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Poorest Countries Leading Way in Combating Climate Change, Keynote Speaker Tells Economic and Social Council Forum, Saying Days of ‘Business as Usual Are Over’

The “clock is ticking” with no time to waste in forging strong public-private partnerships to stave off grave climate change consequences by using innovative solutions to build resilient communities and reach those most in need, the Economic and Social Council heard today.

Under the theme “Partnerships for promoting opportunities, increased prosperity and sustainable development for all”, the day-long Economic and Social Council Partnership Forum focused on addressing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goal 9 — building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation.  Central to discussions was promoting infrastructure development, particularly in Africa, the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, which faced the largest gaps in that sector.

The days of conducting business as usual were over, said Mary Robinson, President, Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice, delivering a keynote address.  As world leaders had come to realize that climate change could not be tackled alone, it was in fact some of the poorest countries that were leading the way.  Inspired by their call for a new era for development, addressing climate change and leaving no one behind, she said the question now was whether countries had a choice between economic growth and sustainable alternatives in, for example, building infrastructure.  To answer that query, a new wave of infrastructure investment must provide a guide to supporting sustainable development.

However, she said, not all action that was good for the planet was good for people and climate justice needed to prevail.  Local communities must be consulted, she said, providing examples of renewable energy projects that had infringed upon rights.  To do so, partners from civil society could play a role.

She went on to say that strong partnerships could also help to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change if they involved States, civil society and the private sector.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a video message, stressed the urgency of the task.  “The clock is ticking and we have no time to waste,” she said, describing multiple global trends such as climate change, rapid urbanization and mass movements of people that were affecting communities around the world.  In fostering partnerships to address those and other concerns, critical elements included delivering results on the ground, providing effective financing and garnering significant private-sector investment.

Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), Economic and Social Council President, said the fight for a healthier planet could only be achieved by joining forces.  “To achieve sustainable development for all, we are going to need strategic partnerships that will deliver strong results,” he said, underlining the importance of transparency and accountability.

Agreeing, General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said securing a sustainable future would require letting go of old grievances and scepticism in favour of working together through new and inclusive ways of thinking, financing and delivering results.  “We must embrace partnerships as a fundamental part of the solution,” he said, adding that it was critical to explore ways to bring together stakeholders from Governments at all levels, the United Nations, international financial institutions, civil society, the private sector, academic and scientific communities, technology leaders and innovators, philanthropic institutions and grass-roots organizations.

During the day-long meeting, round-table discussions were held on “Innovative Partnerships for resilient infrastructure, including in countries in special situations” and on “Principles and guidelines governing United Nations-associated partnerships”.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the fight for a healthier planet — one in which all people lived better lives — could only be achieved by joining forces.  Recalling that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognized the catalytic role of partnerships, he said the collective effort of all stakeholders would be critical in addressing the greatest challenges.  “I am of the view that to achieve sustainable development for all, we are going to need strategic partnerships that will deliver strong results,” he said, adding that transparency and accountability would be key.  Describing today’s Partnership Forum as a unique gathering of Governments, the private sector, philanthropy and civil society, he said he looked forward to a dialogue that would generate fresh ideas.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, emphasized the need for collaborative, multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  It was critical to explore ways to bring together stakeholders from Governments at all levels, the United Nations, international financial institutions, civil society, the private sector, academic and scientific communities, technology leaders and innovators, philanthropic institutions and grass-roots organizations.  Drawing attention to several high-level events he had convened to drive implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he said the Ocean Conference, to be held at Headquarters on 5‑9 June, would be organized around seven partnership dialogues.  Securing a sustainable future would require letting go of old grievances and scepticism in favour of joining forces through new and inclusive ways of thinking, partnering, financing and delivering on the group, he said.  “Strategic and innovative partners hold the key,” he added. “We must embrace partnerships as a fundamental part of the solution.”

AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a video message, said “the clock is ticking and we have no time to waste” amid climate change, rapid urbanization, mass movements of people and other global trends affecting communities and financing worldwide.  The 2030 Agenda had set the bar high and partnerships were key to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring their success.  In fostering partnerships, critical elements included delivering results on the ground, providing effective financing and garnering significant private-sector investment.

Yet, she said, how those investments were directed would affect results such as job creation and addressing climate change.  Local, national and regional partnerships were equally important and young people needed to be empowered to become part of those widespread changes.  Promoting effective partnerships would entail including innovation and finding new ways to move forward.  “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we can’t afford to fail,” she said, “but nothing is impossible when we work together in partnership.”

Keynote Address

MARY ROBINSON, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice, said “we cannot just continue with business as usual” as a range of current situations were untenable.  Elaborating on some of those challenges, she said the Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights, had issued a strong message about famine affecting four African countries.  “Any country facing famine in the twenty-first century is an indictment against all of us and we should hang our heads in shame,” she said.  Also disgraceful was the ongoing war in Syria.  In addition, addressing the existential threat of climate change was another colossal challenge.

In 2015, she said, world leaders had, with the 2030 Agenda, demonstrated a clear understanding that no one country alone could protect its citizens from climate change and, with the Paris Agreement, had committed to adopting new approaches.  A new paradigm must be created to replace the current silo landscape to foster a global solidarity to reach the world’s most vulnerable people.  Recent waves of populism had been seen in many countries, but it was clear that taking climate action now was imperative.  The 2030 Agenda focused on reaching those most in need.  Some of the world’s poorest countries were leading climate action.  Inspired by their call for a new era for development, addressing climate change and leaving no one behind, she said climate justice was the antithesis of short-term thinking.  More carbon emissions were detrimental on many levels.  The question now was whether countries had a choice between economic growth and sustainable alternatives in, for example, building infrastructure.  To answer that question, a new wave of infrastructure investment must provide a guide to supporting sustainability.

However, she said, not all action that was good for the planet was good for people and climate justice needed to prevail.  Local communities must be consulted, she said, providing examples of renewable energy projects that had infringed upon rights.  Civil society was a key player in that regard.  Going forward, there was a risk that States could withdraw from commitments they had made and choose to work alone.  The same spirit that had been seen after the Second World War was needed now, she said.  A new level of consciousness was needed to rise above the challenges of the time and reach a common ground pursuing shared values.

Round Table I

The Council then held a round-table discussion titled “Innovative Partnerships for resilient infrastructure, including in countries in special situations”.  Moderated by Rajesh Mirchandani, Vice-President of Communications and Outreach, Centre for Global Development, it featured presentations by Moira Feil, Senior Policy Officer, Group of 20, German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation; Symerre Grey-Johnson, Head of Partnerships, Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); Marie-José Nadeau, Honorary Chair, World Energy Council; Zhao Huxiang, President of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, Vice Chairman of China Merchants Group and Chairman of the Board of SINOTRANS; Cheryl Martin, Head of Industries and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum; and Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda, World Bank.

Trevor Davies, Global Lead, International Development Assistance Services, KPMG, and Elliott Harris, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) New York Office, spoke as respondents.

Mr. MIRCHANDANI said the discussion would focus on the unique challenges faced by countries in special situations in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 9 regarding infrastructure, industrialization and innovation, as well as the role of private-public partnerships in that regard.

Ms. FEIL described the Group of 20 as a partnership between a diverse group of countries, representing almost two thirds of the world’s population and 75 per cent of global trade.  Infrastructure had been a major part of its agenda for many years, with much discussion on such aspects as project preparation facilities, she said.  Genuine private-public partnerships required a balanced and good approach to risk sharing with all partners making informed decisions.  For smaller countries, regional approaches could be attractive, lowering transaction costs.  Within the Group of 20, consideration had been given to ways of narrowing the infrastructure investment gap and how multilateral development banks could optimize their balance sheets and make more funding available, she said.

Mr. GREY-JOHNSON said Africa had seen a number of private-public partnership success stories, notably in South Africa and Senegal.  There had not been so much success in regional projects, however, and that was where NEPAD came in.  Recalling the outcome of a financing summit hosted by Senegal in 2014, he said the private sector was only interested in properly prepared projects.  “Money will chase good projects and well-prepared projects,” he said.  With regard to gender mainstreaming, he said NEPAD had established a capacity-building fund that helped ensure that project design included a gender element from the outset.

Ms. NADEAU said private-public partnerships worked in large infrastructure projects when there was a revenue flow, fair sharing of risk and rewards between parties, in countries where the rule of law prevailed, with a pipeline of bankable projects, as well as the skillset required to design, build, operate and maintain projects.  With regard to gender, she noted a growing number of well-trained women in emerging economies and developing countries, as well as the need for social responsibility, training and mentorship programmes designed for women.

Mr. ZHAO said his company had a lot of experience with regard to private-public partnerships and promoting infrastructure, having committed big amounts to projects in African countries and developing a business model for ports and free-trade zones.  It felt quite positive about that.  In some countries, he continued, the public sector was more optimistic about projects than the private sector.  He also emphasized the importance of transparency as a way to build trust, and to think of projects in a more strategic way.

Ms. MARTIN said a true partnership meant understanding, trust and learning from each other.  If well done, it was a virtuous circle that would lead to conversations on such topics as gender diversity.  Projects, if done well, would benefit women.

Mr. MOHIELDIN spoke of addressing private-public partnerships from two perspectives — the wider approach, as a new way of doing business, and the narrow approach, meaning an investment modality.  Private-public partnership was not a panacea nor was it the sole solution in all cases.  With regard to the gender perspective, he said the World Bank used to treat gender separately, but now it was incorporated into project preparation, in line with a code of standards.  He described the Bank’s Global Infrastructure Facility and its Global Infrastructure Forum.  He added that, in Africa, perceived risk was much higher than real risk, but that many of the continent’s countries lacked transparency.  If there were better data, there would be more projects and better projects.

Mr. DAVIES said today’s discussion had been quite general and did not look enough at the impact on landlocked developing countries and small-island developing States.  He also noted a lack of urgency in addressing the effects of demographic change in Africa, where 140 cities the size of New York would be needed to accommodate a growing urban population.

Mr. HARRIS said the discussion seemed to focus on large-scale investment, which did not reflect the entire reality of infrastructure in the developing world.  In Bangladesh, for example, electricity was being introduced to 6.5 million households, one solar panel at a time.  Unlike a big energy project, that small-scale investment effort was getting clear and renewable energy to the people, consistent with the 2030 Agenda.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Japan asked the panel for their thoughts about using new technology for capacity-building as an alternative to dispatching experts to developing countries.

A representative of the International Road Transport Union drew attention to the absence of a commonly agreed definition of green finance.

The representative of Zambia, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said States faced a number of development challenges, including lack of access to seaports and high trade and transportation costs.  Resilient infrastructure had been recognized as fundamental to sustainable development, she said, adding that such infrastructure could support market access and poverty reduction while bringing countries into regional transport networks and global value chains.

Responding, Mr. MOHIELDIN said small was not necessarily beautiful when it came to infrastructure projects.  Noting how countries within a given group could have both many things in common and nothing in common, he called for more a country-specific understanding of requirements.

Mr. GREY-JOHNSON contrasted the sale and installation of solar panels with the need to ensure that everyone was on an electrical grid.  He also underscored the need to look at megaprojects with a transboundary reach and requiring private-public partnerships.

The representative of China drew attention to South-South cooperation, as well as his country’s One Belt, One Road initiative, which served to promote African and Asian infrastructure.

The representative of South Africa said North-South cooperation was still at the core of the global partnership for sustainable development.  The need for continued and increased official development assistance (ODA) was relevant and critical.

The representative of Maldives, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said small-island developing States needed resilient infrastructure and green industrialization that were in alignment with their national plans, policies and priorities.  She added that the public sector in such countries must be able to enhance and monitor private-public partnerships.

The representative of Nauru, speaking on behalf of Pacific small-island developing States, said access to infrastructure development resources was a constant challenge for countries in a region that faced rising sea levels and extreme weather events.  Appropriate follow-up and review mechanisms needed to be in place, he said, looking forward to the Ocean Conference and the partnerships that would be made there.

Representatives of Morocco, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates and Algeria, as well as the European Union and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), also spoke.

Round Table II

In the afternoon, the Council held a round-table discussion titled “Principles and guidelines governing United Nations-associated partnerships”.  Moderated by Gavin Power, Deputy Director of the United Nations Global Compact, it featured presentations by Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Vinicius Carvalho Pinheiro, Special Representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to the United Nations, New York; Olav Kjörven, Director of Public Partnerships, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Geoffrey Hamilton, Chief of Public-Private Partnerships Programme, Economic Commission for Europe; and Nancy Aburi, Lead of the Partnership Development and Network Support Private Sector Partnerships, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Speaking as respondents were Laura Petrella, of United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Louise Kantrow, Permanent Observer of the International Chamber of Commerce to the United Nations, New York, and Pietro Bertazzi, Deputy Director of Policy and Global Affairs, Global Reporting Initiative.

Mr. POWER asked the panellists a range of questions, including explanations of how the 2030 Agenda had influenced partnership guidelines, how principles and guidelines were connected to impact evaluations and their plans for future endeavours.

Mr. MOKHIBER said the 2030 Agenda had shaken up the way things operated.  “This is not your grandmother’s agenda,” he said, emphasizing that the development framework mirrored human rights, with issues such as personal security and the administration of justice.  Such an ambitious agenda could not be successfully implemented without effective partnerships.  Evaluating impact through a human rights lens occurred at every step of the process, from selecting partners to examining components in the partnership’s structure, including gender equality.  That process went beyond reporting issues, but was about tracking responses and communicating about findings.

Mr. PINHEIRO agreed, saying ILO was a partnership in itself, promoting policies in favour of agreed upon outcomes in areas such as child labour and human trafficking.  Other partnerships included projects conducted with Governments on decent work, jobs for youth and other initiatives.  The 2030 Agenda also offered the opportunity to revisit and assess partnerships.  A general impact assessment should go beyond the core guidelines.  For instance, an ILO labour partnership had been assessed on specific projects by using tailored methodology.

Mr. KJÖRVEN said UNICEF was now assessing its partnerships, with multi-stakeholder ventures being favoured as a way to move forward.  A focus was also on public-private and civil society partnerships and how they could achieve results on the ground.  Yet, partnerships were not enough to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals.  Using food as an example, he said reversing the current situation where children were obese from eating junk food, were developing diabetes and getting sick, partners needed to include farmers, those responsible for what went on the market and how waste was managed.  Equally important was a willingness to change, which was key to fostering effective multi-stakeholder partnerships and making progress on the Goals.  Whatever accountability that was built around partnerships must keep the Goals in mind.  “It was important to keep our eye on the ball,” he said.

Mr. HAMILTON said public-private partnerships had never formally been part of the development system.  Sensitizing the private sector was the starting point in building partnerships aimed at driving forward progress on achieving the Goals.  He said that he would appreciate it if the Organization could develop guidelines for external partners as “one United Nations”.  Development assistance was important in leveraging public-private partnerships and should be examined to improve results.

Ms. ABURI said that to deliver a successful comprehensive refugee response, partnership guidelines had been revised.  Currently, some partnership guidelines centred on fundraising.  In the 2030 Agenda, work needed to be done with new partners.  From a private-sector perspective, the UNHCR board could consider guidelines during the partner review process.  Furthermore, it must be easier to adapt existing guidelines.

Ms. PETRELLA said partnerships varied across many sectors.  Urban development was a multi-stakeholder endeavour that could include efforts such as urban planning, private sector and local governmental authorities.

Ms. KANTROW said the roles of the private sector and partnerships were beginning to gain attention in the development arena.  The 2030 Agenda and the General Assembly resolution on a global partnership for development had recognized that and, moving forward, efforts should centre on fully engaging the private sector.  The United Nations had guidelines using a principle-based approach and businesses had also developed their own.  Going forward, all guidelines should be reviewed towards achieving successful results.

Mr. BERTAZZI said principles and guidelines on collaboration of partnerships should include a number of elements.  Among them were a focus on impact, using a holistic approach that emphasized the connectivity between the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and on transparency and reporting.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates shared suggestions and concerns about ways to create and enhance partnerships.  Some suggested that bolstering technology transfer initiatives would level the playing field for landlocked developing countries and others in special situations.  Others gave national examples of how partnerships had achieved progress in a number of fields.

The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, underlined the importance of robust, effective and transparent public-private partnerships to advance progress on the Goals.  Welcoming progress that had been made to date, he said South-South cooperation projects should be bolstered.  Yet, South-South cooperation was a complement to and not a substitute for North-South cooperation.  Countries in vulnerable situations should be able to access technology transfers in a non-discriminatory way.  Coordination in engaging partners was important, he said.

The representative of El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), highlighted the significance of finding new ways of interactions between Governments, academia and the private sector in fostering the development of science, technology, innovation and technology transfers.  Developed countries must meet their ODA commitments, which could leverage and sustain financing for developing States.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said a robust, effective global partnership was needed.  However, partnerships should consider national situations, policies and priorities.

The representative of Morocco said the Goals required extended partnerships, with States being the “centre of gravity”.  A common vision was needed with a view to achieving the Goals.  Ensuring the effectiveness of partnerships was essential, as was improving existing mechanisms, bringing in new actors and accelerating dialogue between State, public and private stakeholders.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking on behalf of a number of countries, said the United Nations was well positioned to assist the international community in realizing common goals.  In examining how to improve the current system, efforts should aim at streamlining processes in ways that better reflected realities on the ground.  Also important was using information technology and considering input from civil society.

The representative of Belarus said vulnerable groups must not be left behind.  For its part, Belarus had worked with partners to tackle human trafficking and organized crime, with one practical outcome being the creation of a trust fund for victims.

The representative of Denmark said existing partnership guidelines, such as those being used by the Global Compact, should be used and built upon while using caution to avoid adding layers of bureaucracy.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Maldives, Tajikistan, Grenada (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Indonesia, Dominican Republic and the European Union, as well as United Nations Volunteers, non-governmental organizations and civil society.

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Motion for a resolution on Zimbabwe, case of Pastor Evan Mawarire – B8-2017-0196

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 1948,

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations of 1945 and in particular Article 1 (2) on “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of June 1981, which Zimbabwe has ratified,

–  having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Zimbabwe in May 1991,

–  having regard to the most recent local EU statement on Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas since May 2016 thousands of demonstrators – informal traders, unemployed young people and, now, professional people – have taken to the streets in a number of urban centres across Zimbabwe to hold the government to account for increasing corruption, unemployment, poverty and inequality;

B. whereas the protest movement led by clergyman Evan Mawarire, using the hashtag #ThisFlag, has drawn support from churches and the middle class, which had hitherto tended to steer clear of street politics; whereas on 6 July 2016 the opposition movement #ThisFlag called for a national ‘stay-away’ day in protest against the government’s inaction against corruption, impunity and poverty; whereas this resulted in a massive shutdown of most shops and businesses in the capital and led to a severe crackdown by the authorities;

C. whereas in the face of this increasing activism and human rights defenders mobilization, the authorities intensified the crackdown on government critics, imposing blanket bans on protest in central Harare and arbitrary detaining journalists and activists, some of whom have been tortured;

D. whereas Evan Mawarire, who left the country last year in fear for his life, was arrested this as he landed in Zimbabwe after six months in exile;

E. whereas the deep economic and social crisis which the country has been experiencing for years and which has lately intensified; Whereas the unemployment rate is estimated by international organizations to be close to 80% (excluding the informal sector), whereas the share of the population living below the poverty line is now estimated at over 80%; Whereas repayment of debt and debt interest covers 80% of the country's GDP; Whereas 70% of Zimbabwe's external debt is held by 'public' players such as the World Bank, the IMF and some third states; Whereas hyperinflation has ruined the country and continues to have consequences on the price of foodstuffs and to generate chronic food shortages;

F. whereas the National Indicative Programme (NIP) for Zimbabwe has been allocated EUR 234 million for the period 2014-2020 under the 11th European Development Fund, to be focused on three main sectors, namely health, agriculture-based economic development, and governance and institution building;

1. Condemns the violence of the repression of peaceful demonstrations, condemns all intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests and violence against human rights activists, the opposition, NGOs and journalists; Stresses the need for independence and impartiality of justice;

2. Calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally;

3. Stresses that Zimbabwe must respect and implement international human rights conventions, including the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1998;

4. Expresses particular concern over the economic and social situation in Zimbabwe, recalls that the country's main problem is poverty, unemployment and chronic undernourishment; considers that many problems the Zimbabwean people are facing are linked with the sequels of the segregation regime of Rhodesia; considers that these problems can only be solved through the implementation of ambitious public policies on employment, education, health and agriculture;

5. Stresses the fact that Zimbabwe is one of the most indebted country in the world; Call for a human needs-based approach to debt sustainability through a binding set of standards to define responsible lending and borrowing, debt audits and fair debt workout mechanism, which should assess the legitimacy and the sustainability of countries' debt burdens and possible cancellation of unsustainable an unjust debt; Welcomes, in this regard, UN´s work towards an international sovereign debt workout mechanisms and calls on international public actors and in particular the creditor countries with regard to Zimbabwe to eliminate the obstacles to development by canceling the debts they have in the country;

6. Expresses particular concern about the situation of women in the country; Urges the authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the effective implementation of laws that penalize domestic violence, sexual assault and prohibit traditional discriminatory practices; Stresses the need to review the legal regimes of written and customary law so that they are in conformity with the CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol;

7. Strongly condemns the obstruction of food aid for political gain; insists that the EU must ensure that the funding allocated to Zimbabwe for its National Indicative Programme effectively addresses the sectors concerned and the most needed;

8. Stresses that it is important for the EU to start up a political dialogue with the Zimbabwean authorities thereby confirming the EU’s commitment to supporting the local population;

9. Reject all external operations, destabilization strategies and external interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe; considers that it is up to the Zimbabwean people to decide their present and future free from any external interference; underlines that there is a need for solidarity based on the principles of national sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, peace, rights, social progress, friendship and cooperation;

10. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the European External Action Service, the Government and Parliament of Zimbabwe, the governments of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

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Motion for a resolution on Zimbabwe, case of Pastor Evan Mawarire – B8-2017-0196

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 1948,

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations of 1945 and in particular Article 1 (2) on “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of June 1981, which Zimbabwe has ratified,

–  having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Zimbabwe in May 1991,

–  having regard to the most recent local EU statement on Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas since May 2016 thousands of demonstrators – informal traders, unemployed young people and, now, professional people – have taken to the streets in a number of urban centres across Zimbabwe to hold the government to account for increasing corruption, unemployment, poverty and inequality;

B. whereas the protest movement led by clergyman Evan Mawarire, using the hashtag #ThisFlag, has drawn support from churches and the middle class, which had hitherto tended to steer clear of street politics; whereas on 6 July 2016 the opposition movement #ThisFlag called for a national ‘stay-away’ day in protest against the government’s inaction against corruption, impunity and poverty; whereas this resulted in a massive shutdown of most shops and businesses in the capital and led to a severe crackdown by the authorities;

C. whereas in the face of this increasing activism and human rights defenders mobilization, the authorities intensified the crackdown on government critics, imposing blanket bans on protest in central Harare and arbitrary detaining journalists and activists, some of whom have been tortured;

D. whereas Evan Mawarire, who left the country last year in fear for his life, was arrested this as he landed in Zimbabwe after six months in exile;

E. whereas the deep economic and social crisis which the country has been experiencing for years and which has lately intensified; Whereas the unemployment rate is estimated by international organizations to be close to 80% (excluding the informal sector), whereas the share of the population living below the poverty line is now estimated at over 80%; Whereas repayment of debt and debt interest covers 80% of the country's GDP; Whereas 70% of Zimbabwe's external debt is held by 'public' players such as the World Bank, the IMF and some third states; Whereas hyperinflation has ruined the country and continues to have consequences on the price of foodstuffs and to generate chronic food shortages;

F. whereas the National Indicative Programme (NIP) for Zimbabwe has been allocated EUR 234 million for the period 2014-2020 under the 11th European Development Fund, to be focused on three main sectors, namely health, agriculture-based economic development, and governance and institution building;

1. Condemns the violence of the repression of peaceful demonstrations, condemns all intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests and violence against human rights activists, the opposition, NGOs and journalists; Stresses the need for independence and impartiality of justice;

2. Calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally;

3. Stresses that Zimbabwe must respect and implement international human rights conventions, including the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1998;

4. Expresses particular concern over the economic and social situation in Zimbabwe, recalls that the country's main problem is poverty, unemployment and chronic undernourishment; considers that many problems the Zimbabwean people are facing are linked with the sequels of the segregation regime of Rhodesia; considers that these problems can only be solved through the implementation of ambitious public policies on employment, education, health and agriculture;

5. Stresses the fact that Zimbabwe is one of the most indebted country in the world; Call for a human needs-based approach to debt sustainability through a binding set of standards to define responsible lending and borrowing, debt audits and fair debt workout mechanism, which should assess the legitimacy and the sustainability of countries' debt burdens and possible cancellation of unsustainable an unjust debt; Welcomes, in this regard, UN´s work towards an international sovereign debt workout mechanisms and calls on international public actors and in particular the creditor countries with regard to Zimbabwe to eliminate the obstacles to development by canceling the debts they have in the country;

6. Expresses particular concern about the situation of women in the country; Urges the authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the effective implementation of laws that penalize domestic violence, sexual assault and prohibit traditional discriminatory practices; Stresses the need to review the legal regimes of written and customary law so that they are in conformity with the CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol;

7. Strongly condemns the obstruction of food aid for political gain; insists that the EU must ensure that the funding allocated to Zimbabwe for its National Indicative Programme effectively addresses the sectors concerned and the most needed;

8. Stresses that it is important for the EU to start up a political dialogue with the Zimbabwean authorities thereby confirming the EU’s commitment to supporting the local population;

9. Reject all external operations, destabilization strategies and external interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe; considers that it is up to the Zimbabwean people to decide their present and future free from any external interference; underlines that there is a need for solidarity based on the principles of national sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, peace, rights, social progress, friendship and cooperation;

10. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the European External Action Service, the Government and Parliament of Zimbabwe, the governments of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

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Social Development Commission Integral to Helping World’s 786 Million Poor Reach Their Human Potential, Speakers Stress at Opening of Fifty-Fifth Session

The Commission on Sustainable Development — whose past work had been critical to the evolution of many principles underpinning the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — now had a critical role to play in that framework’s implementation, stressed delegates as they opened the Commission’s fifty-fifth annual session today.

Many speakers welcomed the relevance of the session’s theme, “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”, underscoring the Commission’s enormous potential to guide inclusive policies aimed at leaving no one behind.

“The adoption in 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a historic step forward in our common approach to tackling the many challenges all societies and countries face,” said Commission Chair Philipp Charwath (Austria), who was elected by acclamation at the meeting’s outset.  While progress had been made in promoting the rights of vulnerable people — including persons with disabilities and the rapidly growing number of older persons around the globe — poverty remained a major threat.  As part of its work, the Commission would help address such issues by supporting the thematic reviews of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, he said.

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the Commission’s longstanding work to promote people-centred development had helped shape key sustainable development concepts and laid the foundation for the 2030 Agenda.  The body would now help ensure that that “master plan for people, planet and prosperity” was implemented, he said, expressing confidence that the achievement of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals was “firmly within our reach”.

“Today’s generation can be the one that eradicates poverty and turns the tide on inequality, exclusion and environmental degradation,” agreed Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council.  Noting that it was increasingly difficult to reach people living in extreme poverty and that progress was often temporary, he emphasized that achieving the 2030 Agenda’s objectives would require a broad set of mutually reinforcing social and economic policies, as well as leveraging the synergies among them.

Delivering a statement on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres, Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, said the Commission was meeting at a time of global contradictions.  While significant progress had been made in eradicating extreme poverty, conflicts were reversing gains in social well-being and the gap between rich and poor was growing.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require whole-of-society approaches tailored to national contexts, he stressed, adding that diversity must be viewed as an asset rather than a threat.

As the Commission began its general debate, many Government ministers and other high-level officials expressed optimism that the Commission’s unflagging support of inclusive, rights-based development strategies would dovetail with the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and continued reductions in poverty.

Nomtoibayar Nyamtaishir, Mongolia’s Minister for Labour and Social Protection, was among those reporting significant strides made towards achieving sustainable development, as well as positive returns on social investments.  Noting that his country had eradicated poverty while preserving its ecological balance, he described a number of key laws and strategies, including a policy aimed at job generation and several efforts to empower Mongolia’s youth.

Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, urged the Commission to send a clear message to the High-Level Political Forum that the Sustainable Development Goals were inextricably linked to the rights of women, young people, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  He also noted that the slowdown of global economic growth, volatile world financial markets, high youth unemployment, humanitarian crises, climate change and others challenges had obstructed the achievement of global social development goals.

Malta’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that across Europe, 119 million people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion, with children and young people most vulnerable.  In response, the bloc had prioritized job creation and the connection between economic and social issues, while tax and benefits schemes were increasingly geared towards providing social support and work incentives.  National pension systems were also better reflecting life expectancy and efforts were being made to ensure that health policies supported social safety nets, he said.

Ana Helena Chacón, Vice-President of Cost Rica, delivering a statement on behalf of the Group of Friends of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, stressed that growing global inequities challenged the universality of human rights.  Youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, minorities and migrants, and women and girls continued to face paramount obstacles to their development, while people living in extreme poverty lacked the political power and the material and educational opportunities to take charge of their destiny.  Human dignity must be at the centre of any sustainable development process, she stressed, warning against the notion that people should be passive beneficiaries of the State.

Also today, the Commission held a panel discussion on the session’s priority theme, which was moderated by H. Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Director of the State University of New York-University of the West Indies Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development.  It featured a keynote speech by Martin Ravallion, Professor of Economics at Georgetown University and former Director of the World Bank’s research department, as well as presentations by a number of social development experts and Government ministers from around the world.

At the outset, the Commission elected, by acclamation, Lot Dzonzi (Malawi) and Alanoud Al-Temimi (Qatar) as Vice-Presidents of its fifty-fifth session.

Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, introduced a number of reports related to the Commission’s work, while Daniel Perell, Chair of the NGO Commission for Social Development, reported on the outcome of the Civil Society Forum held from 30 to 31 January.  In addition, Rozemarijn Ter Horst, a youth representative, briefed the Commission on the work of the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, also held from 30 to 31 January.

Also participating were ministers and other representatives from Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Austria, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Portugal and France.

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

Opening Remarks

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), Chair of the Commission for Social Development’s fifty-fifth session, declared:  “The adoption in 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a historic step forward in our common approach to tackling the many challenges all societies and countries face.”  In that context, the Commission’s mandate was to discuss, evaluate and make policy recommendations in the field of social development, a task made all the more relevant by the Agenda’s promise to leave no one behind.

While extreme poverty continued to decline fairly rapidly, 786 million people still lived in poverty, he said, pointing also to worrisome trends of rising inequality and social exclusion in both developing and developed countries.  “Growth continues to disappoint,” he said, highlighting the particular need for prosperity to reduce unemployment and for effective youth policies around the world.  Through the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the United Nations was already hard at work with many partners in that field, he said, drawing attention to the needs of girls and young women, youth with disabilities, indigenous youth, young migrants and rural youth.

While some progress had been made with regard to the rights of persons with disabilities, he said, they nevertheless continued to face marginalization and barriers in daily life.  Poverty remained a major threat for older persons, whose numbers were growing rapidly and would reach about 1.4 billion globally by 2030.  The long-term success of strategies to end poverty also depended largely on policies targeting families with children.  The Commission would contribute to the follow-up to the 2030 Agenda by supporting the thematic reviews of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and would focus on the theme, “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the Commission’s work would set an example for all other commissions that would meet this year to discuss socioeconomic issues.  It played an essential role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  Given that it was increasingly difficult to reach people living in extreme poverty, and that progress was often temporary for those who had moved out of poverty, he had identified infrastructure development and industrialization as his top priorities.  “Today’s generation can be the one that eradicates poverty and turns the tide on inequality, exclusion and environmental degradations,” he said, adding, however, that achieving those objectives would require a broad set of mutually reinforcing social and economic policies, as well as leveraging the synergies among them.  The Commission’s deliberations would provide important guidance to Member States in that regard.

LENNI MONTIEL, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, delivering a statement by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Commission was meeting at a time of global contradictions.  Significant progress had been made in recent decades in eradicating extreme poverty, and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda had set the bar higher with its goals aimed at leaving no one behind.  However, these were challenging times, with conflicts reversing gains in social well-being, and a growing gap between rich and poor.  Even in peaceful societies, prosperity had not been shared.  Anxiety meanwhile was growing as societies dealt with such megatrends as urbanization and climate change.  The Sustainable Development Goals would require whole-of-society approaches tailored to national contexts.  Social development was an end in itself and the best way to secure and ensure lasting peace.  Top priority must be given to gender equality and women’s empowerment, he said, adding that diversity must be seen as an asset rather than a threat.

Introduction of Reports

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, introduced several reports related to the “Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly”, including a report of the Secretary-General on “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all” (document E/CN.5/2017/3).  The report provided an overview of progress made towards the eradication of poverty and highlighted strategies implemented by countries to achieve that objective.  It focused on challenges faced by countries and concluded with a set of recommendations for further action.

Among other things, she said the report demonstrated that new policy approaches and strategies were required to tackle poverty in all its forms, including extreme poverty.  It also underlined the importance of political will, institutions, governance, partnerships and the combination of mutually reinforcing social, economic and environmental policies.  Importantly, it cautioned that mainstreaming the policy “status quo” would not get the job done.  Strategies must be in line with varying national contexts, priorities, capacities and fiscal constraints.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s report on “Social Dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (document E/CN.5/2017/2), she said it highlighted progress made in implementing the Partnership’s various programmes and priorities, including reducing poverty and hunger, promoting employment creation, improving education and health outcomes, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and infrastructure development.  It urged African countries to continue to accord priority to investing in agriculture, promoting structural transformation, increasing investments in health, education, skills development and social protection, and strengthening inclusive and accountable institutions.

She said the Secretary-General’s report on “Mainstreaming disability in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document E/CN.5/2017/4) provided an overview of disability inclusion in existing international development frameworks, as well as the status of persons with disabilities in social and economic development.  It examined the evolution of the Commission’s role in mainstreaming disability in the development agenda and made related recommendations for the implementation of global development goals.

Next, she said a report of the Secretary-General on “Policies and programmes involving youth” (document E/CN.5/2017/5) spotlighted the need for robust, stand-alone youth policies coupled with consistent cross-sectoral efforts.  It also provided a compilation of recent youth policy initiatives based on input from Member States, United Nations entities and civil society organizations.  It made a number of recommendations under three broad themes of gender, participation and inclusion, and marginalized groups.

She also drew attention to the Secretary-General’s report on the “Third review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing:  preliminary assessment” (document E/CN.5/2017/6), which analysed the preliminary findings of the third review and appraisal exercise, including the identification of emerging issues and policy options.  Noting that the Commission in 2018 would conduct the global segment of the third review and appraisal cycle, she said the report listed substantive and organizational suggestions offered by regional commissions for consideration by Member States.  Delegations might consider those recommendations when elaborating the work programme for the Commission’s fifty-sixth session in 2018.

Finally, she said, a report of the Secretary-General on “Emerging issues” (document E/CN.5/2017/7) focused on areas that were important for promoting integrated poverty eradication policies in the context of youth development in the 2030 Agenda, for which the Commission could play a key role.

DANIEL PERELL, Chair of the NGO Commission for Social Development, reported on the outcome of the Civil Society Forum, held from 30 to 31 January.  Its deliberations had emphasized the role of social protection as a fundamental tool for alleviating poverty, he said, underscoring the need to reconsider the relationship between independence and interdependence in the context of development.

ROZEMARIJN TER HORST, a youth representative, then updated the Commission on the work of the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, also held from 30 to 31 January.  Highlighting the Youth Forum’s focus this year on youth and poverty eradication, she said its outcomes would inform the Commission’s work.  Issues raised stretched from gender equality to youth unemployment to the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making.

Statements

HORACIO SEVILLA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalled that 2015 had been a historic year when the international community had come together around a universal set of commitments to guide its work in the coming years.  The 2030 Agenda, in particular, had acknowledged that poverty eradication was a sine qua non for the achievement of sustainable development, he said, stressing that the international community must bolster current commitments in that critical area.  It must also implement an ambitious sustainable development agenda to ensure that no one was left behind, he said, underscoring the Commission’s own responsibilities in that regard.  “This Commission must send out a clear message to the High-Level Political Forum” that the Sustainable Development Goals were inextricably linked to the rights of women, young people, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, he stressed.

Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the goals agreed at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen more than 20 years ago, he went on to express deep concern about uneven progress in achieving those targets.  The slowdown of global economic growth, volatile world financial markets, high youth unemployment, humanitarian crises, climate change and others challenges had created obstacles for the achievement of social development goals.  “The eradication of poverty is perhaps the most imperative objective facing the global community,” he stressed, adding that social exclusion was still a major challenge around the world.  Warning against a “business-as-usual” approach to tackling those issues, he called for adequate financing for social development goals and underscored the Commission’s role in supporting the rights of vulnerable people, including those living under foreign occupation and colonial domination.

DAVID MANSFIELD (Malta), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that across Europe, 119 million people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion, with children and young people most vulnerable.  Priority had been placed on job creation and millions of young people had already benefitted from investment measures to combat the cycle of poverty.  More emphasis had also been placed on the connection between economic and social issues, while tax and benefits schemes were increasingly geared towards providing social support and work incentives.  National pension systems were also better reflecting life expectancy and efforts were being made to ensure that health policies supported social safety nets.

Further, he said, a plan launched last year sought to improve people’s skills and address the 70 million Europeans lacking adequate reading and writing abilities.  Efforts to engage with European Union and national public and private actors included those to promote better dialogue with social partners and civil society.  Going forward, the European Union would continue to promote an international development policy in the area of the environment, agriculture, and fisheries, while a new European Consensus on Development, once adopted, would provide the framework for a common approach to development policy.   While that proposal reflected that each country had a primary responsibility for its economic and social development, it also promoted a new global partnership for sustainable development encompassing shared policy and financial means.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, reiterated ASEAN’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, which complemented its efforts to raise living standards in the region.  Over nearly three decades, the share of people living in extreme poverty in the ASEAN region had fallen from one in three to one in eight.  While the 2030 Agenda would guide poverty eradication efforts in South-East Asia, there was no one-size-fits-all approach to its implementation, she said, emphasizing that efforts should be tailored to meet the unique needs, priorities and backgrounds of each country and region.  It was also important for any comprehensive strategy to build resilience against potential shocks such as economic instability, food insecurity and climate change, she said, citing ASEAN initiatives in that regard.

She said more could be done through participation and partnerships to eradicate poverty and advance sustainable development.  In that regard, she drew attention to annual ASEAN forums on rural development and social welfare, as well as the Association’s efforts in promoting public-private partnerships and strengthening its relations with international partners, including through the ASEAN-United Nations Plan of Action for 2016-2020.  ASEAN called for a strengthened global partnership that would include the fulfilment of official development assistance commitments, enhanced capacity-building and technology transfer, and the creation of favourable conditions for developing countries in the formulation and implementation of poverty eradication strategies.

ANA HELENA CHACÓN ECHEVERRÍA, Vice-President of Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that despite all achievements, many countries had been left behind and growing global inequities challenged the universality of human rights.  Poverty was a system and the poor continued to be deprived, above all, of the capacity to claim their inalienable rights.  Human dignity must be at the centre of any sustainable development process, he said, warning against the notion that people should be passive beneficiaries of the State.  To the contrary, people must be genuine agents of change, entitled to certain basic living conditions, such as reaching their potential.

And yet, he said, the realization of economic, social and cultural rights remained a “mirage” for millions.  Youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, minorities and migrants, and women and girls continued to face paramount challenges to their development.  Moreover, people living in extreme poverty had neither the political power nor the material and educational opportunity to take charge of their destiny.  Respecting, promoting, and protecting rights required Governments to take positive action, which in turn, demanded national compliance with international obligations, particularly the 2030 Agenda.  Highlighting the vital role of civil society and other stakeholders in promoting human rights, he stressed that attaining sustainable development required commitment from all.

Ms. Chacón, speaking in her national capacity and associating herself with the Group of 77 and with the statement to be delivered by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), described a number of her Government’s strategies aimed at meeting the needs of vulnerable people and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Among other vulnerable groups, those instruments addressed the needs of persons with disabilities, women, young people, persons living on the street, persons of African descent, refugees and indigenous peoples.  Costa Rica’s poverty, as measured by traditional indexes, had decreased from 22.3 per cent in 2015 to 20.5 per cent in 2016, with extreme poverty having dropped significantly over the same period.  In addition, she said, the country was working to build a fairer, more inclusive society that fully respected human rights.

SOPHIE KARMASIN, Minister for Family and Youth of Austria, said war, famine and natural disasters in one region could have direct impacts on countries in other regions.  “We can longer deny the globalized, interlinked world we live in,” she stressed.  The global fight against poverty could only be won by improving the lives of children, and as such, families should be at the centre of economic policies.  Describing the “Companies for Families” network and efforts to combat gender-related inequality, she said Austria was working to support women in returning to work after giving birth and had allocated funds for child care.  Poverty eradication also depended on the availability of decent work, particularly for young people.  Associating herself with the European Union, she said the bloc’s Youth Guarantee initiative was an excellent tool to reduce youth unemployment.  She also described national efforts to enhance digital competence for those seeking to enter the workforce, underscoring the importance of both social protections and multi-stakeholder partnerships aimed at eradicating poverty.

NOMTOIBAYAR NYAMTAISHIR, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, said his country had eradicated poverty and preserved its ecological balance as it continued to build a strong and stable country.  It had integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into its policies, plans and budgets, including the Mongolia 2030 Sustainable Development Vision and the Action Plan for 2016-2020.  That framework was focused on establishing a national economic policy that collaborated with regional and international economic trends, while remaining absolutely sovereign from political influence.  Further, the new law on national development sought to create sustainable economic growth by generating jobs and shifting people from welfare beneficiaries to contributors to the achievement of the Goals.  Highlighting Mongolia’s various investments in its youth, he recalled that the country had hosted a regional forum on youth involvement in the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

ALBERTO BELTRAME, Vice-Minister of Social and Agrarian Development of Brazil, said his country, through a rights-based approach, had made consistent efforts to reduce inequality.  It had overcome extreme poverty, reduced poverty and taken itself off the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) hunger map.  Going forward, Brazil understood that poverty was multidimensional and that policies to address it must be socially sustainable.  He outlined some of Brazil’s social policies, including the “Bolsa Família” cash transfer programme.  While income transfer strategies were important, he said, there was still a need for policies to address the intergenerational reproduction of poverty, create opportunities for human development and encourage labour market inclusion.

ALEXY CHERKASOV, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, said the Commission would be an effective coordinator within the United Nations on a range of social development questions.  In his country, special attention was paid to such vulnerable groups as families with children, older people, those not in regular paid employment, and persons with disabilities.  The employment situation in the Russian Federation was stable, with unemployment lower than global Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European Union standards.  However, citizens without a legal source of income represented a serious socioeconomic problem, as they comprised 23 per cent of the working population, which had an impact on the national budget.  He outlined Government efforts to address the legal status of self-employed persons and the prevalence of low-paid, low-output workplaces, and to increase the minimum wage.

HECTOR RAMON CARDENAS MOLINAS (Paraguay) stressed the need to step up country efforts to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and combat climate change, all while leaving no one behind.  “We need to overcome the challenges of uniting political will to ensure more inclusive societies,” he added, reaffirming his country’s zero tolerance policy for discrimination.  In recent years, and thanks to the Government’s strategic efforts, Paraguay’s poverty – including extreme poverty – had dropped significantly.  Nevertheless, the Government continued to push forward to improve the participation of all people in the achievement of sustainable development, and provided support through such programmes as responsible cash transfers, school feeding programmes and the building of affordable housing.

MUHAMMETSEYIT SYLAPOV, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Population of Turkmenistan, recalled that following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, his country had immediately begun to integrate its targets into its national policies.  Noting that the goal of development was to bolster the material and spiritual well-being of people while respecting their fundamental rights and freedoms, he described several recent changes to Turkmenistan’s Constitution, which reflected the country’s accession to various international human rights treaties.  In that regard, the Government had drafted a national action plan to combat human trafficking and was working on similar strategies for the protection of the rights of children and other vulnerable groups.  Economic and productive growth was another priority.

ANA SOFIA AUTUNES, Secretary of State for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of Portugal, associating herself with the European Union, said poverty took different forms in different parts of the world, but it had one common consequence:  depriving people from fulfilling their potential and well-being.  Eradicating poverty required strategic, integrated and coherent measures at all levels, targeting such groups as persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, and those from ethnic and religious minorities.  She described a social benefit that Portugal had introduced for those certified as disabled, and emphasized the difficulties that the long-term unemployed, particularly those over the age of 50, faced when returning to the labour market.

MARIE-CHRISTINE BAUDURET, Head of Labour, Employment, Social Affairs and Human Rights, European and International Delegation, Ministry for Social Affairs of France, associating herself with the European Union, said the Government maintained an integrated approach to poverty eradication that took into account the views of vulnerable populations.  France’s tool for achieving Goal 1 (no poverty) was a multi-annual plan to fight poverty and promote social inclusion that drew on input from private and public stakeholders.  She emphasized the importance of lifelong learning, noting that the digitization of jobs might bring with it employment loss for those lacking qualifications.

Address by President of General Assembly

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the Commission’s longstanding work to promote people-centred development had helped shape key sustainable development concepts and laid the foundation for the 2030 Agenda.  The body now had a key role to play to ensure that that “master plan for people, planet and prosperity” was implemented over the next 14 years, he said, adding that this year’s theme on poverty eradication could not be more timely or relevant.  Expressing confidence that achieving those goals was “firmly within our reach”, he pointed out that the number of people living in extreme poverty around the world had been reduced from 1.9 billion in 1990 to about 702 million in 2015.

In that regard, he called for continued efforts to build sustainable, inclusive economic growth, in particular through people-centred investments such as the provision of equitable, quality education.  Peace must also be sustained, as people in conflict-affected countries were among those most at risk of being left behind.  “Without sustaining peace, sustainable development is not possible”, he stressed, noting that the United Nations had now accepted that the two concepts were deeply interlinked.  Finally, he underscored the need to secure long-term financing for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals — estimated to cost between $5 trillion and $7 trillion annually — through policies that supported both private and public funding efforts.

Interactive Discussion

In the afternoon, the Commission held a panel discussion on the priority theme “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”.  Moderated by H. Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Director of the State University of New York-University of the West Indies Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development, it featured a keynote speech by Martin Ravallion, Professor of Economics, Georgetown University, and former Director of the World Bank’s research department.

It also included presentations by Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, Vice-President of Costa Rica; Aisha Jumai Alhassan, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria; Michelle Muschette, Vice-Minister for Social Development of Panama; Michel Servoz, Director-General of the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the European Commission; Ifeyinwa Ofong, development consultant and a national coordinator of women in development and environment in Nigeria; and Alberto Beltrame, Vice-Minister for Social and Agrarian Development of Brazil.

Mr. RAVALLION said “fantastic” progress had been made against extreme poverty.  “That’s great news, but there are continuing challenges, real challenges,” he said, emphasizing that poverty monitoring must be relevant to social policy dialogue.  While there had been good overall progress in reducing absolute poverty, challenges remained and poorer countries that had relied on economic growth — rather than direct interventions — to combat poverty might need to adapt their policies.

Maintaining growth trajectories since 2000 without a rise in overall inequality would lift about 1 billion people out of extreme absolute poverty over the next 15 years or so, he said.  Such an optimistic path would require economic reforms that would make markets work better for poor people.  It would also need a measure of good luck, such as avoiding a major financial crisis or success in dealing with climate change.  Given that path, however, more than 1 billion people would still be living in relative poverty.

Among his recommendations, he said policies must be tailored to the realities of local situations.  Local information — including greater community-based participation — could help identify those in need, reinforced with strong Governments.  He also emphasized the crucial nature of monitoring and evaluating progress, and the need for policymakers to learn from mistakes and adapt to evidence of failure.  Bureaucratic inertia appeared to be a common problem, he said.

Ms. CHACÓN stressed the need to design public policies to meet the needs of people facing constant hunger, exclusion and poverty.  No development could be sustained if millions of people were left behind.  Poverty was the most flagrant violation of human rights.  Social policy must end the income gap and move towards peace, justice and inclusion.  Costa Rica had worked to implement since 2015 the national “bridge for development” poverty-reduction strategy.  It entailed social maps to track impoverished areas and understand their socioeconomic conditions.  A poverty index was used to measure poverty beyond income and to take into account shortages in education, health care, water and housing.  The strategy focused particularly on women, with substantial results.  If current strategies continued, Costa Rica was poised to eliminate extreme poverty in less than 10 years.

Ms. ALHASSAN said that despite its immense natural and human resources, Africa remained underdeveloped and plagued with extreme poverty.  Fully, 48.5 per cent of the global population and one third of the sub-Saharan African population experienced malnourishment and exclusion.  To address that, in 2013 African Union Heads of State adopted 2063 Agenda to eradicate poverty.  Since 1995, Nigeria had adopted an affirmative action strategy, whereby 30 per cent of the Bank of Industry’s investment funds were earmarked to reduce female poverty.  The Government had set up a basic education scheme to end illiteracy and equip beneficiaries with lifelong skills to be self-reliant.  It provided free immunization for infants to reduce infant mortality.  Among other things, she cited a capacity-building scheme to reduce youth unemployment; an agriculture scheme for 3 million rural farmers to reduce hunger and end poverty; programmes to improve farming techniques and enhance food production; and an $800 million revolving loan scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria for small business entrepreneurship.  The current Administration was rolling out new initiatives to end poverty, such as cash transfers, a school feeding programme, and scholarships for science and technology classes.  Annually, $164 million was earmarked for no-interest loans for rural businesses.

Ms. MUSCHETT, discussing Panama’s policies for poverty reduction, emphasized the importance of taking stock of available resources and for a consensus with civil society to be in place.  In her country, macro policies such as an increase in 2016 of the minimum wage and a monetary transfer programme had assisted those in extreme poverty.  Reducing poverty brought challenges, however.  She explained her Government’s new strategy which focused on reinforcing links between existing policies, with the goal of reducing extreme poverty to the lowest possible level, guaranteeing social protection and halving multidimensional poverty by 2030.  The results should help families emerge progressively out of poverty.

Mr. SERVOZ, reviewing the features of the European Union’s approach to poverty, emphasized the importance of a comprehensive and integrated strategy, with specific instruments for the most vulnerable.  He also underscored the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships.  Noting that the European Union was still struggling from the 2007 economic crisis, he said an integrated approach that covered a range of issues, including education and fiscal matters, was needed.  The bloc regarded trade policy as essential to creating decent jobs and supporting its social protection systems.

Mr. OFONG said a one-size-fits-all strategy to end poverty would not work.  She asked whether people were poor because they were lazy or because institutions had failed to create policies for an enabling environment in which people could be well fed and cared for.  Among the lessons learned from poverty-eradication programmes was that data was vital in order to know whom to target.  In surveys of poor people in her country 95 per cent of respondents said they preferred to receive funds, rather than training.  Poor people had an important role in helping to develop strategies for charting their own path out of poverty.  Poverty eradication must be linked to rural development.

She said it was necessary to talk with the poor — many of whom had resigned themselves to their lot — and help them understand the meaning of sustainable development.  All strategies must enhance their capacity to help themselves.  Governments must develop good road networks and markets for their products, she said, noting that many developing countries lacked a well-functioning financial system to grow economies and create jobs.  Investment, particularly in domestic production chains and economic diversification, were vital.  Most African parliamentary systems, derived from European or United States models, were too costly to enable Governments to spend limited resources wisely.  New models were needed.

Mr. BELTRAME said remarkable achievements in recent decades, with millions of Brazilians lifted out of poverty and the nation removed from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Hunger Map, had helped raise quality of life and reduce inequality.  The challenge was to sustain those gains.  The national poverty reduction strategy entailed conditional cash transfers, social inclusion, and promotion of human development, with a focus on early childhood care.  Through the Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme, 13.6 million low-income people received stipends provided they kept their children in school and following a vaccination schedule.  This year, the Government would launch a National Strategy for Social and Productive Inclusion to build professional skills and generate income.  The Happy Child Programme was launched last year and would give regular assistance, including home visits, to 530,000 children in 2017 and 1.5 million in 2018.

In the ensuing discussion, the moderator asked Mr. SERVOZ why, for the European Union, partnerships were important.  He replied that, to implement the Goals, the commitment of Governments was not enough; others must participate as well.  However, he stressed, Governments had an obligation to mobilize other actors, particularly social partners.

A representative of the Baha’i community asked how to develop policies that did not create a sense of separateness between haves and have-nots.

Responding, Ms. MUSCHETT emphasized the importance, when identifying target populations, of understanding contexts and expectations.  Most policymakers were never going to understand “in their skin” what experiencing poverty was really like.  Panama’s history with cash-transfer programmes was fairly new and under constant assessment, but to judge from the experience of other countries, such as Brazil, those programmes alone would not free people from poverty.

Mr. RAVALLION added that it was expensive to address poverty at a micro level, especially for poor countries.  Policies must be tailored to local realities or they would not work.  There should be more discussion around State capacities and building effective Governments in poor countries.  Tension could emerge between finely targeted programmes and middle-class support, and in such instances, it would be necessary to strike a balance, appropriate to each country.

A representative of UNAMANA International said people living in poverty must be asked what they needed.  In that regard, she asked the panellists what interventions countries might take in consultation with their local communities, and how their success could be monitored.

Mr. RAVALLION responded that it was critical to consider what would work best in each situation.  “We have a menu of options,” he said, and there was no single magic bullet.  While the science of measurement and evaluation had come a long way, he warned against generalizing and stressed that methods should be adapted to the local context.

Ms. THOMPSON raised questions related to the role of governance, how best to address environmental issues in the eradication of poverty, and ways to galvanize people around the 2030 Agenda.  A representative of the International Association of Schools of Social Work then asked panellists how to ensure that the world’s current power concentrations did not hinder efforts to leave no one behind.

The representative of Romania said the best measure of social development was “jobs, jobs, jobs”.  Leaving no one behind meant moving forward together, he said, stressing that the motto represented the “best equation” for eradicating poverty.  He then responded to several questions by Ms. Thomson relating to his choice of the word “jobs” as opposed to “decent work” and whether jobs should be targeted to groups such as youth and women, stressing that he was talking about a “decent way of life” in general.

Ms. CHACÓN said the Sustainable Development Goals, while ambitious, were more realistic than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, which had not been achieved by many countries.  In Costa Rica, the Government had created a public alliance through which it engaged academia, civil society and State institutions in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.  Measurable and specific targets and indicators, as well as implementation time frames, had also been put in place.  She underscored the importance of investing in education, which would help countries remain competitive and generate “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

Ms. ALHASSAN said that, without the appropriate frameworks, the roles of Government and other stakeholders remained unclear and those entities could not be held accountable.  Policies required adequate legislation to enforce them, she added, calling in particular for social safety nets for the most vulnerable and citing a number of examples from her country.

A representative of SustainUS, also speaking on behalf of native Hawaiians, raised a question about land rights and displacement, their relationship to poverty, and the situation of indigenous peoples.

Ms. OFONG said those who lived in poverty needed to know what the Sustainable Development Goals were about.  Civil society felt that Governments must simplify the Goals and translate them into local languages.  Thought should be given to teaching the Goals in schools.  Regarding governance, she said it was costly for most African countries.  Each country should revisit their political structures and reduce costs in order to have more money for poverty eradication.

Ms. ALHASSAN addressed the topic of land-holding by women.  In most of Africa, and especially in Nigeria, women had had no land-owning rights, despite that they represented the majority of farmers.  The Government in Nigeria was addressing that issue in equal opportunities legislation.

Mr. SERVOZ said many poverty strategies were about education, fiscal policies and other issues.  However, education ministers did not get along well with counterparts who dealt with social policies, and it was the same for finance ministers.  He also addressed a question from the moderator about the environment, saying the European Union was committed to full implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and reducing energy poverty.

Ms. THOMPSON, emphasizing that environmental resources could not be squandered, said nobody got along with environment ministers, as they were considered too “restrictive”.

Ms. MUSCHETT said that, following a major consultative process, Panama was developing a national plan for indigenous peoples.  Poverty in her country was concentrated in five regions populated by indigenous peoples, but each of those regions was different.  She added that environmental vulnerability was one dimension of Panama’s multidimensional poverty index.

Mr. CHARWATH, Chair of the Commission, in brief closing remarks, highlighted the importance of data, stressing that without data, there could be no policy formulation.

__________

*     The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release SOC/4837 of 12 February 2016.

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Human Rights Crucial, but Exploited for Political Aims, Interference in Internal State Affairs, Third Committee Told as It Debates United Nations Mandate Holders

While conflict, climate change and chaotic migration had reinforced the world’s need for the United Nations human rights machinery, that system was at risk of abuse due to the many pressures arising from concurrent crises, delegates warned the Third Committee today (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), as they debated the Organization’s special procedures and mandates today.

Canada’s representative said exceptional or unique circumstances continued to erode the universal nature of human rights, a trend that often led to greater inequality, injustice, violence and death.  Egypt’s representative, too, said the world was witnessing an escalation of human rights violations, with huge numbers of people fleeing conflict and crossing borders.  But countries failing to protect human rights were using related instruments for political aims, and intervening in States’ domestic affairs.

The politics surrounding human rights instruments was also addressed by India’s representative, who noted that nearly half of the thematic mandate holders came from one region, while the reliance on voluntary funding to support the Special Procedures system privileged some mandates over others, and could have adverse impacts on their perceived independence.  He expressed concern that the United Nations human rights machinery had divided States and was being used as a political tool.

Turning from the broader political context in which it was operating to the specific situations that United Nations special procedures sought to address, the European Union’s representative singled out events in Syria for attention.  Excessive and disproportionate attacks against civilians, humanitarian and health care personnel and infrastructure must be brought to justice.  She condemned mass killings and other atrocities by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) terrorists.  “Religious belief should not justify the use of terrorism and violence,” she said, encouraging religious leaders to do all in their power to prevent such acts.

The observer for the Holy See, meanwhile, cautioned that “religion becomes a source of discrimination when it is used and abused to define national identity and unity”.

Espousing a practical, rather than ideological approach to realizing human rights, Singapore’s representative noted that a one-size-fits-all approach could not address human rights issues, adding “just as no two people are exactly alike, no two societies, communities or States are exactly alike”.

Along those lines, China’s representative urged respect for countries’ choice of rights protection modalities that were tailored to their national circumstances.  He opposed double standards on human rights issues, and interference in State affairs under their pretext.  Dialogue should be conducted on the basis of equality and mutual learning pursued in an open, inclusive manner.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Colombia, Russian Federation, Libya, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Norway, Viet Nam, Qatar, Iraq, Cyprus, Myanmar, Greece, Eritrea, Nepal, Japan, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Iran, Australia, Algeria, Palau, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Serbia, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Liechtenstein, Cuba, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Malawi, Morocco, Kuwait, and Philippines, as well as an observer of the State of Palestine.

An official of the Food and Agriculture Organization also addressed the Committee.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Bahrain, Turkey, Russian Federation, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Cyprus, Israel, and Japan.  An observer of the State of Palestine also spoke.

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

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4172.

Statements

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union, stressing that the Syrian regime had the primary responsibility to protect civilians, condemned the excessive and disproportionate attacks against them, as well as humanitarian and healthcare personnel and infrastructure.  The perpetrators of such war crimes must be brought to justice.  In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Government deprived its people of political, economic, social and cultural rights, while refusing to engage with the international community.  She urged the Government to implement recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry.  On Burundi, she expressed regret over the Government’s decision to suspend cooperation with the Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and intention to withdraw from the Rome Statue.

She went on to remind China of its international human rights obligations, notably to allow human rights defenders and lawyers to pursue their activities and ensure an enabling environment for civil society.  In the Russian Federation, the space for independent civil society was shrinking while human rights defenders and independent journalists faced harassment.  Turning to Da’esh, she condemned the atrocities, mass killings, use of sexual violence and other abuses perpetrated by the terrorist group against civilians.  “Religious belief should not justify the use of terrorism and violence,” she said, encouraging religious leaders to do all in their power to prevent such acts.

SARAH MENDELSON (United States) deplored human rights violations in a number of countries, including in Syria and called on the Syrian Government to stop such violations and attacks immediately.  Further, she called on other countries in conflict to guarantee humanitarian access, also urging them to better protect minorities and civil society.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia), recalling his country’s achievements in ending its protracted conflict said peace had resulted in less displacement and greater education and development.  Further, redress had been provided to victims of the conflict and the rule of law had been strengthened.  No amnesty had been granted to perpetrators of serious crimes

Ms. SHLYCHKOVA (Russian Federation) said the disproportionate use of force by police and the issue of solitary confinement were among those that the United States had yet to address.  Those authorities had been silent amid an increase of neo-Nazi groups.  In the European Union, there had been an increase in “Waffen-SS legionnaires” and memorials to Holocaust victims had been desecrated.  The Russian Federation had seen an increase in child trafficking, sexual violence, child pornography, domestic violence and the baseless removal of children from mixed families, she said, adding that in Norway, the rights of children to freedom of belief was being violated, with Muslims being forced to eat pork and attend church.  In the United Kingdom, violence against children had increased, while in Ukraine and the Baltic States, Germany and the United Kingdom, the freedom of speech had been violated.

IBRAHIM K. M. ALMABRUK (Libya) said that despite difficult circumstances, his country was keen to protect human rights, citing its commitment to international instruments as the guiding principle.  During the transitional period, Libya had felt instability and therefore urged the Human Rights Council to provide further support to the relevant bodies, which would help Libya promote its legal frameworks, and thus, justice.  Libya had become a transit country for migrants crossing to Europe and it was making every effort to prevent illegal trafficking, supporting activities whereby migrants could be voluntarily repatriated.  But Libya could not achieve any of those objectives without international cooperation

Ms. YOTDAMNOEN (Thailand), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said progress had been made in mainstreaming human rights at the national level, in line with international obligations.  Achievements included laws on anti-trafficking and access to justice.  She attached great importance to the follow‑up of recommendations by the Universal Periodic Review, expressing support for increased regional and international cooperation, particularly of technical nature, and capacity building.

Mr. RAFEE (United Arab Emirates), outlining measures being taken at the national level to promote human rights and tolerance, pointed to achievements in economic development and women’s empowerment.  The Government attached great importance to gender equality and had strengthened women’s political participation, including at the ministerial level.  Progress had been made in protecting children’s rights, he said, citing an increase in school enrolment.

CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), stressing that human rights were crucial for the implementation of all Sustainable Development Goals, said universal enjoyment of human rights meant that no one was left behind.  However, serious human rights violations persisted, including around gender identity, migration and privacy.  He urged updating protection of the right to privacy in collaboration with the private sector to take into account the latest technological advances.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt) said the world was witnessing an escalation of human rights violations, with huge numbers of people fleeing conflict and crossing borders.  Countries failing to protect human rights were using human rights instruments for political aims, intervening in States’ domestic affairs.  The United States, for example, had abused the use of force, not only against migrants, but against citizens of African origin.  It also had the largest number of detainees and there was racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.  He expressed deep concern at the European Union’s practices in defiance of international humanitarian law, using force against refugees in certain countries.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) stressed that “conflicts and crisis can never be an excuse for ignoring human rights violations”.  Impunity must end, while efforts to address violent extremism must be in line with international legal obligations.  Freedom of expression was necessary for realizing other human rights and a prerequisite for democracy and good governance.  She expressed dismay that the situation for human rights defenders continued to be difficult and, in some places, was worsening, urging States to protect those who protected the rights of others.  Education was a fundamental human right and Norway had initiated the independent Commission on Financing Education Opportunity, which had submitted its report to the Secretary‑General this year.  Norway also had hosted the sixth World Congress against the Death Penalty in June and urged all States to take a stand against that practice.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Observer of the Holy See, expressed regret that the right to life continued to be debated rather than prioritized.  He welcomed the report by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate living standard and reiterated his opposition to the death penalty, which he said fostered vengeance, not justice.  The report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief had shown that the freedom of religion was being trampled on and ridiculed in many parts of the world, including by religious communities themselves.  “Religion becomes a source of discrimination when it is used and abused to define national identity and unity,” he said, calling for renewed and sustained action to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), while noting that political, economic, social and cultural rights must be treated equally, said promoting such rights at the international community required respect for States’ sovereign rights and greater mutual understanding, trust and cooperation.  At the national level, Viet Nam had done its best to preserve the environment of peace and stability, promote sustainable development and safeguard human rights.  Placing people at the centre of policies, the Government had strengthened the legal system and institutions.  However, Viet Nam suffered from the impact of drought, salinization and floods, hindering people’s right to food, health, education and adequate housing, she said, calling for international assistance.

TERRENCE TEO (Singapore) noted that a one-size-fits-all approach could not address human rights issues, adding “just as no two people are exactly alike, no two societies, communities or States are exactly alike”.  His Government’s approach had been to build a fair and inclusive society preserving social harmony, and taking a practical, not ideological, approach to realizing human rights.  At times, the Government had had to intervene for the common good, taking steps unpopular with a section of the community.  Singapore was determined to foster a multi-racial, fair and just society and was therefore tough on racial and religious extremists.  Its laws stressed that freedom of expression came with accompanying responsibilities.  Race and religion remained very sensitive matters, and now, more than ever, the Government must engage with different groups and their competing interests deeply and pragmatically.

ALANOUD QASSIM M. A. AL-TEMIMI (Qatar) said her country’s vision of human rights was underpinned by the international conventions to which it had acceded, stressing that Qatar ranked first among Arab States on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) human development index.  Qatar recognized its challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.  She expressed concern at tension in Palestinian territories, as the occupying Power continued to confiscate lands and deprive Palestinians of the right to practice their religion.  The Syrian people had endured atrocities for the past five years as a result of the Syrian regime’s violation of all aspects of international law, and continued policy of torture, detention and killing.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada) said crises and “exceptional” or “unique” circumstances continued to erode the universality of human rights.  That trend often led to greater inequality, injustice, violence and death.  Impunity was a major impediment to the realization of human rights and achievement of sustainable development, he said, expressing concern about a growing lack of recognition and appreciation for diversity, as well as an increasing number of restrictions imposed on civil society.

Mr. AL-HUSSAINI (Iraq) said the Government had allowed international media to establish offices in the country, and women were permitted full rights in the political and diplomatic fields.  Iraq had also taken measures to implement the rights of the child and had acceded to two voluntary protocols.  The right to belief was assured in Iraq, and at a time when it was working to promote human rights, it was also waging war against the Da’esh terrorist group.  That war, however, did not distract from providing for all citizens, he said, thanking those who had supported Iraq’s membership of the Human Rights Council

MENELAOS MENELAOU (Cyprus), associating with the European Union, said that protecting cultural heritage was imperative in protecting human rights.  He recalled that the International Criminal Court’s decision in Prosecutor v. Al Mahdi had established the precedent of prosecuting attacks on religious sites as war crimes.  He also expressed concern about rights violations against Cypriots living under Turkish occupation, where textbooks were censored, churches and cemeteries vandalized and worshippers intimidated.  The issue of missing persons was a major concern, as more than two thirds of the 2,001 missing persons were still unidentified.  He called on Turkey to provide full access to all areas and to release information concerning deliberate removal of the remains of missing persons.

THANT SIN (Myanmar), associating himself with ASEAN, said every country had the right to choose its economic and social path, although collective effort was needed to face common challenges and seize opportunities in dealing with human rights issues.  The international community’s work to promote and protect human rights should be carried out through dialogue in a fair and equal manner with objectivity, impartiality and respect for national sovereignty.  As a nation emerging from internal strife, Myanmar believed that conflict, discrimination and injustices would only end when rule of law and justice flourished.  In that respect, the Government was reviewing outdated laws, and in September, had abolished provisions of the Ward and Village Track Administration Law, which had required citizens to report overnight guests to authorities.  The Government also had prioritized ratifying several core international human rights treaties and their protocols.

GEORGIOS POULEAS (Greece), endorsing the European Union’s position, stressed the importance of a strong multilateral human rights system that encouraged cooperation.  Greece had adopted a human rights-based approach to sustainable economic growth, prioritizing the most vulnerable people.  Greece would continue its coordinated response to the migrant/refugee crisis, he said, while emphasizing the need for burden sharing and addressing root causes.  He expressed great concern over the human rights situation in Cyprus, particularly the situation of missing persons and violations of property rights.  The widespread looting and destruction of cultural sites in the occupied part of the island was a grave concern.  Recent events had reinforced Greece’s position that full withdrawal of the Turkish occupation forces and elimination of the anachronistic system of guarantees were fundamental conditions for resolving the issue.

ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea) said his country had strengthened its partnership with OHCHR, and in May, signed an agreement with the United Nations to enhance its national capacity in the implementation of Universal Periodic Review commitments.  Human rights must be addressed through genuine dialogue and engagement, he said, calling country-specific mandates politicized, confrontational and counterproductive.  He voiced concern over double standards in the region and globally, noting that States which had harassed Eritrea over its human rights record had given the green light to a regime in the region to commit grave human rights violations.  Discussions on human rights could not be meaningful without addressing poverty, instability, occupation and unjustified sanctions.

ILLA MAINALI (Nepal) said her country had implemented comprehensive national policies and action plans to protect the rights of children and persons with disabilities.  A zero tolerance policy was in place for violence against women, and efforts to protect civil society and human rights defenders had been strengthened.  Further, the Government had created the Commission of Investigation on Disappeared Persons, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Recognizing the importance of the Universal Periodic Review, Nepal had made progress in implementing its recommendations, she said, stressing the need to protect migrants’ rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan), noting that the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had not improved, said his country and the European Union would table a draft resolution on that issue for the twelfth year.  The abduction of foreign nationals was among the most serious human rights violations of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Syria was also of deep concern, as was the situation in Yemen, amid alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws.  Japan supported United Nations efforts to mediate in that conflict and bring about peace and stability.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) expressed concern about human rights violations that had arisen from the high number of migrants and displaced persons.  Recalling the grave human rights violations experienced during the genocide against the Tutsi, she attached great importance to the protection of all human rights.  Rwanda had made progress in realizing the right to development and providing basic social services, as well as in promoting the right to freedom of expression, with a significant increase in the number of newspapers and radio stations in the country.  The number of online media outlets had grown, she said, citing other gains made in strengthening the freedom of association of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and political parties.

Ms. IZANOVA (Kazakhstan), underscoring that the Government worked closely with the international human rights mechanisms, stressed the importance of realizing the right to freedom of expression.  Kazakhstan had implemented recommendations of the special procedures, she said, emphasizing the importance the Government attached to promoting and maintaining interreligious and interethnic peace.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) reiterated the need for mandate holders to remain independent and to focus on strengthening national capacities.  They also must represent diverse geographic areas, per Human Rights Council resolution 5/1.  Regrettably, nearly half of the thematic mandate holders came from one region, while the reliance on voluntary funding to support the Special Procedures system privileged some mandates over others and could have adverse impacts on their perceived independence.  He expressed concern that the United Nations human rights machinery had divided States and was being used as a political tool.  He welcomed the establishment of a new mandate on the right to development, which was essential for the enjoyment of all other human rights.  Special procedures also had a moral and legal obligation to strengthen national and international accountability for eliminating poverty in a time-bound manner, as there was no point in pursuing freedom from fear without achieving freedom from want.  Finally, he emphasized the impact of fair and equitable international trade, finance, investment and intellectual property on human rights, which could only be achieved if developing countries could participate in global decision making and norm setting on an equal footing with developed countries.

Mr. GHAEBI (Iran) cited rampant human rights violations by the United States, including involuntary disappearances, secret CIA detention centres, the Guantanamo centre and drone strikes.  The devastating impact of unfair migration policies also could not be overlooked, while inside the country, the justice system was plagued with systematic incarceration of a disproportionate number of minorities.  Anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia were prevalent in European countries, he said, expressing alarm at the lack of safeguards in asylum procedures.  Thousands of migrant children were at grave risk of sexual abuse and trafficking.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that, if elected to the Human Rights Council, her country would continue to demonstrate its strong commitment to promoting and protecting human rights.  Expressing concern about growing violence and rights violations based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, she said that while such matters were sensitive for many, no one should face stigmatization, discrimination or violence on any grounds.  Working with a range of partners was important to address international rights violations.  Australia had supported the application of the Youth Coalition of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights during a recent session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.  While it was regrettable that the matter had been brought to a vote, its passage had shown the commitment by many to increase civil society engagement in the United Nations.

IDRISS BOUASSILA (Algeria) reaffirmed the need to realize all human rights and fundamental freedoms, notably the right to development.  For those deprived of the rights to food, health and education, the invocation of civil and political rights was an empty slogan.  Noting that rights violations persisted worldwide, he said the right to development implied the full realization of the right to self-determination, including full sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources.  Substantial progress had been made in Algeria to broaden the space for human rights through a series of economic, social and institutional reforms, including laws criminalizing violence against women and children and protecting divorced women.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) said the right to health was enshrined in a number of instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The world had committed to achieving universal health coverage through the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, yet efforts to promote mental health lagged.  In too many countries, resource allocation for mental health and psychosocial services represented a small percent of total health expenditures.  Palau challenged the international community to a global commitment toward ensuring that persons needing mental health services received them.

RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) said the importance her country attached to human rights was visible in its accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other instruments.  Further, national legislation was in line with such international commitments.  For example, Sudan had established legislative and institutional frameworks to promote human rights domestically.  Military law now included a provision against recruiting children, while bodies to protect women and children in armed conflict had been created.  Foreign debt undermined efforts to ensure human rights for all.  Only human rights which enjoyed consensus could be taken into consideration, she said, and the Universal Periodic Review was the best way to understand State concerns in that regard.

MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka) said the country was working to advance the transitional justice process and cited efforts to coordinate with the international human rights mechanisms in that context.  A Task Force had been set up to ensure the participation of civil society, as well as accountability and mechanisms for reparations.  Further, a Permanent and Independent Office on Missing Persons had been set up as an essential element in the truth-seeking process.  The Government was working on a Constitution that reflected the country’s diversity, he said, and had worked with the special procedures to address involuntary disappearances, ensure non-recurrence and protect minorities.

Mr. TUMBARE (Zimbabwe) said the country had made progress in promoting economic rights through various measures, including by broadening access to means of production, which allowed more citizens to participate in the mainstream economy.  Recalling that the promotion and protection of human rights was the Government’s primary duty, he reiterated his rejection of interference with State sovereignty under the veil of human rights protection.  He also stressed the importance of respecting countries’ cultures and traditions in the realization of human rights.

RI SONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that “human rights mean the sovereignty and the right to independence of countries”.  However, human rights were misused to infringe on State sovereignty, notably in the campaign conducted against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the United States.  The July report of the Department of State and subsequent special list of sanction targets was “the most hostile act ever” committed by that country.  The United States would use economic sanctions to stifle the rights of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s overseas workers, even though those people worked in line with labour laws of his own country and those of the country concerned.  People enjoyed full rights under the warm care and love of Comrade Kim Jong Un.  The United Nations should prioritize actions of the United States vassal forces, which had plunged the Middle East into chaos under the guise of human rights and democracy.

ANA ILIĆ (Serbia) reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms, noting that Serbia had welcomed visits by Special Rapporteurs, cooperated with treaty bodies and was fulfilling its reporting requirements.  She expressed regret that there had been no progress in the protection of the rights of ethnic communities in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.  Serbia was committed to dialogue with Pristina, but was concerned that the latter was not engaging in good faith.  In Croatia, too, the Serbian minority was under more frequent attack.  She expected that Croatia would take seriously the criticism of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee opinion on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and implement its recommendations.  For its part, Serbia would continue to advance legislation that promoted the status of its minorities, non-discrimination and human rights.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said his country’s commitment to human rights flowed from the Constitution, which embodied the principles and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The legal and institutional framework in Bangladesh sought to ensure that people enjoyed their rights.  However, like many other least developed countries, Bangladesh faced challenges such as poverty, which prevented people from achieving their economic, social and cultural rights.  Government efforts, such as social safety nets, microfinance and programmes for women’s empowerment and education, had broadened the spectrum of rights to be enjoyed by all.  Citing the principles of universality, non-selectivity and impartiality, he said country-specific resolutions did not improve human rights situations in developing countries.  Rather, the Universal Periodic Review generated dialogue and cooperation.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), recalling the aggression his country had been subjected to by the Russian Federation, expressed concern about the detention and interrogation of Ukrainian citizens and the violence and torture they had been made to suffer.  He voiced grave concern about the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, notably the expanded use of surveillance and crackdown on both civil society and the press.  He called for the immediate release of all political prisoners.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein), speaking also on behalf of Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Switzerland, said the Sustainable Development Goals and indicators were linked to international human rights obligations.  She pointed out that the right to development shared a number of commonalities with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Both recognized the centrality of people in development and sought to create an enabling environment for the full realization of all human rights.  They also reaffirmed States’ responsibility to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens.  She called for realizing the right to development in all its facets, stressing that opportunities could be found in exploring the relationship between human rights and sustainable development.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein), speaking also on behalf of Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Switzerland, said the Sustainable Development Goals and indicators were linked to international human rights obligations.  She pointed out that the right to development shared a number of commonalities with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Both recognized the centrality of people in development and sought to create an enabling environment for the full realization of all human rights.  They also reaffirmed States’ responsibility to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens.  She called for realizing the right to development in all its facets, stressing that opportunities could be found in exploring the relationship between human rights and sustainable development.

VILMA THOMAS (Cuba) said the United Nations must be objective in its approach to human rights.  The statement by the United States delegate was arrogant and confrontational, an approach that did not promote or protect human rights.  Cuba’s rights record, by contrast, had been exemplary.  In Cuba, unlike in the United States, the Government did not stifle protesters with teargas or execute people of colour.  Cuba did not abandon homeless people and all of its inhabitants were guaranteed medical care.  The international community must prioritize ending extreme poverty, which had been exacerbated by an unjust global order.  Reaffirming Cuba’s commitment to human rights for all, she said cooperation was needed to bring about the principles of universality and non-selectivity, and to ensure genuine dialogue among countries of the North and South.  In that regard, it was important to do away with double standards in country resolutions.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela) said the Government promoted respect for human rights through its legislative and legal practices.  In recent years, it had strengthened the legal order and human rights system.  This year, it would present its Universal Periodic Review, he said, noting that Venezuela had also been re-elected to the Human Right Council — a recognition of its achievements.  Eradicating poverty was a particular focus and the Government had made strides toward that goal.  It had increased school enrolment, reduced maternal mortality and combatted malaria and HIV.  He reiterated the importance of objectivity, non-selectivity and non-politicization in the protection of human rights, condemning country-specific resolutions and reports.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) focused on the detrimental effects of armed conflict on cultural heritage and the enjoyment of cultural rights.  He expressed his concern that religious and cultural heritage was often targeted during armed conflict and condemned all such intentional destruction.  The protection and preservation of cultural heritage was not only a legal obligation but also a moral one.  Expressing concern about the increased police killings of African-Americans in the United States, he urged that country to collaborate with relevant international human rights mechanisms.

NECTON D. MHURA (Malawi) said his country had a longstanding commitment to human rights, reflected in its customary laws and teachings. Recognizing the role of good governance and democracy in the realization of human rights, the Government had integrated a rights-based approach in its laws and policies.  It also had recognized the importance of nutrition and quality education in that context, he said, noting that climate change had profoundly affected the economy.  Among other efforts, Malawi had introduced a progressive disability law and addressed attacks on people living with albinism through amendments to the Anatomy Act and Penal Code.

Mr. EL KADDOURI (Morocco) said the Government was committed to promoting and protecting human rights in their universality and totality.  Morocco had undertaken far-reaching reforms as part of a gradual process to establish a culture of rights.  The country had integrated international law into its Constitution, which recognized and enshrined respect for local cultures and criminalized torture.  In 2011, Morocco had set up an inter-ministerial delegation for the coordination of public policy on human rights.  It also had carried out structural reforms and consolidated and multiplied democratic reforms.

WU HAITAO (China), stressing that cooperation must respect States’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, said he opposed the politicization and double standards on human rights issues, as well as interference in internal State affairs under the pretext of human rights.  Dialogue should be conducted on the basis of equality and mutual learning pursued in an open, inclusive manner.  Stressing the right to inclusive development, he said States should capitalize on the opportunity provided by implementation of the 2030 Agenda, prioritizing assistance to developing countries to eliminate poverty and realize the rights to life and development.  In addition, the international community must respect people’s choices, understanding that there was no universally applicable development pathway or human rights standard.  Respect should be given to countries’ autonomous choice of human rights protection modalities that were tailored to their national circumstances.

NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer of the State of Palestine, reiterated her strong support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 and called for United Nations action to hold Israel accountable and address its long record of non-cooperation.  The persistence of that situation, without consequence or remedy, had inflicted immense human suffering and undermined efforts to realize a just peace based on a two-State solution.  Given Israel’s unwillingness to investigate its violations, she called upon the international community to end the culture of impunity, which sent the message that Palestinian lives did not matter.  Seventy years had passed since the question of Palestine was placed on the agenda and it was high time for action to compel Israel to respect its international legal obligations.

Ms. ALZOUMAN (Kuwait), sharing achievements, said the Government had acceded to a number of international human rights instruments and engaged with the related mechanisms.  She deplored the rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians, in breach of international human rights and humanitarian law.  Expressing grave concern about the conflict in Syria, she said Kuwait expressed its support for Syria by hosting refugees and by holding donor conferences.

LOURDES O. YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines) stressed the need to protect migrants’ rights and maintain the momentum generated by the adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants.  The Global Compact take a human rights-based approach to ensure safe and regular migration, as well as a long-term developmental perspective.  On the concerns expressed about alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with drug-related offenses, she said expressed the Government’s commitment to uphold the rule of law, underscoring the threat that illegal drugs posed to society.

CARLA MUCAVI, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), while recognizing achievements in reducing hunger, drew attention other food-related challenges, such as obesity and malnutrition.  The right to food was a foundation for realizing other human rights, she said, noting that discrimination against women, which restricted their access to land, had detrimental effects on food security.  For its part, FAO provided support to States to improve food systems and to ensure food security.

Right of Reply

The representative of Bahrain, responding to remarks by the United States delegate, reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to the highest standards of human rights protection and cooperation with the United Nations.  Bahrain was committed to an open democratic process that promoted a strong sense of national identity, but had put in place measures to protect the political arena from sectarianism.  Revocation of citizenship occurred in accordance with law.  No person, including those named, had been prosecuted for freedom of expression.

Turkey’s representative, responding to comments by Greece’s delegate, rejected the latter’s recollection of history as selective and one-sided.  Turkish Cypriots had been forced out of Government institutions in 1963 and Turkey had intervened in 1974 to protect Turkish Cypriots from a military coup initiated by Greece.  While supporting the Secretary-General’s efforts to reach a just settlement, he said Greece was exploiting a humanitarian issue for political purposes.  The Immovable Property Commission provided recourse to Greek Cypriots, while cultural heritage issues were addressed by a joint committee.  To the United States delegate, he said his Government had followed due process in addressing the fallout from the coup attempt, and he called for the extradition of the coup’s leadership, who were living abroad.

The representative of the Russian Federation regretted that the representative of the United States had introduced issues to the Third Committee that were not part of its mandate.  The people of Crimea had acceded to the Russian Federation by referendum.  Ukraine’s delegate would be more honest to mention the Ukrainian radicals who had carried out an economic blockade of Crimea, or the situation of the Tatars, who had been ignored by authorities throughout Ukraine’s independence.  She urged the delegates of the United States and the European Union to familiarize themselves with her Government’s position on East Aleppo.

China’s representative opposed the politically motivated and groundless allegations and attacks on the human rights situation in his country by his counterparts from the United States and the European Union, who were using human rights as a geopolitical tool, while remaining silent about their own abuses and those of their allies.  In the United States, guns were ubiquitous, police used force on ethnic minorities, race-based hate crimes continued and the Government violated citizen privacy through surveillance.  Meanwhile, in the European Union, racism against migrants was a serious concern.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, rejecting allegations by the United States and the European Union representatives, said the United States had slaughtered children and women abroad under the guise of democracy.  The same applied to the European Union, where refugees were discriminated against and exploited.  To comments by Japan’s representative, he said the issue of abducted citizens had been addressed.  Japan should address its own crimes and apologize.

Ukraine’s representative drew attention to international agreements regarding the unlawfulness of occupation.

The representative of Cyprus expressed concern about the Turkish occupation of territories in Cyprus and called on Turkey to end the occupation immediately.

Israel’s representative deplored the choices made by Palestinians, including the hosting of a terrorist organization and discrimination against women.  Palestinians should promote health and education, rather than incite hate.

Japan’s representative said the question of abducted citizens had not been resolved and called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement relevant agreements immediately.  Japan was a democratic Government committed to the rule of law.

An observer of Palestine, in response to comments by Israel’s delegate, dismissed claims of incitement.  The cause of violence was the occupation.  It was an outrageous claim that Palestinian children were taught to hate.  The human rights violations outlined were not a Palestinian story, but rather, recognized by the international community.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s delegate rejected comments by Japan’s delegate, urging Japan to apologize for its crimes against humanity and to end rights violations against Korean residents of Japan.

Japan’s delegate responded that his country had no intention of breaking the Stockholm Agreement.  It was regrettable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not responded to the concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur.

Israel’s representative, responding to comments by the observer of the State of Palestine, said she looked forward to reciting the findings of Palestinian non-Governmental organizations and courts on the use of children for terror.

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At Second Committee Meeting, Delegates Underline Structural Obstacles for Countries in Special Situations

Buffeted by a global economic slowdown, the impacts of climate change and falling commodity prices, least developed and landlocked developing States needed sustained international support, Member States said today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) discussed groups of countries in special situations.

Opening the meeting, Thailand’s representative, on behalf of the “Group of  77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution entitled “ICT [information communications technology] for Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/71/L.15).

Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, then introduced three reports:  “Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011—2020” (A/71/66-E/2016/11); “Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries” (document A/71/363); and “Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024” (document A/71/313).

In the ensuing discussion, Bangladesh’s representative, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, said there remained significant structural obstacles to improvement in the least developed States.  Almost all were food-deficit countries, and lagged behind in science and innovation.  Despite many discouraging facts, however, least developed countries were gradually meeting graduation criteria, with 10 additional States reaching the threshold in March 2015.

Zambia’s representative, speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said land degradation, desertification and deforestation were hindering them from achieving sustainable development.  The countries could not attain development goals without realizing the Vienna Programme of Action.  He pointed to the vulnerability of landlocked developing countries to the volatility of commodity prices, also noting their high transport and transaction costs.

Niger’s representative, continuing the theme of landlocked countries, said that the challenges to be met for those States were beyond the simple difficulties linked to delivering goods in a timely way to major markets.  They were also related to the lack of productive capacities, low levels of investment and the informal nature of the private sector.  Landlocked developing countries would need a more comprehensive development programme in the future.

The representative of the Maldives, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said eight of its members were least developed States and “sea-locked”.  Targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.  That also included nations that were both small island developing States and least developed countries, as they faced structural challenges on two fronts.

Also speaking today were representatives from Thailand (for the Group of 77), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Haiti (for the Caribbean Community), Paraguay, India, Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Mexico, Viet Nam, Tajikistan, Botswana, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, Turkey, Morocco, Myanmar, Tuvalu, Ethiopia, China and Bhutan.

The Second Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 20 October on the agenda item 17, “Macroeconomic Policy Questions”, and agenda item 18, “Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development.”

Introduction of Draft Resolution

PITCHAPORN LIWJAROEN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution entitled “ICT for Sustainable Development” (A/C.2/71/L.15).  Recognizing the complex nature of the digital divides between and within countries, and between women and men, the draft considered the matter of access in all its dimensions for the world’s next 1.5 billion citizens.  It encouraged international cooperation, technology transfer and dissemination between Governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community and all other relevant stakeholders.

Presentation of Reports

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report “Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011—2020” (document A/71/66-E/2016/11).  He noted that the international community’s high participation in the least developed country decade showed its willingness to stand by those countries and assist with development.  The private sector and parliamentarians had also demonstrated their support.  The midterm review of implementation found least developed countries had made considerable progress in several areas, including economic growth, benefits from interregional trade, humanitarian and social development, access to education, women’s empowerment and rule of law.  Progress had also been made towards graduation from the least developed status, which some would accomplish within the next couple of years.

However, progress in development was uneven both within and between least developed countries, he said.  Many suffered from high unemployment, public health emergencies and the negative effects of climate change.  Due to the global economic crisis, they were also experiencing a slowdown, with growth rates falling to a level considerably lower than during the period 2001—2010.  The Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty was being achieved generally but at a slower pace in least developed countries.  Progress to increase productive capacity was mixed, with many still lacking access to the Internet and mobile phones.  There had been modest improvements in transport and access to electricity but road and rail transport remained underdeveloped.  Total official development assistance (ODA) flows had fallen below pre-2008 levels, prior to the economic crisis.

He then introduced the Secretary-General’s note “Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries” (document A/71/363), and the Secretary-General’s report “Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014—2024” (document A/71/313).

Speaking on the latter, he highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The report stressed the linkage between the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, as well as other processes including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and others.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had slowed in recent years, which was a matter of great concern, and many landlocked developing countries had faced trade slowdowns.  A large number of landlocked developing countries were still marginalized in the international system, particularly given the decline in commodity prices.

Landlocked developing countries had nonetheless seen positive development results in recent years, including a decline in the proportion of their citizens living below the poverty line, he continued.  It was important to mobilize elements for infrastructure between landlocked developing countries and transit countries.  Landlocked developing countries still faced the high costs of trade, and trade facilitation initiatives needed to be scaled up, as did ODA, which remained the main form of finance for many of these countries.

Statements

PITCHAPORN LIWJAROEN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said it welcomed the political declaration of the recent Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action.  It would give more strength to the global partnership for development for the least developed countries in all priority areas.  It also would ensure the timely, effective and full implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action during the remaining decade.

She emphasized that international cooperation was crucial to ensure effective development and meet agreed commitments, such as ODA commitments and the timely implementation of duty-free and quota-free market access on a lasting basis.  Furthermore, foreign direct investment (FDI) was important to helping the Group’s countries build a strong economic base.  Yet less than 2 per cent of global FDI had been directed to its countries and most of those funds went to the extractive industry.

Any unilateral economic measures imposed on least developed countries had to be lifted and totally eliminated, she said.  Those measures negatively impacted the countries’ development and prosperity.  She also reiterated the Group’s appreciation to the Government of Turkey for hosting the Technology Bank.  In order to drive the socioeconomic progress of the landlocked developing countries, it was necessary for States to mainstream the Vienna Programme of Action into national development strategies.  The Group reaffirmed that infrastructure development played a key role in reducing the development costs of the landlocked developing countries.  It welcomed the launch of the Global Infrastructure Forum in April 2016.  It was an important follow-up to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  The Forum aimed to enhance coordination among multilateral development banks and their development partners to better develop sustainable, accessible and resilient infrastructure for developing States, including the landlocked least developed countries.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that least developed countries and landlocked developing countries continued to face various challenges such as poverty.  They were highly vulnerable to external shocks and the adverse impact of climate change, and needed to be given special priority by the international community.

He said ASEAN believed that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review would need to take into account the special needs and unique challenges of those countries by having a strategic guidance for the United Nations agencies to support them.  The Association needed to narrow the development gap among its members and had adopted various frameworks and declarations to do so.  Countries in special situations needed adequate and predictable financial support from development partners as reflected in the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

MARIYAM MIDHFA NAEEM (Maldives), speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said that eight of its members were least developed countries and “sea-locked”.  The Alliance reiterated the importance of fully integrating the Istanbul Programme of Action and the Vienna Programme of Action into the 2030 Agenda.  Targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.  That also included small island developing States that were also least developed countries as they faced structural challenges on two fronts.

It was important for international organizations and financial institutions to align their support programmes with the 2030 Agenda as the absence of such an alignment would mean that the Agenda could not be successfully implemented, she continued.  Furthermore, income-based indicators did not reflect the advancement or the vulnerabilities of a society as many least developed countries on track for graduation were extremely vulnerable to shocks, she said, adding that “it takes a big storm to wipe out years of hard-earned development gains”.  Sustaining those gains must be a priority.

DENIS REGIS (Haiti), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his group had paid special attention to the Midterm Review for Least Developed Countries.  The Istanbul Programme of Action must remain a central element for least developed countries.  It was important to ensure that the architecture of global development reinforced coherence at the international, regional and local levels.  Noting that only two least developed countries had graduated from their status since 2011, he said progress was clearly insufficient.  All stakeholders should redouble their efforts to enable graduation.

He expressed regret that many least developed countries had failed to achieve structural change.  More than two-thirds of their population worked in the agricultural sector, which had remained stagnant since 2013.  Also, the integration of those nations into global and regional value chains had remained low.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) had dropped slightly and exports had a strong sectoral concentration, which made them sensitive to external shocks.  All such trends were hindering poverty eradication.  Those countries should make greater use of domestic resource mobilization using public, private, South-South and triangular cooperation.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the reports provided a comprehensive picture of the challenges faced by the least developed countries.  The 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement recognized the vulnerability of the least developed countries.  There had been efforts to strengthen transit networks and trade through air travel and creating an enabling environment for the private sector.  However, the pace of development was slow and uneven, and many least developed countries failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

There remained significant structural obstacles to improvement in the least developed countries, he continued.  Almost all least developed nations were food-deficit countries, and lagged behind in science and innovation.  Despite many discouraging facts, however, those States were gradually meeting graduation criteria, with 10 additional least developed countries reaching the threshold in March 2015.  There was no alternative to strengthening partnerships at the global level to enhance capacity-building in the least developed countries.  Development partners needed to fulfil their ODA commitments.  Least developed countries also had limited capacity to respond to hazards or shocks, and needed international support.

MR. MUNDANDA (Zambia), speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said land degradation, desertification and deforestation was hindering landlocked countries in achieving sustainable development.  Those countries could not attain the development goals without realizing the Vienna Programme of Action.  He stressed the need for synergy and coherence, which was critical for transforming landlocked countries.  He pointed to the vulnerability of those States to the volatility of commodity prices, also noting their high transport and transaction costs.

The international community must address mainstreaming of the Vienna Programme into development goals to ensure its implementation, he continued.  It was necessary to establish secure and efficient transport systems to reduce costs and enhance competitiveness and full integration into global markets.  As funding for transport infrastructure remained a challenge, he called on the international community to establish infrastructure funding or special windows to meet transport needs.  Also, trade facilitation would lead to lower trade transaction and transport costs.

JUAN MANUEL PEÑA (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77 and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said while consideration of the latter group of States had increased in recent years, major challenges persisted.  The Almaty Programme of Action of 2004 and the Vienna Programme of Action of 2014 strengthened international commitment to solve the particular challenges of landlocked developing countries.  Paraguay urged the rapid ratification and implemented trade agreements and called on developed countries to offer trade technology and assistance for developing countries.  The 2030 Agenda must effectively recognize the specific challenges of landlocked countries and cooperate in offering solutions and continuous support.  His country recognized the importance of transport as a method of development.  Regarding the work of the Second Committee, efforts must be doubled to implement the Vienna Programme.  He also urged delegations to strengthen support for landlocked developing countries.

ASHISH SINHA (India) said his nation was fully committed to helping the least developed countries grow and develop rapidly and its partnerships with those States focused on capacity-building, sharing of technological expertise and financial assistance.  In 2008, India was the first emerging market economy to offer a duty-free trade preference scheme for those countries.  There were now 31 beneficiaries of that scheme, by which India provided duty-free and preferential market access on 98.2 per cent of its tariff lines.  His Government was proud of its relationship with countries in special situations and three India-Africa Forum summits and the Forum for India-Pacific Island Cooperation had crystallized that special relationship.  In addition to its ongoing credit programme, India had extended a grant assistance of $600 million, including an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of $10 million.  As commodity-exporting countries, the landlocked developing countries faced challenges as they tried to build links to the international economy.  The international community needed to help build the productive capacities of those countries and mobilize resources to fill their huge financing gap for development.  Donor countries needed to fill their ODA commitments.

AHMED SARER (Maldives) said that his country had been the third to graduate from least developed country status.  Noting that transition had taken place in 2011, she pointed out that it had been paramount to diversify the domestic economy as development challenges would be exacerbated by the loss of least developing countries benefits.  The Maldives had invested heavily in the tourism and fishing industries, but access to large scale financing for the building of ports, hospitals and harbours had become difficult due to the loss of preferential and concessional arrangements for financing.  Those limitations had placed at risk the development gains which had enabled the country’s graduation from the status of least developing country in the first place.  International cooperation would be essential for a smooth transition out of such a status.  Equally important was the recognition that vulnerabilities experienced by least developing countries that were also small island developing States would not go away after those countries had graduated.  Furthermore, the existing assessment for graduation, GDP per capita, was an inadequate measurement as it failed to fully reflect a country’s vulnerabilities.  It was therefore necessary to integrate the concept of economic vulnerability into the measurement of development.

IRINA MEDVEDEVA (Russian Federation) said that the 2030 Agenda noted that least developed countries and countries in special situations required priority in international affairs.  Those countries, particularly landlocked ones, faced major challenges.  Their development achievements were often slow, unsustainable and threatened by their economic situation and geography.  Hence, it was critical to step up cooperation to improve the quality of technology assistance and also stimulate industrial production.  The Russian Federation had proposed a special programme that would promote and provide much-needed technology assistance to landlocked developing countries.  The Russian Federation also welcomed the streamlining of trade agreements.  The average duration of going through customs had declined significantly through such programmes. In April 2017, the Russian Federation and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) would sponsor a conference aimed at boosting regional trade.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said the main challenge facing landlocked developing countries was achieving sustainable economic growth.  She emphasized the role of multilateral trade and the need to set up a working programme for landlocked countries that tackled the issues of trade and trade assistance, services and market access.  Kyrgyzstan had developed regional and international trade links and was also establishing a road network in the country.  Moreover, it was constructing a high voltage electrical line link that would connect with Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Challenges remained, however, and Kyrgyzstan needed enhanced cooperation at the regional and global levels.  As there were still transit tariffs between States, she called on international community to resolve and remove factors which had a negative impact on trade.

PRASAD SHARMA POKHAREL (Nepal), associating himself with Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said special needs and challenges of those countries deserved special attention.  The United Nations must continue to recognize their uniqueness, he said, emphasizing that those countries needed collective international support to meet development goals.  Resources must be predictable and sustainable.  The role of technology was vital, he added, welcoming the Technology Bank and calling on relevant stakeholders to ensure its successful implementation.  In its own experience, Nepal faced major challenges in relation to poor connectivity and trade facilitation.  The overarching goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 would not be achieved without fully taking least developed countries and landlocked developing countries on board.  Without the full and timely implementation of those commitments, sustainable development would not be achievable.

SUKHCOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developed Countries, said the latter group of countries continued to face considerable challenges linked to their geographic handicap.  Landlocked nations were among the hardest hit by the global economic slowdown, failing commodity prices, and food and energy shortages.  They also remained largely marginalized in the global economy, with a 0.96 per cent share of global exports in 2015.  Increased international assistance for export diversification and better market access were essential for the development and growth of those countries.  Mongolia had been utilizing its regional partners to establish economic trade corridors with its neighbours.  At the national level, Mongolia was committed to implementing relevant goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda.  It was particularly focusing on development plans in the areas of transit, infrastructure development, trade and trade facilitation, structural transformation and commodity value chains.

Ms. OCAMPO (Mexico) said landlocked developing countries were exposed and vulnerable to financial and economic crisis as well as climate change and natural hazards.  The international community must increase and maintain its support for their sustainable development.  Expressing regret over the loss of life and material damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, she said Mexico was providing the country with drinking water and purification tablets.  She stressed that all types of financing in addition to ODA were needed for landlocked countries to facilitate their access to technology and capacity-building.

PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that effective cooperation between landlocked developing countries and transit countries remained crucial to enable the former countries’ participation in international and regional trade.  The 2030 Agenda recognized that landlocked developing countries faced specific challenges and deserved special attention. Measures must be taken to deepen cooperation between landlocked developing countries and transit countries to improve infrastructure, trade and economic growth. In the Euro-Asia region, investments had been made to build and improve roads, railways, ports and transport logistics systems.  Such transit projects were examples of the efforts to better facilitate cooperation and trade and connect landlocked developing countries with major Asian and European markets.  He also looked forward to the high-level meeting on improving cooperation in regional transit, to take place in Hanoi in March 2017.

JONIBEK HIKMATOV(Tajikistan), associating himself with Group of 77 and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said it was time to move forward from commitment to action.  He expressed hope that upcoming discussions would bring fresh and innovative ideas that would strengthen cooperation.  Tajikistan was committed to the recommendations of the Vienna Programme of Action and attached particular importance to expanding sub-regional and regional trade.  Efforts had been made to simplify custom rules and regulations.  Transport and energy sectors were considered priorities for Tajikistan, he said, outlining plans and programmes focusing on renewable energy to promote sustainability and reduce emissions.  More than 50 per cent of the world would face water scarcity in the near future.  Collective international action was needed to address those challenges.  He also looked forward to cooperating with Member States to tackle challenges faced by countries in special situations.

TLHALEFO MADISA (Botswana) said landlocked developing countries’ trade costs and risks were high in comparison to coastal economies.  Those countries were also heavily dependent on single commodity markets, especially in the mineral and agricultural sectors, which exposed them to the fluctuations in global demand and commodity prices.  The implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action remained central to implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the mainstreaming of both those instruments was critical to Botswana’s national development.  To that end, Botswana needed the support of transit countries, development partners and regional and sub-regional partners.  Additionally, his Government continued to emphasize the role of the World Trade Organization in integrating landlocked developing countries in the global trade and sought increasing participation of those countries in the multilateral trading system.

PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the recent Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action was an important opportunity to renew and strengthen the international community’s resolve to support the least developed countries’ development.  That was especially true in light of the Programme’s goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.  As for the landlocked developing countries, the forward-looking Vienna Programme of Action, adopted in 2014, also showed international support by setting a new level of commitment and a new standard of follow-up to their implementation.  It aimed to align its structure and content with the achievements of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.  The Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action renewed the collective impetus to achieve the goals in the eight priority areas.  Brazil particularly welcomed the steps taken to put the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries into operation by 2017.  His country was also encouraged by the progress reached towards the adoption of investment promotion regimes for the least developed countries.

KUMBIRAYI TAREMBA (Zimbabwe) said her country joined other landlocked developing countries in calling for the full implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and support from the United Nations development system to mainstream the Programme into national development strategies.  She also urged multilateral development agencies and banks to put in place frameworks that would help landlocked developing countries diversify their economies and partake in global value chains.  Inadequate logistics infrastructure continued to limit those countries’ participation in international trade.  Her delegation therefore urged the Global Infrastructure Forum to establish action-oriented programmes that would address the infrastructure needs of landlocked developing countries.  In an effort to facilitate trade, Zimbabwe had introduced the One-Stop Border Post initiative at the country’s border with Zambia.  The initiative had resulted in reduced transaction costs and waiting times, in addition to strengthening political ties between the two countries, she said, concluding measures like that would help transform her country from landlocked to land-linked.

Ms. NAEEM (Kuwait), associating with the Group of 77, said that without innovative international partnerships, vulnerable countries could not succeed on their own.  Least developed countries needed developed countries to fulfil their ODA commitments.  The principles of peace and security must be fostered to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Kuwait continued to extend extensive development assistance throughout the world to achieve the aspirations of developing countries, particularly those States facing special situations.

BARIS CEYHUN ERCIYES (Turkey) said that development cooperation was an integral part of Turkey’s foreign policy and that it would remain committed to continuing its contributions in support of countries in special situations.  Turkey’s assistance to the least developed countries had exceeded $1.5 billion over the last five years.  Excluding humanitarian aid, approximately 20 per cent of Turkish ODA had been delivered to least developed countries.  It was vital to pay greater attention to the Technology Bank and science, technology and innovation-supporting mechanism dedicated to help the poorest countries address technology gaps.  Turkish authorities were in the process of considering a financial pledge to the Technology Bank, in particular at its start-up base.  He called on Member States and other stakeholders, including the private sector, to contribute to the trust fund and the Secretariat to take necessary steps to mobilize financial and human resources.

Ms. MANALE(Morocco), associating herself with the Group of 77, said concrete measures were needed to assist landlocked developing and least developed countries with sustainable development, which they could not achieve without the international community.  She welcomed the creation of the Technology Bank and stressed the need to increase ODA, and bilateral and multilateral funding as well to help developing countries overcome constraints to their development.  Morocco had worked for multi-sectoral strengthening in its framework vision for trade policies.  It favoured South-South and triangular cooperation, which had helped improve living standards in many least developed and landlocked developing countries.  The international community must help create an environment conducive to trade, especially for importers of food products.  Morocco had signed several agreements providing for preferential tariffs and the abolition of customs duties.

SANN THIT YEE (Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77, ASEAN and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said technology was a key enabler of development, emphasizing the vital role of science, technology and innovation in eradicating poverty and attaining the sustainable development of least developed countries.  He anticipated the support of the Technology Bank in those areas and looked forward to its full operationalization by 2017.  Financial inclusion was also important in reducing extreme poverty.  In Myanmar, it was estimated that only 30 per cent of adults had formal access to financial services and only 6 per cent were using more than one financial service.  The majority of citizens still relied on unregulated providers, often at substantially higher costs.  Myanmar also faced substantive infrastructure and human resources deficits, which constrained social and economic development.  It had considerable challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda and other development goals in a timely and effective manner.

MOUNKAILA YACOUBA (Niger), associating with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries, and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the lack of access to the sea and the distance from major markets meant that landlocked countries depended on transit States.  There were fundamental problems related to transit policies, the development of infrastructure and trade and trade facilitation.  Since the adoption of the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action, landlocked developing countries had shown higher growth rates, though they had experienced a decrease in terms of industrial value added and agricultural productivity.  Ports and roads were being built through the African region for landlocked countries.  Exports had grown dramatically for landlocked countries, and that showed that the challenges to be met were beyond the simple difficulties linked to delivering goods in a timely way to major markets.  It was also related to the lack of productive capacities, low levels of investment, and the informal nature of the private sector.  Landlocked developing countries would need a more comprehensive development programme in the future.

SUNEMA PIE SIMATI (Tuvalu) said landlocked developing countries needed genuine partnerships in the transfer of information and communications technology (ICT).  She noted that they continued to rely heavily on ODA, soft loans, private investment and remittances, but were increasingly leveraging their own domestic resources for complementarities.  She urged partners to honour and mobilize all financial pledges of ODA and collaborate for easy access to climate appropriations for landlocked countries and small-island developing States.  Landlocked developing countries must have stable and democratically elected administrations, strong institutions and legal underpinnings to ensure investments.  Social inclusive infrastructure and services must be efficiently provided.  As many landlocked developing countries were caught up in conflicts and desperately seeking peace, the root causes of violence and extremist behaviour should be examined.  She also noted that the inundation of sea water and loss of coastal territories for small island developing States created social and economic stress beyond the coping capacity of nations and individuals.

BELACHEW GUJUBO GUTULO (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, Group of Landlocked Developing Countries and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the overarching goal of the Istanbul Program of Action was to overcome structural challenges faced by least developed nations to eradicate poverty, enhance productive capacity and achieve structural transformation.  Those countries had made positive progress but still faced significant development challenges.  The sharp drop in ODA to least developed countries in 2014 was a source of concern, though there was a trend to address that decline.  That assistance remained critical to fill the financial gaps least developed countries continued to face.  Access to climate finance and technology development and transfer and capacity-building were all essential, and it was time to fully operationalize the Technology Bank.  Ethiopia had rapid and sustained double-digit economic growth, and the recently opened Ethio-Djibouti train line could be highlighted as a major regional initiative.

ZHANG YANHUA (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said landlocked developing and least developed countries faced a daunting task in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international community must urgently assist those countries in graduating from their least developed status and continue to support them after their graduation.  The global community should also step up support for landlocked developing countries in addressing their geographical constraints, inadequate infrastructures and transit problems.

PEMA TOBGAY (Bhutan) associated himself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.  He said least developed countries continued to face low levels of productivity, compounded by natural hazards and the impacts of climate change.  Structural transformation of their economies could contribute to building productive capacity in least developed countries, which could assist with sustainable and inclusive growth.  He noted that the vast human resource potential in those nations remained to be tapped.  A long-term development strategy based on delivery of quality education, including vocational skills and providing women and young people with avenues for entrepreneurship, could unlock the economic potential in least developed countries.  Given the structural constraints those countries faced, global support in terms of resources, capacity and technical assistance, would be critical in full realization of the Istanbul Programme of Action in the years ahead.

AIGERIM BOZZHIGITOVA (Kazakhstan), associating herself with the group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the Almaty Programme of Action had strengthened partnerships between landlocked developing nations and transit countries.  As the furthest country from any seaport, Kazakhstan understood the necessity of transit infrastructure, and was actively building and renovating rail lines and highways.  The Vienna Programme of Action called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for all by 2030, but the most vulnerable countries still faced challenges in meeting their energy needs.

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Urgent Action Needed to Protect Children from Forced Labour, Other Forms of Exploitation, Special Mandate Holders Tell Third Committee

The migration crisis, forced marriage, forced labour and sexual slavery were only some of the problems facing the children around the world, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it moved into its second day of discussion on the rights of children.

The day featured interactive dialogues with Special Mandate Holders and United Nations officials charged with ensuring adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the broader protection of children’s rights throughout the world.

Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, provided an update on the implementation of the Convention and its three Optional Protocols on, respectively:  involvement of children in armed conflict; the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and a communications procedure.  He said barriers to the full realization of child rights included violence, poor health, justice and the migration crisis, noting that poverty was not only a challenge in low-income countries.

Global recognition of the need to eradicate child, early and forced marriage as a human rights priority was reflected in the inclusion of a specific target in the Sustainable Development Goals, said Charles Radcliffe, Chief of the Equality and Non-Discrimination Section of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as he introduced the Secretary-General’s report on child and forced marriages.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, said children who had been sold or engaged in forced labour were often isolated, distrusted police, feared retaliation and lacked documentation.  As such, they needed child-sensitive access to justice and redress, she said.

When the floor was opened for general debate, nearly 50 speakers outlined policies and plans to end violence against children, with Myanmar’s representative stressing, on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), that young people’s full participation was essential not only for themselves, but also to help build child-sensitive legislation and strategies.

Delegates also addressed the need to protect child migrants and refugees, with the representative of Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), stressing that migrant children must not face punitive measures solely based on their status.  Egypt’s representative underscored that migrant and refugee children required special care.  Speaking to the scale of the problem, the European Union’s representative said that one in four asylum applicants in Europe was a child, and that 31 per cent of the 1 million refugees who had arrived in Europe in 2015 were children.  Niger’s representative, meanwhile, on behalf of the African States, underlined that political will was needed to identify long-term solutions to mitigate displacement’s root causes and structural factors.

Also speaking today were representatives of Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Zimbabwe (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), United States, Paraguay, Switzerland, Poland, South Africa, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Libya, Peru, Viet Nam, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Kenya, Norway, Syria, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Spain, Zambia, Chile, Thailand, Singapore, Israel, Turkey, Croatia, Costa Rica, Qatar, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Canada, Iraq, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.  A representative of the Holy See also spoke.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 14 October, to conclude its debate on the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4168.

Interactive Dialogues

CHARLES RADCLIFFE, Chief of the Equality and Non-Discrimination Section of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on child and forced marriages (document A/71/253).  Global recognition of the need to eradicate child, early and forced marriage — as a development and a human rights priority — was exemplified by the inclusion of a specific target in the Sustainable Development Goals.  The report pointed to persistent differences in the legal age of marriage for girls and boys and discrepancies in marriage provisions in plural legal systems, where lower ages were often allowed for customary or religious marriages.  Very few initiatives to eliminate discriminatory provisions in such areas as access to land, divorce and custody had been discussed in the submissions for the report.

He said that successfully tackling child, early and forced marriage required moving beyond small-scale initiatives towards well-defined, rights-based and locally relevant holistic strategies based on evidence and including legal and policy measures.  Holistic strategies required adequate human, technical and financial resources and should be coordinated at the local, regional and national levels and across sectors such as education, health, justice and social welfare, with the involvement of women and girls, among others.  Measurement, evaluation and learning, including data collection and disaggregation, were needed to identify vulnerable populations and to assess progress.  A rights-based approach to child and forced marriage was essential to work towards a future where not only marriage was delayed, but the choices of girls and women were expanded beyond marriage.

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), provided an update on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.  While he was pleased to announce that the Convention itself had been ratified or acceded to by 196 States, he expressed regret that the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure had been ratified by only 29 States.  The Committee was increasing its engagement with States through informal meetings and solicitation of inputs on draft versions of General Comments. 

He went on to address some of the barriers to the full realization of child rights, namely poverty, violence, poor health, justice and the migration crisis.  Poverty was not only a challenge in low-income countries, he pointed out.  In addition to State-sanctioned forms of violence, he expressed concern about the sexual exploitation and abuse of children by peacekeepers.  Another negative development was the introduction of bills and laws by several States that had reduced the minimum age of criminal responsibility to below 18 years.  He expressed hope that States’ commitments to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development would encourage them to implement the Convention’s provisions and optional protocols.

When the floor opened, delegates inquired about the status of the Convention’s Optional Protocol on a communications procedure and about the negative impact of the migration crisis on children’s rights.

Mr. MEZMUR, responding to a question by the representative of the European Union, said he had not anticipated there would be only 29 ratifications to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.  That Optional Protocol was about providing children access to justice, and thus, it was central for moving children’s rights from rhetoric to remedies.  As there had been enthusiasm about the document, it was unknown why the ratification rate had been slow.  He suggested that States that had ratified the Optional Protocol inform those that had not about measures they had taken on the ground. 

He said General Comment No. 19 (2016) on public budgeting for the realization of children’s rights was important because it articulated issues of planning and enacting follow-up.  Turning to the issue of children’s rights and the media, he said that exposure sometimes led to risk, but it was when risk led to harm that children’s rights came into the picture.  He said the Committee wanted to strengthen coordination with States, singling out the need for election meetings to contain more substance.  Finally, he noted that if the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was an Olympic sport, no State would manage a medal.  The international community needed to create a world fit for children.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the European Union, Mexico, and Ireland.

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, said children were particularly vulnerable to being sold and trafficked for forced labour in wars and armed conflicts.  Children had been abducted in Nigeria by Boko Haram for sexual slavery and forced labour.  Yazidi girls had been sold by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in slave markets in Iraq for sexual slavery and forced domestic labour.  More recently, in April, 159 children had been abducted in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, 68 of whom were still missing.  Children also had been sold and forced to work in various other sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, forced begging, forced criminal activities and servile marriage.  The latest global estimate had found that 5.5 million children were victims of forced labour, with girls representing the greater share of the total.

In combatting the sale of children for forced labour, States must regulate the practices of intermediaries, she said.  Promoting and monitoring fair recruitment processes for decent work conditions, and deterring intermediaries from delivering or selling children for labour exploitation were vital for such regulation.  Effective and well-resourced labour inspection was essential, as forced labour was part of the exploitative situations labour inspectors were meant to monitor through their unannounced visits to private premises.  There were also initiatives aimed at filling the inspection gap by offering a social label or certification on the production of goods to ensure that no child labour had been used in production.  Finally, access to an effective remedy was also crucial in preventing the phenomenon.  Children who had been sold and were engaged in forced labour were often isolated, distrusted police, feared retaliation and lacked documentation.  Consequently, they needed child-sensitive access to justice and redress.

Delegates expressed concern about a lack of clarity in the terminology used when discussing children’s rights and inquired about efforts to develop definitions.  Some asked what could be done in partnership with the private sector to strengthen oversight and accountability throughout the supply chain, while others asked about best practices for complaint mechanisms and remedies available to victims.

Ms. DE BOER DE BUGUICCHIO replied that it was important to distinguish between trafficking and forced labour when formulating an appropriate legal response and accountability.  Legislation must be clear and its scope defined.  Victims must not be penalized, even if they had participated in criminal activities.  Cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) was crucial, taking into account all relevant international human rights mechanisms.  Definitions of terminology were developed in an inter-agency working group, along with guidelines on their appropriate use.  Regarding the use of the term pornography, she expressed her hope that that question would be addressed during renewal of the Special Rapporteur mandate. 

She went on to say that the term might be inappropriate and that child abuse would be more appropriate.  The same consideration applied to use of the term child prostitution.  “Children did not prostitute themselves, they were forced to do so,” she said.  Regarding migration, she expressed her hope for the integration of children’s rights in the relevant legal instrument, also taking into account the related issues of trafficking, sale of children and forced labour.  Complaint mechanisms and remedies must be child-friendly and easily accessible, she said, adding that the creation of an Ombudsman for children could be useful.  Regarding partnerships with the private sector, she encouraged stronger oversight, monitoring and unannounced assessments.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the European Union, United States, South Africa, Slovenia, Mexico, Nigeria, Georgia, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and Morocco.

Statements on Rights of Children

MILDRED GUZMAN (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the region faced important challenges.  Children with disabilities were among the most marginalized and excluded, disproportionately subjected to abuse and violence, and therefore required particular protection.  Indigenous children also deserved special attention.  He expressed the region’s commitment to strengthening the protection of vulnerable children, voicing concern about mass migration and its effects. 

In that context, he encouraged States to use the best practices developed by OHCHR, stressing that migrant children must not face punitive measures solely based on their status.  He also expressed concern about bullying and called for appropriate measures to address that issue.  Further, he attached great importance to international cooperation, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, stressing the need for programs focused on early childhood, which yielded the best results.  He also emphasized the need to maintain education and ensure food security.

ABDALLAH WAFY (Niger), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that numerous challenges continued to hinder free, universal and compulsory primary education for all children.  Children caught up in conflicts in some African States had been forced to drop out of school.  The Group supported achievements consolidated by the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, commending States that had ended and prevented the recruitment of children by security forces.  Protecting displaced children and providing for their health care and education were important steps, but political will was needed to identify long-term solutions to mitigate displacement’s root causes and structural factors.

He went on to note that the African Union had declared a silencing of guns by 2020, pledging not to bequeath the burden of conflict to the next generation and committing to create an annual platform for policy dialogue that covered developments, constraints and measures geared towards achieving Agenda 2063.  He urged continued advocacy and support for the elimination of female genital mutilation and forced child marriage.  Partnerships must be strengthened to realize a “world fit for children”.

KEITH MARSHALL (Barbados), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and endorsing the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the Secretary-General’s reports were “critical to our work”.  The state of the world’s children had much improved.  Deaths of children under 5 years of age, the percentage of underweight children, maternal mortality and the number of out-of-school children had all declined sharply.  Still, in too many instances, the rights of children were still not respected.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and his own country, noted that the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Right of Women and Children was established in 2004.  In order to strengthen regional efforts for promoting the cause of women and children, the Strategic Framework and Plan of Action for Social Welfare, Family and Children (2011-2015) was adopted.  At its February 2016 meeting in Jakarta, the Commission had reviewed ASEAN Early Childhood Care, Development and Education Quality Standards, particularly for childcare services, focusing on children from birth to 4 years old and pre-school services.

On the technology front, he said the Network of Social Service Agencies had set up a website with links to the ASEAN and the Commission websites, serving as a platform for the 33 ASEAN social service agencies to share information, knowledge and expertise on matters relating to violence against women and children.  ASEAN also collaborated with United Nations agencies and other development partners.  The Commission had carried out projects supported by the European Union and the United States as well as those collaborated by UNICEF and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

He said CARICOM Member States had committed to adopt comprehensive early childhood development policies, harmonize national legislation with the Convention, and formulate broad policies and plans to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against children and adolescents.  Expressing concern over the threats to migrant and refugee children, he welcomed the inclusion of that topic in the draft resolution on the rights of children to be considered by the Third Committee this year.  CARICOM had also established an informal regional working group to discuss the impact of migration on children and develop recommendations for action.  It was necessary to make data more available, address the most disadvantaged boys and girls, and incorporate children and adolescents into decision-making.

FREDERICK M. SHAVA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), associated himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group.  The commitment to children’s rights was underpinned by the fact that all SADC Member States had ratified the Convention and acceded to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.  National laws and action plans had facilitated the implementation of those instruments, he said, noting that this year, the bloc’s Parliamentary Forum had adopted the first-ever model law on child marriage in the region.  It would require Member States to harmonize their national laws to prevent child marriage. 

Violence against children and the effects of armed conflict on them were challenges, he said.  Children deserved to live in the protection of a caring family.  The family structure provided better outcomes against exploitation, trafficking, child labour and early marriages and other forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.  It was through the family that children found love and attention.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic remained a heavy burden on the region, compounding already high unemployment and inadequate safety nets.  SADC Member States were committed to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, a task that required concerted effort and enormous resources.

JOANNE ADAMSON (European Union) said the 2030 Agenda could advance the rights of millions of children who lacked health care, water and sanitation, social services, quality education, or had been exposed to violence.  One in four asylum applicants in Europe was a child, and 31 per cent of the 1 million refugees who had arrived in Europe in 2015 were children.  The bloc was committed to achieving a more humane, fair, and efficient common European asylum policy, a better-managed migration policy, and to provide enhanced procedural guarantees to vulnerable asylum-seekers, particularly unaccompanied children.  The Convention was an integral part of the Union’s fundamental rights policy, he said, stressing the importance of the third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.

Expressing concern about the exploitation of migrants and refugees by criminal or terrorist groups — such as ISIL/Da’esh — she said cooperation among countries was essential to protect child victims of trafficking.  Education in emergencies and protracted crises remained a top priority.  As a growing number of children were being recruited and used by armed forces, groups and gangs, the European Union promoted a comprehensive approach by supporting the identification, demobilisation and reintegration of former child soldiers and to prevent their recruitment.

KELLY L. RAZZOUK (United States) said all over the world, children’s rights continued to be violated.  In Syria, half the casualties were children.  One deadly air strike had targeted a maternity hospital.  UNICEF had named Syria the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.  At the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, the President had spoken about a 5 year-old from Aleppo, who had endured unbearable things, she said, noting that the United States had provided nearly $15 million to UNICEF to send refugee children to school.  Domestically, the United States had invested more than $1 billion in early childhood education.  She urged redoubled efforts to ensure that children inherited a world they deserved.

FATMAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Egypt) said the family was the protector of children and held the main responsibility for providing for them.  Children could not develop without the respect of their parents, culture and language, among other factors, she said, pressing the international community to reconsider the recommendations of the 1996 “Graca Machel” report, which detailed the needs of children in armed conflict.  Advocating special care for migrant and refugee children, she commended the cooperation between Egypt and UNICEF, expressing hope for further joint efforts in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Egypt was committed to implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments to which it was party.

MARCELO SCAPPINI (Paraguay), associating himself with CELAC, said investments in children and adolescents were essential for the country’s development.  As such, it was paramount to implement child protection programs to guarantee their human rights.  Noting that the Government had focused on the special situation of street children, he said food had been provided to school children as a way to support attendance and performance.  Physical punishment and other degrading treatment were prohibited by law, he said, advocating rights-based policies to address poverty and violence, which were major concerns.

Ms. JOUBLI (Switzerland) called upon States that had not yet done so to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  For its part, Switzerland planned to ratify the Third Protocol.  The 2030 Agenda provided a framework for addressing many problems facing children around the world.  Switzerland would fund a post within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to facilitate the launch of a global study on children deprived of liberty, as called for by General Assembly resolution 69/147.  Despite progress achieved since the 1996 adoption of resolution 51/77, many challenges remained.  Switzerland was especially concerned by adverse consequences of long-running conflicts for civilians and children’s rights.  In particular, the systematic nature of attacks on hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria suggested those attacks were part of a deliberate strategy by certain parties.  She reiterated that those attacks constituted a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, recognized that while progress had been made, emerging challenges, such as cyberbullying and other risks related to new technologies, persisted.  More must be done to protect unaccompanied migrant children, work which should include legal representation, decent living conditions and appropriate social services.  Above all, he said, the priority must be to reunite children with their families.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group and SADC, said children continued to be abducted and forcibly conscripted or recruited into service as sex slaves, helpers, guards and armed fighters, which violated their rights.  Many had died, while others had been displaced, disabled and allowed to suffer untold emotional, developmental, physical, mental and spiritual harm.  Armed conflict destroyed the State structures that provided social services, situations that demanded immediate as well as long-term collective action.  Expressing his country’s full commitment to the implementation of the Convention, its Optional Protocols and other human rights instruments, he stressed that “sustainable societies can only have a prosperous future when their children are safe, free from harm and thrive in environments that prioritize the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of the child”.

JESSICA CUPELLINI (Italy), endorsing the position of the European Union, said that her country placed the highest premium on advancing children’s rights in both legislative terms and actual reality.  In January, Italy had ratified the third Optional Protocol, allowing children to bring claim of rights violations to an international body if they had been inadequately addressed through national courts.  Italy had also adopted a fourth National Action Plan on the Rights and Development of the Child to combat child poverty, support early childhood development and schools systems, and support parenting.  Finally, the situation of children and adolescent migrants was of particular concern, as Italy had received more than 21,000 unaccompanied minors in 2016.  The Government promoted a migration compact within the European Union and a “humanitarian corridor project” aimed at saving the most vulnerable migrants.  Migrant and refugee children must be treated “as children first and foremost”, she asserted.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC, said his country continued to work towards the realization of children’s rights, as enshrined in the Argentinean Constitution.  Children were defined as “subjects of law”, and as such, entitled to all rights.  Stressing that Argentina had taken measures to improve maternal health, children’s health services and education, he said commercial sexual exploitation was a more appropriate term to be used in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur who had briefed the Committee this morning.

Ms. CASTILLO (Mexico), stressing that children’s rights were first and foremost human rights, said her country had adopted a law on the rights of children and adolescents, which recognized that minors were holders of rights and should be involved in decisions affecting their development.  Mexico, with others, was preparing a draft resolution on the rights of migrant children.  It called for global solidarity with migrant children, recognizing that they suffered disproportionately from xenophobia and lack of access to health care and education.  They often were victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.  Noting that Mexico would present a resolution entitled “Protection of Children against Peer Bullying”, she said bullying was an underappreciated problem that was of great concern to nine out of ten children, according to a UNICEF survey.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia), endorsing the position of CELAC, welcomed the greater protection of children against violence, as had been seen during the peace process in Colombia.  Noting that efforts had been taken to change harmful attitudes and behaviours, he called for a comprehensive framework on child protection, stressing the need to prioritize the needs of unaccompanied minors.  Ending bullying was another important responsibility for policymakers and those efforts must consider the experiences of victims.  For its part, Colombia had implemented programs in schools to prevent and punish bullying, he said.

CEPERO AGUILAR (Cuba) said that, in his country, no children were on the streets, nor had they been economically exploited.  Thanks to political will and Government efforts, the promotion and protection of children’s rights was a top priority, he said, adding that hunger, illiteracy, insalubrity, and discrimination against boys and girls were just bad memories.  “These achievements are the results of free and universal national health care and education systems,” he said, noting that the Parliament allocated more than 50 per cent of the State budget on health, education and social assistance.  Among other things, he stressed that all Cuban children had been vaccinated at birth against 13 communicable diseases, and the country was the first to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and syphilis.

KRISTINA SUKACHEVA (Russian Federation), stressing that children were vulnerable and must be protected, said the family played an important role in that regard.  In her country, the Ombudsman for children promoted and protected children’s rights, represented their interests and contributed to the development of new laws.  She expressed her concern about distinguishing between the interests of children and those of their parents, emphasizing that the rights of parents — and their primary role in raising children — must be upheld.

MARIA CLARISA GOLDRICK (Nicaragua), associating with CELAC, appealed to countries that had not done so to ratify the Convention.  She reviewed a number of programmes that the Government had instituted to promote and protect children’s rights, among them, a campaign against bullying, which sought to prevent situations that would lead to conflict or hurt young people’s self-esteem.  On migration, she called on the international community to approach the challenge from a humanitarian perspective.  Protecting children’s rights was a matter of joint responsibility between the State and society, she said, and her Government’s ministries were working with families in that endeavour.

JASEM K. S. HARARI (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, drew attention to the impact of crises on children, stressing the need to ensure zero tolerance for violence against children.  The root causes of such abuse must be tackled, he said, stressing the need to develop a culture of non-violence so that children could grow up in peace and become productive members of society.

Ms. SALAZAR (Peru) said the 2030 Agenda provided an opportunity to harmonize national laws with the Convention, noting that her country was working closely with UNICEF in a number of areas.  Peru had made significant progress in terms of recognizing and protecting the rights of children and adolescents.  The 2012-2021 national action plan aimed to reduce infant mortality and malnutrition and to increase access to education and reduce violence against children.  The Government had also devised a national strategy to prevent child labour.  Recognizing the important role of human development for national growth, she said the country was committed to investing in quality public education and preparing its citizens for the modern world.

NGUYEN DUY THANH (Viet Nam), associating himself with ASEAN, described a number of national laws, policies and mechanisms to safeguard children’s best interests.  Among them was the Child Law, which set out a legal framework to ensure that all children were treated equally and their rights were protected, and the National Programme of Action on Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour.  Noting that the Government paid particular attention to poor children, children with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities, he said the full participation of young people was essential not only for themselves but also to help build child-sensitive legislation and strategies.  Viet Nam had universalized primary education and moved towards universal secondary education, and had virtually eliminated gender inequality in access to education.  Infant and child mortality had been halved since 1990.

KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia) said a number of national measures had been taken to protect children from violence and exploitation, noting that infrastructure had improved and awareness was being raised about the need to protect and promote children’s rights in order to avoid marginalization.  Further, “web radios” had been set up to reach children in remote areas, she said, stressing that children had hopes for a better world.

Mr. AL MEHAIRI (United Arab Emirates) recalled that the number of refugee children had surpassed 10 million and they risked falling prey to terrorists and extremists.  As part of the Government’s commitment to upholding children’s rights, it recently had adopted a law with 75 articles to protect children.  It also had been involved in a number of international efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, including the “Every Woman, Every Child” movement, and to provide quality education to low-income countries.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil), noting that between 2004 and 2014, extreme poverty had fallen 60 per cent, and said children had been the priority target of cash-transfer programmes.  Some 14 million families had benefitted from the Family Allowance Programme, and an estimated 8 million children had been lifted from poverty in the last decade as a result of public investments.  This week, Brazil had launched a $100 million social programme to ensure that children received proper care in nutrition, health and education.  It aimed to reach 750,000 children by 2017.  Further, Brazil had achieved, ahead of schedule, the Millennium Development Goals target on equality in the educational system.  The country also had initiated a national programme to combat sexual violence against children and adolescents.

SUSAN W. MWANGI (Kenya), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, described her country’s progress in realizing children’s rights, notably in the areas of survival, development, protection and participation.  Noting that Kenya’s Constitution recognized the right to education, she said the Government had introduced free primary education.  As children had the right to the highest health standards, the Government provided health services to children during antenatal and post-natal periods through their lifetime.  Advances made in halting HIV/AIDS and malaria over the last decade could be wiped away if resources for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and other interventions were not sustained, he said, describing Kenya’s efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, child marriage and the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) stressed the importance of the right to education during times of peace and conflict, as it was essential to economic development.  Norway had doubled its aid to education, and today, more girls could attend primary school.  Education also reduced the likelihood of falling prey to trafficking, child labour and sexual exploitation, she said, stressing that female genital mutilation was harmful and that early and forced marriages deprived girls of their childhood.  She expressed deep concern about the pervasiveness of violence against children, noting that Norway had developed an “escalation plan” for combatting violence against women and encouraging States to ban corporal punishment.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said Syrian children had been victims of a ruthless, aggressive terrorist campaign that targeted the nation’s social fabric.  As a result, they had been forced to set sail over rough seas to escape.  He also expressed concern about groups’ efforts to indoctrinate children with extremist ideologies — a practice that could create a generation of people who loved violence and terrorism.  Recalling a video of a Palestinian boy whose head had been severed by a terrorist group in Aleppo, he said some had referred to that group as “moderate opposition”.  Some States that now cried about the children of Aleppo were partners in spilling their blood.  He expressed hope they would learn from their mistakes in Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein), noting that some 28 million children had fled violence, said children lived in a world where generations grew up in situations of conflict and displacement, which presented a major threat to the protection and realization of human rights.  Liechtenstein had created mechanisms to ensure that children could enjoy their rights and that perpetrators were held accountable.  Expressing deep concern about attacks against schools and hospitals in Aleppo, she said those facilities were protected by international humanitarian law, and thus, such attacks constituted war crimes.  A lack of access to education was a gross human rights violation, she said, underscoring great risks facing unaccompanied children.

Ms. IBRAHIM (Maldives) said that in addition to the rights guaranteed to children under its Constitution, her country had enacted laws to further protect children, including disabled children.  Substantial progress had been made in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases.  It was imperative that national laws fully comply with international human rights standards.  For its part, Maldives had enacted the Child Sexual Offense Act and the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act, criminalizing sexual and other activities against children, and providing additional procedural rights to child victims.  Further, the “Ahan”, or “Listen”, campaign aimed to change attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards children, while a child helpline operated as a nationwide toll-free mechanism for reporting child abuse.  Measures to combat bullying also had been taken. 

MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his Government guaranteed equality to all its citizens and made special provisions for the advancement of women, children and persons with disabilities.  Describing national policies to strengthen children’s rights and protections — including the Domestic Violence Act, the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children (Amendment) Act, and child labour laws that increased the minimum employment age from 12 to 14 years — he emphasized that early marriage in Sri Lanka could not be viewed as a “traditional” or customary practice.  The General Marriage Ordinance set the marriage age at 18 years, while a 1995 reform stated that sex with a girl under 16 years constituted child abuse and statutory rape.  Sri Lanka was among five countries with a law in place that prohibited bullying in schools.  It also had enacted measures to protect children of migrant workers. 

Mr. NUNO (Spain), endorsing the position of the European Union, said his country had ratified the Convention and its three Optional Protocols.  The Government had passed two legislative reforms to improve its education system and protection mechanisms, including increasing the minimum age for marriage and sexual consent and strengthening penal laws for the exploitation and abuse of children and adolescents.  In response to recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Government, with support from the UNICEF National Committee, had established a new website to disaggregate and make available data on children.  It had also established a commission to ensure that all policies were in line with the best interests of children and Spain’s commitments under the Convention.  On migration, he underscored that children, regardless of their place of origin, were children, with rights that must be protected by all.  “We can and we must do more,” he concluded.

MWABA P. KASESE-BOTA (Zambia), noting that half her country’s population was younger than 18 years old, said the Government was strengthening all its child-related legislation.  Once fully implemented, national policy would enhance children’s access to education, health, water and sanitation, and shelter, as well as enhance the accountability of ministries.  Children, however, still faced such challenges as poverty, disease, limited access to education, alcohol and drug abuse, and child trafficking.  Zambia had enacted a free education policy at the basic level, and a re-entry policy for girls who had become pregnant.  Noting that a five-year strategy had been adopted to reduce early and forced marriage, she expressed concern about antimicrobial resistance, which undermined health systems, and she called on development partners to help in that regard.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said 50 million children around the world were running from conflict, extreme poverty and various forms of abuse and exploitation.  Expressing concern about their increasing numbers, he noted that refugee and migrant children were prime targets of traffickers and exploiters and most vulnerable to extreme weather.  “These harrowing situations of children remind us to commit ourselves to fighting the root causes of their sufferings,” he said, emphasizing that today’s mass displacement of people was man-made.  Since human choices provoked conflicts and wars, it was well within the international community’s power and responsibility to address them.

GLORIA CID CARREÑO (Chile), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had appointed a national council on children, which coordinated work among all bodies charged with child protection responsibilities.  Progress had been made in establishing political and normative conditions conducive to those efforts, she said, noting that children’s potential depended on their surroundings, meaning that the social and cultural environment should focus on creativity and inclusivity.  Chile had also engaged families and communities in its efforts to protect children.  She expressed support for more research on violence against children, with a view to addressing its root causes.

The youth delegate from Thailand said young people must play a significant role in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were linked with children’s rights.  The right to education was an intrinsic one that would enable young people to realize boundless opportunities.  All children in the country, regardless of their nationality or legal status, were entitled to 12 years of free education.  The Child Support Grant Scheme provided a monthly cash allowance for parents of new-borns to 3 year-olds living in impoverished households.  The UNICEF Country Programme Document aimed to support such efforts, and Thailand had worked closely with the Fund to strengthen the capacity of relevant Government agencies.  National efforts were also under way to combat violence against children, eradicate child labour and guarantee active youth participation.

TAN WEE ZI (Singapore) underscored the importance of ensuring quality and affordable childcare, noting that her country had set up the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2013 with a view to raising such standards.  Further, Singapore had introduced a pilot system, aiming to coordinate and strengthen support for low-income and vulnerable families with children aged 6 and below.  Under that programme, young children were identified and provided access to health, learning and development support.  It was crucial to protect children in family disputes.  To mitigate the impact of divorce on children, Singapore had amended its legislation in February, which now required couples with minor children to attend a parenting programme before they filed for divorce.

MS. HALEVI, youth delegate from Israel, said too many children were being denied their right to grow up in safety and security.  Inequality had taken a high toll on children, she said, noting that education and children’s rights were among the main pillars upon which the Israel had been built.  Children in Israel enjoyed State-funded education, access to health care and nutrition.  Also, the Government had partnered with civil society to establish mixed schools for Jewish and Arab children.  The most important role of education was to provide children truth and hope so that they could dream and aspire.

Mr. CARAY (Turkey) said his country had improved the legal and institutional frameworks for children’s rights, as reflected in the 2010 Constitutional amendment and the national strategy and action plan for 2013–2017.  Of particular importance was the education of girls.  Turkey’s development and humanitarian assistance programmes supported children in various emergency conflict and post-conflict situations.  Greater collective determination was needed to address the situation of children in armed conflict.  Noting that Turkey was host to more than 3 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, he said it was doing its best to provide them education and health care, but had only managed to provide half of them education.  He called upon the international community to assist those efforts, in line with the principle of responsibility and burden sharing.

DANIJEL MEDAN (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, stressed the interlinkage of the right to education with achieving sustainable development, noting that Croatia had been among the “champion countries” of the Global Education First Initiative.  It was important that the Human Rights Council retain its tradition of an annual day of discussion on the rights of the child.  Croatia was currently holding a conference with UNICEF to address the unprecedented migration flows and the plight of people affected by armed conflict.  Among its objectives was to exchange innovative solutions and examples of good practices in responding to the needs of migrant children.

Ms. GARCIA (Costa Rica), endorsing the position of CELAC, focused on violence against children.  As children from marginalized communities were the most vulnerable to poverty and inequality, their protection must be a national and a global priority.  She expressed particular concern about the treatment of children recruited into armed militias, who were too often treated as threats by the State upon their release.  Their reintegration must be prioritized, and in that regard, she welcomed wide support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, expressing hope it would reduce the use of children by militias and State armed forces.  She urged solidarity with the plight of migrants, especially unaccompanied minors, reminding States of their joint responsibility to protect them.

MS. AL-KHATER (Qatar), noting that children’s protection was among the Sustainable Development Goals, said the reports presented today were a reminder that significant challenges remained amid widespread, blatant violations of children’s rights.  More than half of refugees worldwide were under age 18.  Qatar was troubled by information in the reports, she said, underlining the need to protect the young generation.  For its part, Qatar had made education a priority, and at the national level, the country was persevering under the 2030 Agenda.

VILATSONE VISONNAVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said his country had strengthened its legal and policy framework to protect women and children from violence, including with the passage of laws on juvenile criminal procedure and on the prevention and combatting violence against women and children.  The new national action plan of action 2014-2020 to address all forms of violence was being implemented.  Further, nutrition strategies and vaccination campaigns were being executed, while free school meals had been launched in some rural and remote areas.  At the regional level, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic had participated in the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.

Mr. JELINSKI (Canada) expressed deep concern about children’s human rights throughout the world.  Migrant, internally displaced and refugee children were vulnerable, as they were at high risk of being sexually exploited and trafficked.  The growing number of child migrants was a global priority which could not be left unanswered.  Reviewing national achievements, he singled out Canada’s $1 million contribution to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  Governments were obliged to ensure that children’s rights were respected, protected, and fulfilled.

Mr. AL-HUSSAINI (Iraq) said his country had approved measures to protect children’s rights, including the establishment of an office to address child marriage and child labour.  The terrorist threat could not be ignored, as children in the grips of terrorist organizations like Da’esh continued to suffer.  That situation was compounded by the poverty of families, he said, citing cases of recruitment and kidnapping.  He called on States to protect children by monitoring information and communications technology use for terrorist and criminal purposes, and by setting up an international intelligence agency to track terrorist activities.

Mr. ADEOYE (Nigeria) reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the Convention and highlighted areas in which it had invested in child well-being, including education, nutrition, and protection.  He addressed the threat to children posed by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, noting that Nigeria was building schools as part of its Safe School Initiative.  He announced that today, 21 Chibok girls had been freed and that the Government was providing psychosocial therapy for their reintegration.  He assured the Committee that the Government treated those children captured by Boko Haram as victims and not terrorists.  Nigeria was committed to strengthening its institutions and policies to end child, early and forced marriage.

MEKDELAWIT TAYE ALEMAYEHU (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group, said it was encouraging that States had implemented most of the Millennium Development Goals, adding that the 2030 Agenda would address remaining challenges such as extreme poverty, violence, extremism, among other issues.  As children constituted a large part of Ethiopia’s population, the country had established numerous policy and legislative frameworks and institutional mechanisms.  For example, the national child policy focused on development and growth, prevention and protection, and rehabilitation, care and support.  Ethiopia remained ready to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to achieve inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for present and future citizens.

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