alleviate suffering. The political insecurity that had shaken Mali had forced hundreds of thousands of citizens to flee their homes and seek refuge, both inside the country and out. Management of that humanitarian crisis was a priority, he said, and four emergency response plans had been developed for the northern regions. The Government was cooperating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and neighbouring countries to optimize conditions for the return of internally displaced people, including from Burkina Faso. He thanked neighbouring countries that were hosting Malian refugees.
KANG SANGWOOK (Republic of Korea) said the root causes of forced displacement must be addressed, noting that UNHCR was responsible for following up on the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to working with UNHCR, and emphasized that to tackle funding shortfalls, countries must increase their contributions and engage more with the private sector. He called on UNHCR to remain steadfast to its core mandate. The Republic of Korea was doing its best to fulfil its share of responsibilities, and in terms of financial contributions, had increased its humanitarian assistance. The international community must stand united in tackling the crisis.
ANA ILIĆ (Serbia) said her country had helped mitigate the plight of more than 700,000 refugees and migrants transiting through or seeking refuge in the country in the past year and a half. Some 5,000 were now there, most of them in reception and asylum centres. With the phenomenon expected to continue, Serbia’s capacities were being strained; international assistance had not been forthcoming. Her country would not fence out the migrants, she pledged, but a comprehensive solution was needed to share the burden. The country was also assisting refugees from the former Yugoslavia as well as some 200,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija, whose situation had not improved since 1999. She hoped that calls from human rights experts to de‑link their plight from political processes and leave all durable solutions open to them would be heeded, and that better cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina would advance the process to allow both return and local integration. Noting that Serbia had the largest number of refugees in the Regional Housing Programme, she thanked donors and added that there should be no formal deadline for the Programme’s completion. Serbia, did not endorse the UNHCR recommendation of 2014 on refugees from Croatia, but would continue to do its part and decide on cessation of refugee status on an individual basis, which had proven the correct path. There was no purely administrative solution for the refugee problem, she commented.
IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, expressed appreciation for the assistance provided to internally displaced persons in his country, stressing that Russian aggression was directly linked to the increasing number of displaced persons and the only cause of the humanitarian crisis. Ukraine continued to provide assistance, shelter and protection for the refugees from Donbass and Crimea, mainly older persons and children. Noting that the humanitarian situation in Crimea was dire, he said Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars continued to face systematic human rights violations.
CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia) said her country had hosted thousands of refugees since its independence in 1966, and today hosted more than 54,000 people. Working with UNHCR, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international agencies, Zambia had worked to ensure the development of settlement areas. Yet, there were still challenges in the provision of water and sanitation, nutrition, health care and shelter. She welcomed the outcome document of the High‑Level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants in September 2016, which emphasized the need to support countries hosting large numbers of refugees. Zambia’s National Resettlement Policy aimed to create stable and sustainable human settlements which were economically productive and socially just.
Ms. KARIMDOOST (Iran) said innocent civilians had borne the brunt of intrusive policies, and the international community’s joint response was essential. Having hosted a huge number of refugees, more than 3 million in some periods, Iran had always faced a heavy burden, yet had refrained from closing its borders. In addition to providing free health and medical care to refugees, and creating job opportunities, Iran had provided remedial education to them. Some 460,000 refugee children, 100,000 of them undocumented, attended school free of charge. She urged expanding the number of countries engaged in refugee resettlement.
Ms. MBALA EYENGA (Cameroon) said the number of displaced persons continued to rise, and it was clear that the scale of forced displacements transcended States’ individual capacities. The urgent situations and crises related to refugees required Governments to make commitments, and with support of the private sector, improve the management of migrant movements. Following the aggression of the terrorist organization Boko Haram, 9 million people were in need of assistance, and many were living in extreme poverty. Cameroon was facing a grave humanitarian situation, among others in the health, food, water and sanitation sectors. Cameroon had organized employment programmes for refugees in cities.
MAYANK JOSHI (India) called for greater cooperation and more balanced burden sharing with host States to address the refugee crisis. He stressed the need to differentiate economic migrants from refugees so as to better address their protection and needs. Solutions must prevent armed conflicts and terrorism, as well as facilitate sustainable development and governance. He also called for sustained and coordinated action to combat human trafficking and transnational organized crime.
OMAR RABI (Morocco), noting that humanitarian crises defined the situation in many countries, said this year was also defined by international initiatives, such as the World Humanitarian Summit. He stressed the importance of registering all refugees, including those in the Moroccan Sahara. Access to aid must be ensured and supplies could not be diverted, he said, stressing that refugee camps must not be used by armed groups and that the protection of those areas was enshrined in international humanitarian law, which must be upheld.
SULEIMAN EVEREST MZIRAY (United Republic of Tanzania), associating with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said it was not an easy task to host refugees, particularly for a developing nation. The fact that the number of refugees sometime outnumbers local communities was a serious concern. There were competing priorities to help refugees survive. The meagre allocation of resources for the short and long‑term needs of refugees was a human rights violation, he said, stressing: “The challenge of disease and degradation of environment is indescribable.” Despite inadequate support, the United Republic of Tanzania strived to meet its responsibilities. The country was home to more than 270,000 refugees and asylum seekers. At one time, it had hosted up to 1.2 million refugees, which was then the largest refugee population in Africa. The country had gone further to offer a lasting solution by naturalizing more than 162,000 Burundian refugees in 2014. “No country in the world has ever offered naturalization of such a large number of refugees in a lump sum,” he said. “This unique and generous effort is unprecedented. It should never be taken for granted.” Yet the Government was struggling to finance the local integration programme for the naturalized citizens and donors had not lived up to their funding promises.
HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) fully supported all efforts to raise the visibility of internally displaced persons in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its intention to reduce such displacement by at least 50 per cent by 2030. Azerbaijan also supported the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which pointed out the need to develop strategies to protect and assist internally displaced persons, and to prevent and reduce their displacement. He was pleased that 40 States had signed the Kampala Convention and hoped other regions would also produce binding documents on internal displacement. The occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories had left the country with one of the largest internally displaced populations in the world. It had been more than 25 years since thousands of internally displaced Azerbaijani people had been denied their right to return. The Government had made significant progress, having provided more than 250,000 internally displaced persons with houses in newly established settlements. In the past 20 years, more than $6 billion had been spent to solve the social problems of internally displaced persons.
TOM TARCISIUS ONYAI MANANO (Uganda) said the world was experiencing unprecedented human mobility due to the search for new economic opportunities, escape from conflict, poverty, food insecurity, terrorism and human rights abuses. “No one chooses to be a refugee, so our emphasis has been that every person must be treated with dignity,” he said, calling on States to address the gap between humanitarian and development assistance; support a Settlement Transformation Agenda; and address the root causes of refugees so they could return to their countries at the earliest opportunity. Uganda’s refugee policy was premised on the idea that the refugee phenomenon was transitional, not permanent.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), discussing the serious impacts of conflict on displacement, said the lack of resources to address such challenges must be tackled through international solidarity and burden sharing. Algeria supported sustainable solutions to displacement and the protection of all such persons, stressing that the Government provided assistance to all refugees in the country. Humanitarian aid to Western Sahara had been provided in collaboration with international organizations and non‑Governmental organizations.
SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan) said most refugees were being hosted in developing countries, and recent international agreements must now be implemented. Stressing that the Global Compact on Refugees must be based on equitable burden sharing, he drew attention to the high numbers of refugee children out of school and lacking access to health care. Assistance given to refugees was an investment in human capital, he noted.
HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), noted the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, stressing that the Community would employ its collective efforts to address the root causes of forced displacement such as underdevelopment, poverty and unemployment. She also reaffirmed SADC’s commitment to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as amended by the 1967 Protocol and the Memorandum of Understanding signed with UNHCR in 1996. SADC members had also adopted the Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons in 2005, which sought to eliminate obstacles to movement in the territories of State parties.
Ms. DURAN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said States were not doing enough to prevent and resolve armed conflict, or ensure respect for international humanitarian law. Urging States to keep the focus on internal displacement, she said that where a nexus existed with movements across international borders, a holistic approach was required. It was important to engage in dialogue with displaced and host communities. Internally displaced people must participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of programmes. Displaced children were vulnerable to family separation and forced recruitment, and often had psychological and psychosocial needs related to the trauma of displacement. Too many lacked access to education, sometimes for years. She expressed hoped that the forthcoming High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges would explore how authorities and organizations could prioritize displaced children in educational and other programmes.
The delegate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called on States to protect migrants and refugees so that they could travel in safety and dignity, and to ensure their families were not separated. States also must provide health care, legal advice, food and shelter to people on the move. In destination countries, Governments must uphold the rights of refugees and migrants enshrined under international and national law. Concerned by the “frightening narrative” around migrants and refugees, she asked that politicians and media work to counter xenophobia and racism in public discourse. She conveyed IFRC’s willingness to work with UNHCR and other partners to better integrate humanitarian and development projects and support host communities.
Rights of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret that a discussion on a humanitarian agenda item had been used to bring up other issues. Georgia’s delegate should acknowledge that the territories in question were sovereign States. Ukraine’s representative had spread lies about the situation in the southeast of that country, he said, noting that the true reason for the displacement of Ukrainians was crimes committed by ultra‑nationalists.
Ukraine said his Russian counterpart had implied that the Russian Federation had failed to prepare for meetings and urged him to “have some respect” and prepare statements. The only humanitarian assistance the Russian Federation could provide was to fully withdraw its troops. Ukraine did not have an internal aggression problem; rather, it was the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine. Recalling the two Chechen wars, he noted that attacks there had levelled everything.
The representative of Georgia clarified that comments by her Russian counterpart had been made to politicize the right of return. That principle had not been fulfilled for Georgians because they had found themselves under occupation. There were two parties to the conflict: Georgia, which was defending itself, and the Russian Federation, which was the aggressor.
The representative of Algeria responded to Morocco’s delegate that “the Sahara” was a non‑self‑Governing Territory and recognized internationally as such. The people of that territory must be able to determine their future. That choice was not up to Morocco. The Saharan people must be protected. To allegations of violence, he said violence occurred in the occupied territory, stressing the need to respect the right to self‑determination. For its part, Algeria continued to ensure that registrations took place.
The representative of Morocco said that while his Algerian counterpart continued to say that Algeria did so much for the Tindouf camp population, he asked rhetorically whether that country was not ashamed of filling its State coffers from those poor people and diverting the assistance provided to them. He then read a statement on taxes, providing details of figures referring to the assistance in place.
The representative of Russian Federation, taking the floor a second time, said the most recent UNHCR report noted that internally displaced people in Ukraine could not receive social benefits, and a blockade continued. Regarding comments made about Ukraine, he urged delegates to read relevant documents by United Nations agencies.
The representative of Ukraine said the topic being discussed was internally displaced people, explaining that the root cause of the situation in Ukraine, where 1.7 million people were internally displaced, was the foreign aggression of the Russian Federation, so that was an issue to discuss “in this room”.
The representative of Georgia expressed surprise that she would have had to explain that the issue of the right of return, as well as issues of forced displacement and human rights on any territory, were humanitarian and human rights topics, which were the topics being discussed today.
The representative of Algeria referred to an “attack” against the Secretary‑General who had visited the camps, stressing that the issue of decolonisation had been illustrated by the expulsion of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
The representative of Morocco said his Algerian counterpart continued to divert the discussion. Morocco’s delegation had merely read reports of the European Union, he said, stressing: “He lied, he said the report was not endorsed”. Speaking to Algeria’s representative, he asked about the Kabyle people. Algeria continued to say that the Western Sahara issue was one of colonization; rather, it was a matter of completing territorial integrity.
Action on Draft Resolutions
Under the Committee’s agenda item on the advancement of women, the representative of Senegal, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft resolution on the “Intensification of efforts to end obstetric fistula” (document A/C.3/71/L.16), noting that the issue was rooted in poverty and inextricably linked to the full achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
By the draft resolution, the Assembly would call upon the international community to increase technical and financial support to high‑burden countries, with the objective of eliminating obstetric fistula within a generation. Technical support would focus on access to sustainable care and professional training.
The representative of Mongolia introduced a draft resolution entitled, “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas” (document A/C.3/71/L.9/Rev.1), which he said intended to promote the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving literacy and numeracy among all youth and a substantial portion of adults by 2030.
The resolution was approved by consensus.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution on the “Follow‑up to the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and preparations for the Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice” (document A/C.3/71/L.2), as recommended by the Economic and Social Council.
The resolution would request the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to approve at its twenty‑sixth session the overall theme, agenda items and topics for the Congress’ workshops. Workshop topics and side events at the Fourteenth Congress would be focused and limited in number.
The text was approved without a vote.
The Committee also approved by consensus a draft resolution on alternative development, entitled “Promoting the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development” (document A/C.3/71/L.3).