Third Committee Highlights Need to Protect Record Number of Internally Displaced Worldwide, Many Threatened by Ethnic Cleansing, Organized Criminal Groups
Committee also Underscores Deteriorating Rights in Three Countries, Including Myanmar
The plight of internally displaced persons and human rights implications of foreign debt were among concerns addressed in briefings to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates also discussed the human rights situations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Myanmar.
A record 71 million people worldwide were living in internal displacement at the start of 2023, said Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons. “It is crucial to move beyond viewing internal displacement solely as a humanitarian crisis,” she stressed, recognizing its interplay with other phenomena, including generalized violence, peace processes and climate change. The “disproportionately deadly” situations of generalized violence — encompassing activities of organized criminal actors and violent extremist groups and situations of intercommunal clashes — are leading by some measures to more deaths than armed conflicts, with civilians facing arbitrary displacement and other human rights violations.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of Lebanon said that continued Israeli aggression and bombing of her country’s southern territories have resulted in the displacement of 19,646 people.
Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, highlighted that more than 11 million Ukrainians remain displaced, including 5 million within Ukraine and another 6.2 million abroad, due to the full-scale Russian Federation invasion of his country.
Adding to that, Georgia’s delegate noted that close to 300,000 people are registered as internally displaced in her country due to several waves of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Moscow.
In the afternoon, the Committee heard from Elizabeth Salmón, Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who said the recent partial reopening of the country’s borders — although marking a first step to review the Government’s restrictions on freedom of movement — raises concerns about an imminent forced repatriation of escapees, of whom the majority are women. Their return will expose them to torture, sexual violence or extrajudicial killings, she warned, calling on States to respect the principle of non-refoulement to halt these repatriations. She further reported that — under the guise of militarization — the Government uses “extreme surveillance” over its citizens, with those who watch or listen to foreign media facing severe punishment.
Also briefing the Committee today was Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on human rights in the Central African Republic, who highlighted initiatives to support the country’s peace process, including the Peace Agreement of 6 February 2019, 2021 Luanda Roadmap and 2022 Republican Dialogue Recommendations. He called on technical and financial partners to provide necessary funding to hold local elections, restore the State’s authority, develop democracy at the grassroots level and establish local governance mechanisms. Further, he criticized the fact that States to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) fail to investigate and prosecute soldiers suspected of human rights violations in national jurisdictions.
Thomas H. Andrews, Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, then painted a grim picture of the “raging fire” of brutality and human rights violations inside that country. Calling the military junta “an agent of chaos” destabilizing the entire region, he said that, since the illegal coup, they have killed 4,000 civilians, destroyed 75,000 civilian homes and infrastructures, displaced over 2 million people and driven 15 million into food insecurity. Out of the many political prisoners who are subject to torture, at least 181 have died in custody. He also detailed incidents such as the junta’s bombing of a celebration for the opening of an office affiliated with the opposition National Unity Government, where 170 people were killed, as well as its air attack on a displaced persons camp, which killed 29 people, including 11 children.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Myanmar cited the military junta as “the biggest obstacle” to peace and stability in his country. To expand their rule, they resort to brutal violence such as air strikes and massacres on civilians while impeding humanitarian access. To end their dictatorship and restore democracy in Myanmar, the international community must act, he asserted, calling on the Security Council to adopt an enforceable resolution as a follow up to resolution 2669 (2022) and urging States to impose sanctions on the junta’s revenue streams and on jet fuel.
Echoing his concerns over increased violence in Myanmar, the representative of Bangladesh rejected the Special Rapporteur’s report due to lack of credibility. It is ”deeply troubling” to question her country’s will to respect the principle of non-refoulement, she underscored, noting that national authorities are conducting an open and transparent dialogue with refugees concerning their own return.
Numerous delegates expressed support for implementation of the Five-Point Consensus, including the representative of Indonesia, who called for measures to prevent the Rohingya refugees falling vulnerable to organized crime groups.
Voicing deep concern over the deteriorating livelihood in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, Thailand’s delegate called on the international community to share the burden and fill the funding gap for World Food Programme (WFP) assistance urgently. In the same vein, Iran’s delegate recalled that the Rohingya Muslim community has faced decades of discrimination and a lack of civil documentation, prohibiting its access to important services. To facilitate their return to Myanmar, underlying causes leading to their displacement must be addressed.
The representative of the Russian Federation, meanwhile, said that accusations against the Myanmar authorities regarding war crimes lack evidence and cannot be taken as truth. Countering that view, Canada’s delegate emphasized that the cruelty of the military regime has been meticulously documented. His Government has halted the sale of arms and aviation fuel to Myanmar and is committed to its sanctions against the military junta, he said, calling on other countries to follow suit. Also, a Special Envoy to the country should be re-established, he added.
Interactive Dialogues — International Solidarity
In the morning, the Committee took up its work on the promotion and protection of human rights with interactive dialogues featuring presentations by Obiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Attiya Waris, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights; and Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.
Presenting his report (document A/78/176) at the end of his mandate, Mr. OKAFOR gave an overview of his work as an independent expert since 2017. Among several reports delivered to the General Assembly, he recalled his 2019 one on the enjoyment, or lack thereof, of human rights-based international solidarity in the context of global refugee protection (document A/74/185), which found that the so-called refugee “crisis” reflected the unwillingness of many States to accept as many refugees as they should, he said, concluding that the crisis was more one of “equitable responsibility sharing” and thus of international solidarity. His 2020 report on the serious threat that the rise in populism poses to the enjoyment of human rights of vulnerable groups (document A/75/180) analysed the rise of populist movements and their negative impact on international solidarity and presented good practices to counter such populism, he said. His 2022 report (document A/77/173) focused on vaccine solidarity, he recalled, noting that while a measure of international cooperation was achieved, it was not sufficient.
He next recalled several reports he delivered to the Human Rights Council, including the 2021 report discussing how international solidarity to realize all categories of human rights has, or has not, been expressed by States in the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic (document A/HRC/47/31) as well as the 2022 report on whether enjoyment of human rights for all peoples requires States to protect and implement their international obligations extraterritorially (document A/HRC/50/37). The report assesses problems in responding affirmatively or negatively to the question and identifies limits of extraterritorial human rights obligations in the context of State sovereignty, he said.
Embracing international solidarity, including in the human rights field, demands concrete actions and genuine commitment from all of us, he said, calling for the adoption of the revised draft declaration on the right of individuals and peoples to international solidarity. The declaration will provide a framework for States and all stakeholders to strengthen their commitment to human rights through collective action and cooperation and work towards a more equitable world. Championing the principles of international solidarity in the human rights sphere will shape the world for future generations, he said.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of Azerbaijan, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the country’s opposition to all unilateral coercive measures, including those used as tools for political or economic and financial pressure against any nation, particularly developing countries.
On the same theme, the delegate for Venezuela asked Mr. Okafor for his view on the devastating impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights, and how international solidarity can contribute to mitigating the impact of such embargoes. In a similar vein, the delegate for Cuba asked for the Independent Expert’s opinion on the impact of unilateral coercive measures and the politicization of human rights in the context of international solidarity.
The representative of Cameroon asked what opportunity the adoption of the draft convention on the right to development offers to the strengthening of the human right to international solidarity.
The representative of the Russian Federation lamented the desire of several Member States to undermine the principles of international law to suit their own geopolitical interests. On the issue of solidarity, he said that the Mediterranean Sea has become a graveyard for thousands of migrants from Africa, noting that there is no solidarity on the part of Europe.
The observer for the State of Palestine pointed to rallies in many cities worldwide in solidarity with the Palestinian people, protesting Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian civilians, and calling for an immediate ceasefire. Those demonstrating are from every faith and every nationality, brought together to reject the injustice and oppression of Palestinian people. She expressed concern at attempts by certain Governments to put in place laws and practices that criminalize and suppress expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The representative of China said that the healthy development of human rights requires solidarity rather than division and cooperation rather than confrontation. Such solidarity is not only a right, but an obligation.
Mr. OKAFOR responded to Venezuela’s question on how international solidarity can contribute to mitigating the impact of unilateral coercive measures. He said that the broadness of sanctions often affects those that should not be affected. Some work has been done on this, but not nearly enough, he said.
Commenting on the sufficiency or otherwise of international solidarity, he took as an example climate change texts and documents, including how they relate to human rights. Without solidarity, the poorest bear the brunt of a situation they have been placed in by the richest, he said.
In response to Cameroon, he said the concept of international solidarity is not incompatible with the current established body of human rights. The first reason is that some degree is already included in existing human rights instruments. For example, in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, there is a solidarity duty, he said.
He emphasized that there is no exactitude as to how generations of rights can look and so there is no a priori reason why such a right cannot be admitted.
Ms. WARIS, Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt and Human Rights, presented her report (document A/78/179). The era of poly-crisis is a period when numerous and simultaneously unfolding fiscally related events are occurring with adverse impacts on human rights. They include increasing global poverty, the fiscal implication of the COVID‑19 pandemic, climate change and water, ongoing armed conflicts and food crises. The current state of the global economy and the lack of fiscal cooperation is leading to a retrogression in human rights from a fiscal perspective, she said, stressing the need to make a change and pointing out several trends that are important. Relevant economic trends are showing a decline in exports globally, and those must be looked at. The impact of the pandemic is having an effect on trade and development and foreign direct investment (FDI) flows across the world. Total assets being held by banks and investment institutions, valued at over $378 trillion, have increased by almost 6 per cent since 2012, and 80 per cent of these financial assets are held in developed countries. A just transition or transfer of global financial assets is needed. A transfer of 1.1 per cent could be enough to actually achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries and close the financing gap. However, a global fiscal body is needed to ensure that there is coordination, cooperation and assistance in achieving these particular milestones in human rights and the SDGs. There are limits to the solutions that are being led by big technology and the World Trade Organization (WTO). There is little or no social protection for the labour force, and this is a major concern as the world moves towards digitization. The only way forward is to uphold an inclusive rights-based multilateral system, unifying the international community.
As a matter of priority and a way forward, there are potential solutions. First, looking at the economy from a human rights-based perspective remains a central focus in trying to ensure that fiscal systems respond to the human being in individual countries. A more progressive tax system is needed that will increase financial revenue and resources for the State without penalizing the vulnerable and the poor. There must be systemic sustainability, and financing must offer equal access to public services, specifically in health, education and pensions. Sovereign wealth funds should be seen as a contingent asset to provide a cushion during times of unexpected shocks. Further, fostering societal trust, which is at its weakest right now, is very important to ensure there’s commitment, consistency and self-enforcing institutions. Multilateral organizations need to increase their concessional lending capacity, revise and reconsider financial conditions, extend repayment terms and give longer grace periods on interest payments. Lastly, the establishment of a global fiscal authority needs to be taken into serious consideration with an international tax cooperation framework through a multilateral instrument.
Internally Displaced Persons
Ms. BETANCUR, presenting her latest report (A/78/245), noted that, at the start of 2023, a record 71 million people worldwide were living in internal displacement. Due to the outbreak of new conflicts and violence, increasingly severe and frequent disasters worldwide and a lack of accountability for human rights abuses, these staggering figures will only continue to rise, she cautioned. “It is crucial to move beyond viewing internal displacement solely as a humanitarian crisis,” she said, stressing the need to recognize its direct connection to broader governance, development, human rights, climate change and peace challenges. Outlining thematic priorities of her mandate — including generalized violence, peace processes, climate change and the integration and reintegration of internally displaced persons — she advocated for an integrated approach that examines the interplay among them.
Generalized violence encompasses a broad range of situations and perpetrators, including activities of organized criminal actors and violent extremist groups, and situations of intercommunal clashes and violence, she observed, adding that situations of generalized violence are disproportionately deadly, leading by some measures to more deaths each year than armed conflicts. Applying international humanitarian and international human rights law to protect internally displaced persons and ensure accountability for abuses in these contexts is a major challenge, as non-State armed actors may reject these frameworks, while States may derogate from their human rights obligations in the context of extraordinary counterterrorism or anti-gang measures. Civilians caught in the middle may face indiscriminate violence, arbitrary displacement and other human rights violations. Against this backdrop, she underlined the need to examine measures to ensure accountability for perpetrators of arbitrary displacement and related human rights violations in situations of generalized violence and provide remedies for displacement-affected populations.
Her further aim is to promote the inclusion of internal displacement considerations in mediation, peacebuilding and transitional justice, she said, noting that to prevent its recurrence, root causes of displacement must be identified. It is also essential to examine specific measures to prevent and address internal displacement in the context of climate change, she said, citing planned relocations as an increasingly prevalent measure. Displacement in the context of climate change is not natural or inevitable, but rather stems from deliberate actions and policies that have contributed to climate change and left certain communities without adequate resources to cope. In this regard, she will evaluate measures to address unequal harms associated with climate change and provide remedies to victims thereof.
She further spotlighted issues related to the integration and reintegration of internally displaced persons. Return and relocation movements are not a durable solution, she underscored, calling for holistic measures to provide returnees with a psychological, cultural and social sense of belonging. Preserving and respecting the diverse identities, cultural heritages, languages, traditions and spiritual practices of internally displaced persons, providing mental health services and psychological support and creating an inclusive environment are important in fostering a sense of identity, belonging and resilience.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of Lebanon said that continued Israeli aggression and bombing of her country’s southern territories have resulted in the displacement of 19,646 people, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). She called on the international community to pressure Israel to halt its daily violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which are flagrant violations of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and international humanitarian law.
The delegate for Ukraine said the full-scale Russian Federation invasion of his country in February 2022 created the largest displacement crisis in Europe since World War II. More than 11 million Ukrainians remain displaced, including 5 million within Ukraine and another 6.2 million abroad, he said, encouraging the Special Rapporteur to pay special attention to the issue. He also asked what international organizations can do to facilitate better protection and fulfilment of the human rights of internally displaced people.
The representative of Georgia noted that close to 300,000 people are registered as internally displaced in Georgia due to several waves of Russian Federation ethnic cleansing. The Russian Federation has an obligation to enable their safe and dignified return under international law, she said, asking the Special Rapporteur how existing international instruments and guidelines can be used to ensure tangible results and progress for those people.
The delegate for the Russian Federation said the topic of internally displaced people due to large-scale violence is a relevant one that warrants closer attention. But he categorically rejected the baseless accusations of Georgia and Ukraine that the Russian Federation violates human rights.
The delegate for Myanmar said that, since the illegal military coup, the total number of internally displaced people in Myanmar is close to 2 million. He called on the international community to take decisive action to stop the military junta’s atrocities, adding that the suffering of people displaced in Myanmar continues to worsen. He asked what advice the Special Rapporteur has for the United Nations and Member States to help alleviate the suffering of internally displaced people in Myanmar.
Several representatives, including from Iraq and Bangladesh, raised the issue of climate change, with the former asking what the international mechanism for support might be and the latter asking for best examples of the United Nations helping climate-vulnerable countries to address this challenge.
The delegate for Cameroon welcomed the topic of reintegration. Noting that the return of the displaced implies existing infrastructure, especially in cities, she asked for examples of best practices in that regard.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, pointed out that an overwhelming number of internally displaced people are women and children, who are especially at risk, and asked how Member States can support host communities to implement and strengthen disaster preparedness.
Responding, Ms. BETANCUR said she will continue to urge authorities to safeguard human rights in States mentioned, including Myanmar. In that context, she stressed that camp closures alone will not create a conducive environment for return by themselves. She said that early warning systems, conflict resolution and peacebuilding can significantly reduce the likelihood of displacement. In response to the question on how Member States can support host countries, she stressed the need for solidarity and a human rights approach that does not discriminate based on status.
Legal and policy frameworks have been proven successful in mitigating and preventing displacement but must go hand in hand with capacity-building, she said, adding that political will is key. She encouraged the use of international human rights instruments to protect internally displaced people, especially those displaced by conflict. Turning to reintegration of internally displaced people in cities, she encouraged cross-regional sharing of lessons and best practices.
In the afternoon, the Committee further elaborated on the theme “Promotion and protection of human rights”, with an introductory statement by Leyla Novruz (Azerbaijan) on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and interactive dialogues featuring presentations by; Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic; Elizabeth Salmón, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; Nicholas Koumjian, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar; and Thomas H Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
Ms. NOVRUZ (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that during the eighteenth Summit of the group in 2019, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the Movement’s commitment to protect human rights and fulfil its obligations to promote respect for fundamental freedoms as outlined in the UN Charter and other instruments for all. The group further highlights the importance of addressing all human rights, including the right to development, through a constructive, non-confrontational, non-politicized and non-selective dialogue-based approach, in a fair and equal manner, with respect for national sovereignty and the non-interference of States, she said. To that end, the Movement condemns all human rights violations as well as obstacles to their full enjoyment and recognizes the role of the Human Rights Council, which is responsible for consideration of human rights situations in all countries in the context of the Universal Periodic Review based on constructive dialogue.
The Movement expresses deep concern over the continuation and proliferation of country-specific resolutions in both the Third Committee and Human Rights Council, which breach the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in addressing human rights issues, she added. To that end, the Movement reaffirms the need to promote greater coherence in the Third Committee and Human Rights Council to avoid duplication in their activities. She underscored the importance of the Universal Periodic Review as the main mechanism to review human rights issues at the national level in all countries and rejected the Security Council practice of addressing human rights issues to pursue certain States’ political goals. The Non-Aligned Movement reiterates the importance of implementing the Universal Periodic Review as an action-oriented, cooperative mechanism based on objective information in dialogue with countries under review, conducted in an impartial and non-politicized manner, she said.
Interactive Dialogues — Central African Republic
Mr. AGBETSE, presenting his independent report, said the Central African Republic Government on October 10 launched a National Human Rights Policy. He called on the international community to provide the Policy with appropriate resources and required technical assistance. He also underscored new legislation, including laws on the suppression of corruption and the tokenization of natural and land resources. He highlighted initiatives to support the country’s peace process, including the Peace Agreement of 6 February 2019, the 2021 Luanda Roadmap and the 2022 Republican Dialogue Recommendations. He added that positive evolution of the transition process is closely dependent on effective implementation of these tools. Challenges which hamper this possibility include the capacity of security forces to deploy in areas where demobilization is carried out; integration into regular forces of combatants from armed groups who meet the required criteria; and implementation of economic reintegration programmes, including for children exiting armed groups.
He further noted that, while the Luanda Roadmap awaits concrete measures from the authorities, the recommendations of the Republican Dialogue require urgent implementation of its conclusions by the relevant committee, as “the military response to the conflict has limits, and it is imperative to act on the political and dialogue fronts in order to find a lasting solution conducive to the peace and reconciliation process”. He called on technical and financial partners to provide necessary funding for the holding of local elections; concretize restoration of the State’s authority; develop democracy at the grassroots level; and establish local governance mechanisms. He noted that the Defence and Security Forces, the Russian Federation’s bilateral forces and peacekeepers, violate human rights covering summary executions, sexual violence, cruel, inhuman, humiliating and degrading treatment, abductions, kidnappings and murders against civilians. It is concerning that, even if troops with alleged violations are repatriated with their full contingents, troop-contributing States to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) fail to investigate and prosecute suspected soldiers in national jurisdictions.
Therefore, the memorandum linking troop-contributing States to MINUSCA should be revised to strengthen the initial training of peacekeepers in their countries of origin and on the field of operation; strengthen the command and control of deployed troops to avoid malfunctions; allow continuous contact between soldiers in the field and their families; and improve the living conditions of soldiers, he said. It must also be mandatory to investigate and prosecute peacekeepers who commit violations within a prescribed time frame. He called for technical and financial partners to support his Unit to ensure the rehabilitation of women victims. Further, he underscored the urgent need to plan a development strategy, particularly for achievement of the SDGs and the African Union's Agenda 2063, as well as for the international community to work with the Central African Republic to mobilize necessary resources for implementation of the National Human Rights Policy.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of the Central African Republic said that, on 30 August, his President enacted a new Constitution after the July referendum. This reflects the people’s aspirations and the country’s commitment to defend human rights, particularly for children, and combat sexual violence in conflict as well as human trafficking. He said his country developed and approved by decree in August the National Policy on Human Rights, geared towards the enjoyment and promotion of civil, economic and political rights for minorities, women, refugees and others. The tool enables his country to tackle several challenges, including on climate change. He called on interested Member States to join his Government’s roundtable against impunity in November, which aims to outline a roadmap and improve service for victims, adding that a lack of resources worsens Central African Republic’s vulnerability and security tensions. While his country denounces the politicization of international financial institutions, it hopes that investigations will address the arms embargo placed on it by the Security Council, which reduces the capability of its national security forces to the advantage of terror groups.
The representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, said civilians are the first victims of abuses by armed groups, the Wagner Group and the Central African defence and security forces, and expressed concern about violations of children’s rights and sexual and gender-based violence. The bloc underlines the importance of effective implementation by all parties of the agreement on the Luanda Roadmap. He added that withdrawal of Russian Federation mercenaries is necessary for achieving lasting peace and improving the humanitarian situation. He encouraged authorities to create conditions for inclusive and fair elections and asked how the international community can best assist in these efforts.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his country rejects the corrupt practice of adopting selective, politicized and one-sided resolutions on human rights in individual States, as they run counter to maintaining friendly relations between States. It categorically rejects insinuations and has no desire to hear such agitations from the European Union and other countries that are known for their colonial past. His country, while recognizing that the Government has every right to self-defence, provides — in bilateral agreements and in accordance with international law — comprehensive support to the Central African Republic on combating terrorism and extremism.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the Central African Republic Government must redouble its effort to combat impunity and hold the Wagner Group to account, as its actions are intensifying an already severe humanitarian situation. He said all parties must rapidly apply measures to deliver the joint roadmap through inclusive dialogue. He asked about support needed to investigate rights violation by armed and Russian Federation bilateral forces in the country.
The representative of the United States said her country is concerned about ongoing cross-border movements of weapons, financing and fighters, and called for greater collective efforts to block arms trafficking and illicit revenues, especially from the mining sector. She called on Governments in the region to prioritize civilian protection and on all actors to support unhindered investigation of human rights abuses as well as prioritize the safety of the population. She asked how the international community can support protection of individuals in rural areas, particularly in view of upcoming elections.
The representative of Morocco highlighted achievements of the Central African Republic in promoting human rights to include the establishment of a committee against gender-based violence in conflict, adopting a plan of action to prevent use and recruitment of children in conflict, and adopting a law abolishing the death penalty in May 2022. He stressed that the Government should continue the peace process by implementing the agreement on peace and reconciliation in the country and advancing the rule of law.
The representative of China expressed hopes that relevant parties will resolve differences through dialogue and strive for early restoration of order in the country. Her delegation supports Africans solving African problems in African ways and calls on the international community to increase support and provide constructive assistance to the country.
The representative of Cameroon reaffirmed importance of the cooperative approach in guaranteeing human rights, stating that parties who wish to improve the human rights situation in a country cannot do so without the cooperation of that country. Encouraging all delegations to act accordingly, she said the work for human rights must be run by the fundamental principles of transparency, impartiality and non-politicization, calling on the Central African Republic to better manage its human rights situation. In his response, Mr. AGBETSE reiterated the importance of the international community’s support for peace in the country, stressing that multifaceted efforts need to continue. He said that combating impunity requires an investment of resources, urging international financial institutions and other funding partners to reconsider renewed funding. On individual support for rural areas, he called for a ramp-up in support for local elections, particularly in security, and urged the Central African Republic and other partners to mobilize and raise awareness. He said there is a need to consider long-term support for local municipalities in the country to enable development. Civil societies need to continually document violations so that proper measures can be taken to achieve justice for victims. He further called on Member States to ensure development for the country through rebuilding and re-establishing infrastructure.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Ms. SALMÓN, presenting her report (document A/78/212), noted that, after more than three and a half years, in August 2023, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea partially reopened its borders, allowing citizens to return. While this marks a first step to review the Government’s restrictions on freedom of movement, it also raises concerns about an imminent forced repatriation of escapees, of whom the majority are women. Their return will expose them to torture, sexual violence or extrajudicial killings. Every State has an obligation under the principle of non-refoulement to halt these repatriations and protect Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nationals within their jurisdictions. She said that country used the COVID‑19 pandemic as a pretext for isolating itself on an unprecedented scale. This border shutdown exacerbated the humanitarian crisis by restricting people’s access to food, medicines and health care, and has aggravated multiple human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and curtailments of essential freedoms. These actions disproportionately affect groups in vulnerable situations, notably women and children.
Under the guise of militarization, the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea exerts extreme surveillance over its citizens, she said. Those who watch or listen to foreign media, criticize the state or attempt to leave are deemed as criminals or traitors, facing severe punishment. Beyond its borders, the country commits systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and enforced disappearance of people from other countries. Additionally, escapees and those separated by the Korean War have been unable to reconnect with family in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, fearing reprisals. Second, the country’s militarization exploits its labour force through a State-controlled system that allows for financing of its military ventures. Upon completing their education or military service, people are consigned to these workplaces without salaries or adequate rations. Women, who make up the majority of traders, are vulnerable to corruption, abuse and sexual exploitation by authorities. Third, prioritizing military spending has led to underinvestment in social welfare, which has resulted in large segments of the population lacking necessities like food, health care, water and sanitation. Finally, militarization of the country disproportionately affects women and girls.
The UN women, peace and security agenda (WPSA) offers a framework to address complex challenges laid out in the report, she said. Grounded in the multidimensional concept of peace, it encourages a multiparty, multipronged and gender-responsive approach to militarization and human rights. As party to various human rights treaties, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and as a Member of the United Nations, the country must implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and its sequels fully. This includes integrating gender-sensitive policies in its peace and security agenda and guaranteeing women’s active involvement in diplomatic and peace processes. The human rights situation in the country is closely tied to the state of conflict. The Committee must recognize that sustainable peace requires that human rights are fully guaranteed in the country, and this will not be achieved if women’s rights continue to be undermined.
In the ensuing dialogue, the delegate for Venezuela rejected the creation of any resolution against a specific country without the consent of its Government, as this represents politicization and selectivity in dealing with human rights. In a similar vein, the representative of Cuba said selective measures against developing countries are contrary to the spirit of dialogue and cooperation, which should prevail in addressing human rights issues.
Also on that theme, the representative of Iran rejected country-specific mechanisms, saying human rights issues should be addressed in an equal and fair manner through a constructive, non-confrontational, non-politicized and non-selective approach. The delegate for Burundi, meanwhile, said any special mechanism that is specific to a country runs counter to the principle of equality and equity between States. The representative of the Russian Federation said western States are using the report to undermine the development of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the well-being of its people.
The representative of Australia asked how accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea can be improved and asked when it will reopen its borders, given the passage of time since the global COVID‑19 pandemic outbreak.
The delegate for the Marshall Islands expressed her country’s deep concern over nuclear weapons, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. She welcomed the report’s recommendation emphasizing clear human rights benchmarks for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of Japan expressed deep concern over the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, particularly abductions by the country. Further, he said it is extremely regrettable that the country continues to accelerate its nuclear and missile development in view of the welfare of its people and violation of multiple Security Council resolutions.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s regime continues to squander scarce resources on its weapons of mass destruction programmes at the expense of its people. Further, the regime is exploiting its people through forced labor to finance its nuclear missile programmes. She also raised the issue of abductees, detainees and prisoners of war.
The delegate for Switzerland asked how States can better consider human rights in efforts towards dialogues on peace and security.
The delegate for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, asked how States can best support efforts to achieve a meaningful dialogue and cooperation with authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of the United Kingdom asked what can be done to prevent Democratic People’s Republic of Korea refugees being forcibly repatriated as the country reopens its borders.
The delegate for the United States asked what more the international community can do to pressure the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to choose its people over its weapons programmes.
In her response, Ms. SALMÓN stressed the inextricable link between human rights, peace and security. The position of extreme militarization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cannot be explained other than through violations of human rights committed in the country, she said.
Militarization takes away economic and human resources, especially economic, social and cultural rights. Further, militarization is the result of a system of forced work and quotas controlled by the State within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and workers sent outside the country and exploited there. The culture of militarization also serves as a pretext to exercise extreme vigilance over citizens, which denies them basic freedoms.
The devastating consequences of militarization mostly impact women and children. They weaken their chances of being able to participate politically and expose them to violence, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and trafficking. This climate of impunity obstructs the rights of victims to have access to reparations and justice.
Mr. KHIARI, introducing his report (document A/78/278), said the political, human rights and humanitarian situations in Myanmar continue to deteriorate. Devastation caused by protracted conflict, violence and natural disasters has exacerbated the hardship felt across communities and continues to displace people within and beyond Myanmar. The steady increase of internally displaced persons has been reflective of the intensifying violence. Nearly 2 million people are currently displaced in Myanmar, including about 300,000 who remain displaced since before the military takeover in 2021. Pre-existing vulnerabilities have been worsened by the current multidimensional crisis, including in Rakhine State, among Myanmar’s poorest regions. The number of people living in poverty has doubled to nearly half the population of 55 million, he said, noting that the United Nations has scaled up its response, reaching 4.4 million people in 2022 and a further 1.8 million people in the first half of 2023.
However, he continued, access constraints continue to limit assistance to affected populations, including following Cyclone Mocha in May, which caused significant damage, especially in Rakhine State. To this end, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Office of the Special Envoy have continued engagement with Member States and other stakeholders, including the Special Rapporteur and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. Conditions in Rakhine State remain dire for the Rohingya community as they continue to face systemic discrimination. Despite some improvement in intercommunal relationships, civil and citizenship documentation remain inaccessible for the vast majority of Rohingya and continue to impede their freedom of movement and access to basic services, education, job opportunities, housing, land and property.
Against this backdrop, he called on the international community to demonstrate greater solidarity with the Rohingya people and countries hosting Rohingya refugees in the region, in particular, Bangladesh, which hosts close to 1 million refugees. The camp conditions in Bangladesh have become increasingly difficult, security concerns are on the rise and the joint response plan for the Rohingya refugees remains critically underfunded. More needs to be done to bolster the resilience of refugees and address the impact on their host communities. Ongoing challenges in Myanmar and Bangladesh continue pushing Rohingya refugees to risk their lives in dangerous journeys, often in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers. Growing illicit activities have fuelled instability in the region, with the most vulnerable falling prey to criminal networks. Further, he echoed the Secretary-General’s call for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including democratically elected political leaders. Warning against intensifying military operations against civilians — including through airstrikes, mass killings, burning of villages and civilian structures, and sexual and gender-based violence — he said the military has denied aid delivery to areas of conflict and to the most vulnerable. The Secretary-General requires resistance groups to desist from violence against individuals they perceive as pro-military, he noted.
Mr. KOUMJIAN said the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar has placed particular emphasis on collecting evidence of crimes against the Rohingya. It has collected and analyzed compelling evidence of the widespread burning of Rohingya villages, confiscation of property, assaults and killing of civilians, and horrific accounts of sexual assaults. These crimes have led to hundreds of thousands fleeing the country. Since the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, the Mechanism has collected and verified evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed throughout the country. Tragically, in the last year, such crimes have only increased in frequency and intensity. The Mechanism has evidence of brazen attacks on civilians, including mass executions, intentional burning of villages and more frequent aerial bombings and indiscriminate shelling. The Mechanism is also investigating reports of widespread arrests without due process, torture, sexual violence, deportation and forcible transfer.
Authorities in Myanmar have ignored repeated requests for information and access, he said. Investigators also face challenges in conducting investigative activities in other countries, including in the Asia-Pacific region, where most witnesses and information providers are located. To compensate, they have embraced innovative technology, including advanced software, to analyze and verify materials such as videos, photographs and geospatial imagery posted on social media. This is then crosschecked against information received from at least 725 sources, including more than 250 witness accounts. The Mechanism plans to use the evidence to facilitate justice and accountability in courts and tribunals willing and able to prosecute these cases. It is currently sharing evidence and analysis for three ongoing proceedings focused on crimes committed against the Rohingya at the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, and in Argentina. These include three analytical reports focused on the military chain of command in Rakhine State; the failure of Myanmar authorities to investigate or punish sexual- and gender-based crimes; and the organized spread of hate speech on Facebook and its links to the Myanmar military during the 2017 clearance operations.
He expressed gratitude to the courageous survivors of crimes who have shared their testimonies, and to the many individuals and organizations who have provided the Mechanism with information, often at significant risk. With the constant increase in the number of incidents under investigation, operations have become increasingly complex. The Mechanism needs adequate resources to protect witnesses, ensure the safety and security of personnel, and deliver on its mandate. The cycle of impunity in Myanmar has emboldened the military to commit ever more brazen attacks on the country’s people. The Mechanism is committed to breaking the cycle and focusing all its efforts to ensure that perpetrators of these crimes will one day face justice.
Presenting his report (document A/78/527), Mr. ANDREWS urged the Committee to keep in sight the “raging fire of brutality and human rights violations” inside Myanmar, and focus on the responsibility to put it out. The military junta will not restore order in the country as they are an agent of chaos, destabilizing the entire region, he stressed. Since Senior General Min Aung Hlaing launched an illegal coup over two and a half years ago, his military and allied forces have killed at least 4,000 civilians, destroyed approximately 75,000 civilian homes and infrastructures, displaced over 2 million people and driven 15 million into food insecurity. They have also taken over 20,000 political prisoners, many of whom are guilty for offenses like wearing flowers in their hair or publicly mourning those killed in junta attacks on Facebook.
Many political prisoners are subject to torture, and at least 181 have died in custody, sometimes from executions during prison transfers, he added. Further, bombings continue, he said, citing a junta bombing of a celebration for the opening of an office affiliated with the opposition National Unity Government, where 170 people were killed, as well as a junta air attack on a displaced persons camp, killing 29, including 11 children. One million Rohingya refugees remain in Bangladesh, facing ration cuts and spiralling violence. Worse still, in the environment of lawlessness, transnational criminal networks are mushrooming along Myanmar borders, where an estimated 120,000 are held against their will, forced to carry out online scam operations. Many of these victims of trafficking are from other countries. The bad news is very bad and getting worse, he stressed.
Last year’s report recommended depriving the junta of weapons, money and legitimacy, he recalled, noting that some progress has been made. Important steps have been taken since last year, he said, citing sanctions against the junta that are affecting leaders and enablers. New sanctions targeting aviation fuel and key financial institutions have disrupted supply chains and impaired the junta’s ability to access foreign revenues, he said. Further, countries, including Singapore, cooperate in investigations of weapons transfers and Governments are boycotting junta-hosted events as well as denouncing the junta’s so-called elections as a sham, correctly. It is imperative that these steps forward lead to holding the junta accountable, he stressed, noting that the best way to do so is to form a working coalition of Member States that believe in human rights to stand with the people of Myanmar, working together to coordinate steps into a powerful strategy to end the country’s nightmare. He underscored the courage, tenacity, and commitment of the people in Myanmar, noting that they have no intention of giving up their historic fight for justice. “For them, the stakes could not be higher. They need and deserve not only the attention of this Committee and the Member States of these United Nations, but your vigorous and sustained support,” he said.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue for the combined briefing, delegates expressed grave concern over violence against civilians in Myanmar and the displaced Rohingya Muslim population. Others questioned the veracity of reports presented and asked how to effectively enforce relevant Security Council Resolutions.
The representative of Myanmar stressed that the military junta is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in Myanmar, as they continue their campaign of violence and hold political prisoners, despite Security Council Resolution 2669 (2022). Detailing further human rights violations, he expressed grave alarm that liking a post on social media can be met with imprisonment. Anyone who thinks the junta will hold fair elections is “detached from reality”, he said. The situation on the ground includes nearly 2 million internally displaced persons, he added, stressing that vulnerability is increasing in a context of decreasing assistance, while the junta impedes humanitarian access. While the junta continues to exert control in the country, it holds less territory than the combined resistance groups. They therefore resort to brutal violence, such as air strikes and massacres on civilians, to expand their rule, he said. Special mandate holders have documented such atrocities, he added, urging accountability for them. The repatriation of the Rohingya will not occur under the military junta, he stressed, noting that their return depends on the restoration of peace, stability and democratic oversight.
He presented two solutions for the future of Myanmar: First, the military junta rule must end. It is long overdue for the international community to act, he stressed, calling on the Security Council to adopt an enforceable resolution as a follow-up to Resolution 2669 (2022). Military impunity must end, he added, urging Member States to impose sanctions on the junta’s revenue streams and on jet fuel. Second, a democratic State must be established with effective and democratic rule of law institutions, he stressed, noting that this includes a constitution, subject to democratic oversight. Ongoing junta control will have serious consequences in the region, he said, noting that every moment without action means that suffering worsens and more are killed. The international community cannot fail the people of Myanmar. He asked how the UN can take further steps to end the military junta’s dictatorship and restore democracy in Myanmar.
The representative of Thailand expressed concern over violence used against civilians, calling on all parties in Myanmar to end violence immediately. Dialogue between all parties will be key to building peace and the democratization process. Thailand’s new Government will be more proactive on the issue going forward, giving full support to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), especially in implementing the Five-Point Consensus, he said, calling on the international community for its support. Voicing deep concern over the deteriorating livelihood in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, he called on the international community to share the burden and fill the funding gap for World Food Programme (WFP) assistance urgently.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, expressed grave concern over violence committed against civilians, including by air strikes and arson. The bloc does not recognize the military junta and strongly condemns its human rights violations, she said, calling on the military to cease its violence, release political prisoners and ensure justice. She recognized the important role Bangladesh has played in hosting over 1 million Rohingya refugees and asked what impact a global arms embargo might have on the human rights of people in Myanmar. Further, she asked if there had been any progress providing humanitarian access to the country.
The representative of Iran expressed concern for the Rohingya Muslim community, citing decades of discrimination and a lack of civil documentation, prohibiting their access to important services. She strongly urged the UN system to accelerate cooperation to address the issue, noting that underlying causes leading to their displacement must be addressed to facilitate their return to Myanmar. She asked what further support is necessary for the displaced population in Bangladesh.
The representative of the Republic of Korea called for a de-escalation of violence in the country and for the end of targeted attacks on civilians, noting the importance of implementation of the Five-Point Consensus going forward. He called for humanitarian assistance to be provided to all, including the Rohingya population.
The representative of The Russian Federation, rejecting the practice of establishing country-specific mandates, said that information in the briefer’s reports cannot be confirmed, as they have not been inside the country. While the interests of Myanmar’s people must be highlighted, accusations against the Myanmar authorities regarding war crimes lack evidence and cannot be taken as truth, he stressed, noting that the reports fail to give due consideration to the authorities’ willingness to cooperate.
The representative of Canada said that his Government has halted the sale of arms and aviation fuel to Myanmar and is committed to its sanctions against the military junta, calling on other countries to follow suit. Further, he called for the re-establishment of a Special Envoy to the country, as the post has been vacant for some months. Those who say that facts in the reports have not been verified are “simply not credible” he said, countering his Russian Federation colleague, noting that the cruelty of the military regime has been meticulously documented. He asked what further steps can be taken to implement Security Council resolution 2669 (2022).
The representative of Bangladesh similarly expressed concern over increased violence and denied humanitarian access to the country. She said that, while some progress has been made in terms of freedom of movement for Rohingya in the Rakhine region, underlying root causes, including discriminatory legal provisions against Rohingya remain unaddressed. She noted that the Special Rapporteur’s report lacks credibility, as the pilot repatriation project is in its pilot stage and is not coercive, nor is Bangladesh forcing Rohingya to take part in the project. It is ”deeply troubling” to question her country’s will to respect the principle of non-refoulement, she stressed, noting that authorities are conducting an open and transparent dialogue with refugees concerning their own return. She requested the Special Rapporteur to focus on finding a solution to ensure the safe return of the Rohingya population with Myanmar.
The representative of Indonesia underscored the importance of the Five-Point Consensus to find a political solution to the crisis. A sustainable ASEAN approach will build trust between stakeholders and promote the end of violence, he said, calling for international support in that regard. In the end, the people of Myanmar will decide their own political future. He underscored the importance of preventing the Rohingya falling vulnerable to organized crime groups.
The representative of China noted its impartial status and called for peace in Myanmar. Her country will support ASEAN and the Five-Point Consensus, she said, noting that the repatriation of displaced persons should be properly addressed between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Recalling that China opposed the creation of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar without the support of the concerned Government, she said that constructive dialogue will be the way forward.
In his response, Mr. KHIARI highlighted resolution 2669 (2022) of the Security Council as a good basis for addressing the Myanmar situation, adding that the Secretariat is working closely with Member States and Rapporteurs to support the mandate. It is also working closely with ASEAN on the Five-Point Consensus, on the Security Council’s recommendation. As for the humanitarian situation, he said that, while there are constraints in accessing some areas, “we are doing our best to reach as many people in need as possible”, especially in rural areas. He called on Member States to fulfil their responsibility and ensure access to humanitarian resources. He noted that his Department has made efforts to engage stakeholders in the region, with some limitations, including the fear of reprisals on the part of some parties due to contact with the United Nations. His Department stands in solidarity with Bangladesh on the Rohingya refugees and reiterates the call for burden-sharing.
Also responding, Mr. KOUMJIAN expressed delight at the overwhelming consensus for ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, citing a lack of accountability as one of the fundamental problems facing Myanmar. There is therefore a need for “an end to this impunity”, he said. In so doing, there is a need for the support of States, particularly for key witnesses at risk in their locations. “We need your support, and we need your patience to conduct this very challenging work,” he stressed.
In his response, Mr. ANDREWS said the amount of humanitarian aid getting to the Myanmar people is inadequate, as 17.6 million people are in dire need. He emphasized the need to support organizations which have the reach but not the resources. The world needs to pay attention so that the people of Myanmar can know that they are not forgotten; he said, stressing also the need for action on air strikes. He said aviation fuel supply must be cut to ground aircrafts attacking villages and further called for a stoppage of the flow of money to the junta, including sanctions on revenue generating organs, and continual deprivation of legitimacy to it. Nations that support human rights must act against the junta in an organized and concerted manner.