Concluding Session, Third Committee Sends 17 Drafts to General Assembly as Delegates Joust over Language on Sexual, Reproductive Health, Rights
Votes Called for Drafts Related to Social Development, Durban Declaration amid Concerns over Wording on Foreign Occupation, Divisions at 2001 Conference
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its work today, approving 17 draft resolutions on matters ranging from devising effective youth policies and ending racism, to preventing violence against women migrant workers and upholding the right to self‑determination.
The draft resolution on policies and programmes involving youth passed by consensus following three votes, requested by the United States representative, two of which were amendments and the third an oral proposal to remove three operative paragraphs. The two amendments, both of which failed to pass, would have removed language in the draft that pertains to sexual and reproductive health care.
The Committee agreed to retain operative paragraphs 10, 12 and 13 by a recorded vote of 134 in favour to 17 against, with 10 abstentions, thereby having the General Assembly call on Member States to scale up scientifically accurate age‑appropriate comprehensive education that provides adolescents and young people with information on sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Many representatives took to the floor to express their regret over the United States decision to break with consensus, with Mexico’s delegate, speaking on behalf of a cross‑regional group of countries, noting that the attempt to modify agreed language was counter to long-standing consensus on the matter.
Finland’s representative, speaking for the European Union, called one of the amendments “hostile”, while the United Kingdom’s delegate expressed disappointment at the attempt to roll back advances in the rights of young people to health care. Cabo Verde’s delegate, meanwhile, stressed that access to sexual and reproductive health care is essential in the fight to end HIV and AIDS.
“What is being challenged by this amendment is the safety and well-being of every young person,” cautioned Norway’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries. Far too many girls die every year following preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
In other action, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the Durban Declaration and efforts to end racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 10 against, with 44 abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly would call upon States that have not done so to accede to and/or ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Delegates were divided over the draft, with the observer for the State of Palestine, noting on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China that it reflected the urgency of the fight to end racism. Israel’s delegate, meanwhile, said his delegation could not accept a draft resolution founded on the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which is itself racist. Finland’s representative, speaking for the European Union, could not accept the draft, as only proposals to update it were accepted, rather than those that would have made substantive changes.
The Committee approved all but four of its draft resolutions without a vote, including one on violence against women migrant workers, which would have the Assembly call on Governments to adopt or strengthen measures to protect the rights of women migrant workers regardless of their migratory status, notably in policies that regulate their recruitment and deployment.
Several delegates registered their unease with references in the draft to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, with Chile’s representative among those disassociating from paragraphs referring to that instrument. Algeria’s delegate said the Global Compact itself is too prescriptive, given the sovereign rights of States on the issue of migration.
The Committee also approved by consensus a draft resolution on the follow‑up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing, which would have Member States promote equitable and affordable access to physical and social infrastructure for all, without discrimination, and ensure that services such as housing and education are responsive to the needs of older persons.
A consensus draft on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self‑determination would have the Assembly express its concern over acts of foreign military intervention and occupation that threaten to suppress the right to self‑determination. The Assembly would call upon States to cease military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories.
Introducing the draft, Pakistan’s delegate said that the right had been launched by the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960 and elaborated through cases such as Namibia and East Timor, both of which were granted the right to self‑determination by the International Court of Justice. Offering a note of caution, India’s representative warned against the misuse of the principle of self‑determination to justify succession or interfere with territorial integrity.
Also approved today were draft resolutions on the World Summit on Social Development; persons with albinism; the Year of the Family; the Fourth World Conference on Women; the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination; human rights defenders; national human rights institutions; the safety of journalists; strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization; protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons; strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme; and international cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem.
After approving its provisional work programme for the seventy‑fifth session, the Committee concluded its seventy‑fourth session with delegates from the United Kingdom and Egypt taking the floor to recite self‑penned poems about the themes that dominated 2019 discussions.
The Committee first took up the draft resolution titled “Policies and programmes involving youth” (document A/C.3/74/L.8/Rev.1, and amendments A/C.3/74/L.66 and L.67), with the Chair noting that they contain no programme budget implications.
The representative of Portugal, introducing the draft resolution, said the text does not focus on a particular region and was drafted to be relevant to young people worldwide. It focuses on the World Programme of Action on Youth and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adoption of the Programme of Action 20 years ago was a milestone, he said, noting that it contains strengthened language on youth participation.
The representative of the United States said amendment “L.66”, which her delegation proposes for operative paragraph 10, calls on States and relevant non‑governmental organizations to develop policies and programmes that prioritize education, including age‑appropriate sex education, with appropriate guidance from parents and legal guardians. The United States made this proposal during negotiations, and thus, prefers this alternate language. She then turned to amendment “L.67” to operative paragraphs 12 and 13, which deletes the words “with information on sexual and reproductive health” and “including sexual health and reproductive care” — suggestions raised during negotiations.
The Chair said a recorded vote was requested on “L.66”.
The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of a cross‑regional group of countries, expressed regret over the breaking of consensus and surprise at the last‑minute nature of the amendments, which were circulated days before action, despite weeks of negotiations. They seek to modify agreed language that has achieved consensus for many years and he expressed disappointment that they propose to remove any reference to health care services. Only by investing in health services for women, girls and adolescents can the international community meet the health needs of all. He urged delegations to reject the amendments.
The representative of Norway, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, said he appreciated that the sponsors conducted numerous open consultations. The solution is a cross‑regional initiative on the involvement of youth in programmes and policies affecting their lives. On the two amendments, he said the resolution has been adopted by consensus for many years. Suggestions of new language are inconsistent with what the Committee has agreed upon regarding the rights of the child. With amendment “L.67”, the United States seeks to delete agreed language on health care — yet what is being challenged is the safety and well-being of every young person. Far too many girls die every year from preventable child birth complications. Comprehensive sexuality education comprises a rights‑based approach to providing information on gender equality and healthy relationships, as well as HIV prevention. The Nordic and Baltic countries will vote against the amendments.
The representative of Ireland, associating herself with Mexico and the European Union, expressed regret over the decision by the United States to break consensus. Young people must be empowered to fully participate in decision‑making and enabled to reach their full potential. Comprehensive and quality sex education is critical to the empowerment of all young people, she said, noting that young people can develop confidence in themselves and learn the skills to navigate a critical stage in their lives. She expressed support for the draft resolution.
The representative of Kazakhstan, speaking for the co‑facilitators of the draft resolution, said they held eight informal consultations to ensure that every delegation had the time to share their views. Whenever views differed, the co‑facilitators retained agreed language. The amendment to operative paragraph 10 will change the nature of that paragraph in its entirety. The paragraph currently addresses health issues whereas the amendment addresses education, he said, stressing that the co‑facilitators do not support the amendments.
The representative of Finland, speaking for the European Union, expressed regret over the persistence of the United States to table an amendment that the Committee massively rejected a day earlier. There was wide agreement to revert to previously agreed language when it became clear that it would be impossible to find wording agreeable to all delegations. Proposing language from the girl child resolution from 2015 does not make sense because this resolution is about young people, not children. He will vote against this “hostile” amendment.
The representative of Argentina, associating himself with Mexico’s statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries, said he regretted any attempt to weaken agreed language. The paragraph submitted for replacement includes several elements, such as access to sexual education and reproductive hygiene and menstrual hygiene. In the 2030 Agenda, countries agreed to ensure sexual and reproductive health access to guarantee fundamental rights for young people, who are the main recipients of the resolution. He cannot accept “stepping back” after all the work done to uphold young people’s rights, and he urged delegates to reject the amendment.
The Committee then rejected draft amendment “L.66” by a recorded vote of 103 against to 26 in favour, with 25 abstentions.
The representative of Cabo Verde, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the co‑facilitators, said language contained in operative paragraph 12 is taken verbatim from the resolution passed in 2017. Throughout their lifetimes, young people will demand answers to enable them to make proper decisions. Noting that young people represent a growing share of people living with HIV and AIDS, he asked how this and other sexually transmitted diseases can be eliminated without ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health. He urged delegates to vote “no” on the amendment.
The representative of Finland, speaking for the European Union, said he regretted the confusion over amending language that has been long agreed. Despite that Member States hold different views, they have been able to agree this language in the past and he expressed deep concern over the attempt to weaken operative paragraph 13 regarding the response to HIV and AIDS. He will vote against the amendments and he called on all States to do the same.
The representative of the United Kingdom rejected the amendment, stressing that the resolution is of critical importance and speaks to an often‑overlooked section of society. Stressing the importance of scientifically accurate information on sexual and reproductive health and relationships, she expressed disappointment that the amendment attempts to roll back advances in young peoples’ rights and health. The promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as education on sexuality, is critical to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. The United Kingdom will vote against the amendment and encourages all others to do likewise.
The representative of Norway, speaking for the Nordic and Baltic Countries, expressed regret that the United States tabled a second amendment seeking to delete agreed language. “What is being challenged by this amendment is the safety and well‑being of every young person,” he said, adding that far too many girls die every year following preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The Nordic and Baltic countries will vote against the amendment and call on all others to do likewise.
The representative of Argentina, speaking for a cross‑regional group of countries, said he regrets the breaking of consensus on the resolution at this late stage. Equal access to comprehensive sexuality education is vital so that all people can grow and learn in safety and health. Evidence‑based programmes are more effective, enabling people to make informed decisions, freely and autonomously, on sexual and reproductive health. He urged all delegates to support the rights of young women and girls and reject any amendment on the resolution.
The Committee then rejected draft amendment “L.67” by a recorded vote of 108 against to 24 in favour, with 26 abstentions.
The Chair said a recorded vote was requested on paragraphs 10, 12 and 13 as orally revised.
The representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the co‑facilitators of the draft resolution, said he was disappointed with the request of one delegation to call for a vote on operative paragraphs 10, 12 and 13. Operative paragraph 10 is important to ensure access to young people to health care, safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Deleting this paragraph would clearly preclude key elements for the well‑being of youth to be fully reflected in the resolution. In paragraphs 12 and 13, they contain agreed language from the last resolution adopted by consensus two years ago. He encouraged delegations to vote “yes” to retain these paragraphs in the resolution.
By a recorded vote of 134 in favour to 17 against, with 10 abstentions, the Committee decided to retain paragraphs 10, 12 and 13 of draft resolution “L.8/Rev.1”.
It then approved draft resolution “L.8/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the General Assembly would call upon Member States to promote the fundamental freedoms of all young people and ensure a human rights‑based approach to youth policies and programmes. It would also call upon them to scale up scientifically accurate age‑appropriate comprehensive education that provides adolescents and young people with information on sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and the empowerment of women, enabling them to build informed decision‑making skills.
The representatives of the United States said her delegation joined consensus and referred to concerns expressed in its 7 November statement. The United States proposed amendments to paragraphs 10, 12 and 13 and called for a vote, she said, noting that her delegation disassociates from these paragraphs and does not recognize this language as agreed or consensus text for any purpose. The United States does not accept references to reproductive health or safe termination of pregnancy. “There is no international right to abortion,” she said, stressing that the United States does not recognize abortion as a family planning method.
The representative of Guatemala joined consensus on the draft from a respect for multilateralism and commitment to its youth population. Given the references and interpretations on sexual and reproductive health, services and rights, Guatemala’s Constitution outlines that the State protects human life from conception. Methods for reproductive health should not include abortion.
The representative of Qatar affirmed her delegation’s intention to promote youth and sustainable development, noting that the role of parents should not be neglected and that sex education should be under their supervision.
An observer for the Holy See said the draft resolution draws attention to the dangers affecting young people in the digital age. He expressed reservations on the concept of sexual and reproductive health, and that health care services and rights apply to a holistic concept of health. The Holy See does not consider abortion as a dimension of these terms.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/74/L.12/Rev.1).
The Secretary said the cost implications cannot be yet determined and submitted.
An observer for the State of Palestine, introducing the draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, highlighted two important issues in the draft resolution: universal and equitable access to education and health care. The draft also emphasizes the importance of commemorating the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development and she urged all delegates to support it.
The Chair said a vote had been called, and, replying to an observer for the State of Palestine, said the United States delegation had requested the vote.
The representative of the United States said his delegation will vote against the draft resolution, citing the problematic nature of operative paragraph 18 and rejecting language concerning foreign occupation. The United States will act in its sovereign interests, including in trade matters, he said, noting that there should be no expectation that the United States will understand recommendations made by the General Assembly as binding. Food security depends on domestic action taken by Governments and he rejected the draft’s implication of extraterritorial obligations on States regarding the right to food. Resolutions should refrain from the word “shall”, as this language is only appropriate for binding texts. He further expressed concern over the term “equitable” throughout the draft, referring to the United States November 7 statement, and urged Member States to vote against the draft.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.12/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with no abstentions.
By the text, the Assembly would decide to devote one high‑level meeting to commemorating the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the World Summit on Social Development, within existing resources, at its seventy‑fifth session in 2020 and request the President of the General Assembly to conduct consultations with States to determine the relevant modalities. On the issue of universal access to health care, the Assembly would recognize that health is an investment in human capital and social and economic development, towards the full realization of human potential.
The representative of Hungary, speaking in explanation of position, expressed regret that consensus could not be achieved. Welcoming the draft’s focus, she nonetheless voiced concern over certain aspects, specifically operative paragraph 9.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Persons with albinism” (document A/C.3/74/L.9/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Malawi, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the United Republic of Tanzania and his own country, said it aims to address the social development challenges faced by persons with albinism, taking into consideration the specific needs of women and children. The draft also focuses on the environmental, structural and attitudinal barriers faced by persons with albinism in accessing health, education, employment and participation in political, social and civil life. It calls upon Member States to involve persons with albinism in the design and implementation of laws and policies, expressing concern about the lack of information on the status of persons with albinism.
The Committee then adopted “L.9/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would call on Member States to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy and effective investigations into crimes against persons with albinism falling within their jurisdiction, to hold perpetrators accountable and to ensure that victims, survivors and family members have access to appropriate remedies, as well as to therapy and psychosocial, socioeconomic, legal and medical support. It would also encourage Member States to adopt national action plans and legislation, as appropriate, on the rights of persons with albinism, in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other instruments.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, said her country joins consensus but has concerns about references to outdated instruments on persons with disabilities, and thus, dissociates from preambular paragraph 2, which references these instruments. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and other instruments, are relevant, she said, referring to the statement delivered on 7 November.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Follow‑up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond” (A/C.3/74/L.13/Rev.1), with the Chair noting there were no programme budget implications.
An observer for the State of Palestine, introducing the draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said it encourages Governments to continue to implement the objectives of the International Year of the Family, provide affordable child care and take measures to promote the equal sharing of household responsibilities between women and men.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.13/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the General Assembly would call on Member States and United Nations agencies, along with civil society and other relevant stakeholders, to continue to provide information on good practices at national, regional and international levels in support of the International Year of the Family.
The representative of Finland, speaking for the European Union in a general statement, said the European Union Commission has taken action on family issues since the 1980s. The European Union recognizes the crucial role of parents and caregivers in improving outcomes for young people and other family members. Families in vulnerable situations require special attention and policies should be created to protect their rights. The draft resolution has improved, with references to the importance of engaging men and boys in all efforts. It contains crucial provisions on providing legal identity, including birth and death registrations. In various political systems, different forms of families exist, and the European Union understands that use of the word “family” in the draft reflects this fact.
The representative of the United States said her country joins consensus and supports the primacy of parents and the families they create. Regarding references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United States addressed its concerns in the statement made on 7 November.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution “Violence against women migrant workers” (document A/C.3/74/L.22/Rev.1), which contains no budget implications.
The representative of the Philippines, introducing the draft resolution, said women migrant workers suffer from violence and exploitation. Those engaged in informal employment and less skilled work are particularly vulnerable. The draft urges States to adopt gender‑responsive policies on migration and to protect the rights of all migrant women and girls, regardless of migrant status. She expressed hope that the Committee will approve it by consensus.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said his delegation joins consensus because it is aware of the need to work together, but nonetheless has reservations on paragraph 15 on the conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women.
The representatives of the United States, noting that the draft resolution is non‑binding, said it thus does not imply that States must implement obligations under human rights instruments to which they are not a party. Nor does it create any new human rights, particularly as related to operative paragraphs 12 and 20.
The representative of Libya, noting that her country attaches great importance to protecting migrant workers, said that joining consensus does not change Libya’s position on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.22/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the General Assembly would call on Governments to adopt or strengthen measures to protect the rights of women migrant workers, including domestic workers, regardless of their migratory status, including in policies that regulate the recruitment and deployment of women migrant workers.
By other terms, the Assembly would urge States to adopt or develop and implement legislation to prevent and respond to gender‑related killing of women and girls, including femicide, while taking into account the difficulties faced by women migrant workers in accessing justice. It would encourage Governments to address the push and pull factors surrounding women’s irregular migration, including the need to resolve care deficits in labour‑importing countries, and to regulate, formalize, professionalize and protect the terms and conditions of employment in care work.
The representative of Brazil underscored his Government’s commitment to the protection of the rights of all women and girls. This draft touches on aspects that are relevant to Brazil, notably the situation of migrant women within the migrant process. Reiterating that the topic of migration is subordinated to the topic of national sovereignty, he said Brazil joins consensus but disassociates from preambular paragraphs 8, 9 and 18.
The representative of Finland, speaking for the European Union, reiterated the bloc’s commitment to the protection of all women migrant workers and said the draft reaffirms the importance of ratifying relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the list of documents in preambular paragraph 20 includes those that do not have broad support, calling ILO Convention No. 189 on domestic workers problematic, as it was only ratified by a small number of States. The Russian Federation disassociates from preambular paragraph 15.
The representative of Chile said his country is not part of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and thus, disassociates from paragraphs referring to that instrument.
The representative of Ireland, speaking for a cross‑regional group of countries, said the Commission on the Status of Women remains the global body dedicated to the rights of women and its outcome documents reflect negotiations involving all Member States.
The representative of Italy, associating with the European Union and Ireland’s cross‑regional group of countries, stressed the particular needs of migrant women workers and reiterated Italy’s commitment to incorporate a human‑rights based and gender‑responsive approach into migration policies. While Italy joined consensus, this does not change its stance on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The representative of Hungary, associating herself with the European Union, joined consensus and reaffirmed Hungary’s commitment to international human rights instruments. Migration shall not be qualified as a basic human right, she said, stressing that all States have the right to protect their borders and fight criminal networks. States shall avoid creating pull factors for irregular migration and more opportunities for human traffickers. Hungary disassociates from paragraphs mentioning the Global Compact and its review forum.
The representative of Algeria said her delegation joined consensus on the draft but abstains from its references to the Global Compact. Referring to the prescriptive manner of the Global Compact, and given the sovereign rights of States, she said the Compact does not distinguish between regular and irregular migrants, and does not help combat illicit migration.
The representative of Guatemala said the rights of women migrant workers must be ensured by countries of origin, destination and transit. The focus should be on vulnerable groups and the international community should do its utmost to protect their rights. Migration must be seen as a natural process; it has always occurred in all cultures throughout history. Such flows must be seen as opportunities for development.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/C.3/74/L.14/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
An observer for the State of Palestine, introducing the draft on behalf of the Group of 77, said the draft resolution contains references to international instruments on the rights of older persons and inputs from the Secretary‑General’s report related to the increasing number of humanitarian emergencies and specific needs of older persons. In addition, the draft includes inputs from the last Independent Expert’s Report on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his country attaches great importance to improving the situation of elderly people and called for optimal cooperation in order to strengthen protection for them. The Russian Federation cannot support language in operative paragraph 52 and disassociates from consensus on this paragraph, he said, drawing attention to the country’s participation in the upcoming session of the Working Group.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.14/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would call on Member States to promote — in accordance with their national priorities — equitable and affordable access to physical and social infrastructure for all, without discrimination, and to ensure that the following services are responsive to the needs of older persons: affordable serviced land; housing; modern and renewable energy; safe drinking water and sanitation; safe, nutritious and adequate food; waste disposal; sustainable mobility; health care services and family planning; education; culture; and information and communications technologies. It would also invite Member States to continue to share their national experiences, including within the framework of the Open‑ended Working Group on Ageing.
The representative of Canada, speaking in explanation of position, said the draft makes important contributions to the families and communities of older persons. Canada has taken action both nationally and internationally to protect the rights of older persons, he said, reiterating his country’s commitment to exploring possibilities for best addressing this issue.
The representative of the United States, noting that his country joins consensus and referring to the general statement delivered on 7 November, said the term “migrant” is not well defined in international law.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Follow‑up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/74/L.65), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.65” without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would note with concern that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women) continues to draw on voluntary contributions to enable it to carry out its mandate of servicing normative intergovernmental processes. It would emphasize the need to fully implement resolution 64/289 in this regard.
By other terms, the Assembly would urge Member States to increase funding for the budget of UN‑Women by providing core, multi‑year, predictable, stable and sustainable voluntary contributions. It would also call on Governments — and all other stakeholders — to systematically mainstream a gender perspective into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in order to foster accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, said his country joins consensus but disassociates from operative paragraph 8.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow‑up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” (document A/C.3/74/L.60/Rev.1), with the Chair noting that it contains no programme budget implications.
An observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said the draft emphasizes the urgency of the fight against racism and welcomes discussions in various areas in follow‑up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The Chair, replying to the observer for the State of Palestine, said Israel has requested a vote.
The representative of Finland, speaking for the European Union, said he does not believe additional instruments are needed, such as a possible declaration on the rights of people of African descent. The draft resolution correctly reflects the language of the Durban Declaration and he expressed regret that other substantive proposals were not accepted, and that only proposals updating the text were accepted. The European Union is unable to support the draft resolution.
The representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position, said the Durban conference was hijacked by countries who turned it into a platform for defaming Israel. His country withdrew from the Durban conference and therefore cannot accept a resolution aiming to eliminate racism that is founded on the racist Durban conference in 2001.
The representative of the United States said that from its own experience, the best antidote to offensive speech — rather than bans and punishment — is legal protection, outreach and the protection of free expression, both on and offline. The United States cannot support this draft because it is not genuinely focused on combatting racism. Among the concerns are its endorsements of the Durban Declaration. The draft serves as a vehicle to prolong divisions stemming from the Durban conference. As such, the United States will vote against it and urges others to do the same.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.60/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 10 against, with 44 abstentions.
By the text, the General Assembly would call on States that have not done so to accede to and/or ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and on States parties to consider making the declaration under its article 14, as well as consider withdrawing reservations to article 4, along with any reservations that are incompatible with the Convention. By other terms, the Assembly would also express concern at the lack of progress in elaborating complementary standards to the Convention. It would also welcome the decision to establish the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent.
The representative of Iran said that he understands the anger of “the last apartheid regime of the twenty‑first century, Israel”, regarding this resolution. He quoted Israel’s Prime Minister in stating that “the weak crumble, are smothered and erased from history, while the strong survive. The strong are respected and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end, peace is made with the strong.”
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/74/L.58), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Egypt, introducing the draft on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said Palestinians in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, suffer under Israel’s occupation and the denial of their natural rights, including to self‑determination. Therefore, the draft stresses the need for respecting the territorial integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. It also recalls the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion (2004) that Israel’s unlawful wall impedes the rights of the Palestinian people to self‑determination.
The Chair, replying to Egypt’s representative, said Israel requested a vote on the draft.
The representative of Israel, in a general statement, said the draft resolution is not about the right of Palestinians, but, rather, creating a narrative that vilifies his country. Even the Jewish people have the right to self‑determination, he said, underscoring the politicization of this issue. Placing no responsibility on the Palestinians, the United Nations is incapable of playing a constructive role in this conflict. Israel will vote against the draft and he urged all delegations to do the same.
The Committee then approved the draft “L.58” by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 5 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Kiribati, Rwanda, Togo, Tonga and Vanuatu).
By its terms, the General Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination, including to their independent State of Palestine. It would also urge all States and United Nations specialized agencies and organizations to continue to support and assist Palestinians in the early realization of their right to self‑determination.
The representative of Argentina, in explanation of the position, reiterated her country’s recognition of Palestinians’ right to self‑determination. Her delegation voted in favour, stressing the need to recognize the Palestinian State and promote negotiations aimed at achieving it. Israel’s right to live within secure borders must also be recognized. She welcomed the draft’s adoption, as it supports self‑determination for Palestinians.
The representative of Canada said she voted for the draft resolution, as it addresses the core issue of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict. It is essential that both sides of the conflict have a prosperous future and she called for direct negotiations towards achieving lasting peace in the region.
An observer for the State of Palestine expressed gratitude to the 164 Member States that supported the draft, which more broadly reflects the collective will to advance a just and lasting peace. Stressing that Israel rejects peace and violates the right of Palestinians to self‑determination, and that Palestinians recognize the State of Israel, she said that Israel, by contrast, has yet to recognize the Palestinian State. The illegal occupation has become more violent and Israel’s actions amount to a war crime, she said, pointing to the bombardment of people in Gaza, including in air strikes last week. Israel repeatedly stated that the right to self‑determination is a basic human right. “We must not accept empty slogans from the occupying power,” she asserted.
The representative of San Marino said his delegation intended to vote in favour of the draft resolution; however, its vote was not reflected on the screen.
Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/74/L.61), which contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Pakistan, introducing the draft resolution, recalled the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1960, which condemned the subjection of people to alien domination, and said it is an impediment to world peace. Since this “landmark” resolution, the right to self‑determination has been crystalized through international practice and elaborated through cases such as Namibia and East Timor, which were granted the right to self‑determination by the International Court of Justice. In the decades after the Second World War, all former colonies and subjugated peoples were granted freedom and independence peacefully, through free and fair referendums or plebiscites under the auspices of the United Nations. However, some people under occupation are denied this right, he said, adding that occupiers in contemporary situations of alien domination and illegal annexation justify the “trampling” of the right to self‑determination as a fight against terrorism. He expressed hope that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus, as is “traditional”.
The representative of India said the principle of self‑determination should not be used to interfere with States’ territorial integrity. India joins consensus on the understanding that self‑determination is used as a “vehicle for decolonization”, not as a justification for secession, and added that India’s commitment to the principle will not be changed by the “desperate attempts” of some countries to misuse this agenda. India joins consensus with the firm understanding that the draft applies only to situations mentioned in the document, and not to other documents referenced therein.
The representative of Argentina said self‑determination only applies to cases in which people are entitled to it, and that the concept should be interpreted in keeping with relevant General Assembly resolutions and the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
Draft resolution “L.61” was then approved without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would express deep concern at acts or threats of foreign military intervention and occupation that threaten to suppress the right to self‑determination and, as a consequence of the persistence of such actions, millions of people are uprooted from their homes as refugees and displaced persons. It would call upon States to cease immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories and all acts of repression, discrimination and exploitation.
The representative of Spain said the existence of colonization does not always mean the suppression of rights. He pointed out that in the case of Gibraltar, its original population was obliged to abandon the region, after which the current inhabitants were brought in. He called for the urgent resumption of negotiations on the Brussels Agreement, which the United Kingdom suspended unilaterally, and reiterated his request to that country to “negotiate a formula to put an end to this anachronism”.
The representative of the United States said the draft resolution contains many aspects that are inconsistent with current practice and referred to the general statement made on 7 November.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Syria, exercising the right of reply, condemned Israel’s continued practice of “apartheid and terrorism”, as well as its “sham prosecution” of the “Mandela of Syria” who was arbitrarily detained for 27 years and is now sentenced to be imprisoned for another 14 years. He urged the international community to push for his release, as well as the release of other Syrian prisoners from prisons in Israel. He said Israel continues to sap the natural resources of the Golan Heights, including water, and only allows settlers to use them. It is also felling trees and razing the ground, which is leading to an economic and environmental catastrophe for Syrians. In addition, Israel is handing licenses to American people to further sap resources in the region. He emphasized the right to self‑determination of the people of Palestine, and called for its full membership in the United Nations.
The representative of Israel said comments by the representative of Syria demonstrate how much must be done to educate people on the horrors of the Holocaust.
The representative of the United Kingdom recalled his country’s sovereignty over Gibraltar and the territorial waters surrounding it, and emphasized that its people enjoy the right to self‑determination. Gibraltar’s 2006 Constitution provides for a “modern and mature relationship” with the United Kingdom, and the latter will not enter into arrangements under which Gibraltar will pass under the sovereignty of another State. He expressed regret that Spain withdrew from the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue in 2011 and reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to safeguarding Gibraltar and its economy.
The representative of Iran said “no amount of deceptive remarks” will conceal the fact that Israel’s policies of aggression are a source of instability in the Middle East. He characterized Israel as “the last apartheid regime of the world”, condemning its inherent abhorrent racism and unlawful blockade, adding that such violations of human rights are appalling.
The representative of Spain said the so‑called Gibraltar waters are Spanish territorial waters and have been since time immemorial.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Implementing the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through providing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and ensuring their protection” (document A/C.3/74/L.31/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Norway, introducing the draft resolution, called on States and relevant stakeholders to intensify their efforts to implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. He stressed the importance of providing a safe environment for human rights defenders and ensuring their protection, urging the General Assembly to send a clear message of support. Noting that operative paragraphs 9, 11, 14 and 16 have been modified, he invited other countries to co‑sponsor the draft.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed deep concern over the challenges faced by human rights defenders, particularly women. He highlighted notable advances in the draft, including a new reference to protect human rights defenders online as well as offline. The language on cybercrime is also important. However, the European Union finds problematic certain elements and he expressed regret that negotiations did not allow his delegation to have its positions and proposals better reflected in the text. Despite this, the European Union is willing to join consensus, as it cares deeply about protecting human rights defenders.
The representative of China joined consensus on the draft resolution, underscoring his country’s commitment to protect human rights. However, countries have different views on who qualifies as a human right defender. Defenders should not be considered a special group of people, enjoying a special legal status, he said, stressing that those who violate national law must be held accountable. China will therefore interpret this draft resolution in accordance with its national law.
The representative of Colombia said the negotiations reflected the diversity among States in arriving at agreement. Colombia participated actively in the process and she stressed the importance of protecting human rights defenders.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret that the draft’s authors were unable to use language from the Assembly’s seventy‑second session. While the Russian Federation joined consensus, he pointed to problematic concepts, which imply that human rights defenders have a special status under the legal regime. As such, the draft undermines the integrity of the legal system, as well as States’ international legal obligations, particularly those addressing non‑discrimination.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.31/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would express grave concern at the situation of human rights defenders around the world, and strongly condemn the killing of and all other human rights violations or abuses against them, including women, environmental and indigenous human rights defenders, by State and non‑State actors. It would condemn all acts of intimidation and reprisal, both online and offline, by State and non‑State actors against individuals, groups and organs of society — including against rights defenders and their legal representatives, associates and family members — who seek to cooperate, are cooperating or have cooperated with subregional, regional and international bodies, including the United Nations.
By other terms, the Assembly would urge States to investigate — in a prompt, effective, independent and accountable manner — complaints and allegations regarding threats or violations and abuses perpetrated by State and non‑State actors against human rights defenders, and to initiate, when appropriate, proceedings against the perpetrators. It would urge States to develop and implement protection initiatives for human rights defenders at risk or in vulnerable situations.
The representative of New Zealand, also speaking on behalf of other countries in explanation of position, welcomed this year’s focus on enabling a safe environment for human rights defenders, and protecting women human rights defenders against hate speech. Stressing the essential role of human rights defenders in advancing internationally agreed human rights standards, she recalled the commitments States have towards their citizens, such as protecting the right to peaceful assembly and free expression. Without these rights, human rights defenders are unable to fulfil their role.
The representative of the United States said human rights defenders are harassed, imprisoned, tortured and killed when trying to protect human rights. She called for redoubled efforts to ensure that State and non‑State actors are held accountable for violating their fundamental freedoms and referred to her delegation’s 7 November statement.
The representative of Viet Nam, speaking in a general statement, expressed concern over the term “human rights defenders” as there is no internationally recognized definition. She expressed concern about the credibility of the information contained in reports of the Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders. While each person is entitled to fundamental human rights, these rights are inseparable from the obligation to respect the rights of others.
The representative of Costa Rica reaffirmed his country’s commitment to protect human rights, including those of environmental rights defenders, for whom specific measures must be ensured for their protection.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons” (document A/C.3/74/L.48/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Norway, introducing the draft, said internally displaced persons have roughly doubled to 40 million people in recent years, with another 24 million being internally displaced annually on average, due to natural disasters. The draft resolution sets out the challenges and vulnerabilities faced by such persons and calls on States to address their plight. Noting that the issue of internally displaced persons is a humanitarian challenge, as well as one of peace‑building and development, she welcomed the cross‑regional nature of support for the vital draft resolution and called on States to support it.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that while his country joins consensus and agrees that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be prosecuted, it does not share the “rosy assessment of the International Criminal Court”, and therefore must disassociate from consensus on preambular paragraph 26.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.48/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would recognize that Member States have the primary responsibility to promote durable solutions for their internally displaced persons, as well as to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights. It would request them to strengthen efforts to ensure the protection of and better assistance to internally displaced persons, in particular to address the challenges of protracted displacement, by adopting and implementing gender‑sensitive policies and strategies.
The representative of the United States expressed concern about the plight of 40 million internally displaced persons around the world, stressing that more is required to elevate this issue within the United Nations. However, she noted that, in line with the United States statement on 7 November, United Nations resolutions are non‑binding documents that create no new obligations under international law, pertaining to the International Criminal Court, climate change, the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The representative of the Philippines disassociated from preambular paragraph 26, which refers to the Rome Statute.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” (document A/C.3/74/L.45/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Greece, introducing the draft on behalf of Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, France, Greece and Tunisia, said much more must be done to end the growing number of journalist deaths and attempts to silence them. The text reflects concerns voiced by Governments and civil society. Based on the existing international framework, the draft resolution highlights the need to prevent violence, threats and attacks against journalists, as well as to stop the vicious cycle of impunity. It takes a gender‑sensitive approach, while addressing the digital aspects related to the protection of journalists.
The Committee then adopted “L.45/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would condemn unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention, expulsion, intimidation, threats and online and offline harassment. It would urge the immediate and unconditional release of journalists and media workers who have been arbitrarily arrested, arbitrarily detained or taken hostage or who have become victims of enforced disappearances.
By other terms, the Assembly would urge political leaders, public officials and/or authorities to refrain from denigrating, intimidating or threatening the media, calling on States to ensure that defamation and libel laws are not misused, in particular through excessive criminal sanctions, to illegitimately or arbitrarily censor journalists and interfere with their mission of informing the public. Where necessary, they should revise and repeal such laws.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, underscored the need to combat impunity and prosecute crimes against journalists. No forms of censorship are acceptable, she noted, referring to her delegation’s 7 November statement.
The representative of Canada welcomed the draft, underscoring that Canada is fully committed to the safety of journalists and expressing concern over attempts to silence journalists through such measures as expulsion.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “National human rights institutions” (document A/C.3/74/L.44/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Germany, introducing the draft resolution, said it underlines the important role that national institutions play in promoting human rights. It recognizes contributions made by these institutions at the local and national levels, as well as their unique role in working with Governments, parliaments and civil society to improve human rights. National human rights institutions work to guarantee and accelerate progress, alongside the Human Rights Council universal periodic review in Geneva and the Commission on the Status of Women in New York.
The representative of Australia, on behalf of several States, including Liechtenstein, said the United Nations is enhanced by the contributions of human rights defenders and civil society actors. Such independent institutions can provide guidance to Governments, assist victims and engage the international community.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.44/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would stress the importance of the financial and administrative independence and stability of national human rights institutions, noting with satisfaction efforts by those States that have provided their national institutions with more autonomy and independence, including by giving them an investigative role or enhancing such a role, and encouraging other Governments to take similar steps. It would also request the Secretary‑General to continue to provide the assistance necessary for holding international and regional meetings of national institutions, including meetings of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. By other terms, it would underline the value of national human rights institutions, established and operating in accordance with the United Nations Paris Principles, in the continued monitoring of existing legislation and in consistently informing the State about the impact of such legislation on the activities of human rights defenders.
The representative of the United States recalled the 7 November statement made by her country, regarding references to the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization” (document A/C.3/74/L.46/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of the United States, introducing the draft resolution, said democracy is a universal value, pointing to the draft’s support for electoral efforts in building sustainable national electoral systems. Highlighting threats to international peace and security from non‑State actors, she underscored the importance of an enabling environment for journalists. She called on Member States to condemn any manipulation of electoral processes and to hold accountable those seeking to undermine genuine elections. She further encouraged those who have not done so to co‑sponsor the draft.
The representative of the Russian Federation, proposing amendment “L.63”, said his country supports many elements despite that the draft needs revisions. The amendment seeks to delete the phrase “and in this regard expresses appreciation for the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, which elaborate guidelines for international electoral observation” as it was never the subject of any intergovernmental process. Rather, this phrase was developed by civil society actors, not by States, and as such, it cannot be accepted by the Russian Federation. He urged the delegations to support the amendment.
The Chair said a recorded vote was requested on amendment “L.63”.
The representative of the United States, in a general statement, said she called for the vote and will vote against the amendment, encouraging other delegations to do the same. The Russian Federation seeks to delete established language, she said, noting that the Committee has repeatedly defeated this amendment.
The Committee then rejected the draft amendment “L.63” by a recorded vote of 95 against to 26 in favour, with 32 abstentions.
The representative of Canada, in a general statement also on behalf of Australia, expressed support for the key messages highlighted in the draft, citing manipulation of election processes.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed support for many elements of the text and regret that the authors of draft resolution “L.46/Rev.1” refused to include his delegation’s comments. Despite its objections, the Russian Federation will join consensus and not request a vote on the draft.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.46/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would reaffirm the obligation of all States to take all measures to ensure that every citizen has the effective right and opportunity to participate in elections on an equal basis. It would strongly condemn any manipulation of election processes, coercion and tampering with vote counts, particularly when done by States, and call on all States to respect the rule of law and the human rights of all persons — including the right to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections — which shall be by universal and equal suffrage, and held by secret ballot, guaranteeing free expression of will.
By other terms, it would call on all Member States to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, as well as enhance the political participation of women.
The representative of Singapore, in explanation of position, expressed support for the draft, noting that under national law, persons with disabilities may be provided assistance but only by persons who are under oath to keep the vote secret.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity” (document A/C.3/74/L.18/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Italy, presenting the draft resolution, said effective crime prevention is fundamental to international peace and development, as is respect for the rights of persons going through the criminal justice system. He observed that criminal phenomena exacerbate social tensions, drain public resources and often violate human rights and freedoms. He welcomed consensus on the text, which updates language related to corruption, trafficking in persons, hate crimes, environmental crimes and more. He invited all States join consensus.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.18/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would call upon Member States to strengthen cooperation at international, regional, subregional and bilateral levels to counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including those who are returning and relocating, notably through enhanced operational and timely information‑sharing, logistical support and capacity‑building activities. Such cooperation should also cover the sharing of best practices to identify foreign terrorist fighters, to prevent their travel from, into or through Member States, and to prevent their financing, mobilization, recruitment and organization.
By other terms, the Assembly would also call upon Member States to address the threat posed by radicalization to terrorism in prisons, and upon the United Nations, especially the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to continue to support Member States in this regard, in cooperation and coordination with the Office of Counter-Terrorism and the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact entities.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem” (document A/C.3/74/L.15/Rev.1), which contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Mexico, introducing the draft, said it is a “comprehensive omnibus draft” which includes technical updates and references to progress made by the international community on addressing the world drug problem. It also maintains a cross‑cutting view in line with the seven thematic axes laid out in the General Assembly Special Session on drugs in 2016. Tackling the drug problem involves several dimensions, including public health, human rights, the rule of law and reduction of both demand and supply. He noted that an oral revision was made to preambular paragraph 27, in order to contribute to consensus. Although countries’ views on drug control may differ, no convention should limit candid and respectful dialogue on the scope and limits of policy, he said.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.15/Rev.1”, as orally revised, without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would urge Member States to address the relevant socioeconomic factors that relate to the world drug problem through a comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach that incorporates drug policies into a broader development agenda, in compliance with the three international drug control conventions. By other terms, it would also request Member States to provide the fullest possible financial and political support to UNODC by widening its donor base, as appropriate, and increasing voluntary contributions, in particular general‑purpose contributions, enabling it to expand, improve and strengthen, within its mandates, its operational and technical cooperation activities.
The representative of Finland welcomed the draft resolution, which provides key recommendations to counter the world drug problem.