The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) sent 13 draft resolutions to the General Assembly today covering a range of social development issues, from the right to self-determination for Palestinians and freedom of religion, to the report of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and matters of crime prevention and criminal justice.
The draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination — approved by a recorded vote of 158 in favour, to 6 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States) with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo, Tonga) — received the most attention, with the representative of Egypt, introducing the draft on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), stressing that all States have the right to live in peace within internationally recognized borders.
By the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to an independent State, urging all States and specialized United Nations agencies and organizations to support them in the early realization of the right to self‑determination.
Before the vote, Israel’s representative said the draft goes beyond the Third Committee’s purview and his delegation would therefore vote against it. He invited Member States to consider other approaches to resolving the question of Palestine, as traditional ones do not work.
Meanwhile, the draft resolution on the report of the Human Rights Council, was approved by a recorded vote of 107 in favour, to 2 against (Belarus, Israel), with 59 abstentions. Several delegates explained their positions after the vote, citing concerns over the focus on certain countries and politicization of the Geneva-based body. Among them was the representative of Belarus, who said its work is becoming more biased. The representative of the United States called the draft “procedurally unnecessary” and strongly objected to the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, a point echoed by Israel’s delegate who declared: “If one would not know any better, one might think that the Council is unhappy by the existence of the State of Israel.”
The Committee also approved a consensus draft titled “Volunteering for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which would request United Nations country teams to reflect the contributions of volunteering in the Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks signed with the host country. In that context, Japan’s delegate recalled that his country had proposed the idea of the International Year of Volunteers to the Assembly in 1997.
By a draft titled “Freedom of religion or belief”, the Assembly would strongly condemn violence and acts of terrorism against persons belonging to religious minorities on the basis of or in the name of religion or belief. It would also urge States to step up their efforts to protect and promote freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, ensuring that constitutional and legislative systems provide effective guarantees of these freedoms.
In other action, the Committee approved five draft resolutions recommended by the Economic and Social Council, among them, a draft on combating crimes that affect the environment, which would have the Assembly urge Member States to prevent illicit trafficking in wildlife — including flora and fauna as protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora — as well as in timber, hazardous wastes and precious metals, minerals and stones. It would urge States to adopt measures to recover and return, in appropriate cases, the proceeds of such crimes.
Also in the area of crime prevention, a draft on the “Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice”, recommended by the Council, would have the Assembly endorse the Kyoto Declaration on Advancing Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law: Towards the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in February.
The Committee also approved draft resolutions on: reducing reoffending through rehabilitation and reintegration; integrating sport into youth crime prevention; strengthening criminal justice systems; albinism; cooperatives in social development; the United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region; and combating intolerance.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 November, to take action on draft resolutions.
Turning first to albinism, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania introduced the draft resolution on “Persons with albinism” (document A/C.3/76/L.8), which carries no programme budget implications. The draft resolution is a technical rollover, he said, noting that despite absence of reporting during this session, the issues contained in the resolution are very important in addressing the social development challenges facing people with albinism. It also takes into specific consideration the needs of women and children.
The Committee then approved “L.8” without a vote, by which the Assembly would encourage Member States to end impunity for violence against persons with albinism, including sexual and gender-based violence, by amending laws, where applicable, and by bringing perpetrators to justice. The Assembly would encourage Member States to address the causes of such violence, including through awareness-raising and the dissemination of accurate information on albinism through education curricula. It would also call on them to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy and effective investigations into crimes and attacks against persons with albinism falling within their jurisdiction to hold those responsible accountable and to ensure that victims, survivors and family members have access to appropriate remedies.
The representative of Mongolia, introducing the draft resolution titled, “Cooperatives in social development” (document A/C.3/76/L.16), said cooperatives exist in almost every field of human activity. They have a significant presence in developed and developing countries. Noting that the crisis unleashed by the COVID‑19 pandemic has revealed the development of cooperatives to be a powerful approach to recovery, he said the draft contains technical updates and places emphasis on social justice and inequality reduction. It also recognizes the importance of cooperative movements and their growth since the International Year of Cooperatives was introduced in 2012, and it encourages Governments to leverage the cooperative enterprise model for a more resilient recovery.
The Committee then approved “L.16” without a vote, by which the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to render support to Member States in their efforts to create a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives into educational programming through conferences, workshops and seminars at the national and regional levels. The Assembly would encourage Governments to adopt policies that provide women with equal access to land and support women’s cooperatives and agricultural programmes, while also enabling women’s cooperatives to benefit from public and private sector procurement processes. At the same time, it would invite Governments to strengthen efforts to enhance food security, nutrition and sustainable production and consumption, and to focus on relevant stakeholders, including smallholders and women farmers.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Report of the Human Rights Council” (document A/C.3/76/L.62), which the Chair noted has no programme budget implications.
The representative of Nigeria, introducing draft resolution “L.62” on behalf of the African Group, reiterated the importance of the text and its respect for the principle of constructive dialogue and cooperation. The Group considers the establishment of the Human Rights Council as the milestone in the promotion of human rights for all, he said, cautioning against selectivity and double standards in promoting human rights.
The representative of Israel, in explanation of vote, said his delegation called for a recorded vote as it has strong reservations on the merit of the Human Rights Council and its ability to provide objective recommendations. It should be guided by the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity, he said, voicing concern over the establishment of yet another Commission of Inquiry on Israel. “If one would not know any better, one might think that the Council is unhappy by the existence of the State of Israel,” he asserted.
The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, said it was sufficient to consider the 29 October report of the Human Rights Council in the General Assembly. Underlining the importance of holding open discussions before the tabling of a draft resolution under this agenda item, she said the European Union would abstain from the vote.
Draft resolution “L.62” was then approved by a recorded vote of 107 in favour to 2 against (Belarus, Israel), with 59 abstentions. By the text, the General Assembly would take note of the report of the Human Rights Council, including the addendum thereto and its recommendations.
The representative of Sri Lanka, in explanation of vote after the vote, rejected resolution 46/1, adopted by the Human Rights Council in March 2021, as it was presented without the consent of Sri Lanka as the country concerned.
The representative of Liechtenstein, on behalf of seven countries, said that despite the challenging circumstances caused by the pandemic, the Human Rights Council has lived up to its mandate and responded to violations in a timely manner. She expressed disappointment that the draft disregards the understanding reached in resolution 65/281.
The representative of Syria, in explanation of vote, objected to the politicization of human rights instruments to help certain countries accomplish their goals, which have nothing to do with the Charter of the United Nations or international law. Criticizing the Council’s hostility and targeting of certain countries, and recalling in this regard its resolution on the situation in Syria, she said that, for such reasons, Syria abstained from the vote.
The representative of the United States, calling the draft resolution “procedurally unnecessary”, strongly objected to the Human Rights Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, including through its establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on the country.
The representative of Belarus criticized the Human Rights Council’s focus on certain countries, noting that its work is becoming increasingly biased. The Council has become an appendage of the United States Department of State or the European Union Foreign Policy Service, he stressed, warning that one-sided and biased approaches lead to polarization among Member States. Describing aggressive tirades by “yesterday’s colonialists” who imagine themselves as saints and judges, claiming that all violators of human rights ‑ as they understand them ‑ should be severely punished, he called for civilized and respectful dialogue.
The representative of Eritrea, expressing support for the draft resolution, opposed all politically motivated mandates and selective approaches that target some countries while excluding others. In this context, she drew attention to the “politically motivated” draft resolution on Eritrea.
The representative of Iran, calling for dialogue and cooperation, dissociated himself from the Council’s report on the situation in Iran and rejected country-specific mandates.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled, “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/76/L.46).
The representative of Egypt, introducing draft resolution “L.46” on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), expressed regret that Palestinians continue to suffer under Israel’s occupation. The draft resolution aims to support Palestinians’ right to self-determination, preserve the integrity of their territories and end the occupation. It also reaffirms the right of all States to live in peace within internationally recognized borders, while supporting Palestinians in their early realization of the right to self-determination.
The representative of Israel, in explanation of the vote before the vote, said his delegation would vote against the draft resolution as it goes beyond the mandate of the Third Committee. He invited Member States to consider other approaches to resolving the question of Palestine, as traditional ones do not work.
Draft resolution “L.46” was then approved by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 6 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo, Tonga).
By the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine, and urge all States and specialized United Nations agencies and organizations to continue to support them in the early realization of this right.
The representative of Argentina, reaffirmed support for Palestinians’ right to self-determination, stressing that their territory should be aligned with the 1967 borders. Recognition of the State would promote negotiations towards an end of the conflict, he added.
The representative of Iran pointed to the deteriorating situation of Palestinians under Israel’s regime, noting that its use of lethal force violated international law. He also drew attention to Israel’s destructive policies that threaten peace and security in the region, adding that the return of refugees is the most efficient way to promote the rights of Palestinians.
The representative of Qatar introduced the draft resolution on “United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region” (document A/C.3/76/L.35), which contains no budget implications. She said the Centre was established in Doha by a 2005 General Assembly resolution and that it aligns its work with international standards.
The representative of Syria said her country was a forerunner in the protection of human rights in the Arab region. Human rights are at the front of its legislative and regulatory efforts, ensuring that its citizens reach the highest level of development. The last 10 years, however, have seen other States demolish these efforts. It does not make sense for a sponsor of terrorism to present a draft resolution on human rights. “The party that creates the fire cannot be the fireman at the same time,” she said, requesting a recorded vote.
The representative of Qatar, in explanation of vote, said it was regrettable that a vote had been requested on the draft resolution. The Centre’s record is well-known, and Syria’s delegation is addressing matters that have nothing to do with the text. Saying that fabricated allegations were made against Qatar, he noted that Syria did not participate in the negotiations, which is proof it does not wish to promote the Centre.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.35” by a recorded vote of 176 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 1 abstention (Iran).
By the text, the Assembly would encourage the Centre’s continued engagement with other United Nations regional offices to strengthen its work and to avoid duplication. It would also encourage Member States to provide voluntary contributions to support the Centre in carrying out its mandate, underlining its role as a source for regional expertise and the need to meet an increasing number of requests for training and documentation, including in Arabic and other languages.
Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled, “Freedom of religion or belief” (document A/76/C.3/36), introduced by the representative of Slovenia, who said that protecting all individuals from discrimination on these grounds is more important than ever. The free exercise of religion promotes mutual understanding, durable peace and security. Noting that the draft draws attention to the rise of violent extremism throughout the world, she said it also references the right to not believe or to change beliefs.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.36” without a vote.
By the text, the General Assembly would strongly condemn violence and acts of terrorism targeting persons belonging to religious minorities on the basis of or in the name of religion or belief. It would also urge States to step up their efforts to protect and promote freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and to ensure that constitutional and legislative systems provide effective guarantees of these freedoms to all without distinction. They would do so by providing access to justice ‑ including by facilitating legal assistance and remedies in cases where the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief or the right to freely choose and practice one’s religion or belief is violated.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled, “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief” (document A/C.3/76/L.48).
The representative of Egypt introduced the draft, explaining that it has been technically updated and contains no substantial changes. He expressed concern over the negative profiling of persons based on their religion or belief, noting that the draft calls on all States to foster an environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect.
The Committee then approved “L.48” without a vote, by which the Assembly would call on States to ensure that public functionaries, in the conduct of their public duties, do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of religion or belief. It would call on them to foster religious freedom and pluralism by promoting the ability of all religious community members to manifest their religion and to contribute openly and equally to society. Greater efforts are needed to foster a global dialogue on promoting a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United States, in a general statement, clarified that resolutions do not change customary law or create legal obligations. The United States supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said, noting that it is a non-binding document that does not create obligations under international law. On global development, the United States remains committed to accelerating development, but it opposes the term “right to development” as it does not have an agreed-upon meaning. On climate, she said that while the United States is engaged to make lasting progress, it does not believe that creating a clean environment amounts to a human right as understood in the ordinary sense.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled, “Volunteering for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (A/C.3/76/L.15/Rev.1), which the Chair noted has no programme budget implications.
The representative of Brazil introduced the draft, stressing the importance of the United Nations Volunteer Programme in fostering volunteerism around the world. Pointing to the 7 million volunteers in his country, the majority of them women, he said volunteers worldwide are demonstrating solidarity in addressing the emergency needs of the most vulnerable during the pandemic. He expressed hope that the resolution will help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The representative of Japan said 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Volunteers programme and the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. He recalled that Japan proposed the International Year to the Assembly in 1997. The idea originally came from Takehito Nakata, father of the late United Nations volunteer Atsuhito Nakata, who succumbed to a bullet in the line of duty in Cambodia in 1993. In tackling global challenges of inequality, poverty, hunger, climate change and pandemics, “the spirit of volunteerism is needed more than ever”, he said, calling for greater participation.
The Committee then approved draft “L.15/Rev.1” by consensus.
By the text, the Assembly would encourage Member States to support volunteer action for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It would also support the meaningful participation of youth, older persons, women, migrants, refugees, persons with disabilities and minorities in such efforts. It would request United Nations country teams to reflect the contributions of volunteering in Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks and country programme documents, in line with resolution 75/233. The Assembly would also request that Member States and the United Nations work with civil society to enhance the protection of volunteers.
The Committee then took up five draft resolutions recommended by the Economic and Social Council for adoption by the Assembly, turning first to the draft resolution titled, “Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice” (document A/C.3/76/L.2), which it approved without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would endorse the Kyoto Declaration on Advancing Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law: “Towards the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, adopted by the Fourteenth Congress, as approved by the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its thirtieth session and annexed to the present resolution. It would request the Commission to review the Declaration’s implementation, adopt the appropriate policy for its follow-up and identify innovative ways to make use of information related to its implementation.
Moving on, the Committee then approved the draft resolution titled, “Reducing reoffending through rehabilitation and reintegration” (document A/C.3/76/L.3) without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would request the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to convene an expert group meeting to share information on promising practices to reduce reoffending and to support the efforts of Member States to reduce reoffending through the promotion of rehabilitative environments and reintegration. It would also request the UNODC Executive Director to report to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its thirty-first session on the implementation of the present resolution.
Next, the Committee approved without a vote the draft resolution titled, “Integrating sport into youth crime prevention and criminal justice strategies” (document A/C.3/76/L.4).
By the text, the Assembly would request the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to develop a compilation of best practices related to sports-based crime prevention, as well as to support policymakers and practitioners in the areas of research, monitoring and evaluation. It would also request UNODC to strengthen cooperation with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to enhance the contributions of sport to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Efforts would aim to address the risk factors of youth violence, crime and illicit drug-related activities while facilitating access to comprehensive drug demand reduction services and related measures.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled, “Strengthening criminal justice systems during and after the coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) pandemic” (document A/C.3/76/L.5), approving it without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would stress the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to strengthening criminal justice systems. It would recommend that Member States promote the application of the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), to improve the detention conditions for both pretrial and post-trial detainees and the capacities of prison and correctional institution staff. It would request UNODC to conduct further studies on the impact of COVID‑19 on criminal justice systems and to provide recommendations on advancing reforms.