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Situations in Myanmar, Iran Dominate Third Committee Discussions, as Experts Address Broader Rights for Minorities, Cultural Freedom Defenders

While many claims of “terrible inhuman violent acts” in Rakhine State had been made in recent months, it was undeniable that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims had fled to Bangladesh following alleged attacks by militants, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Yanghee Lee was among five mandate-holders presenting reports during interactive dialogues as the Committee examined the human rights situation in Iran, and broader thematic issues of minority rights, human rights defenders and cultural rights.

Myanmar officials had suggested the number of those fleeing had been exaggerated, Ms. Lee said, and called on authorities to permit the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission access to the region.  They should also take steps to let the Rohingya population know they were welcome to return.  As it was unlikely a solution would soon be found, she urged the Security Council to include the situation on its agenda.

Myanmar’s representative responded, reiterating his country’s opposition to country-specific mandates.  The situation in Rakhine State had drawn the world’s attention, with premeditated terrorist acts of the so-called Rohingya Salvation Army triggering “immense human sufferings and humanitarian problems”.  Myanmar could not condone terrorism or human rights violations.  If there was evidence, anyone who had breached the law would be brought to justice, he said, expressing Myanmar’s commitment to establishing peace.

Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, said that country was cooperating with her mandate, responding to communications and engaging with her through visiting delegations.  However, she expressed concern over executions and reports of torture, as well as harassment, intimidation and prosecution of human rights defenders.  She also voiced concern about the situation of ethnic and religious minorities.

In the ensuing dialogue, Iran’s delegate said his country had been the target of a political charade.  There were no grounds for producing four reports on the human rights situation in his country.  The latest report was the product of a politically motivated mandate, in which the basic principles of impartiality and professionalism had been largely disregarded.  On the subject of minorities, he said fabrications implying division were absurd.

The presentations dovetailed with those delivered earlier in the day on thematic questions, notably by Fernand De Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, who said minority rights were human rights for the world’s most vulnerable people.  His priorities over the next three years would include a focus on statelessness, preventing or resolving ethnic conflict, and addressing the rise of intolerance and hate speech.

Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, said those who stood up to corporate abuse were being threatened, harassed or killed.  The rising number of attacks against rights defenders working in the field of business could be attributed to a lack of preventive measures, such as consultations, and reactive measures like grievance mechanisms.

Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, said her report focused on the impact of fundamentalism and extremism on the cultural rights of women.  Religious fundamentalists sought to punish cultural expression through blasphemy laws and gender discriminatory family laws, among other things.  While fundamentalism had emerged from all the world’s religious traditions, opposition to it was not akin to an anti-religious stand, she cautioned.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 26 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4205).

Interactive Dialogues — Minority Issues

FERNAND DE VARENNES, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, said the vision for his mandate over the next three years could be summarized as:  minority rights were human rights for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.  His four thematic priorities were:  statelessness and the human rights of minorities; preventing or resolving ethnic conflicts and promoting inclusiveness and stability; addressing the rise of intolerance and hate speech targeting minorities; and education as a human right for minorities.  He aimed to clarify and foster greater responsiveness to the human rights concerns of minorities, pledging to work with States and others in that regard.

He said three thematic studies should be conducted on:  the scope and meaning of the term “minority”; a review of State commitments to minority rights; and the economic benefits of protecting the rights of minorities.  He pledged to strengthen constructive dialogues with Governments, minorities, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations, and contribute to practical solutions.  He would also focus on protecting the rights of minority women and children “who were the most vulnerable of vulnerable” in many parts of the world.  He announced that his first annual thematic report in 2018 would address statelessness and its relationship to the human rights of minorities, adding that many stateless people were members of linguistic, religious or ethnic minorities.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Switzerland said violence against minority groups was disastrous to communities around the world and asked what role civil society and human rights defenders could play in protecting them.

The representative of Hungary, expressing concern over Ukraine’s education legislation, asked how the Special Rapporteur would facilitate better compliance by States to international commitments for education of minority groups.

The representative of Iraq said his Government was facilitating the return of minority groups to their native communities and protections from violence were being afforded to those groups.

The representative of Mexico asked the Special Rapporteur to identify the main challenges faced by States in strengthening legislation to protect the rights of minorities.

The representative of the United States highlighted efforts to advance the interests of Roma people across Europe and expressed concern over the situations faced by minorities in Myanmar and China.  She asked how the United States could advocate for the rights of minority groups at the national and regional levels to promote the strengthening of protection frameworks.

The representative of the European Union asked what measures could be implemented to help reduce and eliminate the use of ethnic profiling by law enforcement.

The representative of Austria asked which practices had proved effective in countering narratives of hatred.  Noting that women and children were particularly vulnerable, she asked how their participation in protection frameworks could be assured.  She also asked how the United Nations role in protecting minorities could be strengthened.

The representative of the Russian Federation said protecting the rights of Russian-speaking minorities across the Baltic region must be a priority for the Special Rapporteur.

The representative of Ukraine pointed to recent decisions by the Russian Federation to limit the use of native languages by minority groups.  He said Ukraine upheld the right of minority groups to access education in their native languages.

The representative of Indonesia said communication technology presented challenges in efforts to mitigate hate speech and asked what measures could be taken to prevent its spread.

The representative of China said her Government guaranteed the rights of ethnic minorities and invested in minority communities.  Calling statements by the United States regarding minority groups in China “unfounded”, she pointed to violations of minority rights in the United States.

The representative of Norway said minorities were more exposed to violence in conflict zones than other groups.  Welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s focus on women, he asked what methods could be used to defend the rights of minority women.

Mr. DE VARENESS, responding, noticed that it had become acceptable to portray some minorities in a negative way, and he hoped to work with State and non-State actors, and the United Nations, to develop mechanisms for addressing hate speech.  He urged States to apply laws that prosecuted those who incited hatred and violence against minorities, stressing that enforcement had been a challenge.  Some countries had acted to counter hate speech with campaigns celebrating minorities and their contributions.  “Diversity and the existence of minorities are facts, but whether some minorities are included are choices,” he stressed.

To better address the vulnerabilities of minorities, he said it was crucial first to acknowledge minorities as a group.  The Rohingya, for example, should be recognized as a minority group.  “To never use the word minority in relation to Rohingya is to contribute to their invisibility,” he said.  “If we do not even acknowledge that they are minorities, there is no focus on how we can better protect their rights.”  Moreover, there was a need to recognize that minority children, especially girls, had been excluded and disadvantaged in public school systems.  “If we do not highlight this, we are contributing to the vulnerability of minority girls,” he said.

It was also crucial that the United Nations Network on Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities develop guidelines to protect such rights, he said, noting that the Forum of Minority Issues, in Geneva, could hold discussions at the regional level.  “The way of dealing with religious minorities in Europe is not the same as dealing with minority issues in the Middle East,” he added.

Human Rights Defenders

MICHEL FORST, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, said rights defenders who stood up to corporate abuse were being threatened, harassed or killed.  Between 2015 and 2016, 450 attacks against human rights defenders working in business had been documented, he noted, attacks deliberately carried out to silence those who spoke truth to power.  The growing number of threats could be attributed to a lack of preventive measures, such as consultations, and reactive measures like grievance mechanisms.  With perpetrators being both State and non-State actors, he expressed regret that those who could end the violence were either turning a blind eye to attacks or directly involved in them.

He welcomed efforts by corporations to develop policies and guidelines on human rights defenders, also noting the development of national business action plans by some States that include sections on civil society and human rights defenders.  While Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) based companies were showing progress, a number of non-OECD companies had not joined corporate and social responsibility initiatives.  The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were a powerful tool for all relevant actors to conduct human rights due diligence, he said, calling for measures to protect defenders.  Urging companies to ensure their operations did not have negative impacts on the ground, he said globalization must accompany the expansion of human rights standards.

The representative of Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur for good practices established in Latin America, given the large number of murders of human right defenders in the region.

The representative of the European Union asked the Special Rapporteur for best practices and approaches by businesses to protect human rights defenders.

The representative of Spain asked how consultation mechanisms could be improved so that rights defenders could better carry out their work.

The representative of Denmark asked the Special Rapporteur for best practices to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.

The representative of Canada asked about the drivers, sources and risks of exclusion, and about open source resources to promote better consultative processes.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the Special Rapporteur’s mandate overlapped with other special procedures, and that some of his recommendations — such as asking businesses for disclosure of commercial information — were contentious.

The representative of Ireland asked if a global network of international corporations could be established to work with States and non-State actors to foster better understanding of national human rights policies.

The representative of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, asked what States could do to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.

The representative of the Netherlands, aligning himself with the European Union, asked how States could work together to establish national legislation to hold private enterprises accountable.

The representative of the United States asked how to better protect rights defenders who cooperated with the United Nations from attacks and reprisals.

The representative of Slovenia, noting that women rights defenders faced greater risks, asked how the gender-perspective could be better incorporated into protection mechanisms.

The representative of China said the Special Rapporteur had used unverified information on her country in his report, adding that countries held different views of who rights defenders were, and that anyone who undermined public order should be prosecuted.

The representative of Brazil asked the Special Rapporteur about gaps in protection to be addressed for those working in private business.

The representative of the Council of Europe asked what could be done to strengthen the legitimacy of defenders who had been labelled as spies.

The representatives of Norway, Czech Republic, Cuba, United Kingdom, Colombia, South Africa, Turkey, New Zealand, France, Mexico and Panama also spoke.

Mr. FORST, responding, said achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would not be possible if States failed to protect human rights defenders, adding that defenders must be presented as agents of change, not enemies of States.  He said work with other organizations focused on the issue of reprisals, and United Nations mechanisms were being streamlined to ensure improved cooperation on the matter.  He noted that allegation letters were being sent to companies, not just States, and companies were replying at a high rate, demonstrating their willingness to engage.  Moving into 2018, he said efforts would focus on establishing a world coalition of human rights defenders.  Campaigns would pursue the nomination of rights defenders for the Nobel Peace Prize, he concluded.

Cultural Rights

KARIMA BENNOUNE, Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, said her report focused on the impact of fundamentalism and extremism on the cultural rights of women.  Such ideologies sought to roll back women’s equality and penalize women human rights defenders, rejecting equality and the universality of fundamental freedoms.  Cultural rights were not tantamount to cultural relativism, but rather, embedded in the universal human rights framework.  Religious fundamentalists sought to punish cultural expression through blasphemy laws, gender discriminatory family laws, harassment and violence, she noted, adding that fundamentalism had emerged from all the world’s religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and others.  Yet, opposition to fundamentalism was not akin to an anti-religious stand, she cautioned.

Some forms of extremism focused on myths of a homogeneous nation, claims of ethnic or racial superiority or purity, and populist ultra-nationalism directed against liberal and pluralistic democracy, she explained.  The defence of cultural rights required tackling fundamentalism and extremism — and arts, education, science and culture were among the best ways to fight them.  Supporting women’s rights was essential in that regard.  “The gender component is not optional,” she warned.  A global trend of fundamentalism and populism posed risks to women rights defenders.  Across regions, fundamentalists and extremists promoted cultural stigmatization of women for exercising and advocating for sexual and reproductive rights, creating a culture of shame rather than equality.  The defence of non-sexist education was among the most important measures Governments could take to defend women’s rights.  “We face a multidirectional global avalanche of misogyny,” she said, “motivated by diverse fundamentalist and extremist ideologies.”

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of the Maldives said men and women must work together to defeat extremism.  Empowering women and girls, and preventing violence directed towards them, was the foundation of resilient societies capable of standing up to radicalization.

The representative of the Russian Federation said fundamentalism and extremism went beyond the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.  She also stated that the Special Rapporteur had not taken into account cultural and religious heritage in her work and denied the respect of certain cultural traditions, such as wearing of traditional clothing.

The representative of France, associating himself with the European Union, said fundamentalists rejected equality between men and women.  Protecting the cultural rights of women was a pillar in the fight against extremism, he noted, asking what means the Special Rapporteur would use to promote education as a way to foster gender equality.

The representative of Morocco said cultural rights must be respected and protected, and diversity promoted in school settings.  Noting the safety of social rights defenders was typically ignored, she asked how they could be protected.

The representative of Malta, associating herself with the European Union, expressed reservations about mentions of abortion by the Special Rapporteur, as the practice was illegal in Malta.

The representative of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, called for thorough analysis of the manipulation of culture by extremist groups.

A representative of the European Union said patriarchal rhetoric by Governments was detrimental to the advancement of women’s rights.  Only through the promotion of cultural democracy could the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development be achieved, he stressed.

Ms. BENNOUNE replied that some delegates had misunderstood the approach outlined in her report as a Western one.  Stressing that she had taken a universal view of women’s cultural rights, she said she had spoken with women rights defenders around the world and they shared similar views on the rise of fundamentalism and its impacts on women’s cultural rights.  “We need to listen to the voices of women on the ground,” she asserted, adding that fundamentalist groups were stamping out minority lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual groups around the world.

She said there was a need to address the punishment of women who did not abide by modest dress codes, pointing out that fundamentalists in many countries tried to enforce dress codes which differed from traditional forms of dress.  She also highlighted the need to protect artists who spoke out against fundamentalists, recognize them as rights defenders, and review school curricula to ensure that such stereotypes of women were not purveyed.

Myanmar

YANGHEE LEE, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, said many allegations of “terrible inhuman violent acts” in Rakhine State had been made over the past two months.  It was undeniable that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims had fled to Bangladesh, their villages torched following alleged attacks by Rohingya militants.  Yet, Government officials suggested the number of those fleeing was being exaggerated.  Myanmar had ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, albeit with a declaration relating to the right to self-determination, and she looked forward to working to meet full realization of the Convention.

Calling for constitutional reform and legislative reviews, she said identifying laws that contravened human rights obligations was central to achieving a full democratic transition.  She expressed concern over human rights violations related to the creation of special economic zones, with land confiscation emerging as a major concern.

An increasing number of civilians, including children, were being killed or had been injured in escalating clashes between the Armed Forces and ethnic armed groups.  Dangerous and dehumanizing speech was also being directed towards the Rohingya communities, inciting violence.  It had been cultivated into the minds of the people of Myanmar that the Rohingya were not native to the country, and as such, not eligible for pertinent protections.  Reports of violence against Muslims and Christians had been received from across the country, and the number of people fleeing was increasing at an alarming rate, she stressed.

Referring to the events of recent weeks as “devastating”, she called on Myanmar to permit the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission access to the region, and take steps to let the Rohingya population know they were welcome to return to the country.  Acknowledging that a solution in the near future would be unlikely, she urged the General Assembly to remain “seized” of the situation and the Security Council to include the situation in Myanmar as an agenda item.

The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated its view that human rights issues must be addressed through a constructive, non-confrontational, non-politicized, non-selective, dialogue-based approach with objectivity and respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of States, impartiality, non-selectivity and transparency, taking into account the political, historical, social, religious and cultural particularities of each country.  The proliferation of country-specific resolutions in the Third Committee was deeply concerning, and greater coherence must be promoted between its work and that of the Human Rights Council to avoid duplication, he said, pointing to the Universal Periodic Review as the main body to review human rights issues.

The representative of Myanmar reiterated his country’s opposition to country-specific mandates, but underscored the Government’s cooperation with successive Special Rapporteurs as part of its cooperation with the United Nations.  Myanmar had conveyed to the Special Rapporteur the extensive steps it had taken to promote peace and development, as well as the challenges on the ground.  Expressing Myanmar’s commitment to overcoming its challenges, with the goal of achieving a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country for all, he said the Special Rapporteur’s 44 recommendations to the Government had been given full consideration.  Myanmar would implement them as the situation on the ground permitted, he said.  Her report should have reflected the difficulties of resolving problems that were the legacy of decades of conflict, isolation and underdevelopment.

The new Government had made peace and national reconciliation a top priority, he said, and had made progress since taking office eighteen months ago.  It had made headway in the peace process, he said, cautioning that democratic change did not happen overnight.  The situation in Rakhine State had drawn the world’s attention, he said, with premeditated terrorist acts of the so-called Rohingya Salvation Army triggering “immense human sufferings and humanitarian problems”.  Myanmar could not condone terrorism, and condemned human rights violations, he said, adding that, if there was evidence, anyone who breached the law would be brought to justice.  The Government was committed to a sustainable solution that would lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within Rakhine State.

Myanmar had also taken heed of the international concern over the humanitarian situation at the border, he said.  The Government had identified three tasks to be undertaken promptly:  to provide returnees with humanitarian assistance and repatriation; to resettle and rehabilitate all displaced communities; and to establish sustainable peace, stability and development in Rakhine State.  Myanmar and Bangladesh were working on the voluntary, safe and dignified return of displaced persons, while the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management was working with Myanmar to deliver humanitarian assistance.  Cooperation with the United Nations was a cornerstone of Myanmar’s foreign policy, he said, adding that the international community’s understanding and support was critically important for the sustainability of Myanmar’s democratic transition.

The representative of Saudi Arabia expressed disappointment about the inhuman practices in Rakhine State.  He requested clearer figures on the numbers of people affected by violence and urged permanent solutions to assist refugees.

The representative of Bangladesh said the Special Rapporteur’s report was a grim reminder of the early warning signs of atrocity crimes in Rakhine State, the scant international attention which had paved the way for a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing, marked by extrajudicial killings, systematic sexual violence and widespread arson.  Such human rights violations called for a strong international response, he said, urging the General Assembly to send a strong message by adopting relevant resolutions.

The representative of Cuba, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said country-specific special procedures were confrontational and did not promote a respectful environment.

The representative of Liechtenstein welcomed efforts to have the Security Council address the matter, asking the Special Rapporteur about the most promising message the Third Committee could send.

The representative of Switzerland deplored Myanmar’s refusal to allow access to the country as a whole to those seeking to report on the situation.  She called on Myanmar to respect all international obligations.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said the issue was complex and his Government remained concerned over the situation in Rakhine State and the neighbouring region.

The representative of the United States expressed outrage over reports of violence by “Burmese” security forces and vigilante groups, stressing that the destruction of Rohingya communities in Rakhine State was well-coordinated and systematic.  She called on authorities to end violence and allow unhindered access to the region, also expressing concern over events in Kachin and Shan.  “Peace cannot be built on abuse and impunity,” she said, asking about the root causes of conflict and how the international community could help address them.

The representative of Australia called on Myanmar to extend cooperation with fact-finding missions and implement recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Rakhine State.  She asked what human rights concerns must be considered when repatriating those who had fled Myanmar.

The representative of France, associating herself with the European Union, asked for an assessment of the implementation of relevant recommendations by the Myanmar authorities.

The representative of the European Union asked what more could be done to ensure the protection of all people in Rakhine State.  Citing hate speech against non-Buddhists, he asked how the freedom of expression could be upheld while combating such speech.

The representative of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, asked how Member States could assist Myanmar in ensuring unhindered access by the United Nations to the region.

The representative of the Russian Federation stressed the importance of dialogue, noting that only political means could resolve the crisis.

The representative of Malaysia, noting deteriorating relations between Myanmar and the United Nations, asked if it would be beneficial for the General Assembly to appoint another mandate holder to compliment the Special Rapporteur’s work.

The representative of Japan stressed the importance of humanitarian access to the region to assist in repatriation and commended Bangladesh’s efforts to respond to the crisis.

The representative of Turkey said it was imperative to end military attacks on civilians and ensure the safe return of displaced persons.  Humanitarian assistance to Myanmar and Bangladesh was urgently needed.

The representative of Norway, calling for an end to violence, stressed the need for humanitarian access to Rakhine State and asked how the international community could assist in finding lasting solutions to the crisis.

The representative of Viet Nam shared concern over recent developments in northern Rakhine State and noted efforts by Myanmar to enhance the rule of law and resolve the issue.  She emphasized the need for constructive dialogue with Myanmar and called on all relevant parties to support its efforts to provide assistance to its people.

The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said the international community should pursue dialogue with Myanmar, especially through the Universal Periodic Review.  He called for respect of sovereignty and non-politicization of the conflict.

The representative of Mexico asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the role of women in the peace process.

The representative of Ireland, associating herself with the European Union, agreed that all civilians must be protected and all allegations investigated, regardless of the perpetrator.

The representative of Iraq strongly condemned all violations against Rohingya Muslims and called for humanitarian access and return of refugees.  She said violations could amount to crimes against humanity and called for the creation of a coalition to fight extremism in Myanmar.

The representative of Indonesia condemned all violence in Myanmar and pledged to remain fully engaged with that country and Bangladesh to address the humanitarian crisis.

The representative of India said the primary responsibility for the protection of human rights rested with States and should be guided by universality, objectivity and non-politicization.  Country-specific special procedures without the consent of the relevant country were counterproductive.

The representative of the Netherlands, associating himself with the European Union, called for an immediate end to all violence and the safe return of refugees.  Only urgent action by Myanmar could resolve the crisis, he said, asking what immediate action that country could take.

The representative of Thailand said Myanmar had shown commitment to pursuing democratic reconciliation, noting his Government would continue encouraging Myanmar to work with United Nations agencies on the matter.

The representative of Singapore said the issue was rooted in long-standing grievances and immediate action must focus on ceasing hostilities.  Long-term solutions were needed to address the conflict and only through positive dialogue could they be found.

The representative of the United Kingdom said it was important to recognize Myanmar’s efforts, but noted that much remained to be done.  The international community could not forget the actions of Myanmar’s security forces in Rakhine State and she asked how the international community could best support efforts to address the crisis.

The representative of China said that dialogue was the main avenue to resolving humanitarian issues.  The international community must be objective and patient, she stressed.

The representative of the Maldives asked for recommendations on how the United Nations could gain access to areas in need of humanitarian assistance and for her opinion on the need to establish a dedicated country office.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed strong opposition to politically motivated country-specific special procedures.  He demanded that Myanmar’s work to protect its people be fully acknowledged.

Ms. LEE began her response by describing the most productive measures the international community could take towards resolving the situation in Rakhine State.  The General Assembly should remain seized of the situation in Rakhine and beyond, she said, and unfettered humanitarian and media access granted to all affected areas.  The Fact-Finding Mission should be allowed in as soon as possible, before events evolved to a different scale.  To questions about causes, she said they had originated in the historical marginalization of the Rohingya community, adding that systematic discrimination in law, policy and practice was another major contributor.

To questions about human rights concerns other than the exodus, she cautioned against building a mega-camp and advocated immediate attention be given to the needs of unaccompanied children.  There were thousands of unaccompanied orphan children in Cox’s Bazaar, and it was important for the international community to address their plight.  Children in the camps should not be trafficked or sexually exploited, and she warned that, compounded with their recent traumatization and decades-long hardship, they presented prime ground for radicalization.  To a question on her recommendations, she said she had presented a list of legislative reforms to the Government, noting that some of the laws had come from the long colonial period, while others dated back 100 years and were inapplicable in modern times.  Giving an example of recommendations being implemented on the ground, she noted it had been recommended that camps for internally displaced people be shut down as a matter of urgency.

On the subject of hate speech, she said it was not only Muslims who were victims, but Christians as well.  During Ramadan, Rohingya had not been allowed to pray in mosques or in madrasas, so they prayed in the streets, which had caused friction.  Hate speech was a problematic area, she said, coupled with the development of technology, and it was a priority to be addressed.  She underscored that no one would like to see the democratic process of Myanmar derailed, calling for all to be included in the country’s democratic transition.

Iran

ASMA JAHANGIR, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, said the report she was presenting was her first since assuming the mandate and covered the first six months of 2017.  Iran was cooperating with her mandate, responding to communications and engaging with the Special Rapporteur through visiting delegations.  Reviewing positive developments, she said local elections had a high participation rate, and also noted the authorities’ stated intentions to use the Charter on Citizens’ Rights as human rights guidelines for the executive branch.  However, she expressed concern over the rate of executions, with at least four juvenile offenders executed since the beginning of the year, and 86 more known to be on death row.  Reports of torture were also deeply concerning, as were those of harassment, intimidation and prosecution of human rights defenders.

She continued to receive reports of violations against the freedom of expression, with numerous journalists describing harassment and intimidation by State agents.  There was an emerging pattern of arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals, she said, noting that her report detailed individual cases.  She welcomed pledges by President Hassan Rouhani on the rights of women, but noted that “vehement” reactions to social media campaigns protesting mandatory dress codes, among other factors, indicated that much work remained to realize those commitments.  She also voiced concern about the situation of ethnic and religious minorities, as she had received reports of their arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and prosecution.  Her report contained recommendations to reform the judicial system, and she suggested that killings committed in 1998 be addressed.  Her mandate’s ongoing dialogue with Iran required an enabling political environment, at both national and global levels.

The representative of Iran said his country had been the target of a political charade, adding that there were no grounds for producing four reports on the human rights situation in Iran, as duplication did not give credibility.  The latest report of the Special Rapporteur was the product of a politically motivated mandate, in which the basic principles of impartiality and professionalism had been largely disregarded.  A prejudiced mandate had brought about a biased outcome.  The bigoted Muslim ban by the United States had not been touched upon, nor had the imposition of illegal sanctions under dubious pretexts.  The report had further disregarded Iranians who had fallen victim to terrorists.

On the subject of minorities, he said fabrications implying division were absurd.  Belonging to a minority did not imply impunity, and followers of all faiths enjoyed equal freedom to worship in Iran.  The report ignored the United States’ exploitation of its own citizens with Iranian backgrounds, and it should call for an end to the abuse of those individuals.  Regarding illicit drug trafficking, the report was not concerned with police officers murdered by drug traffickers, he said, adding that drug users were not criminalized in Iran, but noting that capital punishment was sanctioned in the law.  No country was perfect, and no country could abandon its way of life to appease those wishing to impose their own.  While Iran continued to denounce country-specific Rapporteurs, it had extended invitations to three thematic Rapporteurs.  Iran welcomed dialogue and sought meaningful engagement with serious partners, but the present report did not serve that purpose.

The representative of the United States expressed concern over Iran’s denial of a country visit to the Special Rapporteur, condemning Iran for imprisoning peaceful activists and unjustly detaining foreign nationals.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said Iran was suffering from inadequate policies and supporting terrorist practices around the world.  Iran also was denying massacres from 1987 and called on the international community to investigate those incidents. “All problems” in the Middle East stemmed from Iran.

The representative of Japan said his Government was holding regular dialogue with Iran to improve the human rights situation.  Dialogue included discussions on women’s empowerment and he asked about the highest priority issue for promoting women’s rights in Iran.

The representative of Eritrea said only universality and objectivity could advance human rights, stressing the relevance of the Universal Periodic Review and describing country-specific mandates as counterproductive.

The representative of Papua New Guinea, referring to sources used by the Special Rapporteur in her report, asked about their credibility and the criteria used in selecting them.  He also asked about the reasons for Iran’s lack of response to the Special Rapporteur’s communications and about other approaches being used to engage with Iran.

The representative of the United Kingdom supported calls to freeze use of the death penalty in Iran and expressed concern over the treatment of religious minorities in that country.  She asked what efforts were being taken to implement Iran’s Charter on Citizens’ Rights.

The representative of Pakistan said free and impartial elections affirmed Iran’s commitment to the democratic process.  He called for non-interference in internal State affairs and said greater efforts were needed to prevent duplicated efforts on the matter.

The representative of Syria said the Special Rapporteur over-stepped her mandate, jeopardizing the credibility of human rights mechanisms.  He said only the Human Rights Council should deal with such issues.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, expressed concern over the alarming rate of executions in Iran and called for a moratorium on the practice.  He also expressed concern over lack of progress in the promotion of women’s rights.

The representative of Burundi, associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said increasing trends to politicize human rights undermined such efforts in many countries.

The representative of Norway expressed concern over executions in Iran, particularly those of juveniles, and asked if there were signs of changes regarding the practice.

The representative of Germany, associating himself with the European Union, acknowledged Iran’s efforts to host refugees, but expressed concern over executions and urged the lifting of all death sentences issued to minors.  He asked what engagement the Special Rapporteur was pursuing with Iran.

The representative of Canada, expressing concern over the execution of minors and mistreatment of minority groups, expressed hope Iran would engage with the international community.

The representative of the Russian Federation expressed his disapproval of country-specific mandates, saying patronizing countries would not improve the human rights situation.  Rather than isolating Member States, the international community should work constructively.

The representative of Switzerland, noting violations to human rights in Iran, including corporal punishment, asked how the criminal code concerning minors was being amended.

The representative of Belarus welcomed Iran’s human rights efforts following the Universal Periodic Review cycles.  He said country-specific mandates not recognized by countries in question did not have access to such countries.  Reports by such mandates distorted realities on the ground, he said.

The representative of China said countries must engage constructively to promote human rights and stressed her Government was against the imposition of such mandates without consent of the concerned country.

The representative of Cuba said political motivations underlying country-specific mandates were not in line with the spirit of cooperation.  He called on States to prevent the politicization of human rights.

The representative of the European Union referred to the alarming rate of executions in Iran, requesting information on drug legislation that would not use the death penalty.

The representative of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, welcomed positive changes in the human rights situation in Iran and the high rate of participation in presidential elections.  He said he was appalled at the alarming rate of executions and asked for recommendations on ways to increase dialogue.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he strongly opposed politically-motivated country-specific procedures and called for recognition of progress in Iran.

The representative of Venezuela said country-specific procedures contradicted the principle of universality on which human rights themes should be addressed.  She said the Universal Periodic Review process should be given priority in dealing with human rights issues.

The representative of Zimbabwe expressed concern over country-specific reports and called for dialogue to resolve human rights concerns in any State.

Ms. JAHANGIR, responding, said meetings and dialogues with representatives of Iran had paved the way for a mutual understanding of the situation.  She expressed concern about the flaunting of the rule of law, saying Iran should invite her to visit.  In the critical areas of due process and the lack of judicial independence, even a visit by a thematic Special Rapporteur would be able to bring out the concerns she felt.  She had received information from Iranians living inside and outside the country, which was then checked, and if it could not be verified, it was omitted from the report, she said.

Women’s rights were a concern because the Charter for Citizens’ Rights said certain rights ought to be respected, she said.  Thus, the laws and policies discriminating against women must be struck down.  The Charter was comprehensive, and if enforced, could alleviate the miseries people felt from violations of their rights.  As far as the juvenile death penalty was concerned, she cited a case involving two juveniles, due to be executed, and the Government’s positive role in helping the aggrieved families find forgiveness.  She expressed concern about violations of the freedom of expression and acts of intimidation.

The representative of Iran said it was not difficult to prepare a more substantive, less erroneous report than the one presented.  Complacency and arrogance had led to lack of sound judgment.  Stressing that the United States suffered from “historical amnesia”, he cited sadistic abuse of prisoners, regime change, mass espionage, unilateralism and unconditional support to Israel in that context.  Moreover, he said Saudi Arabia had killed more children in Yemen than Al Qaida, Nusra and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) combined.  That country also fuelled sectarianism in the Persian Gulf.  At the global level, all major terrorist groups had been inspired by teachings from Saudi Arabia, if not financed.  Saudis could not forever “play the Iran card” to hide their human rights record, he said, adding that Iran continued to believe the mandate was counterproductive to human rights in Iran, and expressed regret that the Special Rapporteur had found herself in a game which had nothing to do with human rights.

Ms. JAHANGIR, responding but cut off by Iran’s delegate on a point of order, thanked that delegate.

Read More

University of Winnipeg lecturer picked as Manitoba's new Liberal leader

  • University of Winnipeg lecturer picked as Manitoba's new Liberal leader
    Published 22 October 2017, 7:52 pm

    WINNIPEG — The new leader of the Manitoba Liberals says he's looking forward to changing politics in the province. Dougald Lamont became leader this weekend,…

  • Liberals accused of diabetes tax grab with apparent benefit clawback
    Published 22 October 2017, 7:18 pm

    OTTAWA — Health groups joined forces on Sunday with the Conservative opposition to accuse the Liberal government of trying to raise tax revenue on the…

  • Quebec justice minister promises to clarify rules surrounding face-covering ban
    Published 22 October 2017, 5:32 pm

    QUEBEC — In light of the escalating debate surrounding Quebec's religious neutrality bill, the government will publish the rules on how it will be applied, the province's…

  • Trudeau tributes slain soldier for Parliament Hill attack's third anniversary
    Published 22 October 2017, 3:27 pm

    OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marked the third anniversary of the terrorist attack at the National War Memorial by calling on Canadians to pay…

  • FBI agent who helped Canada nab railway terror plotters has one big regret
    Published 22 October 2017, 2:01 pm

    OTTAWA — An undercover FBI agent who helped convict two men of plotting to derail a passenger train in Canada did not see the arrests as a triumph,…

  • New Brunswick opposition parties scramble amid election speculation
    Published 22 October 2017, 1:38 pm

    FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's opposition parties spent the weekend scrambling to prepare for a possible early election call after Premier Brian Gallant's office announced he…

  • At mid-mandate and with extra cash, Liberals to chart fiscal course toward 2019
    Published 22 October 2017, 12:59 pm

    OTTAWA — The Trudeau government, right at the midpoint of its mandate, will map out its financial path this week and announce new measures as it enters the two-year…

  • Quebec women who've worn niqabs discuss province's controversial neutrality bill
    Published 22 October 2017, 10:45 am

    MONTREAL — Warda Naili says the first time she donned a niqab six years ago, it became a part of her. The Quebec woman, a…

  • Four arrested during duelling Toronto protests
    Published 21 October 2017, 7:41 pm

    Toronto police say four people were arrested during two protests at city hall on Saturday. Police say one person was charged with assaulting a police…

  • Trudeau condemns appointment of Mugabe as WHO ambassador
    Published 21 October 2017, 4:17 pm

    EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization "unacceptable," joining a chorus…

  • Intolerance, Bombardier and taxing the rich: how politics mattered this week
    Published 21 October 2017, 7:30 am

    OTTAWA — After months spent fanning the embers of class warfare with their proposed tax reforms, this was the week when the brush fire blew back…

  • N.B. premier says mandate 'accomplished,' will meet with lieutenant-governor
    Published 20 October 2017, 7:45 pm

    FREDERICTON — The premier of New Brunswick says he's going to meet with the province's lieutenant-governor on Monday at a time when his party has "accomplished" its…

  • Feds say police cannabis testing ongoing, rules on edibles in place in one year
    Published 20 October 2017, 7:41 pm

    EDMONTON — Canada's health minister says pilot projects have begun on roadside police testing for marijuana, and the plan is to have rules in place for…

  • NAFTA: U.S. hasn't done analysis on what happens if free-trade treaty ends
    Published 20 October 2017, 6:48 pm

    WASHINGTON — American policy-makers admit they have not worked to analyze the economic impact of the end of the North American Free Trade Agreement, even…

  • Governments shouldn't tell women what to wear and what not to wear: Trudeau
    Published 20 October 2017, 6:04 pm

    ALMA, Que. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again waded into the debate on Quebec's Bill 62 on Friday, saying governments should not be telling women what to wear and what…

  • 'A sad day for Canada:' Alberta premier condemns Quebec's face-covering ban
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:42 pm

    CALGARY — Alberta's premier says Quebec legislation that bans people from providing or receiving public services with their faces covered represents a sad day for Canada. The…

  • Desmond family brings call for inquiry into military murder-suicide to Ottawa
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:32 pm

    OTTAWA — The family of an Afghan war veteran who shot and killed his mother, wife and daughter before taking his own life earlier this…

  • Student leaders ask province to intervene in college faculty strike
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:17 pm

    TORONTO — Student union leaders are calling on the Ontario government to get college administrators and striking faculty to return to the bargaining table to end a labour dispute that has seen…

  • The Friday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:14 pm

    Highlights from the news file for Friday, Oct. 20 ——— GORD DOWNIE'S FAMILY THINKING ABOUT A PUBLIC MEMORIAL: One of Gord Downie's brothers says the outpouring of…

  • Mother of missing woman says police said daughter was probably drinking
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:14 pm

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  • Pollution more deadly than smoking, AIDS and war, new report says
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    OTTAWA — Pollution kills more people around the world than war and infectious diseases, says a new report — proof, environmental lobbyists say, of why Canada needs enforceable…

  • Airbus, Bombardier plan for long C Series partnership despite take-out clause
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:10 pm

    MONTREAL — Airbus and Bombardier plan to remain strategic partners on the C Series program even after the European aerospace giant is able to buy out…

  • Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh resigns seat in Ontario legislature
    Published 20 October 2017, 4:47 pm

    TORONTO — Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has resigned his seat in Ontario's legislature. Singh, 38, had served as a member of provincial parliament since 2011,…

  • Putin brands Canada's adoption of new Magnitsky law as political gamesmanship
    Published 20 October 2017, 4:33 pm

    OTTAWA — Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Canada of playing "unconstructive political games" by passing its own Magnitsky law this week. Putin made the…

  • Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne moves to sue Opposition leader for defamation
    Published 20 October 2017, 4:16 pm

    TORONTO — Ontario's premier took another step toward a defamation lawsuit against the province's Opposition leader Friday after he refused to retract comments suggesting she is personally…

  • Morneau faces more questions despite promise to sell shares, use blind trust
    Published 20 October 2017, 3:56 pm

    OTTAWA — Cracks began to show in Bill Morneau's cucumber-cool countenance Friday as the finance minister faced still more questions about the handling of his…

  • Lobster seized at Halifax airport amid tensions over Indigenous fishery
    Published 20 October 2017, 1:39 pm

    HALIFAX — Fisheries officials have seized three tonnes of lobster amid tensions over the Indigenous fishery in Nova Scotia. The lobster was seized Monday at Halifax…

  • Judge rules Quebec is within its constitutional rights to establish gun registry
    Published 20 October 2017, 12:37 pm

    MONTREAL — Quebec's long-gun registry doesn't infringe on federal jurisdiction, says a judge who has rejected a motion seeking to see it shelved. The National Firearms Association, in conjunction…

  • Premier vows to address 'systemic racism' as N.S. releases report on inquiry
    Published 20 October 2017, 11:42 am

    HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has suffered from institutional racism, Premier Stephen McNeil acknowledged Friday as the government released a report outlining its role in an inquiry…

  • PM briefs premiers on NAFTA developments, as more ministers bound for U.S.
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:58 am

    OTTAWA — As negotiations to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement falter, the Trudeau government is expecting premiers and federal cabinet ministers to fan…

  • Trudeau says it's not up to federal government to challenge Quebec veil-ban law
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:55 am

    OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau offered relatively mild criticism on Thursday of a new Quebec law that bans people from providing or receiving public services with their…

  • Former senator, Pierre Trudeau confidant Michael Pitfield, dead at 80
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:54 am

    OTTAWA — Michael Pitfield, a former Senator and clerk of the Privy Council, has died at the age of 80. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced…

  • Celebrated Yukon First Nations leader Mike Smith has died
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:53 am

    WHITEHORSE — First Nations leader, Yukon lawyer and residential school survivor Mike Smith died Wednesday in Whitehorse. His family released a statement Thursday saying that Smith wanted…

  • Changes made to MMIW inquiry so it can hear from more families in Manitoba
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:52 am

    WINNIPEG — The national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has made changes to allow more families in Manitoba to tell their stories…

  • UBC students learn to care for Indigenous people by understanding racist legacy
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:48 am

    VANCOUVER — The University of British Columbia is on mission to train future doctors, dentists and other health-care providers to treat Indigenous patients by learning about the pain inflicted by past…

  • Lack of legal aid leaves too many defendants to represent themselves: top judge
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:47 am

    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The old adage goes something like this: a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. But…

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leads the way as Canada courts Amazon
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:47 am

    TORONTO — As Canadian cities compete with each other — and dozens of jurisdictions south of the border — for Amazon's new $5-billion headquarters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has…

  • B.C. wineries join New Brunswick beer drinker in high court scrap over trade
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:46 am

    VICTORIA — Complaints from British Columbia wine industry over interprovincial trade barriers will be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada as part of an appeal…

  • B.C.'s Greens put ride-hailing on legislature agenda with private member's bill
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:46 am

    VICTORIA — The Green party is taking its third run at bringing ride-hailing to British Columbia, tabling a private member's bill to pave the way for…

  • Airport screeners relaxing handling of passengers with medical marijuana
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:52 pm

    OTTAWA — Travellers who are prescribed marijuana for medical reasons have fewer hurdles to clear at airport screening points due to a change in policy by…

  • Health ministers looking at electronic database to fight opioid crisis
    Published 19 October 2017, 7:08 pm

    EDMONTON — Canada's health ministers are looking at ways of working together, including an electronic prescription database, to fight the growing crisis in opioid addictions. "(It's…

  • Homeless B.C. nomads pitch tents at tony Oak Bay park after week at city hall
    Published 19 October 2017, 6:19 pm

    OAK BAY, B.C. — A nomadic group of homeless people has chosen one of Canada's wealthiest communities to pitch some tents and draw attention to housing…

  • Quebec education minister says sex-ed should be mandatory in all schools
    Published 19 October 2017, 6:06 pm

    QUEBEC — Sex education in schools is more important then ever, particularly in light of the recent sexual harassment allegations rocking Quebec's cultural industries, the province's education…

  • Quotes about Finance Minister Bill Morneau's blind trust announcement
    Published 19 October 2017, 6:01 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau promised Thursday to put his assets into a blind trust and sell of his shares in Morneau Shepell, the…

  • Report recommends Alberta add urban ridings, cut three rural seats
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:38 pm

    EDMONTON — A report is recommending that Alberta's next provincial election should be fought on a new political map that includes more urban ridings and less rural ones.…

  • Here's a look at the Trudeau government's tax-proposal adjustments
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:28 pm

    OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government announced several changes this week to the controversial suite of tax-reform proposals it introduced in July. Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the changes to…

  • A timeline of the political troubles dogging Finance Minister Bill Morneau
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:23 pm

    OTTAWA — Here is a timeline looking at Finance Minister Bill Morneau's handling of his personal assets since his appointment: Nov. 4, 2015: The newly…

  • Closing arguments end, judge reserves decision in Lindhout hostage-taking trial
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:11 pm

    OTTAWA — The fate of a Somalian man charged with holding Amanda Lindhout hostage is now in the hands of an Ontario Superior Court judge. Justice Robert…

  • Philpott vows to settle school bus dispute, but First Nations critics skeptical
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:11 pm

    OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says the Liberal government expects to reach a settlement in the "near future" with a First Nations family…

  • Under fire, Morneau to sell $21M worth of shares, put assets in blind trust
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:07 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau, under siege from relentless opposition attacks over how he handled his personal fortune when he entered government in 2015, went…

  • Ontario politicians condemn Quebec law obliging citizens to uncover their faces
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:06 pm

    TORONTO — Ontario politicians took the unusual step Thursday of using time in the legislature to unanimously condemn a law passed by Quebec that bans anyone…

  • Facebook debuts new 'email crisis line' to thwart election cyberthreats
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:01 pm

    OTTAWA — Canada's politicians will soon have a crisis line they can contact should their email accounts come under cyberattack leading up to the next…

  • The Thursday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories
    Published 19 October 2017, 4:44 pm

    Highlights from the news file for Thursday, Oct. 19 ——— FINANCE MINISTER TO PUT ASSETS INTO BLIND TRUST: Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he'll put to…

  • Millennials will have to deal with Ontario's debt unless action taken: watchdog
    Published 19 October 2017, 4:12 pm

    TORONTO — Millennials will have to foot the bill for Ontario's rising debt over the next three decades if the government doesn't hike taxes or cut…

  • Morneau promises fiscal update next week detailing state of Canada's finances
    Published 19 October 2017, 3:45 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he will deliver a fall economic update Tuesday to document the recent strong growth in the Canadian economy, but…

  • Winnie The Pooh, Ebola research and subsidies are in Manitoba's Amazon pitch
    Published 19 October 2017, 3:32 pm

    Winnipeg's bid to land the second headquarters of Amazon includes Winnie The Pooh, Ebola research and roughly $1.7 billion in tax credits and other incentives.…

  • New Brunswick Crown corporation seeks marijuana retail stores in 15 communities
    Published 19 October 2017, 2:20 pm

    FREDERICTON — New Brunswickers are getting a glimpse of how legalized marijuana may be sold in the province. Although the provincial government hasn't yet announced…

  • New Brunswick to impose new measures for drunk drivers starting November 1
    Published 19 October 2017, 1:40 pm

    FREDERICTON — New Brunswick will seize drunk drivers' cars for up to two months under a law that comes into force Nov. 1 Public Safety…

  • Trudeau campaigns with candidate in Quebec ahead of federal byelection
    Published 19 October 2017, 10:19 am

    ROBERVAL, Que. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is campaigning in Quebec today ahead of a federal byelection in the Lac-Saint-Jean riding next week. Trudeau will…

  • Indigenous leaders  urge Canadians to unite, honour Downie's legacy
    Published 19 October 2017, 9:02 am

    OTTAWA — Canadians can unite on reconciliation efforts to honour Gord Downie's legacy, Indigenous leaders said Wednesday. In the final months of his life, the Tragically…

  • Prime Minister Trudeau pays tearful tribute to Gord Downie: 'It hurts.
    Published 19 October 2017, 9:00 am

    OTTAWA — There was an uncommon slowness in Justin Trudeau's step Wednesday morning as he walked toward the weekly Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, his…

  • Finance minister followed the law, has done nothing wrong: Trudeau
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:56 am

    OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing by his embattled finance minister as he faces opposition accusations of gross conflict of interest for failing to place his…

  • Quebec changes hearings into racism, new forum will tackle 'discrimination'
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:53 am

    MONTREAL — Quebec's immigration minister announced Wednesday the government would be changing its widely criticized plan to hold public consultations on so-called systemic discrimination. Instead, minister…

  • Opposition hammers proposed changes to Access to Information law
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:52 am

    OTTAWA — Federal cabinet ministers were on the defensive Wednesday as opposition parties hammered proposed changes to the law that gives Canadians access to government…

  • Government and business not keeping up with speed of technology: report
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:52 am

    TORONTO — A new report suggests the speed of technological advances has become so rapid that it's outpacing the rate at which large Canadian businesses and government…

  • Manitoba chiefs say federal lawsuit could delay repairs to Churchill rail line
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:51 am

    WINNIPEG — The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is urging Ottawa not to throw a plan off track that could lead to the fixing of a broken rail line that services Churchill…

  • Raise age to buy cigarettes in Ontario to 21, tax them higher, report recommends
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:35 am

    TORONTO — Ontario should raise taxes on cigarettes, ban anyone under 21 from buying them and impose a levy on tobacco companies, a government-commissioned report…

  • Baloney Meter: Does the United States protect its dairy producers too?
    Published 19 October 2017, 7:30 am

    OTTAWA — "We believe it's important to point out to our U.S. friends that dairy producers in the U.S. also receive subsidies from the government,…

  • If NAFTA dies, old Canada-U.S. FTA would live on, right? Not so fast, Canada
    Published 19 October 2017, 4:00 am

    WASHINGTON — It's a refrain frequently heard in Canada: That ending NAFTA wouldn't change much in economic relations with the United States, because the countries could simply…

Read More

Four arrested during duelling Toronto protests

  • Four arrested during duelling Toronto protests
    Published 21 October 2017, 7:41 pm

    Toronto police say four people were arrested during two protests at city hall on Saturday. Police say one person was charged with assaulting a police…

  • Trudeau condemns appointment of Mugabe as WHO ambassador
    Published 21 October 2017, 4:17 pm

    EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization "unacceptable," joining a chorus…

  • Intolerance, Bombardier and taxing the rich: how politics mattered this week
    Published 21 October 2017, 7:30 am

    OTTAWA — After months spent fanning the embers of class warfare with their proposed tax reforms, this was the week when the brush fire blew back…

  • N.B. premier says mandate 'accomplished,' will meet with lieutenant-governor
    Published 20 October 2017, 7:45 pm

    FREDERICTON — The premier of New Brunswick says he's going to meet with the province's lieutenant-governor on Monday at a time when his party has "accomplished" its…

  • Feds say police cannabis testing ongoing, rules on edibles in place in one year
    Published 20 October 2017, 7:41 pm

    EDMONTON — Canada's health minister says pilot projects have begun on roadside police testing for marijuana, and the plan is to have rules in place for…

  • NAFTA: U.S. hasn't done analysis on what happens if free-trade treaty ends
    Published 20 October 2017, 6:48 pm

    WASHINGTON — American policy-makers admit they have not worked to analyze the economic impact of the end of the North American Free Trade Agreement, even…

  • Governments shouldn't tell women what to wear and what not to wear: Trudeau
    Published 20 October 2017, 6:04 pm

    ALMA, Que. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again waded into the debate on Quebec's Bill 62 on Friday, saying governments should not be telling women what to wear and what…

  • 'A sad day for Canada:' Alberta premier condemns Quebec's face-covering ban
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:42 pm

    CALGARY — Alberta's premier says Quebec legislation that bans people from providing or receiving public services with their faces covered represents a sad day for Canada. The…

  • Desmond family brings call for inquiry into military murder-suicide to Ottawa
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:32 pm

    OTTAWA — The family of an Afghan war veteran who shot and killed his mother, wife and daughter before taking his own life earlier this…

  • Student leaders ask province to intervene in college faculty strike
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:17 pm

    TORONTO — Student union leaders are calling on the Ontario government to get college administrators and striking faculty to return to the bargaining table to end a labour dispute that has seen…

  • The Friday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:14 pm

    Highlights from the news file for Friday, Oct. 20 ——— GORD DOWNIE'S FAMILY THINKING ABOUT A PUBLIC MEMORIAL: One of Gord Downie's brothers says the outpouring of…

  • Mother of missing woman says police said daughter was probably drinking
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:14 pm

    WINNIPEG — Feeling abandoned by police, the family of a Manitoba Indigenous woman who disappeared in 2008, has been digging through fields, ditches and garbage dumps for…

  • Pollution more deadly than smoking, AIDS and war, new report says
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:10 pm

    OTTAWA — Pollution kills more people around the world than war and infectious diseases, says a new report — proof, environmental lobbyists say, of why Canada needs enforceable…

  • Airbus, Bombardier plan for long C Series partnership despite take-out clause
    Published 20 October 2017, 5:10 pm

    MONTREAL — Airbus and Bombardier plan to remain strategic partners on the C Series program even after the European aerospace giant is able to buy out…

  • Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh resigns seat in Ontario legislature
    Published 20 October 2017, 4:47 pm

    TORONTO — Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has resigned his seat in Ontario's legislature. Singh, 38, had served as a member of provincial parliament since 2011,…

  • Putin brands Canada's adoption of new Magnitsky law as political gamesmanship
    Published 20 October 2017, 4:33 pm

    OTTAWA — Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Canada of playing "unconstructive political games" by passing its own Magnitsky law this week. Putin made the…

  • Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne moves to sue Opposition leader for defamation
    Published 20 October 2017, 4:16 pm

    TORONTO — Ontario's premier took another step toward a defamation lawsuit against the province's Opposition leader Friday after he refused to retract comments suggesting she is personally…

  • Morneau faces more questions despite promise to sell shares, use blind trust
    Published 20 October 2017, 3:56 pm

    OTTAWA — Cracks began to show in Bill Morneau's cucumber-cool countenance Friday as the finance minister faced still more questions about the handling of his…

  • Lobster seized at Halifax airport amid tensions over Indigenous fishery
    Published 20 October 2017, 1:39 pm

    HALIFAX — Fisheries officials have seized three tonnes of lobster amid tensions over the Indigenous fishery in Nova Scotia. The lobster was seized Monday at Halifax…

  • Judge rules Quebec is within its constitutional rights to establish gun registry
    Published 20 October 2017, 12:37 pm

    MONTREAL — Quebec's long-gun registry doesn't infringe on federal jurisdiction, says a judge who has rejected a motion seeking to see it shelved. The National Firearms Association, in conjunction…

  • Premier vows to address 'systemic racism' as N.S. releases report on inquiry
    Published 20 October 2017, 11:42 am

    HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has suffered from institutional racism, Premier Stephen McNeil acknowledged Friday as the government released a report outlining its role in an inquiry…

  • PM briefs premiers on NAFTA developments, as more ministers bound for U.S.
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:58 am

    OTTAWA — As negotiations to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement falter, the Trudeau government is expecting premiers and federal cabinet ministers to fan…

  • Trudeau says it's not up to federal government to challenge Quebec veil-ban law
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:55 am

    OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau offered relatively mild criticism on Thursday of a new Quebec law that bans people from providing or receiving public services with their…

  • Former senator, Pierre Trudeau confidant Michael Pitfield, dead at 80
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:54 am

    OTTAWA — Michael Pitfield, a former Senator and clerk of the Privy Council, has died at the age of 80. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced…

  • Celebrated Yukon First Nations leader Mike Smith has died
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:53 am

    WHITEHORSE — First Nations leader, Yukon lawyer and residential school survivor Mike Smith died Wednesday in Whitehorse. His family released a statement Thursday saying that Smith wanted…

  • Changes made to MMIW inquiry so it can hear from more families in Manitoba
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:52 am

    WINNIPEG — The national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has made changes to allow more families in Manitoba to tell their stories…

  • UBC students learn to care for Indigenous people by understanding racist legacy
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:48 am

    VANCOUVER — The University of British Columbia is on mission to train future doctors, dentists and other health-care providers to treat Indigenous patients by learning about the pain inflicted by past…

  • Lack of legal aid leaves too many defendants to represent themselves: top judge
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:47 am

    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The old adage goes something like this: a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. But…

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leads the way as Canada courts Amazon
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:47 am

    TORONTO — As Canadian cities compete with each other — and dozens of jurisdictions south of the border — for Amazon's new $5-billion headquarters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has…

  • B.C. wineries join New Brunswick beer drinker in high court scrap over trade
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:46 am

    VICTORIA — Complaints from British Columbia wine industry over interprovincial trade barriers will be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada as part of an appeal…

  • B.C.'s Greens put ride-hailing on legislature agenda with private member's bill
    Published 20 October 2017, 8:46 am

    VICTORIA — The Green party is taking its third run at bringing ride-hailing to British Columbia, tabling a private member's bill to pave the way for…

  • Airport screeners relaxing handling of passengers with medical marijuana
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:52 pm

    OTTAWA — Travellers who are prescribed marijuana for medical reasons have fewer hurdles to clear at airport screening points due to a change in policy by…

  • Health ministers looking at electronic database to fight opioid crisis
    Published 19 October 2017, 7:08 pm

    EDMONTON — Canada's health ministers are looking at ways of working together, including an electronic prescription database, to fight the growing crisis in opioid addictions. "(It's…

  • Homeless B.C. nomads pitch tents at tony Oak Bay park after week at city hall
    Published 19 October 2017, 6:19 pm

    OAK BAY, B.C. — A nomadic group of homeless people has chosen one of Canada's wealthiest communities to pitch some tents and draw attention to housing…

  • Quebec education minister says sex-ed should be mandatory in all schools
    Published 19 October 2017, 6:06 pm

    QUEBEC — Sex education in schools is more important then ever, particularly in light of the recent sexual harassment allegations rocking Quebec's cultural industries, the province's education…

  • Quotes about Finance Minister Bill Morneau's blind trust announcement
    Published 19 October 2017, 6:01 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau promised Thursday to put his assets into a blind trust and sell of his shares in Morneau Shepell, the…

  • Report recommends Alberta add urban ridings, cut three rural seats
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:38 pm

    EDMONTON — A report is recommending that Alberta's next provincial election should be fought on a new political map that includes more urban ridings and less rural ones.…

  • Here's a look at the Trudeau government's tax-proposal adjustments
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:28 pm

    OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government announced several changes this week to the controversial suite of tax-reform proposals it introduced in July. Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the changes to…

  • A timeline of the political troubles dogging Finance Minister Bill Morneau
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:23 pm

    OTTAWA — Here is a timeline looking at Finance Minister Bill Morneau's handling of his personal assets since his appointment: Nov. 4, 2015: The newly…

  • Closing arguments end, judge reserves decision in Lindhout hostage-taking trial
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:11 pm

    OTTAWA — The fate of a Somalian man charged with holding Amanda Lindhout hostage is now in the hands of an Ontario Superior Court judge. Justice Robert…

  • Philpott vows to settle school bus dispute, but First Nations critics skeptical
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:11 pm

    OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says the Liberal government expects to reach a settlement in the "near future" with a First Nations family…

  • Under fire, Morneau to sell $21M worth of shares, put assets in blind trust
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:07 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau, under siege from relentless opposition attacks over how he handled his personal fortune when he entered government in 2015, went…

  • Ontario politicians condemn Quebec law obliging citizens to uncover their faces
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:06 pm

    TORONTO — Ontario politicians took the unusual step Thursday of using time in the legislature to unanimously condemn a law passed by Quebec that bans anyone…

  • Facebook debuts new 'email crisis line' to thwart election cyberthreats
    Published 19 October 2017, 5:01 pm

    OTTAWA — Canada's politicians will soon have a crisis line they can contact should their email accounts come under cyberattack leading up to the next…

  • The Thursday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories
    Published 19 October 2017, 4:44 pm

    Highlights from the news file for Thursday, Oct. 19 ——— FINANCE MINISTER TO PUT ASSETS INTO BLIND TRUST: Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he'll put to…

  • Millennials will have to deal with Ontario's debt unless action taken: watchdog
    Published 19 October 2017, 4:12 pm

    TORONTO — Millennials will have to foot the bill for Ontario's rising debt over the next three decades if the government doesn't hike taxes or cut…

  • Morneau promises fiscal update next week detailing state of Canada's finances
    Published 19 October 2017, 3:45 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he will deliver a fall economic update Tuesday to document the recent strong growth in the Canadian economy, but…

  • Winnie The Pooh, Ebola research and subsidies are in Manitoba's Amazon pitch
    Published 19 October 2017, 3:32 pm

    Winnipeg's bid to land the second headquarters of Amazon includes Winnie The Pooh, Ebola research and roughly $1.7 billion in tax credits and other incentives.…

  • New Brunswick Crown corporation seeks marijuana retail stores in 15 communities
    Published 19 October 2017, 2:20 pm

    FREDERICTON — New Brunswickers are getting a glimpse of how legalized marijuana may be sold in the province. Although the provincial government hasn't yet announced…

  • New Brunswick to impose new measures for drunk drivers starting November 1
    Published 19 October 2017, 1:40 pm

    FREDERICTON — New Brunswick will seize drunk drivers' cars for up to two months under a law that comes into force Nov. 1 Public Safety…

  • Trudeau campaigns with candidate in Quebec ahead of federal byelection
    Published 19 October 2017, 10:19 am

    ROBERVAL, Que. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is campaigning in Quebec today ahead of a federal byelection in the Lac-Saint-Jean riding next week. Trudeau will…

  • Indigenous leaders  urge Canadians to unite, honour Downie's legacy
    Published 19 October 2017, 9:02 am

    OTTAWA — Canadians can unite on reconciliation efforts to honour Gord Downie's legacy, Indigenous leaders said Wednesday. In the final months of his life, the Tragically…

  • Prime Minister Trudeau pays tearful tribute to Gord Downie: 'It hurts.
    Published 19 October 2017, 9:00 am

    OTTAWA — There was an uncommon slowness in Justin Trudeau's step Wednesday morning as he walked toward the weekly Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, his…

  • Finance minister followed the law, has done nothing wrong: Trudeau
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:56 am

    OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing by his embattled finance minister as he faces opposition accusations of gross conflict of interest for failing to place his…

  • Quebec changes hearings into racism, new forum will tackle 'discrimination'
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:53 am

    MONTREAL — Quebec's immigration minister announced Wednesday the government would be changing its widely criticized plan to hold public consultations on so-called systemic discrimination. Instead, minister…

  • Opposition hammers proposed changes to Access to Information law
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:52 am

    OTTAWA — Federal cabinet ministers were on the defensive Wednesday as opposition parties hammered proposed changes to the law that gives Canadians access to government…

  • Government and business not keeping up with speed of technology: report
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:52 am

    TORONTO — A new report suggests the speed of technological advances has become so rapid that it's outpacing the rate at which large Canadian businesses and government…

  • Manitoba chiefs say federal lawsuit could delay repairs to Churchill rail line
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:51 am

    WINNIPEG — The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is urging Ottawa not to throw a plan off track that could lead to the fixing of a broken rail line that services Churchill…

  • Raise age to buy cigarettes in Ontario to 21, tax them higher, report recommends
    Published 19 October 2017, 8:35 am

    TORONTO — Ontario should raise taxes on cigarettes, ban anyone under 21 from buying them and impose a levy on tobacco companies, a government-commissioned report…

  • Baloney Meter: Does the United States protect its dairy producers too?
    Published 19 October 2017, 7:30 am

    OTTAWA — "We believe it's important to point out to our U.S. friends that dairy producers in the U.S. also receive subsidies from the government,…

  • If NAFTA dies, old Canada-U.S. FTA would live on, right? Not so fast, Canada
    Published 19 October 2017, 4:00 am

    WASHINGTON — It's a refrain frequently heard in Canada: That ending NAFTA wouldn't change much in economic relations with the United States, because the countries could simply…

  • Quebec lawmakers pass controversial law obliging citizens to uncover their faces
    Published 18 October 2017, 7:08 pm

    MONTREAL — Calling it a North American first, the Quebec government passed legislation Wednesday forbidding anyone from receiving or giving a public service with their face covered…

  • Alberta to install body scanner to help protect staff, inmates at Edmonton jail
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:41 pm

    EDMONTON — Alberta government and union officials hope a body scanner will help protect inmates and guards at the province's largest jail. The machine, which can detect weapons and illegal drugs,…

  • Radon tests to be required for Yukon day homes, child care centres: territory
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:39 pm

    WHITEHORSE — The Yukon government will make radon testing a licensing requirement for new and existing child care centres and day homes in the territory.…

  • Canada passes Magnitsky human rights law, sparking Russian threats
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:36 pm

    OTTAWA — Russia is accusing Canada of causing irreparable harm to their relations after Parliament formally passed the so-called Magnitsky Act targeting the actions of gross human…

  • QuickQuotes on Quebec's religious neurality law
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:34 pm

    MONTREAL — The Quebec national assembly passed a religious neutrality bill Wednesday that will oblige citizens to uncover their faces while giving and receiving state services. Some quotes on…

  • Canada's hostile regulatory environment costing energy investments: report
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:19 pm

    OTTAWA — Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says the federal cabinet was never going to include downstream emissions as a factor when it reviewed the application…

  • Health ministers to talk cannabis, opioids during two-day meeting in Edmonton
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:19 pm

    EDMONTON — The health implications of legalized cannabis and ways to combat Canada's rising opioid problem are on the agenda when health ministers meet this…

  • Religious language in Criminal Code too narrow, says Wilson-Raybould
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:12 pm

    OTTAWA — Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the fact that it is against the law to disrupt a clergyman or minister — but not an imam or…

  • Prosecution says accused Lindhout kidnapper is lying to court about his role
    Published 18 October 2017, 6:00 pm

    OTTAWA — A Somalian man has lied repeatedly in court about his role in the kidnapping of Amanda Lindhout, a federal lawyer says. Prosecutor Croft Michaelson contended Wednesday…

  • Canada's original NAFTA negotiator: Not 'end of world' if NAFTA ends
    Published 18 October 2017, 5:38 pm

    WASHINGTON — Canada's chief negotiator for the original NAFTA says it would not be the end of the world if the agreement disappeared, suggesting it might…

  • The Wednesday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories
    Published 18 October 2017, 5:31 pm

    Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, Oct. 18 ——— GORD DOWNIE DEAD AT 53: Gord Downie, the poetic lead singer of the Tragically Hip whose…

  • Alberta says Health Canada approves safe injection sites in Edmonton, Lethbridge
    Published 18 October 2017, 4:53 pm

    Edmonton and Lethbridge are the first cities in Alberta to get Health Canada approval to offer safe injection sites for opioid drugs. Alberta Associate Health Minister…

  • Industry may face new costs over methane cuts after high emissions reading
    Published 18 October 2017, 4:46 pm

    EDMONTON — Canada's energy producers say they remain committed to targeted cuts of a potent greenhouse gas, even after a study suggesting those reductions may have…

  • Here are five things to know about Finance Minister Bill Morneau's wealth
    Published 18 October 2017, 4:44 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau's credibility has come under attack for his decision not to put his substantial assets in a blind trust after…

  • Nova Scotia trying new approach to get more doctors to work in the province
    Published 18 October 2017, 4:19 pm

    HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is trying a new, two-pronged approach to attracting doctors, following up on a pledge from Premier Stephen McNeil after voters sent a…

  • Ontario says Quebec law on religious neutrality violates charter rights
    Published 18 October 2017, 3:30 pm

    TORONTO — A new Quebec law on religious neutrality runs contrary to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and will lead to legal challenges, Ontario's Liberal government…

  • Clock ticking on U.S. offer for Boeing-made Super Hornet fighters
    Published 18 October 2017, 3:16 pm

    OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has until the end of the year to decide on an offer for Super Hornet fighter jets, which remain on…

  • Feds scale back contentious tax proposal in bid to calm business owners
    Published 18 October 2017, 2:19 pm

    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau has scaled back one of the most contentious elements of the Trudeau government's tax-reform plan in yet another effort to calm infuriated small business owners. The move…

  • Big elevator companies blast Ontario bill, safety agency in new report
    Published 18 October 2017, 1:28 pm

    TORONTO — Canada's major elevator companies, which have come under scrutiny for breakdowns and delayed repairs, are warning that proposed Ontario legislation aimed at enhancing reliability of the devices…

  • Canada heartened by new congressional research report on NAFTA: source
    Published 18 October 2017, 4:30 am

    OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is taking a measure of comfort in a new report by the U.S. Congress that casts doubt on one of Donald…

  • Marijuana rules will be 'a work in progress,' Vancouver councillor
    Published 18 October 2017, 4:00 am

    VANCOUVER — The looming deadline for legalized marijuana has local governments in British Columbia crafting wish lists for provincial legislation, from where pot should be grown to…

  • Ethics watchdog says blind trust for Morneau's assets 'not required'
    Published 17 October 2017, 11:17 pm

    OTTAWA — The federal ethics watchdog confirmed Tuesday that she advised Finance Minister Bill Morneau there was no need to put his substantial assets in a…

  • NAFTA tensions erupt: Countries admit talks struggling, push deadline into 2018
    Published 17 October 2017, 9:47 pm

    WASHINGTON — The NAFTA countries haven't broken up. But they are publicly bickering. They are delaying their next get-together date. And they appear to have…

  • Alberta gets first woman chief justice of Court of Queen's Bench
    Published 17 October 2017, 12:01 pm

    EDMONTON — A woman has been appointed for the first time as chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has…

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News in Brief 17 October 2017 (PM)

17 Oct 2017

Listen /

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Manuel Elias (file)

UN chief urges unity on International Day to eradicate poverty

People worldwide are being urged to unite and stamp out poverty.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres made the appeal in a video message issued on Tuesday, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Mr Guterres said it was an occasion to stand in solidarity with the 800 million globally who are living in poverty.

Many more are being threatened by other challenges such as unemployment, inequality, conflict and the effects of climate change, he added.

However, the UN chief said there has been remarkable progress made in eradicating poverty since 1990.

He described the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by world leaders two years ago, as "our plan to take a different course."

The development plan includes objectives aimed at securing a healthy planet and building peaceful, inclusive societies.

"Its pledge to leave no one behind will require innovative approaches, partnerships and solutions, and that means addressing the root causes of poverty in order to eradicate it entirely. It means listening to the views and guidance of people living in poverty and acting together with them. Let us join hands to stop poverty altogether in dignity."

UN political chief meets with Myanmar officials on Rohingya exodus

The head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs has met with senior officials in Myanmar to discuss the situation in Rakhine State and the plight of hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge in nearby Bangladesh.

Jeffrey Feltman concluded a five-day mission to the country on Tuesday, which included meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi, and the chief of the army.

More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in northern Rakhine State since late August, following attacks on security positions and subsequent military action.

Mr Feltman reiterated the UN Secretary-General's call that aid workers be given full and unhindered access to the state, and that refugees be allowed voluntary, safe and dignified return to their place of origin.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric has more details on the political chief's visit.

"In northern Rakhine State, Mr. Feltman saw dozens of burned and destroyed villages by air and visited several communities affected by the recent violence. He also visited internally displaced persons' camps outside Sittwe, that were set up in 2012. He saw how, in addition to the documented endemic discrimination against the Rohingya population, socio-economic challenges adversely affect all communities in Rakhine State.”

Syria: UN stands ready to support Raqqa

The United Nations stands ready to support civilians in Syria's Raqqa city which has finally been liberated from the terrorist group, ISIL, according to news reports, following a four-month-long battle.

A US-backed coalition of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters announced on Tuesday that it had captured the northern city, which had been held by the extremists for three years.

Here's UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric again.

"We are aware of reports that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have taken full control of Raqqa city, with the last remaining civilians evacuated in the past few days. The UN, however, is not in a position to verify first-hand the situation in the city due to lack of access, but we have received reports that much of the city has been damaged or destroyed due to the fighting. We are closely monitoring the situation and stand by to deliver life-saving assistance to those in need as soon as access is granted and security conditions permit it."

Zimbabwe school wins UN-backed sustainable development prize

A school in an arid area of Zimbabwe that has been transformed into an "oasis" featuring a rehabilitated forest, fruit trees, edible garden and livestock, has been awarded a UN-backed sustainable development prize.

The Sihlengeni Primary School was announced the winner on Tuesday of the 2017 UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) thanks to its longstanding permaculture project.

Permaculture is a form of agriculture that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings in order to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems, according to UNESCO, the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Students, teachers and parents at the school plant exotic and indigenous trees, grass, millet and maize.

They have also implemented measures to mitigate land degradation and deforestation, in addition to rehabilitating a forest and raising chickens and pigs.

Some of the food produced is used to feed infants while the rest is sold locally.

Natalie Hutchison, United Nations.

Duration: 4’16″

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Access to Quality Health Care, Education Vital for Improving Children’s Well-Being, Speakers Stress as Third Committee Concludes Debate

Governments around the world were focused on improving access to quality education and health care for children and adolescents to ensure they reached their full potential, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as they concluded discussion on children’s rights.

Indeed, children’s fundamental freedoms could be best protected by ensuring their education and health care needs were met, said Bangladesh’s delegate, who noted that children at all educational levels in his country were provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year.  The education system also had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.

Similarly, Bhutan’s delegate said children were provided free education up to the tenth grade, while in Ukraine, a law on inclusive education ensured all Ukrainian children had access to high-quality education, said that country’s representative.

Efforts to boost education had borne fruit, several said, with South Africa’s delegate noting that 98 per cent of girls were enrolled in school.  Rwanda’s delegate said primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ 96.5 per cent rate higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys.  Overall, primary school completion in Rwanda was 76 per cent.  In Indonesia, said that country’s delegate, a Child Labour Reduction Program focused on education and vocational training had led to 49 children returning to school.

In terms of child health, there had also been gains.  El Salvador’s representative said a comprehensive child health care policy had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and reduced parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS.  In Thailand, meanwhile, particular attention had been paid to achieving universal health coverage, said that country’s delegate, with a grant introduced to help poor families with new-born children.  Libya’s representative likewise stressed that, despite instability, his country was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.

Speakers also underscored that education and health care policies must be inclusive to meet children’s varying needs.  The Dominican Republic’s delegate highlighted the establishment of a centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome.  “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he said.  Echoing this sentiment, Tonga’s delegate added that every child, including those with disabilities, had the right to education. 

Children also deserved access to social services regardless of their nationality, speakers noted.  The representative of the United Arab Emirates said immunizations were offered to Yemeni children who had been affected by conflict.  Spain’s delegate added that child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens.

However, the Republic of Korea’s delegate pointed out, girls often lacked access to healthcare and education.  Adolescent girls left school much earlier than their male counterparts.  Girls also suffered disproportionate violence, and lacked access to health care and nutrition.  It was well documented that societies which empowered girls through education achieved better results in every area of development, she observed.

Also speaking were representatives of Botswana, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Kazakhstan, China, Georgia, Kuwait, Turkey, Nigeria, Maldives, Pakistan,

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African Delegates Press for Greater Regional Cooperation in Efforts to Resolve Western Sahara Question, as Fourth Committee Continues Decolonization Debate

Delegates from several African countries called for greater regional cooperation in the peaceful resolution of the Western Sahara question today, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization.

Senegal’s representative said that Security Council resolution 2351 (2017) had established a correlation between a negotiated solution to the dispute and the reinvigoration of cooperation among countries of the Arab Maghreb region.  As such, there was great potential that a settlement in Western Sahara would lead to solutions to other regional challenges, including terrorism, organized trans-boundary crimes and irregular migration, among others, he noted.

Burkina Faso’s representative agreed that the final resolution of the Western Sahara question would allow the region to tackle counter-terrorism, adding that Western Sahara represented a regional dispute and thus sought cooperation with other countries in the region.

Kenya’s representative stressed that Africa’s decolonization remained a top priority, noting that various regional organizations had clearly expressed their position on self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.  Kenya urged the international community to lend its full support to African efforts to overcome impediments to the process in Western Sahara, she said, underlining that both Morocco and Western Sahara were members of the African Union and must engage in direct talks.

Also drawing attention to regional efforts, South Africa’s representative highlighted the African Union’s strong commitment to the decolonization of Western Sahara with its appointment of Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of Mozambique, as the bloc’s Special Envoy for Western Sahara.  He recalled that the African Union had made a decision in 2015 calling on the General Assembly to determine a date for holding the referendum in the Territory.

Ahmed Boukhari, representative of the Frente Polisario, said the organization had always had a clear position governed by the principle of self-determination, which was the same as that of the United Nations and the African Union.  The continued occupation of Western Sahara was a slap in the face of the credibility of the United Nations, but today, the Secretary-General wished the peace process to resume and had chosen a new Personal Envoy, he said, adding that Polisario was resolved to work cooperatively with him.

Also speaking today were representatives of Togo, Peru, Gabon, France, Central African Republic, New Zealand, Benin, Tonga, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Mexico, Mauritius, China, Nigeria, Mozambique, Uganda, Saint Lucia, Lesotho, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Venezuela and Namibia.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the United Kingdom, Argentina and Spain.

Petitioners on Western Sahara also addressed the Committee.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, to continue the decolonization general debate.

General Debate

KOKOU KPAYEDO (Togo) expressed regret that the different parties to the “thorny” conflict over Western Sahara had not reached agreement.  Emphasizing that negotiation was the only realistic way forward, he said Morocco’s initiative to grant Western Sahara broad autonomy was a constructive step towards a resolution of the dispute and represented a middle ground between the two sides.  He welcomed Morocco’s spirit of compromise, its efforts to develop the region and its progress on human rights.  Municipal elections in 2015 had been held without incident, he noted.  He called for a census in the Tindouf camps, in accordance with the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report.  Underlining the vital need to end the conflict, he pointed out that it posed the risk of tragic consequences for the Sahrawi people and was also preventing regional development at the risk of instability.  Settlement of the Western Sahara question would also require improved relations between Morocco and Algeria, he stressed, calling for dialogue between those countries.

FRANCISCO TENYA HASEGAWA (Peru), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American nations (UNASUR), pointed out that more than half a century since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 1514 on granting independence to colonial countries, more than 80 territories had won independence.  However, 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained, he said, calling upon the United Nations to reverse that unjust reality.  Decisive political will was essential, he added, emphasizing that the administering Powers must cooperate with the Committee and ensure the sustained growth of colonized Territories.  He went on to voice support for Argentina’s sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands*, declaring: “There is no possible solution to resolve the Malvinas problem except through the involved parties.”

LILLY STELLA NGYEMA NDONG (Gabon) reaffirmed her delegation’s support for the political process in Western Sahara, welcoming the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General and his Sahara Envoy.  She also commended the Moroccan autonomy initiative, saying it had the potential to end the impasse and allow for a final settlement.  “We need to take up all the political initiatives,” she said, emphasizing the role of regional countries in maintaining stability and security in the Sahel region.

ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal), calling for a new approach to the Western Sahara question, pointed out that the Security Council considered Morocco’s autonomy proposal a serious and credible option.  That initiative had been put together in 

good faith and constituted an appropriate framework for a solution to the regional dispute.  He asked neighbouring countries to make their contribution as part of the United Nations process.  Noting that Security Council resolution 2351 (2017) had established a correlation between a negotiated solution and the reinvigoration of cooperation between the countries of the Arab Maghreb region, he said that, as such, there was great potential that a settlement in Western Sahara would lead to solutions to other regional challenges, including terrorism, organized transboundary crimes and irregular migration, among others.

JACQUES LAPOUGE (France) said his country had cooperated fully with the United Nations on New Caledonia.  Earlier in the year, a United Nations mission had set out to observe the review of the special electoral list for the Territory’s provinces and congress as well as its efforts to establish a special electoral list for consultations.  The French authorities had read the mission’s report closely, and had encouraged and freely administered many of its recommendations concerning Caledonian local government.  Looking ahead to the coming weeks, he said that if a political accord was reached on the matter of electoral list inscriptions, the complementary review period could be longer than it had been in previous years, increasing the availability of United Nations teams.  France wished to play the role of arbitrator in the situation, rebalancing the local government situation while taking local culture into account, he said.  Recalling that the Nouméa Accord had set out a new division of competencies, he said that, accordingly, the gradually ascending competencies granted to the government of New Caledonia gave it the means to act within a legislative framework.  “In short, New Caledonia is sovereign,” he added.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) expressed regret that 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories still did not possess the right to self-determination, noting that the people of Western Sahara had been waiting for decades to exercise that right.  In August, the Secretary-General had launched a negotiation process between the parties and appointed a new Personal Envoy, he recalled, expressing hope that he would receive the support required to achieve a peaceful and lasting solution.  The African Union remained strongly committed to the Territory’s decolonization with its appointment of Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of Mozambique, as Special Envoy for Western Sahara, he said, recalling also that in 2015, the regional bloc had made a decision calling on the General Assembly to determine a date for holding a referendum in Western Sahara.

AMBROISINE KPONGO (Central African Republic) said it was unacceptable that some were still fighting for their independence more than 70 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  “We seek emancipation for the countries and Territories still under colonization,” she said, while emphasizing that it would be wise to avoid radical positions with unknown impacts.  Spotlighting Morocco’s economic investment in Western Sahara, and the holding of democratic and free processes, she welcomed its “serious and credible” efforts and expressed support for the processes under way at the United Nations for the autonomy of Western Sahara.  “All parties must be realistic and show compromise,” she said, adding that resolving the long-standing dispute called for greater cooperation among neighbouring countries.  Reiterating the African position, she said all must be done to ensure that the continent was not fragmented by external forces.  She also reiterated the need to address the plight of refugees and ensure their human rights were protected.

CRAIG JOHN HAWKE (New Zealand), underscoring his country’s commitment to its relationship with Tokelau, said it was guided “by the pace that Tokelau alone sets as it develops towards the future of its choosing”.  In the Territory’s last referendum on its relationship with New Zealand, in 2006-2007, the majority required for Tokelau to become a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand had not been met, he recalled.  While self-determination efforts were now paused, Tokelau continued to strive to improve its capacity and confidence in governing and managing its own affairs.  That was the best preparation for any future discussion of self-determination, he said, noting that Tokelau had built its own international profile in multilateral meetings on climate change.  New Zealand would support such efforts “as long as Tokelau wishes us to”.

JEAN-CLAUDE DO REGO (Benin) said that a consensual settlement must remain focused on ensuring greater stability in the Maghreb region.  Expressing support for any Security Council initiative laying out a timetable for the political process, he emphasized, however, that no initiative would succeed without a spirit of compromise on the part of all involved.  They must come to the table in order to secure a sustainable peace, he added.

MAHE ‘U.S. TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said any compromise must be realistic, fair and in accordance with Security Council resolutions.  The Committee was currently at an important juncture in relation to the long-standing issue, he said, urging all involved to make important contributions to the United Nations led process in order to ensure the realization of a political solution.  Human rights and economic and social development must be guaranteed, he added.

AHMED ABDELRAHMAN AHMED ALMAHMOUD (United Arab Emirates) emphasized his country’s support for Morocco’s territorial integrity and for the kingdom’s efforts to reach a solution.  Noting that Security Council resolution 2351 (2017) described Morocco’s autonomy plan as serious and credible, he welcomed the kingdom’s efforts to develop Western Sahara, including through the new development model recently launched for the southern provinces.  It was important to enhance cooperation among members of the Arab Maghreb to ensure regional stability, he added.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras), associating herself with CELAC, stressed the need for ongoing dialogue among administering Powers, the Special Committee and the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Concerning the Malvinas Islands question, she emphasized Argentina’s legitimate rights to that Territory, urging renewed efforts for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.  She said her delegation had demonstrated its support for Argentina on various occasions, recognizing that country’s sovereign right to the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  She reiterated that all Latin America supported Argentina’s claim.

RODOLFO FLORENTINO DÍAZ ORTEGA (Mexico) said that throughout the years, the United Nations had ensured that more than 80 colonies achieved independence.  However, it was important to remember that “colonialism is not over”, and that championing the principles of the United Nations Charter was a collective responsibility of the Organization.  Mexico reaffirmed its support for efforts to find a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the dispute over Western Sahara, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, he said, expressing support for the holding of a referendum that would determine the future of the Sahrawi people.  He called for efforts to ensure that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) continued to carry out its mandate fully and effectively.  On the Malvinas issue, he urged Argentina and the United Kingdom to seek a peaceful, fair and definitive solution to their dispute, and to avoid taking unilateral actions that could undermine prior agreements.

JAGDISH D KOONJUL (Mauritius) said no progress would be made unless the administering Powers dedicated themselves to the decolonization process.  An end to the suffering of the Sahrawi people was long overdue.  “We must ensure that the situation does not escalate into violence,” he stressed, pointing out that economic integration of North Africa had been delayed due to the situation in Western Sahara.  MINURSO must be free to carry out its mandate to organize the self-determination referendum, he said.  Since it was the General Assembly’s responsibility to complete the decolonization process, it would benefit from an advisory board of the International Court of Justice in relation to the legal consequences of the purported excision of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, he said, encouraging all Member States to participate in that process in support of completing the decolonization of Mauritius.

CHENG LIE (China) said the Non-Self-Governing Territories represented the legacy of Western colonialism.  While the Third International Decade for the Eradication for Colonialism was making progress, 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, he observed.  China supported the efforts of those Territories towards exercising the right to self-determination.  On the question of the Malvinas Islands, he said China supported Argentina’s rights, and called upon the parties concerned to engage in peaceful dialogue and negotiations towards finding a just, lasting and acceptable solution for all.

YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso) welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 2351 (2017) extending the mandate of MINURSO until April 2018 for the purpose of holding a referendum, saying that confirmed the Council’s firm will to help the parties reach a solution.  He said Burkina Faso supported the process under the auspices of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, noting that Western Sahara represented a regional dispute, and thus sought cooperation with other countries in the region.  In the context of counter-terrorism, he said a final resolution of the Western Sahara question would allow the region to tackle that problem as well.

HUSSEIN ABDULLAH (Nigeria) expressed regret at the continued existence of Non-Self-governing Territories that faced the challenge of exercising the right to self-determination.  “As new conflicts emerge, we must not lose focus on ongoing, unresolved old conflicts,” he said, noting that Western Sahara remained a Non-Self-Governing Territory even 40 years after the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justices on that issue.  The question of a homeland for the Palestinian people and the quest for a free and impartial self-determination referendum for the Sahrawi people were among the most urgent tasks on the United Nations agenda, he emphasized, calling on the Organization to set a date for the referendum.  “This Committee would be shirking its responsibilities if it fails to prick the conscience of the nations of the world to stand up,” he said.

CARLOS COSTA (Mozambique) said it was imperative to intensify efforts to end colonialism in all its forms.  Expressing great concern over the expansion of Israeli settlements, he called upon the international community to advance concrete actions for the attainment of a durable two-State solution to the question of Palestine.  Concrete action must also be taken to ensure that the people of Western Sahara could exercise their right to self-determination through implementation of the referendum and other elements of the relevant United Nations resolutions.  Lesotho welcomed Morocco’s re-entry into the African Union family, which could provide an additional avenue to the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, he said.

KINTU NYAGO (Uganda) reaffirmed his country’s support for the principle of self-determination.  “As we debate this today, many people still live under the bondage of colonization,” he said.  The issue of Western Sahara remained very much one of occupation and colonization in Africa, and Uganda was committed to the holding of a free and fair referendum as well as the total decolonization of the continent.  Morocco’s recent rejoining of the African Union offered an opportunity to resolve the Western Sahara issue.  Noting the Security Council’s call for a relaunch of the political process in a new dynamic spirit, he welcomed the appointment of the Personal Envoy for Western Sahara and urged him to establish time-bound negotiations between Polisario and Morocco.

COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia) drew attention to the torrential rains, massive destruction and tragic loss of life suffered recently by Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories including Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, United States Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Voicing his country’s solidarity with their peoples, he said the task of recovery and reconstruction would be daunting and external assistance would be required.  The annual resolutions on assistance in the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council would be of special importance.  Recalling the role of the United Nations in his own country’s self-determination process, he expressed concern that the same promise remained unfulfilled for many others, especially small island Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific.  The process had remained “virtually static” for more than a quarter of a century, he said, calling upon the Secretary-General to identify specifically that lack of implementation and take appropriate measures to move the process forward.

KELEBONE MAOPE (Lesotho) said colonialism violated the human rights of the colonized, and it would be in the best interest of humanity to implement the decolonization Declaration as part of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.  He reiterated the call to end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations, including through negotiations on Western Sahara.  To that end, he expressed support for Western Sahara’s struggle for self-determination, emphasizing:  “Denial of this fundamental right will remain a source of conflict until independence is attained.”

MOHAMED CHERIF DIALLO (Guinea) said the question of Western Sahara must be resolved through a political and constructive dialogue.  Morocco’s autonomy initiative had the merit of transcending traditional positions, and it could also be instrumental in the holding of fair and free local and regional elections.  He noted with concern the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the refugee camps, emphasizing the importance of ensuring the protection of their human rights.

FREDERICK M SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern that all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Western Sahara question had failed so far.  Noting that most of the Sahrawi people were subjected to severe poverty and forced to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, he said the refugees looked to the international community for assistance.  Zimbabwe supported self-determination for the people of Western Sahara as well as fair and transparent dialogue.  Pointing out that MINURSO was mandated to ensure a free and fair referendum, he said:  “The people of Western Sahara are still waiting.”  He expressed support for the African Union’s call for immediate and direct talks between the two sides.

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya) said her country’s long struggle for national liberation from colonialism had set a strong foundation for its foreign policy orientation.  Kenya’s architects had underscored the link between national independence and humanity’s right to a shared heritage.  Africa’s decolonization remained a top priority, she said, noting that various regional organizations had clearly expressed their position on the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, and those of the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean.  “Western Sahara is still colonized because it is rich in natural resources,” she said, adding that the prevailing deadlock in the peace process only heightened tensions in the Territory.  Kenya urged the international community to lend its full support to African efforts to overcome impediments to the process in Western Sahara, she said, underlining that both Morocco and West Sahara were members of the African Union and must engage in direct talks.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said administering Powers had responsibilities under the Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  As such, they should develop time-bound work programmes on a case-by-case basis, in regular compliance with their reporting obligations.  He highlighted the need for educational and training assistance for students in those Territories, expressing appreciation for Member States that made scholarships available to them and requesting that others follow suit.

AMADU KOROMA (Sierra Leone) observed that the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would end soon, but progress towards the goals set out in its programme of action was not encouraging.  Recalling that efforts had been made in previous years to forge a closer working relationship between the administering Powers and the Special Committee on Decolonization, he encouraged the administering Powers to provide information on the socioeconomic situation in the Territories, and to cooperate with visiting missions so that Special Committee members could receive information on the actual situation on the ground.  Concerning Western Sahara, he said that his delegation fully supported the ongoing process.  As for New Caledonia, the 2018 referendum would be crucial, he said, emphasizing that the problems of the electoral list must be settled amicably before the voting process.

INTISAR NASSER MOHAMMED ABDULLAH (Yemen) said her country supported the aspirations of Territories to independence, commending the work of the Special Committee on Decolonization towards that end.  Regarding Western Sahara, she said all relevant Security Council resolutions must be implemented and Morocco’s efforts to reach a solution must be supported.  She also highlighted Israeli settlement activities, stressing that they were the source of conflict in the Middle East.

Right of Reply

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in regards to a 3 October statement on Gibraltar, said the Territory’s people enjoyed the right to self-determination, a constitution supported by the referendum, and a vigorous political life.  The United Kingdom refuted allegations that it was illegally occupying the waters surrounding Gibraltar, she said, underlining that the State, which was sovereign over the land, was also sovereign over the waters.  Concerning taxation in the Territory’s, she said Gibraltar maintained a fair tax system and was in compliance with all legal European Union directives.  As for claims of cigarette smuggling through Gibraltar, she recalled the European Commission’s efforts to address that issue and Gibraltar’s commitment to work with partners, including its counterparts in Spain.

In response to the delegations of Peru, Mexico, Honduras and China regarding the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, she reiterated that the United Kingdom harboured no doubt about its sovereignty over the Territory.

The representative of Argentina, in right of reply, recalled that the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas were a part of Argentina, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.  That was recognized by various international organizations, and the illegal occupation had led the United Nations to adopt various resolutions on the matter, he said.  All those resolutions recognized Argentina’s jurisdiction over the Malvinas, she pointed out, emphasizing also that the interests of the Territory’s people as well as their lifestyle were monitored and guaranteed under the Argentine Constitution.

The representative of Spain, speaking in right of reply in response to the United Kingdom, said the Treaty of Utrecht governed the question of Gibraltar.  Under that agreement, the waters fell under Spanish sovereignty and had never been ceded.  Therefore, the United Kingdom was illegally occupying the isthmus of Gibraltar.  She noted that there were no agreements between the European Union and Gibraltar on tax matters since Spain was a member of that bloc.  Spain was a democratic State governed by the rule of law, she said, describing the referendum said to have taken place in Catalonia as illegal.  Spain protected the rights of all citizens, and its police and Civil Guard responded to orders from the courts and judicial system to ensure legality and respect for all Spaniards.  If there had been excesses, that would be up to the courts to determine.

The representative of Algeria said the daily press releases were not reflecting the Committee’s discussions, recalling that his delegation and others had raised that issue in the past.  The matter had been raised during an informal meeting on the revitalization of the General Assembly.  At that time, lack of resources had been blamed, but considering the situation today, that seemed not to be the case.  The names of people who had not yet addressed the Committee were included in the press release, he said.  If that was a mistake, it was unjustifiable, he stressed.  He asked the Department of Public Information not to deviate from its objective, and the Secretariat to shed light on the reasons for what was happening.  He also asked for formal apologies and corrections.  What happened in the meeting must be faithfully reflected in the releases, he said, emphasizing that a representative of the Department of Public Information must appear before the Committee to explain the issue.

The Chair said he shared the delegate’s disappointment and anger, adding that the Secretariat and the Department of Public Information must clarify what had happened and provide an apology in an information note, as well as with an appearance before the Committee.

A Secretariat official apologized on behalf of the Fourth Committee Secretariat, saying it was following up with the Department of Public Information, and that a correction was being posted.

The representative of Algeria said the apology must not be directed to his delegation but to the entire Committee.

Petitioners on Western Sahara

NAVJOT KAUR, Chief of Staff, Young Progressives of America, said that building walls to keep people out instead of welcoming them in was cruel.  While Morocco had divided the Sahrawi, they refused to accept violations of their human rights.  Recalling former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s 2014 visit to the Territory, she said that during the visit he had noted the anger of the people who had lived there for more than 40 years and felt the world had forgotten their cause.  Indeed, they had every right to be angry because no progress had been made, she said, expressing hope that more would be achieved under the new Secretary-General.  However, the absence of cooperation from Morocco and its refusal to give the Sahrawi the freedom they deserved was concerning.  Both the European Union and the African Union were in support of the Sahrawi, and neighbouring countries around Morocco continued to accept refugees, she said, strongly urging the United Nations to resolve the decades-long dispute.

SILVIA BOAVENTURA, Justice for Western Sahara, said the people of Western Sahara were still waiting for freedom since Spain had occupied the Territory and then illegally transferred it to Morocco.  Those who lived under the violent and abusive Moroccan occupation could not live free, and the occupation authorities did not offer proper health care, education and other basic services, in contravention of human rights, she said.  The occupation had also built a large wall guarded by heavily armed guards.  “It is a war zone,” she said, adding that Morocco continued to unlawfully exploit both the people and their natural resources.  Many companies around the world did business with Moroccan firms benefitting from those resources, and the silence from the United Nations, other countries and the media and showed a lack of interest in the issue.  The United Nations must help the Sahrawi people’s pursuit of self-government, she stressed, calling for an end to the occupation.

FERAT AHMED BABA DIH, PhD student and adjunct instructor, New York University, said she was a refugee born in the camps, and outlined the history of the Sahrawi people, saying they still had a strong sense of belonging with a Territory “that is still their own”.  Noting that 2017 marked the forty-second anniversary of the Madrid Accord, which had been followed by the war between Spanish forces and the Polisario Front, she said many Sahrawi had been tortured or killed and those who had escaped had fled to Algeria’s Tindouf region where they remained to the present day.  In Western Sahara, the occupation continued, based on the idea that the Territory was a fundamental part of Morocco, and police brutality against the people was common.  She called upon the Government of Morocco to end its occupation and on the international community to “stop listening passively to our demands”.

AHMED BOUKHARI, representative of the Frente Polisario, said the continued occupation of Western Sahara was a slap in the face of the credibility of the United Nations.  Dozens of political prisoners languished in Moroccan jails as that country plundered the Territory’s natural resources, bringing drugs and instability to the region.  He recalled that after the agreement to hold a referendum, MINURSO had been established to organize it, but Morocco had unilaterally broken off its commitment and had been sabotaging the peace process ever since.  In August 2016, the kingdom had violated the terms of the ceasefire by trying to build a road in Guerguerat, which had almost led to violent conflict, he recalled.  Noting that today the Secretary-General wanted the peace process to resume and had chosen a new Personal Envoy, he said Polisario was resolved to cooperate with him, because it had always had a clear position, governed by the principle of self-determination, which was the same as that of the United Nations and the African Union.  The question was one of decolonization, he stressed.

The representative of Venezuela asked for greater detail on the occupying Power’s exploitation of natural resources in the Territory and how it affected Western Sahara’s capacity to develop in the future once the issue had been resolved.

The representative of Namibia said her country contributed aid for the refugee camps, and asked for information about accusations that it had been sold.  She asked what measures were in place to ensure that aid reached the refugees.

Mr. BOUKHARI said natural resources constituted one of the main reasons for the occupation, estimating that Morocco made between $7 and $12 million a year from the Territory’s resources.

Responding to Namibia’s representative, he said there had been no report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in Tindouf or any other camp.  Instead a visiting woman accompanied by a French deputy had given information to the press.  Basically, the information was false, he said.

The representative of South Africa asked how the referendum would unfold.

The representative of Morocco, on a point of order, asked about the system for asking questions and responding within a time limit.  He also requested that petitioners be mentioned by name rather than by title.

The representative of Algeria said the floor could not be denied to a Member State because each had a sovereign right to speak.

The representative of Morocco said he was not trying to deprive Member States of the right to speak, but instead to group questions together.

The representative of Zimbabwe asked about the new Personal Envoy and expectations for his appointment.

Mr. BOUKHARI said in regard to the question of self-determination that three months would be enough to organize the referendum.  As for the Personal Envoy, he was a person of great authority, but he faced major problems because of Morocco’s insistence on maintaining the status quo so that it could continue to occupy the Territory.  He called upon all members of the Security Council to work together to ensure his success.

FATIMETU JATRI EMHAMED, Sahrawi student in Iowa, said that despite having pursued a college education and a career in the United States, she remained dispirited about her people’s plight.  It was regrettable to see France, a permanent member of the Security Council, constantly and blindly support Morocco in the United Nations on the issue of Western Sahara.  Calling upon all States to support the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, she said they remained oppressed and made to feel like foreigners in their own land.  Protesters and fighters had been imprisoned, she said, asking “Who else is going to speak for us?”  It was painful to call oneself a refugee when one still had a homeland, she said, rejecting allegations made yesterday linking refugees in the camps with terrorism.

KIM GUEST, President, Artists for Kids Rights, noted that freedom of expression in Moroccan-occupied areas of Western Sahara was strictly curtailed.  Moroccan authorities detained or expelled Sahrawi, Moroccan, Spanish and other foreign reporters covering sensitive issues related to Western Sahara.  The Government of Morocco asserted judicial and penal administration within the Territory and its security forces there had a history of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest and detention and disappearances, she said.  Noting that Western Sahara possessed extensive natural resources, including phosphates, iron ore, hydrocarbon reserves and fisheries, she said a history of resource exploitation by foreign companies had left the local population largely impoverished.  The international community could not allow decolonization in that latest of colonial enclaves to be diverted as a result of the biased analysis or temporal interests of certain Powers, she said, emphasizing that the General Assembly must confirm its commitment to the relevant resolutions and decisions.

CHRIS SASSI, President, S.k.c., said the legal status of Western Sahara was unequivocal and it remained under occupation by Morocco.  Recalling that the International Court of Justice had rejected the historical links invoked by the occupying Power to justify its occupation, she said the European Court had reaffirmed that position in 2016.  The Territory’s status must be decided by the Sahrawi people, he emphasized.  Morocco continued its cruel oppression, pillaging natural resources and violating human rights, she said.  The kingdom also continued to refuse all visits to the Territory by parliamentary delegations, NGOs and others, she added, noting that Morocco enjoyed impunity with the complicit support of some Member States, even permanent members of the Security Council.  The Secretary-General and his new Personal Envoy must work to renew negotiations on the question of Western Sahara, she said.

JUAN CARLOS DUQUE, Executive Director, ONG Rehabiilitacion y Esperenza, also voiced concern about breaches of human rights, noting that the Polisario Front had marginalized the population, including people who questioned their authority.  He also voiced concern about the lack of liberty for those living in the Tindouf camps, drawing attention to a related Human Rights Watch report.  While the Polisario Front was on record as firmly opposing slavery, more must be done to eliminate residual slavery among the minority black population, he said.

CLARA RIVEROS, political scientist, CPLATAM Observatory, noted that the rate of political participation in Western Sahara was among the most notable in Morocco.  People had been elected democratically at the provincial, municipal and regional levels, and there was competition between the various political parties, she noted.  One of the very traditional parties had been displaced by an emerging political force, which was what democracy was all about.  Preferences had been changing in the region, leading to a new civil society because of the new sedentary living conditions of a formerly nomad population, she said.

RACHID TAMEK, President, Assemblée Provinciale d’Assa-Zag, said he wished to clarify Morocco’s history.  The kingdom had enjoyed internationally recognized borders for several centuries, he recalled, noting that, alongside Ethiopia, Morocco had been the last country on the continent to become a protectorate, divided between France and Spain.  The kingdom had been divided into six parts between those two Powers, and had regained its independence incrementally.  The repercussions of those events were still being witnessed today, he said, asking why there had never been a demand for a referendum in any other region, and why only Western Sahara was demanding one.  Speaking as a Moroccan Sahrawi citizen, he said it was because the region had borders with a neighbouring country that was interfering in its internal affairs.

NAGLA MOHAMEDLAMIN SALAM, representative in the United States of Nova (Western Sahara), said the Territory’s people were fighting for dignity and to choose where they would belong.  Ending the dispute over Western Sahara meant allowing the Saharawi people to vote and to choose by themselves, she said, underlining that they would not compromise the right to self-determination under any circumstances.

__________

*  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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Unilateral Sanctions Impede Sustainable Development, Speakers Say, as Second Committee Debates Macroeconomic Policy

A more equitable trading system and the cessation of unilateral sanctions would be critical to achieving sustainable development, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today during its debate on macroeconomic policy questions.

Namsuk Kim from the Development Policy Analysis Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs introduced the Secretary-General’s report on unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/72/307).

He noted that many States had expressed their disagreement with imposition of unilateral economic measures, adding that they went against principles of the United Nations Charter, norms of international law or the rules-based multilateral trading system.  Such measures hampered trade flows, negatively impacted socioeconomic development in affected countries and weakened their contributions to international sustainable development.

Iran had been experiencing economic coercive measures, and it remained opposed to the application of unilateral economic and trade measures against other countries, said that country’s representative.  The use of such measures adversely affected developing countries, international economic cooperation, and the promotion of a non-discriminatory and open multilateral trading system.  Despite such sanctions, Iran’s economy had demonstrated unparalleled potential for expansion and growth, he continued.  Not only did economic measures fail to impede Iran, but they solidified collective resolve to enhance domestic production.

In a similar vein, Cuba’s delegate said his country had rejected unilateral coercive economic measures, including the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on it.  The blockade caused deprivation to the Cuban people, constituted the main obstacle to the country’s development and macroeconomic policy objectives, and was the source of significant economic damage.

The representative from Syria said she had hoped the Secretary-General’s report on coercive measures would include an in-depth assessment of affected countries, but it only spoke briefly of unilateral measures, mainly their unintended consequences.  She voiced opposition to unilateral economic measures, as they contravened globalization measures by the same Governments that imposed them.

The high level of uncertainty in the international policy environment and the overall outlook on external debt sustainability in developing countries continued to worsen, noted the representative from the Philippines.  Expressing regret for the emerging mistrust in the trading system and the rising trend to resort to unilateralism and protectionism, she said such trends “endangered trade as a main driver for inclusive growth”.

Venezuela’s representative, while noting concern about the “effects of the capitalism crisis”, said the international community must redefine what was just and equitable.  Development processes must be autonomous and respect the sovereign management of resources without intermediation of transnational corporations.  Unilateral and coercive measures, she echoed, were incompatible with the United Nations Charter and hindered development efforts.

The delegate from Belarus echoed those sentiments, adding that current global conditions “did not inspire optimism”.  Expressing concern over the decline in global trade particularly for middle-income countries, she called for coordinated assistance and the cessation of unilateral sanctions.  She remarked that such measures also had an extraterritorial impact on regional economic cooperation.

Speakers also presented the report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Trade and Development Board (documents A/72/15 part I, II, III, IV and V), and the Secretary-General’s reports on international financial system and development (document A/72/306), external debt sustainability and development (document A/72/253), international trade and development (document A/72/274), and world commodity trends and prospects (document A/72/254).

Also speaking were representatives of Ecuador, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Maldives, El Salvador, India, China, Singapore, Russian Federation, Mexico, Guatemala, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iraq, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Nepal, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Kenya, Algeria, Maldives, Cabo Verde, and Togo, as well as the Holy See and Common Fund for Commodities.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, to discuss sustainable development.

Introduction of Reports

TUDOR ULIANOVSCHI, President of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Trade and Development Board, introduced reports (documents A/72/15 part I, II, III, IV and V) highlighting the need for enhanced collective actions to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Urging the international community to focus on collective actions, he called attention to the significant progress made by UNCTAD, as seen in the Nairobi Maafikiano document.  That consensus document strengthened the role of the Conference as the primary focal point for trade and development, and supported the gainful integration of all countries into the international economy.

He said that UNCTAD had in 2016 launched the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Financing for Development and the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-Commerce and Digital Economy.  Recognizing the need for the Conference’s work to feed into the General Assembly, the Board elected to postpone its annual session to June 2018.  He encouraged Member States to provide inputs on the work of the Board to Geneva.  Continuing, he noted several high-level dialogues and deliberations which furthered efforts to enhance investment policies, and address trends in the financial markets and flows, among others.  The Board also considered assistance to the Palestinian people, and he stated that many delegations expressed concern at the worsening socioeconomic conditions in the Palestinian territory.  Other discussions highlighted economic development in Africa, among others.

ALEXANDER TREPELKOV, Director of the Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on international financial system and development (document A/72/306).  He said analyses of high frequency data on developing countries had shown that they were subject to periodic episodes of high volatility.  Developed country central banks were introducing new measures, including the reduction of interest rates, which would increase the risk of volatility in developing States.  Institutional investors, who were the main drivers of portfolio flows, could play a role in financing, but they currently had a short-term bias.  Reallocation of investment to the long-term would require changes to incentives.  International financial flows were important because they played specific roles in financing activities benefiting all of society.  Official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries fell by 3.9 per cent in 2016, with many individual contributions below the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent.  Noting that there was no single solution in addressing developing country financial stress, he said the best was likely prevention.  International and national systems should help countries return to financial stability, while not compromising the Sustainable Development Goals.  Some reforms to the financial regulatory system were proceeding well, but others required more effort.  Efforts to include all elements of the Goals into the financial system reform agenda were still in their infancy.  International public financial institutions played a unique role, and new development banks were now contributing resources to many sustainable development projects.

STEPHANIE BLANKENBURG, Head of Debt and Development Finance Branch, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on external debt sustainability and development (document A/72/253).  Noting that the overall outlook on debt sustainability was worsening, she said current policy initiatives to bolster it and mobilize resources could prove too gradual to mitigate the growing risks.  The report provided a comprehensive overview of debt indicators, debt sustainability and main directions in international policy initiatives to mitigate global challenges.  Regarding trends and debt indicators, the post-financial crisis period demonstrated that the debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios in developing countries remained stable; however, those indicators concealed troubling increases in debt to export ratios and increases to debt service burdens.  She called attention to the plight of small island developing States which registered among the worst debt indicators of any group.  Given the increase in natural hazards because of climate change, she urged for greater creditor actions to reduce the debt burden for most disaster-affected countries.  Least developed countries were also a growing concern.  While welcoming the 0.32 per cent gross national income contributions to ODA, she however noted that the 0.7 per cent international target was missed.  Problematic trends continued in large private sector debt and debt service ratios in the private sector and she expressed concern that countries remained ill-equipped to successfully manage the related challenges.  The international community’s reliance on volatile markets and unstable domestic financial systems called for greater efforts to risk mitigation.  To that end, she encouraged greater focus on State-contingent debt instruments, soft-low principles and the promotion of new financial instruments.  She urged Governments to consider immediate policy coordination, enhanced debt relief or cancellation, and the improvement of data and analysis on debt sustainability.

NAMSUK KIM, Development Policy Analysis Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/72/307).  He said the Secretariat had invited Governments, relevant international organizations, programmes and agencies, within and outside the United Nations system, to provide their views and any pertinent information on that matter.  Twelve Member States and three regional commissions had replied.  Member States expressed their disagreement with the imposition of unilateral economic measures as an instrument of political and economic coercion, stating that those actions were not in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, the norms of international law or the rules-based multilateral trading system.  They also expressed concern about the negative impact of unilateral economic measures on the socioeconomic development of affected countries.  The regional commissions concurred, indicating that unilateral sanctions adversely impacted populations of affected countries, especially the most vulnerable groups.  Such measures hampered trade flows and their potential contribution to development.

MARISA HENDERSON, Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on international trade and development (document A/72/274).

The report demonstrated that the value of international trade increased from $5 trillion in 1994 to $24 trillion in 2014, she said.  Twenty years ago, 60 per cent of world trade was between developed countries, 30 per cent between developed and developing countries, and only 10 per cent in South-South trade.  Recent trends had pushed the expectation that trade would be split equally in three ways.  In less than three decades, trade facilitated significant economic gains; however, the 2016 trade values declined for a second consecutive year despite growth in GDP.  Similarly, the overall trade volume growth from 2008 to 2016 was weak at 1.3 per cent and reflected deeper structural challenges.  Investment spending slumped in the United States, and China continued to rebalance its economic system away from investment and towards consumption.  Thus, the ratio of trade in China over GDP declined from 65 per cent in 2005 to 35 per cent in 2015.  Parallel declines were observed in many East Asian economies.

The benefits of innovation in information communications technology (ICT) were exhausted and trade regulatory harmonization had not progressed fast enough to match incentives, she continued.  Additionally, least developed countries’ exports were on a downward trend since 2011 and many such countries struggled to compete in global economy.  The Sustainable Development Goal targets called for the integration of poorer countries in the global economy; however, the current system lacked inclusiveness and remained unequal.  “Gains from openness and globalization have not been shared equitably or fairly,” she stated.  The international community must address that shortcoming with dialogue and action, including through technological assistance and capacity-building for least developed countries.  Without action to address those gaps, the lack of trust in trade and trade policy could erode the legitimacy of international trade measures.

Ms. Henderson also presented the Secretary-General’s report on world commodity trends and prospects (document A/72/254), noting that 2016 marked an end of the five-year downward trend in commodity prices.  However, the subsequent increase in 2016 prices met with a reversal during the first four months of 2017, as several commodity groups dropped again in price.  She stressed that commodity-dependent developing countries must diversify to reduce their vulnerability to commodity price volatility in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In an ensuing discussion, the delegate from Iran requested greater clarity on the Conference’s work to promote regional integration and best practices.  Mr. Ulianovschi responded that discussions during the recent high-level panel included a focus on the African region, with a view to establishing larger cooperation to facilitate trade.  The discussion included efforts to reduce barriers, including through the promotion of a “single-window” system in national customs departments to ensure automatic data sharing and exchange.

Jamaica’s representative asked about the impact of regular trade changes and regulatory requirements on banks and financial institutions, to which Mr. Trepelkov said that data on the sustainable development impacts of all financial regulatory efforts was currently limited.  “Efforts to include all dimensions of sustainable development into the reform agenda are still in their infancy,” he said.  While it would be too premature to draw conclusions based on the regulatory reforms, preliminary data showed it would likely become more challenging.

Statements

MARIO A. ZAMBRANO ORTIZ (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed the importance of debt restructurings being timely, effective and fair.  Sovereign debt matters should concern both developed and developing countries.  It should be considered as a matter with the potential to adversely impact the global economy, he continued, stressing also the need to assist developing countries in attaining long-term debt sustainability.  Debtors and creditors must work together to prevent and resolve unsustainable debt situations.  Many commodity-dependent developing countries and economies in transition continued to be highly vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations.  As such, it was essential to improve the regulation, efficiency, responsiveness and transparency of commodity markets to address excessive price volatility.

He noted with concern the steady increase in the illicit flows of funds, particularly from developing countries, and the negative impact it posed to sustainable development and rule of law.  The Group reiterated its call for greater international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows.  As the United Nations was the only universal forum where tax matter issues could be discussed in an open and inclusive manner, the Group reiterated the need to upgrade the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters to an intergovernmental body and provide it with the resources to carry out its work.  The Group also reaffirmed that coercive economic measures, including unilateral sanctions, did not contribute to economic and social development.  Stressing the need to work towards a freer and fairer multilateral trading system, he stressed the need to implement the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that the global economy had undergone a prolonged episode of relatively slow growth following the 2008 financial crisis.  In 2016, the global economy experienced the slowest rate of growth since 2009, expanding by just 2.3 per cent.  Real international trade growth fell below the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) during 2015-2016 for the first time in 15 years.  The global economy also experienced protracted weak investment growth, falling commodity prices and growing vulnerabilities to increased external debt.  Despite modest recovery in early 2017, economic growth in many regions remained below the level needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In addressing those issues, she stressed the need to enhance international cooperation to mobilize resources for development.  Continuous capacity-building was also needed, especially to tackle illicit financial flows, asset return and tax matters.  She urged developed countries to fulfil their commitments, as ODA remained the main source of development financing for many least developed nations and small island developing States and an additional $100,000 per year was needed for climate financing.  In addition, there was a need for improved market access and enhanced investment inflows for sustainable development-related sectors.  International trade was an engine for inclusive economic growth, especially in goods and services related to labour-intensive sectors and rural economic activities.  As such, an open, rules-based, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system was imperative.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed concern that merchandise exports of least developed countries in 2015 contracted by 25 per cent.  Calling upon members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to address the marginalization of least developed countries in trade, he emphasized the need for developed and developing members to implement duty-free and quota-free market access on all products originating from the least developed countries.  Looking ahead to the eleventh WTO ministerial conference to be held in Buenos Aires, he called for an outcome that produced tangible progress in the areas of relevance for least developed countries.  Many of those countries still struggled with a heavy burden of external debt, which continued to present a major obstacle for economic growth and sustainable development.

He called on the international community to undertake measures to address the debt problems, especially through full cancellation of all multilateral and bilateral debt owned by least developed countries to creditors, both public and private.  For their part, development partners must increase their ODA and other concessional lending to ensure debt sustainability.  Corruption, tax evasion, transfer havens and money laundering had serious impacts on domestic resource mobilization.  Increased international cooperation was essential to recover stolen assets and return them to their countries of origin.  He also urged donor countries to fulfil their ODA commitment of 0.2 per cent of their gross national income.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Alliance of Small Island States, voiced concern about the persistent tendency by some nations to view international trade openness as a zero-sum game as well as a rise in protectionism.  Strongly rejecting such policies and attitudes, which ultimately constrained aggregate demand and perpetuated the current low-global-growth environment, he voiced the Community’s commitment to the maintenance of an open, rules-based international trading system as embodied by the WTO.

As trade benefits accrued unevenly and increased competition had led to economic dislocation, he underscored the obligation of policymakers to develop and implement programmes to help workers be reskilled, educated and trained to compete for the technology-based jobs of tomorrow.  Governments should also fully address the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States as well as the persistent economic and social challenges of States in special situations, such as middle-income nations.  “With the unique challenges that Caribbean [small island developing States] face in the context of sustainable development, we insist that our specific needs and circumstances — especially as they relate to scale, capacity and local context — are also taken into consideration,” he said.

Ms. ZAHIR (Maldives), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, noted that small island developing States continued to feel the impact of a slow recovery from the global economic and financial crisis.  As commodity-dependent countries, those States were particularly concerned about declining commodity prices, especially in fishing and agriculture.  Also contributing to a negative economic impact were the declining performance of their export sectors, reduction in tourism revenues due to the downturn and the impact of climate change on fish stocks and crop yields.  Structural constraints faced by island States made diversifying their economies difficult, she observed.  Turning to natural hazards, such as recent hurricanes, she said that they were not just one-off events.  Instead, they signalled the beginning of an even more challenging recovery processes.  Island States had to contend with many systemic factors making recovery and rebuilding more difficult.  That process was made possible through additional borrowing, compounding existing debt problems.  Though small island developing States were the most highly indebted countries in the world, concessional financing remained elusive because of their middle-income status.  As such, the Alliance reiterated its call for a GDP plus criteria to gauge eligibility for concessionary financing to better reflect inherent and structural vulnerabilities faced.  Turning to the Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development process, she commended the interagency task force’s work but called for a depoliticizing of the Forum’s activities.  She expressed disappointment at the lack of engagement on issues critically important to the bloc, such as climate change and trade.

PABLO JOSÉ SORIANO MENA (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of CELAC, stressed the importance of reforming the international financial system, especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to enhance the voice and participation of developing countries in international decision-making and establishment of norms in economic matters and global economic governance.  In addition, developing countries should scale up international tax cooperation and combat illicit financial flows to mobilize domestic resources for the Sustainable Development Goals.  There was also a need to eliminate safe havens creating incentives for the transfer abroad of stolen assets and illicit financial flows.  He emphasized the importance of disclosure and transparency in source and destination countries, including in financial transactions between Governments and companies for relevant tax authorities.

He recognized the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development in countries of origin, transit and destination.  Remittances from migrant workers could be equated with other international financial flows, such as foreign direct investment (FDI) or ODA.  He also stressed the importance of debt relief, including debt cancellation and restructuring.  Debt restructuring should have as its core element a determination or real payment capacity so it would not compromise national growth.  There was an urgent need for the international community to constructively cooperate with the United Nations and international financial institutions to enhance transparency, supervision, regulation and good governance of the international financial system to examine options for an effective, equitable, independent and development-oriented debt restructuring and international debt resolution.

ASHISH KUMAR SINHA (India) stressed that open trade was a means of creating employment and contributing to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals through greater economic activity and revenues.  Developing countries derived significant benefit from an open, fair, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory trading and financial system.  Trade liberalization could contribute to increased growth by enhancing access to technology, intermediate and capital goods and increased competition, which in turn could reduce poverty through employment creation.  He also emphasized the continuing relevance of ODA for several developing countries, especially the more vulnerable least developed countries and small island developing States, although Governments must also expand domestic revenue basis, stop leakages and corruptions and attract investment.  The Addis Agenda recognized that the foremost driver of domestic resource mobilization was economic growth requiring Governments to strengthen tax administration and combat corruption.

ZHANG YU (China) said the international community must strengthen policy coordination to promote reforms for a more inclusive and equitable global economy.  She called for States to avoid protectionism and promote the integration of developing countries into the international markets.  China undertook numerous efforts to facilitate trade and strengthen macroeconomic policy growth on many fronts, including the provision of interest-free loans and assistance to States struggling to repay debts.  China additionally promoted digital financial inclusion, as demonstrated in recent reforms for rural financial institutions.  Corruption, the illicit exploitation of natural resources, and tax evasion remained significant challenges.  In response, China participated in the “Skynet” operation which recovered 240.8 million Chinese yuan.  She called on all States to fulfil their ODA commitments.  To that end, China established and provided financial assistance to numerous regional and international development funds.

MARIA ANGELA PONCE (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said that while there had been a 2.7 per cent acceleration of the world gross product in 2017, many regions remained below the level needed to achieve sustainable development.  There remained a high level of uncertainty in the international policy environment and the overall outlook on external debt sustainability in developing countries continued to worsen.  She underscored the need for freer and fairer trade through a rules-based, transparent, equitable and inclusive multilateral trading system.  She also expressed regret for the emerging mistrust in the trading system and the rising trend to resort to unilateralism and protectionism.  “This endangers trade as a main driver for inclusive growth,” she stressed.  As a middle-income country, the Philippines was highly dependent on primary commodities and was thus concerned with the volatility of prices.  Noting that her country remained among the fastest growing economies in Asia, she said the Government was working to lower poverty and combat illicit financial flows.

LUM HUI ZHEN (Singapore), associating herself with the Group of 77, Alliance of Small Island States and ASEAN, underscored the need to strengthen the role of the United Nations in global economic governance.  Emphasizing that “global problems required global solutions”, she noted that no one country could have all the answers in today’s interconnected world.  In that context, the United Nations must play a key role in ensuring that multilateral institutions worked together in a complementary manner.  Moreover, strengthening the relationship between the United Nations and G-20 must be part of efforts to enhance global economic governance.  Respecting the mandates of relevant multilateral institutions was also critical.  “Economic and financial issues are inherently complex,” she added.  “Of course, the current global financial architecture, established over several decades, has to evolve,” she continued.  In that regard, Bretton Woods Institutions and other international organizations must adapt to the new challenges and be more inclusive to give developing countries a greater say.  Stressing the need for an open, rules-based, multilateral trading system, she said that WTO, for all its limitations, was the ultimate forum for all trading nations to work together.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), noting that his nation had been experiencing economic coercive measures, said it remained opposed to the application of unilateral economic and trade measures against other countries.  The use of such measures adversely affected sustainable development efforts of developing countries and generally had a negative impact on international economic cooperation as well as worldwide efforts to move towards a non-discriminatory and open multilateral trading system.  Such actions constituted a flagrant violation of the principles of international law set forth in the United Nations Charter as well as basic principles of the multilateral trading system.  Iran’s economy had demonstrated its unparalleled potential for expansion and growth.  Not only did economic sanctions fail to impede Iran, but they solidified collective resolve to enhance domestic production.  Achieving one of the highest global growth rates in 2016 had proven that Iran’s economy could become the most vibrant emerging economy within the next 20 years.  Its strategic choice for achieving such sustainable and balanced growth was extensive global partnerships.

TAMARA KHARASHUN (Belarus) said current global conditions did not inspire optimism, and she expressed concern over the decline in global trade.  The Secretary-General’s reports on macroeconomic policy painted a complex picture, which emphasized the importance of joint efforts by all States to promote global partnership.  The international financial system required favourable conditions to eradicate poverty on a sustainable basis.  She recognized the important role of UNCTAD, particularly in research on trade and investment policy.  As a middle-income country, Belarus called for coordinated assistance and the cessation of unilateral sanctions.  Sanctions, she remarked, had a significant extraterritorial impact on regional economic cooperation.  Similarly, she called for enhanced regional integration, as well as the full inclusion of new members in the WTO.  Belarus was the only member of the Eurasian Union of States without membership in the WTO.  In closing, she urged for an agreement on technological mechanisms to help bridge digital divides.

Mr. GONZALEZ-PEÑA (Cuba) said the international environment was an obstacle for most countries in the South, and structural changes would be urgently required on the economic, commercial and international levels.  He called for the mobilization of predictable and unconditional resources for developing countries to meet their development goals, as international public financial flows were insufficient to cover funding gaps.  Cuba supported external debt relief, including the cancelation and restructuring of debt, and he urged for the implementation of a fair and development-oriented multilateral sovereign debt restructuring mechanism.  His country rejected unilateral coercive economic measures, including the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on it.  The blockade caused deprivation to the Cuban people, constituted the main obstacle to the country’s development and macroeconomic policy objectives, and caused significant economic damage.

Mr. MASLOV (Russian Federation) stressed that stimulating trade required regional integration.  His country had strengthened integration with neighbouring countries through a regional economic union, which now had one service market.  By 2025, it would have one oil, gas and energy market.  One of the union’s priorities was to focus on sustainable development.  By pooling efforts, other integration could establish one economic space from the Atlantic to Pacific.  Partnership must be open to all countries and must be done so based on mutual interest and respect.  The Russian Federation was broadening cooperation with multilateral financial institutions, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.  It was committed to the implementation of the financing for development agenda.

Mr. PINEDA-GONZALEZ (Mexico) associated himself with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and called for the convergence of economic financial tools at all levels.  Public policy required partnership and improved public-private investment.  Reforms to the international financial system, he said, must be sequenced, phased and gradual and with respect to the structural gaps facing middle-income countries, including Mexico.  To that end, all States must work collectively to defend world trade, promote greater financial inclusion, strengthen sustainable management, reduce debt and address illicit financial flows.

ROUA SHURBAJI (Syria) said one of the most important obstacles to development was unilateral economic measures as a means of political coercion against developing countries.  She had hoped the Secretary-General’s report on that topic would include an in-depth assessment of affected countries, but it only spoke briefly of unilateral measures, mainly their unintended consequences.  She voiced opposition to unilateral economic measures, as they contravened globalization measures by the same Governments that imposed them.  The sustainable development agenda called on Member States to refrain from unilateral financial and trade measures, which impeded the achievement of development goals.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, called for strengthened cooperation on tax matters and illicit asset recovery.  He urged for increased attention to commodities, noting that his country’s GDP depended on agricultural commodities which were vulnerable to speculation and market manipulations.  Additionally, the impact of climate change as well as other disasters threatened Guatemala’s food security and employment.  To that end, he underscored the importance of regulation to mitigate risks and ensure an equitable trade system.  He called for the international community to address illicit financial flows.  In response, Guatemala promoted numerous domestic actions and policies to enhance asset recovery and international cooperation.

Ms. AL-SHAMMARI (Qatar) said economic crises, high unemployment and debt burdens were all challenges affecting the common global vision of promoting economic growth, especially in developing countries.  She stressed the importance of the multilateral trading system, which would contribute to sustainable development and employment creation.  It was vital to push forward the Doha Development Round in strengthening the multilateral trading system to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Her country supported a United Nations system that would step up efforts to create a favourable economic environment, but opposed the use of unilateral coercive measures that negatively affected the multilateral trading system and economic cooperation.

Ms. OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said her country’s policies and regulations to combat illicit financial flows and criminal activities were internationally recognized, and set in international standards.  She emphasized the importance of asset recovery through international cooperation and with trusted legal instruments.  Liechtenstein’s financial intelligence unit led the fight against illicit financial flows, and highlighted the linkages with human trafficking, slavery and terrorism.  She urged for the strengthening of rule of law and hoped that such national initiatives would be included in the Committee’s work on the sustainable development agenda.

MARIANNE LOE (Norway) said her country allocated 1 per cent of its GDP to ODA, the greater part of which was spent in developing countries.  She urged States to utilize ODA in catalytic ways to leverage additional resources of finances, and noted new measures by multilateral banks.  Domestic resource mobilization should be decisive and entail more effective tax collection and a broadening of the tax base.  Low-income countries should be protected from tax erosion and corruption, she said.  Curbing massive illicit flows remained a key priority.  Trade was crucial for development and growth, and to that end, she expressed concern that protectionism and isolation would reverse common development.  She encouraged a strong sharing system and the use of trade as a development policy instrument, particularly in integrating developing countries into the global financial system and through responsible borrowing and lending.  She called attention to signs of new debt distress in some countries and urged States not to repeat expensive lessons from recent history.

CRISTIANE ENGELBRECHT SCHADTLER (Venezuela), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, expressed concern about the “effects of the capitalism crisis”.  The international community must redefine what was just and equitable.  Development processes must be autonomous and respect the sovereign management of natural resources without intermediation of transnational corporations.  States must work together to combat plundering of those natural resources and the resulting loss of proceeds from them.  Unilateral and coercive measures, she continued, were incompatible with the United Nations Charter and hindered development efforts.  Venezuela also called attention to the responsibility of developed countries in financing development and urged them to fulfil their pledge of 0.7 per cent GDP to ODA.  Turning to debt, she called for an enhanced analysis to resolve “distortions from the neoliberal capitalism model”.  Similarly, she encouraged the international community to drop prices of commodities, stop the “contagion” of financial crises and address the negative impact of debt.  To that end, she called for the establishment of an international mechanism for restructuring debt.

Mr. ALI (Iraq) noted that developing countries had lower rates of foreign debt to GDP, but the international community must make further efforts to lesson debt burdens.  He also called for an increase in humanitarian and cultural support for his country in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Such help would allow it to overcome challenges, achieve development and boost prosperity in the entire region.  It was essential that Iraq overcame the effects of terrorism and regained its natural resources in achieving development.  His State had managed to reduce its budgetary deficit and increase non-oil revenues.  Supporting slow-growing economies would help them move towards sustainable development, create conducive working environments and reduce the brain drain of their populations.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said recovery in global trade and strengthened investment would translate into increased resources available for the Sustainable Development Goals.  His country had exerted its utmost to mobilize more domestic resources by creating an enabling environment and adopting necessary policies and measures to promote economic growth as well as improve revenue administration through improved tax policy and more efficient tax collection.  It had also invested significant resources to improve infrastructure and connectivity and actively participated in regional integration so that trade could thrive.  However, as a least developed country and landlocked with a small economy, it needed continued external support such as ODA.

Ms. SRISAWANG (Thailand) stressed the need for better global economic governance as well as strengthened developing country voices in global economic and financial decisions.  The developing world also needed free and fairer trade, the elimination of trade barriers and a universal, rules-based, open, transparent, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system.  The WTO played a crucial role in dispute settlement and regional as well as bilateral trade were also vital.  Adding that efforts were also needed to better finance sustainable development, she stressed the importance of ODA as well as domestic resource mobilization through good governance and domestic and international public-private partnership.

NECTON D. MHURA (Malawi) associated himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries.  His State strived to respond, adapt and engage in cooperation at all levels, however he noted numerous risks associated with “shaky” policy and the unequal global economic architecture.  Each country had a primary responsibility for its development; however, he said national efforts should be complemented by supportive global programmes, measures and policies to expand opportunities for development.  Each country existed under specific circumstances, and all were impacted differently by external shocks.  Therefore, national contexts remained the primary detectors on how States respond and implement sustainable development.  He welcomed reforms to the development system and stated his country’s intention to seek greater international partnerships.

YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said his nation had made significant macroeconomic progress characterized by an average annual growth rate of 5.5 per cent.  However, despite progress, numerous challenges remained, including a high poverty rate of 40.1 per cent.  The Government endeavoured to maintain fiscal viability, including through a robust macroeconomic framework which was the bedrock of the national development plan.  He called for an end to protectionism, which distorted trade and was contrary to agreements in the WTO.  To that end, he invited developed countries to lift non-tariff barriers.  He encouraged the development of a more fair and equitable international trade system, wherein the global trade market would form major economic blocks to work collectively, particularly in Africa.  Burkina Faso said there was a need to bolster international economic and South-South cooperation, and combat illicit financial flows.  Middle-income countries were particularly affected, and faced additional challenges in servicing debt.  In response, he called upon donor countries to provide greater support to mitigate the risk of new debt crises and tackle infrastructure deficits.

PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, said one of the key aspects in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals was growth.  Establishment of a recent forum on financing for development was a notable achievement but the outcome could have been more ambitious, as it did not provide enough guidance or lead to the needed results.  Trade was needed to promote structural change and sustained economic growth, but developing countries needed an inclusive, fair and transparent system.  There was also an urgent need to work further to curb illicit financial flows.  That must be a common endeavour as it would never be met without the participation of source, transit and destination countries.

LOK BAHADUR POUDEL CHHETRI (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the global outlook was still uncertain after the economic recession.  Sluggish economic growth, declining ODA and decreasing commodity prices were affecting the health of many developing countries.  In least developed countries, the trade balance was worsening, with widening deficits and low preferential market access in key sectors.  Such conditions were worse in landlocked countries, where trade access was more difficult and integration was needed to gain a market edge.  Stressing the importance of trade as a key economic enabler, he said implementing the Doha Round was in the interest of all WTO members.

GEBEYEHU GANGA GAYITO (Ethiopia) associated himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries.  He said the commodity sector remained critical, however economic stability of commodity-dependent countries, including Ethiopia, was affected by the global price slump.  In that regard, he highlighted the importance of sustainable and productive economic diversification.  Achieving structural transformation remained one of the country’s development pillars.  Towards that objective, Ethiopia promoted economic diversification by adding value to its primary products, and called for relevant entities to intensify capacity-building programmes in line with national priorities.  Ethiopia implemented a national financial inclusiveness strategy and continued endeavours to expand financial services through an inclusion council.  He urged all States to measure and track illicit financial flows, as Africa lost billions of dollars’ worth of its resources that could have been used to finance its anti-poverty projects.  Ethiopia established necessary legal and institutional frameworks to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism, however those remained global challenges that required enhanced international cooperation and coordination, he said.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria), associating himself with Group of 77 and the Africa Group, said the relevance of ODA could not be overemphasized.  Nigeria, like most developing countries, was concerned that the total amount of ODA from developed countries was far below the target of 0.7 per cent of GDP.  As such, he reiterated the call on developed countries to meet the target.  As a founding member of the WTO, Nigeria was committed to the principle of the multilateral trading system and would continue to comply with its market access commitments.  Nigeria called for other countries to grant market access and support a non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system.  In that regard, his country would stand ready to support any effort to achieve a single package on trade facilitation, services, agriculture, development and least developing countries issues.  The Government established a presidential enabling business environment council, and issued three executive orders to promote business transparency and efficiency.  Nigeria also remained committed to the recovery and repatriation of illicit funds to countries of origin, and invited the private sector to participate more in international public funding.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe) said trade was needed to promote economic growth, human development and prosperity in reducing poverty and inequalities.  It was important for the WTO to have rules that created flexibilities for developing countries to enact policies promoting domestic manufacturing capabilities, stimulate technology transfer and promote access to affordable medicine.  Governments across the world derived their wealth and economic power mainly through trade, manufacturing and agriculture.  They should also be able to tax, borrow and regulate financial markets, but the current international financial system threatened those abilities owing to its several fundamental weaknesses.  He also noted that the problem of illicit financial flows continued to stifle efforts of many developing countries to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty, as it undermined the tax bases of those countries.  Funds lost through illicit flows should be used to finance development programmes and infrastructure projects.  Several studies had indicated that without the problem of illicit financial flows, most developing countries could have achieved their domestic and internationally agreed development programmes.

Ms. HAMDOUNI (Morocco), associating herself with Group of 77, encouraged Member States to adopt a compromise approach to implement development programmes.  Her country adopted numerous rigorous macroeconomic policies and reforms to strengthen financial globalization and trade openness.  Her Government put together a trade development strategy for 2016 to 2020, and presented its voluntary national report.  Morocco continued to promote strong regional South-South cooperation with an emphasis on African partnerships.  Illicit financial flows were a major challenge to the region, thus Morocco favoured strengthening measures to combat money laundering and abusive use of financial system

ARTHUR AMAYA ANDAMBI (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country had a high fiscal deficit because of macroeconomic-related development challenges including a low export base and falling commodity prices.  Low export earnings had exacerbated the situation of the rising current account deficit, which had further depleted scarce foreign exchange reserves from the high import bill.  However, the economy had recorded a growth of 5.9 per cent in 2016, up from 5.6 in 2015.  Moreover, Kenya’s public debt remained sustainable.  A recent Debt Sustainability Analysis showed that the risk of distress for the current debt level was still low.  The recorded rise in debt level was directly attributed to the increase in development spending on infrastructure.  That spending was expected to alleviate binding constraints to the productive capacity of the economy, ultimately leading to a decline in debt ratios.

MEHDI REMAOUN (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said unilateral coercive economic measures should be eliminated.  Algeria wished that the Secretary-General’s report, in pointing out studies on unemployment in developed countries due to trade liberalization, also paid attention to similar effects in developing countries, including those where manufacturing and industrial sectors were in nascent stages.  While ODA remained crucial, best practices — including those aimed at transforming long-term commitments in immediate liquidities, guaranteed by international institutions — were likely to be an instrumental solution, he said.

Ms. ZAHIR (Maldives), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said international financial institutions must align their policies and lending decisions more closely to efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  In the case of Maldives, investment in infrastructure was crucial for achieving the Goals — building adequate hospitals, roads, harbours, airports, seaports and houses.  Infrastructure projects in the Maldives were directly linked to almost all the Goals.  Yet the narrow financial sector in the country did not have the capacity to provide adequate financing for those investment programmes.  Moreover, the country needed investments in such programmes in external hard currency, as it had to import almost every material used and the impact on its balance of payments tended to be high.  The only option was to go to external financing.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said much remained to be done to mobilize adequate and predictable financing to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  The time had come to focus on each State’s specificities and needs, and to adapt responses on a country-by-country basis, he said, adding that a national financial framework could be an important tool to mobilize resources.  Emphasizing the real threat of climate change, he said financing and development finance were critical for small island developing States, yet several obstacles persisted regarding preparing viable projects, eligibility and access to finance.

Mr. DONKO (Togo), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that the major challenge to development was funding and urged Governments to honour financing commitments.  However, although ODA had remained vitally important, especially for poorer countries, it was insufficient in meeting all needs in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Financing for development was also dependent on public policies that brought in a more favourable business environment.  In addition to measures to collect public resources, Togo had improved its ability to collect revenues, increasing its tax base and leveraging resources for development.  It had also optimized financing of infrastructure by taking advantage of public-private partnerships and had improved the business environment in attracting foreign investment in infrastructure.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, noting with concern the steady decline in international trade in 2015 and 2016, agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that the solution should not be less trade, but better trade.  That should be guided by the principles of inclusivity and equity for all and consistent with Pope Francis’s call for an inclusive economy focused on the common good.  Underscoring the need to give special attention to least developed countries, he said that even a modest lowering of protective tariffs on some agricultural products could significantly benefit small farmers in those countries.  Large external debt variations among developing countries would require careful monitoring and additional capacity-building, as well as possible recourse to further debt relief mechanisms.

The representative of the Common Fund for Commodities said new European Union regulations entering force in January 2018 would hopefully enhance the transparency and efficiency of commodity price discovery, directly affecting the investment climate in commodity-dependent developing countries.  Less volatility in commodity markets could improve investments in those countries at the grassroots level of commodity value chains.  He expressed hope that the flow of commodities, including South-South trade, could greatly benefit from technological development.

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