7 November 2003


NEW YORK, 6 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved draft resolutions on issues related to women, youth and children, and began its consideration of human rights hearing from Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A draft resolution on the situation of Palestinian children was approved in a vote of 86 in favour to 4 against, with 58 abstentions (see Annex).  The text would have the General Assembly stress the urgent need for Palestinian children to live a normal life free from foreign occupation, destruction and fear in their own State, and demand that Israel respect relevant provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention.

The Committee also approved a draft on policies and programmes involving youth, which would have the General Assembly recommend that two plenary meetings be devoted to reviewing the situation of youth in 2005, and reiterate its call for Member States to consider including youth representatives in their delegations to the Assembly and other relevant United Nations meetings, thus, broadening channels of communication and enhancing the discussion of youth-related issues.

A draft resolution approved on women and political participation would have the General Assembly urge States to promote and protect the right of women to associate freely and urge them to ensure equal access to education, property rights and inheritance rights, in addition to the promotion of equal access to information technology and business and economic opportunities.  States and the United Nations system would also be urged to increase participation of women at decision-making levels in conflict-resolution and peace processes.

Introducing the reports before the Committee on the implementation of human rights instruments, Mr. Ndiaye gave an update on new developments within the United Nations system for the implementation of human rights, including within the Human Rights Committee, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  He also reported on the status of the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights, and the Optional Protocols to the latter Covenant.

He said the most notable event since the last session of the General Assembly was the entry into force of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in July 2003.  The report of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention highlighted the activities undertaken to celebrate the Convention’s entry into force and to encourage its ratification or accession.  The Committee was also told that two more States had become party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

As delegations began their general discussion on human rights issues, speakers stressed the importance of strengthening the effective functioning of treaty bodies in order to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights.  Mention was also made of the need for States to respect their reporting obligations concerning human rights treaties.

The representative of Venezuela also stressed the need to strengthen multilateral institutions dealing with human rights.  However, she warned that when addressing human rights, it was necessary to avoid selectivity and politicization of the issues.  The key focus must be on cooperation, not condemnation.  In that respect, she expressed concern about the proliferation of human rights draft resolutions and said that human rights work needed to be streamlined and focused to be effective.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of the Italy elaborated on action by the European Union concerning democracy and human rights in the context of conflict prevention and the struggle against terrorism, the death penalty, the eradication of torture, and impunity.  She said the Union believed that the death penalty violated the right to life and constituted cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, and it was committed to working towards that penalty’s universal abolition.  The European Union was also working towards the prevention and eradication of torture worldwide.

On the advancement of women, the Committee today also decided to endorse the recommendations made by the Committee for Programme Coordination on the in-depth evaluation of the advancement of women programme.

Also addressing the Committee on issues related to human rights were the representatives of Peru and Chile.

The representative of the International Labour Organization also spoke.

The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of human rights and the implementation of human rights instruments.



Today, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) is expected to begin its consideration of human rights questions and the implementation of human rights instruments.  The Committee is also expected to take action on three drafts on issues related to social development and women’s issues.




* *** *