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CM/Inf(2010)5 26 January 20101

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United Nations – Exchange of views (human rights questions) with the participation of experts from capitals
Information note provided by Ambassador Normans Penke, Permanent Representative of Latvia to the UN, Chairperson of the Third Committee at the 64th session of the General Assembly, on the Work of the Third Committee during the 64th session of the General Assembly
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1. During the 64th session of the GA, the Third Committee adopted 60 resolutions submitted under 10 agenda items; as usual, more than half of the drafts were presented under the agenda item “Promotion and protection of human rights” and agenda item “Advancement of women”.

2. This session of the Committee was relatively less confrontational than in previous years, although it is not clear whether the absence of the initiative on the moratorium on the use of death penalty, which during the last two sessions was accompanied by lengthy and emotional debates, or a more general change in mood was the main contributing factor. For the first time there were no proposals to adjourn the debate on country-specific resolutions (“no action motion”), and overall the time spent on procedural debates was significantly shorter than in previous sessions. The most significant positive development was the adoption without a vote of the resolution “Rights of the child” and of the resolution “The right to food”; in previous year the delegation of the United States requested votes on these two proposals.

3. Tensions remained, however, in several areas, including regarding the resolutions on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and on the Durban Review Conference. A negative tendency was the criticism of the special procedures and the treaty bodies, as a result of which on several occasions the Committee was asked to vote on proposals to delete paragraphs in draft resolutions with references to the documents submitted by special procedure mandate holders or treaty bodies that contained references to sexual orientation. Several delegations were of the opinion that discussing the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity went beyond the mandate given by the General Assembly and was thus in violation of the Code of Conduct for special procedures mandate holders. In another negative development the resolution “International Covenants on Human Rights” traditionally submitted by the Nordic countries was adopted by a close vote after some amendments proposed by the African Group.

4. Several draft resolutions were introduced for the first time – resolution “Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities”, resolution “International year for people of African descent”, resolution “2010: International Year of the Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding,” resolution “Commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, resolution “Guidelines for the alternative care of children”, resolution “Office of the Human Rights Council President”.

5. Three resolutions on the situations of human rights in specific countries (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar and Islamic Republic of Iran) were submitted and adopted with more votes in favour than in previous sessions.

Resolutions on the situation of human rights in specific countries

6. The Committee this year adopted three resolutions on the situation of human rights in specific countries – resolution “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, resolution “Situation of human rights in Myanmar” (both these resolutions were submitted by the EU), and resolution “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, which was submitted by Canada. For the first time, no delegation put forward a motion to adjourn the debate on these resolutions (so-called “no action motion”), which made for a smoother adoption of these drafts. Moreover, all three country resolutions received more votes of support than in 2008. As in previous years, several delegations noted in their explanations of position regarding these drafts that they considered the Human Rights Council as the appropriate forum for country-specific resolutions.

7. EU-sponsored resolution “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” was adopted with 97 votes in favour, 19 votes against and 65 abstentions, which is two more votes of support and five less no-votes than in 2009.

8. The resolution “Situation of human rights in Myanmar”, also submitted by the EU, was adopted with 92 votes in favour, 26 votes against ant 65 abstentions, which is three more votes in favour and three less votes against.

9. The resolution “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” submitted by Canada, was adopted with 74 votes in favour, 48 votes against and 59 abstentions, compared to 70 votes in favour, 51 against and 60 abstentions in 2008.

Other issues of interest for the Council of Europe

Gender equality and promotion of the rights of women

10. Several traditional draft resolutions were presented under the agenda item “Advancement of women”, including the joint initiative by France and Netherlands entitled “Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women”, which this year focused on procedural and institutional issues, including the enhancement of co-operation among various UN entities. After rejecting an amendment put forward by Arab Group to include in the text a new preambular paragraph with a reference to armed conflicts and foreign occupation as “an ongoing reality affecting women and men in nearly every region”, the Third Committee adopted the resolution without a vote.

11. In addition to the traditional texts, the Third Committee adopted a resolution recommended by ECOSOC on “Commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”.

Rights of the child

12. This year the traditional joint EU-GRULAC draft resolution “Rights of the child” was submitted in a new format – much shorter and much more streamlined, making it possible to focus the negotiations on the theme of this year “Child participation”. The resolution gained support from a record number of cosponsors, 138, and for the first time since 2001 was adopted without a vote.

13. In this resolution, the General Assembly commemorates the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, encourages the States parties to implement the Convention and its Optional Protocols, expresses deep concern that, despite the recognition of children as rights holders entitled to be heard on all matters affecting them, children are seldom seriously consulted and involved in such matters, and calls upon all States to assure that children are given the opportunity to be heard on all matters affecting them, without discrimination on any grounds. In this resolution, the General Assembly also requests the Secretary General, his Special Representatives and other mandate holders, to submit to the 65th session comprehensive reports on the issues addressed in the resolution.

Elimination of racial discrimination

14. The Group of 77 submitted the traditional draft resolution “Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”, which was adopted with 122 votes in favour, 13 votes against 45 abstentions.

15. In addition to this traditional resolution, the Group of 77 also introduced a proposal “Adoption of the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference”, which was adopted by 163 votes in favour, 5 votes against, and 9 abstentions.

16. The draft resolution “Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” traditionally submitted by the Russian Federation was adopted with 124 votes in favour, 1 vote against and 55 abstentions.

Other issues

17. Unlike previous years, the Committee voted on the resolution traditionally submitted by Mexico “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”, after adopting with a close vote proposals from the African Group to delete in two paragraphs the reference to the report of the Special Rapporteur containing language on sexual orientation. The resolution as a whole was adopted with 181 votes in favour, 0 votes against and 1 abstention.

18. The EU-sponsored resolution “Elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief” was adopted without a vote.

19. The Committee also adopted a resolution “Further steps to improve the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons”, in which it took note with appreciation of the decision of the President of the 63rd session of the General Assembly to appoint the co-facilitators to start consultations and consideration of a United Nations global plan of action on preventing trafficking in persons, prosecuting traffickers and protecting and assisting victims of trafficking.

List of all draft proposals submitted in the Third Committee:
http://www.un.org/ga/third/64/propslist.shtml
Status of action on all draft proposals:
http://www.un.org/ga/third/64/proposalstatus.shtml
Records of votes:
http://www.un.org/ga/third/64/votingsheets.shtml

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue; it will be declassified in accordance with Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.


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