Concluding Its Session, Third Committee Approves 11 Draft Resolutions, Including Texts on Youth, Girl Child, Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its work today, approving 11 draft resolutions on issues ranging from the rights of the child and protection of migrants to the elimination of racism and programmes involving youth.
In one of its most notable actions of the day, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on programmes involving youth, which would have the General Assembly express deep concern over all forms of violence, discrimination and exclusion of young people. It would also urge States to address high rates of youth unemployment, combat youth poverty and hunger, tackle the lack of adequate and affordable housing for young persons, increase access to youth-friendly health services and invest in public education.
While many delegates welcomed the inclusion of references to the establishment of the United Nations Youth Office, appointment of the Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs and the role of youth in fighting climate change, others expressed regret over the deletion of paragraphs related to comprehensive education on sexual and reproductive health.
On that note, the representative of Canada, speaking also for Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland, said the draft cut back on previously agreed language on gender equality, diversity and sexual and reproductive rights. Everyone benefits when young women and girls are empowered to make informed decisions about their bodies and futures, she stressed.
Echoing those concerns, the representative of the United States voiced disappointment that many critical topics directly affecting young people were omitted in the text, such as hate speech, sexual and gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sexuality education and the specific needs of young women.
In another substantial consensus move, the Committee approved a text on the rights of the child that would have the Assembly express deep concern that increased unsupervised use of digital technologies has exacerbated children’s exposure to sexual exploitation, recruitment in criminal activities and cyberbullying. It would express concern that children often do not or cannot provide their free, explicit and informed consent to the collection of their data or the sale of their personal information.
Speaking after its approval, Iraq’s delegate voiced reservations vis-à-vis giving children freedom to consent to share their own information, adding that they are unable to do so as they do not have the same legal status as adults.
While reaffirming the importance of addressing different types of abuses against children in digital spaces, the representative of Saudi Arabia drew attention to ongoing violations committed against many children in the Gaza Strip.
Similarly, Egypt’s delegate strongly condemned the brutal murder of more than 4,600 Palestinian children in Gaza due to the indiscriminate Israeli bombardment, alongside the denial of medical and humanitarian assistance. “This horrendous aggression must stop,” he asserted.
The representative of Israel reminded everyone that there are still 30 children being held hostage in Gaza. Expressing concern about the situation of children in Gaza, she said any claims referring to her country should be addressed to Hamas, which controls Gaza and has denied children their childhood.
Relatedly, the Committee approved a draft on the girl child, by which the Assembly would urge States to improve the situations of girl children living in poverty, deprived of adequate food and nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, with limited or no access to basic physical and mental health-care services, shelter, education and protection. It would further urge States to increase resources at all levels, particularly in the education and health sectors, including sexual and reproductive health.
Australia’s delegate expressed regret over missed opportunities to strengthen the text as a whole, as only a handful of paragraphs were up for negotiation. Every day more than 40,000 girls are forced into marriage, and globally nearly one in four women between the ages of 15 and 19 are neither employed nor in education, compared to one in 10 boys, he emphasized.
Adding to that, the representative of El Salvador said there are 60 million girls in the world today, yet they face challenges, including access to education. Moreover, the risk of early and forced child marriage has increased due to the COVID‑19 pandemic. Also, one out of four girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced sexual violence, she noted.
Another draft that sparked discord called for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Approved by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 17 against, with 39 abstentions, it would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to enhance operational support to the secretariat of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, appoint by the end of 2023 five members of the Independent Eminent Experts Group from among candidates proposed by the President of the Human Rights Council and provide necessary resources to fulfil the mandates of, inter alia, the Intergovernmental Working Group and the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.
Many delegates supported the draft, including Brazil’s representative, who cited the Durban Declaration as a visionary document that embodies the world’s commitment to tackle the scourge of racism in all its manifestations, and Cuba’s delegate who highlighted its value in eradicating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.
However, numerous delegates voted against the draft due to its multiple references to the Durban conference, which raises historic concerns of antisemitism. Among them was the representative of the United States and the United Kingdom, with the latter also questioning the draft’s proposal to expand the resources and scope of UN mechanisms to address racism.
Also approved today were drafts on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development; protection of migrants; right of peoples to self-determination; Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa; United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme; Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through providing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and ensuring their protection; and the draft programme of work of the Third Committee for the seventy-ninth session of the General Assembly.
After approving its provisional work programme for the seventy‑ninth session, the Committee concluded its seventy‑eighth session, with delegates from the United Kingdom, the Maldives, Belarus, Uruguay, Egypt, Eritrea, Cuba, South Africa and Tunisia taking the floor to recite self‑penned poems about themes that dominated discussions during the 2023 session.
In closing remarks, Chair Alexander Marschik (Austria) said that, throughout the eight-week session, delegates engaged in 56 formal meetings, 93 interactive dialogues, and nine general discussions, approving 62 draft resolutions and taking one decision on critical human rights and social issues.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee first turned to the draft resolution titled “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/78/L.17/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the resolution recognizes the urgency of ensuring that people’s rights and well-being are placed at the centre of development efforts. Drawing from the resolution adopted by consensus last year, the draft notes the importance of achieving full employment and social integration as core goals of development. The text also covers the impact and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as closing digital divides between developed and developing countries.
The Committee approved the draft by consensus, by which the General Assembly would welcome the reaffirmation by Governments of their will and commitment to continue implementing the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development, to promote equality and social justice, eradicate poverty, and promote full and productive employment and decent work for all. The Assembly would also stress the importance of taking targeted measures to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions everywhere. It would also call on Member States to adopt measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work and the feminization of poverty, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including through poverty eradication measures, labour policies, public services and gender-responsive social protection programmes.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, underscored that the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without respecting human rights, guaranteeing non-discrimination, fighting for gender equality and promoting civil society’s participation. She expressed concern with certain additional terms in the final draft, including two references to a person-centred development approach. The European Union considers respect for and promotion of human rights as inseparable from sustainable development. She regretted that the text does not reflect the balance struck in the 2030 Agenda on the matter.
The representative of the United States, while joining consensus, disassociated from operative paragraphs 32, 33 and 66. His delegation is disappointed the text addresses issues not clearly linked to development or the Committee’s work, including by inappropriately calling on international financial institutions and other non-United Nations organizations to take actions, such as providing debt relief, beyond the Committee’s scope. Also, trade language adopted by the Assembly has no relevance for his country’s trade policy and obligations or the World Trade Organization’s agenda. The demands in operative paragraph 66 that the international community “shall increase market access” are wholly unacceptable in the draft. He opposed the elevation of any single Member State’s ideology and foreign or domestic policy into documents meant to reflect global perspectives.
The representative of Mexico, while joining consensus, disassociated from preambular paragraph 7 because it prejudges the Global Social Summit’s focus. It is premature, she said, to define the Summit’s issues in this Committee when the co-facilitators have not been appointed and will lead the Summit’s negotiation process. She disagreed with any interpretation of the paragraph that the Summit must only focus on issues mentioned in the resolution. She also reiterated that the Copenhagen Declaration states that social development cannot be achieved without respecting human rights.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Policies and programmes involving youth” (document A/C.3/78/L.18/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cabo Verde, introducing the draft also on behalf of Portugal and Kazakhstan, said the text is a streamlined version of the previous session, with some additions related to the establishment of the UN Youth Office, appointment of the first Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs, role of youth in fighting climate change, and need to address juvenile crimes and youth radicalization to violence, among others. The text also highlights the importance of quality, inclusive education and social inclusion of young people.
Further, she said, the draft also recommends that the President of the General Assembly appoint two co-facilitators to facilitate intergovernmental consultations on the organizational arrangements and modalities for the high-level plenary meeting, during the general debate of the eightieth session of the General Assembly in 2025, to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth.
She then presented an oral revision to the text, reintroducing an operative paragraph that reads: “Urges Member States to take concerted action, in conformity with international law, to remove obstacles to the full realization of the rights of young people living under foreign occupation, colonial rule and in other areas of conflict or post-conflict situations in order to promote the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved “L.18/Rev.1” as orally revised.
By its terms, the General Assembly would express deep concern over all forms of violence, discrimination and exclusion of young people, while emphasizing the importance of preventing human rights violations and phenomena such as sexual harassment and bullying. Further, it would stress the need to strengthen the capacity of statistical offices to collect and analyse data disaggregated by age in the development and deployment of all policies and programmes involving youth.
By further terms, the Assembly would urge States to address the high rates of youth unemployment; combat youth poverty and hunger; tackle the lack of adequate and affordable housing for young persons; increase access to youth- friendly health services, including sexual and reproductive health, menstrual health and substance abuse; provide psychosocial support for youth; invest in both formal and non-formal public education; and promote cultural diversity through youth-oriented policies.
Speaking after the approval, the representative of Hungary expressed support for the establishment of a new UN Youth Office referenced in the text. Her delegation, however, regrets that the text does not include a reference to the Secretary-General’s policy brief on meaningful youth engagement. It wished for the inclusion of a referent to youth belonging to minorities, instead of multiple mentions of migrant youth. Hungary voted against the Global Compact on Migration, so any references to the instrument is a red line for her delegation. She welcomed operative paragraph 14.
The representative of Iran said that provisions contained in the text do not alter the international legal framework governing the rights of the child and associated obligations. In planning and conducting sexual and reproductive education, ethics, religion and cultural values as well as domestic laws should be considered. Tehran disassociates itself from preambular paragraphs 20 and 26, as well as operative paragraph 12.
The representative of Canada, speaking also for Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland, said her group was not able to co-sponsor the text because it cut back on previously agreed language on gender quality, diversity and sexual and reproductive rights. Everyone benefits when young women and girls are empowered to make informed decisions about their bodies and futures. She expressed regret about the deletion of paragraphs related to comprehensive education on sexual and reproductive health.
The representative of the United States said his delegation was disappointed that many critical topics directly affecting young people were not included in the text, such as hate speech, sexual and gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sexuality education and the specific needs of young women. He expressed deep regret about how negotiations on the text unfolded, especially the prioritization of one delegation over others. Such behaviour will increase the risk of a vote and undermine compromises made. Educational matters in the United States are determined at state and local levels.
The representative of Indonesia said that his country will implement provisions in the text at national and local levels in conformity with its priorities and regulations. The text includes non-consensual language. Jakarta has reservations on references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, he said.
The representative of El Salvador welcomed the inclusion of references to the establishment of the UN Youth Office and appointment of the Assistant Secretary-General as well as the role of youth in fighting climate change. However, she expressed regret that no reference is made to young people in the developmental stage between infancy and adulthood.
The representative of Malaysia said the text unfortunately maintains a reference to the ambiguous term “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” in preambular paragraph 19. Its interpretation of the term will be based on national laws, customs and values.
The representative of Djibouti voiced concern over the trend of including language not internationally recognized. Advocating use of language contained in social development resolutions, he said that his delegation disassociates itself from provisions that contain non-consensual language.
The representative of Japan said it was disappointing that negotiations did not yield fruitful discussions on the contributions of youth but rather triggered political issues and divisions. He urged all delegations to show constructive spirit at next year’s session.
The representative of Poland welcomed that the text recognizes the need to assist and protect young persons in situations of armed conflict and involve them in conflict prevention, resolution, peacebuilding and humanitarian action. Her country has first-hand experience in assisting children, youth and young adults from Ukraine affected by the unprovoked aggression by the Russian Federation.
The representative of Senegal warned that the systematic use of non-consensual terminology undermines negotiations, disassociating his delegation from references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, among others. His delegation takes it that the text does not create new legal requirements. Going forward, negotiations should focus on challenges young people face, instead of controversial issues.
The representative of the Russian Federation pointed to overlap between the concepts of “child” and “youth”. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is defined as one under the age of 18. Although there are no internationally agreed criteria for the age range for youth, according to the World Programme of Action for Youth, this category includes people between the ages of 15 and 24. Based on this, when involving young people under 18 in various spheres of public life, it is necessary to be guided by the provisions of the Convention on the leading role of parents or legal guardians.
The representative of Zambia said that, given limited resources, his country will not be able to implement all provisions in the text but will do its utmost within those resources.
The representative of Denmark, speaking also for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, expressed regret that language on human rights and gender is weakened compared to the previous consensually agreed resolutions. Related language suggestions, proposed by many delegations, are not reflected in the text, including the recognition of young persons in all their diversity. She also expressed regret that agreed language recognizing the diversity and intersecting nature of vulnerabilities that young persons face is not retained in the resolution.
The representative of Iraq said the text does not change the framework of international law that manages children’s rights. His delegation views those under 18 as children. The resolution speaks of children as youth or adolescents. This can be interpreted as an attempt to avoid obligations under the rights of the child or rights of parents.
The representative of Yemen said that the text contains some controversial issues not recognized under sharia law or national laws, and therefore, her delegation disassociates itself from expressions such as “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”. A reference to the services that provide medical countermeasures to children is not acceptable.
The representative of Ireland, speaking also for Argentina, Austria, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Mexico, Slovenia and Spain, said that the text recognizes the critical roles of young persons in promoting peace and security and accelerating climate action. The text could have been stronger, with a greater focus on human rights. She also regretted that the full realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights was not fully reflected in the text and that a reference to comprehensive sexuality education was not included in the final text. She called for a stronger text in next year’s session.
The representative of Nigeria requested that, in future negotiations on the text, adequate consideration be given to young populations under 18, who, under her country’s context, require parental guidance. She also opposed inclusion of non-consensual terms such as “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”. Her country interprets the term “gender” as the biological definition of male and female.
The representative of Colombia expressed regret that the text does not reflect the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Attempts by some delegations to retain references to this important pillar of rights were not successful.
The representative of the Netherlands, speaking also for Belgium and Luxembourg, highlighted the importance of the text as the international community approaches the thirtieth anniversary of the World Programme of Action on Youth and the Summit of the Future in 2024 and the World Social Summit in 2025. However, much of the language proposed was not taken on board, she said, expressing regret that overall language on human rights and gender is weakened throughout the text.
The representative of France joined some others in expressing regret that the language was weaker than in the 2021 draft regarding gender and rights, including those related to sexual and reproductive health.
The representative of Israel, a youth delegate, said that she came to this session alongside 62 other youth delegates from 37 countries to bring the voices of youth on matters important to them. However, she was disappointed that the text does not reflect the will and values of youth, but rather political interests and agendas. Noting that many critical elements are “gone”, she said that youth will have to pay the price. The processes should be free from petty politics, and “the forefront of our minds should be youth”.
The representative of Cyprus strongly supported the full and meaningful participation of youth in decision-making structures, appreciating reference in the text related to establishment of the UN Youth Office and recent appointment of the Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs. She also stressed the need to mainstream youth-voiced initiatives across the UN system.
The representative of Mali, expressing regret over the lack of concentration on issues of substance in the draft, said issues related to sexual and gender-based violence in preambular paragraph 37 and operative paragraph 39 do not align with her Government’s views. She also disassociated from any terms that run counter to Malian cultural and social values, advocating for universally recognized language.
The representative of Malta expressed regret that during the negotiation process, important and previously agreed language was ultimately lost, including references to sexual and gender-based violence. Young persons are not a homogenous group, she added.
The representative of the Dominican Republic appreciated attention that the text gives to the equitable involvement of young people in decision-making processes. Spotlighting specific challenges faced by young people, she welcomed the draft’s focus on health and on countering social exclusion and discrimination as well as its emphasis on the participation of young people in creating climate policy.
The representative of Egypt welcomed adoption of the draft resolution, which promotes the rights of the child. However, he voiced regret that certain delegations attempted to undermine aspects of development by creating a competition between human rights and development language. He also drew attention to the intersecting horrors of bombardment and murdering of youth in Gaza.
The representative of Oman, speaking also on behalf of other countries, joined consensus on the draft and its subject matter. However, with regards to reproductive and sexual health and sexual education mentioned in numerous paragraphs, “our countries view this within our religious, culture and legislation”, he said.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said that, in Gaza, a child is killed every few minutes and children are deprived of their right to live. Also, she expressed deep concern about the general tendency to selectivity and double standards, disassociating from references to intersecting forms of discrimination.
The representative of Libya disassociated from paragraphs related to controversial language that lacks consensus, including sexual and reproductive health education and services. With regard to sexes, there are only two — males and females — he stressed, reiterating his delegation’s right to interpret every single provision in terms of whether it would align with its legislation, culture and religion.
The representative of Niger pointed to its national youth policy to favour the emergence of a new generation to drive forward national development action. Stressing the need to involve young people in social and economic processes, he spotlighted specific challenges faced by young people. Also, provisions in this draft do not change the international legal framework covering the rights of the child and obligations stemming from it. He rejected references to abortion as a method of contraception.
The representative of Uruguay welcomed the adoption of the draft, pointing to the establishment of a national institute for young people in his country. The draft reflects the amplitude of issues faced by young people, including combatting gender violence, he added.
The representative of Costa Rica said the mandate of the UN Youth Office is transversal across all three pillars of the United Nations.
The representative of the Holy See expressed regret that the draft resolution is diminished by long-disputed concepts, particularly related to health care, education and discrimination. Voicing his reservations, he said sexual and reproductive healthcare services are viewed by the Holy See as applicable to the holistic concept of health and abortion is not considered as a dimension of these terms. He also highlighted the primary responsibility of parents vis-à-vis upbringing of their children.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Rights of the child” (document A/C.3/78/L.19/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
Introducing the draft, the representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union and the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean, said the text reaffirms UN common objectives to protect and strengthen the rights of all children. The text further addresses a range of issues and focuses on the digital environment, she said, noting that all human rights apply on- and offline, especially for platforms targeted towards children. The purpose of the draft is to prioritize children’s online safety and well-being, allowing for the full realization of their human rights. Recognizing opportunities for development in the digital space, she also underscored potential harm for children, particularly girls. The resolution addresses the dangers of sexual exploitation in that regard and encourages the closing of the digital gap. She called for approval by consensus.
The representative of Uruguay, speaking before the approval and on behalf of the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the theme of this year’s resolution was the rights of the child in the digital environment, underlining that those rights must be upheld on- and offline. The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a framework for actions involving children, he said, noting that a lack of preparation on the part of States leaves children vulnerable. The document is a “delicate balance” of negotiations between delegations, he added, noting that the text also recognizes that the international community must take immediate action to mitigate multiple harms against children online. He also encouraged approval by consensus.
The Committee then approved the draft by consensus. By its terms, the General Assembly would express concern that children often do not and/or cannot provide their free, explicit and informed consent to the collection of their data or to the sale of their personal information, as the collection of personal information has increased significantly in the digital age. It would express deep concern that increased unsupervised use of digital technologies has exacerbated children and adolescents’ exposure to risks and harms, including sexual exploitation and recruitment of children to participate in criminal activities as well as all forms of discrimination.
By further terms, the Assembly would urge States that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols and implement them effectively. It would further urge States to bridge the digital divide; lift restrictions on children’s participation, ensuring their freedom of speech; and ensure that all schools are free from violence such as bullying and peer-to-peer sexual harassment. Furthermore, it would urge States to stress the role and responsibility of online service providers in protecting children from online harm, especially child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Speaking after the approval, the representative of Saudi Arabia lauded the flexible negotiations for the draft. His delegation reaffirms the importance of the resolution addressing different types of abuses against children in digital space, he said, but noted that ongoing violations are being witnessed in the Gaza Strip with such a large number of children killed in such a short time. “We reaffirm the importance of protecting children under international humanitarian law,” he said. Further, Saudi Arabia interprets references to sexual health within its own legislation and cultural practices, he said.
The representative of Malaysia said his delegation regrets the indiscriminate killing of children in the Gaza Strip. Noting that the focus of the draft on the digital realm is timely, he voiced regret over negotiations resulting in disagreements before it was tabled. Further, the text itself is inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said, criticizing the term “multiple and intersecting forms”, which will be interpreted with Malaysia’s national laws and customs.
The representative of the Russian Federation decried non-consensus language, in particular replacement of the word “sex” with “gender”. Such a large focus on “gender” distracts from children, he said. Guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, his country views children as persons under 18, and therefore, no special rights should be accorded to those categorized as teenagers or adolescents. According to article 5 of the Convention, parents guide the development of the child, and therefore, their views are definitive in all aspects of the child’s life, including in decision-making.
The representative of the United States said his country works domestically and internationally to protect the rights of children, who all too often experience discrimination and hate. His country recognizes that the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a relevant framework — “best interest of the child” — but does not recognize it as providing obligations for the United States. His country supports the right to education and efforts to promote digital literacy in the text. Voicing concerns that some delegations attempted to turn the focus away from children and onto the “rights of parents and families”, he called on the international community to make the world a better place for all children regardless of race, religion, disability, gender identity or expression or sex characteristics.
The representative of Iraq said the resolution does not address specific measures to take in ensuring protection of children in the digital environment, nor the responsibility of parents in that regard. Iraq reaffirms the role of the family and parents to ensure that children are not manipulated in the digital environment. Voicing reservations regarding preambular paragraph 28, regarding giving children freedom to consent in sharing their own information, he stressed that they cannot, as they do not have the same legal status as adults. The text will be interpreted through Iraqi law, and therefore, controversial terms such as “sexual and gender-based violence” will be referred to national legislators, he added.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the resolution considers diverse situations and intersecting barriers that children face, including those with disabilities or living in crisis situations. Welcoming references to sexual and reproductive health and rights, she said that they transform lives for people, especially women and girls, as they have control over their bodies, decide when to have children and can undertake better economic activities, complete education and fulfil their potential. Further, her country respects diverse family structures and their ability to uphold the rights of the child, she said, but added that increased efforts to focus on family-oriented policies in this resolution distract from the focus on the child. She reaffirmed her delegation’s commitment to the rights of children.
The representative of Yemen noted that interpretations of treaty bodies are not legally binding and only reflect the opinions of their authors. Further, Yemen dissociates from the term “multiple and intersecting forms”, she said, noting that references to sexual and reproductive health and health care services will be understood through the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Parents cannot be bypassed in accessing these health care services. Children do not have the same legal capacity as adults, and therefore, Yemen will interpret any references to “consent” in line with international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in relation to national law. Parental and family guidance and supervision are important to ensure proper use of digital technologies.
The representative of Canada remained concerned throughout negotiations about language related to family-oriented policies that remove the focus from rights of the child. While families can play a role, including this language risks limiting the application of a child’s rights. Such policies must be gender-responsive in the child’s best interest and developed with due consideration of the child’s views. Children are not possessions or passive actors; they have equal status as rights holders.
The representative of Iran, while joining consensus, disassociated from non-consensual terms in preambular paragraphs 31, 36 and 41, as well as operative paragraphs 26, 42 and 57. The draft’s provisions will not alter the international legal framework governing rights of the child and obligations thereunder. The general comments prepared by the treaty-monitoring bodies are neither legally binding nor represent the official position of Member States, especially when misinterpreting provisions to promote controversial agendas. The rights and duties of parents, and legal guardians when applicable, should be respected when providing direction and guidance to children in education and when exercising their rights.
The representative of Niger, while joining consensus, disassociated from operative paragraph 54 for promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. He regretted that the text promotes sexual education for children without acknowledging their age or ability to understand these issues. His delegation reserves the right to interpret any reference to consent under international law. He deplored the additional language on privacy that runs counter to laws in certain States. The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that parents’ views must be accounted for in all decisions on children’s health, he added.
The representative of Nigeria, expressing dissatisfaction with the draft’s flawed negotiation process, disassociated from references to general comments 25 and 26 for misleading, non-consensual language and ideologies that are not in the best interest of her country’s children. The draft’s individualistic approach, including on the rights of children to privacy, does not mention the rights of parents to exercise reasonable supervision, guidance and control over their children’s conduct. The co-facilitators regrettably denied the inclusion of language respecting the rights and duties of parents — by definition, mother and father — and legal guardians in a child’s life.
The representative of Singapore, while joining consensus, expressed reservations on preambular paragraphs 50 and 52. The Committee needs to recognize and account for different national contexts and respect the policies and priorities of Member States.
The representative of Senegal, while joining consensus, disassociated from controversial language in the draft, such as multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and rights to privacy. “Gender” refers only to social interactions between men and women, he added. Children must be educated by parents and take on their country’s values to become citizens that fully understand their communities. He rejected universalization of laws that do not align with national laws or views. None of the resolutions lead to any adoption of customary or international law, he said.
The representative of Indonesia, welcoming the Security Council resolution adopted yesterday on protecting children in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, called for immediate action to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian children. He also noted references that do not enjoy consensus or universal agreement, including “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”.
The representative of Cameroon, while wholeheartedly welcoming the draft’s approval on behalf of the African Group, deeply regretted the time constraint on negotiating such an important resolution. Noting that Africa has the youngest population in the world, she said the draft should have been presented much earlier to ensure enough time for negotiation with larger groups of Member States. In her national capacity, she disassociated from references to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, children’s capacity to consent and universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Cameroon understands gender and all related terms as biological sex, referring only to male and female. Her delegation also understands that the general comments cannot be regarded as legally binding or a source of international law.
The representative of Egypt, while joining consensus, regretted that consultations were abruptly suspended, denying the right of a wide majority of delegations to engage in transparent negotiations. He also regretted the core group’s exclusive ownership of the draft and its adamant refusal to reflect language from the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He rejected consistent attempts to enforce ideas and terms that are deficient, lack clearly agreed definitions and aim to establish a hierarchy of rights. Moreover, he strongly condemned the brutal murder of more than 4,600 Palestinian children in Gaza due to the indiscriminate Israeli bombardment, alongside the denial of medical and humanitarian assistance. “This horrendous aggression must stop,” he urged.
The representative of Mali disassociated from references to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, sexual and gender-based violence, the confidentiality of children, reproductive rights and “family” without proper definition or inclusion of the traditional role of parents. She called for precaution and protection when considering the legal definition of children, who do not fully understand their environment yet and require the important role of their parents.
The representative of Syria aligned with Egypt’s statement.
The representative of Israel reminded everyone that there are still 30 children being held hostage in Gaza. “Which sovereign nation would let any terrorist organization commit such acts?” she asked. Israel is very concerned with the situation of children in Gaza, she said, and any claims referring to her country should be addressed to Hamas, which controls Gaza and has denied children their childhood.
The representative of Cuba said the meeting has turned into a forum to raise the names of individuals affected by Israel’s genocide in Gaza, but there is not enough time to mention the more than 4,000 children murdered there.
The representative of Libya, while joining consensus, disassociated from terms, including multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and sexual and reproductive health. Libya reserves the right to interpret and implement the resolution’s provisions within its national legislative framework.
The observer for the Holy See noted with appreciation language giving parents the primary role in protecting children but added that discussions surrounding the family are disappointing and concerning. The text imagines parents as potential threats to children. “Who names children?” he asked, noting that children with names, nationalities and cultures must come from parents. We cannot protect children imagining that they enter the world as autonomous beings, he said. In that regard, the Holy See expresses alarm that children can bypass their parents in decision-making. Further, the Holy see does not see abortion or abortive agents as included in the text’s mention of sexual and reproductive health and understands that “gender” is grounded in “male” and “female”, he said.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “The girl child” (document A/C.3/78/L.23/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Angola, speaking also on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), introduced the draft, hailing the fruitful and flexible negotiations of the text. To accommodate all viewpoints, he submitted an oral revision to preambular paragraph 11, acknowledging the contribution of girls to society. At the end of the paragraph, after “human rights”, the amendment would add “in the context of innovation and technological change and education of the girl in the digital age”. The draft itself calls on States to ensure that girls are protected in school, receive proper training and bridge the digital divide. The resolution also highlights potential benefits that technology can provide for girls.
The Committee then approved “L.23/Rev.1” without a vote. By its terms, the General Assembly would express deep concern that all forms of violence disproportionately affect girls. It would also express deep concern that early and forced marriage is still underreported, exposing the girl child to greater risk of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and early childbearing and increases the risk of obstetric fistula as well as high levels of maternal mortality. Further, it would be deeply concerned that school-related violence against girls may influence parents’ decisions to allow girls to attend school.
By other terms, the Assembly would urge States to improve the situations of girl children living in poverty, deprived of adequate food and nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, with limited or no access to basic physical and mental health care services, shelter, education, participation and protection. It would further urge States to increase resources at all levels, particularly in the education and health sectors, to enable young people, especially girls, to gain the knowledge, attitudes and life skills they need to fulfil their social, economic and other potentials and to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health.
Speaking after the approval, the representative of Iraq voiced regret that some paragraphs were not open for negotiation, calling on States to rethink this approach in future negotiations. Underscoring the importance of parents and guardians, his delegation reiterates the role that they play, particularly in sexual and reproductive education, which must be in step with societal values and religious and cultural concepts, he said.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that approving the text today reiterates a commitment to rights upheld in certain instruments, including the Beijing Declaration. She voiced satisfaction that references to sexual health and education were retained. Underscoring the importance of combating gender-based violence, she voiced regret that the text has not been renegotiated in full since 2017. The practice of opening only certain paragraphs for negotiation is unsustainable and will result in an unbalanced draft. The European Union cannot co-sponsor such a draft but will look forward to negotiations of the next draft during the eightieth session of the General Assembly, she said.
The representative of Australia said that every day more than 40,000 girls are forced into marriage, and globally nearly one in four women between the ages of 15 and 19 are neither employed nor in education, compared to one in 10 boys. Girls face the double burden of being young, which is why this resolution highlighting their experience is important. Welcoming the resolution, he lamented missed opportunities to strengthen the text as a whole, as only a handful of paragraphs were up for negotiation. Preambular paragraph 11 adds “unprecedented” language, centralizing the rights of the family over those of the girl child, he stressed, adding that the adopted draft fails to recognize that families take diverse forms. He expressed appreciation for the oral amendment in that regard. Australia emphasizes that a range of gender transformation policies are required to ensure the rights of the girl child, he said, urging the facilitators to take this into consideration at the eightieth session, when Australia will ask for a revision of the text as a whole.
The representative of El Salvador said that, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are more than 60 million girls in the world today, yet they face challenges, including access to education. Moreover, the risk of early and forced child marriage has increased due to the COVID‑19 pandemic. One out of four girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced sexual violence. Also, girls aged 5 to 14 spend considerably more time doing unpaid labour than boys. Drawing a connection to dropout rates and lower education rates in low-income countries, she said that achieving gender equality is not just a question of rights; it is a prerequisite to sustainable development. She called for the text to reflect that aspect during its next negotiations.
The representative of Canada, speaking on behalf of Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Switzerland, voiced regret over the negotiation process and welcomed the oral revision. While families can play a role in the protection of rights, they can also play an adverse role in the realization of girls’ rights, she said, noting that inclusion of related language can be misused to those ends. Children and girls are rights holders regardless of their family situations, and all family-orientated policies must take that into account, she stressed. Expressing disappointment that contentious text weakened previously agreed-upon language on gender equality and resulted in 56 countries withdrawing co-sponsorship, she recalled that the original language was sufficient in addressing all sensitivities. The new, adopted language is potentially harmful, however.
The representative of Niger said that education for children on delicate issues such as sexual and reproductive health must be carried out in a manner that respects the responsibility and rights of parents or legal guardians. His delegation regrets the approach to closed paragraphs, referring to its previous explanation of position.
The representative of Chile said her country decided not to co-sponsor the text because it did not have an opportunity to make substantial contributions to the draft in a way that allowed for the strengthening of the rights of girls. It was important for her delegation to support the recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to strengthen language against the use of technologies to exploit girls, including sexually.
The representative of Oman, speaking for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, said that, while these countries joined consensus, they will interpret sexual and reproductive rights and health services according to the legislation and religious and cultural values of their own societies.
The representative of the United States said his delegation has traditionally co-sponsored the biennial text, expressing regret that the core group chose to open the text in a very narrow way. He hoped that, in two years’ time, the full text will be open to cover a wide range of issues, which will allow his delegation to return to co-sponsorship. Regarding the text’s references to international human rights law, including the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to education, his country’s positions are explained in a general statement posted on its mission’s website.
The representative of Yemen said her delegation cannot accept the concept of equal access to education for young people and adolescents in terms of sexual and reproductive health without having suitable language on the rights of parents and guardians. Education for children on sensitive issues such as sexual and reproductive health must respect the responsibility and rights of parents or legal guardians.
The representative of Mali said that her delegation has some reservations, as already expressed, about the text, but it is important to protect the rights of the girl child, regardless of their location, race, colour and belief.
The representative of Senegal expressed reservations on some elements that are controversial in the draft, such as the definition of gender. It considers gender as the biological term relating to men and women. Sexual and reproductive health must consider national laws as well as cultural and social values.
The observer of the Holy See said that family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is entitled to protection by society and States. While his delegation welcomes the inclusion of these important ideas, it regrets that the inclusion provoked dissent and that any references to the family became the subject of attacks. Mothers and fathers have the primary responsibility for girls’ well-being. It is incumbent to support families in providing a healthy environment for girls.
Next, the Committee turned to the draft resolution titled “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” (document A/C.3/78/L.60/Rev.1), which the Chair said contained programme budget implications.
Introducing the draft on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, the representative of Cuba highlighted the value of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in eradicating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Stressing that an increase in hate speech and other actions by some States against migrants and people of African descent must be addressed, he asked the Secretary-General to support the protection of persons of African descent.
A recorded vote was then requested.
In explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Cuba asked which delegation requested a vote on a draft resolution that seeks to eliminate racism.
The vote was requested by Israel, the Chair said.
The representative of Israel said that the Durban Conference — which was held over 20 years ago — ended up falling into the hands of manipulative forces whose goal is to delegitimize Israel. Due to Durban’s hateful rhetoric against Israel based on its identity, her delegation will vote against.
The representative of South Africa, highlighting the significance of this draft resolution, said the only active legal instrument on the elimination of racism is the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. “We have one convention which has not been updated in 58 years,” he added, pointing to the absence of participation in intergovernmental structures to rid the world of racism and to severe staffing shortages in the structures that inform and advise Member States on addressing racism. Against this backdrop, the draft resolution calls for additional support and resources to address racism.
The representative of Brazil described the Durban Declaration as a visionary document that embodies the world’s commitment to tackle the scourge of racism in all its manifestations. It sparked meaningful change in Brazil, she recalled, expressing support for the draft.
The Committee then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 17 against, with 39 abstentions.
By the text, the General Assembly would call on States that have not done so to accede to and ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It would also call on States that have not yet done so to consider withdrawing their reservations to article 4 of the Convention. Further, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to enhance operational and programmatic support to the secretariat of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent and to appoint by the end of 2023 five members of the Independent Eminent Experts Group, one from each region, from among candidates proposed by the Human Rights Council President.
Further to the text, the Assembly would strongly appeal to all Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals to contribute generously to the trust fund for the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. It would request the Secretary-General and Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights to provide necessary resources to effectively fulfil the mandates of the Intergovernmental Working Group, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the Independent Eminent Experts Group, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards and the Permanent Forum.
In explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom underlined her country’s steadfast commitment to fighting racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia in all their forms. Regretfully, there are numerous concerns with this draft, she said, rejecting multiple references to the Durban Conference, which raises historic concerns of antisemitism. She also questioned the draft’s proposal to expand the resources and scope of the UN mechanisms to address racism. Instead, she advocated for a fresh strategy that focuses on what can be done individually and collectively to combat racism. Her delegation will vote against, she added.
The representative of Japan said his delegation abstained from voting due to concerns that the draft may perpetuate the conflict experienced at the Durban Conference. Also, Japan is not fully convinced that the Permanent Forum needs additional funding, he added, suggesting instead reallocation of resources of voluntary contributions.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said racism is a global scourge and no country is free from this phenomenon. The European Union remains fully committed to the objectives undertaken at the Durban Conference, he said, disagreeing with the request for additional budgetary resources.
The representative of the United States said his country is profoundly committed to combating racism and xenophobia at home and abroad. He stressed the need to openly and honestly confront the legacies of slavery. His delegation did not support the draft resolution due to its unreserved endorsement of the Durban Declaration, which presents overly broad restrictions on freedom of expression, incompatible with his country’s Constitution, and contains antisemitic elements, singling out Israel.
Next, the Committee turned to the draft resolution titled “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/78/L.62), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
Introducing the draft, the representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the draft’s co-sponsors, underscored the importance of self-determination, which has been codified in many international documents, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Social and Cultural Rights. The definition has further been elaborated upon by various courts and legal experts. Almost all former colonies and subjugated peoples represented in the Third Committee as sovereign nations today secured their independence by exercising their rights to self-determination, he said. Those who are still systematically denied these rights are obliged to continue these struggles in the face of naked military force, crimes against humanity and genocide. This resolution has been traditionally adopted by consensus, he said, voicing hope that the global commitment to the principle will be reaffirmed by an adoption by consensus. He invited all members who have not done so to co-sponsor the resolution.
The Committee approved “L.62” by consensus. By the text, the General Assembly would call on States responsible to immediately cease military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories as well as all acts of repression, discrimination, exploitation and maltreatment. Deploring the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons and reaffirming their right to return voluntarily in safety and with honour, the Assembly would request the Human Rights Council to continue giving special attention to violations of human rights resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation.
Speaking after the approval, the representative of the United States noted that this resolution contains misstatements of international law and is inconsistent with States’ practices. He recalled his delegation’s Third Committee general statement which will be posted to their website.
The representative of Argentina voiced full support for the right to self-determination of States. The principle is applicable when there is a rights holder exposed to foreign exploitation or dominance, according to Security Council resolution 1514 (1960), she said. When there is no rights holder, there is no right, she noted.
The representative of Spain voiced support for the draft, noting that the right to self-determination should not be used against the territorial integrity of States. Authorities cannot create the illusion that the link to colonialism has been broken, while at the same time claiming the right to self-determination, he said, making reference to Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a non-self-governing territory, and its colonial situation violates the territorial integrity of Spain. His country has spent decades trying to settle the issue, he said, calling on the United Kingdom to return to dialogue to achieve a solution commensurate with UN principles. Adding that Spain is fully committed to negotiations regarding Brexit, he said: “Where there is political will by the administrating party, decolonization is possible.”
The representative of India said the right to self-determination is a right of non-self-governing colonies, which allows people to freely choose their governing structures. India is a former colony, she recalled, noting that the right to self-determination cannot be abused to undermine democratic institutions. The international community has affirmed that the right does not refer to groups within sovereign States, she said. The UN has established that the principle of self-determination must not undermine the territorial integrity of States. For States that have become independent, self-determination is best maintained through democratic choice, based on full participation of each citizen in open democracy, she said.
Next, the Committee turned to the draft resolution titled “Implementing the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through providing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and ensuring their protection” (document A/C.3/78/L.30/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
Introducing the draft, Norway’s delegate emphasized the importance of sending a clear message of support to human rights defenders. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the first time all Member States recognized the legitimacy of their activities. Through the resolution, Member States have again found common ground and reiterated their commitment to provide safe and enabling environments for these defenders. “Their work benefits us all,” she underscored.
The representative of the United States resolutely supported human rights defenders’ efforts to safeguard rights and fundamental freedoms, to advocate for transparent and accountable Governments, promote equitable access to justice and expose corruption. The United States remains concerned about the harms that these defenders, especially women, often experience. Her delegation is committed to a world centered on universal human rights.
The Committee then approved the resolution by consensus, by which the Assembly would urge States to redouble efforts to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It would strongly urge the release of persons detained or imprisoned for exercising their rights and freedoms, as well as strongly call on States to give effect to everyone’s right to unhindered access to and communication with international bodies. The Assembly would also urge States to promptly and independently investigate allegations of threats or human rights violations by State and non-State actors and initiate appropriate proceedings against perpetrators to eliminate impunity. The Assembly would further urge non-State actors, including transnational corporations and other businesses, to assume their responsibility to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons.
The representative of Niger, while joining consensus, reserved the right to interpret and implement provisions according to national law and development priorities, with full respect for his country’s diverse religious and cultural practices. The resolution does not alter customary or treaty law and does not impose any legal obligations on States, he said.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, welcomed the draft’s new language recognizing defenders in conflict and post-conflict settings, the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and gender-based violence against women, as well as the impact of Internet shutdowns. At the same time, the reference to morality and public order has “no place in the text” and can easily be manipulated to restrict defenders.
The representative of Iraq, while joining consensus, noted that some rights defenders are far removed from the ethical and religious values of the populations for which they advocate. He also expressed reservations regarding non-consensual terms that are not in line with his country’s values and legislation, including “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, “sexual and reproductive health” and gender-based health care.
The representative of Malaysia, while joining consensus, noted continuous references to the ambiguous term “diversity” and “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”. Malaysia’s interpretation of these terms will be based on national laws, values and customs. It is imperative that universally recognized rights and fundamental freedoms serve as the guiding principles for the human rights agenda.
The representative of Egypt, while joining consensus, expressed reservations regarding references to the “legitimate role” of rights defenders. She also opposed references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, as well as “sexual and reproductive health-care services”. The obsession and singling out of this reference represent a reductionist approach at the expense of more pressing needs, including access to safe drinking water and sanitation, adequate housing and quality education. She also highlighted that pregnant Palestinians under current Israeli bombardment in Gaza are being forced to deliver their babies without safe and adequate medical services.
The representative of New Zealand, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, welcomed the reference to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” against women and girls, as well as all forms of violence against them. She also emphasized the importance of protecting and strengthening civil society participation, including rights defenders, at the UN.
The representative of Nigeria disassociated from references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, “gender-based violence” and “sexual and reproductive” health services. Her delegation defines gender as a biological clarification between male and female, and she noted the right of sovereign countries to determine definitions and the scope of health services.
The representative of Indonesia noted that non-universal issues continue to drive discussions away from issues that matter on the ground, such as capacity-building. He expressed reservations regarding references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, as well as “diversity”, which lack clarity. He confirmed that protection should be granted to all rights defenders without exceptions.
The representative of Senegal disassociated from non-consensual language, including “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” and sexual health services. Gender and related concepts refer only to relations between men and women. Sexual and reproductive health, as well as access to sexual education and services, should be understood according to his country’s national laws and social and cultural realities.
The representative of Mali noted that States remain the primary defender of human rights. She also opposed the draft’s references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, “sexual and reproductive health-care services” and “gender-based violence”.
The representative of China said there is no universally recognized definition of human rights defenders. Such defenders should not be considered a special group or be granted special legal status. They must peacefully and lawfully carry out their activities. Those who violate their country’s laws must be sanctioned appropriately.
The representative of Iran disassociated from preambular paragraph 23 and operative paragraph 13. She objected to controversial, non-consensual and ambiguous terms that may be misappropriated. Governments have the primary responsibility to protect human rights, and all people should enjoy such rights. “So-called human rights defenders” should not be treated as a special group with special privileges. No one should be allowed to break the law and disrupt public order while claiming rights as a defender.
The representative of Syria aligned with Iran’s statement.
The observer of the Holy See expressed deep concern regarding references promoting access to “sexual and reproductive health-care services”, often understood to include abortion. The language could be interpreted as a human right to abortion, which is incorrect as a matter of law. His delegation interprets “sexual and reproductive health-care services” and related terms according to a holistic concept of health, which does not include abortion or access to abortion or abortifacients. Moreover, it understands gender as grounded in the biological sexual identity of male and female. “Multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” reduces individuals to particular characteristics, undermining the universality of human rights.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Protection of migrants” (document A/C.3/78/L.52/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Mexico, introducing the draft, underscored that, as the world faces historic levels of movements of people, it is indispensable to reiterate the role that States play in the protection of the human rights of all migrants. Migration is part of the fundamental human experience, she said, emphasizing the vital importance of the General Assembly’s recognition of the migrant’s role in the 2030 Agenda. The text recognizes the positive role and contribution of millions of migrants as well as migration’s contribution to increasing the social, economic and cultural ties between countries. It also urges States to intensify efforts at all levels to integrate public health considerations. Migration policies that deal with undocumented migration as a crime rather than an administrative fault will negate the full enjoyment of human rights of migrants, she noted.
The Committee approved the draft by consensus, by which the General Assembly would call on States to promote and protect effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migration status as well as address international migration through international, regional or bilateral cooperation. It would express concern about the impacts of financial and economic crises, as well as natural disasters and the effects of climate-related phenomena, on international migration and migrants. Strongly condemning acts, manifestations and expressions of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against migrants and the stereotypes often applied to them, the Assembly would also encourage States to establish or strengthen mechanisms which allow migrants to report alleged cases of abuse by relevant authorities and employers without fear of reprisal.
The representative of Spain, speaking for the European Union, welcomed references in the draft to the promotion of gender-responsive, child-sensitive and disability-responsive policies that leave no one behind. She further expressed commitment to the protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those of migrants. The European Union pays particular attention to women, children and persons in vulnerable situations. The deeply concerning situation of a large and growing number of migrants in vulnerable situations emphasizes the need to address international migration through strong international cooperation. She called on all States to take a stance to protect the human rights and lives of people affected.
The representative of El Salvador reaffirmed that migrants, independently of their status, are human beings with dignity and rights that should be protected, respected and fulfilled by States. She welcomed that the text recognizes the positive contribution of migrants to inclusive growth and sustainable development in countries of origin, transit and destination, including by enriching societies through skills and socioeconomic contributions. She also praised the text’s recognition of the role of women migrants. While being a co-sponsor of the resolution, El Salvador does not accept preambular paragraph 10, she said, expressing concern that the provision derogates from the purposes of the resolution.
The representative of Hungary, associating herself with the European Union and reaffirming her country’s commitment to international human rights law, expressed opposition to resolution parts pertaining to facilitation of migration or diversification of the availability of regular pathways for migration, which is not a human right. States have the right to define their national policies concerning migration, border security, demography, the labour market and healthcare. The resolution reflects the issue of migration in an unbalanced manner, focusing solely on the positive contribution, while insufficiently addressing the challenges. She said her country disassociates itself from all paragraphs mentioning the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration as well as the International Migration Review Forum.
The representative of the United Kingdom, noting that over 110 million people are displaced, welcomed that the resolution includes a reference to the need to strengthen cooperation to break the business model for criminal gangs. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom does not align with some of the resolution’s elements. States have a sovereign right to determine their own migration and immigration policies and laws. They are not bound to take national steps to increase legal migration pathways. On detention, the resolution does not place an obligation or commitment on States to end the detention of migrants or migrant children, he emphasized, noting that States may maintain the right to apply criminal law to those smuggled into the country. Yet, the United Kingdom will not tolerate unlawful discrimination directed towards migrants, he said.
The representative of Austria, associating herself with the European Union, noted that some paragraphs in the text conflict with her country’s position on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Recalling that her country abstained in voting on the Global Compact, she emphasized that, by not objecting to some of the paragraphs in the resolution, Austria’s position on the Global Compact has not changed.
The representative of the United States underscored that his country maintains the sovereign right to facilitate or restrict access to its territory, subject to its existing international obligations. The United States does not read the resolution as preventing States from taking appropriate measures consistent with their obligations under international law to detain or prosecute persons involved in criminal activity in connection with regular migration, he said, adding that neither does the text mean that States must join international instruments to which they are not a party or that they must implement such instruments. While the United States does take into account the best interest of the child, this principle is not always the primary consideration in certain immigration actions. The resolution does not alter international law, he stressed.
The representative of Egypt pointed out that there are more than 9 million migrants from over 60 nations in his country. Egypt provides them with essential services, including healthcare and education. Efforts to increase the resilience of communities requires substantive support for developing countries. He expressed regret that certain delegations aimed to weaken language when it comes to migration, pointing in particular to the rights of migrants to healthcare. “We do not understand that certain migrants can be deprived of certain rights under certain circumstances,” he said. There is an urgent need to increase solidarity and support for developing countries that receive an increasing number of migrants to sustain their efforts to provide protection and essential services to migrants, he noted.
The representative of Bulgaria said his country’s position on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration remains unchanged.
The observer for the Holy See welcomed the text’s new elements that contribute to strengthening the collective work of the international community to protect all migrants. He also praised the presence of language on the right to life as well as on safe and dignified return. All migrants deserve to be treated with dignity and to have their human rights and fundamental freedoms respected and protected along their entire migratory journey. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration remains the most comprehensive set of best practices and policy instruments that exists, he underscored. The inclusion of language relating to national sovereignty and national migration policies must be understood within the context of the resolution as a whole. The Holy See understands the term “gender” as grounded in “male” and “female”, he said.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa” (document A/C.3/78/L.55), whose programme budget implications are detailed in “L.73” (document A/C.3/78/L.73).
Introducing the draft, the representative of Cameroon, speaking on behalf the Economic Community of Central African States, said that the text builds on previous versions and is the result of three rounds of negotiations. The draft contains new text and technical updates related to strengthening the role of social and cultural rights, which underscores the interdependent nature of all human rights. The text calls for an increase in the Centre’s capacity to aid in the implementation of its mandate. The resolution has always been approved by consensus and she said she looks forward to its approval by consensus today.
Speaking before the approval, the representative of Rwanda, speaking on behalf of a group of countries in Central Africa, said that the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, located in Yaoundé, was created in 2001 on the request of countries in Central Africa. As requested by the General Assembly, the Centre has stepped up its efforts, including in the areas of economic, social and cultural rights, she added. However, limitations on the capacity of the Centre due to budget constraints must be addressed. It is worth noting that its budget has not been updated since 2007. The host country, Cameroon, has allocated $700,000 to the Centre, in addition to its earmarked contribution, and the approval by consensus will send a message to both the UN and the 11 Central African countries to contribute to the activities of the Centre.
The representative of Congo, aligning with Cameroon, hailed the country’s delegate on her efforts in elaborating the draft. Underscoring the importance of the Centre, she said it has carried out activities in her country ,including mobilizing people in national human rights institutions and in civil society organizations to mainstream human rights in their COVID‑19 pandemic recovery response plans. With appropriate resources, the Centre will be able to do even more for the Congo as well as civil society. Currently only $200,000 is allocated to activities in 11 countries. This year, the community is determined to increase the budget to strengthen the Centre’s mandate, she said.
The representative of Mali said that strengthening the capacity of the Centre in light of growing demand and security challenges is helpful. She commended the secretariat of the Third Committee during the session.
The Committee then approved “L.55” by consensus. By its terms, the General Assembly would note with concern the negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic and the liquidity crisis of the Secretariat on the capacity of the Centre to deliver on some of its mandate. Emphasizing the importance of sustainable development towards the enjoyment of all human rights and stressing the importance of strengthening the work of the Centre in the area of economic, social and cultural rights, the Assembly would welcome the activities of the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa in Yaoundé and note with satisfaction support provided to the Centre by the host country.
By further terms, the Assembly would request the Centre to enhance its work to effectively assist all countries in Central Africa, protecting economic, social and cultural rights and addressing inequalities. It would further request the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to strengthen the capacity of the Centre to enable it to achieve greater results on the ground in terms of strengthening national human rights systems and moving more rapidly towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Central Africa
Speaking after the approval, the representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that, as in previous years, Spain participated in negotiations on the draft with flexibility. She criticised the practice of releasing programme budget implication statements so late before voting. The increase in budget itself is concerning because it potentially undermines the transparent and coherent budget process in the UN, she said. The Third Committee is not the forum for such discussions. They should take place in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). Her bloc voiced hope that the strengthening of the capacity of the centre will contribute to the strengthening of human rights in the region.
The representative of Cameroon noted that human rights, including political, civil, economic, social, cultural and development rights, must be considered on an equal footing. On Central Africa, he reiterated that human rights are universal and have deep roots in the human condition. Further, the human being is a living being submerged in a particular time and space, which marks that person with cultural DNA. It is in this framework that human rights must be considered. Without infrastructure, there can be no enjoyment of human rights, he said. If there are no schools, there is no right to education. Without hospitals, there can be no right to health. The Centre will carry out its activities with all this in mind, he said. He expressed optimism for negotiations on the proposed programme budget implications in the Fifth Committee.
The representative of Canada supported the consensus adoption. The Centre provides many services to stakeholders in advancing human rights, has facilitated democratic elections and integrated human rights instruments into national plans, she said. As human rights are interrelated and all are entitled to them regardless of status, Canada stresses the importance of a holistic approach regarding cultural and social rights, she said, highlighting the note by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the topic. Expressing regret at the late circulation of the statement on programme budget implications, she called on the secretariat to do so earlier in the future.
The representative of Nigeria said that she could not overemphasize the importance of the Centre in the protection of human rights. It has been important in advancing security and combatting terrorism in the region. By increasing its capacity, it can advance rights further.
The representative of the United States voiced support for the draft, reaffirming that all human rights are universal. However, he voiced concern that operative paragraph 6 seeks to narrow the focus on social and cultural rights. Budget implications should be kept to a minimum and be backed by a solid analysis of results, he said.
The representative of Japan voiced support for the draft, but also expressed regret that programme budget implications were circulated late the previous night, which did not give States proper time to consider them. Japan will discuss this matter with other States in the Fifth Committee.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that economic, social and cultural rights must go hand in hand with civil and political rights, noting that operative paragraph 6 does not give them proper focus.
The representative of Djibouti said that the national human rights institution is vastly underfunded and is crumbling under the burden of such a shortage as well as a lack of human resources. Djibouti lends its support to the draft, he said, noting that he looks forward to the Centre’s revival. Reiterating concerns over the budget, he said that, without the support of the international community, progress on human rights could erode.
Next, the Committee turned to the draft resolution titled “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity” (document A/C.3/78/L.8/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
Introducing the draft, Italy’s delegate noted that new language strengthens the role of youth crime prevention policies and emphasizes the importance of follow-up mechanisms, environmental protection and combating sexual exploitation and abuse of children. The resolution also strengthens the role of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) regarding access to legal aid, anti-corruption measures, crime prevention and technical assistance policies related to youth and counter-terrorism.
The Committee then approved by consensus the draft, by which the General Assembly would urge Member States to develop national, subregional, regional and international strategies to address transnational organized crime and provide the fullest possible financial and political support to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime by widening its donor base and increasing voluntary contributions. It would also call on Member States to strengthen cooperation to counter threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters and radicalization to terrorism in prisons.
By other terms, the Assembly would call on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to further enhance technical assistance to build Member State capacity and strengthen cooperation against terrorism and money-laundering. It would further call on Member States to intensify all efforts to address the world drug problem through a comprehensive and balanced approach and urge them to take decisive steps against the illegal trade in wildlife.
Australia’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Switzerland, said the appropriate forum to debate and agree on cybercrime-related terms should be the upcoming concluding session of the Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes. It is not for this Committee to set a precedent. She also affirmed the importance of mainstreaming gender into crime prevention and criminal justice.
The Russian Federation’s delegate opposed the inclusion of controversial subjects without the support of all Member States. This year, Italy’s delegation changed its previous constructive approach and ignored the established practice of reverting to previously agreed language if agreement on new language is not possible. He disassociated from preambular paragraph 57 and operative paragraphs 30 and 43 for including the ambiguous concept of “survivors” alongside the conventional term of victims of trafficking.
Egypt’s representative reiterated its reservations and previous requests to delete the term “survivors”, which does not have a legal definition and does not create new legal obligations for States. She also expressed reservations on operative paragraph 93. Her delegation does not recognize “gender-related discrimination”, as it is an undefined term.
Colombia’s delegate emphasized that it is essential to advance cooperation to combat all forms of crime. The international community must show unity to deal with this challenge. Criminal trade, in particular, has not been sufficiently addressed.
The representative of the United States clarified that the resolution’s reference to firearms is consistent with and subject to the Firearms Protocol. On preambular paragraph 30 and operative paragraph 30, he expressed concern that the formulation risks conflating criminal use of the Internet and other technologies with their use for terrorist purposes, which are distinct. The United States interprets operative paragraph 63 to be consistent with the full text of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
Indonesia’s delegate stressed the need for consensus-based terms and regretted the inclusion of the term “survivors”.
Iran’s representative disassociated from any references to “survivors” and operative paragraph 57 for referring to a non-UN initiative, the Financial Action Task Force. The text still contains controversial terms that have not been agreed upon, and further discussion is required, she said. The norms and definitions of other countries should not be imposed on others.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Draft programme of work of the Third Committee for the seventy-ninth session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/78/L.72/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of El Salvador, speaking for a group of countries, emphasized the need for time between the General Assembly high-level week and the start of the Third Committee’s working session. This will ensure that delegations, in particular small ones, can organize their participation in the Committee. The time allocated for the start of the session has substantial implications for resolutions. This prevents progress on different agenda items on highly relevant topics addressed in the Committee. The dates should also take into account sessions of the Human Rights Council. She further expressed concern over the increased number of interactive dialogues, which reduces the time for substantive interactions with mandate holders of special procedures, compromising the quality of engagement. It is important to revisit the working methods of the Committee, she underscored.
The representative of Lebanon said that, coming from a small delegation as well, the year has been particularly challenging. Turning to interactive dialogues, she pointed out that small delegations cannot be on an equal footing with bigger delegations, also expressing hope that the workload can be lightened.
The representative of Tunisia echoed the delegate of Lebanon.
The Committee approved the draft by consensus, by which the General Assembly would approve the draft programme of work of the Third Committee for the seventy-ninth session of the Assembly as set out in the draft text. After the adoption, the Committee also considered programme planning.
In closing remarks, Chair Alexander Marschik (Austria) said that, throughout the eight-week session, delegates engaged in 56 formal meetings, 93 interactive dialogues, nine general discussions, 199 informal consultations and 523 explanations of position or vote, approving 62 draft resolutions and taking one decision on critical human rights and social issues.