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Full Participation of Youth in Decision-making Key to Shaping Brighter Future for All, Social Development Commission Hears as General Debate Continues

Younger generations must have readily available tools enabling their full participation in decision‑making arenas to better shape a brighter future for all, the Commission for Social Development heard today as it continued its general debate.

“We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world,” said a young delegate, briefing the Commission on discussions at the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum held 30‑31 January.  (See Press Release ECOSOC/6881.)  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent.”

While many young people had chosen the latter option and were now formulating new solutions across a range of sectors, she underlined the urgent need for more investment to involve youth in advancing the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization, among other things.

Boosting youth participation in efforts to shape a better world for all based on 2030 Agenda principles was a recurrent theme during the Commission’s day‑long general debate.  Many representatives and their youth delegates highlighted pressing concerns, from clean water access to quality education.  Some warned of new challenges to food and water security, given that by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, and over half of those urban dwellers would be under age 18.

Imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge and skills to do so, one of Germany’s youth delegates told the Commission.  To make that happen, he asked Member State representatives to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for jobs that did not yet exist.

His peer reminded delegates that young people’s inspirational visions could in fact guide policy in significant ways, as they largely believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.

“We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” Serbia’s youth delegate said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing 2030 Agenda targets related to education and poverty eradication.

Some young representatives described how they were already involved in development efforts, with some calling for further action to make them true agents of change.  Youth engagement in Bulgaria’s national and global processes had become a tradition, with young people having an important role to play in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, said youth delegates from that country.

Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they went on to say, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.  They underlined that young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, contributing to promoting awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.

Throughout the day, many delegates voiced their recognition of the power and potential of younger generations.  Afghanistan’s representative said because his country recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, a national youth policy was now working to address high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.  Similarly, Senegal’s delegate said a national fund had invested $411 million to enhancing youth employment opportunities, and Qatar’s representative said a recently signed memorandum of understanding between his Government and the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people, in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.

Also participating were representatives and youth delegates of Morocco, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Romania, Finland, Cuba, Mali, Cabo Verde, Botswana, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Italy, Monaco, Maldives, Cameroon, Benin, Brazil, Turkey, China, Zambia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Myanmar, Honduras, Iraq, Iran, Austria, Nepal, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova, Colombia, Sweden, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Libya, Nigeria, United States, Azerbaijan and Jamaica, as well as the Holy See.

Representatives of Soroptimist International and the International Federation on Ageing also spoke.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 February, to continue its work.

Briefing by Youth Delegate

RUXANDA RENITA, a youth representative speaking on behalf of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, briefed the Commission on the ongoing United Nations Youth Forum, stressing:  “We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world.”  More than 50 million young people around the world were migrants or refugees in search of a new home, she said, adding that for many of them basic services, such as the right to safe water, seemed a distant dream.  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent,” she said, noting that many young people had chosen the second option and were now formulating new solutions, especially in the social and environmental arenas.  As an immigrant herself, she had jumped from continent to continent in search of a home where all her human rights would be realized.

In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, young people had reaffirmed the basic right to safe water and sanitation, identifying the excessive burden women faced in those areas due to social taboos around menstrual hygiene, she said.  Participants had identified a need to improve energy access to all populations and enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of energy systems in remote areas around the world.  Cities also needed to become more youth- and gender‑responsive, enhanced efforts to combat social exclusion and ensure the safety of women and young people.  A breakout session on Sustainable Development Goal 12 had spotlighted the role of social entrepreneurs, and youth present for that discussion had underlined the need to use both formal and non‑formal education, as well as better knowledge‑sharing, to improve the world’s consumption and production patterns.

Among other things, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization.  Within the United Nations system, youth participation had increased in recent years, as had the awareness of the important role young people would play in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, she said, more investment in such initiatives was still urgently needed.

Statements

SIDY GUEYE, Permanent Secretary of Ministry for Family, Women and Gender of Senegal, associating himself with the statements previously delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, outlined programmes aimed at reorienting Senegal’s strategies to achieve a minimum 75 per cent health care coverage and the reduction of outward migration.  A national fund devoted $411 million to enhancing employment opportunities for youth, and would be increased in upcoming years.  National funds also offered support to entrepreneurs, and the country had declared 2018 a year of social development.  The “National Agency of the Green Wall” had established a programme against decertification, working to reduce poverty and create jobs.  Other Government ministries and agencies worked to ensure that rural populations remained independent and successful in their production activities.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ, Director General of Planning and Consolidation of the Ministry for Economy of Afghanistan, said the threats of violent extremism and terrorism in his country continued to hamper efforts to combat poverty.  However, the Government and people remained committed to move Afghanistan forward towards sustainable development, peace and prosperity.  Among other priorities, the Government was working to boost women’s control over economic assets, create 1 million new jobs across various sectors, and increase production in order to substitute Afghanistan’s imports with domestic products.  Noting that returning refugees and displaced persons were migrating in large numbers to the country’s’ cities, putting more pressure on local governments, he said the national Government had responded through accelerated efforts to increase job opportunities for returnees, and thereby improve their self‑reliance.  It was also working to provide every Afghan village with access to basic services and the mechanisms for their delivery, as well as critical infrastructure, which would also create many new jobs.  Afghanistan recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, and had therefore put in place a National Youth Policy that was now working to address the country’s high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.

ABDESSAMAD LAURANI, Director of Social Development, Ministry for Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development of Morocco, said national progress over the last 15 years had been seen in areas such as human rights due to better investments in infrastructure and targeted programmes.  Poverty had been reduced, basic services now reached all citizens and youth had been integrated into social development policies.  Industrial, tourism and artisanal sectors had been developed alongside gains seen in agricultural and fisheries, with job creation that encouraged youth to undertake a spirit of entrepreneurship.  Water resources had been addressed through waste management and renewable energy efforts.  Vulnerable groups had benefited from policies addressing gender equality, child protection and protections for persons with disabilities.  A new social registry aimed at combating poverty, institutional reform was improving coordination to ameliorate social assistance programmes and national plans considered youth, literacy and immigration.

A youth delegate from Germany said young people’s inspirational visions could guide policy in significant ways, as they believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.  Asking delegates how they viewed the world when they had been young themselves, for instance, dreaming of a bright future or falling in love with someone whom they should not have due to various forms of discrimination, she wondered whether they would have liked the international community to help them realize their visions.

A youth delegate from Germany asked Member State representatives to imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge to do so.  He then asked them to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for future jobs that did not exist today.

PATRYCJA PUZ, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, said family development and security form pillars of the Government’s policies.  A flagship scheme of family allowance had allowed extended investments in children’s education while a housing subsidy programme was reaching those in need.  Social policy on older persons was being developed to set standards for assistance from welfare institutions.  Medium- and long‑term actions aimed at advancing progress on responsible development were expected to decrease the number of people living in poverty.  Actions also aimed to improve health care services.

PASCAL FOUDRIERE, Deputy Head of the European and International Affairs Unit of the Ministry for Solidarities and Health of France, associating himself with the European Union, said many countries had seen accelerated ageing in their populations and some remained unable to adapt their policies accordingly.  Europe in particular must adapt its Government programmes to the needs of the twenty‑first century, he said, describing poverty eradication as a central goal and underlining the need for commitment at the highest level.  National level social policies must be mutually strengthening and fully aligned with other measures, including economic ones, and such fully integrated approaches must also involve researchers, civil society, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others on the ground.  New approaches must be identified to overcome the failures of past policies, he said, also calling for more equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.  Ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games to be hosted in France in 2020, the country had invested some 870 million euros in improved transport and accessibility, and was increasing job creation and hiring.

NAJAT DAHAM AL ABDALLAH, Director of Family Affairs of Qatar, expressing her country’s commitment to inclusive social development and poverty eradication, said it promoted the creation of environments conducive to youth skills development and their participation in public life.  Among other things, Qatar had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.  Underlining efforts currently under way to ensure that the 2020 Football World Cup — to be held in Qatar — would be inclusive for all people, including those with disabilities, she went on to note that the country’s Vision 2030 plan was fully aligned with the global 2030 Agenda.  Nevertheless, Qatar faced serious challenges following the June 2017 application of unjust, unilateral economic sanctions against it.  Describing those measures as major violations of the economic, social and human rights of the Qatari people, she said they had disproportionately affected women and children, prevented students from continuing their university studies, and restricted the critical travel of Qatari citizens to other countries.

RALITSA DIKANSKA and ASSYA PANDZHAROVA, youth delegates of Bulgaria, said they were proud their country included youth empowerment and participation as one of its four main priorities in its political agenda.  Youth engagement in national and global processes had become a tradition for Bulgaria, with young people having an important role in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Their involvement was essential to eliminate poverty and all forms of inequalities and discrimination.  Young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, helping to promote awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.  Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they said, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.

JAHKINI BISSELINK, youth delegate from the Netherlands, said by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, 60 per cent of which would comprise people under age 18 who would face new challenges such as food and water accessibility.  Empowering youth as agents of change would help to address those challenges, she said, suggesting ways to do so, including stimulating cross‑cutting youth participation, promoting inclusive dialogue and enabling local talent development.  Elaborating on those recommendations, she urged all State and non‑State actors to start organizing and stimulating youth participation from local to global levels.  As a young person who had been a news reporter at age 11 and a museum employee at age 16, she said such opportunities in rural and urban areas, especially for girls, stimulated talent development.  Urban and rural areas needed vibrant local youth participation to realize their full potential to create resilient communities.

SAMEDIN ROVCANIN, youth delegate from Serbia, said youth inclusion was critically important in efforts related to the 2030 Agenda, pointing at the dreamers who had first conceived of the Millennium Development Goals.  “We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” he said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing the Goals related to education and poverty eradication.  Commending the United Nations and its Member States for including his peers in related discussions, he said Serbia had taken important steps to address national challenges, including creating a road map for strategic cooperation in improving good governance, reducing poverty and protecting the environment.

IOANA COVEI, youth delegate from Romania, said that to address the Commission’s theme of inclusive, resilient and sustainable development, her country looked to an expanded definition of what it meant to be poor, one that looked not only at income or basic needs, but also at empowerment.  As the definition of a dignified life had evolved, poverty had come to include not only access to material resources but also to culture, political participation and the life of the community in general.  Youth was a time when people made important decisions in their lives.  For example, they could decide whether education was worth pursuing.  Increased financial support for young people with lower incomes was important, so that poverty was not an obstacle to accessing a universal right.

VLAD MACELARU, youth delegate from Romania, said that for young people with disabilities, unequal access to education could lead to a significantly higher rate of unemployment, and it was important to stress that much more should be done in terms of accessibility.  More training for teachers so that they could work with children with disabilities was essential to foster development.  Ethnic identity was another layer that could lead to income poverty and poverty in terms of access.  Obstacles to social development were connected and interdependent, and focusing on them separately diminished the potential for change.

KAI SAUER (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said recent global crises had shown that economic approaches had negatively affected not only social rights but also long‑term fiscal and economic policies.  In contrast, new momentum towards more integrated policies should lead to improved social conditions and poverty eradication.  Calling for determined and integrated action to implement the 2030 Agenda — and for more attention to the follow‑up processes and the full use of indicators — he said Finland was currently carrying out several major reforms and pilot programmes related to economic and social rights.  A basic income experiment, started at the beginning of 2016, had selected 2,000 random persons as a sample to receive basic income as a substitute for some basic benefits including unemployment allowance.  That basic income — fixed at 560 euros per month — was tax-free, and meant to encourage people to accept temporary and part‑time work, allowing for a more empowering and streamlined employment incentive system.  Based on its results, Finland would consider introducing basic income as a tool in its renewed social security system.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that in many countries, extreme poverty was still growing, and prospects for complying with Goal 1 were discouraging.  Political will was not enough, she said, emphasizing the need for material and financial resources, technology transfer and human resource training.  Developed countries must honour their commitments vis‑à‑vis official development assistance (ODA) and the international community must develop a genuine culture of solidarity.  A just international order must be promoted, protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries in the South must cease and developed countries must assume their historic responsibility for a serious environmental crisis.  She went on to note the progress Cuba had made in social development despite an economic, commercial and financial blockade that had gone on for nearly six decades.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the social needs of Mali’s people were a priority for its Government, which focused in particular on water, education, energy, health care and rural roads.  It was also focused on the social integration of older persons, persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as those who were victims of natural disasters or otherwise in need of humanitarian assistance, and broader efforts were also under way to reduce social risks.  Noting that 15 per cent of Mali’s national budget had been allocated to support the agricultural sector, surpassing the percentage mandated by the African Union, he said part of those funds were allotted as subsidies to farmers.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a strategic framework aimed at economic recovery and sustainable development in a Mali that was unified and at peace.  Included in that plan was a wide expansion of health insurance coverage and the establishment of a month of solidarity, to be celebrated annually in October, as well as additional efforts to support the most vulnerable.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said the world had recently seen progress in eliminating poverty, but “a long journey is ahead of us” in reducing the many inequalities that had emerged.  His country was committed to reducing poverty rates and had already made substantial progress during the Millennium Development Goal period.  The country’s strategic plan for the period 2017‑2022 was aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and prioritized inclusive economic and social development.  The needs of specific groups, including women, persons with disabilities and youth, were taken into account in that strategy as well as in national legislation.  Government measures also aimed to ensure the universal access to health care and social protection for elderly persons.  While domestic resources were central to funding all those measures, external partnerships also remained critical to helping Cabo Verde address its social issues and eradicate poverty.  In that context, he expressed concern that the country’s graduation from the least developed country category had excluded it from receiving much‑needed aid, and called on partners to continue to support the development efforts of graduated small island developing States.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that 1.1 billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2013.  Of the estimated 768.5 million people in the world living in extreme poverty, 390.2 million were in Africa.  In Botswana, it was estimated that 5.8 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty.  His Government had adopted several strategies, policies and programmes aimed at promoting sustainable development and eradicating extreme poverty.  A comprehensive social protection system that targeted the vulnerable and needy persons was also in place.  The Government had also created a Technical Devices Fund Levy, which promoted investment in the creative industries as an engine for job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification.  Funds had been allocated to promote arts, crafts and performances by local artists.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), citing his country’s progress in various social and economic development areas, said that as the world considered the future of social development, poverty eradication and the situation of least developed countries would be of particular concern.  Ensuring quality jobs, food security and nutrition and empowering people would be critical, he said, pointing out that Bangladesh had been enjoying a gradual but significant reduction in poverty, having seen a 6 per cent economic growth rate for more than a decade.  Bangladesh aimed to become a middle‑income country by 2021 and a developed nation after that.  Noting that its latest five‑year development plan was fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda, he said top priorities included the reduction of inequality through enhanced education programmes and social safety nets.  The country’s inclusive and “whole‑of‑society” approach targeted vulnerable groups and families in order to ensure that no one was left behind.  However, the major recent humanitarian crisis emerging from Myanmar — with over 1 million Rohingyas having arrived in Bangladesh, most since August 2017 — was posing considerable challenges that threatened to negatively impact Bangladesh’s development efforts.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77, warned that increasing vulnerability and exclusion, the persistence of unaccountable institutions and continuing conflicts and violence all threatened global development efforts.  That was even more true at a time when “the monster of social discrimination and exclusion based on religion, race, gender and ethnicity is raising its ugly head once again,” she stressed, adding that only realistic and determined social and economic policymaking and implementation could effectively combat poverty.  The Government of Pakistan had put in place people‑centred policies aimed at lifting people out of poverty, promoting fiscal inclusion, boosting agricultural growth, accelerating rural development and providing education opportunities.  The Pakistan Vision 2025 plan aimed to create new and better opportunities for the country’s people, and such initiatives as the Benazir Income Support Programme — a nationwide social safety net plan — provided support to vulnerable people.  Citing gender empowerment as another crucial element, she also drew attention to robust regional partnerships and examples of South‑South cooperation, such as the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said national efforts were advancing progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including through poverty eradication programmes and multisector projects guided by policies boosting job opportunities, increasing skills and ensuring women’s empowerment.  Government strategies and policies would continue to focus on health, education, housing and employment, she said, emphasizing that human rights‑centred approaches were shaping future efforts.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍS (Bolivia), endorsing the statement made by the Group of 77, said a global context of social crisis, exclusion, migration, climate change consequences and youth unemployment had demonstrated rapidly increasing income gaps nationally and globally.  Public policies in Bolivia had significantly reduced extreme poverty levels over the past decade, with a gross domestic product (GDP) that had more than doubled since 2005 alongside steady declines in school dropout levels and child mortality rates.  Laws, policies and efforts were addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, and gains had been made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Emphasizing Bolivia’s generous social spending programme, he said that before 2005, 82 per cent of the country’s oil wealth rested with transnational corporations and 18 per cent in national hands.  Today, those figures were reversed, which could serve as an example to others.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) commended the work and priority themes of the Commission in regard to helping States implement the 2030 Agenda.  Eradicating poverty would help to address the other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, he said, adding that Italy fully supported efforts to address the needs of groups such as women, migrants and children.  The vicious cycle of poverty must be overcome by building resilience and ending a culture of dependency.  Italy invested in young people as key drivers of change, including education programmes focused on human rights and the importance of intercultural dialogue.  Citing other efforts, he said persons with disabilities enjoyed protection under laws and innovative projects.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), noting that the 2030 Agenda goals had been based on the 1995 Copenhagen Programme of Action, raised three areas of concern — poverty eradication, health care and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  While progress had been achieved on the former, a new type of poverty in the form of nutritional or sanitary deprivation was emerging.  Access to education and decent work would help to reduce inequalities, particularly between rural and urban populations, by investing in the most disadvantaged.  Monaco also placed great importance on building effective health care systems that reached the most vulnerable.  Turning to the needs of older persons, she said Monaco supported inclusive societies to foster sustainable development.

GEORGINA GALANIS, Soroptimist International, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Global Citizenship 2030, said members promoted the values of the United Nations.  The 2030 Agenda aimed at freeing the world of poverty and the correction of current inequalities in a sustainable manner.  Global citizens aimed at empowering themselves in their communities, she said, emphasizing the need to take action on eliminating poverty and meaningfully addressing related pressing concerns.  The root causes must be addressed, including the impoverishment of values that had led to, among other things, militarism and greed.  To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, actions must centre on respect for one another, she said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said poverty was a common enemy of civil society and eliminating it should be a shared goal.  Turning to the 2030 Agenda targets, he said national investments in education, housing and health were part of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind.  Providing some examples, he said a national elderly policy provided financial and emotional support to older persons and the 2016 Gender Equality Act was addressing related objectives.  Eradicating poverty required investing in the greatest resource:  people, he said, adding that the most vulnerable must be reached with effective partnerships to craft shared solutions for a shared goal.

PAULINE IRENE NGUENE, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, said a “light of hope” was now emerging against the backdrop of numerous critical challenges around the world.  Those were due, in part, to important recent international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030 and the 2030 Agenda, among others.  The latter recognized that continued poverty was a “ticking time bomb”, she said, adding that Cameroon was taking a cross‑cutting approach within the context of people‑centred sustainable development.  Its projects aimed to create behaviour change, empower citizens, reduce poverty, improve solidarity, and boost the provision of social security to the most vulnerable.  Efforts were also targeting key sectors such as transport, infrastructure, housing and the extractive industries in order to create new jobs.  Social inclusion programmes were also in place, she said, noting that a wave of refugees fleeing attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group — along with a food crisis resulting from climate change — were creating obstacles to Cameroon’s social development and its eradication of poverty.  “We must respect the commitments promised to poor countries,” she added, calling for international support and solidarity, and for all nations to overcome barriers to the eradication of poverty worldwide.

ZELMA YOLLANDE NOBRE FASSINOU (Benin), agreeing with other speakers that poverty eradication was one of the 2030 Agenda’s central goals, associated herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group.  The Secretary‑General’s report noted that the absolute number of persons affected by hunger around the world had increased in the last year, following about a decade of reductions.  Progress was even more hindered in least developed countries, and the eradication of extreme poverty required transformed economies, food security, safety and stability.  The “Benin Revealed” programme tackled the structural factors that impacted the most vulnerable.  Noting that some 41 per cent of her country’s population still lived below the poverty line, she pledged to permanently reverse that trend, including through bolstered job creation and better basic services.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said that, in his country, a central register with disaggregated data covering millions of families had helped to identify poverty and design universal programmes, policies and measures to combat it.  In particular, the Unified Social Assistance System had been created to support at‑risk families, and the Bolsa Família programme worked to empower women and enhance their participation in social and economic life.  Meanwhile, a minimum salary was guaranteed to all older persons and persons with disabilities whose own incomes did not cover their basic needs, and a new Happy Child Programme aimed to break the cycle of poverty.  Among other concrete proposals, he recommended the creation of a binding international instrument on the rights of older persons and a specific Sustainable Development Goal target on the promotion and protection of their rights.  Also voicing support for the family unit as a critical element of sustainable social development, he said the Government continued to fund additional programmes such as one seeking to end the violence that primarily affected young men of African descent.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), stressing that decent work and social protection policies were fundamental tools for the eradication of poverty, said ensuring access of persons with disabilities to basic social services and legal support were of paramount importance.  In addition, there was a need to raise awareness about the rights of older persons and to consider the new demographic realities of the ageing population.  Social development must also further women’s empowerment and ensure gender equality, while paying particular attention to Africa and the least developed countries.  Turkey was committed to building a more dignified and prosperous future for those countries, he said, noting that science, technology and innovation as well as the transfer of technology would play a crucial role in that regard.  Spotlighting the role of the dedicated Technology Bank, to be inaugurated this spring in Turkey, he went on to outline several national policies including its open door and non‑refoulement policies towards refugees such as those from Syria.

WU HAITAO (China) said that countries should incorporate the idea of inclusiveness and benefit‑sharing in their development strategies, as well as continuously improve institutional mechanisms that balanced efficiency and fairness.  His country advocated for and promoted the global endeavour to eradicate poverty.  Since 1978, it had lifted 700 million people out of poverty.  China supported the Commission in holding a symposium on persons with disabilities to monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda targets related to that matter.  Population ageing should be dealt with to enable every elderly person to enjoy life, and efforts were needed to mobilize society to cultivate the custom of respecting and caring for the elderly.  Guidance should be given to youth so that they could contribute to and benefit from social development, while the role of the family as the basic unit of society should be given full play in social development.  Family played a positive role in poverty eradication, employment promotion and social integration.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said over 700 million people lived in poverty globally, the majority of whom were in sub‑Saharan Africa and South Asia.  Her country remained committed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which was anchored on the eradication of all forms of poverty.  In order to address the limited access to education experienced by girls, the Government of Zambia continued to undertake measures to promote gender equality and the empowerment of young women, by ensuring equitable access to quality education.  In partnership with stakeholders, it also continued to prioritize the well‑being of persons with disabilities by enhancing accessibility and participation, as well as the mainstreaming of disability issues in national policies.

KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines) said her country’s people envisioned a future where no one was poor and everyone lived long, healthy lives in safe, vibrant and diverse communities.  Policies aimed at improving the overall quality of life and translating gains of good governance into direct benefits that empowered the poor and marginalized segments of society.  Providing examples of projects, she said efforts included cash transfers, engaging and empowering youth and addressing the needs of older persons and those living with disabilities.  Part of a campaign against illegal drugs included intervention services for illicit drug users and their families and communities, transforming those users into community volunteers, advocates and productive members of society.

CHULL-JOO PARK (Republic of Korea) said development gains had been uneven across countries and regions, with those remaining under the poverty line now even harder to reach.  In an effort to end poverty, the Government had addressed national challenges with efforts aimed at making improvements in various sectors by implementing measures such as an established minimum wage, protections for labourers and tailored social protection services such as childcare subsidies, expanding affordable university accommodation and pension benefits.  Among other projects, efforts targeted youth employment, which was an essential poverty eradication strategy, and policies served the needs of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Globally, the Republic of Korea, through United Nations agencies, had funded health‑related projects in developing countries around the world.

PHAM ANH THI KIM (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that to resolve the root cause of poverty, her country had instituted a national programme on sustainable poverty reduction, as well as a programme on new rural development.  Those efforts looked to raise income and ensure better access to health care, education, housing, clean water and sanitation for all of Viet Nam’s people.  New laws had also been enacted or amended to better promote social welfare for vulnerable groups, she said.  Like many developing countries, Viet Nam still faced numerous challenges in poverty eradication, including lack of resources.  As it was among the top five countries most affected by climate change, its people living in the most vulnerable areas faced the risk of returning to poverty.

HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar) said poverty eradication was inextricably linked to the achievement of sustainable development.  For its part, Myanmar had experienced decades of conflict and was still grappling with challenges.  Yet, the Government was focused on a development agenda that created an environment conducive to business and investments.  In social sectors, investments were being directed to provide health care, education and other programmes.  A new youth policy was enacted, a national electrification plan was being laid out and efforts were ongoing to build a prosperous, democratic nation.  Turning to the issue of Rakhine State, she said the Government had formed a committee on development and was carrying out recommendations to address concerns about the situation on the ground.

IRMA ALEJANDRINA ROSA SUAZO (Honduras) said ongoing efforts to achieve goals set out in the 2030 Agenda were tackling challenges related to eradicating extreme poverty.  A multidimensional approach must consider a range of issues, not just income.  In cases of middle‑income countries, many sectors in those populations faced similar challenges.  A national plan was addressing issues from renewable energy to infrastructure development.  Projects were improving the quality of education, reaching rural populations and addressing the needs of persons living with disabilities.  A national youth policy guided programmes aimed at improving the lives of the nation’s younger generations.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said poverty eradication was a development priority.  While Iraq’s national development programme aimed at reaching those goals, conflict and instability had affected results and stymied efforts.  Acts of war and terrorist attacks were forcing the displacement of persons and destroying natural resources.  Moving forward, Iraq had based its poverty reduction strategy on human rights, the provision of job training and the creation of a social safety net that included the private sector and civil society.  Iraq’s development strategy had adopted programmes aimed at boosting food production, improving health care coverage and quality and ensuring that services reached refugees and those returning home to Iraq.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Copenhagen Declaration and the 2030 Agenda had contributed to progress in social development.  Ending poverty was crucial to achieving all other development goals, he said, expressing concern that poverty remained and had even risen in recent years.  Political instability and war had led to a new emergence of poverty, especially among women and children, as was the case in the Middle East.  “Social development must not fall prey to political pressure,” he stressed, adding that the application of sanctions hindered all progress towards development.  Iran’s national development strategies focused on poverty eradication and the empowerment of women and female‑headed households.  Among other things, the Government was obliged to support provinces where per capita income was below the poverty line.  Iran’s experience demonstrated that adopting regional development plans that were tailored to meet local needs could effectively substitute older policies based on social assistance, he said, citing the Barakat Foundation — which sought to strengthen the self‑sufficiency of local populations — as one example.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) said that social cohesion was the main tool to tackle poverty and social exclusion.  It required secure living conditions and the prospect of participation for all population groups, which in turn could be guaranteed through an active welfare State.  The Austrian welfare State aimed to ensure that those conditions were met, by supporting eligible beneficiaries with targeted benefits.  The Austrian social model also relied on a long‑standing tradition of involving all relevant stakeholders in policymaking processes.  Austria had implemented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in 2012, a comprehensive national action plan on disability was enacted.  Concerning ageing, Austria had several priorities, including the active participation of older persons, which was essential to social inclusion.  On families, Austria provided an established system of parental leave regulations.  On youth policy, his country followed the Organization’s World Programme of Action for Youth.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the current session’s theme was appropriate given the past unsatisfactory progress in reducing poverty, especially in least developed countries.  “All the countries of the world must redouble their efforts,” he said, calling for a strong political commitment to eradicate poverty.  The number of people living in poverty in Nepal had dropped from 38 per cent in 2000 to about 21 per cent in 2016, he said, adding that the Government sought to further reduce it to 17 per cent in the next few years.  Work was under way to promote inclusiveness and provide special support to women, children and other vulnerable groups.  Nepal valued the importance of social protection floors, and its own scheme supported older persons and persons with disabilities in particular.  It was also committed to promoting universal education, especially among girls.  Nepal’s least developed and landlocked status — coupled with its emergence from conflict and natural disasters, its difficult topography and vulnerability to climate change — put it in a special position, he said, noting that support from the international community would be needed to address those challenges.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), associating herself with the Group of 77, said strategies to eradicate poverty were imperative, and emphasized that no one should be left behind.  The 2030 Agenda had reiterated those goals, which still required political will and capacity.  More work was needed to achieve social objectives, she said, calling for a better distribution of income and wealth and policies that put human beings above profits.  Implementing an integrated, ambitious and sustainable global development programme must be based on lessons learned as well as commitments undertaken — and some still pending — under the Copenhagen Declaration.  Ecuador’s development programme considered the need to bring all people together along the same path.  Its pillars were to fight poverty in all its dimensions; put the economy at the service of society; and work towards a participatory system with good governance that provided quality services.  Significant progress had already been made towards eliminating extreme poverty, she said, noting that Ecuador hoped to meet that goal by 2021, well ahead of the global 2030 deadline.

CAROLINA POPOVICI (Republic of Moldova), outlining a number of concrete social development policies in her country, said child protection and family support policies were at the top of its list of priorities.  National laws protected children from violence, abuse and other risks, while Moldova’s child birth allowance was regularly reviewed to ensure that it effectively supported childbirth, education and related costs.  Noting that the proportion of the elderly was expected to increase dramatically by 2050, she said immediate measures would be needed to address those changes.  However, “an ageing society is not necessarily an inactive one,” she said, noting that older adults could contribute to public life in Moldova in many ways.  In the context of the global wave of migration, Moldova worked through bilateral agreements with other countries and concentrated on creating conditions conducive to the return of migrants to the country and helping them effectively reintegrate into society.

Mr. CORREAL (Colombia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the 2030 Agenda recognized the need to respect all people regardless of their economic condition, age, sexual orientation or other factors.  Innovative approaches were needed in the eradication of poverty, he said, noting that “no one size fits all” and urging countries to mobilize resources to those ends.  However, international resources were also needed to help coordinate such efforts at the global level.  While the Commission should bear in mind recent achievements made under the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, it must not disregard the commitments undertaken under the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Calling for greater efforts towards social data collection, he said Colombia had based its family polices around such priorities as social protection and good governance; a national action plan for families was currently being developed with concrete targets, and would be put in place by 2022.

Ms. NORDLANDER (Sweden) said people’s empowerment was central to social development and her country had taken several steps toward that end.  To combat poverty, social protection mechanisms were essential and had a role to play in addressing the needs of vulnerable groups.  As people were living longer than a century ago, new challenges must be addressed.  For its part, Sweden had invested in social protection systems since the mid‑twentieth century.  But, globally, all stakeholders needed to step up efforts in building such systems.  Swedish society had undergone many changes in the past two decades, including single parent families that were facing economic challenges.  Among areas that needed attention, she said protecting children was critical, in fostering healthy societies and for achieving most development goals.  With regard to international development programmes, Sweden had adopted a new strategy, recognizing, among other things, that reproductive rights were not an option, but part of a package of services.

YOSHIAKI KATAYAMA (Japan) said that the key principle of the Sustainable Development Goals, “no one left behind”, reflected the concept of human security, of which his country had been a leading advocate.  Regarding persons with disabilities, it was imperative to ensure their full and active participation in society.  Leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japan had made nationwide efforts to reform its infrastructural systems, making it accessible for everyone.  Concerning ageing, he noted that Japan faced a declining birth rate and an aging population, and believed it was crucial that each country shared its experiences on how to tackle that problem.  It was also important to promote quality infrastructure investment, which included such concepts as gender equality and barrier‑free access.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said strengthening development efforts to eradicate poverty was now more significant than ever before.  Emphasizing the need for a people‑centred strategy that moved beyond a one‑size‑fits‑all approach, he said national Governments were responsible for those efforts.  For its part, India’s objectives were in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  Citing several examples, he said Government initiatives were developing the agricultural sector, building millions of toilets while improving sanitation services and educating girls.  In addition, authorities were implementing information and communications technology projects to expand the reach of a range of public services.

MADHUKA SANJAYA WICKRAMARACHCHI WICKRAMARACHCHIGE (Sri Lanka), noting that some of the most dramatic reductions in poverty over the last decades had been seen in East and South‑East Asia, said the World Bank had described Sri Lanka in particular as a “success story”.  Since its internal conflict ended in 2009, the economy had grown at an average rate of 6.2 per cent per year, reflecting a peace dividend and a commitment to reconstruction and growth.  The economy was transitioning from a predominantly rural‑based one to an urbanized one, oriented around the manufacturing and service sectors.  Its Vision 2025 programme aimed to further strengthen democracy and reconciliation, as well as inclusive and equitable growth, and to ensure good governance.  Social indicators in Sri Lanka were already among the highest in the region, and unlike other countries it had increasingly begun to support its ageing population.

INASS A. T. ELMARMURI (Libya), associating herself with the Group of 77, said combating multidimensional poverty would have a positive impact on the achievement of all other Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting that half of the 800 million extremely poor people in the world lived in Africa and that thousands were perishing while trying to migrate, she urged countries to work in line with the 2030 Agenda and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to ensure the continent’s security, stability and prosperity and lift millions out of poverty.  Education, decent work and access to technology must be core priorities, she added, calling on development actors to take lessons learned into account.  Despite her country’s conflicts, the Government was working to unify its institutions and better utilize resources, including those funds that had been sent abroad.  It had amended national laws, such as those ensuring the equality of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Concluding, she underscored the importance of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and expressed hope that United Nations agencies would return to Tripoli to once again take up their work in her country.

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his Government had launched an ambitious three‑year development plan based largely on investing in infrastructure and people.  In January, the National Senior Citizens Act was signed into law, which would establish senior citizen centres to provide care and strengthen intergenerational solidarity.  The National Social Investment Office had also been created to expand broader social benefits to all segments of society.  Monthly cash transfer stipends were provided to the poor and a national register was set up to capture biometric and demographic data of the stipends’ recipients.  School feeding programmes sought to provide at least one meal to all students in 20 states throughout the country, utilizing local produce, thereby supporting the agriculture sector and creating many new jobs.  Support was also being provided to small- and medium‑sized business entrepreneurs, he said, adding that pensions were being provided in a more streamlined manner to those retiring from public service and that free treatment was provided to elderly patients in many hospitals across Nigeria.

HECTOR BROWN (United States), focusing his statement on the work of the Commission itself, said it as crucial for the voices of older persons, youth, persons with disabilities and other groups in special situations to be heard at the United Nations.  Noting that several other bodies and agendas had been created across the system in recent years, he said the Commission’s relevance should be reconsidered in that context and against the backdrop of the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts.  In that regard, he voiced support for various elements of the draft resolution presented by Mexico, including the proposal to hold shortened sessions; negotiate a single document each year on the session’s main theme, instead of various texts; and focus on a single annual theme, thereby allowing for a more relevant policy debate.  Those reforms would be consistent with the United States position in support of efforts to reduce duplication and overlap in the work of the United Nations bodies, he said, asking delegates to be bold in considering whether the Commission was still needed in the current context.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that despite poverty reduction achievements, more than 10 per cent of the global population remained under the extreme poverty threshold.  Eliminating extreme poverty was the greatest challenge facing humanity and efforts must aim at areas from supporting agricultural sectors and creating jobs to boosting the quality of education.  Keeping children in school would also contribute to eradicating poverty, as would conflict prevention and resolution.  For its part, Azerbaijan had invested in reducing poverty and unemployment and in building more schools, hospitals and housing.  The Government had also focused efforts on developing entrepreneurship and improving transportation routes.  By 2020, Azerbaijan aimed at reaching many goals, including to further reduce poverty, promote gender equality and improve food security and the quality of health care.

TYESHA O’LISA TURNER (Jamaica) said that while some efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda objectives had borne fruit, much remained to be harvested through a collective commitment and drive for a better standard of living for current and future generations.  Great investments in human capital would lead to exponential returns for national development, and with that in mind Jamaica had established a social investment fund to mobilize and direct resources, with assistance from international partners, to finance community‑based socioeconomic infrastructure and social services projects to foster an empowered, healthy and productive society.  A national multi‑stakeholder approach aimed at implementing poverty reduction activities.  Yet, more was needed at all levels to eliminate inequalities and reach those most in need.  Citing a range of national efforts, she said strategies were addressing social protection issues, education and health, with targeted projects reaching persons with disabilities and older persons.  To ensure hard‑won gains were not reversed by limited fiscal space and high debt burdens, she called for special attention to be given to the plight of highly indebted middle‑income countries.

FRANCES ZAINOEDDIN, International Federation on Ageing, said the third review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing must be considered within the framework of the 2030 Agenda.  Poverty in old age was often acute, with discrimination in access to economic and other development opportunities growing over time.  In addition, about 80 per cent of older persons had no pension, relying instead on labour and family for income.  The human rights of older persons must be reaffirmed, she said, adding that social development efforts must combat ageism, address inequality of opportunity for older persons and employ life course approaches towards eradicating poverty.  The diversity of older persons must also be recognized, she said, calling on the Commission to focus on social justice for all ages, including older persons.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the poor were not a barrier to sustainable development, but rather one of its greatest resources.  Decent work, productive employment, education, health and social protection were essential pathways to inclusion, which was among the best ways to eradicate poverty.  He underscored the connection between impoverishment and other major challenges, including the migrant and refugee crisis.  Human traffickers were exploiting the logic of exclusion, leading to a rise in modern slavery.  Everyone must become dedicated abolitionists of forced labour and of the economies of exclusion, he said.

News

Prevention, Development Must be Central in All Efforts Tackling Emerging Complex Threats to International Peace, Secretary‑General Tells Security Council

Prevention and development must be at the centre of all efforts to address both the quantitative and qualitative changes that were emerging in threats around the world, the Secretary‑General of the United Nations told the Security Council today, as some 60 Member States participated in an all‑day debate tackling complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.

António Guterres said the perils of nuclear weapons were once again front and centre, with tensions higher than those during the Cold War.  Climate change was a threat multiplier and technology advances had made it easier for extremists to communicate.  Conflicts were longer, with some lasting 20 years on average, and were more complex, with armed and extremist groups linked with each other and with the worldwide threat of terrorism.  Transnational drug smugglers and human traffickers were perpetuating the chaos and preying on refugees and migrants.

The changing nature of conflict meant rethinking approaches that included integrated action, he said, stressing that prevention must be at the centre of all efforts.  Development was one of the best instruments of prevention.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would help build peaceful societies.  Respect for human rights was also essential and there was a need to invest in social cohesion so that all felt they had a stake in society. 

He also emphasized that women’s participation was crucial to success, from conflict prevention to peacemaking and sustaining peace.  Where women were in power, societies flourished, he pointed out.  Sexual violence against women, therefore, must be addressed and justice pursued for perpetrators. 

Prevention also included preventive diplomacy, he said, noting that the newly established High-level Advisory Board on Mediation had met for the first time.  The concept of human security was a useful frame of reference for that work, as it was people‑centred and holistic and emphasized the need to act early and prioritize the most vulnerable.

“Let us work together to enhance the Council’s focus on emerging situations, expand the toolbox, increase resources for prevention, and be more systematic in avoiding conflict and sustaining peace,” he said, emphasizing the need for Council unity.  Without it, he said, the parties to conflict might take more inflexible and intransigent positions, and the drivers of conflict might push situations to the point of no return.

Japan’s representative, Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, noting that in the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, there had been a rise in complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.  That included the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the expansion of terrorism, and non‑traditional challenges such as non‑State actors and inter‑State criminal organizations. 

While the Council had been tackling those challenges, in most cases through a country or region‑specific context, he stressed that a human security approach was highly relevant when addressing complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.  Such an approach placed the individual at the centre, based on a cross‑sectoral understanding of insecurities.  It also entailed a broadened understanding of threats and challenges. 

In the ensuing debate, speakers emphasized the need to adjust to the changing challenges to international peace and security and welcomed the Secretary General’s reform of the Organization’s security pillar and other initiatives.  Many stressed the need to address root causes of instability and conflict, including climate change, non‑State armed groups, extremism and terrorism, as well as poverty and underdevelopment. 

Calling for creativity in the Council’s efforts, they underlined the importance of prevention, and stressed the responsibility of the 15‑member organ to address threats to international peace and security at an early stage.  Delegations also called for strengthen cooperation and coordination with other United Nations bodies and with regional and subregional organizations.  Ending impunity for serious international crimes was equally crucial, with some delegates stressing the importance of effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

Other speakers took issue with the way the Security Council was functioning, with Turkey’s representative pointing out that the Council had failed many times to show timely and adequate responses to emerging crises, often as the result of the use, or the threat, of veto, which disabled the Council’s effectiveness. 

India’s delegate said a non‑representative Council, designed long ago to maintain a balance of power between rival States, was unable to handle challenges which had changed beyond recognition over the decades.  “An instrument that is no longer considered legitimate and has lost its credibility cannot be our hope for salvation,” he said, adding that “speech acts”, such as the current open debate, would have little impact.

The Russian Federation’s representative said it would be useful for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other organs of the United Nations to consider the links between peace and security and socioeconomic and environmental issues.  Integrating all factors should not come under the work of the Council, which did not have the capacity in those other areas and for which the basic responsibilities in peace and security must remain the focus. 

China’s representative stressed the importance of firmly upholding the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, saying that the Council must respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States as well as their right to choose their own social structures.  The major organs of the United Nations should stick to their mandates while coordinating their efforts. 

Some Member States addressed specific challenges to peace and security.  The representative of Tuvalu, speaking for the Pacific small island developing States, underscored that climate change was not going away and was the most pressing contemporary security challenge.  The Secretary‑General should appoint a special representative on climate and security who could produce a report, in cooperation with scientific bodies, that identified and analysed potentially dangerous tipping points at the nexus of climate and security, he said. 

Slovenia’s delegate drew attention to water scarcity as a threat to stability, recalling the work of the Global High‑level Panel on Water and Peace chaired by the former President of her country.  Regional cooperation was vital in preventing water from becoming a cause of conflict or an amplifying risk, she stressed, citing successful practices in the Western Balkans region, as seen in the Sava River basin, which could serve as a model for water‑related cooperation.

Addressing cyber threats, Lithuania’s representative, also speaking for Latvia and Estonia, said hybrid threats and cybersecurity were priority issues for the Baltic States, noting that concerns regarding the Russian Federation’s interference in national election processes were not limited to European countries.  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had faced a politically motivated series of cyberattacks.  To cope with the strikes, the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, must cooperate. 

The Deputy Foreign Minister for Ukraine also spoke, as did representatives of Sweden, Egypt, Bolivia, United Kingdom, France, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Senegal, United States, Ethiopia, Italy, Colombia, Liechtenstein, Pakistan, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway (for the Nordic countries), South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Viet Nam, Mexico, Slovakia, Ghana, Chile, Guatemala, Botswana, Netherlands, Greece, Armenia, Australia, Morocco, Lebanon, Nepal, Maldives, Portugal and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union delegation.

Representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine took the floor for a second and third time.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m.

Opening Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said there had not only been a quantitative but also a qualitative change in threats to international peace and security.  The perils of nuclear weapons were once again front and centre, with tensions higher than those during the Cold War.  Climate change was a threat multiplier.  Inequality and exclusion fed frustration and marginalization.  Threats to cybersecurity were escalating and technology advances had made it easier for extremists to communicate. 

While the number of armed conflicts had declined over the long‑term, they had surged in the Middle East and Africa, he continued, with many lasting on average more than 20 years.  Conflicts were also more complex as armed groups competed for control over State institutions, natural resources and territory.  Extremist groups left little room for diplomacy.  There was also an increased regionalization and internationalization of conflicts.  Clashes were more linked with each other and with the worldwide threat of terrorism.  Transnational drug smugglers and human traffickers perpetuated the chaos and preyed on refugees and migrants.

The changing nature of conflict meant rethinking approaches which must include integrated action, he underlined.  Such efforts must be coherent, coordinated and context‑specific, working across pillars.  Towards that aim, he had initiated three inter‑linked reform efforts focused at repositioning the United Nations development system, streamlining internal management and strengthening the Secretariat’s peace and security architecture.  He had also sought to forge closer links with regional partners. 

He stressed that prevention must be at the centre of everything, as it would avoid human suffering and even save money.  Prevention was a sound investment that brought ample and visible dividends, and development was one of the best instruments of prevention.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would help build peaceful societies.  Respect for human rights was also essential in prevention.  There was a need to invest in social cohesion so that all felt they had a stake in society. 

As well, gender equality was closely linked with resilience, he said, stressing that women’s participation was crucial to success, from conflict prevention to peacemaking and sustaining peace.  Where women were in power, societies flourished, he pointed out.  Therefore, it was critical that sexual violence against women be addressed and justice pursued for perpetrators.

Prevention also included preventive diplomacy, he said, noting that the newly established High‑level Advisory Board on Mediation had met for the first time.  The concept of human security was a useful frame of reference for that work.  Human security was people‑centred and holistic; it stressed the need to act early and prioritize the most vulnerable.

“Let us work together to enhance the Council’s focus on emerging situations, expand the toolbox, increase resources for prevention, and be more systematic in avoiding conflict and sustaining peace,” he said, emphasizing the need for unity in the 15‑member organ.  Without that unity, the parties to conflict might take more inflexible and intransigent positions, and the drivers of conflict might push situations to the point of no return.  “But with unity, we can advance security and well‑being for all,” he underscored.

Statements

KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, noting that in the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, some parts of the world had been enjoying the benefits of improvements in science and technology, from groundbreaking medicines to new frontiers in outer space.  However, during the same period, there had been a rise in complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the expansion of terrorism.  Peace operations were also facing non‑traditional challenges such as non‑State actors and inter‑State criminal organizations.

The Security Council had been tackling those challenges, in most cases through a country or region‑specific context, he said.  It was important for the Council to discuss those complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security in a holistic and methodological manner.  However, it needed to increase its focus on effectiveness throughout the whole conflict cycle.  At the same time, close attention must be paid to the fact that peace and security, development and human rights were closely interlinked.  It was vital for the Council to enhance cooperation with other organs, both within the United Nations system and beyond.

A human security approach was highly relevant when addressing complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security, he continued, adding that such an approach placed the individual at the centre, based on a cross‑sectoral understanding of insecurities.  It also entailed a broadened understanding of threats and challenges.  Japan had consistently provided human‑centred and comprehensive assistance through cross‑sectoral efforts with a range of partners.  As for the Secretary‑General’s ongoing initiative for the reform of the United Nations, he said that the resolution on the restructuring of the Organization’s peace and security pillar was being tabled for adoption at the General Assembly.  Although the scope of that resolution did not include Security Council reform, no reform would be complete without the reform of that 15‑member organ.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for Ukraine, associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that while criticism of the Council’s work was mostly justified, there was currently no alternative entity to safeguard international peace and security.  The Council had achieved some positive results in recent years, including its role in implementing an agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC‑EP).  With the adoption of resolution 2349 (2017), the Council demonstrated an openness to addressing some of the underlying causes in the complex crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region.  It had also been active in addressing the threat of terrorism, engaging in a number of discussions and taking landmark decisions.  Because threats to international peace and security could not effectively be addressed in isolation, he welcomed the expansion of the Council’s agenda to include challenges such as human rights, development and climate change, to name a few.  Nonetheless, among the Council’s shortcomings or even outright failures were unresolved challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and tragic events in the Middle East, as well as blatant violations of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction that continued with impunity.  Further, he expressed regret at the erosion of the rule of law, which was most obviously manifested in the aggressive policy of the Russian Federation towards its neighbours.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), aligning himself with the statements to be made by the European Union and the Nordic countries, said that international peace and security was increasingly hampered by the negative impacts of multidimensional poverty, climate change, transnational organized crime, food insecurity, weak governance, human rights violations and growing inequality.  The Council’s preventive role was now more important than ever before.  However, prevention was not possible without a comprehensive and holistic strategy to address the root causes and the conflict amplifiers.  While ongoing reform efforts would better position the United Nations system to enhance its joint analysis and integrated strategic planning capacities, it was also crucial to consistently integrate a gender perspective into long‑terms strategies.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that an innovative approach, coordinated through the United Nations and focused on root causes, was needed to meet current interrelated, complex challenges to international peace and security.  In its analysis of conflicts and potential conflicts, the Secretariat must take into account the nature of each situation on a case‑by‑case basis.  The effectiveness of the Peacebuilding Commission must also be strengthened so that it could work with the Council to lay the foundation for stability in countries at risk.  Transnational challenges must be met through close coordination with regional organizations.  National ownership must be ensured in all efforts with the support of the international community, so that institutions capable of confronting all current challenges could be built.  He stressed that each organ of the United Nations must respect the mandate of the others, so that they could each adequately take on their respective responsibilities and not duplicate efforts.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said that the Council efforts were constantly endangered both by insufficient implementation of established mechanisms and the lack of coordination to prevent duplication of efforts.  Mediation, prevention and use of good offices, as well as use of Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter of the United Nations should be better used for peaceful settlement of disputes, with Chapter VII tools only used after other strategies had been well applied.  Unilateral actions were also imperilling the Council’s efforts to maintain peace and security.  Such action often resulted in negative consequences for entire regions by creating vacuums of authority, in which terrorist fighters could fill the void.  Robust actions must be taken to meet the terrorist threat.  Prohibition of nuclear weapons, in addition, was an important goal to meet to reduce the threat of devastating conflict.  As a pacifist country, his country would continue to advocate for the peaceful settlement of conflict to avoid the scourge of war and all its consequences, he said.

Matthew John Rycroft (United Kingdom) said that not only emerging threats but also conventional threats had been fuelled by developing transnational challenges, from internet incitement to enslavement of migrants.  All such factors must be confronted at home, in partnership, and multilaterally.  For example, at home, his country was tackling illicit financial flows that funded armed groups, terrorists and corruption, through new legislative acts.  The United Kingdom was also assisting 13 countries in meeting climate threats to reduce their vulnerability.  Multilaterally, it was supporting action of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to address the complex and diverse challenges.  For those organs to play their full role, the reforms proposed by the Secretary‑General must be supported.  That would enable the Organization to more effectively sustain peace, meet the Sustainable Development Goals and build respect for human rights.  He pointed out that, during the current open debate, millions of people were experiencing displacement, hunger and conflict as a single reality.  Those ills should all be addressed at the same time to achieve a safer world for all.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) affirmed that Council debates in 2017 had illustrated that the complex challenges facing international peace and security must, in the context of globalization, be met by a global response.  The United Nations must use all its tools to assist States in an integrated manner that addresses deep‑rooted causes.  Terrorism must be faced by addressing all factors — economic, political, cultural and social — along with multilateral security responses and regional arrangements supported by the international community such as the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force.  Those responses must be accompanied by long‑term support for development.  Climate change, often exacerbating crises, must be met by technological and financial means, starting with the immediate implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  The Council should also be in close communication with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other mechanisms so that it could react quickly to grave violations.  All challenges, along with ever‑present threats such as nuclear proliferation and inter‑State tensions, must be addressed by every State collectively, along with the mechanisms of the United Nations.  Therefore, he voiced his country’s full support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to increase the effectiveness of the Organization.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), expressing full support for the Secretary‑General’s reform proposals to make the United Nations more effective, called for a comprehensive, integrated strategy in which the priority of sustaining peace ran through all efforts.  His country had seen the importance of that approach since its independence and for that reason had been at the forefront of conflict prevention, including the establishment of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, among other efforts.  Reducing the threat of military confrontation was a priority for Kazakhstan, as shown by its hosting of conferences on Syria that had helped de‑escalate areas and promote political progress.  Peacekeeping operations had to become more viable and accountable, with adequate staff and equipment.  The Organization must comprehensively adopt a threefold strategy that addressed the peace and development nexus through a regional approach that involved the entire United Nations system working as one.  His country would continue to be fully engaged in strengthening international peace and security throughout its Council membership and beyond, he pledged.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said that the Council should consider all aspects that could worsen conflicts, such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, legal and illegal trade in other weapons, terrorism, cyberattacks, and climate change.  The international community must show greater solidarity and global governance must be strengthened.  There was not only a need for prevention but also for creativity in which greater coordination between the organs of the United Nations was indispensable.  The nexus between security, development, human rights and the humanitarian spheres was clear, but factors such as climate change, pandemics and transnational organized crime could exacerbate crises in conflict or post‑conflict situations.  In such situations there was a need to strengthen the rule of law and promote sustainable economic growth, national reconciliation, access to justice, accountability, democracy, gender equality and protection of human rights.  The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was a violation of international law. 

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said over the last years, the international community had increased initiatives to address threats to peace, including through the reform of the Organization’s peace architecture and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, among others.  Such factors as the circulation of small arms, sexual violence, recruitment of children, and illegal exploitation of natural resources required a holistic response.  Terrorism had suffered defeats but remained a threat as illustrated in numerous attacks.  Mandates of peacekeeping missions should be better adapted to the situation on the ground, he said, noting that African countries had used their troops to combat non‑State actors.  He welcomed the initiative to reinforce the security pillar.  Senegal’s water, peace and security initiative was aiming to facilitate access to transborder sources of water.

SHEN BO (China) said that, in the desire for peace and development, it was necessary to firmly uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Although new challenges kept emerging, the Charter’s principles remained valid.  Maintaining peace and security was the primary responsibility of the Council and its authority should be defended by all Member States.  The United Nations and the Council should be subjective and impartial.  The 15‑member organ must also respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States and their right to choose their own social structures.  Noting that root causes of conflict such as poverty and under‑development had not been solved and that threats such as climate change were constantly expanding, he urged for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  The major organs of the United Nations should follow the provisions of the Charter and stick to their mandates while coordinating their efforts. 

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said the Council had a responsibility to respond to crises too large for one nation to deal with.  One of the Council’s most effective tools — peacekeeping operations — was a powerful mechanism, she said, noting that the United Nations deployed over 100,000 troops and police all over the world.  The missions, however, must adapt to the reality of the situation on the ground.  The quality of troops deployed should also be analysed.  Giving examples of successful peacebuilding, including in Liberia, where the United Nations had devised a peacebuilding plan in coordination with the Government and participation of civil society, she said the Council had mostly used missions after conflict had broken out.  There was a need to look at underlying challenges, such as failure to develop or lack of protection of human rights, as those factors could directly lead to instability.  In Yemen, 22 million out of 29 million were in need of humanitarian assistance and there was a risk of famine.  Famine conditions had been caused by conflict and parties more interested in personal gain.  The United Nations had the power to develop solutions to transnational problems, she said, encouraging the Secretary‑General to raise issues early on to the Council.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that a new way of thinking, along with innovative tools, were needed to meet emerging, complex challenges in international peace and security through a comprehensive and holistic approach.  Strengthened partnerships were needed between United Nations bodies and regional organizations for that purpose.  The Secretary‑General’s vision could allow the creation of integrated capabilities with improved planning and budgeting to support operations on the ground and longer‑term efforts.  While a cross‑pillar approach was critical to address driving factors of conflicts that did not mean that the mandates of existing operations should be changed.  The Security Council should not impinge on the responsibilities of other bodies.  The Council had many responsibilities of its own to deal with, for example, principles of international law governing inter‑State relations, which were not at this point being adequately addressed.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) stressed that a context‑specific approach must be highlighted, with all the particularities taken into account, and an over‑broad use of Chapter VII, as well as outside intervention, be avoided.  In that context, he rejected the blasphemous statement by the representative of Ukraine in relationship to international law, given that that representative’s Government had come into power illegitimately.  He called for full implementation of the Minsk agreements.  Factors, such as foreign intervention and economic compulsion, must be added to the list of drivers of current conflict that were being discussed.  In terms of an integrated strategy to international peace and security, it would be useful for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other organs to consider the links between peace and security and socioeconomic and environmental issues.  However, each must focus on its own responsibilities.  Integrating all factors should not come under the work of the Council, which did not have the capacity in those other areas and for which the basic responsibilities in peace and security must remain the focus. 

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), aligning with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that during its presidency, his country had begun to address challenges in an integrated way, including a focus on migration and the nexus that phenomenon was connected to.  Protection and empowerment of people was key to building resilient societies.  The Secretary‑General should provide early‑warning information to the Council.  In order to address all problems in a comprehensive manner, United Nations effectiveness must be improved through building synergy between all actors.  In peace and security, capacity should be built to fully realize the concept of a peace continuum, as well as the building of inclusive political processes and resilient institutions.  His country would continue to fully support reform to strengthen the Organization across the three pillars.  In the Council, the interventions today showed that members had sufficient common interest to be able to reach consensus.

The representative of Ukraine, taking the floor a second time, said that it had been reconfirmed just recently that the Russian Federation was an occupying Power and a party to the conflict in the east of Ukraine.  For that reason, the country could not discuss the conflict as an impartial actor.  It must, instead, withdraw from Crimea and Donbass and make reparations for the damage it had caused in his country.

The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to his counterpart, encouraged the representative of the Ukraine to respect the Council and common sense.  The conflict in the Ukraine was a consequence of the seizure of power that was not accepted by people in the east of Ukraine, and while there was no proof of intervention on the part of his country, there was proof of malfeasance by Ukraine, including bombardment of schools and hospitals that threatened a large-scale humanitarian disaster.  He called for the implementation of the road map that was written into the Minsk agreements to resolve the situation.

The representative of Ukraine cited the Secretary‑General who voiced his concern over Russian arms flowing into eastern Ukraine, as well as actions in Crimea.  That was adequate proof of Russian aggression against his country.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which regularly visited areas not controlled by the Government, had not noted massive troop movement in the areas under discussion.  In addition, he pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been notified that all facilities in Crimea were working in compliance with the Agency’s regulations.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) said the maintenance of international peace and security was the fundamental mandate of the Council, which had the responsibility to ensure that decisions were coherent in light of changing needs.  An integrated approach required focus on the main causes and multipliers of conflict.  Nuclear proliferation, climate change, water scarcity and cyberspace attacks required flexible diplomacy.  Prevention and peacebuilding should be the Council’s priority in the maintenance of peace.  Expeditious and bold solutions were required to ensure that the Organization could prevent conflicts.  Reform of the peace and security pillar would make it possible to adapt the United Nations to present day crises.  The Organization’s activities in Colombia were a clear example of building peace, and the success of the peace process in his country was based on a comprehensive approach, including gender equality. 

GEORG HELMUT ERNST SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said that a comprehensive approach to peace and security included rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms as well as sustainable development.  Implementation gaps in development commitments and disregard of human rights obligations were important early warning signals, he said, adding that contemporary security challenges tended to be complex, requiring tailor‑made, context‑specific solutions.  Stressing the importance of accountability in ensuring lasting peace, he added that transitional justice contributed to deterrence and allowed traumatized communities to come back together and move forward.  Noting the Council’s “half‑hearted engagement” with the International Criminal Court, he welcomed the Court’s announcement of investigations into various crimes in Libya.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that conflicts continued to rage around the world and the longstanding internationally recognized disputes regarding Palestine, as well as Jammu and Kashmir, continued to fester.  The Palestinian and Kashmiri people continued to suffer horrific human rights violations at the hands of occupying forces, while the world continued to watch without responding to those egregious situations.  The drivers of such challenges, including political and economic injustice and terrorism and violent extremism, must be addressed.  What was needed was a shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.  There was obviously no one‑size‑fits‑all solution to conflict prevention and mitigation.  Moving a country towards durable peace began with a clear understanding of the sources and nature of conflicts, she said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said that “comprehensive”, “integrated” and “holistic” were not just buzzwords, but real calls for action and anchors for the work of the United Nations.  The only way to achieve and preserve peace was through dialogue, she said, expressing appreciation for the Secretary‑General’s dedication to start a surge in diplomacy.  Preventive processes should include intercultural and interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, hand in hand with moderate religious and community leaders and faith‑based organizations.  Further, there was no sustainable peace without respecting human rights and international humanitarian law.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland) said the United Nations framework for conflict prevention was in the DNA of the 2030 Agenda and in resolutions on sustaining peace adopted by the Council and the General Assembly.  It was also anchored in the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda.  Further, the implementation of the Paris Agreement was a significant preventative step as it acknowledged the strong links between climate change and peace and security.  As respect for human rights was also key to conflict prevention, his country had launched the “Appeal of June 13” to enhance systematic cooperation within the United Nations system on human rights issues.  The appeal specifically called for intensified cooperation between the Council and human rights organs of the United Nations with a view to strengthen conflict prevention.  He also highlighted that many grievances started around issues of perceived or real exclusion and injustice; they deserved greater attention.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said all pillars of the United Nations were facing tremendous challenges.   No single State possessed the capacity to take on the challenges alone.  The United Nations was in acute need of substantial reform to confront the challenges faced.  A primary objective was to increase the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations while prioritizing political solutions.  Crisis prevention was essential, as well as preventing the relapse of crises in post‑conflict situations.  The Secretary‑General’s “surge in peace diplomacy” initiative and his reform of the prevention pillar had underscored their importance, he said, noting that his country was a co‑chair of the Group of Friends of Mediation.  The Council had failed many times to show timely and adequate responses to emerging crises.  Often, inaction was the result of the use, or the threat, of veto.  That disabled the Council’s effectiveness.  He underlined the importance of more Council interaction with non‑Council members and other United Nations bodies.  More attention must be payed to tackling the root causes of the multiplier factors of conflicts, including terrorism, climate change, water, and human and drug trafficking. 

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania), also speaking for Latvia and Estonia and associating herself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that the rise in military conflicts was outstripping the international community’s ability to cope.  Hybrid threats and cybersecurity were priority issues for the Baltic States, she emphasized, noting that concerns regarding the Russian Federation’s interference in national election processes were not limited to European countries alone.  Increased societal awareness, resilience building and media and information literacy could help tackle hybrid threats.  In 2007, Estonia had faced a series of cyberattacks, and Latvia and Lithuania had also experienced such politically motivated assaults.  To cope with the strikes, the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, must cooperate; regional and subregional cooperation was key to strengthening cybersecurity in critical infrastructure.  As hybrid and cyberthreats were here to stay, conventional security was not enough, she said, urging Member States to share best practices and lessons learned in tackling them.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said conflicts were increasingly being caused by environmental degradation due to climate change, adding that the international community must cooperate to implement major environmental agreements.  Backing the strengthened United Nations‑World Bank partnership, he added that the Nordic countries were supporters of the Green Climate Fund and initiatives focusing on African and small island developing States.  The Nordic countries promoted the women, peace and security agenda, he said, and inclusivity started with women.  The international community must make better use of the positive contributions of young people, however.  For every dollar invested in prevention, 17 dollars were saved in post‑conflict assistance, he said, urging States to place prevention at the core of the United Nations agenda.  Security Council reform should include seats for Africa; it was also crucial to ensure small States had the opportunity to serve as elected members.

STEPHEN MAHLABADISHAGO NTSOANE (South Africa) highlighted that the nature of conflict was not the one envisaged by the creators of the United Nations.  Indeed, present‑day conflicts largely centred on the internal strife of Member States and transnational threats.  Unfortunately, while the world had changed, the Council had largely remained the same.  Contemporary challenges had brought divisions within the Council to the forefront, especially among its permanent members.  At times, such paralysis had cost human lives, he said, citing the lack of meaningful action on the situation between Israel and Palestine, as well as divisions on Syria.  While incremental improvements had been made to the Council’s working methods, such advancements did not obviate the need for comprehensive reform.  A more representative Council would allow it to be more effective in dealing with complex, contemporary challenges.  He called for a Council with a stronger voice for those closest to crises, one marked by non‑discriminatory decision‑making and collective, rather than narrow, national security interests.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said that, in anticipating threats to international peace and security, the Council must have the security implications of climate change on its radar and firmly on its agenda.  In addition, it should also include a host of factors, such as the growing interconnectedness in the cyberworld.  Lasting peace in such a complex world could not be achieved through military means alone, but in combination with development policy and a strong focus on prevention.  For that purpose, resilience of societies must be strengthened; that often started with respect and promotion of human rights.  Given abhorrent violations, such as sexual violence used as a tactic of war, the Security Council must do more to integrate human rights into its deliberations.   Supporting the Secretary‑General’s reform to make the United Nations work better across institutional boundaries, he called for full use of existing arrangements, such as the advisory role of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Describing multisectoral assistance for integrated Sahel initiatives provided by his country, he stressed that in all areas, comprehensive action was needed to respond to current security challenges.  His country stood ready to assume its responsibilities in that regard, he pledged.

JEROEN STEFAN G. COOREMAN (Belgium) said that the challenges for international peace and security had to be looked at through an integrated approach.  A focus on environmental security should be an integral part of a global approach to security.  Environmental challenges had led to migratory pressures and had provoked conflicts.  For that reason, climate change and ecosystem change should be analysed within the context of security.  He voiced his support for the appointing of a special representative for environmental security.  Such a person could become part of the broader reform of the peace and security pillar.  Belgium would continue to actively participate in the discussion and would anchor the global approach in its national policies.  It had accorded priority to funding the general budget of the United Nations agencies so that they could pursue a global approach.  His country had also funded a number of humanitarian funds to help in cases of natural disasters, such as the hurricanes that recently hit the Caribbean region.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) pointed out that conflicts had increased threefold in recent years with an unprecedented number of people forcibly displaced.  In that regard, he strongly supported the Secretary‑General’s call for a surge in political diplomacy and conflict prevention.  Because an inability to tackle the root causes of disputes could cause and sustain conflict, it was encouraging that the United Nations was increasingly examining conflicts in a comprehensive manner.  It was vital that the Secretary‑General’s proposals to restructure the Organization’s peace and security pillar succeed so that its engagement with the peace continuum was more effective and nimble.  Furthermore, the Council must fully uphold the principles of international law, human rights law and humanitarian law.  It must be judicious and not dictated by any particular national perspectives.  That commitment was tested by the question of Palestine.  The Council’s inaction had had devastating consequences on the ground, making solutions more complex.  Moreover, the Council could not solve international peace and security challenges singlehandedly.  Better cooperation was needed with troop‑ and police‑contributing countries in that regard.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said that a basic reordering of perspectives was needed, emphasizing the need to address sustainable development for all and reduce gross disparities.  The Council must put a greater focus on the globalization of terror networks.  Even on an issue as serious as designating terrorist individuals and entities, Council‑mandated sanctions committees had failed to make concrete progress.  A non‑representative Council, designed long ago to maintain a balance of power between rival States, was unable to handle challenges which had changed beyond recognition over the decades.  “An instrument that is no longer considered legitimate and has lost its credibility cannot be our hope for salvation,” he said, adding that “speech acts”, such as the current open debate, would have little impact on billions of people striving to live in peace, safety and security.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), stressing the importance of the reform drive at the United Nations, said that the traditional threats to international peace and security had been compounded by new complex global challenges.  Foremost among the latter was the impact of climate change.  Migration, food and security could be affected by that, in turn breeding more transnational crimes and illicit trade.  Strengthening the international community’s commitment to multilateralism was key and broad consensus was necessary on sustaining peace through rule of law.  Instead of “burying our head in sand”, the international community must tackle the problems through a multidimensional and inclusive approach.  Expressing support for the reforms of the Secretary‑General, he said that those reforms would shape the United Nations into a coordinated and flexible body.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts and underscored the need to engage other stakeholders, including the private sector, in peacebuilding and sustainable development.  To break the conflict cycle, increasingly complex challenges required changing approaches.  That was not only a moral obligation, but a pragmatic imperative with huge economic advantages.  Last year, the European Union adopted a global strategy reiterating its commitment to a global order based on international law, which translated into an aspiration to address the root causes of conflict.  While addressing conflict early was necessary, staying the course was an even bigger challenge, she said, as relapsing back into conflict was common. 

Meanwhile, the Council should not shy away from examining new and emerging challenges to peace and security, including climate change, she said.  The Council must also use its unique role within the United Nations system to prevent climate change‑induced unrest.  Overall, she said its working methods must evolve.  By addressing situations earlier and in a more integrated manner, Member States could transform their approach to conflict and further empower the Council in fulfilling its core mandate.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said that the interlinkage between security and development was complex and nuanced.  Poverty and inequality might exacerbate tensions in some scenarios, but did not necessarily endanger international peace and security.  Geopolitical rivalries, militaristic approaches and the unilateral use of force were more serious sources of regional and global insecurity.  While discussing the complex dynamics that affect contemporary conflicts, care should be taken to avoid misinterpretations and generalizations.  Successful peacekeeping operations demonstrated the potential for a constructive relationship between security and development.  The recent experience of the United Nations in Haiti was a positive example, where, for thirteen years, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) contributed to a more secure and stable environment and assisted in the implementation of hundreds of initiatives that fostered peace and development at the local level.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia) said that contemporary challenges were complicated and interlinked.  Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land and the violence perpetrated by the terrorist settlers were clear violations of international law and one of the main reasons for the armed conflicts in that region.  The international community must work tirelessly to help the Palestinian people regain their rights.  As well, approximately twenty‑four hours ago, the capital of her country, Riyadh, had become a victim of an attempted attack by a ballistic missile randomly fired from Yemeni territory.  What the rebel militias were doing with the backing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter.  Rivers of blood were flowing in Yemen, she said, and the Council must take deterrent measures to resolve the threat posed to peace and security by the militia and Iran.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), recalling that the United Nations was established to prevent the scourge of war, said that its founding document emphasized the glaringly obvious relationship between disarmament and development.  The 2030 Agenda had served to further highlight that link.  Calling on all relevant stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way, she said that there were a myriad of factors affecting peace and security, including climate change.  Also stressing the imperative need for the Council to refrain from mandate creep, she recalled that Article 99 of the Charter conferred on the Secretary‑General the role of alerting the Council to any threats to international peace and security.  The Secretary‑General must make use of the powers under that Article, she said, adding that gender‑mainstreaming had multiple benefits in peacebuilding.

MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan), highlighting the Council’s important role in peacekeeping and humanitarian action, said increasing its effectiveness was only possible if members were unanimous in responding to emerging threats.  Also expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s reform initiatives, she added that those reforms would strengthen the international community’s ability to prevent and resolve conflicts.  It was necessary to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations and its bodies in order to confront the challenges to development, peace and security.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that her country had adopted a global approach to international peace and security.  Challenges to peace and security required a positive approach, with dialogue not confrontation.  There was a need to strengthen a collective prevention of conflicts to achieve international peace and security.  Qatar had always participated in resolving conflicts peacefully, she said, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s aim to make conflict prevention into a priority.  She also welcomed regional consultations in sustaining peace in the Middle East.  The major complex challenges in that region represented a threat to international peace and security, and cooperation between countries in the Middle East and the international community was needed to eradicate those challenges.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that the objective of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous world was hardly achievable if universally recognized fundamental values, norms, and principles were overtly disregarded or misinterpreted.  At a time of brutal armed conflicts and high levels of forced displacement, more concerted action was required at all levels to end conflicts and direct greater attention to preventing future conflicts.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on restructuring the United Nations peace and security architecture, he said that States must comply with their international obligations, particularly those relating to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and the inviolability of their borders.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) renewed his country’s deep conviction that development and human rights were linked to peace and security, and noted the vision of the Secretary‑General to work towards enhancing the main pillars of security, human rights and development.  Peace required complete harmony and a coordinated effort, and there was a need to enhance the relationships between the United Nations and regional organizations.  The problems faced were extremely complex, and the cooperation of others was needed to help solve them.  Underscoring the importance to hold regional dialogues in order to exchange expertise, he said that would lead to the continued involvement of regional organizations in the peaceful settlements of conflicts.

NGUYEN PHOUNG NGA (Viet Nam) said a human‑centred and whole‑pillar approach was urgently needed to implement a comprehensive and long‑term strategy on conflict prevention and sustaining peace.  Full use must be made of existing preventative diplomacy and mediation tools, and the United Nations should coordinate enhanced partnership with regional and subregional organizations.  Peacekeeping must be coupled with peacebuilding, she continued, emphasizing the need for Security Council unity in taking decisions and collective action.  As for the situation in the East Sea, or South China Sea, she called on all parties concerned to exercise self‑restraint and settle disputes peacefully in line with international law.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said the world was at a critical crossroad in the maintenance of peace and security.  Praising the priority the United Nations was giving to conflict prevention, he said it was necessary to find political solutions to disputes.  To do so, it was necessary to fix the fragmentation in the United Nations and enable it to wield its tools more effectively.  Supporting the Secretary‑General’s initiatives in that regard, he said the Organization must invest in peace and security “for every person in every country”.  Peacekeeping should be pursued in harmony with the other agendas of the United Nations, including the ones enshrined in “the holy triumvirate of peace and security, development and human rights”.  The threat or use of force was even more serious when it accompanied the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, he said, calling for a robust system of global governance.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said the Security Council should, in a more systematic and targeted manner, deal with challenges in the areas of non‑traditional and cross‑border threats, including those concerning public health, exploitation of natural resources, climate change, poverty and forced displacement.  Both the Council and the General Assembly should take greater advantage of the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Preventing conflict was one of the Council’s most significant responsibilities; it should enhance its preventive and mitigating role.  Security sector reform, a priority area for Slovakia, should focus on genuine national ownership and effective partnerships, among other targets.

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), emphasizing the need to work across the United Nations system and noting efforts to reform the Organization’s peace and security architecture, said the Council’s capacity to play a preventative and mitigating role would be enhanced by a structured dialogue on the security implications of development‑related issues.  Much could also be gained through increased collaboration between the Council and regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Noting that peacebuilding and sustaining peace went hand in hand with Sustainable Development Goal 16 [promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies], she said effective strategies across the United Nations system to support that objective would ultimately lead to the effective maintenance of global peace and security.

BELEN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA (Chile) said a multidimensional approach was necessary to respond to threats, including non‑State and non‑military ones.  Recalling that in January 2015, her country had convened an open debate in the Council on inclusive development, she said there was widespread agreement that security and development were mutually reinforcing.  Underscoring the importance of inclusion, she noted that the design of the transition from MINUSTAH had contained a strong element of national ownership.  Further, it was important to raise awareness regarding the Arria Formula meetings and integrate subsidiary bodies and groups of experts in the work of the Council when designing missions and transitions.  The Council must also improve interaction with regional and subregional bodies.

OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala) said that the United Nations had striven to resolve conflict since its founding through a series of measures, including the maintenance of peace and peacebuilding, as well as promoting recovery and rebuilding.  In all of the aforementioned activities, the Council had played a critical role whenever called upon to respond to various conflicts.  His country had experienced that directly through the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala.  The exit of peacekeeping or special political missions did not mean an end to the peace process.  In response to various collective appeals for an urgent change in the way in which peace instruments available to the United Nations were used, Guatemala was optimistic about the Secretary‑General’s plan to conduct an overhaul and review of those tools.  He remained convinced that prevention and mediation should be at the forefront of the Organization’s efforts on peace and security.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said the Council must deploy all the tools at its disposal to effectively deal with emerging threats, and the Organization must act as a whole, coordinated entity.  However, the burden for maintaining international peace and security could not be solely placed on the United Nations; regional bodies should play a critical role.  Because of their presence on the ground, such bodies were better placed to appreciate and address security challenges.  He welcomed the development of partnerships, including African Union‑European Union and African Union‑United Nations joint efforts.  He also highlighted the role of subregional entities, citing Botswana’s experience with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which included structures tasked with addressing peace and security challenges and played a key role in preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution and management, among others.  He also noted States’ collective accountability for effective border management, which could help to reduce crime and insecurity.

LISE HUBERTA JOHANNA GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands), stressing the importance of an integrated approach and early action, said that the challenges of the twenty‑first century transcended borders.  Her country had learned, sometimes the hard way, of the connection between root causes and ensuing conflict.  However, it was not enough to formulate an integrated response to conflict; the Council should also devote attention to preventing conflicts.  While the Council’s involvement with the situation in Gambia earlier in 2017 had proved timely and successful, a clear focal point was still lacking on the issue of climate and security.  Given the growing risk of climate change increasing tensions within and between nations, he underscored that it was important that there be an institutional home for the issue.

ONDINA BLOKAR DROBIČ (Slovenia) said the Council must better integrate peacekeeping with development and humanitarian efforts.  The United Nations and its Member States, regional organizations, non‑governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society must all support fragile countries, especially by enhancing their societal resilience and security architecture.  Ending impunity for serious international crimes was equally crucial, she said, stressing the importance of effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court and calling upon States that had not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute.  Turning to water scarcity, she recalled the work of the Global High‑level Panel on Water and Peace chaired by the former President of Slovenia.  Regional cooperation was also vital to avoid water becoming a cause of conflict or amplifying risk, she pointed out, citing successful practices in the Western Balkans region, for example, in the Sava River basin, which could serve as a model for water‑related cooperation.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said that a priority in tackling growing global insecurity should be taking a holistic approach to address the drivers of conflict and to focus on both prevention and long‑term stability.  Greece, considering itself a pillar of stability in a region that bordered on the Middle East and North Africa, had hosted international conferences that had aimed at promoting tolerance, pluralism and dialogue among civilizations.  It also engaged in bilateral programmes that utilized country synergies and joint activities in culture and other constructive areas, such as trade and research.  Greece had also established mechanisms of cooperation with countries in the Balkans.  As it was on the front line of migration issues, it advocated for the streamlining of migration governance that made use of existing forums and promoting global partnership.  Affirming the importance of addressing climate change as well, she pledged her country’s support to the Organization’s efforts to address all factors involved with international peace and security to shape a more peaceful world for the future.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization, but at the same time, called for the acknowledgement of evidence of extremists and terrorists targeting specific communities based on religion or ethnicity.  He called for addressing the suffering of Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, and the indiscriminate attacks and forced displacement of ethnic Armenians from certain Syrian cities.  Armenia had been providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian population, sheltering approximately 22,000 refugees and implementing policies to facilitate housing, education, health care and other integration measures.  Turning to regional issues, he said the OSCE Minsk group co‑chair countries had in October reiterated a commitment to mediating a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno‑Karabakh conflict.  They had also welcomed the resumption of high‑level dialogue between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Geneva on 16 October and a meeting of their foreign ministers on 6 December.  Armenia remained fully committed to negotiations in that regard.

DAVID GREGORY YARDLEY (Australia) said addressing increasingly complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security required a change of approach.  Of particular importance was conflict prevention, sustainable peace, women’s participation in peacebuilding and United Nations reform.  All staff within the Organization must show leadership in embedding prevention approaches across all operations and programmes.  Furthermore, efforts to support peaceful societies must be inclusive, he said, citing evidence that meaningful participation of women in peace processes led to more durable outcomes.  In that regard, he acknowledged the practical steps taken in 2017 by the Department of Political Affairs, Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Peacebuilding Support Office.  Expressing strong support for the Secretary‑General’s ambitious reform efforts, he called for the Organization to prioritize prevention and inclusive peacebuilding.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the growing number of conflicts and the resulting fallout required a review of the Organization’s response.  Indeed, the international community had not made great use of mediation and conflict tools, which were needed to achieve lasting peace.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda, which he hoped would result in a more transparent and cooperative approach.  For its part, Morocco was active in addressing the impact of climate change on peace, and the world was already witnessing its effects, including migration and the erosion of coasts.  Concerning the threat of terrorism to international peace and security, he said peacekeepers could not react robustly to threats if they remained “shackled” in their current mandates.  In that vein, he expressed support for the G5 Sahel joint force and called for its full logistical and financial support, noting that multidimensional missions often lacked needed resources to support their mandate.  At the same time, resolving conflict required partnership, he said, calling for the United Nations to take the lead in coordinating efforts.

HASSAN ABBAS (Lebanon) said the notion that conflicts had become more complex should not distract from addressing root causes, including foreign occupation and aggression.  Lebanon faced many challenges, including almost daily Israeli violations of its sovereignty and the presence of more than 1.2 million refugees from Syria.  Such challenges had contributed to a significant decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, higher unemployment and poverty levels and an overstretched infrastructure.  The pioneering United Nations strategic framework, signed by the United Nations system and the Government in October 2016, recognized Lebanon’s multidimensional challenges, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations must follow a “whole of Lebanon” approach which leveraged and integrated the Organization’s diverse expertise, capacities and resources while supporting Lebanon along the path to sustainable development, as per the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal) said that studies had established the hazardous consequences of climate change on people as well as on the existence of small islands.  The security and economic implications of climate change could not be ignored.  That and other natural disasters would increase the number of environmental migrants in the coming decades.  It was the common responsibility of the United Nations membership to ensure secure futures for island‑dwellers and environmental migrants.  In Nepal, snowcaps were increasingly receding in the Himalayas.  As well, his country was experiencing pressure on food security and witnessing the extinction of some rare flora and fauna.  The Council could play an important role in addressing climate change simply by sending a message of its collective commitment.  The Council members that were also major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions must lead others by example, he said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) recalled that, with resolution 2349 (2017), the Council had recognized that climate change had an adverse impact on security.  Now, the Council and the General Assembly must clearly articulate practical measures the Organization could take in response to climate change and other non‑traditional security threats.  Measures could include the Secretary‑General preparing regular periodic assessment reports to serve as an early warning mechanism.  Moreover, the Council and Assembly could also consider examining the feasibility of establishing a regular coordination mechanism through which all of the Organization’s principal bodies and relevant agencies could contribute to designing conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacekeeping operations.  Small States were the most vulnerable to non‑traditional and emerging security threats and it was necessary that small island developing States in particular had a seat at the Council.  However, over 72 years, only eight such States had served in that body, he recalled, expressing hope that his country would be elected for the 2019‑2020 term in order to represent those States and contribute to shaping decisions affecting the smallest members of the international system.

SAMUELU LALONIU (Tuvalu), on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, said that climate change was the most important security challenge facing the world today, as affirmed in a seminal report by the previous Secretary‑General.  The growing attention paid to the issue in this chamber gave hope, but dangerous impacts were already occurring, with the most vulnerable bearing the largest burdens.  On the small islands, there were record‑breaking droughts and storms and extreme heat and floods had displaced more people than many conflicts.

Climate change was not going away and the situation would continue to deteriorate even if the goals of the Paris Agreement were met, he said.  The changes could be abrupt and could severely affect many systems that were currently relied on for modern life.  For those reasons, the Secretary‑General should appoint a special representative on climate and security, who could produce a report, in cooperation with scientific bodies, that identified and analysed potentially dangerous tipping points at the nexus of climate and security and address concerns that the securitization of climate change would lead to more militarization.

JOSÉ ATAÍDE AMARAL (Portugal) said addressing both the new and old threats to global peace and security required, more than ever before, a multilateral approach that also involved tackling the root causes of conflict.  Complex contemporary challenges required continuous adaptation of mechanisms, better coordination and early action to address threats at all levels.  Affirming the importance of conflict prevention, he supported the Secretary‑General’s reform proposals in that context.  The integration of a gender‑balance perspective was also a priority, as was an ever‑strengthening relationship between the General Assembly, Security Council and the rest of the United Nations system, including through the Peacebuilding Commission.  Early Council consultations on situations of imminent risk and collective action were important to break the conflict cycle.  Portugal stood ready to fully contribute to those efforts.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said emerging challenges had the potential to further exacerbate protracted conflicts and create multiplier effects across borders.  Conflict prevention was, first and foremost, a national responsibility and the active participation of all segments of society was fundamental to mitigating the potential drivers of conflict.  Meanwhile, the United Nations had a critical role in facilitating and monitoring the implementation of internationally agreed commitments to support Member States.  However, the range of tools at its disposal needed to be deployed with sensitivity to the realities on the ground and in consultation with relevant national, civil society and humanitarian actors.  The failure to do so was evident in the “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” witnessed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August, he said.  Furthermore, while the Council did not need to remain confined to a strict definition of its mandate, it should find ways to enhance its interface with other principal organs.

News

Security Council Reiterates its Condemnation of Trafficking in Persons, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2388 (2017)

Secretary‑General Underlines Collective Responsibility to ‘Stop These Crimes’

The Security Council reiterated its condemnation of trafficking in human beings today, particularly the sale of people by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), as well as other violations and abuses by Boko Haram, Al‑Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army and other such groups for the purpose of sexual slavery, sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2388 (2017) ahead of a day‑long debate on that subject, the Council underscored the importance of collecting and preserving evidence relating to such acts so as to ensure that those responsible could be held accountable.  It reaffirmed its condemnation, in the strongest terms, of all instances of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, who made up the vast majority of all trafficking victims in areas affected by armed conflict.

Also by the text, the Council stressed that trafficking undermined the rule of law and contributed to other forms of transnational organized crime that could exacerbate conflict and foster insecurity and instability, thereby undermining development.  The Council underscored the importance of cooperation in enforcing international law in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases.

The Council also expressed, by further terms of the text, its intention to give greater consideration to how peacekeeping and political missions could help host States combatting human trafficking.  It also requested that the Secretary‑General ensure the inclusion of trafficking in assessments of country situations and in the training of mission personnel, which would help in identifying, confirming, responding and reporting on situations of trafficking.

Briefing ahead of the debate were Secretary‑General António Guterres as well as Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, and Smail Chergui, the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security.

Secretary‑General Guterres declared “it is our collective responsibility to stop these crimes” by bringing perpetrators to justice, increasing humanitarian aid and strengthening national capacity to protect the vulnerable.  There was also an urgent need to ensure more opportunities for regular migration and to restore the integrity of the refugee protection regime.  “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the twenty‑first century,” he stressed.  However, reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) showed that increasing numbers of victims trafficked from Iraq, Syria and Somalia were appearing in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, he noted.

A framework of action to counter trafficking, rooted in international law, had been built through Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention), and the September 2017 Political Declaration on the implementation of the Global Plan of Action.  Cooperation, mutual legal assistance and the sharing of information were critical to that framework’s implementation, he said, adding that his first report on implementing resolution 2331 (2661) demonstrated the ongoing work carried out by Member States and the United Nations system.  “These efforts need to be intensified,” he said.

Data collection, analysis and technical assistance provided by UNODC and others, particularly actors in conflict situations, must be fully utilized, he emphasized, adding that the same applied to coordination through the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.  Efforts to end poverty and exclusion must also be stepped up.  More must be done to support victims, he said, underlining that they should be treated as victims of crime and not detained, prosecuted or punished.  He called for contributions to the Blue Heart Campaign and the United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.  “The international community’s commitment is being tested,” he declared.  “We need to show the world our determination to end human trafficking, help its many victims and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.”

Mr. Fedotov said the UNODC had designed tools for United Nations entities in conflict situations, enhanced data‑collection processes, developed training for police officers seconded to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and helped victims.  It was now considering how to strengthen the work of the Inter‑Agency Coordinating Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, he said.  In more general terms, he said widespread and systematic violations of people’s fundamental rights during mass movements remained a grave concern.  Thanks to efforts by the Council and the wider United Nations system, there was forward momentum against trafficking, but the international community’s resolve must be translated into action across all regional processes and initiatives, he emphasized.

Ms. Giammarinaro said egregious patterns of trafficking, forced labour and slavery were a strategy for terrorist groups, pointing out that such gross human rights violations were perpetrated systematically by criminal or armed groups taking advantage of the breakdown in the rule of law to carry out the “dirty business” of trafficking and become more powerful and dangerous.  Violations such as trafficking were not only a consequence of conflict, but also a cause, she pointed out, saying the Security Council’s agenda on trafficking should therefore be linked with the processes linked to the Global Compact on Migration and Refugees, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Moreover, it should be addressed in tandem with the women, peace and security agenda, and the Six Grave Violations against Children during Armed Conflict Agenda.  Expressing particular concern about the situation of children, she said they were used as child soldiers or sexual slaves during conflict, and were disproportionally affected by displacement.

Mr. Chergui said interventions to prevent trafficking should include measures to reduce vulnerability, build capacity alongside national Governments and strengthen border security, noting that national legal frameworks were inadequate and often needed strengthening.  Immediate actions should include demolishing camps in Libya and destroying criminal networks, he said, declaring: “Our common humanity is at stake.”

With more than 70 speakers participating in the open debate, delegates affirmed the serious violation of human rights represented by trafficking in persons, with many relating the harrowing stories of victims, particularly women and children.  Some speakers outlined national programmes to help victims and root out trafficking through the three‑part effort of prevention, protection and prosecution.

While most delegates hailed the resolution, many others questioned the expansion of the normative framework, some expressing regret that too many frameworks would fragment anti‑trafficking efforts.  Spain’s representative suggested that the UNODC take the lead in creating a global strategy.

In addition, many delegates called for greater legal migration opportunities to reduce the vulnerability of those to whom borders were now closed.  Bolivia’s representative advocated universal citizenship to reduce the vulnerability of migrants.

Many delegates began their statements by expressing disgust over recently disseminated images of African migrants in Libya being auctioned as slaves.

Libya’s representative, condemning such activity, said the authorities had initiated an investigation and would hold perpetrators accountable.  He called on the international community to help his country address challenges posed by irregular mass migration through Libya rather than using such media misrepresentations for defamatory purposes.

Also speaking today were representatives of Ethiopia, Sweden, Ukraine, Russian Federation, France, United States, Bolivia, Senegal, Japan, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Uruguay, China, United Kingdom, Italy, Venezuela (for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Colombia, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, Estonia, Belgium, Peru, Indonesia, Slovakia, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland, South Africa, Qatar, Jordan, Israel, Panama, Norway, Morocco, Sudan, Austria, Philippines, Guatemala, Argentina, Canada, Bangladesh, Iraq, Georgia, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Botswana, Botswana, Maldives, Malaysia, Belize, Portugal, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Myanmar, Netherlands and Armenia.

Representatives of the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the International Organization for Migration also spoke, as did the observer for the Holy See.

The meeting opened at 10:08 a.m. and closed at 5:09 p.m.

Briefings

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said “criminals and terrorists are capitalizing on, and perpetuating, the disorder and mayhem of conflict”, funding their crimes by brutally preying on the vulnerable.  Sexual exploitation, forced labour, the removal of bodily organs and slavery were the tools of their trade.  Citing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Boko Haram, Al‑Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as having forced women, boys and girls into dehumanizing servitude, he said such activities constituted serious abuses of human rights, as did the horrific practice of selling African migrants as “goods” in Libya.

“It is our collective responsibility to stop these crimes” by bringing perpetrators to justice, increasing humanitarian aid and strengthening national capacity to protect the vulnerable, he emphasized.  There was also an urgent need to ensure more opportunities for regular migration, to restore the integrity of the refugee protection regime and to increase the number of refugees in the developed world.  “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the twenty‑first century,” he stressed.  However, reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) showed that increasing numbers of victims trafficked from Iraq, Syria and Somalia were appearing in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

He said a framework of action to counter trafficking, rooted in international law, had been built through Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol) and the September 2017 Political Declaration on the implementation of the Global Plan of Action.  Cooperation, mutual legal assistance and the sharing of information were critical to implementing that framework, he said, adding that his first report on implementing resolution 2331 (2661) demonstrated the ongoing work carried out by Member States and the United Nations system.  “These efforts need to be intensified,” he said.

Data collection, analysis and technical assistance provided by UNODC and others, particularly actors in conflict situations, must be fully utilized, he continued, adding that the same applied to coordination through the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.  Efforts to end poverty and exclusion must also be stepped up.  More must be done to support victims, he said, underlining that they should be treated as victims of crime and not detained, prosecuted or punished.  In that regard, he called for contributions to the Blue Heart Campaign and the United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.  “The international community’s commitment is being tested,” he declared.  “We need to show the world our determination to end human trafficking, help its many victims and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.”

YURY V. FEDOTOV, Under‑Secretary‑General and Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said the draft resolution due for adoption today would set new goals and targets in combatting human trafficking.  Condemning slave markets in Libya, “where people are sold like commodities”, he said he took note of the assurances by that country’s Government that such cases were being investigated.  “Our collective horror at this news serves an important purpose:  it can quicken the pace of our actions and encourage a global partnership against human trafficking,” he said.  As part of its response, UNODC was prepared to help strengthen Libyan law enforcement’s capacity to investigate and prosecute criminals; align national laws with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) and its protocols on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants; build partnerships among States in the region and improve the capacity of authorities in Libya and other countries to investigate the finances flowing from such crimes.

In more general terms, he continued, the widespread and systematic violations of people’s fundamental rights in mass movements remained a grave concern.  Al‑Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIL/Da’esh and other terrorist groups were exploiting boys and girls as sexual slaves or soldiers, but thanks to the efforts of the Security Council and the United Nations system, there was forward momentum against the trafficking of persons in conflict situations.  However, the international community’s resolve must be translated into action across all regional processes and initiatives, he emphasized, encouraging States parties to the Palermo Convention to strengthen international cooperation, develop comprehensive legislation and ensure that no offender escaped justice.  Early warning and early screening initiatives must be deployed proactively, and victims protected and assisted.

Describing the UNODC response to resolution 2331 (2016) as extensive, he said the Office had, among other steps, designed tools for United Nations entities in conflict situations, enhanced data collection processes, developed training for police officers seconded to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, assisted victims under the umbrella of the United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of human trafficking, and held States to implementation of the Palermo Protocol.  Welcoming contributions to the voluntary trust fund, he appealed for greater coordination within the United Nations family, noting that UNODC was considering a meeting at the principals level in 2018 that would give new impetus to the work of the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, said the trafficking of people in armed conflict or fleeing conflict, and the protection of the rights of victims, demanded concerted and effective action.  Citing a recent video disseminated by CNN showing an auction of young migrants, she said trafficking for purposes of exploitation and slavery was a tragic reality.  Noting that trafficking was fuelled by political instability and occurred regularly in the context of large migration flows, she said that, as a form of gender‑based violence, it disproportionately affected women and girls, while also targeting children and young adults on a massive scale.

At the same time, egregious patterns of trafficking, forced labour and slavery were a strategy for terrorist groups, she continued, pointing out that such gross human rights violations were perpetrated systematically by criminal or armed groups taking advantage of the breakdown in the rule of law to carry out the “dirty business” of trafficking and become more powerful and dangerous.  That was one of the reasons why the prevention of trafficking was directly linked to the maintenance of international peace and security, she explained.  In that light, a human rights perspective was crucial.

She went on to emphasize that violations such as trafficking in persons were not only a consequence of conflict, but also a cause.  The Security Council agenda on trafficking should therefore be linked with the process of the global compact on migration and refugees, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Moreover, it should be addressed in tandem with the women, peace and security agenda, and with the Six Grave Violations against Children during Armed Conflict Agenda.  Expressing particular concern about the situation of children, she said they were used as child soldiers or sexual slaves during conflict, and were disproportionally affected by displacement.  She underlined the obligation of States to ensure that victims of trafficking were protected from further exploitation and harm, and to prevent, respect and fulfil the human rights of human tracking victims, including by holding non‑State actors accountable at all times.

SMAIL CHERGUI, Commissioner for Peace and Security, African Union, noted that the regional bloc was currently engaged in 15 conflict situations, and in each case, trafficking was eroding human dignity.  Although much of it was below the radar screen, sexual abuse and the recruitment of child soldiers were rife.  Slavery was common, and reports from Libya caused a loss of words.  The business of smuggling migrants in that country had become so lucrative that criminals were fighting over it.  Outlining the African Union’s efforts to alleviate the situation, he said the prevention and resolution of conflict were the most important elements of the bloc’s partnership with the United Nations.

Interventions to prevent trafficking should include measures to reduce vulnerability, build capacity alongside national Governments and strengthen border security, he said.  National legal frameworks were often inadequate and needed strengthening.  Describing regional arrangements to tackle trafficking in various parts of Africa, he said the bloc was also developing assistance initiatives, emphasizing that the entire effort must be linked to sustainable development.  However, there had been difficulties in moving beyond the normative framework to action, he said, adding that there were also missing links in partnerships between various actors.  Immediate actions should include demolishing camps in Libya and destroying criminal networks, he said, declaring:  “Our common humanity is at stake.”

Statements

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that the sale of migrants as slaves in Libya was the latest despicable act to come to life and must sound the alarm for action by the international community.  He called for swift action to identify the perpetrators of the slave trading.  Root causes such as poverty and conflict must be addressed, and more attention focused on the vulnerabilities of women and children, he emphasized.  In addition, much more must done by transit and destination countries to increase the opportunities for legal mixed migration.  Recognizing the positive aspects of migration, he emphasized that it was crucial to respect the rights of migrants.  The goal was well‑regulated migration with human rights at its centre, irrespective of the status of individuals.  Victims of trafficking must also be helped to reintegrate, he said, adding that existing international instruments could form the basis for cooperation on all those issues.

IRINA SCHOULGIN-NYONI (Sweden), aligning herself with the statement to be made by the European Union and the Nordic countries, said the chilling reports of outright slave trade in Libya were appalling, and she called on authorities to investigate those activities.  Because sexual violence and exploitation were linked to trafficking, women and children were often the most vulnerable.  Thus, it was essential to provide proper aid to the victims and secure evidence of such crimes so that the perpetrators could be brought to justice.  The United Nations presence in conflict situations could play an important role in the response to trafficking through capacity‑building, national support and protection of civilians.  The Council could also include relevant criteria for the listing of traffickers in sanctions resolutions.  Building strong rule of law institutions was essential, as was the cooperation between global and regional organizations such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and UNODC.  Because trafficking was in essence a criminal business model, such criminal assets must be targeted to effectively interrupt organized crime networks and terrorist groups.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said trafficking in persons was a curse and a disgrace of modern times.  Moreover, it was a gross violation of human rights and an extremely complex form of organized crime.  Numerous ongoing conflicts had generated the exploitation of civilians, with terrorist and other armed groups forcing victims into sexual slavery and compulsory labour.  As such, trafficking was a transnational threat requiring a transnational response, he said.  In that regard, Ukraine was encouraged that the Council had addressed the issue in two recent resolutions, and fully supported the Political Declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  On the financing of such activity, he called on the international community to cut the profits enjoyed by traffickers, who viewed other human beings as mere commodities.  Ukraine had made significant progress towards establishing a national human trafficking response framework, he said, but Russian aggression had displaced 2 million people, leaving them particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) described the Ukraine delegate’s insinuations against his country as absurd.  Calling for a holistic approach covering prevention, criminal prosecution and assistance to victims, he expressed support for the leading role of the United Nations in consolidating efforts to combat trafficking in persons, and welcomed the measures adopted within the UNODC framework to provide targeted assistance to States.  He called for continued building of capacity to implement the United Nations Global Action Plan, describing it as the compass that set the direction for State efforts to combat human trafficking.  However, he cautioned the Council to be careful about attempts to change approaches or develop alternative platforms to deal with the issue, which could weaken the relevant international regime.  At the same time, the Council should avoid duplication of efforts and deal with the trafficking issue only in the context of its agenda, he emphasized.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France), associating herself with the European Union, said human trafficking was one of the world’s most widespread and profitable forms of trafficking.  It was employed as a tool for financing and even recruitment by armed groups and terrorists, she said, adding that such actions were not only abhorrent, but constituted crimes against humanity and even genocide.  The perpetrators must be held accountable, she said, stressing that Member States had a duty not only to protect civilians, but also to uphold international law and principles.  Calling for robust national action plans, she said France was helping the most vulnerable States, particularly in Africa, to address trafficking in persons.  She urged all States to come together with the aim of preventing such activity, underlining that it was the collective responsibility of Member States to punish those responsible for such actions.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said the scenes of people being sold like cattle in Libya should shock everyone, and the practice must be stopped.  Trafficking had deleterious effects well beyond its victims and was a prime example of human rights violations occurring in conflicts where terrorists held sway, she stated, relating the harrowing stories of people captured by Boko Haram and others.  Describing her country’s activities to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, she said a victim‑centred approach was critical to the success of law enforcement efforts, welcoming the Council’s call for a mechanism to investigate trafficking abuses.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), expressing horror at images of individuals auctioned in Libya, strongly condemned such activity and called urgently for the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.  Noting the widespread displacement that had occurred in the past decades, he urged cooperation among all States in the implementation of the Palermo Convention and its related Protocol.  Poverty and interventions in the affairs of States were major causes of migration flows, as were closing borders to migration and the possibility of profiting from money raised through crimes flowing into the international financial system.  Bolivia supported the establishment of universal citizenship to reduce the vulnerability of migrants, he said.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) called for a full inquiry into the modern slavery in Libya that had recently reached the media.   Calling for a full inquiry and action to ensure the end of such crimes, he said the resolutions passed by the Security Council provided the tools with which to fight them.  Africa was active in countering trafficking since it was home to many conflicts, he said, pointing out that trafficking was found in all corners of the world, particularly in theatres of war where terrorists were present.  Human trafficking must be addressed as a priority in all conflict zones because it funded further terrorist and criminal activity.  Senegal had ratified all international instruments relating to human trafficking in addition to having strengthened its legal framework for that purpose and for the protection of victims.  Stressing also that accountability for violations was critical, he said international mechanisms must take over where national justice was not up to the task.  Countering trafficking must be a regular part of all efforts to combat the ills of humanity, he added.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), citing Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), said that armed and terrorist groups were using human trafficking for fundraising and recruitment.  Despite the international community’s increasing awareness, those non‑State actors had continued to recruit boys and girls for combat or support functions and, in some cases, were radicalizing them to commit terrorist acts by using deception, threats and promises of rewards.  The resolution encouraged Member States to use refugee registration mechanisms, as well as early warning and screening frameworks, to identify potential trafficking victims.  Identification of victims was the first step towards protecting them and prosecuting perpetrators.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) called for urgent measures to address human trafficking, including harmonizing legislation across countries, ending impunity, enhancing cross border controls, blocking criminal assets and expanding international cooperation with regional affiliates.  Because peace and development were also essential factors in the eradication of trafficking, he called for strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the African Union, the League of Arab States and other regional organizations.  Kazakhstan had participated with the Commonwealth of Independent States and with OSCE as part of that Organization’s Alliance against Trafficking in Persons.  It had also established a national referral mechanism, implemented the “STOP traffic” preventative campaigns and was regularly monitoring mass media and the Internet to detect traffic‑related materials.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said combating trafficking was a priority for his country’s Government.  Egypt was among the States that had ratified the relevant resolutions and protocols, and had established a legal and institutional framework to guarantee its international obligations.  He called upon the international community to redouble efforts to cut off all sources of funding for terrorist organizations, using all available mechanisms to do so.  Emphasizing that human trafficking was not related to any religion, nationality or civilization, he said religious leaders could play an important role in dismissing the links that some extremists tried to spread.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay), noting that 60 per cent of trafficking victims were female foreigners, called upon States to guarantee the fundamental rights of victims by strengthening protection mechanisms.  He stressed the principle of non‑criminalization of irregular migration, calling upon Governments to provide the victims with the tools necessary to cope in transit countries by making them less vulnerable to traffickers.  Overall, there was need for a broad, multidimensional approach involving determination and political will, he said.

WU HAITAO (China) said protracted armed conflicts had led to rampant criminal activities by armed groups and terrorist organizations.  Such crimes were on the rise in conflict situations, and the international community must address such “hotspot” issues with urgency and help settle disputes peacefully.  At the same time, the root causes of conflict must be addressed so as to create a sound protective environment for women and children in such situations.  He called for efforts to completely cut off the terrorist funding chain, as well as the means for spreading their ideology.  As for the plight of refugees, he called for joint efforts to address the problem using the 1951 Refugee Convention as a guiding framework.  In that connection, States must also promote sustained development in the origin countries of refugees, he said.  While respecting national sovereignty, the international community must provide assistance to vulnerable countries in such areas as border control and judicial assistance.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) noted the shock caused by the video of slave trading in Libya and expressed deep concern over trafficking abuses occurring in conflict zones.  Data gathering and information‑sharing, highlighted in the Secretary‑General’s report, were critical in combatting trafficking, as was improving coordination among and between United Nations entities.  The full range of mechanisms meant to counter terrorist financing must be applied to trafficking, he said, emphasizing that transparency must be enforced in supply chains, and peacekeeping missions more fit to counter trafficking.  “Let us stand together to end exploitation of human beings,” he urged.

VINCENZO AMENDOLA, Under‑Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Italy, welcomed the adoption of today’s resolution, noting its provisions on victim protection, greater coherence within the United Nations system and other ways in which it complemented the first resolution on the issue.  Condemning human trafficking, he said Italy fought it every day while prioritizing the human rights of migrants and other persons in the massive movement of human beings affecting the Mediterranean region.  Links to organized crime must be better explored, and all States must ratify the Palermo Protocol, he emphasized, adding that a comprehensive approach was needed to address root causes of vulnerability such as conflict and poverty.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed that trafficked persons should be treated as victims of crime and, in line with domestic legislation, should not be penalized or stigmatized.  It was also imperative to break any existing impunity cycle and hold accountable those responsible for committing such crimes which, in some circumstances, could be defined as war crimes or crimes against humanity.  Human trafficking must be addressed both collectively and comprehensively, including by examining its root causes and drivers, as well as its multidimensional nature.  Addressing such a complex issue required a preventive rather than military approach, including through enhanced international cooperation.

He expressed concern about the growing links between human trafficking and transnational organized crime, with trafficking being used as a means of financing and recruitment for terrorist activities.  In the Sahel‑Saharan region, hostage‑taking and terrorist acts represented a threat to regional security and stability.  He urged all States to address the issue through cooperation and dialogue, highlighting the importance of the Palermo Convention.  Moreover, he underlined the historic opportunity provided by the 2018 International Conference on Migration, expressing the bloc’s commitment to the negotiation process for the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.  The international community should refrain from taking any measures stigmatizing certain groups or individuals, including third‑country nationals and their families.  Instead, it was necessary to consider tailored and nationally owned strategies to prevent and combat human trafficking.

MARIA EMMAN MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia), expressing horror over images of slave trade in the Mediterranean, said that her Government had had to assist many victims of trafficking.  She welcomed the growing international framework to fight the scourge, observing that gaps were being filled and lessons learned were being exchanged.  She joined those who called for the universal ratification of the protocol to the Palermo Convention and added her support for the role of UNODC.  All Member States should come together to put an end to the human rights abuses that constituted human trafficking, she said.

BRIAN FLYNN (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union and noting that his country was a co‑sponsor of resolution 2388 (2017), said trafficking for sexual exploitation was a form of gender‑based violence, and called for an increased focus on prevention programmes.  His country’s commitment to the issue could be seen in its national action plan and financial contributions to fight human trafficking, including its support to the European Union’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and the OSCE National Referral Mechanism on anti‑trafficking.  Ireland also provided funding to a range of international organizations and civil society partners.  Noting the importance of public awareness, he emphasized the critical role of civil society in preventing and combating human trafficking.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that human trafficking was the modern face of slavery, emerging in situations of conflicts where there was a clear breakdown in the rule of law.  The Security Council needed to take action, he said, welcoming resolution 2331 (2016).  As for the issue of fragmentation in combating human trafficking, the international community lacked a single comprehensive strategy.  In that regard, he proposed that UNODC devise a comprehensive strategy that all bodies could follow.  Recalling the horrors occurring in places such as Libya, he urged that the full use of peacekeeping and special political missions address the phenomenon.  States could not simply point to the failings of others.  All bore responsibility, and the international community had a long way to go in fulfilling that responsibility.  To combat human trafficking, his delegation had suggested setting up a global network of anti‑trafficking coordinators that could share best practices.  That recommendation had been received favourably by the European Union and he expressed hope that others would follow.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), expressing dismay at recent news reports showing migrants in Libya being sold as slaves, commended the Secretary‑General for calling on authorities to investigate those auctions.  She outlined a number of steps that could address the global threat of human trafficking more effectively, including a human rights and survivor‑centred approach.  She also called for the effective implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.  Along with the Netherlands and Belgium, her country had established a transnational referral mechanism to make the identification, referral and assistance of victims more efficient.  There needed to be a greater compliance with international humanitarian law and for accountability by ending impunity and bringing the perpetrators to justice.  However, it was not enough to bring perpetrators of trafficking to justice; those who supported and enabled their activities must also be held accountable.  Furthermore, the international community must explore what role existing mechanisms tasked to investigate violations of international humanitarian law could play in ensuring that such crimes were investigated by the competent authorities.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said a strong law enforcement response to human trafficking was imperative, reiterating his country’s call to contribute to the universal acceptance of the Palermo Protocol. He also pointed out that some of the issues on the Council’s agenda illustrated the drastic consequences that resulted from the lack of regular migration channels.  Libya was one case in point where the recurrence of the crudest and most brutal forms of modern slavery had exacerbated the situation in that country and had “put us all to shame collectively”.  Resolution 2331 (2016) had recognized that offences associated with trafficking in persons might constitute war crimes, and, in some contexts, crimes against humanity.  That implicitly pointed to the potential role of international criminal justice systems, he said, underscoring the importance of the International Criminal Court in situations where it had jurisdiction, as it did in the case of Libya.  The Security Council itself had created jurisdiction by referring the situation to the Court, he noted.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that human trafficking must be addressed comprehensively and collectively.  A close look at its root causes needed to be taken, including foreign aggression and intervention, occupation, war and protracted conflicts, political instability, terrorism, genocide and ethnic cleansing, all of which created conditions under which millions became displaced in their own countries or sought refuge overseas.  The current situation in Libya and the concerns over reported enslavement were the result of focusing on symptoms rather than root causes, he added.  Member States whose destructive military options had left millions of people at the risk of exploitation and trafficking were not in a position to produce politicized reports, labelling others while denying their own responsibilities, he said.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said that anticipating and preventing the outbreak of armed conflict and using preventive diplomacy were the best ways to avoid untold tragedy and human suffering.  Unfortunately, however, those hopes were all too often impeded by negative foreign interventions motivated by contradictory interests that were often the reason behind the conflict.  That created serious hardships reaching far beyond national borders and eventually causing growing international concern.

Regions suffering armed conflict and instability were the most vulnerable to trafficking in human beings and Libya was no exception, but it was keen to address such violations, he continued.  Dismayed that media outlets were reporting the sale of migrants into slavery in Libya, he condemned and denounced such actions as inhumane as well as incompatible with national legislation and societal values.  The authorities had initiated an investigation into those allegations and would hold the perpetrators accountable, he vowed.

A transit country for large and continuous flows of illegal immigrants, Libya was going through difficult times, he said, adding that it was unfair to expect it to assume responsibility for the consequences of migration.  All agreed that the burden exceeded national capacities, and the practical solution was to consider the reasons why people were driven from their home countries, and develop solutions.  Rejecting any attempt to settle immigrants in Libya on the grounds of possible dangers and repercussions to the country’s social and cultural fabric, he called upon the international community to help his country address the challenges posed by irregular migration rather than exploiting misrepresentative media investigations for defamatory purposes.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), condemning the use of African migrants as slaves in Libya, called for enhanced international cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination.  Underscoring his country’s commitment to fight the crime of trafficking in persons in line with various international instruments, he highlighted the Palermo Convention, the Palermo Protocol and Security Council resolution 2331 (2016).  Pakistan had implemented a national action plan for combating human trafficking and smuggling, along with a strategic framework and a strengthened trafficking‑related legislation.  Concerning the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, he expressed hope that the adoption of that instrument would help strengthen the existing global legal framework.  Long‑term political and financial commitments and support, as well as the Security Council’s efforts, were critical to help build States’ capacities to address the root causes of conflict.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said that terrorism, as a threat to international peace and security, should be addressed by the Security Council.  Organized crime remained primarily a domestic public security issue, which might require international cooperation, pursuant to the framework established by the Palermo Protocol and other relevant international legal instruments.  Whereas human trafficking might occur in some armed conflict scenarios, there were no intrinsic or automatic linkages between those phenomena.  Trafficking also took place in situations that were not related to threats to international peace and security, such as displacements following natural disasters.  For trafficking to be effectively addressed by the United Nations, the Security Council should be mindful of the mandate and technical expertise of the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as the role of UNODC.

MINNA-LIINA LIND (Estonia), speaking for Latvia and Lithuania, aligned herself with the statement to be made by the European Union.  Expressing concern about the increase of connections between armed groups and human trafficking, she also stressed the importance of countering the criminal misuse of information and communications technologies while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In addition, it was imperative to investigate, prosecute and convict perpetrators of human trafficking crimes and end impunity.  An increased focus on prevention was central in addressing root causes and vulnerabilities.  Enhanced efforts were needed to actively combat the demand for trafficked people in destination and transit countries.  She expressed support for UNODC and its implementation of the Palermo Convention and the Palermo Protocol.  She also called for greater cooperation at the international level, particularly through the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium), associating herself with the European Union, said that human trafficking undermined rule of law and flew in the face of the principle of human dignity.  Instability and precariousness created hotbeds for trafficking, and it was necessary to ensure the continuity and comprehensiveness of the multilateral system that aimed to combat trafficking.  Its efforts should span prevention, identification and interception of existing networks, and bring perpetrators to account.  Turning to the need for awareness‑raising, she stressed the necessity to train various stakeholders, including international and national personnel deployed in areas where there were human crises.  Belgium had organized training for military personnel deployed in humanitarian context.  Given the military victory over Da’esh, the international community must redouble its efforts to fight the connection between trafficking and terrorism.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that trafficking was a complex phenomenon that deprived people of freedom and dignity.  The unanimous adoption of resolution 2388 (2017) would enable the international community to combat the problem more consistently, in line with the Palermo Convention and its protocols.  Highlighting the “perverse dynamic” wherein terrorist groups benefited from lucrative transnational organized crimes such as trafficking, he also noted the intrinsic link between trafficking in persons and trafficking in migrants.  Migrants and refugees, in their search for a better life, tended to become easy victims for traffickers.  Particular focus should also be placed on women and children, he said, adding that it was necessary to improve the mechanism for protecting victims.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, said that the complex interplay between supply and demand must be addressed if human trafficking were to be eradicated.  She expressed her support for the Secretary‑General’s recommendations focused on addressing the nexus between trafficking in persons and conflict‑related sexual violence, including by terrorist groups.  The European Union had built an ambitious and comprehensive legal and policy framework to combat human trafficking.  The approach was human rights‑based, victim‑centred, gender‑specific and child‑sensitive, focusing on prevention, criminal prosecution and victim protection.  The framework also considered the specific assistance needs of the most vulnerable, especially women and children.  In addition, the bloc had promoted national mechanisms for early identification and victim assistance based on the principle of non‑punishment and unconditional assistance.

In September, the European Union and the United Nations had launched the Spotlight Initiative, aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, she continued.  The initiative was backed by an initial dedicated financial envelope of €500 million.  As well, the bloc would work towards implementing commitments made under the Call to Action on Protection from Gender‑based Violence in Emergencies.  She called for greater coherence across the United Nations, emphasizing the essential role of the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons in ensuring that efforts were not duplicated.  The European Commission would shortly publish its priority actions to address human trafficking.  Those actions would build on ongoing work, take stock of the achievements of the European Union Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012‑2016 and ensure continuation of those efforts, including coordinating with stakeholders, increasing the knowledge base and strengthening victim protection.

Ms. JARBUSSYNOVA, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said that it was imperative to adopt and implement a multidisciplinary, cross‑sectoral and transnational approach.  That initiative must incorporate inclusion and collaboration as watchwords to ensure more effective investigations and timely prosecutions.  Action should not be limited to the development of policy and legislative frameworks.  To date, OSCE had trained 200 law enforcement officials, prosecutors, labour inspectors, financial investigators and civil society representatives in an intensive simulation exercise to combat trafficking along migration routes.

Such practical initiatives were critical, not only to foster better synergies, but to achieve long‑lasting results, she continued.  There was often a sophisticated system of recruitment, along with a number of worrying trends, including the steadily increasing number of recruits of girls and young women who joined terrorist organizations to serve as “wives”, and the engagement of young high school graduates for exploitative purposes.  That information had led to a research project, launched in 2017, to better understand the links between recruitment and exploitation patterns of traffickers and terrorist groups.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that, despite joint efforts, human trafficking remained one of the gravest challenges to humanity.  Refugees were particularly vulnerable, and their welfare and safety needed to be ensured to prevent them from becoming victims.  At the same time, it was critical to strengthen efforts to implement all anti‑trafficking instruments.  Cross‑border collaboration aimed at investigating, disrupting and dismantling networks must also be prioritized.  At the regional level, his Government was working to implement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and was committed to the Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.  He advocated for better training of peacekeepers in the area of human trafficking and held up the 2030 Agenda as a means to counter the instability and economic desperation that amplified the problem.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said that having ratified all major international treaties, as well as implementing European Union legislation, his country had also strengthened its national laws in order to increase the protection of victims.  Less than two months ago, Slovakia had agreed on the Political Declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  He stressed the need to address the factors that increased vulnerability in trafficking, including poverty, unemployment, inequality and conflict.  Prevention rather than response must be focused upon, and the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators should be timely, accurate and comprehensive, he said.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that, because collecting physical evidence in armed conflict remained a significant challenge when addressing human trafficking, his Government supported the Secretary‑General’s approach to identify additional evidence outside conflict zones.  It was critical to make such crimes unprofitable, he said, emphasizing the importance of tracking financial flows and transactions derived from trafficking, including through the Financial Action Task Force.  Furthermore, if the rule of law was not upheld, and trafficking in persons was allowed to thrive in situations of conflict, such crimes could contribute to the destabilization of societies and States.  At the national level, Germany had undertaken victims‑focused measures, including support through social services and psychological support.  Other measures were supporting law enforcement and the criminalization of clients who knowingly used sexual services from trafficked persons.  The participation of civil society was also encouraged, including through Germany’s 2016 national action plan on business and human rights.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said that human trafficking was a global problem that required a global response, including the four pillars of prevention, prosecution, protection and partnerships.  Due to its geographical location, Turkey had been adversely affected by the rising trends in human trafficking.  Criminal and terrorist networks were resorting to different forms of exploitation, ranging from gender‑based sexual violence to forced recruitment of adults and children.  His country was actively fighting against terrorist organizations in its region, and had also introduced comprehensive administrative and legal measures to combat human trafficking.  At the international level, Turkey was a party to the Palermo Convention and its relevant supplementary protocols.

OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said that the Secretary‑General’s report provided an excellent baseline of activities undertaken by the United Nations to fight human trafficking, giving insight into best practices developed by Member States.  Noting that forced displacement and migration increased the risk for trafficking and exploitation, he added that, while the absence of security was favourable to the business model of traffickers, peaceful countries with strong rule of law were by no means exempted.  For its part, Switzerland was working on strengthening measures for identification and protection of persons in the asylum procedure.  Also highlighting the importance of fact‑finding mechanisms, he said the combination of reporting and monitoring helped build a knowledge base on trafficking.

EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa) said that illicit trafficking in drugs, stolen antiquities and light weapons often followed the same routes used by human traffickers.  Those activities threatened international peace and security, including by sustaining terrorism.  The appalling reports over the last few days that showed African migrants in Libya being sold as slaves was a clear indication of the urgent need for the commitment to eradicate human trafficking.  One of the highest risks to displaced persons was the threat of being trafficked, particularly for refugees fleeing conflicts.  Trafficking operations often flourished when Government institutions and law enforcement capacities were eroded by sustained conflict.  The ultimate objective should be to address the conflict that gave rise to human trafficking.  Development challenges should be addressed, as should the dangers of external interventions which had been witnessed in Libya, Iraq and Syria, and had led to the proliferation of refugees and internally displaced persons.

SIMON KASSAS, observer for the Holy See, said that to eradicate human trafficking, its economic, environmental, political and ethical causes must be confronted.  Wars and violent conflicts had become the biggest driver of forced human displacement.  Such conflicts enabled human traffickers to exploit such environments and target refugees.  Efforts to end conflict should be accompanied by measures to protect affected populations from traffickers, in particular the most vulnerable, including women and children.  He highlighted the importance of implementing the responsibility to protect in the context of the migration and refugee crisis.  The criminalization of forced migrants and of undocumented and irregular migrants in general exacerbated their vulnerabilities and drove them further into the clutches of traffickers.  It also rendered them less likely to collaborate with law enforcement authorities to catch and punish traffickers.

TARIQ ALI FARAJ AL-ANSARI (Qatar) said that the Secretary‑General’s report contained important recommendations that would enable the international community to combat human trafficking, especially in conflict‑prone regions.  The indicators showed an increasing numbers of victims, especially among women and children.  Terrorist groups were using human trafficking to recruit soldiers and raise funds.  His country would focus on addressing the root causes of trafficking, whether social, economic, cultural, political, ideological, or due to the absence of rule of law.  At the national level, there were a number of legislative measures in place to punish perpetrators and provide rehabilitation for victims.  Qatar was also a member of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, and was one of the biggest supporters of UNODC.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan), expressing alarm about the revolting images of human trafficking in Libya that had recently surfaced in the news media, said that human beings continued to be sold like merchandise, despite the best efforts of the international community to combat the problem.  It was necessary to have a holistic vision of the issue.  Instead of focusing solely on the hotspots, the international community must combat underlying causes.  Security and development issues were inextricably linked and it was crucial to redouble efforts to fight human trafficking perpetrated by terrorist groups.  Calling for a global preventive strategy that would empower young people and build capacity in developing countries, she noted that Jordanian law criminalized all forms of human trafficking.

NOA FURMAN (Israel) said that, due to a serious trafficking problem throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, her country had introduced a comprehensive anti‑trafficking law in 2006 with the goal to make every Government official, student, business executive, police officer and citizen aware of trafficking and its victims.  Israel’s National Anti‑Trafficking Unit provided more than 50 training sessions for officials annually.  Lawyers in the State Attorney’s Office received special training to enhance the law enforcement side of anti‑trafficking.  For the general public, lectures and interviews with survivors at universities and in the media were offered.  Leaflets were distributed to raise awareness and efforts had been made to reduce the stigma that could accompany human trafficking.  On the international level, Israel worked with other countries to combat trafficking on a global scale, she said, adding that it had not been spared from the cruelty of human trafficking, but it was doing its best to combat it on all fronts.

ISBETH LISBETH QUIEL MURCIA (Panama) said that human trafficking recognized no borders and affected all countries.  It was a degrading practice and a violation of human rights, which stripped away the humanity of victims for the benefit of criminal networks.  She echoed the condemnation of the United Nations Secretary‑General, following reports in the media that revealed the existence of markets of human beings in Libya.  The auctioning of migrants and refugees was a shocking reality, she noted.  As conflicts generated migrant flows, she urged international cooperation efforts to focus on the problem through a unified approach.  In‑line with the Global Plan of Action, Panama had rolled out specific actions for the prevention of human trafficking and the prosecution of traffickers.  In the area of data collection, it had created a biometric database that prevented individuals with criminal ties from entering the country.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic Countries, acknowledged the dual nature of human trafficking as a cause and consequence of conflict and instability.  Terrorist groups such as ISIL, Boko Haram, Al‑Shabaab and the LRA were using trafficking as a tactic of terror and war, while also raising money for their operations and criminal infrastructure.  Women and children were particularly exposed, often in the form of sexual slavery, and forced labour as soldiers and spies.  Welcoming the adoption last week at the margins of the United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial conference in Canada, of the Vancouver principles on the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers, he said it was necessary to improve data sharing and monitoring between countries and the Organization’s entities.

Mr. ELKHADIR (Morocco) said that in 2013, his country had adopted a national policy for fighting human trafficking that focused on a humane approach that would shelter migrants from being trafficked.  Morocco had also demonstrated its commitment at the international stage by adhering to the relevant conventions.  Extreme poverty and conflict, among other causes, had spawned vulnerabilities that criminals could exploit, and a security approach was not enough to fight that.  What was needed was a multi‑sectoral approach that involved cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination, he stressed.

Mr. MAFADAL (Sudan) said that the heinous pictures and news about the African refugees in Libya should provide impetus to the international community in confronting the problem.  Criminal networks were profiting from humanitarian crises, especially by exploiting vulnerable groups for sexual trafficking and organ trade.  Calling for international and bilateral cooperation in intercepting illegal financial flows, he said that the unprecedented mass movements of refugees and migrants had led to huge problems, including in his country.  Recalling Sudan’s recent progress in combating transnational organized crime, he said that its police forces had managed to liberate thousands of victims of smuggling on their way to Libya and eventually Europe.

JAN KICKERT (Austria), aligning him with the European Union, welcomed the adoption of resolution 2388 (2017) and highlighted the vulnerability of women and children in conflict situations.  Terrorists were capturing women and girls to sell or offer as rewards to fighters, and children were being recruited by armed groups and then being used as child soldiers and human shields.  In combating human trafficking, Austria was following a victim‑centred approach based on rights and rule of law.  It was crucial to focus on preventing trafficking, identifying and protecting victims and ending the climate of impunity.  In view of the transnational nature of the offence, all stakeholders, both at the national and international level, needed to work together, he said, encouraging States to make use of the expertise offered by UNODC.

KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines) said that armed conflict and unstable peace and order situations increased the vulnerabilities of children and youth for recruitment into civilian armed groups and rebel groups.  The Philippines’ efforts were focused on preventing recruitment, holding perpetrators accountable and training frontline officers on appropriate methods to assist children rescued from armed groups.  Examining trafficking corridors and business flow was critical in addressing how human trafficking was being used to finance terrorist activities, armed groups and transnational organized crime networks.  That approach had enabled her Government to locate victims and traffickers throughout the entire process, especially at critical points of intervention.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said that armed conflicts and humanitarian crises amplified the risk of trafficking, and victimized refugees and internally displaced persons.  There was growing proof of the link between trafficking and terrorist groups.  The Council had witnessed the high cost in human life due to conflicts, and the work it did could have an impact on that area.  A year ago, it adopted resolution 2331 (2016), which condemned all acts of trafficking in persons.  That resolution also focused on the importance of collecting evidence in relation to those acts, to ensure the accountability of those responsible.  He said he deplored that most victims of such crimes had been children, and condemned the fact that migratory women and children had become vulnerable to trafficking and crime networks.  The Council should not fail to address such violent and inhumane acts, he said.

GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) said that she believed that combatting trafficking should involve a comprehensive approach, and it was relevant that it was discussed within the framework of the General Assembly.  Terrorist groups were using trafficking as a weapon of terror and a source of financing, she said.  At the national level, combatting trafficking in persons was dealt with by Argentina’s executive committee, which also provided protection to victims.  It coordinated the actions of a variety of Ministries, and the Federal Council had been tasked with drafting the country’s strategy.  The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of National Security had promoted the gender perspective across the board, by providing training and preventing gender‑based violence.  Conflict could only be tackled when respect for international humanitarian law was safeguarded, she said.

LOUISE BLAIS (Canada) said that her country’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy aimed to reduce poverty, inequality, violence and conflict, all of which increased vulnerability to human trafficking and led migrants towards smuggling.  Human traffickers could be deprived of funding and access to the international financial system by using tools developed to combat financial crime.  In that context, the Canadian project PROTECT, established in 2016, was a unique public‑private endeavour involving the country’s financial intelligence unit, law enforcement and financial institutions committed to tracking money‑laundering associated with such activities.  She also drew attention to the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, launched at the recent United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial.  Canada had endorsed the Principles and looked forward to working with others to implement them, she said.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said that, since 25 August, his country had witnessed an unprecedented influx of 620,000 people, mostly Rohingya, from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, in the wake of the atrocious crimes committed against them.  He expressed concern over the possibility of the large number of women and children among them falling prey to traffickers.  With sea routes becoming safer during the current season for operating makeshift boats, it was likely that those elements would try to take advantage of the forcibly displaced persons from Rakhine State still entering Bangladesh on an almost daily basis.  Those who claimed that the situation on the ground in Rakhine State had stabilized were either deliberately ignoring the reality or had a vested agenda of their own.  The Secretary‑General was expected to brief the Council in December on the situation in Rakhine State, and he urged him to make practical recommendations for addressing the threat of trafficking in persons.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), underscoring that human trafficking undermined rule of law and stoked further instability, stated that his country had ratified the Palermo Protocol and had adopted legislation which set up a mechanism to assist human trafficking victims and hold perpetrators accountable.  The Government had also participated in the exchange of information with various competent bodies, international organizations and neighbouring States and was working with civil society organizations and religious circles.  Iraq had suffered enormously, with Da’esh abducting thousands of its citizens, including women and children.  Calling upon countries of destination not to treat trafficking victims as illegal immigrants or criminals, he said that all Member States must implement all the relevant texts, including resolution 2331 (2016), resolution 2379 (2017) and the resolution just adopted that would enable a coordinated response.

ASHRAF ELNOUR MUSTAFA MOHAMED NOUR, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that while legal frameworks for victims of human trafficking had been strengthened in recent years, there had been less progress in preventing human trafficking from occurring in the first place.  The demand for cheap goods and sexual services drove trafficking, he noted, adding that the number of people benefiting from protection schemes for victims remained small.  It was important to increase Governments’ and civil society’s capacity to identify and assist all migrants in vulnerable situations.  More investment was needed to learn and draw on the experience and expertise acquired by the anti‑trafficking community to date.  Underscoring the importance of the collection, standardization and analysis of data, he highlighted the agency’s Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, which was a multi‑stakeholder, open data publishing platform.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, said trafficking was being used by criminals as a weapon of terror and the growing number of refugees and migrants would only exacerbate the problem.  The root causes of migration must be addressed, he said, urging the international community to do more to help the Government of Libya.  Taking action against trafficking required a sustainable political commitment, legislative framework, multisectoral approaches, proactive investigations and awareness raising initiatives.  The Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions remained an obstacle to the Government of Georgia, affecting the full implementation of counter‑trafficking measures, he said, adding that there were no mechanisms to effectively identify, investigate and prosecute alleged cases in occupied regions.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating him with the European Union, stressed the importance of accelerating the international commitment to eliminate human trafficking through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary and cross‑border approach.  Reaffirming a commitment to the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols therein as well as to Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), he added that the draft under consideration today emphasized the protection of children.  Bulgaria was among the pioneers in Europe to adopt specialized anti‑trafficking legislation back in 2003 and currently had one of the most comprehensive legal and institutional frameworks to combat trafficking in persons, he noted.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria) said terrorist groups, such as ISIL/Da’esh and Boko Haram, had introduced a new dimension to human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls.  Although Boko Haram had been militarily defeated and some success had been achieved in liberating a number of women and girls held as hostages, a great amount of work still remained to be done until all hostages were freed.  The situation in Libya further confirmed the complexity of trafficking networks and the dehumanizing treatment of the victims.  The United Nations system should work in concert to fight human trafficking in conflict situations and in the context of terrorism.  A coordinated approach among the agencies would enhance the overall effectiveness of the United Nations in the fight against trafficking and terrorism.  Further, Member States should further commit to the implementation of relevant international legal instruments such as the Palermo Protocol.

EDGAR SISI (Botswana) said no country was immune to human trafficking, which had been exploited by terrorist groups and networks to finance illegal activities.  A State party to the Palermo Convention, Botswana had passed the Anti‑Human Trafficking Act of 2014 and established a committee to prohibit, prevent and combat the phenomenon and protect and assist victims.  He expressed appreciation for continued UNODC support in training prosecutors, law enforcement and judicial officers on human trafficking, terrorism and money laundering.  Through such assistance, Botswana had conducted awareness campaigns and capacity‑building and training workshops.  Looking ahead, he called for strengthening international cooperation, partnerships and technical assistance.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said his country had criminalized trafficking in persons in 2013 and continued to implement strict measures.  Noting the Security Council’s increased role in confronting human trafficking in conflict situations, he said the best strategy to end such crimes was through a culture of respect for human dignity, human rights and the protection of rights for persons in vulnerable situations.  Partners must work with national Governments in strengthening the implementation of national and international laws and norms.  The Maldives hosted a large number of migrant workers and recognized the importance of protecting the rights of its expatriates.  Efforts to halt trafficking included a five‑year national action plan and, at the international level, joining the Palermo Convention in 2013.  In that regard, he called for stronger global cooperation and coordination to identify effective solutions.

MUHAMMAD SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia) said that, given the multi‑faceted dimensions of trafficking in persons, it was crucial that the international community mobilized complementary legal means to investigate and dismantle trafficking networks.  He expressed support for UNODC and other relevant bodies in providing technical support to Member States to build and enhance their law enforcement capacities.  Because Malaysia was a country of destination and transit, cooperation and coordination with neighbouring countries and the international community were essential to combat trafficking.  He called on the Council to better utilize its tools to monitor trends in human trafficking in armed conflicts areas, identify perpetrators and hold them accountable.  He also underscored the role played by local communities, civil societies and religious leaders in ensuring the reintegration and rehabilitation of survivors.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize) said her country had benefited from regional, international and civil society support in providing ongoing training to build up its prevention, protection and prosecutorial capacities to address trafficking in persons.  The training was targeting sectors like tourism and agriculture, businesses such as utilities companies and inspectors of the Social Security Board to help identify potential victims.  With support from IOM, it had also trained prosecutors, with a special focus on the rights of victims and the role of the judiciary and prosecutors in upholding them.  However, the country lacked the financial and human resources to address long‑term victim assistance that would reintegrate them into the workforce and away from the protection system.  Her country had found that language and low levels of literacy were major barriers to victims being retrained and accessing gainful employment.

FRANCISCO ANTÓNIO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal) said that any effective intervention regarding human trafficking must be based on common efforts in terms of prevention, awareness and support.  He urged all who had not yet done so to accede to and ratify the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, which provided a broad basis for action against traffickers as well as protection and assistance to victims.  Portugal had developed its first national plan against trafficking in 2007, involving the public sector as well as civil society.  Its third national plan was currently being implemented, entailing policy measures focused around prevention, awareness, research, education, criminal investigation and cooperation.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH A ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted the effect of conflict in his region on forced migration and subsequent vulnerability to trafficking.  Such migration must be dealt with in a humane way that addressed underlying causes.  Slavery, which was particularly reprehensible, and other such crimes were serious violations of human rights that could be defined as crimes against humanity or war crimes.  Efforts to stem human trafficking must be linked to sustainable development goals.  His country had adopted laws to outlaw human trafficking and had signed onto international instruments.  The international framework must be strengthened, with wider international cooperation within existing instruments.  Paying tribute to all the specialized agencies that had taken leading roles in fighting the scourge, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment, including by continuing to strengthen its legal regime.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that root causes of such crimes must be addressed, perpetrators must held accountable and the necessary legal, psychological, material and other assistance must be provided to victims.  Strengthening State authority and the rule of law was also critical.  Welcoming the growing international framework, he noted that his country had ratified the Protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and had adopted related national action plans to cover actions over the past 14 years.  The legal framework for liability for trafficking had been inserted into the criminal code, mechanisms had been developed to coordinate the work of ministries and bilateral and multilateral agreements had been signed with some 40 countries, in addition to other activities at the international level.

AMIERA OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), said that human trafficking had become a matter of deep concern in her region, particularly in regards to the harm caused to women and girls who were prey to Da’esh and other violent extremists.  Since 2007, the United Arab Emirates had developed legal frameworks, policies and social infrastructure to fight those crimes.  Prevention had been pursued through education programmes and other means; law enforcement had been trained; and prosecutorial capacity had been strengthened.  As well, survivors were being provided with counselling, shelter and resettlement, among other assistance.  Multilaterally and internationally, the country was cooperating with countries of origin, having signed agreements with five such countries to help address related conditions there.  She called for the development of an integrated, holistic response with cooperation between public and private sectors and linkages to sustainable development for all.  She also called on Member States to engage in the process that would encourage safe and orderly legal migration.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) said that the kidnapping of the school girls in Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram was a chilling reminder of how trafficking had evolved into a weapon of terror.  He drew attention to the abhorrent situation in Libya, where Africans were being auctioned in open slave markets.  Nothing could be more distressing than slavery being practiced in broad daylight in front of news cameras.  The adoption of Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) had significantly contributed to the breakdown of law and order in Libya.  That resolution, which had been passed against the will of the African Union, remained a stigma and an indictment of the Security Council.  In its short‑sightedness, it had caused more suffering and distress than it sought to address.  Further, it was the Council’s action that had led to Libya’s coastline becoming an open border for traffickers and smugglers who had become merchants of death.  The Council, therefore, had a special obligation to address the situation in Libya.  Tragically, the plight of migrants crossing through that country had been exacerbated by the European Union’s policy of financing, training and equipping undefined groups in Libya to intercept migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.  He demanded an end to the European Union’s inhuman policy and called on the Union to seek sustainable solutions for migrants in detention camps in Libya, including solutions dealing with those who had been sold into slavery.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) welcomed the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and UNDOC’s Technical Assistance Programmes for Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants.  Myanmar had enacted the Anti‑Trafficking in Persons Law in 2005 and continued to conduct awareness‑raising activities across the country.  It was also cooperating with other countries in the region by signing bilateral agreements, including ratifying ASEAN’s Convention against Trafficking in Persons.  While humanitarian crises due to natural disasters or conflicts left people living in affected areas vulnerable, persistent poverty in less developed countries was also a root cause of the issue, he/she said, noting the importance of private sector engagement and efforts to reach the relevant goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Regarding the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the potential exploitation of the people who fled across the border, Myanmar was working with Bangladesh on the voluntary, safe and dignified return of that population.  The repatriation process would start in three weeks after signing a bilateral agreement for the arrangement of repatriation, he/she said.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) stressed that prevention was of the utmost importance, while there was also a need to enhance the international community’s understanding of the relationship between human trafficking and the financing of terrorism.  Trafficking in human beings was an act that constituted a gross human rights violation, which made it crucial for the United Nations and its Member States to prioritize the protection of victims.  Human trafficking thrived in climates of impunity, which underscored the need to arrest, detail and prosecute perpetrators.  Partnerships were at the heart of the shared responsibility to stop human trafficking, and in that context, the Netherlands encouraged the Security Council to address irregular migration, including human trafficking, in mission mandates and reporting, where appropriate.

MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said that trafficking of human beings was a global challenge that needed to be addressed collectively and holistically.  His Government, along with international cooperation, had initiated numerous national reforms, including implementing four national action plans to combat that phenomenon.  While its initial aims were to create a sound legislative framework and carry out assistance projects for victims, the focus had shifted towards prevention‑related activities.  A strong partnership between national authorities and civil society organizations was especially important in that regard.  He went on to highlight the need for adequate training of all stakeholders, including peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel to help identify and tackle the risks of trafficking, especially related to women and children.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2388 (2017) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling presidential statement 2015/25, resolution 2331 (2016),

Taking note of the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2017/939),

Recalling its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,

Taking note of the efforts undertaken by United Nations entities and international and regional bodies to implement resolution 2331 (2016), including the development of a thematic paper on trafficking in persons in conflict situations, the establishment of the Task Team on anti-trafficking in humanitarian action within the Global Protection Cluster, the development by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) of a structured system of data collection on trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict, including through the publication of the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, and the inclusion by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), within the existing mandate, under the policy guidance of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), and in close cooperation with UNODC and other relevant entities, in its country assessments, as appropriate, of information regarding Member States’ efforts to address the issue of trafficking in persons where it is committed for the purpose of supporting terrorism, including through the financing of or recruitment for the commission of terrorist acts,

Recalling the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which includes the first internationally agreed definition of the crime of trafficking in persons and provides a framework to effectively prevent and combat trafficking in persons, and further recalling the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons,

Recognizing that trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict and post-conflict situations can be for the purpose of various forms of exploitation, including exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs; further recognizing that trafficking in persons in armed conflict and post-conflict situations can also be associated with sexual violence in conflict and that women and children in situations of armed conflict and persons forcibly displaced by armed conflict, including refugees, can be especially vulnerable to trafficking in persons in armed conflict and to these forms of exploitation,

Recalling the Political Declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, adopted by the General Assembly on 27 September 2017, and further welcoming the resolve of Member States expressed therein to take decisive concerted action to end trafficking in persons, wherever it may occur,

Reiterating deep concern that despite its condemnation of acts of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict, such acts continue to occur,

Reiterating its solidarity with victims of trafficking in persons in armed conflict and post-conflict situations andnoting the importance of providing them with appropriate care, assistance and services for their physical, psychological and social recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration, in full respect of their human rights and in a manner that takes full account of the extreme trauma they have suffered and the risk of further victimization and stigmatization,

Reaffirming that trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict, especially women and girls, cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization,

Recalling resolutions 2359 (2017) and 2374 (2017), which express concern over the serious challenges posed by different forms of transnational organized crime, including trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants in the Sahel region, and recalling also resolutions 2240 (2015) and 2380 (2017), which express concern that the situation in Libya is exacerbated by the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory, which could provide support to other organized crime and terrorist networks in Libya,

Reiterating the critical importance of all Member States fully implementing relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 2195 (2014), 2253 (2015), 2199 (2015) and 2368 (2017), which express concern that terrorists benefit from transnational organized crime in some regions, including from trafficking in persons, as well as 2242 (2015), which expresses concern that acts of sexual violence and gender-based violence are known to be part of the strategic objectives and ideology of certain terrorist groups used as a tactic of terrorism and an instrument to increase their finances and their power through recruitment and the destruction of communities; and further reiterating the connection between trafficking in persons, sexual violence and terrorism and other organized criminal activities, which can prolong and exacerbate conflict and instability or intensify its impact on civilian populations,

Recognizing the need to continue to foster a global partnership against trafficking in persons among all stakeholders, including inter alia, through bilateral, multilateral and regional processes and initiatives,

Recognizing that trafficking in persons entails the violation or abuse of human rights and underscoring that certain acts or offences associated with trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict may constitute war crimes; and recallingfurther the responsibilities of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes as well as other crimes and the need for States to adopt appropriate measures within their national legal systems for those crimes for which they are required under international law to exercise their responsibility to investigate and prosecute,

Condemning in the strongest terms continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by ISIL (also known as Da’esh); and abductions of women and children by ISIL, ANF, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities and expressing outrage at their exploitation and abuse, including rape and sexual violence, forced marriage and enslavement by these entities, encouraging all State and non-state actors with evidence to bring it to the attention of the Council, along with any information that human trafficking and related forms of exploitation and abuse may support the perpetrators financially, emphasizing that States are required to ensure that their nationals and persons within their territory do not make available any funds, financial assets or economic resources for ISIL’s benefit, and noting that any person or entity who transfers funds to ISIL directly or indirectly in connection with such exploitation and abuse would be eligible for listing by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011), 2253 (2015) and 2368 (2017) concerning ISIL/Da’esh, Al‑Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities,

Recognizing that persons affected by armed conflict and fleeing conflict are at great risk of being subjected to trafficking in persons, and stressing the need to prevent and identify instances of trafficking in persons among those forcibly displaced or otherwise affected by armed conflict,

Expressing grave concern over the high numbers of women and children subjected to trafficking in armed conflicts, and recognizing that acts of trafficking in persons are often associated with other violations of applicable international law and other abuses, including those involving recruitment and use, abduction and sexual violence including, inter alia, rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and forced pregnancy; and calling on all Member States to hold perpetrators accountable and to assist victims in their recovery and reintegration,

Reiterating its grave concern over the abduction of children in situations of armed conflict, the majority of which are perpetrated by non-State armed groups, recognizing that abductions occur in a variety of settings, including schools, further recognizing that abduction often precedes or follows other abuses and violations of applicable international law against children, including those involving recruitment and use, killing and maiming, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence, which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, and calling on all Member States to hold perpetrators of abductions accountable,

Expressing deep concern over the heightened vulnerability to exploitation and abuse of children forcibly displaced by armed conflict, particularly when separated from their families or caregivers, andunderlining the need to ensure protection of all unaccompanied children who are victims of or those vulnerable to trafficking in persons through their prompt identification and immediate assistance taking into account their specific needs,

Condemning all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict, including trafficking in persons and recalling all its resolutions on children and armed conflict that call for the protection of children, and in particular Resolution 1261 (1999) as well as resolution 1612 (2005), establishing the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict,

Noting measures taken by UN peacekeeping and special political missions in accordance with their mandates, to assist host States in exercising their primary responsibility to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, also noting measures taken by Member States to provide pre-deployment training on trafficking in persons to personnel that will be deployed in UN peacekeeping missions and encouraging further action in this area,

Noting the initiative by Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Field Support and the UNODC to develop a training module on human trafficking and smuggling of migrants for in mission training of police personnel in selected peacekeeping missions, where applicable,

Underscoring the need for improved collection, also through relevant data base systems managed by international organizations, including UNODC and INTERPOL, of timely, objective, accurate and reliable data on trafficking in persons in situations of conflict, disaggregated by sex, age and other relevant factors, as well as on financial flows associated with trafficking in persons,

Reaffirming the need to ensure organization and coherence in the efforts of the United Nations System to address trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict or in post conflict situations and further recognizing the need to continue to work towards an enhanced comprehensive and coordinated approach to prevent and combat trafficking, which can contribute to sustainable peace and stability,

“1.   Reaffirms its condemnation in the strongest terms of all instances of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, who make up the vast majority of all victims of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts, and stresses that trafficking in persons undermines the rule of law and contributes to other forms of transnational organized crime, which can exacerbate conflict and foster insecurity and instability and undermine development;

“2.   Urges Members States to consider, as a matter of priority, ratifying or acceding to, and for States Parties to effectively implement, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementing Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, as well as all relevant international instruments;

“3.   Calls upon Member States to reinforce their political commitment to and improve their implementation of applicable legal obligations to criminalize, prevent, and otherwise combat trafficking in persons, and to strengthen efforts to detect and disrupt trafficking in persons, including implementing robust victim identification mechanisms and providing access to protection and assistance for identified victims, including in relation to areas affected by armed conflict; underscores in this regard the importance of international law enforcement cooperation, including with respect to investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases and, in this regard, calls for the continued support of the UNODC in providing technical assistance to Member States upon request;

“4.   Further calls upon Member States, where appropriate, to review, amend and implement anti-trafficking and related legislation to ensure that all forms of trafficking in persons, including when it is committed in situations of armed conflict or by armed and terrorist groups are addressed, and to consider establishing jurisdiction to end the impunity of offenders in line with Article 15 of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;

“5.   Also calls upon Member States to step up their efforts to investigate, disrupt and dismantle networks engaging in trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict and to take all appropriate measures to collect, preserve and store evidence of human trafficking;

“6.   Calls upon Member States to combat crimes that might be connected with trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict, such as money-laundering, corruption, the smuggling of migrants and other forms of organized crime, including by making use of financial investigations in order to identify and analyse financial intelligence, as well as by reinforcing regional and international operational law enforcement cooperation;

“7.   Calls upon Member States to strengthen compliance with international Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism standards and increase capacity to conduct proactive financial investigations to track and disrupt human trafficking and identify potential linkages with terrorism financing;

“8.   Urges Member States, while addressing trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts, to adopt a multi-dimensional approach that includes incorporating information on the risks of trafficking in persons into school curricula and training programs;

“9.   Encourages Member States to increase efforts to collect, analyse and share through appropriate channels and arrangements and consistent with international and domestic law data relating to financial flows associated with human trafficking and the extent and nature of financing of terrorism activities through human trafficking activities, and to provide, where applicable, CTED and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team with relevant information pertaining to linkages between human trafficking and terrorist financing;

“10.  Reiterates its condemnation of all acts of trafficking, particularly the sale or trade in persons undertaken by the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL/Da’esh), including of Yazidis and other persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities, and of any such trafficking in persons crimes and other violations and abuses committed by Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and other terrorist or armed groups for the purpose of sexual slavery, sexual exploitation, and forced labour, and underscores the importance of collecting and preserving evidence relating to such acts in order to ensure that those responsible can be held accountable;

“11.  Requests the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, when consulting with Member States, to continue including in their discussions the issue of trafficking in persons in areas of armed conflict and the use of sexual violence in armed conflict as it relates to ISIL/Da’esh, Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities and to report to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011), 2253 (2015) and 2368 (2017) on these discussions as appropriate;

“12.  Requests the CTED, within its existing mandate, under the policy guidance of the CTC, and in close cooperation with UNODC and other relevant entities, to increase its efforts to include in CTED’s country assessments, as appropriate, information regarding Member States efforts to address the issue of trafficking in persons where it is committed for the purpose of supporting terrorism, including through the financing of or recruitment for the commission of terrorist acts;

“13.  Calls upon Member States to enhance the capabilities of professionals interacting with persons forcibly displaced by armed conflict, including refugees, such as law enforcement, border control officials and criminal justice systems personnel of refugee and displaced persons reception facilities, to identify victims or persons vulnerable to trafficking, to adopt gender and age sensitive assistance, including adequate psychosocial support and health services, regardless of their participation in criminal investigations and proceedings;

“14.  Recognizes the need to strengthen the identification, registration, protection, assistance for forcibly displaced persons, including refugees and stateless persons, who are victims of trafficking or at risk of being trafficked;

“15.  Encourages Member States to use refugee registration mechanisms to assess vulnerability and identify potential victims of trafficking as well as their specific assistance needs, and in this regard, encourages Member States to develop informative material to explain to victims of trafficking in persons who are refugees their rights and avenues for assistance, so as to enable them to engage with relevant authorities and access services and psychosocial support that are available to them;

“16.  Encourages Member States, in particular transit and destination States receiving persons forcibly displaced by armed conflict, to develop and use early-warning and early-screening frameworks of potential or imminent risk of trafficking in persons to proactively and expediently detect victims and persons vulnerable to trafficking, with special attention to women and children, especially those unaccompanied;

“17.  Urges Member States thoroughly to assess the individual situation of persons released from the captivity of armed and terrorist groups so as to enable prompt identification of victims of trafficking, their treatment as victims of crime and to consider, in line with domestic legislation, not prosecuting or punishing victims of trafficking for unlawful activities they committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking;

“18.  Strongly condemns violations of international law, especially those which affect children in situations of armed conflict, including those involving killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction and forced displacement, recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, attacks against schools and hospitals, denial of humanitarian access and trafficking in persons;

“19.  Urges Member States to identify children who are victims of trafficking and those who are unaccompanied or separated from their families and caregivers, to ensure, where relevant, their timely registration and to consider their particular protection needs, including, as appropriate, by referring them to the relevant child protection authorities regardless of their immigration status;

“20.  Recognizes the importance of providing timely and appropriate reintegration and rehabilitation assistance to children affected by armed conflict, while ensuring that the specific needs of girls and boys as well as children with disabilities are addressed, including access to health care, psychosocial support, and education programmes that contribute to the well-being of children and to sustainable peace and security and encourages relevant international organizations and civil societies organizations to assist Member States’ efforts in this regard;

“21.  Urges Member States to refrain from the use of administrative detention of children, especially those victims of trafficking in persons, for violations of immigration laws and regulations, unless as a measure of last resort, in the least restrictive setting, for the shortest possible period of time, under conditions that respect their human rights and in a manner that takes into account, as a primary consideration, the best interest of the child and encourages them to work towards the ending of this practice;

“22.  Requests the Secretary-General to further explore, as appropriate, links between the trafficking of children in conflict situations and the grave violations against children affected by armed conflict as determined by the United Nations, with a view to addressing all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict;

“23.  Welcomes further briefings on trafficking in persons in armed conflict, as necessary, by relevant United Nations entities, including the Executive Director of UNODC, UNHCR, and other international and regional bodies such as International Organization for Migration (IOM), and encourages Member States to provide to UNODC information on victims of trafficking from areas affected by conflict or victims trafficked into conflict areas for inclusion within the existing reporting obligations;

“24.  Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the thematic paper on trafficking in persons in conflict situations developed by UNODC in consultation with relevant United Nations agencies and other international bodies is disseminated within the UN system, and encourages relevant United Nations agencies and entities to use it in their respective activities in accordance with their mandates and develop their capability to assess and respond to situations of trafficking in persons in armed conflict;

“25.  Expresses its intention, to give greater consideration, where appropriate, to how peacekeeping and special political missions, can assist host States in exercising their primary responsibility to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, and requests the Secretary-General to ensure that assessments of country situations conducted upon the Security Council’s request on such missions include, where relevant, anti-trafficking research and expertise;

“26.  Requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with Member States, to ensure, where appropriate, that training of relevant personnel of special political and peacekeeping missions include, on the basis of a preliminary assessment and taking also into account the protection and assistance needs of the victims of trafficking in persons, specific information enabling them, within their mandates, to identify, confirm, respond to and report on situations of trafficking in persons;

“27.  Reiterates its intention to integrate the issue of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict into the work of relevant Security Council Sanctions Committees where in accordance with their mandates, and expresses its intention to invite all relevant Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, to brief these sanctions committees, as necessary, in accordance with the Committee’s rules of procedure and to provide relevant information, including, if applicable, the names of individuals involved in the trafficking in persons who meet the committees’ designation criteria;

“28.  Also requests the Secretary-General to ensure that members of the monitoring groups, teams and panels supporting the work of relevant sanctions committees build their technical capacity to identify and report on instances of trafficking in persons encountered in the discharge of their duties and in accordance with their respective mandates, and further requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the monitoring and reporting arrangements on sexual violence in areas affected by armed conflict systematically collect data on conflict-related trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation;

“29.  Invites the Secretary-General to ensure that the work of the investigative team established pursuant to resolution 2379 (2017) is informed by relevant anti‑trafficking research and expertise and that its efforts to collect evidence on trafficking in persons offences are gender-sensitive, victim centred, trauma-informed, rights-based and not prejudicial to the safety and security of victims;

“30.  Calls upon Member States to cooperate with the investigative team established pursuant to resolution 2379 (2017), including through mutual arrangements on legal assistance, where necessary and appropriate, and in particular to provide it with any relevant information as appropriate they may possess pertaining to its mandate under that resolution;

“31.  Calls upon United Nations system organizations to enhance transparency in their procurement and supply chains and step up their efforts to strengthen protections against trafficking in persons in all United Nations procurement and to that effect request major suppliers to establish and implement anti-human trafficking policies and disclose information on measures taken to counter trafficking in persons in their operations and supply chains;

“32.  Welcomes efforts aimed at developing a coordinated response within the United Nations System to prevent and counter trafficking in persons in situations of armed conflict and to protect its victims, and requests all United Nations entities involved in combating trafficking in persons to actively participate in the regular work of existing mechanisms, especially the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons which was established to foster coordination among United Nations entities and other international organizations;

“33.  Invites the Secretary-General to include in relevant regular reports on special political and peacekeeping missions, information on efforts undertaken, within their mandates, to assist the host-State’s institutions in preventing and combating trafficking in persons and in protecting and assisting victims of trafficking, in particular women and children;

“34.  Requests the Secretary-General to follow-up on the implementation of this resolution and report back to the Security Council on progress made within 12 months;

“35.  Decides to remain actively seized of this matter.”

News

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.

Background

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.

News

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 (El Salvador), who had addressed the General Assembly plenary earlier in the day, said the Council had 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, speakers 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 318,000 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 and Mali, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) 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.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.  (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.

SAMAR 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.

GABRIELA 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 IVANOVI Ć (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 318,000 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.

IHOR YAREMENKO (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.

LESETLA ANDREAS TEFFO (South Africa), associating himself 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, 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.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that 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.

OMAR KADIRI (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.

KATHLEEN HAGAN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 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 (El Salvador), 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 1 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 Liechtenstein 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.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (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, he 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, he 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, he assured.

The African Group prioritized dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil human rights obligations, he said.  Meeting those obligations required recognizing that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted violations of human dignity, he said, voicing concern over the apparent “hierarchy of rights”.  He 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 African Group would continue to present its annual resolution on the Council’s report, he 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.

MAJDOLINE 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.

News

General Assembly Speakers Call for Stronger, More Tailored Responses to ‘Heinous’ Human Trafficking Crimes, Especially Those Targeting Children

Continuing its high‑level meeting on human trafficking today, speakers in the General Assembly called for more tailored, effective multilateral responses to that “heinous” crime while outlining national efforts to protect its victims and prosecute perpetrators.

“The safety and well-being of at-risk people is the measure of our success, not the reduction of immigration rates or the numbers of traffickers incarcerated,” declared the representative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, one of more than 70 speakers to take the floor.

Many praised the Political Declaration, endorsed by the Assembly a day earlier, which recommitted them to implementing the 2010 United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Speakers also affirmed support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, outlining steps to tackle poverty, conflict and related economic ills that made people vulnerable to traffickers.  While several drew links between trafficking and the broader dynamics of conflict and migration, some took issue with imbalanced approaches that only increased those risks.

In that context, Venezuela’s representative said socioeconomic exclusion and restrictive immigration policies exacerbated human trafficking.  He cautioned against addressing trafficking as a purely security issue.  As conflict continued to displace people, he rejected any unilateral, subjective and politicized anti-trafficking efforts.  Venezuela’s Constitution ensured that human trafficking was not prevalent in the country.

Iran’s delegate, pointing to the interrelated causes of trafficking, said interventionist and destabilizing policies in the Middle East and Africa served as breeding grounds for criminal networks to engage in the practice.  He questioned the moral authority, competency and integrity of Member States whose “destructive” foreign policy options left people at risk of exploitation and trafficking.  He advocated for information sharing and awareness-raising in countries of origin, transit and destination.

The Russian Federation’s representative said every country had the right to define its own optimal mechanisms to combat human trafficking.  Balanced attention must be paid to both countries of origin and destination, and he thus echoed calls for a comprehensive approach to combat such root causes as poverty, unemployment and legalized prostitution.

Emphasizing the hidden nature of human trafficking, the representative of the United Kingdom drew attention to the “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking”, which his country launched last week and had been endorsed by 37 nations.  To address the scale of the problem, United Nations agencies must join together, rather than fight over turf.  “We have reviewed our plan, now let us act,” he stressed.

Australia’s representative said regional action was also critical.  More than 50 per cent of the world’s people subject to forced labour were in the Indo Pacific region.  Australia was working with its neighbours to combat that practice and had funded the largest single anti-trafficking investment in the region.

Along similar lines, Thailand’s delegate said the Government had signed labour cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries to facilitate legal employment in Thailand for some 400,000 migrant workers from four countries.  “We have to step up our efforts to make sure that trafficking is a ‘high risk, no reward’ business,” he stressed, advocating for stronger support for victims and improved data collection.  The Government also had recently convicted 62 offenders involved in the Rohingya case, with some sentences up to 94 years.

The United Arab Emirates received significant numbers of temporary workers from many different nationalities each year, that country’s delegate said.  The Government was committed to fighting human trafficking and the criminal gangs that perpetrated it.  To date, law enforcement agencies had arrested 106 traffickers.

Guinea’s representative said that as an origin, transit and destination country, the Government had strengthened its institutional framework.  It had drawn up plans to train judges and security forces, launched an awareness campaign and strengthened cooperation with neighbouring countries, such as Mali, to fight trafficking, particularly of children.

Also speaking today were representatives of Jamaica, Sweden, Italy, Nigeria, Botswana, Zambia, United States, Cuba, Morocco, Brazil, Denmark, Slovenia, Myanmar, Austria, Portugal, Mexico, Philippines, Peru, Paraguay, India, Cameroon, Bahamas, Republic of Korea, Germany, Pakistan, Guatemala, Libya, Argentina, Colombia, Kenya, Canada, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Finland, Liechtenstein, Japan, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mongolia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Honduras, Viet Nam, El Salvador, Bahrain, Maldives, Iceland, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Bangladesh, China, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saint Vincent and Grenadines and Spain.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Statements

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said there was a mutually reinforcing relationship between the efforts made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Jamaica had made a strong political commitment not only in prevention and protection, but also in prosecuting crimes of human trafficking.  It had developed a sophisticated legislative and institutional framework to cope with that heinous practice.  The country had also appointed a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, the first to have been appointed in the Caribbean.  Since 2010, 76 victims had been rescued, with sentences ranging between 16 and 18 years, four human traffickers had been convicted and restitution costs had been paid to victims.

PER-ANDERS SUNESSON (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, said cooperation on counter-trafficking measures must be based on the common definition of the practice, and a shared view of relevant legal definitions.  It was crucial that all States ratify international instruments and share data and best practices.  Warning against selective efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as counterproductive, he called for work across all three of the Agenda’s pillars.  Requesting the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to produce an annual report on measures to reduce demand — especially for sex trafficking and slave labour — he said weak national laws allowed such demands to flourish.  Legislation much be revised, he stressed, adding that all States bore an obligation to deliver on their commitments to support victims.  That required cooperation between Government and civil society, and adequate funding, he said, endorsing the work of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons in that regard, and announcing Sweden’s decision to commit $100,000 in 2017.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) highlighted the need for greater attention to trafficking victims and adopting more effective countering measures at the national level.  Assistance to victims must be guaranteed to prevent them from becoming victimized twice‑over through indictments for any unlawful conduct in which they were forced to engage.  In April 2016, Italy’s Parliament addressed the legal protection of undocumented migrants arriving in the country.  A new law harmonized existing legislation and activated additional resources that were tailored to the specific needs of migrant minors without families.

VIVIAN NWUNAKU ROSE OKEKE (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of Friends United against Trafficking in Persons, said the causes of trafficking were complex and multi‑dimensional, with “push and pull” factors such as inadequate employment, poor living conditions, conflict, war, famine, loss of livelihood, forced marriage, dissolution of families and natural disaster.  She highlighted the role of the family as a “basis of unity”.  Nigeria, a destination and export country, had zero tolerance for trafficking and had put in place strong institutional measures and legislation to ensure prosecution, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, and a review of relevant laws to combat the crime.  It also had scaled up domestic laws under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Acts of 2015, expanded its prosecutorial mechanism and strengthened international partnerships.  She urged greater support for the Voluntary Trust Fund, reaffirming Nigeria’s commitments to UNODC and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said his country was a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime [also known as the Palermo Convention], and had taken stern measures to combat trafficking by passing the Anti-Human Trafficking Act in 2014 and establishing the Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee.  Highlighting the importance of adequate funding for programs, he commended UNODC and other United Nations agencies for their support.  On a regional level, Botswana had collaborated with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on data collection and analysis to improve the effectiveness of anti-human trafficking initiatives.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, expressed concern that women and children in developing countries, especially sub‑Saharan Africa, continued to be the largest category of victims of trafficking.  Zambia had not been spared from that scourge, as victims continued to be exploited in urban areas in domestic servitude, and other types of forced labour.  The Government had adopted a new national policy that aimed to eradicate all forms of human trafficking through combined measures to raise awareness and address the causes, while ensuring that victims were protected and perpetrators brought to justice.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) described a 2004 national law on combating human trafficking and efforts to enforce legislation through training of judicial and law enforcement departments.  Noting the interrelated root causes of trafficking, he said interventionist and destabilizing polices in the Middle East and Africa had served as breeding grounds for criminal networks to engage in trafficking.  He called on Governments to share information, and provide both capacity building and technical assistance to developing countries.  He reiterated the importance of education and awareness of trafficking in countries of origin, transit and destination, as end users of services provided by trafficked persons required as much training as those who were vulnerable to trafficking.  There was a need for impartial and reliable data, and he questioned the “moral authority”, competency and integrity of Member States whose “destructive” foreign policy options left people at risk of exploitation and trafficking.  He commended UNODC for its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons as a follow-up to the Global Action Plan, and reaffirmed the role of that body in promoting partnerships in support of prevention, protection and prosecution.

KARI A. JOHNSTONE (United States) said while the world’s collective understanding of trafficking had grown significantly in recent years, efforts to support victims remained “appallingly” low, due largely to widespread impunity.  “We must expand our collective response to this crime,” she stressed, adding that resources and strong collaboration were critical.  The United States had taken a victim‑centred approach to its national efforts on those issues, she said, having increased funding for services and the number of victims supported.  On the enforcement side, it had convicted 439 human traffickers in 2016, and established a national council composed of trafficking survivors to provide guidance to the Government.  It had also recently provided $25 million to promote anti-trafficking efforts around the world and was working to raise an additional $1 billion from other donors.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) welcomed collective efforts to improve international cooperation to address migration and displacement.  Whenever people were on the move, they were vulnerable to exploitation.  The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration would provide an opportunity to build global consensus for practical action.  Regional action was also critical.  Noting that more than 50 per cent of the world’s people subject to forced labour were in the Indo‑Pacific region, she said Australia worked closely with its neighbours in Southeast Asia to combat trafficking and forced labour, and funded the largest single anti-trafficking investment in that region.  Domestically, Australia was establishing a new reporting requirement for large businesses to publish annual statements outlining their actions to address modern slavery in supply chains.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ, Director General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said there was a low prevalence of human trafficking in his country.  In February, the Government approved the national action plan for the 2017‑2020 period, coordinating its actions with civil society to implement a “zero-tolerance” policy.  Cuba’s experience had demonstrated it was possible to achieve results in the fight against trafficking in persons even with few resources, under a tight blockade and amid the growing complexity of the crime.

ISMAIL CHEKKORI (Morocco) said his country was an origin, transit and destination country for trafficking.  The Political Declaration would strengthen the international resolve to protect victims, and to that end, Morocco had prioritized the issue.  In line with the National Policy for Migration and Asylum, Morocco had taken measures to ensure the integration, preservation and protection of migrants and refugees, notably through the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to address asylum and migration, while adhering to the main human rights conventions.  He called for the adoption of a global, multisectoral approach to combat trafficking in persons.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said States must enhance efforts to tackle trafficking in persons and bring perpetrators to justice.  Noting that restrictive immigration policies could compound the effects of trafficking, he called for effective approaches that ensured fundamental rights.  Discussions on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration could also help to eliminate the practice, while safeguarding migrants’ rights.  As a global network to protect and assist victims would discourage demand and prevent re-victimization, Brazil had adopted a national law to prevent and suppress domestic and international trafficking.  It also was working on its third national anti-trafficking plan with involvement from civil society.  He called for greater cooperation among Member States, as well as with the Secretary-General, UNODC and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), commending the work of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group.

IB PETERSEN (Denmark), associating himself with the European Union, said the Global Plan of Action was a critical instrument, but would only be useful if States implemented it.  Trafficking in persons was an offense of human dignity and rights that understood no borders, he stressed, pledging that Denmark would do its part, including as a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period 2019‑2021.  “We must raise awareness about this issue, and make sure that no one can ever say again that they did not know about modern slavery,” he said, urging States to put in place flexible and adaptable policies, and work harder to prosecute perpetrators.  Denmark supported victims all over the world, he added, announcing that it would contribute $160,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund.

SANDI ČURIN (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, and noting that trafficking in persons and related forms of modern slavery were on the rise, said their underlying causes included exploitive tendencies, loss of values, increased demand for cheap labour and global poverty.  The increasing shadow economy, underground labour market and unfair competition reflected a cheap labour force, which too often, stemmed from trafficking.  Calling for a multidimensional approach, he drew attention to Slovenia’s appointment of a National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in 2002, enhanced efforts to prosecute perpetrators and strong cooperation between law enforcement authorities and non-governmental organizations.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), expressing concern that millions of people were being exploited in forced labour around the world, said trafficking could not be resolved by Governments alone.  Thanking Malaysia and Australia for organizing the Bali Business Forum in an effort to engage the private sector, he noted that Myanmar was a source country.  The Government had adopted an anti-trafficking law in 2005, and recently reviewed its national action plan, with a focus on such issues as forced marriage, debt bondage and forced labour.  The industries in which Myanmar migrant labourers suffered the most included fisheries and forced prostitution.  In response, the Government was cooperating with countries in the region that received large numbers of people trafficked from Myanmar, and had signed on to several regional agreements in that regard.  Voicing concern that people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh could be at risk of trafficking, he said that flight had resulted from terrorist violence by “the so-called Arankhan Rohingya Salvation Army” in Rakhine State on 25 August, whose “scorched earth” tactics had spread fear among the population.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said his country was a transit and destination country for human trafficking, mainly involving cases of sexual and labour exploitation, and forced begging.  Austria paid particular attention to the linkages between migration and trafficking in persons, as it had lately been affected by large mixed migration movements.  It had intensified efforts to identify victims, or those at risk of being trafficked, and supported both regional and international organizations in assisting victims along migration routes.  Advocating a victim‑centred approach, with a focus on prevention, he expressed support for UNODC and the involvement of civil society, especially in protecting victims.

MANUEL ALBANO (Portugal), recalling that his country along with Cabo Verde had co‑facilitated negotiations for of the 2010 United Nations Global Action Plan, said all his country’s national efforts were in line with that instrument as well as the 2030 Agenda.  Portugal had joined the “Blue Heart” global awareness campaign, provided support to victims and was working on its fourth national action plan which took both a victim‑centred and gender‑based approach.  Its Support and Protection Network for Victims of Trafficking had improved coordination between police forces, justice systems, civil society and victims, among others.  The Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings, created in 2008, also had allowed Portugal to reinforce its referral mechanisms and consolidate and share both data and best practices.

Ms. PELAEZ (Mexico), recognizing the links between inequality and marginalization in relation to human trafficking, called for enhanced regional cooperation to address that crime.  Only by renewing support to people‑centred policies could States make progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Global Action Plan.  To that end, Mexico enforced a robust legal framework to care for victims.  It had increased sentences for traffickers and created a reparations fund for victims, working with academic and civil society groups to bolster such work.  At Mexico’s request, UNODC had conducted a national diagnosis which identified gaps in anti‑trafficking efforts.  As a result, Mexico established a national system that featured an information database, care and protection services for victims, and improved reporting, tools and maps.  Those improvements would be used to support investigation and prosecutorial activities, and efforts to protect victims, including through the “Blue Heart” campaign and a new telephone hotline.

REYNALDO A. CATAPANG (Philippines) said the threat of human trafficking could not be overemphasized.  With 10 per cent of its population working abroad, the Philippines adhered to the mandate of migrant protection.  To better serve vulnerable populations, the Government had moved to criminalize attempted trafficking.  Stressing that effective mitigation efforts must acknowledge the link between migration and trafficking, he said multi‑sectoral approaches focused on enshrining cooperation between civil society groups, the private sector and Government.  That approach had energized stakeholders to devise robust responses to trafficking, he said, also noting the benefits of international cooperation in the region.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), voicing support for the Political Declaration, said human trafficking was as complex as the horrors it generated.  It resulted from various dynamics, including the use of social networks, the exploitation of migrants and refugees and armed conflict situations.  Peru’s national strategy to combat trafficking was anchored by such activities as caring for victims, protection and reintegration and prosecution.  However, “we cannot wage this war alone”, and the support of the United Nations was crucial.  The specific challenges and circumstances of certain regions also highlighted the important role to be played by regional organizations, he said.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), pointing out that the crime of human trafficking also threatened sustainable development, outlined national strategies to combat the practice in cooperation with civil society and others.  Paraguay’s national convention against trafficking provided comprehensive care for victims, while a related 2012 law levied a maximum 20‑year sentence for anyone involved in the crime.  Calling for international support in several areas, he stressed that migration must not be criminalized.  States should highlight the link between drug trafficking and human trafficking, while efforts to prosecute offenders must be effective.

JAIDEEP GOVIND (India) said his country had adopted a multi‑pronged, multi‑stakeholder approach to tackling human trafficking, with 264 anti‑trafficking units and 150 investigative units for crimes against women established across the country.  Capacity building for law enforcement agencies and the judiciary had been accorded high priority, while special “Operation Smile” drives were conducted regularly to rescue trafficked children.  The “Track Child” and “Khoya Paya” portals, which showcased the innovative use of information technology, had also produced results.  Greater focus must be placed on development in the countries of origin, and on demand for trafficked persons for exploitative purposes in the destination countries, he said.

TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said trafficking in persons had worsened as increased migratory movements had made people more vulnerable.  New forms of trafficking, by groups such as Boko Haram, were also on the rise, marked by the recruitment, forcible removal or luring of girls and boys, who were then exchanged for ransom, indoctrinated or forced into marriage and sexual slavery.  Boko Haram also used young people as “human bombs”, sending them into civilian populations to carry out suicide attacks.  Cameroon had become a party to the Palermo Convention and its Additional Protocols, as well as to the 1949 Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 105 and 138 respectively on the abolition of forced labour and the minimum age of work.  In addition, it had enacted a national law to combat trafficking, regularly organized awareness-raising campaigns in its most vulnerable regions, and cooperated with other States in West and Central Africa under a UNODC supported initiative.

SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas) said that due to its geographic location and porous borders, the Bahamas experienced large mixed migration and was used as a trafficking transit point.  The Government had signed the United Nations Convention and passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act in 2008, which criminalized the practice and prescribed strict penalties for offenders.  Working with non-governmental groups, the Bahamas had created the national anti‑trafficking strategy for the 2014‑2018 period.  It also had established coordination groups, police and task forces, a nationwide campaign, and developed standard operating procedures and protection services for victims.  In August, the Bahamas had convicted two people of trafficking and several trials were ongoing, he said, adding that the success of the national action plan had led to the development of similar models in other Caribbean countries.

JUNGMIN SEO (Republic of Korea), emphasizing that human trafficking “preys on the weakness of individuals and thrives in conflict”, expressed support for the Global Plan of Action and outlined national efforts taken in line with it.  The Republic of Korea had codified human trafficking as a serious crime in 2013 and had ratified the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol in 2015.  As prevention played an important role in combating the practice, the Government sought to build capacity at the national level while addressing social inequalities and discrimination, among other root causes.  “Perpetrators of such crimes thrive in the shadows of lawlessness and must be brought to justice,” he stressed, adding that the sharing of best practices and lessons learned should be more broadly shared and promoted between States.

JÜRGEN SCHULZ (Germany) said his country’s resolutions in the Human Rights Council, submitted alongside Philippines, underscored the need to support victims and employ a human rights approach in all anti-trafficking measures.  “Traffickers treat their victims as mere commodities,” he said, calling for States to address that gross abuse of human dignity.  Describing his country’s support for anti‑trafficking efforts in various regions, including the Sahel in Africa, he underscored the transnational nature of the practice and the fact that refugees and migrants were particularly at risk.  Preventing human trafficking involved many facets, he added, citing the example of forced labour and noting that companies with international supply chains bore a particular responsibility to protect victims and their human rights.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), associating himself with the Group of Friends against Human Trafficking, said political will and cooperation were required to achieve results.  Balanced attention must be paid to both countries of origin and destination, and he thus echoed support for a comprehensive approach and efforts to combat root causes, such as the legalization of prostitution, poverty and unemployment.  Recalling that the Russian Federation had hosted a conference on public‑private‑partnerships to combat human trafficking in July, he outlined its involvement in similar efforts under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and spotlighted the central role of the United Nations, especially UNODC.  Every country had the right to define its own optimal mechanisms to combat human trafficking, he asserted.

KHALIL HASHMI (Pakistan) called for international resolve and commitment to clear away bottlenecks and obstacles in implementing the Convention and relevant laws.  Financial and technical support would help developing countries streamline processes, collect and share data, and implement grassroots projects.  Drawing attention to the legislative and regulatory measures that Pakistan had taken, he said there must be coordination and cooperation among stakeholders to develop synergies policies to address human trafficking.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said comprehensive, people-centred approaches were needed to guarantee safe migratory flows and respect for migrants’ human rights.  The dangers of irregular migration must also be discussed.  He advocated cooperation as a way to strengthen the protection and repatriation of victims, as well as the prosecution of traffickers.  Noting that Guatemala was the first country in Central America to join the UNODC campaign to fight trafficking in persons, and would continue to comply with its commitments, he said the Government also had developed a database and reference cards to assist in tracking missing persons.  To protect victims, it had established temporary shelters, medical programmes, psychological and social support, and initiatives to promote technical and labour training.  On the prosecution front, Guatemala had passed 19 sentences against traffickers, two of which had received 28‑year sentences.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said armed conflict, unemployment, poverty and natural disasters were factors that prompted migration, displacement and trafficking.  The conditions fostering the expansion of criminal networks must be also examined, he said, citing the role of preventative diplomacy in the cessation of conflict.  He also advocated support for developing countries to address poverty, hunger, unemployment and service‑sector performance, while encouraging cooperation in efforts to prosecute traffickers and criminal networks, including by building human and institutional capacities.  He called for solidary in providing new resources to refugees and migrants, as well as improved data collection and analysis, and information sharing related particularly to disasters and migration.  In partnership with the United Nations and others, Libya’s coast guard had saved thousands of migrants on route to Europe, he said.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), calling for further political attention to the “hidden nature” of human trafficking, drew attention to the United Kingdom’s establishment last week of a “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking” plan, which had already been endorsed by 37 nations, and urged others to join it.  All countries should create policies based on prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership, and consider producing domestic “estimates of prevalence” reports.  Trafficking must also be stamped out in countries’ economies, which required better regulated labour policies.  The United Kingdom had enacted a Modern Slavery Act and introduced a comprehensive legal framework which was resulting in a growing number of convictions.  To address the scale of the problem, United Nations agencies must join together, rather than fight over turf.  “We have reviewed our plan, now let us act,” he concluded.

VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand) said his country had made the eradication of human trafficking a national priority, adopting a policy based on prosecution, protection, prevention and partnership.  On prosecution, he said Thailand had recently convicted 62 offenders involved in the Rohingya case, with some sentences up to 94 years.  On prevention, the Government was working to establish a national screening mechanism for undocumented immigrants, trafficking victims and refugees, which would identify those in need of protection.  It had also signed labour cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries to facilitate legal employment in Thailand for some 400,000 migrant workers from four countries, and had strengthened public-private-civil society partnerships.  “We have to step up our efforts to make sure that trafficking is a ‘high‑risk, no reward’ business,” he stressed, advocating stronger support for victims and improved data collection and analysis.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the fight against trafficking must be holistic and include a variety of stakeholders at all levels.  Argentina had focused on preventing trafficking, and providing assistance to victims, in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 5 to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he said Argentina had taken measures to protect victims’ privacy and to ensure their physical, psychological and social recovery through safe housing, counselling, medical and material assistance, as well as offers for employment, education and training.  Victims were given the option to remain in Argentina by filing for refugee status, or offered repatriation assistance.  The Government also had carried out awareness raising, particularly in border areas.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) expressed support for the Political Declaration and Sustainable Development Goal targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 to combat human trafficking.  Noting the links with transnational organized crime, he described the challenges in terms of prevention, investigation and prosecution.  Each year, Colombia identified and assisted victims of all kinds of trafficking.  It had established sexual and reproductive rights training programmes for children and adolescents, strengthened the legal branch through training initiatives and provided assistance to victims.  He called for greater international commitment, notably through enhanced work with UNODC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) said people from areas of conflict were especially vulnerable to being trafficked, as they experienced such “push factors” as a lack of economic opportunity, poverty and low education rates.  It was important to consider the causal link between racism, bigotry, prejudice and human trafficking so as to enhance legal and policy responses.  Noting that Kenya had signed protocols and formulated laws to combat trafficking, she said the Government also had created an advisory committee to guide inter-agency activities, developed a national action plan to promote cooperation, and set aside $800,000 through the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat.  To protect workers, the Government in 2014 had revoked the licenses of more than 900 agencies recruiting workers for jobs in the Middle East and the Gulf region.  Today, it continued to vet agencies, requiring them to apply annually for fresh licenses, she added.

MICHAEL HOLMES, Director for Serious and Organized Crime, Public Safety Canada, said the country had strong criminal laws prohibiting all forms of trafficking, and had adopted a comprehensive approach to combat that crime.  The PROTECT project, for example, launched by the Government and the private sector, allowed financial institutions to identify and report transactions that were suspected of laundering money for trafficking for sexual exploitation.  The project had already contributed to a 400 per cent increase in financial intelligence disclosures to law enforcement investigations.  A new Feminist International Assistance Policy addressed sexual and gender‑based violence, he said, while progress also had been made in ensuring that supply chains were free from trafficking.

HEYDAR HEYDAROV (Azerbaijan) said three national plans have played an exceptional role in helping the country address human trafficking, and led to the formulation of a broad legislative framework, including the ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.  He added that a trafficking law had been adopted and four articles defining the responsibility for human trafficking crimes had been added to the criminal code.  Other measures included a special police unit, a State shelter for victims and a hotline service.

AGNESE VILDE (Latvia) called attention to the highly‑organized, lucrative nature of human trafficking.  As an origin country, Latvia had developed a strong legal framework in accordance with relevant international instruments.  Particular attention had been given to trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation, which disproportionately affected young women.  The country also recognized the link between “sham marriages” to obtain European Union residence permits and trafficking in persons.  As such, close cooperation was needed among origin, transit and destination countries.  Latvia’s anti‑trafficking strategy was grounded on the “Four Ps” of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships, principles which guided a victim‑centred approach that protected the interests of those directly affected.

IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea) said his country had demonstrated its will to combat human trafficking by supporting the Palermo Convention and its Protocols.  Strengthening international cooperation deterred human traffickers.  Guinea was a country of origin, transit and destination for victims.  That fact had encouraged the Government to strengthen its institutional framework, creating a committee to fight the practice.  It also had drawn up a plan of action to train judges and security forces, and created an awareness campaign covering the whole of Guinea.  It had also strengthened cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Mali to fight human trafficking, particularly of children, he said.

KAI SAUER (Finland), noting that international obligations and best practices underpinned a holistic approach to counter‑trafficking efforts, said his country had ratified all relevant global agreements and transposed them into national law.  Describing Finland’s system to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, he said it had appointed a national coordinator for anti‑trafficking as well as a national, independent rapporteur reporting directly to Parliament.  Noting that identifying victims — especially those living on the margins of society — remained a challenge, he said civil society played a central role in both finding and providing them assistance.  Special attention should be paid to the gendered nature of the practice, he added.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), describing human trafficking and modern slavery as being among “the biggest human rights scandals of our time”, said that while the trafficking Protocol had been widely ratified, it still lacked the universal acceptance necessary to achieve its full potential.  Underlining the important cooperation in such areas as law enforcement and criminal justice, he said Liechtenstein’s engagement was focused in two areas: strengthening accountability and adapting national tools to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism.  By “following the money”, such practices could be identified and human trafficking confronted, he said.

TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan) said the nexus between trafficking in persons and terrorism was a matter of deep concern, as terrorist groups used the practice for fundraising and recruitment.  Stressing that Member States had a shared responsibility to eliminate that crime, he said Japan considered human trafficking among the most important policy areas and had taken numerous holistic measures in coordination with relevant agencies.  More broadly, Japan held an annual strategic policy dialogue with UNODC to enhance global law enforcement, he said, noting that experts from Japan contributed to various UNODC anti‑trafficking projects, particularly in Southeast Asia.  Japan also provided technical assistance for prevention, victim protection and rehabilitation measures.  In July 2017, Japan had become party to the United Nations Convention and trafficking Protocol, and subsequently, the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons in September 2017.

JOSÉ LUIZ FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said trafficking in persons was a matter of concern for his Government.  It was also a crime, and perpetrators deserved to be treated with no mercy by national and international law enforcement.  In its own efforts, Cabo Verde had endorsed the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol, criminalized trafficking and implemented both institutional and operational responses.  He underlined the need to strengthen funding for policies and programs to end trafficking, stressing that international cooperation on capacity building, technical assistance and operational programmes at the country level could make a difference.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said his country was both a country of origin and transit for trafficking.  As such, it had developed comprehensive public policies which included two national plans.  Chile also had made progress by training 2,000 public officials on issues related to human trafficking, while ensuring broad recognition of victims’ rights, including indicators to monitor the implementation of anti‑trafficking plans.  On the international level, Chile had worked to combat the practice with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, notably on a bilateral level with such countries as Argentina, United States and Peru.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) highlighted the importance of a people‑centred focus to prevent and combat trafficking in persons.  Children were one third of its victims, while women and girls were 71 per cent of those who suffered.  For that reason, he said, any strategy should take into account the increasing risks to children, while a gender focus would help in the design of specific actions to protect those vulnerable populations.  Costa Rica had taken major efforts to criminalize trafficking, he said, noting that 88 per cent of countries had classified it as a criminal offence.  However, the sentencing rates were still low.  Trafficking in persons was associated with organ trafficking, money‑laundering and other organized crime, and a coordinated focus was needed to counter all of those offences, he said.

IRINA MORENO GONZÁLEZ (Ecuador), aligning herself with the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, said that as an origin, transit and destination country, Ecuador focused on the migration‑trafficking nexus.  Regional cooperation was a priority as victims in Latin America were trafficked within the region, she said.  Ecuador’s penal code identified trafficking as a human rights violation, she noted, adding that the Government’s approach was grounded on the “Four Ps”.  Also, Ecuador had deployed specialized law enforcement units to more effectively address trafficking cases and better protect victims.  She called on Member States to consolidate their political will to protect human dignity and human rights.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said his country, a source and destination for trafficking, had acceded to the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol in 2008.  Similarly, Mongolia enhanced its legal framework in 2012, with the adoption of the law on combating trafficking in persons, and in 2013, the law on victim and witness protection.  In 2015, it had revised the criminal code.  However, weaknesses persisted in identifying victims and prosecuting cases, often due to an uneven understanding of the crime or misleading interpretations of legislation.  Over the last six years, 54 human trafficking cases had been investigated; however, only 15 individuals had been convicted.  More broadly, States should take full advantage of advancements in information and communications technologies (ICT), and intensify cooperation through capacity building and technical assistance.

KORNELIOS KORNELIOU (Cyprus) commended initiatives by the United Nations and Members States addressing human trafficking.  However, despite those efforts, statistics had revealed that more than 20 million people, including 6 million children, continued to fall victim to trafficking.  It was important to note the link between conflict and trafficking, as people were often pushed to leave their homes to escape conflict and hardship.  With that in mind, Cyprus had put in place plans to prosecute human traffickers while strengthening partnerships with stakeholders.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), aligning himself with the European Union, stressed the importance of accelerating international cooperation to eliminate human trafficking through comprehensive, multidisciplinary approaches.  Cooperation was instrumental to improving information‑sharing and victim support networks, he said.  Since pioneering European efforts to combat trafficking, Bulgaria had penalized trafficking and introduced more severe punishment for crimes involving children.  The country’s anti‑trafficking strategy emphasized detection and prevention measures, he said, adding that its human-rights-based approach allowed for cooperation with all stakeholders.  To better assist victims, Bulgaria was prepared to more actively participate in global anti‑trafficking efforts.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) reaffirmed his country’s readiness to help end human trafficking, attaching great importance to the rights of citizens and foreign residents in that context.  Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to fight trafficking and had always been among the first to ratify related United Nations protocols.  Indeed, it had ratified 16 international conventions, for example the ban on forced labour, and played an active role in global efforts to combat crime. Last week, it had participated in the high‑level meeting organized by the United Kingdom that concluded with a call to action to end human trafficking and forced labour.

MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) said every country was affected by human trafficking and welcomed the “global call to combat trafficking”.  The Government had passed legislation prohibiting all forms of trafficking and prescribing punishment for perpetrators.  Services were being provided to victims and civil society, and guidelines were in place for the safe reunification of families affected by trafficking.  Awareness efforts were essential for reaching vulnerable populations, he said.  Recognizing the importance of data to combat trafficking, he said the United Republic of Tanzania’s trafficking database was informing policy and the allocation of resources.

CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay) said eradicating all forms of modern slavery — from human trafficking to debt bond — was a priority for her country.  Protecting the rights of victims must be at the centre of prevention efforts, especially regarding their age, gender and sexual orientation.  On the international level, Uruguay had joined the Palermo trafficking Protocol, while domestically, it had convened a round table comprised of Government and civil society groups, as well as drafted an act to prevent trafficking.  Uruguay also was working on a national anti-human-trafficking plan.  Ultimately, she said, ending human trafficking would require cooperation among local, regional and international stakeholders, and States must cooperate to punish those responsible.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMIREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, said socioeconomic exclusion and restrictive immigration policies were exacerbating human trafficking.  Prevention must be the keystone of anti‑trafficking approaches, he said, calling for greater poverty reduction efforts.  He called on Member States to engage in frank, inclusive dialogue and not to address trafficking as a purely security issue.  As conflicts continued to displace populations, Venezuela categorically rejected unilateral, subjective and politicized anti‑trafficking efforts.  He said Venezuela’s Constitution and relevant laws ensured human trafficking was not a prevalent issue in the country.

OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said that significant migrant flows presented new challenges in the fight against human trafficking, and humanitarian stakeholders had an important role to play.  Forced displacement and migration created vulnerabilities that had led to trafficking and labour‑related exploitation.  In November 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland had participated in a conference on human trafficking and forced labour along migratory routes, he said, noting that his country supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on human trafficking.  The role of civil society in identifying and protecting victims was vital, he said, and Switzerland would contribute 800,000 Swiss francs to the Voluntary Trust Fund.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), associating herself with the European Union, said human trafficking could only be addressed through cooperation and dialogue among countries and various stakeholders.  It was also crucial to raise awareness, and to involve media and civil society in those efforts, she said, noting that Hungary had worked with the media and filmmakers to shine light on human trafficking.  She said the international community must make the Global Plan of Action more effective by putting in place solutions tailor‑made to specific cases and sensitive to both gender and age.  She pressed States to analyse data and coordinate efforts, while also ensuring that perpetrators were brought to justice.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), aligning herself with the European Union, said that just under one year ago, the Government had adopted an action plan to combat human trafficking, setting out a collaborative programme that sought to protect victims.  It had benefited from regular domestic and international scrutiny, and placed all victims — particularly women and girls — at the heart of Ireland’s response.  The Government had created a centralized human trafficking investigation and coordinating unit within its national police, with expertise on child crime, organized prostitution and associated crimes.  It also had created an anti‑trafficking team within the health service, offering dedicated care plans for victims.  It was also working with State and non‑state agencies to ensure that suspected victims were identified at the earliest possible opportunity.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) said national anti‑trafficking plans focused on the “Four Ps” of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.  The practice had been criminalized under the criminal code since 2003.  An anti-trafficking law was adopted in 2006 and amended in 2012 in accordance with the recommendation of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.  Further, Georgia had created an inter‑agency council which involved relevant ministry and agency representatives, and formulated a national plan for the 2017‑2018 period that outlined proactive methods for identifying victims, including through the use of mobile groups and task forces.  Thanks to retraining programmes, investigations, prosecutions and convictions were increasing annually.  For victims, Georgia provided shelters and a crisis centre, as well as legal aid, medical assistance, and help with rehabilitation and reintegration.  Legislative and institutional measures had been taken to provide street children with identification documents.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), associating himself with the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, placed high value in the work of the United Nations to assist Member States in combating trafficking.  Describing trafficking as a consequence of migration flows, he called for full implementation of the Global Plan of Action.  Kazakhstan was implementing anti‑trafficking programmes that envisaged the full integration of national agencies and civil society actors.  Working alongside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kazakhstan was set to participate in a multi‑stakeholder simulation on identifying human trafficking and related threats in Central Asia, he said.

SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that, because his country received significant numbers of temporary workers from many different nationalities each year, it had committed to combating human trafficking and the criminal gangs that perpetrated it.  In 2006, the Government had launched a comprehensive anti‑trafficking campaign and enacted a related law, which was amended in 2015 to provide greater guarantees for victims in line with the trafficking Protocol.  It had also established a National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking Crimes, was working closely with civil society and had created a diploma programme on anti‑trafficking.  The United Arab Emirates was also committed to both the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, he said, noting that law enforcement agencies had arrested 106 traffickers to date.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) said human trafficking called for an international response, noting that her country’s Constitution established that the dignity of humans was inviolable.  No initiatives adopted against trafficking should be discriminatory, but must take into account the needs of women and girls, she said.  Honduras had a law against trafficking, as well as a commission against both the sex trade and human trafficking.  Honduras had committed to using all means possible to fight the abuse and exploitation faced by countless refugees and migrants, she said, noting that they were even more likely than others to fall victim to criminal groups.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said trafficking in persons was a heinous crime that challenged peace, security and development.  Viet Nam had amended its penal code to criminalize trafficking in all its forms.  Addressing root causes was at the core of anti‑trafficking efforts, he said, and programmes were being implemented to reduce poverty and promote both education and women’s empowerment, while victims of trafficking were being provided rehabilitation programmes.  Viet Nam was also working with regional partners through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and bilateral agreements to identify trafficking victims and prosecute perpetrators, he added.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said many challenges remained in responding to the victims of human trafficking.  He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to fundamental human rights for all and the restitution of the rights of trafficking victims. In 2004, El Salvador added trafficking in persons to its criminal code, he said.  The country had also developed two anti‑trafficking campaigns, one of which was entitled “the path of life is not always what you imagined”, while the other focused on the trafficking of women and girls.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said his country had ratified international protocols and put in place national legislation to combat human trafficking.  Notably, it had introduced a law defining the crime of human trafficking and punishing those engaged in that act.  Bahrain also had set up a service centre for victims, hotlines to report cases and guides to help foreign workers understand their rights.  An executive office cooperated with the private sector in combating the practice, while conferences and workshops had been organized to raise awareness.  Recalling the link between armed conflicts and human trafficking, he stressed the need to resolve conflicts around the world.  He called on countries to share data in a precise and timely fashion, which would better enable States to respond.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said millions of people were moving across the globe with the hope of escaping poverty and conflict, but increasingly and unwillingly falling into the hands of smugglers and traffickers.  Trafficking was inhumane and criminal, yet the number of trafficking cases was increasing at an alarming rate.  There were currently more than 500 trafficking flows, moving people within and across borders.  When women and children were lured by promises of decent employment, they were sexually exploited and tortured if they tried to escape.  That was modern slavery, and should not be allowed in our civilized world.  His country remained committed to the global fight to prevent trafficking in line with the Global Action Plan.  In 2016, the Maldives acceded to the trafficking Protocol in an effort to reinforce the implementation of existing instruments.

EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) said prevention was a key part of Iceland’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons, underscoring the importance of training for police officers, airport staff and flight attendants to recognize signs of trafficking, as well as awareness‑raising in society to address the crime.  He highlighted the important role of the OSCE in coordinating action.  As victims and survivors faced multiple forms of discrimination, further hampering their ability to seek justice, Iceland opened a “one‑stop shop” offering free comprehensive services, and continued to seek innovative ways to ensure the protection of their human rights.

YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), noting that his country had adopted the Global Plan of Action on human trafficking, said women and children continued to suffer violence of all sorts around the world.  Burkina Faso, which was a transit country that had not been spared from human trafficking, had adopted in 2008 a law to combat that crime.  Both legislative measures and awareness‑raising methods were geared toward ending human trafficking.  Meanwhile, regional alert mechanisms and targeted programmes operated within different provinces.  Emphasizing that no country could win the fight alone, eradicating that crime required joint action from States alongside national action plans.

VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda) underlined a need to develop legally binding instruments and effective mechanisms to track perpetrators and freeze and confiscate their assets.  Pointing out that most human trafficking victims were young people who had been deceived and promised decent jobs, she said poverty, unemployment and marginalization were additional factors fuelling the phenomenon.  Stressing the importance of enhancing youth and gender empowerment while creating equal opportunities for all to reduce such vulnerabilities, she highlighted Rwanda’s efforts, including cooperating with Member States, regional law enforcement agencies and non-State organizations, such as INTERPOL and United Nations agencies.  Citing success stories, she said Rwandan national police and immigration officers had worked with their counterparts in Kenya and Uganda to prevent 150 victims from being trafficked between 2014 and 2015.

SHAH ASIF RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said human trafficking was the “heart of darkness” in our midst, stressing that forcibly displaced persons remained at a heightened risk of trafficking and exploitation.  Bangladesh had received a large number of displaced Rohingya from Myanmar, he said.  The Government had enacted a national plan of action for 2015‑2017 to implement its anti‑trafficking law, and also remained focused on capacity, as well as the prevention and prosecution of trafficking cases.  Bangladesh was active in the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, and noted that the Voluntary Trust Fund should be dealt with in a sustainable manner.

WU HAITAO (China) said no country was immune from human trafficking.  To address that phenomenon, several essential steps must be taken, including implementing the 2030 Agenda, strengthening international cooperation in law enforcement and helping victims reintegrate into their families and societies.  China attached great importance to combating human trafficking, implementing national action plans and the Convention’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

FIRAS HASSAN JABBAR AL-KHAQANI (Iraq), calling for the recognition of the sensitive nature of human trafficking, emphasized the link between trafficking and terrorist groups.  Calling on Member States to work towards combating the “inhumane objectives” of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said efforts must focus on banning all forms of trafficking and preventing terrorist organizations from moving hostages across borders.  Terrorists were reducing people to slaves, he said, calling for the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions to prosecute perpetrators.  Combating trafficking required a multidimensional approach that accounted for political, economic and security factors, he said, urging Member States to stop trafficking by any means necessary.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan) said major political will was needed to put an end to trafficking and modern slavery.  Trafficking affected people of all ethnicities and religions, exacerbating conflicts and resulting in spirals of violence.  Waves of refugees had resulted in increased numbers of trafficking victims, with a particular increase in Syria.  Noting that effects were also being felt across Europe, she emphasized a need for political solutions to ensure respect for the dignity of all people.  International and interregional groups must play their essential roles in raising awareness without losing sight of the link between trafficking and development.  Technical assistance was needed to increase the capacity of Member States responding to terrorist threats, namely ISIL, she said, adding that Jordan was creating a national network to link all competent authorities and make it possible to reach victims in cases of abuse.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said trafficking in persons took different forms and patterns, and the perception of it differed due to culture, tradition and legal and political structures in the countries.  Highlighting some of the actions and procedures Kuwait had taken, he said a national labour force agency had been established to guarantee the rights of migrant workers, while shelters had been set up for migrant workers, and assistance provided for their safe return home.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, had visited Kuwait in 2016 and reported that the country had proven its commitment to fight the practice and had put in place appropriate legal and institutional frameworks.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) recalled national efforts, including a 2012 initiative establishing an anti‑trafficking in persons unit, which carried out sensitization efforts reaching more than 30,000 students and 3,000 teachers — almost one third of the country’s total population of 110,000.  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had also strengthened its legislative framework to combat the phenomenon and improved coordination between ministries to those ends, she said, adding that recent support from the European Union and IOM was helping to revise a national plan of action to combat trafficking in persons and formulate data‑gathering tools.

MARIA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain) said the work of the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group needed to be revitalized to enable progress in reaching the related Sustainable Development Goals and deal with all aspects of prevention and ending impunity.  Specific responses were needed to address trafficking in conflict areas, where national justice systems were gravely affected, she said, pointing at the clear linkages between human trafficking and sexual violence, as well as organized crime and terrorist financing in conflicts.  A global network of anti‑trafficking coordinators should be established to exchange best practices and coordinate efforts on an international level.

ROSARIO VALASTRO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the Political Declaration made reference to the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and emphasized that those groups were particularly at risk of being trafficked.  “The safety and well‑being of at‑risk people is the measure of our success, not the reduction of immigration rates or the numbers of traffickers incarcerated,” he stressed, describing efforts by the British and Australian Red Cross to provide people who had been trafficked with accommodation, material support and caseworkers.  However, offering such services was worth little if people were too afraid to reach out for help.  “Supporting them means guaranteeing safe channels to access basic services and report abuses, irrespective of their legal status,” he said.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Ukraine had not performed well in combating trafficking and forced labour.  She said Ukraine was “one of the largest providers of slave labour in Europe” as Ukrainian internally displaced persons were particularly vulnerable to trafficking.  She encouraged Ukrainian authorities to consider providing social protections instead of placing blame outside its borders.