Countries May Highlight National Positions During Negotiations, but Must Respect, Cooperate, with Human Rights Council Decisions to Combat Violations
Commissioner Underscores Council Rules Agreed On by Members States, Who Cannot “Cherry-Pick” Mandates They Like
States must maintain a spirit of constructive dialogue when implementing mandates stemming from resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it continued its general discussion on the report by that body and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Briefing the Committee, Federico Villegas, President of the Human Rights Council, underscored the legitimacy for each country to have a national position during the negotiation phase of country-specific or thematic mandates, but once the Council makes a decision, this deserves full respect and cooperation. The Council is a multilateral and democratic body governed by clear rules agreed upon by Member States, who cannot "cherry-pick" the mandates they like and attack those they do not agree with, he said.
Calling on the international community to support the Council’s work to promote and protect human rights globally, he highlighted the responsibility of the Fifth Committee to allocate it with adequate resources. Pointing to 100 per cent participation among States in the Universal Periodic Review, he said this provides an agreed roadmap for development.
Turning to civil society and the Council’s need to remain inclusive, he said the body heard 2,400 interventions from non-governmental organizations and participated in 72 events. He noted that the voluntary trust fund has allowed 26 delegates from small island developing and least developed countries to travel to the Council. On items the Council addressed, he said these ranged from country-specific human rights situations to emerging challenges like technologies in the military sector and cyberbullying.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of China warning against intensified politicization of the Council, praised the body’s rejection of the Xinjiang decision as “a collective victory of all developing countries”. In a similar vein, the representative of Ethiopia opposed the instrumentalization of human rights issues, emphasizing that country-specific mandates are counterproductive. The representative of Australia stressed the importance of promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, investigating human rights violations in any country and enhancing accountability.
During the following general debate on the Human Rights Council, several delegates, including from Cuba and Syria, stressed that promotion and protection of human rights must take place in line with the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. Raising concerns over country-specific initiatives, the representative of India favored the Universal Periodic Review, rather than naming and shaming in a country-specific mandate. Also today, the Committee concluded its general debate on refugees, returnees and displaced persons. The representative of Ukraine noted that one of the largest crises of displacement in the world is ongoing in the heart of Europe, stemming from the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Adding that 14 million Ukrainians, or one third of the population, mostly women and children, have been uprooted by the war, she said that “Russia has demonstrated its readiness to play hunger games and put millions of people across Asia, Africa and the Middle East at the risk of famine simply to achieve its imperialist goals”.
The representative of Georgia, noting that her country is supporting said more than 28,000 war-affected Ukrainians, also observed that “multiple waves of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Russian Federation in Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions” since 1991 have resulted in half a million Georgians being expelled from their homes. Moreover, these internally displaced persons and refugees are still deprived of the right to return to their homes, she said.
In rebuttal, the representative of the Russian Federation said 4.5 million Ukrainian refugees have fled and found protection in his country due to Kyiv’s civil war, coming voluntarily with their children. Rejecting claims that Moscow is playing hunger games, he said his State is participating in the Black Sea agreements, though only 3 per cent of that food from Ukraine is promised to developing countries.
Also speaking in the general debate on the Human Rights Council were representatives of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Ecuador, Angola, Spain, Morocco, Costa Rica, Greece, Cameroon, Iran, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Japan and Myanmar.
Addressing the general debate on the UNHCR were representatives of Algeria, Nigeria, United States, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, Greece, Mozambique, Côte d’Ivoire, India, Angola, Syria, Eritrea, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Australia, Türkiye, Albania, Montenegro, Japan, Uganda, Serbia and Morocco. A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 4 November, to begin action on proposed resolutions.
General Debate Statements
AHMED SAHRAOUI (Algeria) pointed to a sharp rise in refugees due to global conflict and climate change, noting that donors are providing resources along political lines rather than through solidarity and shared responsibility. He added that multilateral work must be done with a security and developmental perspective, or refugees will be trapped in a vicious cycle. Algeria has hosted Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps for almost 45 years, he said, stressing that they are waiting for the international community to allow a return to their homeland. Assuring the Committee that the country will continue to support them, he also called for States to share the burden, requesting that the Resident Coordinator provide more assistance while refugees face increased food prices. He suggested that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) review assistance, following the World Food Programme’s (WFP) approach.
Ms. UKAEJE (Nigeria) said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees collaborates with Member States to provide aid to refugees and ensure adequate responses to challenges they face. Existing tripartite agreements with Cameroon and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) facilitate the return of refugees to Cameroon. Nigeria has created a development peace nexus to advance solutions, focusing on emergencies, management of migration, bridging humanitarian responses with long-term development, and peace and security. The Government is implementing several housing projects with over 360 houses, a marketplace and a police station for persons who have been displaced due to the conflict in the northeast of Nigeria. An inclusive approach provides a crucial foundation for access to basic social services such as health care and education. Nigeria has put in place institutional and legal frameworks to eradicate statelessness by December 2024.
NATALIIA MUDRENKO (Ukraine) said that one of the largest and most rapid crises of displacement in the world is ongoing in the heart of Europe, stemming from the Russia Federation’s full-scale unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. “After eight months of terror and horror, Russia’s war uprooted some 14 million Ukrainians, or one-third of the population, mostly women and children”, she said, stressing that about 6.2 million citizens have been displaced within Ukraine and more than 7.5 million have sought safety abroad. Noting the consequences of the Russian Federation’s aggression globally, she said that “Russia has demonstrated its readiness to play hunger games and put millions of people across Asia, Africa and the Middle East at the risk of famine simply to achieve its imperialist goals”. Refugees are unlikely to return to Ukraine quickly, she said, adding that the refugee crisis in Europe could become protracted, leading to more permanent displacement. Emphasizing that the Russian Federation attacks critical civilian infrastructure in her country, she said that, with winter approaching, these actions may threaten the survival of millions of people and induce further migration.
Expressing concern for 1.6 million Ukrainians who have been forcibly transferred or deported by Russian Federation, she said they were forced to pass filtration and then displaced without any means of livelihood. Further, thousands of Ukrainian children have been illegally transferred to Russian Federation for adoption and indoctrination. These people are not refugees, but victims of deportation or forcible transfer, she emphasized. She urged the Russian Federation to provide the UNHCR and other humanitarian and human rights organizations access to Ukrainians within its territory to facilitate their safe return to Ukraine or other States. She lauded the humanitarian assistance and protection the UNHCR has given 2 million Ukrainians, the European Union’s unprecedented decision to offer temporary social protection to them and the solidarity of its neighbours and other countries.
STEPHEN DOUGLAS BUNCH (United States), voicing concern about unprecedented levels of global displacement, reiterated his country’s commitment to support the forcibly displaced. He stressed that the United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance, providing more than $17 billion in life-saving aid around the world this year. Moscow’s war in Ukraine worsens the global food security crisis that disproportionately harms the forcibly displaced, who often lack access to livelihoods and social protections. Internal conflicts and climate shocks, such as in the Horn of Africa, push people from their lands while preventing food assistance from reaching those who need it most. Without assistance, famine can decimate districts of Somalia where drought has displaced 926,00 people, he noted.
KJAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said that, after the military coup in his country in 2021, over 1 million people were displaced, with 52 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Internally displaced persons, especially women and girls, face food and hygiene crises and are at risk of human trafficking, he added. Acknowledging Bangladesh’s hosting of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugee population, he said that the National Unity Government is committed to finding a solution, calling on the international community to continue providing them with health care and education. Recounting the military’s barbaric air strikes on civilians in the Sagaing region and on concertgoers in Kachin, he expressed deep concern that the number of displaced persons will only increase. Requesting that host countries such as Thailand and Malaysia continue to host Myanmar refugees, he highlighted the dangers of forced repatriation back to the origin country. He urged that transparent access to relevant United Nations agencies be maintained, calling on the international community to increase assistance to the country and its displaced persons before it is too late.
NARMIN AHANGARI (Azerbaijan) said refugees and internally displaced persons are among the most vulnerable populations of the world, adding that the international community has a duty to assess their movements by developing multilateral responses critical for responding to their needs. She stressed the importance of finding a durable solution for forcibly displaced persons fleeing conflicts, who must be allowed to return to their homes. Azerbaijan formerly had a great number of refugees due to the conflict with Armenia. After signing the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020, several thousand refugees in Azerbaijan were able to enjoy their inalienable right to return home. Azerbaijan prioritized the reconstruction of territories involved and their reintegration into the economy, taking practical steps to eliminate the results of the decade-old occupation, reconstructing villages and preparing electronic management systems to implement the return project in an effective and transparent manner. One of the main impediments to return remains the massive contamination of land by landmines and other explosive devices. Obtaining maps of minefields and international capacity-building are critically important to facilitating the return of internally displaced persons.
ALEXANDRA ALEXANDRIDOU (Greece), aligning with the European Union, pointed to the large influx of refugees in Greece, adding that Frontex (the European border management agency) and the Hellenic Police and Coast Guard continue to save lives at the country’s — and European Union’s — sea borders. Underlining the country’s respect for the principle of non-refoulement, with the support of several non-governmental organizations, she said that Greece currently hosts a significant number of refugees and is advancing policies to promote their care and integration. Noting a shift in the “voluntary character” of refugee movement across borders since 2020, she condemned the instrumentalization of human suffering as a political pressure tactic targeted at the European Union and neighbouring States. She called on the international community to condemn these violations of the 1951 Refugee Convention and called on countries to adhere to international law.
BRUNO BERNARDO SERAGE (Mozambique), aligning himself with the African Group, said that his State is a country of origin and destination for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers. Thanking States that welcomed Mozambicans fleeing from terrorist attacks and climate change-related events, he said that his country, despite well-known challenges, hosts around 26,195 refugees. Some 30 per cent of them are living in the refugee camp, he said, while 70 per cent are living in urban areas. Citing efforts to locally integrate refugees, he underlined Mozambique’s progress in the implementation of pledges made at the first Global Refugee Forum and pointed to a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) underpinning a study on statelessness in his country.
HALLEY CHRISTINE YAPI NÉE BAH (Côte d’Ivoire), noting that 100 million people are forcibly displaced globally due to conflicts, violence, discrimination or climate change, invited States to refrain from actions that will undermine peace and security. Turning to the impact of climate change on movement, solutions include restoration of degraded soil, fighting deforestation and revising public policy to strengthen agriculture investments, she said. Noting that, since 2011, out of the more than 300,000 people forced to flee her country, some 280,000 Ivorians have returned home, she pointed to ongoing instability in the Sahel, which is forcing people to seek refuge in Côte d’Ivoire. Calling for UNHCR’s support to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, she invited stakeholders to address the deficit the agency is facing.
ASHISH SHARMA (India) said his country has welcomed refugees from all over the world throughout history, despite its own development- and security-related challenges. India has been practicing voluntary repatriations, he said, noting that refugee communities are protected under the country’s pluralistic framework. India’s Constitution guarantees basic rights for all persons, including the right to life, equality before the law and equal protection of laws. India has clearly demonstrated its abiding commitment to the principle of protection, he stressed, adding that the refugee issue is a global challenge, which no country can resolve. In this context, he supported the central role of the United Nations in dealing with refugee issues.
Ms. LORTIPANIDZE (Georgia) noted the record high number of forcefully displaced persons this year, which has surpassed 100 million. Since February, more than 18 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes following the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, she said, stressing that Georgia has received and is supporting more than 28,000 war-affected Ukrainians. Considering the global compact on refugees as an expression of the political will of States to resolve the refugee crisis, she said the instrument will lead to a new pragmatic approach towards a global system, where the responsibility is shared. Highlighting the impact of the Russian Federation’s aggression against her country, she said that “since 1991, as a result of multiple waves of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Russian Federation in Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions, about half a million Georgian citizens have been expelled from their homes to become internally displaced persons and refugees”. “They are still deprived of the right to return to their homes,” she said, adding that “Russia’s continuous destructive actions in occupied territories put many more at risk of becoming internally displaced”.
TERESA MANUEL BENTO DA SILVA (Angola) recalled her country’s refugee influx, mostly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 2017 and its subsequent work with the UNHCR. She hailed the agency’s work in the current context of a growing refugee crisis, providing health care, HIV prevention, food security and access to hygiene. As climate change displaces more people, Angola renews its commitments to care for them, as it has experience hosting more than 50,000 refugees from a 27-year-long conflict. The country will continue to participate in peacebuilding processes, she said, noting that it recently became a part of peacekeeping operations.
ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria) said Syrian refugees are suffering delays in receiving identity cards, adding that there are also delays in family reunification. There have been three conferences in Damascus on redeveloping places where refugees are being housed. There is a great deal of pressure on Syria from some States and international organizations, which are refusing to participate in this work. Due to terrorism in the region, the Government has been working to implement essential services to facilitate the return of refugees and restoring centers, which has made it easier for 1 million refugees returning from Jordan, Iraq and Türkiye. Terrorism has sowed conflict across the country and drained resources, which is why there are so many refugees abroad. Roughly 80 per cent of oil production is disappearing every day, causing shortages in energy, fuel and drinking water. Syria is facing a political agenda leading to the suffering of its people and is not responsible for this crisis. Rebuilding the infrastructure is necessary to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees. The Israeli occupation of Palestine and the Syrian Golan is also a cause for displacement of 5 million Palestinians and half a million Syrians.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, said that massive displacement, largely in developing countries, has destabilizing effects on regional security and socioeconomic developments. Adding that addressing this means dealing with its underlying causes, he said political will to resolve conflicts peacefully, non-interference in affairs of States and stronger global partnerships to support sustainable development are critical. Inviting countries of origin, transit and destination to bear their responsibilities, he said the UNHCR should focus on refugees, instead of persons of concern or migrants. Expressing concern about emergencies in some countries of transit subjecting refugees and migrants to violence, abuse and forced recruitment, he urged the UNHCR to extend full protection to the stranded in conflict areas. Eritrea maintains a voluntary repatriation policy of its nationals and opposes any forced repatriation or expulsions, he added. Citing some countries’ bilateral agreements on the processing of asylum-seekers, he said “the offshoring of refugees from the countries of their arrival and shipping them off to another continent against their will is immoral and undignified, amounting to inhumane treatment of refugees”.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), voicing concern over the record number of refugees and displaced persons, recalled that his country has demonstrated unparalleled hospitality in hosting refugees for four decades and adhered to the highest standards of protection, which continued during the pandemic. Today, Pakistan hosts 1.4 million Afghan refugees and 850,000 Afghan citizen card holders, he stressed, noting that refugees have free enrolment to primary schools, access to higher education and bank accounts, while numerous livelihood opportunities are open to them. Pakistan has also supported complex humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, facilitating evacuations as well as providing food and other supplies. He said that the UNHCR should be sensitive to local requirements of refugee-hosting countries and ensure implementation of its policies consistent with the local environment.
Mr. CANDIDO DARE (Ethiopia) said that his country hosts close to 1 million refugees from 26 countries and continues to work with the UNHCR to provide necessary services, despite insufficient international support. Ethiopia has integrated refugees into its school and university systems and provides them with health care, in collaboration with the UNHCR. Turning to climate change-induced displacement, he said that the country is immensely affected and has taken measures to combat it, such as using alternative energy sources and planting seedlings in and around refugee camps. Urging the international community to share the burden of responsibility in line with the Global Compact for Refugees, he noted that the country operates at 46 per cent of a minimum standard refugee operation. While the country hosts many refugees in its northern region, it also has millions of internally displaced persons, he said, calling on the UNHCR for more support.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia), expressing concern about extraordinary levels of displacement, noted that a tragic milestone has passed, with more than 100 million people now displaced globally. Pointing to the significant funding gap facing the UNHCR, he stressed that responding to the impacts of Moscow’s war in Ukraine will require additional resources. To this end, he highlighted the value of flexible funding and encouraged the UNHCR to diversify its funding base. At a time of unprecedented global displacement, he recognized the need to provide additional pathways for refugees and displaced people to safely move to third countries. Australia is piloting new approaches to complementary pathways, including through labour mobility and sponsorship. Moreover, welcoming the UNHCR’s 2022-2025 operational strategy for climate resilience and environmental sustainability, he noted that over 80 per cent of refugees and internally displaced peoples come from the most climate-vulnerable parts of the world. The Indo-Pacific is a region particularly prone to climate-driven disasters, and therefore likely increased displacement, he added.
AYSE INANÇ ÖRNEKOL (Türkiye) said that one hundred million people displaced worldwide is a stark reality, not only for those who have left their homes, but also for communities hosting them. The human tragedy of displacement is compounded by the financial and socioeconomic hardships experienced by host countries and communities. They need meaningful solidarity in line with the principle of burden and responsibility sharing. Finding durable solutions to crises not only requires providing humanitarian aid to the people in need, but also working in a coordinated manner to strengthen the resilience of refugees and host communities, pursuing a multistakeholder and “whole of society” approach. Furthermore, the international community should step up collective efforts in addressing the root causes of forced displacement. Türkiye recognizes the UNHCR’s unique role and mandate in assisting and protecting persons of concern in the most vulnerable situations, but is concerned about its constant funding gap. Türkiye is currently hosting close to 4 million people displaced due to conflicts in the vicinity, most of them Syrians. It is crucial that Syrians can return to their homes in safety and peace, play a role in the future of their country and contribute to the redevelopment and establishment of lasting peace in Syria.
ENIAN LAMCE (Albania), voicing concern over the dire humanitarian situation in many parts of the world, condemned Moscow’s unjustified aggression against Ukraine, which has caused the largest displacement crisis in Europe since the Second World War. As a result of the aggression, some 7.7 million Ukrainians were constrained to leave their country, while around 7 million are internally displaced. Women and children who are fleeing conflict are exposed to a higher risk of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking, he said. In this context, he called for improved protection for displaced persons, legal tools for effective protection and better support for the work of United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners. He underscored the need to create conditions for the safe return of displaced persons to their countries of origin. In the past three years, the Government of Albania has taken efforts to support the needs of refugees and displaced persons, he stressed, pointing to Afghan refugees in Albania who are cared for and safe. Moreover, the new law on citizenship grants Albanian citizenship to all children born in Albania who would otherwise be stateless.
JELENA LEKOVIĆ (Montenegro) voiced concern over the tragic milestone of 94.7 million people forced to flee their homes, facing great unpredictability in the context of food, climate and energy crises as well as ongoing conflicts. This alarming situation requires a response based on responsibility-sharing and solidarity, she stressed, adding that Montenegro has provided shelter to many displaced persons who fled as a result of conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Since then, significant progress has been made in improving their socioeconomic status, with a special focus on education, health care and social protection. Through its regional housing programme, Montenegro has provided permanent housing for 6,000 displaced or internally displaced persons. Condemning Moscow’s unjustified war of aggression against a sovereign State that has resulted in the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, she said her country has provided a timely response to Ukrainian refugees, keeping its borders open since the beginning of the war.
YAMANAKA OSAMU (Japan) said that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine has put many people in danger, with its effects felt throughout the world. Japan has provided approximately $40 million in humanitarian and transport support. Highlighting the needs of neighboring countries in hosting refugees, he expressed concern that other humanitarian crises are not adequately funded. To ensure solidarity and the principles of the global compact for refugees, Japan will continue its support and co-sponsor the Global Refugee Forum in 2023, he said. Voicing support for admitting displaced persons to third countries as a way of burden-sharing, he hailed the UNHCR’s work.
CELIA KAFUREKA NABETA (Uganda) said her country remains committed to shouldering its responsibilities and obligations in addressing the plight of refugees as well as positive change under the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. The African Union declared 2019 as the African year of refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and recommitted to address the structural and root causes of displacement, such as protracted violent conflicts, terrorism and violent extremism, natural disasters and calamities and climate change. African leaders committed to bold and effective political leadership in resolving conflicts in Africa through adopting policies and strategies that strengthen national systems and structures. Uganda will continue to promote peace and security in the region and contribute to addressing the root causes of displacement.
BORIS HOLOVKA (Serbia) said Serbia is one of the countries with the highest number of internally displaced persons in Europe and one of only five countries in the world with a protracted displacement crisis. Due to the Balkan wars in the nineties, more than half a million Serbs were forced to flee or be expelled from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia has been making efforts to provide them with an appropriate reception and care, and create conditions for a sustainable return to their homes. However, there is not always understanding and willingness from the involved parties to work together and find a permanent solution. More than 200,000 people were forced to leave their homes in the southern province of Kosovo and Metohija, seeking safety and protection from the systematic persecution to which non-Albanians are consistently exposed in the province. The conditions for a sustainable return have not been achieved and basic human and civil rights of internally displaced persons are not respected.
Ms. BOUZID (Morocco) said the Algerian delegation tried once again in its intervention to exploit and politicize today’s debate to serve its own biased political agenda on the Moroccan Sahara. Last week the Security Council passed a resolution once again that established and enshrined the unique parameters of this regional dispute, namely a political, realistic and sustainable solution underlined by compromise, including census-taking of people trapped in the Tindouf camps. The question of the Moroccan Sahara is an issue of territorial integrity and national unity for Morocco. Responsibility-sharing and solidarity go in hand, and Algeria is responsible for ensuring that conditions for the registration of persons trapped in the camps are in place. Morocco denounces in the strongest terms the exploitation and instrumentalization of people trapped in camps for the political agenda of Algeria. One of the most terrible expressions of this is the recruitment of child soldiers in the Tindouf camps. There are proven links between the Frente POLISARIO and terrorist groups in the Sahel. Further, Algeria misappropriates humanitarian funds and has done so for years, shamefully using the generous humanitarian assistance provided by the international community for other purposes.
DENISSE G. GOMEZ ZEPEDA, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, pointing to unprecedented levels of global displacement, called for a holistic approach to access food, water, employment and health services, while fostering greater integration into local communities. She stressed that refugees must be treated with dignity, irrespective of their country of origin. Moreover, all people on the move must have access to essential services during their migration journey, especially quality health and psychosocial services. Mental health conditions are much more prevalent among refugees than host populations, making them acutely vulnerable to major gaps in the mental health systems worldwide, she noted, stressing the importance of universal health coverage. “Its time to recognise that there is no health without mental health,” she added. The impact of climate change amplifies vulnerability and drives displacement, she said, calling on States to scale up climate-smart actions, disaster risk measures and integration of local actors, including refugee-led organizations.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said that Ukraine’s delegate has misinformation about his country. Pointing to Ukrainian nationalist policy suppressing the use of the Russian language in Ukraine, he said that there are 8 million Russian speakers there, but that number could have been higher before the 2014 coup. Further, because of Kyiv’s civil war, 4.5 million refugees have fled and found protection in Russian Federation territory. They have come voluntarily with their children, he said, fleeing constant shelling and intimidation. Though Ukraine’s delegate called for the return of these children, he expressed concern over their potential forced Ukrainization as the Russian language is forbidden in schools. Dispelling the delegate’s claims that his country is playing hunger games, he said the Russian Federation is participating in the Black Sea agreements, but most of that food from Ukraine is destined for developed, European Union countries, while only 3 per cent is promised to developing countries.
The representative of Algeria, speaking in the right to reply, addressed falsifications uttered by Morocco, the occupying power in the Western Sahara. He said the situation there has been decided by the United Nations, and is on the agenda of the Fourth Committee. The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is undertaking a referendum to allow the people there to decide their destiny. The occupying power is uttering falsehoods to justify an illegal and unethical position. The census of Saharawi refugees is part of a wider solution that will allow them to determine their destiny and is nothing more than a technical issue. Since 2017 many United Nations agencies have visited, and they have an approximate census that responds to the needs of the Saharawis. Algeria rejects the report of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office in 2007, which was excluded by the European Commission after an internal audit. The Commission confirmed that humanitarian assistance to the Saharawis is under strict control, he said, stressing that there is no proof of any misappropriations. MINURSO continues to take note of bombardments by the Algerian air force, he said, adding that it is clearly the Moroccan army using drones and targeting civilians.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Morocco said that Algeria falsely presented itself as a responsible humanitarian actor, whereas in reality it violates the rights of people in the Tindouf camps daily by depriving them of humanitarian assistance, complicit with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO). Algeria’s refusal to register the people in the camps is a violation of the 1951 Convention on Refugees as well as the 2011 Security Council decision, she added. Algeria’s shameful misappropriation of humanitarian funds over five decades is well documented, as is the Frente POLISARIO’s recruitment of child soldiers, she said, highlighting photos of children carrying weapons. To the question of the Moroccan Sahara, she asked the Algerian delegate who houses the Frente POLISARIO on their territory and finances them.
The representative of Algeria, speaking in a second exercise of the right of reply, rejected the lies of the occupying power in Western Sahara, while stressing the need for accountability. The refugee camps are visited by international organizations, he said, noting that the UNHCR visited the refugee camps in 2017, without any obstacles put in place by Algeria. This is not the case for the Moroccan authorities, who have prevented the representative of the Secretary-General from vising Western Sahara. He further denounced Morocco’s fabrication about child recruitment in refugee camps, adding that such accusations are not only targeted against Algeria but also the United Nations.
Speaking for a second time in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Morocco called on her Algerian colleague to produce figures of refugees for the Committee, underscoring that she cited United Nations and European Union documentation pointing to a politicization of the situation. Further, she called on Algeria to allow the UNHCR to take a full census of refugees in the Tindouf camps, as it is necessary to distribute humanitarian aid. She refuted Algeria’s claims of recruitment in the camps, adding that the photos were taken inside the camps and not photoshopped.
Interactive Dialogue: President of the Human Rights Council
FEDERICO VILLEGAS, President of the Human Rights Council, briefing the Committee on its annual report (document A/77/53), said it has adopted 100 resolutions and held 18 general debates. The Council has considered new resolutions on neurotechnologies and human rights cyberbullying along with new technologies in the military sector, underscoring the Council’s prevention-oriented thinking to protect human rights in the future. The Council also held an urgent debate on human rights in Ukraine following the Russian aggression, resulting in the establishment of an Independent Commission of Inquiry. He recalled another urgent debate on women and girls in Afghanistan, noting the importance of the presence of Afghan women themselves in providing witness accounts.
Further, hailing the participation of civil society actors in the Council’s activities, he underscored the Council’s role as a place for victims’ voices to be heard, as those actors are integral in understanding situations on the ground as well as in change-making and capacity-building. The Council heard more than 2,400 interventions from non-governmental organizations and participated in 72 events organized by civic society groups. Highlighting the importance of equal participation, he said that the voluntary trust fund has allowed 26 delegates to travel to the Council from small island developing and least developed countries. Though the Council operates in hybrid electronic and in-person meetings, he said nothing can replace in-person shared knowledge. Those delegates passed on their experience to their Governments, he said, describing it as a “virtuous cycle”. Welcoming 100 per cent participation among States in the Universal Periodic Review, the Council adopted a resolution expanding the voluntary trust fund.
The mandate of the Council has evolved over the years to become the main body of the United Nations for human rights, working with a high degree of autonomy and guaranteeing its effectiveness, he said. This independence must be protected in the current increasingly complicated geopolitical context. At the same time, he underscored the grave importance of maintaining the spirit of constructive dialogue when adopting resolutions of the Human Rights Council, whether they be country-specific or thematic. It is legitimate for each country to have a national position to defend, he added, but the Council is both a multilateral and a democratic body governed by clear rules that Member States approved to adopt a decision. Once a resolution is adopted, it deserves to be respected, he said, stressing that States cannot “cherry-pick”. Calling on the Committee to work together to promote the Council’s work, he added that it is the responsibility of the Fifth Committee to allocate sufficient resources for its mandate to be implemented with collective will.
Recalling that 47 Member States were elected by 193 Member States to protect human rights throughout the world, he stressed that the Council’s debates are not Geneva-specific but concern the entire world. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the entire United Nations to strengthen the work of a Council tasked with human rights, he said. In a context of pandemics, climate change and armed conflicts, now more than ever, “We must be keenly aware that there can be no peace nor security without human rights.”
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of the Netherlands, associating with the European Union, said respect for human rights included fostering a culture of accountability and justice for victims and survivors of human rights violations. Stressing the importance of civil society, he asked the President about ways to ensure safe access for civil society organizations and human rights defenders to the Council.
The representative of Australia, on behalf of other countries, stressed the importance of promoting the rights of indigenous peoples. The Human Rights Council’s duty is to examine human rights violations, wherever they may be. No situation or country should be considered above the Council’s scrutiny, she asserted, underscoring the importance of accountability and multilateralism. She asked how the Council can engage with smaller and less-resourced countries, including small island developing States, to ensure their voices are heard within the body.
Along similar lines, the representative of the Republic of Korea highlighted the unprecedented challenges faced by the Human Rights Council this year. In multiple human rights and humanitarian emergencies — from Ukraine to Afghanistan — the Council has taken meaningful action, she observed, encouraging the Council to monitor and investigate serious human rights violations worldwide. She asked the President how New York and Geneva can enhance its collaboration.
The representative of Latvia, speaking on behalf of the Nordic Baltic Countries, condemned human rights violations stemming from Moscow’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. Calling for the establishment of an Independent International Commission of Inquiry, he welcomed the Council’s recently adopted resolutions on human rights situations in the Russian Federation, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Ethiopia. He lamented that the Council decided against holding a debate on the High Commissioner’s Xinjiang report.
The representative of Chile, advocating for the promotion of dialogue with all actors, drew attention to the protection of the rights of women, children, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities. He asked the President about ways to support the work of the Council.
Meanwhile, the representative of Cameroon, calling for dialogue and mutual understanding, opposed politicization of the Council’s work. The Council is a political body; however, the President has an essential role in keeping discussions balanced and fostering understanding among delegations, she stressed.
Echoing her concerns, the representative of Cuba, noting that human rights need to be tackled based on the principle of non-selectivity, objected to punitive activities, double standards, and manipulations. She also rejected unilateral coercive measures, such as Washington’s embargo against Cuba.
In the same vein, the representative of Ethiopia voiced concern about the worrisome trend of instrumentalization of human rights issues to corner Governments, which is contrary to the principle of universality, impartiality and non-selectivity. Country-specific resolutions and mandates are counterproductive and defeat the true purpose of the Council, she asserted, warning against hidden political agendas and double standards.
The representative of China, warning against intensified politicization of the Council, rejected interference of Western countries in China’s internal affairs. The Council rejected the draft decision and does not recognize the assessment of Xinjiang, he stressed, describing it as “a collective victory of all developing countries”. Criticizing hypocrisy and double standards of Western countries, he urged them to rectify their violations of human rights.
Also speaking were representatives of Costa Rica, Latvia, Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, United Kingdom, Morocco, Malawi, Nigeria, El Salvador, France, Syria, Angola and Italy (associating with the European Union).
Mr. VILLEGAS, responding, stressed the need to share best practises throughout all regions on working with non-governmental organizations protecting human rights. Supporting human rights depends on the ownership of all, he said, including the private and public sectors, to raise awareness and obtain adequate resources. Limits to sovereignty when there is a need to protect citizens must be defined, he said, citing discussions in this regard. Pointing to retaliation, he highlighted the case of an Expert reporting in Geneva and being banned from returning to her country and children. They were able to join their mother four months later in Switzerland, he said, calling it one of the most serious violations he is aware of.
Turning to cooperation and overcoming divergence, he said that discussions on proposals sometimes lead to “politicization, which becomes polarization”, which leads to paralysis and undermines work, which must be prevented. Further, he stressed the key role of the Universal Periodic Review, which provides a roadmap agreed on by States and involving multiple actors, representing an ideal way to move forward with cooperation. Turning to gender parity, he stressed that 70 per cent of the 23 Independent Experts were women, noting that a rule adopted in Geneva bans any panel or event without gender parity among speakers. Noting that no country has a higher moral status than others or perfect records on human rights, he emphasized the importance of looking at facts and reality. Emphasizing that the Council was created to address human rights issues, he said that Rapporteurs may tell States things they do not agree with, but those are the rules of the game, he said, stressing the need to find a way to cooperate with these mechanisms.
General Debate Statements
Ms. MORUKE (South Africa) hailed the Human Rights Council’s work on gender parity, underscoring the importance of the multilateral forum. South Africa works to ensure economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development, she said, adding that her delegation supports a balanced approach. The country takes a firm stance against poverty, racism, xenophobia and discrimination, she said, stressing that a society that ignores racism is a society ignoring its past crimes and their effects, which establish inequality inside and between States. Calling for a Human Rights Council free from selectivity, she encouraged States to look at each problem in its context. South Africa takes a stand against political agendas seeking to undermine States collaboration, she said, thanking Member States for its election to the Council for the 2023-2025 period.
Ms. ALMEHAID (Saudi Arabia) drew attention to her country’s reforms and improved legal remedies. Expressing support for human rights defenders, she stressed that reforms in Saudi Arabia go beyond human rights. Her Government continues its internal reforms while striving to aid all people affected by conflict and disasters throughout the world, in cooperation with United Nations agencies. In 2021, Saudi Arabia was the third-largest donor country, she said, reaffirming her country’s commitment to protecting human rights and cooperating with the United Nations.
ASHISH SHARMA (India) said that the strength of the Human Rights Council lies in its emphasis on dialogue and non-selectivity in its promotion of human rights. He spotlighted the right to development, protection of human rights in cyber space, emerging technologies and genetics as areas where the Council does important work. He called on the Council to take a firm stance on terrorism, which impedes the right to life. However, that agenda must be pursued with respect for non-interference in internal affairs of States, underscoring the importance of constructive dialogue. Country-specific initiatives must be carried out with the consent of concerned countries, he said, favouring the Universal Periodic Review, rather than of naming and shaming.
ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria) reiterated his country’s position against the politicization of certain rights as well as mechanisms carrying out their mandates without the approval of concerned States. He expressed firm opposition to the Commission created for Syria and rejected its reports. It is not only politicized and non-objective but supports terrorist and separatist groups in the country. The mechanisms represent a selective approach serving the interests of a certain number of States, promoting erroneous concepts falling outside the mandate of the Human Rights Council. He added that unilateral coercive measures are proof of selectivity and double standards.
DAHMANE YAHIAOUI (Algeria), advocating against politicization of human rights issues, reiterated the necessity of the principles of independence, impartiality and non-selectivity. He called for coordination with concerned States and for a comprehensive inclusive process to establish mutual trust and avoid double standards. He also underscored the importance of an inclusive approach to human rights, as all human rights, including the right to development, are intertwined. Reiterating the importance of technical cooperation and capacity-building for States in line with their needs, he drew attention to institutional reforms in Algeria.
ELIZABETH NORALMA MENDEZ GRUEZO (Ecuador) stressed that the Universal Periodic Review allows for civil society organizations to speak. Underscoring the need for the participation of women in the Council, she called on States to tackle the root causes of conflicts to prevent their re-emergence. To this end, she stressed the need for effective mechanisms to maintain peace.
TERESA MANUEL BENTO DA SILVA (Angola) expressed appreciation for the technical assistance and capacity-building that the Council provides. Her country has a long history of enacting human rights legislation since its independence and has adopted all relevant conventions to assure human rights for children, migrant workers and refugees, which are necessary for the Sustainable Development Goals. Highlighting the country’s policy on persons with disabilities, she said the Constitution ensures they are treated well, outlining similar frameworks protecting the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The country recently joined the Blue Heart Campaign of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) and is drafting an action plan combating human trafficking, she added.
XAVIER BELLMONT ROLDAN (Spain) noted that recent months were marked by the war of aggression in Ukraine, hailing work to keep it on the United Nations agenda, in stark contrast to a backsliding of human rights in other countries. Underscoring multilateralism to create a fairer world, he spotlighted his country’s candidacy to the Council for the 2025-2027 period. He expressed support for the call to contribute more financial resources to the Council, adding that its rising workload has increased its sessions to 14 weeks from its original 11.
Ms. BROSSARD (Cuba) said the promotion and protection of human rights must take place in line with the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. She stressed the need to keep the Council away from practices of politicization and double standards, noting that States are using human rights to attack countries of the South and that some States are subject to universal coercive measures that impact human rights. She added that the Universal Periodic Review must be upheld, as it guarantees non-discrimination. More needs to be done to promote the right to development, peace, a healthy environment and international solidarity, she added, calling on the Council to denounce the impact of universal coercive measures on human rights.
Ms. BOUZID (Morocco) noted her country’s commitment to respect and safeguard human rights at the national and international levels, pointing to regulatory reforms to promote human rights in her State. She noted that Morocco has recently been elected to the Council for the period 2023-2025. This testifies to the credibility of reforms and the country’s constructive action for strengthening the role of the Council as the architect of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
DANIEL ZAVALA PORRAS (Costa Rica) called for the development of national capacities and establishment of tools for early warnings to prevent violations of human rights and international law. Despite not being a Member, Costa Rica actively takes part in the work of the Council, he said, stressing the importance of the human right to a clean, safe and sustainable environment. Voicing concern over all forms of violence against women and girls, he underscored the need to strengthen the national regulatory framework to address gender violence in all its forms.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said that worldwide events confirm the important and necessary work of the Human Rights Council. Highlighting her country’s participation in the Council, she recalled its submission to the Universal Periodic Review and a visit by the Special Rapporteur about Human Rights Defenders. The country participates as part of a group of States and constructively engages in interactive dialogues, debates and other events, she said. Further, Greece has adopted action plans, including on the rights of the child and persons with disabilities. Highlighting its candidacy for a seat on the Council for the 2028-2030 period, she said that Greece’s election will have a positive impact on the Council’s vital work.
NELLY BANAKEN ELEL (Cameroon) said that for Human Rights Council resolutions to be effective on the ground, principles of non-selectivity and objectivity must be respected and adhered to through dialogue. Describing instrumentalization as non-productive, she called on the Council to adopt a non-conflictual approach. Stressing the interdependence of human rights, she emphasized the need for large investments in technology and infrastructure to support the right to development as well as social, cultural and economic rights. Adding that Cameroon will always give priority to the most vulnerable, including refugees, migrants and people of African descent in the African diaspora, she said: “It is in the way we treat the weakest that the greatness of society is measured.”
FATEMEH ARAB BAFRANI (Iran), aligning with the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, voiced concern that multilateralism is giving way to unilateralism. Condemning unilateral coercive measures against populations in developing countries, she said that constructive dialogue should be the bedrock of the Council’s work, with the Universal Periodic Review as the mechanism examining human rights in States. She lamented increased politicization and the manipulative nature of the Council’s work. Reiterating her country’s position rejecting country-specific mandates, she said her delegation disassociates itself from the report. Affirming that all States must be allowed to participate in United Nations human rights mechanisms, she expressed concerns over other countries’ human rights violations, including the United States, the Israeli regime, Canada and the United Kingdom, which are guilty of apartheid, hate speech, attacks against Muslims and discrimination against indigenous peoples.
NNAMDI OKECHUKWU NZE (Nigeria) noted that some treaty bodies have mainstreamed controversial topics such as abortion into their work. This constitutes a broadening of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights without negotiation by the States, he said, calling on treaty bodies to refrain from this mendacity. States have the duty to ensure that families as well as religious and cultural values are protected, he said. These mechanisms are misused, he continued, pointing to the Human Rights Council’s follow-up procedure to review its abortion legislation and allow unimpeded access to sexual health services. He said nations should be able to opt out of the follow-up procedure like the simplified reporting procedure.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) underscored his country’s contribution to the Council, particularly on climate change, migration and gender equality, adding that it has recently been elected to the Council for the term 2023-2025. Recalling the visit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, he also highlighted his country’s close work with various mandate holders, upcoming experts’ visits and its preparation for the next Universal Periodic Review. Welcoming adoption of the Council resolution on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, he called on States to provide full support to mechanisms established in Myanmar. Pointing to the resolution on human rights and climate change, he noted that his country contributes little to global emissions but suffers adverse climate consequences. On the resolution addressing genocide prevention, he called for recognition of past tragedies, including the 1971 Bangladesh genocide, and accountability.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), noting that the agenda of the Human Rights Council is overburdened, pointed to the ever-increasing number of new initiatives, along with reduced time allocated for intergovernmental discussions. The proliferation of special procedures and commissions of inquiry has put extra burdens on the Council’s resources, he observed. Opposing political manipulation and double standards, he underlined that country-specific resolutions undermine attempts to constructively work towards resolving human rights challenges.
YAMANAKA OSAMU (Japan), voicing concern about continuing human rights and humanitarian situations around the world, reiterated that, as a current member of the Human Rights Council, his country strives to improve human rights through both multilateral settings and bilateral dialogues. To this end, he pointed to the draft resolutions submitted by his delegation, one on technical assistance for Cambodia and the second on protection of human rights in the Philippines. He underscored that the human rights of all people should be respected, regardless of their countries’ cultures, political and economic systems and levels of socioeconomic development.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) stressed that the draft resolution on Myanmar tabled by the European Union should contain provisions reflecting the current situation on the ground, especially the illegal military coup and heinous crimes committed by the military against the people of Myanmar. Therefore, the title of the draft resolution should be adjusted. He stressed that, within 21 months of the illegal coup, the Myanmar military has executed political prisoners, arbitrarily arrested individuals and abducted family members as hostages. The military has increasingly attacked Myanmar people using its air power, showing ruthless disregard for civilian lives, he said, condemning recent air attacks on a school in Lat Yat Kone Village in Sagaing and on a musical concert in Kachin. The Independent Investigate Mechanism for Myanmar has detailed growing evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer, persecution, imprisonment and targeting of the civilian population, he asserted.