Note: Only a partial summary of today’s meetings of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) is available at this time. The complete summary will be issued later as Press Release GA/SHC/4340.
The Committee took up the first draft resolution titled, “Inclusive social development policies and programmes to address homelessness, including in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19)” (document A/C.3/76/L.12/Rev.1), with the Chair announcing that it carries programme budget implications.
Under operative paragraph 22, the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit a report at its seventy-eighth session on inclusive social development programmes to address homelessness, including in the aftermath of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Pursuant to this request, it is envisaged that a report would be developed in 2023 by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Homelessness is a global concern and must be addressed at the highest level of the General Assembly, he said.
The representative of Madagascar, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the draft, noting that many people around the world are vulnerable due to inadequate housing and poverty. People affected by homelessness are particularly vulnerable and more at risk of contracting communicable diseases, such as COVID‑19.
The Committee then approved “L.12/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would urge Member States to ensure that homelessness policies comply with their international human rights obligations and are consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It would urge them to eliminate all forms of discrimination against individuals experiencing homelessness, to decriminalize homelessness and to foster social integration for young people, people with disabilities, migrants and indigenous peoples.
Further, the Assembly would call on Member States to address the structural drivers of homelessness, including inequalities, poverty, a loss of housing and livelihood as well as a lack of decent job opportunities, access to affordable housing, social protection, land access, and the high costs of energy and health care. It would request the Statistical Commission to establish global indicators on social protection and access to adequate housing, as well as statistics to monitor homelessness as a way to avoid excluding those who are not “visibly” homeless, through quantitative and qualitative data.
The representative of Slovenia, speaking for the European Union, called homelessness one of the most extreme forms of social exclusion. “The international community must act in response,” he said, noting that the text fails to consider menstrual hygiene for homeless women and girls despite a lack of opposition to its inclusion.
The representative of the United States said his delegation joined consensus. Regarding references to economic, social and cultural rights, and to the 2030 Agenda, he referred to the general statement of the United States delivered on 5 November. The draft’s reference to the right to adequate housing does not alter the current state of international law, which does not contain this as a stand-alone right. The United States understands the right as one to an adequate living standard that includes housing.
The representative of the United Kingdom said his country is committed to end homelessness and rough sleeping. He expressed regret that his delegation’s recommendations regarding operative paragraph 19, which promotes caps on rental costs, were not accepted. Rent caps are not a solution to ending homelessness. Historical evidence shows that such caps discourage investment in the housing sector and that rent controls can have an inadvertent negative impact on the supply of housing and encourage sub-letting. The United Kingdom nonetheless joined consensus on the draft.
The representative of Israel said his delegation joined consensus on the draft from a belief that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons must be acknowledged by the United Nations within the context of resolutions considered by its Committees.
The representative of Australia, speaking on behalf of seven countries, described homelessness as a pressing challenge that can impact the enjoyment of human rights. The text would have benefited from a strengthened focus on human rights as well as on gender and inclusion. Australia also would like to have seen language addressing sexual and gender-based violence.
An observer for the Holy See expressed hope that the draft will help States develop policies and programmes to provide support to combat homelessness. He expressed reservations on the term “gender”, which his delegation understands to be grounded in biological sexual identity and difference.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled, “Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/76/L.65).
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, introducing the draft on behalf of the Chair of the Third Committee, said that updated alignments draw on the Secretary-General’s report (document A/76/115) on the improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system and the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. She underlined that the Declaration remains the most comprehensive initiative 26 years after its adoption, while encouraging the General Assembly to continue its implementation.
The Committee then approved draft “L.65” without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would call on States parties to comply fully with their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, reaffirming that they are obliged to exercise due diligence to prevent and combat violence against women and girls. At the United Nations, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to accelerate efforts to achieve a 50/50 gender balance at all levels throughout the Organization, while requesting United Nations entities to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on women personnel, and to share the information with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).
By other terms, the Assembly would strongly encourage Governments to continue to support civil society’s contribution to implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the outcome of the twenty-third special session and the 2030 Agenda. It also would urge Governments to increase funding for the budget of UN-Women, encouraging them more broadly to make ambitious commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
The representative of Slovenia, speaking for the European Union, observed the progress made in advancing women’s rights, following the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. Among the issues to be addressed is the promotion of women rights defenders and efforts to counter discrimination against women and girls, recalling the European Union’s commitment to the full implementation of women’s rights, in line with the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. The European Union advocates for the protection of individuals in the enjoyment of their sexual and reproduction rights, he asserted.
The representative of Mexico, on behalf of 65 countries, said the Generation Equality Forum was a major inflexion point for the empowerment of women and girls, which brought decision-makers together towards the acceleration of the gender equality roadmap.
The representative of France said the Generation Equality Forum created momentum to achieve transformative change, with $40 billion in investments. The Forum took place during the COVID-19 pandemic amid reports of rising sexual and gender-based violence. “It is a crisis with a women’s face,” he said, quoting the Secretary-General. Turning to the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, he stressed that the Declaration involves every segment of society towards the goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The representative of the Russian Federation described the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action as the roadmap to drive gender equality, suggesting that its scope be extended. He expressed regret that the final document only refers to one private event, ignoring other important events for women, such as the Eurasian Women’s Forum. Noting that the draft resolution does not consider the review of the political declaration on women’s situation, he said the Russian Federation will join consensus.
The representative of the Dominican Republic, on behalf of 67 countries, recognized the role played by civil society organizations, stating that women and girls face situations requiring tailored solutions to ensure that their human rights are respected. Leaving no one behind and granting access to sexual and reproductive rights, as defined in the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, are essential, she said, underlining the importance of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, among other international initiatives. She praised efforts to advance gender equality, noting that the global maternal mortality rate fell by 38 per cent between 2000 and 2017.
The representative of the United States, joining the statement delivered by Mexico and the Generation Equality Forum, renewed his delegation’s calls to prevent the harassment of women and girls.
The representative of Panama, endorsing the statement delivered by the Dominican Republic, joined consensus in line with the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. She noted that women and girls have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, welcoming the establishment of institutions that measure women’s situations in over 60 countries. She listed initiatives carried out by Panama, such as a national strategy for girls, and a plan to promote shared responsibility between men and women.
An observer for the Holy See stressed that gender equality is essential for justice, noting that the pandemic continues to affect discussions. The draft resolution should focus on processes and events held under the auspices of the United Nations, he added.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled, “Rights of the Child” (document A/C.3/76/L.25/Rev.1), which the Chair said contained no budget implications.
The representative of Uruguay, on behalf of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries and the European Union, reaffirmed the commitment at the very heart of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind and drew particular attention to access to education, health and nutrition. On the disproportionate effect of the COVID‑19 pandemic and climate change on the lives of children, he said the matter must be approached in a holistic manner, in compliance with comprehensive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The Committee approved the draft “L.25/Rev.1” by consensus.
By the text, the General Assembly would call on States parties to increase their efforts to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, while urging them to withdraw reservations that are incompatible with the Convention or the Optional Protocols thereto.
In that context, the Assembly would strongly condemn all forms of violence against children in all settings, including physical, psychological and sexual violence, torture, child abuse, hostage-taking, domestic violence, incest, trafficking in or sale of children and their organs, child prostitution, child pornography, child sex tourism, gang and armed violence, child sexual exploitation online and offline, bullying, and such harmful practices as female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. It would urge States to strengthen efforts to protect children from all such violence through a comprehensive, gender-responsive and age-appropriate approach.
By further terms, the Assembly would make a series of requests, first and foremost to the Secretary-General, to submit a report outlining the status of the Convention, with a focus on the digital environment. He would also be requested to submit to the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, from 2022, a biennial report on the follow-up to the outcome of the Assembly’s special session on children, focusing on children and the Sustainable Development Goals. The report would serve as an input to the high-level political forum on sustainable development and be drafted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, reiterated the strong commitment to fulfil children’s rights and stressed the importance of open and transparent negotiations. Highlighting the link between the 2030 Agenda and the Convention, he said that while the Convention is the most widely ratified treaty in history, this does not mean that enough has been done. Physical and psychological abuse, discrimination, trafficking, and access to education, including digital education, must be tackled. Pointing to children in vulnerable situations, children with disabilities and indigenous children, he underscored the need to recognize that children have the rights to be heard and express their views freely.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his country remains committed to its international legal obligations related to children’s rights. Particular attention should be paid to bolstering the traditional family and supporting the development of a child’s individuality, he stressed. Depending on their age, children require support from their parents, caregivers and other legal guardians. Therefore, he noted the draft’s provisions on the full participation of children in decision-making on issues that exclusively refer to them.
The representative of the United States underscored his country’s commitment to children’s rights while expressing concerns about certain elements of the draft. The United States recognizes that the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a relevant framework. However, his country does not understand references to obligations derived from the Convention, including the principle of “the best interest of the child”, he said, underscoring that the draft inaccurately characterizes certain obligations under the Convention.
Regarding preambular paragraph 17, he noted that while children should have the ability to be heard, there is no general right to be heard. With respect to preambular paragraph 11 and operative paragraphs 6, 19 and 43f, the United States prefers phrase “child sexual abuse material” over “child sexual abuse imagery”, often criminalized as “child pornography”. He also suggested substituting the term “child sex trafficking” for “child prostitution” as minors cannot give consent to commercial sexual acts. He also clarified his delegation’s understanding that the provisions outlined in operative paragraph 11 are those set forth in article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, stressing as well that there is no human right to high quality online services.
The representative of the Philippines stressed the importance of ensuring children’s rights in the digital space and disassociated from operative paragraph 24 for reasons explained on 17 November.
The representative of Egypt cited two controversial paragraphs in the draft that include unclear ideas. Calling for consensual interpretation of all paragraphs, he rejected paragraphs 14, 32 and 33, in light of Egypt’s religious and legal views.
The representative of Bahrain, speaking also on behalf of other countries, opposed references to sexual and reproductive health in paragraphs 14, 22, 32 and 33. Other controversial interpretations have been included in the draft, and Bahrain interprets them in line with national legislation and its cultural and religious norms.
The representative of Libya expressed support for the draft, noting that Libya signed and ratified all conventions and treaties connected to children’s rights. He rejected any interpretations that would allow anyone to end the life of an embryo, even in the general interpretation of this issue, unless there is a danger to the child. He therefore said Libya disassociates from any interpretation of sexual and reproductive health care and services connected to this issue, expressing reservations about paragraphs 22, 32 and 33.
The representative of Singapore expressed a reservation on preambular paragraphs 16 and 28, as States’ various national contexts and levels of development must be considered. Singapore joined consensus on the draft, as the Government supports its objectives.
The representative of Senegal recalled that his country ratified the Convention in 1990, stressing that children’s rights to education must be ensured, particularly for those in vulnerable situations, such as children with disabilities. Interpretation of the draft’s provisions must be based on domestic values, as each State has the power to interpret. For example, the reference to sexual education included in paragraph 14 must depend on the cultural and social norms of the country concerned.
The representative of Malaysia, expressing support for the spirit of consensus, outlined reservations to operative paragraphs 7 and 29, disassociating from the phrase “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”.
The representative of Eritrea insisted on language that matches digital divide between developed and developing countries, an issue that must be urgently addressed.
The representative of Yemen welcomed the agreement reached on the draft, voicing regret about controversial paragraphs that contain references to sexual rights and other interpretations, notably preambular paragraphs 7a, 19 and all mentions that counter Sharia law.
The representative of United Kingdom expressed regret that draft’s language has been caveated and some delegations continue to frame this long-standing language as controversial. Welcoming more language on the needs of persons with disabilities and those experiencing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, he criticized some Member States for holding back progress on language related to sexual and reproductive health.
The representative of Algeria expressed reservations about the draft’s references to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” and the overall emphasis on gender-related matters. References to the sexual and reproductive health of children create an unbalanced framework for addressing these matters, she noted.
The representative of Iran disassociated from consensus on any paragraphs that refer to vulnerable groups in operative paragraph 16.
The representative of Sri Lanka stressed the need to ensure that boys and girls have access to health care and education. Public health institutions in Sri Lanka encourage families to give children access to health care, he noted, adding that in 1992, his country adopted a policy document named “Children Charter”, endorsing State’s child-centred focus.
The representative of Turkey appreciated the efforts of Uruguay, on behalf of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries, and Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, for presenting this important draft resolution.
An observer for the Holy See appreciated the text’s recognition of the special care and assistance, related to childhood and the importance of the family, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. While recognizing the complex challenge of balancing opposing perspectives, he expressed regret that the text contains ambiguous language on discrimination and is disappointed about the inclusion of language related to reproductive health care services. He expressed reservations on the reference to sexual and reproductive health services, noting that Holy See does not consider abortion as a dimension of these terms.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/76/L.58)”.
The representative of Pakistan said the right to self-determination is a cardinal principle of the Charter of the United Nations. Today, self-determination has been crystalized as a peremptory norm of international law. The erga omnes of the right to self-determination — its application “towards all” — was conferred by the International Court of Justice for Namibia and East Timor. There are situations where occupied peoples are being denied this right and are obliged to struggle for its realization.
The Committee then approved “L.58” without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly would declare its firm opposition to acts of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, since these have resulted in the suppression of the right of peoples to self-determination and other human rights. It would deplore the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons, who have been uprooted and reaffirm their right to return to their homes voluntarily and in safety. It would request the Human Rights Council to continue to give special attention to violations of human rights, especially the right to self-determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation.
The representative of Argentina expressed his full support for the draft resolution, noting that self-determination is applicable when there is an active subject with that entitlement — that is, people who are dominated and subject to foreign exploitation.
The representative of Spain said his delegation supports the draft. There are cases where colonialization does not allow a State to keep its territory intact. The right to self-determination cannot be used to justify colonial situations, he explained, stressing that the United Kingdom, as an administering Power over Gibraltar, has attempted to create the illusion that the colonial tie has disappeared and claim a hypothetical right to self-determination.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the right to self-determination is an important pillar of the international system. Responding to Spain’s representative, he drew attention to the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over Gibraltar. It is a separate territory, recognized by the United Nations as a Non-Self-Governing Territory. The people of Gibraltar enjoy the right to self-determination. The scope of the draft resolution is too narrow, and he would have preferred that it reflect self-determination as it stands under international law.
Right of Reply
The representative of Spain, taking the floor in exercise of the right of reply, said in response to the United Kingdom’s delegate that the colonial situation of Gibraltar is governed by territorial integrity, not self-determination. The United Nations considers that Gibraltar is a colony included in the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. He rejected the intentions of the administering Power to claim the continued existence of a supposed right to self-determination.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed regret that the consensus approval of the draft resolution has been hijacked by one delegation. The United Kingdom is committed to the people of Gibraltar, he said, stressing that they will not pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled, “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” (document A/C.3/76/L.49/Rev.1).
The representative of Greece, introducing the draft resolution, said that it builds on the findings of the Secretary-General’s latest report, which underlines the need for protection against online and offline attacks. In situations of armed conflicts, journalists should be considered as civilians. She welcomed the inclusion of the impact of COVID-19 on journalists, the explicit references to women journalists’ sexual abuse, harassment and violence, and the appropriate support provided to victims. The protection of journalists is a necessary precondition for building peaceful and resilient societies, she concluded.
The Committee then approved draft “L.49/Rev.1” without a vote.
By the text, the General Assembly would strongly condemn the prevailing impunity for attacks and violence against journalists. It would call on States to develop and implement effective legal frameworks and measures for the protection of journalists and media workers, and for combating impunity, taking a gender-responsive approach. Furthermore, it would call on them to pay attention to the safety of journalists covering events in which persons are exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. States also would be called upon to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference. They would do so by means of legislative measures, the regular monitoring and reporting of attacks against journalists, as well as publicly and systematically condemning online and offline attacks, harassment and violence against journalists and media workers.
The representative of the United States stressed that no journalist should face any violence. He highlighted the importance of protecting their individual rights.
The representative of the Russian Federation noted that journalists’ rights and lives have been threatened, expressing regret that some countries prevent foreign journalists from working freely within their territories. The broad interpretation of the term “journalist” complicates the application of the draft resolution, he said, recommending instead use of the term “media workers” to limit the number of organizations that lack journalistic credentials.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled, “Implementing the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through providing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and ensuring their protection, including in the context of and recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) pandemic” (document A/C.3/76/L.51/Rev.1).
The representative of Norway, underlining that the COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated difficulties for human rights defenders, introduced oral revisions to the draft’s preambular paragraphs 4, 11, 19, and 22 and operative paragraphs 12 and 28, inviting the Committee to approve the text by consensus.
The Committee then approved draft “L.51/Rev.1” without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would call on States to ensure that COVID‑19-related emergency measures are not misused to endanger the safety of human rights defenders, or unduly hinder their work, including by limiting the right to freedom of expression in a manner contrary to international law. It would also call on States to ensure that the criminalization and prosecution of terrorism or national security offences adhere to their obligations under international human rights law to avoid endangering the safety of human rights defenders. It would also call on States to develop and implement appropriate and effective protection mechanisms for human rights defenders at risk or in vulnerable situations.
The representative of Slovenia, on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret over the impact of the pandemic on civil society and human rights defenders. He stated that anti-terrorism laws must not endanger the work of human rights defenders and expressed regret over the use of outdated language that would limit their rights under the argument of morality. He expressed hope the text would be revised in the future.
The representative of New Zealand welcomed the focus on creating an enabling environment for human rights defenders and the attention brought to the COVID‑19 pandemic. However, she warned against the misuse of language within the text that might affect their work and that civil society has been granted access again to the United Nations premises.
The representative of the United States said the work of human rights defenders is vital to society and for the promotion of democracy. Freedom of association and assembly are essential rights that should respect international obligations, he said, while encouraging countries to maintain fundamental rights and promote equitable access to justice. He deplored that journalists are jailed for doing their work, underscoring that the United States attaches importance to the principle of accountability for those who breach the rights of human rights defenders.
The representative of the Russian Federation underlined the link between civil society and those dedicated to the promotion of universal human rights which must be aligned with national legislation. While the Russian Federation joined consensus, he expressed reservations about compliance with international law and, further, about the draft’s structure, which creates special legal protections for human rights defenders. He noted the lack of an international definition of the term “human rights defenders”, which could create an internal hierarchy among those working to safeguard these fundamental freedoms. For such reasons, the Russian Federation disassociates from operative paragraphs 16, 18, 20, 23, 27, 28 and 29, he said.
The representative of Viet Nam said that her delegation promotes the rights of human rights defenders, noting that they also have individual responsibilities which should be framed by the national law.
The representative of the Dominican Republic underscored that human rights defenders have the right to be protected since they face considerable threats. She urged the international community to address violence against them while expressing concerns about abuses and discrimination.
The representative of Egypt said it would have been more appropriate to use terminology from the 1998 Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/RES/53/144), which is the only definition recognized by his delegation. National legislation provides the appropriate legal framework within which human rights defenders should work, he said, and States have a responsibility to ensure protection for universally recognized human rights.
The representative of China joined consensus on the draft resolution as orally revised. The term “human rights defenders” has no internationally recognized definition and the scope of application in the draft resolution should be aligned with fundamental freedoms. Human rights defenders should not be considered as a separate category, he said. They must be subject to legal sanctions as others are when failing to comply with national laws. China will interpret the draft resolution in accordance with its own laws, he explained.
The representative of the United Kingdom welcomed the draft’s recognition of the need for a holistic approach, which advances the fight against impunity and promotes equal access to justice. He welcomed the outcome despite attempts to weaken the language, noting the importance of civil society. He condemned all acts of intimidation and regarded the fact that civil society can again access the United Nations building as a positive sign.
The representative of Bolivia stressed that the language in the draft resolution cannot be used for political purposes, reiterating that human rights defenders must comply with international law.
The representative of Algeria joined consensus while recalling that there is no legal definition of what constitutes a human rights defender. She voiced regret that the draft suggests a new path by which some citizens would be above the law and that it establishes a new hierarchy within human rights.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled, “Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic” (document A/C.3/76/L.55/Rev.1).
The representative of Azerbaijan, introducing the draft on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that achieving global immunization against COVID-19 is crucial and should be achieved by granting universal access to vaccines through relevant initiatives. The draft resolution aims to boost international action through the United Nations to demonstrate the need to work together. Expressing his gratitude to the 124 co-sponsors, he introduced several oral revisions to preambular paragraphs 11 and 36, as well as to operative paragraphs 3, 4 and 15. He expressed hope that the Committee would adopt the draft by consensus.
The representative of the United States stressed that his country has been working with the World Health Organization (WHO) COVAX Facility to distribute vaccines, expressing regret that the draft does not reflect the consensus achieved during negotiations. He went on to say that delegations were not kept informed during the negotiation process and that the comments raised by the United States were not taken onboard. He added that the United Nations must not be involved in decisions taking place in other fora, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), underlining that the text does not capture aspects related to technology transfer. His delegation will abstain, he said.
The Committee then approved draft “L.55/Rev.1”, as orally revised by a recorded vote of 171 in favour to none against, with 7 abstentions (Armenia, Australia, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States).
By its terms, the Assembly would emphasize the urgent need to ensure the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and to facilitate the development of robust health systems and universal health coverage. These systems would encompass universal and equitable access to all essential health technologies, diagnostics, medicines and vaccines, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would request States and international organizations to commit to transparency in all matters relating to the production, distribution and fair pricing of vaccines, in accordance with national and regional legal frameworks, and urge States to take immediate steps to prevent speculation and stockpiling, which may hinder affordable, timely, equitable and universal access for all countries to COVID-19 vaccines. Further, the Assembly would urge Member States to promote an enhanced response to future pandemics, based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, by strengthening the capacities required under the International Health Regulations (2005) and by considering the benefits of developing a World Health Organization convention or other international instruments on pandemic preparedness and response.
The representative of Slovenia, speaking for the European Union, said the bloc has mobilized €46 billion to support countries in the fight against COVID-19 with 100 billion doses distributed to low and middle-income countries and €1 billion invested to develop a factory in Africa. He expressed regret that the language on human rights and gender equality was watered down in the final draft and outlined reservations on several provisions.
The representative of Japan expressed regret that his delegation had to abstain because many comments from Member States were not addressed, pointing to operative paragraphs 19 and 15 in particular and arguing that the draft resolution was presented prematurely.
The representative of Armenia voiced concerns about the draft’s lack of added value, considering other initiatives.
The representative of the Russian Federation, aligning himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that ensuring access to COVID‑19 vaccines is of great importance, in particular for the most vulnerable people. He emphasized the need to boost production capacity, noting that the Committee also discussed universal health coverage and stressing that the vaccine should be universally available. He said the Russian Federation voted in favour of the draft.
The representative of Tunisia, describing the impact of COVID‑19 on societies and the economy, said that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Despite the Chair’s efforts, some elements in the text continue to be questionable, she said, referring to gender and marginalized people. She welcomed the introduction of oral revisions to align the text with the views of the Non-Aligned Movement, noting that her delegation voted in favour of the text.
The representative of New Zealand voiced support for universal access to vaccines, stressing that her delegation would have liked to have seen more appropriate language related to human rights. Also, more time should have been allocated to allow for substantial negotiations.
The representative of Mexico voted in favour of the draft resolution, noting that vaccine distribution should be equitable. He expressed regret over the lack of transparency and communication during the negotiations. While he welcomed the oral revisions, he said Mexico was not involved in the process. In his view, the reference to “extensive immunization as a common good” is not technically correct.
The representative of Switzerland noted the lack of human rights references in the text and that debt payment should not be included. She voiced regret that the negotiation process was not led in a transparent manner.
The representative of Australia deplored having to explain her vote on such an important issue, saying that the text is not well balanced. She did not understand why references to marginalized groups and human rights have been removed. She said the process of advancing the text was begun at the last minute without sufficient time for debate. While Australia could not support the text, she looks forward to continuing the discussions.
The representative of Canada said global policies must enhance efforts to accelerate affordable and equal access to vaccines. Canada voted in favour of the draft but questioned the process under which it was brought forward, as well as the removal of language on matters related to human rights and marginalized groups.
The representative of the United Kingdom abstained, underlining that his country aims to distribute 1 billion vaccine doses. The draft’s presentation was an opportunity to build upon existing initiatives, he said, expressing regret over changes made to the language and the lack of a reference to previous work, citing operative paragraph 19.
The representative of Iran drew attention to the destructive consequences of sanctions against her country, which are contrary to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, describing the dramatic impact on the health care system and the population. There can be no distinction between countries when discussing access to vaccines, she asserted.
The representative of Hungary, aligning herself with the European Union, said her delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of China, underlining that her country distributed 1.7 billion vaccines to 103 countries and stands ready to work with other stakeholders for vaccine distribution, agreed that the World Trade Organization should make decisions on vaccine patents to ensure the smooth trade of vaccine materials.
An observer of the Holy See regarded the rapid development of vaccines as testimony to human ingenuity, stating that the unavailability of vaccines must be addressed urgently. He welcomed the inclusion of other aspects, such as therapeutics, to address the crisis and the reference to the suspension of debt service. However, he expressed reservations about language used on gender and health care.
The Committee then considered the draft resolution titled, “International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem” (document A/C.3/76/L.14/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Mexico, introducing the draft, said year after year, the drug problem and the patterns of drug consumption change significantly. The abuse of technologies for criminal activities has also changed the dynamics of the trade and demand, he stressed, adding that this year’s draft presents updates that aim to keep the text alive and relevant. The draft resolution acknowledges drug dependency as a multifaceted public issue, and the need to bolster efforts to enable recovery, including mental health and psychosocial services. It also recognizes that the use of drugs is inseparably linked to HIV and AIDS. In this regard, it is crucial to adopt a broad, balanced and multisectoral approach, he asserted.
The Committee approved the draft resolution “L.14/Rev.1” by consensus.
By the text, the Assembly would request the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to continue to support Member States in mainstreaming a gender perspective into their policies and programmes, while inviting the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and others to cooperate with the Office. It would also request the Office to strengthen States’ capacity to develop their own reporting mechanisms by identifying gaps in current drug statistics and by exploring possibilities to enhance national data-collection and analysis tools. By other terms, the Assembly would request all States to provide the fullest possible financial and political support to UNODC by widening its donor base and increasing voluntary contributions. In addition, it would invite Member States to share best practices consistent with the three international drug control conventions to assess developments and challenges.
The representative of Egypt said negotiations on this draft become more difficult every year, as the text is quite long and contains controversial language. There is a revised text that considers the balance to be achieved. He expressed regret over the inclusion of paragraph 30, after many calls for its deletion, and therefore disassociated from it.
The representative of Canada said the draft includes strong language that reflects the consensus achieved within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and related high-level meetings. The Commission has the primary responsibility to discuss issues related to drugs and to implement the best scientific practices, he underlines. However, some of the references have been removed, and Canada now cannot co-sponsor the draft, which contains language from which it must disassociate, in particular operative paragraph 102.
The representative of the United States disassociated from operative paragraph 6, which calls on Member States to take measures to attain the goals set out in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action. He voiced regret that outdated language remains in the draft and that the text does not reference the full compendium of international drug-policy documents. He also disassociated from operative paragraph 101.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said the draft should be a joint product, embracing the opinions of all countries. He drew attention to the role of UNODC as the leading agency in efforts to tackle the world drug problem. He proposed changing the frequency of the draft’s approval to a biannual basis.
The representative of United Kingdom expressed regret over the scant progress achieved this year, pointing out that some delegations would like to see no progress at all, which is extremely disappointing. He called on Member States to be more collaborative and engage in more ideas, so the world drug problem can be effectively tackled. Stigma negatively impacts access to treatment for people who use drugs, he stressed, adding that despite the consensus achieved on this draft, this draft continues to use the stigmatising term “abuse”.
The representative of Belarus reiterated his country’s commitment to internationally recognized norms of international law in safeguarding international drug control. The global drug problem continues to cause significant damage to the security of States, he said, stressing the unifying role of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in combatting the scourge. He said that biannualization of the resolution would provide the time necessary to adopt mutually acceptable solutions.
The representative of Syria said the draft would benefit from being discussed on a biannual basis. This way, the General Assembly could focus on the key aspect of the world drug problem and ensure an efficient use of time and resources. The document should not include contradictory elements, such as the political declaration of HIV/AIDS of 2021.
The representative of the Russian Federation said annual consideration of the draft resolution would provoke additional complications leading to new discussions that should take place in Vienna and expressed support for biannual consideration. The current version of the resolution still mentions one non-consensus document, the 2021 political declaration of HIV/AIDS, he noted.
The representative of Iran reiterated the importance of the biannual consideration of this resolution and stressed that resolutions on drug problems should result from common efforts. She disassociated from references to the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS and the term “social marginalization” in operative paragraphs 30 and 52.
An observer for the Holy See highlighted significantly diverging views on how to tackle the world drug problem. This is worrying, he asserted, welcoming that the final text sought to maintain consensus.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the promotion of democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections” (document A/C.3/76/L.45/Rev.1), which the Chair said contained no budget implications.
The representative of the United States, introducing the text, said it promotes the universality of democratic values, based on the free will of people to participate fully in public affairs. She welcomed the draft resolution’s emphasis on the importance of including women and girls in political processes. She condemned the manipulation of electoral processes that undermine the will of voters and called on Member States to affirm that the will of the people would be the basis of Government authority. Introducing an oral revision to preambular paragraph 27, which replaced the phrase “all of their diversity” so it reads “all”, she expressed hope that this important text will be adopted by consensus.
The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of a group of States, proposed two amendments — to preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7 — which contain controversial terms. While condemning all kinds of discrimination, impinging on citizens’ rights to take part in public affairs, he said he had no alternative but to propose these amendments to restore balance to the text and achieve consensus, as in its current form, it contains non-agreed language and does not make room for cultural sensitivities.
The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of vote ahead of the vote on the proposed amendments to preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, said all human beings are born free and equal, and the principle of universal human rights does not admit exceptions. It is important to guarantee public participation of those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination; therefore, the suggested language would spell a regression, she said, adding that resolutions cannot be used to hide various forms of discrimination that exist. Therefore, Argentina will vote against the amendments and urges other delegates to do so as well.
The representative of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, voiced regret over the decision to propose amendments. The suggested amendments risk upsetting the fine balance struck in the text, after lengthy and inclusive negotiations, during which all States made compromises. The proposed language would send a dangerous message that the Committee cannot support the rights of all people to participate in the political process, he said. Therefore, the European Union will vote against the proposed amendments.
The representative of Israel appreciates the language around inclusion in preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, particularly the one pertaining to gender identity, which he said is consistently ignored by the Committee. Therefore, he opposed any and all amendments to such language.
The representative of the United Kingdom welcomed the recognition of human rights defenders and women in the draft resolution, as it is important that their roles are recognized. He expressed disappointment with Nigeria’s last-minute tabling of hostile amendments, which weaken the text. These amendments were not put forth during negotiations, he said, adding that the United Kingdom will vote against them.
The representative of Japan said he will vote against any amendment to operative paragraph 7, which appears to imply that the Committee does not mind discrimination on the basis of political views.
The representative of Albania expressed support for the text as drafted. It is important that vulnerable groups remain in the draft resolution, as they are more likely to be victims of impunity and discrimination. Moreover, there must be no groups excluded from the right to participate in free elections. Therefore, Albania will not accept the last-minute amendments.
The representative of the United States expressed regret over attempts to weaken the text, stressing that it is a product of constructive, balanced and strong engagement. The late oral amendment attempted to accommodate all views, she said. The proposed amendments would send a dangerous message that the rights of vulnerable groups on the list may be cherry-picked on the floor of the General Assembly, she said, adding that she would vote against both amendments and encouraged others to do so.
The representative of Australia, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said the proposed amendment to operative paragraph 7 seeks to exclude key groups from participating in the political process, adding: “A vote for the amendment is a vote for discrimination.” Therefore, Australia will vote against it, as it weakens the resolution overall.
The representative of Liberia said she will vote against the last-minute hostile amendments.
The representative of Egypt said the proposed changes cannot be called “last-minute”, adding that the terms used in preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7 do not enjoy international consensus and cite notions of a vague and subjective character, which have no widely accepted legal meaning. The phrase “women in all their diversity” is not recognized in many national laws and policies, he said, adding that the amendments are an attempt to make the text more consensual and have nothing to do with the core objectives of the resolution.
The representative of Libya said he will vote in favour of the amendments, as adding controversial terms that violate cultural specificities in some places, including Libya, does not add any value to the resolution.
The representative of Algeria expressed surprise that the amendments, which aim at making the text more holistic and inclusive, were found by some to be “surprising”, as many delegates had repeatedly requested such changes during the informal consultation process. She called on delegates who abstained from the resolution on COVID‑19 vaccine access and are now objecting to the amendments to “look in the mirror and reflect on what inclusivity means”. No States can impose their cultural values on others, she said, adding: “We have our own values, and they need to be respected.”
The representative of Syria expressed surprise that practicing one’s right to oppose contentious language is called hostile. No single Member State can dictate any country’s position, she said.
The representative of Belarus expressed serious disappointment with the initiator of the draft, who deliberately included non-consensual language. It is counter to the norms and national legislation of many States; therefore, Belarus will vote in favour of the amendments.
The representative of Iran added that she will support the amendments, as they reflect concern expressed during the informal sessions.
The Committee then rejected the oral amendment to preambular paragraph 9, by a recorded vote of 89 against to 56 in favour, with 12 abstentions.
The Committee then went on to reject the oral amendment to operative paragraph 7, by a recorded vote of 90 against to 58 in favour, with 13 abstentions.
The representative of Jordan, speaking after the vote, expressed reservations with preambular paragraph 25, which includes elements not contained in international law or State practice.
The representative of Tunisia said he voted against the amendment to preambular paragraph 25 but abstained from voting on the amendment to operative paragraph 7, as the listing contains terms not recognized by his country.
The Assembly then approved, as orally revised, draft “L.45/Rev.1”.
By its terms, the Assembly would request the United Nations to continue its efforts to ensure, before undertaking to provide electoral assistance to a requesting State, that there is adequate time to organize and carry out an effective mission providing such assistance. This assistance would include the provision of long-term technical cooperation, ensuring that conditions exist to allow a free and fair election, and that the results will be reported comprehensively and consistently. The Assembly would also strongly condemn any manipulation of elections, coercion and tampering with vote counts, particularly when done by States, and would call on all Member States to respect the rule of law and the human rights of all persons, including the right to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections.
The representative of the Russian Federation said there is no single model of democracy in the world, and that the responsibility to organize elections rests with Member States. The Russian Federation disassociates from operative paragraph 14, as well as preambular paragraph 9, and operative paragraph 7. He expressed surprise that the United States chose to put forth the draft, given that its electoral model contains serious flaws, with access to voting mostly being provided to wealthier sections of the population. Moreover, the consultations on the text were not transparent, he said.
The representative of Nigeria, voicing regret over the introduction of controversial topics such as gender identity into the text, said such concepts have no legal foundation in the international rights framework. These terms do not constitute universally agreed-upon values and lifestyles, and they are not accepted by most societies. Therefore, Nigeria disassociates from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, he said, and will never accept them as precedent.
The representative of Senegal joined consensus; however, the country aligns with the amendments by Nigeria, as they pertain to non-consensual language on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The representative of Syria joined consensus, however, the terms in preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7 are contentious, of a fluid character and do not align with national legislation.
The representative of the Netherlands, aligning with the European Union, stressed the universality of democratic values. As the Co-chair of the LGBTI Core Group, the Netherlands believes that discrimination on any grounds is unacceptable and must have no place in free and fair elections.
The representative of Libya said the contents of the draft resolution are very relevant, as the country prepares for elections on 24 December. However, he expressed reservations on preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, which are not in line with religious values or legislative norms.
The representative of Bahrain, speaking on behalf of a group of States, joined consensus but noted that preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7 are not in line with his country’s religious and social values.
The representative of Pakistan disassociated from the non-consensual terms contained in preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7.
The representative of Egypt disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, which allude to cultural and social matters, pertaining to private conduct that lay outside the human rights framework. He categorically rejected such terms, which disrespect Egypt’s social norms and values. He also noted that the term “human rights defenders” should be understood to adhere to the definition set out in General Assembly resolution 53/144.
The representative of Singapore, speaking in explanation of position, said she joined consensus. On operative paragraph 9, she said that according to Singaporean law, during elections, persons with disabilities are aided by a presiding officer, who is under oath to keep the vote secret.
The representative of Hungary joined consensus but disassociated from preambular paragraph 9, as its mention of diversity does not take his country’s cultural and linguistic context into account.
The representative of China opposed the reference to human rights defenders in the text, adding that the term has no uniform, law-based definition accepted by all countries. Further, many proposals by China were ignored during the consultation process, he said, adding that the text’s sponsor insisted on using non-consensual language and conducted consultations in an unconstructive, non-transparent manner.
The representative of Yemen said he co-authored the proposed amendments, adding that people in Yemen have the right to participate in the electoral process, without being asked “what kind of a man or woman they are”. There is no logic or reason to talk about gender identity, he stressed.
The representative of Malaysia joined consensus due to his belief in the overall essence of text, but expressed reservations on, and disassociated from, preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, which are inconsistent with Malaysia’s position.
The representative of Algeria disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, as they employ language and concepts that go against the cultural values of countries, including hers. “Was it worth it to undermine consensus by ignoring the views of 60 delegations just to include such controversial concepts?” she asked.
The representative of Slovenia said it is important to recognize the rights of marginalized groups, including women, given the many new and emerging challenges to democracy. The European Union will strive to uphold all individuals’ human rights and freedoms and will work with all Member States to realize this aim.
The representative of Guatemala, joining consensus on the draft and recognizing the importance of democracy as a universal value, disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7.
The representative of Sudan, supporting the content of the draft, disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7 as they contradict the religious values and legislation of his country.
The representative of Iran joined consensus on the draft while disassociating from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7.
The representative of Indonesia, joining consensus on the draft, voiced concern that it contains terms that lack internationally agreed-upon definitions. She expressed regret over references to sexual orientation and gender identity in operative paragraph 7.
The representative of Iraq disassociated from operative paragraph 7, which is not in line with domestic legislation, and from the phrase “in all their diversity” in preambular paragraph 9, which has not been agreed upon by the United Nations Member States.
The representative of Bangladesh said he is unable to co-sponsor the draft as it contradicts his country’s national law. He disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7.
The representative of Somalia disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, which contain elements not recognized in his country’s national law.
The representative of Cameroon disassociated from preambular paragraph 9 and operative paragraph 7, which do not contain agreed language.
The representative of Nigeria said the draft contains elements that undermine the sovereignty of his people. He expressed regret over the politicization of human rights issues and the “double standards approach” of the Third Committee. The inclusion of the two elements in the draft resolution jeopardizes the consensual nature of United Nations decision-making.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution titled, “Draft programme of work of the Third Committee for the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/76/L.68).
The representative of Brazil welcomed the consultations on the work programme and efforts to achieve a compromise, noting that the report will include a consideration on the programme planning for the first time since 2012. Based on their mandates, the Main Committees are responsible for a process which is logical and straightforward. He pointed to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), noting that it seems illogical that, every year, it provides comments on topics that fall outside the scope of its mandate. The practice of programme review and planning should be implemented in the spirit of the mandate, he said, expressing hope that the broader membership is involved at every step through the process.