Experts Express Alarm over Extrajudicial Killings, Attacks against Human Rights Defenders during Third Committee Interactive Dialogue

Counter-terrorism ‘a Catch-all to Throttle Flow of Information’ Justify Detention of Journalists, says Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion

Human rights defenders including journalists, lawyers and judges were suffering repression, harassment and censorship as States struggled against terrorism, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as special mandate holders presented their reports.

David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression of opinion and expression, said the reliance on counter-terrorism served as a catch-all to throttle the flow of information and justify the detention of journalists, bloggers and others working in the media.  Old tools of repression and new forms of censorship in the digital age had combined with punitive laws and policies to harass, threaten, chill and punish expression around the world.

The extrajudicial killing of journalists by non-State actors was also a question considered by Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who in the interactive discussion with delegates, said she wanted to explore the human rights responsibilities of non-State actors through case studies.  For his part, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said that every week, three environmental defenders were assassinated, according to Global Witness.  The impunity with which those attacks were carried out sent the message that certain lives were worth less than profit.

Javier Hernandez Valencia, speaking on behalf of Monica Pinto, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, underscored that lawyers fell under the protective scope of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.  The misuse of contempt of court charges affected the independence of lawyers and their freedom of expression.  Previous Special Rapporteurs, he said, had received complaints alleging physical attacks against lawyers, as well as harassment and intimidation.  International human rights law required States to take measures to both prevent and address such abuse, he warned.

Those same trends, however, also endangered the human rights of groups beyond those exercising their professional mandates, said Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.  The link between displaced people and security risks in countries where they had sought refuge had been “irresponsibly and misleadingly” overblown.  There was almost no evidence that refugees were more prone than others to radicalization, or that terrorist groups would take advantage of refugee flows to carry out acts of terrorism.

Virginia Dandan, Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity, presented her report summarizing five regional consultations held in 2015 and 2016 on a draft declaration on the right to international solidarity.

The President of the General Assembly delivered opening remarks to the Committee this morning.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 24 October, to continue its discussions on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SCH/4172.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, recalled this year’s fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which formed the sophisticated global human rights framework in place today.  Yet, millions of people continued to flee armed conflict, violence, persecution and natural disasters in unprecedented numbers.  The impacts of climate change must be looked at not only as a security, development and environmental issue, but as a human rights concern.

As part of the global commitment to address the refugee and migration crisis, Member States had adopted the New York Declaration, he said.  His Office would soon designate co-facilitators to begin negotiations on a “modalities resolution”, laying the groundwork to adopt a Migration Compact and a Refugees Compact in 2018.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a critical tool in realizing the human rights of all.

He urged the Committee to shine light on situations where restrictions were tightening civil and political rights, and to advance critical social and economic issues, including the right to development and the right to self-determination, as well as social justice and equality.  “Despite differences, diversity makes humanity stronger,” he declared, stressing that the promotion and protection of human rights was not only the right thing to do, it was the smart thing to do.  A world where every person’s human rights were respected was one that was inherently more safe, more just and more stable, he concluded.

JAVIER HERNANDEZ VALENCIA, delivering a statement on behalf of Monica Pinto, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, said the right to access to a lawyer was firmly established in international law and represented an essential precondition for the exercise and enjoyment of a number of other rights.  While lawyers were not expected to be independent or impartial in the same way as a judge, they should nonetheless be free from any external pressure or interference, including from State authorities and non-State actors.  Noting that lawyers defending clients fell under the protective scope of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, he said attacks on lawyers were frequently a direct consequence of their identification with their clients or their clients’ causes.

Underscoring the importance of confidentiality between lawyers and their clients, as well as freedom of movement and association, he said the misuse of contempt of court charges affected the independence of lawyers and their freedom of expression.  Previous Special Rapporteurs had received many complaints alleging physical attacks against lawyers, as well as harassment and intimidation, he said, stressing that international human rights law required States to take measures to both prevent and address such attacks.  Expressing concern about the situation of lawyers in countries that lacked independent bar associations or whose bar associations were controlled by the State, he said silencing or controlling bar associations not only posed great risks to the legal community, but also had far-reaching consequences, as that eroded the rule of law and possibility for ordinary people to claim their human rights.

AGNES CALLAMARD, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, presented the key points from the final report of her predecessor, Christof Heyns.  The report covered a range of issues related to the arbitrary deprivation of the right to life — from the death penalty, to unmanned drones, the use of lethal force by law enforcement and killings motivated by prejudice.  The outgoing Special Rapporteur had recommended six key areas for attention:  the relationship between the right to life and technology; discrimination in the use of force by law enforcement; progressive abolition of the death penalty; the impact of terrorism on the right to life; the use of force by non-State actors and their accountability and the accessibility of the Minnesota Protocol.

The report raised concerns that the use of armed drones and fully autonomous weapons had led to a “depersonalization of the use of force”, with consequences for the legal principles of prevention and accountability, she said.  Drones could only be justified if they saved lives against a truly imminent threat, she explained, while recalling that the law of self-defence could not be used as a “stand-alone” basis for the use of force against an individual.  Autonomous weapons – weapons platforms that, once activated, could select and engage targets without further human intervention — raised a vast number of questions in terms of their human rights compliance, including over what would happen to the central legal principle of accountability in the absence of human control.  Automated mechanisms to deprive life could be considered arbitrary, since they did not involve a deliberative human decision.  The report also outlined concerns that the use of military-style weapons by law enforcement suggested that citizens were being treated as a threat.  Given all those questions, he called for a moratorium on the development of autonomous weapons and on weapons with full autonomy – that is, those without meaningful human control.

When the floor was opened, many delegations questioned whether the death penalty fell under the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, with China’s representative expressing agreement with those from Singapore and Egypt that it was a domestic matter.  Both the representatives of Mexico and the European Union requested further information on executions by non-State actors, with the latter asking whether the Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions would focus on the killing of journalists, while Liechtenstein’s delegate asked whether she had engaged with the Philippines on extrajudicial executions as a result of the war on drugs.  Canada’s representative asked for information about the gender aspect of extrajudicial killings, noting that so-called “honour killings” involved male perpetrators and female victims.

Ms. CALLAMARD, responding, noted that several questions had been asked regarding her priorities and those of her predecessor, Mr. HEYNS.  The protection of the right to life, and to human rights more generally, was confronting three broad challenges in the fields of implementation, complex contexts, and invisibility of victims, who were outside the orthodox understanding of human rights.  Those three challenges had led her to identify priorities, the first of which was gender.  The importance of a gender-sensitive approach to extrajudicial executions had been underlined by her predecessor, and she said she wanted to ensure the same “from the start”.

Secondly, she noted that she wanted to explore the human rights responsibilities of non-State actors through case studies, and called for contributions.  Her third focus would be exploring normative gaps around prevention.  More broadly, she acknowledged that extrajudicial executions in the context of anti-drug campaigns had emerged as a topic.  To numerous questions about the death penalty, she underscored that her predecessor had been careful to ensure that his investigations into that practice had fit within his mandate.  He had not expanded his mandate to include the death penalty, she said, but she would exercise her mandate to look at that practice when imposed in an arbitrary or extrajudicial manner.

The representative of the Philippines noted his country’s development efforts for years had been hampered by the illegal drug trade, which threatened peace and order.  The Philippines had 3 million drug users needing help, and in response, the President had launched an unparalleled war on illegal drugs, but taken care to reaffirm his commitment to international human rights law.  There was no State policy condoning extrajudicial killings.  Police who abused their authority would be investigated.  He extended an invitation to the Special Rapporteur to look into deaths resulting from the campaign against illegal drugs.

Ms. CALLAMARD took the floor again to express gratitude to the Philippines for the news about an invitation, noting that she had submitted a demand for visit with the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, with whom she hoped to undertake a joint mission and link the two issues, as they were highly intertwined.  She had also submitted a proposal for an expert meeting on the best practices responses to drug addiction and the drug trade, as they were global concerns with many human rights implications.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Cuba, Australia, Iran, Iraq, France, Papua New Guinea, and Cameroon, as well as of the State of Palestine.

BEN EMMERSON, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said the link between displaced people and risks to national security in countries in which they had sought refuge had been “irresponsibly and misleadingly” overblown in many States.  There was almost no evidence that refugees would be more prone to radicalization or that terrorist groups would take advantage of refugee flows to carry out acts of terrorism, he said, adding that those claims were analytically and statistically unfounded.  According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 70 per cent of displaced people had come from the 20 countries with the highest number of terrorist fatalities.  Refugees and migrants did not pose a risk – they were at risk, he said, stressing that “migrants and refugees fleeing from the devastating consequences of terrorist activity are entitled to protection, rather than being stigmatised as potential terrorists themselves”.

International borders were not zones of exclusion or exception with respect to a State’s human rights obligations, he said.  Among the measures of greatest concern were ethnic and religious profiling, disproportionate collection of often inaccurate biometric data, forced fingerprinting and the criminalisation of irregular migration.  The General Assembly should convey the message that the right to reach another State to seek protection from conflict was a cornerstone of international refugee protection.  Additionally, the principle of non-refoulement was a fundamental norm in international refugee law.  Any State that carried out interception operations was obliged to respect that principle and not return people to countries where they would face human rights violations.  Regarding the European Union/Turkey agreement, concerns had been expressed about the absence of case-by-case considerations, including the risk of detention or ill-treatment in Turkey, and he urged the Assembly to keep a close watch on the accord’s implementation.  The detention of migrants and refugees should be a measure of last resort and comply with principles of necessity, legality and proportionality, he said, stressing that the detention of children could not be justified.

Delegations asked for recommendations on how to prevent refugees from being stigmatized.  They further asked what could be done about the protection of privacy and the unlawful collection of information, as well as about resolving the dilemma for States to both combat terrorism and protect refugees.  A related question dealt with how to collect evidence on international crimes perpetrated by fighters who had travelled between countries.

Mr. EMMERSON replied that addressing the stigmatization of refugees and migrants must start with a look at Government actions.  A response could not merely be based on security concerns, and profiling based on inaccurate data and criminalization must be avoided.  Strict border protection did not, in fact, foster national security.  Irregular migration was not a crime; rather, it was a cornerstone of international refugee law and must be protected, he said, calling the links among displacement, refuge-seeking and security threats “overblown and misused for fearmongering”.

He said the international community must always guard against xenophobia and racism, stressing that evidence collection for international crimes came with the same issues as that for war crimes.  It must be gathered on the ground, which could be a challenge, and it was not enough to prosecute individuals.  On the dilemma between simultaneous respect for refugee law and the protection of citizens from terrorism and security threats, he said measures were underway to reduce risks “prophylactically” through the prudent use of passenger information.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was monitoring that process to ensure it complied with international human rights law, offering a “paradigm” way forward to prevent terrorism without abandoning human rights law.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Morocco, Mexico, Iran, Brazil, United States, Iraq, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Turkey and Switzerland, as well as the European Union.

MICHEL FORST, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said that it was with anger and sadness that he addressed the Committee.  Every week three environmental defenders were assassinated, according to Global Witness.  The impunity with which those attacks were carried out sent the message that certain lives were worth less than profit.

“Our goals for a sustainable future are doomed to fail if those on the frontline of defending such future are not protected”, he said, reminding States of their duty to respect the right to protect the environment.  Policies and mechanisms were urgently needed to empower and protect environmental defenders, he said.  He had received a number of requests for action from civil society, human rights institutions, regional networks and United Nations country offices, but had received few responses from States.  He thanked those States that had cooperated with his Office and said he looked forward to continuing dialogue with Governments to improve the human rights situation of activists.

During the interactive dialogue, delegates asked about efforts to better protect environmental human rights defenders and about best practices to be shared.  A few speakers asked how the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights could protect human rights defenders, and about how to improve engagement with all stakeholders at the local, national and international levels.  Regarding the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, delegates asked about the potential content of an international treaty for transnational business enterprises and whether other actors in the environmental field, such as rangers, deserved protection as well.

Mr. FORST said he continued to work with regional organizations in Africa and Europe.  Business enterprises were often responsible for attacks on human rights defenders and must be engaged more actively through a “value chain” approach.  Best practices could be advanced if championed by States, he said, noting that robust commitments had already been made.  The situation of female human rights defenders was a particular concern, he said, reiterating the importance of country visits in his work and encouraging States to both invite him and respond to his requests.  Follow-up visits were also important.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Norway, Mexico, United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Colombia, Iran, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Ireland, Canada, Czech Republic, Poland, France, Morocco and Cameroon, as well as the European Union.

DAVID KAYE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, presented his report (document A/71/373) resulting from a survey of communication between his mandate and Governments, which had shown major challenges to those freedoms.  Old tools of repression and new forms of censorship in the digital age had combined with punitive laws and policies to harass, threaten, chill and punish expression around the world.  Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provided unconditional protection of the right to hold opinions and exchange information of any kind, guided the framework of his mandate, he said, noting that restrictions on the freedom of expression were limited.

Expressing concern about Government laws and practices that did not meet requirements for legitimate restrictions on the freedom of expression, he said Governments often treated national security or public order as a label legitimizing any restriction.  Tools used to criminalize criticism were also used against reporters; the reliance on counter-terrorism served as a catch-all to throttle the flow of information and justify the detention of journalists, bloggers and others in the media.  The widespread failure to hold perpetrators accountable for attacks on journalists suggested the absence of concern for the media’s role in democratic societies.  He expressed hope that States would revise national laws that were inconsistent with human rights law, and take measures to prevent intimidation and reprisals against people who cooperated with the United Nations.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates asked questions about the freedom of journalists; the balance between security and privacy, particularly in the context of counterterrorism; the balance between freedom of expression and protection of religion, and digital privacy.

Mr. KAYE, to questions about press freedom, replied that the privacy of both journalists and their sources must be secured.  On the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression, he cited three processes that promoted cross-cultural and international dialogue – Human Rights Council resolution 16/18, the Rabat Plan of Action, and the Istanbul Process – all of which he hoped would be reinvigorated in the future.

Regarding digital rights, he said that both mass and targeted surveillance must be avoided in order to widen the civic space, stressing that encryption and anonymity were critical to protecting freedoms of expression, association and protest.  On the relationship between business and human rights, he said that there were guiding principles for transparency, due diligence and the availability of remedies that could govern the private sector.

Regarding counterterrorism and expression, he recalled that Article 19 provided standards by which to judge whether restrictions were necessary and proportionate, and that protecting freedom of expression was about more than finding a “balance” between two priorities.  Governments must demonstrate the proportionality of any restrictions on freedom.  As for how to support mechanisms and special procedures, he urged Governments to be responsible when his Office issued communications and called for greater funding to the Office of the High Commissioner, which had been constrained by low resources.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the United States, Iran, Latvia, Mexico, Austria, Indonesia, Iraq, Czech Republic, European Union, Russia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Norway, Ethiopia and Cameroon.

VIRGINIA DANDAN, Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity, presented her report summarizing five regional consultations held in 2015 and 2016 on a draft Declaration on the Right to International Solidarity.  Four key issues requiring further analysis had emerged:  deriving the right to international solidarity from international law; the nature of that right; the exterritorial obligations of States; and the role of non-State actors in international solidarity.  Many had expressed the view that international solidarity was not a legal concept, giving rise to the question of whether that right could be considered a “claimable right”, meaning that it must have identifiable rights holders and duty bearers.  On that basis, the right to international solidarity was indeed a claimable right.

As with all human rights, the right to international solidarity could only come into existence as an “enforceable claim” through continuous development and hands-on work by local actors to establish new norms, she said.  The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had been approached with scepticism when first proposed.  Today, however, the General Comments interpreting its provisions constituted a “soft law”, establishing the norms and standards in connection with treaty provisions.  Further, many States already had institutions and agencies to implement the right to international solidarity; resistance, therefore, was not related to its feasibility or enforceability.  She would present the final draft of the Declaration to the Human Rights Council in July 2017.

When the floor opened for questions, Cuba’s representative asked which possible actions could be taken by the United Nations to overcome resistance in some parts of the system to the right to international solidarity.  Morocco’s representative observed that South-South cooperation should be considered as an expression of solidarity, and asked the Independent Expert about regional consultations on the draft Declaration on International Solidarity.

Ms. DANDAN replied that details of the regional consultations were available in her previous report to the Human Rights Council.  She would deliver the final draft Declaration to the Human Rights Council in June, she said, adding that regional consultations attested to the fact that many States already had agencies to implement the right to international solidarity.  Opposition to it did not come from those working on the ground.  Human rights were a work in progress that could only come into existence as enforceable claims through work done on the ground by local actors themselves, and by the human rights system of the United Nations, including special procedures.  Standards came to life when the need for them arose; States themselves must surmount obstacles to them.

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Despite Rapid Advances in New Platforms, Traditional Media Remain World’s Primary Means of Communication, Speakers Tell Fourth Committee

Language Parity Emphasized amid Continuing Debate on Information Questions

While the Department of Public Information’s emphasis on the latest advances in information technologies would broaden the reach of the United Nations, conventional media remained the primary means of communication in many developing countries, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it continued its general debate on questions relating to information.

Many speakers expressed support for the Department’s focus on harnessing the various communications technologies at the Organization’s disposal and its use of social media platforms while urging it to be mindful of the technological gap within and across countries.

In that vein, Cuba’s representative said the image of the United Nations must not only be bolstered through online channels, but also through radio, television and print media.  Pointing out that 793 million people around the world did not know how to read or write, he emphasized that the new platforms were no substitute for traditional media.

Echoing that sentiment, Paraguay’s representative stressed that most of the world’s population could only be informed about the Organization’s work through traditional media.  Technological progress was critical for equitable growth, he said, adding that equal access to new technologies had the potential to provide better economic opportunities.

In addition, some delegations voiced concern about the politicizing of public information and possible inappropriate use of information and communications technology to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign States.  Iran’s representative said that while digital media platforms were effective in connecting peoples of different faiths and cultures around the world, they also ran the risk of falling afoul of misuse, warning that distorted information could have a negative impact on States and their citizens.  The use of such technologies should, therefore, be fully compatible with the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, he emphasized.

In similar vein, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said the role of the Public Information Department was becoming increasingly valuable as terrorist groups used modern technology to spread hatred and recruit foreign fighters.  Commending the Department’s efforts in the field of counter-terrorism, he emphasized that a platform for moderate voices must emerge to reject terrorist practices.

Other speakers, associating themselves with the Group of Friends of Spanish to the United Nations, reiterated the Secretariat’s responsibility to respect multilingualism in all its activities on the basis of equity for all six of the Organization’s official languages.

In that regard, Mexico’s delegate called upon the United Nations to expand content and increase accessibility to information materials in Spanish, while expressing her country’s readiness to help identify solutions that would enable the Organization to publicize its work.  Echoing that sentiment, Costa Rica’s representative said that in order to achieve true multilingualism, the Department must publish press releases in Spanish, in addition to its French and English language coverage.

Also today, many speakers praised the efforts of the 63 United Nations information centres around the world in disseminating messages about the Organization’s work.

Japan’s representative pointed out that the centre in Tokyo had played an active role in promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and had recently organized a student photography contest that had received 600 entries from 50 countries.  Similarly, Lebanon’s delegate said the information centre in Beirut continued to shed light on the efforts of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), to celebrate international days and to publish articles in Arabic on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Ukraine, Nigeria, India, El Salvador, Libya, Cameroon, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation.

The representative of Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 19 October, to conclude its general debate on questions relating to information.

Background

The Fourth Committee convened this afternoon to continue its general debate on questions relating to information.  (For background information, see Press Release GA/SPD/615).

Statements

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), reiterating his country’s commitment to freedom of expression, emphasized that citizen participation played an essential role in strengthening democratic coexistence.  While doing so, it was critical to generate opportunities for all, promote innovation and combat corruption.  Calling attention to the technological gap within and across countries, he stressed the need to maintain the use of conventional media while capitalizing on the latest advances in information and communications technologies.  He said the Department had improved its cooperation with actors within and outside the United Nations system, including Member States, civil society organizations and academia, through the use of new technologies.  While commending its measures to improve its website and content, he underlined the need to publish press releases in Spanish in order to achieve true multilingualism.

LORENA ALVARADO QUEZADA (Mexico), emphasizing the importance of multilingualism and language parity, called upon the United Nations to expand content and increase accessibility to information materials in Spanish since it was the second most spoken language in the world.  Mexico stood ready to help identify solutions that would enable the Organization to publicize its work.  She went on to acknowledge the Department’s proactive efforts in using new technologies, while stressing that millions of people still used traditional media to obtain information.  Drawing attention to the digital divide between developed and developing countries, she said no tool would be a substitute for a presence on the ground, adding in that regard that it was critical to improve coordination among various actors.

CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon), acknowledging the Department’s evolving role in maintaining the highest level of awareness about the work of the United Nations, expressed support for its strategic approach in capitalizing on the latest Internet and social media advances to facilitate access to information.  The Organization’s youth and educational outreach programmes enabled young people to engage in discussion and to find solutions to current problems.  Regarding strategic communications, she emphasized that the success of information campaigns hinged upon collaboration and partnership with academia and civil society organizations, and in that respect, it was critical to use the six official United Nations languages as well as both traditional and digital media.  She said the information centre in Beirut continued to shed light on the efforts of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), to celebrate international days, and to publish articles in Arabic on the Sustainable Development Goals.

OYAMA MGOBOZI (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted his country had been a beneficiary of the promotion by the United Nations of global awareness and public action against apartheid.  Today, South Africa worked with the Department on the global promotion of Nelson Mandela International Day.  Emphasizing that the question of Palestine deserved special attention, he welcomed the Department’s work in training Palestinian journalists and commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  He recalled that his country, in partnership with the United Nations, had recently co-hosted the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, which had helped to heighten awareness of the question of Palestine in a balanced and objective manner, he said, encouraging the Department also to disseminate information on Western Sahara because it was important to publicize the plight of that Non-Self-Governing Territory’s people.

U AUNG LYNN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), expressed support for the Department’s efforts to use social media platforms to complement traditional media, but warned that words of intolerance, hatred and hostility, as well as extremist ideas, could have harmful effects.  Myanmar would work with the Department to promote interreligious dialogue and tolerance and to counter the spread of extremism.  He noted people in countries where none of the official United Nations languages were spoken had to rely on their Governments for information about the Organization’s work.  He encouraged Member States to help promote that work by disseminating information in local languages.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) encouraged the Department to continue promoting a culture of peace and non-violence as part of its outreach to the public, particularly to young people.  Sustained investment in education and awareness was required to build resilience against war, violence and hatred.  The Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism had been an important addition to the Organization’s efforts to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and the Department could further build its partnership with the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force in order to inform national and regional dialogue.  Its expertise could represent a useful resource offering viable alternatives to terrorist ideologies and narratives.  He expressed appreciation for the role played by the Dhaka United Nations information centre in disseminating critical messages concerning sustainable development, migration, peacekeeping, human rights as well as general and complete disarmament.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), while welcoming the Department’s focus on harnessing the various communications technologies at the disposal of the United Nations and its use of social media platforms, urged it to be mindful of the technological gap within and across developing countries.  Sharing national efforts, he said that his country’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Information was reviewing plans to modernize its information and communications technology framework.  The review would include the development of a funding model for sustainable public broadcasting operations, and the existing legislative framework for electronic media would be amended.   Jamaica had partnered with the Department on numerous projects, most notably the initiative to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, he said.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, observed that the media had great influence on public opinion and their importance was growing.  However, some in the media did not respect the norms of conventional journalism and were instead trying to make political statements.  In conflict situations, the United Nations must be able to rely on credible media sources, he emphasized, while condemning attacks on journalists as well as actions by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and other terrorist groups against media practitioners.  He went on to urge the Department to redouble its efforts to address the question of Palestine and provide information on the Palestinian people’s suffering, noting that the occupying Power had committed human rights violations, including attacks targeting journalists and human rights advocates.  The Department should also ensure equality among the six official United Nations languages and strengthen the status of Arabic within the Organization, particularly on its website.  Freedom of expression must be respected, but not used to attack the beliefs of others or to denigrate their cultures or faiths, he stressed.

ASSIA JAZAIRY (Algeria), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that the selection and appointment of the ninth Secretary-General, António Guterres, had been guided by improved transparency and inclusivity.  However, the global audience could have been better educated about the General Assembly’s role so that the recommendation contained in Security Council resolution 2311 (2016) was not seen as the end of the selection process.  The Department could deepen understanding of the General Assembly’s role more broadly, thereby promoting the revitalization of its work.  She expressed concern over the potential for politicizing public information and possible inappropriate use of information and communications technology to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign States.  While the Department’s emphasis on social media would broaden the Organization’s reach, particularly among youth, conventional media was the primary means of public communications in many developing countries, she emphasized.  It was also important to use all the official United Nations languages, particularly Arabic, and to ensure their full and equitable treatment in the Department’s activities.  She expressed regret that the Department’s coverage of the Fourth Committee, in particular its French-language press releases, did not always reflect facts.

RIADH BEN SLIMAN (Tunisia) reaffirmed his country’s support for the Department’s dissemination of information and acknowledged its cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Capitalizing on advances in information and communications technologies, the Department had raised public awareness of various issues, including violent extremism, food security and pandemics.  He emphasized that in order to reach as many people as possible the United Nations must ensure parity among all six of its official languages.

HASSAN IDRISS (Sudan), expressing concern about the imbalance among the six official United Nations languages, urged the Organization to ensure that multilingualism prevailed in all its activities.  “We need to bridge this gap,” he said, emphasizing that language parity would create better understanding of United Nations activities.  Acknowledging the key role played by the information centres, he said the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter was essential in reaching out to communities.  However, that should not prevent the United Nations from using conventional media since millions of people lacked access to the Internet, he pointed out.

HAJIME KISHIMORI (Japan), recalling that his delegation had participated in the Peace Bell Ceremony on 16 September, thanked the Department for its annual efforts to promote that event.  He said the United Nations information centre in Tokyo played an active role in promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and had recently organized a student photography contest which had received 600 entries from 50 countries.  Japan appreciated the Department’s efforts to promote the 2030 Agenda, but neither the Department nor Member States should forget the importance of multiculturalism.  He emphasized that the popularity and success of characters like Wonder Woman might not automatically translate in places like Japan and the wider East Asia, where characters such as Doraemon may be more familiar.  He urged the Department to take a more tailored approach, stressing the role that information centres could play in that regard.  The principle of multilingualism should also be extended beyond the official United Nations languages, he added, pointing out that Africa Renewal, the Department’s only printed magazine, could be translated into more languages, thereby providing opportunities for students all over the world to learn about Africa’s development initiatives in their own languages.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Group of Friends of Spanish to the United Nations, said the Department’s message should be accessible to all, eliminating the language barrier and the digital divide.  The plan to increase resources in order to expand the Department’s multilingual capabilities was vital to parity and respect for all six official United Nations languages, he said, adding that financial and human resources earmarked for the Department should be adequately distributed among them.  Noting the rise of new information and communications technologies, he emphasized that they were no substitute for traditional media.  As noted by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 793 million people around the world did not know how to read or write.  The image of the United Nations must be bolstered not only through online channels, but also through radio, television and print media, which represented the main sources of information in many countries.  He also expressed concern about covert and illegal use by individuals, organizations or States of the information systems of foreign States to do harm to other countries.  Such actions represented a violation of international norms, the effects of which could generate tensions, he cautioned.

OLEG NIKOLENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said that some Governments continued to build State-sponsored information campaigns to bring chaos to other nations.  Since the beginning of the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of Crimea in 2014, journalists had been regular targets for attack.  They had been detained, beaten, deprived of their jobs and expelled from their native lands.  Ukraine regretted that the same methods were being used in its Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where the Russian Federation and its proxies were waging military aggression.  Independent media outlets had been forced to close and leave the conflict-affected zones, he said, condemning such actions as being in contravention of international norms, including freedom of speech and expression.  The “hybrid war” against Ukraine, involving State-controlled media, was a direct threat to United Nations values, he said, calling upon the international community to draft a legal instrument prohibiting international propaganda in order to protect societies from State-led information wars.

ANTHONY BOSAH (Nigeria) acknowledged the Department’s collaboration with the departments of Peacekeeping Operations, Field Support and Political Affairs in disseminating information about United Nations peacekeeping efforts.  He also commended its reporting of Boko Haram’s terrorist activities in north-eastern Nigeria’s region and the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force — comprising forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin — to combat the extremist group.  While technology offered extensive channels for dispersing information about the Organization’s work, information systems in most developing countries remained at a basic level, he noted.  That emphasized the need to balance the use of newer digital products with traditional means of communication, such as radio and television and radio.  Commending the Department’s Africa Renewal, published in English and French, for raising global awareness of and support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), he underlined the need to strengthen the communication and delivery of media products in all six official United Nations languages.

SRINIVAS PRASAD (India) said that his country’s commitment to both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change had been reflected in two events organized by his delegation: the International Day of Yoga and the ratification of the Paris Agreement on the occasion of Mahatma Ghandi’s birthday, which was celebrated every year at the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence.  He especially commended the Department’s coverage of the first event, noting that it had been important in promoting the contributions of yoga to holistic health care.  India noted with satisfaction the Department’s engagement with United Nations counter-terrorism initiatives, and hoped they would contribute to building a consensus around the adoption of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, he said.  He also commended the Department’s various efforts to raise awareness of the unprecedented refugee crisis, including the humanitarian situation of Syrian refugees.  Regarding multilingualism, he urged the Department to pay greater attention to languages in South Asia, adding that the country could build on its partnerships with universities in the region to develop the required language capabilities.

CARLA ESPERANZA RIVERA SÁNCHEZ (El Salvador) emphasized that the Department must focus on providing accurate, relevant and timely information about the work of the United Nations.  Turning to multilingualism, she encouraged the Department to develop its information products, including webpages and press releases, in the six official United Nations languages in a cost-neutral manner in order to reach audiences all over the world.

MOHAMED H.S. ELMODIR (Libya) commended the Department for providing updated information on the work of the United Nations and for its continued partnership with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  The Department was responsible for covering the challenges that the world faced, he noted, emphasizing that it must be cautious and promote a culture of dialogue among nations.  Given the digital divide within and across States, it was essential to maintain conventional media to ensure that all people had access to information about the Organization.  Financial instability in Libya had disrupted the work of the United Nations information centre in Tripoli, but the authorities were working to address that situation, he said.

HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran) encouraged the Department to continue focusing on matters of international peace and security, including occupation, violence and terrorism, which had claimed countless lives.  In that regard, he called upon the Department to help explore ways in which to promote the General Assembly resolution on “A World against Violence and Violent Extremism”.  Concerning social media, he said that while they were effective in connecting peoples of different faiths and cultures around the world, they also ran the risk of misuse, warning that distorted information could have a negative impact on States and their citizens.  The use of such technologies should therefore be fully compatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, in particular the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, he emphasized.

JOSE OSVALDO SANABRIA RIVAROLA (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Group of Friends of Spanish to the United Nations, noted that most of the world’s population could only be informed about the Organization’s work through traditional media.  Technological progress was critical for equitable growth, and Paraguay was concerned about the growing digital divide.  Equal access to new information and communications technologies had the potential to provide better economic opportunities for individuals, and in that regard, developing countries needed more financial and technical cooperation on transferring knowledge and building capacity.  He went on to emphasize the importance of multilingualism and language parity among the six official United Nations languages, calling for real-time information to be made available in Spanish.  He also encouraged the Department to continue disseminating information on peacekeeping missions, the peacekeeping architecture and special political missions.

Ahmed Abdelrahman Ahmed ALMAHMOUD (United Arab Emirates) said the Department should continue to develop its services in the areas of awareness-building, public engagement, knowledge-sharing and partnerships.  With terrorist groups using modern technology to spread hatred and recruit foreign fighters, the Department’s role was becoming increasingly valuable.  A platform for moderate voices must emerge to reject terrorist practices, he said, commending the Department’s efforts in the field of counter-terrorism, including the design of a new online hub.  He went on to applaud other activities undertaken by the Department, including the annual International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, noting that the Department’s coverage of international events relating to such issues had helped in reaching new audiences.

MAMOUDOU MANA (Cameroon) said that numerous United Nations resolutions called for improving access to information for all, but a monopoly over technologies maintained by a small number of countries persisted.  Cameroon did not intend to remain outside the technological revolution and wished to be part of the information society, he said, adding that the country had a strategic plan that involved establishing multipurpose community telecentres to provide Internet access to people in rural areas.  The Government would provide incentives to encourage entities working on closing the digital divide.  United Nations actions could have greater impact if information were made available to the international community in real time.  Despite the hesitancy of some who deemed such initiatives too expensive, additional efforts should be made to ensure that materials were provided in all official languages, he said, emphasizing that there should be no delays between publishing in one language and publishing in another.

LIM HOON-MIN (Republic of Korea) said the Department’s strides in new media were appreciated, but many delegations had expressed concerns about multilingualism, which could be addressed through the enhanced use of information centres.  They could directly involve people around the world in their own local languages and help to form comprehensive local partnerships.  Multi-stakeholder partnerships were critical in promoting various initiatives, particularly the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Republic of Korea had participated in such efforts by hosting the United Nations Public Diplomacy Symposium in April, as well as the sixty-sixth Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations Conference in May.

FEDOR STRZHIZHVSKIY (Russian Federation) said that in order to guarantee language parity, the United Nations must step up efforts to translate information products into various languages, including Russian.  Equally important was the need to ensure that United Nations information centres were fed updated information on the Organization’s activities.  Turning to the safety of journalists, he emphasized that it was unacceptable to turn a blind eye to Ukrainian aggression.  Expressing concern over the killings of journalists, he said Ukrainians “must sort out the situation in the country before lecturing others”.  It was unfortunate that the country’s Government was preventing broadcasts in the Russian language.

Right of Reply

The representative of Ukraine, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, condemned attacks against journalists, emphasizing that their safety must be guaranteed.  The Government of Ukraine aimed to protect its citizens while facing aggression from another Member State, he said, adding that temporary measures had been undertaken, including steps to ensure the maintenance of public order.

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Child Migrants, Refugees Especially Vulnerable to Violence during Humanitarian Crises, Speakers Tell Third Committee, as Debate on Children Concludes

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its general discussion on the rights of children today, with delegates describing progress and challenges on a range of issues pertaining to child health, education and protection.

While several delegates shared progress their Governments had made in improving legislative and social mechanisms to prevent violence against children, many were concerned by the growing threat posed by humanitarian emergencies, and in particular, the migrant and refugee crisis.

The representative of Bulgaria, which was both a transit and host country for thousands of refugees and migrants, reminded Member States that “a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant”.  As such, they had rights that must be protected by all.  Guatemala’s delegate was particularly concerned by the vulnerability of unaccompanied children migrating across the Americas.  Her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to help protect those youth, but she also urged States to stop detaining minors.  Similarly, El Salvador’s speaker called for a human rights-based approach to dealing with the situation of child migrants.  Echoing those concerns, the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation and to avoid detaining children.

A number of delegates addressed the situation of children living under occupation, with Ukraine’s delegate stressing that despite his country’s efforts to improve opportunities for children, many Ukrainian children living under Russian occupation had been denied their rights.  Similarly in Georgia, the Russian occupation was denying children the right to education in their native language and freedom of movement, said that country’s delegate.

In the Middle East, Palestinian children had been deliberately targeted by the Israeli army, said the State of Palestine’s observer.  She asked when the international community would react to those rights violations.  Iran’s delegate expressed dismay that political pressure had compromised the independence of the Secretary-General’s 2016 report on children and armed conflict.  He proposed the United Nations at least impose an arms embargo on Governments engaged in mass killing of children.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, exercising his right of reply, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he said the politicized statement was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

In other business today, the Committee approved a decision to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, to present an oral update.  She would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.

Also speaking were representatives of Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Monaco, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Guinea, Congo, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Panama, Madagascar, Morocco, Haiti, Mozambique, Armenia, Myanmar, Palau, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and the observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Officials of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also addressed the Committee.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, the State of Palestine and Ukraine.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 17 October, to begin consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to conclude its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4169.

Statements

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA (Cameroon) expressed concern about the conditions for children around the world, especially in Africa, due to armed conflicts and humanitarian crises.  Cameroon had made education a pillar of its social policies.  Protection of children’s rights was as essential.  Children recruited by terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, were of great concern.  She welcomed collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other United Nations agencies, stressing that with such assistance, Cameroon had implemented programmes to combat child mortality, focusing on systematic vaccination programmes. 

VALÉRIE S BRUELL-MELCHIOR (Monaco) said that while UNICEF aimed to help all children, after 70 years of action, numerous obstacles had yet to be overcome.  Two conditions were essential to ensure children had a good start to life:  health and education.  She observed that 250 million children lacked good nutrition, adding that children’s access to health care must include nutrition goals.  Quality education without distinction was the way to break the vicious cycle of poverty.  Children should be taught to reflect in a manner that would allow them to reject extremism.

MARÍA JOSÉ DEL ÁGUILA CASTILLO (Guatemala), endorsing the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said investing in childhood was crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Her country had been affected by El Niño and El Niña, and appreciated the United Nations’ support in responding to their devastating effects.  The situation of migrant children was of great concern and her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to support unaccompanied migrant children.  States must stop detaining minors.  Finally, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of children from bullying.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), addressing the vulnerability of children in armed conflict and the need for more efforts to protect their rights, said the Russian Federation’s occupation of Georgian territory had deprived Georgian children of their rights to education in their native language and freedom of movement.  Those violations were particularly concerning given the absence of international monitoring mechanisms inside those territories.  Committed to increasing opportunities for its children, Georgia had improved its education system, health and social services and ensuring children’s protection from violence.  Its Parliament had adopted a new amendment to the Civil Code requiring parental consent for marriage under age 16 and other measures to prevent human trafficking.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said her country had ratified all children’s rights instruments, demonstrating the country’s commitment to combating rights violations.  Various measures had strengthened Morocco’s legal framework, such as a law ensuring that the best interests of all children were considered.  A ministerial unit responsible for family, childhood, and disabled persons had set out a public policy to protect children against abuse over the Internet and from trafficking.  As new forms of crime required that reliable data systems be created for monitoring, and Morocco had partnerships with internet service providers to protect children against sexual exploitation, as well as an awareness-raising campaign for parents for their children’s safe use of the internet.

NICOLE ROMULUS (Haiti), associating herself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the States had major work to do to promote and protect children’s rights.  The number of children not in school had increased since 2011, while 250 million children lived in countries affected by armed conflict.  Governments were obliged to ensure that all children could live up to their potential.  She spoke about Haiti’s policies towards schools, noting that the President had urged all to work for a full, successful school year, and to join together to bring about a more unified Haitian society through quality education.  Haiti had ensured that children’s rights were a priority and had taken various measures to protect children’s rights. 

MANSOUR T J ALMUTAIRI (Saudi Arabia) said children’s rights were a priority for the Government, which recognized the right to life for children even during pregnancy.  The Government’s concern for children ran so deep that it required parents to choose proper names for them.  Saudi Arabia also ensured children’s protection from difficult or forced labour, while child abuse was punished in accordance with Sharia law.  Reiterating the Government’s commitment to the Convention and other international instruments, he said it would strengthen cooperation with international organizations.  Finally, he expressed concern about the plight of Syrian children and the need to end the war in that country.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) noted that, despite progress made, more than 47 per cent of the world’s children still lived in poverty and they were particularly vulnerable during times of conflict and natural disasters.  Political will, resource mobilization and investments were needed to protect and promote children’s rights.  For its part, India had adopted a rights-based approach through its National Policy for Children, which promoted children’s literacy, education and health care.  The Integrated Child Development Scheme, a universal programme, provided health care, food, immunization and pre-school education, he said, stressing that India would continue its efforts to protect children against violence and exploitation, in particular, the girl child.

RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) associated herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and with the African Group, stressing that the protection of children’s rights was a top priority.  Sudan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, among other international instruments.  Expressing support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, she said that the recruitment of children under the age of 18 was prohibited.  Special units in the ministry of the interior protected children, and a special investigator had been set up to investigate crimes against children in Darfur.  Further, Sudan had signed an action plan with the United Nations regarding children in conflict zones.  The root causes of children’s recruitment – including unilateral economic sanctions against countries – must be addressed.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said her country stood firmly on the path to becoming a State where children’s protection was a key value.  A programme to develop justice for children aimed to create a legal system which would protect children in conflict with the law, as well as children who were witnesses.  The Government was protecting children’s rights and reacting to each individual child’s needs, she said, adding that about 60 centres offered help for families in difficult living situations.  Policies for children included the protection of childhood and motherhood.  Extreme poverty had decreased in the country, as had infant mortality.

STEPHANIE GEBREMEDHIN (Eritrea) said the country’s culture and laws guaranteed children’s rights, noting that new penal and civil codes referenced corporal punishment and other forms of abuse.  The justice system did not allow children under 12 to be treated as criminals, while those between the ages of 12 and 18 were treated as juvenile offenders.  There were also efforts with civil society to raise awareness about violence against children and child trafficking.  The country’s efforts to provide more equitable health care had allowed it to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 on child mortality.  The number of births attended to by a skilled health worker had also increased, she said, adding that girls’ elementary school enrolment had reached 99 per cent, with pre-primary enrolment also increasing.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), associating with the African Group, described measures taken at the legislative, education, and social levels to improve children’s rights.  Education policies had led to an increase in girls’ school enrolment.  To address child abuse, the Government had set up a support hotline for victims.  Maternal and neonatal mortality had declined, thanks to the provision of free health care for children under age five and pregnant women.  The incidence of female genital mutilation also had steadily decreased.

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), stressing that countering violence against children was a priority, said the Government had enhanced its social policies and systems for the protection of children, families and communities.  It also had established a comprehensive care centre for children with disabilities and a new centre for early childhood care.  A national council for children and adolescents provided temporary protection for children under threat.  In addition, a national roadmap for the prevention of violence against children had been developed with guidance from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Dominican Republic was striving to improve parenting through awareness-raising and training for parents, teachers and community leaders.

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania) associated herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Government issued a new National Action Plan on addressing violence against women and children for the period 2016 – 2021. Additional measures were undertaken to protect children, including the translation and dissemination of the 2009 National Child Act and the establishment of a Child Helpline for reporting acts of violence and abuse. The Government also attached great importance to the child’s right to education and ending child marriage. Public schools were directed to ensure that all primary and secondary education is free for all children. Furthermore, a campaign against early marriages was launched in 2014. The “Kigali Declaration” provided the framework for action to end early and forced marriages.

MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia) said efforts to promote children’s rights had been underpinned by the national action plan to eliminate violence.  The President had convened the education commission, which financed education.  Indonesia was a “pathfinder country” in the newly-launched partnership to end violence against children.  The most basic unit of society was the family, which had the responsibility for nurturing children, he said, pressing Governments to enact family-friendly policies.  Indonesia had allocated a sizable share of its budget for children, providing them with free education and health care, which had led to lower illiteracy rates.  Stressing the imperative to end violence against children, he expressed Indonesia’s commitment to engage internationally to protect and promote their rights.

HELGA VALBORG STEINARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said her country was committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights at home and abroad and had recently codified a new framework agreement with UNICEF.  Iceland had incorporated the Convention into national law, she said, and urging States seek the treaty’s integration into policymaking.  Protecting the rights of girls would require eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices.  It was a stain on the global community that every day, almost 40,000 girls were subjected to early and forced marriage.  Girls must be provided with the sexual and reproductive health care they needed, including comprehensive sexual education.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said her country’s “Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth” focused particularly on providing education for girls.  For instance, Japan had assisted in building girls’ middle schools in the United Republic of Tanzania, where early marriage and pregnancy prevented them from completing their education.  Japan also had funded a programme through UNICEF that supported the release and reintegration of children from armed groups in African countries.  It had contributed $6 million for the reintegration of child soldiers and the protection and empowerment of children in armed conflict.  Locally, the Government provided administrative services to every family in need, in particular for families in difficult situations, such as single-parent households.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said between the seventieth and seventy-first sessions of the General Assembly, millions of children had become victims of armed violence and terrorism, noting that many had been “swallowed” by the Mediterranean Sea.  Lebanon had supported many initiatives last year, including resolutions in the Assembly and the Security Council which all aimed to create a world fit for children.  Lebanon paid attention to education, particularly as a means through which to combat extremism.  Education for all was at the heart of its policies, she said, noting that the country was hosting over one million refugees.

DAYANARA EDITH SALAZAR MEDINA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had faced waves of child migrants, underscoring that, through an interdisciplinary team, the Government was present in communities where shelters for migrants had been established.  The goal was to respect migrants’ rights, she said, adding that boys and girls should not be criminalized for being migrants.  All should have the same opportunities.  Investing in quality education and reducing neonatal mortality were crucial towards ensuring each boy and girl’s future.  She noted that the region continued to face challenges, adding that Panama sought to address the challenges of indigenous children and children with disabilities. 

YIN PO MYAT (Myanmar), noting that peace and reconciliation were prerequisites for the success of development policies, said the Government had strengthened its education programs to better protect children from exploitation and violence.  She welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” initiative, stressing that Myanmar had signed a Joint Action Plan with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on the use of children in the military in 2012. As a result, the recruitment process was centralized and children had been released from the military, if found.  She said 810 children had been released from the military since signature of the related Action Plan, noting that support had been provided to assist with their reintegration and education.  Also, 81 military officers and 321 officers of other ranks had been penalized by military and civil laws. Given such progress, it was time that Myanmar was delisted from the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.

HAMIDEH HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran), noting that the 2030 Agenda included numerous references to children, said millions of children still lived in poverty without adequate nutrition, sanitation, or vaccinations against disease.  He expressed dismay that children’s interests had been compromised under unjustified political pressure in the Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict.  “An arms embargo on Governments that engage in mass killing of children is the least that the United Nations can advocate for,” he said, stressing the importance of the family as the fundamental group of society.  In Iran, 460,000 children attended school free of charge, an enormous burden on the education system, and donors had failed to meet their commitments.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) encouraging support for the office on violence against children, expressed particular concern about cyberbullying and bullying in schools.  There was a collective responsibility to protect children in conflict and attacks on schools and hospitals could not be tolerated.  She urged parties to conflict to respect children’s rights and refrain from recruiting child soldiers, calling for adequate assistance for reintegrating those who had been recruited.  Timor-Leste was committed to ensuring access to education to all its children, with special attention given to those with disabilities.  To improve retention of girls in schools, legislation had been passed to support integration of teenage mothers in the educational system.  Health campaigns had resulted in a sharp decline in child mortality, while immunization campaigns had been greatly expanded, she added.

PARK JEE WON (Republic of Korea) underlined the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated approach in promoting children’s rights, welcoming the Organization’s efforts to expand partnerships with civil societies.  Education should be further expanded to include the most vulnerable and marginalized, she said, noting the some 58 million children lacked access to education.  Education was a building block of a sustainable, inclusive society based on human rights, equality, rule of law and respect for diversity.  Girls were more susceptible to violence and discrimination.  Last year, the Republic of Korea had launched a “Better Life for Girls” initiative to support girls’ health, education and vocational development in developing countries, to which it would provide $200 million over five years.

MS. AL JAWDAR (Bahrain) said Government programmes had improved children’s lives in recent years.  The country had adhered to its commitments under international conventions and had ratified the Convention in 1992.  In June, Bahrain’s representative had been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its human development indicators were high, thanks to its focus on children and youth.  Further, health care reforms had led to lower child and maternal mortality, she said, citing the provision of health care for newborns, vaccines for children under five and social and psychological service for children.

FAHAD M E H A MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) shared the concerns about threats children faced on the internet, including exposure to violent ideologies and sexual abuse.  Recalling that more than one billion children had been exposed to some form of violence over the past year, he urged all countries to implement the provision concerning violence against children under the 2030 Agenda.  Kuwait’s constitution recognized the family as the basis of society.  Based on that principle and its international commitments, Kuwait had enacted national laws to protect the family and the child, including a family court and several articles dealing with the family and children.  The State recognized the child’s right to live in a family environment.  It was impossible to address the issue of children without referring to the suffering of Palestinian children who lived under Israeli occupation.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN, said the Government recognized its duty to provide a safe and enabling environment for children.  A child’s right to education was of paramount importance and 20.9 per cent of the country’s 2017 national budget would go to education.  Further, the Government had passed an Anti-Bullying Act, as well as adopted a comprehensive approach to protecting children from sale, prostitution and child pornography and developed mechanisms to respond to child abuse.  Ending conflict was essential to creating the proper environment for children, she said, stressing the Government’s commitment to dialogue, and ultimately, forging peace with various armed groups.

EMMANUEL NIBISHAKA (Rwanda), while noting the progress in the reports, observed that child neglect, trafficking, abuse, exploitation, genital mutilation and child marriage persisted.  Rwanda believed in the primary role of Governments, supported by partners, including the United Nations, in promoting and providing protection to children.  The 1994 genocide in Rwanda had left many negative repercussions, along with post-conflict issues, that had affected Rwanda’s children, who represented a high percentage of the population.  The Government had made primary and secondary education free and compulsory, prohibited corporal punishment and opened rehabilitation centres for street children.  Further, Rwandan law condemned child prostitution, slavery and abduction, he said, urging the international community to continue establishing frameworks to protect children in armed conflicts.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her country had achieved all objectives on education of the Millennium Development Goals before the deadline.  Moreover, the education budget had increased tenfold over 15 years and provided free education to more than eight million students in nearly 23,000 schools, including refugee children in the Tindouf camps.  Significant results had been achieved in the quality of education and the fundamental rights of children.  The new law on child protection focused on protecting at-risk children; rules relating to child offenders; and specialized child protection centres, among other things.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and CARICOM, said his country had taken a comprehensive approach to realizing children’s rights.  For instance, the Government had guaranteed tuition-free education as a way to improve access.  It also had signed on to the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and been designated a “pathfinder country”.  Moreover, the Ministry of Education had created and provided a safety and security manual to schools as a way to address bullying.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that, in recognition that children were his country’s most important assets, Tonga had acceded to the Convention on their rights and was amending its laws appropriately, ensuring protection against violence, as well as access to education, free health care and other necessities.  National consultations were underway under Tonga’s strategic development framework, and awareness events were being held in conjunction with UNICEF, focusing on children’s growth, the implications of digital media on children and other areas of social protection.  There was no social welfare scheme for children as yet.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and with SADC, noted that the population of her country was young.  The Government was pursuing numerous policies to ensure respect for children’s rights, and the goals had been laid out in a regional and communal framework plan.  Public establishments and teaching personnel had received training on protecting children in school environments, she said, stressing that combating sexual tourism was extremely important.  Climate change impacted Malagasy children, and the effects of El Niño and drought had been severe.

GENE BAI (Fiji) said his country was strongly committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Constitution protected a child’s right to nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, and provided protection against abuse, neglect, violence, inhumane treatment, punishment and exploitative labour.  It also prohibited all forms of corporal punishment.  Access to quality education was paramount, and in 2015, for the first time, primary and secondary school education had become free.  Fiji was also committed to supporting gender equality and sought to limit the marginalization and exclusion of children with disabilities.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said that the Government had established a set of measures for promoting the rights and well-being of all children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.  Ending violence against children was a top priority.  The current humanitarian crisis was of an unprecedented scale, requiring immediate action.  Calling it a “children’s crisis”, he advocated a child-based approach to address it.  “We should remember that a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant,” he said.  As a transit and host country for thousands of migrants and refugees, Bulgaria was doing its utmost, in cooperation with the European Union, UNICEF and other partners, to protect the human rights of those fleeing war, in particular migrant and refugee children.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) reaffirmed his commitment to advance children’s rights, including in the areas of education and child labour.  Further, a new Child Marriage Restraint Act had been drafted which contained pragmatic guidelines to prevent child marriage.  A national, toll-free helpline had been set up to support efforts to report and prevent child marriage, and to report sexual harassment.  Bangladesh also had adopted a five-year action plan to reduce child labour.

IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea) associated himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77 and China, adding that it would be a success for the United Nations to see the Convention reach universal ratification.  Guinea was among the countries that had unreservedly ratified the Convention almost 30 years ago, as well as its relevant optional protocols.  But results for children around the world remained discouraging, and many remained marginalized, such as disabled children.  Awareness that children were the future was manifested in legal codes, he said, noting that Guinea’s free education system and its improved vaccine programme were other actions that underscored the Government’s commitment to realizing children’s rights.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo) said various challenges hindered children’s full enjoyment of their rights.  Congo had a new Constitution which had strengthened a strategic framework for children, and the country also had set up a children’s parliament with offices in Congo’s 12 administrative departments.  The Government had invested resources to respond to children’s needs, providing hundreds of technical aids to disabled children.  It also had cooperated with the World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure that all children received quality nutrition.  No effort would be spared to ensure the full implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He expressed concern about ongoing armed conflicts, particularly in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, drawing attention to their severe effects on children.  Urging Governments and parties to armed conflict to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he welcomed new initiatives, including the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and related action plans.

The Committee Chair said she and the Bureau had held consultations since 4 October on the pending organizational issue.  She proposed that the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, be invited to present an oral update to the Third Committee.  Ms. Keetharuth would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.  If needed, additional time would be allocated for her to make her presentation.

The Committee then approved that decision without a vote.

The representative of Eritrea said the proposal had been accepted in the interests of moving forward.  Eritrea maintained its readiness to engage with any delegation, and the matter had been resolved within the African Group.  But Eritrea’s goodwill had been faced with a “flip-flop” position of the other side. Discussion over the past two weeks had shown the politicization of the human rights situation.  Countries with contempt for international law had presented themselves as champions of Third Committee Rules of Procedures; countries which had massacred people and were using light ammunition against peaceful protesters had spoken on the matter.  Eritrea’s position was that human rights could only be promoted through dialogue.

IGOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, reiterated Ukraine’s commitment to children’s rights, as evidenced by its adherence to numerous international conventions and protocols.  Priorities covered health, recreation, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, drug abuse, child abandonment, support to families and protection for orphans.  Despite its efforts, the country faced great challenges as a result of Russian aggression.  Since the start of the conflict, 68 children had been killed and 186 had been wounded in eastern Ukraine.  The number of internally displaced people had reached 1.8 million, including more the 200,000 children.  The situation of children in the Donbas region had not received enough attention in the Secretary-General’s reports, he said, urging that that omission be rectified.  Greater international assistance was also needed to overcome the negative effects of the Chernobyl disaster, which had affected children most of all.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Palestinian children had been deprived all their rights, as killing and maiming continued with impunity.  Those actions had evolved into a deliberate Israeli strategy and she asked when the international community would react to those human rights violations.  The Israeli blockade had stifled any life or development in the occupied territory, with devastating impacts on children.

RUBEN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), associating himself with CELAC, shared achievements in his country, pointing out that the normative framework had advanced, and the comprehensive protection of children had improved.  Councils had been established to protect children at the local level.  Children’s health care had improved, and efforts had been made to ensure health care access for all children.  The growing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants must be addressed from a human-rights perspective, bearing in mind the best interests of children and their families.  Family reunification must remain a priority.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) quoted extensively from the 2030 Agenda’s paragraphs concerning children, before quoting from the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s articles concerning the child’s social, spiritual and moral well-being.  Those provisions, he said, highlighted two issues of great importance.  The first was the right of children to be reared by their parents.  Children in focus group discussions in Palau had said they would like their parents to spend more time with them, rather than try to appease them with gifts and food.  The second, he said, was that children should be provided an environment that addressed mental health and well-being and was free from bullying, shaming and demeaning treatment, at home and in school.

NEOW CHOO SEONG (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had made significant progress since acceding to the Convention in 1995, including by creating the Child Act of 2001.  That Act formed part of the protective legal architecture for children in Malaysia.  Efforts must be made to put in place accountability mechanisms, in order to break the cycle of impunity for violations of children’s rights.  Malaysia, as Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. 

ADDO MAMAN TCHALARE (Togo) shared his country’s experience in advancing the protection of children, noting that a decree had been drafted for the national Commission of the Child to prepare guidelines for those working in the area of children’s protection.  Health care, education and training initiatives all had improved children’s situations.  At the regional level, a program had been launched to protect child migrants and trafficking victims, while education for children with disabilities had improved.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said child protection efforts must be stepped up. While progress had been made in the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including with the release of children from armed forces, the issue of children and armed conflict must receive adequate attention in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group and with SADC, said Government efforts to address children’s needs at the legislative, institutional and community levels aimed to ensure that all Mozambicans could help resolve the issues hampering children’s ability to realize their potential.  Mozambique’s national action programme on children, among other results, had increased access to water and sanitation.  Challenges remained, however, notably caused by climate change and communicable diseases.  Creating a world fit for children demanded that States redouble their commitments and implement existing international instruments.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said that through the national strategic programme on child protection, and cooperation with development partners such as UNICEF, her country had reached vulnerable children and made reforms.  As a nation which suffered from aggression by Azerbaijan, Armenia condemned attacks on civilians including children.  From the beginning of Azerbaijani aggression, she said, attacks on children and the elderly had been indiscriminate.  Such barbaric acts constituted violations of core international instruments including the Convention against Torture and Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

MÉLANIE CORINE NINA GOLIATHA (Central African Republic) reiterated her commitment to the relevant Conventions, expressing her strong disapproval that an increasing number of children had been victims of armed violence, natural disasters and human rights violations.  She noted with concern the increasing number of killed and maimed children, as well as children displaced by conflicts and attacks by armed groups.  A concerted effort must be made to reunite children with their families, she said, emphasizing that a comprehensive response required governance and security sector reforms.

CHU GUANG (China) said his country had the world’s largest population of children – 280 million – and the Government worked to implement the Convention and its relevant Protocols.  Great progress had been made in pre-school education, with some provinces having established a 15-year free education system by including pre-school and high school in public funding.  Countries must implement the 2030 Agenda, which required developed countries to honour their commitments by increasing financial and technological assistance to developing countries in order to protect children’s rights and interests.  Developing countries, meanwhile, must share their experiences with one another.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the African Group and SADC, said the promotion of children’s rights could not be viewed in isolation from broader development goals.  Children thrived when raised in a strong and secure family environment, and his country continued to implement interventions designed to assist families in coping with harsh economic conditions.  All international conventions to which Zimbabwe was party had been incorporated into domestic law under the new Constitution.  Zimbabwe had several laws to protect children, and had established a victim-friendly system to support survivors of sexual violence and abuse.  The Government was committed to ending child marriages and had set the legal marriage age at 18 years.

NDEYE OUMY GUEYE (Senegal), associating herself with the African Group, supported the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  The campaign had led to the release of children from armed groups in Senegal. The Government had redoubled efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, she said, noting that children’s rights had been taken into account in the development of health care and education policies.  Senegal also had seen increases in school enrolment and drafted a national declaration to advance children’s rights.

Mr. VON HAFT (Angola) recalled that at the General Assembly Special Session on children in 2002, Member States had committed to time-bound goals for children and young people.  Those goals had been followed by the 2030 Agenda and it was essential to maintain focus on children when budgeting for sustainable development.  He listed several international instruments to which Angola was party, noting that his country had also adopted child protection legislation consistent with international standards.  Successful programmes included one that had established free birth registration, and an SOS call centre for children facing violence.  He urged States to review ways in which the new Agenda could reduce inequality among children.

MIRIAMA HERENUI BETHAM-MALIELEGAOI (Samoa) said children’s rights were the utmost priority for her country, as reflected in national policies.  Underscoring the importance of children’s nutrition and education, as well as safety from violence, exploitation, and abuse, she said Samoa had ratified the Convention’s three Optional Protocols and called on other States to do likewise.  The family and community were at the forefront of child rearing practices.  Children were a priority focus of Samoa’s health sector plan 2008-2018, and children under five years of age received free primary health care, including immunizations.  The 2009 Education Act stipulated compulsory education, and the Government had taken initial steps towards implementing free education.  Further, Samoa had passed legislation outlawing corporal punishment, and proposed amendments to prohibit the sale of children and restrict the use of children to sell goods on the street.

ANN DEER, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said daily events in the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Americas, the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere had shown the ongoing suffering of migrants and their families, and too often their needs had gone unmet by the international community.  Migrant children were particularly vulnerable, and for those whose age was uncertain, the individual must be presumed to be, and treated as, a child.  She reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation, underscoring that States’ assessment of the protection and assistance to be offered should be based on vulnerabilities and needs, rather than the location of family members.  ICRC engaged in confidential dialogue with States to ensure they fulfilled their obligations to protect migrant children, and reminded States that detention of any children should be avoided.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, affirmed the Order’s commitment to mothers and babies, as evidenced by its maternity centres in the West Bank, Madagascar, Togo, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, and its efforts to fight malnutrition around the globe.  With the number of displaced persons on the rise, the Order had greatly bolstered its humanitarian aid and medical assistance.  In joint operations with the Italian Coast Guard, its doctors had delivered three babies at sea last week.  It had provided care to 170,000 Syrian refugees in the Middle East and 44,000 in Europe, among its medical services to refugees worldwide.  He pledged the Order’s continued commitment to work with the United Nations and Member States to ensure that children everywhere were cared for, educated, nurtured and protected.

FLORENCIA GIORDANO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, expressed concern about the mass migration of children, stressing that it had led to increased numbers of unaccompanied children who were at much higher risk of violence and child marriage.  Describing gaps in the implementation of child protection programmes, she cited a lack of age- and gender-disaggregated data for children and said a more comprehensive analysis of needs and vulnerabilities was necessary.  Further, support for the family, family tracing and alternative care arrangements must be stepped up, with children’s best interests always the primary consideration in actions affecting them.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, Special Representative and Director of the International Labour Office (ILO) for the United Nations, said that his Office was committed to the protection of children through the eradication of child labour.  ILO provided expertise and contributed to the growing knowledge base that helped inform policy formulation.  Several ILO conventions provided essential protections for children worldwide, including conventions on minimum age of entry into employment and prohibition of forced labour.  Additionally, ILO’s new recommendation on the transition from the informal to the formal economy tackled an area where not only child labour but also most violations of labour, human and child rights occurred.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that instead of advancing the Committee’s agenda, the Palestinian representative had made baseless accusations against Israel, sending a message of hate and incitement.  Those accusations would not bring the international community closer to resolving the core challenges facing the region.

The representative of Russian Federation, responding to statements by the delegations of Georgia and Ukraine, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he recalled that the annexation of Ukraine to the Russian Federation had been in accordance with international law.  Those events were of a historical nature and adhered to the will of the people of Crimea.  The Russian Federation had done quite a bit to improve the lives of those living in Crimea.  The politicized statement by the Ukrainian representative was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

The representative of Azerbaijan rejected the false allegations of his Armenian counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s statement had focused on children, while that of Armenia had focused on Azerbaijan.  The Armenian delegation could have chosen another agenda item to speak about killing of elderly people.  The reality was that Azerbaijani territories were under occupation, and both Assembly and Council resolutions had been ignored by Armenia.  That Government had resettled Armenians from Syria in the occupied territories.  He asked Armenia about recent military exercises, and what Armenian officers were doing in a certain region.  If Armenia was interested in peace, withdrawing forces from occupied areas of Azerbaijan would suffice.  Armenia should end its provocations, as the conflict could only be solved through the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The representative of Armenia, exercising her right of reply, rejected the accusations made by her Azerbaijani counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s goal was the extermination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s aggression had shown the unsustainability of a military solution.  A peaceful solution must be found, she said, in line with existing agreements.

The observer of the State of Palestine noted the “distorted” reality presented by Israel’s representative, stressing that ignoring war crimes committed by Israel constituted a complete denial of human rights and self-determination.  There was a long list of human rights violations committed by Israel.  The views expressed by that Government were dehumanizing and had shown the true nature of the occupying power.  She condemned human rights violations against all children, stressing that all attacks must stop.

The representative of the Ukraine provided an overview of the history and situation of Crimea, drawing attention to early plans by the Russian President to attack Crimea, which had been documented.  The Russian representative had made contradictory statements regarding the status of Crimea.

The representative of Georgia said children in the occupied territories of Georgia were deprived of their right to receive their education in their native Georgian language, and that there was discrimination and harassment of the Georgian population living in the occupied territories.  The absence of international monitoring meant the Russian Federation had no credibility whatsoever.  The conflict had two parties, Georgia defending itself and Russian Federation’s aggression.

The representative of Azerbaijan said barbarism had been committed by Armenian forces in occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and high-ranking officials of Armenia had admitted their responsibility for that carnage.  The President of Armenia had said he had no regrets for Azerbaijani civilian casualties. 

The representative of Armenia said that as far as the right to self-determination was concerned, Azerbaijan had recognized that self-determination should be part of the solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  Armenia was not surprised Azerbaijan put forward false allegations on cease-fires related to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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Daily News 04 / 08 / 2016

The EU imposes definitive anti-dumping duties on steel product from China and Russia

The EU today imposed definitive anti-dumping measures a steel product from China and Russia. These duties will be in place for five years and for the first time they will also be levied retroactively on imports registered during the two months that preceded the adoption of provisional measures on 12 February 2016. The product at stake is “cold rolled steel”, an industrial input for the packaging, white goods, general industry, automotive industry and the construction industry. The investigation was initiated on 14 May 2015 following a complaint submitted by the industry. The duties range from 19.7% to 22.1% for Chinese and from 18.7% to 36.1% for Russian companies.In the wake of the global steel overcapacity crisis, the Commission is applying the trade defence instruments to re-establish a level-playing field between EU and foreign producers. The EU currently has over 100 trade defence measures in place, 37 of them targeting unfair imports of steel products, 15 of which from China. 12 more investigations concerning steel products are still ongoing. The full details of the decision can be found here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)

 

EU steps up aid for Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon as humanitarian crisis worsens

Today the European Commission has announced an additional €12.5 million in humanitarian aid to support people in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon as they face a deteriorating humanitarian crisis. €9 million will be provided to support people in Nigeria, €2 million in Cameroon and €1.5 million in Niger. The new funding comes as violence by the terrorist group Boko Haram from northern Nigeria has severely destabilised the Lake Chad region, causing the displacement of millions of people.”When travelling to the region last month, I witnessed the plight of people in the Lake Chad Basin. Millions have been displaced and the number of those struggling to find food is increasingly alarming. The situation in Nigeria is especially dramatic. As always, children are hit the hardest and we must urgently intervene to stop their suffering. This additional EU funding will focus on emergency assistance, primarily in the areas of food and nutrition, water and sanitation, and health. All efforts should be made to ensure that humanitarian organisations can safely reach those who need urgent help.”said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. The EU aid announced today comes on top of the €58 million previously allocated to the Lake Chad Basin crisis, bringing overall EU humanitarian aid to over €70 million for the region in 2016. Read the full press release here (For more information: Nabila Massrali – Tel.: +32 229 69218; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

Commission publishes the first results of the “ePrivacy” public consultation

Today the European Commission has published the preliminary findings of the public consultation on the review of the ePrivacy Directive. This legislation applies to electronic communications services and needs to be adapted to the new General data protection regulation which will enable people to better control their personal data. A large number of responses came from citizens (38,5%) and more than a quarter of responses came from Germany, followed by the UK and Belgium. According to the preliminary findings, 83% of the individuals and civil society organisations who took part in the consultation agreed that there was a clear added value in having specific privacy rules for the electronic communications sector to ensure the confidentiality of electronic communications. In addition, 76% of individuals and civil society respondents believe that the scope of the rules should be broadened to cover the so-called over-the-top service providers (OTT) when they offer communications services such as VoIP or instant messaging. However, 76% of these groups also said that the ePrivacy Directive has not or has but to a limited extent achieved its objectives of ensuring full protection of privacy and confidentiality of communication. This was attributed to its scope being too limited, its rules leading to differences between Member States and too low compliance and enforcement. Industry and public authorities were more positive that the ePrivacy Directive has achieved its objectives; however 42% of industry respondents are against the scope of the rules being broadened to cover theOTT when they offer communications services such as VoIP or instant messaging. The review of the ePrivacy Directive is one of the key initiatives proposed under the EU Digital Single Market strategy. The Commission has committed to reviewing the EU’s privacy rules for electronic communications in order to reinforce trust and security in digital services, to ensure a high level of protection for people and a level playing field for all market players. The proposals are expected later this year, meanwhile the Commission will analyse the replies of the public consultation and publish its conclusions in the autumn. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)

Mergers: Commission clears Vodafone/Liberty Global telecoms joint venture, subject to conditions; rejects referral request by Dutch competition authority

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed creation of a joint venture in the Netherlands by mobile telecom operator Vodafone and cable company Liberty Global. The decision is conditional on Vodafone divesting its consumer fixed line business in the Netherlands. Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “The telecoms market is of strategic importance for our digital society. I am pleased that we have been able to approve the creation of the joint venture between Vodafone and Liberty Global in the Netherlands. The commitments offered by Vodafone ensure that Dutch consumers will continue to enjoy competitive prices and good choice.” The Commission had concerns that the proposed transaction would have eliminated the benefits brought to the Dutch telecoms market by Vodafone’s recent entry. The divestment offered by Vodafone fully addresses these concerns, allowing the Commission to clear this telecoms merger in Phase I. In parallel, the Commission has also rejected a request to refer the assessment of the transaction to the Dutch competition authority. A full press release is available in EN, FR, DE and NL. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Giulia Komel – Tel.: +32 229 61175)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Voith Industrial Services by Triton

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Voith Industrial Servicesof Germany by Triton Fund IV of the United Kingdom.  Voith provides a wide range of technical services in the automotive, engineering and energy-petrochemicals sectors. Triton is a private equity investment firm, dedicated to investing in European-based businesses in a variety of sectors. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because of its very limited impact on the market structure. In particular, there are limited overlaps between the activities of Voith and the companies in the portfolio of Triton. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8081. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Giulia Komel – Tel.: +32 229 61175)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

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Fresh Thinking, Better Coordination, Concrete Action Critical to Delivering on 2030 Agenda, Speakers Say, as Development Cooperation Forum Begins

Road Ahead ‘Undoubtedly Complex’, Keynote Speaker Cautions, as Deputy Secretary-General Applauds Strong Foundation Built on 2015 Accords

Effective development cooperation — marked by fresh thinking, better coordination and concrete action — would be critical to making good on the unprecedented opportunities presented by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, speakers said today, as the Development Cooperation Forum opened its fifth biennial high-level meeting.

In the course of several interactive discussions held under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, the Forum heard from a range of Government ministers, heads of United Nations agencies and civil society leaders.  Among other subjects, they considered the role of various types of development financing and the interlinkages between the 2030 Agenda and other international agreements signed in 2015.

“The road ahead is undoubtedly complex,” said Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as she delivered a keynote address.  She emphasized nevertheless that development cooperation providers must recognize the unprecedented chance they now had to shape a more equitable world.  Noting that not all current ways of working would prove effective in implementing the 2030 Agenda, and that many mechanisms would need to be reformed or refreshed, she stressed that human rights and gender equality must underpin implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and the recently signed Paris Agreement on climate change.  Indeed, climate change solutions offered opportunities to help eradicate poverty, she added.

Also addressing the Forum, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson commended Member States for having built a strong foundation for future development cooperation through the host of international agreements signed in 2015.  In particular, the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement — as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Development Financing — demanded new thinking and concrete actions that would permeate all levels of society.

Spotlighting the Forum’s critical role in reshaping global development cooperation, Oh Joon (Republic of Korea), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the body provided opportunities for partners to engage against the backdrop of an increasingly complex and volatile global landscape.  Among other things, the Forum would bring a distinct development cooperation perspective to such issues as South-South cooperation, blended finance and technology transfer, he said.

Wang Bingnan, China’s Assistant Minister for Commerce, agreed that the recent international agreements would chart the course for the future of development cooperation.  While some strides had been made, however, development remained a strenuous task for many countries still plagued by poverty, he said, noting that the 2030 Agenda provided a fresh opportunity to find a new path.

Thomas Silberhorn, Parliamentary State Secretary to Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said the 2030 Agenda marked a new culture of shared responsibility and partnership.  Concerning financing, he pointed out that official spending on development was just one contribution among many, adding that private finance must be encouraged.  Mobilizing domestic resources would be critical, he said, also emphasizing the necessity of fair consumption and production.  Tax evasion and money-laundering must be addressed, and environmental, labour and social standards implemented along the global supply chain.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, presented the Secretary-General’s report on trends and progress in international development cooperation (document E/2016/65).  He said one overarching theme emerging from it was the importance and potential of development cooperation as a lever for the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  He listed a number of recommendations relating to the fulfilment of development cooperation commitments, including the building of partnerships and the importance of robust national monitoring and review mechanisms.

Throughout the day, the Forum held three interactive sessions, the first on “Supporting national efforts to achieve the full ambition of the 2030 Agenda, leaving no one behind”.  The theme for the second was “Aligning development cooperation to contribute to the different aspects of the 2030 Agenda”, and the third was titled “Southern partners advancing mutual learning and envisioning the contribution of South-South Cooperation for sustainable development”.  The Forum also held a panel discussion on “Infrastructure for sustainable development for all”.

The High-Level Political Forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday, 22 July, to conclude its high-level segment.

Panel I

Laura Chinchilla Miranda, former President of Costa Rica and a member of the Club de Madrid, was the keynote speaker in the day’s first panel discussion, on “Infrastructure for sustainable development for all”.  Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution, moderated the discussion, which featured the following panellists:  Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister for Environment and Energy, Maldives; John B. Ssekamatte-Ssebuliba, Head, Population and Social Sector Planning, National Planning Authority, Uganda; Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Special Envoy on Gender, African Development Bank and former Minister for Welfare and Population Development, South Africa; Laurence Carter, World Bank Lead for Infrastructure Forum, Senior Director, Public Private Partnerships; and Amar Bhattacharya, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development Program, Brookings Institution.  The lead discussant was Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Ms. CHINCHILLA said human beings were and would always be vulnerable, depending on other humans and other species, as well as the environment.  While lives and societies had become extremely complex amid persisting human vulnerability, advances in communications, transportation and other areas meant that people now lived better and longer than those of past generations.  However, infrastructure development should not be considered to be an end, in and of itself, she cautioned.  Scientific knowledge and progress gave hope that environmental protection could be more efficient, and science provided the only means to resolve current social and economic challenges.  Due to short-sightedness, not every infrastructure project respected or protected the environment.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a step in the right direction, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 9, on infrastructure and innovation, she said.

Emphasizing that leaders must work intensively to make States less corrupt, less bureaucratic and more efficient, she said today’s States had less capacity and fewer resources with which to build sustainable and modern infrastructure on their own.  The participation of citizens in the formulation of political solutions made such processes more participatory and strengthened elements of governance.  Societies were not owned by any one sector; rather they belonged to everyone, she pointed out.  Involving people in decision-making would result in better choices and outcomes, as well as support for the implementation of projects.  Costa Rica’s entire population was involved in setting the national carbon neutrality target, which encouraged their active engagement in meeting that goal.

She went on to warn that Sustainable Development Goal 9 could be put at risk by poor planning, although it could also be bolstered by activities taken under the other Goals, such as the one focused on building resilient societies.  Financial investment in small-scale farmers, particularly women, could help to achieve significant improvements in communities and environments, as could investment in public transportation.  Nevertheless, infrastructure projects continued to be delayed or pursued in an unsustainable manner, she said.

Mr. KHARAS said the funding of infrastructure remained a challenge, particularly the way in which risk was allocated across different elements of finance, which was more of a concern than the total amount of dollars.  The development of infrastructure from origination to actual delivery often took longer than a decade, which meant that infrastructure projects undertaken in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals must be started immediately, he stressed.

Mr. IBRAHIM said the need for quality, resilient infrastructure had been made clear through Goal 9.  The infrastructure gap between developed and developing countries was obvious, particularly when taking into account the needs of small island developing States, as elaborated in the Samoa Pathway.  Investment in new sustainable and resilient infrastructure must be a priority moving forward.  Connectivity and transportation challenges made infrastructure development particularly critical in small island developing States because it hinged on creating an enabling environment on both the national and international levels.  Private finance remained difficult to procure, as small island developing States were often identified as high-risk investment environments.

Mr. SSEKAMATTE-SSEBULIBA said Uganda’s first national development plan had ended in 2015, and the second would begin in 2016 under the theme “Strengthening Uganda’s competitiveness”.  The overarching national development paradigm entailed prioritizing the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, which required a special focus on infrastructure, since the entire country must be accessible in order to ensure that opportunities were maximized, he said.  Also of key importance to Uganda was human capital development and investment in transport, energy and information and communications technology.  Economic investment in Uganda required a balancing act that paid due consideration to environmental and social factors.

Ms. FRASER-MOLEKETI emphasized that infrastructure was critical to sustainable development, adding that the African Development Bank was focused on three main areas across Africa — energy, agriculture and industrialization.  Infrastructure was central to the delivery of each of those strategic goals.  However, there must be an awareness of the reality that infrastructure development did not uniformly meet the needs of all people, nor did it benefit all people in a consistent fashion.  Project development must be understood by the market as a distinct investment process, particularly given the lack of public resources, she said.  Development funding was considered one of the riskiest investments, which made limited finance a major restraint.

Mr. CARTER said there was still quite a lot of work to do to encourage greater private-sector involvement in infrastructure development.  Recalling the Global Infrastructure Forum’s first session, he said participants had expressed a clear commitment to making infrastructure development goals and targets operational.  Many of them had emphasized the importance of improving data, promoting capacity development, strengthening project preparation, expanding the availability of financing, and the need for greater involvement by regional and domestic financing institutions.

Mr. BHATTACHARYA said there was a vital focus on how to re-ignite global growth, how to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and how to take strong climate action.  Sustainable infrastructure would be at the heart of all three of those objectives, he said, adding that structural reform would be important, but took a great deal of time.  The next 20 years would be of crucial importance since the investments being made were both large and long-lasting.  It was clear that infrastructure would be developed, but the way in which it was constructed mattered a great deal and would make a huge difference in terms of efficiency and enduring impacts.

Mr. GASS said the need for infrastructure development had been clearly articulated by the panellists, particularly the need to ensure access to both services and to the rest of the world.  Mobilizing the multilateral world would be a turning point in that regard.  Questioning whether sustainable development had redefined the word “sustainability”, he recalled that the term had been used for quite some time, but whether there had been a shift in the understanding of what it meant now was questionable.  He asked the panellists to provide specific examples of high-quality infrastructure projects.

Mr. CARTER, responding in the ensuing discussion, said there was more work to be done in standardizing the processes for stakeholder assessments.  Public-private partnerships were only one tool and expectations for such partnerships should be moderated, he cautioned.

Mr. IBRAHIM said sustainable infrastructure was of critical importance for small island developing States, and funding for such projects was needed immediately due to the effects of climate change.  However, it was difficult to attract financing sources because the projects were generally quite small and not viewed as being profitable.

Mr. BHATTACHARYA agreed that although public-private partnerships were very important, they were not a panacea.  He noted that in emerging markets, the risks were very high during the construction phase, a fact that attached high importance to the management of risk throughout the project cycle.

The representative of Croatia said housing would be of great importance in the future given the expected population increases.  Billions of people were expected to move to urban areas in the coming decades, which could present an acute problem given the length of time it often took to complete infrastructure projects in the developing world.

The representative of Ghana said women and girls felt the lack of infrastructure particularly acutely.  Given Africa’s particular infrastructure needs, how could its countries position themselves so that their development aspirations could be realized?

Ms. FRASER-MOLEKETI agreed that inclusive infrastructure was, in fact, a gender issue that deserved due consideration.

The representative of China emphasized the need for countries to pursue their own independent development projects and to create their own strategies for infrastructure development based on their own particular circumstances.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Cameroon.

Development Cooperation Forum

The Council then opened the fifth biennial High-Level Meeting of its Development Cooperation Forum.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea), President of the Council, said in opening remarks that the Forum’s work was focused on the growing role of development cooperation, including its tremendous potential in implementing the 2030 Agenda.  In its current two-year cycle, the body had provided valuable input to that Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Financing for Development in their early implementation phases, and it would continue to play an instrumental role in their follow—up and review.  In an increasingly volatile and complex development cooperation landscape, the Forum provided a unique opportunity to engage and share best practices and lessons learned.  Noting that many Member States had participated in the Forum’s three preparatory sessions, he underscored the need to align development cooperation and its institutions with the 2030 Agenda.  Among other things, the Forum would take a distinct development cooperation perspective to such issues as South-South cooperation, blended finance and technology transfer.

JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, stressed that the world was witnessing turbulent and uncertain times, with deep inequalities among and within countries and conflicts and terrorism threatening the entire international community.  Global economic growth was sluggish and global temperatures were rising.  Commending Member States for building a strong foundation for future development cooperation in 2015, he said there was now an obligation to live up to those high ambitions.  International development cooperation was based on the recognition that global challenges could not be survived or overcome in isolation.  “Collective support for the poorest and most vulnerable is in the interest of all of us,” he said, stressing that the recent historic agreements — including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Agenda, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Change Agreement — demanded new thinking and concrete action that permeated all levels of society.

In addition, that “action plan for people, planet, peace, prosperity and partnership” required better coordination and collaboration between countries and region, which he noted was a unique and critical contribution of the Forum.  Sources of development finance were more diverse than ever before, he said, spotlighting in particular the role of the private sector.  Official development assistance (ODA) also needed to be scaled up and targeted more effectively and should support those whose needs were greatest and who were least capable of mobilizing resources.

Development cooperation should promote coherence among different development agendas and activities, he went on.  For example, donor countries had spent record amounts in recent years on humanitarian aid supporting refugees, as the number of people displaced by conflict had risen to the highest level since the Second World War.  While there was a vital and unquestioned need for such aid, it should not come at the expense of long-term investment for sustainable development, which had an important role in building stable societies and preventing future conflict.

WANG BINGNAN, Assistant Minister for Commerce of China, said the recent international agreements highlighted today had charted the course for the future of development cooperation.  While strides had been made, development remained a strenuous task for many countries still plagued by poverty.  Noting that the 2030 Agenda was a forward-looking blueprint in that regard, he stressed that the worth of any plan was in its implementation.  All countries should work together, as the Agenda provided a fresh opportunity to find a new path.  Increased resources were the guarantee of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, emphasizing that developed countries should deliver on their ODA commitments on schedule.  “At the end of the day, one has to rely on oneself” to achieve development outcomes, he said, noting that all States must be respected in their own path to sustainable development.

As the world’s largest developing country, China still faced the daunting challenge of lifting some 55 million people out of poverty, he said.  The country was working to implement the 2030 Agenda in an integrated manner by aligning its national programmes and putting in place a domestic coordination mechanism.  China would also host the “Group of 20” (G20) Summit in September 2016, where it would focus discussions on the delivery of the 2030 Agenda.  For its part, China had provided development assistance across the world for more than 60 years, and it was constantly adopting new methods – such as South-South cooperation – in that regard.  Noting stark imbalances between the global South and North, he expressed concern that 800 million people around the world still went hungry.  China would continue to put justice before interests and live up to its development commitments to help countries around the world achieve the 2030 Agenda, he said.

THOMAS SILBERHORN, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, stressed that “development is about peace”, and that countries must shoulder their responsibilities to make development sustainable.  The 2030 Agenda marked a new culture of shared responsibility and partnership.  Calling for improved quality in global development cooperation, he said the Forum had demonstrated how willing the international community was to follow that path together.  Germany was contributing in a number of ways, including through its own national sustainable development strategy — which was currently being reviewed and brought in line with the 2030 Agenda — as well as in its support to development partners.  In addition, it was working to bring about sustainable development at the international level through policies for climate protection and by pushing for development-friendly rules.

Official spending on development was just one contribution among many, he said, stressing that “ODA will never be enough”.  Private finance must be encouraged and new financial instruments for channelling private finance for public good would be needed.  Noting that funding generated by taxes would be critical, he said Germany was supporting its partners in domestic resource mobilization.  Consumption and production must become fair, tax evasion and money-laundering must be addressed, and environmental, labour and social standards should be implemented along the entire length of the global supply chain.  Indeed, the 2030 Agenda was a major opportunity and had to become the daily narrative of the United Nations, he said.

Introduction of Report

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, then introduced the report of the Secretary-General on trends and progress in international development cooperation (document E/2016/65).  One overarching theme had emerged in the report, namely the importance and potential of development cooperation as a lever for the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Drawing attention to a number of recommendations, he said development cooperation today included a wide variety of international actions and actors, and should remained tightly focused on developing countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals with a view to leaving no one behind.  That required a change of mindset for all actors, he said, calling on partners to break down silos and better tailor their actions to national contexts.

Development cooperation would facilitate cross-sector partnerships and provide support for policy coherence, he went on.  Noting that it would require an adjustment, he said global institutions should align their strategies, funding and approaches to the 2030 Agenda and that all ODA commitments should be met.  ODA to non-emergency situations had fallen in 2014 due in part to the increasing costs of humanitarian aid.  While that situation was stabilizing, the potential effects of such a trend should be monitored closely.  Noting that ODA could act as a catalyst to mobilize other resources, he said the Forum’s current cycle had focused largely on ODA as a possible leveraging tool in areas such as domestic resource mobilization and public-private partnerships.

Continuing, he said blended finance, in particular, should support national priorities and development impacts.  Development cooperation, including through South-South and triangular cooperation, should take a prominent role in unleashing the transformative power of science, technology and innovation.  Achieving general country ownership and alignment would require a significant shift in development cooperation frameworks.  Development cooperation should promote the use of programme-based approaches, and national plans should be owned by whole societies through institutionalized, participatory processes.  Calling for intensified knowledge-sharing and increased accountability of Governments to their people, he underscored the need for robust national-level monitoring and reviews of commitments, supported by global follow-up and review mechanisms.

Keynote Address

MARY ROBINSON, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice, and former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered a keynote address, saying there was a challenging road ahead to realize the 2030 Agenda.  Not all current ways of working would prove effective in the Agenda’s implementation, and many mechanisms would need to be reformed or refreshed.  In that regard, the high-level panel of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee — which she chaired — had been created to reshape the committee to become more “fit for purpose”.  Individually, the successful implementation of either the 2030 Agenda or the Paris Agreement would represent an unprecedented triumph for multilateralism; the international community had embarked on undertaking both simultaneously.  While uncontrolled climate change was incompatible with the eradication of poverty, the Sustainable Development Goals were critical to near-term climate action.

Addressing those issues required an integrated approach with the objective of enhancing the resilience of countries to withstand ever-greater threats, she said.  Noting that “the road ahead is undoubtedly complex”, she said that many complex global challenges had been successfully addressed before, as in the case of the HIV/AIDS response and in protecting the ozone layer through the Montreal Protocol.  Today, meeting Sustainable Development Goal 2 to end hunger would be closely related to the Goals on water, gender equality and sustainable consumption and production, among others.  Such an integrated approach was also central to climate justice, which was informed by science and recognized the need for equitable stewardship of the world’s resources.

Development cooperation providers must recognize the unprecedented opportunity to shape a more equitable world, she stressed, adding that “we require unprecedented multilateral cooperation”.  In addition, human rights and gender equality must underpin the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  Underscoring the need to reach those left furthest behind first, she warned that by 2040 more than half a billion people in Africa would still lack access to electricity.  Developing climate change solutions held the opportunity to help eradicate poverty, she said in that regard.

Interactive Discussion

The Council then held a brief interactive discussion, moderated by economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Mr. SUNDARAM noted that Ms. Robinson’s participation offered an opportunity to reconcile the United Nations approaches with those of the OECD, which had sometimes been at odds.  Her emphasis on climate justice was critical, he said, underscoring the importance of leaving no one behind.  Ms. Robinson had also stressed the need for an integrated approach.  Several years ago, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs had issued a report advocating for a “global green new deal”, which had suggested that dealing with the aftermath of the financial crisis did not mean putting development on the back burner.  Indeed, he said, it was critical to come out of the global economic slowdown with a view to ensuring that development priorities were met.  Calling in particular for leapfrogging in the area of environmental technology, he said the world today was seeking a modern version of the Marshall Plan, which had been instrumental in reconstructing Europe after the Second World War.

In the ensuing dialogue, several speakers emphasized the important role of development cooperation in helping all States to achieve sustainable development.  They also pointed to particular areas in which the Forum could play an instrumental role.

The representative of Brazil, noting that the Economic and Social Council was working to balance the different concerns of development actors, stressed the need for the Forum to discuss such important issues as trade, technology and finance.  However, he warned that its analysis of the role of development cooperation in implementing the 2030 Agenda must go beyond the issue of financing, and underscored the need for transparent indicators on how private investments were recognizing core sustainable development principles.  The modernization of development cooperation must not serve as a pretext for a revision of sensitive issues for developing countries, he said.

The representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said developed countries could establish binding timelines for their development commitments.  Noting that South-South cooperation was an important way to achieve solidarity among countries, she cited several Latin American and Caribbean examples of South-South cooperation on issues such as energy, training, education, culture and the environment.  She also called on the Forum to address the particular needs of middle-income countries.

The representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) spotlighted the issue of fossil fuel subsidies, which he said had regrettably not been covered by the Paris Agreement.  Cutting those subsidies would amount to a “double win”, he said, asking Ms. Robinson why there was such slow progress in that important area.

Ms. ROBINSON responded to those questions and comments, agreeing with the speakers on the importance of South-South cooperation.  Fossil fuel subsidies needed to be removed, she said, noting for example that small island developing States had recently called for the phase out of coal.

Panel II

The second panel discussion of the day was titled, “Supporting national efforts to achieve the full ambition of the 2030 Agenda, leaving no one behind”.  Moderated by Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Economist and former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, it featured a keynote address by Vandi C. Minah, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations.

Panellists included:  Jaime Miranda, Deputy Minister of Development Cooperation of El Salvador; Mark Van de Vreken, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Post of Belgium; Anita Nayar, Director of Regions Refocus; Babatunde Osotimehim, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); José Antonia Alonso Rodríguez, Professor of Applied Economics at Complutense University and Member of the United Nations Committee on Development Policy; and Minh-Thu Pham, Director for Policy of the United Nations Foundation.

Mr. MINAH noted that this year had been dedicated to developing comprehensive national plans as to how the 2030 Agenda would be implemented.  Fighting poverty was not new in the history of the United Nations, although unique narratives and approaches would be needed to end poverty and ensure the delivery of needs for both current and future generations.  There was renewed excitement and hope around the Sustainable Development Goals, although it would take commitment to translate that optimism into results.  While development cooperation had become all the more important, new cooperation activities would be needed to achieve the desired results.

Additional financing would be needed to build national, resilient systems able to withstand domestic and external shocks, he said.  Stronger domestic institutions to ensure sustainable financing and blended financing instruments to encourage innovative solutions were also needed.  Institutions in the least developed countries must be strengthened and to ensure domestic financing, illicit financial flows must be curbed.  An estimated $50 billion was lost annually across Africa due to illicit financial flows, including through commercial activities, drugs and terrorist activities and corruption.  The international community should remain committed to the principles guiding development in fragile States.

Mr. MIRANDA highlighted that in his country, all Government leaders, the legislative Assembly and local authorities had worked to help familiarize the population with the Goals.  A national council had been formulated with a wide range of parties, which would allow for the monitoring of how the Goals were being implemented.  The country’s statistical system would help to determine the starting point for the development Goals, and also gauge how much progress was made.  Marginalized populations had been actively involved and some 4,500 consultations took place with leaders across the public sector.

Mr. VAN DE VREKEN said that ODA, which had a comparative advantage in that it was the only tool specifically focused on ending poverty, must be used efficiently.  The world needed to rethink the use of ODA, in-line with international trends.  Domestic resource mobilization was still insufficient in many developing countries.  Studies indicated that to eradicate extreme poverty, all countries other than least developed countries would need to dedicate 0.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) towards that effort.  It would be important to reach out to those farthest behind through a rights-based approach, he said, adding that peaceful societies were a pre-requisite to development.

Ms. NAYAR said that her organization, Regions Refocused, had been designed to change policies in conjunction with progressive policymakers and regional institutions.  The principle of solidarity must be recovered in the context of development cooperation.  ODA must be used for its original purpose instead of for influencing trade or macroeconomic policies.  Governments must be held accountable to their own citizens.  The Goals would not be realized if policy formulation was not autonomous and if citizen participation lacked integrity.  Development cooperation must support nationally and regionally defined imperatives.

Mr. OSOTIMEHIM emphasized that the Goals were indivisible and had been constructed in a way that made them complementary.  A whole-of-society approach was needed.  Governments must open up to civil society and the private sector must be able to play a role.  The Goals could cost trillions of dollars, which meant that partnerships, particularly with the private sector, would be essential, with the United Nations working to ensure national Governments built such partnerships in the most accountable and transparent way possible.  A country’s most valuable resource was its people.  The challenge was to make people as productive as possible through education and access to skills training.

Mr. RODRÍGUEZ said that ODA could play an important role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, although it was clear that the requirements of the Agenda went well beyond those resources.  There needed to be a shift from ODA to the broader concept of development cooperation.  Also needed were clearer rules for allocating international support.  Development cooperation must be pursued in line with the multidimensional nature of the 2030 Agenda.  The main contribution of development cooperation should not be measured in what it directly financed, but rather the kinds of social and economic changes it inspired.

Ms. PHAM said that as the world focused on the implementation of the Goals, it was important to recall the financing for development promises that had been made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  The 2030 Agenda was universal, which should create shifts in thinking about development cooperation.  The targets and goals were related to each other, while the climate agenda must also be integrated.  Investment should be focused on basic services, data and statistical architecture, infrastructure, institutions and supporting fragile and conflict-affected States.  Whole-of-Government approaches were also needed, which would require engaging parliaments, subnational and local governments.

The representative of Honduras spoke in the ensuing discussion, noting that accomplishing the objectives outlined in the 2030 Agenda would require not only political will, but also clear strategies based on political intelligence.

The representative of South Africa questioned how countries could commit to curbing illicit financial flows.

A representative of the European Union stressed the important role of development cooperation as a lever for effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda. 

Also speaking were the representatives of Ghana and Haiti.

Panel III

Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation, moderated the third panel discussion, on “Aligning development cooperation to contribute to the different aspects of the 2030 Agenda”.  The discussion featured the following panellists:  Palouki Massina, Secretary General, Government of Togo and member, United Nations Committee of Experts on Public Administration; Admasu Nebebe, Director, United Nations Agencies and Regional Economic Cooperation Directorate, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ethiopia; Riikka Laatu, Deputy Director General for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland; Martin Shearman, Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, and former High Commissioner to Uganda; and Adriano Campolina, Chief Executive Officer, Action Aid.

Delivering the keynote address was Choi Jong-moon, Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs, Republic of Korea.

Mr. CHOI noted that the 2030 Agenda was different from, and more ambitious than, the Sustainable Development Goals, saying it included relevant stakeholders in the implementation process and placed a strong emphasis on economy, environment and society.  It was important to promote partnerships, and the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia had a key role to play in that regard.  It was also necessary to ensure effective mobilization of resources and the creation of relevant policies and programmes.  Due to the diversity of interests, it was challenging to ensure internal coordination and countries must take national ownership, he stressed.

Mr. SRISKANDARAJAH expressed hope that the panellists would talk about their national and international efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. NEBEBE said Ethiopia had adopted a five-year plan that mainstreamed the Goals into the national agenda.  Concerning the environment, the Government had identified climate change adaptation-related indicators and created a number of institutions.  There was a need to adopt a systematic approach to cooperation, he said, adding that international development actors must focus on resource allocation.  To ensure that no one was left behind, it was necessary to ensure long-term support and a programme-based approach, he said.

Mr. MASSINA called attention to Togo’s economic stagnation and debt, saying the amount of ODA it received had decreased.  The Government planned to create a national plan with a view to meeting needs arising from the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, adding that, with the help of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Togo had begun restoring its economy.  He emphasized the need to inspire confidence and ensure economic development.

Ms. LAATU said that Finland’s development policy, directly related to 11 Sustainable Development Goals, had four priorities, including the rights of women and girls, job creation, democratic and well-functioning societies, and food security and the sustainable use of natural resources.  Expressing support for the efforts of civil society organizations, she said they must adopt a human rights approach in order to win the Government’s support.

Mr. SHEARMAN said it was necessary to win public and political support when delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.  Recalling that the United Kingdom’s Treasury and Department for International Development had announced a new aid strategy outlining a new cross-Government approach in November 2015, he said it sought to address a range of global challenges, including global poverty, threats to peace and security, and climate change.

Mr. CAMPOLINA said the 2030 Agenda had “changed the game”, and Member States must move from rhetoric to action.  If the world wished to address inequality, it would be important to redistribute resources, ensure policy coherence, and provide better quality services.  However, that would require systematic change.  South-South cooperation and stopping tax avoidance were two other effective ways to address inequality.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said his country had created a development cooperation policy that set out national priorities.  He emphasized that development partners must respect national processes.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Panel IV

Rathin Roy, Director of the National Institute for Public Finance Policy, Ministry of Finance of India, was the keynote speaker in the day’s final panel, titled, “Southern partners advancing mutual learning and envisioning the contribution of South-South cooperation for sustainable development”.  Moderated by María Eugenia Casar, Executive Director of the Agency for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, it featured presentations by:  Abdirahman Yusuf A. Ayante, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Somalia; Joao Almino, Director of the Brazilian Agency for Cooperation; and Jorge Chediek, Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation.

Mr. ROY said highly unequal access to financing, technology and quality institutions and capacities were three areas that were as restrictive today for countries of the global South as in the past.  South-South cooperation had become relevant in that States were required to work politically to overcome those challenges.  Concessional financing was still important, but the real challenge was in accessing non-concessional financing in areas, such as infrastructure, that were of interest to developing countries.  However, investing in infrastructure required long-term financing, which was often not undertaken due to regulatory risk — or perceptions regarding a country’s political economy.

Discussing renewable energy, for example, he said that when the intellectual property allowing the world to create more efficient solar systems was owned by 5 of the 10 richest countries, and 25 per cent of the revenues reverted to them, Governments were forced to think about such issues as political ones.  That was what South-South cooperation was about.  Another barrier to access was capacity, which for developing countries meant the ability to take charge of their own affairs.  His country had been addressing the issue of capacity by establishing a community within the South to deliver solutions, as seen in the Kofi Annan Centre for Technology.  In sum, South-South cooperation was not a technocratic effort, but a political one, as the institutions that mediated access were governed by a political mandate that was 50 years old.  If taken politically and as an attempt to address access, South-South cooperation could deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. AYANTE discussed important factors for advancing South-South cooperation in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, describing horizontal cooperation among national institutions, civil societies and private sectors, as well as in the commissioning of more robust research and in offering solutions to the challenges identified.  Vertical cooperation among Governments, by creating policy linkages, was also important, as was streamlining policies and actions.  There was a need to reorient objectives within the new Goals in ways that responded to local demands, he said, noting that countries in the global South recognized the importance of localizing the Goals in ways that responded to a unique context.

Mr. ALMINO said developing countries should set an example of assertiveness in respecting each country’s policy space in the formulation of national development policies.  The conceptual framework of South-South cooperation was set up 50 years ago.  Conceptual divisions on what constituted South-South cooperation could prevent countries from understanding its dynamics and vitality.  Developing countries had seen other actors’ attempts to quantify South-South cooperation, based on criteria conceived for other realities.  South-South partnerships included knowledge exchange, technology transfer, resilience-building and the development of human capital.  “Let’s pay attention to quality, structuring elements, sustainability and to outputs and outcomes,” he said.  “This is what matters most.”

Mr. CHEDIEK said the new Agenda revived a comprehensive definition of development.  For years, the focus had been on the consequences of a lack of development:  poverty and exclusion.  The discourse, however, had neglected to address economic growth, a critical element.  South-South cooperation was important because countries of the global South had shown that sustainable development could be achieved.  “We can learn from each other in the South,” he said, noting that stronger regional integration also had allowed countries that had once turned their backs on each other to exchange information, as had been seen in Latin America.  Overcoming the political and institutional challenges to South-South cooperation required generating the proper metrics.  The institutional set-up for South-South cooperation must be reworked, as the international system – embodied in the international financial institutions and the United Nations – had been established in order to channel North-South cooperation.

The representative of Germany spoke in the ensuing discussion noting that South-South cooperation allowed peers to exchange best practices, particularly in overcoming barriers.  He asked what constituted South-South cooperation in the context of the new Goals, whether criteria would be established, and which countries constituted the global South.

The representative of Colombia called South-South cooperation a powerful development instrument, noting that his agency was charged with measuring its qualitative and quantitative terms.  The qualitative dimensions included the know-how being shared, the visibility being generated and the quantity of networks that aligned with the new Goals.

The representative Venezuela said the Petro-Caribe agreement facilitated energy resources on an equitable basis, expressing hope that the United Nations Office for South-South cooperation be strengthened.  He asked how to reduce costs of financial transactions among countries.

The representative of Thailand, noting that South-South cooperation could be a development multiplier, advocated greater use of research and development centres.  Cohesion between New York and the regions should be improved in order to foster better policy planning, with regional commissions disseminating best practices.

The representative of the European Union said his delegation was committed to dedicating 0.7 per cent of gross national income for ODA within the 2030 Agenda time frame.  He was intrigued by Mr. Roy’s comments about political responses that were necessary for political problems.  He asked what political response could be offered to such problems.

Mr. ROY, responding to those questions and comments, said the distinction was not about levels of per capita income, but rather, access.  South-South cooperation was one of myriad attempts to respond to the political challenge of asymmetric access.  The political challenges the South faced were immense.  If reform of the multilateral institutions could not be achieved, then a country was politically stuck, which in turn, bred the rise of alternative financial institutions.

The representative of Algeria, sharing his country’s experience in South-South cooperation, described new partnerships to promote commercial and economic interactions.  He asked about the best way to learn lessons from others.

Also speaking were representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Trade Union Confederation, as well as a non-governmental organization.

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