Approving 9 Drafts, Third Committee Intensifies Fight against Fistula, Genital Mutilation, Sexual Harassment amid Debate over Peasants’ Rights
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved nine draft resolutions today, including three related to the advancement of women.
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution seeking to intensify efforts to end obstetric fistula. By its terms, the Assembly would call on States to accelerate progress to improve maternal health by addressing sexual and reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. It would also urge the global community to address the shortage of doctors trained in obstetric care.
Senegal’s delegate, introducing the draft on behalf of the African Group, said women suffering from obstetric fistula are described as “dead women walking” due to their catastrophic quality of life. More than half a million women die while giving birth, especially in developing countries.
Introducing another draft aiming to intensify efforts against sexual harassment, the representative of the Netherlands said this form of violence has risen in prominence yet not received the visibility and attention it deserves. By its terms, the Assembly urges States to condemn violence against women and girls, and address structural and underlying causes of sexual harassment, notably by modifying social and cultural patterns.
The draft resolution’s passage without a vote followed the failure — by a recorded vote of 88 against to 44 in favour, with 25 abstentions — of amendments introduced by the United States delegate. Expressing deep concern over sexual and reproductive health language, she had proposed removing language not related to sexual harassment. France’s representative, also on behalf of the Netherlands, described the last‑minute proposal as poor practice. “Let us respect agreed language”, he said. Explaining his vote in favour, Libya’s delegate said references to sexual and reproductive health and rights are not in line with national legislation.
The Committee also approved a consensus draft seeking to intensify global efforts to end female genital mutilation. By its terms, the Assembly would call on States to implement comprehensive prevention strategies and punitive measures. It would also urge them to address the medicalization of female genital mutilation, including by ensuring that health‑care providers are aware of its harmful effects and held accountable.
The representative of Burkina Faso, introducing the draft on behalf of the African Group, said female genital mutilation constitutes a harmful traditional practice. Mexico’s delegate expressed concern that the global gender equality agenda has become polarized, which has led to stalling on the issue of sexual and reproductive rights.
A draft resolution on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa, also approved without a vote, would have the Assembly express great concern that their situation remains precarious. It would call on States and other parties to armed conflict to observe “the letter and spirit” of international humanitarian law, as armed conflict is among the principal causes of forced displacement in Africa.
Madagascar’s representative, introducing the draft on behalf of the African Group, said the number of persons of concern in Africa has increased by 5 million since 2016. Pointing out that his country hosts the most refugees in Africa, Uganda’s delegate said the draft resolution will strengthen partnerships to find durable solutions to their plight.
Without a vote, the Committee also approved a draft resolution on the world drug problem, by which the Assembly would urge States to ensure non‑discriminatory access to health care and social services in prevention, primary care and treatment, including in prison or pretrial detention. The representative of the Russian Federation, while joining consensus “in a spirit of compromise” noted that the recent legalization of cannabis by one country amounts to a flagrant violation of international law.
In spirited action, the Committee passed a draft that would have the Assembly adopt the United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. Passed by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States), with 49 abstentions, the draft generated debate over whether the declaration would create categories for individuals who merit special treatment in the international human rights framework. Several took issue with such references to collective rights and the right to seeds on which there is no international agreement.
Also approved today were resolutions on the rights of indigenous peoples, the human rights treaty body system, and the right to self‑determination.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 20 November, to conclude its work.
Turning first to the topic of international drug control, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem” (document A/C.3/73/L.11/Rev.1).
The representative of Mexico, introducing the draft, said it would strengthen Member States’ commitment to address the world drug problem in a comprehensive manner that is consistent with the agreements of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. He invited Member States to share their recent experiences implementing policies to address this issue.
The representative of the Russian Federation, noting the draft’s importance to address and counter the drug problem, said she will join consensus in a spirit of compromise. However, the recent legalization of cannabis by one country amounts to a flagrant violation of international law, and creates a dangerous precedent, she said, expressing hope this topic will be discussed comprehensively during the upcoming ministerial meeting in Vienna.
The representative of Egypt said her country attaches great importance to cooperating in the fight against this scourge. The draft has not met the concerns of numerous delegations, she said, stressing the need to maintain its delicate balance.
The representative of China said he will join consensus on the draft but expressed reservations regarding the content of operative paragraph 104, as it cites Human Rights Council resolution 37/22, which China opposed. Underscoring that the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes poses a threat to people’s well‑being, he urged the international community to implement integrated and balanced drug-control programmes.
The Committee approved the draft resolution as orally revised without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would encourage Member States to enhance North‑South, South‑South and triangular cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem. It would urge them to ensure non-discriminatory access to health care and social services in prevention, primary care and treatment, including in prison or pretrial detention, and to ensure that women have access to adequate health services and counselling, notably during pregnancy. The Assembly would call on Member States to respond to the challenges posed by the links between drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime — including trafficking in persons and in firearms, cybercrime, money-laundering and terrorism — through a multidisciplinary approach.
The representative of Singapore, speaking in explanation of position, expressed regret that his country’s concerns and proposals on operative paragraph 104 were not taken into account. The draft refers to Human Rights Council resolution 37/22, which did not enjoy consensus. The promotion of human rights must be undertaken while respecting the full sovereignty of States, he stressed.
Turning to the advancement of women, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Intensification of efforts to end obstetric fistula” (document A/C.3/73/L.20/Rev1).
The draft resolution contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Senegal introducing the draft on behalf of the African Group, said that more than 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Middle East suffer from obstetric fistula. The quality of life of women suffering from obstetric fistula is so catastrophic that they are described as “dead women walking”. More than half a million women are dying while giving birth, especially in developing countries. Victims are poor, illiterate, live in remote areas and often face stigma and discrimination, even in their own families. There are few or no opportunities for these women to earn a living, a sign that health systems are failing to meet their needs. Every two years the draft is approved by consensus and he expressed hope for the same this year.
The representative of the United States, in a general statement, disassociated from operative paragraphs 3 and 14(m) over concerns that references to “sexual and reproductive health” and such services have connotations that support abortion or the right to abortion. Women should have equal access to sexual and reproductive health care. The United States does not recognize abortion as a family planning method, she said, noting that the country was the largest donor of family planning assistance. Recalling the draft’s reference to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the United States was not party, she said references to State obligations apply only to the extent that States have assumed such obligations. Countries have a range of policies and actions to promote economic, social and cultural rights and the resolution should not try to define the context of those rights. There is no right to education of good quality. In the United States, decisions on curricula are made as appropriate with respect to federal, state and local authorities. Improving maternal health is critical, she said, noting however, there is no international obligation in this regard per se.
The Committee approved draft resolution “L.20/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would call on the international community to provide intensified technical and financial support to accelerate progress towards eliminating obstetric fistula within a decade. Urging international financial institutions, among others, to support institutional capacity-building to end obstetric fistula, the Assembly would also call on States to accelerate progress to improve maternal health by addressing sexual and reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. It would urge the international community to address the shortage of doctors and others trained in obstetric care, and of space and supplies, which limit the capacity of most fistula centres.
The representative of Austria, on behalf of the European Union, said the draft has a clear and realistic aim. It is the outcome of stark gender inequality and a lack of access to maternal health care. Child, early and forced marriage is one of the causes of obstetric fistula and education is among the best means to prevent it. Sexual education is important to enable girls to make decisions about their health and sexuality, and in a spirit of compromise, the bloc will not break consensus.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Intensification of efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls: sexual harassment” (document A/C.3/73/L.21/Rev.1).
The representative of the Netherlands, introducing the draft, said its theme of sexual harassment as a form of violence has risen in prominence, yet has not received the visibility and attention it deserves. It is time to provide a strong and united response to such abuse. Describing the text as a balanced outcome, as close to consensus as possible, she said transparent and inclusive processes are the right track for reaching agreements in the Third Committee. Opening up agreed language would jeopardize the carefully crafted compromises built over the years.
The representative of the United States expressed deep concern over sexual and reproductive health language. She proposed two amendments as “common sense” solutions to problems shared by many. They seek to remove language not related to sexual harassment. The first amendment, for operative paragraph 8(d), preserves references to sexual and reproductive health while reaffirming that national authorities, not the United Nations, have control over curricula. For operative paragraph 11, she suggested deleting that paragraph, as it is inconsistent with the resolution’s theme. She urged all to vote in favour of the amendments.
The representative of Argentina, on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries, expressed regret that oral amendments presented at the latest possible stage were never presented in the room, undermining the Committee’s work practices and its ability to reach consensus. It is not a means for fostering understanding. The amendments seek to modify agreed language that had enjoyed consensus for over two decades. The language comes from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. It encompasses a wide range of perspectives and a balance achieved over years. To boil it down to a single issue undermines the rights of women and girls everywhere. The global community made shared commitments in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to achieve gender equality through access to health services and ending violence. He noted the parallel nature of operative paragraph 11 and the 2030 Agenda, referring to target 5.6. Violence against women and girls has long‑term consequences on sexual and reproductive health, he said, citing that 40 per cent of women experiencing domestic intimate partner violence give birth prematurely. “What kind of message would we send if we adopt this draft resolution by vote”, he asked, stressing that he will vote against the amendments.
The representative of Austria, on behalf of the European Union, expressed deep regret over the tabling of amendments on a resolution traditionally approved by consensus. Voting on this draft on the day when the United Nations is launching the “Orange the World” campaign will send a terribly wrong message to women and girls. There was wide agreement to revert to language in paragraphs 8(d) and 11, he said, noting that delegates had agreed to that language in the past, illustrating how carefully crafted and balanced these paragraphs are. Undermining consensus will have a negative impact first and foremost on women and girls. He will vote against the amendments and urged all to follow suit.
The representative of France, also on behalf of the Netherlands, expressed deep regret over the tabling of the amendments, describing them as hostile. They were never proposed during informal negotiations and bring into question agreed language. Operative paragraph 11 was moved within the text to respond to delegates’ concerns. Modifying the text at a late hour and never discussing the changes beforehand is poor practice, he said, adding that a call for vote will threaten consensus. “Let us respect agreed language”, he said.
The representative of South Africa said that violence against women and girls undermines their potential. Drawing attention to South Africa’s gender‑based training of law enforcement and noting that her country joined consensus, she stressed the importance of sexual and reproductive health education, and said sexual and reproductive rights are guaranteed in the Constitution. She will vote against the amendments, as they undermine consensus.
The representatives of the Netherlands and France then requested a vote on the amendments.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the amendments were in line with her country’s position, and thus, supported them.
The representative of Canada said his Government was disappointed with the amendments. Citing Argentina’s statement, he had serious concerns with the way in which amendments are being pursued. Deliberations should be guided by transparency, inclusivity and respect for the process. Today’s approach should not be replicated as it undermines the Committee’s effectiveness. The amendments seek to change agreed language. There is a direct link between the resolution’s theme and sexual and reproductive health, he said, underscoring also its important link to the 2030 Agenda. He expressed opposition to the amendments.
The representative of Australia commended the open and constructive negotiations, expressing disappointment that amendments had been proposed at a late stage. Adding the term “in accordance with national laws” to operative paragraph 8(d) is unhelpful and unnecessary. Regarding operative paragraph 11, deleting this paragraph would undo progress on agreed language. The consensus language was general enough to reflect different perspectives on the issue. Australia will oppose the amendments.
The representative of Egypt said she will vote in favour of the amendments as they are in line with national law and improve current language.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the Third Committee should send a consensus message on violence against women and continue to operate in a transparent manner during consultations. Through that understanding, it is able to craft compromises. It sets a potentially dangerous precedent to vote on the amendments and the Committee should revert to consensus. He will vote against the amendments.
The representative of Sweden, on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, said the draft resolution has always been approved by consensus. She expressed regret that the United States had challenged consensus at a late stage aiming to amend essential parts of what is necessary for eliminating violence against women. “This is not a sign of wanting to agree with consensus,” she said. “When we have disagreements, we go back to what we have agreed before, for decades.” Hostile amendments risk having negative consequences first and foremost on women and girls living free from violence. She will vote against the amendments.
The representative of Libya expressed concerns about the draft resolution. References to sexual and reproductive health and rights have no legal basis to human rights instruments to which Libya is party, and further, are not line with national legislation. She would vote in favour of the amendments.
The Committee then rejected the oral amendment to operative paragraph 8(d) to “L.21/Rev1”, by a recorded vote of 88 against to 44 in favour, with 25 abstentions.
The representative of Pakistan, in explanation of vote, expressed concerns about the procedure and over how the amendments were put forward. He stressed the importance of fully respecting religious, ethical and cultural values, noting that Pakistan’s guiding principle is the sovereign right to implement recommendations from the International Conference on Population and Development, in a manner consistent with national laws.
The representative of Iraq, in explanation of vote, said he voted in favour of the first amendment, as it is in line with national legislation, and will support the second amendment as well.
The representative of New Zealand, in explanation of vote before the second vote, expressed regret about attempts to delete operative paragraph 11. Without it, the important link between violence against women and their health, including their reproductive health, would be lost. “This is when victims and survivors need these services the most,” he said.
The Committee then rejected oral amendment to operative paragraph 11 in “L.21/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 98 against to 30 in favour, with 30 abstentions.
The representative of the United States clarified that her delegation was not given the opportunity for side discussions. The amendments were the only option to make its position clear. The United States disassociated from paragraph 8(d) and operative paragraph 11 to make clear that “sexual and reproductive health” and “sexual and reproductive health services” do not include abortion as a method of family planning. More broadly, operative paragraph 2 defines sexual harassment as a form of violence against women. Operative paragraph 3 outlines a broad range of behaviours, like requests for sexual favours, which while reprehensible, are not acts of violence under United States law. Calling all such acts “violence” equates them with sex trafficking and female genital mutilation, which is not logically coherent. The United States would have wanted “violence, abuse and harassment” to be used in appropriate places throughout the resolution. These terms are not interchangeable. For example, sexual harassment, as a general matter, is addressed in her country through civil remedies, in contrast to sexual abuse, which is punished under criminal law. Potential actions to address school‑related violence must be consistent with national law, including due process protections. She disassociated herself from operative paragraph 2.
The Committee then passed draft resolution “L.21/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would urge States to condemn violence against women and girls, and address structural and underlying causes to prevent sexual harassment, notably by modifying social and cultural patterns. States should adopt and implement legislation to prevent such abuse in the public space, on the way to and from and at school and in the workplace. Moreover, they should exercise due diligence in preventing violations against women rights defenders, politicians, activists, journalists and media workers, and in combating impunity.
The representative of France, also on behalf of the Netherlands, welcomed the consensus on an essential topic, calling it a historic step to end violence against women and called for full support of its implementation.
An observer of the Holy See condemned all forms of violence against women. The process was characterized by disregard for “red lines” communicated by delegates. Transparency was compromised when some delegates were excluded and requests were made without answer. These practices led to the vote today, as a right of States to voice their positions. The Committee’s success hinged on return to the principle of consensus, he said, expressing regret that the process had been derailed by an “inordinate” focus on sexual and reproductive health. Abortion is not a dimension of reproductive health or reproductive health care. Abortion is determined by national legislation, and he urged full respect for religious, ethical and cultural values. Abortion is never safe for an unborn child as it denies the right to life.
The Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation” (document A/C.3/73/L.23/Rev.1).
The representative of Burkina Faso, introducing the draft on behalf of the African Group, said female genital mutilation constitutes a harmful traditional practice that jeopardizes women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights. A multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach is needed to address this issue, he added, urging States to intensify efforts to address the medicalization of female genital mutilation as well as its practice across borders.
The representative of United States dissociated from operative paragraphs 1 and 5 because the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” has accumulated a connotation implying support for abortion, which is unacceptable. The United States does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning.
The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would call on States to place a stronger focus on implementing comprehensive prevention strategies and complement punitive measures with awareness raising and educational activities designed to eliminate female genital mutilation. It would also urge States to address the medicalization of female genital mutilation, including by ensuring that health-care providers are aware of its harmful effects and held accountable. It would call on States to ensure that national action plans and strategies are comprehensive and multidisciplinary in scope.
The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the approval of this draft demonstrates the international commitment to ending this harmful practice. There can be no impunity for this form of gender‑based violence, he said, welcoming the text’s call for accountability and expressing support for the African‑led push to end female genital mutilation.
The representative of Mexico expressed concern that the international gender equality agenda has become polarized in recent years, which has led to stalling on the issue of sexual and reproductive rights. Mexico rejects arguments based on national contexts that seek to weaken the draft, he said, recalling when it cannot reach consensus, the Committee reverts to previously agreed language.
The Committee then took note of the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its sixty‑seventh, sixty‑eighth and sixty‑ninth sessions; as well as the Secretary‑General’s report on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls; and the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on violence against women in politics.
Moving on, the Committee took up a draft resolution “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa” (document A/C.3/73/L.55/Rev.1).
The representative of Madagascar, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the African Group, said the number of persons of concern in Africa has increased by 5 million since 2016. The draft underlines initiatives to reduce the flow of refugees in Africa, she said, recalling that the African Union has declared 2019 as the African Year of Refugees.
The representative of Uganda, recalling that his country hosts the greatest number of refugees in Africa, reaffirmed the Government will meet its commitments. The draft’s approval will further strengthen partnerships to find durable solutions to the plight of refugees and returnees in Africa.
The Committee approved the draft resolution “L.55/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would note with great concern that the situation of refugees and displaced persons in Africa remains precarious and the number of refugees and internally displaced persons has dramatically increased. It would call on States and other parties to armed conflict to observe “the letter and spirit” of international humanitarian law, as armed conflict is among the principal causes of forced displacement in Africa. It would also call for meeting the protection and assistance needs of refugees, returnees and displaced persons. By other terms, the Assembly would call on States to ensure that the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps is not compromised by the presence of armed elements or used for purposes that are incompatible with their civilian character.
The representative of Mexico expressed regret that consensus was not reached on a reference to the global compact on refugees in the draft. The compact seeks to lay the foundation for equitable and predictable distribution of burden and responsibility, while addressing the causes of movement of people seeking international protection.
The representative of the United States stressed that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda is non‑binding. Parties to armed conflict do not have an obligation to ensure other parties’ respect of humanitarian law, she added.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Rights of indigenous peoples” (document A/C.3/73/L.24/Rev.1).
The representative of Ecuador, introducing the draft resolution, underscored the importance of the International Year of Indigenous Languages to be held in 2019. He called on the United Nations system to strengthen its cooperation with the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, as an observer of the General Assembly.
The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would encourage Member States to give due consideration to all the rights of indigenous peoples in fulfilling the 2030 Agenda commitments. It would stress the importance of promoting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and further, decide to convene a high‑level event during 2019, organized by the President of the General Assembly, for the conclusion of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
The representative of Romania, speaking also on behalf of Bulgaria, France and Slovakia, said indigenous peoples are often victims of discrimination and rights violations. They must be able to live and enjoy the same rights and freedoms as every individual. However, the group does not recognize the reference to “collective rights”, as rights are enjoyed by individuals.
The representative of the United States, while reaffirming support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, dissociated from the draft’s preambular paragraph 7, as the United States does not endorse the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and objects to such references. The United States has not participated in that process and is thus not bound by any of its outcomes. Her country has the sovereign right to facilitate or restrict access to its territory, she emphasized.
The representative of the United Kingdom said his country continues to work overseas to improve the situation of indigenous peoples internationally, as they are entitled to the full protection of their human rights on an equal basis with all other individuals. The United Kingdom does not accept the concept of collective human rights to ensure that the rights of the group do not supersede the rights of individuals.
The Committee then took note of the report of the Committee on the Rights of Child.
Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/73/L.54).
The representative of Pakistan introduced the draft, stressing that the right of peoples to self‑determine their destiny is the bedrock of the global order enshrined in the United Nations Charter. This timeless idea is a prerequisite for enjoying other fundamental rights, she said, which closes “the dark chapter of colonization”. Reaffirming its universal significance, she expressed hope the draft would be approved by consensus.
The representative of Spain expressed her full support of the text. Self‑determination is a right for those subjected to a colonial situation, a precondition for the full exercise of political rights. Recalling the San Francisco Conference in 1945 and the “magna carta” of decolonization in 1960, she said not every case is one in which people’s rights are curtailed. There are some where the administering Power and the people are adapting their political relations as they see fit and claim no colonial situation. Such a claim is a misrepresentation of the United Nations Charter.
In Gibraltar, the original inhabitants were obliged to abandon the territory. Those there today were brought in by the military guarantor. Spain denies there is a right to self‑determination, which is backed up by General Assembly resolution 23/53 of 1967. The United Nations considers that the colonial situation in Gibraltar affects Spain’s unity and territorial integrity. International law and United Nations doctrine, as well as contemporary logic, endorse Spain’s position. With political will, decolonization is possible, she said, inviting the United Kingdom to negotiate a solution to this anachronistic issue.
The Committee approved the draft resolution “L.54” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that the universal realization of the right of all peoples, including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination, to self‑determination is a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights. It would declare its firm opposition to foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, and call on those States responsible to immediately cease their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories, and all acts of repression, discrimination, exploitation and maltreatment.
The representative of Argentina expressed full support for the right to self‑determination for those under foreign occupation or domination, interpreted in line with the United Nations Charter. Self‑determination applies exclusively when there is a subject that has that right. If there is no subject, there is no right. Today’s draft resolution must be interpreted and implemented in line with relevant General Assembly resolutions, notably of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
The representative of the United States said that while she joined consensus, the draft resolution contains many misstatements of international law and is inconsistent with current State practice.
The representative of the United Kingdom, in exercise of the right of reply to her counterpart from Spain, recalled her Government’s sovereignty over Gibraltar and its surrounding waters. Gibraltar’s people enjoy the right to self-determination, with its 2006 Constitution providing for a modern relationship with the United Kingdom. She reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s long‑standing commitment to never enter into arrangements under which those people would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their free wishes. The United Kingdom is committed to safeguarding the people and economy of Gibraltar. The United Kingdom and Gibraltar are committed to the trilateral Forum for Dialogue as the most practical means for strengthening relations with Spain, and she expressed regret that Spain had withdrawn from that Forum in 2011. The United Kingdom and Gibraltar are ready to engage with Spain to establish new forms of cooperation through dialogue that reflects the wishes, rights and responsibilities of the people of Gibraltar.
The Committee then turned to the topic of the protection and promotion of human rights, taking up a draft resolution titled “Human rights treaty body system” (document A/C.3/73/L.38).
The representative of Iceland, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the Nordic countries, Belgium and Slovenia, said the draft affirms various paragraphs of General Assembly resolution 69/286 related to resource requirements and places paragraph 22 of that resolution, related to enhancing the visibility of human rights treaty bodies through webcast of public meetings, into effect. He encouraged all stakeholders to implement resolution 68/268, adopted in 2014, to strengthen the human rights treaty body system as a whole.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the treaty system is at the heart of universal human rights standards, and it is characterized by openness and transparency. Noting that the webcast is only in English, he recalled a resolution that encouraged use of three of the United Nations official languages. He hoped that non‑governmental organizations could be engaged in the discussion. The budget was released late, which allowed little time for discussion.
The Committee then approved resolution “L.38” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would recognize the unique contribution of each of the human rights treaty bodies in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including through their examination of progress made by States parties to the respective human rights treaties and their provision of recommendations on the implementation of such treaties. The Assembly also would reiterate its request, in paragraph 40 of its resolution 68/268, that the Secretary‑General submit a comprehensive report on the status of the human rights treaty body system.
The representative of Liechtenstein addressed the technical aspects of the treaty body mandates, expressing regret over the lack of implementation of cultural, economic and social rights.
The representative of El Salvador recalled that his country had been one of the States involved in the negotiations on strengthening treaty body systems. He welcomed the opportunity to participate in the videoconference exam to allow greater participation in the dialogue.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Declaration on the right of peasants and other people working in rural areas” (document A/C.3/73/L.30).
The representative of Bolivia, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, South Africa, Venezuela and others, said the resolution recognized the role of family agriculture in the fight against poverty. Peasants produce 70 per cent of the world’s food. They are vulnerable and depend entirely on working the land. They are the first to be impacted by climate change. The draft calls on all States to create more inclusive societies.
The representative of South Africa said her country had participated in all processes to develop the declaration on the rights of peasants. The declaration is important for the Global South, for which food production and quality livelihoods are paramount. She attached the highest priority to the rights of peasants, and to people working and living in rural areas.
The representative of Switzerland, in explanation of vote, said the drafting process had led to a positive outcome: a balanced resolution. She had voted yes at the Human Rights Council and will vote yes again today, noting that agricultural reforms require a legal procedure with legal guarantees. The right to seeds will be interpreted in line with national and international law. The declaration does not make sufficient mention of parties to environmental treaties.
The representative of Spain said that peasants’ contribution is essential to maintaining diversity. For many reasons, Spain will abstain.
The representative of Ethiopia said that his country’s Constitution recognizes the rights of peasants and of pastoralists to have access to free land for grazing. He noted the expanded scope and application of peasants and those working in rural areas, notably in the context of article 7 related to transboundary tenure and water boundaries. Ethiopia does not accept the expanded scope of article 7. The scope and applicability of the declaration on the rights of peasants is limited within the territory of each State. Ethiopia appreciates article 28, keeping the aspirational nature of the declaration. He reaffirmed that current and future national laws and international obligations prevail over the declaration. He will abstain.
The representative of Brazil said the text is imperfect, and he indicated the sensitivity of the issues for various sectors of the economy. Discussion is needed on the right to land and the right to seeds. Brazil has over 4 million small farms and provides over 70 per cent of the food consumed. It has a thriving commercial sector which exports many agricultural products. If consultations had continued, aspects would have been agreed upon. The preambular paragraph dealing with human rights should be deleted. The use of chemicals should be guided by national or international standards to monitor the health risks of agricultural workers.
The representative of Mexico said the declaration is in line with his country’s work with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It is not preceded by a process or international custom; any person in a state of vulnerability is protected by international instruments. Finally, the declaration is not legally binding, but rather, a tool to improve the lives of the vulnerable.
The representative of the United Kingdom said his country engaged constructively on how to use the international framework to improve the lives of workers. The United Kingdom has concerns about the declaration, as it sets up new rights for other workers, including collective rights. As such, the United Kingdom will vote against it.
The representative of Portugal, also on behalf of Luxembourg, said peasants are more likely to see their rights violated. Citing the decline of the family and small farms, he said the draft resolution will raise awareness among Governments to fully respect peasants’ rights without discrimination. He called others to vote in favour of the text.
The Committee approved draft resolution “L.30” by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States), with 49 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would adopt the United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. It would also invite Governments, agencies and organizations of the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non‑governmental organizations to disseminate the Declaration and to promote universal respect and understanding thereof.
The representative of the United States, in explanation of vote, said the declaration on the rights of peasants has four issues. International humanitarian law bestows rights on individuals, not groups. She cannot agree that categories of individuals merit special treatment in the international human rights framework. The declaration assumes rights for which there is no internationally agreed definition. The rights to seeds, to return to the land, to use traditional farming, to biological diversity do not exist under international human rights law. Further, the draft resolution is replete with the word “shall”, leaving the door open for misunderstanding. The United States does not agree with references to technology transfer, as it supported such transfer only on voluntary and mutually agreed terms. The declaration was not appropriate for pronouncements on technology transfer. It is an attempt to prejudice negotiations currently under way.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the text has problems. Continued work on the declaration in Geneva would allow for achieving consensus. Dividing peasants and rural workers into a separate category with different rights and regimes for legal protection does not align with the principle of equal treatment. She thus abstained.
The representative of Sweden said the principle of equal value of all individuals is important. The majority of peasants have unclear land ownership, food loss and waste, and poor infrastructure. The economic empowerment of women in rural areas is a goal. The draft resolution creates new areas — collective rights and the rights to seeds — which require better links to be made. Some elements of the declaration are inconsistent. Sweden is committed to all persons without bias. More work is needed to ease her country’s concerns and she thus voted against the draft resolution.
The representative of Uruguay supported the draft resolution, underscoring that the sector needs comprehensive public policies. All workers must have an equal footing. The draft resolution is not to create new rights.
The representative of France said he would abstain because it has a commitment to universal human rights, and the creation of a new instrument for peasants only raises new questions. France cannot accept references to collective rights. The text leads to the creation of new rights, which run counter to other rights, including to intellectual property. Due to constitutional constraints, France cannot accept the draft resolution.
The representative of Singapore said the General Assembly did not have significant time for considering this proposal. The non‑legally binding declaration brings new classes of rights that belong to one group, and therefore will abstain.
The representative of Guatemala said the provisions of the declaration might be controversial for national legislation. He abstained in the vote.
The representative of Austria, on behalf of the European Union, said that it was concerned about the obstacles that obstruct the full realization of human rights of those living in rural areas. Divergent views exist and it is the obligation of all States to promote all human rights without distinction. The bloc had engaged with the working group on peasants. Some of its proposals were taken on board. But the text raises problems with regard to the creation of new collective human rights or rights for seeds, for which rights must be clarified. He noted incoherence between the declaration and multilateral treaties. The declaration is not legally binding and cannot create more rights. The European Union will work towards a consensual approach.
The representative of Indonesia said many principles of the declaration had been implemented in Indonesia. Another step will be to implement the declaration in States’ unique regulatory frameworks. The livelihood of peasants is a national priority. Implementation of the declaration and the resolution will take into account the constitutional mandate and role of the State in promoting the rights of rural people.
Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” (document A/C.3/73/L.39/Rev.1).
The representative of Finland introduced the draft resolution, on behalf of the Nordic countries, which stresses the importance of protecting individuals from extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings, and bringing perpetrators to justice. This year, an updated text was tabled with an addition to reflect emerging threats to the right to life. New language was introduced on private security providers and the need to address femicide. He urged all States to protect humanitarian workers. There was never any doubt that the shared common concern is to combat these killings. Finland tried to accommodate as many concerns as possible. “This is the best available compromise we were able to achieve”, he said, stressing that amendments 62, 63, and 65 are not acceptable and asking their sponsors to reconsider them.
The representative of Costa Rica said the right to life and human dignity is of greatest importance. The draft resolution calls on States to end impunity for such killings, noting that he will vote for the draft resolution.
The representative of Sudan, introducing a draft amendment (document A/C.3/73/L.62), said his country’s concerns on preambular paragraph 15 and operative paragraph 13 were not met. Foisting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court onto others does harm on issues which otherwise would be gaining general agreement. This is unwarranted and does not make sense. The victim of standardization is multilateralism, as the Committee is bringing into play the jurisdiction of an organ that is not part of the United Nations system. A line must be drawn between the United Nations, and what is not the United Nations. Since the Court’s jurisdiction addresses individuals, 60 per cent of people on the planet do not live in countries that recognize it. Further, an increasing number of countries are rejecting its jurisdiction. Impartiality has been absent in the 16 years since its entry into force. The Court is dangerous because it has been politicized. It is an independent body and the Committee should not use resolutions to integrate an otherwise alien body into the Organization.
The representative of Austria, on behalf of the European Union, expressed deep concern about the amendment to preambular paragraph 15. He stressed the importance of the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes, underscoring that peace and justice are complementary, not mutually exclusive. Perpetrators must be brought to justice. He will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Canada, speaking also on behalf of Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Switzerland, said extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings can constitute genocide and crimes against humanity. Each State must protect its citizens from this kind of crime. Not one of the paragraphs forces States to become signatories of the Rome Statute. The text only recalls their responsibilities. The Court has a key role in ending impunity when national courts are unable to do so, he said, rejecting all amendments.
The representative of Finland expressed deep regret over the tabling of amendments. He expressed unwavering support for the Court as an important tool in the fight against impunity and for a just society. Extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings are sharp reminders of the Court’s increasing relevance. Its creation has given hope to victims that justice will be done. He will vote against the amendments.
The representative of Sudan said that since the Court’s 2002 entry into force, its practice has been quite poor. The Court is not the only judicial body responsible for bringing justice, he said, drawing attention to South Africa and Rwanda in that regard. Independence and impartiality must be observed, he stressed.
The Committee then rejected draft amendment “L.62” by a recorded vote of 103 against to 21 in favour, with 34 abstentions.
Next, the Committee took up the draft amendment contained in document A/C.3/73/L.63.
The representative of Sudan in a general statement asked for a recorded vote on operative paragraph 13 which will secure the impartiality of the United Nations.
The representative of Austria said he will vote against this amendment and called on others, in particular States parties to the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court, to follow suit.
A Secretariat official clarified that the vote is on the amendment and not on operative paragraph 13.
The Committee then rejected draft amendment “L.63” by a recorded vote of 99 against to 20 in favour, with 38 abstentions.
Next, the Committee turned to draft amendment A/C.3/73/L.65.
The representative of Egypt, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, introducing the amendment to operative paragraph 7(b), deplored all forms of stereotypes. He said Egypt had no alternative but to table an amendment as his country’s call for including its concerns were not heard. The phrases in the amendment are in generic language. If approved, it will shift the focus from social matters to extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings. He urged all to vote in favour.
The representative of Albania said she will vote in favour of the resolution and requested the Secretariat to delete her country’s name as co‑sponsor of the amendment.
The representative of the United States said no one should be subjected to these killings. She expressed no support for deleting references to all minority groups. She will vote “no” on the amendment.
The representative of Finland, on behalf of the Nordic countries, in a point of order, clarified that if one co‑sponsor leaves, the amendment will no longer be submitted on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It will be simply a group of member countries of that organization.
A Secretariat official clarified this point, saying the amendment is being submitted on behalf of a group of countries.
The representative of Australia, on behalf of Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Switzerland, said killing individuals because of their sexual orientation was first introduced more than 10 years ago. They are among those who suffer most because of impunity. Operative paragraph 7(b) does not oblige States to change their domestic laws. The killing of individuals is well documented in human rights reports. It is wrong and dangerous to send a message that their situation no longer warrants special attention.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed concerns about the proposed amendment. The purpose of the draft resolution is to promptly and fairly investigate all killings irrespective of who the victim is, and she expressed support for its language.
The representative of Syria clarified that his country is a founding member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, but it is not party to this draft amendment, as Syria’s membership in that organization is suspended.
The representative of Turkey asked for clarification about Albania’s disassociation from the amendment, and about whether the text will now be submitted by countries in their national capacity.
After a protracted debate over who was submitting amendment “L.65”, the Secretariat official noted the disassociation of Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon and Albania, and said amendment “L.65” is now being submitted on behalf of a group of member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The representative of Finland, on behalf of the Nordic countries, took issue with the proposal to delete paragraph 7(b) listing all vulnerable groups. It is of extreme importance that the list stays in the draft resolution, as some are at risk of being killed and their deaths will not be investigated. The list includes killings for racially motivated reasons; of persons belonging to national, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities, or because of sexual orientation or gender identity; killings of refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants, street children, or members of indigenous communities; human rights defenders, lawyers or journalists; and killings in the name of passion or honour. It would send a dangerous message if the General Assembly decided these groups no longer deserve special protection. He urged support for the text as drafted, stressing that he will vote against the amendment.
The Committee then rejected draft amendment “L.65” by a recorded vote of 86 against to 50 in favour, with 25 abstentions.