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Opening speech High-Level Conference on Africa – Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament : ‘A new partnership between the European Union and Africa’

(check against delivery)

It is a real pleasure to see this Chamber full to the rafters to discuss the major issue of our partnership with our African friends.

The African Union-European Union Summit will take place in exactly one week’s time in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

I will straightaway say that that Summit must be different from the others, and must yield tangible results and a clear and precise roadmap.

We are privileged to have the President of the Central African Republic and many other African leaders with us here today. 

This clearly shows that the European Parliament wishes to establish a direct high-level dialogue with the leaders of African countries.

I have always said that we must look at Africa through African eyes, and this calls for frank and direct peer-to-peer dialogue.

We have launched that dialogue by inviting the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the President of Côte d’Ivoire to address the plenary.

We will continue in the same vein.

The European Parliament has decided to organise an ‘Africa week’ of parliamentary activities. Today’s conference is part of that initiative, which seeks to restore Africa to the heart of the political agenda, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleages in the European Parliament for the firm commitment they have shown to Africa.

For many years, the Union failed to give Africa the attention it deserves. Often we looked the other way, heedless of the emergencies – humanitarian or linked to climate, security or stability – which Africans have to deal with every day. We failed to recognise that we have an overriding strategic interest in what happens in Africa.

Europe’s approach was a piecemeal one, with individual countries falling over one another in pursuit of their own interests and agendas. The result was a road paved with good intentions, but there were many missed opportunities and few successes along the way. We failed to exert any real political and economic influence on the future of Africa.

Globalisation and migration have shown that building walls or putting up barriers is not the solution. Africa’s problems are Europe’s problems too.

It is time to put our relations on a new footing, before it’s too late. Our links go beyond mere geographical proximity. We have common interests and face common challenges.

By 2050, the population of Africa will double, to more than 2.5 billion. This population explosion may be a problem, but it may also be an opportunity.

Desertification, famine, pandemics, terrorism, unemployment and bad governance are exacerbating instability and contributing to uncontrolled immigration.

Without determined action to tackle these phenomena, new generations will continue to set out for Europe in search of hope and a future. They may be attracted by images on television or on the internet depicting what seems to them to be a land of milk and honey. We urgently need to offer them real prospects in their home countries, so that they stay and help to revitalise them.

Guaranteeing security and managing migration

Our citizens want a stronger Union, capable of managing migration and guaranteeing security. They are calling on us to defend our values, by welcoming refugees and protecting the dignity of individuals at all times. But they also want us to be just as resolute in turning away those who have no right to enter Europe.

We are no longer prepared to stand idly by while migration continues unchecked, while thousands die in the desert or at sea, while human traffickers go about their business, or while men and women who in the 21st century cannot feed their children or get medicines for them when they are sick give up all hope.

As a first step, we need to strengthen border controls and manage asylum applications and procedures for rejecting applications and readmitting migrants more effectively.

Shutting down the central Mediterranean corridors, promoting stability and combating terrorism will require investments by the Union on a similar scale to those made to halt migration via the Balkan route. This money has to be spent in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Niger, Chad or Mali.

I should like to thank the ministers of the government of Mali, a country in the front line of the fight against terror in the Sahel. The ‘G5 Sahel’ Group is an excellent example of regional cooperation which the Union must help to strengthen.

This money must be used to improve the training given to our border guards and our security forces. It can be used to set up reception centres under the auspices of the UN, where humanitarian protection, food, medicines and childcare are provided; and where asylum applications are dealt with promptly.

Bringing huge resources to bear at our internal borders will achieve nothing. All suggestions that it will are nothing more than propaganda. Rather, what is needed is adequate funding for Frontex and the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which must be given more staff and resources.

The European satellite systems – Galileo and Copernicus – and new security technologies to be developed jointly must be used for this purpose as well.

We must also harmonise conditions governing the granting of asylum and readmission procedures, which must be quick and effective.

At the last part-session in Strasbourg, Parliament adopted by a large majority the mandate for a thoroughgoing overhaul of the Dublin Regulation, to make it fairer, more genuinely solidarity-based and more effective. Now it is up to the Council to act.

The challenges facing Africa

But all this is not enough. We need to address the problem at its roots. Unless we can offer them real prospects of well-being and stability, it will no longer be tens of thousands but millions of people who choose to leave their home countries behind. The UN estimates that, even in the short term, more than half a million people every year will seek a better future in Europe.

Supporting Africa is not only a duty. It is clearly also in our shared economic and political interest.

Many African countries are already showing that their continent offers genuine opportunities: in 2016, five African economies were among the top ten in the world in terms of growth, with rates of more than 7%.

Africa has critical raw materials essential for our industries: 64% of the world’s cobalt, without which batteries for electric cars cannot be made, comes from Congo; tantalum, which is used in solar panels, comes from Rwanda; platinum, which is used to limit harmful emissions from cars, comes from South Africa.

These raw materials are also of interest to our competitors, starting with China, which is seeking to establish a dominant position in order to boost its own industries.

There is also a problem of environmental sustainability. In the context of the Raw Materials Partnership, which I promoted when I was Industry Commissioner in 2012, cooperation developed between EU and African geological surveys which has led to innovation and greater awareness of the need to protect the environment.

There are many other good examples of our work with Africa. To start with, there is the integration of markets, under the Lomé Conventions and the current Cotonou Agreement. These agreements have granted free access to the European market for 99.5 % of African products.

Discussions on the post-Cotonou settlement are continuing. I should like to thank Parliament’s rapporteurs for their contribution.

Despite these efforts and the tens of billions that have been invested, there is still a long way to go if we are to guarantee decent living conditions and greater security for people in Africa.

Many parts of Africa are affected by conflicts, instability, terrorism, bad governance - just think about what is currently happening in Zimbabwe, in the Horn of Africa or in the Central African Republic.

According to World Bank figures, the GDP of all the African countries put together is barely higher than that of France.

Despite disastrous levels of child mortality - 38% of all the newborns who died in 2015 were African - the continent has the world’s fastest growing population.

We are far from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN with a view to reducing poverty: one-third of Africans live below the poverty line; one-sixth of them need humanitarian aid to survive; in rural areas, 60% of people have less than one euro a day to live on.

Farming and raw materials, including energy, are the main sources of revenue, whilst the level of industrialisation is extremely low.

Last Monday was Africa Industrialisation Day, which provided an opportunity to emphasise once again that developing a manufacturing base is fundamental to growth and employment.

Only 15% of Africans have the internet at home. Barely one person in three has electricity.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest illiteracy rates: one child in every five does not go to school, and almost 60% of young people are not undergoing training of any kind.

Is it any surprise, therefore, that young Africans should believe that they have nothing to lose; that they should decide to risk their lives to come to Europe; or that they should be seduced by people who preach violence in God’s name.

Many problems could be solved by means of greater investment in education, infrastructure, industry and modern farming techniques. Africa, however, is the continent which attracts by far the lowest volume of foreign investment: barely more than EUR 80 billion a year, only 3% of African GDP. China is the country whose investments are increasing the most in proportional terms.

Africa’s destiny must be put back in the hands of Africans. But Europe must play its part as well.

We must work together with Africa, as equals, and make available the fruits of our leadership in the areas of technology, quality, industrial know-how and training.

Ten years have passed since the EU-Africa strategy was adopted. In that time many hopes have been dashed. Europe has lacked the courage to develop truly effective instruments.

Instead of consolidating our position as Africa’s main partner, we are losing ground. Not only China but other emerging investors as well, such as Turkey, India and Singapore, are gaining in influence.

A Marshall Plan for Africa

The fifth African Union-European Union Summit, which will be held on 29 and 30 November in Abidjan and bring together more than 80 heads of state, comes at a crucial time.

We must send out a clear signal that we are determined to relaunch and strengthen our partnership, and speak with a single, strong voice.

The focus of all our efforts must be young people: they hold the key to a more stable, prosperous and modern Africa.

The EUR 3.4 billion investment plan for Africa is an important step in the right direction. But it is nowhere near enough.

We must support the efforts Africans themselves are making to establish a sustainable manufacturing base and develop efficient farming, renewable energy sources and proper water, energy, mobility, logistical and digital infrastructure, by drawing up a real ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa. By doing so we will strengthen governance and the rule of law, step up the fight against corruption and foster the emancipation of women and education.

We must work to ensure that under the next EU multiannual budget at least EUR 40 billion is earmarked for the investment fund for Africa. The leverage effect and synergies generated with the funding provided by the European Investment Bank could make it possible to mobilise some EUR 500 billion in public and private investment.

On that basis, we can continue to conduct effective economic diplomacy which promotes the integration of markets, the transfer of technology and industrial know-how, sustainability and training.

The aim must be to establish an environment conducive to the development of a manufacturing base and entrepreneurship and the creation of SMIs and jobs for young people. For that we also need instruments such as Erasmus for young entrepreneurs, which should be extended to cover Africa.

At the same time, legal immigrants from Africa can meet the demand for workers in some sectors of the economy in the EU and acquire professional skills which they can then use to create businesses in Europe.

We also need academic and cultural diplomacy which, by expanding Erasmus+ and stepping up cooperation between universities on research and mobility projects, makes it possible for more Africans to study in Europe.

Conclusions

More resources are not in themselves the answer. Already today we are investing EUR 33 billion from the EU budget alone, not counting the bilateral aid provided by individual Member States.

If our taxpayers’ generosity has failed to produce the hoped-for results, we must ask ourselves whether the current development cooperation model is the right one.

Carrying on as we have always done would be a serious mistake. Our citizens are calling for a political Europe which is capable of making brave choices. Starting with the budget; more of the same is not acceptable, and the budget must reflect the priorities of the peoples of Europe,

The proposed sum of EUR 40 billion - 12 times more than the current budget for the Investment Plan - is needed to generate an impact commensurate with our objectives. This is a critical mass large enough to attract European private and public investment. 

It is not a Utopian idea. If the political will is there, resources can be found, partly by using the funds already earmarked for Africa more effectively, partly by providing guarantees under the EU budget, and partly by identifying new sources of funding.

It is for just that reason that I have proposed an increase in the next budget. Making new resources available must not serve to impose a burden on citizens or SMIs. Instead, we must use new own resources for this purpose, by collecting taxes from those who currently don’t pay them and reducing taxes on those who do pay them.

I am thinking of tax havens, the internet giants and speculative financial transactions of all kinds.

Today, the European Parliament is committing itself to playing a central role in a new Partnership with Africa. Our debate, involving young people, political leaders, experts and investors from Europe and Africa, must serve as preparation for the new start we will make in Abidjan.

This conference must be more than a formal event at which we read out speeches – rather, we must take the opportunity it offers to relaunch our partnership.

If our partnership really is a priority, then we must meet more regularly – every two years.

Follow-up meetings should be held at multiple levels on a regular basis, including between the representatives of civil society, business and commerce and the young.

Abidjan must mark a new beginning in our relations.

Read More

Opening speech High-Level Conference on Africa – Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament : ‘A new partnership between the European Union and Africa’

(check against delivery)

It is a real pleasure to see this Chamber full to the rafters to discuss the major issue of our partnership with our African friends.

The African Union-European Union Summit will take place in exactly one week’s time in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

I will straightaway say that that Summit must be different from the others, and must yield tangible results and a clear and precise roadmap.

We are privileged to have the President of the Central African Republic and many other African leaders with us here today. 

This clearly shows that the European Parliament wishes to establish a direct high-level dialogue with the leaders of African countries.

I have always said that we must look at Africa through African eyes, and this calls for frank and direct peer-to-peer dialogue.

We have launched that dialogue by inviting the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the President of Côte d’Ivoire to address the plenary.

We will continue in the same vein.

The European Parliament has decided to organise an ‘Africa week’ of parliamentary activities. Today’s conference is part of that initiative, which seeks to restore Africa to the heart of the political agenda, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleages in the European Parliament for the firm commitment they have shown to Africa.

For many years, the Union failed to give Africa the attention it deserves. Often we looked the other way, heedless of the emergencies – humanitarian or linked to climate, security or stability – which Africans have to deal with every day. We failed to recognise that we have an overriding strategic interest in what happens in Africa.

Europe’s approach was a piecemeal one, with individual countries falling over one another in pursuit of their own interests and agendas. The result was a road paved with good intentions, but there were many missed opportunities and few successes along the way. We failed to exert any real political and economic influence on the future of Africa.

Globalisation and migration have shown that building walls or putting up barriers is not the solution. Africa’s problems are Europe’s problems too.

It is time to put our relations on a new footing, before it’s too late. Our links go beyond mere geographical proximity. We have common interests and face common challenges.

By 2050, the population of Africa will double, to more than 2.5 billion. This population explosion may be a problem, but it may also be an opportunity.

Desertification, famine, pandemics, terrorism, unemployment and bad governance are exacerbating instability and contributing to uncontrolled immigration.

Without determined action to tackle these phenomena, new generations will continue to set out for Europe in search of hope and a future. They may be attracted by images on television or on the internet depicting what seems to them to be a land of milk and honey. We urgently need to offer them real prospects in their home countries, so that they stay and help to revitalise them.

Guaranteeing security and managing migration

Our citizens want a stronger Union, capable of managing migration and guaranteeing security. They are calling on us to defend our values, by welcoming refugees and protecting the dignity of individuals at all times. But they also want us to be just as resolute in turning away those who have no right to enter Europe.

We are no longer prepared to stand idly by while migration continues unchecked, while thousands die in the desert or at sea, while human traffickers go about their business, or while men and women who in the 21st century cannot feed their children or get medicines for them when they are sick give up all hope.

As a first step, we need to strengthen border controls and manage asylum applications and procedures for rejecting applications and readmitting migrants more effectively.

Shutting down the central Mediterranean corridors, promoting stability and combating terrorism will require investments by the Union on a similar scale to those made to halt migration via the Balkan route. This money has to be spent in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Niger, Chad or Mali.

I should like to thank the ministers of the government of Mali, a country in the front line of the fight against terror in the Sahel. The ‘G5 Sahel’ Group is an excellent example of regional cooperation which the Union must help to strengthen.

This money must be used to improve the training given to our border guards and our security forces. It can be used to set up reception centres under the auspices of the UN, where humanitarian protection, food, medicines and childcare are provided; and where asylum applications are dealt with promptly.

Bringing huge resources to bear at our internal borders will achieve nothing. All suggestions that it will are nothing more than propaganda. Rather, what is needed is adequate funding for Frontex and the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which must be given more staff and resources.

The European satellite systems – Galileo and Copernicus – and new security technologies to be developed jointly must be used for this purpose as well.

We must also harmonise conditions governing the granting of asylum and readmission procedures, which must be quick and effective.

At the last part-session in Strasbourg, Parliament adopted by a large majority the mandate for a thoroughgoing overhaul of the Dublin Regulation, to make it fairer, more genuinely solidarity-based and more effective. Now it is up to the Council to act.

The challenges facing Africa

But all this is not enough. We need to address the problem at its roots. Unless we can offer them real prospects of well-being and stability, it will no longer be tens of thousands but millions of people who choose to leave their home countries behind. The UN estimates that, even in the short term, more than half a million people every year will seek a better future in Europe.

Supporting Africa is not only a duty. It is clearly also in our shared economic and political interest.

Many African countries are already showing that their continent offers genuine opportunities: in 2016, five African economies were among the top ten in the world in terms of growth, with rates of more than 7%.

Africa has critical raw materials essential for our industries: 64% of the world’s cobalt, without which batteries for electric cars cannot be made, comes from Congo; tantalum, which is used in solar panels, comes from Rwanda; platinum, which is used to limit harmful emissions from cars, comes from South Africa.

These raw materials are also of interest to our competitors, starting with China, which is seeking to establish a dominant position in order to boost its own industries.

There is also a problem of environmental sustainability. In the context of the Raw Materials Partnership, which I promoted when I was Industry Commissioner in 2012, cooperation developed between EU and African geological surveys which has led to innovation and greater awareness of the need to protect the environment.

There are many other good examples of our work with Africa. To start with, there is the integration of markets, under the Lomé Conventions and the current Cotonou Agreement. These agreements have granted free access to the European market for 99.5 % of African products.

Discussions on the post-Cotonou settlement are continuing. I should like to thank Parliament’s rapporteurs for their contribution.

Despite these efforts and the tens of billions that have been invested, there is still a long way to go if we are to guarantee decent living conditions and greater security for people in Africa.

Many parts of Africa are affected by conflicts, instability, terrorism, bad governance - just think about what is currently happening in Zimbabwe, in the Horn of Africa or in the Central African Republic.

According to World Bank figures, the GDP of all the African countries put together is barely higher than that of France.

Despite disastrous levels of child mortality - 38% of all the newborns who died in 2015 were African - the continent has the world’s fastest growing population.

We are far from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN with a view to reducing poverty: one-third of Africans live below the poverty line; one-sixth of them need humanitarian aid to survive; in rural areas, 60% of people have less than one euro a day to live on.

Farming and raw materials, including energy, are the main sources of revenue, whilst the level of industrialisation is extremely low.

Last Monday was Africa Industrialisation Day, which provided an opportunity to emphasise once again that developing a manufacturing base is fundamental to growth and employment.

Only 15% of Africans have the internet at home. Barely one person in three has electricity.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest illiteracy rates: one child in every five does not go to school, and almost 60% of young people are not undergoing training of any kind.

Is it any surprise, therefore, that young Africans should believe that they have nothing to lose; that they should decide to risk their lives to come to Europe; or that they should be seduced by people who preach violence in God’s name.

Many problems could be solved by means of greater investment in education, infrastructure, industry and modern farming techniques. Africa, however, is the continent which attracts by far the lowest volume of foreign investment: barely more than EUR 80 billion a year, only 3% of African GDP. China is the country whose investments are increasing the most in proportional terms.

Africa’s destiny must be put back in the hands of Africans. But Europe must play its part as well.

We must work together with Africa, as equals, and make available the fruits of our leadership in the areas of technology, quality, industrial know-how and training.

Ten years have passed since the EU-Africa strategy was adopted. In that time many hopes have been dashed. Europe has lacked the courage to develop truly effective instruments.

Instead of consolidating our position as Africa’s main partner, we are losing ground. Not only China but other emerging investors as well, such as Turkey, India and Singapore, are gaining in influence.

A Marshall Plan for Africa

The fifth African Union-European Union Summit, which will be held on 29 and 30 November in Abidjan and bring together more than 80 heads of state, comes at a crucial time.

We must send out a clear signal that we are determined to relaunch and strengthen our partnership, and speak with a single, strong voice.

The focus of all our efforts must be young people: they hold the key to a more stable, prosperous and modern Africa.

The EUR 3.4 billion investment plan for Africa is an important step in the right direction. But it is nowhere near enough.

We must support the efforts Africans themselves are making to establish a sustainable manufacturing base and develop efficient farming, renewable energy sources and proper water, energy, mobility, logistical and digital infrastructure, by drawing up a real ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa. By doing so we will strengthen governance and the rule of law, step up the fight against corruption and foster the emancipation of women and education.

We must work to ensure that under the next EU multiannual budget at least EUR 40 billion is earmarked for the investment fund for Africa. The leverage effect and synergies generated with the funding provided by the European Investment Bank could make it possible to mobilise some EUR 500 billion in public and private investment.

On that basis, we can continue to conduct effective economic diplomacy which promotes the integration of markets, the transfer of technology and industrial know-how, sustainability and training.

The aim must be to establish an environment conducive to the development of a manufacturing base and entrepreneurship and the creation of SMIs and jobs for young people. For that we also need instruments such as Erasmus for young entrepreneurs, which should be extended to cover Africa.

At the same time, legal immigrants from Africa can meet the demand for workers in some sectors of the economy in the EU and acquire professional skills which they can then use to create businesses in Europe.

We also need academic and cultural diplomacy which, by expanding Erasmus+ and stepping up cooperation between universities on research and mobility projects, makes it possible for more Africans to study in Europe.

Conclusions

More resources are not in themselves the answer. Already today we are investing EUR 33 billion from the EU budget alone, not counting the bilateral aid provided by individual Member States.

If our taxpayers’ generosity has failed to produce the hoped-for results, we must ask ourselves whether the current development cooperation model is the right one.

Carrying on as we have always done would be a serious mistake. Our citizens are calling for a political Europe which is capable of making brave choices. Starting with the budget; more of the same is not acceptable, and the budget must reflect the priorities of the peoples of Europe,

The proposed sum of EUR 40 billion - 12 times more than the current budget for the Investment Plan - is needed to generate an impact commensurate with our objectives. This is a critical mass large enough to attract European private and public investment. 

It is not a Utopian idea. If the political will is there, resources can be found, partly by using the funds already earmarked for Africa more effectively, partly by providing guarantees under the EU budget, and partly by identifying new sources of funding.

It is for just that reason that I have proposed an increase in the next budget. Making new resources available must not serve to impose a burden on citizens or SMIs. Instead, we must use new own resources for this purpose, by collecting taxes from those who currently don’t pay them and reducing taxes on those who do pay them.

I am thinking of tax havens, the internet giants and speculative financial transactions of all kinds.

Today, the European Parliament is committing itself to playing a central role in a new Partnership with Africa. Our debate, involving young people, political leaders, experts and investors from Europe and Africa, must serve as preparation for the new start we will make in Abidjan.

This conference must be more than a formal event at which we read out speeches – rather, we must take the opportunity it offers to relaunch our partnership.

If our partnership really is a priority, then we must meet more regularly – every two years.

Follow-up meetings should be held at multiple levels on a regular basis, including between the representatives of civil society, business and commerce and the young.

Abidjan must mark a new beginning in our relations.

Read More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction of draft resolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also making presentations today were Hui Lu, Chief, Intergovernmental Affairs, Outreach and Programme Support Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Gabor Rona, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination; and Taonga Mushayavanhu, Chair-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards.

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

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

Background

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

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

Delegates also had before them notes by the Secretary-General transmitting two reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on: combatting the glorification of Nazism (document A/72/291), and challenges related to combating terrorism (document A/72/287).  Another note transmitted the report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/72/286).

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

Introductory Remarks

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

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

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

Interactive Dialogues — Peoples of African Descent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use of Mercenaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racial Discrimination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racism, Glorification of Nazism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complementary Standards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right of Reply

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

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

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International Cooperation to End Tax Crimes Crucial for Achieving Sustainable Growth Agenda, Speakers Say as Development Financing Forum Concludes

The global movement under way to stamp out international tax fraud was central to ending the booming illegal cross-border flow of money and capital obstructing realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Economic and Social Council heard today, as it wrapped up its Forum on Financing for Development follow-up with a series of expert panel discussions and related events.

Since the financial crisis, there had been a growing awareness of international tax crimes, said Eric C. Hylton, Executive Director of International Operations for the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in the United States, during an expert discussion on “Promoting international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development”.

“This has never been the case in my 20 something years,” Mr. Hylton said, stressing that since 2009, the Internal Revenue Service had aggressively pursued international finance institutions helping people from the United States evade taxes.  The Service’s forensics accountants were experts at following the money, he emphasized, specializing in illicit financial flows, international criminal tax evasion and money-laundering.

Illicit finance and tax evasion was an area in which the Service could help Governments increase revenue, he stressed, adding:  “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have development aid if it’s coming in one door and going out the other,” he said, describing it as a national security issue and noting that two thirds of criminal activity related to tax evasion.

Tax avoidance was central to illicit financial flows and hindered gross domestic product (GDP) particularly in lower-income countries, said Alex Cobham, Director of the Tax Justice Network.  Financial secrecy underpinned every major corruption and tax abuse case around the world, from the British Virgin Islands to Delaware, characterized by opaque corporate accounting that covered profit shifting and tax avoidance.

“We see increasingly, not least within the ongoing process to develop targets in the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts to remove multinational tax avoidance from the definition of illicit financial flows,” he said.

In 2007, the Network created a Financial Secrecy Index that identified jurisdictions, like Switzerland, as central to producing corrupt flows elsewhere, he said.  While the United States had worked to break the Swiss commitment to banking secrecy, international cooperation was essential to require a fully multilateral approach.

In the last 50 years, illicit financial flows had cost sub-Saharan African countries $528 billion, lamented S.O. Olaniyan, Deputy Director, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, who added that his country was losing an estimated $15.7 billion annually, more than what the continent received in official development assistance (ODA).

Domestic resource mobilization was the most crucial element to national sustainable development efforts, which could be achieved by blocking illicit financial flows that were aided by bad governance, corruption and weak institutions, he stressed.  In that context, it was imperative for African countries to overhaul their financial services and investment engineering.

The question of why Africa was among the richest continents in terms of natural resources but poorest in terms of income had led to a 2010 event in Malawi, said Adam Elhiraika, Director, Macroeconomic Policy Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), adding that a High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows, chaired by Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, was formed afterward.

The Panel’s main finding was that Africa lost $80 billion annually and resources must be better managed, while State capacity must be improved, he said.  Furthermore, the Panel had found that 65 per cent of illicit financial flows out of Africa were due to abusive trade mispricing, while 30 per cent were due to criminal activities and 5 per cent due to outright corruption.

During the day, the Council also held an expert round table on “Trade, science, technology, innovation and capacity-building” and an expert discussion on “The specific challenges to finance sustainable development for countries in special situations”.

In addition, the Council held an interactive dialogue with civil society, the business sector and other stakeholders and received updates on the outcomes of the forums mandated by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as key voluntary initiatives launched at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.

At the end of the meeting, the Forum approved its draft report and the Council President, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), made closing remarks.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Expert Round Table I

The first expert round table under the theme “Trade, science, technology, innovation and capacity-building” was moderated by Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) New York Office.  The panellists included:  Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework, Nepal; Mark Henderson, Directorate General for Trade, European Commission; Sirimali Fernando, Chairperson, National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka; and Joon Kim, Head of Global Trade, BNY Mellon.

Ms. CARPENTIER noted there had been a persistent slowdown in global trade growth, as the world was experiencing its slowest decade of trade growth in 70 years.  At the same time, slowing international trade had raised concerns about “de-globalization” and had been compounded by political scrutiny of trade, especially in Europe and North America, where trade had taken on a central role in a number of electoral contests, creating divisions between those who were pro- and anti-globalization.  From the perspective of UNCTAD, too much of the trade focused on rules and negotiations, giving the impression that trade could not promote development unless there were rules changes.  The role of technology in financing for development was also at risk with a deepening digital divide, which had manifested itself in a sharpening digital economy divide.  Whether the dislocation of jobs and the painful economic adjustment many countries were experiencing in recent decades was due to expanding international trade or to technological changes was central to the debate about globalization.

Mr. ADHIKARI noted that the Enhanced Integrated Framework was a small global development programme dedicated to the least developed countries and others that had recently graduated from that status.  The Framework represented a partnership of major international actors, working in collaboration with the World Bank, the United Nations, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and others.  To date, it had funded more than 150 projects with a total of $200 million.  The global community had recognized trade as key to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as it was directly related to at least 11 targets under nine of the Sustainable Development Goals, and was indirectly related to nearly all of the Goals.  Much more must be done to boost the trade capacities of the least developed countries, which suffered from poor infrastructure, outdated technology, limited access to finance and low production capacities.  It was important to continue to ensure that investment in aid for trade worked towards development that was sustainable in the long term.  The Framework had also worked to help build more resilience, diversified production capacities and structural transformation for States that had recently graduated from least developed status.

Mr. HENDERSON said there were many examples of how the European Union’s trade policy contributed to development through bilateral and regional trade agreements.  The bloc continued to be the largest donor of aid for trade, with more than €12 billion in 2014.  The stronger the trade investment relations the Union had with partners, the more it could tailor its aid offers.  Such partnerships worked and helped countries boost exports towards higher-yield arrangements.  He recalled that zero tariff arrangements had allowed for greater recognition of the key role of trade as one of the means of implementation for the Goals, as established by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 17.  But the Unions’ efforts did not stop there.  Its “Trade for All” was the first policy adopted after agreement had been reached on the 2030 Agenda, and laid out the specific means through which the Union’s trade policy would directly support and reinforce sustainable development.

Ms. FERNANDO emphasized that Sri Lanka’s current trade environment was of some concern.  The majority of the country’s exports were made up of commodity items and low-technology products, which highlighted the need to move towards higher-end technologies.  The country hoped to increase high-tech exports from the current level of 1 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020.  Sri Lanka recognized the imperative of trade and had put in place a science, technology and innovation strategy that was geared towards rapid socioeconomic development.  The strategy took into account the need for economic development, social justice and environmental quality through capacity-building and technological entrepreneurship.  Investment was needed in research and development and a scaling up of technology, which would then result in industrial and commercial production, and finally, market penetration.  Skills, infrastructure, systems and processes would all need to be financed and developed.

Mr. JOON noted that the relationship between trade and finance had been traversing a challenging landscape over the last few years, although bankers were doing everything possible to promote trade finance going forward.  Since the financial crisis, bankers were trying to “derisk”, which was an effort to move away from particular countries or regions once doing business there became less cost-efficient.  Part of that dynamic was due to increased costs associated with changes made to the regulatory landscape.  There were significant impediments to trade finance, including low country credit ratings and regulatory requirements.  Bankers were trying to innovate and provide technology solutions so that trade transactions could be done in the most efficient manner.  There was no question that trade finance was operating in a challenging environment, but with the right collaborative effort whereby the bankers were working in harmony with other stakeholders, there could be a bright future in the trade finance arena.

In the ensuing discussion, a member of civil society expressed concern that the financing for development conversation had focused primarily on the private sector and failed to take into account the situation of workers.  In response to a question from the representative of Mexico on how the move towards higher-end technologies impacted human capital, Ms. FERNANDO noted that at the outset, her country had to develop programmes to scale up the capacities of workers, adding that one positive development was that the country had been able to bring back some of their highly skilled expatriates thanks to new high-tech jobs that had been created.  A representative of the business sector stressed that trade was a powerful vehicle for sustainable development and supported broad deployment of innovative technologies.  In response to a question from the representative of Algeria on the growing trend towards protectionism, Mr. JOON said that the creation of more restrictive trade measures had resulted in many businesses focusing more inward on domestic opportunities.

Also speaking were the representatives of Chile, Nepal and the International Trade Centre.

Expert Discussion I

The Forum then began an expert discussion on “Promoting international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development”.  Moderated by Simone Monasebian, Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), New York Office, it featured presentations by:  Eric C. Hylton, Executive Director, International Operations, Internal Revenue Service — Criminal Investigations, United States; S.O. Olaniyan, Deputy Director, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Nigeria; Adam Elhiraika, Director, Macroeconomic Policy Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); and Alex Cobham, Director, Tax Justice Network.

Ms. MONASEBIAN said General Assembly resolution 71/213 on illicit financial flows urged States to join the United Nations Convention against Corruption, while the Forum’s outcome document, adopted on 24 May, likewise called for more cooperation on that issue.  UNODC worked with States to prevent illicit financial flows.  Existing normative frameworks to prevent corruption or money-laundering must be more effectively used to combat illicit financial flows.  The return of stolen assets was provided for under the Convention, for which UNODC was custodian, and work was under way to prevent such flows through assistance to countries to strengthen anti-money-laundering regimes, enhance enforcement systems and return proceeds from stolen assets.  “We still have to overcome the challenges posed by our different systems,” she said.

Mr. HYLTON said he was the only United States authority that could bring criminal charges.  Since the financial crisis, there had been a global movement to address international criminal tax.  Many leaders were talking about the issue.  “This has never been the case in my 20 something years,” he said.  Internal Revenue Service forensics accountants were experts at following the money, and looking at illicit financial flows, international criminal tax evasion and money-laundering.  Since 2009, the Service had aggressively pursued international finance institutions helping people from the United States evade tax.  Illicit finance and tax evasion was an area in which the Service could help Governments increase revenue.  “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have development aid if it’s coming in one door and going out the other,” he said.  It was a national security issue.  About 40 countries participated in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Task Force on Tax Crimes and Other Financial Crimes, and the fifth OECD forum on tax and crime would be held in November.  Advocating a whole-of-Government approach, he said two thirds of criminal activity related to tax evasion.  The United States was working in joint investigation teams, comprised of competent judicial and law-enforcement authorities, which were established for a limited duration to carry out criminal investigations.

Mr. OLANIYAN said illicit financial flows originated from such behaviour as tax evasion, abusive transfer pricing, drug trade, illegal arms deals, money-laundering and theft by corrupt Government officials.  In the last 50 years, sub-Saharan African countries had lost $528 billion.  Nigeria was losing an estimated $15.7 billion annually, more than what the continent received in official development assistance (ODA).  Illicit financial flows were aided by bad governance, corruption and weak institutions.  It was imperative for African countries to overhaul their financial services and investment engineering.  Domestic resource mobilization was the most crucial element to national sustainable development efforts, which could be achieved by blocking illicit financial flows.  One area of inequality was tax-related:  Many developing countries failed to raise domestic revenue to meet their needs, he said, citing abject poverty, poor infrastructure, and underdeveloped health and education sectors in that context.  Global efforts to reduce illicit financial flows included transparent information-sharing, assets recovery, and observance of the “arm-length principle”, whereby a company could show it was not involved in abusive transfer pricing.  Nigeria’s efforts to combat illicit financial flows had enhanced the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offenses Commission, and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal.  It also had consolidated all inflows from all national agencies into a single account in the Central Bank.  Nigeria was committed to sustained international cooperation and would host a conference from 5 to 7 June on that topic.

Mr. ELHIRAIKA said the question of why Africa was among the richest continents in terms of natural resources but poorest in terms of income had led to a 2010 event in Malawi to tackle that question.  A High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows, chaired by Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, was formed afterward.  Its main finding was that Africa lost $80 billion annually and resources must be better managed.  State capacity remained a major issue.  For years, African countries had lost the capacity to manage their economies.  Global coalitions must also be built to support them.  The Panel had found that 65 per cent of illicit financial flows out of Africa were due to abusive trade mispricing; 30 per cent were due to criminal activities and 5 per cent to outright corruption.  It recommended that a working group and consortium be formed to follow-up on its recommendations, and African Heads of State were requested to present annual reports.  The Consortium to Stem Illicit Financial Flows out of Africa was set up, with a focus on advisory services and capacity-building for African Governments; public and diplomatic advocacy campaigns, and building customs and tax data bases.  The issue of tax incentives, which did not really work, must also be addressed.

Mr. COBHAM said that the Tax Justice Network was created in 2003 because international policy discussions on the issues of tax and financial transparency had not reflected the scale of the problem.  While now increasingly discussed, policies had not been delivered in a manner that ensured full inclusion.  He raised the alarm about a political threat — attempts to subvert global international agreement underpinning the Goals.  The illicit flows agenda had emerged as an opposition to a view of corruption which, at the time, had been seen  as a problem mainly in lower-income countries.  In 2007, the Network had created a Financial Secrecy Index that identified jurisdictions, like Switzerland, as central to producing corrupt flows elsewhere.  They were the central driver of the problem.  Financial secrecy underpinned every major corruption and tax abuse case around the world, from the British Virgin Islands to Delaware, characterized by opaque corporate accounting that covered profit shifting and tax avoidance.  While the United States had worked to break the Swiss commitment to banking secrecy, international cooperation was essential to require a fully multilateral approach.

“We see increasingly, not least within the ongoing process to develop targets in the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts to remove multinational tax avoidance from the definition of illicit financial flows”, he said, despite that it was the biggest element in those flows.  It was a bigger problem in lower-income countries in terms of impact on gross domestic product (GDP).  It was under pressure to be removed from the target.  The other problem was that, despite the formation of a high-level United Nations panel, avoidance was central to the use of illicit financial flows.  When sustainable development target 16.4 was agreed, avoidance had been included.  [Target 16.4 calls for significantly reducing illicit financial and arms flows, strengthening recovery and return of stolen assets, and combating all forms of organized crime.]  Now, there were efforts to remove it.  It was possible that the target could subvert the entire global agreement contained in the Sustainable Development Goals and questions now centred on whether the United Nations could establish a tax commission to oversee such issues.

In the ensuing interactive discussion, Nigeria’s delegate underscored the need for an intergovernmental body to handle the matter raised by Mr. COBHAM, which was an attempt to water down illicit financial flows.  He requested that in terms of forensic activity, the Internal Revenue Service could help countries tackle financial secrecy so that the issue of impunity could be addressed.  Ghana’s delegate said tax incentives had not worked as planned, but politicians had engaged in such incentives because it was a race to the bottom:  if one country did not do it, it would not keep up with its neighbours.  Multinationals threatened to move to a neighbouring country and she asked about the role of regional bodies to ensure countries did not engage in such behaviour.  She also asked about double taxation agreements.  Ethiopia’s delegate advocated greater global cooperation and a better understanding of what illicit financial flows constituted.  Ecuador’s delegate underscored the need for an intergovernmental body on illicit financial flows, and asked about the next steps for strengthening cooperation on tax matters, as called for in Addis Ababa.  South Africa’s delegate asked why trillions of dollars flowed to safe havens, and whether the United States and other developed countries had a code of conduct for their own multinationals to do business in other countries.

Mr. OLANIYAN replied that if African resources were flowing to other places, then all countries had a responsibility to address that issue.

Mr. HYLTON said that capacity-building training was being conducted throughout the world.  On double taxation, he said United States citizens were taxed on their global income.

Mr. ELHIRAIKA replied that there was a need for more coordination and an international body to address that issue.

Mr. COBHAM said major financial secrecy jurisdictions were good at “paying lip service” and not delivering change.  “We need indicators that measure the degree of cooperation,” he said.  It was also important to think about how countries could cooperate to eliminate the race to the bottom.  One idea was to consider, regionally, the development of a minimum corporate tax, and setting aside OECD rules, which could have “dramatic” revenue effects.

Expert Discussion II

The Forum then held an expert discussion on “The specific challenges to finance sustainable development for countries in special situations”.  Moderated by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it featured presentations by:  Tevita Lavemaau, Minister of Finance and National Planning, Tonga; Nim Dorji, Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Bhutan; Margarida Rose da Silva Izata, Director of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of External Relations, Angola; and William Jose Calvo Calvo, Deputy Chief Negotiator for Climate Change and Sustainable Development Official, Costa Rica.

Mr. MARTÍNEZ-SOLIMÁN said this year’s outcome document underscored the need to focus efforts on where the challenges were the greatest.  The session would focus on strengthening private investment, ensuring graduation was smooth and countries retained financing in terms appropriate to their needs, and supporting countries with structural constraints.  More than 50 per cent of UNDP resources were allocated to least developed countries, and it helped countries prepare for graduation by identifying requirements and promoting South-South cooperation.

Mr. LAVEMAAU said small island developing States faced considerable structural constraints in efforts to mobilize domestic resources for sustainable development, due largely to their small and dispersed populations, which made revenue collection difficult, high costs of service provision and infrastructure investment, large agriculture and informal sectors, trade liberalization that had eroded tax bases, and vulnerability to climate change impacts.  International support was essential for boosting domestic tax systems, as was political commitment for reform in those States.  Tonga’s tax revenues comprised 22 per cent of its GDP, higher than the small island developing State 19 per cent average.  To help combat non-communicable diseases it had increased taxes on tobacco, fatty food and sugary beverages.  However, tax revenues could contribute much more if they were mobilized effectively.  There was wide variation in the capacity of small island developing States to mobilize domestic resources.  While some had managed to broaden their personal income tax base, many relied on such indirect taxation as value-added and sales taxes, which could be regressive.  For Tonga, he advocated increased international support to review the tax system with a focus on consumption tax, build capacity to improve tax revenue administration and compliance, promote South-South cooperation, strengthen public financial management and upgrade technology systems.

Mr. DORJI said least developed countries were “literally at the bottom of the development ladder”, with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development report citing the need for more progress in the seven action areas of the Addis Agenda.  In Bhutan, a least developed and landlocked country, low productivity, inadequate infrastructure, a weak private sector, reliance on commodities and capacity constraints were just some of the challenges, along with vulnerability to climate change impacts.  Yet, its comparative advantages of political stability, rule of law, good governance and a focus on environmental and cultural conservation had helped Bhutan achieve good economic progress.  To reach the next development phase, all financial instruments must be tapped.  While foreign direct investment and investment promotion regimes had the potential to bring about transformative change, “on this, I’m afraid the news is not very encouraging”, he lamented.  Generally, the total share of foreign direct investment in least developed countries was low and had been concentrated in very few countries.  To reverse that trend, it was important to start with the right policy framework to ensure that the growth sectors were aligned with the development vision.  To address capacity constraints, it would be useful to have a “nodal” investment promotion agency to help least developed countries with advisory and technical support.  It was also important to inject confidence and predictability into the graduation process, with partners adopting smooth graduation as a development priority and accommodating the reality that abrupt withdrawal of international support could endanger hard-won gains.

Ms. DA SILVA IZATA said Angola was transitioning smoothly from a least developed to a middle-income country, and it was important that the graduation process did not jeopardize its development.  While each country had primary responsibility for its economic and social development, international finance played an important role in complementing countries’ efforts to mobilize domestic public resources.  Advocating that investment promotion regimes in least developed countries be strengthened, she said support in tax collection enhanced domestic enabling environments and built public services.  While the international community recognized the unique needs of countries in special situations, such as small island developing States and landlocked least developed countries, it was paramount to enhance international cooperation to benefit developing country growth.  The Global Environment Facility was a vital platform to address such concerns, and she advocated grant and concessional resources be provided to support such projects in countries such as Angola.

Also, efforts to create a Technology Facilitation Mechanism, called for in Addis Ababa, must be stepped up, she said.  The same was true for a technology bank for least developed countries.  She welcomed market access efforts, and suggested revision of the European Union’s “everything but arms” preferential trade scheme to enable all least developed countries to profit from it.  “How many LDCs [least developed countries] are really exporting to the EU [European Union],” she asked?  Angola was preparing a zero draft on lessons learned, outlining gains and losses related to the graduation process at the sector level, with coordination by the Ministry of Planning and Territorial Development.  By July, Angola would start consultations with the private sector, non-profits and academics, addressing those perspectives and highlighting possible implications of the process.

Mr. CALVO said middle-income countries faced specific challenges to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  Efforts should be made to foster an exchange of experiences, as well as provide better support from the United Nations development system and international financial institutions.  Those bodies must consider the diverse needs of middle-income countries in a tailored manner in relevant policies and strategies.  The middle-income country category created by the World Bank was inaccurate and harmful.  The United Nations must take a more comprehensive approach that recognized their diverse realities, especially as similar criteria were used by OECD.  Middle-income countries promoted implementation of Addis Agenda paragraph 129 to develop transparent measurements of progress based on recognizing sustainable development in a manner that went beyond simply measuring per capita income.  Some United Nations agencies, including UNDP, had developed multidimensional criteria that captured the realities in those countries.  Noting that by 2030, 28 Latin American countries would graduate to middle-income country status, he said the Forum should create a road map for a new United Nations strategy that considered such needs.  There had been concerns over whether it should be a strategy or action plan, but “the name is not important here”, he said.  Rather, system-wide guidelines must be developed to help middle-income countries achieve the 2030 and Addis Agendas.  Graduation policies, which were unfair and lacked consistency with the Goals, must be adjusted to middle-income countries’ experiences.  Within the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, countries had proposed designing a platform for a sustainable development transition.

In the ensuing discussion, Zambia’s delegate said landlocked developing countries faced unique challenges stemming from their geography, resulting in trade costs that were three times higher than for coastal countries.  Measures to address such structural constraints included assistance in building tax bases and enhancing productive capacities, especially in the transport sector, along with trade facilitation and efforts to strengthen accountability.  She underscored the importance of capacity-building to create “bankable” projects and design policies that supported sustainable infrastructure investment.  Mexico’s delegate said the financing for development agenda was one of cooperation, which developing countries could use to leverage their resources to achieve the Goals.  He asked the panellists about building a system that was not a zero-sum game of ODA, but rather included concessional flows, green funds, and South-South cooperation.  A balance was needed to ensure all countries received the support that best suited them.

Honduras’ delegate stressed the importance of moving beyond an income understanding of development, while Bangladesh’s delegate expressed disappointment that the Forum had failed to address implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change or refer to climate finance or access to it.  She outlined various trade challenges, including market access.  The European Union delegate said the bloc, the largest market for least developed country products, could boost their exports by up to 10 per cent.  He recognized that market access alone was not enough; aligning development assistance was the number one priority in the review of the European Union Aid-for Trade strategy.

Stakeholder Dialogue

Moderated by Alexander Trepelkov, Director of the Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the speakers for the stakeholder dialogue included Stefano Prato, Society for International Development; Emilia Reyes, Equidad de Genero; Hui Chan, Citi Bank; Wild Ndipo, Mayor of Blantyre, Malawi; and Daviz Simango, Mayor of Beira, Mozambique.

Mr. TREPELKOV recalled that civil society, the private sector, parliamentarians and local authorities had been involved in the financing for development process since its inception.  With their diverse voices and priorities, those stakeholders had provided substantive inputs to both the ministerial and expert segments, as panellists, moderators, keynote speakers and with many thoughtful contributions from the floor.  The stakeholder dialogue would draw on the important work of civil society, the private sector and local authorities in collaboration with the United Nations.

Mr. PRATO noted that civil society was concerned with ensuring that necessary, critical actions were taken to unlock the capacity for sustainable development.  In that regard, there was a need to change the existing business model.  There was a gap between what was legal and what would be adequate to reach the Goals.  Civil society was duly concerned with all cases in which the private sector was called to deliver on public goods and services.  Public interest should be the primary factor when framing such initiatives.  While including the public sector in the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda was welcome, efforts must be made to ensure that public policy spaces were protected from conflict of interest and that the integrity of policy processes were maintained.  He recalled that when analysing the area in which public and private sectors interfaced, there was a specific call in the Addis Agenda to establish a set of guidelines with respect to public-private partnerships.

Ms. REYES said that rather than addressing individual problems, her organization was seeking to identify the points of entry that would change the interconnections between those problems.  In that regard, gender equality had a crucial role.  If there was a large-scale value placed on women’s unpaid, domestic care work, there would not be enough money in the world to pay for all such work that women performed.  Women’s human rights should not be commodified and there needed to be a change in the narrative that sustainable development could be achieved if women were “included”.  Her organization had called for comprehensive fiscal measures with a clear gender perspective.  Women’s empowerment alone was not enough to address the issues surrounding human rights.  As had been said by others, the negative repercussions of illicit financial flows had an impact on gender equality.

Ms. HUI said that Citi promoted innovative financing for development through various mechanisms.  The funding needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals was estimated at $4.5 to $6 trillion annually.  Given those huge requirements, there would need to be an increase in ODA, although the only way to fill the expected funding gap was by working with the private sector.  The “good news” was that there was no shortage of private-sector capital.  While there had been momentum in the current scale and pace of private-sector investment, those efforts would still not produce the money needed.  Without appropriate risk mitigation, private-sector investment would continue to fall short.  There must be a move beyond traditional financing systems and philanthropy to create new investment opportunities that would attract private-sector capital.  Moreover, without profits and returns, the level of private sector investment would remain far below what was needed.  Blended finance — the strategic use of private finance to deliver social, environmental and economic benefit — was one viable and important option.  The United Nations should involve the private sector early on and make it a partner for designing solutions.

Mr. NDIPO said that the common challenge was to reach the Goals, which would require more strategic investment and partnerships.  There was an urgent need to empower local governments by bringing them into policy design.  Efforts must be made to give local and regional governments the means to mobilize resources.  From the perspective of local governments, new innovative partnerships must be designed to link finance to local needs.  The dialogue between the various levels of governments must be enhanced.  He was pleased to report that the public-private partnership environment was taking shape in Malawi, as was evident in several on-going projects.  Cities had become anchors for international trade and national economies.  To promote a more balanced development framework there must be a fairer distribution of public revenues across the various levels of government.  In Malawi local governments did not have the ability to maximize local potential due to a lack of power to manage land use and taxes.

Mr. SIMANGO recalled that through the 2030 Agenda, the international community had committed itself to improve ways to invest in people in the areas where they lived and worked, to support liveable cities, towns and rural areas and include local governments in that partnership.  Local governments often saw decisions made on the national level without taking into account local realities.  The majority of cities in less-developed countries had a lack of resources and capacities.  Local governments would be a “game changer” when it came to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  His city in Mozambique, Beira, had managed to leverage some international funds when creating its long-term development plan.  The international community would not be able to meet the tremendous challenges ahead if cities were unable to access long-term, external resources.  Reaching local governments could be a powerful way to generate development cooperation.  The world would not be able to reach its development objectives if investment in local and regional governments were not empowered to move beyond the short-term.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Mozambique questioned how the resources of the public sector should be harnessed to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of society.  A member of civil society expressed concern that the Addis Agenda follow-up lacked specific references to emerging issues such as austerity, ecological risks, tax reform, stranded assets and military expenditures, as well as others.  Furthermore, there were limited references to youth in the follow-up.  Another member of civil society emphasized that he did not share the same enthusiasm for public-private partnership as had been expressed by the panellists, stressing that there was a severe lack of understanding about those complex schemes, which largely fed the shadow banking system.

Mr. PRATO said there was a blurring of what was public, what was private, and who was responsible for which tasks.  He went on to emphasize that the public interest must remain paramount.

Ms. REYES said there was great emphasis placed on getting more money, but she questioned what was happening with the money that was already circulating, citing illicit financial flows, tax avoidance and corruption as major issues of concern.

Ms. HUI stressed that reaching the most vulnerable would require particular focus on partnerships and risk mitigation, as well as bringing all actors together to structure solutions that worked.

Mr. NDIPO said one challenge was that most lending institutions did not trust local councils.

Mr. SIMANGO said his city had already managed to enjoy some success in garnering private-sector investment for various projects.

Presentation of Outcomes from Addis Agenda Forums

The Forum then heard presentations on the progress made in forums mandated by the Addis Agenda and key voluntary initiatives launched at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.  Moderated by Alexander Trepelkov, Director, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, it featured presentations by:  Carlota Cenalmore, Acting Representative of the European Investment Bank; Luis Miguel Castilla, Manager, Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness, Inter-American Development Bank; Shantanu Mukherjee, Chief, Policy and Analysis Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and F.M.M. Shava, President, Economic and Social Council.

Mr. TREPELKOV said the session would look at the contribution of mandated fora to the Addis Agenda.

Mr. CASTILLA reported on the outcome of the Second Global Infrastructure Forum, which took place in Washington, D.C., on 22 April.  With 650 participants from nearly 70 countries, the spectrum of stakeholders included Governments, the private sector, academia, civil society and multilateral development banks, as well as the OECD and the United Nations.  Discussions focused on how multilateral development banks worked with regional financial institutions to catalyse public and private resources for infrastructure.  There was broad agreement that plenty of resources existed to finance sustainable infrastructure, such as pension funds.  Multilateral development banks had been created to mobilize private capital and could bridge gaps.  Planning, good project preparation and the engagement of all parties from the start was critical to success.  For their part, multilateral development banks and Governments had a key role to play, he said, noting that adaptability was an increasingly important aspect to sustainability.  Government willingness to show long-term commitment was also essential, as infrastructure assets required significant up-front costs.  New sectors and lesser developed countries presented some of the best opportunities.  For the first time, the Forum held a plenary session on the topic of diversity, which could lead to better policy outcomes.

Ms. CENALMORE, also reporting on the Infrastructure Forum outcome, outlined progress made by multilateral development banks since last year, highlighting a spirit of partnership.  Compared to last year, the number of joint initiatives had substantially increased.  “This trend will continue,” she said, noting that the key role of the private sector had been recognized and included in the agenda of multilateral development banks.  The outcome document had set priorities for the immediate and long-term future up to 2030.  Noting that national development banks, including from Brazil, Turkey and South Africa, had participated in technical sessions, she said such banks represented a crucial role in infrastructure finance.  The Forum had underscored the commitment of multilateral development banks to sustainable and inclusive infrastructure, and demonstrated a willingness to tackle the challenges with other key players.  With that, she announced that the Asian Development Bank would host the 2018 Forum in Bali, Indonesia, on the margins of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group in October.

Mr. SHAVA presented the work of the 2016 Development Cooperation Forum, stressing that its key message was about putting into daily practice a transformative focus on results.  Developing and developed countries, along with civil society, parliamentarians, international organizations, development banks, the private sector and philanthropic foundations had gathered for the Development Cooperation Forum’s fifth biennial high-level meeting.  They embraced a concept of development cooperation that included financial resources, as well as capacity development, technology transfer, cooperation and partnerships.

In its recommendations, he said, the Forum stressed that development cooperation should continue its distinct role in supporting the poorest, which required making large-scale investments, using new evidence-based tools, strengthening domestic institutions and providing long-term budget support.  More ODA should be allocated to those with the weakest policymaking capacities.  Second, the Forum should advance understanding of how to strengthen incentives for the private sector, with blended finance one such vehicle.  ODA should be closely monitored against its effectiveness in eradicating poverty, not simply increasing the volume of finance.  Further, the full potential of South–South cooperation must be tapped to reduce asymmetries in order to access sustainable development opportunities and directly respond to local demands.  Finally, there was an unprecedented need to improve multi-layered monitoring and review of development cooperation.  The Forum had identified tremendous capacity gaps and new opportunities in that regard.

Mr. MUKHERJEE reported on the second Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation, held on 15 and 16 May, noting that its outcome was being prepared and would be presented at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.  Led by Kenya and the United States, that Forum was supported by the Inter-Agency Task Force and included 800 scientists, innovators and technology specialists, as well as representatives of civil society and Government.  An innovation hub exhibited examples of how to harness science, technology and innovation in implementing the Goals.  Science, technology and innovation touched on several Goals and targets simultaneously, making the Forum a perfect place to discuss an integrated agenda.  Many advances bore fruit among several Goals, notably in making energy services available to all people.  Multi-stakeholder approaches were essential in order to use science, technology and innovation — all of which were rapidly advancing — for the Goals, especially through matchmaking opportunities.  While not explicitly mentioned in the 2030 Agenda, biotechnology, automation, artificial intelligence, or rapid data proliferation and use could determine — individually or collectively — how well that framework was realized.  Twelve innovations were presented on how technology was rapidly influencing peoples’ lives.  One demonstrated how remote censors were predicting weather with 89 per cent accuracy, with text messages sent to farmers to help them plan their planting.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, speakers reported on the progress of various voluntary initiatives and partnerships, with the representative of the Netherlands commenting that one launched by Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and his own country at the Addis Ababa conference had doubled cooperation on taxation.  Australia’s delegate said innovation exchange had been created to work with the private sector, as had entrepreneurship and impact investing initiatives.

The Forum then approved its draft report (document E/FFDF/2017/L.2), which Mr. SHAVA explained would be updated by the Secretariat, in consultation with the Council President, and issued as a full procedural report of the Forum’s meetings, for consideration by the Council.

Mr. SHAVA, in closing remarks, said 20 ministers and vice-ministers, as well as a large number of high-level officials had participated in this year’s Forum.  “I deliberately set a high bar for our discussions,” he said.  “I believe that we have delivered.”  The outcome document committed the Forum to a range of new policies and actions to accelerate national and international efforts in all areas of the Addis Agenda.  He called for implementing those commitments in due time and in full.

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