News

Daily News 05 / 02 / 2018

European Commission and European Court of Auditors meet to discuss their cooperation and the future of Europe

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the College are meeting Mr Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the European Court of Auditors, and Members of the Court of Auditors (“ECA”) in Luxembourg for the regular meeting between the two institutions. The meeting will begin with a working lunch chaired by President Juncker and President Lehne, followed by discussions between the Commissioners and the Members of the Court of Auditors that will be structured around the Commission’s Reflection Papers on the Future of Europe. The meeting will conclude with a plenary session chaired by President Lehne and First Vice-President Timmermans. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Apply now: Lorenzo Natali Media Prize for outstanding journalism in development

Applications for the European Commission’s 2018 Lorenzo Natali Media Prize, which recognises journalists doing outstanding reporting on sustainable development topics, are open from 5 February to 9 March for online, print and audio-visual works. Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “In an era of disinformation, fake news and digital algorithms, we need professional and fact-based journalism more than ever. The important work of journalists is not only crucial for democracy across the globe, but also gives visibility and a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. Through their stories they inform, inspire, and call for much-needed change. With this prize, we thank them for their determination and encourage them to keep up the fight.”The Prize has two categories based on age groups and for each category there will be a winner from each region: Africa; the Arab World and the Middle East; Asia and the Pacific; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Europe. A “Grand Winner” will be selected among the regional winners, and an additional thematic prize will be awarded for work focused on the elimination of violence against women and girls. Find more information on the specific rules and criteria online and in our press release. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

World Cancer Day: knowing more means helping more

Discussing cancer related issues is never easy. At the same time, given that the disease is still the second leading cause of death in the EU, there is a constant need for a robust, well informed response to it in order to contribute to the prevention, early detection, and adequate treatment. The European Cancer Information System (ECIS) website launched on the occasion of World Cancer Day by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science and knowledge service, allows experts and practitioners to explore geographical patterns and trends. It gathers data from around 150 European population-based cancer registries covering 25 EU Member States and 7 non-EU European countries providing valuable information on howwell national cancer programmes are actually working, and address shortcomings. Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, highlighted: “Reliable data is an important aspect of the EU’s approach to cancer, along with tackling risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, pesticides and pollution, screening for diagnosis and treatment, research, and connecting expertise through the European Reference Networks and joint actions “.  “The European Cancer Information System is an excellent example of our support for decision-makers and researchers across the EU and beyond. It allows for the assessment and monitoring of the disease across regions and countries, following trends over time and helping to gather information that could lead to a further decrease of cancer rates.” explained Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, responsible for the Joint Research Centre. EU has been supporting research to fight cancer since 1985 through its research and innovation programmes. These efforts focus on developing patient-oriented strategies to prevent, cure and help people live with cancer. With funding totalling €2.4 billion since 2007, European #cancer research has been leading personalised medicine approaches and efforts to understanding cancer biology as well as better prevention, treatment and care solutions.You can find more information here and here. Read some of the success stories of EU funded cancer research here. (For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel:+32 22967083; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)

Mozambique joins the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Southern African States

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) became the first regional EPA in Africa to be fully operational after its implementation by Mozambique. Mozambique was the last piece of the SADC-EPA jigsaw to fall into place. The other five countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South-Africa, and Swaziland – have been implementing the agreement since October 2016. Implementing the EPA means that Mozambique will not have to pay customs duties on its exports to the EU. The EU is the largest export market for Africa. Exports to the EU represent 22% of SADC EPA countries’ exports. The EU-SADC EPA provides opportunities for SADC countries to create jobs, attract more investment, industrialise, integrate into global value chains. On the EU side, European businesses are increasingly investing in the region. For its part, Mozambique will progressively, over the course of several years, reduce or eliminate customs duties for many of EU exports. Trade between the EU and Mozambique is currently about €2 billion annually. Mozambican exports to the EU include aluminium and raw cane sugar. For more information see here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska – Tel: +32 229 51383)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of De Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij by Waterland

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of De Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij B.V. by Nuts Groep B.V, ultimately controlled by Waterland Private Equity Investments B.V. (“Waterland”), all of the Netherlands. Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij supplies electricity and gas to small customers in the Netherlands. Nuts Groep is active in the supply of electricity and gas to small customers in the Netherlands and Belgium. Waterland is an independent private equity firm. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the companies’ moderate combined market position resulting from the proposed transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8781. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Eurostat: Décembre 2017 comparé à novembre 2017 – Le volume des ventes du commerce de détail en baisse de 1,1% dans la zone euro, en baisse de 1,0% dans l’UE28

En décembre 2017 par rapport à novembre 2017, le volume des ventes du commerce de détail corrigé des variations saisonnières a diminué de 1,1% dans la zone euro (ZE19) et de 1,0% dans l’UE28, selon les estimations d’Eurostat, l’office statistique de l’Union européenne. En novembre, le commerce de détail avait progressé de 2,0% dans la zone euro et de 2,1% dans l’UE28. En décembre 2017 par rapport à décembre 2016, l’indice des ventes de détail s’est accru de 1,9% dans la zone euro et de 2,4% dans l’UE28. Par rapport à 2016, le volume moyen des ventes de détail a progressé en 2017 de 2,6% tant dans la zone euro que dans l’UE28. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations:Lucía Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Victoria von Hammerstein – Tel.: +32 229 55040; Maud Noyon – Tel. +32 229-80379)

 

Eurostat: Consommation d’énergie en 2016 – La consommation dans l’UE est au-dessus de l’objectif d’efficacité énergétique

L’Union européenne (UE) s’est engagée à réduire sa consommation d’énergie de 20% par rapport aux projections d’ici à 2020. Cet objectif est également connu sous le nom d’«objectif d’efficacité énergétique de 20%». En d’autres termes, l’UE a pris l’engagement de parvenir à une consommation d’énergie primaire inférieure ou égale à 1 483 millions de tonnes équivalent pétrole (Mtep) et une consommation d’énergie finale inférieure ou égale à 1 086 Mtep en 2020. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.:+32 229 52589)

STATEMENTS

Joint Statement on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, HighRepresentative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioners Johannes Hahn, Neven Mimica, and Vĕra Jourová, made the following statement:”We confirm our firm resolve to put an end to this practice which is painful, traumatic and causes long-term health consequences. A practice that is nearly always carried out on children. A practice that is a fundamental human rights violation and an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. Despite the efforts of the EU and its partners, 200 million girls are still suffering from this violation, which occurs in all parts of the world. […] In Europe itself, girls are still today subject to this illegal practice. […] We have put laws in place, to ensure that there can be no impunity in Europe for this practice. Female genital mutilation is a crime in all EU Member States […]. At the international level, together with the United Nations, we have launched an unprecedented initiative – the Spotlight Initiative – to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. […]. Through these actions we provide direct and targeted support to the victims of such harmful practices. The EU will […] continue building strong partnerships through bilateral, as well as multilateral cooperation. […] We want a society where women are free from violence and free to change the world.” Please read the full statement here and find more information on EU actions to counter Female Genital Mutilation in a memo here. (for more information: Christian Wigand- Tel.: +32 229 62253; Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

News

General Assembly Takes Action on Second Committee Reports by Adopting 41 Texts, also Passes Overhaul of United Nations Peace, Security Pillar

Increasing Official Development Assistance, Updating Bank Policies to Support 2030 Agenda among Resolutions Approved

Gearing up to implement the international community’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the General Assembly today adopted 41 resolutions and two related decisions aimed at strengthening nations’ efforts to reach agreed goals.

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution on restructuring the United Nations peace and security pillar, presenting what several delegates described as “sweeping” proposals to overhaul it.

By the resolution’s terms, the Assembly took note of a Secretary‑General’s report containing five proposals, including the creation of a single political‑operational structure under Assistant Secretaries‑General with regional responsibilities, and establishment of a “Standing Principals’ Group” of the Under‑Secretaries‑General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and for Peace Operations.

Focusing then on the Second Committee, the Assembly turned to macroeconomic policy questions, adopting a resolution on international financial system and development in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly stressed that development banks should make optimal use of their resources and balance sheets, updating their policies to support of the 2030 Agenda.

By further terms, the Assembly committed to substantially curb illicit financial flows by 2030 by combating tax evasion, transnational organized crime and corruption through strengthened national regulation and increased international cooperation and reducing opportunities for tax avoidance.

Adopting another resolution on external debt sustainability and development, the Assembly stressed creditor and debtor responsibility in avoiding build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

By a resolution on commodities, adopted in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the Assembly directed the international community to address factors creating structural barriers to international trade, impeding diversification and limiting access to financial services.  By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address low industrialization and diversification of economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Other resolutions on macroeconomic policy questions concerned unilateral economic measures, international trade, financial inclusion, illicit financial flows and financing for development.

Focusing on special groups of countries, the Assembly adopted a draft on Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their contribution and make concrete efforts towards ODA targets.

By another resolution on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries, it encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

Addressing sustainable development, the Assembly adopted several resolutions, including one on disaster risk reduction, emphasizing that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

According to another draft, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, adopting it in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, infrastructure and the transport sector.

Adopting a further draft on combating sand and dust storms, it recognized that such weather had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat and promptly take measures to address them.

Other sustainable development resolutions spotlighted development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, sustainable tourism development in Central America, agricultural technology, desertification, biological diversity, education, camelids and World Bee Day.

Turning to a related item, the Assembly adopted a resolution on agriculture development, food security and nutrition in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. By that text, the Assembly stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, it stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted rural development and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in their various markets.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution concerning natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 11 abstentions, which called for Israel to cease exploitation of natural resources in those territories.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with international law and cease all policies and measures to alter the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to stop harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, and cease efforts impeding Palestinian development.

Resolutions were also adopted on transport links, agricultural technology, small islands, global climate, harmony with nature, oil slick on Lebanese shores, human settlements, globalization, science and technology, culture, landlocked developing countries, poverty eradication, women, human resources, operational activities, South‑South cooperation and family farming.

Committee Rapporteur Theresah Chipulu Luswili Chanda introduced its reports.

Also adopted, without a vote, was a plenary resolution on a world against violence and violent extremism.  Introducing that text, Iran’s representative urged Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any single religion or nationality, adding that the Assembly could provide a platform to address the roots of that phenomenon.

The resolution spotlighted international efforts to combat violent extremism and reaffirmed the importance of the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action on the matter.

In other business, the Assembly took note of a report of its General Committee and several appointments to the Committee on Conferences.  Botswana, France and the Russian Federation were appointed to serve three‑year terms on the Committee beginning on 1 January 2018.  The Assembly also noted that the Asia‑Pacific Group had recommended China’s appointment to fill a vacancy on the Committee for a term of office beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019.

Introduction of Draft Resolution and Reports

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, introducing a draft resolution titled “Restructuring of the United Nations peace and security pillar” (document A/72/L.33), said the Organization must be able to respond to today’s challenges “in the best way it can”.  However, there were new conflicts today that were harder to identify, as in the case of online recruitment of terrorist groups.  “Different threats require different responses,” he said, calling for adjustments to the Organization’s seventy‑year‑old mechanisms.  “We must evolve,” he stressed, noting that the resolution before the Assembly today would assist in that process, as it called for a second comprehensive report on the United Nations peace and security pillar.  Thanking the facilitators, he urged Member States to adopt the text by consensus.

The representative of Colombia, speaking in explanation of position on that item, said the resolution was critical to help make the United Nations more modern and transparent.  It contained a “visionary proposal” by the Secretary‑General, who had been chosen specifically “for this important task”.  Today’s peace and security challenges required bold measures to save lives, he said, adding that the resolution marked an important step forward in transparency.  It would also provide more feedback on “what is working and what is not working on the ground” in the United Nations efforts to enhance sustainable international peace.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of the United States said the United Nations would be better able to address the needs of those on the ground with more focused, effective and efficient operations.  Any reform that was implemented must advance political solutions and enable the Organization to tailor its responses to the needs of countries in conflict or transition.  The resolution demonstrated that the Secretary‑General had wide‑reaching endorsement from Member States for his vision to make the United Nations a stronger and more relevant institution that could prevent and respond to conflicts and atrocities.

The representative of Mexico said his country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it supported the Secretary‑General in his vision to make the United Nations a stronger organization.  It was critical to have the full backing of the Assembly so that the proposal could be implemented as soon as possible.  However, it seemed contradictory that the resolution on the reform of peace and security did not include references to sustainable development or the 2015 review process.  He expressed hope that the Secretary‑General’s report would be substantive in helping the Organization move towards greater understanding and the paradigm shift that peace required.

The representative of Argentina, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s initiative to reform the United Nations peace and security pillar, said the Organization should adopt a holistic and comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, building sustainable peace and development.  The text would help decrease the fragmentation in the Organization’s work, she said, adding that the “sweeping” proposal would help the United Nations focus more closely on the root causes of conflict, ensure national ownership, enhance conflict prevention and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Voicing support for efforts to make the Peacebuilding Office a “liaison” between the various relevant organs of the United Nations, she stressed that “we must move forward”, and expressed hope that the upcoming work would reflect an active exchange of ideas between all Member States.

The representative of China voiced support for the United Nations efforts to better implement the responsibilities entrusted in it by its Charter, as well as to enhance multilateralism.  Also welcoming efforts aimed at integrating the Organization’s resources and improving its efficiency, thereby allowing it to better respond to today’s peace and security challenges, he said the restructuring of the United Nations peace and security architecture would also require greater consultation between Member States.

The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that his delegation had joined in the consensus, said the changes proposed would also impact the Organization’s political dimensions.  Voicing his delegation’s commitment to engage in all discussions going forward, he expressed full respect for the points of view of various Member States, and said the final analysis must help them reach a “mutual understanding”.  While the interlinked relationship between the United Nations three pillars underpinned the Organization’s work, that did not mean that they must be carried out in the same way.  In that regard, he expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to avoid duplication of labour as well as ensure geographical representation.

The representative of Egypt agreed that the non‑traditional challenges emerging in global peace and security issues required new ideas and a more efficient use of the United Nations toolkit.  Stressing that the Assembly and its organs were the only entities that could adopt any of the restructuring proposals — and that such an adoption must be undertaken with full respect for the mandates of all the United Nations organs without any amendments to those mandates — he warned against including controversial elements which had not been fully agreed by Member States.  In addition, he said, Egypt considered sustainable development to be a right and a standalone objective in itself, which must be achieved without any preconditions.

The representative of Brazil said the United Nations needed to be nimbler if it was to implement all initiatives under the pillars of peace and security, development and human rights.  His country supported reform of the peace and security pillar and welcomed efforts to overcome fragmentation in focusing on restructuring peacebuilding.  However, he said reform would not be complete without reference to the work methods of the Security Council.

The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Assembly had expressed strong support for the Secretary‑General and reform of the Secretariat’s peace and security pillar.  He looked forward to a detailed report of all aspects of the new pillar.  The Secretariat must act as one while taking into account specificities of all facets on the ground, as through such efforts it could improve on efforts to maintain peace.  The Secretary‑General had the authority and now full political endorsement in proceeding with the first steps of implementing his vision.  With adoption of the resolution, the Assembly had set in motion not only reform but also a good precedent for other reforms.

THERESAH CHIPULU LUSWILI CHANDA (Zambia), Rapporteur of the Second Committee, introduced that body’s reports and the draft resolutions or decisions within, noting oral revisions for some.  She began with Strengthening of the United Nations system; United Nations reform: measures and proposals (document A/72/L.33); Information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417); Macroeconomic policy questions (document A/72/418); International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1); International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2); External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3); Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4); Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5); Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6); and Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning then to reports focusing on sustainable development, she introduced Sustainable development (document A/72/420); Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1); Follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS [small islands developing States] Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2); Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3); Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4); Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5); Sustainable development: Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6); Education for sustainable development (document A/72/420/Add.7); Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8); Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9); and Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10).

Next, she introduced reports on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421); Globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422); Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1); Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2); and Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).

Next, she introduced reports on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4); Groups of countries in special situations (document A/72/423); Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1); Follow‑up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2); Eradication of poverty and other development issues: report of the Second Committee (document A/72/424); Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1); Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2); and Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3).

Finally, she introduced reports on Operational activities for development (document A/72/425); Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1); South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2); Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426); Towards global partnerships (document A/72/427); Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428); Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/72/479); and Programme planning (document A/72/484).

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly then turned to draft resolutions in the reports, beginning with a text on information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417), which it adopted without a vote.

By that text, the Assembly called on all stakeholders to make bridging digital divides a priority, put into effect sound strategies contributing to the development of e‑government and continue to focus on pro‑poor information and communications technology policies and applications.

Next, it took up Macroeconomic policy questions, taking note of the report and adopting a resolution on Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States) with 48 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly would call for the elimination of such measures against those States.

It then adopted a resolution on International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly promoted a universal, rules‑based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as meaningful trade liberalization.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a text on International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2) in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly resolved to strengthen the coherence and consistency of multilateral financial, investment, trade and development policy and environment institutions and platforms.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3), by which it stressed the responsibilities of creditor and debtor nations in avoiding the build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

The Assembly then adopted a draft on Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly would have the international community address factors that created structural barriers to international trade, impeded diversification and limited access to financial services, particularly for developing countries.

By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address the issue of the low industrialization and diversification of the economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5), by which it encouraged Member States to adopt and pursue national financial inclusion and gender‑responsive strategies to end structural barriers to women’s equal access to economic resources.

It then adopted, without a vote, a resolution on Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6).  By that draft, the Assembly expressed concern that cryptocurrencies were increasingly being used for illicit activities.  It called for greater international cooperation and sustained dialogue to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return.

The representative of Nigeria said efforts by his country and Norway had led to the establishment of the interlink between achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and combating illicit financial flows, which had been endorsed in numerous fora including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  While his delegation had expected a more robust outcome, the adopted resolution was sufficient, he said, and appealed to Member States to further request a report by the Secretary‑General on how the issue was central to achieving the 2030 Agenda.  The Assembly setting up an intergovernmental body would be key to coordinating relevant mandates, he said, adding that most developing countries supported that idea.  The African Union’s annual theme would in 2018 be “Winning the fight against corruption:  A sustainable path to Africa’s Transformation”.  Nigeria stood ready to contribute toward holding the high‑level conference on illicit financial flows and asset recovery which would be convened by the President of the seventy‑third General Assembly.  Urging Member States to share information to combat illicit financial flows, he underscored that returning stolen assets had a more positive impact than focusing on conditionalities hindering developing countries’ progress.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on Follow‑up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning to sustainable development, the Assembly adopted a resolution on Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Tonga, Vanuatu).  By that text, it noted that the oil slick damage to Lebanon amounted to $856.4 million in 2014, and the Assembly requested the Government of Israel to provide compensation to Lebanon for the damage and to other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as Syria.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a text on International Year of Camelids, 2024 (document A/72/420), by which it encouraged all Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to take advantage of the International Year to promote awareness among the public of the economic and cultural importance of camelids.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on World Bee Day (document A/72/420), by which the Assembly decided to designate 20 May as World Bee Day to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats that they face and their contribution to sustainable development.

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on strengthening the links between all modes of transport to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (document A/72/420).  By that text, it called for efforts to promote regional and interregional economic cooperation, including by improving the planning of transportation infrastructure and mobility, enhancing connectivity and facilitating trade and investment.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan (document A/72/420).  By that text, the Assembly urged the international community to assist Kazakhstan in implementing special programmes and projects to treat and care for the affected population, as well as efforts to ensure economic growth and sustainable development in the Semipalatinsk region.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America (document A/72/420), by which it stressed the need to promote the further development of sustainable tourism and strengthen the development of ecotourism, maintaining the culture and environmental integrity of indigenous and local communities.

Next, it adopted a draft on Agricultural technology for sustainable development (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 29 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly urged stakeholders to strengthen efforts to improve the development of sustainable agricultural technologies and their transfer and dissemination to developing countries.

The representative of Slovenia said that after three years of effort, the resolution on World Bee Day had received its final endorsement.  In the last three years, since the beginning of the initiative of the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association in 2014, his country had been intensively notifying States around the world on a political as well as an expert level.  In the frame of the official procedures, the initiative had been unanimously adopted by the Conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations at its fortieth session in Rome in July.  After that endorsement, it was transmitted to the Assembly, and on 17 November the resolution was adopted by the Second Committee.  Global food security was a key social issue and an important priority in the development of agriculture.  A third of all food produced in the world depends on pollination, and bees had an important role to play in the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity.  They were also good bioindicators of environmental conditions.

The Assembly then adopted a text, in a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 48 against, with 4 abstentions (Liberia, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey), on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1).

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2).

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3), by which the Assembly emphasized that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of and access to multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4).  By that text, it emphasized that mitigation of and adaptation to climate change represented an immediate and urgent global priority.  It also urged Member States to strengthen mechanisms and provide adequate resources towards achieving the full and equal participation of women in decision‑making at all levels on environmental issues.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5).

Following that, it adopted a draft, without a vote, on implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6), by which the Assembly called on Governments and all stakeholders to take appropriate measures to mainstream consideration of socioeconomic impacts and benefits of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity and its components, as well as ecosystems providing essential services, into relevant programmes and policies at all levels.

The Assembly then adopted a text, without a vote, on Education for sustainable development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda (document A/72/420/Add.7).  By that draft, it called on the international community to provide inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels — early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and distance education, including technical and vocational training — so that all people had access to lifelong learning opportunities that help them exploit opportunities to participate fully in society and contribute to sustainable development.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8), by which the Assembly decided to continue observing International Mother Earth Day annually.  It also called for holistic and integrated approaches to sustainable development in its three dimensions that guided humanity to live in harmony with nature and led to efforts to restore the health and integrity of the planet’s ecosystems.

Next, it adopted a draft on Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9) in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  By that text, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, construction and infrastructure, and in particular the transport sector.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10), by which it recognized that that meteorological phenomenon had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat them and take measures to address those challenges.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421).

It then adopted a text on the Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 184 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly underlined that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda depended on means of implementation, particularly finance, international trade, technology and capacity‑building, calling for sincere and effective follow‑up on global commitments.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2), by which it called for strengthened support to those areas, particularly in developing countries.  It would also proclaim 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements to enhance global awareness of and education in the basic sciences.

Next, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, a text on Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).  By that draft, the Assembly encouraged all relevant stakeholders to cooperate in supporting developing country efforts to develop, strengthen and consolidate cultural industries, tourism and related microenterprises.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4), by which the Assembly encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Groups of countries in special situations”.

Following that, it turned to a draft on Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their ODA and make concrete efforts towards the ODA targets.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Follow-up to the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2).  By that text, the Assembly stressed that cooperation on fundamental transit policies, laws and regulations between landlocked developing countries and their neighbours was crucial for the effective and integrated solution of cross‑border trade and transit transport problems.

The Assembly then took note of the Committee’s report on “Eradication of poverty and other development issues”.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1).  By that text, the Assembly emphasized the importance of structural transformation leading to inclusive and sustainable industrialization for employment creation and poverty reduction.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2), by which the Assembly emphasized the need to link policies on economic, social and environmental development to ensure that all people, in particular women and children living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, benefited from inclusive economic growth and development.

The representative of Sudan, explaining his delegation’s position on the “women and development” resolution, said it had joined the consensus.  However, he expressed concern over the wording of some of the resolution’s paragraphs, including false criticisms of particular national legal systems, and disassociated himself from that text.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3), taking note of the report on the same topic.  By that text, it called on the international community to place human resources development at the core of economic and social development as educated, skilled, healthy, capable, productive and adaptable workforces were the foundation for achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and development.

The Assembly then turned to a draft on Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, it took note of the Secretary‑General’s report on “Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: ensuring a better future for all”.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report “Operational activities for development”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2), by which it stressed that such assistance was not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North‑South cooperation.  It also called on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant organizations to assist developing countries in implementing projects of South‑South cooperation.

Next, the Assembly adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions, a draft on Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426).  By that text, it stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in sustainable agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, the Assembly stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted agriculture and rural development in developing countries and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in community, national, regional and international markets.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (document A/72/426), by which the Assembly proclaimed 2019‑2028 the Decade of Family Farming, and called on FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to lead implementation of the initiative.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to postpone discussion of the agenda item on “Towards global partnerships” until the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Following that, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 11 abstentions, a text on Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428).  By that draft, the Assembly called on Israel to cease exploitation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law and cease all policies and measures aimed at the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to halt all actions harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, cease efforts impeding Palestinian development and export of discovered oil and natural gas reserves.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to approve the Second Committee’s programme of work for its seventy‑third session.

Finally, it took note of a report on programme planning.

The Assembly then took up a draft resolution titled “A world against violence and violent extremism” (document A/72/L.32).

The representative of Iran, introducing that text, said it was a follow‑up to Assembly resolutions 68/127 and 70/109, both of which had been adopted by consensus.  That unity demonstrated the pressing need to act to combat violent extremism, especially through the principles of tolerance and moderation.  Calling for collective international action in that regard — especially in the wake of the atrocities committed over the last few years by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, including by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) — he stressed that “dialogue, moderation and tolerance are the most effective antidote to violent extremism”.  Urging Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any particular religion or nationality, he said doing so “played right into the terrorists’ hands” and further spread extremist ideology.  Noting that the Assembly could provide a strong platform to help address the roots of that phenomenon, he said the text also reaffirmed measures taken at the international level such as the Assembly’s high‑level 2016 meeting on the topic, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 2016 conference on youth and the Internet.  It also spotlighted the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and requested him to report on the implementation of the present resolution at the Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session.

The Assembly then adopted that draft resolution without a vote.

Speaking following the adoption, the representative of Canada said her delegation strongly condemned all violent extremism, including violence committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The rights of all people must be respected, she stressed, noting that the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action recognized the important link between social exclusion and violent extremism.  All States — especially the resolution’s main sponsor — should comply with their international obligations to protect human rights.

The representative of Israel said her delegation had joined in the consensus, but voiced concern not with “the message but the messenger”.  Iran, the text’s main sponsor, was in fact the “nerve‑centre” of violent extremism and terrorist incitement around the globe, as well as its main sponsor.  Iran’s proxies butchered innocent people and violated human rights, she said, adding that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Iran were hanged from cranes, journalists were arrested, girls as young as 12 were married off and prisoners were tortured.  In Syria, Iran’s continued support for the Assad regime had allowed it to use chemical weapons against its own people, and next door in Lebanon it had helped Hizbullah increase its weapons arsenal.  With the adoption of the present text, it was critical for the international community to focus on Iran’s own actions, she stressed, noting that that country had already violated the very resolution it was sponsoring.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said his country had joined consensus on the resolution based on its belief in a comprehensive effort to combat violence and extremism.  It supported all efforts aimed at fighting violent extremism, but must address contradictions concerning security.  It was clear that Iran, the sponsor of the resolution, was also the main sponsor of violence and violent extremism across the world.  Iran had worked to destroy Yemen and was continuing to do so through violations of international law.  Several of its militias had wreaked havoc in Syria and Lebanon, and it was supporting extremist groups with weapons and other prohibited items.  He condemned Iranian support for those groups, stressing the need to prevent and counter all forms of violent extremism.

The representative of the United States noted that the Assembly had on 19 December adopted a resolution condemning Iran for continuing to violate international law and voicing concern over the targeting of minority religious communities.  Yet, 24 hours later, Iran was sponsoring a resolution against violence and extremism.  It had often acted in clear violation of its international obligations, which ran counter to the spirit of the resolution.  Her country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it believed in a comprehensive effort to counter extremism.  While Iran urged countries to unite against violence, its Government actively fomented violence across the Middle East.  Its support for Hizbullah had expanded the group’s arsenal, directly challenging Lebanese sovereignty and threatening Israel.  Iran abused its own people, supported political opponents of other Member States and imprisoned journalists and tourists on trumped up charges.

The representative of the Russian Federation said her country had joined consensus, as it believed in the resolution’s potential.  It viewed extremism as separate from terrorism, although it was a breeding ground for it.  Efforts to counter violent extremism must be based on international law and the United Nations Charter.  That was important when vague terms were being used to put forth dubious concepts.  She noted that extremist propaganda could, without violence, lead to undermining of the rule of law, destabilization of society and mass violations of human rights.

The representative of the European Union delegation rejected any form of discrimination, including on the grounds of sex, race, colour, language, genetic features, religion, membership in a minority group or sexual orientation or any other.  All nations must respect international human rights, promote good governance and uphold the rule of law.  She therefore urged all States — including the resolution’s main sponsor — to respect the rights of all their people, including ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Iran responded to the statement delivered by the delegate of the “Israeli regime”, who had levied baseless allegations and lies against his country.  Israel’s anger over the resolution adopted today was understandable, as it was an occupying entity that had created an apartheid system in the territories it controlled.  The representative of Israel had clearly deemed the resolution to be “against itself”, he said, noting that it pursued one of the most extreme policies in the modern world and denied the people living under its occupation their most basic rights.  In contrast, Iran had done everything in its power to combat violent extremism.

Responding to the representative of the United States, he said that country had for almost a year pursued a new policy which included levying baseless allegations and lies against Iran.  It was also working to advance the interests of the Israeli regime in the Middle East and was taking advantage of some regional countries by creating a “local bogeyman”.  It was not a coincidence that the United States had gone into high gear in its false allegations against Iran following the massive condemnation it received on its decision to recognize Al‑Quds [Jerusalem] as Israel’s capital.  The United States Government’s regime change project inflicted severe suffering across the Middle East, he said, adding that that country supported, armed and trained known terrorist groups in Syria.  The United States’ own past aggressions and interventions in the region had created fertile ground for recruitment by those advocating the violent takfirist ideology.

Turning to the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said that that country was a main sponsor of violent extremism worldwide, having lavishly financed the export of its fanatical ideology to poorer nations over the last three decades.  Saudi Arabia remained a critical support base for Al‑Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, and it supported any group that would fight the Government in Syria.  Noting that ISIL/Daesh was a product of Saudi support and financing, he said that country’s ideology propagated hatred and sought to spread it abroad.

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

Access to Quality Health Care, Education Vital for Improving Children’s Well-Being, Speakers Stress as Third Committee Concludes Debate

Governments around the world were focused on improving access to quality education and health care for children and adolescents to ensure they reached their full potential, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as they concluded discussion on children’s rights.

Indeed, children’s fundamental freedoms could be best protected by ensuring their education and health care needs were met, said Bangladesh’s delegate, who noted that children at all educational levels in his country were provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year.  The education system also had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.

Similarly, Bhutan’s delegate said children were provided free education up to the tenth grade, while in Ukraine, a law on inclusive education ensured all Ukrainian children had access to high-quality education, said that country’s representative.

Efforts to boost education had borne fruit, several said, with South Africa’s delegate noting that 98 per cent of girls were enrolled in school.  Rwanda’s delegate said primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ 96.5 per cent rate higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys.  Overall, primary school completion in Rwanda was 76 per cent.  In Indonesia, said that country’s delegate, a Child Labour Reduction Program focused on education and vocational training had led to 49 children returning to school.

In terms of child health, there had also been gains.  El Salvador’s representative said a comprehensive child health care policy had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and reduced parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS.  In Thailand, meanwhile, particular attention had been paid to achieving universal health coverage, said that country’s delegate, with a grant introduced to help poor families with new-born children.  Libya’s representative likewise stressed that, despite instability, his country was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.

Speakers also underscored that education and health care policies must be inclusive to meet children’s varying needs.  The Dominican Republic’s delegate highlighted the establishment of a centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome.  “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he said.  Echoing this sentiment, Tonga’s delegate added that every child, including those with disabilities, had the right to education. 

Children also deserved access to social services regardless of their nationality, speakers noted.  The representative of the United Arab Emirates said immunizations were offered to Yemeni children who had been affected by conflict.  Spain’s delegate added that child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens.

However, the Republic of Korea’s delegate pointed out, girls often lacked access to healthcare and education.  Adolescent girls left school much earlier than their male counterparts.  Girls also suffered disproportionate violence, and lacked access to health care and nutrition.  It was well documented that societies which empowered girls through education achieved better results in every area of development, she observed.

Also speaking were representatives of Botswana, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Kazakhstan, China, Georgia, Kuwait, Turkey, Nigeria, Maldives, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Panama, Burundi, Malawi, Morocco, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Armenia, Andorra, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Sudan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, Bahrain, Congo, Myanmar, Djibouti, Algeria and Togo, as well as of the Holy See, State of Palestine, Sovereign Order of Malta, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 October, to consider the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4200).

Statements

EDGAR SISA (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated his commitment to international and regional mechanisms for children’s rights.  Having amended its Children’s Act, Botswana had strengthened its promotion and protection of children’s rights.  Programmes were in place to address growing alcohol and substance abuse among young people, while others for child protection were grounded in providing equitable and quality education.  Botswana endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and had almost achieved universal access to education.  Among the challenges was the declining quality of junior secondary education, he said, stressing that revision of curricula and increased teacher training had been identified as tools to bridge the education gap.

Ms. AL EMADI (Qatar) said achievements in protecting children’s rights included the widespread ratification of Convention on the Rights of the Child.  However, millions of children still faced the brunt of climate change and conflict.  She called for intensified international efforts to protect children wherever they were.  Legislative efforts in Qatar were aligned with development strategies and aimed to foster international cooperation to create an environment conducive to meeting children’s educational and health needs.  Yet, efforts had been hampered by “illegal international measures” imposed on Qatar that had forced families to separate.  Despite those obstacles, she underscored Qatar’s commitment to protect all children.

MARCOS MONTILLA (Dominican Republic), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the national strategy to protect the rights of children and adolescents included the provision of medical services, which had led to a decrease in chronic malnutrition, and support for single women to resume their studies.  The Government also had focused on improving education and increasing public spending on schools.  A centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome had been established, and to address the issue of violence, a bill was being developed to promote children’s positive upbringing and avoid violence in child rearing.  Ultimately, he said, the country aimed to ensure that its social policies were consistent on the Convention.  “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he added.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC, said promoting children’s and adolescent’s rights was a priority.  El Salvador had made strides in improving education and health services for children, and had introduced laws to better protect their rights.  Girls and boys, for example, had access to comprehensive healthcare, which had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and a reduction in parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS.  A paradigm shift also had been made in the legislature to focus on rights protection and ensure that laws aligned with the Convention.  She also urged Member States to promote the human rights of all migrants, particularly children.

MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had successfully incorporated the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into its legal system.  Legislation protected the rights of children to nationality, non-discrimination and to have their best interests safeguarded.  National child protection policies had been adopted to bring Sri Lanka’s standards up to international standard and action plans were in place to end sexual abuse and violence against children.  Turning to the problem of bullying, he said Sri Lanka was one of five countries to have laws prohibiting the act in schools.  He noted the vital role played by parents and teachers in mitigating bullying, also calling for greater cooperation with religious leaders to ensure children get the protection they need.

HELEN INGA S. VON ERNST (Iceland) said free and universal education was crucial to social equality and long-term prosperity as it reduced poverty, boosted economic growth and increased income.  But gender was a discriminating factor, and the international community must focus on girls’ empowerment and participation in education.  Turning to the issue of armed conflict, she said children were often the first to suffer when societies faced conflict, poverty or famine.  With millions of children displaced from among other countries Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, urgent action was needed.  Governments had an obligation to ensure children’s rights were respected, protected and fulfilled.

MOHAMMAD DAVID ARSLAN (Indonesia) associating himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country was committed to combating violence against children and protecting them from being exploited.  Indonesia had launched a Child Labour Reduction Program focusing on education and vocational training which had successfully withdrawn nearly 49 children engaged in labour and returned them to school.  In addition, Child Labour-Free Zones had been established throughout industrial areas, and measures had been taken to improve both family welfare and economic resilience with a twelve-year free and compulsory education program.  Children’s forums, family learning centres and children’s creative spaces had been established in all 34 provinces.

TSOKI CHODEN (Bhutan) firmly endorsed investment in the rights of children as a fundamental building block for prosperity and sustainable development.  Sound legal frameworks in Bhutan provided protections, including free access to education up to the tenth grade.  Protections against all forms of abuse and exploitation of children had also been put into force.  Such measures had benefited from an expanded definition of violence against children and harsher punishment for perpetrators.  A five-year-plan sought to mainstream child protection issues, with child focal points appointed to all relevant Government offices, she said, adding that measures were also in place to promote the political inclusion of children.

AZAT SHAKIROV (Kazakhstan) said the security and safety of children were prerequisites for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in conflict zones.  Regions where strife and conflict prevailed required investment in sectors that promoted the socioeconomic needs of young people.  He called for the implementation of action plans to reintegrate child soldiers, with special focus on girls, measures which called for greater United Nations cooperation.  Turning to mass refugee flows, he said all countries involved in the migration cycle must be held accountable for their actions.  He said it was imperative to implement relevant Security Council resolutions to protect children in armed conflict, including the maintenance of schools as safe spaces.

SHAO WU (China) said that her Government had worked relentlessly to put into practice the principle of “children first” by drafting and implementing three successive National Plans of Action for Child Development.  In addition to legislation to tackle domestic violence, the Government had also enacted measures to improve nutrition of children in poverty.  Civil society had a key role to play in the protection of the rights of children, she stressed, adding that developed countries must honour their commitment by increasing substantive assistance to the developing countries in terms of finance and technology to create a better environment for children globally.

TEVITA SUKA MANGISI (Tonga) said that while his country criminalized all forms of child abuse, progress towards protecting children rested in the proper implementation of such laws.  Tonga’s policy targeted the education sector, with every child, including those with disabilities, having the right to education.  Efforts were also improving the quality of teachers and incorporating climate change awareness into curricula.  Monitoring progress called for quality data collection, he noted, adding that Tonga was the second country ever to establish a sound monitoring system and undertake a country-wide census of child development.  He closed by reaffirming that children’s rights were integral to the Government’s work.

EKA KIPIANI (Georgia) said that in the past year, her country had adopted legislative measures and new laws as part of its commitment to protect and promote the rights of children.  Those measures included a new code for juvenile justice.  Georgia had also complied with reporting obligations under the treaty system, and hosted a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in April 2016.  But the humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia were deteriorating, and children there were deprived of basic human rights, including that to an education in their native language.  The Sustainable Development Goals must be fully implemented everywhere, including in conflict-affected areas.

Mr. MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) expressed concern about children experiencing hardship caused by armed conflict and natural disasters.  In Kuwait, the family was seen as the core provider of care and protection for children, while the State offered support for their spiritual and physical needs.  Noting that Kuwait’s policies had met the requirements of the Convention, he said a family court had also been established to address family conflicts, and in turn, reduce violence against children.  The country had also organized conferences to raise awareness of the risks posed to young people by digital technology and the suffering of Palestinian children.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) said his country had taken various initiatives to protect children, including through the adoption of a national plan that aimed to improve their living standards.  The focus had been on health, education and social inclusion, he added.  Party to the Convention, Turkey had also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.  Turkey attached great importance to the rights of the girl child, and to ensuring education opportunities for both boys and girls.  In conflicts and crises, children were vulnerable to mass abductions, torture and sexual violence, he said, underscoring that there were 835,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey, and that their education was crucial for rebuilding Syria.

ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria) associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, described a campaign to end violence against children which had fed into Nigeria’s internally displaced persons camps where alleged sexual exploitation had been reported.  In addition, a survey had helped the Government initiate awareness-raising campaigns for parents, families and communities on the need to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.  He also highlighted the “End Child Marriage Campaign”; drop-in-centres for child victims of terrorism that targeted re-enrolment in school; the Home Grown School Feeding Program, which aimed to feed children in schools across the country; and the Safe School Initiative as a way to prevent Boko Haram from recruiting children through security measures for their protection.

ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives) said children were being used as slaves, weapons and even commodities to trade.  The Maldives had focused on training parents and professionals working with abused children, she added, emphasizing that the number of cases reported to protective services had increased in recent years.  A mobile reporting application and a 24-hour toll free call centre had been launched where reports could be made anonymously.  To reach every island in a timely manner, community social groups were being rolled out across the Maldives.  Domestic abuse and violence against children could be countered in large part by empowering women.  The recently passed Domestic Violence Prevention Act and the Anti-Human Trafficking Act had strengthened protection mechanisms.  She also underscored the importance of education in the advancement of children.

Mr. ALI (Pakistan) underscored that half a billion children — one out of every four — lived in countries affected by conflict, natural disasters or epidemics.  “This is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” he stressed, emphasizing that protecting and promoting children’s rights was both smart economics and a moral obligation.  Among the earliest signatories of the Convention on Rights of the Child, Pakistan had since ratified several international instruments, including one on child labour.  The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development and a comprehensive child protection bill provided the necessary national legal basis to protect children from abuse and exploitation.  Pakistan was committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality and increasing literacy to 90 per cent of the population within the next eight years.

PORNRAWE POENATEETAI (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN, said international attention should be focused on children living in poverty, rural children and migrant children.  Thailand had been working to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, paying particular attention to achieving universal health coverage, under which it had introduced a grant programme providing financial assistance to poor families with newborn children.  All children, including migrant children, received free, quality education in Thailand.  The emerging role of media and technology obliged the international community to minimize the risks of exploitation or abuse through such channels, she said, adding that her country had a national strategy to prevent such online abuse, including cyberbullying.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe) said his country had acceded to both the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Children’s Act, Education Act and Domestic Violence Act were all in place, as were programmes to implement their provisions, such as the National Victim Friendly System which responded to cases of violence and sexual abuse of children.  While police offered victim-friendly lines, there were also child friendly courts and clinics which facilitated child-sensitive court sessions for abuse cases.  Limited resources, low institutional capacity and prevailing social, cultural and political norms were among the challenges to enforcing those reforms.  Police received reports of nearly 100 girls being exposed to sexual abuse every day, he said, in part because they were in early and forced marriages, a practice that had been outlawed since 2016.

Ms. ELMANSOURI (Tunisia), associating herself with the African Group, said the protection of children was a priority, and as such, Tunisia had implemented legislation emphasizing their vulnerability to all forms of violence and exploitation.  Laws protecting women’s rights also recognized children as vulnerable to sexual abuse.  Education was the central pillar of the country’s child protection agenda, with notable investment made to improve school and health infrastructure.  Those efforts had expanded students’ access to food and targeted drop-out rates.  Young people must be given a political voice, she said, adding that Tunisian children had been consulted in the drafting of the latest five-year plan.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, called children the most valuable social capital of any country.  Considerations for their well-being must recognize them as fully fledged persons with the right to be heard.  Panama was focused on their interests through a national secretariat office and campaigns to combat sexual abuse against children.  Plans were in place to eradicate child labour, with the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Labour implementing campaigns.  The list of hazardous work for children also had been updated.  She called attention to alarming rates of violence against children, saying that such acts took an immense toll on the international community.

Mr. KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said the national policy on orphans and vulnerable children outlined objectives and proposed strategies to care for those young people, while a related children’s plan was guided by principles, such as meeting the needs of every child and prioritizing children in all policies.  The ultimate goal of Rwanda’s policy on children was to protect their rights and ensure they developed by improving services, institutions and systems.  The Government had made strides in protecting their rights, transforming orphanages and providing orphans with home-based care.  In addition, primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ enrolment at 96.5 per cent — higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys.  Overall, primary school completion was at 76 per cent.

SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said children’s rights could be best protected by ensuring their education and healthcare.  Since 2010, children at all educational levels had been provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution effort that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year.  With schools funded through the Government budget, the education system had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.  In terms of child health, mobile phone and web portals provided health services, complementing the work of 16,438 community and local health clinics for children.  Regarding displaced Myanmar nationals who had sought refuge in Bangladesh, he said his country was trying to extend as much help as possible to the children, who comprised 60 per cent of the refugees.  He urged the international community to ensure those children were protected from violence and aggression, and to help them return to their families in Myanmar.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, drew attention to unaccompanied refugee and migrant children, the number of whom had reached a record high globally.  Children were the most defenceless group among refugees and migrants.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child had established legal obligations for States Parties that could not arbitrarily and unilaterally be curtailed, he said, including proper identification and registration, and the right to education.  Violations against the rights of children in armed conflict had increased in intensity and scale, with children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations.  The protection and integration of children must be a primordial concern for all.

NOKULUNGA ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group and SADC, said that while the global North had done well to advance children’s rights, progress in the global South fluctuated from country to country.  Still, South Africa had made strides towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, with 98 per cent enrolment of girls in school and increased budgetary allocations for education.  The social security safety net for children was being expanded to better serve the most vulnerable children, with grants reaching 70 per cent of households.  Substance abuse among young people had taken a heavy toll on South Africa, she said, calling for future reports on child protection to provide guidance on how to address that issue. 

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group, said prevention of violence against children was at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2030 Agenda.  Burundi was deploying considerable efforts to protect children and taking measures to strengthen legislation on the matter.  A series of committees had been established to promote children’s well-being and safety, while legal tools had been developed to protect children from violence, with a unit in the justice ministry dealing exclusively with children’s issues.  The greatest challenge in Burundi was creating safe environments that mitigated high mortality among children, he said, pledging to put into effect all international mechanisms to protect children.

Ms. AL JABRI (United Arab Emirates) said her country had enhanced its judiciary and legislative system to meet requirements set out in the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  In addition, a strategic plan had been introduced to foster the rights of children with disabilities.  The Government also provided humanitarian assistance to Yemenis in the United Arab Emirates who had been affected by conflict, including immunization for Yemeni children.  Protecting children from radicalism and terrorism was also a focus, and to that end, the country had introduced measures to protect women and children from hate speech.

Mr. BASTIDA (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said his country had introduced legislative reforms to protect the rights of children and adolescents.  Protecting the rights of children on the move was an issue of concern for Spain, given its location along a historical crossroad.  Child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens from a belief that all children should have equal rights regardless of nationality.  Spain also ensured that children from poor families were provided access to basic social services.

LOT DZONZI (Malawi), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and SADC, said his country had taken special note of the annual report of the Special Representative on Violence against Children.  Malawi had worked to include commitments made under international treaties into its domestic legal framework, including by amending its Constitution to raise the marriage age from 15 years to 18 years.  Poverty was among the factors driving trafficking, and to prevent it, Malawi had made birth registration mandatory.  HIV and AIDS was an ongoing challenge, which Malawi was working to mitigate through a national strategic plan which had reduced HIV infections among children in some age groups by 84 per cent.

Ms. HAIDOUR (Morocco) said her Government had a clear vision to protect the rights of the child.  Constitutional progress had been made to prioritize international mechanisms on the matter.  Efforts prioritized education and took a human-rights-approach to assisting children.  As a result, the rate of children in school had increased from 50 per cent to 80 per cent in recent years.  As part of its national action plan for children and other national mechanisms, Morocco had put in place measures to protect children in armed conflict, allowing them access to the legal system.

YOOSIL HWANG (Republic of Korea) said it was important to educate children in universal values such as human dignity, tolerance, respect for diversity and human rights.  She expressed concern that fewer girls attended school than boys, and that adolescent girls left school much sooner than their male counterparts.  Girls also suffered disproportionate amounts of violence, and lacked access to adequate healthcare and nutrition.  Empowering girls was not merely protecting individuals; it fostered gender equality, she said, stressing that it was well-documented that societies which empowered girls and young women achieved better results in every area of development.  The Republic of Korea would continue to promote global programmes supporting girls’ health, education and vocational training.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the country had launched a national action plan to address early childhood needs before birth and up to age 10 years.  It offered universal healthcare for children and universal preschool education.  Many young believed that better education could help them overcome family problems, drugs or bullying.  More education would also lead to young people delaying marriage and avoiding unwanted pregnancies, he said, citing a law to prohibit child marriage and penalize those who had sex with people younger than 15 years old.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country was determined to place children at the heart of development efforts, notably through its long-term, holistic approach to helping children and bringing perpetrators to justice.  All forms of violence, including bullying, must be targeted, he said, noting that more than one billion children around the world were subjected to violence by care-givers.  Alternative discipline strategies had been devised and corporal punishment prohibited in schools.  Noting the transformational impact of education on girls, he reaffirmed the importance of reintegrating school-aged-mothers into the education system.  There was also a need to share international best practices, he said, and Jamaica would continue to work with all relevant stakeholders.

Mr. ABDELWAHED (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said his country insisted on protecting children, especially those under 16 years, including the foetus in the womb.  Libya had granted children the rights to education, potable water, nutrition and protection from all forms of violence.  The continuing crisis in Libya meant that special attention was given to displaced children.  To ensure well-being, violence and terrorism must be brought to an end.  Referring to children as the basic pillar of sustainable development, he said social services for them must be expanded.  Despite instability, Libya was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia), associating herself with the European Union, said the protection and promotion of children’s rights was a priority.  Strengthened national laws and evidence-based policies were the way to eliminate all violence against children.  For its part, Armenia had approved a national strategy on human rights which allowed children to bring complaints directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  National efforts included collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the development of childcare policies with integrated health, social protection and inclusive education reform.  Armenia condemned violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular when they concerned the rights and the lives of children.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH (State of Palestine) said Palestinian children had been traumatized by decades of human rights violations by Israel, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where children continued to be tormented by its policies.  Palestinian children had been killed and injured by Israeli occupying forces and illegal settlers, she said, calling for all perpetrators of crimes against them to be brought to justice.  The occupying Power also had demolished homes and confiscated educational facilities, and she pressed the international community to compel Israel to end that practice.  Expressing concern that Palestinian children continued to be illegally held and subject to ill-treatment in Israeli prisons, she called for greater collective efforts to protect and provide Palestinian children with rehabilitation.

JOAN JOSEP LÓPEZ LAVADO (Andorra) said his country in 2014 had made corporal punishment a criminal offense, joining just 53 States worldwide that had enacted such legislation, which was crucial for the protection of the rights of the child.  Turning to the issue of bullying, he said his country had experienced an increase in children affected by that, which had worsened with the introduction of new technologies and social networks.  In response, his Government had launched a plan to mitigate the problem, and in 2018 it would present a new law to reinforce existing measures and further promote the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Andorra had endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, and more than 40 per cent of the country’s official development assistance (ODA) went to programmes for children.

Mr. KOUDOUGOU (Burkina Faso), associating himself with African Group, said the country had introduced a charter to ensure children’s well-being and enhanced laws to protect children in armed conflict.  The Government also had introduced an inclusive education act, and put in place an institutional framework to fight all forms of violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.  Those measures were in line with Burkina Faso’s economic and social plan which made healthcare, education and social protection priority areas.  However, the country faced major challenges such as the spread of infectious diseases and prevalence of children in gold mining areas who did not attend school.  The country also grappled with the exploitation of children by terrorist groups.  He called on the international community to support efforts to fight terrorism in the Sahel.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, recognized the 2030 Agenda as a transformative, human-centred understanding that renewed common efforts to prevent violence against children.  National legislation in Guatemala had created a space for children to enjoy their full rights, he said, noting that measures were in place to undertake a national census that would better guide child-centred programmes and measure children’s level of inclusion.  Guatemala was vulnerable to the activities of trafficking networks seeking to exploit children, he said, adding that persistent abuse of children in armed conflict was an attack on all humans.  He called for the sharing of best practices to bring perpetrators to justice.

LILA DESTA (Ethiopia) associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the proper implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change would help address obstacles preventing the full realization of children’s rights.  Ethiopia had created a growth and transformation plan that recognized the crucial nature of investing in children.  A national action plan included a focus on protecting children from harmful traditional practices.  Ethiopia had also established a system for registering births.  Given the enormity of the challenges, more cooperation and partnerships were needed at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.  

HANNA HALCHENKO (Ukraine) associating herself with the European Union, said every child must have the opportunity to become a productive member of society, and the right to speak up and be heard.  Ukraine was committed to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, having for instance adopted a law on inclusive education, which ensured all Ukrainian children’s access to high-quality education.  Since the beginning of Russian aggression against her country, 90 boys and 47 girls had lost their lives, she said, adding that the proportion of families with children in difficult situations had significantly increased.  There were 1.7 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, 232,000 of whom were children.  Ukraine was grateful to UNICEF for its financial and technical assistance to the country.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) said all child policies in his country followed a human rights-based approach that took into account the “best interest of the child” principle enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Fruitful partnerships had been established with civil society, social partners, the private sector and the media in Bulgaria to advocate for child protection and to raise awareness about child rights, he said.  As President of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Bulgaria was making every effort to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities were protected and upheld.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said cooperation efforts with the United Nations were in place to fulfil national and international obligations related to the protection of children.  A national council for children had been established and child protection units were being deployed by the police.  Sudan had put forth a comprehensive legal system, with a special prosecutor to oversee child-related cases, including those of children in armed conflict.  A joint action plan had been launched with the United Nations to protect children in armed conflict and provide care in conflict areas.  Such efforts sought to eliminate the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his country had creditably fulfilled its duty as a protector of children’s rights, through providing in its Constitution child protection, as well as by adopting a number of national and social welfare policies.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, he said, expressing great pride in having an advanced system to protect children’s rights.  Happy children gave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea optimism about the future, he said.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that amid progress, there were indications of an alarming level of violence against children, as each year, at least one billion children experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence.  She condemned strongly all violations committed against children in armed conflict situations, drawing attention to the fact that Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan and continued attacks had caused casualties among children and damaged schools.  She went on to describe national measures that had improved the situation of children in Azerbaijan, including a rule on the “State Supervision over the Implementation of Children’s Rights” and adoption of a law on combating domestic violence.

Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said her country was committed to strict observance of international legal commitments.  As safeguarding children’s rights was a focus of Russian leadership, the national children’s action strategy set forth the goals of national policies for children and key mechanisms thereto.  The well-being of children was an absolute value for all, and particular attention should be paid to strengthening the traditional family.  She called on all concerned to be more actively involved in advancing traditional family values internationally.  Ukraine’s delegation had launched an inappropriate discussion, she added.

Mr. AL-TERAIFI (Bahrain), describing accomplishments, cited unified family laws, a child care law and a special fund for children.  In Bahrain, all forms of mistreatment were prohibited, and laws had been enacted to protect children from exploitation.  Since acceding to the Convention, Bahrain had provided all sorts of care services for children, as well as established a national centre for the protection of the child.  Bahrain had submitted periodic reports on the Convention’s implementation, he said, noting that his country would spare no effort in caring for its children.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo), associating herself with the African Group, said the well-being of children was at the heart of her country’s policy.  Laws had established equality for all children and banned child marriage, she said, noting that a strong legal architecture was also in place.  Mechanisms to coordinate the protection of children included all relevant stakeholders.  Noting that Congo’s commitment to children went beyond its borders, she said regional partnerships sought to combat trafficking, while investments in health and education had raised school enrolment, including among girls.  Programmes were also in place to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and an organization had been established to monitor sexual violence.  Thanks to those measures infant mortality was declining, she said.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) aligning himself with ASEAN, said children were the future of his country, adding that education was the key to their development.  Myanmar had increased public spending on education, and a new system waived school fees for all high school students.  All primary school students were provided with school uniforms.  Having faced internal armed conflicts for more than six decades, Myanmar sought to build a peaceful and harmonious society.  The Government welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” programme of the Special Representative on Violence against Children, and was working closely with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting to prevent underage recruitment into the military.  A new child rights law had been enacted with wide-ranging consultation with civil society.

Mr. MOUSSA (Djibouti) associating himself with the African Group, said children were both exceptional and fragile beings who deserved education, health, and an appropriate environment.  Djibouti condemned all violence against children, adding that the devastating nature of violence against children led to illnesses and other serious consequences.  A child endangered was a dangerous child, and entire segments of society were being lost.  Starting in 2000, the Government had provided free education for all children, and there was no difference in attendance between girls and boys.  Djibouti would continue to promote schooling for girls, he said.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her Government had identified access to education as central to peace and security in all countries.  As a result, the education budget in Algeria had increased tenfold over the past 15 years.  Some eight million children now received free education across the country, she noted, adding that those benefits extended to refugees and pursued gender parity.  Programmes that took an inclusive approach were being implemented in cooperation with civil society, she said, noting that national child protection efforts had succeeded in improving knowledge about children’s fundamental rights.

Mr. DOUTI (Togo) encouraged more specific action to ensure better quality of life for children.  Having ratified most relevant international mechanisms, Togo had strengthened its legal system by adopting laws which allowed for increased protection of vulnerable children.  Anti-trafficking laws also had achieved positive results in assisting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.  With the support of several partners, Togo was pursuing increased school enrolment, and a national hotline was created to enable the reporting of child abuse cases. Substantial efforts were also being made to improve the quality of education by investing in infrastructure and training teachers and staff.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the Order was active in 120 countries providing medical, humanitarian and social assistance, underscoring that children’s welfare was a foremost concern.  The Order fed hungry children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it worked with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide aid for displaced and malnourished children.  It was also active in Namibia, Uganda, Togo and Benin, where nutrition nurses travelled to villages treating undernourished children where they lived.  Having served the vulnerable for nine centuries, the Order would continue dedicating itself to serving children.

DANIELLE LARRABEE, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the organization had a long history of working to protect children, including those on the move.  The focus now was on establishing new partnerships, joining various international initiatives and ensuring that young people and children had a voice in identifying risks and providing solutions.  For example, in Bangladesh, the Red Crescent Society had held regular discussions with displaced children to learn about their experiences.  Working with its national societies and its 17 million volunteers, IFRC was conducting country evaluations of its work with children on the move in Ecuador, Guatemala, Benin, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Indonesia.  Despite enormous needs and challenges, she was encouraged to see children’s rights garner international attention, particularly welcoming the pledge in the New York Declaration to protect children on the move.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said ILO’s two main international conventions covering children in the world of work had nearly universal ratification.  Yet, ratification of those Conventions — on the minimum age for work and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour — was insufficient in eliminating child labour.  The standards enumerated in the Conventions should be translated into national laws, he said, adding that estimates showed a total of 152 million children in labour globally.  ILO was working to eliminate child labour in complex and multi-tiered global supply chains through a “Child Labour Guidance Tool” which aimed to serve as a resource for companies seeking to meet due diligence requirements.  Effective common standards that were monitored and enforced were needed to help protect children’s rights.

Right of Reply

The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Syria had spread fabricated information to draw attention away from its “heinous” crimes.  The Syrian regime was committing crimes that had claimed thousands of lives and turned a blind eye to the suffering of displaced people.  He reiterated his Government’s commitment to provide aid to countries undergoing humanitarian crises.

The representative of Myanmar, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Bangladesh, said authorities in her country and Bangladesh had agreed on cooperation to address issues along the shared border.  Security forces were well aware of the Geneva Convention and the “law of the land”, and were not harming civilians.  She said Myanmar would work in a neighbourly fashion to address the issue of displaced persons.

The representative of Armenia, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Azerbaijan, said the Government had been addressing refugee issues for more than 25 years as a result of Azerbaijani actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.  Armenia had provided the only viable solution to the issue, yet Azerbaijani aggression persisted.  She said the death of any child was a tragedy and expressed regret that Azerbaijan did not share that view.

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegation had distorted the essence of the conflict.  Armenia had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  International law was on Azerbaijan’s side, and demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories.  Armenia should engage in substantive talks, rather than resorting to provocations.  If Armenia was interested in the political settlement of the conflict, it should withdraw its forces.

The representative of Armenia, taking the floor a second time, said Nagorno-Karabakh was under the control of the Nagorno-Karabakh defence army.  Azerbaijan’s delegate had not denied allegations regarding killings of children; atrocities had been well-documented by Azerbaijanis themselves.  

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegate had disagreed with what the President of Armenia had said, and asked what Armenian soldiers were doing in a certain city.  Secondly, regarding the killing of children in July, he said a two-year old Azerbaijani girl had been killed, and that ordinary people via social media had said that more Azerbaijani people should be killed.  Concerning the April war, Azerbaijan had undertaken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of its citizens.

News

States Share Tactics for Tackling Social Customs Hampering Economic Equality, as Third Committee Concludes Debate on Women’s Advancement

Social customs and norms often erected barriers to women’s access to the resources needed for them to gain economic independence, speakers today told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), concluding discussions on the advancement of women.

Economic independence required access to labour markets, resources, such as funds and land, and social services, such as education and flexible work schemes, many delegates said.  Unfortunately, those resources were often out of reach for women because of deeply rooted social customs, said Eritrea’s representative.  That point was echoed by Namibia’s delegate who said societal norms continued to present barriers despite the significant legislative progress made in his country to benefit women.

However, the obstacles to economic independence were felt most acutely by rural women, speakers said.  Cabo Verde’s representative said rural women played important roles in agricultural production, land resource management and climate resilience but were affected disproportionately by poverty.  In the same vein, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See said a large proportion of young women in rural areas often bore the greatest burden when access to clean water and sanitation was not readily available.  Rural women were also more susceptible to risks of violence, sexual exploitation, child marriage and other violations, he added.

Elaborating on challenges, Zimbabwe’s delegate pointed out the majority of women in Africa worked in the agricultural and informal sectors where their rights were not fully protected.  Canada’s speaker highlighted that indigenous women, many who lived in rural and remote areas, tended to experience low income levels and high unemployment rates.

The delegates said societal norms that condoned gender discriminatory work policies had to be changed in order for women to exercise their rights to fair employment.  Costa Rica’s speaker said women were often overburdened by unpaid labour and there was a need to redistribute non-paid work between men and women.  Highlighting the issue of unequal pay between men and women, Iceland’s representative said her country was taking measures to require companies and institutions to certify that they paid all employees the same, adding that Iceland’s Equal Pay Standard had the potential to be used universally.

However, delegates stressed it was also important to recognize the strides that countries had made to ensure economic empowerment and independence of women.  Botswana had introduced a national gender programme that supported capacity‑building for gender equality and Tajikistan had developed an action plan to strengthen their employment and entrepreneurship while Kenya had rolled out programmes on gender and agriculture.

Many speakers described how they made progress.  Indonesia had implemented pro-women policies such as the National Programme for Community Empowerment and microloans and organized a women business network which had more than 30,000 members across 34 provinces.  Similarly, Namibia had introduced a national policy on micro, small and medium-sized enterprise which focused on economic empowerment of women.  To promote more inclusive workplaces, the Maldives had made it mandatory for all Government agencies, commissions and enterprises to fill corporate boards with 30 per cent women.  Likewise, Panama had established a gender equality stamp that established private sector policies which aimed to achieve equal participation of men and women and bridge the gender pay gap while fostering equal opportunity of men and women.

Some delegates pointed out that women had risen to leadership positions in the public sector.  Qatari women had been appointed ambassadors and ministers.  Tonga’s speaker said women made up about 54 per cent of the head officers of ministries and 50 per cent of the heads of diplomatic missions and consular posts.  In addition, in national elections to be held in November, there were more than 10 women running for office, an increase from previous years.

Afghanistan’s representative said there had been an unprecedented involvement of women in socioeconomic and political realms.  There were 69 elected women in Parliament, four female ministers, nine female deputy-ministers and five female ambassadors.  Similarly, in Burundi, women occupied more than 30 per cent of seats in Government.

Also speaking today were representatives from Monaco, Cuba, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Spain, Chile, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Turkey, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Bahrain, Jordan, Tunisia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Rwanda, Madagascar, Azerbaijan, China, Guatemala, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Hungary, India, Mauritania, Denmark, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Congo, Nicaragua, Oman, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bulgaria, Malawi, Kuwait, South Africa, Armenia, Timor-Leste, Libya, Ghana and Morocco, as well as the State of Palestine.  A representative of the Red Cross/Red Crescent societies also spoke, as did a representative of the International Labour Organization, and a representative speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.

Representatives of Japan, Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right to reply.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 9 October, to begin its consideration of the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) continued its debate on the advancement of women today.  For background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4198 of 5 October.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) said the numbers were clear: one woman in three had suffered physical or sexual violence during their life.  Statistics also showed that it was often the people closest to women who inflicted such suffering upon them.  Monaco had mobilized against this scourge by, among other measures, signing the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention).  Her country commended priority given to the elimination of violence against women, and welcomed the holding of a fifth world conference on women.  Noting that the United Nations had just held a high-level conference on trafficking of persons, she underscored that only the full implementation of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime would allow the international community to keep the promises made in the declaration.

EDGAR SISA (Botswana), associating himself the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said his country had established a national commission to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation of gender instruments and commitments.  The Government had also introduced other measures to promote gender equality and empowerment of women such as: a national gender programme which supported capacity-building for gender equality, women economic empowerment programmes which received a budget allocation of $3 million in 2017 and initiatives to fight gender-based violence while introducing a law to recognize sexual harassment.

Ms. AL-EMADI (Qatar), associating herself with the Group of 77, said promotion of women was central in her country’s policies.  Qatar’s Constitution ensured that women were not discriminated against and that they could participate in economic activities and political life and have access to social protection.  Her country was committed to fulfilling its commitments to international agreements which upheld the rights of women including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  She added that Qatari women had made huge strides in society and had taken leadership positions such as becoming ambassadors and ministers.

MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country had been undertaking comprehensive efforts to implement its gender policy aimed at providing equal rights and opportunities for women.  Tajikistan had among other measures adopted a law on the prevention of domestic violence, and had also developed an action plan to strengthen women’s employment and entrepreneurship.  Those measures demonstrated Tajikistan’s commitment to the implementation of the provisions of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  As the Sustainable Development Goals were related to gender issues, it was incumbent upon the international community to work together to solve the problems hampering the attainment of those goals.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) associated herself with the Group of 77, and said illiteracy disproportionately affected women, which was only one of the challenges facing women.  Cuba had made strides forward in advancing women, having enacted laws and other legal provisions guaranteeing rights and possibilities for women and men, redefining the role of women in society and in the family.  Cuba was also working to eliminate gender stereotypes.  Universal and free education was a right for all in Cuba, and that made it possible to significantly move forward with the eradication of all violence against women, including in the workplace.  Women’s rights to freely make choices about fertility were guaranteed in Cuba, and measures adopted in that sphere had never worked to the detriment of women’s rights.  Cuba desired to continue developing according to the principles outlined in the United Nations Charter.  Eradication of violence against women and girls required the end to all unilateral coercive measures.

MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country was pursuing the empowerment of women and gender equality as a top priority through laws that provided guarantees of equality between men and women in politics, the economy, culture, society and the family.  It had also mainstreamed those efforts into its “Five-Year National Socio-economic Development Plan”, set up a national commission for the advancement of women, mothers and children, and reflected the goal of gender equality in policies relating to population, health and human resources.  In addition, the national budget law was amended in 2016 to allocate support for efforts to empower women in all public agencies and sectors.

ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that despite normative and legislative progress in protecting the rights of women around the world, deeply rooted social customs stood in the way of empowerment of women and gender equality.  A lack of social services and multidimensional poverty was prevalent in rural areas and women and children were affected the most.  She said Eritrean women continued to face challenges such as climatic factors, social attitude and lack of human and institutional capacities in the implementation of programmes.  External factors such as regional insecurity, occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories and sanctions were also challenges.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said that women often bore the brunt of armed conflicts and highlighted the need to protect all rights of women from reproduction to education.  He said his country was committed to empowering women and eliminating violence against them.  It had tabled a draft law on sexual violence and amended its penal code which had previously allowed rapists to avoid prosecution if they married their victims.  Underscoring the country’s determination to work towards gender equality, he said that Lebanon was ready to work with international partners to achieve that goal.

LUZ DEL CARMEN ANDUJAR (Dominican Republic), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said her country had a vast array of public policy instruments which contributed towards solving the problems faced by women.  The Dominican Republic had taken great strides, having introduced working policies which had a crucial role to play in reducing gender gaps, as well as a number of policies in the field of employment and self-employment.  Regarding the issue of violence against women, a campaign, entitled “This Has to Change”, aimed to raise awareness of the issue.  As part of efforts to ensure gender was a cross-cutting issue, the Dominican Republic had undertaken a forum on the Sustainable Development Goals to present information to stakeholders on the role women could play in achieving Goal 5.  Women’s issues were human rights issues, and all people had to make an unstinting commitment to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment.

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that her Government’s ministries were obligated to mainstream the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals on gender equality into all policy, planning and budgetary processes.  She described policies on economic empowerment, maternal health and access to education, particularly for vulnerable girls.  Programmes on gender and agriculture had enhanced joint decision-making, leading to reduced workload for women, access to and control over production resources and increased overall production.  Commenting that eradication of gender-based violence should be a priority for the international community, she stated that legal progress had allowed thousands of prosecutions of such violence.  Legislation was not enough, though.  Her country was also increasing awareness and strengthening protection of survivors.  With many challenges to gender equality remaining, there remained a need to address structural barriers that hindered women’s advancement and security.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said the responsibility to deliver the unfulfilled promise of gender equality was not only that of men or women, but of society.  Every country and society should have its own space to determine the best approach.  Women empowerment was a must, but empowerment through quota was only a starting point.  A greater role of female leaders in supporting leadership capacity for women was a vital component.  Indonesia’s Ministry for Women Empowerment and Child Protection had launched the 3ENDS programme.  That initiative aimed to end violence against women and girls, stop trafficking in persons and eradicate barriers to economic justice.  Pro-women policies had been implemented through the National Programme for Community Empowerment and microloans.  A women business network was being developed through the Indonesian Women’s Business Association (IWAPI), which now had more than 30,000 members across 34 provinces.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, emphasizing that poverty and location remained the greatest threats to the inclusion of girls in education, said rural women and girls living in poverty were at the greatest disadvantage in that regard.  In working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and promote the integral development of the poor, the basis material needs of every school-aged girl in rural areas must be addressed.  Young women in those areas were disproportionately involved in unpaid domestic work, bore the greatest burden when access to clean water and sanitation were not readily available and were most exposed to risks of violence, sexual exploitation, child marriage and other violations.  The global migration crisis and the vulnerability of migrant women were of major concern, he added, noting that while the global community bore a responsibility to protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees, millions of women and girls were still exploited by traffickers and manipulators along perilous routes and even within host communities.

Mr. BASTIDA (Spain) said his country was committed to ending violence against women and ensuring the empowerment of women and girls.  That could be seen in the formation of national strategies addressing violence against women and a plan for equal opportunity which ensured that rural women received help to progress in life.  On an international level, Spain was committed to enhancing the role of women in peace and security.  It had coordinated an international network in that regard and hoped that more members would join the network.  However, he noted that more work must be done to ensure gender equality.  To that end, Spain was committed to ensuring equal presence of men and women in decision-making positions and working multilaterally to achieve the goal of gender equality.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said his country witnessed unprecedented involvement of women in the socioeconomic and political realms.  There were 69 elected women in Parliament, four female ministers, nine female deputy‑ministers and five female ambassadors.  At the international level, Afghanistan promoted the work of its national Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Commission on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Attorney General’s office for combatting violence against women and the independent human rights commission.  The country also recently passed an anti-harassment law, criminalized harassment of women and was furthering efforts to reform the family law to increase the age of marriage to 18.  Afghanistan’s commitment to women was also exemplified in the national action plan on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the national peace and development framework and a national priority programme.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, State of Palestine, said countries all over the world had joined in solidarity with her people as they marked 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.  The impact of that had been catastrophic, and Palestinian women and girls faced additional hardships in the form of gender‑specific human rights violations stemming from Israel’s occupation.  Yet the State of Palestine continued to exert efforts aimed at implementing projects related to the rights of Palestinian women.  However, to truly protect women and achieve goals of their advancement, the international community had to assist Palestinian women and their families.  They had endured decades of suffering, and the international community needed to pave the way for Palestinian women and their families to live a life of freedom and dignity in their own independent State.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said his country was committed to making progress on Sustainable Development Goal 5.  Chile supported the appointment of the Ombudsman for Victims of Human Trafficking, he said, also noting the importance of fostering the equal participation of women and men within the United Nations system.  Women and girls should be empowered to achieve equality for all, and equal opportunities were a fundamental pillar of the work of the Chilean Government.  His country had enacted a law decriminalizing abortion on three specific grounds, and other achievements included gender quotas for candidates for political office.  Chile was aware of the role women played as architects of peace, and his country had been working to comply with Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).

HELEN INGA S. VON ERNST (Iceland) said her country had experienced first‑hand the enormous potential of gender equality to reduce poverty, prevent crises, and end gender-based violence.  Iceland was concerned at the high number of reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and urged States to narrow or specify those reservations.  The international community needed to make use of women’s resources and talents, because without half the world’s participation, there would be no real progress.  Gender equality would not be achieved by 2030 if the issue continued to be discussed mainly among women, she said, adding that men needed to be involved.  Iceland was taking measures including requiring companies and institutions to certify that they paid all employees the same.  Iceland’s Equal Pay Standard had the potential to be used universally.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia) said his country had made significant legislative progress to benefit women, however, societal norms continued to present barriers. The prevalence of gender-based violence was estimated to be 33 per cent.  In response, Namibia enacted several laws and policies, including the 2003 Combating of Domestic Violence Act and the National Gender Policy for 2010 to 2020.  Through its Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, the Government prioritized campaigns to sensitize communities, including a “zero‑tolerance” campaign and the annual 15 days of activism against gender-based violence initiative.  The judiciary strengthened the prosecution process by imposing stiffer sentences for offenders, and victims were supported through a multisectoral intervention process.  The Fifth National Development Plan increased financial and human capacity of service providers for integrated prevention, protection and response services.  The Government also introduced a National Policy on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise for 2016 to 2021 which emphasized the economic empowerment of women, as well as numerous income generating programmes.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the importance of gender mainstreaming had become even more urgent with recent rapid changes, including a sharp increase in natural hazards and the onset of bloody conflicts.  Women and children remained the most vulnerable to such events, while the former were also the key to change for the better.  In that context, Sri Lanka had taken significant steps to empower women as it emerged from its long civil conflict.  Multiple programmes were launched to benefit women-headed households.  In addition, women participated strongly in the national reconciliation process.  The Government had increased women-centred training in disaster preparedness and, during recent floods, partnerships between Government and women’s civil society groups boosted women’s leadership in recovery efforts.  He reaffirmed the country’s commitment to ensure women’s participation and leadership in all economic and social sectors.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said protecting the rights of women in rural areas deserved special attention.  They played an important role in agricultural production, land resource management and climate resilience.  However, women in rural areas were affected disproportionately by poverty.  He called on Governments to introduce policies which reflected the needs of rural women such as ensuring access to education and health service.  To that end, Cabo Verde   had ensured that its Constitution respected the rights of women and it had implemented policies and introduced institutional and legal frameworks to provide universal education, family planning and reproductive health-care services.  At the same time, gender parity was also deeply rooted in the country’s history.

AZAT SHAKIROV (Kazakhstan) said his country was committed to its progressive gender-and women-oriented State policy and programmes, including through its national commission on gender and family demographic policy.  Kazakhstan implemented a joint technical support programme, the outcomes of which would provide necessary indicators to further measures to prevent violence against women.  The country also undertook efforts to ensure women’s political participation and economic empowerment, and as a result, women hold 55 per cent of all State public offices, held 30 seats in Parliament and represented 48.4 per cent of total employment.  His country also successfully implemented its national plan of action and the strategy on gender equality for 2006 to 2016.  In 2017, the Government would adopt the 2030 concept of family and gender policy.

Mr. ZAMBRANA (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the feminization of poverty hindered the realization of rights of women.  States needed to implement the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, among other measures, and recognize that even within the United Nations, women were not yet fully empowered.  Over the last 10 years, Bolivia had made progress on the rights of women, with the introduction of gender‑neutral legal language.  Bolivia now had a law to guarantee women a life free of violence.  Recently, women could not vote, and they also had very little political representation.  But now, Bolivia had 67 women members of Parliament.  His country was looking to guarantee sustained peace, and aimed to achieve gender equality as well as women’s ability to access leadership positions.

Ms. AL JABRI (United Arab Emirates) said her country aimed to support women in all walks of life, and her nation’s current strategies were in line with international commitments.  Social and legal protection of women was provided through rules and legislation, which were particularly relevant in workplace relations.  A women’s union played an important role in the empowerment of women, and her country also tried to achieve a gender balance in leadership positions.  A supportive environment for women at work included the provision of all facilities to ensure their participation in the economy.  International efforts for the promotion of women within the field of peace and security included a foreign policy which considered the empowerment of women of prime importance.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) noted that economic empowerment was a priority issue for his Government, as evident by the higher percentages of women in the labour force.  Women made up about 54 per cent of the head officers of Government ministries and 50 per cent of the heads of diplomatic missions and consular posts.  In the national elections to be held in November, there were more than 10 women running for office, an increase from previous years.  The ongoing support of the Tongan Government to end violence against women was also a priority, and in that context, he highlighted the Tonga – UN-Women capacity-building project titled “Ending Violence Against Women” programme.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said countries had an important role to play in empowering women and eliminating all forms of violence.  To that end, Costa Rica’s Government had introduced national policies which aimed to achieve the full of integration of women in the workplace and provide equal political participation while ensuring access to social services such as reproductive services.  On the issue of work, he noted that women were often overburdened by unpaid labour and there was a need to redistribute non-paid work between men and women.  The Government had also reached out to specific groups of women such as those from indigenous communities to ensure that they could advance by participating in the labour market.  In addition, the Government recognized the link between violence and poverty and had introduced programmes to boost economic independence among women.

Ms. KIPIANI (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, said her Government had introduced reforms to protect human rights and empower women.  Georgia had introduced national legislation to combat discrimination against women, which was in compliance with international standards such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  In addition, an inter-agency commission had been established to combat violence against women while legal framework and action plans had been introduced to address domestic violence and gender equality.  She said her country was committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  However, she noted that women living in occupied areas of Georgia were left out of programmes for sustainable development as they lacked access to medical services and education and faced obstacles to their freedom of movement.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) spoke of his Parliament’s commission for equal opportunity which worked to protect and develop women’s rights at the national and international levels, including through assistance to the United Nation’s Women’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia Region housed in Istanbul.  Similarly, Turkey carried out extensive legislative and practical protective work for combating violence against women.  The Government actively contributed to the elaboration of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  Furthermore, it had established a national action plan on combating violence against women for 2016 to 2020, and created shelters, counselling centres and hotlines for victims.  Turkey also provided humanitarian, education and health needs for women and girls under temporary protection in the country, and undertook measures to prevent human trafficking.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said his country had always shown a willingness to improve the representation of women, having promoted the development of a national gender policy and a national strategy to combat gender-based violence.  Women occupied more than 30 per cent of seats in Government, he said.  In education and training for women, a policy to reduce gender disparity had produced satisfactory results.  In health care, the extension of medical networks had contributed to reducing infant mortality.  Burundi reiterated its firm commitment to the promotion of equality between the sexes.

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said the empowerment of women was vital to the transformation of the global economy.  No country could achieve its potential without women.  Nigeria had embarked on developing gender-based policies to enhance the position of women and girls.  Gender-responsive budgeting had positively impacted 3.6 million beneficiaries, he said, adding that the Government had established programmes for rural women, too.  Government empowerment measures had also led to the establishment of loan guarantee programmes, and pilot projects disbursed money to local trade associations with the aim of poverty reduction among rural women.  Policies being implemented aimed to promote women’s welfare, he said, adding that the international community should ensure cross-board gender parity and empowerment.

SHIUNEEN RASHEED (Maldives) said her country selected the advancement of women as a key policy priority, as seen in its national gender equality action plan and the Gender Equality Act.  Since 2014, it was mandatory for all Government agencies, commissions and enterprises to fill corporate boards with 30 per cent women.  The Maldives also introduced special loan schemes and women’s development committees to promote a more inclusive workforce.  Her country performed well on several gender parity indicators.  In regards to sexual and gender-based violence, it had enacted stringent laws and policies, such as the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2012, the Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Act of 2014 and the Sexual Offences Act of 2014.  The Government also criminalized marital rape in 2014 and supported the call by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for a global implementation plan on violence against women.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said her country was committed to fostering gender equality.  Panama had established a gender equality stamp which established private sector policies which aimed to achieve equal participation of men and women and bridge the gender pay gap while fostering equal opportunity of men and women.  In the public sector, the Government was committed to ensuring that 30 per cent of public administration seats were occupied by women.  Her country had also made sure that domestic legislation to prevent gender-based violence was in line with international standards.

KANG SANGWOOK (Republic of Korea) said her country had enhanced women’s representation in public entities, reinforced the legal and policy architecture to combat gender-based violence and fostered public awareness for gender equality.  Several women ministers were appointed, including the first-ever female foreign minister, thereby meeting the initial target of a 30 per cent female cabinet.  On the international level, the Republic of Korea ensured a gender perspective in its development cooperation programmes while seeking to increase its overall official development assistance (ODA).  Sexual violence in conflict remained a priority concern, and to that end, the Government would spare no effort to prevent that heinous crime.  Similarly, her country contributed to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the Peacebuilding Support Office’s building back better project.  As the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Republic of Korea would additionally seek to better reflect gender perspectives in the advisory body’s activities.

Ms. KANJANASOON (Thailand), aligning herself with ASEAN, said it could never be overemphasized that gender equality and empowerment of women were indispensable to sustainable development.  Her country continued to improve domestic legislation and programmes to implement international standards and instruments and its Constitution gave priority to mainstreaming gender perspectives.  Thailand had been making progress in developing a gender-sensitive curriculum in education, collecting sex-disaggregated data and promoting gender-responsive budgeting.  Women accounted for 64 per cent of the workforce but there was still a need to increase their representation in the public sector, particularly at the executive level.  The problem of gender inequality must be addressed at its roots and discriminatory values and attitudes must be changed.

Mr. ALGHAREEB (Bahrain) said his country had sought to fulfil its international commitments regarding women.  Bahrain’s consolidated family law preserved the fabric of the family.  A supreme council would be the reference for all to implement a national plan regarding women.  Bahraini women had a great presence in the financial and banking sector, he said, adding that the high education levels of women enabled their participation in public life.  An award had been launched reflecting the pioneering role of Bahraini women and aimed at expressing the importance of women’s participation.  Bahrain looked forward to further work with the international community.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Africa Group and SADC, said his country had witnessed significant gender gaps in political, economic and social development programmes.  Most women in Zimbabwe and Africa were employed in the agricultural sector, where they constituted 80 per cent of the workforce.  Women employed outside of agriculture were confined to the informal sector, where they constituted 60 per cent of the workforce.  Zimbabwe had made several legislative, policy and administrative changes to ensure gender equality and the economic empowerment of women, including the establishment of a national gender commission.  The Government also established a domestic violence act in 2007.  Furthermore, it had victim-friendly police units at every police station and community-based shelters for survivors.  The Zimbabwe land reform and resettlement programme reserved a 20 per cent quota for women.  In the future, Zimbabwe hoped to launch a women’s microfinance bank and promote gender, media and technology as an objective in its national gender policy for 2017.

SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) said that her country had adopted several legislative amendments since 2015.  Those included new laws on parliamentary elections, decentralization and military retirement, as well as a regulation governing women’s shelters and legislation on protecting victims from domestic violence.  Her Government had recently endorsed a law on flexible working hours and was working to achieve gender pay equality.  Jordan’s Department of Statistics had also updated its national health sector database to prepare comprehensive sex‑disaggregated data.  Her country’s anti-trafficking unit played a key role in addressing human trafficking and the newly opened “Karamah” shelter provided care for trafficking victims.  The Jordanian Parliament also abolished the controversial article 308 of the penal code which allowed sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment by marrying their victims.

Ms. ELMANSOURI (Tunisia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said gender equality was crucial to achieving a peaceful and prosperous world.  Her country worked towards that cause by putting in place a Constitution that guaranteed gender equality and introducing a law to combat all forms of violence against women.  In addition, her Government had used a gender-based approach when drawing up national policies on areas such as the labour market, professional advancement and training.  She said public-private partnerships and involving the civil society had been useful in empowering rural women.  Those partnerships had resulted in programmes which increased rural women’s access to work and technology.  In addition, a national plan on the economic advancement of rural women had been developed.

Ms. BOUCHER (Canada) said her country had for the first time begun to use a gender-based approach in its federal budget.  That meant that the budget was focused on the impact of Government investments on different groups of women and men and included measures to support greater gender equality.  In June, the Government had also announced a new strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence.  On the international front, Canada launched a feminist assistance policy placing women and girls at the heart of the country’s international efforts.  The policy entailed the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights while protecting them against acts of sexual- and gender-based coercion and violence.  Canada looked forward to working with Member States on advancing the rights of rural women, she said, noting that women living in rural and remote areas had lower employment rates and tended to have low income levels.  She said those challenges were particularly pronounced for indigenous women in Canada who made up a large part of the population living in rural and remote areas.

Mr. ALI (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Constitution guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, with the Pakistan Vision 2025 serving as a blueprint for long-term and inclusive development.  Pakistan’s had mainstreamed a gender perspective into its sustainable development strategy and policies on education, climate change and disaster risk management.  Noting remaining challenges, he said Pakistan would continue to foster greater female participation in the workforce, expand social safety nets to women and enact legislation to protect them.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77, said remarkable success in the advancement of women included a national plan of action based on the Beijing Platform for Action.  Government sectors employed a significant number of women, and they also made up a significant proportion of the work force.  Bangladesh was building social awareness around violence against women and forced and early marriage, he said, adding that it had tabled the historic Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  Women and girls were particularly vulnerable in any crisis situation, including the current situation involving hundreds of thousands of Myanmar nationals, he said, emphasizing that Member States needed to comply with their international obligations towards women.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said her country had acceded to the most important international human rights conventions and commitments related to women.  On the national level, various legal amendments ensured women’s increased chances of representation in elected assemblies, among other improvements.  All forms of violence were criminalized, including verbal abuse and psychological violence, she said.  Turning to economic issues, she noted that rural women contributed to many income-generating activities.  To develop public policy in that area, her Government had established a national council for the family and women.

Mr. KAYINAMURA (Rwanda), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said the Beijing Platform for Action remained the most comprehensive global policy framework for the full realization of women’s human rights.  However, deficiencies remained in the implementation of all 12 critical areas of concern.  In Rwanda, women made up a significant portion of all decision-making positions and were important contributors to the development of the nation.  Nevertheless, important gaps needed to be addressed.  Moreover, gender equality was not only part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but a business case worth trillions of dollars to the private sector.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the African Group, said gender perspectives were prioritized in national development strategies.  In addition, legislative programmes were being enhanced to promote women’s empowerment and numerous legal aid services were being offered.  The Government also encouraged greater coordination with the private sector to raise awareness of women’s rights.  Every ministry had a gender focal point to mainstream gender issues into their programming, including at the community level.  Other initiatives included funding education grants, professional training centres for women and girls, awareness campaigns to combat early marriage and health programmes.  The Government had enhanced its five-year plan, enacted a new gender bill and strengthened its national action plan to fight trafficking.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said the under-representation of women in public life and decision-making processes and other barriers continued to prevent women from reaching their full potential in all arenas of life.  Reaffirming Azerbaijan’s commitment to uphold all related international instruments, she said the 2030 Agenda and the Beijing Platform for Action had linked women empowerment to overall social development and economic growth.  For its part, Azerbaijan had adopted several initiatives, including increasing the number of female representatives in the National Assembly to 17 per cent in 2015 from 11 per cent in 2005.  At the municipal level, women represented 35 per cent of elected candidates in the 2014 elections.  Legislation was focused on providing equal access to education and health regardless of gender and guaranteeing equal opportunities and treatment in the workplace.  Violence against women was being tackled, she continued, adding that the creation of an online database on cases had helped to streamline data collection and analysis on the issue.

YAO SHAOJUN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the full realization of gender equality had a long way to go.  The international community should formulate and improve strategies for women’s advancement and implement, in a comprehensive and balanced manner, those objectives in the 2030 Agenda.  It should also increase assistance to developing countries and give greater attention to the care and protection of special groups, including women with disabilities, elderly women and female victims of human trafficking.  In China, the Government ‑ having set gender equality as its basic national policy – was putting greater emphasis on the comprehensive advancement of women through legislation, regulations and initiatives to improve women’s health and equal access to education.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, said nationwide, 50 per cent of the economic population was women and 53,000 women were business owners or partners.  A presidential secretariat for women had strengthened legal mechanisms to protect them and guarantee equal wages.  The Government also provided training and educational programmes, promoted the rights of female migrants, raised awareness of women’s rights in the workplace and aimed to end the practice of early and forced marriage.  Highlighting further progress stemming from laws against sexual violence and human trafficking, he said a new criminal code had ensured that human trafficking was considered a crime.  The Government sought to bolster women’s roles in peace and security operations and, to that end, had established an institutional bureau on the issue, and developed a national action plan.

KAMBA DOUTI (Togo) said the rights of women, particularly in education and health initiatives, had been prioritized in national programmes.  Citing examples, he said a tuition-reduction project had resulted in an 83 per cent educational completion rate for women and subsidies had aimed at providing employment and training opportunities, particularly for women in rural areas.  The country also created literacy centres and libraries to bolster women’s literacy rates, and had intensified economic growth through women’s increased participation in employment programmes.  A national female entrepreneurship programme had been launched and access to financial services had been enhanced.  The proportion of seats occupied by women reached 15.3 per cent in the National Assembly.  Highlighting health gains, he reported a decrease of 30 per cent in maternal mortality.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77, said that where they once had been disadvantaged, women were now seeing significant progress, even if challenges still existed.  Nationally, women’s access to credit had been facilitated with a support fund.  Important reforms in education included a law making it obligatory for girls to go to school.  Gender equality had been established in Côte d’Ivoire’s Constitutional Council.  Meanwhile, the Government intended to eliminate all forms of discrimination and improve women’s legal status and rights.  The problems of gender equality should be approached from a perspective of human rights, as equality between women and men was needed to break down stereotypes.

MAGDOLNA PONGOR (Hungary) associating herself with the European Union, noted her country’s support for international efforts toward ensuring a future where women were safe from violence and empowered through education.  Some of Hungary’s achievements included a programme providing specialized psychological and legal advice and another offering protected accommodation for women in need.  Eliminating poverty and reducing inequality were prerequisites for women’s empowerment, she said.  Hungarian action on individual Sustainable Development Goals included a programme aimed at keeping Roma girls in school and efforts to partner with local authorities and the private sector to create an enabling environment for the advancement of women in society.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said the principle of gender equality and empowerment of women in its Constitution and more than 1.3 million elected women representatives at the local Government level were helping to formulate and implement gender-sensitive policies.  Women also held several key positions, such as the Speaker of the Lower House of the Indian Parliament, and ministerial positions, serving as role models.  Various programmes for poverty eradication and financial inclusion had focused on empowerment and women comprised more than 70 per cent of beneficiaries of credit to small enterprises.  India was also committed to eradicating violence against women and girls through several protection and prevention measures while initiatives had been launched to curb trafficking and sexual exploitation.  India also promoted cooperation with the United Nations system and contributed to the voluntary fund for UN-Women since its inception.

EL KHALIL EL HACEN (Mauritania), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said women were given special places in national social programmes and the Constitution stipulated that gender equality was law, guaranteeing women’s equal rights.  The Government had adopted all relevant international instruments and conventions, while strengthening legal mechanisms to empower women.  It had also criminalized all forms of violence against women and ensured equal retirement rights.  Women also played a key role in the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, including in the armed forces.  On economic empowerment, women had easy access to the labour market and business credit, particularly in rural areas.  The Government also undertook initiatives to promote women’s health and education.

Ms. HALVORSEN (Denmark), associating herself with the European Union, said the Government promoted progressive and human rights-based approaches for women’s equal rights, particularly in sexual and reproductive matters.  Denmark was one of the founding members of the She Decides movement and Government efforts addressed a range of issues, including youth empowerment.  The Danish Youth Council had worked in partnership with numerous Government agencies and local youth stakeholders, promoting a gender perspective in all its programmes.  To that end, she called for greater linkages between gender and youth empowerment initiatives, as the fields remained intertwined.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said women were making significant contributions to social development.  Recalling that Japan had forced 200,000 Korean women and girls into sexual slavery during the Second World War, he said Japan must duly admit its State and legal responsibility for that crime against humanity, make an official and sincere apology and provide compensation.  He also said that two years had passed since gangsters of the Republic of Korea’s intelligence service abducted 12 women citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea abroad.  If those authorities sincerely wished for national reconciliation, unity and reunification, they must apologize and return the abducted women without delay, he said.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, highlighted improved and strengthened national legislative and policy frameworks with regard to gender equality.  The Government efforts included raising gender-related issues at a higher political level.  Women’s participation and leadership must also be included in all aspects of peace and security initiatives, as well as post‑conflict recovery and reconstruction.  Ukrainian women had become critical agents of change in the face of the Russian Federation’s aggression.  The inter-party caucus, Equal Opportunities, continued to lobby legislative initiatives to defend equality in Parliament.  Advancing women’s rights, and particularly empowering them economically, was vital not only to women, but for the national security and economic growth of every country.  “We are convinced that none of the world’s most pressing economic, social and political problems can be resolved without full participation of women,” she added.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said empowerment of women and girls and the elimination of violence against women were national objectives.  Legislative, local and senatorial elections had shown commitment to Congolese women, she said, as a quota for their inclusion had been set.  In spite of encouraging results, the entire population needed to act against inequalities.  Congo was committed to the advancement of women and to combat all forms of discrimination against them, she said.  The Government would continue to combat stereotypes to achieve the objectives of sustainable development, as they were linked to gender.

JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said her Government was committed to all international obligations arising from instruments her country was party to.  In Nicaragua, important and significant changes were occurring, and women were central to those changes.  Laws and public policies ensured that women had more and more rights, she said, adding that 52 per cent of civil servants were women.  Among a range of actions, Nicaragua had improved their quality of life and health care for those in rural areas.  Her Government continued striving to achieve women’s empowerment, she said, as that was crucial for social and economic development.

SULAIMAN SALIM MOHAMED AL-ABDALI (Oman) said that nationally, women constituted the majority in education programmes and labour markets.  Oman celebrated a national day of women each year on 7 October.  Women held posts in public administration, and in the private and public sectors.  Women also held the right to vote and to run as political candidates.  They benefited equally from governmental housing assistance, and the Government upheld numerous laws to protect them from all forms of discrimination.  In addition, women were also awarded 50 days of paid maternal leave.

NOËL DIARRA (Mali), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said numerous measures had been adopted to improve the legal, economic and social status of women.  The Government passed a national gender policy that encouraged greater representation of women in decision-making policies, public administration and in the security and armed forces.  A law required a minimum of 30 per cent of elective and normative posts be held by women, thus they made up 31 per cent of candidates in the 2016 communal elections.  The Government continued numerous initiatives to eradicate discriminatory sociocultural practices, established a fund for the empowerment of women and a programme to support women in business and trade.  In March 2017, the country launched a competency programme to foster women’s participation in business management.  Among other efforts, Mali also adopted several policies to strengthen the social protection of women, namely through obligatory health insurance and assistance programmes to facilitate access to services.

MARIAME FOFAMA (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77, said that as women made up half the population of most countries, there was a fundamental need to ensure that harmonious development was inclusive.  Burkina Faso had committed itself to the empowerment of women, prompting outstanding progress, including the adoption of a law in regard to rural property and a national education strategy for women and girls.  Those achievements should not obscure the need for further progress and a plan of action was now promoting women’s entrepreneurship and other initiatives.  No development could be sustainable without the inclusion of women, and all actors needed to work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77, said strategies were promoting the role of women in society and a section of the national development plan focused specifically on women.  A national policy to promote women dealt with issues including economic development, conflict resolution and the protection of rights.  The State guaranteed equal rights for men and women, including equal pay for equal work.  Sudan had a strategy to fight violence against women, with a special police unit protecting women and children.  The Government had also created a unit within the demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration commission to support women.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said a national law prohibited discrimination of women and the number of institutions with gender policies has increased by 22 per cent, with several undertaking awareness-raising campaigns to promote gender quality.  Similarly, the Government disseminated information about relevant gender-related laws to the public.  In June 2017, El Salvador had launched a national action plan on women, peace and security to advance their participation in peacebuilding initiatives.  As a member of the CELAC working group on the advancement of women, El Salvador enhanced efforts to address the needs of vulnerable and migrant women and youth access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.  Despite significant progress made in eradicating gender-based discrimination, she called for greater coordination on that issue on national, regional and international levels.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said the Constitution had guided the second growth and transformation plan, which included a gender perspective to ensure women’s participation in governance and socioeconomic and development processes.  Harmful traditional practices continued to negatively impact the conditions of women, however, the Government undertook a number of initiatives to criminalize and raise awareness of such practices.  An all-inclusive strategy and action plan was designed to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls, while ensuring justice.  Due in part to policy interventions, about 52 per cent of urban condominium apartments were owned by women and urban development packages reserved 50 per cent of job opportunities for women.  Policies in education and health sectors had resulted in significant gains for girls at all education levels.  An ongoing health extension programme succeeded in deploying over 41,000 health extension workers, of which 98 per cent were female.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said gender disparity continued to grow and violence against women persisted despite enormous progress in protecting their rights.  Rural women were more susceptible to gender disparity and violence as they lacked access to social protection.  Nepal was committed to ensuring the rights of women in areas such as education and employment.  The Constitution ensured that 33 per cent of women held positions at the federal Government level while recent elections had resulted in women winning half of the offices at the local level.  Nepal was also implementing a national plan of action to ensure that it met requirements set out by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and had made significant progress in improving literacy rates and maternal health as a part of the Millennium Development Goals.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said gender equality had been mainstreamed into national legislation, policies and programmes.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a law on equality between women and men and had signed the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  Bulgaria had increased the participation of women in the labour market, including through legislative and policy measures.  Those achievements had resulted from long-term, sustained and coordinated policies, he said, adding that civil society had also played a crucial role by participating in the elaboration of legislation.

LOT THAUZENI PANSIPADANA DZONZI (Malawi), associating himself with the African Group, Group of 77 and SADC, said strong commitments had been made to achieve gender equality and women empowerment through the implementation of various national initiatives.  Outlining some achievements, he said efforts had included disseminating gender-related laws to traditional authorities, rolling out a module on gender-based violence as part of an integrated information management system, implementing a nationwide strategy to enhance HeforShe initiatives and training 389 groups of women in business skills.

Ms. ALFUHAID (Kuwait), associating herself with the Group of 77, and noted a policy of empowerment had been adopted alongside the 2030 Agenda.  Kuwait encouraged women to participate in all sectors of society, including civil society, and more than 55 women held senior Government positions and increasing numbers in the public sector.  Kuwait had sought to revitalize the role of women by implementing projects for their empowerment and reviewing all legislation.  Development in societies could not be done with just one gender’s participation; Kuwait was keen to support women’s equal status with men to enhance national development through cooperation with all relevant international agencies.

Mr. HENDRICKS (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group, Group of 77 and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the advancement of women had been a priority for the Government since the advent of democracy in the country.  As women continued to be disproportionately affected by poverty, South Africa prioritized policies that aimed at assisting them, particularly those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.  Ending violence against women should be a priority for all.  For its part, South Africa had a range of legislative measures to address domestic abuse, sexual offenses, trafficking and other forms of violence, he said, calling for intensified implementation efforts of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said national efforts included executive and legislative reforms and an action plans related to the advancement of women.  Recent amendments to the electoral code had also reinforced measures to promote the participation of women in decision-making processes.  In addition, laws had aimed at identifying and assisting victims of trafficking and human exploitation and ensure the equal rights and opportunities of women.  In 2016, by a decree of the Prime Minister, a working group had been set up to draft a law on domestic violence and protection of victims.  That law had been finalized in August and submitted to the President for consideration.

MANUEL DA COSTA E SILVA (Timor-Leste), aligning himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said he was encouraged by the increased participation of women in decision-making processes, which had increased their influence and presence in all sectors of development.  Outlining national progress on the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality, he said gains included the adoption of laws to protect women’s rights and to encourage their involvement in politics.  Meanwhile, to combat violence against women, Timor-Leste had enacted a law against domestic violence, which codified it as a public crime.  Nevertheless, changing societal attitudes and stereotypes was a long process that required generational change, he said, noting the importance of education in that regard.

Ms. ALAMIN (Libya), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77, said Libyan authorities were committed to fighting discrimination against women.  Women had the right to enjoy their rights, as enshrined in international instruments, she said, emphasizing that Libya was committed to implementing all relevant international commitments.  She condemned of all forms of violence against women, including in the workplaces, as it affected women in all societies.  Raising other concerns, she said human trafficking, especially of migrant women, was a crime against humanity.  Mentioning areas that were receiving special attention, she said Libyan women’s participation in decision-making was still not as high as could be desired, but the new Constitution would help to eliminate discrimination between men and women.  In addition, training and education were critical.

FAWAZ ALIU (Ghana), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said policies to enhance women empowerment and advancement of women across sectors had been established.  In addition, the Government had implemented special measures to assist rural women, providing them with access to credit, loans and skills development programmes.  Other measures included campaigns against child marriage and female genital mutilation.  As part of a free senior high school education policy, thousands of young people would get access to secondary education.  Ghana’s health sector gender policy offered access to free maternal care services, which had contributed to a decline in maternal mortality.

Ms. HAIDOUR (Morocco) said several challenges stood in the way of gender equality and empowerment of women.  She pointed out that significant disparity in school enrolment rates existed between boys and girls while some women lacked crucial health-care services such as maternal health which had led to high infant mortality rates.  She also highlighted the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among women.  However, it was also important to recognize the progress that had been made in protecting the rights of women from all strata and regions in Morocco, she said.  The Government had made protecting the rights of women a priority and introduced measures such as reforming the family code and enshrining gender equality in the Constitution while also outlawing discrimination in the country’s legislation.

ANNE CHRISTENSEN of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the debate on the advancement of women had to recognize the imperative of supporting women and girls to “survive, thrive and transform” in all countries.  The international community had to do better in reaching those in fragile settings, and one approach could be through investing more in the institutional capacity of local actors.  Turning to the issue of protecting women and children on the move, she described some programmes implemented at the national level, such as a cash-transfer programme in Greece that included identifying gender-related needs.  States should ensure that vulnerable migrants received assistance and protection, regardless of their legal status.  The distinct needs of women and girls needed to be addressed as part of the new global compact on refugees and for safe, orderly and regular migration.

KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the significant progress that women had made in educational achievements had not translated into comparable improvement in their position at work.  In many regions around the world, women were more likely to remain unemployed, had fewer chances to participate in the labour force and were more likely to accept lower quality jobs.  Even in many countries where gaps in labour force participation and employment had narrowed, the quality of jobs taken up by women remained an issue.  The ILO had launched research initiatives to better understand the status and work conditions of women and teamed up with Gallup World Poll to develop a first-ever account of global perceptions and realities of men and women regarding work.

Ms. ELLIOTT, speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP), said discrimination, particularly in rural areas, directly impacted the health, well-being and economic situation of women and their families, and perpetuated cycles of poverty and hunger.  Environmental degradation and climate change disproportionately impacted poor rural women, and they were also more at risk of hunger and malnutrition.  In responding to those challenges, women were more likely to resort to negative coping strategies.  He called upon the international community to acknowledge the strengths, capacities, networks and resiliency of women.  The work of the Rome-based agencies promoted the engagement and leadership of rural women and their communities, including through successful initiatives to address food waste, and invigorate gender-responsive climate-smart agricultural practices and interventions.

Right of Reply

The representative of Japan, responding to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that allegations and figures cited by that country were totally groundless.

The representative of Republic of Korea, responding to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that through the assistance of Seoul, more than 30,000 North Korean defectors had settled in his country.  Pyongyang was urged to improve the human rights situation of its people rather than pursuing nuclear development.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, responding to Japan, said it was universally accepted that that country forced thousands of women to be sex slaves during the Second World War.  He called on Japan to unconditionally admit that heinous crime.  Turning to the issue of the abduction of 12 women from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Republic of Korea, he said that Seoul had refused to provide information on the victims.  He called on the United Nations to uphold its human rights mechanisms and hold the South Korean authorities accountable for their crimes.

The representative of Japan said he refrained from going into a detailed rebuttal.  However, he reiterated that, for more than 70 years, since the end of the Second World War, Japan had become a democratic and peace loving nation committed to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

The representative of the Republic of Korea urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to change its policies to improve the human rights situation and to implement United Nations resolutions regarding the issue of human rights.

The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that Japan was engaged in deceptive behaviour to cover up brutal sex slavery crimes.  As long as it denied the crime, Japan would not be accepted by the international community as a real, peace-loving country.  Turning to the Republic of Korea, he said it was South Korean authorities which had committed the real human rights violations, citing the existence of “fascist evil laws” and world records in high numbers of suicides.  South Korean authorities should put an end to the human rights campaign against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and focus on its own behaviour.