Third Committee Passes 15 Draft Resolutions on Child Rights, Rural Women, with Divisions over Sexual, Reproductive Health Care Chipping Away at Consensus

GA/SHC/4284
18 November 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 49th & 50th Meetings (AM & PM)

Third Committee Passes 15 Draft Resolutions on Child Rights, Rural Women, with Divisions over Sexual, Reproductive Health Care Chipping Away at Consensus

Rights-Based Approach to Sex Education Saves Lives,
Sweden’s Delegate Argues, as United States, Holy See Express Reservations

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved 15 draft resolutions today, expressing itself on the rights of children and advancement of women, as well as on the protection of refugees in Africa and the implementation of minimum accessibility standards for persons with disabilities, among other topics.

The Committee’s annual draft resolution on the rights of the child — approved by consensus — would have the General Assembly urge States to improve the situation of children living in poverty and take effective measures to secure the prohibition of the worst forms of child labour and to end child labour in all its forms by 2025 at the latest.  The Assembly would also urge States to ensure the enjoyment of human rights for all children without parental care.

The measure passed following the failure — by a recorded vote of 100 against to 31 in favour, with 29 abstentions — of an amendment submitted by the United States delegation, which sought to replace operative paragraph 13 with an alternate wording that “would serve to support, as appropriate, optimal adolescent health and locally driven, family-centred sex education”.  The decision to instead retain operative paragraph 13, as orally revised, passed by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 10 against, with 16 abstentions.

Several representatives expressed regret over the need to submit an amendment, with Turkey’s delegate, on behalf of a cross-regional group of States, expressing both surprise and concern over the amendment’s circulation only a few days before action on the draft resolution.  Equal access to sex education is vital, she said, and the text uses carefully developed compromise language on age-appropriate sex education, which already addresses sensitivities.  Sweden’s representative, speaking for the Nordic and Baltic countries, expressed worry that deleting the key phrase “in the best interest of the child” undermines the goal of protecting the child.  A rights-based approach to sex education saves lives, she said, and the amendment “moves us backwards”.  Similarly, the representative of the Netherlands opposed the amendment on substantive and process grounds, adding:  “We cannot allow the issue to be politicized.”

In other action, the Committee approved a consensus draft seeking to improve the situation of refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa.  By its terms, the Assembly would urge the international community to continue to fund related programmes of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and welcome efforts by African States to pre-empt internal displacement.

In the related discussion, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo expressed concern that the gap between humanitarian needs and funding continues to grow.  Meanwhile, Canada’s delegate underscored her country’s commitment to supporting the physical safety, voluntary repatriation and dignified return of refugees in Africa.

A draft on improving the situation of women and girls in rural areas, also approved by consensus, would have the Assembly urge States to improve women’s health, including maternal health by, among other measures, enhancing the prevention and treatment of infections, such as HIV; eliminating all forms of violence against rural women and girls in public and private spaces; adopting strategies to decrease women’s and girls’ vulnerability to environmental factors; and developing legislation that provides rural women with access to land.

Introducing the draft, Mongolia’s representative said rural women are change agents for sustainable development, despite often having limited access to education, health care, justice, land, energy, safe water and sanitation.  While joining consensus, the United States representative disassociated from references to “sexual and reproductive health care” or “health care services”.  In a similar vein, an observer for the Holy See expressed reservations around references to sexual and reproductive health and health care services.  He does not consider access to abortion as included in this regard.  References to gender are understood to be grounded in biological and sexual difference, he clarified.

Among the seven drafts put to a vote today was that on the right to food, which passed by a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with no abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that hunger constitutes an outrage and a violation of human dignity, and thus requires urgent measures at the national, regional and international levels for its elimination.  It would express deep concern that the number of hungry people is growing, that 2 billion people experience moderate or severe food insecurity, and that while women contribute more than 50 per cent of the food produced worldwide, they also account for 70 per cent of the hungry.

Cuba’s representative, introducing the draft, said guaranteeing the right to food is the task of all stakeholders; any avoidance to do so in the United Nations “is irresponsible and due to petty interests”.  Looking away from this issue is “looking the wrong way”, she said.

Also approved today were draft resolutions on the rights of indigenous peoples; the rights to development, safe drinking water and sanitation; persons with disabilities; the use of mercenaries; promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; promotion of international cooperation; enhanced international cooperation in the field of human rights; unilateral coercive measures; equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies; cultural diversity; and countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 19 November, to continue its work.

Action

The Committee first took up the draft resolution titled “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa” (document A/C.3/74/L.50/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo presented the draft resolution on behalf of the African Group, pointing to the challenges faced by African refugees, returnees and displaced persons and the various initiatives carried out by African Governments with the support of the international community.  The African Union’s theme for 2019 is the “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons:  Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”, he said, voicing concern that, despite support from host countries and the international community, the gap between humanitarian needs and funding continues to grow.  He appealed to the international community to continue to support burden-sharing mechanisms in the spirit of global partnership.

The representative of the United States expressed deep concern over the high number of persons displaced in Africa due to conflict, violence and climate change.  More is required to elevate the issue of displacement, she noted, stressing that this resolution is an effort to do so and referring to her country’s 7 November statement.

The representative of Canada expressed strong support for refugees and displaced persons in Africa, underscoring her country’s commitment to supporting voluntary repatriation, the physical safety of refugees and dignified return.  Fleeing persecution and conflict represent emergency situations, she asserted, emphasizing the need to address the specific needs of women and girls, as well as other vulnerable groups.  Citing Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, she said Canada will always respect international humanitarian law and work towards advancement of the situation of refugees and displaced persons.

The Committee then adopted “L50/Rev.1” without a vote.

By the text, the Assembly would urge the international community, in line with the principle of international solidarity and burden-sharing, to continue to fund the refugee programmes of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relevant humanitarian organizations and — taking into account the substantially increased needs of programmes in Africa as a result of repatriation possibilities — to ensure that the continent receives a fair and equitable share of the resources designated for refugees.  It would also welcome efforts by African States to strengthen regional mechanisms for the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons, and call on them to pre-empt internal displacement.

Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled “Rights of the Child” (document A/C.3/74/L.21/Rev.1) and related amendment (document A/C.3/74/L.64), which the Chair noted contain no programme budget implications.

The representative of Finland, introducing the draft on behalf of the European Union and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, outlined a number of oral revisions to the text, including to preambular paragraph 24 and operative paragraphs 16, 35(a) and 39.

He stressed that the draft is a commitment to ensure the rights of all children, including those without parental care, are fully realized.  Noting that the theme of children without parental care is a universal issue, he expressed hope that the draft resolution, as orally revised, will be approved by consensus.

The representative of the United States then introduced an amendment to draft resolution “L.64”, which would seek to replace operative paragraph 13 with an alternate text, and “would serve to support, as appropriate, optimal adolescent health and locally driven, family-centred sex education”.

The representative of Uruguay, associating in a general statement with the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States and the European Union, expressed deep regret over the need to submit an amendment, which sends a negative message just as the United Nations prepares to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Member States have managed to reach agreement over the years, despite holding divergent views, and the proposed amendment undermines that consensus.  Uruguay thus will vote against the amendment and calls on all Member States to do likewise.

The representative of Turkey, on behalf of a cross-regional group of States, expressed regret over the late-stage breaking of consensus, and expressed both surprise and concern over the amendment’s circulation only a few days before action on the draft resolution.  The amendment seeks to modify long agreed-upon language.  Equal access to sex education is vital and must be evidence-based, she said, adding that the text uses carefully developed compromise language on age-appropriate sex education, which already addresses sensitivities.  She expressed concern over the amendment’s omission of the phrase “in the best interest of the child” and urged all delegations to vote against it.

The representative of the Netherlands, associating with the European Union and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, expressed regret over the “setback” represented by the amendment, which is an attack on language adopted by the General Assembly.  Noting that updates to the text take into account Sustainable Development Goals 3.7 and 5.6, she said the proposed amendment represents “a slippery slope” and undermines the commitment to collective action expressed by States at the recent Sustainable Development Goals Summit.  Stressing the importance of scientifically accurate comprehensive sex education, she opposed the amendment on the grounds of both substance and process, adding:  “We cannot allow the issue to be politicized.”

The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, expressed worry that deleting a key guiding phrase, “in the best interest of the child”, undermines the objective of promoting and protecting the child.  Stressing that a rights-based approach to sex education saves lives, she said that such an amendment “moves us backwards”.  Unity is ensured through hard work and willingness to honour agreed-upon language, “not by putting amendments through vote”, she said, stating that her delegation will vote against this and any other amendments and calls on other States to do the same.

The draft amendment was then rejected by a recorded vote of 100 against to 31 in favour, with 29 abstentions.

The representative of Argentina, in explanation of vote, said the amendment undermines consensus and there is no need for it.

The representative of Finland, in a general statement, said he was disappointed by the decision to propose an amendment, and expressed hope that States will reaffirm the need to uphold the human rights of all children, by voting in favour of retaining the paragraph in question.

The Committee then voted to preserve operative paragraph 13 in “L.21/Rev.1” as orally revised, by 131 in favour to 10 against, with 16 abstentions.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a general statement, expressed disappointment over operative paragraph 31(g), regarding biannualization, which he hoped would not compromise previous efforts in this area.  Nonetheless, he will join consensus.

The draft resolution “L.21/Rev.1” was then approved as orally revised.

By its terms, the Assembly would urge States that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols.  It would urge States to improve the situation of children living in poverty and take effective measures to secure the prohibition of the worst forms of child labour and to end child labour in all its forms by 2025 at the latest.  The Assembly would also urge States to take action to ensure the enjoyment of human rights for all children without parental care and cooperate with the Special Representative on Violence against Children in promoting implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations study on violence against children.

The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret that the primary sponsors were unable to undertake constructive dialogue, adding that the inclusion of insignificant amendments does not ease the concerns of delegations.  The Committee has been forced, by two groups, to approve a text despite some concerns, including regarding the role of guardians in the lives of minors.  She also expressed regret over the mention of the International Criminal Court in operative paragraph 20, to which she did not join consensus.  “Listing our concerns would take far too much time”, she said, adding that while the Russian Federation joins consensus, it is with the caveat that it is “forced consensus”.

The representative of the United States outlined her concerns with “problematic elements” in the text, including in operative paragraphs 13 and 18, which use terms that in “accumulated context” suggest a right to abortion.  Inclusion of the term “comprehensive education” in operative paragraph 13 is unacceptable, as it normalizes sexual experimentation and fails to incorporate family faith.  She disassociated from preambular paragraphs 9 and 21 and operative paragraphs 27, 28, 34(e), 35(o), and 35(q), adding that “children have no general right to be heard”.  Noting her preference for the phrase “child sex abuse material” or “imagery often criminalized as child pornography” over the phrase “child pornography”, she then said, regarding operative paragraphs 8 and 16, that the United States strongly supports registration of all children from birth.

The representative of Singapore, in explanation of vote, expressed reservations regarding preambular paragraphs 16 and 22, and operative paragraphs 20(o) and 20(p), adding that different realities must be taken into account in the context of migration.  Nonetheless, she said Singapore joined consensus as it supports the draft’s objectives.

The observer for the Holy See expressed concern that central principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child have come to be seen as too controversial for inclusion in the draft resolution.  He expressed reservations over concepts reflected in the text, noting that he understood the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “health care services” as applying to the holistic concept of health.  “Abortion access is not considered a dimension of these terms,” he stressed.  On comprehensive education, he reiterated the “prior rights of parents”, including the right to religious freedom as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Regarding references to “gender” in terms such as “gender-specific” or “gender-responsive”, he understood them to be grounded in biological or sexual identity and difference.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/74/L.36), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft, stressed the importance of the right to self-determination.  Mercenaries and mercenary-related activities threaten peace and security in developing countries, especially in armed conflict, she said, pointing to the high demand for mercenaries on the global market and calling on delegations to support the draft.

The Chair, replying to the representative of Cuba, said the United States had requested a vote on the draft.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote, rejected the premise of the draft resolution, notably that it focuses solely on the issue of mercenaries.  As such, he will vote against it.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.36” by a recorded vote of 127 in favour to 51 against, with 7 abstentions (Brazil, Colombia, Fiji, Mexico, Palau, Switzerland, Tonga).

By its terms, the Assembly would urge all States to exercise the utmost vigilance against mercenary activities and take legislative measures to ensure that their territories are not used for the recruitment, assembly, financing, training, protection or transit of mercenaries for the planning of activities designed to impede the right of peoples to self-determination, to destabilize or overthrow any Government or to dismember or impair the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.  It would also call upon States to investigate the possibility of mercenary involvement and to bring to trial those found responsible, or to consider their extradition in accordance with national law and applicable bilateral or international treaties.

The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of vote, expressed full support for the right to self-determination, noting that draft “L.36” should comply with other United Nations resolutions.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation” (document A/C.3/74/L.33/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of Spain and his own country, said that around the world, women and girls lack access to drinking water, which hinders them from reaching their full potential, including at school.  On the topic of sanitation, he noted that menstruation should be recognized as natural.  More broadly, climate change affects most acutely small island States, indigenous peoples and rural and local communities.  Recalling that 22 March is International Water Day, he said that 11 per cent of the global population still lacks access to clean water, and efforts must be made to realize access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.33/Rev.1” without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would call on States, among other things, to ensure the progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for all in a non-discriminatory manner; take into consideration the New Urban Agenda, which envisages cities and human settlements that fulfil their social function; ensure access to equitable sanitation and hygiene for all women and girls, as well as for menstrual hygiene management, including for hygiene facilities and services in public and private spaces; and address the widespread stigma and shame surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene by promoting educational and health practices.

The representative of the United States said that his country joins consensus, understanding that the text should not alter international customary law.  The United States does not accept all analyses by the Special Rapporteur contained in the draft, and — expressing support for a balanced approach that also protects the environment — he referred to his country’s 7 November statement.

The representative of Argentina drew attention to menstrual hygiene and gender equality, which represent fundamental human rights.  It is the main obligation of countries to ensure the right to water, adequate living standards and life, she said, stressing that rights to water and sanitation are those within States’ jurisdiction, and as such should be ensured by States.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto: accessibility” (document A/C.3/74/L.32/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of New Zealand, presenting the draft on behalf of Mexico and her country, noted that accessibility is a precondition for persons with disabilities to live independently and to fully enjoy all their human rights on an equal basis with others.  The draft therefore focuses on the need for all States to implement minimum accessibility standards; the use of universal design in physical and virtual environments; and public procurement for promoting accessibility.  The draft also acknowledges work being undertaken within the United Nations to promote disability inclusion across all three pillars.

The representative of the United States expressed regret that the final text does not contain a reference to Security Council resolutions, and in turn, some delegations do not want such a reference.  Welcoming that the draft focuses on accessibility, she said accessibility should be strengthened across the United Nations system, as persons with disabilities must be able to attend all United Nations meetings, be included in all decision-making and participate in all aspects of life.  She then referred to the United States statement delivered on 7 November.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.32/Rev.1” without a vote.

By its terms, the General Assembly would call on States to develop national accessibility standards that promote the principle of universal design, in close consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.  It would also call on States to improve the access of persons with disabilities to information by providing accessible forms of assistance and support, as well as promote access to assistive technologies.  It would call on the United Nations to implement the Disability Inclusion Strategy across its programmes and operations.

The representative of Argentina stressed the importance of topics covered by the draft resolution, noting that persons with disabilities must be able to participate in social life and enjoy all human rights, and said that Argentina co-sponsored the draft.

An observer for the Holy See said persons with disabilities should be compassionately integrated into society as they possess full human rights.  The draft resolution draws attention to access to education and its role in inclusion.  Attention is also given to older people with disabilities.  While access to education and employment must be advanced, special provisions are required for in-home and personal assistance, in order to prevent isolation and segregation from the community.  The contribution of family members must be recognized, he said, reiterating his reservations over the term “gender”.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas” (document A/C.3/74/L.20/Rev.1).

The representative of Mongolia, introducing the text, said rural women are agents of transformational change for sustainable development, despite often having limited access to quality education, health care, justice, land, energy, safe water and sanitation.  Noting several oral revisions to the text, including the deletion of operative paragraph 2(a), he expressed hope that the text would receive unanimous support, as has been the case in previous years.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.20/Rev.1” as orally revised.

By its terms, the Assembly would urge Member States, in collaboration with the United Nations and civil society, to attach greater importance to improving the situation of rural women and girls by, among other actions, creating an enabling environment for ensuring systematic attention to their needs; pursuing their political and socioeconomic empowerment; and mainstreaming a gender perspective in decision-making processes.

By other terms, the Assembly would urge States and others to strengthen measures to improve women’s health, including maternal health; strengthen the prevention, treatment and care of infections, such as HIV, in rural areas; and eliminate all forms of violence against rural women and girls in public and private spaces.  It would also urge States to adopt strategies to decrease women’s and girls’ vulnerability to environmental factors and adopt or develop legislation and policies that provide rural women with access to land.

The representative of Argentina welcomed several revisions to the text, such as an inclusion of measures to help end violence, noting that Argentina is a co‑sponsor.

The representative of the United States, in connection with references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, referred to her country’s 7 November statement.  Concerning preambular paragraph 15, she understood the reference to school punishment as punishment rising to the level of child abuse.  She disassociated from operative paragraph 2(j), adding that the United States does not accept references to “sexual and reproductive health care” or “health care services” in the context of women to include legal access to abortion.

An observer for the Holy See expressed reservations regarding certain concepts in the draft, noting that he considers references to sexual and reproductive health and health care services as applying to a holistic concept of health.  He does not consider access to abortion as included in this regard.  References to gender are understood to be grounded in biological and sexual difference, he clarified.

The Committee next turned to the draft resolution titled “The right to food” (document A/C.3/74/L.37/Rev.1).

The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft, said the achievement of this right remains “utopian”.  She emphasized that fully guaranteeing the right to food is the task of all stakeholders, and any avoidance to do so in the United Nations “is irresponsible and due to petty interests”.  The United Nations must work alongside the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to promote policies that have a positive impact on the right to food.  Looking away from this issue is “looking the wrong way” and can only be due to “brutal selfishness”, she said.

The Chair said that a vote had been called, and, replying to the representative of Cuba, said the United States delegation had requested the vote.

The representative of the United States, in explanation of position, said his country will vote against the draft, as the United States is fully engaged in helping to address conflict‑related food security emergencies around the world.  However, unbalanced solutions do not address the issue of malnutrition, he said, pointing out that the concept of food sovereignty can justify protectionism and has negative consequences for food security, income growth and access to global markets.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.37/Rev.1” by 185 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with no abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that hunger constitutes an outrage and a violation of human dignity, and therefore requires urgent measures at the national, regional and international levels for its elimination.  The Assembly would consider it intolerable that up to 45 per cent of the children who die every year before age five die from undernutrition and hunger‑related illness; at least one in three children under age five is undernourished or overweight, and one in two suffers from hidden hunger.

By other terms, the Assembly would express deep concern that the number of hungry people in the world is growing, the vast majority of whom live in developing countries, and that 2 billion people experience moderate or severe food insecurity.  It would express deep concern that, while women contribute more than 50 per cent of the food produced worldwide, they also account for 70 per cent of the hungry.  Among other things, it would call on States to implement policies to reduce and eliminate preventable mortality and morbidity, as a result of malnutrition, of children under five years of age.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order” (document A/C.3/74/L.38), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft resolution, stressed the importance of fully implementing human rights and respecting the principles of equity, sovereignty and international cooperation.  The benefits of globalization must be maximized by strengthening global cooperation and economic development.  The draft affirms everyone’s right to an equitable world order.

The Chair, replying to the representative of Cuba, said the United States requested a recorded vote on “L.38”.

The representative of the United States, in explanation of vote, expressed concern with the premise of the resolutions and will therefore vote against it.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.38” by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 53 against, with 9 abstentions (Armenia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kiribati, Liberia, Mexico, Peru).

By its terms, the Assembly would call on all Member States to fulfil their commitment — expressed at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance — to maximize the benefits of globalization by strengthening international cooperation to increase equality of opportunities for trade, economic growth and sustainable development, global communications and intercultural exchange.  It would urge all actors to build an international order based on inclusion, social justice, equality, human dignity, mutual understanding and the promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non‑selectivity, impartiality and objectivity” (document A/C.3/74/L.39/Rev.1), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft resolution, underscored the importance of guaranteeing the universality and non‑selectivity of human rights, as well as the objectivity of the Special Rapporteurs in carrying out their mandates.  She called on States to support the draft.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.39/Rev.1” without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would call on all Member States to base their activities for the promotion and protection of human rights on the Charter of the United Nations; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and other relevant international instruments.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote, agreed with the important concepts of non‑selectivity, impartiality and objectivity.  As such, it finds the Security Council’s approach towards Israel biased, and he referred to the statement delivered by the United States on 7 November.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “The right to development” (document A/C.3/74/L.40/Rev.1).

The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the text is in keeping with the Movement’s objective to promote development and prosperity.  While her delegation made efforts to create a text that is broadly accepted, its work was nonetheless impeded.  Stressing that the right to economic, social and cultural development is an “unalienable right”, she called on Member States to vote in favour of the draft resolution.

A vote was then requested.

The representative of the United States said his country collaborates with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to aid development across all sectors, within existing human rights law.  Pointing out that the right to development is not recognized by any core United Nations human rights convention, he expressed concern that the right, as set out in the text, protects States, not individuals.  He also expressed concern over the inclusion of language regarding the expansion and deepening of mutual cooperation, previously phrased as “win-win cooperation”, which he said represented the domestic agenda of a certain State that wished to target a domestic political audience.  Such language undermines the principles of sustainable development, he said, adding that the United States requested a vote on the draft and will vote against it.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “L.40/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to 24 against, with 26 abstentions.

The representative of Liechtenstein, speaking also on behalf of other countries, including Norway, called the polarization around the text an “anachronism”.  While Liechtenstein recognizes the challenges in discussing the right to development, he noted with concern “attempts to obscure its meaning”.  Due to the reference to a legally binding instrument, his country cannot support the draft resolution.

The representative of Mexico said his country abstained from the vote because a legally binding instrument would fragment international law and weaken efforts to work towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The representative of Armenia said her country voted in favour of the draft resolution.  However, she disassociated from preambular paragraph 22 — which refers to a summit of Heads of State of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku in October 2019 — due to objectionable references to Nagorno-Karabakh in the outcome document put forth by the host country, Azerbaijan.

The representative of Canada said her country supports the right to development.  However, lack of development cannot be invoked to justify the lack of upholding human rights.  The key to achieving the right to development lies in forging innovative partnerships, such as the Group of Friends of Sustainable Development Goal Financing.

The representative of Switzerland, speaking in explanation of vote, said operative paragraphs 8 and 11 are the main reasons why her country rejected the draft resolution, rather than abstain, as it did in 2018.  Although Switzerland supports the goal of making the right to development a reality for everyone, and welcomes a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on the right to development, she said she did not see the need to develop legally binding rules in this area.

The representative of China said her country voted in favour of the resolution.  The objective of mutual benefit is a fundamental basis for international cooperation, she said, adding that a certain Member State must refrain from “overreaction and over-interpretation”.

The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret over the Committee’s inability to reach consensus.  While the European Union supports the right to development for individuals, the primary responsibility of guaranteeing this right lies with a State to its citizens.  Noting that fundamental differences exist, concerning the role of indicators and appropriate instruments to guarantee this right, she expressed regret over the elaboration of a legally binding standard, which “takes us further from consensus”.  Therefore, the bloc cannot support operative paragraphs 8 and 11, as drafted.

The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights” (document A/C.3/74/L.41), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Cuba introduced the draft on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, noting that the annual draft recognizes that promoting human rights must be based on cooperation and genuine dialogue to strengthen the capacity of Member States to meet their obligations.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.41” without a vote.

By its terms, the Assembly would urge States to take measures to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation aimed at addressing the adverse impact of consecutive and compounded global crises — such as financial and economic crises, food crises, climate change and natural disasters — on the full enjoyment of human rights.

The representative of the United States disassociated from paragraph 5 because of the incorrect assertion that enhancement of international cooperation is essential for the promotion of human rights.  Each State has an obligation to promote human rights, and the absence of cooperation does not indicate a lack of this obligation.  She also referred to the general statement made by the United States on 7 November.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Human rights and unilateral coercive measures” (document A/C.3/74/L.42), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his delegation views unilateral coercive measures as a tool for exerting economic pressure, especially on developing countries.  They contravene international law and the United Nations Charter.  A vote in favour of the text demonstrates support for the Charter.

The representative of Venezuela, speaking before the vote, condemned the imposition of unilateral coercive measures against developing countries as an attempt to destabilize legally elected Governments.  Such measures violate the United Nations Charter.  Venezuela has suffered from an economic embargo, while property and funds have been frozen abroad.  Challenging issues have been exploited for political means.  Foreign aggressors claim to be concerned about the suffering of so‑called criminals and say they are acting for moral reasons — yet, no one has given them that authority.  Venezuela will vote in favour of the draft.

The representative of the United States said the ideas underpinning the draft resolution do not have a basis in international law and do not promote human rights.  Stressing that States have a responsibility to protect human rights, she said the draft challenges States’ sovereign right to determine their own economic relations.  Economic sanctions are a legitimate means to achieve national and international objectives, and the United States is not alone in that practice.  She requested a vote on the draft.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “L.42” by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 55 against, with no abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would urge all States to cease adopting or implementing any unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, in particular those of a coercive nature, which create obstacles to trade relations among States.  The Assembly would also strongly urge States to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that would impede the full achievement of sustainable economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.

The representative of Iran said the increased use of unilateral measures threatens global stability.  No one is immune to the impact of such unlawful behaviour.  Abuse of economic might to score political gains through harming civilians is inexcusable.  Any measure that hinders people’s access to medical equipment, education and food must be condemned.  It is war by another name, he said, fought against women, children, patients, the elderly, the poor and refugees.  No excuse justifies taking civilians hostage for political rivalries.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies” (document A/C.3/74/L.43), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Cuba, presenting the draft on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it aims to foster more equitable representation, necessary diversity and gender balance to human rights treaty bodies.  It also aims to encourage the hiring of impartial skilled people with high moral standing in the field of human rights.  She requested States to vote in favour of the draft.

The Chair said the United States had requested a vote.

The representative of Finland, speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of the European Union, said he would vote against the resolution and “respectfully” asked others to do so.  The composition of treaty bodies is governed by provisions in each treaty, and it is not up to the General Assembly to modify treaty body provisions.  Moreover, the people elected to treaty bodies are independent experts, he said, rather than representatives of States or regional groups.  Hiring of people in the field of human rights must be done on the basis of treaty provisions and respective candidates’ merits.  He also opposed the idea of quotas for membership treaty bodies.  He said the draft fails to reiterate the important point made in General Assembly resolution 68/268 on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system, which states that the impartiality of treaty body members is essential for the performance of their duties.

The representative of the United States said her country would vote against the draft resolution, and that its views on the topic are well known.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “L.43” by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 52 against, with 1 abstention (Brazil).

By its terms, the Assembly would encourage States parties to United Nations human rights instruments to consider the possible establishment of quotas by geographical region for membership of the treaty bodies.  It would recommend, when considering the possible allocation of seats on each treaty body on a regional basis, the introduction of flexible procedures that encompass the following criteria:  each of the five regional groups is allocated seats on each treaty body in equivalent proportion to the number of States parties to the instrument in that group; there must be provision for periodic revisions of the seat allocation in order to reflect relative changes in the level of treaty ratification in each regional group; and automatic periodic revisions should be envisaged in order to avoid amending the text of the instrument when quotas are revised.  The Assembly would also request the Secretary‑General to submit a report to its seventy-sixth session, focused on any steps taken by States parties to address the matter of equitable geographical distribution.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Human rights and cultural diversity” (document A/C.3/74/L.47/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the text recognizes that all cultures contribute to enriching humankind.  Religions and cultural diversity must be respected.  The text reaffirms the right to protect and preserve cultural heritage in a national and international environment of peace, tolerance and mutual respect.  In turn, cultural diversity promotes peace and progress, as well as dialogue, tolerance and cooperation.

The Chair noted that a recorded vote had been requested by the United States.

The representative of the United States said her delegation supports cultural pluralism among individuals from different cultures.  All Governments are responsible for protecting the rights outlined in human rights law.  She expressed concern that the concept of cultural diversity being promoted in this context seeks to legitimize human rights abuses, noting that the draft misrepresents the relationship between cultural diversity and human rights law.  The United States requested a vote and will vote against the text.

The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.47/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 55 against, with no abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would urge relevant international organizations to conduct studies on how respect for cultural diversity fosters international solidarity and cooperation among all nations.  It would also have the Assembly stress the necessity of freely using the media and new information and communications technologies to create the conditions for a renewed dialogue among cultures and civilizations.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response to the representative of Armenia, said comments made on the preambular paragraphs — which recall the eighteenth summit of the Non‑Aligned Movement held in Baku in 2019 — are a vivid illustration of Armenia’s distorted reasoning.  The only abusive narrative heard today was that of Armenia’s delegation.  The final document, which reflects a common position, underlines the inadmissibility of forcible acquisition of territory.

The representative of Armenia said the remarks just made are another example of distorted facts.  The people of Nagorno‑Karabakh have exercised their right to self‑determination in full respect of all international norms.  The use of force against the peaceful aspiration of self‑determination deprives the aggressor of any claim to exercise sovereignty.  Armenia supports the right of the people of Nagorno‑Karabakh to determine their political status without question.

The representative of Azerbaijan called those remarks distorted.  The situation that Armenia attempts to present as self‑determination has nothing to do with the principle of self‑determination as described in the Charter of the United Nations.  It is well established that the right is applicable to people of Non‑Self-Governing Territories and people living under foreign subjugation.  The people in Nagorno‑Karabakh do not fit into those categories.

The representative of Armenia said Azerbaijan fails to recognize the different realities of itself and Nagorno‑Karabakh, noting that Nagorno‑Karabakh has a democratically elected Government.  It is an open country when it comes to engagement with international institutions.  A lack of transparency, along with the silencing of any voice of opposition, is normal conduct in Azerbaijan.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes” (document A/C.3/74/L.11/Rev.1).  The Chair noted that programme budget implications for the resolution are contained in document “L.70”.

The representative of the Russian Federation, presenting the draft, said cybercrime threatens entire sectors and is a crucial national security priority.  Despite the importance of the issue, there is a lack of an instrument to tackle it, and until last year’s resolution 73/187, the General Assembly had not addressed the need for a unified conceptual framework.  While inclusive international dialogue has commenced, its geographic scope is “limited”, and there is a clear need to bolster international cooperation, he said.  Stating that the draft complements similar initiatives — including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime — he said it must also take on board work done by the Expert Group to Conduct a Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime in Vienna.  He pointed out that the draft resolution “does not cost much, at less than $200,000”, and fosters a more just, balanced world order in the digital sphere by ending “club-based” agreements.

The representative of Nicaragua, speaking in a general statement, said there is a need to address international security challenges posed by the criminal use of information and communications technologies in a more representative, democratic and transparent manner, taking into account the individual circumstances of developing and developed countries.  Regional efforts have not been able to stem cybercrime, and given the nature of transnational crime, no State can do this work on its own.  Nicaragua will vote in favour of the text.

The representative of Venezuela, speaking in a general statement, said he will support the text.  The initiative to draft a convention to fight cybercrime, when harmonized with other instruments to combat transnational crime, will help protect vulnerable groups and curb neo-Nazism.

The representative of China said the draft resolution is conducive to filling legal gaps in international cooperation and addresses the needs and concerns of developing countries.

The representative of Belarus supported the resolution, of which his country is an original co-author, and stated that international cooperation is vital in investigating and combating cybercrime.

The representative of Indonesia, welcoming the text, said cybercrime is an alarming and costly problem, which existing mechanisms are unable to address.  He expressed support for an initiative that addresses the issue, avoids politicization, uses best practices from existing initiatives and builds and strengthens the capacity of national authorities.

The representative of the United States, in explanation of vote, expressed disappointment about the draft resolution, which “drives a wedge between States and undermines cooperation”.  Stating that the United States “must vote no” and urging other States to do the same, he said that there is no consensus on the need for drafting a new treaty, and that a non-inclusive divisive process will only stifle global efforts to tackle cybercrime.  The draft lacks a “reasoned basis”, as it is not based on any report or United Nations study.  In addition, it is premature and prejudges the outcome of work already being undertaken by the Vienna group of intergovernmental experts, and undermines their 2018-2021 work plan.  While other anti-crime conventions are founded on years of expert preparation, this draft resolution “bypasses that process, despite what our colleagues claim”, he said, adding: “What do they hope to achieve by forcing through such a resolution in a confrontational and opaque manner?”  Without consensus from States that receive the most requests for cooperation in cybercrime investigations, such a resolution is “no more than a stack of paper”.

The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said there is no consensus on the need for a new international instrument to fight cybercrime; in fact, the Secretary‑General’s report on the topic notes that only 17 States support such an initiative.  Unlike with the Palermo Protocols, no preparatory work has been done in the General Assembly on this new convention, and given the technical nature of cybercrime, New York is not the right venue for discussions about it.  The draft is “premature” and represents a duplication of resources and discussions held by United Nations bodies in Vienna.  “Therefore, Finland will vote ‘No, thank you’,” he stressed.

The representative of Canada, speaking on behalf of other States, including Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, questioned the premise of the draft, when global tools to address the issue already exist.  He said the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is an important baseline for international cooperation, with 64 States parties, and as such the draft is premature and duplicative.  “Let us benefit from the wisdom of the intergovernmental expert group in Vienna,” he said.

The representative of Australia said cybercrime is a persistent and evolving threat, noting that the Indo-Pacific region enjoys the world’s most rapid rate of online connectivity, which presents opportunities for cybercriminals who target the area disproportionately.  Australia approached discussions in good faith and is disappointed that the lead drafter was unwilling to consider text changes.  Member States would benefit from a genuine effort to understand the issues to build an international response that can be owned by all.  Australia cannot support a draft that seeks to undercut consensus and will diminish existing global efforts that are already delivering results.  Thus, Australia will vote against the draft, he said, noting that cybercrime discussions should remain in Vienna.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “L.11/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 88 in favour to 58 against, with 34 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would decide to establish an open-ended ad hoc intergovernmental committee of experts, representative of all regions, to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes.  It would take into full consideration existing international instruments and efforts at the national, regional and international levels on combating the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes — in particular, work and outcomes of the open-ended intergovernmental Expert Group to Conduct a Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime.  It would also request the Secretary–General to allocate the necessary resources for an ad hoc committee within the United Nations programme budget.

The representative of Costa Rica, speaking in explanation of position, said the international community must protect and observe fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy.  Use of information and communications technology for criminal purposes has been discussed for many years at the United Nations, reaffirming the need to bolster existing instruments and build capacities.  Multilateralism requires extensive discussion and steps to achieve consensus.  There is no consensus on sensitive concepts such as cyberterrorism or on State responsibility to prioritize and protect human rights, which is why Costa Rica abstained from the vote.

The representative of Japan said she voted against the draft, noting that the intergovernmental expert group in Vienna has conducted extensive discussions on ways to tackle cybercrime.  She expressed regret that the draft was introduced and voted upon, as little effort was made to reach consensus during negotiations.  While various concerns were raised about the ad hoc committee, the sponsors did not adequately address them.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking in explanation of position, said creating a new international convention on cybercrime is premature, given that there has been insufficient discussion to reach consensus on the matter.  It also runs the risk of duplicating current processes, she said, noting that the Republic of Korea voted against the draft.

The representative of Peru called for an international legal framework that takes into account all previous work accomplished in this area.  International cooperation must be bolstered with an international instrument to deal with cybercrime in all its forms.  Peru abstained from the vote because it is premature to set up a committee with such a mandate.  His country would prefer to wait for the work of the independent expert group to conclude its work.

The representative of Iran, making a general statement, welcomed the Russian Federation’s presentation of the draft as a timely step to draw attention to the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes.  He likewise welcomed the idea of elaborating an international convention through an open and inclusive process.

For information media. Not an official record.