21 February 2005
Legal Committee Recommends UN Declaration on Human Cloning to General Assembly
NEW YORK, 18 February (UN Headquarters) -- Concluding its work for the fifty-ninth session, the Sixth Committee (Legal) this afternoon recommended to the General Assembly the adoption of a declaration on human cloning by which Member States would be called on to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.
The Committee took that decision as it approved, as amended and by a vote of 71 in favour to 35 against with 43 abstentions, a draft resolution entitled, United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning, the result of negotiations conducted by the Working Group established to finalize that text. (See Annex V for voting details.)
By further terms of the draft resolution, contained in document A/C.6/59/L.27/Add.1, Member States would be called on to adopt all measures necessary to protect adequately human life in the application of life sciences, as well as measures necessary to prohibit the application of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity.
The General Assembly, in its decision 59/547 of 23 December 2004, on the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, established a Working Group to finalize the text of a United Nations declaration on human cloning, on the basis of the draft resolution contained in A/C.6/59/L.26 and to report to the Sixth Committee during the fifty-ninth session.
On 19 November 2004, the Committee averted a divisive vote on the question of an international convention against human reproductive cloning by deciding to take up the issue again as a declaration at a resumed February session. Italys representative introduced the resolution containing a declaration on human cloning, which essentially replaced two earlier texts that aimed at a treaty on the issue, one proposed by Costa Rica and the other by Belgium.
Prior to adoption of the draft resolution, the Committee voted to reverse the order of texts to be acted on, thereby taking up document A/C.6/59/L.27/Add.1 first before taking up the document A/C.6/59/L.26, the basis for negotiations. That action was taken by a vote of 69 in favour to 39 against with 39 abstentions (see Annex I).
The Committee also acted on three amendments to the Declaration, proposed by Belgium, adopting the first, which added language to the second preambular paragraph (59-47-41), and rejecting those that would have deleted operative paragraph (a) (48-57-42); and replaced operative paragraph (b) (52-55-42). (See Annexes II, III and IV for details.)
Echoing the views of several delegations which voted against the draft resolution, Belgiums representative said that there was a difference between reproductive human cloning and therapeutic cloning. It was reasonable, he said, in the interest of science, to preserve, at the national level, a possibility of cloning for therapeutic purposes and through the establishment of appropriate controls. The adoption of the text by a divided vote, following a controversial process, took away from its validity and his country did not feel bound by it.
The representative of Finland regretted that, after three years of negotiations, the Committee had not reached a decision on its mandate to negotiate a convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings. It had also failed to send to the world a strong and unanimous message by failing to reach a consensus on a political declaration.
Deeply regretting that the Working Group had been unable to arrive at a text acceptable to all States, Singapores representative said that, on issues founded on values and beliefs, no single State should be allowed to hold sway over other States. Trying to impose a uniform set of values on others only deepened the divide between parties. Today, there was unanimity that reproductive cloning was an abhorrent prospect and should be banned. It was unfortunate that that concern was hijacked by those wanting to ban cloning for beneficial medical purposes. The resolution adopted did not capture the diversity of views expressed on the issue but sought to impose a single set of views on the international community.
Like others who voted in favour of the resolution, the representative of Costa Rica said that the Committee had done the right thing, finally adopting a decision that recognized the ethical and practical aspects of human cloning, gave a negative reaction to reproductive cloning and emphasized the importance of human life. Human dignity should always prevail over the interests of science.
The international community had confirmed its respect for human dignity, added the representative of the United States. The Committees action was an important step on the path of achieving a culture of life, making sure that scientific advance served human dignity. She called for further legislative action at the national level, encouraging more States to support a ban on human cloning. Medical research must proceed but in an ethical manner. No human life should ever be produced in order to be destroyed for the benefit of another.
The member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as stated by Turkey, had abstained in the vote on the draft resolution, regretting that a vote had been required on the issue and that consensus could not be reached.
The Committee also adopted its provisional programme of work for its sixtieth session.
In closing remarks, Committee Chairman Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco) said it was important that the Committee had adopted the declaration on cloning, which marked the end of one stage in the debate. It is what it is, with its weaknesses and strengths, he stated.
Also explaining their votes were the representatives of Republic of Korea, Syria, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Russian Federation, Denmark, Sweden, Mongolia, Norway, France, Cuba, Nigeria, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada, Netherlands and Germany.
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