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Africa: Remarks at the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you. And good morning, everyone. It really is my honor to welcome all of you to the State Department this morning.

And we are grateful to see so many friends and partners here in the United States, and appreciate you traveling to be with us today for this event.

I have been very eager to host this ministerial meeting to bring together leaders from the continent to address our shared goals and, as I was sharing with the chairman of the African Union yesterday evening, I have not had the chance during my time as Secretary of State to travel to the continent. In my prior life, I came to your continent a lot and I visited many of your countries. But I do look forward to coming early next year. We have a trip that’s in the planning now, so – but in the meantime, really did not want to wait that long to get this group together. So very eager to host this ministerial meeting and appreciate you all coming to address our shared goals and challenges, and I look forward to a full day of discussions on how we can work together to achieve those shared goals.

I know all of us are following very closely the events in Zimbabwe and they are a concern to I know each of you, they are a concern to us as well, and we all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution.

Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path – one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights.

Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government. In our conversations today, we have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways that we could help them through this transition.

Our aim today is to expand and enrich the United States’ relationship with Africa along three fronts that we’re going to be discussing today: promoting trade and investment; encouraging good governance; and countering terrorism.

Let me briefly touch on how these issues will help us strengthen U.S.–Africa relations and our ties in the coming decades.

We’re going to begin today’s proceedings with a discussion on ways we can work together to expand trade and investment, and grow economic opportunities that benefit the people of Africa and the American people.

Trade and investment between the United States and African countries is growing. U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa grew from $17 billion in 2010 to more than $25 billion in 2014. And last year, the U.S. direct investment in Africa grew to $57.5 billion – the highest level to date.

Our trade and investment is stronger than it’s ever been, and the United States sees even more opportunity ahead in the coming years.

Africa is a growing market with vast potential. Five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and consumer spending there is projected to exceed $2 million[1] by the year 2025.

By the year 2030, Africa is expected to represent about one quarter of the world’s workforce and consumers, with a population of more than 1.7 billion. By 2050, the population of the continent is projected to double to more than 2.5 billion people – with 70 percent of that population being under the age of 30. All of these young people will have expectations for entering the workforce. The challenge is how to prepare Africa with the appropriate education for its workforce, and to prepare economically and financially for this future, so our partnership can facilitate greater growth and prosperity for both the United States and Africa.

This administration seeks to refocus our economic relationship squarely on trade and investment – to encourage policies that increase openness and competition within Africa.

A more economically vibrant and competitive Africa will grow the middle class, increase standards of living, and make the entire continent more prosperous.

I am also pleased to welcome with us today USAID Administrator Mark Green, and I look forward to his comments on this topic shortly. We also look forward to hearing from private sector leaders, and are very eager to learn more about your views and priorities for expanding trade and investment. Through Power Africa, for example, the United States and its partners have helped the private sector bring 82 power projects to Sub-Saharan Africa.

But economic growth and lasting prosperity can only thrive in environments of good government – good governance.

So we are going to discuss at our working lunch today how a country’s success is firmly rooted in good governance, which fosters strong, accountable relationships between citizens and their elected officials, how that drives economic progress, and improves overall security.

Lasting peace and economic growth are undermined when governments fail to provide good governance, respect for human rights, or to uphold the law.

Peaceful, democratic transitions are important and contribute to stability. But democracy is not just about elections, and elections are neither the first nor are they the final step in the long road to building resilient democracies.

Democracy requires the inclusive, peaceful participation of a nation’s citizens in the political process. That includes freedoms of expression and association, an independent press, a robust and engaged civil society, a government that is transparent and accountable to all of its citizens, and a fair and impartial judiciary. Corruption and weak governance, restriction on human rights and civil society, and authorities who ignore the rule of law and change their constitutions for personal gain are all obstacles to the development of prosperous, free societies. In fact, an African Union study estimated that corruption costs the continent roughly $150 billion a year.

This is money that should be used to create jobs, build schools and hospitals, improve security, and provide social services.

A quality basic education is another powerful contributor to economic growth and development – one that reduces poverty and provides children and youth the skills they need for gainful employment. We have worked with you to build the capacity for your national education system to offer quality education for more people, and we look forward to continued partnership to address low literacy rates, teacher shortages, and greater access to education across all of Africa.

We encourage our African counterparts to address these many governance challenges, and in doing so, unlock your country’s development potential. We look forward to discussing today specific ways to strengthen democracy and promote better governance over our lunch discussions.

The United States also stands with you as we work to defeat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, which have taken so many innocent lives in Africa and across the world. That will be our final topic of discussion today.

We are particularly grateful for the work of African countries to expand multinational and regional cooperation to counter terrorism. The United States is committed to partnering with you to defeat ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups across your continent.

Just last month, I announced that the United States pledged up to an additional $60 million in funding to support the G-5 Sahel Joint Force in counterterrorism efforts, and to bolster our regional partners in their fight to provide security and stability.

The United States, as the largest peacekeeping capacity-building contributor, is also helping over 20 African countries train, deploy, and sustain peacekeepers. This year, such efforts have already supported the training of more than 27,000 African peacekeepers to the UN and AU missions.

But we recognize that the force of arms alone is insufficient.

It is imperative that we work together, and with civil society, to address the root causes of violent extremism. To create sustainable peace, we must also combat marginalization, strengthen accountability, and create more economic opportunity.

Before I conclude, let me stress that the United States seeks greater support from our African partners on growing global security matters, including North Korea.

We appreciate the statements condemning the DPRK missile launches that many of your governments have made. But all nations must act to implement UN sanctions in full and cut off all UN-proscribed ties.

Further, I urge you to take additional measures to pressure the DPRK by downgrading your diplomatic relationships with the regime, severing economic ties, expelling all DPRK laborers, and reducing North Korea’s presence in your country in all other ways it may be found.

The DPRK presents a threat to all of our nations. Everyone – including each country represented here today – must play a part in this peaceful pressure campaign to convince the DPRK that the only way to achieve true security and respect from the international community is to abandon its current path and choose a meaningful dialogue about a different future.

The United States will continue to support your efforts to secure your citizens, encourage stronger institutions and better governance, and promote greater economic growth for each of your countries.

I really do look forward to our time together today and in particular to hear how you are working to address these challenges, and how we can learn from your experience and strengthen this already very fruitful partnership.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

[1] trillion

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Africa: Remarks at the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you. And good morning, everyone. It really is my honor to welcome all of you to the State Department this morning.

And we are grateful to see so many friends and partners here in the United States, and appreciate you traveling to be with us today for this event.

I have been very eager to host this ministerial meeting to bring together leaders from the continent to address our shared goals and, as I was sharing with the chairman of the African Union yesterday evening, I have not had the chance during my time as Secretary of State to travel to the continent. In my prior life, I came to your continent a lot and I visited many of your countries. But I do look forward to coming early next year. We have a trip that’s in the planning now, so – but in the meantime, really did not want to wait that long to get this group together. So very eager to host this ministerial meeting and appreciate you all coming to address our shared goals and challenges, and I look forward to a full day of discussions on how we can work together to achieve those shared goals.

I know all of us are following very closely the events in Zimbabwe and they are a concern to I know each of you, they are a concern to us as well, and we all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution.

Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path – one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights.

Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government. In our conversations today, we have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways that we could help them through this transition.

Our aim today is to expand and enrich the United States’ relationship with Africa along three fronts that we’re going to be discussing today: promoting trade and investment; encouraging good governance; and countering terrorism.

Let me briefly touch on how these issues will help us strengthen U.S.–Africa relations and our ties in the coming decades.

We’re going to begin today’s proceedings with a discussion on ways we can work together to expand trade and investment, and grow economic opportunities that benefit the people of Africa and the American people.

Trade and investment between the United States and African countries is growing. U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa grew from $17 billion in 2010 to more than $25 billion in 2014. And last year, the U.S. direct investment in Africa grew to $57.5 billion – the highest level to date.

Our trade and investment is stronger than it’s ever been, and the United States sees even more opportunity ahead in the coming years.

Africa is a growing market with vast potential. Five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and consumer spending there is projected to exceed $2 million[1] by the year 2025.

By the year 2030, Africa is expected to represent about one quarter of the world’s workforce and consumers, with a population of more than 1.7 billion. By 2050, the population of the continent is projected to double to more than 2.5 billion people – with 70 percent of that population being under the age of 30. All of these young people will have expectations for entering the workforce. The challenge is how to prepare Africa with the appropriate education for its workforce, and to prepare economically and financially for this future, so our partnership can facilitate greater growth and prosperity for both the United States and Africa.

This administration seeks to refocus our economic relationship squarely on trade and investment – to encourage policies that increase openness and competition within Africa.

A more economically vibrant and competitive Africa will grow the middle class, increase standards of living, and make the entire continent more prosperous.

I am also pleased to welcome with us today USAID Administrator Mark Green, and I look forward to his comments on this topic shortly. We also look forward to hearing from private sector leaders, and are very eager to learn more about your views and priorities for expanding trade and investment. Through Power Africa, for example, the United States and its partners have helped the private sector bring 82 power projects to Sub-Saharan Africa.

But economic growth and lasting prosperity can only thrive in environments of good government – good governance.

So we are going to discuss at our working lunch today how a country’s success is firmly rooted in good governance, which fosters strong, accountable relationships between citizens and their elected officials, how that drives economic progress, and improves overall security.

Lasting peace and economic growth are undermined when governments fail to provide good governance, respect for human rights, or to uphold the law.

Peaceful, democratic transitions are important and contribute to stability. But democracy is not just about elections, and elections are neither the first nor are they the final step in the long road to building resilient democracies.

Democracy requires the inclusive, peaceful participation of a nation’s citizens in the political process. That includes freedoms of expression and association, an independent press, a robust and engaged civil society, a government that is transparent and accountable to all of its citizens, and a fair and impartial judiciary. Corruption and weak governance, restriction on human rights and civil society, and authorities who ignore the rule of law and change their constitutions for personal gain are all obstacles to the development of prosperous, free societies. In fact, an African Union study estimated that corruption costs the continent roughly $150 billion a year.

This is money that should be used to create jobs, build schools and hospitals, improve security, and provide social services.

A quality basic education is another powerful contributor to economic growth and development – one that reduces poverty and provides children and youth the skills they need for gainful employment. We have worked with you to build the capacity for your national education system to offer quality education for more people, and we look forward to continued partnership to address low literacy rates, teacher shortages, and greater access to education across all of Africa.

We encourage our African counterparts to address these many governance challenges, and in doing so, unlock your country’s development potential. We look forward to discussing today specific ways to strengthen democracy and promote better governance over our lunch discussions.

The United States also stands with you as we work to defeat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, which have taken so many innocent lives in Africa and across the world. That will be our final topic of discussion today.

We are particularly grateful for the work of African countries to expand multinational and regional cooperation to counter terrorism. The United States is committed to partnering with you to defeat ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups across your continent.

Just last month, I announced that the United States pledged up to an additional $60 million in funding to support the G-5 Sahel Joint Force in counterterrorism efforts, and to bolster our regional partners in their fight to provide security and stability.

The United States, as the largest peacekeeping capacity-building contributor, is also helping over 20 African countries train, deploy, and sustain peacekeepers. This year, such efforts have already supported the training of more than 27,000 African peacekeepers to the UN and AU missions.

But we recognize that the force of arms alone is insufficient.

It is imperative that we work together, and with civil society, to address the root causes of violent extremism. To create sustainable peace, we must also combat marginalization, strengthen accountability, and create more economic opportunity.

Before I conclude, let me stress that the United States seeks greater support from our African partners on growing global security matters, including North Korea.

We appreciate the statements condemning the DPRK missile launches that many of your governments have made. But all nations must act to implement UN sanctions in full and cut off all UN-proscribed ties.

Further, I urge you to take additional measures to pressure the DPRK by downgrading your diplomatic relationships with the regime, severing economic ties, expelling all DPRK laborers, and reducing North Korea’s presence in your country in all other ways it may be found.

The DPRK presents a threat to all of our nations. Everyone – including each country represented here today – must play a part in this peaceful pressure campaign to convince the DPRK that the only way to achieve true security and respect from the international community is to abandon its current path and choose a meaningful dialogue about a different future.

The United States will continue to support your efforts to secure your citizens, encourage stronger institutions and better governance, and promote greater economic growth for each of your countries.

I really do look forward to our time together today and in particular to hear how you are working to address these challenges, and how we can learn from your experience and strengthen this already very fruitful partnership.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

[1] trillion

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Sixth Committee Speakers Highlight Country‑Specific Initiatives Illustrating Best Rule of Law Practices in Local, National Settings, as Debate Continues

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its consideration of the report of the Secretary‑General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities, speakers spotlighted country‑specific initiatives that put that principle into practice and made its application more effective.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3543.)

A new era was emerging in his country, the representative of Colombia said.  Together with the United Nations team, his Government had spear‑headed new initiatives aimed at judicial reform.  That reform included its Special Jurisdiction for Peace, as well as the passage of a law that permitted the reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members into society.

Senegal’s delegate described the “houses of justice” in his country, which were provided free of charge to make justice available to all.  Those establishments were able to settle minor conflicts using alternative means for dispute settlement.  They not only used local languages, thus dispelling any language barrier, but were also in physical proximity to the people they served.

On an international platform, the rule of law was also being made more effective on the ground by Slovenia too, according to that country’s representative.  With women’s empowerment a priority in her country, her Government was providing workshops for 900 refugee women in Lebanon.

Ghana’s representative noted that the rule of law was at work in her country’s legal institutions through access to legal representatives and legal aid.  All citizens were ensured equal access to the legal system and legal representation.  On top of that, the Justice for All Programme gave prisoners on remand their own access to proper legal representation.

However, offering a note of caution, the representative of Indonesia recalled violations of international humanitarian law in the State of Palestine.  The rule of law at the international level would always be a fiction if the international community did not minimize its politicization.

Zimbabwe’s delegate also weighed in, stating that the “rule of law should not be an abstract concept in academic discourse”.  The issue could not exist in a vacuum, independent of the realities on the ground.  As a small State, his country depended on the rule of law for protection from “the aggressions of the rich and powerful”.  The Organization should continue to be guided by respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States.

In that regard, the representative of Sri Lanka stressed that the rule of law should always be context specific.  It was not a concept that would conform to an external prescription that ignored domestic realities.  More so, all States, especially developing ones, should have an equal opportunity to be a part of the development of international law, she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Singapore, Peru, India, Syria, Brunei, Libya, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, Russian Federation, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Cuba, South Africa, Mauritius, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Tonga, United States, Mongolia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Uruguay, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Viet Nam, China, Ukraine, Eritrea, Zambia, Brazil, Argentina, Togo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gambia, Serbia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Venezuela and Iran.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Qatar, Russian Federation and Syria.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 October, to continue consideration of the rule of law and take up the subject of criminal accountability.

Statements

LUKE TANG (Singapore), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of the rule of law at both national and international levels.  Small States such as his depended on a rules‑based multilateral system for survival and success.  In regard to strengthening rule of law, he cited programmes of both the Office of Legal Affairs and his Government’s that focused on disseminating information and building necessary capacity.  Singapore also supported the United Nations online Audiovisual Library of International Law.  Reaffirming the importance of registration of treaties, as noted in the Secretary‑General’s report, he voiced support for efforts to make United Nations rule of law assistance more coherent and accessible in a way that better recognized local actors and conditions.  Citing the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes, he also welcomed the establishment of the new office of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in his country.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA VELÁSQUEZ (Peru), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the contribution by the United Nations in advancing an international system based on multilateralism.  Noting that his country had recently signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he also expressed support for the General Assembly resolution establishing the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic.  Stating his country’s firm commitment to the work of the International Criminal Court, he added that, at the national level, his Government was establishing mechanisms to fight corruption.

YEDLA UMASANKAR (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law defined modern societies and nation States.  As globalization picked up pace, it was imperative that countries continued to come together to define rules of cooperation in order to prevent chaos.  Regrettably, there were areas where the international community had not been able to develop international rule of law.  In that regard, the rise of terrorism was alarming, as well as other emerging challenges, such as artificial intelligence, cyber security or maritime piracy.  In his country, the independence of judiciary, legislature and executive branches, a free media and a vibrant civil society, and a strong tradition of electoral democracy were the basis of rule of law.

AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law was “an indivisible whole” and it was not permissible to focus on some of its principles while ignoring others.  The main challenge to rule of law was not the inadequacy of international instruments, but the double standards and a selective approach by some influential countries.  The crisis experienced by his country was an example of flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a country, with some Governments supporting, funding, and arming radical terrorist elements.  Turning to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, he urged colleagues to read document A/71/799, a letter sent by his delegation to the Secretary‑General showing the legal violations involved in the General Assembly resolution that had led to the adoption of the Mechanism.  There were dangerous political intentions underlying the Mechanism, he said, and Syria could not acknowledge its legality.

ADI FAISAL OMAR (Brunei), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of rule of law and the leading role of the United Nations in coordinating efforts to strengthen it at the global level.  In that context, he cited the usefulness of the Programme of Assistance, particularly for small States such as his own.  The elucidation of international commercial law through the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was also extremely useful; the country had based several pieces of domestic legislation on that Commission’s models.  Participating in meetings on rule of law at the regional and international levels as well, the country remained committed to working closely with all partners to abide by the international framework, especially in the maintenance of international peace and security.

MAMADOU RACINE LY (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the new dynamic approach of the Secretary‑General’s report showed the resolve of the Organization to strengthen and coordinate United Nations activities in the area of the rule of law.  However, a culture of lawfulness must be created, and marginalized groups must have access to justice.  Senegal had inscribed those as important elements in its own judiciary, working to make justice available to all by establishing “houses of justice”.  Those houses settled minor conflicts using alternative means for dispute settlements, and provided guidance for citizens involved in the legal system.  They were physically close to the people they serve, free of charge and were not very formal.  Local languages were used in those houses as well, thus removing any language barrier, he said.

ESSA A. E. ESSA (Libya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the promotion of the rule of law was an essential element for peaceful coexistence.  Strengthening the rule of law was a keystone of the efforts to respond to violent crimes and terrorism.  Building the rule of law on an international basis called for respect for the United Nations Charter and the courts and mechanisms established under that Charter.  However, it was important to note the principle of non‑interference in domestic affairs and the right to self‑determination.  The rule of law was a preventive measure and it was essential to promote the concept in all its aspects, he said.

DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said she was pleased that the Secretary‑General’s report attested to the instrumental contribution made by the United Nations to strengthening the rule of law at the national level.  Much of that work aligned with Slovenia’s priorities, she said, noting that women’s empowerment was a priority in her country’s development cooperation.  In that regard, her Government was currently providing workshops for 900 refugee women in Lebanon, and was engaged in a project in Jordan that focused on empowerment through the education and vocational rehabilitation of Syrian refugee families.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that while the United Nations had supported many Member States in establishing and maintaining rule of law, it must do more.  The principle had a clear impact on poverty eradication and fostering gender equality, in addition to fighting corruption and impunity.  In order for people to have access to justice they must be aware of the rights they held and the mechanisms available to ensure those rights.  Furthermore, access to justice must be measured not only in quantitative terms, but also in qualitative terms.  Guatemala was strengthening its investigation of violations of human rights, he said, lauding the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, a novel institution established with help from the United Nations at the request of his Government.  That Commission was “a daring attempt to overcome structural obstacles” and strengthen the Government’s ability to fight impunity.

DIE MILLOGO (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for increased access to justice, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and children.  Any action to strengthen rule of law must be based on internal solutions adapted to the specific context of each country.  Highlighting how citizens had an important role in influencing national Governments, he noted that the people of his country had chosen to build a State that respected individual rights.  The Constitutional Commission with multiple stakeholders had been established, and after broad consultations, had given the President a draft constitution that would soon be subject to a referendum.  Burkina Faso was also resolutely implementing international treaties that it was party to.

LARISA CHERNYSHEVA (Russian Federation), noting the section in the Secretary‑General’s report on enhancing the effectiveness and coherence of United Nations efforts in improving rule of law, said that her delegation was “not sure that the Sixth Committee was the right place” for discussing matters relating to peacekeeping operations.  Those should be considered within the competent bodies, specifically the Third Committee.  The international dimension of rule of law should be the focus of the work of the Sixth Committee, she stressed, calling for more detailed information about the international mechanisms which were enjoying universal support.  Voicing regret that the International Court of Justice, one of the six principal organs of the Organization, was mentioned only in passing, she added that the focus of the report had shifted to non‑United Nations institutions such as the International Criminal Court.  Furthermore, it was not fully clear why the report also focused on a non‑legitimate mechanism to deal with crimes in Syria.  That was a mechanism established by the General Assembly which, in violation of the Charter, had exceeded its powers.  She urged delegates to not support it.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the rule of law was fundamentally imperative for a secure international landscape.  A strong foundation was in place to transform Afghanistan into a country of peace and stability.  It was conducting a major overhaul of its judicial and other institutions to enhance transparency within those bodies.  Its anti‑corruption justice centre was taking bold measures to investigate and prosecute officials, holding them to account; some 21 cases had already been completed in that area.  A culture of meritocracy was also in place for the recruitment of officials, as well as to ensure transparency in the issuing of Government contracts.  Those actions demonstrated the seriousness with which Afghanistan was pursuing good governance.  A reform agenda was an important initiative that demanded the full support of all Member States, he said.

INTISAR TALIL AL-JUBOORI (Iraq), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said her country had always been committed to the rule of law.  That was confirmed in the 2005 Constitution of Iraq, which contained the principle of respect for State sovereignty and non‑interference.  The Iraqi Anti‑Corruption Academy had been established to fight corruption nationally and internationally.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had supported her Government to build more accountable institutions in order to deal with crises and enhance the rule of law.  In 2015, the Iraqi National Security Service and UNDP created a strategy to build civil society capacity.  UNDP also provided legal assistance to refugees and those displaced by assisting with documentation, for example by providing birth certificates to children who had been born to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) fighters and the women who had forced to bear those children.

ALINA JULIA ARGÜELLO GONZÁLEZ (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that her country respected the rule of law, and that every State had the responsibility to preserve democracy, transparency and fairness.  She stressed in particular the importance Nicaragua attached to the protection of human rights of women and children who were sometimes very vulnerable, as well as to the restoration of rights in the areas of health, education, access to land and access to justice.  Strengthening the rule of law meant that the international community should respect the judicial systems of all States, as well as the right to self‑determination.

MIRTA GRANDA AVERHOFF (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed that a true rule of law, as stated in the Secretary‑General’s report, began with a reformed United Nations.  It was also important to note that the high‑level Declaration clearly stated in paragraph 36 that a true rule of law implied democratizing international economic, monetary and financial organizations, so that they served the development of the people rather than the permanent enrichment of the few.  Her country was also committed to working towards a broad and profound reform of the Security Council in order for it to become an inclusive, transparent and democratic organ reflecting the genuine interests of the international community.

SABONGA MPONGOSHA (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, noted that his country’s Constitution contained a unique founding provision that entrenched the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.  Citing section 232, he stated that when interpreting any legislation, every court must prefer any reasonable interpretation of the legislation that was consistent with international law over any alternative interpretation.  However, he pointed out that the content of international law must in and of itself be fair if it were to promote the rule of law.  Fairness had both substantive and procedural dimensions, he said, encouraging delegates to pause and ask themselves if the rules being made were truly fair.

RISHY BUKOREE (Mauritius), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that equality before the law, accountability to the law, and separation of powers were some of the important components of the rule of law.  They guarded people against despotism and the Government against anarchy.  Rule of law had enabled his country to attract investments and benefit from economic opportunities.  The Constitution implied legal processes and substantive norms that were consistent with human rights.  Every international treaty Mauritius adhered to was codified in national legislation.  Customary international law must also be respected; the statute of the International Court of Justice acknowledged its existence.  When it came to rule of law, the United Nations Charter was the most important document.  It had helped create a better world as well as an Organization where all States, whether big or small, were entitled to one vote.  Unfortunately, some States advanced exceptionalism, he said, expressing the hope that the notion of “might is right” would soon give way to rule of law.

YANG JAIHO (Republic of Korea) said that the dissemination of international law was vital, and would not only address various global and regional challenges but would also promote and advance the rule of law in a deeper and wider way.  However, when it came to the dissemination of international law, it was a stark fact that many States were facing a scarcity of resources.  He commended the activities of the Programme of Assistance, and took note that the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs continued to share legal publications and information online.  While laudable, those could never be sufficient.  The Republic of Korea had played its part to increase the dissemination of international law, with various institutions and organizations focused on those specific issues.  The Center for International Law had launched the Seoul Academy of International Law in 2016 with a view to training and educating those working in that field.

VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that laws were only as good as their implementation.  Calling for mechanisms that enforced the just application of agreed‑upon laws, in particular the principles enshrined in the Charter, she stressed that rule of law was a common denominator of peace, security and development.  International justice systems must avoid political manipulation, and at the national level, partnerships between stakeholders were essential.  National context should be at the centre of rule of law, she said, adding that Rwanda’s recent tragic past and “real life experience” of what it took to remove discrimination and violations of rights, including the most basic human rights to life, was the context of her country’s application to rule of law.

SONALI SAMARASINGHE (Sri Lanka), recalling how her country had suffered “under the yoke of terrorism” and an accompanying culture of impunity, said Sri Lanka was therefore acutely aware of the value of a nation built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.  Achieving justice in times of transition from conflict — through accountability, redress to victims and the recognition of their rights — promoted civic trust and strengthened the rule of law.  In that regard, States had a duty to guarantee that violations would not reoccur and to reform institutions which, in the past, had proven incapable of preventing abuses.  Another important principle underpinning the rule of law was that of sovereign equality and non‑interference, as well as the prohibition on the threat or use of force and the obligation to settle international disputes peacefully.  It was therefore vital that all States, including developing countries, had an equal opportunity to participate in the process of developing international law.  The rule of law was not a concept that could be externally forced, nor could it conform to an external prescription that ignored domestic realities.

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the Secretary‑General’s report gave Member States the opportunity to explore implementing the rule of law on national and international platforms.  Access to legal representatives and legal aid was provided for under the Constitution of Ghana.  Its legal aid, together with civil society organizations, had developed a robust mechanism for ensuring that all citizens of Ghana had fair access to the legal system.  In addition, its Justice for All Programme afforded prisoners on remand access to legal representation, she said.

The representative of Lebanon said that while there was no agreed‑upon common definition of the rule of law, it was based on principles such as equality before the law and ensuring fundamental rights.  Strengthening the rule of law meant greater respect for existing international treaties, including the Charter.  The basic role of international law to advance the rule of law was important to small States, which were often decisive in the preparation of landmark conventions.  Lebanon was a part of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example.  Disseminating the rules of international law was crucial.  On a national platform, the Lebanese National International Humanitarian Law Committee, established in 2010, had laid out a plan on how to incorporate relevant laws into the country’s domestic legislation.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that despite extraordinary progress in social indicators, the international community was confronting a plethora of new problems such as climate change, mass migration and terrorism.  Calling for a robust international order based on the rule of law, he said that national experience and international evidence showed that countries where the principle was enforced had better living conditions for their citizens.  Costa Rica was committed to the legal mechanisms provided by international law, and he called on all States to comply fully with the decisions of the International Court of Justice.  It was not possible to live in peace without the confidence provided by rule of law, he stressed.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga), emphasizing the importance of  capacity‑building initiatives, said that the ability to understand sophisticated and cooperative responses set under international law was necessary for all key players, including small island developing States such as his country.  Rule of law at the national and international levels played a critical role in ensuring an enabling environment for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Acknowledging that there were existing gaps in international law, he added that dissemination of international law must also include information on those gaps, and guidance on actions to address those gaps.

MARK A. SIMONOFF (United States) said that when delegates in the Sixth Committee debated on the important work of the International Law Commission and other items, “we breathe life into the words of the Charter” which set out the progressive development of international law as one of the functions of the General Assembly.  Rule of law demanded that all people, in all corners of the world, whether stateless or not, received the benefits conferred by the Charter.  Domestically, rule of law functioned best with an independent and impartial judiciary, he stressed, also commending the work of the private legal associations in their efforts to disseminate international law.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, outlined various steps his Government had taken to maintain the rule of law as an integral part of the national development agenda.  Mongolia had improved the conformity of domestic law and regulations with international human rights treaties and conventions.  As Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the country had abolished the death penalty, and had adopted laws concerning the rights of the child.  Mongolia was also paying particular attention to combating corruption in the public sector, he said.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that his country, in support of efforts by the United Nations to disseminate international law, had been co‑hosting relevant regional courses.  Noting that many diplomatic conferences had been successfully convened under the auspices of the United Nations, enabling the Organization to codify international law, he recalled the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which Thailand had signed and ratified in September.  The international community must intensify the effort to ensure the rule of law for those were marginalized, including women and children, older persons, persons with disabilities and persons under custody.

ELIAB TSEGAYE TAYE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, cited the Secretary‑General, who said in his report that there was no single model for the development of the rule of law at the national level.  He expressed gratitude for the support his country had received from United Nations entities in its national efforts to strengthen the rule of law.  However, much more needed to be done to ensure the universalization of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as to ensure the full implementation of various international agreements that would enable the international community to effectively address the challenge of climate change.

MARINA SANDE (Uruguay) recalled that the United Nations had been created to “sow the seeds of peace” through a system that would enable Member States to solve disputes peacefully.  The coexistence of countries was only possible if norms were established.  Treaties between States obligated those States to behave in a certain way.  There should be common will in international law to support countries, so that, in their domestic legislation, there were rules fostering the full respect of human rights, an independent judiciary and a regulatory framework.  States had a responsibility to comply with their commitments and to apply international treaties, while aligning national legislation with those standards.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, stressed that “rule of law should not be an abstract concept in academic discourse”.  The Organization should continue to be guided by respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States, he said, adding that “small States such as ours depend on rule of law for protection from the aggressions of the rich and powerful.”  Though his country supported international efforts to end impunity, the international criminal justice system operated in a selective manner, thus undermining confidence in it.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that it was critical that the Organization’s rule of law assistance was duly factored into the ongoing reform initiative in the peace and security pillar.  Calling on the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to facilitate in‑depth discussion regarding the impact of rule of law on eliminating poverty and reducing inequalities, he added that it would be particularly interesting to learn from Member States’ experiences and innovations in that area.  It was also necessary to address the financial concerns of the International Criminal Court for conducting investigations and prosecutions into cases referred to it by the Security Council.

KYYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that to strengthen the rule of law, his country had launched a strategic plan to protect the legal rights of individuals and the national interest, as well as to inspire public trust and confidence in the justice system.  He noted that Myanmar’s State Counsellor had championed the promotion of the rule of law before she came into office.  Rule of law centres had been established in 2015 under the guidance of the Pyithu Hluttaw Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee.  Four centres had been opened so far, providing training with a substantive focus on local justice issues linked to international rule of law principles.  As well, with the democratic transition in Myanmar, a series of reforms on the practice of policing had also been introduced.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that her country was continuing a legal harmonization process to align its legislation with international treaties to which it was a signatory.  Together with other members of ASEAN, it was striving to build South‑East Asia into a zone of peace, stability and prosperity.  In the context of complex developments in the East Sea, also known as the South China Sea, she called upon all concerned parties to exercise self‑restraint and settle disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Furthermore, all parties should fully respect diplomatic and legal processes, implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and expedite the completion of a legally binding code of conduct.

ZHANG PENG (China) said that the United Nations and other international organizations, along with all Member States, had a greater role to play in advancing communication in the area of international law.  Voicing his appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs and other relevant entities, he also hailed the positive contribution of the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.  Because teaching and promoting a wider knowledge of international law at institutions of higher learning was high on his Government’s agenda, it had contributed expertise and wisdom to the capacity‑building efforts of developing countries in international law, he said.

IGOR BONDUIK (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, said that the many emerging threats confronting the international community required responses grounded in international law.  In addition to judicial and economic reforms, Ukraine was making progress against corruption and conducting banking sector reforms.  Rule of law at the international level should be strong and effective in the promotion of human rights and State sovereignty.  Recalling the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he condemned the human rights violations conducted by the Russian Federation in Crimea.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that lack of compliance with international law was the root cause of many international conflicts.  Emphasizing the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, he added that Eritrea had been taking measures to achieve a peaceful and inclusive society, including by establishing community courts and ensuring the participation of women in those courts.  Advancing rule of law was an evolutionary process that involved all stakeholders and it was vital to recognize the importance of national ownership in the matter.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), noting that his country had been recognized in the Secretary‑General’s report for many of its recent efforts towards national reconciliation, said the document had drawn special attention to the creation of its Special Jurisdiction for Peace and for its work to ensure the peaceful co‑existence of its citizens and the protection of women and girls.  While Colombia had enjoyed a strong legal tradition, it had also been beleaguered by violence for many years.  Today, a new era was emerging, where a united Colombia was recommitted to the rule of law.  Together with the United Nations team, the Government was spear‑heading initiatives aimed at judicial reform, including by passing a law allowing for the reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members into society.  The peace agreement with that group underscored Colombia’s ownership over its own transition process, he emphasized, calling for the United Nations to employ a cooperative approach with States in all its work related to the rule of law and the maintenance of international peace and security.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, recalled the violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in Palestine and said that rule of law at the international level would always be a fiction if the international community did not minimize its politicization.  At the national level, domesticating international law did not mean much unless there was improved knowledge on the part of people, including Government officials, practitioners, academicians and students.  Her country had enacted a law concerning public information, obliging all Government institutions and courts to publicize legislations, court rulings and jurisprudence.

MUKI M. BENAS PHIRI (Zambia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that rule of law hinged on independent, efficient and effective judicial systems.  Unless it was held together by a functional judiciary, rule of law dissipated and the nation was ruled by the whims and vagaries of fellow human beings.  For that reason, judicial independence was recognized in many international and regional human rights instruments, he said, adding that Zambia’s vision of becoming a prosperous middle income country by 2030 had led to fundamental policy shifts.  The Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission was ensuring that all provisions of the country’s amended Constitution were operationalized systematically in order to translate them into an accessible and accountable justice system.

PATRICK LUNA (Brazil) said that abiding by the rule of law at the international level meant that no single country, no matter how powerful, was exempt from rigorous compliance with its legal obligations or beyond reproach for circumventing international law.  Either the Charter must remain at the centre of the international order, or there would be no order, he warned.  Debates on the rule of law might be complicated due to the difficulty in identifying, in different languages and legal traditions, expressions that encompassed all dimensions of the concept, he said, adding that “something gets lost in the translation”.  Access to justice challenged the root causes of poverty, exclusion and vulnerability, given that such access enabled the full enjoyment of rights and public services.  It was crucial to ensure that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers had a legal identity.  States should be encouraged to provide free and effective legal aid to vulnerable populations.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), welcoming the reform processes spear‑headed by the Secretary‑General, noted that the Organization’s capacity‑building activities were pivotal in establishing rule of law, especially in situations of conflict.  Justice and peace were complementary to each other, he stressed, calling on the international community to continue the fight against impunity.  Turning to the impact of the rule of law on the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that an international network of legal assistance providers could be helpful in buttressing rule of law.  Finally, he highlighted the work of the Treaty Section whose databases were crucial to all working in the field of international law.

DEKALEGA FINTAKPA LAMEGA (Togo), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that his country was party to 222 multilateral treaties, covering all aspects of international law.  Those treaties, as well as various regional and bilateral agreements, had been incorporated into the national legislation.  The Government had also adopted a plan of action to modernize the legal system and make the judicial system accessible to all.  Included in that plan were programmes to improve the legal framework, strengthen prison administration and modernize equipment and logistics.  Lauding the crucial role played by the Office of Legal Affairs in facilitating and promoting an international framework of legally binding mechanisms to settle disputes, he encouraged the Treaty Section to continue organizing workshops on the matter.

MOHAMMED AL AJMI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of respecting the Charter and international law, two crucial pillars when dealing with the threats the international community was facing.  His country had adopted a democratic constitutional system that highlighted respect for the rule of law through the separation of powers while still maintaining cooperation between those sectors.  At the international level, his Government remained committed to international conventions, principles and laws.  However, ongoing violations of human rights weakened resolve to respect the law, he said. That was demonstrated by the violations being committed by Israel, which was continuing to build illegal settlements and defy all resolutions and international legal norms.  More must be done and all possible measures should be taken to ensure respect for the rule of law at the international level.

ABDULLAH ALSHARIF (Saudi Arabia) said the law should be applicable to everyone, “whether the ruler or the ruled”.  His country was currently studying all international treaties; that emanated from Saudi Arabia’s desire to accede to the appropriate treaties that were consistent with the values of the country.  Those treaties should have no contradiction between international law and sharia, as both upheld human rights.  On a national level, men and women had both voted in municipal elections, and women were currently assuming high‑level Governmental posts.  In addition, there was a prohibition against inequalities in salaries between men and women.

AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia) associating himself with the African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that to preserve the dignity of its people, in line with international practice, his country had devised a three‑step approach in its National Development Plan, focusing on human rights, peace and security, and development.  The Government relied heavily on the rule of law as the vehicle to promote, protect and respect the values of human rights.  The Gambia had prioritized security sector reform, emphasizing inclusivity, respect for human rights and rule of law.  His Government also attached great importance to economic growth and development; that was why the connection between rule of law and development was highly appreciated and at the centre of the country’s development agenda.

SANDRA PEJIC (Serbia) said that at the national level, rule of law was the key prerequisite for political stability, without which there was no economic growth or social development.  At the global level, the rule of law was a precondition for international peace and stability, and played a critical role in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  Recalling that his country had participated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, he voiced strong support for further strengthening of the Court’s institutional capacity.  “The Rome Statute’s acceptance should be universal” and impunity should never be allowed, he stressed, also emphasizing his country’s long‑standing commitment to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  Indeed, it had cooperated with the Tribunal substantially and without exception on all matters related to serious international criminal crimes, while also trying crimes in its own courts.

MOHAMMED BENTAJA (Morocco), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for the adoption of an integrated approach to the United Nations work, based on the primacy of international law and one that fostered the peaceful settlement of differences in line with the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non‑interference in States’ domestic affairs.  In the world’s current complex environment — when international relations had seen major changes and nations were confronted with emerging challenges including climate change, migration and large refugee flows — he described the rule of law as an “essential lever” possessed by the United Nations to pursue all aspects of its work.  Through Morocco’s long‑standing commitment to peacekeeping operations, it had helped many countries rebuild their national institutions and re‑establish the rule of law.  The Programme of Assistance was another critical tool to build the capacity of developing countries, he said, calling for meetings held for those purposes to be funded from the regular United Nations budget.

HUMAID ABDALLA ALNAQBI (United Arab Emirates), noting that his country’s foreign policy was based on partnerships and good neighbourliness, said that his region continued to suffer from crises due to the expansionist policies of some countries.  Rule of law was critical to safeguarding regional stability and promoting human rights.  By creating development‑oriented legislation and providing opportunities for industry, his country was guaranteeing economic progress.  Since its birth, the Emirates had been at the forefront of rule of law in the region.  The “flexible national legislation” contributed to the maintenance of peace and security, as well as the total absence of governmental corruption and low crime rates.  Condemning those States that provided safe havens to terrorists, he said they were responsible for the increase in terrorism lately.

The representative of Egypt, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that international security and stability depended on rule of law, which was the best foundation for peaceful settlement of disputes.  Calling on the international community to resolve conflicts without politicizing them, he said that it was necessary to put an end to foreign occupation.  Reiterating the role played by the United Nations and international bodies, he added that the Organization must provide support to Member States while also respecting their territorial integrity and sovereignty.  A more flexible approach that took into account the unique features of each Member State was essential, he concluded.

FÁTIMA YESENIA FERNÁNDES JÚAREZ (Venezuela), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that the rule of law helped all States “stand on an equal footing”.  It further helped underpin and bolster Government responsibilities to protect all people under their jurisdictions.  States should refrain from applying or enacting unilateral sanctions and other measures that violated international law and hindered the development of other nations, she stressed, also calling for the revitalization of the General Assembly and reform of the Security Council.  The latter, in particular, was linked to achieving the rule of law at the international level, and the Council must avoid going beyond its mandate or taking an overly security‑based focus to its work.  Among other things, she said the web compendium of international treaties was a useful tool which should be made available in all the United Nations official languages, a task which should not be hindered by a lack of resources.

ABBAS BAGHERPOUR ARDEKANI (Iran), while underscoring that the principle of State immunity was one of the cornerstones of the international legal order, said that a handful of countries seemed to believe that they could breach the fundamental principle of State immunity by unilaterally waiving it under an unsubstantiated legal doctrine not recognized by the international community.  Each nation had the sovereign right to shape its model of the rule of law and administration of justice based on its specific traditions, needs and requirements.  Domestic legislation must not violate the basic principles of international law, the international obligations of the State or the sovereign rights of other States, nor must it be applied unilaterally to extraterritorial matters involving other countries.  Warning against “norm-setting” through flawed processes that undermined multilateral legal frameworks, he said threats to the rule of law at the international level were not due to a lack of proper norms or insufficiency of rules, but instead were deeply rooted in unilateralism, disregard for international law and disrespect for the international community’s common interest.

Right of Reply

The representative of Qatar, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Syria’s delegate had made many false claims.  Qatar had played a pioneering role, in collaboration with partners, to bring the Syrian regime to accountability by establishing the Mechanism to investigate the crimes conducted by that regime.  When it came to anti‑terrorism, Qatar had a good record as opposed to the Syrian regime whose oppressive practices had led to the prevalence of ISIL.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that Kiev had been raising anti‑Russian provocations in various Committees of the General Assembly.  The tragedy in the east of Ukraine was the consequence of the significant military operation unfurled by Ukraine’s Government against their own people in 2014.  The International Criminal Court had not been effective or impartial; however, since Ukraine had contacted the structure, the Russian Federation hoped the Court would demonstrate objectivity.

The representative of Syria, expressing regret that some representatives were politicizing issues and deviating beyond the topics assigned to the Committee, said that Qatar’s delegate “probably does not know the United Nations Charter very well”.  Condemning the “terrorists financed by that Government” he added that on 15 August, two charities working as a front for Qatari intelligence had transferred $15 million to Al‑Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant.

The representative of Qatar said Syria often used the United Nations as a forum to make baseless allegations against other States.  Qatar’s history in the fight against terrorism was clear, but the Syrian regime took any chance to hide its own oppressive policies.  Indeed, the resolution creating the Mechanism had been a “milestone” in achieving justice and fighting impunity.  It had proved that the international community wished to see those perpetrating violations in Syria — especially the regime, which even used chemical weapons against its own people — was held to justice.  “We cannot take any steps backwards where that is concerned,” he stressed, adding that his delegation reserved the right to respond in writing to all allegations made by the representative of Syria.

The representative of Syria advised the representative of Qatar not to speak about legitimacy, as his country remained totally removed from that concept when it came to terrorism.  Recalling a recent statement by the Head of State of Qatar to the effect that his country “may have a different vision regarding the roots of terrorism” or about who ought to be defined as a terrorist, he stressed that was exactly the case when it came to Al‑Nusrah.  Regarding the so‑called International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, he recalled that he had made a very definitive statement yesterday, including by drawing attention to a letter contained in document A/71/799 in which his delegation had alerted the Secretary‑General to the grave violations to its sovereignty resulting from the Mechanism’s establishment.  Qatar wished to continue its support for terrorism, while at the same time working to sabotage and subvert the Syrian political process in Geneva, he said.

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Full Support of Member States Key to Effective Sanctions Regimes, Assistant Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Effective implementation of sanctions required support from all Member States, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today, emphasizing that when used effectively, they should lead to comprehensive political strategies for preventing and peacefully resolving conflicts.

“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” said Assistant Secretary-General Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, echoing a sentiment expressed by many delegates as the Council considered the subject of enhancing the effectiveness of United Nations sanctions.  Having evolved over the years from comprehensive to more precise and targeted measures, sanctions were increasingly used to counter terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Tailored and calibrated measures were also used to deter unconstitutional changes of government and the illicit exploitation of natural resources that funded the activities of armed groups.

The 13 current Security Council sanctions regimes continued to play a key part in maintaining international peace and security, he said, while adding, however:  “Even the best designed United Nations sanctions resolutions are not self-implementing.”  While adopted in New York, they were implemented mainly at border crossings, ports and airports, as well as in banking and financial institutions, he said, noting that they required the support of myriad partners.  They remained flexible and subject to regular review, adjustments and terminations.

While the Council had adopted 26 sanctions regimes since 1966, it had terminated 15 to date in 2016 alone, including the measures previously imposed on Iran, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.  Reviews of such regimes had also resulted in the strengthening of responses to growing and emerging threats, he said.  In Libya, the Council had expanded prohibitions on the export of petroleum products, and in the Central African Republic, it had adopted the designated sanctions criteria for acts of sexual violence.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members noted that each sanctions regime was unique and required particular tailoring, agreed that all such measures required the full support of Member States to be effective.

The representative of the United States said that when sanctions lacked wide support, they remained meaningless and degraded the Council’s credibility.  When Member States failed to comply with sanctions levelled against an aggressor, the Council lost credibility.  “If widespread support is the way to do sanctions right, the way to do them wrong is unfolding before us,” she noted, pledging that her country would act to defend human rights around the world.

Ethiopia’s representative warned against politicizing sanctions and applying double standards in their design and implementation.  The fervour with which the Council implemented sanctions must remain steady in all cases, he said, emphasizing that the Council must never shy away from strengthening sanctions in cases that call for it.

Many Council members echoed the Assistant Secretary-General, welcoming the evolution of sanctions from broad to more precise measures, while stressing that more remained to be done in mitigating their unintended humanitarian consequences.

Senegal’s representative pointed out that sanctions regimes were mostly imposed on developing countries, particularly in Africa, and increasingly targeted the illicit exploitation of natural resources.  He called for strengthening cooperation among the Council, its sanctions committees and affected Governments to ensure such measures were applied to ensure that natural resources would support development rather than fuelling conflict.

The Russian Federation’s representative emphasized that sanctions must be directed at those who caused crises and never at civilians.  Furthermore, restrictive measures should not be used to bring down undesirable regimes for economic reasons.  Unilateral restrictions contravened international cooperation and violated State sovereignty, he underlined, adding:  “It is no secret that some people want to see certain outcomes.”

Bolivia’s representative rejected unilateral sanctions as illegal actions extending the domestic legislation of one State to another.  Sanctions should be a measure of last resort, to be applied when there was a clear threat to international peace and security, or when an act of aggression was eminent.

Echoing a similar sentiment, China’s representative said that Security Council decisions on sanctions must be part of an overall political package since such measures were not an end in and of themselves.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uruguay, France, Italy, Sweden, Japan and Egypt.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:48 a.m.

Briefing

TAYÉ-BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, just as causes of conflicts were complex and interlinked, the responses to them must be effective and mutually reinforcing.  “Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” he added, emphasizing that, at their most effective, sanctions must contribute to a comprehensive political strategy to prevent and peacefully resolve conflicts.  The current 13 Security Council sanctions regimes continued to play a role in preventing conflict, countering terrorism and constraining the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The Council had adopted tailored and calibrated sanctions measures to deter unconstitutional change of Governments and the illicit exploitation of natural resources which fund the activities of armed groups.

Security Council sanctions were also a flexible instrument, subject to regular review, adjustments and terminations, he continued.  In 2016, three sanctions regimes — Iran, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia — were terminated.  While the Council had adopted 26 sanctions regimes since 1966, it had also terminated 15 regimes to date.  Reviews of sanctions regimes had also resulted in strengthening responses to growing threats, he said, adding that, in Libya, the Council had expanded prohibitions on the export of petroleum products, and designation of criteria was adopted for acts of sexual violence in the Central African Republic.

Effective sanctions required broad-based support from all Member States, he stressed, adding:  “Even the best designed United Nations sanctions resolutions are not self-implementing.”  The diversity and complexity of targeted United Nations sanctions regimes had imposed considerable implementation burden on countries.  Sanctions committees continued to meet with stakeholders on the ground to hear their challenges.  “Sanctions are adopted in New York, but they are mainly implemented at border crossings, ports and airports, as well as in banking and financial institutions,” he added.

Since 2014, the Inter-Agency Working Group on United Nations Sanctions, comprising 26 Organization entities, had worked to ensure system-wide support to sanctions.  Meanwhile, the Security Council Affairs Division had continued to play a key role in supporting the nine sanctions monitoring groups, team and panels, which comprised 59 sanctions experts.  The critical importance of support to those individuals was highlighted with the killing of Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, who were members of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Group of Experts.  He called for full accountability for those crimes and stressed the need to reassess the security arrangements governing the work of sanctions experts.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that sanctions turned words into tangible actions against those who threatened international peace and security.  They were not the first resort, nor a measure that could ever be taken lightly, he said, adding:  “We know that they work.”  Noting that the Iran deal had not been forged from sanctions alone, and that victory over Da’esh would not come about from the work of the 1267 Committee alone, he said sanctions must sit alongside other tools, such as direct political dialogue, negotiations and peacekeeping efforts.  It was important that they remain fit for purpose, although there were challenges to building the political commitment for effective follow-up to recommendations for improving sanctions regimes.  For such measures to be effective, it was essential that all States fully implemented them.  It was not good enough for a majority of countries to implement sanctions, he said, stressing that a chain was only as strong as its weakest link.  There could be no “ifs” and no “buts”; sanctions were obligated under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  The work on some of the most important sanctions dossiers, including on North Korea [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], needed improvement, particularly as the number of States reporting on the implementation of those sanctions still fell far short of where it needed to be.  There was no clearer reminder for strengthening sanctions capabilities than the North Korean case, which was a State that continued to threaten not just the region, but the entire world.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said his delegation supported Security Council sanctions, which were important preventive measures that helped to sustain or restore international peace and security.  Sanctions should be designed with the aim of modifying behaviour and whenever possible, they must be subjected to pre-assessment on their probable impact from a humanitarian point of view, as well as enforcement and efficacy.  Every sanction regime was unique and carefully tailored to address specific and clear objectives, although there was always room for improvement and the dissemination of best practices.  Throughout the sanctions phase, every effort should be made to continue with diplomacy and mediation for Member States to comply with Security Council resolutions.  Just as vital was the timely sharing and management of information between the Council, Member States, regional or subregional bodies and technical bodies.  Further, States needed to be helped to understand and upgrade legal procedure and enact new domestic legislation in keeping with United Nations standards.

LIU JIEYI (China) said that, under the provisions of the United Nations Charter, sanctions were a peaceful means of conflict resolution and played a positive role in maintaining international peace and security.  Some sanctions regimes had served their purpose and had been lifted, although, at the same time, there must be awareness that some faced problems that should be cause for serious consideration by the Security Council.  Its use of sanctions must be in full keeping with the provisions of the Charter, entailing prudent deliberations when imposing them, he emphasized, adding that their imposition should be predicated on exhausting all non-coercive means.  Security Council decisions on sanctions must be part of an overall political settlement package, as such measures were not an end in and of themselves.  Sanctions must be part of an overall political package and should be advanced holistically, while the implementation of resolutions should be not selective.  The Council should enhance the relevance of sanctions to avoid negative impacts and focus on the key issue at hand, he said, stressing that they should not affect normal, legal trade relations nor exacerbate humanitarian situations on the ground.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said sanctions were one of the most important tools at the Security Council’s disposal and must be part of a broader political strategy aimed at managing and preventing conflicts.  Sanctions had, however, evolved significantly in recent years, he added, noting the effectiveness of targeted sanctions.  If used appropriately and in a targeted manner, sanctions had the potential to exert pressure on individuals whose attention the Council was seeking.  Sanctions must include clear objectives, he added, emphasizing that they must be reviewed and tailored in a timely manner.  More often than not, however, arguments took place on the overall effectiveness of sanctions.  That remained a counterproductive practice.  To achieve desired objectives, it would serve well to look at each sanctions case individually.  If a particular situation warranted the lifting of sanctions, the Council must not hesitate to take that action.  It must also never shy away from strengthening sanctions in cases that call for it.  “What really matters here is the reality on the ground,” he added.  He opposed the politicization of sanctions and the application of double standards in their design and implementation.  The fervour with which the Council implemented sanctions must not be different from one case to another.

VASSILY ALEKSEEVICH NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that restrictive measures could not be an end to themselves.  It was the Council alone that had the right to impose sanctions.  Such actions must be restrictive in terms of time and must have clear criteria for drawdown.  Their focus must be targeted at those who cause crises and never on civilians.  Restrictive measures must not be used to bring down undesirable regimes for economic reasons.  As seen from experience, that was likely to lead to mass chaos and endless civilian suffering.  Sanctions must never be used against diplomatic or consular representatives.  That would be a clear violation of the Vienna Convention.  Each sanctions regime was individual and unique and what was useful for one may well be counterproductive for another.  He stressed that those decisions must be made solely by Member States.  “It is no secret that some people want to see certain outcomes,” he added, expressing regret over the application by some Member States of unilateral restrictions.  Such measures countered international cooperation and violated State sovereignty.  He also stressed the need to examine the outcome document of the Council’s Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, which had made a significant contribution to improving the work of the 15-nation body.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said that prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the Security Council had been recognized as the most powerful non-military response to threats to global peace for more than 50 years.  The current practice of introducing more precise, targeted sanctions continued to seek to strike a balance between sought results and possible unintended socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences.  Along with the developments in sanctions’ design and calibrating their nature and scope, the issue of enhancing their effectiveness and efficiency required sustained attention by the Council.  He outlined two major challenges in making them more efficient:  lack of will and outright obstruction or evasion of the existing sanctions.  While the deficit of political will and abuse of veto right merited a separate debate, he underscored the need to restrain from giving assistance to any State against which the United Nations was taking preventive or enforcement action.  In that respect, the Council had to explore ways of further strengthening the role of respective committees in identifying possible cases of non-compliance and determining appropriate course of action.  Outreach activity, including awareness-raising and dialogue with relevant international and regional organizations, was important, as well.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) stressed that sanctions should only be considered once all other means of peaceful resolution of disputes had been exhausted.  Further, sanctions should only be imposed after their long- and short‑term impacts had been evaluated.  Sanctions should not be an end in themselves and should be a measure only of last resort, when there was a clear threat to international peace and security or when an act of aggression was eminent.  He expressed concern that there was a dangerous trend towards the proliferation and imposition of unilateral sanctions.  Such measures were categorically rejected by his delegation as illegal acts that extended the domestic legislation of one State over another.  Such actions were not only illegal, but they were actions that sought to usurp the function of legal bodies such as the Security Council.  Any measure that was unilaterally adopted by one State over another State outside the framework of the Council was contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.  When sanctions were imposed, there must be due process and respect for international law.  The design of sanctions should be fair and transparent and include procedures that clearly laid out conditions for States.  Further, every effort should be taken to limit the humanitarian impact of sanctions.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said it was important that the Security Council work to improve the effectiveness of sanctions.  Each sanctions regime should be seen as an instrument through which the Council could achieve a goal and used in conjunction with other tools, such as mediation and dialogue.  When designing sanctions, it was imperative that specific goals were established so that it would be clear when sanctions could be lifted.  Sanctions should also be designed with a view towards reducing the adverse impacts on civilian populations.  Uruguay supported the proposal to conduct a comprehensive, global review of sanctions, such as the one that had taken place on the peacebuilding architecture.  He underscored the need for strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and other institutions such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), as well as regional financial institutions.  He went on to stress the need for further cooperation between States in the implementation of the provisions of various sanctions regimes, which were often inhibited due to the lack of national capacities or political will.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) noted that, with 13 active regimes, sanctions had become an important tool for the Security Council.  Although they were not an end in themselves, sanctions regimes were important given their contributions towards targeting terrorists groups or individuals and by supporting those States threatened by a lack of security, the presence of armed groups, political shortcomings, the existence of weapons, as well as violations of human rights.  He recalled that sanctions implemented in the 1990s were sometimes pursued an indiscriminate manner, although they had now significantly evolved.  Since then, the Council had worked to ensure that sanctions targeted, as precisely as possible, those that directly undermined the stability of States and that they did not have a negative impact on populations.  He highlighted that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the sanctions regime and arms embargo had been continuously adapted to reflect the evolving situation in that country since 2003.  It was critical to continue to improve the function and transparency of sanctions regimes, while it was also crucial that sanctions and embargoes be fully respected and implemented by all stakeholders present on the ground.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said sanctions, which were being used with increasing regularity and growing in their complexity, had to strike the right balance between achieving desired results and managing potentially harmful and unintended socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences.  United Nations sanctions had significantly evolved over the years and their effectiveness depended on clarity and harmonization with the measures and actions of regional and national partners.  Integrating sanctions work into other United Nations systems was crucial to improving the overall global security architecture.  Greater focus must be placed on harmonizing efforts of regional and subregional stakeholders.  In most sanctions regimes currently in place, it was evident that cooperation was critical in their effective implementation.  Most sanctions regimes were applied to developing countries.  It was therefore essential to pay special attention to those nations’ needs particularly through technical assistance that could ensure the appropriate dissemination of information.  Noting that natural resources were being increasingly targeted by sanctions regimes, particularly in Africa, he said that strengthening dialogue and cooperation between the Council, sanctions committees and affected Governments would strengthen national economies and ensure natural resources were used for development rather than to fuel conflict.

MICHELE SISON (United States) said sanctions required patience and were among the most important tools that the United Nations had at its disposal.  When implemented swiftly and effectively, sanctions could have widespread positive impact.  The United States and Russian Federation had worked together in formulating sanctions against Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Because the Security Council spoke with one voice, those sanctions were showing real results on the ground.  By the same token, when sanctions lacked wide support, they remained meaningless and degraded the credibility of the Council making the next threat to peace and security more likely.  And yet, the Council had been unable to come together to agree on several issues including a format to discuss cross-cutting issues relating to sanctions.  “When it does this, the Council shoots itself in the foot,” she said.  “If wide-spread support is the way to do sanctions right, the way to do them wrong is unfolding before us.”  When Member States failed to comply with sanctions levelled against an aggressor, the Council lost credibility.  The Council continued to threaten but failed to follow up and had closed its eyes to repeated violations.  She said the United States would act to defend universal human rights from Venezuela to Zimbabwe and from Crimea to Syria.  It was a promise of a people no longer able to conceal their impatience.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said more needed to be done, including in the area of assessing and reviewing progress on sanctions implementation.  Sanctions must never be an end in itself.  They were a useful tool to support political processes, negotiations and dialogue.  He stressed the need to ensure coherence and establish a periodic review which could have an impact on the design and implementation of sanctions regime.  Input from Member States would help the Council adjust its approach and improve the management of socioeconomic and humanitarian unintended consequences.  He called for constant and effective dialogue with Member States.  The Secretariat and sanctions committees must engage in more outreach activities and provide Member States with a platform to express their perspectives.  United Nations bodies could also be useful in providing Member States with clarity, guidance and assistance.  Review processes must ensure an appropriate balance between implementation and what the Council had initially agreed upon.  He warned that when the Council was perceived in lacking coherence there could be an issue of legitimacy spilling over to real results on the ground.

CARL SKAU (Sweden) recalled that in the mid-1980’s, his country introduced economic sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa, that were essentially unilateral in nature, but with strong political symbolism.  Since then, Sweden had been engaged in processes aimed at making sanctions more effective and transparent.  His delegation believed that United Nations sanctions, when properly applied and well-calibrated within a broader political strategy, could serve as a versatile tool for responding to security challenges.  The evolution from comprehensive to targeted sanctions had largely addressed many concerns about unintended consequences and adverse effects.  Sanctions could never be successful in isolation, he warned, adding that they must always be part of a broader political strategy, featuring elements of peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding.  The common obligation to implement decisions by the Council coexisted with obligations to respect fundamental human rights.  By further improving fair and clear procedures, the Council would render the sanctions tool more effective and legitimate, thereby enhancing the authority of the Council and the United Nations as a whole.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that sanctions were tools to achieve specific political objectives, including the restoration of peace after civil war, prohibition of support for terrorists, disarmament of armed groups and denuclearization.  Sanctions must never be tools for punishment, however.  They must have clear goals and exit strategies.  Each sanctions regime generally had its own internal exemption clauses or mechanisms to minimize unwanted adverse effects.  To that end, the evolution in the way the Security Council used such measures was a welcome one, he continued, adding that the periodic review of sanctions in each sanctions committee could be useful.  Once the Council decided to take certain sanctions measures, they must be fully implemented in order to be effective.  That could be challenging and complex, and may require both time and capacity-building for Member States.  Neighbouring countries had a particularly vital role to play in ensuring that the sanction measures were effective.  He also emphasized that sanctions must be fully implemented by each Member State before the Council discussed their effectiveness.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), Council President for August, spoke in his national capacity, highlighting that Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter had granted the Security Council the mandate to take different measures to confront any threats to international peace and security without the use of force.  Despite the use of the word “sanctions” to describe such measures, he recalled that the Charter did not make any reference to that term.  As such, the Council had the responsibility of rectifying the use of that commonly used term and its punitive measures.  The Council had made significant progress in developing the concept of sanctions; moving from comprehensive measures to smarter and more effective measures, benefiting from the knowledge gained from previous experiences.  As a result, the international community had been able to mitigate the negative impacts of such sanctions, including on civilians and States that were not party to conflicts.  The unique nature of the threats to international peace and security made it necessary to adopt sanctions regimes that were tailor-made and in line with the nature of the situation.  Maintaining the same approach and considering sanctions from a narrow perspective would not help achieve the desired results.  Identifying adequate dialogue mechanisms, monitoring lessons learned and taking into consideration the views of every party were efforts that should not be undermined, underestimated or ignored by the Council.

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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Nuclear Weapons

At 1:15 p.m., here, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica will be here to brief you on the conclusion of the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading [towards] Their Total Elimination.  And I do expect to have a statement from the Secretary-General on that topic a bit later on.

**Germany

Speaking of the Secretary-General, he arrived this morning from Switzerland to Hamburg, Germany, where is attending the G20 Summit.  Earlier today, he took part in a working luncheon on global growth and trade, as well as a working session on sustainable development, climate and energy.  Upon arrival, he said that he calls on the G20 leaders to join the UN's efforts to combat climate change, violent extremism and other unprecedented challenges.

The Secretary-General also had a bilateral meeting with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and he will take part in the G20 sessions tomorrow before traveling on to Ukraine in the evening.  Last night, as you will have seen, the Secretary-General spoke to the media at the end of the Conference on Cyprus that was being held in Crans-Montana, in Switzerland.  He said he was deeply sorry that despite the very strong commitment and the engagement of all the delegations and the different parties, the Conference on Cyprus closed without an agreement being reached.

**Food

Also from Hamburg, a couple of things to flag:  the World Food Programme (WFP) and MasterCard will announce, at the Global Citizen Festival that will take place in Hamburg, a new commitment in their continued vision to reverse the cycle of hunger and poverty.  Connecting MasterCard’s expertise in technology and digital innovation with WFP’s work, 100 Million Meals is a truly global initiative designed to raise significant funds and meals for those in need around the world.  WFP’s Executive Director, David Beasley, said that over the years of the partnership, MasterCard has helped the organization change the way it does business, reaching more people with a more efficient and agile approach.  More information on WFP’s website.

**Education

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — also out of Hamburg — UNICEF warned today that funding shortfalls are threatening education for millions of children caught up in conflicts or disasters.  Of the $932 million needed this year for its education programmes in emergency countries, UNICEF has so far received recorded voluntary contributions of less than $115 million.  The funds are necessary to give 9.2 million children affected by humanitarian crises access to formal and non-formal basic education.

**Human Security

This morning at a high-level event on human security, the Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed the link between human security and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  She said the human security approach is “instrumental to sustainable development, inclusive peace, justice and the well-being and dignity of all people”.  And she added that it can help to find solutions that address the root causes of crises.  Her full remarks are online.

**Deputy Secretary-General Travels

This Sunday, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for London where she will attend the Family Planning Summit 2020.  She will also deliver the first lecture named in honour of the late Head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Babatunde [Osotimehin] — that will take place on 10 July.  She will also attend high-level meetings with top United Kingdom and Canadian Government officials.  On 11 July, she will deliver the opening remarks at the Family Planning Summit.  Thereafter, she will have more high-level meetings on the She Decides initiative, and also on the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin that will focus on empowering women and youth.  Finally, she will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury.  She is expected to return back to New York on 12 July.

**Peacekeeping

The Chiefs of Defense Conference started this morning and will wrap up around 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.  In a video message welcoming the participants, the Secretary-General said Chiefs of Defense are critical to ensuring that peacekeeping remains modern and efficient.  He also urged actions to deploy more women — and to help integrate gender-sensitive perspectives in fostering peace.  When we have greater gender balance in our forces, we boost our protection outreach — and we reduce the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse, he stressed.

In his own remarks, the Head of the Peacekeeping Department, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said we are now working towards realizing the Secretary-General’s vision of peacekeeping as a tailored, agile, and adaptable tool – one which blends the right skills and capabilities in response to the specific needs on the ground, taking into account the context of a reduction in its budget.

**Iraq

From Iraq, in Mosul, our colleagues from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have temporarily suspended certain activities in the Qayara’s air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp, due to security concerns.  The decision was taken yesterday following a temporary decline in the security environment in the Qayara District, due to sporadic violence, including exchanges of gunfire.  Both emergency sites host over 79,000 people — displaced Iraqis.  IOM said the situation will be reviewed on Sunday.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

A study on the Cost of Hunger in Africa published today reveals that the economic toll of malnutrition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reaches $1 billion a year, equivalent to as much as 4.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The study shows that the losses are incurred each year through increased health-care costs, additional burdens to the education system and reduced workforce productivity.  The Cost of Hunger in Africa study has so far been conducted in 11 countries, with an estimated annual loss associated with child undernutrition equivalent to between 1.9 per cent and 16.5 per cent of GDP.

Results of recently undertaken studies are due to be released soon in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  Similar studies are being planned for Mali and Mauritania.  This is being done by our friends at the World Food Programme.  Still on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our humanitarian colleagues warn that, despite a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs in 2017, the Humanitarian Response Plan, which requires $748 million, remains 25 per cent funded.  For its part, the emergency appeal which was launched in April [for] the Kasaï crisis to date is only 11 per cent.  More information from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

**Migration

IOM also reports that migrant arrivals to Europe by sea have now surpassed the 100,000 figure this year.  Of the estimated 101,000 migrants and refugees that have entered the continent, 85 per cent arrived in Italy and the remainder arrived in Greece, Cyprus and Spain.  Some 2,300 people have died making the journey towards Europe this year, a decrease from the 2,963 fatalities in 2016.  However, IOM noted that this is the fourth consecutive year that migrant deaths on the Mediterranean have exceeded 2,000.

**El Salvador

A note on El Salvador:  the El Salvador dialogue process facilitated by the United Nations enters a new, technical phase today.  This new phase is founded on the consultations conducted by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Benito Andión, whose mandate has now concluded.  We want to express our gratitude to Mr. Andión for all his efforts and dedication during his tenure.  The UN will continue to support this process through the deployment of a technical team and the Secretary-General’s good offices will remain available and could resume once conditions for a political dialogue are ripe.

**Myanmar

Juts to note that the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has concluded his first visit to Myanmar, which included a visit to Rakhine State.  More information on UNHCR’s website.

**Climate

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) informs us today that, over the past two months, high temperatures have continued as part of an extended spell of “exceptional global warmth” that has lasted since mid‑2015.  Average surface air temperatures were the second hottest on record, after June 2016.  In Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, for example, a heatwave has driven temperatures in excess of 50°C.

In addition to high temperatures, extreme weather affected many different parts of the world in June and July.  Australia had its second driest June on record, China experienced torrential rainfall which caused considerable economic losses and transport disruption, and parts of Russia and Siberia have [experienced] an unusually cold June.  More information from WMO.

**Human Rights

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today issued a number of statements, one regarding Turkey, another on China and the third on Cambodia.  Those are on their website.

**Gonorrhoea

Also from the World Health Organization:  data from 77 countries show that antibiotic resistance is making gonorrhoea — a common sexually transmitted infection — much harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat.  The World Health Organization reports wide-spread resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics.  Some countries — particularly high-income ones, where surveillance is best — are finding cases of the infection that are untreatable by all known antibiotics.  Each year, an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea, whose complications disproportionally impact women.  WHO also expresses concern that the Research and Development pipeline for gonorrhoea is relatively empty, with only 3 new candidate drugs in various stages of clinical development.

**Senior Personnel Appointment

We have a senior appointment to announce:  Martha Helena Lopez of Colombia as the new Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management.  She will succeed Carole Wainaina of Kenya, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her commitment and dedicated service to the Organization.  Ms. Lopez brings a wealth of senior-level international experience in human resources management.  Since 2015, she has served as Human Resources Director at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  More information in her bio note in my office.

**Press Conference on Monday

On Monday, I will be joined by Wu Hongbo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  He will discuss the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

**Honour Roll

Finally, we welcome Bolivia to the Honour Roll, as it has paid its regular budget dues in full.  We now stand at a total of 111 countries.  We would like to see more countries on that Honour Roll.  On that note, I would take your questions should you have any.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have two questions about Iraq.  You mentioned Qayara and that UN operations have been suspended.  Can you elaborate more on the reason?  What was the security issue there that made the…?

Spokesman:  From what I understand there was sporadic gunfire in the… in the area and the International Organisation for Migration decided to suspend its activities and it will review the situation on Sunday.

Question:  And my second question is about UNAMI's [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] statement about two weeks ago, that they will not be engaged in any forum… in the referendum in September of the Kurds, whether to remain part of Iraq.  I just want to understand the reasoning behind it.  Does this mean the UN mission in Iraq is against the… the referendum?  Why they decided that?

Spokesman:  I think the statement is fairly clear.  It means they will not participate in the… in the organization.  I think their position on… the UN's position on… on the need for dialogue regarding the issues… outstanding issues between the Kurdish… Kurdistan and the central Government have been made over and over again.  As a matter of principle… as a matter of principle, the UN needs a request from a national Government to participate and to help, whether it's technical and otherwise, in any balloting that takes place.  The UN works with national Governments, and that's how we operate throughout the world.  And that's just a standing principle.

Question:  And just to be clear.  That doesn't mean… so UN is against the referendum?  Because there's some talk about concerns…

Spokesman:  I think it's… I think… as I said the UN's position on the need for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad has been often stated.  Apostolos.

Question:  A few questions from Cyprus with your permission.  First one, the Secretary-General on 4 June, he said the conference on Cyprus is open ended.  Why he decided to end it last night?

Spokesman:  Well, I think the Secretary-General, along with the other participants, I think worked literally through the night.  They ended at 2 a.m.  There was a shared understanding among the participants that it was best to close it.  And I think the Secretary-General expressed his… his… his regret that the conference was closed without… without an agreement being reached.

Question:  So, that means that he's returning also his mandate?  That means the negotiations that started in 2008, if you remember, are ended now?  There are no more…

Spokesman:  No, it just means the Conference on Cyprus is closed.  Mr. Eide will be joined by Ms. Spehar, the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General].  They will be in New York the week of 17 July.  They will be briefing the Security Council.  I think the Secretary-General… for the Secretary-General, the UN's role is clear.  It's one of a facilitator.  We remain… we remain available.  I think he made that point himself very clearly in his press remarks yesterday.  Any decision on the future will be taken by the Secretary-General in consultations with all concerned.  I think what happened yesterday has to be absorbed.  Mr. Eide and Ms. Spehar will be here.  They will be briefing the Council.  The Secretary-General will obviously have a round of consultations before taking any next steps.

Question:  There's a report coming on 10 July, on UNFICYP [United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus], is he going to use the results of Geneva in this report.  And finally, if you have a readout on Erdogan, SG's meeting?

Spokesman:  I think there will be, in due course, a full report by the Secretary-General on his good offices to the Security Council.  I think right now, as I said, we're absorbing what happened.  It's time for all the parties to reflect also on what happened.  The Secretary-General did meet President Erdoğan, they exchanged views on a number of… a broad number of… of regional issues.  The Secretary-General again expressed his regret, his disappointment, that no agreement was reached on the Conference on Cyprus.  But, he told the President that he greatly appreciated the Turkish Government's strong commitment to the process.  And on Syria, the Secretary-General commended Turkey for its support for the Astana and Geneva processes, and I think as you will remember, taking note in yesterday's remarks to the press, the Secretary-General I think thanked and expressed his appreciation to all the parties involved, including the guarantor powers.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  Follow-up on Cyprus.  But, I just… obviously, it seems like you did have a readout of that meeting.  Is it possible to ask in advance, particularly when we don't have briefings and aren't able to ask you directly, that those readouts be just issued?

Spokesman:  Sure.  We'll… some readouts are issued, some are if-asked.  It kind of… it depends on the circumstance.  So when we're…

Question:  Can you consider if asked?

Spokesman:  I don't know if he'll have any more bilaterals, but we'll share what we can.

Question:  I want to ask you.  There's a quote by the Turkish Foreign Minister saying that the outcome or failure of the talks shows "the impossibility of the solution within the parameters of the UN good offices' mission." I heard what you're saying that you'll, you know, figure it out by 17 July, but is that… at least currently, does the Secretary-General disagree with that?  Does he still see a role… a possibility within the parameters?

Spokesman:  I think… I think the Secretary-General is very clear.  He was asked a question yesterday.  He says the UN's role is a facilitator.  We're not negotiating on behalf of parties, we're here to facilitate the talks between the parties and we remain available to the parties, should… should they come to us with… with a request, with… new negotiations.  I think he said it much more clearly than I yesterday in answer to your question.

Question:  Okay and then I wanted to… could you… on Jeffrey Feltman's diplomacy, when you… when you listed the countries he's been to, there was… has he been to more countries since then than the ones you said?  I'm specifically asking about Saudi Arabia.

Spokesman:  I don't have a full itinerary.  Mr. Feltman is back… he is in Germany when he's currently briefing the Secretary-General on his… on his trip.

Question:  Could I… I've heard that he asked to go to Saudi Arabia and was not for some reason permitted.  Is there some…

Spokesman:  I'm not aware.  I'm not aware.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you.  Khalida Jarrar, a 54-year-old Palestinian member of the Legislative Council, was re-arrested on the night of 3 July.  She has been in jail 14 months and she was released on June 30.  Again, she was arrested, bringing the number of Palestinian members of the Legislative Council who are currently in jail to 13.  And yet, there is no statement from the Special Coordinator on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Why is that?

Spokesman:  I think Mr. Mladenov and the UN has reported… reports monthly to the Security Council on the overall situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I think those points, to my mind, are covered in the briefings.

Correspondent:  But, an event of this magnitude, I think it deserved to be highlighted for the world to see that the UN is not happy when Israel arrests somebody who has been an elected official.

Spokesman:  I don't think I heard a question mark there, so I appreciate your statement.  Again, I think on a monthly basis and periodically in between, whether it's a Special Coordinator or the Secretary-General, we express ourselves on issues that I think reflect the gravity of the situation.  Matthew.  Oh, and then…

Question:  You may have… you may have… I've asked you before about the… the continuing situation in the Rif region in Morocco, and you may have seen that The Economist… I know your DPA's [Department of Political Affairs] work is not driven by publications, but it's a pretty respected one, and their analysis is that things are getting significantly worse and that it threatens, you know, the… the situations elsewhere in the country, and the Government has recently said that they have at least 176 people under "preventative detention", based on what's basically a non-violent protest, including on a beach where they were banned from going into the water.  So, I just wanted to know, has DPA done anything on this?  Have they reached out to the country?  Do they have any expression of concern as, you know, respected observers say the situation is getting worse?

Spokesman:  I don't have anything specific.  I mean as a matter of principle, we stand for the people's right to demonstrate peacefully.  Ben?

Question:  Apologies if I missed the beginning of the briefing.  Just wanted to see where the Secretary-General stood on the policy of the draft resolution on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Spokesman:  We… we expect a statement very shortly on this.  I think yesterday, we expressed our support for efforts by Member States to create a world free of nuclear weapons, but I expect a formal statement shortly.  Ann.

Question:  Ann Charles, Baltic Review.  Do you have any more details available on the Secretary-General's trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, and his meeting with Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, on 9 July?  Who else will he meet with when he's in Ukraine?  And do you expect any progress on the illegal occupation of Crimea?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, as you said, will be meeting President Poroshenko.  I expect him to meet other senior officials, including the Foreign Minister and other Government officials.  The programme is still being finalized.  We will report back on it on… on Monday at the briefing.  And obviously, the situation in Ukraine and the situation between Ukraine and Russia will be discussed.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  I want to ask about Ghassan Salamé and where is he physically now?  Did he take his position in Tunisia or in Tripoli?  Do you have any update on his activities?

Spokesman:  It's a very valid question, which I should be able to answer, which I'm not able to answer.  But, let me check and get an update.  Yes, Mr. Lee.  Telescope, whatever.

Question:  In South Sudan, the Government itself has expressed concern about threats to residents of Jonglei Province saying that people from Equatoria should leave or face, I guess, death.  So, I'm wondering what is… is UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] aware of this and what are they doing to protect Equatorians in Jonglei, given this public threat.

Spokesman:  Let me check with the Mission.  But, what I mean… we have said repeatedly and expressed our concern at the continued threats of violence against civilians and the actual violence against civilians based on people's ethnicity.

Question:  Okay and just on the JPO [Junior Professional Officer], I asked a couple of days ago about whether the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has reported a memorandum for Junior Professional Officers programme with the UN.  Do they, and are they sending anyone?

Spokesman:  I think I have something, which is basically that based on the… first of all, that the JPO programme is open to every Member State, all right.  Based on expression of interest of [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] as a Member State of the UN, and in accordance with relevant resolutions from [Economic and Social Council] from March, the Permanent Mission of the DPRK and the UN reached a memorandum of understanding, the provision of JPOs without prejudice.  While the memorandum of understanding is concluded, the provision of a JPO to the UN is subject to the identification by the organization of programmatic needs and suitable candidates who meet the qualifications, competencies, ability to perform duties and other requirements, set by the receiving Department.  The selected candidate is subject to UN staff rules and resolutions, including the obligation not to seek or accept instruction in regard to performance of duties from any Government or any other source external to the UN, as per Article 100 of the Charter.

Question:  At least one published report identified or described an individual — they said — is already in the pipeline, mentioned the Department of Political Affairs as the target and said that a Permanent Representative has spoken to António Guterres in opposition to this.  Is it… you say it's open to all, but is it also open to… are there considerations of not, for example, placing a national of a country, for example, under a sanctions system to work in the DPA or SCAD Sanctions Office about that country?

Spokesman:  I think, obviously, first of all, it's up to the UN and to the Department to identify the programmatic needs and where that person would be best… best used.  Thank you.

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Secretary-General Appoints Masimba Tafirenyika as Director of United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Masimba Tafirenyika of Zimbabwe as Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria, an office that provides service to South Africa.  Mr. Tafirenyika assumed his duties today.

Mr. Tafirenyika was most recently Chief of the Africa Section in the United Nations Department of Public Information and Editor-in-Chief of its Africa Renewal magazine, since 2009.  Previously, he served as Officer-in-Charge of the Pretoria information centre from 2008 to 2009, and as Deputy Director from 2006 to 2008.

He joined the Department of Peacekeeping Operations as a Research Analyst in 1996.  He served as a Public Information Officer with the Department of Public Information from 2004 to 2006; as Desk Officer for Liberia and Sierra Leone in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at United Nations Headquarters from 2003 to 2004; as Head of Publications with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone from 2001 to 2003; and as Associate Political Affairs Officer with the United Nations Office in Liberia from 1998 to 2001.

Mr. Tafirenyika was an Associate Third World Visiting Researcher for a Georgetown University research programme run by the Center of Concern in Washington, D.C., from 1992 to 1993.  Prior to this, he worked as the Research Coordinator for the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 1985 to 1992.  He has also worked as a freelance journalist, based in Zimbabwe, writing on political and economic development issues for various publications around the world.

He has a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from Columbia University in the United States and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

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

Dialogue on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

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

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

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

Dialogue on Human Rights in Myanmar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialogue on Trafficking in Persons

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction of draft resolutions

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

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

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

Dialogue on Human Rights of Minorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialogue on Human Rights in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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