Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural)

Note: Owing to the liquidity crisis impacting our Organization, only a partial summary of statements made in today's meetings of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) is available at this time. The complete summary will be issued later as Press Release GA/SHC/4279.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights today (for background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4266).

Human Rights Council Report

COLY SECK, President of the Human Rights Council, presenting the annual report (document A/74/53), said the Council met in three regular sessions and discussed a range of topics, focusing on those new to the agenda, including the human rights situations in Nicaragua, the Philippines and Venezuela. It decided to create a new fact finding mission and will submit a report in 2020. The Council also addressed discrimination against women and girls in the areas of sport, equal pay and the right to development, and continued its focus on technical assistance and capacity building in Cambodia, Georgia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.

Noting that through the universal periodic review, Member States pool best practices for fulfilling their human rights commitments, ensuring impartiality and objectivity, he said all Member States have been reviewed twice, with the third cycle having begun in 2017. Such participation bears witness to their political will, he said, underlining the links among the universal periodic review, technical assistance and capacity building. The Council's high level segment in February and March likewise offers a platform for outlining human rights policies.

He commended efforts by least developed countries and small island developing States to participate in the Council, noting that the special trust fund for these groups allowed for the involvement of 33 delegates from 32 of such countries, including 11 small island developing States that do not have permanent representation in Geneva. Based on positive results in the Caribbean region, the trust fund will organize a workshop for the Pacific region in Fiji in November. To enhance access for persons with disabilities, eight Council meetings featured sign language interpretation and direct captioning, he said, as opposed to one in 2011, noting that work by the task force formed in 2011 to improve such access is fully aligned with the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy. He stressed the need to maintain civil society's involvement in the Council's work, and amid allegations of reprisals and intimidation of those cooperating with United Nations human rights mechanisms, to end any such acts.

[Summary of interactive dialogue to come.]

Statements

JORUNDUR VALTA�SSON (Iceland), on behalf of the Nordic Baltic countries, said that two of the eight Nordic Baltic countries are members of the Human Rights Council, while others aspire to serve on it or have already done so. The Council can be more efficient and effective, and aspects of its work should be reformed; however, he said, we have not lent our voices to the chorus of disapproval. The Council has proven itself to be a crucial forum this year. He outlined a number of important resolutions it has passed in 2019, including on the situations in Venezuela and Yemen, as well as on environmental human rights defenders, with the situation in Saudi Arabia being addressed through joint statements. He stressed that mirroring and building on these efforts in the Third and Fifth Committees is of utmost importance.

NATALIE COHEN (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, said that while being a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, a large majority of the Council's decisions are taken autonomously and immediately implemented. Where necessary, the Third and Fifth Committees can act comprehensively and quickly on the decisions taken by the Council. However, it is the responsibility of the Assembly plenary to take action on the Council's report, addendum and recommendations. It is not for the Committees to reopen these decisions, she said.

CHAN AYE, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, said Council resolutions on the human rights situation in his country adopted during its fortieth and forty second sessions were crafted with a clear intent of bringing more international pressure to bear on undermining its sovereignty and integrity. It would also serve the purpose of sowing seeds of mistrust and further polarization among the diverse communities in Rakhine state, he added. This politically motivated action wastes scarce United Nations resources, especially given the ongoing liquidity crisis. Despite Myanmar's opposition to the establishment of the country specific mechanism, it has cooperated with the Council since 1992. The Special Rapporteur visited Myanmar six times, from 2014 to 2017. However, Myanmar terminated its cooperation with the current Special Rapporteur when her attitude became totally unbalanced and biased. The Government will continue to work with the Secretary General's Special Envoy who has visited the country eight times since 2018, he said, pressing the Council to focus on enhancing technical cooperation, notably by helping countries develop their national institutions.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom), turning first to Venezuela, called for a robust international response to the Maduro regime's rights violations and welcomed the Council's fact finding mission. On Syria, he expressed concern about appalling abuses that continue to be exposed and welcomed the investigation by the board of inquiry into attacks on civilian infrastructure. On Sudan, he welcomed the extension in September of the mandate of its Independent Expert, and of the planned opening of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Khartoum. On Myanmar, he urged all international partners to respond to findings of domestic and international accountability mechanisms and welcomed the Government's stated commitment to develop its human rights approach with the Special Representative. More broadly, he expressed support for the mandate on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, recalling that the United Kingdom had raised concerns over the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in Chechnya in March.

PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India) said the Council's use of the universal periodic review has encouraged States to recognize and address gaps in human rights protection. The mechanism must be strengthened by allotting sufficient time for fruitful exchanges of views. The special procedures are important in fostering genuine dialogue to strengthen the capacity of Member States, she said, underscoring the need for mandate holders to remain truly independent and impartial, and carry out their tasks with responsibility and sensitivity, in line with their mandates. The selection and appointment of mandate holders should be based on equitable representation of different legal systems. The Council should keep prioritizing its work to use its limited resources most efficiently. India's engagement with the Council has been guided by the significance of consultation among States in framing the international human rights discourse and action.

[Summaries of statements by Yemen and Bangladesh to come.]

TAIMUR AL SAID (Oman), pointing to conventions ratified by his country � including on the rights of the child, children in armed conflict, trafficking in children and child pornography � said various committees have been established to promote these instruments. Among other efforts, he highlighted Government programmes to improve the quality of life and health of those with special needs, including widows, orphans, people with disabilities and the elderly, underscoring Oman's commitment to international conventions and to making progress.

MOHAMED ABDELRAHMAN MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt) welcomed the proposals put forward regarding the review of the Council's work, which are in line with the institution building package. Any agreement reached on such measures should respect the wide array of views and concerns of all Member States and be adopted by consensus. We express our concern at the continued polarization of the deliberations and work of the Council, he said, calling for upholding the principles of non politicization, non selectivity, objectivity, universality and international cooperation. We must refrain from targeting human rights situations in specific countries. All issues on the agenda must be treated equally. He affirmed the universality, interrelatedness and interdependence of all human rights, pointing to Egypt's initiatives within the Council focused on the rights of youth and protection of the family, as well as concerning terrorism and human rights.

Source: United Nations