Some 71 million people are now displaced globally owing to conflict, violence and persecution, and the number continues to rise, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates discussed challenges and roadblocks to building a more inclusive, equitable, and non‑discriminatory world.
Outlining the many elements which propel the broader flow of mobility, of which refugees form a part, including competition over resources, weak governance, growing inequality, collapsing eco‑systems and the exploitation of divisions by unscrupulous politicians, he observed, “Refugees emerge from these widening fault lines — a sign of things going wrong.”
A more ambitious vision is needed to tackle the vast and complex backdrop that results in forced displacement, he said, noting that the Global Compact on Refugees, affirmed by the General Assembly in 2018, now drives efforts to apply a more comprehensive refugee response model. The first‑ever Global Refugee Forum, to be held in Geneva in December, will showcase what has been achieved. A commitment to addressing refugee flows through international cooperation still prevails, he said, despite the occasional “damaging unilateral approaches that sometimes surface”.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, several representatives asked about UNHCR’s funding, with the representative of the Republic of Korea noting that he shares concerns over the chronic funding gaps and encouraged the Office to expand its donor base.
Chris Kwaja, Chairperson‑Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self‑determination, also briefed the Committee, addressing the gendered dimension and human rights impact of private military and security companies. He described the pervasive unease that women, especially in conflict regions, experience when forced to confront an overwhelmingly male security and military presence at checkpoints, migrant detention centres and prisons. He said that his findings paint a “bleak picture”, in which cases are underreported and there is limited accountability and remedies for victims, and little to no systematic monitoring by States, civil society or the United Nations.
Also today, delegates resumed their general debate on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self‑determination. Pakistan’s representative drew attention to the denial of the fundamental right to self‑determination to the people of Indian‑occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where “bloodletting has persisted for more than 70 years”. Kashmiris have suffered under seven decades of occupation waiting for their inalienable right to self‑determination as promised by 11 Security Council resolutions.
The observer for the State of Palestine said Israel’s occupation has imposed a catastrophic reality of racism and apartheid for the Palestinian people, pointing out that more than 65 laws that explicitly or implicitly discriminate against Palestinians have been approved, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, targeting them as second- and third‑class citizens in their own land. Racism and discriminatory policies by the occupying Power are driven by a mission to preserve Israel as a strictly Jewish State.
Also briefing the Committee today was Toanga Mushayavanhu, Chairperson‑Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Also speaking in the general debate were representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (on behalf of the African Group), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), El Salvador (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Canada, Iraq, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Algeria, Myanmar, United States, Colombia, South Africa, Norway, Syria, Cameroon, Namibia, Georgia, Malaysia, Liechtenstein, Turkey, Mexico, Iran, India, Timor‑Leste, Senegal, Bangladesh, Jordan, Cuba, Armenia, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, Moldova, Ukraine, and Nigeria.
Observers for the State of Palestine (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), the European Union, and the Holy See also spoke.
The representative of China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 31 October, to continue its discussion on the protection and promotion of human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights today (for background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4266).
Interactive Dialogues — Mercenaries, Self-Determination
CHRIS KWAJA, Chairperson‑Rapporteur, Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self‑determination, said his report (document A/74/244) examines the gendered dimension and human rights impact of private military and security companies, from the perspective of increasing privatization by States, local communities affected by operations, and the situation of employees of such companies. Gendered risks to the enjoyment of human rights are especially high in the context of armed conflict, post‑conflict, transitional situations, and in countries with no oversight of such activities, he observed. These risks are amplified by contact with the public, services involving the use of force, and situations creating a power imbalance — such as when personnel supervise a checkpoint, migrant detention centre or prison. He pointed out that a large predominantly male security presence, contracted by States or non‑State actors, evoke feelings of unease, and can affect women’s ability to freely access workplaces and markets, if they prefer to stay clear of roads manned by private security personnel.
He said women reported experiencing sexual harassment or fearing sexual violence at the hands of private military and security companies at checkpoints and migrant detention centres, with indigenous women, rights defenders and those at lower socioeconomic status facing greater risks. Turning to cases of abuse examined by the Committee, he said there is limited accountability and remedies for victims. There is also underreporting of cases and little to no systematic monitoring of private military and security companies by States, civil society or the United Nations. He called for principled and swift action to address gender‑based violence, as well as the hiring of people from underrepresented groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. In addition, States must put in place legal reform, regulatory bodies, and both accountability and remedies mechanisms. “Our findings paint a bleak picture,” he said, stressing the urgent need for more research and action on the topic, as well as gender‑disaggregated data and gender-sensitive monitoring of alleged abuses.
When the floor opened for comments and questions, an observer for the European Union expressed concern over the Working Group expanding its mandate to include private military and security companies, stressing that the industry is an essential service provider that can promote humanitarian activity in complex environments around the world.
The representative of the Russian Federation underscored the pressing need to strengthen laws regulating the work of privacy military and security companies. Intra‑nationally, there should be a system for licensing private defense companies with high standards for their operation. The representative of the United States pressed States to advance respect for human rights by private military and security companies, noting that the market often prioritizes the use of additional armed personnel over international humanitarian law. He enquired about measures States should consider.
Mr. KWAJA responded that the Working Group looks at mercenaries, as well as private military and security companies to ascertain the extent to which States have put in place mechanisms to regulate their activities. When States take the lead, challenges such as those outlined in the report can be addressed. The Montreux Document — regarding private military and security companies in war zones — and others like do not have binding effect on these companies. The Working Group is engaging actors in various forums with a view to forging a common action plan for binding rules to be put in place.
TOANGA MUSHAYAVANHU, Chairperson‑Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said the Committee has struggled to fulfil its mandate, due to differences among States on how to address contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination. Some do not favour elaborating complementary standards on the grounds that the Convention can adapt to reality. Others do favour their elaboration to fill substantive and procedural gaps. Over its 10 sessions, the Committee engaged with 60 experts from academia, civil society, national human rights institutions and intergovernmental organizations. “Despite all these efforts, there was a seeming lack of political will to move forward and work on fulfilling the mandate,” he said.
Describing some progress, he said the Committee held discussions in April on the protection of migrants from racist, discriminatory and xenophobic practices, racism in modern information and communication technologies (racial cybercrime) and comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation. It then adopted a “summary of issues” outlining elements related to General Assembly resolution 73/262, on the drafting of an additional protocol to the Convention. The elements concern criminalizing acts of a racist or xenophobic nature online as well as offline, including hate speech, inciting, aiding and abetting, and dissemination. However, the Committee’s work is not merely to agree on new standards, he said, but ultimately to devise ways to better protect people from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. To this end, laws are needed; however, the Committee should also consider preventive measures which would complement criminalization.
When the floor opened for comments and questions, an observer for the European Union said that the International Convention should remain the basis of all efforts to prevent racism. She expressed regret over the start of discussions for an additional protocol, urging that other options such as non‑legally binding tools be considered. The representative of Angola said that, given the permissive regulation of cyberspace, certain freedoms are unacceptable and compatible with neither the Charter of the United Nations nor major human rights instruments. Member States should demonstrate that they respect human dignity.
The representative of Zimbabwe said the mandate to elaborate additional standards to fill existing gaps in the Convention is an important responsibility. History is replete with cases of racism and racial discrimination, and effective remedies for victims are needed, particularly for migrants and refugees. He asked about the way forward for ending racism in sports.
Mr. MUSHAYAVANHU, responded that, because of its extensive reach in terms of broadcast and practice, sport is one area that can be used to advance messages against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Sporting bodies have adopted various measures, such as banning spectators or even sportspersons themselves if they accept racial attitudes. There is room for the development of international guidelines and standards, he said.
NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the General Assembly resolution adopted on their tenth anniversary, provide a solid basis for combating all forms of racism, discrimination and xenophobia, which are among the causes of human rights violations and abuses. She called for the full implementation of the Durban Declaration through political and legal means. Condemning the use of digital technology to promote intolerance, she urged political and religious leaders to refrain from hate speech and stereotyping. Political will and international funding are indispensable to address the challenge. The Group will table a resolution on global efforts to end racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which she hoped will be adopted by consensus.
DAVID TSHISHIKU TSHIBANGU (Democratic Republic of Congo), speaking on behalf of the African Group, underlined the right to quality education as “a must” for achieving more inclusive societies that understand and respect cultural diversity and human rights. In many countries, the traditional livelihood of people of African descent is under threat by forced removals from their ancestral lands and forced migration to urban areas, where they suffer discrimination, exploitation and abuse, and forced to work in low‑paid jobs. Recalling the International Decade for People of African Descent, now underway, he called for strengthening laws that prohibit racial discrimination and promoting the cultural heritage of people of African descent. In particular, he urged States to take actions to end discrimination against women and girls of African descent, such as affirmative action in education and employment, and support for their entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation or capacity‑building in languages and business strategies.
GLENTIS THOMAS (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that in too many cases, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance prevent the much‑needed unification of all people living and working together as one. The legitimization of intellectual racism and xenophobia by scholars and the media persists unabated. Those entrusted with leadership are shunning their responsibilities and creating a vacuum. While respecting the rights to free expression, association and assembly, it is important that States ensure that discrimination, racism and xenophobia do not take societal root. The resurgence of hate groups and proponents of extremist political ideologies is worrisome. The “Ark of Return” installation in the visitor’s plaza at United Nations Headquarters stands as a tangible illustration of the collective will to combat all forms of racism wherever they persist. The global fight against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia will only be won if all stakeholders act decisively.
DORTHE WACKER, European Union delegation, described common values such as the rule of law and respect for human rights as the basis for the European Union. As reflected in article 2 of its founding treaty, these values characterize a society where tolerance, justice and gender equality prevail. Upholding these values is necessary. The founding treaties do not just concern people in the Union, but also to uphold the values in the wider world. Recalling that the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance has documented a resurgence of anti‑Semitism in Europe, she said the bloc does not take such disturbing trends lightly. They underline the urgency of efforts to ensure implementation of European Union’s legal frameworks to combat racism and racial discrimination, and to refine its non‑legal tools by promoting diversity management in the workplace and working with information technology companies to combat hate speech online.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador), associating herself with the Central American Integration System, said countries cannot achieve sustainable development without the full inclusion of all peoples, regardless of race or ethnic identity. However, for many people enjoyment of human rights is linked to their citizenship and migration status. Noting that Afro‑descendent people comprise 18 per cent of the population in Central America, she expressed concern about the negative impact of racism on civil, political, economic and cultural rights, including the right to development. Affirmative action is necessary to close gaps in access to employment, education and justice. She expressed support for the negotiation of a declaration on the rights of persons of African descent at the United Nations, and the establishment of the Permanent Forum of Afro‑descendants. Recalling the consultation of indigenous and people of African descent, held in Managua in August and organized by the System’s Parliament to establish as policy the human rights of these groups to land and sustainable development, she urged that greater resources be allocated by the United Nations for implementing the Decade’s programme of action.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the right to self‑determination is enshrined in the United Nations Charter’s opening words and is the “fountainhead” of all other rights. Yet, there are those who are denied this fundamental right. The price of this failure is being paid in blood by generations living under occupation. In Indian‑occupied Jammu and Kashmir, this bloodletting has persisted for more than 70 years. Kashmiris have suffered under seven decades of occupation waiting for their inalienable right to self‑determination as promised by 11 Security Council resolutions. The occupation was based on a false pretext and an “iron curtain” has descended on the territory, where a lockdown has now entered its eighty‑fifth day with no sign of abating. Harrowing stories abound of widespread torture and arbitrary arrests. International media and human rights organizations are expressing grave concerns over the humanitarian situation there. India continues to delude itself that it can extinguish the light of freedom from the hearts and minds of the brave people of Jammu and Kashmir, she said.
ISAAC CAVERHILL (Canada) said racism is an obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Recalling the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights following the Second World War, which recognized the equal dignity of all members of the human family, he observed that this spirit is corroded by the persisting legacy of colonialism, slavery and other forms of human subjugation in public attitudes and institutions. Racism fuels terrorism, violent extremism, and exacerbates intersecting forms of discrimination, including racialized religious prejudice. He touched on measures Canada has taken, including a new anti‑racism strategy developed in consultation with indigenous people and others with lived experience of discrimination. Additional funding has been dedicated to support black Canadian communities.
Mr. AL-BANDER (Iraq) said he recognized those who sacrificed their lives, including United Nations personnel, in helping restore peace to parts of the world. “However, we witness a burgeoning number of crises, the bill of which is footed by innocent civilians,” he said. Diplomatic efforts are needed to revive engagement among Member States, and to establish friendly relations in the spirit of non-intervention and mutual respect. He condemned the occupying power violating the rights of Palestinians “in plain sight”, adding that it is doing so in violation of international law. By disdaining the rights of the Palestinian people and their rights to self-determination, it fuels destabilization, he said.
RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Central American Integration System, said his country has taken steps to redress historical injustice. Quoting Marcus Garvey, who said that a people who ignore their past and culture are like a tree without roots, he pointed out that the number of Costa Ricans declaring themselves as being of African descent shot up between the last two censuses, thanks to their increased awareness of their history and culture. In addition, in 2016 the Constitution was amended to recognize Costa Rica as a democratic and pluricultural republic, which is a step towards the promotion and protection of the rights of Afro‑descendent populations. Nonetheless, such people are more vulnerable to poverty, and face inequalities in access to housing, employment, and social mobility, he said.
ANEL BAKYTBEKKYZY (Kazakhstan) said States must fully implement the international conventions they have ratified to end racism. He underlined the importance of monitoring legal instruments with rigorous and prohibitive sanctions in their penal and civil codes, and provisions for ending impunity. Underscoring the importance of measures to guarantee equality in employment, housing and welfare entitlements, he more broadly said terrorism should never be associated with any religion, faith, confession, culture or ethnicity, he said, adding that it is critical to engage political and religious leaders, regional organizations, non‑governmental groups, grass‑roots movements, and especially women and youth, to prevent violent incidents caused by racial discrimination, hatred and intolerance.
NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, said a host of Israeli policies and practices undermine the right of Palestinians to self‑determination, the most obvious of which is the occupying Power’s building of settlements and related infrastructure in occupied Palestine, in grave breach of international law, including international criminal law, as articulated in the Rome Statute. For more than 50 years, Israel has confirmed “in stark terms” that it is more interested in its colonial expansionist agenda than in ceasing its illegal policies and practices. Colonialization, expansionism and annexation are incompatible with making peace.
She said racism and discriminatory policies by the occupying Power are driven by a mission to preserve Israel as a strictly Jewish State. Consequently, more than 65 laws that explicitly or implicitly discriminate against Palestinians have been approved, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, targeting them as second- and third-class citizens in their own land. In 2018, the Knesset passed the so‑called Nation‑State law, which features elements of apartheid. This legislation gives Jewish people an exclusive right to national self‑determination in Israel. Not only does this legislation undermine both Israel’s claim to democracy and the prospect of a peaceful two‑State solution, but it also incites fear of deliberate discrimination against Palestinians living in Israel. Israel’s occupation has imposed a catastrophic reality of racism and apartheid for the Palestinian people, challenging all hopes for peace and civility between the parties.
Mr. LUKIANTSEV (Russian Federation) said references by certain States regarding the right to self‑expression are “irresponsible, dangerous, and negate the responsibility of individuals toward society”. While central Europe bore the major brunt of the Second World War, Nazis and collaborators are still being celebrated in some countries as war heroes. In Latvia, he said, the Minister for Defence called Waffen SS legionnaires the pride of the nation and an example to young people, while in Ukraine, neo‑Nazis participate in marches which pay homage to committers of war crimes. In addition, he expressed concern about the situation of many non‑citizens in Baltic countries facing discriminatory measures. In Ukraine, the Russian language is doubly discriminated against. The right to self‑determination goes beyond anti‑colonialism; it must keep pace with reality for the promotion of all people’s rights, he said, adding that it must not be used to advance the ephemeral interest of certain States and groups.
AHLEM SARA CHARIKHI (Algeria) said the right of self‑determination is a founding principle of the United Nations and its exercise is essential for the full enjoyment of all other rights. Since its independence, Algeria has expressed support for the right to self‑determination. Despite some progress, many obstacles hinder efforts to enable all people in the remaining 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to exercise their right to self‑determination. Also, the United Nations should accord high priority to ending racism, he said, calling the Durban Declaration a milestone in that context. While progress has been made, racist hate speech endures and nationalist populism is seeing a resurgence.
CHAN AYE (Myanmar) condemned all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, stressing that Myanmar is working to improve its legal and institutional framework for addressing these issues. The Government drafting a bill prohibiting hate speech on race and religion. The adoption of the law will help prevent incitement of religious violence through social media, as well as print and broadcast media. Myanmar also established a committee on information literacy in order to promote responsible media and digital literacy. At the community level, non‑governmental groups and civil society work to promote unity and tolerance among various ethnic and religious communities, he said, adding that, in May, Religions for Peace organized its Second Advisory Forum on National Reconciliation and Peace.
Mr. BENTLEY (United States) described various programmes by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to involve youth in efforts to foster ethnic integration and combat racism, including nine programmes in Israel which promote cooperation between Jewish and Arab youth in Israel. He condemned State‑sponsored targeting of Uighurs and certain ethnic groups, highlighting the situation in Xinjiang, where Uighurs and ethnic Kazakhs are being targeted, and being stripped of fundamental freedom and rights. Racism can only be combated through advocacy and dialogue between civil society and Government.
NATHALIA SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA (Colombia) said that cultural diversity is the basis for developing public policies that ensure equal opportunities for all communities and protection from discrimination. Colombia carries out affirmative action for social groups that might be the object of discrimination. Based on political empowerment and training in human rights, Colombia has overcome obstacles in various parts of the country. Drawing attention to the national strategy for guaranteeing human rights, she said Colombia’s legal framework prohibits racial discrimination and segregation.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), expressed great concern over the rise in racist extremist movements based on ideologies that promote nationalist and racist superiority. These practices fuel racism and xenophobia. Describing tolerance and the respect for diversity as the only viable option, he underscored the imperative for all Member States to take measures — in legislation and practice — to combat racial discrimination and incitement to violence. Also, the right to self‑determination is a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other human rights. Only with determined efforts by the United Nations will the peoples of Palestine and the Western Sahara enjoy their freedoms, he said.
ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway) said that racism, xenophobia and hate speech are serious threats to democracy, harming not only individuals but entire societies. In Norway, the terrorist attacks in 2011 remain very present in people’s minds. The attacks were fuelled by hate towards religion and culture. In August 2019, a young man attacked a mosque in Norway and fired several gunshots. Before that assault, the man shot and killed his stepsister, a teenager adopted from China. The case is still under investigation but the attacker has stated that he wanted to frighten Muslims in Norway. Midway through the International Decade of People of African Descent, efforts must be redoubled to respect the commitments made to protect human rights and end discrimination.
Ms. ALI (Syria) said millions of people are victims of racism, hate, policies of intervention and foreign occupation that prevent them from exercising their right to self‑determination. Acts of aggression and crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by Israel’s authorities against people in the occupied Syrian Golan and other occupied territories. They are a flagrant embodiment of racism in its most heinous form. These crimes would not persist were it not for the political and military cover — and impunity — provided by certain Member States. The occupied Syrian Golan is Syria’s territory which the Government will seek to regain sooner rather than later.
NELLY BANAKEN ELEL (Cameroon), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, condemned discriminatory migration policies and called for reparations for racism and racial discrimination. Despite the ambitious goals of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, racist incidents proliferate around the world and racist groups target minorities. As a multi‑ethnic country with 250 ethnic groups and refugees, Cameroon cannot remain indifferent to this issue, she said, adding that refugees in her country are granted the same economic, social and cultural rights as others. Other measures taken in this regard are detailed in Cameroon’s consolidated report submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
LAHYA SHIKONGO (Namibia) welcomed recent consultations in Geneva towards resolving the longstanding dispute over the decolonization of the Western Sahara. Reiterating Namibia’s commitment to the right to self‑determination and freedom of the people of Western Sahara, she called on the parties to work towards implementation of the United Nations Settlement Plan. She expressed support for a process that would allow for implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions, and particularly, the holding of a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to determine their own future. She stressed the Palestinians’ fundamental right to self‑determination and independence, calling for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, with the establishment of two States.
FREDRIK HANSEN, observer for the Holy See, strongly condemned every form of racism and racial discrimination. Earlier this year, Pope Francis called attention to a heightened “fear of the other.” As a State Party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Holy See strives to fully assume its responsibility in accordance with its nature and mission. It is concerned with two phenomena: the rise in discriminatory, racist and xenophobic attitudes against migrants and refugees, and greater discrimination against communities and individuals solely because of their religion or beliefs. It is important to remember that, in accordance with universal human rights, commitments on tolerance and non‑discrimination must not be separated from long‑standing commitments to freedom of religion and belief. Superficial tolerance cannot be an alibi for denying or not guaranteeing religious freedom.
EKA KIPIANI (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, said that in 2014, Georgia harmonized its legal framework to comply with the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In 2019, Parliament amended labour legislation to ban discrimination at work based on race, origin, skin colour or any other trait. She expressed regret that the Russian Federation’s occupation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali prevents its Government from sharing the human rights protection framework with the citizens remaining there. “The occupation power continues to pursue its policy of ethnically‑targeted human rights violations against ethnic Georgians”, she said. Only with concerted international efforts will it be possible to end racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
MOHAMMAD AL HAFIZ BIN MOHD NADZIR (Malaysia) said multiculturalism and diversity are central features of his country’s identity, reiterating its respect for differing opinions and stressing the importance of appropriate laws to ensure that public expressions of opinion do not transgress societal norms, incite hate or threaten national peace. Strongly condemning hate speech, Malaysia recognizes the critical role of education in ending racism, especially among young people. For its part, Malaysia will continue to engage with relevant stakeholders, including through interfaith dialogue with religious groups and communities. Malaysia will also continue to participate in United Nations‑sponsored dialogues on faith and culture, he added, stressing that the acceptance of diversity is the key to peaceful coexistence.
MATTHEW EDBROOKE (Liechtenstein) said self‑determination is a cornerstone of the United Nations Charter and his country’s work on this issue dates to its membership in the United Nations in 1990. Liechtenstein’s self‑determination initiative emphasizes the possibilities for fulfilling the right of self‑determination without resorting to secession and aims to both defuse and prevent conflict. The Government is producing a handbook with recommendations for States, mediators and communities interested in preventing and resolving conflicts in which self‑determination is a cause. The handbook, which will be available in 2020, will highlight the possibility of self‑governance as a measure to prevent secession and emphasizes the need for strong human rights protections at all levels.
AYŞE INANÇ ÖRNEKOL (Turkey) said the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which her country ratified in 2002, has become an integral part of national legislation, with legislative and administrative measures being taken in the fields of education and law enforcement. Turkey is deeply concerned with the disturbing rise of racism, xenophobia and hate speech throughout the world. Members of religious or ethnic groups are increasingly subjected to hostile acts. There is also a tendency to stigmatize people on the basis of race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin and to use racist propaganda in politics. Members of the Turkish community living in Europe have unfortunately been direct targets of these adverse trends.
FLOR DE LIS VASQUEZ MUÑOZ (Mexico) voiced concern over the proliferation of hate speech worldwide. It stigmatizes groups and communities based on race, language, country of origin, ethnicity or migratory status. She expressed concern that online platforms are used by hate groups, including white supremacists, to incite violence, which can lead to terrorist attacks, a matter that Governments and other stakeholders must examine more closely. She advocated an unconditional end to racism, calling on the international community to increase cooperation.
NEMATOLLAH MOZAFFARPOUR (Iran) said that despite the first words of the United Nations Charter — “we the peoples” — the unfortunate reality is that the world denies some the chance to exercise their inalienable right to decide their destiny. Millions live under alien domination and foreign occupation with no foreseeable end in sight. There is a systematic link between historical injustices and underdevelopment, he said, calling for multilateralism, which put an end to colonialism. Reverting to unilateralism will have dire repercussions, he said, citing as “glaring and tragic” examples the increasing use of unilateral coercive measures. Recalling the Special Rapporteur’s observation that sanctions implemented on the basis of nationality or country of residence contravene provisions of the International Convention, he expressed grave concern about the systematic and deeply ingrained racism propagated against Palestinians, and the passing last year of the Jewish Nation State law “in order to negate the rights of millions of people in the occupied territories”.
PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said his country is painfully aware of the detrimental impact of racism and racial discrimination on society. Slavery took millions of Indians to far off shores as indentured labourers of the colonial powers. A former colony, India has always been at the forefront of supporting the right to self‑determination. That right is not a justification for secession or undermining territorial integrity, she clarified, reiterating support for the Palestinians’ right to self‑determination. As social media has emerged as a platform for amplifying racial hatred and discriminatory ideas, she called on States to prevent dissemination of racial hatred and other intolerance by taking into consideration the balance between safeguarding free expression, and advocacy of hatred.
JULIO DA COSTA FREITAS (Timor-Leste) said respecting and advancing human rights in all spheres of life is crucial. All countries should respect the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and non‑interference, she said, calling for cooperation in implementing both international law and national legislation on human rights. All countries should respect the rule of law and the United Nations Charter principles, handling their domestic issues in accordance with the law and with equal treatment extended to all.
MARIE GNAMA BASSENE (Senegal), associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the occupation has undermined Palestinians’ right to self‑determination for more than 50 years and urged parties to find a peaceful solution. Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are on the rise and becoming more complex, she said, pointing especially to threats faced by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Recalling the discriminatory policies of various States, she reiterated Senegal’s faith in open dialogue and in policies that promote discussion. She stressed the importance of the International Convention and of promoting the rights of people of African descent.
Mr. AHSAN (Bangladesh) said hundreds of millions of people are victims of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and exclusion, including the Rohingya in Myanmar. There is a clear need for putting into practice what was agreed in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Decades of systematic deprivation against the Rohingya has deep roots of hatred in Myanmar. The Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on Myanmar confirmed that discrimination, including State‑sponsored hate speech, contributed to continued violence against the Rohingya. The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State also found indications of hate speech and racial discrimination, recommending that Myanmar combat all forms of hate speech, especially when directed at ethnic or religious minorities, and to prosecute perpetrators.
RASHA MOH'D KHEIR OMAR SHOMAN KHOT (Jordan) said an unprecedented surge of racist, xenophobic and discriminatory sentiment has driven some — even in the most developed of nations — to engage in violence and extremism. In the Middle East, Jordan is a driver of peace and security and committed to the fight against racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination and intolerance. Jordan’s determination to combat these ills has prepared it for spearheading international efforts to foster mutual respect and understanding. It introduced the Aqaba Process, a global platform through which stakeholders share expertise, focus resources and strengthen bonds to counter terrorism, online and off.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said 18 years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration, its full implementation is a pending issue, and racism, discrimination and xenophobia are witnessed in many countries, in new and sophisticated forms, as well as in hate speeches delivered by State leaders. In the United States, xenophobic and racist rhetoric is “enthroned”, she said, accusing the current administration of “irresponsible debauchery” by separating families and building walls, and for favoring rhetoric that fuels anti‑immigrant sentiment, leading to massacres such that which took place in Texas in August. The terrorist behind the bombing of a Cuban aircraft in 1976, which caused the death of 73 people, was never brought to justice and was “welcomed and protected” until the end of his days by the United States. With its 60‑year‑long experience of the United States‑imposed blockade, Cuba has paid a high price for defending its right to self‑determination, she said, and it will support the just struggles of peoples who suffer from foreign rule.
DAVIT KNYAZYAN (Armenia) objected to selective approaches and attempts to create an arbitrary hierarchy of rights that seeks to impede free exercise of the right to self‑determination. He expressed alarm over attempts to reject social and economic rights, isolate people and deprive them of their means of subsistence. Attempts to criminalize entire peoples for wishing to freely determine their political status should be viewed as a violation of the right to self‑determination. The people of Nagorno‑Karabakh have exercised that right in full compliance with international law, and despite continued attempts to supress their rights, they have made gains in strengthening democratic State institutions, protecting human rights and ensuring the rule of law. He reiterated Armenia’s support for their right to freely determine their future.
PETRA MIJIĆ (Croatia), associating herself with the European Union, said her country has developed a systematic anti‑discrimination legal framework based on the Constitution. Moreover, the Constitution stipulates that any call for incitement to war, use of violence, or national, racial or religious hatred, or any form of intolerance, shall be prohibited and punishable by law. To ensure multi‑institutional cooperation, Croatia has set up a Working Group for Monitoring Hate Crime Incidents, coordinated by the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities, a central body for the collection and publishing of data on hate crimes.
KSHENUKA DHIRENI SENEWIRATNE (Sri Lanka) recalling the terrorist attack her country on Easter 2009, said that the rich experience of being a diverse country demonstrated the strength that religion and culture, practiced in their pure forms, can play in promoting understanding, harmony and trust. Terrorism should not be associated with any religion or belief, she continued, calling on States to work cooperatively to defeat those challenges to human dignity and security. She welcomed the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, advocating a greater focus on systematic preventative measures, such as education and community‑based preventative mechanisms. Racism and intolerance are factors motivating socioeconomic disparities, thereby threatening development and the exacerbating the effects of climate change.
FRED SARUFA (Papua New Guinea) said the struggle for self‑determination has been the hallmark for millions of people who remain in the shadows of colonialism. He called for a stronger political commitment to end that practice. Papua New Guinea is working with Administering Powers and with Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, notably New Caledonia, to address the plight of those seeking self‑determination. Stressing the importance of peaceful dialogue and inclusivity in the quest for self‑determination, he cited the example of New Caledonia, where in 2018, more than 81 per cent of eligible voters exercised their right to self‑determination in a peaceful and successful second referendum.
BISMARK ANYANAH (Ghana), associating with the African Group and the Group of 77, expressed particular concern over racism against migrants and refugees, as well as people of African descent. Recalling that the International Decade for People of African Descent runs until 2024, he said implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees would help to address these issues. Welcoming the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, as well as the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, he described various initiatives undertaken by the Government and reaffirmed Ghana’s commitment to combating racism and related intolerance.
VICTOR MORARU (Moldova) said the right to self‑determination has been long recognized as applicable to the peoples of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. It is a fundamental right involving those who suffer under colonialism and other forms of foreign domination. If applied in the spirit of the United Nations Charter, it can be an important tool for promoting human rights. However, it cannot be abused to encourage secession and undermine pluralistic and democratic States. Moldova does not recognize a right to secession outside the context of decolonization. Advocating caution towards community‑based self‑determination claims, especially when made to justify unilateral declarations of independence, he said attempts to reinvent basic Charter principles and apply them selectively for political or geopolitical ends are unacceptable. He deplored that some individuals and organizations openly encourage the separation of sovereign States under the pretext of the right to self‑determination. As an example, he pointed to successive statements by the International Council of Russian Compatriots aimed at promoting the separation of Moldova’s Transnistrian region. Such acts should be condemned by the Human Rights Council.
Ms. HORBACHEVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, said that since the beginning of the Russian Federation’s occupation of her country, there has been a broad‑based campaign against the Tatar community and ethnic Ukrainians. The occupying Power is imposing its dominance with a campaign of cultural erasure. To hold the Russian Federation accountable, Ukraine filed a case with the International Court of Justice. She expressed concern over the massive propaganda carried out against Ukraine by Russian Federation‑owned media and Russian public figures, which foments hostility.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that racism and xenophobia represent a deliberate attempt at rejecting a common humanity. By challenging foundational United Nations principles, these vices pose an imminent threat to the collective ability to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms. He rejected any doctrine of racial superiority as scientifically false, morally repugnant, socially unjust and dangerous, calling any position to the contrary crass self‑serving ignorance. Nigeria stands firm against racial discrimination, a stance which has been a pillar of its foreign policy since independence, and which explains the human and financial sacrifices Nigeria has made to fight colonialism, apartheid, minority rule and other forms of human domination, especially in Africa.
Right of Reply
The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to remarks by the United States representative, who made baseless accusations against her country. The anti‑terrorism and deradicalization measures adopted in Xinjiang are not different from the anti‑terrorism actions taken by the United States in Europe. On 29 October, 54 countries made a joint speech and positive evaluation of China’s human rights achievements and opposed any interference into the affairs of other countries. This is proof that “justice is in people’s hearts,” she said. If the United States cares about human rights, it should listen to the voices of a large number of countries and solve the problem of racism that is ubiquitous on its territory.
FILLIPO GRANDI, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said 71 million people are now displaced globally owing to conflict, violence and persecution, and the numbers continue to rise. Their plight is part of a broader flow of human mobility, driven by many elements: competition over resources, weak governance, growing inequality, collapsing ecosystems, weather‑related disasters, and the exploitation of ethnicity and religion by unscrupulous politicians. The Global Compact on Refugees, affirmed by the General Assembly in 2018, is driving efforts to apply a new comprehensive refugee response model. Its comprehensive approach preserves the humanitarian imperative but brings in peacebuilding, development action and private sector investment. It also reinvigorates the collective commitment to global responsibility-sharing that underpins the refugee protection regime.
He said the most profound consequences of forced displacement are in poorer and middle‑income host countries, including the 14 nations in Latin America and the Caribbean that now host 4.5 million Venezuelans. The responses to “mixed flows” of refugees and migrants present complex challenges, with legitimate anxieties around jobs, security and identity exploited for political gain — pitting people who are themselves excluded from the benefits of globalization against refugees and migrants — without offering practical solutions. Meanwhile, measures taken to reduce flows — pushbacks, externalization of asylum processing, policies of deterrence — erode refugee protection. “This is wrong,” he said, and does not address the causes of mixed flows.
In this context, he drew attention to Mexico, where examples of refugee integration are coupled with growing migratory pressures from the region and from Africa. The movements towards North Africa and across the Mediterranean are equally complex, presenting grave dilemmas for UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in bringing the most vulnerable to safety, while managing huge risks and countering the deadly impact of the people‑smuggling industry. Long‑standing displacement crises, as in Afghanistan and Somalia, present further challenges. In Syria, the world’s largest displacement crisis, he expressed deep concern that escalating conflict in the northeast has displaced tens of thousands of people in recent weeks, including more than 12,000 refugees in northern Iraq.
Advancing voluntary repatriations is another pressing concern, especially in the absence of political settlements and an end to hostilities. Any return of refugees to countries such as Syria, Burundi and Myanmar is the best solution — but it must be voluntary, safe and dignified. “It is up to refugees to decide when to exercise their right to return, to their areas of origin or choice,” he assured, noting that UNHCR will continue to work with Governments to help create conducive conditions. Resettlement is another solution but the overall number of places has plummeted. “I am very disappointed by this,” he said. UNHCR will work with Governments to intensify resettlement efforts and expand private sector and community involvement.
More broadly, UNHCR is stepping up its engagement with the world’s 41 million internally displaced people, with a new policy that aligns its interventions with those of its partners. As climate‑related causes are now a growing driver of displacement, UNHCR will continue to help Governments deliver an operational response to disaster-related displacement and focus on reducing the environmental impact of refugee crises. It will also accelerate its work with States involved in the #IBelong campaign to end statelessness, and hold the first Global Refugee Forum in December in Geneva, where leaders will lay out the building blocks for the Global Compact’s implementation, together with businesses, experts, civil society and refugees themselves. On the financial front, funds available to UNHCR in 2019 are estimated to reach $4.82 billion, however the gap between requirements and available resources has not decreased. Private sector income is projected to increase by 11 per cent over 2018 to $470 million and the Office will strive to diversify its funding base.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of Canada said her country is inspired by the African Union’s initiative to address forced displacement. She asked the High Commissioner how UNHCR is reaching out to non‑traditional actors to improve the comprehensive nature of refugee responses.
Several delegates raised the situation of internally displaced persons. The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, asked how Member States can best help UNHCR implement its new policy for internal displacement. The observer for the European Union asked how the High Commissioner views cooperation with different mandate holders in delivering an efficient response for internally displaced persons.
The representative of Afghanistan asked how UNHCR can protect refugees from violence from non‑State actors, and how UNHCR and other agencies can support States to target the root causes of forced displacement. As UNHCR already monitors the repatriation of refugees, the delegate asked if it could also measure what makes an environment more conducive to repatriation. The representative of Greece, associating himself with the European Union, said that in relation to children, his country focuses on providing support to them and aims at reunifying those separated from their families while taking into account the best interests of the child.
The representative of Mexico expressed concern with regard to anti‑migrant and anti‑refugee statements in particular hate speech, intolerance and white supremacy. He asked how this negative speech affected the work of the High Commissioner and also asked what is UNHCR’s assessment of the Secretary‑General’s strategy to combat hate speech. The representative of Morocco asked what measures UNHCR has taken to register people in refugee camps.
Several representatives asked about UNHCR’s funding, with the representative of the Republic of Korea noting that he shares concerns over the chronic funding gaps of UNHCR and encouraged that office to expand its donor base. The representative of Algeria noted that although UNHCR has improved its income it does not address the needs on the ground. He asked how UNHCR will address the financial gap.
The representative of Bangladesh said that his country hosts 1.1 million displaced Myanmar nationals. It is imperative to create conditions for return and international presence in the country of origin is an importance confidence building measure. The representative of Costa Rica said that his country is committed to the objectives of a variety of international instruments to protect the rights of refugees. All countries have the responsibility to protect individuals who have been forced to leave their countries, he said. The representative of Venezuela said that the challenges facing his country are the result of coercive unilateral measures imposed by the Government of the United States. It has created conditions that have been followed by some countries in the region and promoted by President Trump.
Mr. GRANDI, responding, said that the mandate of his office has been and will remain humanitarian and non‑political. He said that he is not naïve, he lives in this world and the work that the office does takes place in a politicized context. He and his colleagues maintain their work in an apolitical dimension. He urged all Member States that when considering matters of concern to his office that they should leave politics to one side and should find solutions to the plight of refugees. He also urged all Member States to reach consensus in steering, endorsing this year’s omnibus resolution on the mandate of his office. The lack of consensus will weaken his mandate, and the presence of consensus will strengthen it.
To the representative of Mexico, he said that hate speech has a great impact. Refugees have been stigmatized by hostile language that is not conducive to any solution. To the representative of Ireland’s question regarding help for internally displaced persons, he said that resources to address humanitarian needs should be provided and work needs to be done on political solutions, as internal displacement is usually the result of political conflicts. On questions regarding registration, he stressed the importance of having data on refugees for their protection and especially where there is the possibility of repatriation.
Also speaking were the representatives of Italy, Iran, Romania, Paraguay, Switzerland, Qatar, Chile, Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), United States, Japan, Syria, Egypt and China.