Archive for November 1st, 2017

As General Assembly Adopts Annual Resolution Urging End to United States Embargo on Cuba, Delegates Voice Concern About Possible Reversal of Previous Policy

The General Assembly today adopted its annual resolution calling for an end to the United States-led economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba, expressing near universal concern over President Donald Trump’s announced intention to tighten the blockade, a reversal from the previous Administration’s efforts to normalize relations.

Of the 193 Member States, 191 voted in favour with the United States and Israel voting against, signifying a shift in policy from last year when both countries abstained from the vote for the first time since it was tabled in 1992.

The resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” (document A/72/L.2), reiterated its call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures, in line with their obligations under the United Nations Charter and international law, which, among other things, reaffirmed the freedom of trade and navigation.  The Assembly also urged States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.

Introducing the text, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla said that the United States’ new policy on Cuba was intended to take relations back to a past of confrontation.  Two thirds of the United States population, including Cuban immigrants living in the United States, were in favour of lifting the blockade, he said.  Action to the contrary meant that the United States Government was acting in an undemocratic fashion.  He recalled that on 16 June, President Trump announced a series of measures intended to tighten the blockade in a hostile speech before an audience made up of staunch followers of the Batista regime, annexationists and terrorists.

He underscored the “total isolation of the United States in this room” and said that without any evidence, it was using as a pretext the ailments affecting some diplomats in Havana and adopting new political measures against Cuba which further tightened the blockade.  “President Trump does not have the least moral authority to question Cuba.  He is heading a Government of millionaires destined to implement savage measures against lower‑income families, poor people, minorities and immigrants,” he said.  The United States had its own set of issues to deal with, including the country’s lack of guarantees in education and health, the assassination of African‑Americans by law enforcement and the brutal measures threatening the children of illegal aliens who grew up in the United States.

Recalling the military interventions carried out by the United States against Cuba, he said that 60 years of domination had been ended by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.  When Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz and then United States President Barack Obama made their hopeful announcement in December 2014, Mr. Obama described the blockade against Cuba as an obsolete policy which had failed to meet its goals.  However, the embargo was never recognized for what it was: a massive violation of the human rights of Cubans and an act of genocide.  Citing Cuban figures, he said between April 2016 and April 2017, losses caused by the blockade to the Cuban economy had been estimated at over $4 billion.  “There is not a Cuban family or social service that has not suffered the deprivations resulting from the blockade,” he said.

The representative of the United States said that people would wonder how the United States passively accepted the resolution in 2016 and adamantly rejected it now.  “The American people have spoken.  They have chosen a new President, and he has chosen a new Ambassador to the United Nations,” she stressed.  As long as the Cuban people continued to be deprived of their rights by their dictator regime, the United States would not fear isolation in the Assembly or anywhere else.

“Our principles are not up for a vote,” she underscored, adding that as long as the United States was a member of the United Nations it would stand up for human rights “even if we have to stand alone”.  “It is true that we have been left nearly alone in the opposition to this resolution,” she added.  But year after year, the Assembly’s time was wasted as the United States was subjected to ridiculous claims.  The Cuban regime was responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people.  The United States response had been to stand with the Cuban people and their right to determine their own future.  She also recalled that only the United States Congress could lift the embargo.

To the Cuban people she said: “I know many of you have been hopeful of the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  That is not changing.”   But since “this gesture of good will”, the Cuban Government had expanded its political detentions, with reports of 10,000 politically motivated detentions in 2016 alone.  The Government of Cuba was busy choosing the successor to the Castro dictatorship; the results of the election process were determined before the first vote was cast.  That was why the United States opposed the resolution in continued solidarity with the Cuban people.  “We might stand alone today, but when the day of freedom comes for the Cuban people we will rejoice with them as only free people can,” she said.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that her region viewed the embargo “not just as a punitive act against Cuba, but as an impediment to our shared regional development.”  She noted that opposition to the embargo policy was almost universal, adding that citizens across the United States were joining the international community by increasingly voicing their disapproval and calling for the lifting of unilateral sanctions.  Today, 73 per cent of United States citizens and 63 per cent of Cubans living in the United States supported the lifting of the blockade.

Many countries said they had welcomed the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in 2015 as a crucial step towards the normalization of relations.  The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that the current United States President’s new policy aimed at strengthening the embargo.  He underscored the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the sovereign equality of States and non‑intervention in internal affairs.  Limited foreign investment and difficult access to development credits translated directly into economic hardship for the Cuban people.  If those economic sanctions continued, Cuba’s development potential would be unfairly undermined, making it impossible for it to embark on the path towards sustainable development.

The representative of the Russian Federation called the embargo a relic of the past and a glaring interference in the internal affairs of a State.  The embargo was not just a discriminatory practice, unfair and pointless, it undermined the basis for regional and global stability by making sanctions a way of life.  He said that while his country had welcomed the United States abstaining from the vote last year, any expected normalization of relations had been halted by the new Administration in Washington D.C.  “What we are hearing today is hostile cold war rhetoric,” he added.

Many Member States said that differences among States must be resolved through the multilateral system rather than unilateral actions, with the representative of Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscoring: “Differences between States should be resolved through engagement and inclusion, not confrontation and isolation.”

Bolivia’s delegate said that the illegal blockade of Cuba was a clear example of the unilateral fashion in which the United States conducted itself.  The United States had sought to “teach” lessons about democracy and human rights to others as it continued to promote torture and maintain clandestine jails.  “They want to believe they are exceptional,” he said, adding that the United States was only exceptional in its prideful acts.

The representative of Venezuela called the embargo a “savage and disproportionate act”, which represented a ridiculous pretext to attempt to prevent Cuba from exercising the right to choose its own system of governance.  Like Cuba, his country had also been subjected to the illegal sanctions of the United States and like Cuba, Venezuela would continue to stand against them.

Also speaking today were Gabon (on behalf of the African Group), El Salvador (on behalf the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Cote D’Ivoire (on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation), Viet Nam, Paraguay, India, Egypt, Algeria, Colombia, South Africa, China, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Estonia (on behalf of the European Union), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Argentina, Kenya, Syria, Iran, Angola, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Namibia, Myanmar, Belarus, Chad, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador and Zimbabwe.

Throughout the day Member States expressed their condolences to the victims and family members of those affected by the terrorist attack which took place in New York’s Lower Manhattan yesterday.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 November, to take up report of the Human Rights Council.

Statements

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), speaking on behalf of the African Group, associated himself with the statement to be delivered by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalling that at a recent summit of the Heads of State and Governments of African nations, leaders had decried “loud and clear” the longstanding embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States.  Following recent improvements in relations, he regretted to note the embargo had been strengthened, which was clearly a step backward in the bilateral relations between the two countries and a matter that must be urgently addressed.

Noting that the embargo had undermined collective efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, he said the international community must stand together to bring an end to that blockade, which had caused hardship and constituted an infringement on the Cuban people’s right to development.  Recalling Cuba’s many positive contributions to African countries over recent decades, he said the Group fully supported “L.2” and called for a diplomatic and political solution that would prove beneficial to both Cuba and the United States.

DIEGO FERNANDO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that the economic, commercial and financial embargo remained in full application.  Recalling the positive steps the Government of the United States had taken between 2015 and 2016, he regretted to note that the current President’s new policy aimed at strengthening the embargo.  The Group of 77 was committed to the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the sovereign equality of States and non‑intervention in internal affairs, and any policy or action disregarding those principles should be seriously considered for immediate repeal.

Underscoring the sanctions’ negative effects, he said that from April 2016 to June 2017, the embargo’s impact on Cuba’s foreign trade amounted to more than $4 billion.  Limited foreign investment and difficult access to development credits translated directly into economic hardship for the Cuban people.  If those economic sanctions continued, Cuba’s development potential would be unfairly undermined, making it impossible for it to embark on the path towards sustainable development.  He also highlighted Cuba’s immense contributions to the international community, including to Ebola‑affected areas in Africa.

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that the draft resolution to end the embargo had been consistently adopted by an overwhelming majority since it was first tabled in 1992.  Since then, ASEAN had voted unanimously in favour of the text.  “Differences between States should be resolved through engagement and inclusion, not confrontation and isolation,” he said, welcoming the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in 2015.  That was an important step toward the normalization of bilateral relations, and remained essential to building better regional relations in the Americas.

A very important step would be for the United States to end its economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba, he said.  That would significantly improve the quality of life and living standards of the Cuban people and contribute to the country’s economic and social development.  Bringing an end to the embargo would also advance the General Assembly’s efforts towards achieving an inclusive 2030 Agenda, he said, calling on the United States and Cuba to chart a new way forward.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), welcomed progress made between 2015 and 2016 by Cuba and the United States.  However, he regretted to note that the blockade was still a reality for the Cuban people, posing an undeniable obstacle to their normal development, and that the new policy announced by the current United States Administration sought to strengthen sanctions.  The latter ran contrary to the letter, spirit, purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

Reiterating his strong rejection of the application of such illegal measures as the Helms‑Burton Act, he urged the United States Government to end those actions.  Highlighting that the United States Congress had the authority to completely eliminate the blockade, he said the President of the United States, if he so wished, could use his broad executive powers to substantially modify the application of sanctions.  Reiterating CELAC’s special declaration on the necessity of ending the blockade, he said the return to Cuba of the territory where the Guantanamo Naval Base was located should be an element of the process of normalizing relations through a bilateral dialogue in line with international law.  CELAC supported “L.2”, he said, hoping it would be adopted.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), associated herself with CELAC, the Group of 77 and the Non‑Aligned Movement.  Noting that CARICOM had maintained close relations with Cuba throughout the years, she said the sanctions worked contrary to the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda.  Striving for peace and the right to development had been CARICOM’s deepest concern.  “In this context, we view the embargo not just as a punitive act against Cuba, but as an impediment to our shared regional development,” she said.

“Opposition to this policy is now almost universal in nature,” she emphasized, noting that citizens across the United States were joining the international community by increasingly voicing their disapproval and calling for the lifting of unilateral sanctions.  Today, 73 per cent of Americans and 63 per cent of Cubans living in the United States supported the lifting of the blockade.  Yet, on 16 June, the current President of the United States had announced intentions to strengthen the blockade.  With such a policy in place, the current Government would reverse any progress achieved by the former Administration.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said during the Assembly’s seventy‑first session, the United States had chosen for the first time to abstain in the vote on the draft resolution on the need to end the embargo against Cuba.  That decision had led to much hope in the international community and had been followed by the reopening of embassies, restoration of commercial flights between the two countries and a visit to Havana by former United States President Barack Obama.

However, recent actions by the current President of the United States had reversed many of those decisions, he said.  “The time had come to lift the embargo against Cuba to enable its people to take full advantage of the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that no one is left behind,” he said, noting that member States of OIC would vote in favour of “L.2” and urging others to do the same.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that apart from violating international law and the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the embargo violated Cuba’s right to fully interact with the international community.  The Non‑Aligned Movement had always rejected unilateral coercive measures, especially against developing countries, and the current sanctions were a perfect example of their adverse effects, including denying Cuba access to global markets and assistance from international financial institutions and erecting obstacles to global connectivity and access to information.  “The embargo is inappropriate for our time,” he stressed, adding that it would negatively affect Cuba’s ability to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Initial steps to normalize relations between the two countries had regrettably been reversed, he said.  Calling for a total end to the blockade, he said 191 Member States had voted in favour of the draft resolution in 2016, which had expressed the international community’s unanimity and urgent call to respect the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  The United States stood alone in implementing such coercive measures, he said, calling on that country to comply with all relevant United Nations resolutions and bring about a full and immediate end to the embargo.  For its part, the international community must stand together against such unilateral and coercive measures.

Mr. RAMÍREZ, speaking in his national capacity, said Venezuela fully supported the critical principles of State sovereignty and non‑interference in the domestic affairs of all countries.  Warning against double standards, he said the embargo ran contrary to international law and was an act of criminal aggression against another State.  That “savage and disproportionate act” was the most abject form of flouting international law and represented a ridiculous pretext to attempt to prevent Cuba from exercising the right to choose its own system of governance.  Even in the face of that hostility, Cuba had been able to stand as a “moral point of reference” for the world, extending support to all counties in need without preconditions.  Their noble people had also played a major role in fighting against colonialism and apartheid around the world.  Describing attempts to reverse the process of normalizing Cuba‑United States relations as a re‑emergence of the latter’s long, sad history of imperialism and aggression, he said Venezuela had also been subjected to that country’s illegal sanctions.  Like Cuba, however, Venezuela would continue to stand strong against them.

NIKKI HALEY (United States) said that for more than 55 years, the Cuban regime had used the General Assembly’s annual debate as a “shiny object” to distract the international community from the destruction it had inflicted on its own people.  Even during the Cuban missile crisis, when the Castro dictatorship allowed the then Soviet Union to install nuclear missiles in Cuba, the Cuban regime and its Soviet allies had claimed that the real threat to peace was not the missiles aimed at the United States, but rather the United States’ discovery of those missiles.  At the time, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations had identified the Cuban regime’s habit of pointing its finger at anyone but itself.

But the real crime was the Government of Cuba’s oppression of its people and its failure to meet their most basic living standards, she said.  Year after year, the Assembly’s time was wasted and the United States was subjected to ridiculous claims.  The regime was responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people.  The United States response had been to stand with the Cuban people and their right to determine their own future.  For that reason, the United States would vote against the resolution.  “It is true that we have been left nearly alone in the opposition to this resolution,” she added.

People would wonder how the United States passively accepted the resolution in 2016 and adamantly rejected it now, she continued.  “The American people have spoken.  They have chosen a new President, and he has chosen a new Ambassador to the United Nations,” she stressed.  As long as the Cuban people continued to be deprived of their rights by their dictator regime, the United States would not fear isolation in the Assembly or anywhere else.  “Our principles are not up for a vote,” she underscored, adding that as long the United States was a member of the United Nations it would stand up for human rights “even if we have to stand alone”.  In reality the Assembly did not have the power to end the embargo.  Only the United States Congress could do that.  What the Assembly was doing today was political theatre.  It was aiding the Cuban regime in sending a warped message to the world that the sad state of the Cuban economy and oppression of its people was not its fault.

The United States strongly supported the Cuban peoples’ dreams to live a country where they could speak freely, have uncensored access to the Internet, provide for their families and determine their leadership, she said.  “I know many of you have been hopeful of the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  That is not changing,” she emphasized.  What the Cuban people did not know was that their Government responded to “this gesture of good will” by expanding its political detentions, with reports of 10,000 politically motivated detentions in 2016 alone.  “Your Government silences its critics,” she underscored, adding that the Government of Cuba had exported its destructive ideology to Venezuela.  “Now millions of Venezuelans join you in being denied their basic rights,” she added.  The Government of Cuba was busy choosing the successor to the Castro dictatorship; the results of the election process were determined before the first vote was cast.  That was why the United States opposed the resolution in continued solidarity with the Cuban people.  “We might stand alone today, but when the day of freedom comes for the Cuban people we will rejoice with them as only free people can,” she said.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), noting that the blockade ran counter to international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter, said it had inflicted enormous damage to the Cuban economy and prevented the country’s people from fully enjoying their human rights.  Despite it, the Government of Cuba had always generously responded to emergency appeals by sending doctors, medicine and equipment to countries affected by epidemic diseases or natural disasters.  Measures recently announced by the United States Government to reinforce the sanctions would reverse positive developments achieved since 2015.  The immediate removal of the blockade would be beneficial for both Cuba and the United States, and for peace and development in the region and the world.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of 77, rejected any measures that contravened international law and eroded the foundation of multilateralism.  Dialogue and direct negotiations in good faith were the appropriate way to resolve disputes between countries.  He urged the United States and Cuba to refrain from reversing recent progress and to start a new chapter based on trust, respect and development.  He expressed support for “L.2”, urging all Member States to do the same.

SUDIP BANDYOPADHYAY (India), associating himself with the “Group of 77” and the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled how 191 Member States had voted in favour of the resolution in 2016, expressing strong support to lift the embargo.  Its continued existence continued to undermine multilateralism and the credibility of the United Nations.  Embargoes impeded the full achievement of economic and social development, in particular among children and women.  They also hindered the full enjoyment of human rights, including the right to development, food, medical care and social services, and would severely impact Cuba’s ability to implement the 2030 Agenda.  He also commended Cuba’s expertise in healthcare and its swift response to the Ebola crisis in Africa.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLIZ (Bolivia) said the illegal blockade was a clear example of the unilateral fashion in which the United States conducted itself in the world.  Recalling that former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela had spotlighted Cuba as an example of selfless service to other nations and peoples, he said the United States had sought to “teach” lessons about democracy and human rights to others as it continued to promote torture and maintain clandestine jails and about multilateralism while refusing to believe in the science of climate change.  “They want to believe they are exceptional,” he said, adding that the United States was only exceptional in its prideful acts and its consistent rejection of, and flagrant disrespect for, international law.  Expressing Bolivia’s firm support for “L.2”, he thanked Cuba for its longstanding assistance to his own country and nations around the globe.

AWAD MUSTAFA (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement, OIC and the African Group, described many of the embargo’s negative effects, emphasizing that it ran counter to the efforts undertaken by Member States to leave no one behind.  Calling for the full and complete lifting of those coercive measures, he expressed hope that Cuba and the United States would take advantage of early efforts that had been made in 2016 to normalize relations between the two countries.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, the Group of 77, OIC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the consecutive annual adoption of the draft resolution calling for the lifting of the blockade was a message not to be ignored, as it reflected a strong wish of the international community.  Cuba must have the freedom of trade and navigation with any economic partner, he said, highlighting some of the country’s contributions.  Cuba had stood by Algeria in “tough times” and had sent doctors to fight the Ebola crisis in Africa for the sake of the entire international community.  It was crucial to rebuild relations between the United States and Cuba, who must engage in a bilateral dialogue leading to ending the embargo.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said maintaining the embargo was not just a relic of the past, but a glaring interference in the internal affairs of States.  Every State had a right to provide its citizens with a decent life.  The embargo was a discriminatory practice, unfair and pointless, undermining the basis for regional and global stability by making sanctions a way of life.  The Russian Federation had welcomed the decision of the United States to abstain from voting on the draft resolution in 2016.  However, the expected improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States had halted upon the arrival of the new Administration in Washington, D.C.  “What we are hearing today is hostile cold war rhetoric,” he said, emphasizing that his delegation would vote in favour of “L.2”.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), associating herself with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the economic blockade ran contrary to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Colombia had voted in favour of the resolution in the past and would continue to do so.  “This is our position regarding the non‑imposition of unilateral measures violating international law,” she said, noting that Member States must increasingly foster relations based on multilateralism and sovereign equality.  “We should undeniably be able to strengthen confidence so we can together face challenges as States.”

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed his disappointment that the current United States Administration had chosen a path of regression that furthered its isolation while causing more harm to the Cuban people.  South Africa had long supported Cuba, he said, calling on the international community to work together to free that nation from the economic shackles imposed on it by the United States for more than half a century.  The blockade could not continue into the modern era, especially in light of the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda, he stressed, noting that it not only affected Cuba but also South Africa’s efforts to trade with Cuban entities.  Indeed, the inhumane blockade must be immediately repealed, as it violated the principles of sovereign equality of States and non‑interference in their affairs.  South Africa therefore pledged its unwavering support for the Cuban people and for the text before the Assembly today, and requested other third‑party countries to do the same.

WU HAITAO (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, agreed that the economic blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba must end immediately.  The Assembly had been adopting a resolution calling for its lifting by an overwhelming majority for 25 years, he said, expressing regret that it had not had practical effect on the ground.  Indeed, the blockade continued to violate the principles of the United Nations, impede the Cuban people’s right to survival and development, and impact the rights of other countries seeking to trade with that country.  China had always imposed illegal unilateral coercive sanctions, he stressed, including of a military, economic and political character.  Describing his country’s positive relationship with Cuba, he said the world was currently undergoing major transformations that required cooperation between States “on an equal footing”.  For those reasons, China would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said international relations should promote peace and harmony between States while also fostering the prosperity of their peoples.  Mutual respect was a critical element of those relationships, he stressed, reiterating his rejection of all unilateral actions imposed against Cuba including the longstanding economic blockade which ran counter to international law and the basic principles of friendship and cooperation between nations.  Issuing a fraternal call on both countries to find common ground ‑ with full respect for the sovereignty of both ‑  he said the blockade’s elimination would help Cuba gain access to the international financial system, rebuild in the wake of hurricane Irma, improve its development opportunities and provide room for reforms.  Noting that social development was at the core of Cuba’s policies, strategies and public programmes, he emphasized that the country had fully committed itself to implementing the 2030 Agenda.

FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with the Group of 77, CELAC, and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said her country would vote in favour of today’s draft resolution.  The embargo against Cuba must be done away with in order to foster the Cuban people’s development.  For its part, Panama maintained relations with all States in the spirit of multilateralism.  It also supported the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, she said, calling for a renewal of dialogue between the two countries.  There was currently an opportunity to move towards a shared agenda.  That opportunity must be seized, she emphasized.

Introduction of draft resolution

BRUNO EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, introduced the draft resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” (document A/72/L.2).  He said the statements delivered by the United States Ambassador against Cuba were disrespectful, also adding: “The United States does not have the slightest moral authority to criticize Cuba.”  He recalled the military interventions carried out by the United States against his country, emphasizing that 60 years of domination, had been ended by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.  “She is lying,” he said of the United States Ambassador.  “This seems to be like one of those tweets that proliferate in this country in these times of division.”

“I speak on behalf of my people and on behalf of those people who cannot call President Trump and Ambassador Hailey by their names,” he continued, adding that “at least she recognized the total isolation of the United States in this room”.  Recalling how Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz and United States President Barack Obama made their hopeful announcement in December 2014, he said that the latter described the blockade against Cuba as an obsolete policy which had failed to meet its goals.  However, the blockade was never recognized as a massive violation of the human rights of Cubans or an act of genocide.  He said that tangible results had been achieved between the United States and Cuba in forming mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation to tackle terrorism, drug trafficking and cybercrime.

However, on 16 June 2017 United States President Trump announced a series of measures intended to tighten the blockade in a hostile speech before an audience made up of staunch followers of the Batista regime, annexationists and terrorists.  “President Trump does not have the least moral authority to question Cuba.  He is heading a Government of millionaires destined to implement savage measures against lower‑income families, poor people, minorities and immigrants,” he said.  United States citizens were being harmed by corruption in politics, he continued, emphasizing that there was an alarming lack of guarantees in education and health.  The assassination of African‑Americans by law enforcement agents, the death of civilians by United States troops, and the brutal measures threatening the children of illegal aliens who grew up and studied in the United States deserved condemnation.

The United States’ new policy on Cuba was intended to take relations back to a past of confrontation to satisfy the spurious interests of extreme right‑wing circles in the United States and a frustrated and aged minority of Cuban origin in Florida, he said.  With two‑thirds of the United States population, including Cuban immigrants living in the United States, in favour of lifting the blockade, the United States Government was acting in an undemocratic way.  Using as a pretext the ailments affecting some diplomats in Havana without any evidence, the United States Government had adopted new political measures against Cuba which further tightened the blockade.  Reiterating the sentiment expressed by President Castro, he said that any strategy intended to destroy the Cuban Revolution was doomed to fail.

Presenting the draft resolution, he said that the text was ever more relevant in the face of actions taken by the new United States Administration against Cuba.  According to Cuban figures, between April 2016 and April 2017, losses caused by the blockade to the Cuban economy had been estimated at over $4 billion.  The blockade was contrary to international law; its aggressive extraterritorial implementation harmed the sovereignty of all States and business interests everywhere.  “There is not a Cuban family or social service that has not suffered the deprivations and consequences resulting from the blockade,” he said.  He recalled how 18 United States companies had refused to sell Cuban medical products.  Citing examples, he said Promega had refused to sell its medical products to a Cuban medical company and Abiomed, a world market leader in circulatory support devices to treat cardiogenic shock and perform interventional cardiology, had refused to respond to Cuba’s call to incorporate its products into the Cuban health system.  The United States Government’s claim that Venezuela was a threat to international peace and security was a lie.  Cuba was embarking on elections “where seats are not bought”, he added, calling on people to vote in favour of the resolution.

The representative of the United States, speaking prior to the Assembly’s action on the draft resolution, said the people of Cuba deserved a stable, prosperous and democratic nation.  The embargo was just one part of the United States’ policy to support the rights of the Cuban people, she said, adding that her delegation would vote against the text.  Year after year, there was an attempt in the Assembly to use the United States as a scapegoat to deflect from the Cuban Government’s own practices.  Indeed, that Government currently had one of the most restrictive economies in the world, she said, adding that irrespective of United States policy the Cuban economy would continue to suffer until its Government began to support free labour markets, fully empower Cuban entrepreneurs, allow unfettered access to the Internet, open State monopolies and put in place sound macroeconomic policies.  The United States was a deep and abiding friend of the Cuban people and supported their human rights, but not their dictatorial regime.  The Government of Cuba continued its politically motivated detentions as well as its harassment of those who advocated on behalf of political and social change.  Even if the embargo were lifted today, Cubans would still not be able to realize their potential without significant reforms by their own Government.

The representative of Nicaragua said Fidel Castro’s legacy continued to grow throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as more of its people succeeded in their struggles for freedom and dignity.  After nearly 60 years of strong resistance by the Cuban people under the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against them, Cuba remained a symbol of humanism, self‑determination, science and innovation around the world.  Expressing hope that the United States would ultimately return to the path embraced by former President Obama, she called on that country to “put things right once and for all” and accept Latin American countries’ right to choose their own path and live in peace and mutual friendship with all nations of the world.  For those reasons, Nicaragua would vote in favour of the draft resolution as it had always done.

Action

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/72/L.2 by a recorded vote of 191 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.

MINNA-LIINA LIND (Estonia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said lifting the embargo on Cuba could facilitate the opening of the Cuban economy to the benefit of the Cuban people.  Positive change in Cuba was best brought about by closer government, economic and civil society engagement and people‑to‑people exchanges.  The European Union deeply regretted the United States’ intention to reintroduce restrictions on its relations with Cuba.  Beyond the embargo’s damaging impact on ordinary Cubans, unilateral United States sanctions and other unilateral administrative and judicial measures were negatively affecting European Union economic interests, The European Union’s Council of Ministers had adopted a regulation and joint action plan to protect against undue interference and problems for European Union citizens, businesses and non‑governmental organizations residing, working or operating in Cuba.

It was crucial that the United States continue to fully respect the United States‑European Union agreement that covered waivers to titles III and IV of the Helms‑Burton Act, by which the Unites States Government committed to resist future extraterritorial legislation of that kind.  The European Union‑Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement signed last year would support and accompany Cuba on its path to social and economic reform, sustainable development and modernisation.  “The United States embargo does nothing to promote these aims; but impedes their achievement,” she said.  For that reason, the European Union’s member States unanimously voted in favour of the draft resolution.

KIM IN RYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his country voted in favour of the resolution, out of the “principled stand” of the Non‑aligned Movement and the Group of 77, which objected to any form of unilateral sanctions.  The United States’ embargo on Cuba was an infringement upon the sovereignty of the United Nations Charter and part of crimes against humanity, human rights and civilization.  The current resolution, adopted by all States except the United States and Israel, demonstrated the international community’s opposition to the economic embargo.  Similarly, the Trump Administration announced “reduction of relations with Cuba” was a continuation of the failed embargo policy which threatened the Cuban Government, its people’s sovereignty and hindered normal development of the region.  All kinds of heinous acts, including the Helms‑Burton Act, inflicted serious economic damages on Cuba and the region.  The passing of the current resolution proved the hypocrisy of the United States, manifested international support to and solidarity with the Government of Cuba and condemned the “America first” policy.  The United States had manipulated the Security Council to denounce the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear tests and the launch of ballistic rockets and satellites.  Those actions, however, had pushed the country to “become a full‑fledged nuclear power of Juche and a rocket power recognized by the whole world”.  Likewise, economic sanctions against Cuba would alert the Cuban people and push them towards the building of a “powerful Cuba”.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, underscored the urgent need to put an end to the illegal embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States, which also ran contrary to the Charter principles.  Argentina was opposed to the use of all coercive unilateral economic measures, he said, voicing concern about the reversal of 2016 efforts to restore relations between Cuba and the United States.  The adoption of today’s resolution by a broad majority of Member States reflected the unity of the international community on the issue, he said, adding that only dialogue between the two nations, without preconditions and based on mutual respect, could lead to its ultimate resolution.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) said unfortunately unilateral sanctions continued to attract the attention of the powerful and dominant.  Such sanctions were prejudicial and purely politically self‑serving and they undermined multilateral solutions.  The United Nations should hold itself up to an ideal that should never demonstrate that the weak could suffer sanctions without recourse and almost without an end.  In the case of the tragic and seemingly perennial unilateral sanctions levelled against Cuba, history had become the intellectual and diplomatic prisoner of the international community.  “Why must we allow our historical habit to become a determinant of our current action?  How tragic is that?” he said.  Last year, the enforcer of the sanctions against Cuba had acknowledged that they finally needed to be stood down.  “The time to end these sanctions is long past,” he said.  The people of Cuba should be free to join the collective of international citizenry that enjoyed unhindered social, economic and political freedoms.  “Let us not let sanctions become the instrument we, or any one uses, to leave Cuba behind,” he said.  For those reasons, Kenya would vote in favour of the resolution.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the embargo demonstrated the disregard of the United States for international law and its determination to implement barbaric policies based on unilateral economic coercive measures against States that refused to be their satellites or to obey their orders.  The international community had welcomed the policy adopted by the previous United States Administration; however, the new one had demonstrated that its political doctrine was based on military force and economic dominance, aimed at forcing people to their knees.  Such measures were a form of collective punishment against entire peoples, hindering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, while also serving as an obstacle to trade and violating the rights enshrined in human rights instruments.  It was imperative that the United States understood that such unjust policies only led to the rejection of the West and provided extremists and terrorists with new weapons as they recruited among the poor and the weak who were most affected by sanctions.  Sound mechanisms must be established to clearly condemn Member States that used illegal embargoes so they would be held responsible for their policies.  The blockade must be lifted and unilateral measures put in place by the United States and the European Union against various States, including his own, must be withdrawn.

Mr. DEHGHANI (Iran) said the ongoing economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba ran counter to the principles of international law as well as the letter and spirit of the Charter.  Differences between States should be resolved through dialogue based on mutual respect, he stressed, adding that the embargo against Cuba served no purpose but to inflict hardship on its people, especially women and children.  Citing the international community’s overwhelming position against that embargo, and against the use of unilateral coercive measurers in general, he said the United States had also imposed such measures against Iran based on various pretexts and even following the agreement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015.  Indeed, such measures had regrettably become a regular part of the United States foreign policy, even in cases where Security Council resolutions had prohibited their use.  Iran remained opposed to the applications of such economic and trade measures, as well as extraterritorial actions that impacted free trade between nations.

JOÃO IAMBENO GIMOLIECA (Angola), associating himself with the African Group, the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution as the persistence of the unjust embargo against Cuba, unilaterally imposed by the United States, continued to cause harm to the Cuban people.  Calling for its immediate lifting, he said the United States should also respect the Cuban people’s right to freely choose their own system of governance.  Voicing regret over the imposition by President Trump’s Administration of additional limitations on already tightly restricted trade with Cuba, he encouraged the Secretary‑General to take measures to end the longstanding embargo.  In addition, the international community should redouble its efforts to encourage constructive dialogue between the United States and Cuba.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that the imposition of the unilateral embargo with its extra‑territorial implications had not only hindered the socio‑economic development of Cuba, it had also contradicted the principles and purposes of the Charter and international law.  His country welcomed the progress achieved in the past few years in re‑establishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, although it was regrettable to see that progress was now being compromised.

CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), associating with the Group of 77 and CELAC, welcomed the previous progress that had been achieved in the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.  Costa Rica stressed the importance of respect for international law and the Charter, and reiterated its rejection of any unilateral measures that one State may impose on another.  Costa Rica and Cuba had continued to strengthen diplomatic relations in recent years, he pointed out, calling attention to the expanded bilateral trade cooperation between the two countries, as well as the exchange of scientific and health knowledge.  The constant dialogue between the countries was aimed at fostering mutual economic development.  Solidarity and respect must be the basis for exchanges, he stressed, adding that the United Nations had clearly shown that it was against the blockade, which should be brought to an end, once and for all.

Mr. RAHMANTO (Indonesia), associating with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement, OIC and ASEAN, said that the Cuban people had been left behind because of the blockade, particularly as the country had been unable to exercise its full rights to reach for broader economic opportunities.  There had been widespread support to end the embargo, he recalled, adding that the United States policy in 2015 and 2016 had been encouraging and injected hope that the two countries could exist in an amicable environment.  It was therefore disheartening to witness new measures being put in place, aimed at strengthening the embargo against Cuba.  Indonesia had voted in favour of the draft resolution and reaffirmed its belief that the continued imposition of the embargo contradicted the main principles of international law, including the Charter.  He went on to emphasize that the application of the embargo ran contrary to objectives of the 2030 Agenda.

NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), aligning with statements made on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, the African Union and the Group of 77 and China, said that the blockade against Cuba was contrary to international law.  It deprived Cubans of a range of rights and severely impacted their economy, impeding recovery from the massive devastation of Hurricane Irma, in addition to other negative effects.  After hopeful signs of the embargo’s demise during the Obama Administration, the current tightening of measures by the United States was doubly disappointing.  He urged that country to reconsider the new measures, retaining hope that both Cuba and the United States would soon reap the benefits of normal relations.

HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of 77, ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that as a country that had experienced similar unilateral sanctions, Myanmar fully understood that the imposition of sanctions on developing countries could cause great economic hardships, especially to poor and vulnerable populations.  Myanmar had consistently demonstrated that such a unilateral measure was inconsistent with international law, transgressed fundamental humanitarian principles and contravened the purposes and principles of the Charter.  Myanmar believed that an immediate end to the economic embargo against Cuba was necessary, and that doing so would serve to promote the economic and social development of the people of Cuba.

Ms. FEDOROVICH (Belarus), noting that her delegation had voted in favour of the resolution, said Belarus had consistently stood against the use of unilateral coercive economic measures which imposed pressure on sovereign nations.  Despite recent reversals, the process towards normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba had given the international community hope that the situation could be resolved in a civilized way, she said, adding that such a peaceful resolution was the only way forward.  In addition, she said attempts by any State to change the governance system of another country through the application of military, economic or political pressure were unacceptable.

ERIC MIANGAR (Chad), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and OIC, underscored his country’s support for the Charter principles of sovereignty, non‑interference in the domestic affairs of States as well as the preservation of relations between nations.  Urging the lifting of the United States embargo against Cuba ‑ and recalling that Chad had been in favour of recent efforts to work towards normalizing diplomatic relations between the two nations ‑ he regretted the decision to reverse that progress and said Chad had voted in favour of today’s resolution.  Among other things, the embargo impeded Cuba’s efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the building of international commerce and solidarity between States.

GHISLAINE WILLIAMS (Saint Kitts and Nevis), associating herself with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement and CARICOM, expressed the strong belief that the embargo imposed on Cuba should be brought to an end.  Cuba was a close ally and had helped develop the healthcare system of Saint Kitts and Nevis.  The embargo was a burden on Cuba, negatively impacting the economy of that small island developing State, which was profoundly unfair to the Cuban people.  As the international community focused on the 2030 Agenda, Cuba remained stunned by the embargo, which went against the very principles of partnership that the United Nations stood for.  The fact that the majority of the United Nations membership traditionally voted in favour of the draft resolution signified that the overriding sentiment was that the embargo was wrong on all levels.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that for decades, Brazil had defended the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  In that context, Brazil regretted the recent measures announced by the current Government of the United States, aimed at strengthening the embargo against Cuba, including the extraterritorial dimensions.  The embargo constituted a flagrant violation of the principles of the Charter and international law, and continued to negatively affect the well‑being of the Cuban people, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.  Calls for ending the embargo had the undeniable support of the international community, as evidenced by the vote on today’s draft resolution.  Dialogue and cooperation between the two countries should be resumed as soon as possible, with the aim of overcoming the recent backslide in the normalization of relations.

CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said her delegation had voted in favour of the text because the embargo against Cuba ran counter to the principles of the Charter.  Uruguay did not recognize the application of extraterritorial laws against other States, nor any unilateral coercive measures, she said, condemning the longstanding embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States in that regard.  Noting that that policy had resulted in incalculable damage to Cuba’s development and deprived its people of their rights, she said that, in voting for today’s resolution, Uruguay was reaffirming its commitment to multilateralism.

HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, agreed that the embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States was contrary to the spirit of the United Nations and the principles enshrined in its Charter.  Regretting the continuation of the embargo, as well as recent backtracking in previous efforts to improve diplomatic relations between the two nations, she called for an immediate cessation of such unilateral measures, adding that lifting the embargo would benefit not only Cuba but the entire international community.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Group of 77, Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that his country believed that the embargo constituted a violation of the principles of international law as well as the principles enshrined in the Charter.  It also infringed on the rights of other countries to trade freely with Cuba.  Despite the embargo, Cuba continued to play a constructive role in international affairs and was among the first countries to send doctors to West Africa following the outbreak of Ebola.  With today’s vote, the international community had once against spoken in favour of dialogue and cooperation.

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Ignoring Historical Links to Modern Racism, Xenophobia only Emboldens Extremist Ideologies, Experts Tell Third Committee, Calling for ‘Honest Debate’

Failure to acknowledge historical links to modern racism would embolden extremist ideologies, experts warned the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it launched its discussion on ways to eliminate racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Experts monitoring the implementation of United Nations human rights treaties and Member States alike voiced deep concern over the rise of racist rhetoric and resurgence of Nazism as political tools, calling for targeted efforts to address root causes of discrimination.

Sabelo Gumedze, Chair of the Working Group of Experts on Peoples of African Descent, said structural racism remained pervasive, adding that people of African descent faced extreme violence, racial bias and hate.  Meeting their particular needs required an honest debate about history and its connection to modern racism, he said, calling for tailored programmes to combat structural racism and racial discrimination.  The Sustainable Development Goals presented opportunities for action to ensure that no one, including people of African descent, was left behind, he stressed.

Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, voiced concern over the rise of political extremism and populist movements that normalized such behaviour.  Referencing Nazism, he said the resurgence of such groups was “shockingly akin to the dark days of the 1940s”.  Any commemoration celebrating the Nazi regime, whether official or non‑official, should be denounced and prohibited by States.

Among those facing increasing discrimination were migrant women, said Anastasia Crickley, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, stressing that States could not “turn a blind eye” to the abuses faced by migrants.  She called on Governments to mainstream gender issues into the agenda, end hate speech and violence against migrants and refugees, and stop racial profiling.

In the ensuing dialogue, the European Union’s representative said that no country was free from racism, while Myanmar’s delegate blamed mistrust for deepening divisions among racial groups and politicizing the social climate.

Throughout the day, Member States participating in the general debate repeatedly condemned the growing incitement of hatred and intolerance.

South Africa’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), recalled the region’s experience with harsh racial discrimination perpetrated during the apartheid regime and urged the international community to fight the resurgence of that abusive behaviour.

Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, called on political and religious leaders and the media to combat those practices.  Bahamas’ delegate, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said racism, discrimination and xenophobia were being perpetuated under the guise of nationalism and patriotism.  Women of African descent suffered disproportionately from poverty, he added.

Noting the rise of anti‑Semitic speech online, Israel’s delegate pressed States to focus on education, which taught that there was no superior race, religion or culture.  Indonesia’s representative also noted that combating hate required education and awareness-raising geared towards social harmony.

To truly address hatred, the international community must accept its collective responsibility to eliminate racism and discrimination, said Iceland’s representative.

Also making presentations today were Hui Lu, Chief, Intergovernmental Affairs, Outreach and Programme Support Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Gabor Rona, Chair-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; and Taonga Mushayavanhu, Chair-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards.

The following representatives also spoke:  El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Canada (also on behalf of Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland), Egypt, Colombia, Russian Federation, Iraq, Brazil, United States, Iran, India, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Georgia, Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, Canada, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and Gabon, as did representatives of the European Union, State of Palestine and the Holy See.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 November, to continue its discussion of racism and self-determination.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to discuss the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination.

Delegates had before them a report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on its eighty‑seventh and eighty‑eighth sessions (document A/72/18), as well as the Secretary-General’s reports on: programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent (document A/72/323); a global call for action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/324); and the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/72/317).

Delegates also had before them notes by the Secretary-General transmitting two reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on: combatting the glorification of Nazism (document A/72/291), and challenges related to combating terrorism (document A/72/287).  Another note transmitted the report 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 (document A/72/286).

Finally, delegates had before them notes by the Secretariat transmitting the report of the Group of independent eminent experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/285) and on the report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (document A/72/319).

Introductory Remarks

HUI LU, Chief, Intergovernmental Affairs, Outreach and Programme Support Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), introduced four reports, first describing that by the Group of independent eminent exerts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/285), which outlined their actions.  The Secretary-General’s report on activities of the International Decade for People of African Descent (document A/72/323) stressed the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls of African descent.

She said the Secretary-General’s report on the global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/324) concluded that, despite encouraging measures adopted by some Member States, worrying trends included increasingly hostile racist and xenophobic attitudes and violence.

Finally, she said the Secretary-General’s report on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/72/317) summarized discussions and decisions related to achieving that right in the framework of activities by the Human Rights Council, its special procedures and the treaty bodies.

Interactive Dialogues — Peoples of African Descent

SABELO GUMEDZE, Chair of the Working Group of Experts on Peoples of African Descent, said the International Decade for People of African Descent and the Sustainable Development Goals presented opportunities for action to ensure that no one, including people of African descent, was left behind.  The Working Group had tailored programmes to combat structural racism and racial discrimination, he said, calling on States to collect disaggregated data, as information gathering must account for income, race, age, race and other variables.

Describing visits to Canada and Germany, he commended Canada’s efforts to address racial discrimination, and promote human rights and diversity.  However, he expressed concern over structural racism persisting in many institutions, and the overrepresentation of people of African descent in the criminal justice system.  He encouraged measures to foster integration at all levels of Government.  Turning to Germany, he commended efforts to address discrimination and accept large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers.  Still, the lives of people of African descent continued to be marked by negative stereotypes and structural racism.  He urged the Government to focus on eliminating discrimination in education, politics and public institutions.

Civil society played a critical role in the Working Group, through monitoring and reporting of racism and discrimination, he assured.  Greater action was needed to address extreme violence, racial bias and hate faced by people of African descent, he said, adding that combating the causes of such abuse required honest debate about history and its connection to modern racism.  He concluded by calling for consensus so that the Forum for People of African Descent could be held as soon as possible.

When the floor opened, the representative of South Africa agreed it was imperative that work in the field be anchored by the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, adding that the Forum for People of African Descent was an important platform for giving a voice to the voiceless.

The representative of the European Union asked the Chair to elaborate on the proposed way forward, and also asked if the Working Group had decided on future areas of thematic reporting.

The representative of Morocco asked the Working Group Chair about the view of the experts on the proposal to elaborate a declaration on people of African descent.

The representative of Brazil asked how the report’s analysis could continue, noting that among its recommendations was a suggestion for further cooperation with the Forum.

The representative of Mexico thanked the Chair for the report’s focus on sustainable development, agreeing that there was an opportunity to take real action.  He asked about minimum standards for inclusion of persons of African descent.

Mr. GUMEDZE replied that once people of African descent identified themselves as such within disaggregated data, projects would focus on them.  As far as the operational guidelines were concerned, he said one session specifically addressed the Sustainable Development Goals.  Regarding the proposed way forward on the thematic report, he said the Working Group would meet in November, and then adopt a theme for next year.  The Working Group was guided by the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and as far as the Decade was concerned, the Working Group was guided by States.  The focus on leaving no one behind was an important perspective, he said, noting that without people of African descent, the Goals would not be achieved.  They must be involved in national planning processes.

Use of Mercenaries

GABOR RONA, Chair-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, said his report focused on the use of private security companies in places where liberty was deprived, and the impact on human rights, particularly in prisons and immigration-related detention facilities.  The report highlighted the need to protect against human rights abuses by non‑State entities carrying out services that traditionally belonged to the State.  Adding a profit motive to the mix greatly augmented legitimate concerns about respect for human rights of persons deprived of their liberty, the report found.

Facilities run by private security companies presented a heightened risk of human rights violations, he said, due to the control those companies exerted, and the lack of transparency and access to grievance mechanisms for detainees to report complaints and violations.  Abuses included violence inflicted by company personnel, medical negligence leading to death and sexual abuse.  He also objected to anti‑immigrant policies that had led to a marked increase in the detention of undocumented migrants, partly due to lobbying by private security firms.  In the United States, 73 per cent of some 40,000 migrants detained were held in such facilities.  He recommended that States terminate such outsourcing of prisons and detention facilities, and in the meantime, improve oversight to track the performance of company personnel.  Functions — such as the punishment of detainees involving computation of sentences, the placement and release of detainees, and the granting of temporary leave — should not be outsourced to private contractors.  Companies should establish accountability, oversight and remedy mechanisms for human rights violations, and contracts with private contractors should comply with due diligence rules.  He also urged that alternatives to detention be used for undocumented migrants.

The representative of Mexico agreed that persons imprisoned in private institutions were disproportionately vulnerable and asked if the Working Group considered referring its recommendations to the intergovernmental conference on international migration.  He also asked if anything could be done to strengthen consular powers of States.

The representative of the European Union noted the Working Group had a clear mandate to address issues of mercenaries and expressed concern over the extension of its work to include private military and security contractors.  Noting concerns over links between terror and mercenaries, she said a clearer focus on mercenaries would improve the Working Group’s efforts.

The representative of the United Kingdom expressed concern over the Working Group extending its mandate to include private military and security contractors.  She said private prisons were subject to the same inspections as publicly managed ones and reiterated calls for the Working Group to focus on its mandate.

Mr. RONA, responding, said the Working Group had not yet considered sharing its recommendations with the intergovernmental conference on international migration and would follow-up on that matter.  He said failures of consular notification had not yet been considered, as it was unclear if that was in line with the Working Group’s mandate.

He said States were confused in their interpretation of the mandate, noting that the Working Group was aware that private military contractors were not mercenaries.  Private contractors were being considered because the mandate, as outlined by the Human Rights Council, did in fact include those groups.  He said mercenaries and private contractors performed similar functions during armed conflict, and presented risks to human rights.  Private contractors could not be allowed to fall through jurisdictional cracks, he asserted.

Racial Discrimination

ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said over the past year, the Committee had focused on human rights abuses of women belonging to minority groups.  She called on States parties to study the causes of that phenomenon and integrate gender and ethnic perspectives into targeted measures.  She also called for ending labour exploitation, especially to protect migrant women employed as domestic workers from abuse.  States could not “turn a blind eye” to human rights abuses of migrants, she said, and the lack of firm denunciation by States about arbitrary detentions, racial profiling and human trafficking had only increased migrants’ vulnerability.

The Committee had repeatedly addressed the plight of migrants.  She urged States to fulfil their obligations to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and further, to uphold the principle of non‑refoulement without discrimination, halt hate speech and violence against migrants and refugees, and stop racial profiling.  There were 178 States parties to the Convention, five of which had signed but failed to ratify it, including Myanmar, where “reports of egregious manifestations of racial discrimination towards the Rohingya people in Rakhine State have been described by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and others as ethnic cleansing.”  She called on Myanmar to ratify and implement the Convention.  Touching on work methods, she said the Committee had held three sessions and examined 20 reports over the year, and continued to implement the simplified reporting procedure.  To date, six States had agreed to be examined under that simplified process.

When the floor opened, the representative of the European Union expressed full support to the Committee, saying no country could be considered free from racism and that the bloc viewed the International Convention as the main way to eliminate it at all levels.  She expressed concern over the number of overdue reports and, noting its greater use of early-warning and urgent procedures, asked the Chair to assess the usefulness and effectiveness of those tools.

The representative of Brazil asked what measures the Chair would recommend to promote better coordination among bodies addressing racial discrimination.

The representative of Ireland asked the Chair to identify political or social trends as drivers of racism and other forms of intolerance.  He also asked the Chair to evaluate how the treaty body reform process could be used in the context of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The representative of Iraq said the preambular portion of his country’s Constitution underscored its commitment to equal rights for all Iraqis.

The representative of Myanmar said her country was a multi‑ethnic society with a long history of faiths coexisting in harmony.  But there was mistrust between communities, she noted, adding that however good intentions were, the issue had been very politicized.  “No country is perfect,” she said, and Governments must work to find solutions, adding that democratic transitions were difficult undertakings.

The representative of Morocco, recalling that the Committee was the first instrument adopted by the United Nations, said racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance were on the rise globally.  He asked the Chair about opportunities in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end those abuses and to evaluate the efficiency of existing follow-up mechanisms.

The representative of the Russian Federation, drawing attention to an issue hindering implementation of the International Convention, asked whether the Committee would carry out information campaigns describing activities that appealed to States that had reservations to the International Convention so they would remove those reservations.

Ms. CRICKLEY, responding, said the Committee was concerned over securing universal ratification of the International Convention and ensuring consistent reporting.  Reporting fatigue and treaty body reform went hand in hand, she said, citing the need to ensure countries could report in an efficient and organized manner.  The Committee was engaging with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, she stressed, noting that racial discrimination must be addressed across all the Goals.

Turning to questions of migrants, she said women migrants faced structural inequalities when looking for employment.  She said she understood the sensitivity of the situation in Myanmar, adding that assistance in line with the International Convention could only be made available if Myanmar signed and ratified that instrument.

She said early-warning and urgent action procedures were important mechanisms that allowed the Committee to respond to developing events.  The protection of human rights required energy and resources, she said, stressing that States had volunteered to conduct such work.

Statements

FABIÁN GARCÍA PAZ Y MIÑO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, condemned the growing incitement of hatred and intolerance, racial profiling and negative stereotyping propagated through new communications technologies, the Internet and media.  He called on political and religious leaders and the media to combat those practices, citing a lack of progress in the elaboration of complementary standards to the International Convention.  Highlighting the critical role of education in combating messages of racism and racial discrimination, awareness-raising and education could help combat messages of racism and racial discrimination, he said, calling for policies that encouraged citizens and institutions to end such behaviour.

He welcomed the activities planned during the International Decade for People of African Descent, notably the establishment of a consultative forum and draft declaration.  He expressed support for the Durban Declaration follow-up mechanisms and emphasized the need for resources, including by reactivating the trust fund of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.  He also expressed hope that the resolution on global efforts to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance would be adopted by consensus.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed the Community’s commitment to the follow-up of the International Decade for People of African Descent and creation of the Forum for People of African Descent.  Racism was a concern to all peoples and countries, and thus, there was a global responsibility to end it.  He expressed concern that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance continued to negatively impact civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

He recognized the role of human rights education and cultural diversity in preventing and eliminating racism and racial discrimination.  He advocated special attention for people of African descent, particularly children, adolescents, women, older persons, persons with disabilities and victims of multiple forms of discrimination.  To that end, he encouraged the adoption of affirmative actions to reduce disparities and inequalities, and to promote access to justice for people of African descent.

SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed concern about the intellectual legitimatization of racism and xenophobia by scholars, the media and, in some cases, leaders expected to act as societal examples.  The resurgence of hate groups and proponents of extremist political ideologies, which thrived on messages of racism, xenophobia and discrimination under the guise of patriotism and nationalism, was worrisome.  While respecting the rights to freedom of expression and conscience, as well as to association and assembly, it was important for States to ensure that discrimination, racism and xenophobia did not take root.

She also voiced concern that women of African descent continued to suffer disproportionately high rates of poverty, and faced barriers to education, health services and political participation, even in countries where women were increasingly represented at the executive and legislative branches of Government.  As Member States implemented the 2030 Agenda, they must be aware of the need to ensure that all peoples, especially marginalized, discriminated and excluded groups, benefited from and were made stakeholders in sustainable development.  Every effort must be made to ensure that minorities received adequate attention in the design, implementation and monitoring of all sustainable development programmes and initiatives.

EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, recalled that his region had experienced harsh racial discrimination perpetuated by the apartheid Government.  As such, he expressed alarm at the resurgence of racism and racial discrimination around the world, urging the international community to address them.  He welcomed the recent Human Rights Council decision to begin negotiations on complementary standards to the International Convention in 2018, as such standards were necessary to address xenophobia, islamophobia, racial profiling, anti‑Semitism and incitement of hatred.  They would also ensure maximum protection, adequate remedies for victims and zero impunity for perpetrators.

He went on to reiterate support for establishing a Forum for People of African Descent, and a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of People of African Descent.  Both of those would foster implementation of the programme activities of the International Decade and beyond, as well as provide a platform for attaining substantive equality.  He emphasized the need for relevant States to offer to host regional conferences on establishing that Forum, with a view to making contributions on its format, structure and content.  He also looked forward to the adoption of the resolution on a global call for action to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and on the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, to be tabled.

CAMERON JON JELINSKI,(Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, called on States to become parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance persisted, holding people back from common economic, social, cultural and political progress.  Victims faced barriers to housing, education, employment and social services, experiencing economic exclusion and negative health and education outcomes, often with intergenerational impacts.

He said institutional measures to address racism were indispensable but insufficient, recalling that individuals, families, communities, schools and workplaces were obliged to ensure that racism was eradicated.  Leaders also could set a respectful tone, he said, pressing States to work towards building more inclusive societies, which would allow them to share the fruits of peace, security, justice and prosperity.

DÖRTHE WACKER, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc placed enormous emphasis on the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  As a result, it had developed a robust legal framework to ensure that manifestations of those attitudes would be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties.  It also provided support for victims of such crimes and rigorously monitored the transposition and implementation of legislation by all Member States.  In response to the worrying trends of biased online speech that incited violence and hatred, the European Union had initiated dialogue with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google, which had led to a Code of Conduct in 2016.

Moreover, she said the bloc had taken part in the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, among other follow-up bodies, from a belief in the importance of the International Convention.  She encouraged more acceptances of that instrument, which in turn would allow the Committee to be financed from the regular United Nations budget.  Citing the New Consensus on Development, aligning the bloc’s development policy with the 2030 Agenda, she said it was high time to step up efforts to promote the economic social rights of women and girls.  In some countries, education attainment results of girls with indigenous or minority backgrounds were better than those of their male peers, who often were more exposed to racially motivated violence.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt) described a global resurgence in xenophobia, intolerance, racism and discrimination, noting that populist leaders and right-wing political movements and parties had based their platforms on fomenting incitement, hatred and social exclusion of particular religious, ethnic and national groups.  Growing xenophobia and intolerance contravened fundamental rights and freedoms.  He called for international action that would prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas.  Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories also violated the fundamental rights of the Palestinians and he pressed the United Nations to ensure that Palestinians could enjoy the right to self-determination.

MAURICIO CARABALI BAQUERO (Colombia) said diversity enriched society.  His country’s constitution provided the basic framework to combat all types of discrimination and included 30 articles which protected ethnic groups from such behaviour.  It also ensured equal opportunity and equity, and called for affirmative action to help marginalized groups.  The International Decade for People of African Descent was a huge opportunity to implement public policies that fought racism and discrimination, he said, adding that in Colombia, perpetrators of racism could be jailed for 12 to 36 months.  The country had also outlawed discrimination against people with disabilities.

NELLY SHILO (Israel) said diversity should be embraced and warned that the concept had been misunderstood by some and corrupted by racism, anti‑Semitism and Islamophobia.  Too many people used their power to divide, she asserted, calling for a united fight against racism.  Recalling that anti‑Semitism incessantly plagued the Jewish people, she cited some 250,000 instances of hate speech online to stress that, as social media transcended borders, big data companies must play a role in fighting online racism.  Combating intolerance required a focus on education, which taught that there was no superior race, religion or culture.

Mr. LUKIANTSEV (Russian Federation) said the past year had seen greater use of racist rhetoric by politicians, which was particularly troubling and fundamentally contradicted the promotion of human rights.  In parts of Europe, Nazi collaborators had been commemorated as national heroes, with a war being waged against those who fought Nazism and the concept of racial superiority.  International mechanisms to combat racism must be strengthened and protections afforded to “non‑citizens” and minority groups in Baltic States.  Moreover, legal measures that deteriorated protections of minority languages, including in Ukraine, was a clear concern, he said, noting that the right to self-determination was enshrined in international law and calling for a break to colonial traditions.

ACHSANUL HABIB (Indonesia) said fostering dialogue, tolerance and respect for diversity was essential for combating racial discrimination and intolerance.  He voiced support for the comprehensive implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, stressing the importance of fighting discrimination in an inclusive manner that involved civil society, academia and the media.  Islamophobia, glorification of Nazism and other practices which fuelled racism and racial discrimination should be condemned, he said, and the legal, policy and institutional measures to combat racism observed.  Education and awareness-raising focused on social harmony were also essential.

Racism, Glorification of Nazism

MUTUMA RUTEERE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, presented two reports, the first of which addressed challenges linked to combating such behaviour in the current counter‑terrorism context.  Expressing concern that some Governments used the fight against terrorism to justify the continuous repression of ethnic minorities, he said many States had adopted legislation with vague or overly broad definitions of terrorism, which had led to policing practices that targeted racial and ethnic minority communities.  Reviewing legal and normative frameworks seeking to combat racism and xenophobia while countering terrorism, he said it was important for counter‑terrorism measures to comply with principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and non‑discrimination.

He said his second report was on the implementation of resolution 71/179 on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that fuelled racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Any commemorative celebration of the Nazi regime and its crimes against humanity, whether official or non‑official, should be denounced and prohibited by States, he said, adding that any legislative or constitutional measure adopted to counter extremist political parties, movements or groups — including neo‑Nazis and skinhead groups — should conform with international human rights standards.  The rise of political extremism and populist movements seeking to normalize racism and discrimination was a serious challenge.  In many ways, he said, the resurgence of racism and xenophobia through populism and extremist movements had made the present “shockingly akin to the dark days of the 1940s”.

When the floor opened for questions, the representative of Belgium, associating herself with the European Union, said a purely security-based approach to terrorism could be difficult and counterproductive.  She thanked the Special Rapporteur for his work during the last six years.

The representative of the European Union said that while terrorism could not be tolerated, it also could not be used to justify repression.  She asked the Special Rapporteur to comment on the targeting of people belonging to minorities in the context of migration flows, and asked how States could ensure the fear of terrorism did not lead to more acute manifestations of racism and xenophobia.

The representative of the United Kingdom agreed with the Special Rapporteur that States must tackle hate crime, adding that her country criminally penalized the incitement to racial hatred.

The representative of Brazil underscored the importance of human rights education, and asked about the tools to combat xenophobia in opposing terrorism.

The representative of the Russian Federation supported the work of the Special Rapporteur, and commended his position on the spread of racist ideology and the unacceptability of qualifying that as freedom of expression.

The representative of the Maldives said that under no circumstance could any country justify xenophobia, racism and religious intolerance with discriminatory policies disguised as countering terrorism.

The representative of Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur for examples of measures to ensure integration, with the aim of preventing political exclusion and socioeconomic marginalization.

The representative of Azerbaijan said encouraging tolerance was a fundamental step in combating racism, and to that end, her country had initiated the Baku process for the promotion of intercultural dialogue.

The representative of Morocco expressed concern about official statements or laws which were Islamophobic, and invited the Special Rapporteur to visit her country.

The representative of South Africa noted the worrying observations in the Special Rapporteur’s report on increased acts of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia emerging from State counter‑terrorism practices.  She expressed concern over the lack of implementation of successive resolutions calling for the Special Rapporteur to produce a long overdue report that “examines national models of mechanisms that measure racial equality and their added value in the eradication of racial discrimination and to report on such challenges, successes and best practices”.

The representative of Armenia said threats to human security caused by hatred should be perceived as serious challenges that could undermine stability.  As such, a conference would be held in Yerevan, Armenia.

Mr. RUTEERE replied that fear of terrorism could foment rights violations, adding that prejudice was fuelled by portrayals of certain groups in the media and public discourse, making it difficult for them to integrate into communities.  The tendency to reduce people and communities “into single stories” had fuelled conflict, massacre and genocide.  On how States could collaborate on counter-terrorism measures, he underscored the need for greater sharing of good practices, noting that many had been developed at the municipal level, yet had not been incorporated into national and international standards.

The gender dimension of discrimination should be examined, he said, but that was not a focus of his mandate.  Regarding the best way to design integration policy, he said it was crucial to develop initiatives which involved both migrant and host communities.  “It cannot be a one-way form of integration,” he said.  “For it to be effective, both groups need to be involved.”  There was also a need to find opportunities for migrants to participate in social and economic life, and not simply rely on legislation to achieve integration.  He agreed with South Africa’s delegate who decried that tools to measure national progress on discrimination were lacking, highlighting the need for follow-up mechanisms.

Complementary Standards

TAONGA MUSHAYAVANHU, Chair-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, said that over the past decade, that body had engaged with more than 50 experts from academia, civil society, national human rights institutions and intergovernmental organizations to discuss a range of issues regarding racial discrimination.  The Committee had sought to fill gaps in the international framework to address racial discrimination, but there was a lack of political will to fulfil its mandate.  He had provided the Committee with a Chair’s text, a substantive compilation of four topics: xenophobia, national mechanisms, procedural gaps and racism in sport.

He said he had identified potential “points of convergence” for the development of complementary standards on those four topics and submitted recommendations on constitutional, legislative, institutional and administrative standards.  In six months, the Committee would hold its tenth session, which risked “becoming hostage to an endless discussion” if there was no “meeting of minds”.  The Committee must follow the new direction given by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and start negotiations on the draft additional protocol to the Convention criminalizing racist and xenophobic acts.  He urged States to summon the political will to compromise, reach an agreement on the Committee’s work and put forward ideas to advance negotiations.

The representative of the European Union said the bloc had taken legal and practical steps to address racism and xenophobia.  She called on Member States to do more to implement the International Convention.

The representative of Iraq pointed out that refugees had been marginalized and often experienced xenophobia in host countries, pressing the international community to do more to address racial discrimination.

The representative of South Africa called for measures that fostered tolerance and respect for diversity, stressing that the rise of populism had exacerbated xenophobia and discrimination.

The representative of Zimbabwe urged States to be more flexible in allowing the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to fulfil its mandate.

Mr. MUSHAYAVANHU thanked delegates for their comments and agreed that more must be done to address racial discrimination, as progress had been too slow.  History had shown that racism affected the foundations of society, he stressed.

Statements

Mr. ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country was committed to eliminating racism and all types of discrimination.  Iraq had done everything to free its territory from the scourge of terrorism and extremism, and he called on the international community to support the country so it could build a new society.  Iraq worked to prosecute crimes committed by foreign combatants, he said, noting that United Nations resolutions should be kept in mind when countering terrorism.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) associating himself with CELAC and with the Group of 77 and China, said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had cited multiple and reinforcing types of discrimination against women and girls.  The specific needs of women and girls of African descent should be a priority.  The 2030 Agenda presented opportunities to address the disadvantages facing people of African descent.  The commitment to leave no one behind must be linked to people of African descent if that aspiration was to be achieved.  Brazil looked forward to the establishment of the Forum for People of African Descent.

The representative of the United States said racism came in many forms, from violence and genocide, to everyday intolerance and persecution.  Everyone had a duty to speak out against discrimination, as ending racism could not be achieved by Government action alone.  It was crucial that leaders also speak out against racism.  In the United States, children were taught about the importance of respect for civil rights and diversity in public schools, she added.

The representative of Iran said her country was deeply concerned about attacks on refugees and migrants, as well as hate speech by high-ranking political officials which had been translated into discriminatory legislation.  Overbearing immigration policies, hate speech and discrimination had become routine in some Western countries, she said, noting that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories had denied Palestinians of their right to justice and a dignified life.  The “deafening silence” of self-proclaimed human rights defenders towards that occupation was likewise deplorable, calling the discrimination against non‑Jewish residents of Palestine reminiscent of apartheid.  Israel, she said, was a real threat to the fight against discrimination.

NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, State of Palestine, said that not a day passed when Palestinians’ rights were not violated.  The Palestinian people had been deprived of their rights to self-determination and sovereignty over their land for five decades.  Over the past year, Israel had continued its illegal construction of settlements, she said, “flagrantly” pushing ahead with plans to colonize and de facto annex more Palestinian land.  She called for real action to end Israel’s violations, adding that the Palestinian people insisted on the attainment of their rights, including to self-determination.

SURESH KODIKUNNIL (India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said history was plagued with gross human rights violations from slavery to colonialism.  While genetic studies had confirmed the mixed ancestry of all peoples, racism, discrimination and xenophobia persisted.  Fears over increased human mobility, the uneven economic impacts of globalization and an exodus of refugees had translated into extreme intolerance and xenophobia, fostering nationalist tendencies.  “Insecurities based on irrational and inadequate understanding of global trends are often utilized for political purposes,” he said.  India had been a longstanding home to “mega‑diversity”, drawing strength from a variety of ethnicities, religions and languages.  The Constitution enshrined the principle of equality, while the penal code was being revised to combat acts related to racial discrimination.  As a former colony, India strongly supported Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

DAVÍÐ LOGI SIGURÐSSON (Iceland) said racism and intolerance affected people across the world and related human rights violations must be fought with conviction.  He welcomed increased attention accorded to the challenges to human rights and democracy posed by extremist ideological movements.  While stressing the need to protect freedom of speech, he called for greater vigilance against the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, expressing concern that groups attacking racial and ethnic minorities also targeted individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  The international community must combat hatred, he asserted, adding that all States had a collective responsibility to eliminate racism and discrimination.

Ms. DILEYM (Saudi Arabia) rejected Israel’s aggression against Palestinians and reiterated the need for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian question.  She underscored the importance of safeguarding their right to self-determination and called on the international community to recognize that right.  A just, peaceful solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories must be found.

Ms. KIPIANI (Georgia), associating herself with European Union, condemned all forms of xenophobia and racism.  Georgia had adopted a human rights strategy and action plan with the aim of combating discrimination and intolerance.  She highlighted the ongoing ethnically targeted violations against Georgians living in the Russian-occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.  The process of fortifying the occupation line had denied people access to property, religious sites, education and health care.  There also had been severe restrictions on education in the Georgian language in the Gali district of Abkhazia.  “The humanitarian and human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied regions remains alarming, given that no international monitoring mechanisms are allowed to conduct monitoring,” she added.

Ms. OZCERI (Turkey) underscored States parties’ obligation to end racial discrimination by any group or organization.  Devoid of targeted policies and monitoring, racial discrimination could not be stopped by legislative frameworks per se.  Contemporary trends had translated into new forms of racism, and vulnerable groups continued to fall victim to discrimination and intolerance.  Hostility and hate crimes had had a serious effect on Muslims and migrant communities, she said, and the depiction of those crimes as single incidents undermined attempts to address root causes.  The international community should not be intimidated from addressing racism.  A successful fight required combined efforts at the national and international levels.

SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) called the right to self-determination a pillar of human rights.  The question of Palestine was the pivotal issue in the Middle East, and finding a comprehensive solution to it was integral to achieving regional stability.  No solution would suffice if it was not based on the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Jordan rejected all measures to change the historical demographic character of Al‑Quds, she said, adding that Jordan could not consider any pretext to deprive Palestinians of rights.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said the right to self-determination was an international norm enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.  It must be exercised freely without coercion or repression, and must not lapse with the passage of time.  The legitimate struggles of people must not be conflated with terrorism.  The denial of that right was particularly distressing in Indian‑occupied Kashmir, where people were subjected to “brutal and ruthless foreign occupation”.  The peoples of Jammu and Kashmir remained deprived of their rights, despite the adoption of Security Council resolutions.  The dispute would persist until the people of that area were allowed to exercise their will.  Stressing that faith-based discrimination threatened global peace and security, he called on all communities to stand united against those seeking to entice violence through stereotyping.

KAITLYN SHELAGH ELIZABETH PRITCHARD, (Canada), citing the significant cost of racism, said people experiencing racism often faced barriers to housing and education.  Canadians of African and indigenous descent were overly represented in correctional facilities and underrepresented in leadership positions.  While institutional frameworks were crucial in fighting racism, there was also a need for individuals to do their part.  Canada embraced diversity, as seen in its immigration and refugee policies, she said, calling on States to combat racism and share the fruits of peace and security.

Ms. MKHWANAZI (South Africa) said self-determination was an inalienable right that should be respected in all circumstances.  The Government regarded decolonization and foreign occupation as important matters, which was why it was deeply concerned by the challenges to self-determination experienced by both the Sahrawi and Palestinian peoples.  She welcomed the Secretary-General’s affirmation of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and called on States to end their inaction on the various United Nations decisions related to the Sahrawi and Palestinian people.

MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea) said the Secretary-General’s report on the right to self-determination was a reminder of the indignity of colonialism.  It was incumbent on the United Nations to ensure and safeguard the rights of peoples in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, he said, adding that 17 such Territories remained “under the shackles” of colonialism.  The 2030 Agenda called for leaving nobody behind, he said, adding that justice, freedom and peace were principles that must apply to subjugated people.  He welcomed the upcoming self-determination referendum in New Caledonia and encouraged access for a United Nations visiting mission to the territory ahead of the poll.

Mr. ONANGA NDJILA (Gabon) said the Constitution stipulated that racial discrimination should be punished by law.  A culture of dialogue and peace remained at the heart of all policies.  There were migrants and asylum seekers from all over the African continent, he noted, adding that Gabon had created an observatory for inequalities which sought to combat inequality.  Ending racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance throughout the world was a daunting task, requiring everyone to be involved, including through more dynamic cooperation within the United Nations.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said ongoing processes leading to the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration represented an unprecedented opportunity to oppose intolerance, racial discrimination and xenophobia against migrants, refugees and their families, and to protect their fundamental rights, regardless of status.  It was important to help others see that migrants and refugees were not a problem to be solved, but brothers and sisters to be welcomed.  International covenants and national legislation were indispensable for combating such behaviour, he said, stressing that human rights education played a key role in fostering social cohesion and promoting respect for human dignity.  It was vital to develop a culture of human rights that wisely linked the individual to the common good.

Right of Reply

The representative of India, exercising the right of reply, said Pakistan was a safe haven for terrorists, stressing that Jammu and Kashmir would remain a part of India.

The representative of Pakistan said India’s illegitimate control of Jammu and Kashmir had been rejected by the people living in that territory.  The onus of finding a peaceful solution to Jammu and Kashmir lay with India, which should respect the Security Council resolution on the issue.

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Ignoring Historical Links to Modern Racism, Xenophobia only Emboldens Extremist Ideologies, Experts Tell Third Committee, Calling for ‘Honest Debate’

Failure to acknowledge historical links to modern racism would embolden extremist ideologies, experts warned the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it launched its discussion on ways to eliminate racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Experts monitoring the implementation of United Nations human rights treaties and Member States alike voiced deep concern over the rise of racist rhetoric and resurgence of Nazism as political tools, calling for targeted efforts to address root causes of discrimination.

Sabelo Gumedze, Chair of the Working Group of Experts on Peoples of African Descent, said structural racism remained pervasive, adding that people of African descent faced extreme violence, racial bias and hate. Meeting their particular needs required an honest debate about history and its connection to modern racism, he said, calling for tailored programmes to combat structural racism and racial discrimination. The Sustainable Development Goals presented opportunities for action to ensure that no one, including people of African descent, was left behind, he stressed.

Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, voiced concern over the rise of political extremism and populist movements that normalized such behaviour. Referencing Nazism, he said the resurgence of such groups was shockingly akin to the dark days of the 1940s. Any commemoration celebrating the Nazi regime, whether official or non official, should be denounced and prohibited by States.

Among those facing increasing discrimination were migrant women, said Anastasia Crickley, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, stressing that States could not turn a blind eye to the abuses faced by migrants. She called on Governments to mainstream gender issues into the agenda, end hate speech and violence against migrants and refugees, and stop racial profiling.

In the ensuing dialogue, the European Union's representative said that no country was free from racism, while Myanmar's delegate blamed mistrust for deepening divisions among racial groups and politicizing the social climate.

Throughout the day, Member States participating in the general debate repeatedly condemned the growing incitement of hatred and intolerance.

South Africa's representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), recalled the region's experience with harsh racial discrimination perpetrated during the apartheid regime and urged the international community to fight the resurgence of that abusive behaviour.

Ecuador's representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, called on political and religious leaders and the media to combat those practices. Bahamas' delegate, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said racism, discrimination and xenophobia were being perpetuated under the guise of nationalism and patriotism. Women of African descent suffered disproportionately from poverty, he added.

Noting the rise of anti Semitic speech online, Israel's delegate pressed States to focus on education, which taught that there was no superior race, religion or culture. Indonesia's representative also noted that combating hate required education and awareness-raising geared towards social harmony.

To truly address hatred, the international community must accept its collective responsibility to eliminate racism and discrimination, said Iceland's representative.

Also making presentations today were Hui Lu, Chief, Intergovernmental Affairs, Outreach and Programme Support Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Gabor Rona, Chair-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; and Taonga Mushayavanhu, Chair-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards.

The following representatives also spoke: El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Canada (also on behalf of Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland), Egypt, Colombia, Russian Federation, Iraq, Brazil, United States, Iran, India, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Georgia, Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, Canada, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and Gabon, as did representatives of the European Union, State of Palestine and the Holy See.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 November, to continue its discussion of racism and self-determination.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to discuss the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination.

Delegates had before them a report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on its eighty seventh and eighty eighth sessions (document A/72/18), as well as the Secretary-General's reports on: programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent (document A/72/323); a global call for action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/324); and the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/72/317).

Delegates also had before them notes by the Secretary-General transmitting two reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on: combatting the glorification of Nazism (document A/72/291), and challenges related to combating terrorism (document A/72/287). Another note transmitted the report 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 (document A/72/286).

Finally, delegates had before them notes by the Secretariat transmitting the report of the Group of independent eminent experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/285) and on the report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (document A/72/319).

Introductory Remarks

HUI LU, Chief, Intergovernmental Affairs, Outreach and Programme Support Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), introduced four reports, first describing that by the Group of independent eminent exerts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/285), which outlined their actions. The Secretary-General's report on activities of the International Decade for People of African Descent (document A/72/323) stressed the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls of African descent.

She said the Secretary-General's report on the global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/72/324) concluded that, despite encouraging measures adopted by some Member States, worrying trends included increasingly hostile racist and xenophobic attitudes and violence.

Finally, she said the Secretary-General's report on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/72/317) summarized discussions and decisions related to achieving that right in the framework of activities by the Human Rights Council, its special procedures and the treaty bodies.

Interactive Dialogues � Peoples of African Descent

SABELO GUMEDZE, Chair of the Working Group of Experts on Peoples of African Descent, said the International Decade for People of African Descent and the Sustainable Development Goals presented opportunities for action to ensure that no one, including people of African descent, was left behind. The Working Group had tailored programmes to combat structural racism and racial discrimination, he said, calling on States to collect disaggregated data, as information gathering must account for income, race, age, race and other variables.

Describing visits to Canada and Germany, he commended Canada's efforts to address racial discrimination, and promote human rights and diversity. However, he expressed concern over structural racism persisting in many institutions, and the overrepresentation of people of African descent in the criminal justice system. He encouraged measures to foster integration at all levels of Government. Turning to Germany, he commended efforts to address discrimination and accept large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. Still, the lives of people of African descent continued to be marked by negative stereotypes and structural racism. He urged the Government to focus on eliminating discrimination in education, politics and public institutions.

Civil society played a critical role in the Working Group, through monitoring and reporting of racism and discrimination, he assured. Greater action was needed to address extreme violence, racial bias and hate faced by people of African descent, he said, adding that combating the causes of such abuse required honest debate about history and its connection to modern racism. He concluded by calling for consensus so that the Forum for People of African Descent could be held as soon as possible.

When the floor opened, the representative of South Africa agreed it was imperative that work in the field be anchored by the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, adding that the Forum for People of African Descent was an important platform for giving a voice to the voiceless.

The representative of the European Union asked the Chair to elaborate on the proposed way forward, and also asked if the Working Group had decided on future areas of thematic reporting.

The representative of Morocco asked the Working Group Chair about the view of the experts on the proposal to elaborate a declaration on people of African descent.

The representative of Brazil asked how the report's analysis could continue, noting that among its recommendations was a suggestion for further cooperation with the Forum.

The representative of Mexico thanked the Chair for the report's focus on sustainable development, agreeing that there was an opportunity to take real action. He asked about minimum standards for inclusion of persons of African descent.

Mr. GUMEDZE replied that once people of African descent identified themselves as such within disaggregated data, projects would focus on them. As far as the operational guidelines were concerned, he said one session specifically addressed the Sustainable Development Goals. Regarding the proposed way forward on the thematic report, he said the Working Group would meet in November, and then adopt a theme for next year. The Working Group was guided by the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and as far as the Decade was concerned, the Working Group was guided by States. The focus on leaving no one behind was an important perspective, he said, noting that without people of African descent, the Goals would not be achieved. They must be involved in national planning processes.

Use of Mercenaries

GABOR RONA, Chair-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, said his report focused on the use of private security companies in places where liberty was deprived, and the impact on human rights, particularly in prisons and immigration-related detention facilities. The report highlighted the need to protect against human rights abuses by non State entities carrying out services that traditionally belonged to the State. Adding a profit motive to the mix greatly augmented legitimate concerns about respect for human rights of persons deprived of their liberty, the report found.

Facilities run by private security companies presented a heightened risk of human rights violations, he said, due to the control those companies exerted, and the lack of transparency and access to grievance mechanisms for detainees to report complaints and violations. Abuses included violence inflicted by company personnel, medical negligence leading to death and sexual abuse. He also objected to anti immigrant policies that had led to a marked increase in the detention of undocumented migrants, partly due to lobbying by private security firms. In the United States, 73 per cent of some 40,000 migrants detained were held in such facilities. He recommended that States terminate such outsourcing of prisons and detention facilities, and in the meantime, improve oversight to track the performance of company personnel. Functions � such as the punishment of detainees involving computation of sentences, the placement and release of detainees, and the granting of temporary leave � should not be outsourced to private contractors. Companies should establish accountability, oversight and remedy mechanisms for human rights violations, and contracts with private contractors should comply with due diligence rules. He also urged that alternatives to detention be used for undocumented migrants.

The representative of Mexico agreed that persons imprisoned in private institutions were disproportionately vulnerable and asked if the Working Group considered referring its recommendations to the intergovernmental conference on international migration. He also asked if anything could be done to strengthen consular powers of States.

The representative of the European Union noted the Working Group had a clear mandate to address issues of mercenaries and expressed concern over the extension of its work to include private military and security contractors. Noting concerns over links between terror and mercenaries, she said a clearer focus on mercenaries would improve the Working Group's efforts.

The representative of the United Kingdom expressed concern over the Working Group extending its mandate to include private military and security contractors. She said private prisons were subject to the same inspections as publicly managed ones and reiterated calls for the Working Group to focus on its mandate.

Mr. RONA, responding, said the Working Group had not yet considered sharing its recommendations with the intergovernmental conference on international migration and would follow-up on that matter. He said failures of consular notification had not yet been considered, as it was unclear if that was in line with the Working Group's mandate.

He said States were confused in their interpretation of the mandate, noting that the Working Group was aware that private military contractors were not mercenaries. Private contractors were being considered because the mandate, as outlined by the Human Rights Council, did in fact include those groups. He said mercenaries and private contractors performed similar functions during armed conflict, and presented risks to human rights. Private contractors could not be allowed to fall through jurisdictional cracks, he asserted.

Racial Discrimination

ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said over the past year, the Committee had focused on human rights abuses of women belonging to minority groups. She called on States parties to study the causes of that phenomenon and integrate gender and ethnic perspectives into targeted measures. She also called for ending labour exploitation, especially to protect migrant women employed as domestic workers from abuse. States could not turn a blind eye to human rights abuses of migrants, she said, and the lack of firm denunciation by States about arbitrary detentions, racial profiling and human trafficking had only increased migrants' vulnerability.

The Committee had repeatedly addressed the plight of migrants. She urged States to fulfil their obligations to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and further, to uphold the principle of non refoulement without discrimination, halt hate speech and violence against migrants and refugees, and stop racial profiling. There were 178 States parties to the Convention, five of which had signed but failed to ratify it, including Myanmar, where reports of egregious manifestations of racial discrimination towards the Rohingya people in Rakhine State have been described by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and others as ethnic cleansing. She called on Myanmar to ratify and implement the Convention. Touching on work methods, she said the Committee had held three sessions and examined 20 reports over the year, and continued to implement the simplified reporting procedure. To date, six States had agreed to be examined under that simplified process.

When the floor opened, the representative of the European Union expressed full support to the Committee, saying no country could be considered free from racism and that the bloc viewed the International Convention as the main way to eliminate it at all levels. She expressed concern over the number of overdue reports and, noting its greater use of early-warning and urgent procedures, asked the Chair to assess the usefulness and effectiveness of those tools.

The representative of Brazil asked what measures the Chair would recommend to promote better coordination among bodies addressing racial discrimination.

The representative of Ireland asked the Chair to identify political or social trends as drivers of racism and other forms of intolerance. He also asked the Chair to evaluate how the treaty body reform process could be used in the context of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The representative of Iraq said the preambular portion of his country's Constitution underscored its commitment to equal rights for all Iraqis.

The representative of Myanmar said her country was a multi ethnic society with a long history of faiths coexisting in harmony. But there was mistrust between communities, she noted, adding that however good intentions were, the issue had been very politicized. No country is perfect, she said, and Governments must work to find solutions, adding that democratic transitions were difficult undertakings.

The representative of Morocco, recalling that the Committee was the first instrument adopted by the United Nations, said racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance were on the rise globally. He asked the Chair about opportunities in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end those abuses and to evaluate the efficiency of existing follow-up mechanisms.

The representative of the Russian Federation, drawing attention to an issue hindering implementation of the International Convention, asked whether the Committee would carry out information campaigns describing activities that appealed to States that had reservations to the International Convention so they would remove those reservations.

Ms. CRICKLEY, responding, said the Committee was concerned over securing universal ratification of the International Convention and ensuring consistent reporting. Reporting fatigue and treaty body reform went hand in hand, she said, citing the need to ensure countries could report in an efficient and organized manner. The Committee was engaging with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, she stressed, noting that racial discrimination must be addressed across all the Goals.

Turning to questions of migrants, she said women migrants faced structural inequalities when looking for employment. She said she understood the sensitivity of the situation in Myanmar, adding that assistance in line with the International Convention could only be made available if Myanmar signed and ratified that instrument.

She said early-warning and urgent action procedures were important mechanisms that allowed the Committee to respond to developing events. The protection of human rights required energy and resources, she said, stressing that States had volunteered to conduct such work.

Statements

FABIA�N GARCA�A PAZ Y MIA�O (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, condemned the growing incitement of hatred and intolerance, racial profiling and negative stereotyping propagated through new communications technologies, the Internet and media. He called on political and religious leaders and the media to combat those practices, citing a lack of progress in the elaboration of complementary standards to the International Convention. Highlighting the critical role of education in combating messages of racism and racial discrimination, awareness-raising and education could help combat messages of racism and racial discrimination, he said, calling for policies that encouraged citizens and institutions to end such behaviour.

He welcomed the activities planned during the International Decade for People of African Descent, notably the establishment of a consultative forum and draft declaration. He expressed support for the Durban Declaration follow-up mechanisms and emphasized the need for resources, including by reactivating the trust fund of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. He also expressed hope that the resolution on global efforts to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance would be adopted by consensus.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed the Community's commitment to the follow-up of the International Decade for People of African Descent and creation of the Forum for People of African Descent. Racism was a concern to all peoples and countries, and thus, there was a global responsibility to end it. He expressed concern that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance continued to negatively impact civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

He recognized the role of human rights education and cultural diversity in preventing and eliminating racism and racial discrimination. He advocated special attention for people of African descent, particularly children, adolescents, women, older persons, persons with disabilities and victims of multiple forms of discrimination. To that end, he encouraged the adoption of affirmative actions to reduce disparities and inequalities, and to promote access to justice for people of African descent.

SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed concern about the intellectual legitimatization of racism and xenophobia by scholars, the media and, in some cases, leaders expected to act as societal examples. The resurgence of hate groups and proponents of extremist political ideologies, which thrived on messages of racism, xenophobia and discrimination under the guise of patriotism and nationalism, was worrisome. While respecting the rights to freedom of expression and conscience, as well as to association and assembly, it was important for States to ensure that discrimination, racism and xenophobia did not take root.

She also voiced concern that women of African descent continued to suffer disproportionately high rates of poverty, and faced barriers to education, health services and political participation, even in countries where women were increasingly represented at the executive and legislative branches of Government. As Member States implemented the 2030 Agenda, they must be aware of the need to ensure that all peoples, especially marginalized, discriminated and excluded groups, benefited from and were made stakeholders in sustainable development. Every effort must be made to ensure that minorities received adequate attention in the design, implementation and monitoring of all sustainable development programmes and initiatives.

EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, recalled that his region had experienced harsh racial discrimination perpetuated by the apartheid Government. As such, he expressed alarm at the resurgence of racism and racial discrimination around the world, urging the international community to address them. He welcomed the recent Human Rights Council decision to begin negotiations on complementary standards to the International Convention in 2018, as such standards were necessary to address xenophobia, islamophobia, racial profiling, anti Semitism and incitement of hatred. They would also ensure maximum protection, adequate remedies for victims and zero impunity for perpetrators.

He went on to reiterate support for establishing a Forum for People of African Descent, and a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of People of African Descent. Both of those would foster implementation of the programme activities of the International Decade and beyond, as well as provide a platform for attaining substantive equality. He emphasized the need for relevant States to offer to host regional conferences on establishing that Forum, with a view to making contributions on its format, structure and content. He also looked forward to the adoption of the resolution on a global call for action to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and on the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, to be tabled.

CAMERON JON JELINSKI,(Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, called on States to become parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance persisted, holding people back from common economic, social, cultural and political progress. Victims faced barriers to housing, education, employment and social services, experiencing economic exclusion and negative health and education outcomes, often with intergenerational impacts.

He said institutional measures to address racism were indispensable but insufficient, recalling that individuals, families, communities, schools and workplaces were obliged to ensure that racism was eradicated. Leaders also could set a respectful tone, he said, pressing States to work towards building more inclusive societies, which would allow them to share the fruits of peace, security, justice and prosperity.

DORTHE WACKER, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc placed enormous emphasis on the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. As a result, it had developed a robust legal framework to ensure that manifestations of those attitudes would be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. It also provided support for victims of such crimes and rigorously monitored the transposition and implementation of legislation by all Member States. In response to the worrying trends of biased online speech that incited violence and hatred, the European Union had initiated dialogue with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google, which had led to a Code of Conduct in 2016.

Moreover, she said the bloc had taken part in the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, among other follow-up bodies, from a belief in the importance of the International Convention. She encouraged more acceptances of that instrument, which in turn would allow the Committee to be financed from the regular United Nations budget. Citing the New Consensus on Development, aligning the bloc's development policy with the 2030 Agenda, she said it was high time to step up efforts to promote the economic social rights of women and girls. In some countries, education attainment results of girls with indigenous or minority backgrounds were better than those of their male peers, who often were more exposed to racially motivated violence.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt) described a global resurgence in xenophobia, intolerance, racism and discrimination, noting that populist leaders and right-wing political movements and parties had based their platforms on fomenting incitement, hatred and social exclusion of particular religious, ethnic and national groups. Growing xenophobia and intolerance contravened fundamental rights and freedoms. He called for international action that would prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas. Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories also violated the fundamental rights of the Palestinians and he pressed the United Nations to ensure that Palestinians could enjoy the right to self-determination.

MAURICIO CARABALI BAQUERO (Colombia) said diversity enriched society. His country's constitution provided the basic framework to combat all types of discrimination and included 30 articles which protected ethnic groups from such behaviour. It also ensured equal opportunity and equity, and called for affirmative action to help marginalized groups. The International Decade for People of African Descent was a huge opportunity to implement public policies that fought racism and discrimination, he said, adding that in Colombia, perpetrators of racism could be jailed for 12 to 36 months. The country had also outlawed discrimination against people with disabilities.

NELLY SHILO (Israel) said diversity should be embraced and warned that the concept had been misunderstood by some and corrupted by racism, anti Semitism and Islamophobia. Too many people used their power to divide, she asserted, calling for a united fight against racism. Recalling that anti Semitism incessantly plagued the Jewish people, she cited some 250,000 instances of hate speech online to stress that, as social media transcended borders, big data companies must play a role in fighting online racism. Combating intolerance required a focus on education, which taught that there was no superior race, religion or culture.

Mr. LUKIANTSEV (Russian Federation) said the past year had seen greater use of racist rhetoric by politicians, which was particularly troubling and fundamentally contradicted the promotion of human rights. In parts of Europe, Nazi collaborators had been commemorated as national heroes, with a war being waged against those who fought Nazism and the concept of racial superiority. International mechanisms to combat racism must be strengthened and protections afforded to non citizens and minority groups in Baltic States. Moreover, legal measures that deteriorated protections of minority languages, including in Ukraine, was a clear concern, he said, noting that the right to self-determination was enshrined in international law and calling for a break to colonial traditions.

ACHSANUL HABIB (Indonesia) said fostering dialogue, tolerance and respect for diversity was essential for combating racial discrimination and intolerance. He voiced support for the comprehensive implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, stressing the importance of fighting discrimination in an inclusive manner that involved civil society, academia and the media. Islamophobia, glorification of Nazism and other practices which fuelled racism and racial discrimination should be condemned, he said, and the legal, policy and institutional measures to combat racism observed. Education and awareness-raising focused on social harmony were also essential.

Racism, Glorification of Nazism

MUTUMA RUTEERE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, presented two reports, the first of which addressed challenges linked to combating such behaviour in the current counter terrorism context. Expressing concern that some Governments used the fight against terrorism to justify the continuous repression of ethnic minorities, he said many States had adopted legislation with vague or overly broad definitions of terrorism, which had led to policing practices that targeted racial and ethnic minority communities. Reviewing legal and normative frameworks seeking to combat racism and xenophobia while countering terrorism, he said it was important for counter terrorism measures to comply with principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and non discrimination.

He said his second report was on the implementation of resolution 71/179 on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that fuelled racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Any commemorative celebration of the Nazi regime and its crimes against humanity, whether official or non official, should be denounced and prohibited by States, he said, adding that any legislative or constitutional measure adopted to counter extremist political parties, movements or groups � including neo Nazis and skinhead groups � should conform with international human rights standards. The rise of political extremism and populist movements seeking to normalize racism and discrimination was a serious challenge. In many ways, he said, the resurgence of racism and xenophobia through populism and extremist movements had made the present shockingly akin to the dark days of the 1940s.

When the floor opened for questions, the representative of Belgium, associating herself with the European Union, said a purely security-based approach to terrorism could be difficult and counterproductive. She thanked the Special Rapporteur for his work during the last six years.

The representative of the European Union said that while terrorism could not be tolerated, it also could not be used to justify repression. She asked the Special Rapporteur to comment on the targeting of people belonging to minorities in the context of migration flows, and asked how States could ensure the fear of terrorism did not lead to more acute manifestations of racism and xenophobia.

The representative of the United Kingdom agreed with the Special Rapporteur that States must tackle hate crime, adding that her country criminally penalized the incitement to racial hatred.

The representative of Brazil underscored the importance of human rights education, and asked about the tools to combat xenophobia in opposing terrorism.

The representative of the Russian Federation supported the work of the Special Rapporteur, and commended his position on the spread of racist ideology and the unacceptability of qualifying that as freedom of expression.

The representative of the Maldives said that under no circumstance could any country justify xenophobia, racism and religious intolerance with discriminatory policies disguised as countering terrorism.

The representative of Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur for examples of measures to ensure integration, with the aim of preventing political exclusion and socioeconomic marginalization.

The representative of Azerbaijan said encouraging tolerance was a fundamental step in combating racism, and to that end, her country had initiated the Baku process for the promotion of intercultural dialogue.

The representative of Morocco expressed concern about official statements or laws which were Islamophobic, and invited the Special Rapporteur to visit her country.

The representative of South Africa noted the worrying observations in the Special Rapporteur's report on increased acts of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia emerging from State counter terrorism practices. She expressed concern over the lack of implementation of successive resolutions calling for the Special Rapporteur to produce a long overdue report that examines national models of mechanisms that measure racial equality and their added value in the eradication of racial discrimination and to report on such challenges, successes and best practices.

The representative of Armenia said threats to human security caused by hatred should be perceived as serious challenges that could undermine stability. As such, a conference would be held in Yerevan, Armenia.

Mr. RUTEERE replied that fear of terrorism could foment rights violations, adding that prejudice was fuelled by portrayals of certain groups in the media and public discourse, making it difficult for them to integrate into communities. The tendency to reduce people and communities into single stories had fuelled conflict, massacre and genocide. On how States could collaborate on counter-terrorism measures, he underscored the need for greater sharing of good practices, noting that many had been developed at the municipal level, yet had not been incorporated into national and international standards.

The gender dimension of discrimination should be examined, he said, but that was not a focus of his mandate. Regarding the best way to design integration policy, he said it was crucial to develop initiatives which involved both migrant and host communities. It cannot be a one-way form of integration, he said. For it to be effective, both groups need to be involved. There was also a need to find opportunities for migrants to participate in social and economic life, and not simply rely on legislation to achieve integration. He agreed with South Africa's delegate who decried that tools to measure national progress on discrimination were lacking, highlighting the need for follow-up mechanisms.

Complementary Standards

TAONGA MUSHAYAVANHU, Chair-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, said that over the past decade, that body had engaged with more than 50 experts from academia, civil society, national human rights institutions and intergovernmental organizations to discuss a range of issues regarding racial discrimination. The Committee had sought to fill gaps in the international framework to address racial discrimination, but there was a lack of political will to fulfil its mandate. He had provided the Committee with a Chair's text, a substantive compilation of four topics: xenophobia, national mechanisms, procedural gaps and racism in sport.

He said he had identified potential points of convergence for the development of complementary standards on those four topics and submitted recommendations on constitutional, legislative, institutional and administrative standards. In six months, the Committee would hold its tenth session, which risked becoming hostage to an endless discussion if there was no meeting of minds. The Committee must follow the new direction given by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and start negotiations on the draft additional protocol to the Convention criminalizing racist and xenophobic acts. He urged States to summon the political will to compromise, reach an agreement on the Committee's work and put forward ideas to advance negotiations.

The representative of the European Union said the bloc had taken legal and practical steps to address racism and xenophobia. She called on Member States to do more to implement the International Convention.

The representative of Iraq pointed out that refugees had been marginalized and often experienced xenophobia in host countries, pressing the international community to do more to address racial discrimination.

The representative of South Africa called for measures that fostered tolerance and respect for diversity, stressing that the rise of populism had exacerbated xenophobia and discrimination.

The representative of Zimbabwe urged States to be more flexible in allowing the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to fulfil its mandate.

Mr. MUSHAYAVANHU thanked delegates for their comments and agreed that more must be done to address racial discrimination, as progress had been too slow. History had shown that racism affected the foundations of society, he stressed.

Statements

Mr. ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country was committed to eliminating racism and all types of discrimination. Iraq had done everything to free its territory from the scourge of terrorism and extremism, and he called on the international community to support the country so it could build a new society. Iraq worked to prosecute crimes committed by foreign combatants, he said, noting that United Nations resolutions should be kept in mind when countering terrorism.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) associating himself with CELAC and with the Group of 77 and China, said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had cited multiple and reinforcing types of discrimination against women and girls. The specific needs of women and girls of African descent should be a priority. The 2030 Agenda presented opportunities to address the disadvantages facing people of African descent. The commitment to leave no one behind must be linked to people of African descent if that aspiration was to be achieved. Brazil looked forward to the establishment of the Forum for People of African Descent.

The representative of the United States said racism came in many forms, from violence and genocide, to everyday intolerance and persecution. Everyone had a duty to speak out against discrimination, as ending racism could not be achieved by Government action alone. It was crucial that leaders also speak out against racism. In the United States, children were taught about the importance of respect for civil rights and diversity in public schools, she added.

The representative of Iran said her country was deeply concerned about attacks on refugees and migrants, as well as hate speech by high-ranking political officials which had been translated into discriminatory legislation. Overbearing immigration policies, hate speech and discrimination had become routine in some Western countries, she said, noting that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories had denied Palestinians of their right to justice and a dignified life. The deafening silence of self-proclaimed human rights defenders towards that occupation was likewise deplorable, calling the discrimination against non Jewish residents of Palestine reminiscent of apartheid. Israel, she said, was a real threat to the fight against discrimination.

NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, State of Palestine, said that not a day passed when Palestinians' rights were not violated. The Palestinian people had been deprived of their rights to self-determination and sovereignty over their land for five decades. Over the past year, Israel had continued its illegal construction of settlements, she said, flagrantly pushing ahead with plans to colonize and de facto annex more Palestinian land. She called for real action to end Israel's violations, adding that the Palestinian people insisted on the attainment of their rights, including to self-determination.

SURESH KODIKUNNIL (India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said history was plagued with gross human rights violations from slavery to colonialism. While genetic studies had confirmed the mixed ancestry of all peoples, racism, discrimination and xenophobia persisted. Fears over increased human mobility, the uneven economic impacts of globalization and an exodus of refugees had translated into extreme intolerance and xenophobia, fostering nationalist tendencies. Insecurities based on irrational and inadequate understanding of global trends are often utilized for political purposes, he said. India had been a longstanding home to mega diversity, drawing strength from a variety of ethnicities, religions and languages. The Constitution enshrined the principle of equality, while the penal code was being revised to combat acts related to racial discrimination. As a former colony, India strongly supported Palestinians' right to self-determination.

DAVA�A� LOGI SIGURA�SSON (Iceland) said racism and intolerance affected people across the world and related human rights violations must be fought with conviction. He welcomed increased attention accorded to the challenges to human rights and democracy posed by extremist ideological movements. While stressing the need to protect freedom of speech, he called for greater vigilance against the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, expressing concern that groups attacking racial and ethnic minorities also targeted individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The international community must combat hatred, he asserted, adding that all States had a collective responsibility to eliminate racism and discrimination.

Ms. DILEYM (Saudi Arabia) rejected Israel's aggression against Palestinians and reiterated the need for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian question. She underscored the importance of safeguarding their right to self-determination and called on the international community to recognize that right. A just, peaceful solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories must be found.

Ms. KIPIANI (Georgia), associating herself with European Union, condemned all forms of xenophobia and racism. Georgia had adopted a human rights strategy and action plan with the aim of combating discrimination and intolerance. She highlighted the ongoing ethnically targeted violations against Georgians living in the Russian-occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia. The process of fortifying the occupation line had denied people access to property, religious sites, education and health care. There also had been severe restrictions on education in the Georgian language in the Gali district of Abkhazia. The humanitarian and human rights situation in Georgia's occupied regions remains alarming, given that no international monitoring mechanisms are allowed to conduct monitoring, she added.

Ms. OZCERI (Turkey) underscored States parties' obligation to end racial discrimination by any group or organization. Devoid of targeted policies and monitoring, racial discrimination could not be stopped by legislative frameworks per se. Contemporary trends had translated into new forms of racism, and vulnerable groups continued to fall victim to discrimination and intolerance. Hostility and hate crimes had had a serious effect on Muslims and migrant communities, she said, and the depiction of those crimes as single incidents undermined attempts to address root causes. The international community should not be intimidated from addressing racism. A successful fight required combined efforts at the national and international levels.

SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) called the right to self-determination a pillar of human rights. The question of Palestine was the pivotal issue in the Middle East, and finding a comprehensive solution to it was integral to achieving regional stability. No solution would suffice if it was not based on the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Jordan rejected all measures to change the historical demographic character of Al Quds, she said, adding that Jordan could not consider any pretext to deprive Palestinians of rights.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said the right to self-determination was an international norm enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. It must be exercised freely without coercion or repression, and must not lapse with the passage of time. The legitimate struggles of people must not be conflated with terrorism. The denial of that right was particularly distressing in Indian occupied Kashmir, where people were subjected to brutal and ruthless foreign occupation. The peoples of Jammu and Kashmir remained deprived of their rights, despite the adoption of Security Council resolutions. The dispute would persist until the people of that area were allowed to exercise their will. Stressing that faith-based discrimination threatened global peace and security, he called on all communities to stand united against those seeking to entice violence through stereotyping.

KAITLYN SHELAGH ELIZABETH PRITCHARD, (Canada), citing the significant cost of racism, said people experiencing racism often faced barriers to housing and education. Canadians of African and indigenous descent were overly represented in correctional facilities and underrepresented in leadership positions. While institutional frameworks were crucial in fighting racism, there was also a need for individuals to do their part. Canada embraced diversity, as seen in its immigration and refugee policies, she said, calling on States to combat racism and share the fruits of peace and security.

Ms. MKHWANAZI (South Africa) said self-determination was an inalienable right that should be respected in all circumstances. The Government regarded decolonization and foreign occupation as important matters, which was why it was deeply concerned by the challenges to self-determination experienced by both the Sahrawi and Palestinian peoples. She welcomed the Secretary-General's affirmation of Palestinians' right to self-determination and called on States to end their inaction on the various United Nations decisions related to the Sahrawi and Palestinian people.

MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea) said the Secretary-General's report on the right to self-determination was a reminder of the indignity of colonialism. It was incumbent on the United Nations to ensure and safeguard the rights of peoples in Non Self Governing Territories, he said, adding that 17 such Territories remained under the shackles of colonialism. The 2030 Agenda called for leaving nobody behind, he said, adding that justice, freedom and peace were principles that must apply to subjugated people. He welcomed the upcoming self-determination referendum in New Caledonia and encouraged access for a United Nations visiting mission to the territory ahead of the poll.

Mr. ONANGA NDJILA (Gabon) said the Constitution stipulated that racial discrimination should be punished by law. A culture of dialogue and peace remained at the heart of all policies. There were migrants and asylum seekers from all over the African continent, he noted, adding that Gabon had created an observatory for inequalities which sought to combat inequality. Ending racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance throughout the world was a daunting task, requiring everyone to be involved, including through more dynamic cooperation within the United Nations.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said ongoing processes leading to the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration represented an unprecedented opportunity to oppose intolerance, racial discrimination and xenophobia against migrants, refugees and their families, and to protect their fundamental rights, regardless of status. It was important to help others see that migrants and refugees were not a problem to be solved, but brothers and sisters to be welcomed. International covenants and national legislation were indispensable for combating such behaviour, he said, stressing that human rights education played a key role in fostering social cohesion and promoting respect for human dignity. It was vital to develop a culture of human rights that wisely linked the individual to the common good.

Right of Reply

The representative of India, exercising the right of reply, said Pakistan was a safe haven for terrorists, stressing that Jammu and Kashmir would remain a part of India.

The representative of Pakistan said India's illegitimate control of Jammu and Kashmir had been rejected by the people living in that territory. The onus of finding a peaceful solution to Jammu and Kashmir lay with India, which should respect the Security Council resolution on the issue.

Source: United Nations

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