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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

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

Interactive Dialogues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statements on Rights of Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fourth Committee Approves 20 Texts for General Assembly Action, Passing 4 by Recorded Vote, 16 by Consensus

Morocco Touts Success of Legislative Polls in Western Sahara, as Algeria Warns against Changing Rules on Territory Set by Security Council

Concluding its consideration of decolonization questions today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved 20 draft resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly, four of them by recorded vote.

Taking up a draft resolution concerning economic and other activities affecting the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).  By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would urge administering Powers to safeguard the inalienable right of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories to their natural resources, and to establish control over the future development of those resources.

The Committee also approved — by a recorded vote of 112 in favour to none against, with 50 abstentions — a draft resolution on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations.  By its terms, the General Assembly would urge those and other entities of the United Nations system to provide moral and material assistance, as needed, to the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Also requiring a recorded vote was a draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the United Nations Charter, which the Committee approved by 156 votes in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions (Central African Republic, France, Guinea-Bissau, Israel, United Kingdom, United States).  By its terms, the General Assembly would request the administering Powers concerned to transmit regularly to the Secretary General statistical and other technical information relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were respectively responsible.

The Committee also approved – by a recorded 157 votes in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, Togo) – a text on dissemination of information on decolonization, by which the General Assembly would request that the United Nations take measures to give publicity to its work in the field of decolonization.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolutions concerning the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.  Each of those texts would have the General Assembly reaffirm that it was ultimately for the peoples of the Territories themselves to determine freely their future political status.

By a draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara, approved without a vote, the Assembly would call upon all parties concerned, as well as States of the region, to cooperate with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in efforts to resolve the dispute over that Territory.  It would also welcome the parties’ commitment to work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations.

Other draft resolutions approved without a vote today included three texts relating specifically to the Territories of Tokelau, New Caledonia and French Polynesia.  Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved a text on study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Vladimir Drobnjak (Croatia), Chair of the Fourth Committee, said that draft decisions on the question of Gibraltar and on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples would be considered at a later date.

Before taking action, the Committee heard from a number of delegations in concluding its general debate.  Algeria’s representative declared:  “While we examine the agenda items sitting comfortably in this room, our duty is not to forget that there are still countries and peoples that bear the trials of foreign occupation and alien domination.”  Regarding the question of Western Sahara, he recalled the recent expulsion of African Union observers and the civilian component of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), as well as ceasefire violations in the buffer zone.  “Because of all these worrisome events, the future looms more uncertain,” he said.  Warning against changing rules set by the Security Council and the General Assembly, he emphasized the need to monitor closely the human rights situation and the exploitation of natural resources there until the decolonization process was complete.

Morocco’s representative said that following Western Sahara’s return to its legitimate motherland, that question should be taken off the United Nations agenda.  As witnessed by international observers, the Territory’s citizens had recently participated in democratic national legislative elections in large numbers, and had elected their true representatives to the Moroccan Parliament without incident, he said.  Urging Algeria to act as a principal party to the dispute, he emphasized that Morocco’s autonomy proposal was the only option for reaching a political solution to the dispute, pointing out that the Security Council had recognized his country’s efforts to protect human rights in the Territory, which was not the case in the Algerian camps at Tindouf, where human rights violations occurred every day.

The United Kingdom’s representative said that, should the people of a given Territory choose to remain British, his country would maintain and deepen its special relationship with that Territory.  The 2012 White Paper on Overseas Territories made clear the United Kingdom’s objective to ensure their security and good governance.  At the same time, it expected the territorial governments to meet high standards in maintaining the rule of law and respect for human rights, while delivering efficient public services and building strong communities.

France’s representative said his country continued to cooperate with the United Nations on the question of New Caledonia, and welcomed the steps taken by the Organization’s Committee of Experts in that regard.  France would carry out its mediation role, provide financial assistance and engage with local authorities because it was crucially important to meet the 2018 deadline for the referendum on the Territory’s status, he added.

The Committee also heard from representatives of Uganda, India, Botswana, Gabon, Central African Republic, Benin, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Timor-Leste, Serbia and Sierra Leone.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, were representatives of Argentina, Algeria and Morocco.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 October, to begin its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Statements

RICHARD NDUHUURA (Uganda) said that the people of Western Sahara had patiently waited to gain their independence yet remained under Moroccan occupation.  They were not allowed to exercise their right to self-determination because Morocco had obstructed the referendum process, failing to fulfil its international commitments.  Regrettably, hundreds of Sahrawi lived in exile in Algeria as Morocco continued its systematic violation of human rights and abuse of their natural resources.  Calling attention to the recent violations of the ceasefire agreement between the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario Front) and Morocco, he said they had seriously impacted security and stability.  Regarding the question of Palestine, Uganda supported a resumption of the peace process, which would require the implementation of a two-State solution, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India) said the Special Committee on Decolonization was a vehicle striving to complete the decolonization of the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Since the number of complex challenges involved had increased, it was critical that Member States and the United Nations continue their cooperation at the highest level.  While decolonization and independence were the Special Committee’s main goals, it must also work towards ensuring development for all, he emphasized.

NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) emphasized that the people of Western Sahara had the fundamental human right to determine their own future, yet despite the efforts of the United Nations, they continued to be denied their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.  Encouraging the parties to approach the negotiations in a spirit of tolerance and compromise, he said the will of the Sahrawi people, expressed in a democratic and open process, must be respected by all, and called upon the international community to support the process of results-oriented negotiations until they were free to determine their destiny.  The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) could only achieve its objectives through if all concerned parties exerted the necessary political will, he stressed.

ANNETTE ANDRÉE ONANGA (Gabon) said it was important to overcome obstacles that had made decolonization efforts ineffective and to further continue promoting economic growth and sustainable development in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  On the question of Western Sahara, Gabon supported efforts for a lasting, mutually acceptable solution for all parties, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions.  Noting that security threats characterized the regional situation, she said they should impel the international community to breathe new life into negotiations.  Welcoming Morocco’s initiative, she said it provided credible and reassuring prospects for a final agreement.  Gabon recognized all political and social initiatives launched and called upon all in the region to pool their efforts to minimize destabilization resulting from terrorist activities, which undermined the Sahel-Sahara region.

LARRY MARCEL KOYMA (Central African Republic), noting that a settlement of the situation in Western Sahara had been at an impasse for 40 years due to the positions of certain parties, said the political solution prescribed by the Security Council should be favoured because it was realistic.  The historical context had established the “Moroccan-ness” of Western Sahara and Morocco had made significant economic investments in the Territory, he said, adding that people native to it had been placed at the head of local institutions.  He welcomed Morocco’s efforts, pointing out that the Security Council had qualified them as serious and credible.  The autonomy proposal demonstrated a spirit of realism and compromise, he said, emphasizing that the objective position of the Central African Republic on the matter did not affect its friendly relations with Algeria.

JEAN CLAUDE DO REGO (Benin), addressing the question of Western Sahara, said Morocco’s initiative could provide a basis for credible negotiations and resolve the dispute over the Territory.  Welcoming Morocco’s decision to rejoin the African Union, he emphasized that, as a founding member of the bloc, it aimed to reinforce its relations with other African countries.  Among other things, he emphasized the need for the international community to focus its efforts on combating poverty and supporting development on the continent.

ALBERTINA MACDONALD (Mozambique) said that despite all efforts undertaken in the last 40 years, Western Sahara remained on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Concrete action was required to ensure that its people exercise their right to self-determination.  Mozambique supported international efforts for a mutually acceptable political solution, he said, adding that urgent action must be taken to set a date for the self-determination referendum and to ensure that the people of Western Sahara enjoyed their economic, social and cultural rights.  Among other things, she emphasized that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) must be provided with a civilian component, adequate financial resources and a human rights mandate.

FREDERICK M. SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that the African Union Assembly had called upon the General Assembly to determine a date for holding a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara.  Resolving the situation in that Territory was a prerequisite for peace, security and stability in Africa.  Negotiations between Morocco and Polisario would be essential to moving forward the process leading up to the referendum, he said.  Through negotiations, the two parties had agreed on the Settlement Plan in 1988, but that had been derailed by one party’s obstructions, he recalled.  The Security Council had extended MINURSO’s mandate several times, demonstrating its resolve to hold the long-overdue referendum.  Zimbabwe supported the Committee’s approval of a draft resolution that would underline the principles of self-determination and decolonization, and looked forward to its implementation, he said.

EMANUEL TILMAN (Timor-Leste), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his own country had once been the subject of decolonization deliberations in the Committee, which had played an important role in his people’s attainment of self-determination.  The Timorese people had argued for their rights in the halls of the United Nations, much as the present-day petitioners were doing in the Committee.  Timor-Leste shared much with Western Sahara in terms of historical context, past human rights violations and as the subjects of United Nations resolutions on the right to self-determination.  Continued negotiations between Morocco and Polisario under United Nations auspices, in good faith and without conditions, would result in a solution, he said recommending that a date be set for such talks.  Timor-Leste continued to support the role of MINURSO and the good offices of the Secretary-General in the pursuit of a comprehensive and just solution.

ZORAN VUJIC (Serbia) said Gibraltar was registered as a Non-Self-Governing Territory and was therefore subject to decolonization.  General Assembly resolution 2070 (XX) indicated that the question of Gibraltar should be resolved through bilateral negotiations, and only the United Nations could decide when a particular decolonization process was complete, he emphasized.  The process could only conclude through dialogue between States, because that was the only way to reach a sustainable and lasting agreement, he said, adding that Serbia supported Spain’s proposal, believing it would benefit all parties.

ADIKALIE F. SUMAH (Sierra Leone) said prospects for attaining the goals set out in the Plan of Action for the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism were not encouraging.  As such, the administering Powers and the Special Committee must work closely together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, engaging with a view to identifying activities that were achievable and those requiring further involvement.  Commending the Government of New Zealand’s exemplary support for the people of Tokelau, he welcomed the effort by the Government of France to improve access for the indigenous people of New Caledonia to economic and social benefits.  Nevertheless, greater efforts were needed in the area of higher professional education in order to set indigenous people on a better footing in the domain of governance, he emphasized.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said his Government’s relationship with its Overseas Territories was a modern one based on partnership, shared values and the right of their peoples to choose whether to remain British.  Where the people of a Territory chose to remain British, the United Kingdom would maintain and deepen its special relationship with that Territory, he said, adding that in such cases, both parties recognized that the relationship brought mutual benefits and responsibilities.  Noting that the 2012 White Paper on Overseas Territories published by the Government of the United Kingdom Government made clear the country’s fundamental objective to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples, he said that responsibility flowed from international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.  At the same time, the United Kingdom expected territorial governments to meet the same high standards as the Government of the United Kingdom in maintaining the rule of law and respect for human rights, while delivering efficient public services and building strong communities.

Mr. BUHLER (France) said his country continued to cooperate with the United Nations on the question of New Caledonia, and had communicated with the Secretariat’s Decolonization Unit on updating the working document, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.  France also welcomed the fact that the United Nations Committee of Experts had observed and reviewed the electoral process, noting that 15 experts had been available to consult with the authorities.  Despite those positive developments, however, some improvements could be made in the functioning of the Committee, he said.  France would carry out its mediator role, provide financial assistance, and engage with local authorities because it was crucial to meet the 2018 deadline for the status referendum.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said Africa’s liberators had shed their blood to oppose conquerors who had come from faraway shores to subjugate others in their own lands, deplete their resources and reduce them to servitude.  “Is that legacy and indomitable spirit undeserved in our hands?” he asked, voicing regret that the inheritors had simply not completed the process of decolonization.  “While we examine the agenda items sitting comfortably in this room, our duty is not to forget that there are still countries and peoples that bear the trials of foreign occupation and alien domination,” he said, emphasizing that his own country would never give up the battle subjugation.

Turning to the situation in Western Sahara, he said the dispute could only be resolved through the Sahrawi people’s full, free and fair exercise of their alienable right to self-determination.  Recalling the expulsion of African Union observers and MINURSO’s civilian component, as well as ceasefire violations in the buffer zone, he said the international community was facing the same attempts to hijack the peace process.  “Because of all these worrisome events, the future looms more uncertain,” he said, emphasizing that those pouring oil over a burning furnace were forgetting that the idea of a referendum had been a compromise, precisely negotiated and accepted by the two parties to the conflict.

While the question of Western Sahara was an African one, Algeria stood ready to contribute to efforts by international organizations, he said, emphasizing that no one had the right to change rules set by the Security Council and the General Assembly.  Expressing concern about the risks of terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational organized crime in the region, he said:  “Let us start by what Security Council resolution has asked for, the fifth round of negotiations between the two parties.”  Among other things, the human rights situation in the Territory and the exploitation of its natural resources must be watched closely until the question of Western Sahara’s decolonization was resolved, he stressed.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said it was an undeniable fact that his country had regained its southern provinces in accordance with the Madrid Agreement, adding that, following Western Sahara’s return to its legitimate motherland, the matter should be taken off the United Nations agenda.  Morocco faced hostility from Algeria, which had placed North Africa in a hegemonic vice and continued to wage “a sort of cold war”.  Recalling that paragraph 6 of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) described any attempt to partially or fully destroy national or territorial unity as incompatible with the Charter, he said it also stated that while the Security Council was exercising its functions on a particular issue, the General Assembly must not pass any resolution on the same matter unless the Council requested that it do so.  The committee should, therefore, have ceased to examine the question of Western Sahara in 1988, when it had been passed on to the Security Council.  However, the matter continued to be examined by the Security Council and the Committee, in violation of the Charter, he said.

Urging the General Assembly to respect the Charter and the responsibilities of the Council, he went on to recall that the Council had taken up Western Sahara as a dispute under Chapter Six of the Charter, and emphasized that none of its 63 resolutions qualified it as a decolonization matter.  The Secretary-General had also never presented the issue from that perspective.  Stressing that the Territory had always been Moroccan and always would be, he said its citizens had recently participated in democratic and transparent national legislative elections in large numbers and elected their true representatives to the Moroccan Parliament without incident, as witnessed by international observers.  Morocco had also recently dedicated an $8 billion budget to the Territory’s development.  In 2007, Morocco had proposed a solution to overcome the impasse over the Territory, under the auspices of the Security Council, which had qualified it as serious and credible in 11 of its resolutions.

Rather than making use of that historic opportunity, however, other parties had chosen to remain attached to the status quo, he continued, urging Algeria to assume its responsibilities and act as a principal party to the dispute and stressing that it could no longer hide behind the pretence of being simply an observer State.  Morocco’s autonomy proposal was the only option for reaching a political solution to the dispute, he emphasized, pointing out that the Security Council had recognized his country’s efforts to protect human rights in the Territory, which was not the case in the Tindouf camps in Algeria, where human rights violations occurred every day.  Reports by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Food Programme, and other entities confirmed that Polisario leaders had been diverting humanitarian assistance from the camps, and had recently also confirmed that Algeria was collecting value-added tax on aid.  He asked how a State could collect taxes that would further exacerbate suffering in the camps, in flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention.

Right of Reply

The representative of Argentina, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, recalled that the Malvinas[1], South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands as well as the surrounding maritime areas were an integral part of his country’s territory.  The United Kingdom’s illegal occupation had led the General Assembly to adopt a number of related resolutions and was the subject of discussions calling upon the two parties to find a solution to the dispute.  Emphasizing the Government of Argentina’s rejection of any reference to the White Paper and any unilateral action by the United Kingdom, he also reiterated that the principle of self-determination was entirely inapplicable to the question of the Malvinas, which was a special and particular case of sovereignty.

The representative of Algeria recalled relevant Security Council resolutions on the question of Western Sahara, saying they demanded the immediate withdrawal of Moroccan troops.  “Why does Morocco not grant access to fact-finding mission?” he asked.  “If all the Sahrawi in Western Sahara are very happy, what is wrong with the referendum?”

The representative of Morocco responded by recalling that in 2001, then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said that a referendum was inapplicable, adding that since 2003, the Security Council did not use the term “referendum” any more.  Furthermore, the September 2015 legislative elections had been conducted in a smooth fashion, and Western Sahara was living in democracy.  “We don’t want drama,” he said, pointing out that Algeria had rejected the Secretary-General’s proposal in 2011.

The representative of Algeria said with regard to the autonomy initiative that the Secretary-General had stated on 4 November 2015 that it was no longer valid, and that such an initiative would have to emerge from negotiations between the two parties involved — Morocco and the Polisario Front — as stated by the Security Council.  He urged Morocco to speak with Polisario, emphasizing that his country wished to build the future and that a solution for everyone must involve Morocco sitting down with Polisario.

The representative of Morocco emphasized the inapplicability of a referendum to Western Sahara, as recognized in the Secretary-General’s report, recalling that former Personal Envoy James Baker’s plan had been accepted but had been impossible to implement due to Algeria’s veto.  While conceding that Polisario was a participant, he stressed that Algeria was responsible for events in Tindouf.  Lacking the freedom to make decisions or negotiate, Polisario was a mere policy instrument, he said, adding that Algeria was responsible, and must be part of any solution.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up draft resolution I – on information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations – approving it by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions (Central African Republic, France, Guinea-Bissau, Israel, United Kingdom, United States).

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position, said he had abstained from voting because the decision of a Non-Self-Governing Territory to leave the administering Power was ultimately one for that Territory and the administering Power, and not the General Assembly.

Taking up draft resolution IV on Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).

The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of position, said the text’s applicability depended upon the right to self‑determination, which required an active subject.  It was inapplicable to the question of the Malvinas, which was a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom.  Furthermore, the United Kingdom’s exploration for renewable and non-renewable resources was in open contravention of United Nations’ resolutions.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.48), approving it by a recorded 112 votes in favour to none against, with 50 abstentions.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position, reaffirmed his country’s support for the specialized agencies, while emphasizing that their statutes must be carefully respected.  The United Kingdom had therefore abstained from the vote.

The representative of Argentina said that the draft resolution must be implemented in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, General Assembly, and the Special Committee on Decolonization.

Taking up the draft resolution Offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/C.4/71/L.3), the Committee approved it without a vote.

GUILLAUME DABOUIS, European Union, said his delegation looked forward to the consensual adoption of the draft resolution on Western Sahara, and encouraged support for efforts by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy in consultations with the parties and neighbouring States.  Welcoming the adoption of Security Council resolution 2285 (2016), he encouraged the parties to continue to demonstrate political will in order to begin a more intensive phase of negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions.  The European Union supported the methodology of “shuttle diplomacy” proposed by the Personal Envoy and accepted by the parties, he added.

The representative of the United Kingdom said his country had joined the consensus on draft resolutions relating to agenda item 58 (on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples), reflecting its full support for self-determination, but regretted that the Special Committee on Decolonization maintained its outdated approach, including its failure to recognize the modernization of the United Kingdom’s relationship with its Overseas Territories.  They had internal governments and had chosen freely to continue their relationships with the United Kingdom, he said, pointing out that the draft resolutions did not reflect that modern relationship, which was based on partnership, shared values and self-determination.

Turning to action, the Committee took up the following draft resolutions:  Question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/71/L.4*); Question of Tokelau (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.60); Question of American Samoa (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.63); Question of Anguilla (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.68); Question of Bermuda (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.73); Question of the British Virgin Islands (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.77); Question of the Cayman Islands (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.81); Question of Guam (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.91); Question of Montserrat (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.91); Question of Pitcairn (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.95); Question of Saint Helena (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.99); Question of the Turks and Caicos Islands (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.104), Question of the United States Virgin Islands (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.109); Question of New Caledonia (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.114); and Question of French Polynesia (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.120).

It approved all those texts without a vote.

Taking up the draft resolution on Dissemination of Information on Decolonization (document A/71/23, chapter XIII, p.46), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, Togo).

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of position, said the obligation that the text placed on the Secretariat represented an unwarranted drain on United Nations resources and was unacceptable to his delegation.

The representative of Argentina expressed his delegation’s firm support for self-determination for people under colonial occupation, saying the text just approved must be implemented as per the relevant resolutions.  In terms of General Assembly resolution 2265 (XXV), the matter regarding the Malvinas, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands as well as the surrounding maritime areas was a sovereignty dispute, he said, adding that it could be resolved by resuming bilateral negotiations.

The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Special Committee on Decolonization, pointed out that 11 of the draft resolutions previously contained in the so-called “omnibus” text were now disaggregated, and there was now a specific text for each Territory.

[1] A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

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MEMO: Takeaways of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation

What are the main takeaways of the 39th ICAO Assembly?

The Assembly agreed to the following points:

  1. The establishment of a Global Market Based Measure (GMBM) to offset international aviation CO2 emissions.
  2. The prevention of risks arising from conflict zones
  3. The interaction between national, regional and global rules on drones
  4. The adoption of a CO2 standard for aircraft emissions
  5. Progress towards sustainable global air transport
  1. GLOBAL MARKET-BASED MEASURE (GMBM)

What is the issue?

The global aviation industry currently accounts for around 2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions but, in view of projected growth in traffic, these emissions are expected to increase fast and are set to rise by almost 300% over the next decades, unless adequate action is taken. The objective of developing a GMBM was agreed in the ICAO Assembly in 2013, but became even more imperative after the signal sent by the international community with the adoption of the Paris Agreement last year.

What happened at the Assembly?

On 7 October, the ICAO Assembly adopted a Resolution for the establishment of Global Market Based Measure to offset CO2 emissions from international aviation and contribute to the carbon neutral growth of the sector from 2020 onwards. This is the first-ever agreement to address CO2 emissions in a global sector of the economy. ICAO will now have to follow up on the Assembly Resolution and lay down the detailed technical rules which will be the basis for all participating States to make the necessary rules to put the system in place at national level.

How will the GMBM work in practice?

The Global Market-Based Measure will compensate for the CO2 emissions generated by international aviation activities above 2020 levels. This should enable carbon neutral growth over time. In other words, an increase of emissions above the set level must be offset. The emitter (airline) would need to buy and surrender "emission units" generated by projects in other sectors that will reduce CO2 emissions.

The GMBM in practice

When will the GMBM start to operate?

During the pilot phase and Phase I (2021-2026), participation of states will be on a voluntary basis. Routes between 65 states that have already announced that they will opt-in from the beginning of Phase I will be covered. Participation of states in the GMBM will become mandatory in Phase II (as of 2027). Exemptions will then apply for some states (small islands developing states, least developed countries, land-locked developing countries and states representing a small share of aviation activities).

However, this is a system based on the aviation market size, not on the number of participants around the world. By representing a big portion of the market, the countries opting in from Phase I potentially cover 80% of all international aviation emissions.

GMBM coverage

What are the 65 States that will participate in Phase I?

These are: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada , China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland Portugal, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America

Which states will remain exempted after 2027?

Exemptions are based on objective and commonly agreed criteria:

  • Small Islands Developing States, e.g. Cape Verde, Haiti or Tuvalu.
  • Least Developed Countries, e.g. Afghanistan, Burkina Faso or Myanmar.
  • Landlocked Developing Countries, e.g. Niger, Turkmenistan or Zimbabwe.
  • Countries with small aviation activities ('de minimis') e.g. Venezuela, Senegal, Lebanon or Pakistan.

However nothing precludes these countries to opt-in to the GMBM nonetheless.

Is the EU satisfied with the GMBM?

In line with its ambitious climate policy and the climate goals agreed under the Paris Agreement, the EU was always fully committed to reaching agreement on a robust and effective Global Market-Based Measure (GMBM) at the ICAO Assembly. This deal represents a positive first step forward to address international aviation emissions, which is imperative to keep the global temperature rise well-below 2 degrees Celsius as agreed in Paris. Now, the job is not over yet: key design elements will need to be developed, its environmental integrity fully secured, properly implemented and enhanced over time to make a meaningful contribution to climate change mitigation.

Assuming the above, the GMBM would achieve around 80% of carbon neutral growth. This means around 80% of the emissions above 2020 levels will be offset by the scheme between 2021 and 2035.

What is the consequence for the EU ETS aviation stop the clock?

The EU Emissions Trading System ("EU ETS") is the cornerstone of the EU climate policy. It is applicable since 2005 and aviation is included in its scope since 2012. However, in 2013, the scope was temporarily reduced to cover only intra-European flights in order to allow for a global agreement to be reached at ICAO ("stop the clock").

Following the agreement reached by the ICAO Assembly in Montreal on 6 October 2016, and in accordance with EU ETS legislation (Article 28a of Directive 2003/87/EC), the Commission will, in the coming months, report back to the European Parliament and the Council on the outcome of the Assembly. The Commission may, if appropriate, propose changes to the scope of the EU ETS for aviation, considering the necessary consistency with EU 2030 climate objective and policy. As Commissioner Bulc said, "The deal we have on the table is a good one – a good one for Europe - and a good one for world. It is in this spirit that we will move ahead".

What is the difference between the GMBM and the EU ETS?

While both are market-based measures addressing aviation emissions, there are some important differences between them. For instance, the EU ETS is a ‘cap and trade' scheme, which means that emissions cannot increase beyond a certain amount (cap). The GMBM on the other hand is an 'offsetting scheme' where emissions can grow without limit as far as they are compensated with offsets. The level of ambition (climate objective and associated baseline) and the type of units are other relevant differences.

  1. CONFLICT ZONES

What is the issue?

As illustrated with the tragic loss of the flight MH17 in 2014, one of the challenges civil aviation faces is the protection from the risks arising from conflict zones. This issue has an evident cross border dimension and cannot be effectively addressed by any States on its own. A need for action has therefore been recognised both at the European and global level, in the context of ICAO.

What are the main takeaways of the ICAO Assembly?

A joint position has been presented by Europe, Australia and Malaysia at the ICAO Assembly. It calls for the timely collection and rapid dissemination of information about conflict zones to ensure that airline operators are aware of the risks and avoid those zones. It also asks for States to take their responsibilities in the closure of their airspace because the safety of civil aviation operations could be endangered due to conflict zones. These proposals have been supported by the Assembly and will be implemented.

  1. DRONES

What is the issue?

The development of the drone industry has accelerated over recent years. To address this growing reality, a number of States have developed provisions regulating the use of drones. While most activities are likely to remain in a national airspace – and therefore outside of ICAO's remit - operations will eventually engage in international civil aviation. Action at global level will therefore be needed.

What initiatives have already been taken in Europe?

In the context of its Aviation Strategy, the Commission has proposed a framework to unleash the potential of drones on the EU market while ensuring the safety of operations. This framework should support innovation, boost the EU's economy and contribute to jobs creation in line with the Juncker Commission main priorities. The legislative proposal is currently being discussed by the European Parliament and the Council.

What are the main takeaways of the ICAO Assembly?

The need to act at global level was agreed as well as the importance of ensuring consistence between actions at global level and those taken at national or regional level, and to take into account actions already developed by States of group of States.

  1. CO2 STANDARD FOR AIRCRAFT EMISSIONS

What happened during the Assembly?

The Assembly formally endorsed the first ever CO2 standard for aircraft, after six years of international negotiations. By 2040, the CO2 standard could help save up to 650 million tonnes of CO₂.

How will the standard work in practice?

The stringency and applicability dates, which the CO2 standard imposes, will depend on the weight of the aircraft and whether it concerns a "new type" aircraft or an "in-production" aircraft. For large new aircraft types, the standard will apply from 2020. By 2028, existing aircraft types will also have to apply the new standard.

  1. SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL AIR TRANSPORT

What happened during the Assembly?

The Commission and ICAO signed a declaration of intent renewing their partnership to address climate change through financial assistance and capacity building projects. Through this partnership, the Commission will support the implementation of the GMBM in targeted states. The Assembly also reviewed the progress made with the assistance provided to States in implementing global air transport rules, notably in the context of the No Country Left Behind initiative.

More information

Statement by Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport

Press release: Commission welcomes landmark international agreement to curb aviation emissions

Infographics

The Resolution on the GMBM (ICAO Website)

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Text adopted – Zimbabwe – P8_TA-PROV(2016)0351 – Thursday, 15 September 2016 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to the local EU statement on violence of 12 July 2016,

–  having regard to the local EU statement on the abduction of Itai Dzamara of 9 March 2016,

–  having regard to Council Decision (CFSP) 2016/220 of 15 February 2016 amending Decision 2011/101/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Zimbabwe(1) ,

–  having regard to the Global Political Agreement signed in 2008 by the three main political parties, namely ZANU PF, MDC-T and MDC,

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

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

–  having regard to the Constitution of Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the people of Zimbabwe have suffered for many years under an authoritarian regime led by President Mugabe that maintains its power through corruption, violence, rigged elections and a brutal security apparatus; whereas the people of Zimbabwe have not experienced true freedom in decades and many under the age of thirty have therefore only known lives of poverty and violent repression;

B.  whereas unrest is growing once again in crisis-ridden Zimbabwe against a background of cash shortages, widespread unemployment, state corruption and efforts by the authorities to suppress freedom of expression and political opposition; whereas the various groups are now positioning themselves in expectation of the post-Mugabe era;

C.  whereas, since the fall of the coalition government in 2013, the work of Tendai Biti in stabilising the economy and increasing government revenues has been undone by a return to the system of patronage and kleptocracy and a state of fear; whereas Zimbabwe is now experiencing the worst economic crisis since the hyperinflation of 2008; whereas the government is effectively bankrupt;

D.  whereas since May 2016 thousands of demonstrators – informal traders, unemployed young people and, now, professional people – have taken to the streets in a number of urban centres across Zimbabwe to protest against job losses, mass unemployment and the government’s failure to meet people’s basic economic expectations, namely a labour market that provides jobs, a public workforce that is paid on time, a trustworthy stable currency and an affordable price regime; whereas only the army are being paid regularly and with a currency of worth;

E.  whereas the protest movement led by clergyman Evan Mawarire, using the hashtag #ThisFlag, has drawn support from churches and the middle class, which had hitherto tended to steer clear of street politics;

F.  whereas on 6 July 2016 the opposition movement #ThisFlag called for a national ‘stay-away’ day in protest against the government’s inaction against corruption, impunity and poverty; whereas this resulted in a massive shutdown of most shops and businesses in the capital and led to a severe crackdown by the authorities;

G.  whereas Promise Mkwananzi, the leader of #Tajamuka, a social movement linked to the July stay-away, who was arrested and charged for inciting public violence, has been released on bail; whereas another #Tajamuka activist, Linda Masarira, was arrested during the protest in July 2016 and has remained in detention ever since;

H.  whereas many demonstrations are now organised through social media, and whereas the Zimbabwean authorities have blocked internet access and WhatsApp text messaging to obstruct protest;

I.  whereas hundreds of people have been arrested during demonstrations; whereas on 26 August 2016 bloody clashes took place in the capital, Harare, when the police ignored a court order and bludgeoned thousands of protesters who had gathered under the auspices of National Election Reform Agenda (Nera) to express their opposition to outstanding electoral reforms ahead of the country’s eagerly anticipated 2018 national elections; whereas many of those who were detained are still in custody, and the precise whereabouts of many is unknown;

J.  whereas President Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980 and is seeking re-election, and whereas several members of his government have denounced calls for electoral reform ahead of the 2018 elections;

K.  whereas the veterans of the independence struggle, formerly close allies of Mugabe in the ruling party, boycotted his speech on 8 August 2016, denouncing his dictatorial drift and his failure to solve the grave economic crisis plaguing the country since 2000; whereas the President saw this boycott as a betrayal and, in retaliation, arrested three members of the National Association of Independence Veterans;

L.  whereas on 2 September 2016 the police invoked Statutory Instrument 101A to ban all demonstrations in central Harare, a few hours before 18 political parties were due to hold a major demonstration in the capital;

M.  whereas on 7 September 2016 the High Court suspended this ban for seven days and whereas this ruling came only a few days after President Mugabe interfered in the judiciary’s independence by blasting Zimbabwe’s judges for ‘reckless’ rulings which allowed demonstrations against his rule;

N.  whereas the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has said that food aid, mobilised to assist hungry villagers affected by drought conditions across the country, was being distributed along party lines, with Zanu PF officials denying food aid to opposition party supporters; whereas the Government of Zimbabwe declared a state of disaster in February 2016, estimating that some 4,5 million people would need food aid by January 2017 and that up to half the rural population faced starvation;

O.  whereas 9 March 2016 marked the first anniversary of the abduction of human rights defender Itai Dzamara; whereas the High Court ordered the government to search for Dzamara and report progress to the Court every fortnight until his whereabouts were determined;

P.  whereas Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, Article 96 of which stipulates that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential element of ACP-EU cooperation;

Q.  whereas a small number of EU restrictive measures against the Zimbabwe regime were renewed in February 2016 until 20 February 2017; whereas the asset freeze and travel bans will continue to apply to President Mugabe, Grace Mugabe and Zimbabwe Defence Industries; whereas an arms embargo will remain in place; whereas the EU had previously lifted restrictions on 78 people and 8 entities;

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

1.  Expresses serious concern about the increase in violence against demonstrators in Zimbabwe in recent months; notes with alarm the recently announced one-month ban on demonstrations; calls on the government and all parties in Zimbabwe to respect the right to demonstrate peacefully in order to address genuine concerns, and urges the Zimbabwean authorities to investigate allegations of excessive use of force and other human rights abuses by elements within the Zimbabwe police, and to hold them to account;

2.  Is worried about the rise in the number of arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and those engaging in peaceful and lawful demonstrations and urges that the rule of law be respected and that the constitution be upheld;

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

4.  Condemns the recent statements made by President Mugabe attacking the judiciary of Zimbabwe and urges the authorities of Zimbabwe not to interfere with the independence of the judiciary;

5.  Recalls that, under the Global Political Agreement, Zimbabwe is committed to ensuring that both its legislation and its procedures and practices are in accordance with international human rights principles and laws, including the freedom of assembly, association and expression;

6.  Draws attention to the particular plight of many women in Zimbabwe and the need to respect women’s rights;

7.  Believes that the Council and Commission should carefully analyse the appropriateness of reimposing certain restrictive measures, while making clear that these will be removed and that a package of assistance will be made available once Zimbabwe is clearly on the path towards democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, and specifying, in particular, that assistance will be provided to support a free and fair electoral process and police reform;

8.  Calls for a peaceful transition of power based on a free and fair electoral process, the rule of law and respect for human rights in order to develop a free, prosperous and pluralist democracy;

9.  Strongly condemns the obstruction of food aid for political gain; stresses its concern about any further measures that would damage agricultural production, and calls for steps to improve food security;

10.  Expresses its continued concern about the abduction of Itai Dzamara; demands that habeas corpus be respected and that those responsible for his abduction be brought to justice;

11.  Insists that the EU must ensure that the funding allocated to Zimbabwe for its National Indicative Programme effectively addresses the sectors concerned and calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to allow the Commission unhindered access to the EU-funded projects and to enhance its openness to technical assistance for jointly agreed projects and programmes;

12.  Stresses that it is important for the EU to start up a political dialogue with the Zimbabwean authorities under Articles 8 and 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, thereby confirming the EU’s commitment to supporting the local population;

13.  Urges the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Commonwealth to re-engage in helping Zimbabwe back onto the path of democracy;

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

(1) OJ L 40, 17.2.2016, p. 11.
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Sanctions could curtail sustainable development in Zimbabwe: Mugabe

21 Sep 2016

Listen /

Robert G. Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly's seventy-first session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Ongoing sanctions against Zimbabwe could threaten sustainable development in the country, President Robert Mugabe told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

World leaders are reviewing progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as part of this year's General Debate.

It seeks to transform the world by eliminating extreme poverty, promoting greater equality and tackling the challenges posed by climate change.

Dianne Penn has the story.

President Mugabe said Agenda 2030 and Zimbabwe's own national development blueprint are practically the same.

However, he said the biggest impediment to achieving its objectives is 16 years of "punitive and heinous" sanctions.

The measures imposed by the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union include travel bans and asset freezes.

"Those who have imposed these sanctions would rather have us pander to their interests at the expense of the basic needs of the majority of our people. As long as these economic and financial sanctions remain in place, Zimbabwe's capacity to fully and effectively implement Agenda 2030 will be deeply curtailed."

The President also addressed reform of the UN Security Council.

The Council consists of five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—and 10 non-permanent members who serve for two years.

Mr Mugabe said although the issue has been raised over the past 20 years, the international community is no closer to realising any reform of the chamber.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’19″

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