Cutting Off Access to Funds, Bolstering Criminal Justice Responses Key to Severing Terrorism-Organized Crime Link, Experts Tell Security Council

Speakers Urge Greater Support for States with Porous Borders, Weak Legal Mechanisms, Share Ways to Tackle Threats from ISIL/Dae’sh, Al-Shabaab, Boko HaramCombating terrorism and organized crime hinges on unravelling and severing the ties between these …

Read More

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the situation in Cameroon – B8-0245/2019

B8‑0245/2019

European Parliament resolution on the situation in Cameroon

(2019/2692(RSP))

The European Parliament,

– having regard to statements by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / V…

Read More

Stronger South-South Cooperation Key to Tackling Climate Change, Rising Inequality, Global Leaders Stress as High-Level Conference Begins in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, 20 March — Amid complex and rapidly evolving global challenges, the tried-and-tested platform of South-South cooperation — a system of exchanging knowledge and resources between developing countries — must play a promine…

Read More

Security Council Adopts Resolution Outlining Means to Ensure Robust Support for African Union Peace Operations, End Conflict on Continent

The Security Council adopted a resolution today that outlines steps leading towards the goal of ending conflict in Africa through enhanced international cooperation and partnership as well as robust support for peace operations led by the African Union…

Read More

Raising Living Standards Boosts Overall Well-Being of Societies, Speakers Say, as Commission for Social Development Continues Session

Smart fiscal policies and minimum wages set well above the cost of living top the list of strategies countries can use to improve their populations’ health, happiness and overall well-being, said delegates today as the fifty-seventh session of th…

Read More

Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations Recommends Status for 70 Groups, Defers Action on 40 Others as It Opens 2019 Regular Session

Opening its regular session for 2019, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations today recommended 70 organizations for special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and deferred action on the status of 40 others…

Read More

Assistance to Palestinian People, Compliance with Court Ruling Concerning Violation of Convention on Consular Relations among Texts Adopted by General Assembly

Organ also Takes Action on Draft Resolutions, Decisions by Second, Sixth CommitteeThe General Assembly today adopted resolutions and decisions of its Second (Economic and Financial) and Sixth (Legal) Committees, also adopting four texts — includi…

Read More

Unilateral Trade Practices, Measures Harm Most Vulnerable Nations, Speakers Say, as Second Committee Takes Up Macroeconomic Policy

Unilateral coercive measures and trade practices harm the global economy as well as countries at the regional and national levels, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today during its debate on Macroeconomic policy question…

Read More

International Treaty Framework Is Foundation of Rules-Based Order, Speakers Tell Sixth Committee, Calling for Review, Modernization

Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, Criminal Accountability of Officials, Experts on Mission Debates ConcludesIncreasing the efficiency of the registration process for treaties will contribute to an improved international treaty framewo…

Read More

Illicit Drug Flows, Organized Crime Grow as Terrorism Spreads across Borders, Third Committee Delegates Stress amid Calls for Stronger Justice Systems

As terrorism becomes more intertwined with organized crime, human trafficking and corruption, no border of the world is untouched by the illicit drug trade, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today during their annua…

Read More

Africa: U.S.-Africa Relations: A New Framework

MR CABRERA: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for being with us today for a very, very special presentation. I’m honored to welcome our Secretary of State to George Mason, who, as you know, is on his way to a very important trip to Africa. And …

Read More

Motion for a resolution Nigeria – B8-2018-0052

The European Parliament,-having regard to its previous resolutions on Nigeria, -having regard to the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and te…

Read More

General Assembly Takes Action on Second Committee Reports by Adopting 41 Texts, also Passes Overhaul of United Nations Peace, Security Pillar

Increasing Official Development Assistance, Updating Bank Policies to Support 2030 Agenda among Resolutions ApprovedGearing up to implement the international community’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the General Assembly today adop…

Read More

Concerns Aired about Syria Envoy Office, Adviser on Genocide Prevention, as Fifth Committee Examines Budgets for Special Political Missions

Delegates Also Approve Draft Resolutions on Activities of Internal Oversight Services Office, United Nations 2018-19 Meetings Calendar

As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today examined the recommended 2018 budgets for special political missions and the assistance mission in Iraq, one delegate objected to aspects of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide’s activities, while another was concerned by sharp increases in the number of staff at the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria.

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the proposed 2018 budgets for 10 special and personal envoys, advisers and representative of the Secretary-General, which totalled $50 million.

Presenting a separate report on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), she said 2018 requirements were estimated at $111 million. Changes in UNAMI’s proposed budget included the establishment of a Women’s Protection Unit and of an office in Mosul following that city’s liberation from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), she said.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that entity’s related reports, and recommended that the General Assembly approve the Secretary-General’s requested resources for the missions in 2018, subject to the Advisory Committee’s observations and recommendations.

Cuba’s representative disagreed with the Secretary-General’s proposal to include activities and results related to the concept of responsibility to protect, specifically under the proposal relating to the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  The General Assembly had not specifically approved a definition on the principle of responsibility to protect, she said, presenting serious concerns, particularly for small and developing countries, and creating an issue that could be easily manipulated for political purposes.

Syria’s representative, referring to the report’s discussion of the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, welcomed the fact that for the first time, it mentioned the need to suppress and prevent terrorist acts by ISIL/Da’esh and the Al-Nusrah Front.  However, he was concerned about the Secretary-General’s recommendation to sharply increase the number of staff in Damascus, Geneva and New York.  Current staff numbers were sufficient for the Office to carry out its mission and nothing justified increasing them considerably in all categories in Damascus, given recent victories by the Syrian Arab Army and its friends in the fight against terrorism, he stressed.

Iraq’s delegate, expressing gratitude for UNAMI’s support, called for a meticulous review of the 2018 funding proposals lest they undermine the Mission’s work and priorities.  His Government welcomed the ACABQ’s recommendations that the Secretary-General should spare no effort in promoting the conversion of international posts in UNAMI to domestic posts.

The Committee also took up the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted in 2017 by the Economic and Social Council.  Presenting that report, Ms. Bartsiotas said only one Council decision gave rise to additional budgetary requirements, amounting to $247,200, in relation to preparations for the sixty‑second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019.  Mr. Ruiz presented ACABQ’s corresponding report.

In other business, the Committee, acting without a vote, approved two draft resolutions.  One text would have the General Assembly take note of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and welcome its efforts to promote the Organization’s zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption.  By the same draft, the Assembly would also endorse observations, comments, and recommendations made by the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

Through the second text, the Assembly would approve the draft biennial calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings in 2018 and 2019, as submitted by the Committee on Conference.  It would emphasize the paramount importance of the quality of the United Nations six official languages in the area of documentation and publications, welcome the modernization of the Official Document System and request the Secretary-General to continue efforts to attract more language professionals to the Organization.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Michel Tommo Monthé (Cameroon), Fifth Committee Chair, noted that the Committee would be dealing with larger and more complex items upon its return from the Thanksgiving holiday.  He encouraged delegations to show resolve, speed, flexibility, pragmatism and a sense of camaraderie as they strove to complete their work.

Also speaking today was the representative of Ecuador (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China).

The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced in the Journal.

Special Political Missions

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on proposed budgets for 2018 in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council under thematic cluster I and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (documents A/72/371/Add.1 and Add.5).  The proposed resources for 2018 for the 10 missions presented under thematic cluster I totalled $50 million, down $1.1 million from approved resources for 2017 due to reduced operating costs, mainly under the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (Burundi) and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, she said.  For UNAMI, the proposed resource requirements for 2018 amounted to $111 million, a net decrease of $6.5 million from approved resources in 2017, due mainly to a proposed net reduction of 15 civilian positions and decreased operational costs.  Changes in UNAMI’s proposed budget include the establishment of a Women’s Protection Unit and of an office in Mosul following that city’s liberation from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

[The 10 special political missions included under thematic cluster I comprised the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), the United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sudan and South Sudan, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen and the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (Burundi).]

She then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during its 2017 session (document A/72/398), noting that, during its 2017 session, the Council adopted one resolution and two decisions with resource implications.  Of those, only decision 2017/241 gave rise to additional budgetary requirements, amounting to $247,200, thus requiring an additional appropriation.   She explained that those resources would enable enhanced technical and substantive support to the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s corresponding reports on special missions and UNAMI (documents A/72/7/Add.11 and A/72/7/Add.15).  On the former, he said the ACABQ recommended approval of the resources proposed by the Secretary-General, subject to the recommendations contained in paragraphs 25 and 41 of the report.  He added that the Advisory Committee’s comments and recommendations on cross-cutting issues, including official travel, would be contained in its main report.  On the latter, he said that, pending the outcome of an external independent assessment and any Security Council decision, the Mission’s current planning assumptions might not reflect actual resource requirements for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2018.  The ACABQ recommended that any revised resource requirements should be submitted to the General Assembly at the appropriate time.  For the 1 January to 30 June 2018 period, the Advisory Committee recommended that the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $50 million, he said, adding that UNAMI’s overall requirements needed to be refined, including with respect to the establishment of new posts and operational requirements.

He went ono to introduce the Advisory Committee’s report on the revised estimates resulting from ECOSOC resolutions and decisions during 2017 (document A/72/7/Add.22), noting that its budgetary implications would give rise to total requirements of $288,700, of which $2,500 related to the biennium 2016-2017 programme budget and $286,200 to the biennium 2018-2019 budget.  He said the ACABQ did not object to the Secretary-General’s approach to accommodate the proposed additional requirements of $39,000 within the proposed 2018-2019 proposed programme budget and $2,500 within the resources approved for the biennium 2016‑2017.  He added that the Advisory Committee recommended approval of the remaining amount of $247,000 under section 16, International drug control, crime and terrorism prevention and criminal justice, as a charge against the contingency fund for 2018-2019.

AMÉRICA LOURDES PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that the additional budgetary requirements resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during its 2017 session were estimated at $288,700, including $247,200 related to preparations for the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019 as set out in decision 2017/241, which would be charged against the biennium 2018-2019 contingency fund.  The Group emphasized that the Advisory Committee noted that the approved level of the biennium 2018-2019 contingency fund was $40.5 million, and the proposed budget implications or revised estimates amounted to $25.7 million.  She said the Advisory Committee also noted that, if approved in full, the remaining balance of the contingency fund for that period would be $14.8 million.  The Group would seek more information on that topic during informal consultations.

The $39,000 requirement resulting from resolution 2017/26, which extended the mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, was proposed to be accommodated within the proposed 2018-2019 programme budget, she said.  Moreover, the $2,500 requirement resulting from decision 2017/2014 related to the appointment of an additional member of the Advisory Group would be absorbed within the 2016-2017 programme budget.  In that context, she recalled that the Advisory Group’s mandate had been extended so that it could closely follow and advise on Haiti’s long-term development strategy in order to promote its socioeconomic recovery, reconstruction and stability, building upon the Strategic Plan for the Development of Haiti.  Therefore, the Group supported the provision of the required resources to finance the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council at its 2017 session.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that financing the special political missions through the regular budget was an unsustainable practice.  Such missions should be financed in the same way as peacekeeping operations.  It was striking that the level of resources allocated to such missions amounted to more than 20 per cent of the regular budget, proof an in imbalance in the resources allocated to different priorities established by the General Assembly.  On the Secretary-General’s report on Special and Personal Envoys and Special Advisers, she said Cuba did not agree with the proposal to include activities and results related to the concept of responsibility to protect, specifically under the proposal relating to the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  The appointment of a Special Adviser on the responsibility to protect was a deviation from the letter and spirit of operative paragraphs 138 and 139 of General Assembly resolution 60/1.

Recalling that, in paragraph 2 of General Assembly resolution 63/308, that body had decided to “keep the responsibility to protect under review”, she noted that no formal intergovernmental debates or reviews had been developed in that regard.  As such, the General Assembly had not specifically approved a definition on the principle of responsibility to protect, which continued to present serious concerns, particularly for small and developing countries and was an issue that could be easily manipulated for political purposes.  Under its aegis, international law, State sovereignty and its responsibility for the welfare of its population had been undermined.  All those reasons motivated Cuba to oppose the concept, as well as the creation and maintenance of the post of Special Adviser in that regard.  However, that position should not be interpreted as a rejection of the work of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, whose functions had Cuba’s full support.

MOHANAD ALI OMRAN AL-MUSAWI (Iraq), expressing gratitude for the support provided by UNAMI, said funding was essential to the effective delivery of its mandate, and its financial resources should be scaled up accordingly.  He noted that its proposed resource requirements from 1 January to 31 December 2018 totalled $111 million, an estimate that was $6 million less than last year’s budget.  He called for a meticulous review of the 2018 assessments, because they might undermine UNAMI efforts and priorities.  Furthermore, his Government welcomed recommendations from the ACABQ that the Secretary-General should spare no effort in promoting the conversion of international posts in UNAMI to domestic posts.

Emphasizing that the report should maintain its financial and administrative nature with no political undertones, he said the discussion of such undertones in the Fifth Committee was “untoward”.  He noted that paragraph 18 of the report contained erroneous implications about the situation in Iraq’s liberated areas where the law was now enforced.  Iraqi authorities had taken note of the independent auditing team as per Security Council resolution 2367 (2017) and would study its recommendations.  His Government looked forward to working together with UNAMI to provide relief aid to Iraqis who had been displaced in the aftermath of the atrocities committed by ISIL/Da’esh.  It would also work closely with the United Nations country team for the regional response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

AMMAR AWAD (Syria) referred to the report’s discussion of the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, saying his delegation welcomed the fact that for the first time, it mentioned the need to suppress and prevent terrorist acts by Da’esh and the Al-Nusrah Front.  However, the authors had continued to use the term “armed group” rather than “armed terrorist group”, he said, asking the Secretary-General to correct that error.  He also asked that the Secretary-General’s report refer to the situation in Syria as a crisis, not a conflict.  He requested that a reference in the report to the League of Arab States be deleted, saying that the Special Envoy’s authority came only from the United Nations.  He also expressed his delegation’s reservations regarding contacts between the Office of the Special Envoy and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and between that Office and another organization, emphasizing in the latter instance that the Special Envoy had no mandate to contact another peacekeeping operation operating under a mandate limited to the Zone of Separation.

His delegation also had reservations about a sharp increase in staff numbers proposed by the Secretary-General in Damascus, Geneva and New York, he said.  Current staff numbers were sufficient for the Office to carry out its mission.  Nothing justified a considerable increase of staff in all categories in Damascus, given recent victories by the Syrian Arab Army and its friends in the fight against terrorism.  He went on to say that the success of any political process in Syria would require cooperation and coordination with the Syrian Government at all levels.  He also underscored the Government’s commitment to the Astana and Geneva negotiations.

Activities of Office of Internal Oversight Services

The Fifth Committee then considered a draft resolution on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Independent Audit Advisory Committee (document A/C.5/72/L.5) following deliberations on their activities at the Fifth Committee’s second formal meeting on 5 October 2017.

By the terms of the draft, the General Assembly, reaffirming the Office’s operational independence, and taking note of its report, would request the Secretary-General to continue to promote effective coordination and collaboration with regard to the audit, evaluation and investigation functions of the Office; to ensure that resolutions pertaining to the Office’s work be brought to the attention of the relevant managers; and to ensure full implementation of its accepted recommendations.

The Assembly would go on to welcome the Office’s efforts to promote the Organization’s zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption, and encourage it to consider calls to expand the reporting and recording of all forms of misconduct as part of renewed efforts to strengthen and professionalize the investigations function of the United Nations system.

It would also note progress made by the Office in reducing the average time taken to complete investigations and in reducing the number of vacant posts, and ask the Secretary-General to continue making every effort to fill remaining vacant posts, particularly in the Investigations Division and in the field.

Noting the Fifth Committee’s review of the report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee for the year-long period between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017, the Assembly would, by the same text, endorse the observations, comments, and recommendations contained in paragraphs 17, 20, 23, 27, 30, 31, 33, 39, 43, 47, 55, 58, 60, 63, 66, 74, 79, 82, 86, 92, 93, 94, 98 and 102 of the report.  In addition, the Assembly would note with appreciation the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit on the state of the internal audit function in the United Nations system and on donor-led assessments of the United Nations system organizations, as well as the related notes by the Secretary-General transmitting his comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination thereon.

The text was approved without a vote.

Pattern of Conferences

Next, the Committee took up a text on the pattern of conferences (document A/C.5/72/L.6), by which the Assembly would approve the draft biennial calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings for 2018 and 2019, as submitted by the Committee on Conferences, taking into account its observations and subject to provisions of the present text.  It would authorize the Committee on Conferences to make any adjustments to that calendar that might become necessary as a result of actions and decisions made by the Assembly at its seventy-second session.  It would note with satisfaction that the Secretariat had taken into account Assembly resolutions concerning Orthodox Good Friday, Eid al‑Fitr and Eid‑al‑Adha, and request all intergovernmental bodies observe those decisions when planning their meetings.  It would moreover request the Secretary-General to ensure that any modifications to the calendar of conferences and meetings be implemented strictly in accordance with the mandate of the Committee on Conferences and other relevant Assembly resolutions.

Also by the text, the Assembly would note that the overall utilization factor at the four main duty stations in 2016 was 80 per cent, unchanged from 2015 and 2014, thus meeting the benchmark of 80 per cent.  It would urge secretariats and bureaux of bodies that underutilized their conference-servicing resources to work more closely with the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management and to consider changes to their programmes of work.  Moreover, it would urge those intergovernmental bodies with average utilization rates below the 80 per cent benchmark to take that factor into account when planning their future sessions.

In the area of documentation and publications, the Assembly would emphasize the paramount importance of the equality of the six official languages and of multilingualism, and ask the Secretary-General to redouble efforts to ensure full parity in line with Assembly resolution 69/324.  Noting with concern that only 70 per cent of author departments had reached the 90 per cent compliance rate for submitting on time their reports to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Assembly would again ask the Secretary-General to enforce the slotting system more rigorously.

While welcoming the modernization of the Official Document System, including the introduction of a portable version, and its accessibility in all six official languages, the Assembly would ask the Department of Public Information to present a proposal for the digitization of important older United Nations documents for consideration by the Committee on Information no later than the main part of the seventy-third session.  Additionally, the Assembly would express concern that the anticipated lengthy digitization project may jeopardize the retention of historical knowledge and information in view of the delicate state and risk of breakage of many of the related documents.

Turning to matters related to language services, the Assembly, noting that the pool of language professionals at duty stations was uneven in terms of language combinations, would ask the Secretary-General to continue efforts to develop recruitment, subcontracting and outreach policies.  It would also note the development of statistical machine translations systems such as Tapta4UN and eLUNa and ask the Secretary-General to report on updates about those systems to the Assembly at its seventy-third session.

The text was approved without a vote.

Read More

With Millions Lacking Food, Education, Shelter, Targeted Approaches Needed to Meet Needs of Most Vulnerable, Mandate‑Holders Tell Third Committee

Millions of people across the world were without access to food, education and housing, with poverty the main obstacle to realizing their basic human rights, special mandate‑holders told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today.

In a series of presentations, six experts called for targeted approaches to address the unique needs of vulnerable populations, underscoring throughout the primary responsibility of Governments to protect the fundamental freedoms of all citizens.

Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Food, said addressing food insecurity in countries affected by conflict had become her priority.  Some 70 million people in 45 countries required emergency food assistance, up 40 per cent from 2015, she said, also quoting a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finding that 489 million undernourished people were living in conflict zones.

Deaths in those areas were typically caused by hunger and disease, not combat, she said.  Yet, the international community had never called for an international criminal trial against Government officials or non‑State actors for creating, inflicting or prolonging famine.  While parties to armed conflict must meet the needs of populations under their control, such basic State functions were being passed over to the international humanitarian system, she noted.

Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, asserted that it was up to Governments to ensure the right to education was realized.  With 263 million children and young people lacking access to schooling, education systems must adapt to meet the needs of all pupils.  States must also recognize that particularly vulnerable populations, including displaced persons, required increased assistance.  All students should view schools as safe environments fostering a sense of belonging, she said.  Enshrining those principles into education systems would promote peace and stability.

In that context, Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, also stressed the need for targeted approaches to meet the needs of specific vulnerable groups.  Her report focused on the enjoyment of the rights under her mandate by persons with disabilities, as they were commonly homeless, institutionalized and subjected to neglect, abuse and discrimination for no reason other than their disability.  “Housing is absolutely central to dignity and equal rights for persons with disabilities,” she said, adding that the housing conditions of more than 1 billion persons with disabilities had made clear the need for States to realize the right to housing.

Alleviating poverty was at the heart of realizing basic human rights, said Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.  The poor disproportionately experienced human rights violations.  Addressing the needs of those living in poverty called for improved data collection from all relevant actors.  There was little systematic data on the socioeconomic background of victims of civil and political rights violations, he said.

In the interactive segment of his presentation, he said his report focused on the need to separate the poor as a specific category, as they faced the overwhelming majority of violence, and were the leading victims of civil and political rights violations.

Also presenting before the Committee were Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, and Dainus Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 24 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4205).

Interactive Dialogues ‑ Right to Food

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Food, said her fourth report contextualized food insecurity in countries affected by conflict by discussing human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law in order to raise awareness about States’ non‑compliance with existing norms.  A follow‑up report, which would be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2018, would address the humanitarian system’s response to food crises in disasters, she said, noting that 70 million people in 45 countries required emergency food assistance, up 40 per cent from 2015.  The Rohingya people of Myanmar faced serious starvation and violations of their right to food.

A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report titled “The 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition” stated that 489 million undernourished people were living in conflict zones, she said, noting that deaths in those areas were usually caused by hunger and disease, not combat.  The report warned that achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 would not be reachable.  “The human right to food is a fundamental right,” she said, with freedom from hunger accepted as part of customary international law.  Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare was prohibited unconditionally in both international and non‑international armed conflicts.  Parties to an armed conflict had a responsibility to meet the needs of the population under their control, but in many of today’s conflicts, the humanitarian system was asked to take over such basic State functions.

She said many legal doctrines supported indictments for genocide and crimes against humanity, but the international community had never called for an international criminal trial against Government officials or non‑State actors for creating, inflicting or prolonging famine.  Protection of the right to food could not be achieved on a voluntary basis; international legal standards should reinforce the norm that deliberate action to cause starvation was a war crime or a crime against humanity which should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  International attention must focus on eliminating the causes of famine, and not just at addressing the visible symptoms of the latest food emergency.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of the European Union welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the right to food in emergency situations.  Famine could only be prevented if people could move freely to obtain aid, he stressed, asking about measures to ensure that food assistance reached those in need in conflict situations.

The representative of Morocco said there was a worrying link between conflict and access to food.  Referring to the Special Rapporteur’s call for a world conference to create a framework to combat famine, she asked about the feasibility of a new international binding treaty on the matter.

The representative of Norway agreed that national legislation should provide a framework to uphold international obligations to provide food access, especially in situations of famine and armed conflict.

The representative of Indonesia asked for information on the nexus between food security and armed conflict, and on the proposed creation of an exploratory group to pursue a legal framework on the matter.

The representative of Cuba said full realization of the right to food for all remained elusive.  Cuba would submit a draft resolution on the right to food affirming that hunger was a violation of human dignity.

The representative of Syria urged the Special Rapporteur to fully comply with her mandate in a transparent and neutral fashion.  He asked why she had disregarded constant efforts by Syria to address all food issues in the country.  He was “puzzled” by the Special Rapporteur’s decision to leave the situations arising from the blockades on Palestine and Cuba out of her report.

The representative of Cameroon asked for information on the next steps to be taken towards an international legal instrument on the right to food.

The representative of Turkey said the most vulnerable populations were disproportionately affected by conflict, with food depravation used as a weapon of war in some conflict zones.  Noting efforts to establish early warning mechanisms for famine in conflict, he asked what role the United Nations could perform in such a system.

The representative of Myanmar said her Government was committed to ensuring the food security of all people in Rakhine State.  Noting that nobody could truly understand the situation in Myanmar like the Government, she expressed its commitment to finding a solution to the situation.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said it was regrettable that the Special Rapporteur’s report used newspapers as a source of information.  The report falsely claimed Saudi Arabia had destroyed means of production in Yemen.  She assured that all necessary assistance was being provided to the people of Yemen, and other countries around the world.

Ms. ELVER, responding, said it was politically complicated to address the right to food, underscoring her efforts at being objective.  In conflict situations, sometimes one could not clearly determine the different players and underlying geopolitical conditions, yet people continued to suffer.  She said she tried to use United Nations and related reports as information sources, adding that she did not use newspaper information or that from obscure non‑governmental organizations, and that she had cited all the reports she had used.  She suggested that anyone saying the report was wrong should check the citations.  She had not been able to access Syria, Yemen or Myanmar, she noted, and so had relied on international organizations.

What was needed was guidance that any player — including countries and terrorist organizations — could understand, she said, conveying the message that violating the right to food was a crime against humanity for which they would be individually responsible.  When they blocked food supplies and destroyed agricultural areas, they should understand there would be accountability, she said.  Noting that every conflict had powerful friends behind it, she suggested the Human Rights Council should organize a study group on the above topics.  Early warning systems against famine were also important, she said, as famine did not just simply appear.  The international community needed more systematic accountability: with conflicts happening everywhere, it would not be able to stop either famine or hunger.  “Zero hunger in 2030, it’s almost impossible,” she said, adding that the major reasons were conflict‑related.

Right to Education

KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, said much progress on ensuring access to education had been made, especially in Africa.  Yet, 263 million children and young people around the world lacked access to schooling, most in sub‑Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.  Vulnerable groups faced difficulties that called for greater assistance.  While all pupils should have access to quality education, some required further assistance, she said, stressing that equitable education must focus on inclusion, especially for pupils with disabilities and older pupils who had been out of the education system for some time.

All pupils must feel safe and have a sense of belonging, she said, adding that supportive environments could directly combat discrimination.  Those principles must be incorporated into school structures.  Schools must adapt to the needs of all children, with teaching provided in second languages for people belonging to linguistic minorities, particularly migrants and refugees.  Displaced populations required support systems not typically part of the standard education system, she said, adding that States must promote education that addressed the needs of those populations.  The responsibility to implement the right to education was on Governments, she concluded.

The representative of Hungary expressed concern about the impacts on minorities of a recently adopted education law in Ukraine, saying that if implemented, the law would have a devastating effect on Hungarian language educational institutions in the Carpathians.  The law contravened United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  He asked the Special Rapporteur how she would facilitate better compliance of States with their international commitments.

The representative of Norway said the right to education was a fundamental right, noting that his country supported equitable educational policies.  Individuals with disabilities were at risk of being excluded and he asked about practical measures States could take to identify vulnerable groups.

The representative of Qatar said 213 students had been prevented from continuing their studies in countries which had boycotted Qatar.  He asked about measures taken for refugees in terms of education.

The representative of Mexico underscored the need to address structural discrimination keeping people from enjoying their right to education.  The report mentioned the importance of quality in education, and he asked the Special Rapporteur about strategies States had adopted to promote qualified teachers in rural areas, and further, best practices that considered the views of civil society.

The representative of the Russian Federation expressed concern about a discriminatory education law in Ukraine, which violated the rights of Russian speakers to receive schooling in their native language.  He called on the Special Rapporteur to focus to the situation in Ukraine and the need for the Ukrainian authorities to observe international conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Charter for Regional Languages, among others.

The representative of the European Union expressed concern about the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that millions more girls than boys of primary school age would not have the opportunity to learn to read or write.  Also, he said States must provide refugees with education and asked about best practices for short‑term measures aimed at providing refugees with access to education.

The representative of South Africa asked for the Special Rapporteur’s views on the situation of child laborers.

A representative of UNESCO inquired about effective Government incentives to encourage stakeholders to ensure equitable education as a collective enterprise.  She further asked how Governments could proactively ensure an enabling environment and support capacity‑building and competence, to ensure that every actor was accountable for learning outcomes.

The representative of Ukraine explained national legislation on education, saying that 735 schools provided education in minorities’ own languages.  Children’s failure to pass exams in Ukrainian often led to their discrimination, preventing them from later becoming civil servants, or receiving higher education and medical treatment.  Education in Ukrainian had been expanded so children could speak their own national language.

Also participating in the interactive discussion were representatives of Burkina Faso, Iraq, Morocco, Cuba, Indonesia and Maldives.

Ms. BARRY replied that the world had shown its commitment to promoting equitable and inclusive education.  Referring to questions on how to ensure quality education, she pointed to research that found that the first year of education should be conducted in a child’s native language.  To accomplish needed reforms, education systems must be decentralized, with decisions made at the community level, she said, noting that inclusion could promote peace and stability.

Training teachers in rural communities required visits to schools in those areas, she said, and engagement with rural communities.  Innovative tools and new technologies could lead to excellent results in improving the quality of teaching in rural areas, she said, urging States to formally recognize the work of teachers in those communities.

Turning to questions related to the needs of refugees, girls and other particularly vulnerable groups, she again called for decentralization, with grassroots‑led efforts taking priority in decision‑making.  When relevant stakeholders took charge of participatory education reforms, greater success was possible, she stressed.  Still, Governments must provide the necessary resources to address the needs of vulnerable groups.

Extreme Poverty

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, said his report sought to demonstrate four things: that the poor experienced violations disproportionately and differently from others, and that their civil and political rights were neglected by mainstream human rights and development actors.  Thirdly, the resulting situation undermined the principle of the indivisibility of human rights, and finally, human rights and development communities must ensure respect for all human rights of those living in poverty.  Attention focused on material deprivation and a lack of resources, while solutions sought to increase disposable income, rather than restore the basic rights of poor people.  He identified some assumptions explaining the situation, including by the development and human rights communities, which each assumed that the other would address challenges relating to the enjoyment of civil and political rights by those living in poverty.

Moreover, both social sciences and human rights fact‑finding tended to disaggregate civil and political rights violations by age, gender, race and ethnicity, but not according to economic class, he observed.  The civil and political rights of those living in poverty were denied or restricted by, for example, restricting the access of the poor to public places by criminalizing homelessness.  His report had found, among other things, that there was little systematic data on the socioeconomic background of victims of civil and political rights violations.  Several recommendations followed from his diagnosis of the challenge, he said, including a call to adapt and adjust solutions so that the factors rendering the poor particularly vulnerable were taken into account.

The representative of China said poverty reduction was the hallmark of his Government and urged the Special Rapporteur to conduct his mandate with respect and objectivity.  He requested recommendations for eliminating poverty in developing countries.

The representative of Iraq asked if the Special Rapporteur had taken into account terrorist activity and conflict as causes of extreme poverty, and if so, what measures had been taken to address that issue.

The representative of the European Union said extreme poverty kept individuals from accessing civil and political rights.  With the Special Rapporteur calling for new approaches to ensure those rights, he asked how indicators could be modified to better account for civil and political rights violations.

The representative of Cuba agreed that if civil and political rights were protected, respect for social and economic rights would follow automatically.  He emphasized that human rights would be protected through deep consideration of the causes of poverty.

The representative of the United States acknowledged poverty was a multi‑dimensional concern that called for addressing education and gender gaps across the world.  She asked how Member States could enhance access to rights by women and girls in the lowest income brackets.

Also speaking was the representative of Morocco.

Mr. ALSTON, responding, expressed agreement with China’s delegate that lifting 700 million people from poverty was an extraordinary achievement.  In China, rural areas were no longer the main concern, but there was significant poverty in urban areas, especially among the 200 million migrant workers.  Regarding compliance with the code of conduct, he said it was not his understanding that Special Rapporteurs were prevented from meeting with anyone without the Government approval, or that they should be followed everywhere, or that individuals should be prevented from meeting with the Special Rapporteur.  He expressed concern over events that had unfolded after his visit including Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer.  The relationship between terrorism and poverty could be examined from a number of angles, he added, noting that exclusion could fuel terrorism.

He expressed deep concern about rising inequality, noting that when capital and income were held overwhelmingly by the few, civil and political rights would be subverted in the interests of the “supremely powerful”.  Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had expressed concern, he said, from the perspective of economic growth.  As for indicators that could enable better understanding of the civil and political rights violations suffered by the poor, his report focused on the need to separate the poor as a specific category, as the overwhelming majority of violence was directed at them, and they were the leading victims of civil and political rights violations.  Current trends toward privatization and reducing the role of the State invariably had moved the burden of care to women, he said, adding that neoliberal economic policies were premised on failing to address the specific needs of women and girls.

The representative of China, noting the Special Rapporteur’s reference to problems surrounding China’s hukou system of household registration, said reforms to that system meant migrant workers could have equal access to employment and other rights regardless of where they lived.  Secondly, to the Special Rapporteur’s comments about individuals who had violated Chinese law, he said that the individual’s sentencing had nothing to do with the Special Rapporteur, who should not associate everything he witnessed with himself.  Reminding Mr. ALSTON he must abide by the Code of Conduct and the Charter of the United Nations, and respect the territorial integrity of a Member State, he recalled that his mandate was focused on reducing poverty, rather than the civil and political rights of citizens.  That was the purview of other Special Rapporteurs.

The representative of Iraq again noted that his country respected minorities, noting that the Constitution provided equal rights for minorities represented in Parliament.  Terrorism had come in from different countries.  Those were not Iraqi elements, they were from abroad.

Mr. ALSTON, responding again to Iraq’s delegate, said he accepted the activities of foreign terror groups in the territory of a country had major implications on that country’s ability to address poverty and respect for human rights.  In response China’s delegate, he said he was pleased to hear of reforms to the hukou system, adding that while there was still a way to go, China had been assiduous in focusing on problems once they were identified.  He said he understood why there was a Special Rapporteur on poverty, if that person would talk about civil and political rights.  The point was that those living in poverty actually had a different experience.  It would be unproductive for the Special Rapporteur on poverty to say he was unconcerned with civil and political rights, or with other rights, as an integrated approach was needed.

Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

LÉO HELLER, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, presented her second report which assessed how funding by France, Japan, the European Union, the World Bank and the Inter‑American Development Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had helped to realize the human right to water and sanitation.  She examined how funders had incorporated those rights into the four stages of the human rights development cycle, namely: the funders’ policy framework; operational tools; project selection, design and implementation; and project assessment and monitoring.

She observed that while the policies of some funders had incorporated that cycle, others had only done so sporadically.  There were also significant gaps in the cycle’s application during project implementation, even when it had been adequately incorporated.  The report also found that funders used a variety of operational tools which had varying degrees of relevance to the human rights to water and sanitation.  As such, she recommended that funders develop and systematically produce thorough assessment and monitoring, based on the human rights development cycle, both during and after project implementation.  They should improve project assessment protocols by adjusting their scope, data collection methods and indicators.  Funders should monitor long‑term project outcomes, with indicators based on the human rights development cycle, as well as assess all stages of their activities during the cycle.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of Brazil asked how the Third Committee could contribute to the discussion on the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The representative of the European Union asked what could be done to ensure that safe drinking water and sanitation projects were sustainable.

The representative of Germany asked why there had been gaps in applying the human rights framework to projects, and about best practices to ensure its application.

The representative of South Africa asked how the private sector could play a bigger role in ensuring the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The representative of Switzerland inquired about roles the private sector and civil society could play in ensuring safe access, and about viable financing for water and sanitation services.

The representative of Maldives asked how sustainable, affordable services could be established in small island states.

The representative of France asked how access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation could foster sustainable development.

Representatives of Spain, Iraq, Norway and Morocco also spoke.

Mr. HELLER, responding, said two main issues had emerged from the discussion: one was the importance of development cooperation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and another was that in his research, he had identified several gaps which were not specific to the six cases.  Some funders had good policies in place, yet gaps persisted.  Other funders had no specific policy for water and sanitation.  Instead, those issues had been subsumed into other areas, such as food or health, which had no explicit human rights commitment.

Discussion about the Third Committee’s role was also pivotal, he acknowledged, as the gap between the Goals and human rights must be bridged.  To questions about why gaps persisted in the application of the human rights development cycle, he said one explanation was that most funders had other priorities.  Regarding queries about human rights conditionality, he said the international community must align development cooperation with the human rights framework (human rights development cycle), notably by involving local authorities and civil society.

Adequate Housing

LEILANI FARHA, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component on the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living and on the Right to Non‑Discrimination in this context, said her report focused on the enjoyment of that right by persons with disabilities, as they were commonly homeless, institutionalized and subjected to neglect, abuse and discrimination for no reason other than their disability.  “Housing is absolutely central to dignity and equal rights for persons with disabilities,” she said.  There was a need to merge the disability human rights paradigm, developed under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with jurisprudence and commentary on the right to housing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Stressing that dignity, autonomy and freedom to choose were critical dimensions of the right to housing, she said the lack of choice of where and with whom to live was experienced by persons with disabilities as an assault on their dignity and autonomy.  The Convention highlighted the right to non‑discrimination and equality, and recognized accessibility as wide‑ranging and expansive.  It also recognized the right to participate as integral to implementation of the right to housing for persons with disabilities.  Indeed, housing conditions for many of the 1 billion persons with disabilities made clear that States must realize the right to housing for persons with disabilities.  They must ensure that those persons lived free from institutionalization and urgently address the issue of homelessness.  States should also support organizations for persons with disabilities so they could participate in all areas of housing policy, as well as guarantee access to justice and accountability mechanisms for claims to adequate housing by persons with disabilities.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of Brazil highlighted the need for a change in culture to create policies that met the needs of persons with disabilities.

The representative of Iraq asked for new ideas to ensure that houses were built to suit the climate.

The representative of South Africa asked about corporate sector’s role in providing adequate housing.

The representative of the European Union asked how a focus on human rights could ensure access to housing for persons with disabilities.

The representative of Palestine asked the Special Rapporteur to what could be done to prevent Israel from demolishing Palestinian homes.

The representative of the Maldives also spoke.

Ms. FARHA, responding, agreed with Brazil’s representative on the need for cultural change to ensure the right to adequate housing for persons with disabilities, underscoring that it was necessary for the international community to move forward.  On whether housing should match a certain climate or place, she said the right to adequate housing was intended to meet the needs of people wherever they were, no matter the climate.  Housing in post‑natural disaster or post‑conflict situations was a concern, as conflict had an incredibly detrimental impact on people with disabilities.  Human rights law applied to States and all levels of Government, she said; the onus was on States to work with the private and corporate sector to ensure they were respecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

On the issue of data collection, she suggested that the Washington Group on Disability Statistics collect that information.  Regarding the benefits of a human rights approach to housing for persons with disabilities, she said the Sustainable Development Goals required the eradication of homelessness by 2030.  A disproportionate number of people with psychosocial disabilities were homeless.  The New Urban Agenda required States to develop housing strategies that were rooted in human rights, she said, noting that international human rights law was clear that States were accountable to the people, and that a human rights approach offered measurable timelines and goals.  To the question by the representative of the State of Palestine, she said it was clear in all her work how she felt about house demolitions, whether they occurred in Palestine or any other State.

Enjoyment of the Highest Physical, Mental Health

DAINIUS PŪRAS, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, said his report examined the effects of corruption on the right to health, which was among the most corrupt sectors, given its vulnerability to power asymmetries, uncertainty in selecting, measuring and delivering services, and complexity of systems.  Corruption undermined the State’s obligation to realize the right to health “to the maximum of its resources”.  Thus, strengthening health care systems so that all segments of the population trusted primary services would be an effective anti‑corruption measure, as it would mitigate the tendency for patients to bypass primary care and use specialized services.

He said the report also considered the mental health sector, which was particularly affected by corrupt practices and use of biased evidence.  Mental health policies and services illustrated how a lack of transparency and accountability in the relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and health sector, including academic medicine, could lead to institutional corruption.  He recommended that States implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and ensure that anti‑corruption laws integrated the right to health as a standard.  Sufficient checks and balances should also be put in place when health sectors were decentralized or handed over to the private sector.  States should also raise awareness among providers against unethical practices, and press relevant stakeholders to address, through legal and policy measures, corrupt practices taking place in all stages of the pharmaceutical value chain.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of Lithuania asked what measures could be taken by States to ensure that mental health policies were driven by a human rights‑based, non‑biased approach.

The representative of Cuba asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate how corruption could take place in the private health care sector.

The representative of the European Union inquired about best practices for involving stakeholders in decision‑making on health care issues.

The representative of Indonesia asked how an international cooperation could combat corruption in health care systems.

The representative of the Maldives suggested the Special Rapporteur publish a report on the health care challenges of geographically dispersed countries.

The representative of South Africa also spoke.

Mr. PŪRAS, responding, recommended applying an analytic framework developed by his predecessors.  Simplified approaches had failed, he said, because social and underlying determinants had been ignored.  The global understanding now worked to better address social and other determinants of mental health, and to provide treatments such as psychosocial support; it was clear that biomedical interventions had been overused.  The Human Rights Council had passed a resolution last year on mental health which emphasized over‑medicalization and over‑institutionalization as ineffective investments which might be harmful.  The justiciability of the right to health was an important issue, as was the role of primary care in preventing corruption.

People in many parts of the world liked specialists more than primary care health workers, he observed, adding that what people needed was good primary care, which saved resources and brought transparency to health care.  People in villages and in local communities contributed a lot to the effective provision of health care services.  To a question on good practices, he extended his gratitude to countries which had accepted his mandate’s visit, noting that in Armenia and Indonesia, the commitment by health care professionals towards developing effective policies was evident.  On international cooperation, he said one important element was international assistance, noting that rich countries could help developing countries formulate community‑based mental health care.  Around the world, many people had mild or common mental health issues, and there were simple, inexpensive solutions, such as community nurses providing psychosocial support.  The public and private sectors should cooperate, but the private sector should be supervised and controlled to avoid corruption.

Read More

Taking Up International Trade Commission Report, Sixth Committee Speakers Applaud Adoption of Texts on Electronic Commerce, Secure Transactions

Delegates Defer 4 Requests for Observer Status until Seventy-third Session

While deferring action on four observer requests, the Sixth Committee took up the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) fiftieth session that included possibilities of reform, as well as the finalization and adoption of two legislative texts in the areas of electronic commerce and secured transactions.

Considering eight requests for observer status in the work of the General Assembly, the Committee also decided to defer action on the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Community of Democracies and the Global Environment Facility until the seventy-third session of the General Assembly.

Janos Martonyi (Hungary), Chair of UNCITRAL introduced the Commission’s report (document A/72/17), which he said was the result of a comprehensive session that covered a wide-ranging variety of issues.  Spotlighting the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and Explanatory Notes, he said that text should bring a number of benefits to commerce due to speed and security of transmission.  The second text, Guide to Enactment of the Secured Transactions Model Law, would provide key assistance to legislators.

Turning to the Working Groups, he noted that the Commission had given its Working Group III a mandate to work on the possible reform of investor-State dispute settlement.  Broad discretion in that mandate would be left to the Working Group.  Recommended solutions should also allow States to choose to what extent they wished to adopt relevant resolutions.

Contractual issues related to cloud computing had been the focus of Working Group IV on Electronic Commerce, he said.  The Group had begun to compile a checklist of contractual issues on that matter.  Working Group V, meanwhile, had continued to work on a model law on the recognition and enforcement of insolvency-related judgements.

Working Group I on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises had focused on the initial stages of those organizations, looking for measures to support both their establishment and their ongoing viability, he said.  Working Group II on Dispute Settlement had made progress on a range of issues, from the legal effect of agreements to the treatment of settlement agreements concluded in the course of judicial or arbitral proceeding.

Also noteworthy was the work of the UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific based in Incheon, Republic of Korea, which had continued to provide capacity building and technical assistance to States and international and regional organizations.  The Centre had taken part in many regionally-based international trade law alliances, including other appropriate United Nations bodies.

Speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), El Salvador’s delegate hailed UNCITRAL for ensuring the representation of various geographical regions and the major economic and legal systems of the world.  However, challenges in codifying international trade law were increasing.  The nature of commerce at the global level was undergoing modification due to incessant technological development and the diversification of commercial activities.  The Commission must adapt, as much as possible, to the dynamics of trade activities. 

In that vein, the representative of Bahrain noted that a proposal by his Government to establish an UNCITRAL regional centre for the Middle East and North Africa had been approved by the Commission.  Among other things, the centre would aim to increase familiarity with UNCITRAL texts in the region, give technical assistance to States in the region on the adoption and use of those texts and enable coordination with international and regional organizations on trade law reform projects in the region.

Because electronic identity continued to be a significant concern internationally, the United Kingdom’s representative expressed his support for the progress made by Working Group IV on Electronic Commerce, which included in its work the inclusion of verified electronic identity and strong authentication for online digital transactions supporting international trade.  The issue was a key element being the creation of interoperability and trust frameworks, he stressed.

The Committee also considered the matter of the Administration of Justice at the United Nations, with representatives taking up reports addressing the United Nations Offices that fulfilled aspects of that duty, including the Internal Justice Council, the United Nations Ombudsman and the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, among others.

Speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Jamaica said that certain trends should be looked at, particularly in the light of United Nations reform efforts.  For example, while the Secretariat had made considerable investments to improve relations between the Organization and its staff, there had been a relatively high rate of overturn by the Appeals Tribunal in cases coming from the Dispute Tribunal.

Also voicing concern, the representative of the United States pointed out that the Internal Justice Council’s report showed that a substantial fear of retaliation existed among staff, and, during the reporting period of the report, there were no findings on the accountability of managers, she said.

However, the European Union delegate highlighted the work of the Management Evaluation Unit, noting that the high quality of its work could be seen in the low proportion of cases challenged by staff members before the Dispute Tribunal.  The Office of Staff Legal Assistance was also instrumental in avoiding unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings, he noted.

Speaking today on UNCITRAL were representatives of Austria, Philippines, Singapore, Peru, India, Japan, Russian Federation, Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, Belarus, Italy, Chile, Indonesia, Honduras, United States, Israel, Cameroon, and Morocco, as well as the European Union and the International Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking on the granting of observer status were representatives of Cuba, Venezuela, China, Togo, Viet Nam, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru, Ecuador, Singapore, Philippines, Japan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uruguay, United States, and Colombia.

Speaking today on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations were representatives of El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Canada (also speaking for Australia and New Zealand), Switzerland, Mexico, and Guatemala.

The Sixth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 10 October, to take up its consideration of the Report on the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization and to commence the debate on the Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction.

United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)

JANOS MARTONYI (Hungary), Chair of the fiftieth session of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), introduced the Commission’s report (document A/72/17), describing the session as comprehensive and touching upon a wide range of issues.

The Commission had finalized and adopted two legislative texts in the areas of electronic commerce and shared transactions, he said.  The UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and Explanatory Notes should bring a number of benefits to commerce due to speed and security of transmission.  It also built on existing texts on electronic commerce and on the principles of functional equivalence and technological neutrality.  The second text, Guide to Enactment of the Secured Transactions Model Law, would provide useful assistance to legislators.

Working Group I on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises had made progress in addressing its mandates to reduce the legal obstacles faced by such businesses throughout their life cycle, he said.  Efforts in that Working Group focused on the first stage of the life cycle of such enterprises, on measures to facilitate the establishment of such businesses and to support their viability once they were in existence.

Meanwhile, Working Group II on Dispute Settlement had continued its work on the preparation of an instrument to deal with the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from conciliation, he continued.  It had made progress related to the compromise reached at its sixty-sixth session regarding the legal effect of agreements, the treatment of settlement agreements concluded in the course of judicial or arbitral proceeding and possible opt-in declaration by parties, among other matters.

Working Group IV on Electronic Commerce had worked on legal aspects of identity management and trust services, as well as contractual issues related to cloud computing, he noted.  It had begun its preparation of a checklist of contractual issues of cloud computing by identifying the content and structure of that checklist.  Work in the area of identity management and trust services would require more brainstorming to crystalize the issues to be addressed.

Turning to Working Group V on insolvency, he said that it had continued to make progress with its work on a model law on the recognition and enforcement of insolvency-related judgements, as well as on legislative provisions on facilitating the cross-border insolvency of multinational enterprise groups.  The model law was nearing completion and a draft text, together with a guide to enactment, would likely be submitted for consideration by the Commission in 2018.  Once those texts had been finalized, the Working Group would consider the treatment of micro, small and medium-sized businesses in insolvency, with regard to which preliminary work had already begun.

He also noted that the Commission had given its Working Group III a mandate to work on the possible reform of investor-State dispute settlement.  The Working Group would identify concerns on that matter and consider whether reform was desirable.  The Commission also agreed that broad discretion in that mandate should be left to the Working Group and any recommended solutions should take into account the ongoing work of relevant international organizations and should allow each State the choice of whether and to what extent it wished to adopt the relevant resolutions.

The Committee had made progress carrying out the various legislative projects on technical assistance and coordination, he said, adding that it was aware that the development of those legislative texts was only the first step in the process of trade law harmonization.  Dissemination of information and the conduct of promotion activities as well as technical cooperation and assistance projects were vital to the further use, adoption and interpretation of UNCITRAL texts.  In that respect, he commended the efforts by the Secretariat to provide information and to share practical experience in the enactment of those texts.

The UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific based in Incheon, Republic of Korea, had continued to provide capacity building and technical assistance to States, as well as international and regional organizations.  The Centre had promoted certainty in international commercial transactions through the dissemination of international trade norms and standards.  There was now a tangible increase of accessions, ratifications and enactments of UNCITRAL texts in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Regional Centre had actively participated in regionally-based international trade law partnerships and alliances, including with other appropriate United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies.

He stressed that it was of the utmost importance for the Commission to promote the uniform interpretation and application of its texts.  One of the ways that was pursued was through the Case Law on UNICTRAL Texts system (CLOUT).  As a result of collaboration between the UNICTRAL Secretariat and a network of national correspondents appointed by Member States, information on court decisions and arbitral awards interpreting UNICITRAL legislative texts were being published in the

In response to the General Assembly’s invitation, the Commission had been transmitting comments on its role in promoting the rule of law, he said, adding that its comments focused on the ways and means to further disseminate international commercial law to strengthen the principle.  In those comments, the Commission had referred to its traditional and innovative dissemination activities and their importance for strengthening the rule of law.  He also underscored that a number of UNICITRAL’s projects relied heavily or entirely on extra-budgetary resources, and he reiterated the Commission’s appeal to the States to provide funding for such activities and to assist the Secretariat in identifying additional resources.

Statements

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), hailed UNCITRAL for ensuring the representation of various geographical regions and the major economic and legal systems of the world.  For developing countries the Commission represented the possibility of participating in the harmonization, unification and modernization of international trade law.  Commending the progress achieved in the six Working Groups, he highlighted the work of Working Groups IV and VI, by approving the “Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and Explanatory Notes” and a “Guide to Enactment of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Secured Transactions.”

However, he added, challenges in codifying international trade law were increasing.  Volume and the nature of commerce at the global level were undergoing modification without pause due to incessant technological development and the diversification of commercial activities.  The Commission must adapt, as much as possible, to the dynamics of trade activities.  Noting that participation in the sessions of the Commission was significant for the members of the Community, he added that alternating the meetings between New York and Vienna was enabling those States that did not have diplomatic representation in Austria to participate.  He called on the Organization to continue the current system, thereby facilitating broad membership participation.

ANCA CRISTINA MEZDREA, European Union delegation, said that the traditional Investor–State Dispute Settlement presented various challenges and should be reformed.  Those challenges had sparked off an international debate, with many countries already thinking about how to reform the Settlement.  In other areas of law where dispute resolution involved public matters, a multilateral approach was better suited to effectively address all the issues at stake.

She noted that, as a first step, the Commission had agreed to work on identifying underlying issues and concerns in order to provide the rationale for any proposed reforms and to proceed with the development of possible solutions.  The Commission presented many advantages in terms of transparency and accessibility.  Encouraging countries, international organizations and observers to actively participate in the discussions, she expressed hope for a satisfactory outcome. 

NADIA ALEXANDRA KALB (Austria), aligning herself with the European Union, said that it was a source of pride for her country to host the Commission and its Secretariat in Vienna.  Noting that the Commission had finalized and adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, with an explanatory note, she added that Austria supported the work of the Commission concerned with technical cooperation and assistance in the field of international trade law reform and development. Austria was serving as the coordinator for the UNCITRAL resolution, she said encouraging delegates to co-sponsor the draft text.

IGOR GARLIT BAILEN (Philippines), expressing support for fair, stable, and predictable legal frameworks for generating inclusive, sustainable and equitable development, added that the past year had been another productive year for the Commission.  His country paid close attention to the development of standards on transparency, including the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration (Transparency Rules).  The related Convention, which provided a mechanism for the application of the Transparency Rules, would be entered into force on 18 October.  Also commending the progress made by Working Group I on Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, he reaffirmed support for UNCITRAL’s Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific.

SERAPHINA FONG (Singapore) said the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, an important instrument, would remove uncertainty in many jurisdictions on the use and effect of such records.  She commended the Commission and its Working Group IV for their practical approach, which did not affect existing substantive law governing such documents and instruments.  That would facilitate States in the adoption of the Model Law and would bring clear benefits to commercial parties without having to review or create any substantive law on negotiable instruments.  While many interesting ideas had been raised at the fiftieth session concerning the Commission’s future work, some of those suggestions needed to be carefully examined to determine if they were within that body’s mandate, or if they could be better undertaken by some other entities within or outside the United Nations system.  Even for work that clearly fell within UNCITRAL’s remit, there would be increasing demands made on its resources and those of Member States, she noted, adding it would become critically important for the Commission to prioritise its work.

ANGEL HORNA (Peru) cited his country’s President’s address to Congress that stressed the importance of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.  A plan had been designed for accessing credit, as well as a favourable tax regime for those enterprises in the short term.  Furthermore, reduction of obstacles for those enterprises was much appreciated, he said, underscoring that it was now a globalized world of electronic commerce.  The Working Group in charge of that subject was critically important.  He welcomed the adoption in July on the Model Law on that subject and reiterated Peru’s willingness to share expertise on digital identity.

YEDLA UMASANKAR (India) said that the legal texts and model laws developed by the Commission were directly relevant to the commercial transactions of individuals, corporations and States.  The UNCITRAL Model Law on Secured Transactions would increase the availability of secured credit across national borders and would contribute to the development of international trade.  The Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and its explanatory notes would contribute to the development of systems to enable progress in the field of paperless trade.

HARUKA SAWADA (Japan), commending the substantive deliberations taking place in the Working Group I, expressed the hope that, during the next session of the Commission, its Working Group II, which was handling the challenging topic of Dispute Settlement, would be able to complete its work leading to the adoption of the instrument.  Congratulating UNCITRAL on finalizing and adopting the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, he added that Working Group IV must continue to pay attention to technological neutrality.  The Model Law would promote legislation on electronic commerce, he said.

MAXIM MUSIKHIN (Russian Federation) said that his country was a party to a number of international agreements that had been developed within the Commission. Furthermore, texts developed by UNCITRAL were enhancing his country’s legislation. Spotlighting Working Group II’s work drafting a document on the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from conciliation proceedings, as well as its work on a convention on the issue, he noted that his country was an active participant in those matters.  On Working Group V, he said he hoped that solutions would be found which took into account the interests of all UNCITRAL members on the enforcement of insolvency related judgements.

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador), aligning himself with CELAC, commended the worthwhile efforts of each working group.  Praising the Commission’s decision to entrust to Working Group III on Investor-State Dispute Settlement, he added that it would be an invaluable contribution to the codification of international law.  Also congratulating Working Groups IV and VI on their adoption of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and the Guide to Enactment of the Model Law on Secured Transactions respectively, he said that the work carried out by Working Group IV in particular was of great value to his country’s development.

SUN THATHONG (Thailand) noted that his country had benefited from the Legislative Guide on Secure Transactions in drafting Thailand’s national secured transactions legislation.  He also commended the Commission for providing valuable technical assistance in reading and applying its various texts.  Thailand, along with various reginal stakeholders, continued to collaborate closely with the Commission’s regional centre for Asia and the Pacific.  Adoption of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records with Explanatory Notes and the Guide to Enactment of the Model law on Secured Transitions continued to play a vital role in modernizing trade law regimes.  Entrusting Working Group III with the mandate to work on the possible reform of investor-State dispute settlement would help facilitate consideration of concerns and allow States to deliberate on ways forward.  In that context, he stressed that the Working Group must conduct its work in a transparent and inclusive manner.  UNCITRAL must steer the wheels of international trade law towards human-centred goals which prioritized more than just profit. 

SABONGA MPONGOSHA (South Africa) said that the work on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises could make valuable contributions towards streamlining the process of establishing Limited Liability Organizations in many States.  UNCITRAL’s work on electronic commerce also did important work, harmonizing the rules in an increasingly important area of trade law that affected consumers in the developed and developing world.  He also noted with interest the change of topic of Working Group III, and welcomed the increased focus on investor-state dispute settlement.  UNCITRAL had been one of the few international fora that consistently focused on concerns related to that issue by a number of States, including South Africa.

JOSÉ LUIS FERNANDEZ VALONI (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC, said that UNICTRAL had helped create an enabling environment for trade, adding that his country had ratified several of its instruments.  The progress of Working Group VI’s efforts on developing model law on security interests as well as its guide to interpret that model law in States was appreciated.  Several States had taken steps to modernize their security systems to reduce risks and to ensure lower interest rates in order to attract greater investments for their infrastructure.  Spotlighting the aims of Working Group I preparing a body of legal standards for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to simplify standards, he stressed that those endeavours were useful for the development of such enterprises; it reduced the requirements for incorporation.

RUSLAN VARANKOV (Belarus) highlighted how Working Group IV supported the development of a document outlining the contractual issues of cloud computing.  On addressing that issue it was important to focus on risk distribution mechanisms.  He also underscored the importance of the expansion of the Model Law on Transporter Insolvency.  Voicing support for work to enhance the existing mechanism for the settlement of commercial and investment disputes, he also commended UNICTRAL on maintaining the online cloud database that helped share best practices and knowledge.

SALVATORE ZAPPALÁ (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said he attached great importance to the work of the Commission and its working groups, and had been pleased with the way they had worked in producing seminal legal texts.  The Commission was an effective forum for deliberations on tools to improve rules and regulations in the area of international trade law and in assisting Member States to adapt legislation to a changing landscape.  He acknowledged the quality of the working group discussions and the effective way in which meetings had been held in Vienna and New York.  Notwithstanding differing legal systems and domestic agendas, the Commission had been able to demonstrate that Member States could sit together and genuinely work to reach common solutions, he said.

STEPHEN H. SMITH (United Kingdom), noting that his country was a founding member of UNCITRAL, thanked the Experts Group of Working Group I for their hard work in arriving at a text for the Group to consider for adoption by the Commission next year.  Turning to Working Group IV, he expressed support for the inclusion of verified electronic identity and strong authentication in regards to online digital transactions supporting international trade.  Electronic identity continued to be a significant concern internationally, a key element being the creation of interoperability and trust frameworks, he said. 

JAVIER GOROSTEGUI OBANOZ (Chile), aligning himself with CELAC, said that the Commission’s work promoted greater coherence in the harmonization of international trade law, while taking into account the realities and contexts of different States.  Tackling corruption was necessary for the development of trade, he said, also noting recent proposals geared towards reforming the investor-State dispute settlement process. “We are opening up a new front for legal academic discussion,” he said, encouraging UNCITRAL to take on a higher profile.  He also encouraged delegates to work constructively and enable inclusive dialogue, adding that the model laws adopted by the Working Groups would help codify international laws.

AHMAD SHALEH BAWAZIR (Indonesia) commended Working Group I’s aims to reduce the legal obstacles encountered by micro, small and medium enterprises, especially in developing countries.  The legislative guide should be a flexible text that would enable States to simplify the work of those enterprises so to allow them to grow and compete.  He also voiced support for the “prudent approach” taken by the Commission concerning the Investors-State Dispute Settlement.  In particular, he urged that deliberation always be based on the balance between protecting the investors in the host State, while providing policy spaces for the host State to assert its national interest.  Major attention should be paid to the importance of technical cooperation and assistance to developing countries in matters related to the adaptation and use of texts adopted by the Commission.  In that sense, the Secretariat should continue providing assistance and improve its outreach to those countries.

FAHAD AHMED ALDOSERI (Bahrain) noted that the Commission had approved the proposal by his Government to establish an UNCITRAL regional centre for the Middle East and North Africa in his country and increase familiarity with UNCITRAL texts and their level of adoption and use in the region.  The objectives of the proposed regional centre would be providing technical assistance to States on the adoption, use and understanding of UNCITRAL text; coordination with international and regional organizations on trade law reform projects in the region; coordination of the communication between States in the region and UNCITRAL; and building and participating in regional partnerships and alliances including other United Nations bodies.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras), associating herself with CELAC, said that she welcomed the approval of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and the Guide to Enactment of the Model Law on Secured Transactions.  That was a tremendous contribution to the strengthening of the framework for international trade law.  Her Government had enacted a law on electronic signatures and a law on electronic commerce without prejudice to other legal instruments.  With regard to the Commission’s work in seeking to achieve the transparent settlement of disputes at national and international levels, she also said Honduras hoped to include in its legal system the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and the technical notes on online dispute resolution.

MARK A. SIMONOFF (United States) welcomed the adoption of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and encouraged States to consider implementing it should their domestic law not already provide an adequate framework.  The Commission’s work on a Guide to Enactment for the Model Law on Secured Transactions would assist States in reforming their domestic legal regime in ways that would facilitate access to credit.  With respect to ongoing work on conciliation, he praised UNCITRAL’s plan to develop a related convention, which should help promote its use internationally in the same way the New York Convention had helped promote the use of arbitration.  His Government had taken steps toward becoming a party to the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-Based Investor-State Arbitration, which had been transmitted to the United States Senate in December 2016 for approval.

AMIT HEUMANN (Israel), highlighting some of the progress UNCITAL had made over the past year, said that he looked forward to participating in Working Group I’s upcoming deliberations on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.  Turning to Working Group II’s work on international commercial settlement agreements resulting from conciliation, he said that the instrument being developed would provide Member States with the guidance needed to deal with such agreements.  He looked forward to participating in the Working Group on Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform, but noted that Israel’s participation did not imply support for a permanent mechanism or that it would join a convention on that issue, if one were ever finalized.

VICTOR TCHATCHOUWO (Cameroon), commending the Commission for adopting the Model Law on Electronic Secured Transactions and the note on arbitration proceedings, said that the use of texts developed by the Commission would facilitate the harmonization of international trade law.  Encouraging Member States to improve the implementation of those texts, he expressed support for the Commission’s initiatives to coordinate the legal activities of regional trade organizations.  That not only strengthened cooperation between them, but also promoted rule of law.  Developing countries benefited enormously from the Commission’s work on technical assistance, he said, recalling his country’s proposal to establish a regional centre for the Commission in Africa. 

MOHAMED BENTAJA (Morocco) said that he welcomed the work on the insolvency of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and the reform underway to create an investor-State dispute mechanism that would protect investors when carrying out activities in various States.  For instance, investment and investors should be protected from expropriation, he said, adding he welcomed the reforms, as they protected investors in the process of carrying out their activities.

HIROKO MURAKI GOTTLIEB, International Chamber of Commerce, said that UNCITRAL was a vital partner of the Chamber and its work was critically important.  Historically, the Chamber had contributed to the work of UNCITRAL through numerous international trade law-related instruments that it had drafted.  She said she was grateful that the Commission and its members had adopted a decision endorsing the Chamber’s Uniform Rules for Forfaiting.  UNCITRAL’s endorsement of those rules would facilitate financing of receivables arising from international trade transactions by providing a new set of rules applicable to forfaiting transactions.  Those Rules also complemented a number of international trade law instruments.

Requests for Observer Status

The representative of Cuba, making a general statement, said that only intergovernmental organizations should be granted observer status.  That stance was not merely a procedural issue or “red tape”, she said, adding that in-depth information was required on each individual organization.

The representative of Venezuela said that only organizations addressing topics of interest to the General Assembly should be granted observer status.  It was vital the Sixth Committee had before it a summary of the make-up and membership of each organization.

The Committee then decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States.  The Council, an international intergovernmental organization, promoted cooperation among Turkic-speaking States and aimed to serve as a new regional instrument for advancing international cooperation in Eurasian continent, particularly in Central Asia and Caucasus.

The Committee also decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Eurasian Economic Union, an economic union of states located primarily in northern Eurasia.

The Committee then decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Community of Democracies, an intergovernmental coalition of States that was bringing together Governments, civil society and private sector in the pursuit of supporting democratic rules.

The Committee then turned to a request for observer status for the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan in the General Assembly.

The representative of China introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.8, noting that the Network was the only intergovernmental organization that specialized in the conservation and development of bamboo and rattan, the two most important non-timber forest products.  Its membership had grown from the original nine founding member States and six observer States to the current 43 member States and more than 10 observer States, with regional offices or focal points in Ecuador, Ghana and Ethiopia.

The representative of Togo said that observer status would be an asset to the Network so it could continue to promote environmentally friendly socio-economic development.  Since its founding, the Network had had a tangible impact on people’s lives, training tens of thousands working in bamboo and rattan production.

Viet Nam’s representative said that the Network worked to improve the wellbeing of producers and users of bamboo and rattan by coordinating and supporting research and development into those resources.  Because bamboo and rattan were non-timber forest products in Asia as well as other regions, the Network was directly contributing to sustainable development.

The representative of Sri Lanka said that the work of the Network helped to implement a range of the Sustainable Development Goals which targeted poverty alleviation, sustainable energy and climate change.  It also played a vital role in South-South cooperation, and supported countries in using bamboo and rattan to improve environmental security.

The representative of Cuba said that the Network was an intergovernmental, autonomous and non-profit organization that enabled South-South cooperation. Granting it observer status would be a major contribution to improving the work of the General Assembly.

The representative of Venezuela said she was certain that the participation of the Network would promote South-South cooperation.  Granting it observer status would leave the United Nations in a better position to meet and respond to global challenges

The representative of Timor-Leste said that the Network played a unique role in supporting its members to find and demonstrate innovative ways of using bamboo and rattan to protect environments and biodiversity, while alleviating poverty.

The representative of Bangladesh said that the mission of the Network had provided training to tens of thousands of bamboo practitioners, helping them enter new markets and use new technologies.

The representative of Nepal said that his country was an active member of the Network.  Granting observer status to the Network would enable it to achieve its full potential, thereby contributing to sustainable development.

The representative of Peru said that the Network had been engaged in projects in his country to prevent and mitigate natural disasters.  Its priorities also dovetailed fully with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The representative of Ecuador said that the Network provided environmental security in Ecuador and other countries, and provided support to his country as it strove to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Committee then took up request for observer status for the “ASEAN+3” Macroeconomic Research Office in the General Assembly.

The Representative of Singapore introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.9,  “Observer status for the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office in the General Assembly”, saying that the organization was a platform consisting of the 10 Member States plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.  The Research Office, which functioned as the regional macroeconomic surveillance unit, met the criteria of General Assembly decision 49/426 of 9 December 1994.  Granting observer status would help cooperation between the Office and the United Nations and would contribute to a stable global macro-economic environment, as well as deepen interactions with other countries and regional and international organizations.

The representative of China said that the purpose of the Research Office was the promotion of regional economic and financial stability, monitoring the situation of regional economies, and supporting the implementation of the arrangement for multilateral liquidity.  Granting observer status to the organization would help enhance the exchanges and cooperation between this organization and the United Nations.

The representative of the Philippines, recalling the 1997 Asian financial crisis which had threated a global economic meltdown, said the Research Office’s purpose was to avert any financial crisis in that region.  The Research Office sought to prevent a repeat of that by deepening regional cooperation with stronger safety nets, particularly by decreasing balance of payment difficulties in times of crises.  Furthermore, it had the full legal capacity to enter into contracts and to deal with ASEAN+3 Governments in conducting surveillance activities and with other international and development institutions for better coordination and collaborative activities. 

The representative of Japan said that in the aftermath of the 1997 crash, the States of the region had established the Research Office in order to encourage regional financial integration and cooperation.  The Office’s activities not only benefited the region but were broadly aligned with the aims of the United Nations, such as promoting economic progress and solutions to international economic problems. 

The Committee took up the request for observer status for the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism in the General Assembly.

The representative of Belarus introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.4, saying that the Group’s work was based on an agreement between his country, India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, to cooperate in combating the financing of terrorism.  All its member States were fine-tuning their national financial systems into alignment with international standards.  Granting the Group observer status would promote effective cooperation between them and the United Nations.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that the Group was an intergovernmental organization with the goal of cooperation at the regional level to focus on money laundering and the financing of terrorism.  

The representative of China said that the Group fully met the criteria for observer status. Its activities covered matters of interest to the General Assembly and its main purpose was to conduct effective regional interaction to ensure the compliance of its member States with the international standard set by the Financial Action Task Force.

The representative of Tajikistan said that the Group was a regional intergovernmental organization that conducted joint activities aimed at combating money laundering and combating terrorism.  

The Committee then took up the request for observer status for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Secretariat.

The representative of Uruguay introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.6, noting that the Convention was drawn up in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971.  It was an intergovernmental Convention aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands through national, regional and international cooperation.  The Convention entered into force in 1975, with amendments in 1982 and 1987.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was the depository of the Convention.  The Preamble of the Convention reaffirmed the key ecological role played by wetlands as a habitat for unique flora and fauna, particularly in aquatic environments.

The representative of the United States said it was a State party of the Convention and supported the work of its Secretariat.  She voiced appreciation for its positive contributions on conversations relevant to its mandate.  Nevertheless, she had studied the application and her country had questions on its status as an intergovernmental organization.

The representative of Venezuela, noting that her country was home to five internationally important wetlands, said that the Secretariat of the Convention met all the requirements for observers set out by the General Assembly.

The representative of Colombia said that wetlands were vital and provided fresh water, food and building materials.  The Secretariat met all the criteria for observer status in the General Assembly and pursued activities of interest for that body.

The representative of Peru said that his country was a contracting party to the Convention, and his country had also adopted guidelines for the designation of Ramsar sites in order to identify wetlands of international importance.  The Convention’s Secretariat met all the requirements for observer status.

The Committee then decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Global Environment Facility, a partnership of 183 countries with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector to address global environmental issues.

Statements on Administration of Justice

The Sixth Committee took up consideration two reports of the Secretary-General on the Administration of Justice, including “Activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services” (document A/72/138) and “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (document A/72/204), as well as the Report of the Internal Justice Council on the Administration of Justice (document A/72/210).

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador), speaking for CELAC, noted that the United Nations Office of Staff Legal Assistance had been performing a vital task through representation, advice and other legal services and that the Internal Justice Council continued to play an important role in the system to help ensure independence, professionalism and accountability.  The Dispute Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal had shown firm commitment to contribute to justice at the Organization.  New ways should be explored to improve the use of the informal system like the Mediation Division, he said, encouraging proper geographical and gender distribution among judges and staff, and stressing the importance of the Management Evaluation Unit in preventing unnecessary litigation.

Turning to the work of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services, he emphasized that informal resolution of conflict was crucial to the administration of justice.  He called for incentives to encourage more recourse to informal resolution.  The Office should, among other things, ensure accountability and transparency in the decision-making process by holding managers accountable for their actions and providing institutional capacity to resolve workplace conflicts.  The Sixth Committee should continue to coordinate and cooperate closely with the Fifth Committee to ensure an appropriate division of labour and avoid overlaps or encroachment of mandates.

GILLES MARHIC, European Union delegation, said the informal resolution of disputes was one of the most crucial elements of the Organization’s justice administration system.  It enabled faster and more flexible means of facilitation, problem-solving, shuttle diplomacy, mediation and conflict coaching, while also avoiding time-consuming and stressful litigation processes.  Voicing concern over the results of a 2016 survey finding that 60 per cent of staff had experienced a recent workplace conflict and a similar proportion felt stress levels to be above what they considered acceptable, he welcomed the expanded use of strategic data and multilingual surveys to help identify systemic issues.  Organizing thematic informational sessions and workshops, skill-building initiatives and individual coaching were also useful tools.

He also commended the work of the Management Evaluation Unit — including its systematic efforts to identify requests with a good potential for settlement through informal resolution.  The quality of the Unit’s work was demonstrated by the relatively low proportion of cases challenged by staff members before the Dispute Tribunal.  That body, along with the Appeals Tribunal, formed an equally important part of the justice administration.  The Office of Staff Legal Assistance was also instrumental in avoiding unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings.  Regarding Panel recommendation 58 — in which the Chair of the Sixth Committee had recommended that the Secretary-General be requested to provide further information on the improvement of investigations into misconduct and harassment to staff members — he noted that the joint planning between the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Administrative Law Section was intended to facilitate the development and delivery of relevant training across the Secretariat in the last months of 2017.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with CELAC and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed support for any measures intended to strengthen the administration of justice and improve its effectiveness at the managerial and operational levels.  In particular, he voiced his support for efforts to ensure that well-established principles of law, such as separation of powers and judicial independence, governed the management of the justice system.  While those fundamental principles were critical, fidelity to them must be matched by a commitment to ensuring the highest standards of accountability if the administration of the internal justice system. 

Considerable investments had been made by the Secretariat to implement systems aimed at improving relations between the Organization and its staff, he said.  Nevertheless, there was a relatively high rate of overturn by the Appeals Tribunal in cases coming from the Dispute Tribunal.  Further analysis of the factors leading to that outcome would be appreciated.  In addition, staff in peacekeeping missions represented a disproportionate percentage of clients being served by the Office of Staff Legal Assistance.  There was a need to obtain an in-depth understanding of those trends, as well as their significance to the United Nations operations and reform efforts.  Finally, he noted with concern the Internal Justice Council’s identification of friction in the relationship between some judges and some Registry staff, which had affected productivity and morale.  The Council’s recommendation that the two entities’ responsibilities should be clearly delineated merit support, he said, also urging that the durational period between filing cases and resolving them be expedited.

CATHERINE BOUCHER (Canada), also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, commended the inclusion of a Code of Conduct for Legal Representatives and Litigants in Person in the Annex to General Assembly resolution 71/266.  That inclusion would help ensure that all individuals acting as legal representatives for the United Nations were held to the same high standards of professional conduct.  In 2016, the majority of staff members filing cases with the United Nations Dispute Tribunal had been self-represented, and no matter how intelligent or hard-working they were, navigating a complex labour dispute with a large organization could be daunting and overwhelming. 

She also underscored the importance of ensuring the United Nations had a system that allowed its human resources professionals to effectively manage employees who were not meeting the Organization’s high standards.  Only 1 per cent of staff had received ratings suggesting they were underperforming, in part because managers feared employees lodging complaints.  The International Justice Council’s report included references to concerns relating to the reality and appearance of the independence of the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal.  Such impressions could compromise the trust of litigants.  The independence of judges was therefore critical. 

DAMARIS CARNAL (Switzerland) said that the system of administration of justice must be provided with the necessary resources to be able to function effectively and fairly.  Expressing concern that certain key functions were under-resourced, she added that effective protection against retaliation was an indispensable attribute of a fair and effective system of internal justice.  Almost half of the workforce consisted of non-staff personnel.  Many of those persons were engaged, not in short-time consultancy-type work, but in performing the same or similar functions as staff over prolonged periods of time.  In the absence of a remedy before domestic courts, which were generally unavailable due to the Organization’s immunity, those persons must be granted access to an alternative remedy to settle work-related disputes.

ANA FIERRO (Mexico), while praising the hard work of the organs and agencies that made up the internal justice system at the Organization, said that clear improvements were needed in accessibility and operationalization.  Drawing attention to the plight of non-staff personnel, she pointed out that often local staff was hired as consultants and individual contractors to perform the same functions as staff.  When it came to access to means of resolving workplace disputes, staff and non-staff personnel were treated differently.  Furthermore, staff members were often unaware of the tools to uphold their rights; that held particularly true for non-staff.

CARLOS GARCÍA REYES (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, said that the administration of justice system was intended to be transparent.  Its actions were supposed to be compatible with international law and due process.  Against that background, he said he was delighted by the headway achieved since that system had rolled out, adding that it had had a positive impact on workplace performance.  He expressed his support for the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, which had played a key role through the provision of legal services and advice to staff.  Legal assistance was a tool that provided representation and ensured that everyone was treated equally.

EMILY PIERCE (United States) said that the Internal Justice Council’s report made it clear that there still existed a substantial fear of retaliation among staff.   During the reporting period, there were no findings on the accountability of managers.  The Management Evaluation Unit’s work in conducting management reviews of administration decisions appeared to have resulted in a decrease in the amount of litigation pursued at the Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal.  Acknowledging the contributions of the Office of the Ombudsman and Mediation Services, she added that early and informal resolution of disputes should be encouraged.

Read More

Speakers Consider Value of Interdependence, Multilateralism, Joint Action in Tackling Global Challenges, on Fourth Day of Annual General Debate

The interdependence of States and the benefits of joint action must be recognized and reaffirmed, the General Assembly heard today, as speakers debated the value of multilateralism in addressing pressing global challenges, ranging from inequality to climate change.

Never in history had moving away from diplomacy led to progress in the promotion of universal values, said Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium, declaring that doing so would be an act of “cowardly abandon”.  On the fourth day of the Assembly’s annual general debate, he described multilateralism as a robust and reliable driving force for creating a better world, emphasizing the necessity of coordination and consensus.  Globalization had generated doubts and fears, yet multilateralism was not to blame, he said, emphasizing that although multilateralism was complicated and could create difficulties, international and regional organizations and action must be strengthened.

Reinforcing that sentiment, Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stressed:  “This is the moment for multilateralism, not unilateralism”, warning that unless countries grasped that chance, they would “face the consequences”.  Today, “going it alone” was not an option, she said, adding that Member States had the responsibility to act coherently and flexibly.

Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania said protectionist approaches were challenging the existing international global order without proposing anything credible to replace it.  However, no country, however big, rich or powerful, could face or solve problems alone, he cautioned.  In that context, one of the pillars of Albania’s foreign policy was the development of regional cooperation and the transformation of the Western Balkans into an area of free movement for people, goods, capital and ideas, he said.

In a similar vein, Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet of Saint Lucia said multilateral discussions were needed to address inequality and other issues.  If States indulged their differences, inequity would persist as the driving force in the international system and people would struggle to survive, he cautioned, emphasizing that the global reality increasingly called for integrating economies, the environment and people.

Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said his country had risen to become one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, describing its “rags to riches” path as a textbook example of the power of free trade.  He urged the international community to open its markets and allow poor countries to trade freely with all consumers.  Free trade also meant forming international relationships and promoting interaction among all peoples, regardless of colour or religion.  Since the markets of the world’s richest countries remained closed to the poorest, it was incumbent upon the international community to support developing nations, he emphasized.

Samura M. W. Kamara, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone, speaking on behalf of President Ernest Bai Koroma, stressed the need to strengthen the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes, highlighting the gains realized through preventive diplomacy.  Mediation remained a powerful tool for preventing and settling armed conflicts and must be fully utilized.  Mediation efforts had proven very fruitful for Sierra Leone in terms of timely cessation of hostilities, credible ceasefire agreements and the deployment of peacekeeping missions, he said.

Throughout the day, speakers also highlighted the devastating havoc that climate change was wreaking on thei

Read More

Africa: U.S.-African Partnerships: Advancing Common Interests

(As prepared)

Introduction

Good morning. Thank you President Lindborg for your very kind and generous introduction. To you and to Ambassador Carson I am grateful for the invitation to participate in this important and timely symposium.

It is always a pleasure to cross 23rd street and leave behind the 1950s federal architecture of the State Department for the soaring beauty of the United States Institute of Peace.

USIP has proven itself to be a unique and vital institution within our policy landscape. It is not only the keeper and dispenser of remarkable expertise in the practice of peace building and conflict resolution, but is also a convener and convoker of first category. USIP brings together some of our best strategic thinkers and most interesting organizations to discuss, debate, and shape American foreign policy.

Today is one such occasion. I am honored to help open this symposium on the relationship between the United States and Africa, with a special focus on the emerging partnerships that will define that relationship in the 21st century.

As Nancy noted, I am long-in-tooth as a diplomat. I have served our great Republic for 34 years. Curiously, I have spent 17 years of that career in the 20th century and 17 years in the 21st century. This fulcrum has allowed me to witness and participate in some remarkable moments of transformation and change. It has also taught me that history does not end, it accelerates. Today, change has velocity, driven by technology and connectivity. My experience has taught me that American power and American values can have a transformative impact on global change. I believe this is especially true for Africa. The partnership that we offer is especially relevant for countries in the midst of profound transitions from authoritarian to democratic governments, from exclusive to inclusive societies, from autarky models of development to ones based on open markets and regional integration, and from global isolation to intense participation in world events.

Setting the Global Stage

As we consider the purpose and nature of our relationship with Africa, it is important to note two things. First, Africa’s emergence as a point of global interest and strategic convergence. What happens on the continent over the next few years will shape the world’s economy, security, and well-being. Africa is no longer an addendum to global geopolitics. Instead, it is a bridge from the Indo-Pacific region to the larger Atlantic community, while also connecting directly to Europe and the Middle East. In the State Department it touches every geographic bureau, and at the Defense Department it connects to every geographic combatant command. In short, Africa’s centrality makes it immediately relevant to our success and demands attention and engagement.

Second, as far as the United States is concerned, Africa is already a continent of allies and partners. With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of African states share our commitment to free markets, equitable trade, democracy and the rule of law, secure borders, and effective responses to global terrorist threats.

African states’ progress towards open markets and free trade have spurred economic growth, development, and tremendous opportunity across the continent. Indeed, six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in Africa. By 2030, Africa will represent almost a quarter of the world’s workforce and consumers, and by 2050 Africa’s population is projected to double to two billion people.

And our balance of trade with Africa is near parity–thanks to booming demand for infrastructure investment, aircraft, consumer products, and services. African states consistently attract strong investor attention from American companies.

Democracy and the rule of law are also advancing on the continent. Competitive, participatory elections are becoming the norm. Just two weeks ago, we witnessed the Supreme Court of Kenya’s decision to overturn the August 8 Presidential elections, and President Kenyatta’s mature decision to respect that ruling. The independent legal process, and broad support and respect for the Court’s decision, reflect the strength of Kenya’s democracy.

Finally, African allies and partners are stepping forward to lead regional initiatives to address long-running conflicts and humanitarian crises. In the Lake Chad Basin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon formed the Multinational Joint Task Force to fight Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa, and are coordinating military operations, civilian security, and humanitarian assistance. The United States is proud to support this and other regional initiatives to bring security and stability to citizens affected by conflict and food insecurity.

Strengthening our Relationship: The Path Forward

Though there is much to commend in recent developments on the continent, we all know that African states continue to face significant challenges. And any relationship, however strong, requires care and nurturing if it is to grow. As President Trump, Secretary Tillerson, and our national security team engage with our African partners, they will be guided by four strategic purposes.

Advancing Peace and Security

First, advancing peace and security. Doing so, yields dividends for citizens in Africa, and advances our own national security.

We are looking to African partners to take the lead in resolving regional conflict, and we will continue to partner with the African Union and regional organizations that lead successful efforts to end violence and prevent mass atrocities. While our hope and commitment to seeing an end to the devastating man-made crises in DRC, South Sudan, and other locations is enduring, the long term sustainability of our financial commitment requires continuing contributions from our assistance partners. We will also require greater political commitment from African leaders who want peace and stability in their countries and in their region. This will ensure that our support and investment is effective and enduring.

On the continent, we are working to build the capacity of regional peacekeepers, whose numbers continue to increase in Africa. In the past year, we have provided training to peacekeepers from over 20 African countries actively engaged in UN and African Union (AU) peacekeeping operations. This engagement has allowed more than ten battalions to deploy more effectively into some of the world’s most dangerous operations in Somalia, Mali, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Generously, Africans now comprise over 70 percent of the peacekeepers in Africa, up from 40 percent ten years ago. We acknowledge that peacekeeping comes with a tremendous risk. We both mourn and honor those Africans who have given their lives in peacekeeping operations.

The United States also addresses peace and security through humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations such as refugees and internally displaced people. In 2016, we provided more than $1.5 billion to UNHCR’s humanitarian operations. With the support of USAID and the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration – for example – an estimated 1.8 million people in South Sudan receive life-saving humanitarian assistance every month.

Our work to advance peace and security is not just regional. Increasingly, it is global. African states are partnering with us to address the danger that North Korea presents to the world. We asked African countries to join us in restricting political and economic engagement with North Korea, shutting down North Korea’s illicit trade networks, and publicly opposing North Korea’s reckless missile and nuclear tests. Numerous African partners have taken concrete actions, but more needs to be done.

Countering the Scourge of Terrorism

Second, countering the scourge of terrorism. This Administration seeks to partner with African allies to confront and counter terrorism in Africa, including defeating Boko Haram, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and ISIS-West Africa. In recent years, African countries have intensified their regional and domestic efforts to take greater ownership on this front, often with great success. In Somalia, the African Union and Somali security forces are driving out al-Shabaab. Working through AU leadership, regional peacekeeping partners such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi, and Djibouti are helping to lead the way in this effort.

Military, law enforcement, and intelligence tools are vital to defend against these threats, but military force alone is not enough for a sustained peace. We must work with our partners, including civil society, traditional authorities, and religious leaders, to address the root causes of conflict, combat marginalization, and create economic opportunity. There is no long-term solution to terrorism absent this comprehensive approach.

Any progress in our counter-terrorism efforts, however, will be undone by abusive and illegal behavior by security forces. We will continue to hold our allies to the highest standards and ensure that individuals who fail to respect human rights in this important fight are held accountable.

The challenge now is for our African partners to complement their successes on the battlefield with trained law enforcement personnel to provide civilian security and economic policies to kick start moribund local economies.

Increasing Economic Growth and Investment

Third, promoting prosperity through economic growth and investment. This Administration seeks to do business not just in Africa, but with Africa, moving the focus of our economic relationship with the continent from aid to trade and investment. Trade will be free, fair, and reciprocal, and our investors will be more competitive. This is about creating jobs for both Americans and Africans throughout the continent.

One of our most important bipartisan endeavors in the economic arena is the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. AGOA has been the cornerstone of U.S. economic engagement with countries of sub-Saharan Africa since 2000.

To highlight a few of the achievements:

  • U.S. investment in sub-Saharan Africa increased from $9 billion a year in 2001 to $34 billion in 2014 and created over 300,000 jobs across Africa.
  • U.S. exports to Africa rose at an even faster rate, from $6 billion in 2000 to $25 billion in 2014.
  • U.S. imports from sub-Saharan Africa under AGOA totaled almost $11 billion in 2016, a 14% increase from the previous year alone.

These successes, and the knowledge that trade helps strengthen democratic institutions and reinforce regional stability, are prime reasons the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation in 2015 to re-authorize AGOA for ten more years.

We remain committed to our economic partnerships with Africa and will continue to seek opportunities to strengthen two-way trade and investment. USAID, for example, has established three trade hubs to help the African private sector take advantage of AGOA and expand exports to the United States. Additionally, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, provides economic assistance to governments that have already established good policy environments. Most of the MCC’s work has been and continues to be in Africa.

Promoting Democracy and Good Governance

Finally, promoting democracy and good governance. Efforts to secure enduring peace are undermined when governments fail to provide good governance and uphold the rule of law – the foundation for security and the driver of inclusive economic growth in free societies.

We see the corrosive effects of corruption as fundamentally detrimental to the future success of African societies. An AU study estimated corruption costs the continent roughly $150 billion per year. Bribes and low-level corruption worsen poverty and inequality, and harm citizens’ faith in government. Corruption – particularly at the highest levels – deters foreign investment, foments instability, and diminishes the capacity of security forces and other institutions to deliver basic services.

The United States will continue to partner with regional organizations to advance good governance and the rule of law. In The Gambia, when President Jammeh reneged on his commitment to accept the results of the presidential election in December 2016, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, stepped up with other regional leaders and took a principled stand for democracy. ECOWAS and regional leaders organized a strong diplomatic campaign to influence President Jammeh to give up power. He ultimately stepped aside, peacefully ceding power to his democratically elected successor, President Barrow. This was an excellent example of an African-conceived and African-managed effort in strengthening democracy, and one that we were proud to support.

Conclusion

Africa is a place of trusted friends and partners. We must continue to journey together in our quest for peace and security, inclusive democracy and good governance, a trained work force with economic opportunities, and an empowered civil society. As an old African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We plan to go together with our African partners.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here today and for your commitment to advancing the longstanding ties between the United States and Africa.

Read More

Press Releases: Remarks at the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report Launch Ceremony

AMBASSADOR COPPEDGE: Good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

AMBASSADOR COPPEDGE: Welcome to the Department of State. We have quite the full room. My name is Susan Coppedge and I am the Ambassador-at-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Thank you all for joining us today for the release of the 17th Annual Trafficking in Persons Report. (Applause.) I was looking for a copy to hold up because I’m a prosecutor and I like my props. (Laughter.)

But a quick word about our program. First, our host, Secretary of State Tillerson, will share keynote remarks with us. Following additional remarks by Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, we will honor our eight wonderful trafficking in person heroes and hear brief remarks from one of them. After the event concludes, I will invite you to pick up your own copy of the report. It is an honor to be here this morning with Secretary Tillerson and Ms. Trump, and I thank you both for elevating the issue of human trafficking and for your support of the Trafficking in Persons Office.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Applause.)

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, thank you so much, Susan, and welcome to all of you to the State Department for this important event, and particularly I’m honored to welcome members of Congress, and in particular I want to highlight the leadership of Chairman Corker who’s with us from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning. Thank you. (Applause.) I think this really illustrates the dedication to combating human trafficking and the commitment of our country that we have this joint effort underway across the entire United States Government.

And I also want to thank Ambassador Coppedge for her 16-year career devoted to this issue. (Applause.) And I also know she doesn’t do this alone, and we’re grateful to her staff and also the many, many State Department colleagues at our embassies and our consulate offices who both help with the preparation of this report, but I think more importantly, they encourage governments to progress their efforts to combat human trafficking every day in our engagement with them.

I also want to welcome ambassadors and representatives from the foreign diplomatic corps. Our partnership with you, obviously, is essential to combating human trafficking as well.

And finally, I want to recognize the survivors of human trafficking as well as representatives of the many NGOs and international organizations who are with us today, and thank you for being here for this rollout of this report.

I think before I get to some of my prepared remarks, it’s – since this was my first one of these to review and sign off on and make the report, I thought it useful to go back and read the original reason why we do this. This is the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, and that’s really where this all began. And I think it is useful to remind us why we’re here this morning, why we’re gathered in this room, and what the United States Government and the people of the United States were really trying to express in this area.

And I think if you go back to the preamble to this act, I think it really sums it up well. It says, “The purpose of this act is to combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery, whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect the victims.” And then it – I want to read just one more line: “As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world.”

That is why we are here this morning. It then does – the act goes on to require that the State Department prepare this annual report to make an assessment of how governments around the world are taking action to address this. And I think it’s really through actions what this act motivated and what the State Department is doing as it meets its obligation, is we’re identifying first where the problems are: how do the problems manifest themselves – because they continue to evolve and take on new characteristics; how do we then work with governments to cause them to put in place laws that allow them to then pursue those who participate in these various forms of human trafficking; how do we encourage governments to enforce those laws and actually begin to hold people accountable; and lastly, how do we create the conditions where the victims or the potential victims of human trafficking are able to come forward in a non-threatening way and help us understand better how this is occurring.

And it’s really the results of what we do that matter. The report is an important tool to help us understand and help us help other governments understand, but the end of it – it’s the individual, it’s the victim, and our ability to prevent others from being victimized.

Human trafficking is as old as humankind. Regrettably, it’s been with us for centuries and centuries. But in the expression of this act, as I read that one line to you, it is our hope that the 21st century will be the last century of human trafficking, and that’s what we are all committed to. Regrettably – (applause).

Regrettably, our challenge is enormous. Today, globally, it’s estimated that there are 20 million victims of human trafficking. So, clearly, we have a lot of work to do and governments around the world have a lot of work to do.

So let me now make a few comments on the report and why it’s so important. Obviously, the consequences of our failure to act in this area has so many other negative impacts around the world: it breeds corruption; it undermines rule of law; it erodes the core values that underpin a civil society. Transnational criminal networks also – whether they be drug dealers, money launderers, or document forgers – are partly enabled by participating in human trafficking activities as well.

When state actors or nonstate actors use human trafficking, it can become a threat to our national security.

North Korea, for instance, depends on forced labor to generate illicit sources of revenue in industries including construction, mining, and food processing. An estimated fifty to eighty thousand North Korean citizens are working overseas as forced laborers, primarily in Russia and China, many of them working 20 hours a day. Their pay does not come to them directly. It goes to the Government of Korea, which confiscates most of that, obviously.

The North Korean regime receives hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the fruits of forced labor. Responsible nations simply cannot allow this to go on, and we continue to call on any nation that is hosting workers from North Korea in a forced labor arrangement to send those people home. Responsible nations also must take further action. China was downgraded to Tier Three status in this year’s report in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking – including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China.

American consumers and businesses must also recognize they may have an unwitting connection to human trafficking. Supply chains creating many products that Americans enjoy may be utilizing forced labor. The State Department does engage with businesses to alert them to these situations so that they can take actions on their own to ensure that they are not in any way complicit.

Most tragically, human trafficking preys on the most vulnerable, young children, boys and girls, separating them from their families, often to be exploited, forced into prostitution or sex slavery.

The State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report exposes human trafficking networks and holds their operators and their accomplices accountable.

The focus of this year’s report is governments’ responsibilities under the Palermo Protocol to criminalize human trafficking in all its forms and to prosecute offenders. We urge the 17 countries that are not a party to the international Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons to reconsider their position and to join the other countries who have made that commitment.

The 2017 TIP Report also emphasizes governments must put forward tougher anti-corruption laws and enforce them, so that traffickers do not get a free pass for those who choose to turn a blind eye.

Importantly, nations must educate law enforcement partners on how to identify and respond to those who dishonorably wear the law enforcement uniform or the military uniform by allowing trafficking to flourish. The most devastating examples are police officers and those who we rely upon to protect us, that they become complicit through bribery, by actually working in brothels themselves, or obstructing investigations for their own profit. Complicity and corruption that allows human trafficking from law enforcement officials must end.

We know shutting down these networks is challenging. But these challenges cannot serve as an excuse for inaction.

The 2017 TIP Report also recognizes those governments making progress. We want to give them credit for what they are doing. Last year, governments reported more than 9,000 convictions of human-trafficking crimes worldwide, up from past years.

Just to mention a few highlights:

Last July, the president of Afghanistan ordered an investigation into institutionalized sexual abuse of children by police officers, including punishment for perpetrators. In January, a new law was enacted criminalizing bacha baazi, a practice that exploits boys for social and sexual entertainment. The government continues to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers – including complicit government officials.

In the Ukraine – a country that has been on the Watch List for years – the office of the prosecutor general issued directives to improve investigations of trafficking, and increased efforts to root out complicity, including convictions of police officers. A teacher at a government-run school, a government-run boarding school for orphans, has been arrested for trying to sell a child. And officials are now on notice that complicity in trafficking will be met with strict punishment.

In the Philippines, increased efforts to combat trafficking have led to the investigation of more than 500 trafficking cases and the arrest of 272 suspects – an 80 percent increase from 2015.

Given the scale of the problem, though, all of these countries, and many more, have much to do. But it is important to note their progress and encourage their continued commitment.

As with other forms of illicit crime, human trafficking is becoming more nuanced and more difficult to identify. Much of these activities are going underground and they’re going online.

The State Department is committed to continuing to develop with other U.S. agencies, as well as our partners abroad, new approaches to follow these activities wherever they go and to train law enforcement to help them improve their technologies to investigate and prosecute these crimes.

To that end, I am pleased to highlight a State Department initiative announced earlier this year.

The Program to End Modern Slavery will increase funding for prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts to reduce the occurrence of modern slavery wherever it is most prevalent. The program is the result of the important support of Congress, especially from Chairman Corker, and other leaders committed to bringing more people out from under what is a crime against basic human rights.

The Program to End Modern Slavery will fund transformational programs but also set about to raise commitments of $1.5 billion in support from other governments and private donors, while developing the capacity of foreign governments and civil society to work to end modern slavery in their own countries.

As we reflect on this year’s reports and the state of human trafficking the world over, we recognize those dedicated individuals who have committed their lives – and in some cases put their lives at risk – in pursuit of ending modern slavery. For many victims, theirs is the first face of hope they see after weeks or even years of fear and pain.

The 2017 TIP Report Heroes will be recognized formally in just a few minutes, but I want to thank them and express my own admiration for their courage, leadership, sacrifice, and devotion to ending human trafficking. (Applause.)

As we honor these heroes, we remember that everyone – everyone – has a role to play. Governments, NGOs, the private sector, survivors, and, most of all, the American people all must continue to work together to make human trafficking end in the 21st century.

And now please join me in welcoming an advocate for ending human trafficking, and someone who is doing a great deal to raise the profile of this issue, Advisor to the President of the United States, Ms. Ivanka Trump. (Applause.)

MS TRUMP: Thank you, Secretary Tillerson, for the warm welcome and for representing the United States with such incredible distinction. It is an honor to join you, Ambassador Coppedge, and the entire State Department team here today, who works tirelessly to remove the ugly stain on civilization that is human trafficking. We are grateful for your continued dedication. Also here with us is Senator Corker. Senator, I want to thank you for your unwavering commitment to this critical issue. (Applause.)

It is an honor to be here today at the release of this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report and to recognize this year’s heroes. Their remarkable work inspires action. Thank you for affording us the opportunity to learn from your impressive examples.

Human trafficking is a pervasive human rights issue affecting millions, no matter their gender, age, or nationality. It is often a profoundly secret crime. One of the greatest challenges is to merely identify those trapped in modern slavery. Even conservative estimates conclude that some 20 million people around the world, including right here in the United States, are trapped in human trafficking situations, terrible circumstances of exploitation, including so many young girls and boys who are victims of unthinkable tragedy of child sex trafficking.

The stories of those we honor today demonstrate why combating this crime here in the United States, as well as around the globe, is in both our moral and our strategic interest. As Secretary Tillerson noted earlier, ending human trafficking is a major foreign policy priority for the Trump administration. Over the past several months, the White House has hosted round tables and listening sessions with victims, with NGOs, members of Congress, and others to determine steps we can take to better execute a strategy to finally end human trafficking. The President signed an executive order designed to strengthen the enforcement of federal law with regards to transnational criminal organizations, including traffickers. Further, he has taken steps to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security personnel are properly trained to combat child trafficking at points of entry into the United States.

This year’s report emphasizes the responsibility all governments have to prosecute human traffickers. It also provides an opportunity for countries to see how others are fighting human trafficking and to adopt the most effective strategies and tactics, while renewing their own resolve in this struggle.

On a personal level, as a mother, this is much more than a policy priority. It is a clarion call to action in defense of the vulnerable, the abused, and the exploited. Last month, while in Rome, I had an opportunity to talk firsthand with human trafficking survivors. They told me their harrowing stories, how they were trapped in this ugly, dark web, how they survived, how they escaped, and how they are very slowly reconstructing their lives.

Here in the United States, we have our own Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, comprised exclusively of survivors. We cannot meaningfully address this pervasive issue without the brave voice of survivors at the table. They can help us understand what they experienced and they will play a leading role in solving this pressing crisis.

These survivors are not only victims; they are heroes. So are the courageous crusaders who have committed themselves to fight human trafficking wherever it exists. As part of the 2017 TIP Report, the State Department recognizes individuals who have been tireless in their efforts to combat human trafficking. Today, we honor a police officer, whose efforts led to the identification of 350 children forced into labor; a union leader, who protects workers in the fishing industry; a judge, who played a critical role in drafting her country’s first anti-trafficking legislation; a journalist, who shines a light on forced labor; a faith leader, who works to protect vulnerable migrants; a sociologist, whose groundbreaking research considers the structural challenges affecting vulnerable populations; an advocate, who founded an NGO to care for child sex trafficking victims; and a survivor, the first in her country to win civil damages in a sex trafficking case. Each of these heroes is a source of inspiration. They all have different backgrounds but are united in this shared cause. We celebrate and we stand with each of you. (Applause.)

So as we mark the release of this year’s report, let us remember the victims saved from the unimaginable horrors of human trafficking. Let us recommit ourselves to finding those still in the shadows of exploitation. And let us celebrate the heroes who continue to shine a light on the darkness of human trafficking.

Now please join me in welcoming the great Ambassador Susan Coppedge, as she reads the citations. Thank you for your incredible work. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR COPPEDGE: Thank you, Mrs. Trump, for those heartfelt words. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the White House. I would like to ask each TIP Report hero to stand up when I call out his or her name and country and join us to receive their award.

First, from Argentina, Alika Kinan. (Applause.) In recognition of her extraordinary courage in pursuing justice against her traffickers, her selfless efforts to assist the government in prosecuting and preventing human trafficking cases by sharing her experiences and knowledge, and her tenacity in advocating for greater protections for vulnerable groups and victims of trafficking in Argentina. They wouldn’t let me read, they were clapping too loud, so – (laughter) – thank you.

Next, from Brazil, Leonardo Sakamoto. (Applause.) In recognition of his unwavering resolve to find and expose instances of forced labor, his commitment to raising awareness among vulnerable communities and within the private sector, and his vital role in ensuring progress in government efforts to prevent human trafficking in Brazil. (Applause.)

And Sister Vanaja Jasphine from Cameroon. (Applause.) In recognition of her unrelenting efforts to combat modern slavery, her groundbreaking work in identifying a key migration trend to prevent trafficking of Cameroonians in the Middle East, and her dedication to ensuring survivors have legal support and access to comprehensive reintegration assistance. (Applause.)

And from Hungary, Viktoria Sebhelyi. (Applause.) In recognition of her groundbreaking academic contributions to reveal the prevalence of child sex trafficking in Hungary, her ability to bring together government and civil society organizations to improve victim identification and services, and her dedication to increasing awareness and understanding of human trafficking. (Applause.)

From Morocco, Judge Amina Oufroukhi. (Applause.) In recognition of her leadership as a driving force behind Morocco’s comprehensive new anti-trafficking law, her perseverance in developing a victim-centered implementation plan, and her steadfast commitment to training judicial and law enforcement officials likely to come into contact with victims of human trafficking. (Applause.)

And from Taiwan, Allison Lee. (Applause.) In recognition of her unwavering advocacy on behalf of foreign fishermen on Taiwan-flagged vessels, her central role in forming the first labor union composed of and led by foreign workers, and her courage in demanding stronger protections for vulnerable workers through sustained engagement with authorities and the public. (Applause.)

And from Thailand, Boom Mosby. (Applause.) In recognition of her steadfast commitment to combat child sex trafficking in Thailand, her dedication to enhancing comprehensive care for victims, and her persistent engagement with government officials, social workers, and service providers to further protect and reintegrate survivors of human trafficking back into their communities. (Applause.)

And from India, Mr. Mahesh Muralidhar Bhagwat. We are sorry that Mr. Bhagwat was unable to join us today, but would like to recognize him for his dynamic leadership in combatting modern slavery in India, his vital role in elevating human trafficking as a government priority, and his innovative approach to investigating cases and dismantling trafficking operations. (Applause.)

Now, I am pleased to introduce TIP Report hero, Boom Mosby, the founder and director of the HUG Project in Thailand. Ms. Mosby is a passionate advocate for child victims of sexual abuse in Thailand, and has been instrumental in the advancement of a victim-centered approach in Thai anti-trafficking efforts. (Applause.)

MS MOSBY: Thank you. Secretary Tillerson, it is a great honor to be standing here today on behalf of a 2017 TIP Hero and especially on behalf of human trafficking’s – human – human trafficking victims around the world. (Applause.)

I would like to tell you about one of those victims: a girl I will call Jane. She was the first trafficking victim I worked with. Six years ago, Jane was exploited in sex trafficking when she was only 13 years old. Like millions of other men, women, and children around the world, she found herself trapped in the darkness of modern day slavery through manipulation and false promises. Jane’s traffickers used the seduction of money to lured her into their control. In hindsight, Jane would say that she took a wrong turn and made mistake, but the truth is she is a victim.

No matter how much recovery Jane experiences, the physical and emotional scars will mark her for a lifetime. That is why human trafficking, whether for labor or for sex, is not only a crimes against an individual; it is a crimes against human dignity. But thanks to the devoted people like the heroes in this room, freedom is possible. Jane will tell you that the key ingredients to her recovery have been patience and unconditional love. What she needs from us is to stand with her at her worst. Today, Jane is about to finish high school and is determined to continue her education in social work and make a difference in the lives of other victims like her.

Success story like Jane’s could not happen without collaboration. One example of this is the Thailand Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. TICAC represents a new model of cooperation between law enforcement and NGOs. We are putting aside personal agendas and bringing together dedicated and passionate individuals to accomplish our common goals. Our focus is on a victim-centered approach: always asking what is in the best interest of the child. The victim is always our highest priority.

Today, we are receiving the title of hero, but in fact, we do not possess any supernatural powers. (Laughter.) We are here because of the hard work and team work of many heroes. In the end, when facing the evil of human trafficking, we are all confronted with a choice: Do nothing or do something.

When looking at this choice, I am reminded of our past king, the late His Majesty King Rama IX, who died less than a year ago. As Thailand long-reigning monarch, he was often referred to as the “father of our nation.” He truly looked at the Thai people as his children, having compassion for their suffering and working hard to improve their lives. Today, I call upon the government, leadership, and ordinary citizens of every country to follow the late Thai king’s example and look after their people as their children.

Thank you. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR COPPEDGE: Thank you, Ms. Mosby. We are so grateful for the work that you do, and we’re truly inspired by all of our heroes here today. I also want to thank our colleagues in the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs for sponsoring the heroes’ visit to the United States. After they leave here today, the heroes will be traveling to Boston and Miami to meet with anti-trafficking organizations, exchange ideas, and share promising practices.

I have spent my career working on this issue. First, as a federal prosecutor, and now, leading the TIP office in the Department of State. In both roles, I have witnessed the aftermath of human cruelty and greed really at its very worst – individuals, both children and adults, forced into unimaginable suffering. And yet I always say to work in this field you have to have hope, and I have hope – hope that is inspired by the incredible people I have met along the way: survivors, NGO leaders, dedicated law enforcement and government officials, experts and everyday community members who refuse to let this issue be ignored. The fight against human trafficking is a struggle that unites us all, and with determination, optimism, and collaboration, we can end modern slavery.

In her remarks, Ms. Mosby noted that we are all confronted with a choice: Do nothing or do something. Everyone in this room who is working in this arena and those around the world who are fighting trafficking are doing something. But to the rest of the world, I echo Ms. Mosby’s call to action. When it comes to human trafficking, everyone has a role to play and an obligation to act. We must choose to do something to end modern slavery.

Thank you all so much for coming today. (Applause.)

Read More

Speeches: Trans-Africa Security: Combating Illicit Trafficking and Organized Crime in Africa

Good morning.

It is an honor to join you today at this year’s Senior Leaders Seminar hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). Let me first thank ACSS for their leadership over the years in fostering critical partnerships with African nations on combating today’s transnational security threats.

Let me also thank all of you for your commitment in participating in this important program. Having studied myself at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, I believe that these peer-based learning seminars are very important, not only to assess, evaluate, and discuss the broad array of security challenges facing the continent and international community, but towards developing and harnessing more effective strategies and cross-border responses.

As you have no doubt heard throughout the week in your seminar, the United States remains a strong partner in helping safeguard communities against the threats posed by illicit trafficking networks and is keen to elevate our partnership with all of your governments.

In this regard, the U.S. Department of State is similarly committed to strengthen international cooperation in support of our U.S. law enforcement and security agencies, and the capacities of our allies and partners in Africa to disrupt and dismantle transnational organized criminals.

Converging Threats: Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism Pave Illicit Trafficking Corridor

Today’s reality is one in which we live in a world where there is no region, no country and no community who remain untouched by the destabilizing effects and corruptive influence of transnational organized crime and violent terrorism.

Their impact is truly global and their real threat centers in some cases in their convergence. In particular, we must recognize that trans-regional illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, humans, and other illicit trade goods and services, are fueling greater insecurity and instability across Africa, and in other parts of the world.

While the world’s attention has in recent months been focused on the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, or the efforts by North Korea and others on the weaponization of nuclear missiles, the threats posed by transnational organized criminals remain very real in the United States, Latin America, Africa, and globally.

This is especially true as it relates to the increasing links between cross-border narcotics trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime across Africa that imperil not only the rule of law, economic development efforts, the promotion of trade and investment, but helps to fuel greater instability and insecurity.

In fact, according to General Thomas D. Waldhauser, U.S. Marine Corps, AFRICOM Commander, “parts of Africa remain a battleground between ideologies, interests, and values: [where] prosperity, and peace are often pitted against extremism, oppression, and conflict. The strategic environment includes instability that allows violent extremist organizations to grow and recruit disenfranchised populations.”

This strategic environment today that General Waldhauser underscores is also impacted by other transregional threats that further complicate security in Africa including issues related to the webs of corruption and cross-border criminality, and related converging threats.

Convergence: I often talk a lot about convergence, and this is something that I encourage you to examine more closely moving forward – and to view today’s transnational security threats through a prism of “convergence crime”.

Because the reality on the ground is that we can no longer simply focus on one component of a threat. In a world of converging threats – where various threats collide to form a more potent mix of insecurity globally; each is individually dangerous but whose sum represents a far greater threat across borders.

Thus, we need to see the threat environment more holistically – how, for example, corruption and complicit facilitators enable the illicit space for criminals and terrorist groups alike to thrive, and to exploit weaknesses in our borders and institutions that imperil our security.

And because as illicit trade operates in the shadow of the global economy, increasingly sophisticated traffickers are diversifying their portfolios in everything from narcotics, people, arms, and wildlife to counterfeits including fake medicines, and illicit tobacco and alcohol goods.

On the governance front, the proceeds of drug trafficking and other forms of illicit trafficking are fueling a dramatic increase in corruption among the very institutions responsible for fighting crime.

The collusion and complicity of some government officials with criminal networks have helped carve out an illicit trafficking corridor that stretches from the West African coast to the Horn of Africa, from North Africa south to the Gulf of Guinea.

Through these illicit trafficking routes, criminals and terrorists alike are moving people and products. From the coca and opium poppy fields of Colombia and Southeast Asia to the coasts of West Africa and its hashish plantations, drug cartels and other criminal networks navigate an illicit superhighway that serves illicit markets across the continent and around the globe. Along across these illicit routes, bad actors and networks are corrupting critical institutions and enforcement systems that exacerbate everyone’s security.

They employ the latest technological advances and use commercial jets, fishing vessels, and container ships to move drugs, people, small arms, crude oil, cigarettes, counterfeit and pirated goods, and toxic waste through the region, generating massive profits.

How massive are these profits? As I will point out shortly in my slides on the recent research of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, the illegal markets in Africa, and globally, are booming with staggering levels of illicit wealth in the global economy. Hundreds of millions of USD every year enable criminals and other threat networks to corrupt the regional economies and the global financial system.

At a time when many are heralding the rise of some of the world’s fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, these criminal entrepreneurs are undermining that economic development and growth by financing flourishing illicit markets, turning many vulnerable communities into a corridor of insecurity and instability, and siphoning the real potential of the legitimate economy.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Economic Forum (WEF), Global Financial Integrity (GFI), and other international organizations, generally estimate that the illicit trade in arms, drugs, and people, and other forms of “convergence crime” generate approximately between 8–15 percent of GDP, or several USD trillions to include corrupt proceeds and illicit financial flows.

Cocaine trafficking remains among the most lucrative illicit activities. In April 2017, the UNODC reported that developing markets are fueling a resurgence of cocaine trafficking through West Africa. UNODC further added that seizures on the Atlantic island of Cabo Verde, in the Gambia, Nigeria, and Ghana had contributed to a 78 percent increase in cocaine seizures from 2009-2014 compared to the previous reporting period.

Smugglers and traffickers who intake the cocaine from the Americas will typically transport drugs and other contraband overland across the Sahel and North Africa, before crossing into destination markets in Europe and these new developing markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

West Africa has also become a major transit point for heroin destined for the United States.

Illicit markets are growing across Africa to meet global demand for arms, counterfeits, cigarettes, natural resources, diamonds and other precious minerals, wildlife, illegally-harvested timber, illegal fishing, stolen luxury cars, and other illicit commodities.

The Crime-Terror Continuum: Regional Spillover Effects

Unfortunately, what happens in Africa does not stay in Africa.

A convergence of actors is further paving the corridor of illicit trafficking and crime-terror continuum across Africa – including North Africa – as criminal insurgencies are becoming players themselves in illicit markets and using the proceeds to finance their terror campaigns, secure their training camps, establish safe havens, and export violence to other regions. Violent extremist and terrorist groups draw on public anger towards corruption as a means to radicalize, recruit new members, and deepen sectarian division.

We only have to look at some of the current regional hot spots to clearly comprehend how certain crime-terror dynamics continue to contribute to insecurity and instability that have a ripple effect across borders.

Today’s thriving illegal economy is so lucrative that terrorists are increasingly turning to criminal activities to fund their violent campaigns such as those that we are witnessing today by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and others.

In Mali, as drugs are trafficked through the country, the Sahel, and Maghreb, AQIM and its sympathizers are manipulating socio-economic conditions to further advance an illegal economy that allows them to tax the drugs through the territory that they control and finance their terror campaigns.

Libya also continues to be challenged with violence and insecurity. AQIM and ISIS are attempting to forge alliances with violent extremist networks in Libya and across the Maghreb, Sahel, and West Africa, and are involved in smuggling and trafficking in persons. Organized crime networks exploit a currency black market, irregular migration and illicit trade across borders to enrich themselves and militias that defy law and order.

Nigerian organized criminal networks remain a major player in moving cocaine and heroin worldwide, and have begun to produce and traffic methamphetamine to and around Southeast Asia. In addition to drug trafficking, some of these criminal organizations also engage in other forms of trafficking and fraud targeting citizens of the United States, Europe, and globally.

Widespread corruption in Nigeria further facilitates criminal activity, and, combined with Nigeria’s central location along major trafficking routes, enables criminal groups to flourish and make Nigeria an important trafficking hub.

Nigeria is also confronting a terrorist insurgency led by Boko Haram and its offshoot ISIS-West Africa, which remains the cause of the insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin.

Maritime crime has also captured the attention of the regional states and international community. The reported number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and the level of violence associated with those acts remain a concern.

The Economic Communities of West and Central African States, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, and their member states should be commended for the continued commitment to implement the June 2013 Yaoundé Summit. The signed Gulf of Guinea Code of Conduct (GGC) covers not only armed robbery at sea and piracy, but also other illicit maritime activity such as illegal fishing, maritime pollution, and human and drug trafficking. The Yaounde Code of Conduct, along with the updates to the Djibouti Code of Conduct to cover other transnational maritime crime, and the newly adopted Lomé Charter, provide excellent frameworks for African states to adopt strategies and implement programs to counter transnational crime in the maritime domain.

In recent years, INL has partnered with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, AFRICOM, and our African partners on maritime security and regional threat mitigation strategies and to build the capacities and capabilities to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal networks.

U.S. Diplomatic Efforts and International Cooperation in Africa

The United States strongly supports the great strides many African countries have made to improve security, good governance, rule of law, and sustainable economic development.

As President Donald J. Trump highlighted in new Executive Order on Transnational Criminal Organizations (E.O. TCO), the United States will continue to assist our partners to strengthen their security footprint and capabilities to combat today’s threat networks.

In support of the President’s E.O. TCO, the United States is committed to strengthen and sustain our resolve and capabilities to protect the homeland and break the corruptive power of transnational criminal networks, attack their financial underpinnings, strip them of their illicit wealth, and sever their access to the financial system.

The United States and its partners continually recognize the importance of net-centric partnerships to confront converging threats and the lethal nexus of organized crime, corruption, and terrorism along global illicit pathways and financial hubs.

For example, targeted financial actions like the 2011 311 finding against LCB can have a major impact, strengthening deterrence and showing that the international community is keeping close watch on Hizballah’s global financial architecture. Through years of cooperation with the Lebanese banking sector and the Lebanese Central Bank, the country has significantly improved its capacity to detect the kinds of behavior that led the United States to designate LCB six years ago.

Let me now share how the Department of State helps fight transnational crime, and in particular the organization I work for, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

INL training efforts help countries build effective rule of law institutions, strengthening criminal justice systems, and strengthening their police, courts, and anti-crime efforts—everything from anti-corruption money laundering, cybercrime, and intellectual property theft to trafficking in goods, people, weapons, drugs, or endangered wildlife.

In coordination with partners in sub-Saharan and North Africa, INL develops and executes foreign assistance programming to promote civilian security and criminal justice sector reform in support of U.S. policy objectives. INL programs improve access to justice, promote stability and democratic reform, professionalize law enforcement entities, support local justice sector officials, and strengthen correction systems.

INL’s sub-Saharan and North Africa projects support partner governments’ efforts to respond effectively to the growing demand for peace and security. INL’s four main objectives are to assist African partners in combating transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism, and their effects; support post-conflict stabilization operations and security sector reform; strengthen criminal justice systems to be accountable to the public and to respect human rights; and promote regional cooperation. INL implements its Africa program through a comprehensive range of bilateral and regional initiatives designed to maximize positive change in host countries and regions.

Let me highlight a few examples of these bilateral INL projects across Africa on criminal justice reform, anti-crime, and in support of counter-terrorism efforts:

Deployment of Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs) and Senior Legal Advisors: U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors embedded in U.S. Embassies to support justice sector development and capacity building: Some countries hosting RLAs include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, and others.

Kenya: Build the capacity of vetted units within the National Police Service and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigations unit to investigate and prosecute high-level and government-wide corruption

Tanzania: enhance the criminal justice system in Tanzania to successfully prosecute wildlife crimes.

Benin: Build capacity of Benin’s law enforcement and judicial sectors to investigate and prosecute cases involving transnational organized crime, particularly drug trafficking; support to Benin’s border security agency; training of Formed Police Units (FPUs) for peacekeeping deployment; support to the Office Central de Répression du Trafic Illicite de Drogue et des Précurseurs

Ghana: Training police-prosecutors, creating a counternarcotics unit, training police SWAT unit; training FPUs for peacekeeping deployment; and improving the investigations and administration of justice related to maritime crimes, cyber-crime, and border-related crimes

Nigeria: Advise and support the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency; Justice and security dialogues project with law enforcement and civil society; international police education and training; curriculum reform; forensics support; Embedding advisors to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

South Africa: Senior law enforcement advisor support to professionalize law enforcement and fundamental police operations; building investigative and enforcement capacities to combat wildlife trafficking

Finally, INL also administers the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program (TOCRP) which offers rewards up to $5 million for information, leads, and tips that help hobble transnational criminal organizations involved in activities beyond drug trafficking, such as human trafficking, money laundering, trafficking in arms, counterfeits and pirated goods, and other illicit trade areas.

Our embassies and/or our INL offices would be happy to share further information on INL bilateral and regional programming in specific countries in Africa as requested.

Let me say also few words on several regional initiatives that INL supports:

The West Africa Regional Security Initiative (WARSI)

WARSI funds assist the 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members to establish and sustain effective, professional, and accountable criminal justice and civilian security sectors. Technical assistance facilitates partner-country efforts to counter transnational threats including illicit trafficking and to strengthen conflict mitigation and state legitimacy. WARSI focuses on security sector reform (SSR) in countries with more foundational assistance needs and criminal justice sector reform to counter transnational organized crime (TOC) in countries with more stable institutions. Counter-TOC assistance is more advanced, and often includes training specialized units, such as counter narcotics task forces.

The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership

The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) is a multi-faceted, multi-year U.S. strategy aimed at developing resilient institutions that are capable of preventing and responding to terrorism in a holistic, long term manner. INL TSCTP programs in Africa work to counter and prevent violent extremism by empowering partner countries to (1) provide effective and accountable security and justice services to enhance citizen cooperation with and trust in law enforcement and (2) develop the institutional foundation for counterterrorism and related capabilities, including border security and prison security and reintegration efforts. In doing so, INL focuses on enhancing and institutionalizing cooperation among TSCTP countries so that they increasingly learn with and from each other. Partner countries include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia.

The Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism

The Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT) is the U.S. government’s multi-year, multi-sector initiative to build the long-term capabilities of East African partners to contain, disrupt, and marginalize terrorist networks in the region. INL’s PREACT funds empower East African criminal justice institutions to confront complex challenges posed by cross-border terrorism. INL’s active PREACT partners include Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.

Security Governance Initiative

The Security Governance Initiative (SGI) is a multi-year effort between the United States and partner countries to improve security sector governance and capacity to address threats. SGI partners with countries to undertake strategic and institutional reforms required to tackle key security challenges. Together with six current partners – Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia – SGI focuses on shared security priorities and enhance security sector management. SGI is managed by the State Department’s Africa Bureau but leverages expertise and experience from across the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Counterterrorism Center. Coordination and collaboration both within the U.S. government and with partner countries is a hallmark of SGI. INL’s activities undertaken as part of SGI seek to develop, support, and strengthen criminal justice institutions and capabilities to ensure citizen security and promote the rule of law, including sound policies, institutional structures, systems, processes, and effective management methods so that governments can efficiently and effectively deliver security and justice in a sustainable manner.

Regional Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Efforts

As many of you are aware, the United States continues to partner with the international community to combat the illegal wildlife trade.

INL is part of a whole of government approach to combating wildlife trafficking. We work closely with other parts of the Department and other agencies to support the global fight against wildlife trafficking through assistance to multiple countries in Africa. Under the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (CWT), INL builds the capacity of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes and develops regional cooperation mechanisms.

Activities can include training, mentoring, and equipment provision for park rangers, police, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, and civil society entities to address the multiple dimensions of poaching and wildlife trafficking. Our first projects began in Kenya and South Africa, followed by Namibia and Tanzania. Future projects will cover larger areas of central and southern Africa, and address both source and transit countries.

Regional Law Enforcement Training

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not highlight INL’s International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Gaborone, Botswana. The ILEA program delivers courses on a wide range of law enforcement topics, and builds regional law enforcement networks to detect, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations regardless of their means of operation and income.

Since inception in 2001, ILEA Gaborone has trained thousands of mid- and senior-level criminal justice officers in specialized skills on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics operations, forensic accounting, customs interdiction, various forms of trafficking, document fraud, and illegal immigration. The program also engages with senior officials on the factors that facilitate these criminal networks, addressing public corruption, discussing modern community-oriented policing models, and cooperative international security networks that hinder illicit networks from flourishing.

As an outbranch of the successful ILEA network, INL opened the West Africa Regional Training Center (RTC) in Accra, Ghana, in January 2013. The RTC has convened hundreds of law enforcement, security, and judicial officials from multiple countries in West Africa and the Sahel, creating relationships across the region, and building knowledge and skills on topics ranging from investigative analysis to anti-corruption to counternarcotics.

We continue to explore future areas of assistance to include strengthening capabilities to preserve crime scenes for complex investigations, create strong case packages, and build more effective, evidence-based trials.

Conclusion: Partnerships for Sustainable Security

In closing, I want to again extend the appreciation on behalf of the U.S. Department of State for your commitment to work across borders, improve coordination and information-sharing, and leverage our respective capabilities and capacities to defeat our common adversaries.

We must continue to leverage all national economic, intelligence, and diplomatic powers to make it riskier, harder, and costlier for threat networks to do business within Africa, and externally.

Illicit trafficking remains the lifeblood of the numerous bad actors and networks, creating vulnerabilities for nations.

We must crackdown on corruption at all levels and cut off the ability of kleptocrats, criminals, and terrorists to enjoy the fruits of illicit enterprise and that enable the financial capacity to execute their operations.

By combating corruption, we can also shut the door and keep violent extremists from exploiting their grievances to wage jihad. We must prevent narco-corruption from destroying countries like Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

In addition to our law enforcement and security cooperation, we also need to address underlying causes that are contributing to today’s conflicts and insecurity in Africa: food and water security, poverty, economic integration and development, and other socio-economic areas that empower communities and nurture growth markets, investment frontiers, and resiliency.

With careful, targeted assistance, and smart diplomatic engagement, together we can advance our common objectives and strategic interests.

If we do not act decisively, the region will remain an exporter of terror and a provider of safe havens where terrorists from other conflicts all over the world find refuge, illicit trafficking will continue to expand, arms and weapons will dangerously proliferate, women, men, and children will be trafficked, and drugs and illicit enterprise will corrode the rule of law and the gains of globalization.

We can only tackle these threats effectively if we work together and jointly synchronize our full spectrum capabilities and capacities. We must stay connected and continue to harness our network of networks at every level – local, regional, and global to win our fight against convergence crime.

If we do this, we can create hope, stability, opportunity, and an enduring peace.

Thank you.

Read More