Extremism, Intolerance Overshadowing Moves towards Democracy, Third Committee Delegates Stress as Experts Press Governments to Honour Human Rights Treaties

Seventy years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, extremism and intolerance are overshadowing moves towards democracy, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) in continued debate on the promotion and protection of human rights today.

Throughout the day, delegates and mandate holders alike called for a democratic global order that addresses human rights as interdependent and interrelated, with countries sharing a moral responsibility to protect their people from harm, especially those escaping conflict or natural disaster.

Along those lines, Ecuador’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said cooperation is critical in solving the challenges posed by migration in the face of xenophobic political narratives. States of origin, transit and destination must work together and refute alarmist misrepresentations of migrants, especially as they make great contributions to global prosperity.

Echoing the calls, Switzerland’s delegate said that despite the solid normative framework embodied in the Universal Declaration, the rise of hostile nationalism and racism, combined with terrorism, extremism, and the digital age, has created additional security needs. Restrictions on civil society are frequently committed under the pretext of security and he pressed Governments to reverse this negative trend.

Companies can play a critical role by making human rights due diligence part of standard practice, said Dante Pesce, Chairperson for the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, who was among the day’s five experts presenting annual reports during interactive dialogues.

Noting the growing uptake at a policy level, he said such due diligence has become a norm of expected business conduct. He pointed to the passage in France of the duty of vigilance law in 2017 as a ground-breaking example that requires enterprises across sectors to account for how they identify and prevent the human rights impacts in their global operations. He advised others to just get started.

In other business today, the Committee decided to invite the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia to present their reports and participate in a related dialogue, approving a such a proposal by a recorded vote of 73 in favour, to 33 against, with 32 abstentions.

Burundi’s representative said he deplored the treatment of the Committee’s request for a legal opinion from the Office of Legal Affairs, which had rendered its approval on 10 October to include those experts on the provisional list of special procedure mandate holders to brief the Committee.

Also presenting reports today were Craig Mokhiber, Chief of Branch, Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights; Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Virginia Bras Gomes, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association.

The representatives of Norway on behalf of Nordic and Baltic countries, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons), Liechtenstein, Russian Federation, Mexico and Brazil also spoke during the general debate, as did the head of delegation of the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of China, Syria, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 17 October to continue its consideration of promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met today to continue its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights. For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4235.

Action � Organizational Matters

The representative of Burundi deplored the treatment of the request for a legal opinion, stressing that it is politically motivated and not legally binding. It was established in an obscure manner.

The representative of Austria, spoke in explanation of vote to welcome that there is a legal basis for holding an interactive dialogue in which all can participate. Voicing doubts about seeking the opinion, he said: Now that we have it, it should be respected.

By a recorded vote of 73 in favour, to 33 against, with 32 abstentions, the Committee approved the proposal to invite the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia to present their reports and participate in a related dialogue.

The Committee Chair noted that the Independent Expert and the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi would brief on 24 October.

The representative of Nigeria in an explanation of vote said his country recognized human rights as indivisible and is mainstreaming human rights into its national policies. Having abstained in the vote, Nigeria remains consistent in such efforts and committed to the Third Committee.

The representative of Namibia said her country always abstains from votes on such issues as the Universal Periodic Review is the tool for addressing human rights and the Third Committee must not undermine the work of other bodies.

The representative of Zambia, while acknowledging the legal opinion, expressed concern over setting risky or dangerous precedents and said the drafters of the related documents were aware of earlier decisions.

A Secretariat official said it is uncommon for Member States to criticize the Secretariat for being fast. Describing the steps taken, he said that once the Committee requested the legal opinion, a draft was prepared and submitted for clearance.

The representative of Congo said a mistake had been made in pressing the voting button and that his country had voted against the measure.

The Secretariat official took note of Congo’s statement, pointing out that while the results cannot be amended, his vote will be reflected in the meeting’s record.

The representative of Montenegro said he intended to vote in favour and requested that this be reflected in the meeting’s record.

Interactive Dialogues

CRAIG MOKHIBER, Chief of Branch for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner, presented a series of reports of the Secretary-General. The first, on the right to development (document A/73/138), underscores the obligation to conduct human rights assessments in areas with potential extraterritorial human rights effects. Summarizing the views from seven Member States, the report on globalization and human rights (document A/73/172) recommends that States create an international environment conducive to development by meeting their commitment in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. Another report outlines steps taken by States to combat intolerance and negative stereotyping based on religion or belief (document A/73/153), presenting information on constitutional and legislative frameworks used to address extremism and radicalization. The critical role human rights can play in preventing future acts of terrorism is at the heart of another report (document A/73/347).

Access to justice for all is closely related to States’ obligation to guarantee human rights, he said, noting that a report on human rights in the administration of justice (document A/73/210) summarizes best practices, challenges and recent developments. Another report sheds light on the status of the human rights treaty body system (document A/73/309), stressing the urgent need for additional resources. The Secretary-General explores the development of a system-wide approach to strengthening civil society in a report on the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (document A/73/230). On the moratorium on use of the death penalty, his report highlights discriminatory practices against women, notably (document A/73/260). In his third report on missing persons, the Secretary General (document A/73/385) describes initiatives addressing the issue of missing persons in the context of armed conflict and other circumstances, including situations of violence, insecurity, organized crime, disaster and migration. A country-specific report analyses the situation of human rights in Iran (document A/73/299), where the overall situation relating to the use of that practice remains grim. The last report centres on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/73/308). It finds that prospects for durable peace and stability may potentially be undermined by the lack of significant progress in addressing When the floor was opened for questions and comments, the representative of Azerbaijan drew attention to the increased number of missing persons in conflict situations, adding that the Human Rights Council report stressed the need for awareness raising of best practices in the handling of such cases. Expressing regret that the topic of increased armed conflict has only been considered once in two years, he expressed hope that subsequent reports will be comprehensive and focus on missing persons in armed conflict.

The representative of Syria said countries should not ignore the fact that unilateral measures affect human rights, condemning countries that foster terrorism and underscoring that actions by the illegal coalition present in his country are destroying Raqqa and other achievements that Syria spent decades building. It has killed thousands of civilians, he said, stressing the importance of preventing hatred, extremism and populist ideas on discrimination. Turning to the country specific reports, he rejected the use of human rights to target countries for certain reasons other than human rights concerns.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the report does not seek to promote and protect human rights and he categorically rejected it due to its politicization of such issues.

The representative of Iran said the report on the situation in his country reveals manipulation and politicization. Such a double-standards approach destroys United Nations credibility. Reports should be inclusive, yet they are as selective as the mandate itself. The report barely touched upon the nuclear deal. The cases described do not warrant country-specific reports, but rather, mutual respect and constructive dialogue.

YUVAL SHANY, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, said 55 States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have opted to be considered under the simplified reporting procedure. He shared the main findings of an ongoing assessment of the new procedure’s effectiveness: it alleviated reporting burdens for States but placed additional pressure on the Committee and the secretariat. He expressed hope that States continue to seek the assistance of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in implementing their Covenant obligations. The Committee also takes seriously the need for greater alignment across treaty bodies. Regarding communications under the Optional Protocol, he noted that the number of cases pending before the Committee has risen. Unless the Secretariat’s capacity is increased, the Committee’s ability to address the backlog will be compromised � a serious threat to its credibility as a forum that provides timely remedies to victims of human rights violations.

Describing other work, he said that, as it continues drafting a General Comment on the Covenant’s article 6 (the right to life), the Committee has given serious consideration to views expressed by stakeholders and expects to adopt the General Comment during its current session. Turning to the implementation of General Assembly resolution 68/268, he said the word limit of 10,700 words for each document produced by treaty bodies unnecessarily complicates the Committee’s ability to discharge its core mandate. The fact that this word limit is also imposed on a few key documents, such as General Comments, is concerning. He asked State parties to introduce greater flexibility in the application of the word limit. The extra meeting time that the Committee received to deal with the backlog in communications was not matched by commensurate additional human resources, he added, stressing that this has serious implications for the Committee’s work and victims of human rights violations.

When the floor was opened for questions, the representative of Qatar stressed the importance of protecting human rights, confirming his country’s commitment to the Covenant.

The representative of the United States, noting the increased communications backlog affecting the Committee’s functioning, asked about immediate measures that could be taken to ease the workload.

The representative of the European Union expressed concern over State parties’ failure to communicate requested information, calling on all to comply with their obligations. He asked what could be done about the Committee’s heavy workload and about actions most needed to ensure the treaty body system’s effectiveness.

The representative of Czechia described the importance of translating monitoring activities and guidelines into national policies and asked about the main challenges when assessing participation in the Covenant.

The representative of the United Kingdom expressing concern about overdue reports and insufficient allocation of resources, asked about the Committee’s plans to address non-compliance among State parties.

The representative of the Russian Federation raised concern over international bodies systematically expanding beyond their purview, stressing more broadly that the Committee’s guidelines are not binding as they are not covered by its mandate. The Committee must be on equal footing with States, he said, rejecting recommendations by the Human Rights Council as not legally binding.

The representative of the Sudan underscored the need for aligning work across the treaty bodies, asking about efforts to streamline their activities so as to avoid duplication and overlap. He also expressed concern that the name Committee is misleading.

Mr. SHANY replied that more positions in OHCHR were needed to address the backlog, recalling that five positions were not granted. On 75 cases, there were not enough staff and short-term assignments for those positions are being considered. Regarding repetitive communications, a report will be issued on them. On the issue of alignment, there are formal contact points and informal consultations reviewing the rules of procedure for all committees so as to maintain consistency as much as possible. To address the problem of overdue reports, resources are needed and the matter will need to be taken up during the 2020 review.

Describing the Universal Periodic Review experience, he said the fact that all States know ahead of time when to report is a positive aspect which should be replicated. Efforts to increase awareness could receive more attention in States’ reports, as could those to engage civil society. Regarding follow up, the Committee has made efforts to manage this burden better by limiting it to one cycle to address urgent recommendations. Aligning work with that of mandate holders is a complicated effort in that the Committee is a treaty body, so must align with other such bodies. With respect to the name, he said the Committee is often mistaken for the Human Rights Council, however, the name has been designated in the founding treaty.

VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the first dialogues held under the simplified reporting procedure were satisfactory for both the Committee and States. Given the secretariat and the Committee’s limited capacity, the procedure was only proposed to countries with a long reporting history. Although the parameters are assessed on an ongoing basis, the Committee will not consider generalizing the procedure or extending it to non-reporting States if it does not receive additional resources. Regarding overdue initial reporting, steps were taken to approach the concerned States, the United Nations country teams and the OHCHR capacity-building programme. Stressing the importance of initiating dialogue with countries that have yet to submit their first report, she expressed willingness to help them overcome constraints preventing them from fulfilling their reporting obligations.

Turning to the Committee’s work under the Optional Protocol, she said the Committee has shown rigor and fairness in examining individual communications and adopting views. Given that the number of registered communications has gone up by 400 per cent in the past 12 months, the Working Group on Communications had to meet outside official meetings. She called on those present to grant the Committee the resources it needs to discharge its mandate, drawing attention in that context to the impact of climate change on a range of rights guaranteed under the Covenant. The Committee will continue to provide guidance to States to ensure they discharge their duties under the Covenant while mitigating the effects of climate change and adapt to its unavoidable effects, she assured.

The representative of El Salvador said his country is in the process of preparing its next report, which will be submitted to the Committee in 2019. He pointed out that access to the Geneva facilities by videoconference during the dialogue would strengthen participation.

The representative of Uruguay, also speaking on behalf of Portugal, asked the Chair for her assessment of the 2013 general protocol and how the number of ratifications can be increased.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said the Covenant is now indispensable to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. She underlined the importance of understanding the nexus between new technologies and human rights, and noted the progress made by the Committee in simplified reporting procedure.

The representative of the European Union said significant work by the Committee to improve its reporting procedures had yielded results but the communications backlog and some States’ failure to comply with their reporting obligations remain a concern. He asked the Chair for her assessment of simplified reporting procedures and whether it can be offered to more countries.

Ms. BRAS replied to questions on reporting by saying that many countries do not report due to internal and resource constraints. She stressed the importance of an updated calendar for reporting and follow-up, as well as capacity building to help countries meet their obligations. She also highlighted the work of regional offices, noting that her term will soon end after 14 years.

She underscored the importance of maintaining webcasts and video conferences, as many countries do not have the resources to send delegations to Geneva. These services are a major step forward in bringing all stakeholders together. The reporting backlog has been addressed, however we would not be doing a good job if we have a backlog in communication, she said, referring to the Optional Protocol.

On General Comments and Opinions, she said a treaty adopted in 1976 cannot be interpreted in the same way as today, adding that contemporary interpretations of the Covenant help countries fine tune their obligations. She noted the close relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals and the Covenant. State follow-up on implementation of the Goals should not be done in isolation of the Covenant’s obligations, she said, addressing a question by the Republic of Korea.

Simplifying the procedure requires more resources, she said, underscoring the need for more research capacities, as the Committee seeks to be fair to all States in better identifying issues. Not all States wish to avail themselves of a simplified procedure. On human rights defenders, the Committee does not endorse the Guidelines against intimidation or reprisals (also known as the San Jose guidelines) as it has its own. She drew attention to the important work of women human rights defenders, calling for investigations into any threats to their lives.

RUBA�N ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBASN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed hope that the Global Compact on migration will be adopted in December. In an increasingly globalized and interconnected manner, States of origin, transit and destination must work together to fully benefit from the advantages of migration and find solutions to the challenges it poses. He reaffirmed the need to promote the human rights and liberties of all migrants � notably women, children, people with disabilities, older and indigenous people � regardless of their migration status, noting that xenophobic political narratives on migration are widespread. Overcoming such challenges requires that States refute alarmist misrepresentations. Migrants make significant contributions to social and economic development and global prosperity. They can help respond to labour shortages and contribute new skills and dynamism to host countries. A greater recognition of this contribution is needed he said, expressing concern about migration policies that separate children and adolescents from their families due to their migration status.

JOANNE ADAMSON, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action are an opportunity to assess whether States have lived up to their commitments. Those instruments outline that all human rights are to be realized whether civil, political, economic or social. There is neither hierarchy among them nor subordination of one over another. The Programme of Action reaffirms the duty of all States, regardless of their systems or development status, to promote all human rights. The United Nations is neither a place where some can lecture others, nor where rights violations and abuses can be excused by the pursuit of poverty alleviation. Moreover, the full realization of human rights implies a strong interaction between Governments and civil society, efforts that are severely hampered when violence is instigated against human rights defenders, civil society and indigenous people, including enforced disappearances and summary executions, she said, noting that 400 environmental rights defenders have been assassinated worldwide in the past two years.

JOANNE ADAMSON (European Union), expressed serious concern over an increasing number of States’ refusal to grant OHCHR and human rights mechanisms access to their territories or specific regions. She called on all States to issue a standing invitation to United Nations Special Procedures. The European Union is appalled by the detailed findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar pointing to the commission of grave crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity committed by the military and security forces in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States and crimes � possibly amounting to genocide � in northern Rakhine State. She called on Burundi to re-establish full cooperation with the High Commissioner’s Office in Bujumbura, accept the visit of a team of three experts from the Office and cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry by granting access to the country and cooperating in the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s ongoing investigation. She also condemned the violence and atrocities being perpetrated in Syria by all parties, particularly by the Syrian regime, and called for immediate action to implement relevant United Nations resolutions.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, said the General Assembly, appalled by the atrocities of the Second World War, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to ensure that such violence would never happen again. In many countries, respect for the rule of law and human rights are under attack. Institutions built and promoted for decades are at risk of being undermined and weakened. The multilateral system, of which the Declaration forms a cornerstone, is under pressure from many directions. Human rights defenders play an essential role in holding Governments to account, while civil society actors are catalysts for change and contribute to development. It is deeply concerning when Governments commit reprisals and limit civil society space. This is a symptom of a highly troubling opposition towards transparency and accountability towards their own citizens. A free press is also essential to ensure that human rights are respected. The threats to press freedom seen across the world, and the escalating intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists and media workers, must be taken seriously.

RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDA�N (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the number of older persons is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030. There is an urgency to recognize their needs and opportunities. The international community must ensure they fully enjoy human rights, particularly those who are in vulnerable groups or situations, marginalized, stigmatized or subject to discrimination or exclusion, he said, underscoring in that regard the lack of specific provisions in international human rights law. The best way to address this gap is through open and frank discussions involving all Member States and relevant stakeholders. International human rights standards for the protection of older persons must be developed, he stressed.

Ms. WAGNER (Switzerland) noted a rise in hostile nationalism, a resurgence of racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination. Terrorism and violent extremism combined with the digital age have created additional security needs. At the same time, measures to ensure security compete with human rights. There cannot be lasting peace with the rule of law. In keeping with its humanitarian mission, Switzerland is committed to a world without torture and the prevention of it. Compliance with international law is of paramount importance in the fight against terrorism she said, noting that adequate financial and political support for the Human Rights Council is essential for its success. She expressed continued concern over restrictions on civil society in many countries, where there are increasingly serious violations to the rights to freedom of association.

DANTE PESCE, Chairperson of the Working Group’s Report on Business and Human Rights, said that business can be a tremendous source for good. Business investments generate jobs and innovation, spurring economic and technological development. Yet too often, irresponsible business conduct has dire human and environmental costs. Presenting the Working Group’s report (document A/73/163), he highlighted its focus on key features of human rights due diligence, gaps in business and Government practice, good practices, and how stakeholders can contribute to the scaling up of effective human rights due diligence.

Corporate human rights due diligence is a way for enterprises to manage the potential and actual adverse human rights impacts of their operations. Since 2011, due diligence has become a norm of expected conduct, increasingly reflected in policy frameworks and legislation, including mandatory disclosure of risks of modern slavery in supply chains. The duty of vigilance law, introduced in France in 2017, is a ground breaking example. The first of its kind, it requires enterprises across sectors to create a vigilance plan and account for how they identify, prevent and address the human rights impacts in their global supply chains. More broadly, he also described gaps in business practice, as most company practices do not meet requirements set by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. A lack of Government leadership in addressing governance gaps remains a major challenge. Overall, the challenge is to scale up emerging good practices. To business, he said just get started, by identifying adverse impacts. He encouraged investors to ask questions about corporate human rights policies, and Governments to use all policy levers to protect people against business-related human rights impacts.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of South Africa stressed the need for considerable efforts in the area of good practices, noting that effective action by all stakeholders can be achieved through legal protection. He also noted the importance of access to effective legal remedy and ending impunity. There is no reason why international rule should not apply to all actors, he said, asking about the recourse victims have when such national channels do not exist.

The representative of Spain, on human rights due diligence in business, stressed that a great deal must be done in terms of practical implementation, drawing attention to certain deficiencies.

The representative of the European Union commended inclusive approaches, highlighting good practices in transparency and meaningful reporting. He asked how to bridge the significant gap between leading practices and leading enterprises, and how to create incentives for human rights due diligence.

The representative of Switzerland appreciated the guidance on best practices, noting that the Government plans to update the national action plan and analyse gaps. He asked how the Working Group plans to work with enterprises on human rights due diligence.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are being implemented through an action plan. The Government commissioned an independent review of the modern slavery act and he asked in that context how to better disseminate best practices.

The representative of the United States said some companies in his country destroyed themselves protecting their workers’ human rights and he expressed regret that businesses are setting standards that are too high. He asked how to address rights-related issues of State-owned enterprises operating outside the host country.

The representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to the use of legislation to create a stimulus for incorporating due diligence, noting that in May 2017, the Russian Federation created a concept for public finance information. There is also a new federal law on the public financial accounting of private and State owned enterprises. These instruments could be beneficial to other countries.

The representative of the Norway cited the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) business conduct guidance for incorporating human rights, underscoring the need for considerable efforts in their implementation. As other sectors also represent drivers of change, he asked about States’ responsibility in that regard.

The representative of Indonesia noted the creation of a certification for the fishing industry, adding that his country is preparing a national guidance on business and human rights. He asked for information on the best approach to ensure businesses include due diligence policies.

The representative of Cuba asked how coordination among Member States can help consolidate protection for victims at the international level. The international community must consider the human rights implications of treaties that protect foreign investors to the detriment of the State.

Mr. PESCE, responding to questions and comments, said the report was compiled in close consultation with various stakeholders, including the practitioners. He stressed that due diligence has prevention at its core, and that remedy only comes when prevention fails.

Inventive measures to guarantee remedy are welcomed, he said, but the report focuses on prevention and the implementation of due diligence by drawing lessons from successful practices. Industry-wide initiatives led by companies are the most effective way to influence small- and medium-sized enterprises. States also play an important role: through the procurement of publicly owned enterprises, notably, they can mainstream human rights and due diligence.

Several innovative measures were developed by the European Union and its member States. Given that advanced States often already have action plans, it is crucial that they fully implement the policies that already exist. The European Union should also use its combined leverage to encourage others to move in the right direction.

Emphasizing the value of peer-learning, he said knowledge can be disseminated in various ways, notably through the forum on human rights and business which is held in Geneva annually. Noting that in the United States, big brands are moving ahead of the curve, he emphasized private companies’ impact on the global brand of nations. In this context, Governments must lead by example. Weak governance is not attractive to investors, but respect for human rights is beneficial to long-term business interests.

CLEMENT NYALETSOSSI VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, said States have embraced and adopted the notion of partnering with civil society for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, as many civil society actors have engaged with States. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association ensures that people can express their voice and organize around shared interests. Thus, the report outlines five areas that are crucial for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. First, there must be an enabling environment in which civil society helps to strengthen an inclusive and effective system of checks and balances, which is inherent to democracy. Second, inclusion must be used as a tool for development, as the 2030 Agenda calls for participation and inclusion aligned with human rights norms. Assembly rights are crucial to ensure as many voices as possible, he asserted.

Third, he said follow-up and review processes within the 2030 Agenda framework rest on voluntary commitments led by Governments, with an emphasis on accountability. Fourth, the main determinant of the 2030 Agenda’s success is a partnership in which all countries and peoples work in global solidarity. Lastly, the right to freedom of association is critical to ensuring that workers and employers can enter into dialogue and negotiations aimed at fostering equitable social and economic progress and inclusivity. Noting that States and non-State actors continue to restrict the space for civil society actions, he expressed concern over recent State decisions to ban non-governmental organization activities and the impact that would have on a country’s development. He called for a lifting of these bans to create a safe space. He also expressed alarm at the trend towards diminishing the influence of labour’s traditional tools: trade unions, collective bargaining and use of the strike.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Morocco said his country’s Constitution outlines the right to freedom of expression. He asked the Special Rapporteur about priorities for fulfilling his mandate and for achieving change on the ground.

The representative of the United States drew attention to the increasing attacks on the right to peaceful assembly and association. Describing rights violations in Syria, Iran, Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba and China, he described incidents of closing civil space. He asked for recommendations on addressing threats to fundamental freedoms through use of surveillance technology.

The representative of the European Union noted the linkages between the right to peaceful assembly and association and the 2030 Agenda, saying that local actors should be given more consideration when implementing the Agenda. Governments should look for ways to include civil society, he said, asking about possible measures to strengthen civil space.

The representative of Switzerland stressed the importance of space for civil society, adding that dialogue in indispensable. He asked about donor States’ ability to combine efforts to help civil society implement the Goals.

The representative of South Africa cited Operation Phakisa, a Government initiative to address issues highlighted in the national action plan on the 2030 Agenda. More than $7.8 trillion will be needed for Africa to achieve the Goals and he asked how to address this challenge.

The representative of United Kingdom deplored the use of legislation to restrict freedom of peaceful assembly and association, stressing the importance of civic space in the digital world. He asked how States can create a secure and lasting environment to strengthen civil society.

The representative of the Russian Federation noted the links between the 2030 Agenda and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The Special Rapporteur should prepare repots on national efforts around this freedom, he said, noting that the right to peaceful assembly is not absolute and can have many facets in different countries.

The representative of China called the statement by his United States counterpart an unwarranted accusation against China, whose citizens have the right of free speech and peaceful assembly and association. Citizens must comply with the constitution and regulations and refrain from harming rights of other citizens, he said, expressing hope that the United States will face up to its own human rights situation.

The representative of Iran said there are 20 demonstrations daily in his country, indicating an open and vibrant society, stressing that democracy has no greater enemy than the United States.

The representative of Brazil asked about the links between the freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of Venezuela said it is unacceptable and incomprehensible that the United States pretends to have the moral authority to judge others.

The representative of Syria aligning with statements of Russian Federation, China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, declared that the United States is not in any position to make itself a sponsor of human rights and to address accusations or give counsel to other members.

Also speaking were representatives of Czechia and Cuba.

Mr. VOULE said the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is not only about providing financial support to States but also leveraging the strength of civil society to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The role played by civil society is often misunderstood. Through coordination with other United Nations agencies and the international community, his Office is working to ensure proper conditions for civil society to be a driver for sustainable development.

Online peaceful assembly is extremely important to support offline expression. He assured that a consultation process to discuss the role of intermediaries, such as Internet access providers, will be organized to identify ways to better protect online access.

No country can ignore the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and no country can achieve them alone. In that context, it is crucial that States bring on board civil society, including the most marginalized groups. He expressed concern that the prohibition of non-governmental organizations sometimes affects the most vulnerable segments of the population � a consequence that runs counter to countries’ commitment to the 2030 Agenda. Every State must do its utmost to abolish restrictions on civil society. He pressed all States to have dialogue with civil society at the national level.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the situation is more alarming than ever. Human rights standards have come under pressure, which has led to ever more blatant violations. Regarding the Human Rights Council elections, he stressed the need to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. In that spirit, Liechtenstein abstained from supporting candidatures that do not meet those standards and would continue to do so. While expressing support for the International Criminal Court, he stressed the need for other accountability frameworks, such as the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria.

FABIA�N OSWALDO GARCA�A PAZ Y MIA�O (Ecuador) said his country maintains an open invitation to the universal human rights system and coordinates with various mandate holders to organize their visits. There is no guarantee of human rights in the presence of poverty and inequality, and development is a right in itself. Ecuador devised a national development plan in that spirit and put in place a Plan for the Entire Lifespan which considers the multiple needs of persons throughout their lives. Ecuador is also promoting an international binding legal instrument to regulate the activities of transnational companies.

Ms. CHEKRIZOVA (Russian Federation) said there are still attempts to use human rights to intervene in sovereign States’ internal affairs, which has politicized the Third Committee’s work. She called on those present to focus on sharing best practices on human rights, as some continue to focus on political rights at the expense of social and economic rights, among others. Human rights must respect cultural, historical and civilizational specificities, she said, noting that recommendations at times have exceeded the authority of the bodies that put them forward, or ignored important issues, which only hampers trust between those bodies and Member States.

Turning to human rights questions, situations and the reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, she said there is an ongoing trend to politicize human rights. That can often be seen in accusations draped in human rights rhetoric and the tendency by certain States to interfere in the domestic affairs of others. The Russian Federation does not agree with those who attempt to violate human rights in crisis situations, she said, emphasizing the need for the existing division of work within the United Nations to be respected. Some Member States are not interested in discussing international terrorism, nor ready to condemn the spread of neo-Nazism or the destruction in European cities � particularly in the Baltic States and in Ukraine � of memorials to those who won World War II. International and inter-religious understanding can only come about through peaceful coexistence and respect for different cultures and faiths.

Mr. ELIZONDO (Mexico) said his country supports all measures necessary to ensure equal access to political, economic, social and cultural rights. Despite the huge challenges involved in implementing human rights treaties, Mexico will continue promoting ratification of international human rights instruments. He reaffirmed Mexico’s readiness to participate in different multilateral forums to strengthen the international system of human rights, noting that universal and regional systems for human rights can contribute greatly to the protection and promotion of human rights in all countries.

RICARDO MONTEIRO (Brazil) voiced concern over the negative impact of surveillance and interception of digital communications � including extraterritorial and mass surveillance � on the right to privacy. The principles of legality, necessity and proportionality must be upheld, he said, stating that Brazil and Germany will be submitting a draft resolution on this topic and inviting delegates to join Brazil in approving this year’s draft resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty. He went on to say that the adoption in Morocco this December of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be a landmark for the United Nations that will bring about a paradigm shift on the issue, addressing it from a human rights and people-centred perspective.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said the country has been actively cooperating with the human rights treaty bodies and relevant Special Procedures, and that their observations and recommendations are being taken seriously. Most recently, the Special Rapporteur on human rights obligations relating to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment visited Mongolia as has the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. He reiterated Mongolia’s commitment to the full and effective implementation of human rights treaties to which it has acceded, and to stronger cooperation with relevant United Nations human rights bodies.

Ms. ZHU HUILAN (China) said treaty bodies should develop clear rules governing their experts’ interactions with media organizations. They should also leverage the media to improve transparency and visibility while ensure their impartiality. She also called for clear rules, based on consultations with Member States, on the posting of information from non-governmental organizations on treaty body websites. Failure to condemn such practices would amount to condoning the use of United Nations websites to attack the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, she stated.

Ms. DIRISU (Nigeria), aligning herself with the African Group, said her country demonstrates deep commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights for all. Terrorism has devastating consequences for the enjoyment of human rights in Nigeria. The Government acknowledges that individual security is a basic human right and the protection of individuals is a fundamental obligation. It has taken steps towards fighting corruption, defeating Boko Haram and improving the living standards of Nigerians. Further, the establishment of a United States Nigeria Bilateral Commission will improve transparency, accountability and democratic governance.

Right of Reply

The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said his country advocates for human rights and dialogue. The European Union has made grave accusations that are counter to fact. China’s achievement in the human rights arena has obtained global acclaim. The human rights of all ethnic minorities have been fully guaranteed. China is a country where everyone is equal before the law, and Chinese judicial authorities deal with criminal cases in strict accordance with the law. In the European Union, countries are trying to shift responsibility regarding refugees, crimes are rising, and elected officials in national parliaments express radical positions against migrants, Muslims and other minorities. The bloc should reflect on its on human right issues.

The representatives from Syria called on the European Union to uplift the values of human rights by withdrawing from the illegal international coalition and dissociating itself from the coalition’s destructive actions. The pretext of combatting terrorism is mendacious. The European Union should also reject the politicization of human rights and stop dealing with them selectively, with double standards. Further, it should refrain from politicizing development and humanitarian action. It should also desist from unliteral coercive sanctions that contravene international law and impede the enjoyment of human rights, as well as cease the discriminatory and racist practices imposed refugees and end populist discourses that urge xenophobia.

The representative of Pakistan, responding to the European Union delegate’s comments, said his country is determined to ensure that every citizen lives with the full protection of human rights without discrimination. He drew attention to xenophobia in some European Union member States as well as the misuse of the freedom of speech for harmful objectives. Cooperation, not confrontation, is the way forward.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the European Union’s accusations regarding civil society in her country were not objective. They were also based on outdated information. More than 200 non-governmental organizations are operating in the Russian Federation without harassment or restrictions. Further, the residents of Crimea and Sebastopol had chosen by referendum to join the Russian Federation and she recommended that the European Union deal with the situation in its own member States.

The representative of Ukraine, responding to his counterpart from the Russian Federation, reminded delegations about that country’s aggressive actions against Ukraine. Crimea and Sebastopol are under occupation, as recognized by the General Assembly, he said, asking that the Russian delegation explain why that Government believed it had the right to interfere in other countries.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the European Union delegate’s accusations about his country had no relation to the reality of human rights in his country. He strongly recommended the bloc concentrate on its own crimes against humanity.

The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor a second time, said authorities in Ukraine must respect the choice made by the people of Crimea and Sebastopol. She added that the human rights situation in Ukraine is serious, with opposition parties and the mass media facing harassment and pressure being put to bear on judges and lawyers. She called on Ukraine to fulfil its human rights obligations.

The representative from Ukraine said his country is committed to all its obligations under international law. It has a longstanding open invitation to mandate holders, unlike the Russian Federation. Russian military forces occupied the peninsula and conducted a so-called referendum which does not represent the will of the people.

Source: United Nations