Third Committee Approves 13 Drafts on Preventing Disinformation, Crime amid Vote, Deep Divisions over Follow-up to 2001 Durban Declaration
Draft on Youth Would Have General Assembly Convene High-level Meeting for Thirtieth Anniversary of World Action Programme in 2025
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) approved 13 draft resolutions today amid heated discussions on migrants and the elimination of racism in the context of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
In one of two recorded votes today, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the global call to eliminate racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia ‑ and on the follow-up to the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which mark their twentieth anniversary this year. Passed by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 17 against, with 35 abstentions, the text would have the Assembly call on States that have not done so to accede to and/or ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Notably, it would call on States parties to consider withdrawing their reservations to its article 4.
Guinea’s delegate, introducing the text on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, called it an “essential tool” in the fight against racial, ethnic and other types of discrimination.
Israel’s delegate, who called for the vote, recalled that in 2001 countries from around the world gathered in Durban, South Africa, to combat racism. Yet, a small number of them used the conference as a political opportunity to demonize and defame Israel. The United States delegate, who similarly rejected the text, described it as a vehicle for prolonging divisions. The United States cannot accept the call to consider withdrawing reservations to the Convention’s article 4, she said, or the appeal for former colonial powers to provide reparations. On that point, Jamaica’s delegate welcomed the inclusion of the call for States to dispense reparatory justice. Her delegation will seek to advance international recognition of this imperative at the United Nations.
The United Kingdom’s delegate, citing overt anti-Semitism around the conference, said: “We need to ask ourselves why so many States stayed away.”
Turning to other human rights questions, the Committee approved without a vote a new draft on disinformation, which would have the Assembly urge social media companies to review their business models and ensure that their business operations, data collection and data processing practices are compliant with international human rights standards.
“The world is plagued by disinformation that has exacerbated hate speech, xenophobia, Islamophobia and related intolerances,” Pakistan’s delegate said, introducing the text. The United Kingdom’s representative expressed concern over the fabrication and manipulation of content to polarize societies, while the representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to the slow pace of reining in global information technology companies so that they comply with their obligations to States and society.
Also today, the Committee approved ‑ without a vote ‑ a draft resolution on policies and programmes involving youth, with the Assembly deciding to convene a high-level plenary meeting to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth during its eightieth session, in 2025.
Presenting the text on behalf of Kazakhstan, Cabo Verde, Portugal and his own country, Senegal’s representative underscored the importance of promoting young people’s participation in relevant decisions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Several delegations, including Egypt, Malaysia and Iraq, dissociated from provisions referencing “intersecting forms of discrimination”, citing the ambiguity of the phrase. Others, including delegates of Libya and Bahrain, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, expressed concerns about references to sexual and reproductive health services, requesting that they be aligned with cultural, religious and national legislation.
Other drafts approved by consensus today were those on persons living with a rare disease; follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing; the thirtieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family; the girl child; the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa; the protection of migrants; the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme; the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol.
A draft on the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly passed by a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with no abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly would express deep concern that the global goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 is “slipping from our reach” and recognize that the multidimensional impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated this trend.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 November, to continue its work.
The Committee began the day by considering the draft resolution titled “Addressing the challenges of persons living with a rare disease and their families” (document A/C.3/76/L.20/Rev.1).
The representative of Spain, introducing the draft also on behalf of Brazil and Qatar, thanked delegations for their positive contributions, which she said would support the needs of 300 million people living with rare diseases. Emphasizing that women living with these diseases face multiple forms of discrimination in accessing and retaining decent work, she introduced oral revisions to “paragraph 5” and proposed the deletion of operative paragraph 15, as it contains budget implications.
The representative of the United States stressed that the draft resolution contains provisions that do not capture the full scope of protection that persons with rare diseases should be afforded. She expressed regret that most edits proposed by her delegation were not taken into consideration and several imperative provisions were removed, including language regarding sexual and reproductive health, and “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”. The United States nonetheless expressed support for the draft in a spirit of consensus.
The representative of Japan expressed support for the draft resolution.
The representative of New Zealand, also speaking for Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, said her delegation would have preferred stronger language to recognize multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
The Committee then approved draft “L.20/Rev.1” as orally revised without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would call on Member States to strengthen health systems, aiming to provide universal access to a wide range of health care services, which would help to empower persons living with a rare disease in addressing their physical and mental health needs, enhance health equity and equality, end discrimination and stigma, eliminate coverage gaps and create a more inclusive society.
By other terms, the Assembly would urge Member States to implement national measures to ensure that persons living with a rare disease are not left behind, recognizing that they are often disproportionally affected by poverty, discrimination and lack of decent work and employment. It would request the Secretary‑General, in close collaboration with the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), to present a report addressing the challenges faced by persons living with a rare disease and their families, to be submitted during the Assembly’s seventy‑eighth session of the General Assembly.
The representative of the Russian Federation, while expressing support for the draft, nonetheless registered concern over provisions on sexual and reproductive health care, which should not be undertaken without parental consent.
The representative of Libya, while joining consensus, highlighted reservations about references to sexual and reproductive health care services.
The Committee then considered 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.3/76/L.19/Rev.1).
The representative of Guinea, presenting the draft resolution on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed the need to ensure enjoyment of the highest standards of physical and mental health for everyone. Special focus was given to poverty eradication, and a call has been made on Member States to adopt measures addressing unpaid care and the feminization of poverty. In that context, he highlighted the goal of eradicating poverty and considering the multifaceted impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on social development.
A recorded vote was requested on the draft.
The representative of the United States, in explanation of vote, expressed disappointment that the text addresses issues that are not clearly linked to social development or the work of the Committee. She also expressed concern that portions of the text inappropriately call upon international financial institutions and other non‑United Nations organizations to take action. The draft does not contain balanced language related to the Trade‑Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Rather, it contains an unacceptable reference to foreign occupation in preambular paragraph 19. For these reasons, she called a vote on the draft and stressed that her delegation will vote against it.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.19/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with no abstentions.
By the text, the Assembly would express deep concern that the global goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 is “slipping from our reach” and recognize that the multidimensional impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated this trend, increasing the number of poor by up to 124 million and causing the extreme poverty rate to rise for the first time in a generation, especially among women and girls.
Against that backdrop, the Assembly would call on Member States to adopt measures to recognize women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work and the feminization of poverty, which has been exacerbated by the COVID‑19 pandemic. By other terms, the Assembly would recognize the complex character of the ongoing food insecurity situation, including food price volatility, as a combination of several major factors, both structural and conjunctural, while more broadly urging States to support the efforts of least developed countries to realize the right to education for every girl through appropriate resources.
The representative of the United Kingdom, in explanation of vote, stressed the need for full realization of the rights recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The primary responsibility for the promotion of human rights lies with States, she stressed, adding that international cooperation must be viewed as in support of State efforts, rather than as a substitute for them. Each State has the obligation to protect human rights of persons within its territory, she asserted.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Follow‑up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/C.3/76/L.17/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Guinea, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced the draft, noting that it outlines the urgent need to tackle ageism and respond to the pandemic by respecting the dignity of the ageing and protecting them from violence. It emphasizes the importance of ensuring full access to COVID‑19 vaccinations for all, including older persons.
The Committee then approved “L.17/Rev.1” by consensus.
By the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the 2002 Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, emphasizing the need to view older persons as active contributors to society and not as passive receivers of care and assistance and an “impending burden on welfare systems and economies”. It would therefore call on Member States to participate in global efforts towards an age-inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to mobilize all necessary resources. By other terms, the Assembly would call on Member States to develop their national capacities for monitoring and enforcing the rights of older persons, in consultation with all sectors of society. In addition, it would urge States to implement policies that promote healthy and active ageing and the highest attainable standard of health and well‑being for older persons.
The representative of Argentina said the second year of the pandemic has highlighted the risks of poverty, a lack of access to health care and violence and raised attention to the abandonment suffered by older persons. The draft encourages States to contribute to the Open‑ended Working Group on Ageing.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the international community has yet to find the optimal type of cooperation to protect the rights of older persons, citing the Madrid Plan of Action as an important reference point. Noting that the Open‑ending Working Group on Ageing could make a valuable contribution, he pointed out that operative paragraph 58 envisages changes to its format. Approving so‑called intergovernmentally agreed recommendations is premature when there is no consensus, he said, even on the most basic issues. This step could paralyze the discussion format and jeopardize the Working Group’s outcome document. For these reasons, the Russian Federation disassociates from that paragraph.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled “Policies and programmes involving youth” (document A/C.3/76/L.11/Rev.1).
The representative of Senegal, presenting the text on behalf of Kazakhstan, Cabo Verde, Portugal and Senegal, stressed that youth issues are transversal and affect everyone. It is important to promote young people’s participation in relevant decision‑making to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The draft emphasizes the issues of poverty, education, non‑discrimination and HIV/AIDS, he said, adding that in a spirit of consensus, several provisions have been merged.
The representative of Indonesia joined consensus while expressing concern about the lack of flexibility on terminology exhibited by several small delegations. He invited delegations to be more inclusive in order to overcome diverging positions.
The representative of the United States, welcoming the reference to the peace and security agenda, requested that youth be included in decision‑making when rebuilding after the COVID‑19 pandemic. She commented on paragraphs 20 bis and 29 and provisions on technology transfer.
The Committee then approved draft “L.11/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would decide to convene a one‑day high‑level plenary meeting during the general debate of its eightieth session in 2025 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth. It would request the Secretary‑General to submit a report to the Assembly at its seventy-eighth session on progress achieved in implementing youth‑related areas of the 2030 Agenda.
Recognizing that 49 per cent of the world’s population is under 30, and only 2.6 per cent of parliament members belong to this age group, the Assembly would encourage the increase of youth representation in national and local legislatures. By other terms, it would invite Member States to engage civil society, in particular youth organizations, to develop joint environmental policies and programmes aimed at countering climate change and biodiversity loss in developing countries. At the same time, it would call on Member States to protect the right to privacy in the digital age and take measures to prevent cyberstalking and cyberbullying.
The representative of the Russian Federation underscored the need to distinguish between children and youth, due to the lack of internationally agreed age standards. He added that access to sexual and reproductive health care services should be provided with the consent of parents.
The representative of Egypt, noting that her country organized the World Youth Assembly for three years, expressed reservations on preambular paragraph 13 and use of the phrase “intersecting forms of discrimination”, which does not have a clear meaning. She also underlined that operative paragraphs 13, 15 and 19 must be aligned with the cultural and social norms of each country.
The representative of Argentina said the draft resolution should include more provisions on diversity, underscoring the need to increase international support for the full realization of youth capabilities.
The representative of Malaysia said the draft contains ambiguous elements on “young people’s diverse situations and conditions” and “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence”, which are inconsistent with Malaysia’s position. His delegation therefore disassociates from preambular paragraphs 13 and 31, and operative paragraph 12, and does not recognize them as agreed or consensus text.
The representative of Bahrain, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said her delegation joined consensus from a belief on the importance of the topic. However, references to sexual and reproductive health services should be aligned with cultural, religious and national legislation.
The representative of the Dominican Republic, on behalf of several delegations, stressed that recognition of the United Nations Youth Strategy 2030 and references to the peace and security agenda and the impact of COVID‑19 are essential. She expressed regret that the draft does not refer to the Secretary‑General’s Our Common Agenda report, calling for recognition of young people’s role during the pandemic.
The representative of Iran said her delegation is not aligned with provisions in operative paragraph 8, on marginalized groups.
The representative of Yemen said the draft includes language that is contrary to her delegation’s position.
The representative of Iraq, while joining consensus, disassociated from the reference to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” due to its ambiguity, and provisions in operative paragraphs 10, 13, 15 and 16, as well as from references to marginalization in operative paragraphs 6 and 29.
The representative of Libya said his delegation supported the consensus while rejecting operative paragraphs 10, 12 and 13, as they contain language which is not aligned with Libya’s national and cultural traditions. He also expressed reservations about references to health services, sexual and reproductive health, and the controversial concepts of “intersecting forms of discrimination” and marginalized groups.
An observer for the Holy See expressed disappointment about the inclusion of controversial provisions on pregnancy and sexual and reproductive health care services, underlining the centrality of the family and the role of parents to educate their children. Sexual and reproductive health care services apply to a holistic conception of health which should not include abortion, he asserted.
The representative of Algeria expressed regret that Member States focused on minor disagreements such as language and invited delegations to focus on what unites them.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled “Preparations for and observance of the thirtieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family” (document A/C.3/76/L.18/Rev.1), which the Chair noted had no budget implications.
The representative of Guinea, presenting the draft on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the title has been changed to reflect the preparations for this milestone event. It also recognizes that the COVID‑19 pandemic has fostered a critical recognition of the need for a more inclusive system to protect families in vulnerable situations, and thus encourages Member States and United Nations entities to take measures to protect families from the socioeconomic impact of COVID‑19, including through extended family and child benefits.
The representative of Uruguay drew attention to gender-based violence within the family, stressing the need to protect women and young girls against gender-based violence. The conditions and situations of families are often the main reasons behind discrimination, she said, adding that the draft focuses on different types of family.
The representative of the United States affirmed the importance of family diversity and expressed concern that the draft promotes a narrow vision of the family that impedes gender equality and excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) persons. Various forms of families exist everywhere in the world, she said, a fact that was not accepted in the draft. The United Nations must be able to recognize the reality that there are various family structures around the world.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.18/Rev.1” by consensus.
By the text, the Assembly would request a focal point on the family, in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, to enhance collaboration with the regional commissions, funds and programmes, while inviting Member States to enhance cooperation with all relevant stakeholders to promote family issues and develop partnerships. In addition, the Assembly would encourage Member States to invest in family-oriented policies and programmes that enhance intergenerational interactions, such as intergenerational living arrangements, parenting education, including for family caregivers, and support for grandparents.
The representative of Mexico, in explanation of position, welcomed the improvements in the draft, reiterating that society has undergone changes, including in the role of women. There are various forms of family, often including grandparents, single parents, same-sex couples with children, and couples without children. She expressed regret that the draft does not reflect different forms of family.
The representative of the United Kingdom, in explanation of position, acknowledged the impact of COVID‑19 on families, the disruption of education and an alarming increase in violence, including domestic violence, and stressed the need to provide families with support. To this end, policies must be inclusive, and special attention must be given to families in vulnerable situations.
The representative of Slovenia said the draft includes a number of new elements, including on the socioeconomic impact of COVID‑19. Families in vulnerable situations require special attention, he said, stressing the need to end domestic violence and harmful practices. Families are dynamic entities that have changed over time, he asserted, calling for responsive policies and approaches.
The Committee next turned to the draft resolution “The girl child” (document A/C.3/76/L.21/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no budget implications.
The representative of Malawi, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the draft has been updated with a narrow scope due to working conditions. It aims to promote and protect the rights of the girl child, highlight issues impacting girls who live in rural and remote areas and draw attention to the impact of the pandemic on education, health and nutrition. It also calls on States to ensure that girls are protected and are able to return to school once it is safe to do so.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the well-being of children is an absolute value and that attention should be paid to the “traditional family”. Emphasizing that the family is vital in the development of the identity of the child, he said the basis of a child’s success and empowerment stems from where the child is raised. Children, depending on their age and ability to develop, require support from those responsible for children under the law, who then must lead and support children as enshrined in State legislation.
The representative of the United States welcomed the stronger language on health systems and reproductive health, as well as on girls living with HIV/AIDS, more broadly referring to the United States’ general statement delivered on 5 November.
The Committee then approved “L.21/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would urge States to consider signing and ratifying or acceding to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). It would call on States to take steps to bridge the gender digital divide as part of efforts to ensure the empowerment of women and girls, particularly those living in rural areas. States also would be called on to promote educational and health practices that foster a culture in which menstruation is recognized as healthy and natural, and in which girls are not stigmatized on this basis.
By other terms, the Assembly would recognize that girls’ school attendance can be affected by negative perceptions of menstruation and lack of means to maintain safe personal hygiene, such as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, in schools that meet the needs of girls. It would call on States to develop policies that prioritize scientifically accurate and age-appropriate comprehensive education, relevant to cultural contexts, providing adolescent girls and boys and young women and men in and out of school with information on sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention, gender equality and women’s empowerment, human rights, physical, psychological and pubertal development and power in relationships between women and men. Further, it would urge all States to enact, uphold and strictly enforce laws aimed at preventing and ending child, early and forced marriage as well as laws concerning the minimum legal age of consent and the minimum age for marriage.
The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, said that upholding the rights of the girl child is a priority and among the critical areas for the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women. He welcomed the emphasis on access to education and health, including sexual and reproductive health care services, as well as the need to counter sexual and gender-based violence. Not all the content was open to negotiation, and some key elements still must be updated, he explained, noting that operative paragraph 11 does not reflect national consensus, which considers the best interests of the child.
The representative of Guatemala, in a general statement, said her country’s Constitution notes that States organize to protect people, from conception to family, as a common interest. Regarding the term “sexual and reproductive health services”, she said Guatemala disassociates from elements that contravene national law.
The representative of Libya welcomed the draft resolution and its approval by consensus while expressing concern over some controversial terms used, such as, in paragraph 23, the phrase “sexual and reproductive health protection”. This is an issue that is subject to national law and is dependent on cultural and religious practices in each community.
The representative of Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, clarified that references to “sexual and reproductive health” and “sexual and reproductive health services” should be interpreted in a manner that complies with national legislation and the cultural and religious specifics of countries.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed support for inclusive language on the full participation of girls in decisions that impact them as well as the wholesale empowerment of women and girls. Due to the working conditions of the Committee during the pandemic, certain parts of the text were kept closed from negotiations. Paragraphs that include key concepts and language that were in urgent need of review in 2019 still require updates, particularly paragraph 15, on sex education.
The representative of Iran, while joining consensus, noted her delegation’s understanding that operative paragraph 35 should be applied in the framework of national laws and rules and consider social and religious issues. It does not support the language in operative paragraph 9 on those who are marginalized and, therefore, disassociates from that paragraph.
The representative of Senegal said his delegation joins consensus but does not agree with the terminology “sexual and reproductive health” throughout the document. Senegal also has reservations on operative paragraph 9, on incorporating a gender perspective in education.
The representative of Tunisia reiterated that “people on the ground” are not a homogenous group. The Committee’s approach must be ambitious and reach everyone. Concepts such as “sexual and reproductive rights” and “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” are long‑standing agreed‑upon language. They stand in all draft resolutions approved today. Tunisia will stand by the agreed‑upon language and “push back against the pushback” to work for full equality for women and girls.
An observer for the Holy See commended the focus on quality education for girls as well as the emphasis on ending child, early and forced marriage. As the convenor of high‑level dialogues in November 2020 aimed at accelerating uptake of tuberculosis and HIV medicines for children, he said the Holy See welcomes the invitation by States to advance work in this field. On education on sexual and reproductive health, he emphasized the prior rights of parents in the education of their children, saying that the Holy See does not view abortion as a dimension of sexual and reproductive rights and, further, notes that gender is grounded in biological sexual identity and difference.
The Committee then considered 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.3/76/L.61/Rev.1).
The representative of Guinea, introducing the draft on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the text is an important tool in the fight against racial, ethnic and other discrimination. “Racial discrimination is not an issue of the past,” he said. “It is an ongoing human rights challenge.” He underlined the need to achieve racial equality and justice.
The representative of Israel said his delegation requested a vote, recalling that on 8 September 2001, countries from around the world gathered in Durban to combat racism. Yet, a small number of countries used the conference as a political opportunity to demonize and defame Israel and have since used the Durban Declaration as a political tool. Israel had no choice but to withdraw from the Durban conference. It does not consider the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as the way forward, he emphasized.
The representative of Uruguay, while having voted in favour of the text, disassociated from preambular paragraph 10 and operative paragraph 24, as well as from the commemoration of the Durban Declaration in New York.
The representative of the United States recalled that her delegation supported the creation of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent, adding that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides comprehensive protections to address all forms of racial discrimination. She expressed deep concern over speech that advocates racial hatred, notably when it leads to incitement of violence.
She said the best antidote to offensive speech is a combination of robust legal protections against hate crimes, proactive Government outreach to racial and religious minorities and the vigorous protection of free expression, online and offline. The United States cannot support the text, she said, as it does not genuinely focus on countering racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. Among its concerns is the draft’s endorsement of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the outcome of the Durban Review Conference and its endorsement of overbroad restrictions on speech and expression.
She said the United States rejects any effort to advance implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, stressing that the draft resolution serves as a vehicle that only prolongs divisions. It cannot accept the draft’s call to consider withdrawing reservations to article 4 of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. She also rejected its call for former colonial powers to provide reparations, consistent with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The representative of Japan expressed regret over the lack of transparency in the process and consultations, requesting the Secretariat to respect the rules as they relate to budget implications.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.61/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 17 against, with 35 abstentions.
The text contains various provisions related to: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the International Decade for People of African Descent; the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; the Group of Independent Eminent Experts on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; the trust fund for the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination; the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; and for follow‑up and implementation activities.
Among them, the Assembly would call on States that have not done so to accede to and/or ratify the International Convention, and on States parties to consider making the declaration under article 14, withdrawing reservations to article 4 and withdrawing all reservations that are incompatible with the International Convention. It would also strongly appeal to Governments, intergovernmental and non‑governmental organizations and individuals, as well as donors to contribute to the trust fund.
The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union and other delegations, said the bloc is fully committed to ending racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance. Racism must be tackled comprehensively through appropriate national, regional and international measures. He wished for a process that allowed for a wider compromise on the text. It made several proposals, seeking a compromise. “Consensus is needed to start focusing on implementation of the resolution,” he said.
Expressing regret that none of its proposals were accommodated and, thus, that the draft “does not bring us closer to the much‑needed consensus”, he said the bloc’s language proposals to address stereotypes, assigned identities and other crucial concepts were likewise not taken on board. Neither the draft resolution nor the consultation process moved the Committee closer to consensus. As such, the European Union is unable to support the text.
The representative of the United Kingdom said her country is fully committed to ending racism and related intolerance. While it shares the concerns of the co‑sponsors that there is a long way to go to end racism, she expressed regret over the co‑sponsors’ unwillingness to address well‑known concerns with the contents of the draft. The United Kingdom does not agree with the multiple references to the Durban Conference, given the overt anti‑Semitism in and around the non‑governmental organizations forum in the margins of that 2001 Conference, and the abominable rhetoric heard at the 2009 Review Conference. It cannot accept such references in the draft. Further, the draft serves as a vehicle to prolong divisions propagated at the Durban Conference. Recalling that the United Kingdom did not attend the commemorative event for the Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and that some 40 States made similar decisions, she said: “We need to ask ourselves why so many States stayed away.” The United Nations has downplayed the scourge of anti‑Semitism and “this must end”, she said. Therefore, the United Kingdom voted against the draft.
The representative of New Zealand expressed hope for an inclusive approach to debating racism at the United Nations. New Zealand supports inclusive dialogue, notably by affirming the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The representative of Jamaica welcomed the inclusion of operative paragraph 13 calling for States to dispense reparatory justice contributing to recognition of the dignity of affected States. This is another milestone of global progress towards ending racial discrimination, following the creation of the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent and commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Indeed, there is increased momentum at the United Nations towards improvement of the lives of Afrodescendants, marking a stepping‑stone towards even more action that must be taken to achieve reparatory justice. Jamaica will seek to advance international recognition of this imperative at the United Nations and other forums. She looked forward to engaging with others, including those who voted against and abstained from voting today, on the issue of reparations.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled “Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa” (document A/C.3/76/L.32), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cameroon, introducing the text, said it reflects the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic and the liquidity crisis of the Secretariat on the activities of the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa. It urges the Centre to bolster cooperation and develop relations with subregional entities and organizations, including peacekeeping missions operating in the subregion. It also encourages the Centre to adhere to all human, economic, social and political rights and reiterates the request for additional resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Central Africa more rapidly.
The Committee then adopted draft resolution “L.32” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would encourage the Centre to take into account the requested demands of the countries of the subregion in the implementation of the strategic thematic priorities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It would encourage the Centre to strengthen its cooperation with the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa and the United Nations country teams, as well as with the peacekeeping missions in the subregion. Further, the Assembly would request the Secretary‑General and the High Commissioner to provide additional funds and human resources to enable the Centre to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Central Africa more rapidly.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled “Protection of migrants” (document A/C.3/76/L.52/Rev.1).
The representative of Mexico described migrants as the heroes of the pandemic, helping the economy. He invited the international community to work with countries of origin, transit or return, emphasizing that migrants should be provided access to health care and COVID‑19 guidance without discrimination.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.52/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would express its concern about the impact of financial and economic crises, as well as natural disasters and the effects of climate‑related phenomena, on international migration, urging Governments to combat discriminatory treatment of migrants. It would call on States to respect the human rights and inherent dignity of migrants, to end arbitrary arrest and detention and, bearing in mind the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, review policies that deny migrants full enjoyment of their rights.
By other terms, it would encourage States to take measures to achieve policy coherence on migration at the national, regional and international levels by ensuring coordinated child protection policies across borders that are in full compliance with international human rights law, as well as to cooperate effectively in protecting witnesses in cases of smuggling of migrants and victims in cases of trafficking in persons. It would urge States to combat all forms of discrimination, violence, xenophobia and related intolerance against all migrants, while at the same time acknowledging the need to promote an open and evidence‑based public discourse on migration and migrants, in partnership with all parts of society.
The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, welcomed new references to leave no one behind, while reaffirming the bloc’s commitment to human rights principles for migrants. However, he expressed regret that the draft does not prevent the use of migrants for political purposes, calling on the Belarus “regime” to stop its actions.
The representative of El Salvador, on behalf of Argentina, Bangladesh, Paraguay and other delegations, reaffirmed that all migrants are human beings who must be protected, underlining that they have been disproportionately impacted by COVID‑19. They should be granted equitable access to vaccines. She drew attention to preambular paragraph 9, which derogates from the purpose of the draft resolution and undermines the fulfilment of migrants’ human rights.
The representative of Libya, noting that his delegation joined consensus on the text, stressed that Libya does not support the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. It therefore rejects operative paragraph 11.
The representative of Chile expressed reservations about the appropriate management of migrants, citing recent developments in his country.
The representative of Algeria stressed that her country applies human rights in a non‑discriminatory manner to both nationals and non‑nationals. She welcomed the recognition that each State has the right to manage its migration policy while expressing reservations about the inclusion of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which her delegation does not consider applicable.
The representative of Hungary stressed that all States have the rights to define their migration policy. Rather than facilitating migration, international efforts should address the roots of migration, she said, disassociating from references to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation joined consensus, underlining the need to protect the rights of migrants. Expressing the belief that consultations and dialogues are the best approaches for protecting migrants, rather than armed conflicts, he went on to stress that access to journalists and civil society should be facilitated, so that they can openly reveal the reality to the international community.
The representative of Eritrea, underscoring the importance of the draft resolution, called for coordinated international efforts, adding that all Eritreans should be granted safe and dignified return to their country.
The representative of the United States said States have the responsibility to maintain or restrict access to their territory, adding that the United States does not support international solutions to migration, preferring instead bilateral mechanisms.
An observer for the Holy See cited the new provisions on the rights of migrants, welcoming the inclusion of all migrants in COVID‑19 vaccines. All migrants deserve to be treated with dignity along their journey, he said, calling the draft “an opportunity” for States to work together to advance their rights. The new language of the draft resolution should not be understood as being circumscribed by national law.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity” (document A/C.3/76/L.9/Rev.1).
The representative of Italy, introducing the text, said the draft is a result of nine rounds of informal consultations that heard active participation from many delegations. It builds on the 2020 resolution, incorporating new developments in the field of multinational cooperation. Given its importance and scope, it should be considered in a holistic manner. The text also invites the President of the General Assembly to organize a high‑level debate on youth and crime prevention. He further notes that there were divergent views among States on mentions in the text on the use of information and communication technologies for criminal purposes.
The representative of Mexico said that after the open consultations were held, he questioned why the silence was interrupted by an arms‑manufacturing State. That one delegation used “unfortunate tactics against multilateralism to push the interests of its arms industry”, he said, stressing the need to look at the commercial industry and the illicit practices of some manufacturers. All delegations ‑ except for one ‑ participated in the dialogue for this draft. For this reason, he thanked those countries that have arms industries and “are still willing to look at reality”.
The representative of the United Kingdom underscored his country’s strong commitment to crime prevention and its satisfaction with the progress made on the draft resolution. Cybercrime is an increased threat, he said, expressing his disappointment that some States undermined the significance of this by focusing on their own national prerogatives and not on the criminals. There should be a robust legal framework to tackle the growing threat posed by this crime.
The Committee then approved “L.9/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would request the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to continue to provide technical assistance to Member States, upon request, including in the field of international cooperation in criminal matters, to strengthen the rule of law while taking into account work undertaken by other United Nations entities. It would encourage Member States to promote the integrity, honesty and responsibility of criminal justice practitioners through specialized and appropriate training and the application of codes or standards of conduct.
By other terms, the Assembly would call on Member States to strengthen cooperation at the international, regional, subregional and bilateral levels to counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, also encouraging States to strengthen their efforts to combat cybercrime and criminal misuse of information and communications technologies, and to enhance cooperation involving electronic evidence. Among other provisions, the Assembly would also invite Member States to ratify or accede to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols and the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol.
The representative of the Russian Federation joined consensus on the draft, drawing attention to a number of shortcomings in the document and calling for the abandonment of certain outdated notions it contains. He noted extensive use of the term “cybercrime” rather than “the use of ICT for criminal purposes”, which covers computer‑related offenses but also ordinary crimes in which computers are used as one element. In 2022, his delegation will continue to work to update terminology used in the draft approved today.
The representative of Iran disassociated from operative paragraph 49 of the draft resolution.
The representative of China said relevant formulations related to cybercrime in the current draft resolution should be updated, adding that the text fails to reflect the latest consensus of Member States on the issue. China calls on all parties to engage in consultations in a constructive manner.
The representative of Australia described cybercrime as a constantly evolving threat that concerns all States. She voiced disappointment that in discussions on this text, some States decided to promote their national agendas by departing from consensus‑based terminology that has been widely accepted by the international community.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation” (document A/C.3/76/L.56/Rev.1).
The representative of Germany, presenting the draft resolution on behalf of Spain and her own country, said operative paragraph 9 calls on Member States to achieve resilient recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic, realize the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation and ensure access to handwashing and hygiene by 2030. The strong interest in the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation reflects the importance all Member States attach to the right to life and human dignity. Noting that the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of these rights to preventing the spread of infections, she also cited the need to accelerate climate‑related actions, including through water and sanitation systems.
The representative of the United Kingdom said achieving access to water and sanitation by 2030 contributes to realizing other Sustainable Development Goals, such as for gender equality and eradicating poverty.
The draft resolution “L.56/Rev.1” was approved by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation are essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life and all human rights. It would call on Member States to prioritize the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation services that are accessible to all, including persons in vulnerable situations and in densely populated, impoverished and rural areas. To achieve sustainable recovery from the pandemic, it would call on Member States to realize the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as ensure access to handwashing and hygiene.
In particular, the Assembly would call on States to ensure access to safe and affordable drinking water and adequate, equitable sanitation and hygiene for all women and girls, as well as for menstrual hygiene management, including for hygiene facilities and services in public and private spaces. They would also be called on to address the widespread stigma and shame surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene by promoting educational and health practices in and out of schools as a way to foster a culture in which menstruation is recognized as healthy and natural.
The representative of Libya said his delegation recognizes the value of “L.56/Rev.1” and, while it joined consensus, it has reservations on the mention of sexual and reproductive rights in paragraph 22, as that reference does not correspond to Libya’s national legislation. “The legislation of these matters is up to each State where relevant decisions are taken,” he said.
The representative of Ethiopia said that “water is life” and one of the resources most threatened by climate change. The draft resolution is of paramount importance and its content should be free from any controversial elements, including the issue of transboundary water resources.
The representative of Argentina said her country supports progressive development of international law and human rights as the fundamental pillar of its legal system. Ensuring safe drinking water is one of the main responsibilities of States. Argentina joined consensus on this resolution, while noting the sovereign right of States over their natural resources.
The representative of Bahrain, on behalf of a group of countries, said that while her country supports the content of the draft resolution, rights to sexual and reproductive health services in paragraph 22 should be left to national legislation and the religious policy of Bahrain.
The representative of Iran said the human right to safe drinking water is a component of the right to an adequate standard of living. But it does not support operative paragraph 5a, referencing individuals marginalized on the grounds of gender, which is not United Nations agreed language.
The representative of Senegal said his delegation agrees with the consensus and attaches great importance to the question of water access.
The representative of the United States said her country recognizes the challenges of ensuring access to water and sanitation. It is joining consensus on the understanding that the text’s references to human rights to water and sanitation do not alter existing international law.
The representative of the Holy See welcomed the focus on the need to reliable and safe access to water and sanitation for women and girls and those living in refugee camps. However, he expressed disappointment over the inclusion of controversial terminology despite objections by his delegation. The Holy See considers sexual and reproductive health care services as applying to a holistic view and does not consider access to abortion as a dimension of these terms. “The term ‘gender’ is grounded in biological sexual identity and difference,” he said.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto: participation” (document A/C.3/76/L.53/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of New Zealand, introducing the draft on behalf of Mexico and his own country, stressed the importance of ensuring that rights of all persons with disabilities are fulfilled. Noting that the draft focuses on the theme of participation and decision‑making, he went on to describe the importance of accessibility and employment to realizing international obligations, as well as reducing the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in achieving equality for all. Welcoming the draft’s new language on the pandemic, he reiterated the commitment to address the disproportionate impact of COVID‑19.
The representative of the Russian Federation said persons with disabilities often find themselves in difficult living situations, which require additional efforts to support the necessary levels of assistance. Therefore, the Russian Federation supports the adoption of the draft. However, the inclusion of altered language based on the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities cannot be considered a change to the commitments made by States in ratifying the Convention.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution “L.53/Rev.1” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would request United Nations agencies and organizations to strengthen efforts to disseminate accessible information on the Convention and the Optional Protocol and to assist States parties in implementing their obligations. It would take note of the Secretary‑General’s policy brief on disability‑inclusive COVID‑19 response and recovery, published in May 2020, in which States are encouraged to place persons with disabilities at the centre of the response, prohibiting any form of discrimination. By other terms, the Assembly would urge States to take steps to eliminate intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities through repealing discriminatory laws and policies, and by taking measures to remove barriers faced by them in accessing the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, transportation, health and education, and information and communications.
The representative of Egypt, speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, expressed reservations to language used in preambular paragraph 15 and operative paragraphs 10 and 26.
The representative of Iraq disassociated from references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” in preambular paragraph 15 and operative paragraphs 10 and 26 due to a lack of specific definitions. She called for more inclusive terminology.
The representative of the United States welcomed references to a rights-based approach to disability and language on “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”. She expressed regret that the draft does not contain strong language on advancing the human rights of women and girls with disabilities.
The representative of Argentina agreed that the text has positive elements for strengthening the rights of persons with disabilities, welcoming the human rights approach to gender and stressing the importance of addressing women and girls with disabilities in various situations, who face multiple forms of discrimination.
The representative of Malaysia said it is crucial to ensure that various forms of welfare for persons with disabilities remain uninterrupted, expressing concern over terminology that is not agreed-upon language. He disassociated from references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”.
The representative of Iran, citing a 2018 law on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, said Iran does not accept references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” as it is not agreed-upon language.
An observer for the Holy See welcomed the draft’s reference to the disproportionate impact of COVID‑19 on persons with disabilities and called for its inclusion on an equal basis with others in decisions related to COVID‑19 response and recovery. The draft also focuses on ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to health care.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Countering disinformation for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (document A/C.3/76/L.7/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains programme budget implications (document A/C.3/76/166).
The representative of Pakistan, introducing the text, said his country is committed to countering the virus of disinformation by all possible means. Propaganda has been a tool of States since time immemorial, but the big lies could always be discerned. Today, however, technologies provide the purveyors of disinformation the opportunity to confuse truth and lies in ways that defy even close examination. Noting that the world is plagued by disinformation that has exacerbated hate speech, xenophobia, Islamophobia and related intolerances, he said the draft highlights the negative impact on human rights of the rapid spread of disinformation. Freedom of expression is not only a right but a shared responsibility, he asserted.
The Committee then adopted “L.7/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would call upon Member States and all relevant actors to promote inclusion and unity in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic and to prevent, speak out and take strong action against disinformation, racism, xenophobia, hate speech, violence, discrimination, including on the basis of age, and stigmatization. It would urge social media companies to review their business models and ensure that their operations, data collection and data processing practices comply with international human rights standards, and to conduct human rights impact assessments on their products, particularly on the role of algorithms and ranking systems in amplifying disinformation or misinformation.
The representative of Slovenia, speaking for the European Union, said it is imperative to have a text that focuses on disinformation within the framework of international human rights law. Proposals put forward by the European Union sought to address disinformation and make a distinction between that and other issues, such as the freedom of religion and belief. Noting that some concerns were accommodated, while others were not, he expressed regret that preambular paragraph 8 lacks a mention of the positive role of freedom of information on democracy. Nonetheless, the European Union joined consensus on the text.
The representative of the Russian Federation welcomed the draft’s approval, as the spread of disinformation in the media is facilitated by the Internet, and social networks are widely used to disseminate incitement to hatred and violence based on race, and on national and ethnic origin. Global information technology companies meanwhile have been slow to be constrained by their obligations to States and society. The scope of the issue requires efforts from all States, civil society and the information technology industry to combat disinformation on the Internet.
The representative of Japan said his country is committed to freedom of expression, adding that the pandemic is presenting a disinformation challenge. While Japan joined consensus, he expressed regret over the lack of transparency in the negotiation process and the draft’s programme budget implications. Member States were not told of the implications in time. Any additional costs should be discussed during consultations, he said, asking that the Secretariat fully respect this point.
The representative of Mexico said that while his delegation joined consensus, he would have preferred more opportunities to address all the elements contained in the draft, given that it is a new draft resolution.
The representative of Canada said his country supports the notion of countering disinformation with factual information while respecting human rights, including the freedom of expression. A strong democracy relies on access to diverse and reliable information sources so that the public can make informed decisions. Canada supports free expression, especially for women and girls, he said, noting that it is a member of, and will chair, the Freedom Online Coalition in 2022, which is dedicated to protecting human rights online.
The representative of the United States said that in their efforts to counter disinformation, States must respect their international human rights obligations, especially freedom of information. Particular attention should be paid to the impact of disinformation on vulnerable peoples, especially women and girls.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that her country is concerned by how fabrication and manipulation of content is being used to polarize societies. The importance of freedom of expression must not be forgotten. The United Kingdom joined consensus, as this is a “one‑time” draft resolution. However, the text does not properly accommodate and reflect different perspectives, she said.
The representative of Australia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that greater international collaboration to combat disinformation is needed. She underlined the importance of the respect for human rights, especially freedom of expression and opinion. Given that this draft resolution was presented in the Third Committee, it should be balanced and focus on combating disinformation within the framework of human rights law. While her delegation joined consensus, the tabling of the draft was premature. There should have been time for a second reading in open consultations.
The representative of Eritrea said that in the Horn of Africa, disinformation is fuelling conflict. She welcomed that the text addresses relevant areas of concern, she said, underscoring the clear links between disinformation, hate speech and violence. The draft resolution notes that the right to freedom of expression carries special duties and responsibilities.
The representative of Israel said that as many of his country’s concerns were addressed in the final draft, Israel could join consensus. However, the process of conducting the negotiations left much to be desired in terms of inclusion and transparency.
An observer for the Holy See said that although misinformation has been a long‑standing challenge, the advent of broader access to social media requires new awareness and measures. The draft resolution and its topic are connected to discrimination, freedom of expression, privacy and hate speech. These issues and their links are subject to ongoing discussions and disagreements among States. There is an unfortunate lack of understanding of the broad issues on the table, he said, such as the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association and the right to privacy, which are all linked to exercising the freedom of religion or belief.
Right of Reply
The representative of Belarus, in exercise of the right of reply, pointed to the history of the European Union and stressed that Member States are using migrants for their own political purposes and fabricating lies about what is happening at the border. Belarus has responded to this “orchestrated crisis” with openness, he said, and has continued contact with all United Nations entities, in particular, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Belarusian Red Cross.
Further, Belarus has granted access to media and non‑governmental organizations and investigated options for organizing migration, he said, adding that its neighbours are well aware of who the true organizers of these migration flows are. Yet, they remain silent, as disclosing this information would negate their narrative. He accused Polish and Lithuanian citizens of being behind the migration flows, noting that in 2020 the European Union received 500,000 migrants and now — suddenly — the flow of 3,000 migrants has turned into a problem, calling for a State emergency, troop deployment and brutal treatment of children and pregnant women.