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Worldwide, resistance and alternatives to free trade


European Parliament, Brussels, 7 December 2016, 14:30, room ASP1G2 | Followed by three workshops for the follow-up, on 8 December at 09:30 and a short plenary from 11:30 to 13:00.

Worldwide, resistance and alternatives to free trade

Worldwide, resistance and alternatives to free trade

European Parliament, Brussels, 7 December 2016, 14:30, room ASP1G2

(Interpretation: FR, DE, IT, NL, EN, DA, EL, ES, PT, FI, SV, CS)

Introductory words: Gabi Zimmer, President GUE/NGL

Panel 1:  Why we oppose free trade deals, lessons from different parts  of the world:

Moderated by MEP Stelios Kouloglou, Greece

- Jane Nalunga, Southern & Eastern Africa Trade Information & Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), Uganda

- Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO - America’s Unions, USA

- Luciana Ghiotto, Attac:TNI, Argentina

- Toni Salvador, Philippine campaign, The Philippines

Panel 2:   Building alternatives to FTAs:

Moderated by MEP Eleonora Forenza, Italy

- Emiliano Brancaccio, Sanio University, Italy

- Manuel Perez-Rocha, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington

- Representative of the Consumers Union of Japan

- Sergi Corbalan, Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Panel 3:  The way forward to consolidate alternatives

Moderated by MEP Helmut Scholz, Germany

-  Ana Cazzini, Campact anti-TTIP campaign, Germany

- Jorge Marchini, Fundación para la integración Latinoam. /CADTM AYNA, Argentina

-  Delmah Ndhlovu, Zimbabwe Small holder Organic Farmers Forum, Via Campesina

-  Adriana Espinosa, Universidad Carlos III, Spain

Concluding words

-  Brid Brenan, Transnational Institute (TNI), Amsterdam

Followed by three workshops (see registration form) for the follow-up, on 8 December at 09:30 and a short plenary from 11:30 to 13:00.


The current debate over CETA and TTIP in Europe, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, and the federal election campaign in the United States, among others, have highlighted how many people, in the both Southern and Northern  countries as well, are deeply concerned about free trade.

Deals like TTIP, CETA, TPP, TiSA, the EPAs, and EU bilateral free trade deals with Japan, Tunisia, Singapore, Mercosur (...) are facilitating an unprecedented level of power for multinational companies; the concentration of wealth among ‘the one per cent’; the liberalisation of public goods and services; an absurd division of labour; the ‘race to the bottom’ of endless and senseless competition; and favouring foreign investors. The neoliberal model of trade and economics is offering no future for those who cannot fit into this model or those who don’t accept exploitation and environmental destruction.

The more these deals and their consequences are imposed on people, the more opposition grows. While the far right is attempting to capitalise politically on this discontent without providing any credible and democratic solutions, progressive organisations and individuals are building real alternatives and fairer approaches to trade are rapidly expanding.

Across all continents, social movements and progressive political forces are organising more and more effectively against free trade agreements, the power of corporations and speculative investors. Millions of people are standing up to defend public health; public services; democracy; cultural diversity; sustainable and autonomous energy; small, medium and cooperative farming; the precautionary principle; the commons; the right of all countries to protect sensitive sectors of their economies; and the free movement of people. Millions of fair and sustainable alternatives based on principle of democracy and solidarity are emerging to replace the current unfair trade model.

GUE/NGL is organising this Conference to facilitate dialogue and coordination among the organisations and individuals who are resisting free trade and building better alternatives for people and for the planet.  

Registration: HERE                       Contact : paul-emile.dupret@europarl.europa.eu

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Malawi: EU committed to save lives and boost resilience against drought

Brussels/Lilongwe, 25 November 2016

As Southern Africa enters the critical lean season, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides is in Malawi to visit EU humanitarian aid projects that help communities deal with the effects of prolonged drought. Commissioner Stylianides is meeting President Peter Mutharika before visiting Chikwawa and Zomba districts where nutrition and food assistance is provided to particularly vulnerable households.

"The EU stands firmly by Malawi and other countries in Southern Africa affected by the El Niño drought. In response to this state of emergency, we have provided €57 million in Southern Africa, including more than €16 million to Malawi, in humanitarian aid and disaster risk reduction since early 2016. We are committed to continue our assistance, which deals with both immediate response and longer-term recovery," Commissioner Stylianides said.

EU humanitarian assistance in Malawi has helped provide assistance to the most vulnerable families for food, financing the construction of irrigation facilities and supporting sustainable livelihoods. It is also helping vulnerable families bridge the gap until the first harvests in March 2017.

More than 800 000 people are set to benefit from EU-funded humanitarian programmes.


Southern Africa and El Nino

  • The region is one of the worst affected by this year’s El Niño phenomenon. For Malawi, this has resulted in a fifth consecutive year with serious food shortages. With harvests still months away, up to 6.7 million people - 40% of the population - are already experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity.The 2015/16 rainfall season has been the driest in the last 35 years across several parts of the Southern Africa region. Two consecutive below-average rainy seasons have negatively impacted crop and livestock production, cereal prices, water availability and livelihoods. 
  • At the beginning of 2016, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe declared a state of emergency appealing for international support. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) declared a regional drought disaster, with more than 28 million people deemed food insecure.
  • At the start of the hunger season in October 2016, more than 12 million people needed humanitarian assistance across the region. According to WFP this number will rise to over 14 million by December 2016. The population in Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Angola are experiencing severe food shortages while an emergency situation is being observed in Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
  • In parts of the region, the prolonged drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon is expected to be followed by the above-average rainfall of La Niña as early as November 2016. Farmers need seeds and fertiliser to capitalise on the rainy season.
  • In December 2015, the EU provided €12 million in emergency support for Southern Africa as one of the regions most affected by El Niño. This was followed in January 2016 by €5 million for disaster risk reduction and, in April 2016, by an additional €40 million for the El Niño emergency response. The aid is helping to meet the urgent needs of the population and build their resilience in the face of increasing climatic disasters.
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Human Rights Crucial, but Exploited for Political Aims, Interference in Internal State Affairs, Third Committee Told as It Debates United Nations Mandate Holders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right of Reply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Country-specific, Thematic Issues Dominate Meeting, as Third Committee Takes Up Five Texts on Children’s Rights, Other Aspects of Social Development

Experts on the human rights situations in Myanmar and Iran, as well as on thematic topics such as trafficking in persons, were among those presenting reports to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates began general debate on those reports and introduced five draft resolutions on other aspects of social development.

Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser on Myanmar, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the human rights situation in that country in the context of its ongoing peace process and democratization.  He described “significant” political changes that had taken place following the historic November 2015 elections, including the presence of Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi at the General Assembly’s seventy-first session.  While there was “cautious optimism” about Government efforts to improve the situation in Rakhine State, recent violence there had created cause for concern.

In the ensuing dialogue, Myanmar’s representative underscored the serious efforts underway to find a fair and durable solution to the situation in Rakhine.  The Government was also cooperating with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Given its progress, it was time for the United Nations to assist Myanmar in its democratic transition, based on regular modes of engagement without any special human rights procedures, a point later echoed by Mr. Nambiar, who encouraged States to consider other options of engagement to support the transition.

Delegates welcomed the positive direction the new Government had taken to achieve peace.  Several expressed concern about recent attacks in Rakhine and rights violations against minorities, among them, Egypt’s representative, who, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, drew attention to the deteriorating situation of the Rohingya community and restrictions on their rights.

In an interactive dialogue Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, delegates reiterated concern about rights violations in those territories and the ongoing occupation.  In response, Mr. Lynk said that the occupation was only becoming more entrenched, mainly due to Israel’s settlement expansion.  Palestinians were not on path to self-determination, which should be a concern to the international community.

Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, described rights violations faced by minorities during humanitarian crises, such as displacement and discrimination. Delegates shared those concerns, with representatives of Hungary and Norway requesting more support for minorities and more data on their situations. In her response, Ms. Izsak-Ndiaye stressed the need to ensure the full inclusion of minorities in all sectors of society.

Elisabeth da Costa, presented the final report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, noting that, while Iran’s engagement had improved over the past five years, he had never been granted access to the country.  Children were at risk of early and forced marriage, while ethnic and religious minorities were subject to arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution.  The rights to freedom of expression and association were severely restricted.  Iran was still the country with the highest number of executions per capita.

Iran’s delegate responded that recent legal reforms had been ignored and, along with other delegates, decried the politicized, duplicative and partial nature of the mandate.  Other delegates called on Iran to meet its international human rights obligations and expressed concern about the detention of individuals with dual citizenship.

Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, also presented their reports.

In other business, the representatives of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Mongolia and Canada, introduced five draft resolutions on issues related to social development and the protection of the rights of children.

Speaking in the general debate were representatives of the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Finland (also on behalf of Sweden), Argentina and Switzerland.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 31 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued discussions today under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4172.

Dialogue on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The Third Committee opened with a continuation of its discussion of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which had begun the previous day with a statement by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.  Several delegates expressed support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, commending him on including the issue of the right to development in his report.  Many sought his opinion on measures the international community could take to ensure that Israel was held accountable for its rights violations.  Israel’s delegate objected that the mandate was biased.  The Human Rights Council, under which the Special Rapporteur’s mandate rested, had been taken over by some of the world’s worst human right violators and had fixated on “the only democracy in the Middle East” while ignoring other violations around the world.

Mr. LYNK replied that the occupation was not lessening; to the contrary, it was becoming more entrenched.  The Palestinians were not on path to self-determination, and that reality should be of concern to the international community.  The occupation existed because of Israel’s settlement project, without which there would be no need for it.  It was a tribute to the international community that it had devoted so much attention to the Palestine question.  However, the occupation was almost 50 years old and the occupying Power had faced virtually no consequences.  Thus, to questions about measures that could help end the occupation, he answered, in turn, with a question:  “Does the occupying Power need to realize that its status in the international community depends on allowing Palestinians to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and on ending the occupation?”  Further, he raised the question of whether there should be a resolution at the United Nations or an advisory opinion at the International Court of Justice on whether the occupation was illegal.

Also participating in the discussion were representative of Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia, Cuba, Qatar, Norway, South Africa, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Maldives and Turkey, as well as the State of Palestine and the European Union.

Dialogue on Human Rights in Myanmar

VIJAY NAMBIAR, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, introduced the Secretary-General’s report (document A/71/308), which provided an overview on the peace process, democratization and development in that country. The report considered the significant political changes that had taken place after the historic November 2015 elections, he said, stressing that the presence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the General Assembly’s seventy-first session had garnered great interest.  The process of democratization, reform and reconciliation in Myanmar started with the 2010 general election which, he said, despite its flawed character, had replaced the military junta with a putative civilian Government. 

Dialogue and cooperation had flourished since then, he said.  Daw Suu’s decision to contest the April 2012 by-elections and her subsequent victory had changed the political paradigm and path of the country.  Despite such progress, democratic governance must be consolidated further, he said, noting that the coordinated engagement of the United Nations’ good offices had been a key factor in the positive changes achieved in recent years.  On the situation in Rakhine, he said the Government had taken steps towards a peaceful settlement, notably by establishing a Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development in Rakhine state, and an Advisory Commission.  While there was cautious optimism that the Government was working to improve the situation, recent violence had created cause for concern.  More must be done to protect minorities in the country, in close collaboration with civil society.  Steps taken to promote reconciliation included the strengthening of women’s participation in the peace process and the signing of a joint action plan with the United Nations to end the use of child soldiers.

The representative of Myanmar, noting that the Government had prioritized peace and national reconciliation, expressed appreciation for the international support in that regard.  The inclusive Union Peace Conference in August had marked a vital step towards lasting peace.  The Government was making serious efforts to find a fair and durable solution to the situation in Rakhine.  In response to attacks on police posts there, it had taken all its actions within the law and provided food and basic supplies to affected communities.  Myanmar also had cooperated with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, held annual human rights dialogues and was a member of the Human Rights Mechanism of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Given such progress, it was time for the United Nations to assist Myanmar in its democratic transition based on regular modes of engagement without any special human rights procedures.

Delegates welcomed the progress made in Myanmar, and at the same time, expressed concern about recent attacks, asking what could be done to better protect minorities, and more broadly, support peace and democratization.

Mr. NAMBIAR replied that humanitarian access to Rakhine state would be granted next week and that the situation was being closely monitored.  He encouraged the international community to monitor the security situation and remind the Government to address any concerns about its security presence in country’s north, stressing that the effects of security operations on local communities must be monitored to prevent human rights violations.  Noting that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations country team had supported the transition, he said hate speech and incitement to violence must be tackled, while minorities must be protected.  The Organization should continue its high level of engagement with Myanmar, including through a local presence for OHCHR.  It was also important for the Special Rapporteur on the situation to continue her work.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Singapore, Norway, Egypt (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), China and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.  

Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief

HEINER BIELEFELDT, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, dedicated his last thematic report (A/71/269) to an overview of violations of that right, which could originate from States, non-State actors or a combination of both.  Some infringements remained largely under-reported, including criminal legal provisions which, on the surface, did not touch on religion or belief — such as anti-extremism laws — but which imposed unreasonable burdens on certain religious communities.  Education was another area warranting systematic monitoring.  Religious intolerance did not originate from religions themselves; there was scope for interpretation in all of them.  Human beings were ultimately responsible for open-minded or narrow-minded interpretations.  “Theocratic” regimes typically stifled any serious intellectual debate on religious issues.  Hence, it was no coincidence that opposition against those regimes always included critical believers of the very same religion the Government pretended to protect.

Some Governments violated freedom of religion or belief in the interest of exercising political control over society as a whole, he said.  Massive violations of that right were currently taking place in countries characterized by systemic political mismanagement, such as corruption, cronyism and ethnocentrism.  While States remained the duty-bearers for the implementation of human rights within their jurisdiction, the international community must live up to its obligations, too, and it had largely failed to protect the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.  While some States had opened their borders and shown solidarity, others had indicated they would merely be willing to accommodate refugees from religious backgrounds close to their own predominant religious traditions.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates expressed support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and asked for recommendations on ways to promote diversity, accountability, and to address the root causes of violations of religion and belief.

Mr. BIELEFELDT began by addressing the treatment of minorities, which was indicative of the climate in a society.  While the representatives of the United States and Yemen had raised the issue of the Bahá’ís, he said nonbelievers and followers of non-traditional beliefs were also vulnerable.  While extra attention to minorities was well justified, one should not take freedom of religion and belief to be in the interest of minorities alone.  Majority religions should be more involved in issues of freedom of religion and take responsibility for protecting minorities, not simply because it was the right thing to do but because it was in their own interest. 

He called for greater dialogue between members of the same faith groups, noting that there were many examples of good practices in his report.  Further, religiously colorized hatred was not a natural law.  There were situations in which Shiites and Sunnis lived together peacefully, despite some peoples’ beliefs that conflict between the two faiths was inevitable due to age-old animosities.  To the contrary, conflict between the two stemmed from an artificial attempt to poison relations.  Finally, he emphasized that it was impossible to work on freedom of religion without addressing gender.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Poland, Denmark, Iran, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, as well as the European Union.

Dialogue on Trafficking in Persons

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, presented her report (document A/71/303) and highlighted that trafficking was a systemic outcome of conflict.  Welcoming increased international interest in that linkage, she noted that trafficking victims were entitled to the same rights, due diligence, protection and prevention against such abuse during times of conflict as otherwise.  Her report highlighted conflict-related trafficking from three perspectives, the first of which was trafficking of persons fleeing conflict.  For example, unaccompanied children from Afghanistan and Sudan in refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, both in France, had been illegally traded for sexual exploitation by people who had promised them passage to the United Kingdom.

On her second point, trafficking during conflict, she underlined that trafficking of migrant workers into conflict zones was a hidden issue, which often resulted in women and girls being subjected to both labour and sexual abuse.  On her last point, trafficking in post-conflict situations, she emphasized that peacekeeping operations continued to be the occasion for “shameful incidents” of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation.  A large, militarized and predominantly male international presence fuelled the demand for goods and services produced through trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation.  Recommendations from her report included six measures, among them that appropriate procedures should be established at reception centres for migrants and implemented by trained personnel in cooperation with civil society organizations. 

When the floor opened for questions, several delegates asked about best practices on how to address trafficking and protect victims.  Germany’s representative wanted to know how States could sensitize the media without infringing on press freedom, while the delegates of the European Union and Switzerland asked for recommendations on integrating human trafficking into the Global Compact on Migrants and Refugees, which States would soon negotiate.

Ms. GIAMMARINARO highlighted that trafficking was a systematic outcome of conflict and must be addressed within that context.  Anti-trafficking should be fully integrated into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact.  In places with large movements of migrants, it was important to establish anti-trafficking procedures in cooperation with non-Governmental organizations and others capable of interviewing migrants and identifying indications of exploitation and trafficking. Member States should also help at-risk people find employment.  Those measures must be integrated across actions.  The International Labour Organization Alliance, as part of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, was an example of good practice; it engaged businesses to ensure that self-regulatory tools were implemented, especially in the supply chain.

Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Lichtenstein, South Africa, Morocco and Eritrea.

Introduction of draft resolutions

Under the agenda item on social development, the representative of Thailand, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced drafts on “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/71/L.5); “Follow-up to the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family and Beyond” (document A/C.3/71/L.6); and “Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/C.3/71/L.7).

The representative of Mongolia introduced a draft on “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas” (document A/C.3/71/L.9).

Under the Committee’s agenda item on promotion and protection of the rights of children, Canada’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Zambia, introduced a draft on “Child, early and forced marriage” (document A/C.3/71/L.13).

Dialogue on Human Rights of Minorities

RITA IZSÁK-NDIAYE, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, focused on the human rights of minorities in humanitarian crises, stressing that those populations were particularly vulnerable and often targeted because of their identity.  There was a correlation between crises and minority status.  In humanitarian crises, for example, minorities were more likely to be displaced and subjected to discrimination.  Further, a lack of accurate and disaggregated data made a much-needed analysis of their situations more difficult, she said, underscoring the need to gather more detailed information.

She went on to say that minorities often lived in fear and therefore were more hesitant to share information about their situations.  They faced numerous challenges in humanitarian crises, including attacks and threats to their lives, marginalization, a lack of access to basic services and issues related to land rights and security of tenure. She recommended that Member States build resilient minority communities and provide timely and adequate assistance to minorities during humanitarian crises.  In addition, the Secretary-General should develop a comprehensive United Nations strategy to ensure the systematic integration of minority rights into all programming.

When the floor opened, Austria’s representative asked whether the Special Rapporteur saw synergies between her mandate and the work of other treaty bodies or special procedures.  The European Union’s representative shared the concern that minorities faced greater problems during crises, and asked how the international community could better address that issue.  Several delegations queried the Special Rapporteur about disaggregated statistical data.

Ms. IZSÁK-NDIAYE emphasized that people who collected data must understand why they were doing it, and that they must be members of the minority groups’ own communities.  Guarantees also should be in the system to ensure that the information was not abused.  To the question about synergies, she said the participation of non-governmental organizations should be encouraged, reminding delegations that there was a voluntary fund to enable minorities to travel and participate in the deliberations of the Forum on Minority Issues.  Regarding other aspects of her work, she said she had done research on Universal Periodic Review recommendations and was currently looking into research on the second cycle.

As she was nearing the end of her mandate, she then provided a few general observations on its six years.  It was difficult to look at past and current conflicts and not see ethnic and minority identity dimensions, she said, adding that identity was emotive and important to all.  It involved everything in people’s lives and limitations on how they lived, making it a symbol of not having dignity or having one’s rights respected.  Dignity had to be equally guaranteed for everyone, and that lay at the heart of protection of minorities.  She urged the United Nations to recognize that every part of the system should promote minority rights. 

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Hungary, United States, Russian Federation, and Norway. 

Dialogue on Human Rights in Iran

ELISABETH DA COSTA, presenting the final report of AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, highlighted progress and challenges in that country.  The Government’s engagement with United Nations rights bodies had improved over the past five years.  However, the Special Rapporteur had not been granted access to the country throughout his mandate, which was now coming to an end.  While Iran had made positive legal reforms to strengthen the rights of the accused, those changes had not contributed to sufficient progress in the human rights situation, in part because there was a gap between the law and State-sanctioned practices that violated fundamental rights.  Further, national laws and practices restricted the rights to freedom of expression and association and peaceful assembly, and journalists and human rights defenders had been persecuted by Government agencies.  Iran executed more individuals per capita than any other country, she pointed out.

In addition, laws, policies and practices continued to institutionalize the “second class status” of women and girls, she said, noting that the age of majority was 9 for girls and 15 for boys, effectively depriving children above those ages of protections under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Moreover, the minimum age for marriage was 13 for girls and 15 for boys, placing girls at risk of early and forced marriage.  Ethnic and religious minorities were also subject to abuses, such as arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution.  She encouraged the international community to continue to engage Iran on human rights, as such efforts had shown positive potential thus far.

When the floor was opened, several delegates expressed concern about use of the death penalty in Iran, the targeting of dual citizens, and the rights of women, children and minorities.  Delegates of the United Kingdom and European Union expressed concern about the severity of punishment for drug-related offences in Iran, asking how the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights could engage the Government on alternative punishments for such crimes.  Some asked the Rapporteur for his opinion on the role that the international community could play in bringing about tangible improvements in those areas.

Several delegates voiced opposition to the Rapporteur’s mandate, saying it violated the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity, and argued that the Universal Periodic Review was a more appropriate instrument for investigating human rights violations in specific countries.

Mr. SHAHEED responded that the whole idea of the country mandate had come about in the 1950s and 1960s, when the United Nations felt the need for a protection mechanism.  The Iran mandate had shown the efficacy of those mechanisms.  In most cases, the Government had responded positively to issues he had raised.  To those who believed country-specific mandates were a form of political pressure, he clarified that his mandate was not an instrument for condemning Iran, but rather for engaging the Government constructively. 

Once his mandate had begun, he said Iran’s response rate to United Nations communications had increased to about 40 to 50 per cent.  Domestic discourse on human rights had also improved, thanks, perhaps, to the efforts of the Third Committee.  Moreover, revision of the country’s capital punishment law could result in a decline in the number of death penalty cases.  He saw Hassan Rouhani’s election to the Presidency as a sign of a new approach and a healthier discourse on rights issues.

On the issue of drug trafficking, he suggested the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime be invited to consult Iran on human rights issues.  He called for greater engagement with Iran, including greater investment, though he emphasized that investors must avoid accentuating discrimination in the country.

In response, Iran’s representative expressed strong disagreement with the Special Rapporteur’s assessment of the impact of his mandate.  Rather than encouraging progress in the human rights sphere, the mandate had been destructive.  Iranian society was vibrant and progressive, yet sensitive to foreign interventions. 

Also speaking during the interactive dialogue were representatives of Venezuela (also speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), United States, Syria, Germany, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Norway, Canada, Russian Federation, Belarus, Czech Republic, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, China, Eritrea and Pakistan.


MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said historic and contemporary migratory flows had created the region.  There should be greater international understanding of migration patterns.  Migratory flows within a region should be safe and well-regulated, and the dignity of migrants and their families should be protected.  She urged States in transit and destination areas to work together in seeking solutions.  International migration required an integrated approach, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms of children needed to be protected. 

She went on to stress that irregular migration should be approached from a human rights perspective in line with international agreements.  Rejecting the criminalization of irregular migration, as well as xenophobia against migrants, she urged the international community to protect migrants from criminal groups.  In addition, migrant workers must be protected, she said, stressing that the right of migrants to a voluntary return to their countries of origin was also important.  Countries implementing selective policies toward migrants must end them.  The United Nations was the best forum to discuss the issue of migration.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reiterated the bloc’s strong commitment to human rights and the Committee’s work.  Human rights should be treated in a balanced, impartial manner, he said, stressing that ASEAN continued to strengthen its collaboration with the United Nations in a number of areas, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

He went on to share achievements in advancing human rights, noting that States continued to mainstream human rights, raise awareness among young people and strengthen women’s and children’s rights.  They also had increased civil society’s participation in relevant human rights bodies, as well as developed regional action plans on human rights protection and on supportive legal frameworks.  Efforts were also underway to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and to end violence against children.

KAI SAUER (Finland), also speaking on behalf of Sweden, said access to information was one explanation for the success of those countries in creating prosperity and welfare for their citizens.  But around the world, the space for civil society had shrunk and new threats to freedom of expression and media had undermined the foundations of democracy.  Together with their Nordic and Baltic neighbouring countries, Finland and Sweden were training journalists to support free and independent media in areas affected by disinformation and propaganda.  He reviewed the history of national legislation protecting freedom of the press Sweden and Finland, noting that the Swedish Parliament had passed the world’s first Freedom of the Press Act 250 years ago.  However, developments in the wider world had shown the need for more work to advance freedom of expression globally. 

He went on to say that female journalists and researchers were regularly subjected to online harassment, including rape threats, cyberstalking, and blackmail, citing the “Gamergate” events in which several women in the global video game industry had been targeted.  The 2030 Agenda’s Target 16.10, which called on States to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms,” was relevant to achieving all the other Goals.  Everyone needed equal access to an open, free, secure and equal Internet where individuals could exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly.  Human rights, he underlined, applied online as well as offline.  All States must respect and protect the right to privacy in digital communication, and international cooperation was crucial to ensuring those objectives.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said development and human rights were mutually reinforcing.  Violations of the rights of older persons had increased, and an international agreement was needed in that context.  Reiterating his call to protect people regardless of their sexual orientation, he rejected the execution of and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender, stressing that all people must be protected.  He called on the international community to protect migrants and refugees from discrimination and attacks.

Ms. LAISSUE (Switzerland) expressed concern over persistent human rights violations in a number of countries, often under the pretext of security concerns, as well as over restrictions imposed on civil society and reprisals and violence against human rights defenders.  She called for increased international efforts to protect civil society actors, stressing that rights violations often preceded violence and therefore must be addressed.  She also encouraged States that had not done so to abolish the death penalty, as it violated the right to life, and called on all States to cooperate with all international human rights mechanisms, as special procedures must be able to access areas under their mandate.

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Written question – VP/HR – The Non-Aligned Movement – E-007384/2016

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) groups together two thirds of United Nations member states. The vast majority of the 120 member states come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as well as 26 Latin American countries that joined during the 1980s. Their role in world geopolitics is to counterbalance the global governance of the major powers — the United States and Europe — from the United Nations. NAM is a space for global economic, political and financial cooperation. It is not an insignificant entity, as NAM countries represent 55% of the global population, control the largest number of fresh water reserves on the planet, the largest number of oil and gas reserves, along with strategic minerals for global industries and 65% of arable land for food production.

Venezuela currently holds the pro tempore Chair of this international body, bringing together the majority of countries where irregularities, financial, political and media threats exist: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Serbia, Libya, etc.

Given the importance of all of this, does the EU maintain relations with NAM?

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Analysts Urge 'Soft Landing' to Post-Mugabe Transition in Zimbabwe

By William Eagle October 15, 2016

Zimbabwe is in flux. There are regular protests, especially in the capital, over currency and food shortages, unemployment, and alleged government corruption and mismanagement.

Observers say an effective political solution may not be soon in coming.

President Robert Mugabe, 92, and his ruling ZANU-PF party have been in power for 36 years. But the party is breaking into factions, and at least one former member, onetime Vice President Joyce Mujuru, has formed her own party, Zimbabwe People First. The longtime opposition Movement for Democratic Change has new competitors, including more than a dozen new parties and youth-driven protest movements inspired by social media. All are preparing for national elections in 2018.

Participants in a recent symposium at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace looked at some of the challenges facing Zimbabwe, and they agreed that its citizens and the international community alike would favor a "soft landing" in a post-Mugabe future.

Military is 'really central'

Symposium participant Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at the London-based policy institute Chatham House, said the West has become complacent and has lost contact with the military and with different factions within the ruling party.

"If we get into a really uncertain and unpredictable security situation in Zimbabwe," he said, "it will be the military that will have a role in managing that process. ... I believe the military will play a key role ... in whatever happens, as a kingmaker in whatever coalition or inclusive political entity that might come up [between] the opposition and parts that have split from ZANU-PF. The military is really central here."

Symposium delegates also urged the U.S. and its allies to revisit sanctions on Zimbabwe targeting more than 80 people and 50 groups linked to human rights violations, corruption and mismanagement. They said the sanctions list was outdated and included government critics like Mujuru.

Vines said many Zimbabweans blame the sanctions for their suffering, rather than the government.

"I do believe that ... ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe won the propaganda battle about sanctions, and I'm surprised at how many well-educated Zimbabweans from civil society and others blame sanctions partly for economic woes and not economic policies," he said. "It has been used as a fig leaf to hide financial mismanagement and other problems. That was one of the drivers for the European Union and Australia to significantly reduce their targeted measures on Zimbabwe to Mugabe, the first lady and Zimbabwe Defense Industries, and I do believe the U.S. and Canada ... need to [revise their outdated sanctions] lists very carefully."

Role of sanctions

Also taking part in the seminar was Johnnie Carson, former U.S. assistant for secretary of state for African affairs under the Obama administration. He said the U.S. government had considered lifting sanctions in order to encourage democratic reforms. But he suggested that the U.S. maintain them as a way to encourage democratization and good governance in Zimbabwe although those efforts have not succeeded so far.

"In 2010 and 2011," he said, "we worked very closely with the South Africans looking for solutions ... and said ... that we, and I, would have been willing to do everything possible to pull down the sanctions if the Zimbabweans were willing to do one or two significant things in the runup to [the 2013] elections, [such as] invite the Carter Center, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and the Commonwealth to be monitors for the elections. ... We must continue to probe and look for opportunities, but recognize there are times we don't have partners, and times when the environment does not permit."

Carson said U.S. ambassadors to Africa should continue to reach out to Zimbabwe's business community – an idea also backed by Whitney Schneidman, former deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs and current senior associate at the Washington-based law firm of Covington and Berling. He noted the efforts of former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton to strengthen ties with the country's private sector last year.

The Corporate Council on Africa was invited to send a trade mission to Zimbabwe and a reverse trade mission from Zimbabwe came to the U.S.," Schneidman said. "This activity should be continued. A delegation from the President's Advisory Committee on Doing Business in Africa could conduct a fact-finding visit to the country."

Strive for more stability

Schneidman said the Mugabe government should take action to enhance stability in the runup to elections and a new administration. He said the government had proposed a land compensation fund for both black and white farmers who have been displaced as owners by administration supporters. It is also considering long-term leases that would allow farmers to invest in fallow land.

Schneidman also urged continued efforts by Harare to improve relations with the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

Participants in the Washington panel said Zimbabwe had lost the interest of some policymakers in the West. But they said the country remained an important player in southern Africa politics and trade, and that state collapse and a worsening refugee crisis could destabilize the whole region.


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