Human Rights Council President Urges Governments to Protect Fundamental Freedoms in Word, Deed, as Third Committee Considers Report of Geneva-Based Body

The President of Human Rights Council urged Governments to ensure that efforts to protect fundamental freedoms existed “not just in words, but in practice”, as he presented his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, who had addressed the General Assembly plenary earlier in the day, said the Council adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.

The situation in Myanmar deserved special attention, he said.  The Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.

Turning to Syria, he said the Council had held interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and extended that body’s mandate for another year.

More broadly, he said the Council had established a new special procedures mandate ‑  the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members — and created a joint task force to bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources.  He also informed delegates he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council.  Any such intimidation was unacceptable.

In the ensuing debate, described potential areas for the Council’s reform, with Eritrea’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, stressing that the body should never be used as a tool for political purposes.  He also rejected the Council’s practice of “naming and shaming” and imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.

The representative of the European Union said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.

Earlier in the day, the Third Committee concluded its debate on refugees, with speakers from host countries highlighting the challenges of sheltering large numbers of displaced people.  The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his country had welcomed more than 318,397 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called for international support for local integration of the refugees.  Sudan’s delegate said the inflow of refugees into her country was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked, while Uganda’s delegate called for international support, as assisting refugees had over‑stretched its meagre resources.

Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, said 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian‑occupied areas of Ukraine.  Similarly, Georgia’s delegate said the ethnic Georgian population in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories.  Further, citizens were fleeing Ukraine due to crimes by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities.  The Russian Federation had offered voluntary donations to the High Commissioner for Refugees to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she added.

Also speaking in the discussion on refugees were representatives of Pakistan, China, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Argentina, Serbia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mali and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Also speaking in the debate on the Human Rights Council report were representatives of Paraguay, Egypt, Colombia, Eritrea, Japan, Iraq, Syria, Botswana, United States, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, El Salvador, Latvia, India, China and Morocco.

The representatives of Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Morocco and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 6 November to continue its work.


The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4216).

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) commended the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants but stressed that more must be done to find solutions to the refugee crisis.  Pakistan had sheltered millions of Afghan refugees in the past four decades, providing them with education, health care and jobs.  While the Prime Minister had said that they would not be repatriated forcibly, host countries had largely been taken for granted and their national resources stretched to cater to refugee needs.  He called for equal burden sharing and establishing long‑term solutions to address the root causes of displacement.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said the ethnic Georgian population living in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  Harsh restrictions had been imposed on education in the native Georgian language and Georgian classes had been prohibited in the Gali district and Tskhinvali region.  Further, the closure of entry and exit points across the occupation line by Russian occupation forces had also severely restricted the freedom of movement of local residents.  Those occupation forces had demolished the homes of internally displaced people from Georgia in the occupied Tskhinvali region.  She said talks on humanitarian issues in occupied regions, and on displaced people from Georgia, had been politicized by the Russian Federation.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said it was crucial to focus on both the symptoms and root causes of the refugee problem.  Root causes, such as social instability and imbalance in development, should be addressed by stepping up assistance for development.  There was also a need to resolve disputes through dialogue.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should summarize its experience and practices of pilot projects for implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and use the information for the formulation of the Global Compact for Refugees.  Negotiations of the Global Compact must be driven by Member States and should be advanced gradually.  She called on UNHCR to maintain its objectivity and neutrality and avoid interfering in internal affairs of countries and politicizing refugee protection mechanisms.

Ms. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the displacement crisis had worsened in recent years, threatening international stability.  Noting the High Commissioner’s focus on addressing its causes, she called on all States to cooperate in relevant efforts.  Pointing to the New York Declaration as a cornerstone to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants, she said Kuwait was providing assistance through pledging conferences, contributing more than $2 million to assist refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The situation of refugees without official documents was a priority, she said, and relevant documentation was being issued to those in Kuwait.

Ms. SUKKAR (Jordan) said those fleeing conflict and entering Jordan had reached 2.8 million, with a majority being Syrian nationals.  Those circumstances had severely stressed public services, impacting Jordan’s development trajectory.  The Government was pursuing long‑term plans to address the refugee crisis and had established a single national framework to address the matter.  Syrian refugees without required documentation had been allowed to enrol in school, and some 200 schools now operated double shifts to allow for the attendance of refugee children.  Health services were also being provided, including gender‑sensitive attention to women and girls.  The protracted nature of the regional crisis had pushed Jordan’s assistance capacity to its limits, she said, stressing the importance of burden sharing.

MARWAN FRANCIS (Lebanon) expressed deep concern over the protracted situation of forced migration and stressed that the crisis should not become “the new normal”.  The international community must work together, he said, noting that burden and responsibility sharing were fundamental to addressing forced migration.  The causes of the crisis must also be tackled, and assistance must account for the specific context of each situation.  The return of refugees to their homes also must be a priority, he affirmed, adding that Lebanon hosted 1.2 million Syrian refugees and 400,000 Palestinian refugees.  The mass influx was straining limited assistance capabilities, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts to engage with development partners.

Ms. MARTINIC (Argentina) called the adoption of the New York Declaration a step in the right direction, noting that while her country was committed to sheltering Syrian refugees, there was a need to establish sustainable regional and international solutions.  In November, Argentina would host two subregional meetings on implementation of the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action to address displacement trends.  While no country was free from the impact of refugee movements, developing countries had been most affected and there was a need to identify institutional frameworks that would help them both better address refugee needs, and particularly, the rights of women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and disabled refugees.

MARINA IVANOVIC (Serbia) said increasing numbers of refugees in his country had strained its accommodation capacities.  The large influx had also led to growing xenophobia and intolerance.  Serbia had offered refugees and migrants accommodation, food and health protection.  Its experience dated to the 1990s when thousands of people from the former Yugoslavia had fled to Serbia.  The country had also sheltered 200,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija since 1999.  The regional housing programme for refugees, implemented by four countries in cooperation with the European Commission, UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), was an example of partnership between host countries, countries of origin and international partners.

Ms. HWANG (Republic of Korea) said the global refugee crisis had overwhelmed humanitarian responses.  However, the New York Declaration was reason to be optimistic and the recent pledging conference for Myanmar was a timely event.  Calling for durable solutions to the crisis, she urged humanitarian actors to address the causes of displacement and redouble efforts to strengthen partnerships with the private sector and development agencies.  Underlining the principle of non‑refoulement, she said no country could cope with the refugee crisis alone.  Republic of Korea was the first country in Asia to adopt an independent refugee law and was implementing a pilot resettlement programme for refugees.

HARRISON W. MSEKE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), drew attention to the challenges facing host nations as they tried to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  A poor country, United Republic of Tanzania had nevertheless met its obligations, welcoming more than 318,397 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As part of the pilot roll‑out of the Framework, it would focus on admission and rights, emergency response, inclusion and self‑reliance, local integration of new citizens, third‑country options and voluntary repatriation and reintegration.  To the latter point, the Government would establish group processing for Congolese refugees, while ensuring that returns to Burundi were conducted in line with the principles of voluntary repatriation.  He requested international support for the local integration of 1,972 Burundian refugees who had been granted citizenship, referring to a concept note outlining proposed projects for the Kigoma region, which hosted the most refugees.

The representative of Ukraine said his country had faced numerous humanitarian challenges due to the Russian aggression.  Some 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, while many others lacked basic water and sanitation services. The humanitarian response plan was underfunded and while Ukraine was grateful for support from the High Commissioner’s Office, humanitarian aid into the country had been blocked by local authorities backed by the Russian Government.  Such human rights violations against ethnic Ukrainians had forced many to flee their homes.

The representative of South Africa, associating him with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that his country continued to “open our ports of entry to refugees and asylum seekers,” giving them the right of access to education, healthcare, jobs, legal aid and access to courts.  Voicing concern about the consequences of refugee outflows which continued to fall disproportionately on developing countries, he said that international cooperation in sharing the burden of hosting refugees had become critical in addressing such challenges.  In that regard, his the momentum gained towards the elaboration of the Global Compact for Refugees through discussions on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was encouraging.  One of its key outcomes had been to ease the pressure through burden sharing; thus, the Framework should ensure adequate, predictable and equitable sharing of such burdens aimed at drastically easing the pressure on hosts.  Underlining that the establishment of development funding mechanisms should be mindful of those principles, he voiced his strong support for close cooperation and joint planning between humanitarian and development actors.

SUPATTRA AUEAREE (Thailand) said the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration were complementary, expressing support for the Framework.  In turn, that Framework would generate inputs for the international community to draft the Global Compact on Refugees, on track for adoption in September 2018.  Reviewing Thailand’s efforts, she cited efforts by her Government and Myanmar to facilitate the voluntary return of 71 displaced persons from Myanmar.  Thailand supported UNHCR’s “#Ibelong” campaign to end statelessness by 2024, and had implemented measures which would enable around 80,000 children born in Thailand to apply for Thai nationality.  The Cabinet also had finalized and implemented a screening system for undocumented immigrants and refugees, to address the problem of mixed migration.

PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Group, said Africa continued to account for a large number of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.  Displacement had resulted from protracted conflict, he said, adding that the global refugee crisis was a stark reminder of the need to assume collective responsibility for the provision of humanitarian response.  Noting that Botswana was host to 3,500 refugees, he said the repatriation process must be re‑engineered to reduce turnaround times for those wishing to return home.  Stressing the need for long‑term solutions, he said financial assistance was central to addressing the crisis.

Ms. MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said addressing the needs of displaced persons required the resolution of armed conflict, adding that attention to the issue of internally‑displaced persons was far from sufficient.  Armenian aggression had resulted in large‑scale displacement in her country.  Azerbaijan was making progress in providing assistance to displaced persons, she said, adding that several United Nations agencies had reported positively on the matter.  She underlined that approaches to alleviate the plight of internally‑displaced persons would be incomplete if they did not place repatriation as their priority.

The representative of Morocco said the global humanitarian crisis was spreading, with Africa particularly affected by displacement.  He commended the efforts of sub‑Saharan States that had welcomed refugees and urged that assistance be given to them.  Several States were profiting from the refugee populations they hosted, which was the case in Algeria.  Refugees in Algeria had been stripped of their humanitarian rights, with camps in Tindouf falling victim to fraud.  Humanitarian aid was being diverted from refugee camps, he said, asking for a re‑evaluation of assistance being provided to refugees in the region.  Algeria could not continue to use refugees as a means to enrich itself, he affirmed.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) voiced concern that the High Commissioner’s budget was underfunded, citing a 75 per cent funding gap in the refugee response plan for Ethiopia.  Also concerning were the protection challenges related to human trafficking and smuggling, sexual and gender‑based violence and forced recruitment.  Assistance must go beyond repatriation, efforts which would require better collaboration between humanitarian and development actors in countries of origin.  He encouraged the expansion of resettlement opportunities as a means of international protection, stressing that partnership should remain the cornerstone of UNHCR’s approach.  International refugee protection should be guided by principle of burden and responsibility sharing, and support provided for least developed countries, which were hosts to the largest numbers of refugees

HELLEN CHIFWAILA, (Zambia), said her country hosted 57,000 refugees.  Since August, it had received some 3,360 Congolese refugees fleeing clashes between the forces of their Government and militia groups.  Noting that Zambia was ready to work with partners to provide assistance, she said the Government had introduced a law outlining provisions for the establishment of a refugee fund and refugee settlements.  Zambia was also considering the possibility of relaxing the encampment policy, in turn allowing refugees to engage in employment and achieve self‑reliance.  Around 20,406 refugees lived outside the settlements, she said, noting that the Government was providing education to refugee children in settlements.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said all States must promote the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons, and expressed concern over the welfare of refugees around the world.  The advent of Boko Haram’s insurgency had led to the establishment of camps for internally-displaced persons across Nigeria, which were ensuring access to life‑saving social services.  Displaced children were being granted access to education, with safe school initiatives in place.  Nigeria was carrying out a policy of civilian protection to better protect the population from armed conflict, he said.

DIZERY SALIM, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recalled that the Uganda Red Cross had participated in drafting the terms of reference for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework Secretariat.  While local actors had a strong understanding of circumstances, politics and culture relevant to the provision of refugee protection and assistance, global actors could do more to provide a quality, sustainable and principled response.  “There are times when we treat them as contractors instead of partners,” she said, and it was essential to boost their institutional capacity and provide core funding.  A good legal framework could strengthen the role of local actors and Governments alike.  IFRC had worked for more than a decade in more than 100 countries to strengthen domestic legal frameworks to facilitate responses to large‑scale emergencies.  On refugee resilience, she said participatory assessments should include host communities, which were often vulnerable themselves and whose generosity should not be taken for granted.

MOUSSA DOLLO (Mali) said his country was emerging from a socio‑political crisis which had forced thousands of citizens to flee their homes.  Mali attached great importance to refugee crises, and had introduced both a national policy and action plan to address the needs of internally displaced persons.  It also had worked with neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, to facilitate the return of Malian refugees.  With the Government working to establish peace and reconciliation in Mali, a tripartite agreement had resulted in 70,000 Malian citizens returning from Burkina Faso.  He thanked neighbouring countries for their help in sheltering Malian refugees.

Ms. SALIM (International Committee of the Red Cross) said that despite meaningful progress, millions of people continued to be displaced by armed conflict and other violence, many within their own countries.  More must be done to prevent such circumstances and support both displaced people and their hosts.  He highlighted the need to better respond to displacement in cities, welcoming that Special Rapporteur Jimenez‑Damary had focused on enhancing the participation of displaced people in decisions affecting them.  States should mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by drawing on good practices in addressing the needs of internally displaced people.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said the geographic location and cultural heritage of her country had attracted refugees for years.  Sudan was committed to addressing the needs of refugees but faced challenges, as their inflow was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked.  As such, the Government had enacted a law against human trafficking.  But Sudan had received little international assistance to deal with the refugee crisis.  The Government had provided the best treatment possible and would continue to provide refugees with health care, security and education, while working to facilitate their return.

KINTU NYAGO (Uganda) said the large influx of refugees from South Sudan and other countries into Uganda led to the hosting of a solidarity summit on the matter earlier this year.  Assisting refugees was over‑stretching the Government’s meagre resources, he said, adding that a grassroots‑based assistance programme was being implemented with help from the World Bank and United Nations.  Termed the “Uganda Model”, that programme faced land‑management and service‑access challenges, he said, urging the international community to provide support to ensure the approach accomplished long‑term solutions.

Right of reply

The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply in response to her counterparts from Georgia and Ukraine, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories, she said, adding that Georgia had ignored the needs of those forcibly displaced.  Further, the reason citizens were fleeing Ukraine was due to crimes committed by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities who had started a conflict in the country’s eastern regions.  The Russian Federation did not control republics and there were no Russian forces there.  It had offered voluntary donations to UNHCR to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she said, adding that the republic of Crimea was a subject of the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.

The representative of Algeria said to Morocco’s delegate on the question of refugees that Algeria was a host country for refugees.  There was no issue around Algeria’s calling into question any resolution adopted by the United Nations, he said.  It was Morocco that was “slithering away,” creating delays each time.  Algeria had been constant in its defence of self‑determination.  Morocco claimed innocence in the context of human rights, but in Western Sahara, its record was clear and confirmed, he said.  Morocco was an occupying power, not an administering power.  From the standpoint of international law, the territory was described in various United Nations resolutions.

The representative of Ukraine reminded the representative of the Russian Federation that in 2014, the latter had deployed so‑called “green men” to the territory of Crimea, and that an unlawful referendum had been held on the territory.  In 2014 the Russian Federation had fuelled war in Ukraine and now was proud of helping refugees from Ukraine.  Citing a Russian proverb, he said “no matter how many times you are going to say halva, it is not going to be any sweeter.”

The representative of Georgia said in response that the Russian Federation had misled the international community and undermined the rights of persons internally displaced from the occupied territories of Georgia.  Further, the Russian Federation had not complied with the United Nations Charter or resolutions on Georgia, and its violations had been noted by an international fact‑finding mission.  The Russian Federation bore responsibility for resolving the issue of internally displaced persons and improving the human rights situation in Ukraine.

The representative of Morocco, in response to Algeria’s delegate, said the latter country had demonstrated complete disregard for and ignorance of international law.  Algeria’s claim that Morocco had occupied the Sahara was false because the territory had always belonged to Morocco.

The representative of Algeria, responding to Morocco’s delegate, said the latter country had illegally occupied Western Sahara and Algeria was not alone in voicing that opinion.  The right to self‑determination should be exercised in accordance with international law and Algeria stood by that position.

The representative of Morocco, responding to Algeria’s delegate, said the people of the Sahara had pledged allegiance to Morocco.  Algeria sought to create a territorial problem because of its “hegemonic designs”.  Yet it had only highlighted the importance of self‑determination in the context of the Sahara, not in the context of other countries.

Human Rights Council Report

JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, presented the body’s annual report (document A/72/53), outlining its activities, resolutions, decisions and presidential statements adopted at its regular session, as well as its special session in December 2016.  Over the year, the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.  By the end of 2017, it would have reviewed 28 States’ human rights obligations under its universal periodic review.  Once again, the Council had seen greater participation by small island developing States and least developed countries, thanks to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund that had supported 27 delegates and fellows from 26 countries.

He said the situation in Myanmar deserved special attention and the Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.  On the situation in Syria, he said interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry had been held and the Commission’s mandate had been extended for another year.  He went on to describe other efforts related to South Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Libya, Georgia and Yemen.

In 2017, the Council had established a new mandate, namely the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and decided against extending the mandates of the Independent Experts on Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti.  He said 118 Member States and one Observer State had extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures, but he expressed concern that a few States had decided not to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  Calling on all States to provide full cooperation, he stressed it was also essential that civil society actors and national human rights bodies be provided with a safe space for their voices to be heard.

The Council had adopted several resolutions, with recommendations made to the General Assembly, he said, notably regarding Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It had requested the Assembly to submit the reports and oral updates of the respective commissions of inquiry on the situations in Eritrea and Burundi.  To bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources allocated to it, a joint task force had been established, which had suggested measures to help save time.  He also said he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council, emphasizing that any such intimidation was unacceptable.  He urged the international community to ensure that efforts to protect human rights existed “not just in words, but in practice”.

When the floor opened, the representative of Colombia asked how United Nations reform proposed by the Secretary‑General accounted for human rights issues.

The representative of Spain said the Human Rights Council was the primary specialized body for human rights in the United Nations system, adding more work was needed to improve coordination between the relevant agencies in New York and Geneva.  She said resources had fallen short of meeting the Council’s needs for 2018 and suggested streamlining upcoming meetings.

The representative of Japan said the Council must be subject to constant review to better meet the needs of people worldwide.  The General Assembly should pay attention to reviews of the Council and asked what priority areas had been identified in that regard.

The representative of Eritrea asked what the Human Rights Council was doing to ensure attention was being given to all rights issues, especially with regards to financing.

The representative of Hungary, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council constituted the best universal framework to protect basic rights.  Noting the needs of vulnerable groups, he called for the de‑politicization of its work.

The representative of Latvia stressed the importance of strengthening ties between the Council and the General Assembly.  Referencing reprisals against people cooperating with United Nations human rights agencies, she asked what could be done to ensure Organization‑wide action to mitigate reprisals.

The representative of Switzerland said civil society played a pivotal role in strengthening rights and asked what obstacles had been encountered in protecting persons cooperating with the Council.  She also asked how the protection of those persons could be strengthened and what working relations should be established among relevant agencies.

The representative of Germany said the United Nations could benefit from closer interaction among its institutions.  Civil society representatives had a clear place in the Council’s work and he asked how those wishing to cooperate with it could effectively be protected from reprisals.

The representative of Austria noted the importance of responding early to emerging crises and said the Council had a broad role to play in the Secretary‑General’s prevention agenda.  He asked how the Council could contribute to those efforts.

The representative of Australia said human rights and prosperity went hand‑in‑hand and committed his Government to enhancing the Council’s effectiveness.  Turning to management reform, he asked how the Council’s work could be streamlined.

The representative of Lichtenstein asked how the Council could strengthen engagement with other relevant agencies.

The representative from the European Union said he valued the independence of the Council’s work and its engagement with civil society.  He asked how the universal periodic review process could be improved, and how Member States could address difficulties in sourcing Council meetings.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with United Nations human rights institutions and asked how the Council’s working methods could be improved.

The representative of Norway welcomed the Council’s autonomy and said that combating discrimination promoted stability.  Expressing concern over the Council’s increasing workload, he asked how work could be made more efficient.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council was performing well, but questions remained regarding the promotion of universal participation in its work.  He asked how Member States and observers could foster a more inclusive Council.

The representative of South Africa said the Council’s status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly had been maintained in relevant resolutions and attempts to review the Council should only be done through the relevant framework.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community must take on abuses wherever they occurred, and called on all countries, particularly new and existing Council members, to cooperate with the Special Procedures.  He asked how the States could best protect civil society space at the Council and, in turn, how the Council could support the mainstreaming of human rights across the United Nations system.

The representative of Bahamas asked for an evaluation of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and for reflections on what impact small developing countries such as the Bahamas could have on the Council’s work.

The representative of Iraq said human rights reports should be presented in a periodic manner, and asked if the legal framework must be strengthened in the context of pursuing terrorist groups committing war crimes and genocide.  He also wondered how States could be encouraged to improve their interaction with the Council.

The representative of Indonesia asked about strategies for ensuring that genuine dialogue with the Council was sustained.  Human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  They must be treated in a fair and equal manner, and those principles should guide the Council’s work.

The representative of Guatemala acknowledged the importance of strengthening the Human Rights Council, and his country would continue to support its work in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  He asked how Member States in New York could ensure better coordination between the Third Committee and the Council.

The representative of Argentina said there should be smooth cooperation between New York and Geneva, expressing concern about reported attacks on mandate‑holders and a lack of cooperation with them by Member States.  All States must respect for the Council’s independence.  Argentina urged all to bolster cooperation with Special Procedures, and States to uphold their reporting commitments.

Mr. MARTELLI responded to questions about reform by stressing the importance of information flow.  The international community must consult at the grass‑roots level on how suggested reforms could take place.  Underscoring the importance of implementing resolutions, he said they must reach communities and local governments.  On the issue of resources, he said the Human Rights Council had started to limit speaking time, among other measures.  The universal periodic review was a valuable resource that States could not lose or waste, he said, noting that many countries voluntarily presented midterm reports in advance of deadlines.  Parliaments must be included in human rights work, as they ensured that new international legislation could be transposed into domestic law.

The United Nations human rights system was an admirable one, he said, noting that in the previous cycle of meetings, 900 interventions had been made by civil society.  Emphasizing the importance of accurate information, he said States must not politicize the Human Rights Council, though the world was politicized; they must work according to universality and respect for the legal framework.  On the links between New York and Geneva, he noted that there were procedures in place that allowed discussion to take place before decisions were taken by the 47 countries voting in the Human Rights Council.  Prioritization remained crucial, but ultimately, complementarity between New York and Geneva existed and must be bolstered.  The goal was to improve decision‑making in a more holistic fashion in a future‑oriented perspective.  Human rights work would never fade from the agenda; it was a process.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed that the Council’s mandate must be driven by the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue free from politicization, selectivity and double standards.  The universal periodic review was the pillar of the Council’s work, she said, calling for the adequate funding of mechanisms that would allow States to implement Council recommendations.  Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, she commended the Council’s work in the area of practical enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  Fulfilling those rights was key to eradicating extreme poverty, she assured.

The African Group prioritized dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil human rights obligations, she said.  Meeting those obligations required recognizing that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted violations of human dignity, she said, voicing concern over the apparent “hierarchy of rights”.  She also expressed concern over attempts to undermine the Third Committee’s mandate by having the Council’s report submitted to the General Assembly without the Committee’s endorsement.  To that end, the Africa Group would continue to present its annual resolution on the Council’s report, she assured.

CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union delegation, said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate to help prevent rights violations must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.  Underscoring the importance of the Council’s independence, he strongly opposed any attempts to undermine its institutional position within the United Nations.  In Syria, the Council’s efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity were crucial, he said, also describing its work related to Yemen, Sri Lanka and its assistance to other countries including Haiti, Libya and Mali.

The European Union condemned violence, harassment, intimidation, reprisals or threats thereof to civil society and human rights defenders, he said.  Noting that Council members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, he urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with the international expert group, and Burundi to do likewise with the Commission of Inquiry.  The European Union welcomed the Council’s establishment of an Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission to Myanmar, as well as the extensions of the Special Rapporteur mandates addressing human rights in Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Belarus, as well as the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that during its membership on the Council, his country had worked to promote productive dialogue and championed several initiatives to benefit all people.  Paraguay had pursued initiatives to strengthen monitoring of implementation to accomplish the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  He underscored the importance of appropriate national rights protection mechanisms and assistance from the United Nations to promote and protect human rights of all people.  Rights must be enjoyed in a just and equitable fashion, he said, underscoring the need to strengthen the Council through the provision of necessary resources.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council could only work effectively if its efforts were applied in the context of genuine inter‑Governmental dialogue.  The Council’s mandate was outlined by the General Assembly and he expressed concern over efforts to alter its mission.  There was a need to streamline the Council’s work and he affirmed the interdependence of all rights, including the right to development, which must be pursued on equal footing.  He welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development.

MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia) insisted that efforts were needed to streamline the number of resolutions considered by the Council.  The body helped to advance respect for all rights, notably by strengthening the structures that protected those rights.  Still, colossal challenges remained, she said, welcoming the start of the third universal periodic review cycle.  The review process could foster global cooperation on human rights issues, she noted, commending implementation of recommendations made during the review cycles.  Pointing to Colombia’s recent peace agreement, she expressed the need to promote human rights in rural areas and support gender‑specific approaches.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group, underscored the importance of ensuring the Human Rights Council was not used as a tool for political purposes, noting that it had been established to address the manipulation and double standards characterizing the Commission on Human Rights.  Eritrea rejected the practice of “naming and shaming” and of imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.  It was unfortunate that the Council continued to be embroiled in a regional conflict, she said, singling out the universal periodic review as the appropriate forum for discussions.  Human rights were interrelated and indivisible, but some countries continued to ignore economic, social and cultural rights in favour of civil and political rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan) said his country had been promoting and protecting human rights in the Asia‑Pacific region, sponsoring country‑specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council.  The international community should render the Council more effective and efficient, and it was worth considering a review of the schedules, frequencies and procedures of the human rights mechanisms as a whole, he said.  As Special Procedures were essential functions, a review of them by a third party could be helpful to improving their quality and efficiency.  Indeed, the Council was becoming ever more important and should keep updating itself.

ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country’s Constitution ensured all people were equal under the law.  As the international war on terror persisted, Iraq understood the consequences of terror and vowed to remain at the forefront of the fight.  Social problems like poverty and injustice were at the root of negative phenomena across the world, he said, urging efforts to “dry up” sources of terror.  He called for implementation of programmes that countered exclusion and enhanced human rights in all countries as a means to spread a culture of acceptance.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) expressed opposition to the Council President’s report and in particular to sections referring to Syria.  The report threatened the credibility of the Council and universal periodic review, he said, condemning efforts to politicize human rights issues.  Noting that the President had gone beyond his mandate, he said the Council had failed to identify Syria’s efforts to combat terror, as well as the negative effects resulting from unilateral measures imposed against it by certain Member States.  The President also had failed to condemn violence in Yemen caused by Saudi Arabia, he said, objecting to selectivity in addressing human rights.

Mr. GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council’s work load continued to grow, threating efforts to mitigate rights violations.  The increased scope of the agenda called for reflection on how to effectively use resources.  Botswana had held multi‑stakeholder consultations in drafting human rights legislation and was drafting a bill to transform the Ombudsman’s office into a hybrid national human rights institution.  The universal periodic review and national efforts had strengthened the bridge between the State and civil society, he assured, stressing that holistic approaches were vital to preventing rights violations.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) said the Council’s credibility had been damaged by the presence of members with poor human rights records and hostility to its primary mission, as evidenced by the election of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Reform of its agenda was needed.  All States must work to strengthen the Council through positive action in New York and Geneva, she said, underscoring that civil society must be able to engage with the United Nations without fear of retaliation.  The United States was appalled by direct threats of retaliation, including by Human Rights Council members; Special Procedures had also reported on reprisals.  The international community must do more to put end to such threats.  The Council must be a voice for people fighting for human rights, and as such, must have members committed to human rights.

CASTILLO SANTANA (Cuba) said the Human Rights Council had been established out of a need to tackle double standards and political manipulation, all traits characterizing the defunct Commission.  Yet, the trend to impose selectivity and double standards was concerning; cooperation and respectful dialogue should steer the Council’s work.  Special Procedures mandate‑holders should also observe the Code of Conduct.  As long as an unjust and exclusive international economic order persisted, along with unilateral coercive measures and blockades, the Council must demand the end to those practices.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) affirmed her country’s commitment to constructive dialogue on human rights issues in the Human Rights Council.  Yet, the Council was being exploited for political purposes, and politicization was eroding the benefits of the universal periodic review.  Stressing that the Council had been developed to ensure impartiality, she said country‑specific resolutions only fomented confrontation.  They diverted resources that could be used to promote human rights and she disassociated herself with sections of the Council report referring to Iran.  She underscored the role of the Council in confronting discrimination and terrorism, and urged it to raise awareness of the destructive power of terrorists and their supporters.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, expressed support for the Council’s mandate.  Emphasizing that it should be carried out in line with the principles of cooperation and dialogue free from politicization and double standards, he said Algeria had presented its third universal periodic review in 2017, and voiced support for that mechanism’s neutral and cooperative approach to reviewing countries’ human rights situations.  Because economic rights were as important as political and civil rights, he stressed that the Council should consider questions regarding the right to food, the effects of foreign debt and the impact of unilateral coercive measures.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, underlined his country’s role — as the largest democracy in Africa — in formulating key international human rights policies and agendas.  Noting that Nigeria was a State party to such instruments, and that it had recently been re-elected to the Council for the 2018‑2020 term, he cited the 1996 creation of a National Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with Government obligations.  In addition, Nigeria had put in place a national action plan on human rights and a national consultative forum to articulate the means of fulfilling recommendations adopted by the Government during various review cycles of the Council’s machinery.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador) said human rights were a state policy for his country and a pillar of its foreign policy.  El Salvador had ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child pertaining to Communications Procedures.  It also had reformed the family code to prohibit child marriage.  As a Human Rights Council member, El Salvador had championed the rights of migrant children and adolescents, presenting a resolution adopted by consensus on that subject.  While a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, the Council had its own remit, reflected in the fact that civil society was involved in its work.

Ms. GINTERE (Latvia), associating herself with the European Union, said the international community must ensure the Council was able to respond to challenges in an effective and timely manner, noting that her country had served as a member for the past three years, advocating for gender equality and freedom of expression both online and offline.  It was heartening that the number of standing invitations to Special Procedures had increased, and she pressed all States to ensure genuine cooperation with them.  The Council faced a growing workload, challenging its ability to respond to crises.  Latvia supported initiatives aiming to strengthen its effectiveness, emphasizing that Member States must not only criticize the Council but renew their political will.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said a main responsibility of the Council was the timely response to gross rights violations.  Greater attention must be paid to the development of conceptual approaches to abuses such as crimes against humanity and genocide.  He commended the Council’s special procedures and universal periodic review, saying they promoted protection of rights across the world.  The cooperation of all relevant human rights actors was needed to ensure that review processes were transparent and that States were accountable for their actions.  Expressing appreciation for the Council’s contributions in addressing the situation in the occupied Crimean peninsula, he said Russian‑backed terrorists were conducting a war against the people of Ukraine and called for an impartial assessment of all rights violations.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the Human Rights Council had the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, and as such, should serve as an effective platform for constructive dialogue.  The Council faced multiple challenges, including confrontation and politicization of its work, he said, adding that different types of human rights were not being promoted in a balanced manner.  Noting that some special procedures were going beyond their terms of reference, he underscored the need to enhance the Council’s credibility and urged it carry out its work according to its mandate.

Ms. MOUFLIH (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group, said the Council had become the principal United Nations body in charge of human rights, and had made technical assistance one of the foundations of its work.  Special procedures played an important role, providing the Council with expertise on thematic issues.  The international community had an obligation to protect the Council from being used for other reasons.  The increasing importance of human rights required an active Human Rights Council with increased visibility, she said, yet there had been few references to its work in the media.  The Council should adopt a media strategy to increase the visibility of its work.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the allegation of the European Union’s delegate, stressing that non‑interference in the internal affairs of other countries should be strictly observed.  He also rejected the Council’s resolutions because the body was completely politicized and had no relevance to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The most serious rights violations were being committed in European countries.  The European Union should focus on its own deplorable human rights situations, rather than on non‑existent issues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.