THIRD COMMITTEE HEARS CALLS FOR PRIORITY ATTENTION
NEW YORK, 7 November (UN Headquarters) -- It was important to ensure that the provisions of the six international human rights instruments were incorporated into each country's domestic laws, several delegations told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning.
As the panel considered issues relating to the implementation of human rights instruments, various country representatives stressed that real the treaties were really significant when they enjoyed effective force in national statutes. The representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said after States signed international agreements, the second decisive step towards applying the treaties was ratification. But that was not enough. Once ratified, human rights instruments had actually to be implemented and be given palpable form at the national level. It fell to each government to take all necessary steps to ensure the obligations embodied in the texts were fully implemented.
The delegate of Ukraine added the most crucial task in the field of human rights treaties was to make internationally recognized standards observed in the daily routines of all relevant authorities. With the transition period realities in mind, he said that task appeared to be extremely time- and resource-consuming. State authorities, even the most reform-devoted ones, could not change overnight a way of thinking which predominated only 10 years ago.
Another important area that needed attention concerned the United Nations human rights treaty bodies themselves, several speakers said. The bodies -- the six committees charged with overseeing the implementation of human rights agreements in the countries which ratified them -- were not always able to give sufficient attention to the country reports filed with them because of their large workload. A number of speakers maintained that because of the documentation backlog before the committees, countries were often presenting reports to the bodies that were outdated and obsolete.
Others said the demands and costs of preparing the reports negatively affected smaller and developing countries, who could ill afford to devote valuable human resources time and energy to the drafting of the documents. The result, some said, was that many reports consisted of nothing more than a summary of legislation, and were not at all helpful to the treaty bodies.
Later in the meeting, the Committee heard the introduction of two draft resolutions that would come up for votes on Thursday. The first one, on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas, was introduced by Mongolia, while the other, on the girl child, was introduced by Namibia.
Participating in the meeting's debate were representatives of Mongolia, Yemen, Liechtenstein, the Republic of Korea, Colombia, New Zealand (on behalf of CANZ, and Chile and Norway), Latvia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the representative of the International Labour Organization spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, when it will continue with its discussion on human rights. Scheduled to address the Committee were the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its consideration of questions broadly related to human rights, including implementation of human rights instruments and discussions on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. For details, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3655 of 6 November.
The Committee is also expected to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on items related to the advancement of women and the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
The representative of Mongolia was expected to introduce the resolution on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/C.3/56/L.24/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would stress the need for specific studies to identify the best experience and practices for ensuring that rural women have better access to and better integration in the field of information and communication technologies and invites the International Telecommunication Union to consider this matter in connection with the preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society.
The representative of Namibia would introduce a resolution on the girl child (document A/C.3/56/L.29) by which the Assembly would call upon all States to take all necessary measures to address the obstacles that continued to effect the achievement of the goals set forth in the Beijing Platform for Action, including the strengthening of national mechanisms to implement policies and programmes for the girl child. It would also urge States to enact and enforce legislation to protect girls from all forms if violence, including female infanticide, prenatal sex selection, female genital mutilation and rape, among others.
The Committee also had before it a number of reports, including on the status of international human rights covenants and the Report of the Commission on Human Rights.
Before the Committee were two reports of the Secretary-General on Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/56/254 and Add.1), which contain responses to the request of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for States to express their views on that subject. According to the main report, five replies were received from Governments, including, Australia, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Finland and Thailand. According to the Addendum, two replies were received after the submission of the main report, from Costa Rica and Saudi Arabia.
In response to several of the questions posed on the issue, one Government stated that economic growth in and of itself did not entail more equitable distribution of income, better jobs, increased wages, more gender equality or greater inclusiveness. An effort must be made to develop ethical and legal principles for the implementation of mechanisms to promote economic growth that would benefit everyone. The report notes that several Governments believed that the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) did not guarantee those rights for indigenous peoples and local communities, nor could they be adapted to make that possible.
The Committee would also consider the Secretary-General's note on the human rights of persons with disabilities (document A/56/263) which highlights significant developments in efforts to ensure the full recognition and enjoyment of the human rights of disabled persons. The report also highlights the activities of the Special Rapporteur on persons with disabilities during the past year, including efforts to implement resolution 2000/51 of the Commission on Human Rights to examine measures to strengthen the protection and monitoring of the human rights of persons with disabilities.
The report opens with a review of the efforts of United Nations monitoring bodies, namely the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has systematically raised the issue of disabled children. The Committee has recommended the development of early identification programmes to, among other things, create awareness-raising campaigns to reduce discrimination against disabled children and to encourage their inclusion in society.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report on human rights and mass exoduses (document A/56/334), which was a response to the Assembly's resolution of 17 December 1999 in which it stressed the need for a comprehensive approach by the international community to address the root causes and effects of movements of refugees or other displaced persons.
Deeply concerned at the magnitude of exoduses and displacements in many regions of the world, the Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to prepare a comprehensive report on the implementation of the resolution as it pertains to all aspects of human rights and mass exoduses. The report makes reference to the international community's growing reference to the link between racism and ethnic conflicts as a root cause of forcible flows of population.
The report also provides a brief description of actions by the international community to enhance responses to forcible movement of refugees and displaced persons. The report notes that progress had been made towards more effective coordination of relevant United Nations activities, with, among other things, the development of guidance on protection and assistance needs of internally displaced persons. However, the Organizations' humanitarian and human rights components should continue to cooperate in order to ensure that the consequences of exoduses are addressed and the protection of displaced persons is enhanced.
Before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004, and public information activities in the field of human rights (document A/56/271). It includes communications received from Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other information on human rights education undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights between December 2000 and mid-July 2001.
Section II of the report specifically concerns implementation of the Decade's Action Plan, and Section III covers other relevant public information activities undertaken by the Office. The report highlights advancements in the implementation of several of the components of the Action Plan, including assessing needs and formulating strategies for human rights education, and strengthening international and regional programmes and capacities for human rights education.
The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General on the human rights situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel (document A/56/217) which states that at the time of drafting, no reply has yet been received from Israel's Ministry for Foreign Affairs on the Commission on Human Right's call to comply with relevant resolution 2001/01 of 18 April 2001.
It would also consider a report of the Secretary-General on Human Rights and Terrorism (Document A/56/190), which summarizes the replies received from the Governments that responded to the note verbale by the Secretary-General, including Azerbaijan, Cuba, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Azerbaijan's reply says it recognizes that international terrorism poses an extremely serious threat to the universally recognized concept of human rights and fundamental freedoms, while Cuba's response condemned all terrorist acts in all their forms and manifestations.
The report illustrates that Egypt's response provides information on measures it had taken in different fields to limit and eliminate terrorism, and India states that terrorism is a major challenge that confronts the international community. Kuwait's response notes the unprecedented characteristics that the phenomenon has taken in the past four decades.
Turkey expresses its full support for the idea that terrorism was not only a criminal phenomenon, and the fight against it was not merely a problem of crime control. The United Arab Emirates provides information about provisions in its Constitution that guaranteed the rights and opportunities of individuals and families. Qatar responded that it has no studies or publications on the subject.
The Committee had before it a Report of the Secretary-General on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity (Document A/56/204), which seeks to take into account the views of Member States, relevant United Nations agencies and NGOs.
The response from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) describes its efforts to protect cultural diversity and promote cultural pluralism and dialogue, which it states are strategic and programmatic priorities. A response received from Centro Feminista de Informacion y Accion (CEFEMINA), an NGO, reveals that CEFEMINA believes that it is very commendable to adopt a resolution that tries to fight xenophobia and cultural intolerance. CEFEMINA does not agree with the view that all cultures and civilizations share a common set of universal values.
The Committee had before it a Report by the Secretary-General on Human Rights and Unilateral Coercive Measures (Document A/56/207), which presents responses from Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Jamaica on the implications and negative effects of unilateral coercive measures on their populations.
Cuba's response details the United States' policy to impose a blockade on Cuba for more than 40 years, which it describes as a direct attack on the enjoyment of human rights by the Cuban people. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea also writes that the United States has imposed unilateral sanctions against them that has severely impeded their economic and social development. And Jamaica responded that it adheres firmly to the principle of sovereign equality of States, and attaches great importance to the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
The Secretary-General's report on the right to development (document A/56/256), which contains the relevant replies received from Governments, including Argentina, Cuba, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Guatemala and Mexico. Those replies generally present statistics and other information on poverty, racial discrimination, or the incorporation of gender perspective in development efforts. One response emphasizes the notion that for the full realization of the right to development, it is necessary to establish an international economic order based on participation in the decision-making process on the basis of equality, interdependence, mutual interest and cooperation by all States, along with solidarity.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/56/258), submitted in response to a request of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others, to seek voluntary contributions to facilitate the participation and the sharing of experiences of a wide range of actors in the promotion of the declaration. The report notes that the Working Group on Minorities recommended that Governments consider providing the names of experts on minority issues in their respective countries, with a view to facilitating their participation in regional and international meetings.
The report contains sections on cooperation and coordination among United Nations programmes and agencies, including relevant regional organizations, to address minority issues; and participation of NGOs and persons belonging to minorities, particularly from developing countries, in the Working Group on Minorities. Those sections are followed by another on good practices in the fields of education and the effective participation of minorities in decision-making processes. Overall, the report concludes that there is an increasing awareness that the protection and promotion of minority rights can lead to stable societies, often addressing those group inequalities that can contribute to conflict, among other things.
The Committee would also consider the Secretary-General's report on Strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation based on the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/56/292). Last year, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to invite Member States to present practical proposals and ideas that would contribute to strengthening such action and to submit the results during the current session. According to the report, replies were received from the Governments of Cuba, Qatar, Guatemala and Iraq.
The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Principle of Periodic and Genuine Elections (document A/56/344), which states that over the past two years, particular attention has focused on the dynamic environment in which elections are planned and conducted, in which there were two significant types of factors –- those integral to national experience, and those that reflect external developments within the technical field of elections.
The report details the implementation of General Assembly resolutions 52/129 and 54/173, which were adopted in 1997 and referred to the United Nations handling of elections. The document illustrates the coordination of the different players in the United Nations system, as well as the consolidation of electoral assistance capacities within the system. The report also lists the experience of the United Nations in the elections field, including pre-assistance activities, electoral assistance activities and other activities undertaken in the previous biennium.
The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General on the Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance (document A/56/253), which reports on the mandate of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, adopted in 1981. The report examines how the United Nations coordinates cooperation between the relevant bodies, agencies and offices.
The report further contains updates on management in the area of freedom or religion or belief, as well as preventive. Such preventive actions that are discussed in the document are the international consultative conference on school education in relation to freedom of religion or belief, tolerance and non-discrimination, and inter-religious dialogue. A comparative analysis of general and mission reports and communications, sent within the framework of the mandate since 1988, shows intolerance and discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in various parts of the world. But it also shows positive situations and cases with respect to the 1981 Declaration and, in particular, improvements in certain fields and in certain countries.
Finally the Committee would also consider a report of the Secretary-General on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (A/56/255), which, among other things, details the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with national human rights institutions.
The report illustrates the technical cooperation provided to establish and strengthen national institutions, including through field operations. There are descriptions of the Office's activities in various regions, including Africa, Asia-Pacific and Europe, Central Asia and North America.
The document concludes that United Nations Member States should support the efforts of the Office in the field of strengthening national institutions, and that regional and international meetings should continue to be held to ensure the viability of the institutions.
BIRGIT STEVENS (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union reaffirmed its commitment to the primacy of law in international relations. It was determined to promote democracy and to strengthen the rule of law and respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. The European Union saw universality of human rights, as reaffirmed by the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, as the central principle guiding its action. It recognized the world's diversity, which was a source of wealth for all humankind. But regardless of differences in culture, social background, state of development or geographical region, human rights were the inalienable rights of every person. Governments should not use the principle of national sovereignty to absolve themselves from their obligations to respect human rights. The European Union stressed that all human rights whether civil and political rights, or economic, social and cultural rights, were universal, indivisible, interdependent and closely interrelated. Respect for human rights contributed to peace and stability.
She said after States signed international agreements to which they had previously not been a party, the second decisive step towards applying the treaties was ratification. But that was not enough. Once ratified, human rights instruments had actually to be implemented and be given palpable form at the national level. It fell to each government to take all necessary steps to ensure the obligations embodied in the texts were fully implemented. The European Union deplored the large number of reservations made to human rights treaties. It reminded all States of their obligation not to make reservations incompatible with the aim and purpose of those instruments. European Union Member States regularly reviewed the acceptability of reservations made to treaties and, in certain instances, they felt it was necessary to raise objections to them. They also kept their own reservations under constant review with the aim of withdrawing them. Other States were urged to follow suit.
The European Union, she said, was convinced that the abolition of the death penalty contributed to strengthening respect for human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights. It therefore pledged to oppose the death penalty wherever it might be applied, with the ultimate aim of securing its abolition. The European Union welcomed the recent signatures and ratifications of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and called on all States party to the Covenant to ratify it as soon as possible. It was deeply concerned that in many cases where capital punishment had not yet been abolished, it was often applied in flagrant breach of international standards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. The Union asked the governments of all States in which the death penalty had not yet been abolished to fulfil their obligations under the relevant provisions of international human rights instruments.
PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said there had been great progress in the promotion and protection of human rights during the past century. There had been several important advances in that area following the elaboration of the United Nations Charter, including the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. He joined other delegations in urging all States to ratify international human rights treaties and to implement them at the national level.
At present, he continued, Mongolia was party to 30 major international human rights instruments. Last December, it signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and was now in the process of ratifying it. He was pleased to note that Mongolia had joined the Convention against Torture, and was preparing to sign the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child next week. During the 1990s, Mongolia had also initiated an intensive programme of legislative reform to ensure that national laws were consistent with international norms. When a new Constitution was adopted in 1992, the national definition of human rights issues had been expanded and equal rights for all had been declared.
He said the Government’s commitment to human rights had been further reflected in the number of relevant action plans adopted as follow-up to recent world conferences and summits, including the World Summit on Human Rights (1993). The latest such initiative was the creation of a national programme called "Good Governance for Human Society", which followed the Assembly’s adoption of last year’s Millennium Declaration. He also highlighted the establishment of a National Commission for Human Rights, which was expected to become an efficient human rights watchdog in his country. That Commission would also play an important role in disseminating information and providing a forum for citizens’ recourse.
VOLODYMYR KHRYSTYCH (Ukraine) said his Government had ratified all basic international instruments in the field of human rights. The Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Constitutional Court ensured the observance of human rights, while the Constitution guaranteed the right of every person to appeal to relevant international institutions and organizations for protection of his or her rights. The most crucial task at this stage was therefore to ensure respect for internationally recognized human rights standards in the daily routine of all relevant authorities, both governmental and local. The Government had a clear vision of what had already been accomplished and what was still to be done. A number of presidential and governmental decrees had been issued during the year, aimed at further harmonizing relations between the press and public authorities, and strengthening the State's responsibility regarding the free and unobstructed activity of mass media.
He said Ukraine was fully aware that modification of national legislation in accordance with international standards in the domain of human rights, though a very important task, was only a starting point. Tremendous efforts were needed to make respect for human dignity a key factor in determining the social behaviour of different political and social players in various social strata. With the transition period realities in mind, that task appeared to be extremely time- and resource-consuming. State authorities, even the most reform-minded ones, could not change the national way of thinking overnight.
He said the United Nations relation with treaty bodies was far from satisfactory. Reports to the committees were often years late, and frequently consisted of nothing more than a summary of legislation. Experience of consideration of periodic reports in the United Nations treaty bodies testified that they were not always able to give sufficient attention to the specific features of the policy of each individual country in the field of human rights. There was an urgent need for human rights treaty bodies to improve and expand their work.
WALID ABDULWAHED M. AL-ETHARY (Yemen) said recognition of the universality of human rights was central to the protection of citizens of all nations. Development and human rights were intimately linked -- human rights could not be protected and promoted in the midst of rampant poverty, malnutrition and disease. Terrorism was another issue that weighed negatively on the protection of human rights, he said. Yet all must work to ensure that efforts to combat terrorism did not in turn lead to violations of human rights, particularly those of women and children, the most vulnerable segments of society. Armed conflict and its effects on the protection of human rights also deserved close consideration. Yemen condemned violations of human rights, and called on the international community to ensure that global humanitarian instruments and laws were implemented fairly and without double standards.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said universal ratification had to remain the goal for all six core human rights treaties, particularly those conventions where target dates for universal ratification had already passed. Liechtenstein was a State party to the core treaties of the United Nations in the area of human rights, and had also accepted all the procedures for individual communications provided for under them. The Government was particularly pleased to deposit on 24 October -- United Nations Day -- the instrument of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. His Government firmly believed the Optional Protocol would make a significant contribution to the further promotion and protection of women’s rights.
Mr. Wenaweser said the work of treaty bodies was of crucial importance for the implementation of human rights treaties. There was broad agreement that the current system was in need of further reform. As a small State, Liechtenstein was aware of the strain that reporting obligations could place on human resources. The system was barely viable any longer if reports were considered by a treaty body a very long time after they were submitted -- they became obsolete. Significant efforts had been made by treaty bodies to improve their own methods of work, and it was hoped and believed that they could do more.
OH NAK-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said the fact that human rights instruments -- including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- had been so vigorously and widely supported was a manifestation of the global community’s collective will to promote and protect the rights of all human beings. While the majority of Member States, including the Republic of Korea, had ratified the six core human rights instruments, it should be noted that many countries were not parties to them.
Of equal importance in efforts to ensure universal ratification was the role of the treaty bodies, he continued. To that end he noted with concern a number of problems that had emerged which hampered the work of those bodies, particularly the backlog of reports and the heavy reporting burden on States parties. While the treaty bodies themselves had frequently raised those points, and the issue had been discussed at length throughout the Organization, he stressed that further concerted efforts were needed to correct those problems.
He went on to stress that education was the key to ensuring the full implementation of broad human rights norms as well as the effective prevention of human rights abuses. Measures to prevent, investigate and criminalize such abuses would be most effective when matched with a heightened awareness fully appreciative of the significance of ensuring human rights for all.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said from the beginning, his Government had implemented a policy of respecting human rights and international humanitarian law. It was an important component in achieving national reconciliation. His Government had managed to conduct an unprecedented effort to modernize institutions dealing with human rights. In combating guerillas and self-defence groups, who were in fact criminals, a plan of action had been put into place that established a center to combat these groups. A brigade also had been established to combat the sources of the funds of those activities. The commander of the armed forces was empowered to dismiss any member of the military if there were strong suspicions about the soldier. Efforts to step up the security of buildings that would be likely targets were also underway.
He said the costs were great, and his Government could not afford it by itself. That was why Colombia was reaching out to the international community. Politically, his Government had supported the Attorney General in his investigation of human rights violations.
Despite some success, he said, the fact the conflict was continuing showed there was more work to be done. His Government was dealing with the situation in the country as best it could -- it was part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Colombia reasserted its determination to continue forward, and to ensure the full respect of human rights and humanitarian law in the country.
DEBORAH GEELS (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of the CANZ Group, and Norway and Chili, said the treaty body system was central to United Nations efforts to ensure universal respect for and enjoyment of fundamental human rights. That system needed to be strongly supported by all States. The lack of such support, however, was at the heart of her delegations concerns. The treaty body system faced many challenges, the most critical being backlogs and delays in the consideration of periodic reports by States parties to various instruments. The work of those bodies was also hampered by overdue or non-reporting by States, as well as a general lack of resources.
She said tackling those serious problems required a partnership approach that included States, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the treaty bodies themselves. Areas in which her delegation felt practical steps could be taken to provide short- or medium-term improvements included reducing the reporting burden of States by streamlining reporting requirements; reducing duplication; and encouraging the treaty bodies to improve their efficiency. That would ease the administrative burden on States, particularly small ones, as well as the treaty bodies themselves. She urged greater cooperation among the treaty bodies and other parts of the United Nations system.
She went on to say that increased use of pre-sessional working groups and panels would also expedite consideration of reports and individual communications. The adoption of harmonized rules of procedure might also be helpful. There was further a need to ensure that the treaty bodies were properly resourced, and it was important that sufficient regular budget resources were allocated to support that core function of the Office of the High Commissioner. It was also important to expand and better coordinate technical assistance by States and multi-lateral and regional agencies to help all States, particularly smaller ones, to fully understand their obligations under international treaties as well as proper reporting procedures.
RAIMONDS JANSONS (Latvia) said effective functioning of the human rights instruments was a cornerstone of United Nations efforts to promote and protect human rights. The United Nations and its specialized agencies produced an impressive range of treaties, but jurisprudence, international and national, had demonstrated the limits of international law making. The necessity of judicial action, interpretation and adaptation had been a signal that the relationship between international and national law had now become an important practical problem, primarily as a result of the increasing adoption of treaties. The fact that only about one-third of States, after accepting an individual complaints mechanism under different human rights treaties, had never been subjected to the complaint system was a matter of concern.
Mr. Jansons said Latvia welcomed the growing interest in reform of the treaty body system, and it commended the efforts of treaty bodies to experiment with their working methods to rationalize them where possible. Thus, the Human Rights Committee in its report this year had decided to consider some periodic reports together, even if they had been issued as separate documents. The treaty bodies needed to be further encouraged to discuss their working methods, and States should accept their common responsibility to ensure that the treaty system works.
He said the implementation of human rights instruments could not remain a mere appendix to the laws of any national jurisdiction. That implementation had to become the essence of human security in a conceptually new situation, where the national interests were intertwined with the values of human rights. Latvia was among the 33 States which had extended open or standing invitations to all the thematic mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights.
ADAMU A. MUSA (Nigeria) said the treaties were important platforms for the promotion and protection of human rights. Nigeria, however, stressed that merely signing an international human rights instrument did not ensure its effective implementation. Indeed, the basic rights of countless people continued to be violated daily in spite of the existence of global human rights norms. Correcting that glaring shortcoming required the initiation of a more effective and innovative system that could protect human dignity, particularly in a globalized world.
He said Nigeria also supported a human rights approach to development. It also supported the notion that Government action to combat terrorist activity should be guided by the principles of human rights and that any measures must be taken in accordance with the principle of necessity and proportionality. He said the convening of the World Conference against Racism had been a milestone in United Nations history. Of the many historic agreements that had emerged from that meeting, the most prominent had been the elaboration of an anti-discrimination agenda. He praised the efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an anti-discrimination unit and to strengthen the Organization’s capacity to promote equality and non-discrimination.
AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said Eritrea had signed or acceded to almost all human rights conventions despite the brevity of its existence as an independent State. It had taken its signature seriously, and observed the letter and spirit of the conventions. It had committed itself to the submission of periodic reports required by the instruments, and faithfully adhered to the procedures of treaty bodies and mechanisms. It had revised its civil and criminal codes to have them in sync, not only with its new Constitution, but also with the relevant provisions of all human rights instruments. Indeed, the Constitution itself was faithful to these instruments.
Mr. Tekle said his delegation believed that the treaty bodies and mechanisms must always operate with absolute honesty, fairness and impartiality, if humanity was to achieve its objectives. Regrettably, this was not so all the time. His delegation agreed that existing procedures, while not perfect, would have served adequately enough if they were to be applied honestly and fairly. As they were sometimes applied now, it was becoming increasingly difficult for some States to accept them, if only because they had become woefully counterproductive.
As an example, he said that in one mechanism, ostensibly composed of learned and impartial persons of high moral integrity, it was entirely plausible that one of its members, the ambassador of a country at war with its neighbour, would, as chairman and Rapporteur of a working group, sit as judge and prosecutor and investigator on a case against the other country. It sounded incredible, but it happened.
Whatever happened to the rule of law, fairness, and transparency? he asked. Was it possible that a United Nations mechanism would be so insensitive and so callous with the rights of human beings, especially since any case brought up by the citizens of the other country would also appear before the same plenipotentiary, whose solemn oath was to defend the interests of his country? The Eritrean delegation was convinced of the necessity for cooperation with the United Nations, or any other international human rights mechanism. Yet, the mechanisms themselves had to win trust and confidence.
FESSEHA A. TESSEMA (Ethiopia) said there was a clear duty on the part of all States to ensure the effective and full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Ethiopia subscribed to that belief, and one of the major steps undertaken by the country’s transitional Government had been the incorporation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Transitional Charter in 1991. The Federal Constitution had now replaced the Charter and had prompted far-reaching fundamental changes in the country’s human rights policies.
He said the Constitution provided a firm basis for a democratic order and for the full respect and enjoyment of human rights. Further, it stipulated the direct applicability of all human rights instruments and international treaties to which Ethiopia was party. His Government had also taken further concrete measures to ensure the promotion of women’s human rights, including the adoption of national policy which ensured their full participation in the political, economic, cultural and social life of the country.
He went on to say that education was one of the essential elements for the universal realization of human rights. In that regard, Ethiopia was making efforts to offer human rights and civic education to the general public and selected targets such as women, the police, prosecutors and judges. Moreover, the national curriculum had been revised to include civic education with human rights ideals at its core.
MANUEL E. FELIX (Dominican Republic) said the report of the Human Rights Committee included his country’s report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Since his country had submitted that report, Dominican authorities had delivered to the Human Rights Committee additional information that had not been considered. The Government had taken note of the Committees comments and would, in due course, present remarks concerning the areas that had been identified. The country adhered to all instruments aimed at the preservation and respect for human rights and supported all regional and national agreements. The current administration was making all efforts to adhere to international humanitarian norms, and the country’s Constitution was being reformed to reflect its commitment to ensuring equal rights for all.
PATRICK TARAN, of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said about 150 million people -- three per cent of the world's population -- were outside their country of origin. They were strangers in the country where they lived. The ILO estimated that up to 97 million of those persons were migrant workers and family members. Virtually every country had become a country of origin, transit or destination of migrants. Despite this widespread migration, migrants were a vulnerable group and saw their rights routinely violated, not only as workers, but also as human beings.
Mr. Taran said the need to defend the rights of workers employed in countries other than their own had been recognized very long ago, even at the time of the drafting of the ILO Constitution. The principle of equal treatment of foreign workers had been first enshrined in 1949 with the adoption of ILO Convention 97. But the substantive work on combating discrimination did not come until the 1980s, when the problems of second-generation migrants emerged in Western Europe. This later led to work on assessing levels of discrimination in a number of countries. The ILO's project "Combating Discrimination Against Migrant and Ethnic Minority Workers in the World of Work", begun in 1991, documented discrimination in access to employment in a number of ILO Member States in North America and Western Europe, and evaluated the effectiveness of national measures to fight that discrimination.
Considerable discrimination in access to employment faced by immigrants in all countries studied had been found, he said. Overall, net discrimination rates of up to 35 per cent were not uncommon, meaning that in at least one out of three application procedures, migrants or minorities were discriminated against. Discrimination was seen to have significant effects on integration, or lack thereof, for immigrant populations, on work place relations and productivity, on community relations and, thus, on migration policy. Current ILO research was focused on measures by governments, employers and worker organizations to fight discrimination and to promote equal opportunity.
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