25 July 2002
Following Vote, Economic and Social Council Recommends General Assembly Adoption of Optional Protocol to Convention Against Torture
In Earlier Vote, Council Rejects United States Proposal to Continue Negotiations on Issue
NEW YORK, 24 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council today demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related global instruments, and urged intensified efforts for the provision of financial and technical assistance to Palestinian women, according to one of 33 texts adopted today by the Council, which is due to conclude its substantive session on Friday.
Acting on the recommendation of its Commission on the Status of Women, the Council adopted the text by a recorded vote of 46 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 1 abstention (Australia). The request for a recorded vote was made by the United States delegation. (For details of the vote, see Annex I.)
Speaking after the vote, the United States representative said she was deeply concerned about the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis, including women and children. Her Government was trying to encourage the parties to resume dialogue. She had opposed the draft because it addressed issues of refugees and Jerusalem, which should be settled bilaterally by the two sides. She had not wished to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations.
In a related matter, the representative of Egypt introduced a draft resolution on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory, including Jerusalem and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan. Action on the text was expected tomorrow.
By a second recorded vote, the Council recommended for adoption by the General Assembly a draft optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The objective of the Protocol was to establish a system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to centers where people were deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The text was adopted by a vote of 35 in favour to 8 against (Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan), with 10 abstentions (Bhutan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, United States, Zimbabwe). (Annex III)
Prior to adoption of the draft, the Council defeated an amendment proposed by the United States delegation, which would have replaced the first three operative paragraphs of the resolution, thereby recommending that the Assembly convene an open-ended, intra-sessional working group during its next session to continue considering the draft optional protocol, given the concerns expressed about the current text.
That amendment was rejected by a vote of 15 in favour to 29 against, with 8 abstentions (Bahrain, Bhutan, Georgia, Nepal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine). (Annex II)
Acting without a vote on another recommendation of the Women's Commission, the Council adopted a resolution on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, urging the Afghan Interim Authority and the future Afghan Transitional Authority to repeal all legislative measures that discriminate against women and girls, as well as those that impede the realization of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Also on the recommendation of that Commission, the Council adopted a draft resolution on the agreed conclusions on eradicating poverty through women's empowerment, and environmental management and the mitigation of natural disasters. It adopted three draft decisions on the election of the Bureau, communications concerning the status of women, and the provisional agenda for its forty-seventh session.
The Council adopted three draft resolutions on the recommendations of its Commission for Social Development on: International Year of the Family; the comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities; and on further promotion of equalization of opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities and protection of their human rights.
Also acting without a vote, it adopted a draft decision on the Commission's report and provisional agenda. (Another draft decision on improvement of its work was adopted at the Council's organizational session on 13 February.)
The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice next recommended 12 draft resolutions and two draft decisions, which the Council also adopted without a vote.
Those texts were on: global cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime; high-level political conference for the purpose of signing the United Nations convention against corruption; follow-up to the action plans for implementation of the Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice; and preparations for the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
Also: basic principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal matters; action to promote effective crime prevention; promoting effective measures to deal with the issues of missing children and sexual abuse or exploitation of children; standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice; international cooperation in the prevention, combating and elimination of kidnapping and in providing assistance for the victims; international cooperation, technical assistance and advisory services in crime prevention and criminal justice; illicit trafficking in protected species of wild flora and fauna; and strengthening international cooperation and technical assistance within the framework of the activities of the Centre for International Crime Prevention in preventing and combating terrorism.
The two draft decisions concerned the Commission's report and provisional agenda, and appointments to the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.
Regarding the recommendations of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs Control, the Council adopted two draft resolutions and two draft decisions on, respectively: demand for supply of opiates for medical and scientific needs; global assistance to the States most affected by the transit of drugs; the report of the Commission; and a request for the Council to take note of the report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2001.
Also today, it adopted a draft resolution submitted by the Council's Vice-President on a long-term programme of support to Haiti, by which it asked the Secretary-General to report on progress achieved in implementing that programme and to prepare a report for the Council on the basis of developments in Haiti.
Other resolutions adopted without a vote today involved: mainstreaming a gender perspective; tobacco or health; and agreement between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization regarding the conversion of that organization to a specialized agency.
Prior to the adoption of the resolution on mainstreaming a gender perspective, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Angela King, expressed appreciation for the text, which contained an important recommendation to the Chief Executives Board to take gender perspectives seriously in its work. For the first time, she noted, all four segments of the Council's substantive session had taken into account issues of gender equality.
The representative of Sweden introduced draft proposals on the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and an oral draft decision. The representative of South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a technical amendment to a draft decision of the Commission on Human Rights. The observer for Cyprus, on behalf of Kenya and Yemen, introduced a draft decision on enlarging the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Interim Managing Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Juanita Bobbit, introduced the report of the INSTRAW Board of Trustees. The President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Philip Emafo, introduced the Board's report for 2001. The Director of the UNHCR Liaison Office in New York, Eric Morris, presented the report of the agency's activities, and the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights, Krzysztof Jakubowski (Poland), gave a brief overview of the session.
The Senior Adviser of the Organization of the Islamic Conference spoke, as well as a representative of the International Institute for Ageing in Malta. Also, a representative of Human Rights Watch addressed the Council on behalf of several organizations, including Amnesty International and the World Organization against Torture.
Statements were also made by the representatives of the Dominican Republic, Myanmar, Ecuador, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Greece, Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Sudan, China, Haiti, Qatar, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Suriname, Ukraine, Cuba, Bhutan, Libya, Nepal, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Nigeria and Denmark (on behalf of the European Union). The Deputy Permanent Observer for Switzerland also spoke.
The Economic and Social Council will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to take action on all outstanding drafts.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to consider a number of reports of its functional commissions, as well as several related draft resolutions and decisions on such items as mainstreaming a gender perspective, long-term support for Haiti, indigenous issues, and the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people.
Draft Resolutions and Decisions
According to a draft decision sponsored by Cyprus, Kenya and Yemen on enlarging the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document E/2002/L.11), the Council would take note of requests to enlarge the membership and recommend that the General Assembly, at its next session, decide on the question.
The draft resolution on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system (document E/2002/L.14) would have the Council call upon Member States and all other actors of the United Nations system to continue to mainstream a gender perspective into all activities at all levels.
The Council would also call upon its subsidiary bodies to intensify their efforts to mainstream gender perspectives in their work. It would further call on the bureaux of its subsidiary bodies to consider how best to facilitate specific gender discussions in their work.
Under a related series of provisions, the Council would express its appreciation to its subsidiary bodies for the progress made thus far in identifying gender equality as an essential element for the realization of social, people-centred and sustainable development, and approaching gender as an issue that cuts across all areas of policy rather than only addressing women as a social group to be targeted.
The draft resolution is sponsored by Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, Suriname, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States. Also, Spain, Peru, Argentina, Uganda and Ecuador.
A draft resolution submitted by the Vice-President of the Council, Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala), on long-term programme of support for Haiti (document E/2002/L.17) would have the Council decide to include the item in the agenda of its 2003 substantive session. It would also ask the Secretary-General, in collaboration with the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Haiti, to report on progress achieved in implementing a long-term programme of support for Haiti, and that the report be prepared on the basis of developments there.
A draft resolution on the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (document E/2002/L.16) would decide to authorize an exceptional three-day pre-sessional meeting of the members of the Forum from 7 to 9 May 2003.
The Council would ask the Secretary-General to undertake the following: appoint a Secretariat unit within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, to assist the Forum in carrying out its mandate; and establish a voluntary fund for the Forum in order to fund implementation of its recommendations.
Under a related provision, the Council would recommend to the Secretary-General, when recruiting the staff of the new unit, that he give due consideration to all applications, including those from indigenous persons. It would urge governments, financial institutions and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to consider contributing to the voluntary fund.
The draft resolution is sponsored by Canada, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
A draft resolution submitted by the Vice-President of the Council, Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo (South Africa), on the triennial policy review of operational activities for development (document E/2002/L.18) would have the Council stress the need for all organizations of the United Nations development system to focus their efforts at the field level on the priorities identified by recipient countries and the goals, targets and commitments set out in the Millennium Declaration and the major United Nations conferences.
Further, the Council would reiterate that the fundamental characteristics of the operational activities of the United Nations systems should be their universal, voluntary and grant nature, their neutrality and multilateralism, as well as their ability to respond to development needs in a flexible manner, and that operational activities should be carried out for the benefit of recipient countries at their request and in accordance with their own policies and priorities for development.
Additional terms are contained under the following subheadings: funding of operational activities for development of the United Nations system; capacity-building; common country assessment and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF); evaluation of operational activities for development; and simplification and harmonization of rules and procedures on operational activities.
A draft decision sponsored by Sweden on the second session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (document E/2002/L.19) would have the Council decide that the second annual session of the Permanent Forum would be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 May 2003.
Another draft decision sponsored by Sweden on the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (document E/2002/L.20) would have the Council ask the Secretary-General to make available related information at least six weeks before its 2003 substantive session, in order for the Council to conclude at that substantive session the review of all existing mechanisms, procedures and programmes within the United Nations concerning indigenous issues.
A proposed amendment (document E/2002/L.21) by South Africa to the draft decision entitled "Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" would have the Council replace the chapeau of paragraph (f) with the following text: "(f) To request the Secretary-General to establish and
administer, in accordance with the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations, a voluntary fund to provide additional resources for:"
A draft resolution on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan" (document E/2002/L.22) would have the Council call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to end its occupation of Palestinian cities and other populated centres, to end all kinds of closures and to cease destruction of homes and economic facilities and agricultural fields.
The Council would stress: the need to preserve the territorial integrity of all of the occupied Palestinian territory and guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods in the territory, and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world; the vital importance of the construction and operation of the seaport in Gaza; and the importance of the work of the relevant organizations and agencies and the Secretary-General's Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority.
The Council would urge Member States to encourage private foreign investment in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, in infrastructure, job-creation projects and social development in order to alleviate the hardship of the Palestinian people and improve living conditions.
It would ask the Secretary-General to submit to the Assembly at its next session, through the Economic and Social Council, a report on implementation of the text.
The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Qatar and Yemen.
According to an amendment (document E/2002/L.23) proposed by the United States to the draft resolution entitled "Draft optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment", operative paragraphs 1 to 3 would be replaced with the following text: "Recommends that the General Assembly convene an open-ended intrasessional working group during its fifty-seventh session, the costs to be met within existing resources, with the mandate to continue considering the draft optional protocol, taking into account concerns expressed about the current text and the process connected with it, and to report to the General Assembly when the working group has completed its further consideration of the draft optional protocol."
A note by the Secretariat on social and human rights questions: human rights (document E/2002/L.24) contains the programme budget implications of resolution and decisions adopted by the Commission on Human Rights.
Under a further draft resolution submitted by the Vice-President of the Council, Mr. Rosenthal (Guatemala), on arrangements for the negotiation of an agreement between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization (document E/2002/L.25), the Council, desirous of making arrangements for the negotiation by the World Tourism Organization of an agreement to constitute it as a specialized agency, would authorize the Council President to appoint the members of the Committee on Negotiations with Intergovernmental Agencies.
Under another provision, the Council would request that Committee to meet at an appropriate time to negotiate with the World Tourism Organization a relationship agreement between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization, on the basis of proposals submitted by the Secretary-General.
It would ask the Committee to submit a draft relationship agreement between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization for the Council's consideration.
A draft decision submitted by Mr. Rosenthal on tobacco or health (document E/2002/L.26) would have the Council ask the Secretary-General to submit to the Council, at its substantive session of 2004, a report on the work of the Task Force, to be continued in an expeditious manner.
Also before the Council was the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document E/2002/14). It provides an account of the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner between January 2001 and April 2002. It describes major developments and challenges with respect to international protections, assistance activities and the search for durable solutions worldwide. It also covers a number of global themes, the financing of the Office's activities, issues of oversight and accountability, as well as cooperation within and beyond the United Nations system.
The report of the Commission for Social Development (document E/2002/26) covers the Commission's fortieth session, when it considered two topics: "Integration of social and economic policy" and the review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups. With regard to the priority theme, the Commission adopted a resolution taking note of the Secretary-General's report on the subject and, among other provisions, decided to adopt agreed conclusions on the integration of social and economic policy and transmit them to the Council as a contribution to the high-level segment of its 2002 substantive session.
Also according to the report, the agreed conclusions contain analysis and recommendations for action to promote the integration of social and economic policy at the national and international levels and call for broadening the scope of macroeconomic policy. They also stress the need for enhanced social impact analysis and assessments as tools to promote more people-centred policy-making processes. In connection with its review of programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups, the Commission recommended to the General Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council, the adoption of a draft resolution concerning observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The Commission also recommended the adoption by the Council of two draft resolutions on disability.
The report of the Commission on the Status of Women (document E/2002/27) covers the Commission's forty-sixth session, which was held from 4 to 15 and 25 March. Included are the draft resolutions and decisions recommended for adoption by the Economic and Social Council on: the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women; situation of women and girls in Afghanistan; agreed conclusions on thematic issues; election of the Bureau; communications concerning the status of women-communications procedure; and report of the Commission and provisional agenda for the next session. It also contains a section on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".
The report of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document E/2002/30) covers the eleventh session, which was held from 16 to 25 April. It details matters calling for action by the Council or brought to its attention. These include draft resolutions to be recommended by the Economic and Social Council for adoption by the Assembly on: global cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime -- assistance to States in capacity-building with a view to facilitating implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols; high-level political conference for the purpose of signing the United Nations convention against corruption; follow-up to the plans of action for the implementation of the Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice -- Meeting the Challenges of the Twenty-first Century; and preparations for the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
The report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (document E/2002/22) covers the twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh sessions, held, respectively, from 23 April to 11 May 2001, 13 to 31 August 2001, and 12 to 30 November 2001. It contains sections on organizational and other matters, overview of the present working methods of the Committee, consideration of reports, summary of general discussion and decisions adopted. The annexes contain, among other items, a list of the States parties to the Covenant and status of submission of reports, Committee members and various statements and letters that were before the Committee's sessions.
The report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (document E/2002/28) covers the forty-fifth session, which was held from 13 December 2001 and 11 to 15 March 2002. It also contains a section on matters calling for action by the Council or brought to its attention, including draft resolutions on: demand for and supply of opiates for medical and scientific needs; and international assistance to the States most affected by the transit of drugs. It also contains draft decisions on the report of the Commission and of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Other sections summarize the thematic debate on building partnerships to address the world drug problem, and reducing the demand for illicit drugs.
(A corrigendum to that report (document E/2002/28/Corr.1) reprints resolution 45/15, entitled "reducing demand for illicit drugs".)
The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document E/2002/68) focuses on the progress made in the implementation of goals outlined in the Millennium Declaration, in particular as they affect the rights of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and trafficked persons. Some of the issues covered in the report, in particular those related to HIV/AIDS, disabilities and indigenous peoples, were already the focus of the High Commissioner's report to the 2001 substantive session of ECOSOC. The present report provides an update, and an addendum contains the "Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking" document E/2002/68/Add.1).
Also before the Council was the report of the Board of Trustees of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)(document E/2002/70), which outlines the efforts and progress made in the implementation of the programme of the Institute during the period from May 2001 to January 2002 and describes how the Gender Awareness Information and Networking System (GAINS) had been used as a tool to enhance those programmes. It also highlights the new institutional challenges that had emerged and the critical situation of the Institute.
Among other things, the report takes note of the brief on INSTRAW developments during 2001 and the current status of the Institute and expresses appreciation to the General Assembly for the adoption of resolution 56/125, by which a working group was established to make recommendations on the future of the Institute. The Board also welcomes the support of Member States in providing INSTRAW with the resources required to enable the Institute to continue to operate until the General Assembly has considered the recommendations of the working group. It explains that the Rapporteur for the twenty-first session of the Board will assume the presidency until new elections for a full bureau are held.
The report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document A/57/83-E/2002/72) recalls that after the 2001 World Conference, the General Assembly adopted resolution 56/266 expressing support for the decision by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an anti-discrimination unit to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and to promote equality and non-discrimination.
In recognition of the close relationship between the activities to be undertaken to further implement the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and the mandate of the anti-discrimination unit, the High Commissioner had assigned responsibility for the implementation of the Programme of Action to that unit, the report says.
The report contains detailed information on activities undertaken or planned by that Office both on implementation of the Programme of Action. Additional personnel resources from the regular budget that the General Assembly had authorized to assist the anti-discrimination unit in carrying out its mandate, as well as activities that would be undertaken if sufficient voluntary contributions were made available. In addition, the report describes activities being undertaken or planned to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance by United Nations bodies and specialized agencies.
The Council had a note by the Secretary-General on the follow-up to the International Year of the Family in 2004 (document A/57/67-E/2002/45) transmitting his report on preparations for the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
The report of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on its first session (document E/2002/43 (Part I) -- E/CN.19/20020/3 (Part I) contains four draft decisions for the Council's attention, including on the establishment of the secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; summary records of the public meetings of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; venue and date of the second session of the Permanent Forum and additional meetings. The report also includes other matters for the Council's decision, including information gathering from the United Nations system; health; human rights; economic and social development; education and culture; environment; children and youth and a code of conduct for members.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
MAI TAHA MOHAMED KHALIL (Egypt) introduced draft resolution L.22 entitled "Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory, including Jerusalem and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan". She informed the Council that Bahrain had also joined the list of co-sponsors and said she hoped the text would be adopted by consensus.
Social and Human Rights Questions
ANGELA KING, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, introduced the report of the Commission on the Status of Women (document E/2002/27). She expressed appreciation for the draft resolution to be adopted today, which contained an important recommendation to the Chief Executives Board to take gender perspectives seriously in its work. At the current session of the Council, for the first time, she noted, all four segments took gender equality issues into account.
Following its five-year multi-year programme, she said, the Commission this year had focused on the practical aspects of two thematic issues: eradicating poverty, including through the empowerment of women throughout their life cycle in a globalizing world; and environmental management and mitigation of natural disasters. Both of those themes were relevant to the Council's work and to the Millennium Development Goals and their implementation.
The situation of women and girls in Afghanistan had remained high on the Commission's agenda for the past three years when successive resolutions had been adopted on the issue, she said. With elections to the Loya Jirga, where, for the first time in Afghan history, 200 women were members, 20 of them through direct election from their community councils, Afghanistan had crossed the line from armed conflict into a new era. Creation of an Afghan Women Peace Network and career support mechanisms were priorities in the work of the United Nations in Afghanistan.
Turning to the note of the Secretary-General on the situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document E/2002/77), she said that the Working Group on the future operations of INSTRAW, mandated by Assembly resolution 56/125, was constituted and met on 22 July, and would have meetings on 24 and 25 July. She was confident that the Group, under the leadership of Ambassador Inocencio Arias of Spain, would achieve the results expected by the Assembly and report by its fifty-sixth session.
Despite progress in the revitalization of its working method, the Institute had yet to find its comparative advantage and research-and-training focus or niche in a world of increasing involvement and skills in communications technology by many actors, she noted. It had yet to regain the confidence and support of donors. In the meantime, its financial situation continued to deteriorate.
JUANITA BOBBIT, Interim Managing Director of INSTRAW, introduced the report of the INSTRAW Board of Trustees (document E/2002/70). She recalled that the Assembly had adopted a resolution on the critical situation of INSTRAW in 1999. That resolution suggested the creation of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Institute. Subsequently, the Working Group made several recommendations and the Board decided to postpone the 2002 INSTRAW session pending the outcome of the Working Group. A brief had been prepared and transmitted to the Board, which then approved a work programme and budgetary requirements for 2002.
Ms. Bobbit said she had assumed the position of Interim Managing Director of INSTRAW when its continuation beyond the end of the year remained doubtful. But she had taken the position mindful of what the Institute had meant in the past and what it could mean in the future. She said that the Gender Awareness Information and Networking System (GAINS) had not yet lived up to its potential, but would remain a major focus of the Institute's work. She thanked INSTRAW's small but dedicated staff and called for cooperation as the Institute strived to live up to its mandate.
PHILIP EMAFO, President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), next introduced the Board's report for 2001 (document E/2001/1). During the past week, he had visited Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, and engaged in dialogues with the respective Governments on their efforts to implement the three international drug treaties. He said that about 20 such country missions were undertaken by Board members each year. By the end of 2002, the Governments of Albania, Cape Verde, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, Liberia, Panama and Sri Lanka, among others, would have been visited.
He said the 2001 session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs had welcomed the Board's report, particularly its examination of the challenges that globalization and new technologies posed to drug law enforcement in the twenty-first century. The Commission also expressed strong support for the Board's views on drug control in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Board welcomed the measures taken by the Interim Administration to impose a complete ban not only on the cultivation of opium poppy crops, but also on the manufacture and trafficking of opiates. He said that, in the spring of 2003, the Commission would hold a ministerial-level meeting at which action would be taken by governments to implement the targets of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly, which was devoted to conquering the world drug problem.
PEDRO PADILLA TONOS (Dominican Republic) said that the Council was perfectly aware of the history of INSTRAW and had expressed its concern over its lack of resources, which had led to its current financial crisis and jeopardized the continuity of its operations. To assess the situation of the Institute, the Assembly, through resolution 56/125 of 19 December 2001, had established a working group which would be presenting a report to the Assembly.
The Secretary-General's note, contained in document E/2002/77, was not acceptable as a substitute for the report required from the Secretary-General. The note mentioned the fact that the Working Group had not been established. However, it was now carrying out its work. Although it would be necessary to wait for the Group to do its work and make recommendations to the Assembly, he suggested that the Council should urge the Working Group to take into account the significant and well-known achievements of the Institute, its work programmes and activities.
It should also take into account, he said, that the Institute was the only institute of the United Nations system devoted to women and their integration into development, and one of only three organs to have its headquarters in a developing country. The decrease of voluntary contributions did not mean lack of interest or confidence by donors, but reflected uncertainty over its future, as well as the absence of a director for a long period of time.
SICHAN SIV (United States) said that the Commission on Human Rights had a fundamental role in focusing the international community's attention on the worst violations of human rights, and a moral responsibility to criticize those governments responsible for such violations. He was particularly concerned about the tendency for block voting in the Commission to avoid consideration of human rights violations. He congratulated the newly named High Commissioner, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and expressed his intention to cooperate with him and his office, particularly when the United States returned to the Commission next year.
In addressing human rights issues in 2002, he was disappointed with the unwillingness of Commission members to uphold certain norms when discussing human rights violations in a number of countries. He had begun consultations with several States and groups of States with a view to invigorating the work of the Commission next year. His delegation would work to ensure a balanced approach, particularly regarding the Middle East. The Commission would remain the world's premiere human rights body, and it was necessary to ensure that it was not distracted from its primary goal. The work of the Economic and Social Council was an essential and fundamental part of that process.
He was pleased with the outcome of the forty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Empowering women through equal access and economic opportunity was essential to eradicating poverty and enabling women to participate in society. The Monterrey Conference had reaffirmed that good governance and economic reform supported social development and the advancement of women. In addition, the United States strongly supported the rights of the disabled. He looked forward to actively participating in the upcoming discussions on the elaboration of a convention on that issue, while keeping in mind that any such convention must be carefully developed. Clearly, the most outstanding achievement of the year in the field of social development was the outcome of the World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid in April, he added.
KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said the reports of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the INCB outlined how important it was to build partnerships to address the world drug problem. It was clear that a comprehensive multi-faceted approach was needed -- supply control coupled with demand reduction. It was also clear that the task was beyond the capacity of any single nation. He said Myanmar had intensified its national efforts to combat the scourge of illicit narcotic drugs. It had strengthened its legislation, enhanced law enforcement capacity, and had actively promoted public awareness campaigns.
The Government had initiated a seeds exchange programme -- "Project Hell Flower" -- whereby seeds for commercial cash crops were exchanged for poppy seeds. By early June, farmers had voluntarily turned in more than 290 tons of poppy seeds, equivalent to 55 tons of pure heroin with an estimated street value of $2.2 billion. To make its fight even more effective, Mynamar had enacted the Control of Money Laundering Law on 17 June 2002 to enable more effective investigation into that scourge. It would also enhance enforcement action against financiers behind the lucrative drug trade business.
SILVIA ESPINDOLA (Ecuador) said poverty was one of the major issues affecting women today. During recent years, migration problems had increased sharply as many women were forced to leave their children behind in order to provide them with better economic opportunities. Indeed, migrant, Indian and elderly women all deserved special attention because their rights were consistently violated or abused.
She made a plea to the international community to commit to collective action that would guarantee the full exercise of the rights of women and girls, particularly the principles outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action. She said Ecuador supported the preservation and strengthening of INSTRAW and was confident that the Working Group in charge of making recommendations on the Institute's future would conduct exhaustive examination of the conditions which were hindering that important body from carrying out its mandate.
SYED SHAHID HUSAIN, Senior Adviser of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the Conference regarded the natural family as the basic social unit on which the pillars of society stood. With respect to strengthening the natural family, the report on the follow-up to the International Year of the Family (document E/CN.5/2002/2) described programmed research activities aimed at identifying regional trends that affected families. The OIC hoped the study would cover worldwide developments, including those in its own member and observer States, which made up one fourth of the world's population. He also hoped the study would take into account religious and cultural values and their influence on the family.
He said there were important social transformations under way which were affecting families. Migration and displacement sparked by conflict, as well as aging, increased poverty and slow economic growth all were factors limiting the introduction of active social protection measures for the family. The OIC strongly believed in the need to keep the interests of the family firmly in view when initiating development plans and programmes at all levels.
MOHAMMED SALEH MOHAMMED SALEH (Bahrain) aligned himself with the statement made by the Organization of Islamic Conference regarding the advancement of women. His country had taken giant steps in implementing the outcomes of the Beijing Conference and Beijing + 5. Bahrain was trying to achieve gender equality in all areas of life. The percentage of women working in the Government had now reached 33.5 per cent, and the Supreme Council for Women had been established and was presided over by the First Lady of Bahrain. Also, an organization involved with Arab women's issues was set up in June in Cairo to give further attention to that matter.
Reforms in Bahrain over the past few years had benefited women in particular, he said. The Constitution had codified the political equality between men and women, and women were now eligible for election to Parliament. Bahrain became a member of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in June, reflecting its commitment to improve the status of women.
He added that attention must also be given to the plight of Palestinian women as a result of Israeli occupation, which had negatively affected their status. This week's massacre had killed a number of Palestinian women and children. He hoped that the international community would make more efforts to stop aggression against Palestinian women, which impeded their development and advancement.
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said that INSTRAW was a very promising institute, which allowed for consideration of the interrelationships between gender and the environment and sustainable development, among other issues. It could be a valuable centre for thought and knowledge devoted to challenging the problems that affect women. Unfortunately, it was an institute in crisis, which was limiting its ability to comply with its mandate. It was necessary to revitalize and strengthen the Institute. He welcomed the establishment of the Working Group and awaited its recommendations. It was also crucial that the United Nations reaffirm its commitment to INSTRAW. He was concerned at the appointment of an interim director headquartered in New York.
ADRIANA PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela) said her delegation had been closely following the delay in the establishment of the Working Group. She hoped it would not give rise to implications that would ultimately affect its work. In 2000, when it appeared that INSTRAW's days were numbered, the major bodies of the United Nations had come together to identify ways to continue the Institute's work. And subsequently, even under those stressful conditions, the GAINS had emerged and had begun to show potential in broader efforts to link women with the wider international community. The INSTRAW belonged to all, and its mandate was fully in line with the objectives of the Millennium Declaration and the Charter.
VIRALI DEMITRIADI (Greece), newly elected President of the Board of INSTRAW, expressed deep appreciation to all members of the Working Group. She reiterated the Board's firm support and cooperation during the Group's deliberations. She also expressed thanks and appreciation to the Dominican Republic, the Institute's host country.
While she would not repeat what had been said earlier, it was important to reiterate that INSTRAW faced an extremely difficult situation. The Institute was the only United Nations agency dedicated to the advancement of women through training and research. The challenge of ensuring the Institute's continued functioning was one for the United Nations system, as well as the wider international community.
CLAUDIA VELASCO OSORIO (Mexico) highlighted the importance of indigenous peoples to the United Nations system. The Permanent Forum must be strengthened and the agencies of the United Nations must coordinate their work through the Forum. Also, the Forum must have a secretariat to help it comply with its mandate. She hoped the Council would adopt a resolution reflecting the importance accorded to indigenous issues. The mechanisms for the advancement of women were another priority for her delegation. The advancement of women in all spheres was vital. It was also crucial that there be greater opportunities for women to participate in the design of policies.
She added that the future of INSTRAW must be guaranteed, and she awaited the recommendations of the Working Group in that regard. In addition, she noted the cooperation shown by the international community in promoting the rights of the disabled. Her delegation was pleased with the resolutions adopted by the Commission on Social Development and the Commission on Human Rights.
LUIS ALBERTO AMOROS NUÑEZ (Cuba) expressed satisfaction with the appointment of the interim director of INSTRAW, but highlighted the need to appoint a director based at the Institute. The Institute had to continue to exist to follow up on the activities it had been carrying out. It was the only organ in the United Nations system devoted to research and training of women and one of a few based in a developing country. Also, he expressed solidarity with Palestinian women and the Palestinian population, in general, in light of the Israeli occupation, and called on all members of the Council to support the resolution on that issue.
GUILLERMO A. MELENDEZ-BARAHONA (El Salvador) supported the statement of the Dominican Republic and others advocating the preservation of INSTRAW. The establishment of INSTRAW had been an important measure to promote the development of women, particularly for research and training. Getting rid of it would be a setback. At the present time, it was facing a crisis, but it should continue to develop its mandate with regard to women. The establishment of the Working Group was an important step, which would make it possible to find a way out of the problems currently faced. He supported the idea of a three-year transitional period during which the Institute would be provided with the necessary financial resources, possibly from the United Nations budget. New efforts were needed to achieve the sustainability of the Institute.
Mr. FENECH, representative of the International Institute for Ageing in Malta, said the issue of ageing, in general, and the dramatic changes in life expectancy trends, in particular, required urgent attention. All nations needed to have a cadre of well trained and informed personnel to address the coming challenges. Indeed, that principle was at the heart of the Institute's mandate. Up to June of this year, some 1,244 candidates from 121 countries had participated in training programmes.
He said that a major focus of the Institute had been to carry out training programmes in the developing world. The first such programme in gerontology and geriatrics had been set up in Johannesburg. Further, he hoped the first full-fledged national programme would be established in China later this year. The Institute hoped to begin working with universities in an effort to set up degree programmes in gerontology and geriatrics. He also drew attention to the Plan of Action adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing last May as guidelines for future international action on issues related to ageing.
ILHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said her delegation supported the enhancement and strengthening of INSTRAW. The Institute offered important services for women, particularly those in the developing world. The Sudan also supported the draft on economic implications of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian occupied territories.
Action on Texts
The Council first took up the three draft resolutions and three draft decisions recommended in chapter I of the report of the Commission on the Status of Women.
The Council took up draft resolution I, entitled "the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women".
The representative of the United States requested a recorded vote on that text.
[Due to technical difficulties, the vote was postponed.]
Draft resolution II, entitled "Situation of women and girls in Afghanistan", was adopted without a vote.
Draft resolution III, entitled "Agreed conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women on thematic issues", was also adopted without a vote.
Draft decision I, entitled "Election on the Bureau of the Commission on the Status of Women"; draft decision II, entitled "Communications concerning the status of women: communications procedure"; and draft decision III, entitled "Report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its forty-sixth session and provisional agenda for the forty-seventh session of the Commission", were all adopted without a vote.
The representative of China said that, in a spirit of cooperation and flexibility, he had joined consensus on draft decision III. However, that did not mean that his country's position regarding the report of the Commission had changed. He reiterated that China was opposed to the report on the Working Group on Communications. The countries concerned had demonstrated political will in advancing the status of women. Regrettably, that cooperative attitude and the detailed responses to the Commission were not objectively reflected in the report of the Working Group. The Group had, in fact, adopted biased opinions and attributed some isolated cases as a general trend. That had negatively affected the work of the Commission.
Action on Recommendations Contained in Report of Commission for Social Development (E/2002/26)
The Council next turned to take action on the three draft resolutions and two draft decisions contained in the report of the Commission, which was introduced yesterday.
The Council first considered the draft, entitled "preparation for an observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family". That text was adopted without a vote.
Another text contained in the report, entitled "further promotion of equalization of opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities and protection of their human rights", was also before the Council.
[The representative of the United States requested a vote on the first preambular paragraph of that text, but due to technical difficulties, action was postponed.]
Another text contained in the report, "the comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities", was adopted without a vote.
The Vice-Chairman noted that the draft decision, entitled "improvement of the work of the Commission for Social Development", had been adopted by the Council at its organizational session on 13 February 2002. That text had been subsequently issued as Council decision 2002/210.
The Council next adopted a draft decision on "Report of the Commission for Social Development at its fortieth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the forty-first session".
Next, the Council took up the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
Chapter I of the report contained 12 draft resolutions and two draft decisions recommended for action by the Council.
The Council first turned to the four draft resolutions contained in Section A of the report.
Draft resolution I, entitled "International cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime: assistance to States in capacity-building with a view to facilitating the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto", and draft resolution II, entitled "High-level political conference for the purpose of signing the United Nations convention against corruption", were approved without a vote and recommended to the Assembly for adoption. So were draft resolution III on "Follow-up to the plans of action for the implementation of the Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice: Meeting the Challenges of the Twenty-first Century", and draft resolution IV, entitled "Preparations for the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice".
Section B of the report contained eight draft resolutions for action by the Council.
Acting without a vote, the Council adopted draft resolution I, entitled "Basic principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal matters"; draft resolution II, entitled "Action to promote effective crime prevention"; draft resolution III, entitled "Promoting effective measures to deal with the issues of missing children and sexual abuse or exploitation of children"; and draft resolution IV, entitled "United Nations standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice".
The Council, also acting without a vote, adopted draft resolution V, entitled "International cooperation in the prevention, combating and elimination of kidnapping and in providing assistance for the victims"; draft resolution VI, entitled "International cooperation, technical assistance and advisory services in crime prevention and criminal justice"; draft resolution VII, entitled "Illicit trafficking in protected species of wild flora and fauna"; and draft resolution VIII, entitled "Strengthening international cooperation and technical assistance within the framework of the activities of the Centre for International Crime Prevention in preventing and combating terrorism".
The Council then moved on to draft decision I, contained in Section C of the report, entitled "Report of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on its eleventh session, provisional agenda and documentation for its twelfth session, and organization of work and themes for its future sessions", which it adopted without a vote.
Next, the Council turned to draft decision II, entitled "Appointment of members of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute". It decided to endorse the appointment of the two members to the Board, as listed in the draft decision.
Action on Recommendations Contained in Report of Commission on Narcotic Drugs Control (E/2002/28 and Corr.1)
The Council next took up the two draft resolutions and two draft decisions contained in chapter I of the report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs Control.
It adopted without a vote the draft resolutions on "demand for and supply of opiates for medical and scientific needs" and on "international assistance to the States most affected by the transit of drugs".
The Council also adopted both draft decisions contained in the report. Those texts included the "report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs Control at its forty-fifth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the forty-sixth session of the Commission", and a request for the Council to "take note of the Report of the International Control Narcotics Control Board for 2001".
The Council then turned to the draft resolution, entitled "long-term programme of support to Haiti" (document E/2002/L.17), which it adopted without a vote.
The representative of Haiti expressed his deep gratitude for the support received through that programme, as well as for the Council's support of the text. He hoped that the international community would continue to help the Haitian Government and people in their search for a better life. Also, he affirmed the determination of his Government to make that programme a complete success.
Next, the Council took up the draft resolution on "mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system" (document E/2002/L.14). The Council was informed that Argentina, Ecuador, Spain, Peru and Uganda had joined the list of co-sponsors.
The representative of the United Kingdom announced that the following countries had also joined -- Philippines, Malaysia, Ethiopia and United Republic of Tanzania.
The representatives of Guyana and Benin announced that their delegations had also joined as co-sponsors of the text.
The text was adopted without a vote.
After that, the Council took up the draft resolution, entitled "tobacco or health (document E/2002/L.26), which it also adopted without a vote.
The Council then took up the draft resolution, entitled "Arrangements for the Negotiation of an Agreement between the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization" (document E/2002/L.25), regarding the conversion of the organization to a specialized agency of the United Nations system.
The Secretariat informed the Council that the text had no programme budget implications. The Council then proceeded to adopt the text without a vote.
The Council then resumed its consideration of draft resolution I, entitled "The situation of and assistance to Palestinian women".
The text was adopted by a vote of 46 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 1 abstention (Australia). (See Annex I.)
Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of the United States said she was deeply concerned about the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis, including women and children. Her Government was trying to encourage the parties to resume dialogue. She voted against the resolution because it addressed refugees and Jerusalem, issues which the two sides were to settle bilaterally, and she did not want to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations.
The representative of Nepal said that had he been present during the vote, he would have voted in favour of the resolution.
The representative of Australia said that he remained concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, including that of women. His Government had committed millions to relief efforts in that regard, the total for 2001-2002 amounting to around $10.5 million. He had abstained during the vote because the text politicized issues in an unbalanced and unhelpful manner.
The Council then took up the text, entitled "further promotion of equalization of opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities and protection of their human rights".
The representative of the United States requested a vote on the first preambular paragraph of that text.
Before the vote, the representative of Qatar said that his country was working to establish its democracy and protect the rights of women and ensure their advancement. A legal group looking at the eradication of all forms of discrimination against women had recently begun its work, but had not yet submitted any conclusions or recommendations to the Government. Qatar would, therefore, abstain from the vote on the paragraph in question.
The representative of the United States said his delegation had mistakenly asked for a vote on that paragraph, and would now withdraw its request. He said that in the preambular paragraph, the phrase "contained in" should have been replaced with the phrase "assumed by". Such a substitution would ensure that States which had ratified international legal instruments assumed only those obligations that they had accepted in those instruments. Otherwise, it could be perceived that a country's reservations to an instrument were irrelevant.
The draft was adopted without a vote.
Statement by UNHCR
ERIC MORRIS, Director of the Liaison Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New York, presented the report of that agency's activities. He said that the Global Consultations Process, initiated by the UNHCR, had drawn to a close after nearly two years of intensive multilateral dialogue in pursuit of solutions to an increasingly complex set of international challenges. The result of those consultations was a comprehensive Agenda for Protection, which brought out key areas where work must now be done to ensure better protection and improve burden-sharing.
The Agenda, he continued, contained six global goals, including meeting the protection needs of refugee women and children and addressing security-related concerns more effectively, around which a number of objectives and action points had been articulated. It was now ready to be presented to UNHCR's Executive Committee for endorsement in October. After that, priorities for implementation would be set and other stakeholders would be encouraged to engage in a similar process.
The number of people of concern to his Office at the beginning of 2002, he said, stood at some 19.8 million, a drop of 2 million from 2000. At the end of 2002, he expected another 2 million people to have returned home thanks to the massive repatriation of Afghans. In Afghanistan, the UNHCR had mounted the largest and so far one of the most successful UNHCR-led return and relief operations since the mid-1990s.
He then briefly updated the Council on a number of developments affecting UNHCR's work, beginning with a review of key areas of focus and concern in Africa. The African continent had been receiving much-needed attention in recent weeks as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) gradually took shape. Another important event was the transition of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union. Among the areas which had demanded UNHCR's attention were Liberia, Sierra Leone, West Africa and the Great Lakes region. He also described the situation in other areas of the globe where the UNHCR was working to find solutions.
An important aspect of the High Commissioner's focus on durable solutions had been to build partnerships with other bodies, in an attempt to create an effective transition between emergency relief and long-term development. Such a strategy related both to the increased self-sufficiency of refugees in countries of asylum and to the reintegration of refugees when they returned to their own countries.
DAVID STUART (Australia) said the interdisciplinary complexity of the global issues the United Nations must address required close cooperation among relevant bodies to ensure that they developed and implemented consistent and coherent strategies. That was particularly the case with the phenomenon of people movements, including smuggling and trafficking of persons. That phenomenon was creating significant political economic, social and security challenges for countries around the world. People movements, fuelled by poverty, were growing in complexity, and increasingly required strengthened international cooperation in the area of migration management and development.
Australia supported the current United Nations efforts to address people-smuggling issues. The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice had initiated some programmes to intensify approaches to that issue, and the UNHCR was undertaking initiatives to address people-smuggling within its mandate. For its part, the Australian Government had implemented a series of bilateral and regional initiatives to address those issues and had worked with many of its regional partners to enhance intelligence-sharing, to address fraud and to improve police operations. Further, two working groups, one chaired by New Zealand (focusing on regional and international cooperation), and the other (focusing on enforcement and legislation) chaired by Thailand, had been tasked to develop further concrete measures to take forward regional issues.
ELAYNE WHYTE, Deputy Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, said the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture was a very important instrument for the promotion and protection of human rights. It ensured that detention or imprisonment would not threaten the inherent dignity of detainees. Torture had not been eliminated, and many detainees continued to suffer cruel and inhuman treatment. Most detainees, even in developed countries, suffered overcrowding and persistent ill-treatment. All States must undertake measures to ensure that the principles of the Convention were respected and implemented.
She said the Protocol was part of a new generation of human rights tools, which promoted cooperation among States to ensure the broadest possible implementation. The machinery for verification would maintain open dialogue among States, guarantee due process and, perhaps most importantly, respect sovereignty and national integrity. The machinery would also allow for a gradual entry into force. The confidentiality of the work of the Commission on Torture would also be guaranteed. Some delegations had expressed concern that the Commission on Human Rights had not adopted the instrument by consensus, but after 10 years of exhaustive debate and negotiations, Costa Rica believed that the best possible text had emerged. It was time to heed the majority of the international community that wished to bring an end to torture.
KRZYSZTOF JAKUBOWSKI (Poland), Chair of the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights, gave the Council a brief overview of the session, its accomplishments and difficult issues, as well as future challenges. He said the Commission had addressed an unusual number of difficult issues this year. The worsening human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories -- and also in Israel -- dominated the session's general and special debates, decisions and resolutions.
The fact that meetings had to end by 6 p.m., he said, also placed extreme pressure on the Commission. The expanded bureau was able to complete its agenda, however, but at a significant cost in terms of participation and merits of debates. All participants in the work of the Commission this year had become frustrated as they saw their speaking times dramatically reduced, particularly the special rapporteurs, representatives of civil society and national human rights institutions. One result of the Commission's experience had led to its request for an additional 14 extended meetings at its fifty-ninth session, a significant reduction from the 35 such meetings granted last year. He hoped the Council would approve that modest request.
Despite the difficulties, the Commission had taken a number of far-reaching steps during its fifty-eighth session. He said the decision to recommend the appointment of a special rapporteur on the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health deserved particular mention. That new mandate, adopted by consensus, filled an important gap in the United Nations human rights system. The establishment of two working groups as part of the follow-up to the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism was also an important step. The establishment of the Voluntary Fund, to provide additional resources for various activities related to the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration, had also been recommended.
PIERRE HELG, Deputy Permanent Observer for Switzerland, said that although prohibited by a number of international instruments, torture continued to be practised in several countries. Prevention was not only about awareness and education, but also called for a legislative framework that condemned torture, gave recourse for victims and sanctioned those that were guilty in an appropriate way.
He was convinced that the establishment of a system of visits to places of detention would be an effective instrument of deterrence for torture. He supported the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The text, far from imposing regional standards on the rest of the world, took into account the various changes that had taken place across the globe. Compared with existing regional systems, the Protocol had added value at the global level. It reconciled those who advocated a strictly national approach with those who felt the need for an international mechanism in addition to national mechanisms.
He was aware that some governments wished not to submit to control. While he accepted that all States had the right to submit or not to submit to such obligations, those rights should not impose on those who wished to submit themselves to such obligations. He added that he was convinced that the cost of functioning of the international inspection subcommittee should be covered under the regular budget of the United Nations.
ANDREW BEGG (New Zealand) expressed his strong support for the proposed Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture that was approved at the 2002 session of the Commission on Human Rights. The establishment of an effective and independent international inspection mechanism would be an important means of preventing torture and cruel treatment in places of detention around the world. The proposed international inspection subcommittee would work hand in hand with national institutions as part of a proactive and comprehensive system to protect and promote the rights of those deprived of their liberty.
It would allow, he continued, for the examination of places of detention to make sure that conditions and treatment were appropriate. The system would help to ensure that vulnerable individuals received sufficient support and were assured of their rights. The existence of a regular inspection system would deter the use of harmful and degrading punishments and contribute to the prevention of torture. The Optional Protocol would significantly enhance the implementation of the Convention. He hoped that States would not stand in the way of this important initiative and urged Council members to demonstrate their abhorrence of torture by voting in support of the Optional Protocol, to enable it to be presented to the Assembly for adoption this year.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that the strengthening of cooperative exchanges in the field of human rights helped promote mutual understanding and good neighbourliness among States. By respecting the universal principles of human rights, countries should be allowed, encouraged and welcomed to take effective measures to protect and promote human rights while taking into account their own national conditions. It was, therefore, neither practical nor feasible to demand that all countries adopt the same development model.
Secondly, he said, the strengthening of exchanges and cooperation in the field of human rights helped enhance fairness and efficiency of the Commission on Human Rights. Regrettably, some countries had, over the past few years, disregarded the facts and politicized the human rights issue by adopting dual standards. They had insisted on tabling resolutions on individual developing countries, so as to turn the session into an arena for ideological struggles. That had not only undermined the Commission's fairness and efficiency, failing to solve problems, but also wasting resources.
Thirdly, he continued, such strengthening was an effective tool for fighting against terrorism, which constituted a blatant violation of democracy and human rights. The international community should take a unified position and resolutely combat all forms of terrorism. In order to do that, it was necessary to address its symptoms and root causes. The long-term and effective way of eradicating terrorism was to help solve the increasingly serious problem of development, narrow the gap between the North and South, and rich and poor, and increase mutual understanding and dialogue among different countries and civilizations. The Council and its functional commissions must play an active role and make significant contributions to furthering that end.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said Norway regarded the historical first session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as a success. Based on the work of the session, he believed that the Forum had the capacity to achieve great and tangible results. Norway looked forward to learning about the expert body's views on possible and sustainable solutions to problems and challenges faced both by indigenous peoples and governments in the field of indigenous rights.
However, he continued, the Forum needed time and, above all, the necessary resources to address those expectations. Thus, it was important to secure adequate financial and secretariat support for its activities. Financing of the Forum should be provided through the regular budget of the United Nations. In addition, voluntary contributions should be welcomed. Norway supported the proposal to create a relevant secretariat unit within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at Headquarters.
IRMA LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname) said that human rights had to do with all areas of life -- education, health, housing and sustainable development, to name a few. Human rights had been and were still being formulated and adopted in many human rights instruments. Those instruments were not there to be looked at, but to be implemented and realized. The human rights perspective and the human rights-based approach were and should remain a fundamental basis for countries to achieve the well-being of their peoples.
It was the importance of such a perspective that laid the basis for two resolutions her delegation proposed last year in the Economic and Social Council and later in the Third Committee, namely, resolution 56/157 on Human Rights Education, and resolution 56/126 on the Situation of Older Women in Society. She reminded the Council that those resolutions were meant to be implemented so as to make a difference in the lives of people, particularly the vulnerable.
OKSANA BOIKO (Ukraine) said that her country considered equality between men and women to be a fundamental principle of its policy. In recent years, it had achieved considerable progress in advancing the status of women. However, much work remained in a number of areas, including increasing women's participation at high levels of decision-making, improving reproductive health and preventing violence and trafficking.
She underlined the progress made in the working methods of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The process of consideration of periodic reports was now an active dialogue between the State and the treaty body, rather than an "exam". It was important for the Committee to continue to look for new ways to make its work widely known. An issue of concern for her delegation was the fact that, for a number of years, there had been no representative from the Eastern European region in that important body. Member States, particularly States parties to the Convention, should take the necessary steps to ensure equitable geographic representation in the Committee, as well as in other treaty bodies.
She added that next year Ukraine would begin its membership in the Commission on Human Rights. It was ready to cooperate with members and non-members with regard to rationalizing the Commission's working methods. The true strength of that institution was determined by the values of its members as much as the efficiency of its procedures.
Mr. REYES (Cuba) said his delegation had listened closely to those interventions that had denounced attempts to politicize the work of the Commission on Human Rights. Still, Cuba was concerned that those delegations had asserted the need to do away with the so-called practice of "block voting". Oddly, the most vehement calls to end that practice had come from the Member States of the Western European and Others Group, which had for years maintained a "block" position that had often caused the Commission to adopt resolutions against the wishes of its own members. Was there not electoral fraud in some of the member countries of that group? Was there not persistent and blatant discrimination against minorities and migrants? If the Commission could continue to be the seat of judgement on Southern countries and regions, then those countries had the right to discuss and put forward region-specific issues.
He added that Cuba wished to express its particular distaste for the procedures and criteria used by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the development of indices for human rights issues. The results of the studies were set for imminent release in human rights country reports, which were also objectionable. If the UNDP's work was to be taken seriously, the agency should undertake deep reforms in that regard and earnestly attempt to modify its procedures.
OM PRADHAN (Bhutan) said that since sections of the UNHCR report on the refugee camps in eastern Nepal did not reflect the problem in the correct perspective, his delegation would attempt to clarify some aspects of the situation. He said that the information included in the UNHCR report contained suggestions of the activities of terrorist elements -- with the clear aim of infringing his country's sovereignty. To characterize all the people in the camps as "Bhutanese" and "refugees" was simply not correct. Both Nepal and Bhutan had agreed bilaterally to identify the different categories of the people in the camps. A joint verification mission had been dispatched to that end.
He said the information in the report effectively prejudged the outcome of the verification process and the efforts by both Governments to find a durable solution to the problem. It was known to everyone that -- contrary to standard practice -- the UNHCR had not carried out its duties when the camps were initially set up. In the broader context, it should be recognized that the problem was really caused by high population growth, environmental degradation and extreme poverty. Notwithstanding other problems in the region, Bhutan remained committed to bilateral efforts with Nepal to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Mr. YAQUP (Libya) said that the report of the Commission on Human Rights had focused on the issue of AIDS and the handicapped as well as other vulnerable segments of society. The Commission must encourage countries to provide more assistance to developing countries, particularly those in Africa. If that assistance was not provided, the pandemic would expand and might eliminate the human race as a whole. The report did not consider the human rights of people under foreign occupation or the negative impact of sanctions on people and their development, he noted.
Despite progress made in the human rights domain, he said, there were still human rights violations, such as genocide. The Palestinians were subject to horrible treatment by the Israeli occupation forces. The international community remained impassive, adopting no measures against those committing such crimes. In recent years, terrorist acts and religious and ethnic conflicts had caused an increase in refugees, intolerance and xenophobia. The Durban Declaration represented a positive step in efforts against racism.
MARIO ALEJANDRO AGUZZI-DURAN (Venezuela) said that Venezuelans were a multi-ethnic people. Venezuela's Constitution recognized that indigenous peoples were a part of the nation and the State. In Venezuela, the concept of indigenous people was cultural, not racial. His delegation had actively participated in the negotiations to establish the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In May, Venezuela had participated in the first session of the Forum and appreciated the productive results that flowed from it. He appreciated the resolution proposing the establishment of a secretariat for the Forum.
He added that his Government had deposited its ratification of the Convention setting up the fund for the development of indigenous people of Latin America and the Caribbean. It had also deposited its ratification of International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 regarding employment and indigenous peoples.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) commended the work of the UNHCR. His delegation was particularly interested in paragraphs of the report dealing with the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. He expressed appreciation for the efforts of the UNHCR and other organizations to support those refugees. Nepal had been engaged with the Bhutanese Government for nearly a decade to find a durable solution to that vexing problem. He thanked the High Commissioner and his staff for their assistance.
Despite best efforts, the refugee problem still lingered. Nepal had initiated a joint verification team to examine the situation in the camps. That team had finished its examination of one camp, and had been calling for the next round of joint meetings to initiate another joint camp visit. He hoped that the meeting would take place without further delay. Committed, willing and constructive cooperation from the Government of Bhutan was needed to find a durable solution to that problem between neighbours and friends. Despite all its own social and economic troubles, exacerbated by the large numbers of refugees, Nepal would continue to seek a solution.
He regretted that Nepal had not submitted its report to the Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social rights. But that should not be construed as a lack of commitment to human rights on the part of Nepal. Rather, it was a lack of capacity and resources to submit the report on time.
DEBRA LONG, representative of Human Rights Watch, addressed the Council on behalf of Amnesty International, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, the International Federation for Human Rights, the International League for Human Rights, the International Service for Human Rights, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, and the World Organization against Torture.
She said that, as international NGOs working to eradicate torture, the groups she represented were pleased to draw the Council's attention to the historic adoption of a text for an Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture at the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights. That had marked a significant step forward and demonstrated a real commitment to take concrete measures to eradicate that heinous human rights violation worldwide.
They believed the text adopted by the Commission provided a balanced and pragmatic two-pillar approach, by establishing a system of regular preventive visits to places of detention by independent and adequately mandated international and national mechanisms working constructively with States parties to prevent torture worldwide. The text should be adopted by the Council and forwarded to the Assembly.
Introduction of Drafts
DEMETRIS HADJIARGYROU, observer for Cyprus, also speaking on behalf of Kenya and Yemen, introduced the draft decision entitled "Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees" (E/2002/L.11), which called on the Economic and Social Council to enlarge the Committee from 61 to 64 members. He looked forward to a unanimous adoption of the decision.
Ms. MARTHOLM (Sweden) introduced the draft proposals contained in documents E/2002/L.16, L.19 and L.20 regarding the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She informed the Council that Brazil, Croatia, Greece, Luxembourg, Philippines, Russian Federation and South Africa had joined the list of co-sponsors of L.16. The establishment of the Forum was a landmark in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples. The Forum had the capacity to achieve great and tangible results. Its mandate was broad, enabling it to address all issues related to indigenous peoples. A fundamental condition for it to carry out its mandate was adequate financial support, including a permanent secretariat. She noted a revision in the operative paragraph of L.16 -- "encourages applications of indigenous persons to the United Nations Secretariat and invites the Secretary-General to give broad publicity to vacancies when available."
She also presented an oral draft decision stating that, "The Economic and Social Council requests the Secretary-General to submit proposals to the General Assembly at its fifty-seventh session for provision of adequate resources to support the secretariat unit of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues."
Mr. MONTWEDI (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced a technical amendment to a draft decision of the Commission on Human Rights, contained in document E/2002/L.21. The amendment stemmed from the view that only the Secretary-General could establish and administer voluntary funds. He hoped that the amendment would enjoy the support of all members of the Council.
The Secretariat informed the Council that the amendment to be proposed by the United States would require the approval of the Assembly and an exception to the provision of Resolution 40/243, section I, paragraph 7, that no subsidiary body should meet during the main part of the General Assembly.
Mr. DENNIS (United States), speaking on the draft contained in document E/2002/L.23, said that he condemned the abhorrent practice of torture and attached importance to efforts to eradicate it. He was concerned about the draft Optional Protocol from both a procedural and substantial standpoint. He was also concerned about the creation of a new treaty body separate from the Committee on Torture. He had therefore tabled an amendment providing for the convening of a working group during the main part of the Assembly to continue work on the Optional Protocol.
The representative of Cuba was concerned about the impact of that text on the subsidiary body of the Commission on Human Rights, namely the Social Forum. He wondered whether the Council could not act on it now.
The representative of Costa Rica said that the amendment was unacceptable to her delegation. The Optional Protocol was the outcome of more than 10 years of arduous effort in a Working Group with open-ended membership and established by the Commission on Human Rights. All proposals had been considered and efforts had been made to reach consensus. The resolution on the Optional Protocol was the result of those efforts.
The United States amendment, she continued, sought to change the text agreed to and prolong negotiations. It sought to reject the text and avoid adoption of the Optional Protocol. It was an alternative proposal, which contradicted the recommendation of the Commission and constituted a "death sentence" for the Optional Protocol. She proposed that the amendment be put to a vote and urged all members to vote against it.
Denmark's representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, strongly believed that the amendment had no purpose other than to prolong the negotiations on the Optional Protocol. The Union could not agree to any proposal to prolong the negotiations, nor was it prepared to entertain any amendment to the draft resolution. He opposed the United States amendment and supported a vote on it.
The representative of Japan said that he attached great importance to the Optional Protocol and shared the view that torture should not occur anywhere at any time. The Optional Protocol was of great significance to the campaign against torture. Unfortunately, it had not been possible up till now to reach consensus on key elements of the Protocol. Given that background, he was concerned it had been submitted at the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights without paying full attention to its substance. There had not been enough time to consider the draft on the Optional Protocol thoroughly. It should be considered paragraph by paragraph.
Regarding budgetary issues, he believed that the expenditure incurred by a Convention should be borne by the States Parties to that Convention. Adoption of the draft decision would result in shutting the door for further discussion of those elements on which a number of countries had questions. To make the Optional Protocol a truly universal instrument, it should be acceptable to as many States as possible. Continuing deliberation on it was indispensable. Therefore, he supported the amendment proposed by the United States.
The representative of China said the purpose of drafting the Optional Protocol was to safeguard and promote the protection of human rights. However, during the most recent session of the Commission of Human Rights, several delegations had ignored the suggestions of fellow Member States and the Working Group, and had forced the adoption of a controversial text. Countries should be less hasty and should continue to work in the spirit of cooperation for the adoption of a text agreeable to all delegations. China would vote in favour of the amendment proposed by the United States.
The representative of South Africa said since that most delegations that had previously spoken had repeated the statements they had made in the Commission on Human Rights, he would do the same. The text before the Council had been negotiated for a decade in an open-ended working group made up of many of the delegations represented in the room today. During those negotiations, South Africa had requested that any substantive issues that might lead to changes in the text be brought forward. No such issues had been presented. The text before the Council was surely the best that could have been arrived at. The amendment proposed by the United States was unfeasible.
The representative of India condemned the practice of torture and said the importance of the Convention could not be overemphasized. More time should have been allowed for the Optional Protocol. The Council should work towards an instrument acceptable to the widest possible representation of the United Nations.
The representative of Egypt said the text on an instrument as important as the one before the Council should only be adopted by consensus. Her delegation believed that since the Optional Protocol had not been adopted by consensus, the countries opposing it should not be burdened with its financial implications.
The representative of Mexico associated his statement with the interventions made by Costa Rica and South Africa. The only thing achieved by adopting the United States amendment would be the loss of 10 years' worth of work.
The representative of Cuba said that since time was running out it was perhaps a better idea to vote on the Social Forum, which was scheduled to open tomorrow.
The representative of Costa Rica said that the Council was already in the process of explanation of vote, so a vote on the United States proposal should be taken immediately.
The representative of Nigeria said the text on the Optional Protocol was an instrument of significant value. It was truly deserving of consensus to ensure the broadest possible implementation. Nigeria supported the proposal put forward by the United States.
The representative of Cuba said his delegation strongly supported all efforts to wipe out torture worldwide. The draft Optional Protocol had not met with the support of all groups and had not taken into account the view of all groups. Cuba could not subscribe to that text.
Action on Amendment
By a vote of 15 in favour to 29 against with 8 abstentions (Bahrain, Bhutan, Georgia, Nepal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine), the amendment proposed by the United States was rejected. (See Annex II.)
The Council then turned to the draft resolution, entitled "Draft optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment".
The representative of the United States condemned the practice of torture. His country's State and federal laws prohibited such practices. The Optional Protocol contained provisions that went against certain provisions of the United States Constitution. Also, his delegation had appealed for a cost analysis of the implications of the Optional Protocol to be conducted.
By a vote of 35 in favour to 8 against (Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan), with 10 abstentions (Bhutan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, United States, Zimbabwe), the draft resolution was adopted. (See Annex III.)
The representative of Australia said that his country deplored torture, but could not support the adoption of the Optional Protocol. He had serious concerns about the process resulting in the consideration of the text by the Council, as well as the substance of the text. Human rights treaties should be adopted by consensus at the Commission to ensure universality. Some articles of the draft required further negotiations. The lack of consensus showed that the Protocol was not yet ripe for consideration by the Council. He had, therefore, voted against the resolution.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said that her delegation had voted against the Optional Protocol in the Commission on Human Rights. Consensus was the best basis for the effective implementation of human rights instruments. Since then, she had reviewed her position and had voted in favour today in light of her country's commitment to the prevention of torture.
The representative of Libya said that he had voted against the Optional Protocol because any international effort against torture should be based on stable factors and should not weaken
international instruments. The Convention against Torture and the Committee against Torture should act as a matrix for those actions.
The representative of Nepal said he could not vote for the Optional Protocol since it was still under consideration by his Government. Such an important instrument should have been adopted by consensus to ensure its universality. For those reasons, he had abstained during the vote on the resolution.
The representative of Egypt strongly believed in the importance of human rights instruments, and regretted the fact that it had been unable to adopt the draft Optional Protocol, primarily because it had not been adopted by consensus in the Commission on Human Rights, as had similar instruments.
The representative of the Sudan said the laws and Constitution of her country prohibited torture and cruel and unusual punishment. The Sudan had not been able to vote for the resolution because it felt it was important to give more time to study the text in order to present a consensus view on the issue. The delegation associated itself with others expressing a similar position this afternoon.
Vote on the Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Women
The draft resolution (document E/2002/27) was adopted by a recorded vote of 46 in favour to 1 against, with 1 abstention, as follows:
In favour: Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Libya, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe.
Against: United States.
Absent: El Salvador, Fiji, Georgia, Guatemala, Nepal, Nigeria.
Vote on Amendment to Draft Resolution on Draft Optional Protocol to Convention against Torture
The amendment to the draft resolution (document E/2002/L.23) was rejected by a recorded vote of 15 in favour to 29 against, with 8 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Japan, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Sudan, Uganda, United States.
Against: Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, United Kingdom.
Abstaining: Bahrain, Bhutan, Georgia, Nepal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine.
Absent: Cameroon, Zimbabwe.
Vote on Draft Resolution on Draft Optional Protocol to Convention against Torture
The draft resolution (document E/2002/23) was adopted by a recorded vote of 35 in favour to 8 against, with 10 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
Against: Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan.
Abstaining: Bhutan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, United States, Zimbabwe.
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