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 …

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Continuing Session, Non-Governmental Organizations Committee Approves 75 Entities for Status with Economic and Social Council, Defers Action on 43 Others

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations continued its resumed session today, recommending 75 organizations for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and deferring action on 43 others.The 19-member Committee …

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Continuing Session, Non-Governmental Organizations Committee Approves 75 Entities for Status with Economic and Social Council, Defers Action on 40 Others

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations continued its resumed session today, recommending 75 organizations for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and deferring action on 40 others.The 19-member Committee …

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Security Council Adopts Resolution Calling upon Belligerents Worldwide to Adopt Concrete Commitments on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict

Members Pass Resolution 2467 (2019) by 13 Votes in Favour, None against, as China, Russian Federation AbstainThe Security Council called today upon warring parties around the globe to implement concrete commitments to fight what many speakers described…

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Security Council Adopts Resolution Calling upon Belligerents Worldwide to Adopt Concrete Commitments on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict

Members Pass Resolution 2467 (2019) by 13 Votes in Favour, None against, as China, Russian Federation AbstainThe Security Council called today upon warring parties around the globe to implement concrete commitments to fight what many speakers described…

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High Seas Crime Becoming More Sophisticated, Endangering Lives, International Security, Speakers Tell Security Council

Crime on the high seas is becoming increasingly sophisticated, endangering human life on land, the economic growth of entire regions and global safety, the head of the United Nations anti-crime agency warned the Security Council today, underscoring the…

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World Leaders Adopt First-Ever Global Compact on Migration, Outlining Framework to Protect Millions of Migrants, Support Countries Accommodating Them

MARRAKECH, 10 December – World leaders adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration today, laying out the first-ever global cooperation framework for sharing responsibility to protect the world’s 258 million people on t…

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Global Compact an Achievement in Multilateralism, Says Keynote Speaker, Stressing Migrants Must Be Treated with Dignity, Respect, as Conference Holds Dialogue

MARRAKECH, Morocco, 10 December — Adopting the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the United Nations today held an interactive dialogue where Member States, civil society and regional organizations shared their views on how b…

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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…

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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Trafficking

This morning, the Secretary-General addressed the Security Council on the topic of human trafficking.  He told the Council that stopping human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labour and modern slavery is a collective responsibility.  These activities, he said, are being committed in the shadows and constitute serious abuses of human rights, and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  He pointed to the recent news reports of African migrants being sold as “goods” in Libya.  The Secretary-General urged the Council to protect the human rights and dignity of migrant populations by bringing perpetrators to justice, increasing humanitarian aid and helping Libyan authorities to strengthen their capacity to protect vulnerable populations.  He added that there is also an urgent need to create more opportunities for regular migration and preventing situations that lead to human trafficking by addressing poverty and exclusion, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  His full remarks are available online.

**Caribbean

The Secretary-General also spoke this morning at the High-level Conference for reconstruction and resilience of Caribbean Community — or CARICOM — countries affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria.  He recalled that during his recent visits to Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda, he saw a level of devastation that he had never witnessed before.  In these two countries alone, damage is estimated at $1.1 billion, and total economic losses at $400 million.  Countries in the Caribbean need support now to rebuild, and to take effective climate action, the Secretary-General said, with a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, to underpin resilient economies, communities and livelihoods.

Financing these efforts is a key challenge, he noted, urging the international community to explore eligibility for concessional finance, reinsurance mechanisms and ways to leverage remittances.  Debt instruments should also be sensitive to the ability to pay, and have catastrophe clauses built in, he added.  The Secretary-General stressed that the meeting today must be about more than speeches and pledges.  It is an opportunity to forge a partnership for a better future, and to deepen a vision for recovery that puts people at its centre.

**Mali

We have sad news from Mali.  The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said today that a Chadian peacekeeper who had been injured during an attack in Kidal region on 26 October died on Sunday.  He had been quickly evacuated to Dakar for medical treatment following the attack on his convoy but has died from his wounds.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, paid tribute to this peacekeeper who died in the service of peace.  We join him in extending our condolences to his family and to the Government of Chad.

**Iraq

Following the Iraq Federal Supreme Court’s Decision yesterday concerning the Kurdish independence referendum, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) urges the authorities of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to acknowledge and respect this ruling of the Federal Supreme Court and the Constitution.  UNAMI urges the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to start negotiations without delay, based on the Constitution, on all current issues between the two Governments.  The UN Mission reaffirms its opposition to the threat of use of force, inflammatory statements or confrontational actions, especially at this time, when the issue of the referendum has found its resolution, based on full respect for the Constitution.  And the Mission commends the pivotal role played in this respect by the Federal Supreme Court.  The full press release is online.

**Syria

Ali al‑Za’tari, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, is appalled by the two mortar shells hitting Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouses in Quneitra in southern Syria.  The United Nations stands ready to support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in repairing the warehouse and replenishing the destroyed aid to avoid any interruption of humanitarian activities in the area.  We also continue to be alarmed at the escalated violence in East Ghouta and Damascus which has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths and hundreds of injuries, many of them being women and children.  And today, the 2018 Syria Humanitarian Needs Overview was released, reflecting the humanitarian community’s shared understanding of the ongoing crisis inside Syria.  It includes the most pressing humanitarian needs and the estimated number of people who need assistance.  Close to seven years on, the scale, severity, and complexity of needs across Syria remain overwhelming.  Some 13.1 million women, children and men require humanitarian assistance, according to the overview.

**Yemen

As of today, 32 humanitarian flights into Yemen have been cancelled and the [Saudi]‑led coalition has not been responding to new UN Humanitarian Air Service flight requests.  As a result of the blockade, the Humanitarian Air Service is only able to operate flights to Aden.  Humanitarian staff have been unable to move in or out of Sana’a since the blockade went into effect.

**Sudan

A report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) is calling on the Sudanese Government to pursue effective, transparent and durable policies to enable the 2.6 million people internally displaced by the conflict in Darfur to return home voluntarily or to reintegrate into host communities.  The report notes that despite a ceasefire between the Government and various armed opposition groups, violence against internally displaced people continues to be widespread and impunity for human rights violations persists.  It details the situation of IDPs from January 2014 to December 2016, a period marked by a Government military campaign that led to mass civilian displacement.  The report says there are reasonable grounds to believe that the military operations resulted in serious violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.  The full report is online.

**Guyana-Venezuela

Dag Nylander, the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General on the Border Controversy between Guyana and Venezuela, facilitated discussions between Carl Greenidge, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, and Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, here in New York on 19 and 20 November.  The Foreign Ministers and their delegations explored options for a full agreement for the solution of the controversy.  They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Good Offices process and reiterated that their Governments will remain actively engaged with the Personal Representative.  We issued a note to correspondents on this just now.

**Television Day

Today is World Television Day, which seeks to highlight the impact that TV has on decision-making by bringing the world’s attention to conflicts and threats to peace and security, as well as other pressing economic and social issues.  To mark the Day, at 1:30 p.m.  in Conference Room 4, there will be a panel showcasing collaborations between the TV industry and international organizations.

**Press Briefings

Following my briefing, we will have Brenden Varma, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, here to brief you.  And then, we expect Italian Under Secretary of State for Foreign Relations and International Cooperation, Vincenzo Amendola, along with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, to speak to you at the Security Council stakeout following their briefing to the Council.  Tomorrow, at 11 a.m.  in this room, Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief of the UNCTAD [United Nations Conference on Trade and Development] New York Office, will be here to brief you on the 2017 Report on the Least Developed Countries.  That’s it.  Anything for me?  Yes, Sherwin?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Farhan, what is the Secretary‑General’s reaction to the resignation of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe?  And what is his message to the people of Zimbabwe at this time?

Spokesman:  The message is actually a very simple one.  Obviously, we take note of the announcement of the resignation, but the Secretary‑General encourages all Zimbabweans to maintain calm and restraint.

Question:  If I could follow up, President Mugabe has been a regular feature at the United Nations for decades.  He was in power for 37 years.  Isn’t there a broader message that the Secretary‑General… given previous statements from… from that podium in terms of term limits for… for presidents and prime ministers, is there not a broader message that speaks to the longevity of President Mugabe and whether that is good or bad?

Spokesman:  Well, I don’t want to get into any abstract philosophical discussions.  Obviously, it’s more your role to analyse what the impact of this will be.  From our standpoint, of course, this Secretary‑General and his predecessors have made clear that we expect all leaders to listen to their people.  That is a cornerstone of every form of government and needs to be followed in every continent and in every nation.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask you about… there was an indictment yesterday by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York that’s very… I would say… call it UN related.  A company called China Energy Fund Committee was… as alleged, funnelled $500,000 bribes to Sam Kutesa, former President of the General Assembly.  The indictment describes the meetings taking place not… on this very floor, on the second floor, setting up these bribes.  And so I have a couple of questions.  One is… and these were… these… mentioned in the indictment is the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, who is… as you know, is a mediator on the Burundi file.  So, I wanted to know, number one, after this indictment, what is the UN’s office of OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] doing to look at the… the… the UN persons that may… that… implicated in it?  Two, is China Energy Fund Committee still affil… accredited by ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council]?  And they seem to have a project with DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs], a $5 million project with DESA.  And, three, what does this mean for… for the… Mr. [Michel] Kafando’s and the Secretary‑General’s view of the Museveni role in the Burundi mediation?

Spokesman:  Well, regarding the question of Burundi mediation, obviously, he has a role separate and apart from the work of our envoy, Michel Kafando.  You just heard a briefing from Mr. Kafando yesterday about what his work is on that.  Regarding Mr. Kutesa, we don’t have anything particular to say about his dealings as the Foreign Minister of Uganda.  Obviously, he has served as a General Assembly President, and we want to make sure that all officials of the UN, including the General Assembly President, abide strictly by norms avoiding corruption and bribery.  Obviously, how that is enforced is an issue for the specific Member States, so we would refer you, in this case, to the Member State of Uganda, which is responsible for Mr. Kutesa.  And regarding the CEFC that you just mentioned, yes, they have accreditation at ECOSOC.  We’re checking with our colleagues in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs about the nature of their projects and what the status of that is.

Question:  There’s a $5 million project that’s online, which I guess… what I’m saying is, coming after the… the… the Ng Lap Seng/John Ashe case, it seems some sort of consonant with it.  Basically, you have a big NGO [non-governmental organization] using UN access to purchase a… if the allegations are true, a PGA [President of the General Assembly].  And so, I guess I’m wondering, from the UN side, beyond referring to the Ugandan mission or whatever else, are there any reflections, number one, on how this process… what due diligence did DESA do before… before linking up with this NGO that’s clearly a subsidiary of a Chinese oil company that was paying bribes in Chad, as well?

Spokesman:  Well, the information about them paying bribes is something that’s come out today.  The ECOSOC accreditation came out sometime prior to all of this.  So, that’s a separate issue.  Regarding the sort of probity we expect from officials, including General Assembly presidents, of course, we know that they belong to Member States, but we want them to uphold the high standards.  This is something we made clear during John Ashe’s time.  This is something we’re making clear now.  And, of course, I believe my colleague Brenden will have more to say about the presidency of the General Assembly regarding this.  But, again, these are issues that the Member States themselves will need to take responsibility for.  These are officials of Member States.  These are not staff of the United Nations.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, thank you, Farhan.  You mentioned that Sana’a airport remains closed and no access for it.  How about Hodaidah and Saleef?  Is there any breakthrough in this respect?  And what are you doing, if not… what are you doing with the members of the alliance, the Saudi‑led alliance, member… influential members like the United States, Britain and others?  Are they exercising any influence on Saudi Arabia to open these seaports?

Spokesman:  We’re in touch with the various Member States who may have influence, trying to see what we can do to get the seaports opened.  So far, neither Hodaidah nor Al Saleef has been open for the sort of activity that we need.  This is now the 16th day of this closure.  It’s a very serious crisis.  You’re aware of the points that the Secretary‑General has been making, and those remain.  We need to get those ports opened.  We need to get aid in.  Otherwise, there’s going to be a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Question:  Are they aware that this can result in genocide in Yemen?  We’re talking about millions of people are risking losing their lives as a result of this blockade.

Spokesman:  We’ve warned that as many as 7 million people will not get the food that they otherwise need.  That’s a huge amount, and it’s a major crisis.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  Thank you.  This is, again, on the speech that the Secretary‑General did yesterday on human trafficking and today on the Security Council.  He… he… he said, practically, in his statement that countries should improve the legal… I mean go to the… to the reason why these… these people found in this terrible situation.  And it looked like the Secretary‑General say that the State have to increase all opportunity for legal migration.  And because today he also said that those victims of trafficking should not be considered criminals, should not be detained.  Now, especially in the case of Libya but also other cases, does it mean that any agreement that any country does in this moment with a country like Libya to stop the migrants, the traffickers, and put it in these kind of camps or in these lagers is… is what the Secretary‑General is criticise… criticizing now?  Once, he answered me a question, what he said that was now respecting international law to do agreements with country that cannot respect human… human rights to detain… you know, to… to have them in that territory and to hold them.

Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary‑General made clear, also in his remarks to you yesterday, his priorities regarding the situation of African migrants in Libya.  And, in particular, he said that the horrifying reports we’d had of slavery conditions among these African migrants in Libya showed the need to address migration flows in a comprehensive and humane manner, and he specified that we need to have development cooperation aiming at addressing root causes, a meaningful increase of all the opportunities for legal migration, and enhanced cooperation cracking down on smugglers and traffickers and protecting the rights of their victims.  And so those are the priorities he’s spelling out in this particular case.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, on Yemen, you mentioned that the Secretary‑General was in contact with various countries.  Does he have a view on what the Security Council has or has not been doing on Yemen?  Does he think that they should be playing a more active role?

Spokesman:  He believes that all parties, including the countries with clout in the region and with influence over the main parties as well as, of course, all the members of the Security Council, should be able to play a crucial role at this time.  Remember, we’re talking about the lives of millions of people.  There’s a cholera crisis on the ground, as well as the prospect of starvation of a significant number of people if we don’t get aid in time.  So, we want all of them to play their role and get… and do what they can to get these ports opened.  We have the food, including through the World Food Programme (WFP), ready and available to go to people.  It just needs to get in.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Today… excuse me.  Today marks twenty-first anniversary of Dayton peace accords, so a long time since Bosnia war was finished.  Does the Secretary‑General has to say anything on this occasion?  And what are his thinking on the region?  Because he’s very much preoccupied with the other places.

Spokesman:  Certainly, the Dayton Accords and the way that they were followed is a sign of how even some of the worst fighting can be put to rest and you can have a lasting solution.  Obviously, there are still many concerns that remain in the region, but the adherence to the Dayton principles has allowed for a level of peace and a level of recovery and reconstruction in Bosnia, in Croatia, in all the various parts of the Former Yugoslavia.  And, for our part, we’ve assisted in the effort to try and ensure that the region can rebuild, and we’ve also, of course, through the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, assisted with efforts at accountability.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  Do you have anything to say regarding the Sochi… Sochi summit, which took place today, about Syria and the outcome of that?  Also, about Albu Kamal and what happened there with regard to the ISIS fighters who managed to flee and whose corridors were opened for them to flee, what the United Nations is going to do about that?

Spokesman:  Well, of course, we continue to call on all Member States to stay united in the fight against Da’esh in all of its permutations.  Regarding the Sochi talks, of course, we’re aware that the talks happened today.  Our focus right now is on the resumption of Geneva talks on Syria, and that is, as you know, on schedule for 28 November.  The Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, has been travelling, including in the region, trying to build up support.  And we’re hopeful that any of the other efforts, including the ones at Sochi, will help feed in to contribute to a positive outcome of the Geneva process.

Question:  How does the resignation of many of the Syrian opposition in Riyadh impact… will impact the outcome of the Geneva or the… Geneva process itself?

Spokesman:  Well, for us, what we want to do is to make sure that all of those who show up in Geneva come there ready to negotiate.  So, whoever appears from the side of the opposition, as from the Government, should be ready to participate.

Question:  Just a quick follow‑up…?

Spokesman:  Sorry… no, sorry.  There are so many other questions…

Correspondent:  Others have been given similar…

Spokesman:  No, you’ve had several in a row.  Yes.  Yes, Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Turning to another part of the world, regarding Ukraine, I was wondering if there’s been any movement in terms of the political process and what the status of humanitarian conditions are.  I mean, have they improved, status quo, that kind of thing?

Spokesman:  Well, as you’re aware… you’re aware of the Minsk Process, and we continue to be engaged in that and encourage it to make progress.  Yes.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, I wanted to ask about Western Sahara, because the new envoy is coming to the Security Council tomorrow.  Will he be addressing the press at some point?  And, also, could you confirm that, during his tour in the region, he did not go to Laayoune to the headquarters of MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara]?

Spokesman:  I don’t believe that that was in his stops.  He will give a briefing to the Council, and we’ll make an inquiry whether Mr. [Horst] Köhler will come to the stakeout afterwards.  We’ll check.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you about some new sexual abuse and exploitation, I guess, allegations.  Many of them seem to be against the Tanzanian battalion in MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], but there’s one that’s listed against a civilian international, and it’s listed as child rape, and it says UN pending.  And I wanted to, I guess, get some more information.  Number one, is that all the information… in the spirit of disclosure, is that all the information that the UN can give on a… on a case of alleged child rape by a… by a civilian staff member?  Two, can you say, if you won’t say the nationality of the staff member, whether it’s a fund, programme or agency or just some further identifiers?  And, if not, when will this information be made available?

Spokesman:  Hold on.  I think I have something on this.  But it may not be here.  One second.  Yeah.  What I can say on this is the following:  We’re extremely concerned by this allegation of the rape of a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by an international civilian staff member working with the UN Mission there, MONUSCO, which was publicly reported on the Conduct and Discipline Unit website on Friday.  The allegation was reported by the mother of the victim to the mission’s Conduct and Discipline Team earlier this month.  The event itself is reported to have occurred in 2016.  We understand that this matter was reported to the local courts in July 2017 and they are aware of the allegation.  The allegation was assessed by the Head of Mission and determined that sufficient evidence exists to warrant an investigation.  Consequently, the matter was referred to the Office of Internal Oversight Services for appropriate action and to UN Headquarters with recommendation that the staff member be placed on administrative leave without pay pending investigations and the disciplinary process, if any.  The alleged minor victim has been referred to UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] for medical and psychosocial support.  The Mission will continue to monitor her well‑being and maintain appropriate contact to ensure that her needs are met by the service provider as necessary.

Question:  Thanks.  Has the… has the official Jane Connors, the victims’ advocate, taken any action in this case?

Spokesman:  The actions that we have to report on are the ones that I’ve just mentioned.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, going back to… this change of leadership of the opposition of… of Syria, how does it impact the overall negotiations?  If these leaders keep changing all the time and the influence of countries like Saudi Arabia and other countries on choosing the… who represents the Syrians or not, how will that influence the… the work of Mr. de Mistura?  Does it help him, or does it adversely affect him?

Spokesman:  We don’t have a comment to make on how the opposition chooses to decide its leadership.  That’s an issue for them.  So please ask them.  What we want to make sure is that all of those who come to the talks come ready to talk and negotiate with each other.

Question:  But do you feel that they are… that the… they are elected in a good manner, in a proper manner, I mean [inaudible]…?

Spokesman:  That’s really not a question for us.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask a question about Cameroon.  There’s a… in the… the south-west region, a video emerged basically of authorities ordering people out of their cars and to walk on their knees, very much to humiliate them, etc.  And so, people… one, they’ve wondered, like, what’s the status of the UN’s call for dialogue since they don’t see this as dialogue?  And, number two, they’ve seen that the Swiss ambassador has said publicly that he visited the area and is very concerned.  So, the question, I guess, I had is whether François Fall, in his various visits… has he actually gone to those regions of the country?  Does he have an intention to go?  Has he requested to go but been rebuffed?  How can it be that the ambassador of a country based in Yaoundé has more… has greater access than the UN… UNOCA [United Nations Office in Central Africa] representative?

Spokesman:  Well, Mr. Fall works out his itinerary with the authorities as he can.  Whenever we have further travel for him… by him to announce, we will.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, I just wanted to come back to Zimbabwe, whether or not the Secretary‑General had a view on how this resignation unfolded, the… the… the role of the region.  Were there any concerns about how it happened?

Spokesman:  I don’t have anything further beyond what I’ve said.  As you’re aware, in the past days, we made clear the Secretary‑General’s support for regional efforts to assist in resolving the situation, particularly through the Southern African Development Community.  And with that, come on up, Brenden.

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High Commissioner Describes New Model Placing Refugee, Migrant Rights at Heart of Crisis Response, as Third Committee Hears Calls for Sharing Responsibility

The High Commissioner for Refugees described a new model for meeting the needs of millions around the world forced to flee their homes due to crisis, presenting his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) amid calls for more equitable sharing of responsibility.

Filippo Grandi said the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework annexed to the landmark 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants provided the new model that placed the rights, interests and potential of refugees at the heart of a comprehensive response.  It was time for change, and the international community appeared to be converging around directions it must pursue, which included easing pressure on host countries and communities, enhancing refugee self‑reliance; expanding resettlement and other third‑country solutions, and creating conditions conducive to voluntary return, he asserted.

As the Committee opened its general debate on the matter, Italy’s delegate pressed the international community to recognize that emergency humanitarian assistance must be complemented by long‑term development responses.  He expressed full support for the “paradigm shift” in responding to forced displacement presented by the new Framework.  Indeed, the number of people who had fled their homes in 2016 was 65.6 million, said the representative of the European Union, adding that 2018 must be a “showcase for collective action”.  South Africa’s delegate said on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the consequences of refugee outflows disproportionately affected the developing world.

Earlier in the day, the Committee concluded its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, with delegates focusing on self‑determination.  Many also addressed the particular dangers refugees faced from discriminatory attitudes, with Nigeria’s representative urging both transit and destination countries to treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality and immigration status.  It was a point echoed by Thailand’s representative, who underscored that social harmony would only come about through dialogue between migrants and host communities.

Also speaking in the general debate on racism and self‑determination were the delegations of Ukraine, Venezuela, Togo, Armenia, Algeria, Morocco, Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates.

Also speaking in the general debate on the report of the High Commissioner for Refugees were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Japan, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, Eritrea, Iraq, Russian Federation, United States, Syria, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Kenya, Iran, Algeria, Belarus and Turkey.

The representatives of Armenia, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Algeria and Morocco spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 November, to continue its dialogue with the High Commissioner for Refugees and take up the report of the Human Rights Council.

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/4215).

The Committee also had before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/72/12), the Report of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/72/12/Add.1) and the Report of the Secretary‑General on Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (A/72/354).

Statements

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Constitution prohibited any form of discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnic origin or tribe.  Urging States to recommit to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, he said they formed the normative basis for global efforts to eliminate racial discrimination, along with the universal ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Nigeria condemned racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and urged both transit and destination countries to treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality and immigration status.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, said national legislation guaranteed full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, colour, nationality or ethnicity.  As racism and discrimination persisted around the world, there was an urgent need to ensure effective application of existing legislation, and to foster closer cooperation between Governments and civil society.  Russian forces occupying the Crimean Peninsula and Sevastopol had mounted campaigns against ethnic Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatar community, she said, adding that the Russian Federation was attempting to impose ethnic dominance on the peninsula.  Ukraine had filed an application in the International Court of Justice to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its actions, she affirmed, urging that country to immediately halt all acts of racial discrimination on persons in the occupied territories.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Group of 77 and China, affirmed his commitment to promoting a world free of racism and discrimination, adding that cultural diversity was the true path towards peace.  Racism and xenophobia exacerbated violence.  Stressing that technology allowed messages of hate to spread easily, increasing tension and undermining efforts to achieve peace, he said migrants were often victims of discrimination.  Venezuela was working establish a multicultural society free of discrimination, he stressed, adding that a law against racial discrimination had been passed and a related institute was consolidating the instructional architecture on the matter.

KOMLAN AGBELÉNKON NARTEH-MESSAN (Togo) said his Government was committed to implementing international mechanisms to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was developing innovative approaches, yet challenges persisted.  He welcomed global condemnation of acts commemorating the Nazi regime and said migrants and asylum seekers continued to be disproportionately affected by discrimination.  Togo’s Constitution outlined measures to combat that behaviour and ensured equality before the law for all citizens.  Legislative and regulatory measures were also being taken to combat racial discrimination.

THIRANAT SUCHARIKUL (Thailand) said global events had contributed to the rise in racial discrimination and stereotypes, and called for joint efforts to cultivate openness, tolerance and respect.  Thailand’s Constitution guaranteed all persons were equal before the law and the Government was committed to implementing obligations under the International Convention.  Thailand would also continue to improve the situation of migrants and displaced persons, she noted, stressing that social harmony would only come about through dialogue between migrants and host communities.  Strong societies were based on social harmony, she emphasized.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said threats to human security on the basis of racist or xenophobic hatred should be perceived not just as crimes against specific individuals but also as threats to global stability.  The most dangerous form of racial hatred toward other nations was the “institutionalization of racism” by openly encouraging prosecution of ethnic or religious groups, nations or races.  That was exactly what Azerbaijan promoted.  The struggle of the people of Nagorno‑Karabakh for self‑determination and freedom by the “despotic regime” of Azerbaijan exemplified how the use of force could only exacerbate the situation and trap parties into protracted conflict.  Human rights and fundamental freedoms of people residing in conflict areas should be upheld regardless of the legal status of the territories, she said.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said violating the right to self‑determination was a form of racism.  That right was a compulsory rule of international law enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  At a time when conditions were favourable, a free and integrated study could be carried out to help people exercise the right to self‑determination.  Voting was the only way to express self‑determination, she said, calling for that right to be upheld through referendum for all people living under occupation.  Western Sahara had been under occupation for more than four decades, she added.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said there was a double standard when it came to implementing self‑determination.  That principle had been inscribed into two General Assembly resolutions in 1960:  resolution 1514, to overcome the concerns of States, and 1541, which focused on implementation.  The goal was to put into place guidelines for exercising the right to self‑determination.  Assembly resolution 2625, of 1970, reiterated that self‑determination could not encourage action that would threaten the territorial integrity of any sovereign State.  Despite legal and practical changes, self‑determination remained subject to legal interpretations.  The Kabyle people had been deprived of self‑determination, while Algeria was focused on the Sahrawi.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) drew attention to the ethnic cleansing carried out against Azerbaijanis in Armenia and the occupied territories, as well as the creation of a mono‑ethnic State in Armenia.  High‑ranking Armenian officials regularly made statements promoting ethnically and religiously motivated hatred and intolerance.  People in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and those living under foreign military occupation, deserved the right to self‑determination.  Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan was illegal, as unilateral secession from independent States was prohibited by international law.  “The fact that illegal situations continue because of political circumstances does not mean that they are therefore rendered legal,” he added.

Ms. ALHAMMADI (United Arab Emirates) said the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was a tool to combat intolerance, discrimination and hatred.  The United Arab Emirates had long fought discrimination with fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution.  The Government would continue to cooperate with relevant bodies to strengthen human rights.  Encouraging tolerance and compassion was a priority, evidenced by a State institute that carried out such programmes at the national and global levels.  She closed by calling on the United Nations to address the dangerous consequences of discrimination.

Right of Reply

The representative of Armenia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said statements made by her counterpart from Azerbaijan had been modelled after Nazi propaganda strategies.  Armenians had experienced ethnic cleansing at the hands of Azerbaijan and its collaborators, she stressed, adding that Azerbaijan was denying the people of Nagorno‑Karabakh their right to self‑determination.

The representative of the Russian Federation, to remarks by his counterpart from Georgia, called on his colleague to recognize the new political reality, and the new sovereign States which had their own Governments and legal systems.  Responding to the statement by Ukraine’s delegate, he recalled that the people of Crimea had exercised their right to self‑determination, a right enshrined in the Charter and both Covenants.  Residents of Crimea enjoyed all human rights and freedoms, and if anyone was of the view their rights had been violated, they could address the courts.

The representative of Azerbaijan said comments by Armenia’s delegate were full of distortions which his country rejected.  The ruling Republican Party had acknowledged a nationalist ideology, he said, adding that the younger generation was being groomed in that spirit.  Armenia should abandon racist ideology and learn to live in peace with its neighbours.  Armenia had unleashed war against Azerbaijan, carried out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and destroyed cultural heritage of Azerbaijani people.  Nagorno‑Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan and it was essential to recall Armenia’s involvement in a conflict that had claimed thousands of Azerbaijani civilian lives.  Armenia’s leadership was known for hate speech and incitement to violence.

The representative of Georgia, in response to remarks by her counterpart from the Russian Federation, said that country continued to violate Georgia’s sovereign territory and had committed military aggression against Georgia.  All those violations had been noted by the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, she said, recalling that several waves of ethnic cleansing and other crimes had been proved by numerous international documents.

The representative of Ukraine, responding to comments by her Russian counterpart, said the international community had identified Moscow as an occupying power.  The Russian Federation continued to violate United Nations resolutions, she said, recalling that a “Crimean nation” did not exist.  Self‑determination could not be exercised in violation of international law, she noted, urging the Russian Federation to end its tactics that caused human suffering in the region.

The representative of Algeria, responding to statements by Morocco’s delegate, said the United Nations recognized 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and not unilateral rumours launched by Morocco.  She called on Morocco to address its internal problems, and on the international community to look into the shameful human rights situation in that country.  She expressed concern over the situation in the Western Sahara, noting the people of that area had been unable to exercise their right to self‑determination.  Algeria was abiding by all United Nations decisions on the matter, she said.

The representative of Morocco called unfounded statements the norm in Algerian diplomacy.  No territory was being examined in the Third Committee.  The issue of self‑determination was being discussed in the context of the Moroccan Sahara.  He expressed regret that the United Nations had ignored the rights of the Kabyle people in that region, citing Amnesty International reports indicating that Algerian authorities had arbitrarily expelled people from the country and arrested migrants based on racial profiling.  The issue of the Moroccan Sahara was one of territorial integrity, he said, adding that Algeria was financing separatist movements.

The representative of Armenia expressed disappointment that Azerbaijan continued to mislead.  While rejecting the ungrounded accusations, she said equal rights and self‑determination should be among the principles of a resolution on Nagorno‑Karabakh.  Regarding Security Council resolutions, she said Azerbaijan, in line with its usual practices, only referred to some provisions of those resolutions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said in response to Ukraine’s delegate that the right to self‑determination could be exercised by autonomous people.  Until 2014, there had been the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which had been part of Ukraine.  The people of Crimea had already enjoyed self‑determination within Ukraine, but the policy to deny them any rights and opportunities had affected their decision to decide to join the Russian Federation.

The representative of Azerbaijan said in response to Armenia’s delegate that the glorification of Garegin Nzhdeh showed disrespect to Soviet soldiers who had perished during the war.  Regarding accusations around April hostilities, Armenia could not deny that hostilities had been exclusively conducted in territories of Azerbaijan.  Armenia had derailed the peace process and continued a military build‑up.  Military occupation never produced a solution.  Instead, Armenia should engage in the settlement process, and implement the resolutions of the Security Council and other international organizations.

The representative of Algeria, referring to comments by her counterpart from Morocco, said “the camel could not see its head”.  Calling on the international community to consider the appeals of the people of the Western Sahara, she urged Morocco address its internal problems before pointing to any reports about Algeria.

The representative of Morocco said Algeria’s delegate continued to make erroneous comments, seeking only to foment hostility and challenge Morocco’s territorial integrity.  His Government had agreed to find a political solution to the dispute.

Introductory Statement and Dialogue with High Commissioner for Refugees

FILIPPO GRANDI, High Commissioner for Refugees, said the magnitude and complexity of forced displacement had captured the world’s attention, adding that 68 million people and counting were refugees.  Giving figures on the situation in Myanmar, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, he noted that the latter two accounted for one quarter of the world’s forcibly displaced people.  The situation in Yemen was also worrisome, and in Central America, tens of thousands of men, women and children were on the move; along the central Mediterranean route, refugees continued to face grave exploitation and abuse, alongside thousands of migrants.  Principled leadership had given way to irresponsible demagoguery, he said, adding that policies of deterrence and exclusion had taken shape in some countries and regions.  Yet, there had also been a parallel groundswell of solidarity with refugees, rooted in civil society.

Measures to shore up the efforts of refugee‑hosting countries and genuinely share responsibility were both essential, and they represented the fundamental challenge at the heart of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, he said.  The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework annexed to the Declaration provided a new model that placed the rights, interests and potential of refugees at the heart of a comprehensive response.  At the Executive Committee meeting of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last month, he said he had been struck by the recognition among participants that it was time for change, as well as their convergence around directions the international community must pursue.  Those included easing pressure on host countries and communities; enhancing refugee self‑reliance; expanding resettlement and other third‑country solutions; and creating conditions conducive to voluntary return.  The early pursuit of solutions was essential to the new model, he noted, citing refugee resettlement as an important solution.

While progress was happening on statelessness, the lack of citizenship for Rohingya communities was a key aspect of the discrimination and exclusion that had shaped their plight for decades.  The solution was a voluntary, safe and dignified return to Myanmar, but that would not be possible without tackling their statelessness.  “We must identify where our strengths can be of most value”, he said:  where they must translate into direct action and where they should instead help others to engage, with their own expertise and resources.  In his report to the Third Committee next year, he would propose the text of a global compact on refugees for consideration by the General Assembly, which would contain the comprehensive refugee response framework as well as a programme of action to support its application.  A draft of the global compact would be shared in early 2018, he said, around which there would be consultations in Geneva with Member States.  The promise of the New York Declaration must be translated into determined, collective action to find solutions for millions of people uprooted around the world.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Ethiopia said her country had taken various measures to accommodate refugees, introducing a comprehensive response framework, providing access to education and issuing work permits.  However, there was a lack of international support and solidarity with such host countries and she asked how funding could be sustained to help them meet the needs of refugees.

The representative of Norway asked about closing the gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and how the Office would ensure that the needs of internally displaced people were met.

The representative of Iran wondered about the impact of hosting large numbers of refugees, asking the High Commissioner for the reasons behind the decline in countries offering resettlement programs.

The representative of Qatar asked the High Commissioner for solutions to the high influx of refugees.

The representative of Turkey asked the High Commissioner to assess resettlement trends and explain how current figures might evolve as the world moved towards the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees.

The representative of Iraq requested that more aid be provided to his country so it could accommodate refugees.

The representative of Kenya expressed concern over renewed violence in South Sudan, asking about ways to ease the pressure on host countries.

The representative of Azerbaijan wondered how internally displaced people would be reflected in the Global Compact on Refugees.

The representative of Japan asked the High Commissioner about the barriers to cooperation among humanitarian and peacebuilding organizations.

The representative of Iceland said his country had taken Syrian refugees, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals from Africa, stressing that local communities were involved in integrating refugees.  He asked for suggestions on what else Iceland could do to accommodate refugees.

The representatives of Brazil and Cameroon also spoke.

The representative of Myanmar said he was fully aware of the outflow of refugees from his country to Bangladesh.  Accounts from people wanting to cross the border included difficulties in daily life and safety concerns.  Myanmar was implementing repatriation programmes for those who could establish evidence of their Myanmar residency, he assured.

The representative of Morocco asked what steps had been taken to implement the Office’s 2017 strategic guidelines and if the Global Compact on Refugees was having a positive impact on the ground.

The representative of Papua New Guinea asked what role Member States could play to help implement the Office’s strategic plans, and requested information on resettlement processes.

Mr. GRANDI, responding, thanked all States hosting refugees, providing financial support or assisting in resettlement processes.  All Member States had responded positively to the Global Compact and his Office’s strategic guidelines would be strengthened by it.  Noting that the Global Compact did not have normative value and did not substitute any legal instrument, he said it instead aimed to better organize responses and find solutions to the refugee crisis.  The Compact would mobilize support and help States find solutions to forced displacement, he said, commending countries participating in initiatives towards its creation.

He said while financing remained a difficult element of response efforts, the expansion of responses to include development actors such as the World Bank, especially in education, had been a “game‑changer”.  Marrying humanitarian and development actors was a large challenge but the World Bank initiative to establish data systems that accounted for displaced persons was promising.

He said the Office was reviewing how it could be more predictable in responding to refugee crises and fulfilling inter‑agency responsibilities in crises involving internally displaced persons.  Both challenges must be represented at the same level and in the same manner.  He expressed concern over States that had traditionally been good resettlement countries curtailing the number of refugees they were taking in.  That decrease sent a wrong signal about responsibility sharing, he said, commending Iraq for providing statehood to previously stateless persons.  He concluded by calling on Myanmar to include his Office in efforts to resolve its refugee crisis.

JESÚS DÍAZ CARAZO (European Union) said the number of people who fled their homes in 2016 was 65.6 million, and noted that the bloc had received 1.2 million asylum applicants that same year.  About 84 per cent of refugees under the High Commissioner’s mandate were being hosted in low- and middle‑income countries.  Underlining the importance of strengthening protections, he emphasized the relevance of preventive measures to address the causes of displacement.  He echoed the High Commissioner’s call for action to meet the needs of asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons, and stressed that 2018 must be a “showcase for collective action” on the matter.

Affirming the importance of global responsibility sharing and international solidarity among States, he said the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was an expression of commitment to address the refugee situation.  The European Union had proposed a development‑oriented policy framework to address forced displacement as a means to foster self‑reliance among displaced communities, he said.  Noting the increasing financial pressures faced by international organizations, he said the record level of funding received by the Office of the High Commissioner was a testament to its competence.  Still, funding gaps remained, he said.

EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated the Community’s attachment to international instruments to protect refugees and stressed that the Organization of African Unity’s Refugee Convention of 1969 was the main instrument governing their protection on the continent.  He pledged to respect the principle on non‑refoulement, urging all States to do the same.  Expressing concern over the displacement of some 65.6 million people worldwide, he said the consequences of refugee outflows disproportionately affected the developing world.  The Community was particularly concerned with the decrease in assistance funding to address the matter.

He affirmed the Community’s commitment to the New York Declaration and its Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, and applauded States already applying the Framework to respond to large‑scale refugee situations.  The Community also welcomed United Nations efforts to expand funding sources to include the private sector, he said, cautioning against initiatives that further burdened developing countries.  Efforts were being made to target the causes of forced displacement, he said.  Pointing to UNHCR’s new key orientations, he urged States to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure displaced people were granted their rights.

Mr. ALMERI (Saudi Arabia) said his country was at the forefront of countries offering support to Syrian refugees.  The 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia were also granted the right to free movement and afforded the same rights as Saudi Arabian citizens to education and health care, while 141,000 Syrian students had received free education.  The Government also had provided financial support to Syrians in Lebanon and Turkey.  Meanwhile, Yemeni refugees in Saudi Arabia were also provided with job and education opportunities.  On the international level, Saudi Arabia had provided financial assistance to Rohingya refugees, he said, stressing the need to enhance international cooperation.

Mr. FURUMOTO (Japan), paying tribute to the work of the High Commissioner for Refugees, acknowledged the great responsibilities and expectations borne by the agency in the context of humanitarian crises in Syria, South Sudan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.  He recalled that in September, Japan’s 2017 contribution to the UNHCR budget had reached $150 million.  Global action for refugees represented the strong convergence between humanitarian and development aid promoted by his country.  Noting aid projects sponsored by Japan in Uganda and South Sudan, he stressed the importance of the concept of human security, which he called a pillar of the country’s diplomacy.

GILLES CERUTTI (Switzerland) said efforts to assist refugees were falling short.  There was a need to reaffirm the international principle to protect and express full support for the High Commissioner.  Expressing hope that the Global Compact would bring the international community together, he called the inclusion of development partners in assistance efforts a positive initiative.  It was also crucial to ensure assistance to internally displaced persons, and greater global attention was needed.  Welcoming the High Commissioner’s strategic direction, he encouraged inter‑agency cooperation to address issues faced by internally displaced persons.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) underscored the relevance of the New York Declaration, which allowed for greater humanitarian financing.  Colombia had participated in efforts to pursue the global compact on refugees.  Noting references in the High Commissioner’s report to internally displaced persons in Colombia, he said the Government had implemented mechanisms to address the issue.  Legislation and public policy were being implemented to address forced displacement, and relevant institutions were cooperating at all levels of Government to ensure return and resettlement of displaced persons.  Focus was also being given to land return efforts, with more than 4,000 families receiving orders to have land returned to them and another 30,000 such requests under consideration.

ILARIO SCHETTINO (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said most of the 65 million displaced persons worldwide had fled conflict and severe human rights violations.  Referring to the refugee crisis as the worst humanitarian crisis in history, he said its effects had fallen disproportionately on developing countries.  The international community must recognize that assistance must be complemented by long‑term development responses.  To that end, Italy fully supported the paradigm shift in responses to forced displacement presented by the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  The refugee crisis was linked to conflict and human trafficking, he said, adding that the Security Council could be a pivotal partner in the search for solutions to the plight of refugees.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) pointed out that most countries receiving refugees were developing countries.  Financial support to those host countries was a key measure, but it could not be a counterpart for adopting restrictive policies regarding control of entry and permanence in their territories.  He expressed concern that recent steps taken by some States to restrict entry and permanence of refugees and asylum seekers violated international refugee law and humanitarian principles.  His country had approved a new migration law that guaranteed migrants’ rights and integrated foreigners.  He also noted that Brazil was closely following the elaboration of the global compact on refugees, bearing in mind the importance of States’ contributions, so that responsibilities under the compact were compatible with the capacity of each country.

NATALIE COHEN (Australia) said her country had contributed $6.9 million to the High Commissioner’s Office to support implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in Uganda and Ethiopia.  Australia’s refugee resettlement program would expand to include resettlement places for refugees from Uganda and Ethiopia.  The country would also make multi‑year funding commitments to protracted displacement crises and invest in resilience of both refugees and local communities.  The success of the Global Compact on Refugees would depend on the buy‑in of all States and key stakeholders, she said, adding that States were obliged to provide protection and security to those within their jurisdiction.

NEBIL SAID IDRIS (Eritrea) said he deplored the use by some regional Governments to use camps — funded and jointly administered by the High Commissioner — as centres of political agitation and armed recruitment.  The lack of scrutiny and accountability of national camp administrators had led to misuse and diversion of resources allocated to refugees.  People in those camps had been exposed to the dangers of human smuggling and trafficking.  Claims by some, including the High Commissioner, that Eritrea had persecuted citizens returning from overseas was a “false depiction”, as his country maintained a policy of voluntary repatriation and assisted its returning citizens in reintegrating to society.  The High Commissioner’s classification of Eritrean economic migrants as “bona fide” refugees was wrong, as it had led to Eritrean youths leaving for Europe and facing greater vulnerability to human trafficking.

Mr. AL HUSSAINI (Iraq) said the wave of terrorism in the country led to the displacement of some 3.6 million people.  The Government was working to mitigate their suffering by providing shelters and establishing camps, with efforts also ensuring access to bank accounts and receipt of identification cards.  Iraq faced several waves of displacement, he said, and safe corridors were being created for the movement of displaced persons.  Moreover, military personnel were working to ensure the safety of displaced persons, especially in areas were terrorist groups remained entrenched.  Iraqi security forces placed the protection of civilians at the core of their strategy in Mosul, he assured.

ROMAN KASHAEV (Russian Federation) said that during the High Commissioner’s visit to his country, the Government had pledged to do more, especially in terms of financial assistance, to assist displaced persons.  The Russian Federation hosted refugees from several countries, with more than 1 million Ukrainians fleeing internal conflict in that country.  A key element of migration policy was reducing statelessness, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts on that matter. If global efforts were pooled, the situation of people under the Office’s mandate could be greatly improved.  Truly addressing the issue called for ending conflict, he said, adding that the “irresponsible interference” of Western States in the Middle East and Africa had led to the refugee crisis.  Responsible States must carry the financial burden of assisting refugees.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) underscored the need to support countries that had opened their borders to refugees, as well as efforts to protect the dignity of refugees.  This year, the United States had made a historic high contribution of $8 billion to the High Commissioner’s Office, and she called on Member States to follow through on their pledges to end conflicts through durable solutions.  The Office could sustain predictable funding by maintaining transparent and open dialogue with stakeholders, she said, welcoming efforts to invest in the Office’s workforce and increase its efficiency.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria), citing the waves of refugees from Syria, said they were part of a strategy by the United States and European countries to leave his country empty of people.  Indeed, the open door policy of European countries had encouraged more people to leave.  Syrian refugees faced risks of human trafficking in Turkey, while the percentages of child marriages had doubled in refugee camps in Jordan.  He questioned Saudi Arabia’s delegate, who commented that that country had hosted 2.5 million Syrian refugees, as the High Commissioner’s report stated otherwise.  Moreover, it was important to distinguish between a legal resident and refugee, he said, urging Member States to implement Security Council resolutions to end the Syrian crisis and to stop any unilateral actions against his country.

GHULAM SEDDIQ RASULI (Afghanistan) said that finding solutions for refugees must be at the centre of the international community’s response to refugee movements.  That was a key component of the New York Declaration and featured strongly in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework that was annexed to it.  The issue of refugees was of central importance to Afghanistan.  Over 2 million of its citizens were registered as refugees in neighbouring countries, having fled from imposed conflict over the past decades.  His Government was committed to ensuring the return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees and was working closely with UNHCR and a variety of international actors to make that happen, he said.

PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam) noted that in 2017, half of all refugees under the mandate of UNHCR were children.  Refugees and asylum seekers often were driven to use the services of smugglers, exposing them to abuse and exploitation, human rights violations and even death.  The refugee problem was closely linked to the issues of peace and security and human rights.  They needed assistance in obtaining legal status.  Voluntary return or resettlement was an indispensable tool for burden and responsibility sharing.  The commitments under the New York Declaration should be transformed into action.  Countries had a shared responsibility in support of refugees through funding and humanitarian assistance, among other things.

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) expressed concern that some countries had developed measures aimed at keeping refugees in countries of origin, pushing them back at or across borders, and some directly into conflict zones.  Such actions were inconsistent with the principle of non‑refoulement and the New York Declaration.  She expressed hope that the Global Compact for Refugees would address the disparities and include explicit language on more equitable and predictable burden and responsibility sharing.  Kenya maintained an open door policy for admission of refugees.  Since October 2016, her country had witnessed a significant increase in the number of arrivals from South Sudan.  Currently, Kenya was hosting 183,542 refugees in the Kakuma complex, of whom 109,000 were South Sudanese.  Noting difficulties with the Dadaab refugee complex, which had become a base for planning terrorist attacks on Kenya, she said prolonged settlement was resulting in the depletion of scarce natural resources and was leading to conflict.  In May 2016, her Government decided to close the Daadab refugee complex, and sought to relocate the refugees to safe areas in Somalia under the Tripartite Agreement with Somalia and UNHCR.  Since 2014, approximately 75,000 Somali refugees had been voluntarily repatriated to Somalia, and another 13,000 had been resettled to third countries.  In that context, she urged the international community to collectively support the enhancement of stability in Somalia.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said foreign occupation and terrorism had caused massive displacement worldwide.  Developing countries with limited resources were too often the final destination of people fleeing crisis, he said, adding that no country could address the issue alone.  Noting Iran’s long‑standing assistance to refugees, he called for a mechanism to assist countries hosting large numbers of refugees.  Iran’s ability to provide services, while facing sanctions, could not be guaranteed, he said, as the Government was providing health, education and employment assistance to refugees, and it was impossible to do so indefinitely.  He called for the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees, adding that the responsibility to protect was not confined to certain regions.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria) expressed concern over the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa, and underscored that developing countries continued to host the most significant amount of displaced persons.  He called on UNHCR to provide more information on the impact of refugees on the development plans of those host countries.  The most appropriate solution to the crisis was the safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees.  Global efforts to address the problem had to be centred on providing assistance, protection and sustainable solutions.  Noting Algeria’s long‑standing commitment to refugees, he said his Government was waiting for the voluntary repatriation of refugees in Western Sahara.

IRINA VELICHKO (Belarus) commended the efforts made to establish the New York Declaration.  Her country had engaged in national consultations to develop strategies to deal with the global refugee crisis.  Member States needed to agree collectively on the action they would take to meet the needs of refugees, she stressed, noting that the refugee crisis was the result of States which had not followed the norms of international law.  She added that many of the tensions and conflicts felt today were caused by the inability of major countries to build a new world order after the end of the cold war.

YIĞIT CANAY (Turkey) said that, in line with commitments made in Istanbul during the World Humanitarian Summit, his country had pursued an efficient model of cooperation between humanitarian and development actors, and its assistance to those displaced from various parts of sub‑Saharan Africa was an example of that effort.  Hosting close to 3.3 million people displaced due to conflict in the region, including 3 million people from Syria, Turkey was now the largest refugee‑hosting country.  Syrians were provided with free access to education, health services and the labour market, he said, highlighting that the ratio of displaced children attending school had doubled to 60 per cent in 2017, compared to the previous year.  Reducing the number of lives lost at sea and the fight against human smuggling were other areas of importance for Turkey.

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General Assembly: plenary

Note: A complete summary of today’s General Assembly meetings will be made available after their conclusion.

Statements

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said there was a mutually reinforcing relationship between the efforts made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Jamaica had made a strong political commitment not only in prevention and protection, but also in prosecuting crimes of human trafficking.  It had developed a sophisticated legislative and institutional framework to cope with that heinous practice.  The country had also appointed a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, the first to have been appointed in the Caribbean.  Since 2010, 76 victims had been rescued, with sentences ranging between 16 and 18 years, four human traffickers had been convicted and restitution costs had been paid to victims.

PER-ANDERS SUNESSON (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, said cooperation on counter-trafficking measures must be based on the common definition of the practice, and a shared view of relevant legal definitions.  It was crucial that all States ratify international instruments and share data and best practices.  Warning against selective efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as counterproductive, he called for work across all three of the Agenda’s pillars.  Requesting the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to produce an annual report on measures to reduce demand — especially for sex trafficking and slave labour — he said weak national laws allowed such demands to flourish.  Legislation much be revised, he stressed, adding that all States bore an obligation to deliver on their commitments to support victims.  That required cooperation between Government and civil society, and adequate funding, he said, endorsing the work of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons in that regard, and announcing Sweden’s decision to commit $100,000 in 2017.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) highlighted the need for greater attention to trafficking victims and adopting more effective countering measures at the national level.  Assistance to victims must be guaranteed to prevent them from becoming victimized twice‑over through indictments for any unlawful conduct in which they were forced to engage.  In April 2016, Italy’s Parliament addressed the legal protection of undocumented migrants arriving in the country.  A new law harmonized existing legislation and activated additional resources that were tailored to the specific needs of migrant minors without families.

VIVIAN NWUNAKU ROSE OKEKE (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of Friends United against Trafficking in Persons, said the causes of trafficking were complex and multi‑dimensional, with “push and pull” factors such as inadequate employment, poor living conditions, conflict, war, famine, loss of livelihood, forced marriage, dissolution of families and natural disaster.  She highlighted the role of the family as a “basis of unity”.  Nigeria, a destination and export country, had zero tolerance for trafficking and had put in place strong institutional measures and legislation to ensure prosecution, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, and a review of relevant laws to combat the crime.  It also had scaled up domestic laws under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Acts of 2015, expanded its prosecutorial mechanism and strengthened international partnerships.  She urged greater support for the Voluntary Trust Fund, reaffirming Nigeria’s commitments to UNODC and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

 CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said his country was a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime [also known as the Palermo Convention], and had taken stern measures to combat trafficking by passing the Anti-Human Trafficking Act in 2014 and establishing the Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee.  Highlighting the importance of adequate funding for programs, he commended UNODC and other United Nations agencies for their support.  On a regional level, Botswana had collaborated with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on data collection and analysis to improve the effectiveness of anti-human trafficking initiatives.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, expressed concern that women and children in developing countries, especially sub‑Saharan Africa, continued to be the largest category of victims of trafficking.  Zambia had not been spared from that scourge, as victims continued to be exploited in urban areas in domestic servitude, and other types of forced labour.  The Government had adopted a new national policy that aimed to eradicate all forms of human trafficking through combined measures to raise awareness and address the causes, while ensuring that victims were protected and perpetrators brought to justice.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) described a 2004 national law on combating human trafficking and efforts to enforce legislation through training of judicial and law enforcement departments.  Noting the interrelated root causes of trafficking, he said interventionist and destabilizing polices in the Middle East and Africa had served as breeding grounds for criminal networks to engage in trafficking.  He called on Governments to share information, and provide both capacity building and technical assistance to developing countries.  He reiterated the importance of education and awareness of trafficking in countries of origin, transit and destination, as end users of services provided by trafficked persons required as much training as those who were vulnerable to trafficking.  There was a need for impartial and reliable data, and he questioned the “moral authority”, competency and integrity of Member States whose “destructive” foreign policy options left people at risk of exploitation and trafficking.  He commended UNODC for its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons as a follow up to the Global Action Plan, and reaffirmed the role of that body in promoting partnerships in support of prevention, protection and prosecution.

Ms. JOHNSTONE (United States) said while the world’s collective understanding of trafficking had grown significantly in recent years, efforts to support victims remained “appallingly” low, due largely to widespread impunity.  “We must expand our collective response to this crime,” she stressed, adding that resources and strong collaboration were critical.  The United States had taken a victim‑centred approach to its national efforts on those issues, she said, having increased funding for services and the number of victims supported.  On the enforcement side, it had convicted 439 human traffickers in 2016, and established a national council composed of trafficking survivors to provide guidance to the Government.  It had also recently provided $25 million to promote anti-trafficking efforts around the world and was working to raise an additional $1 billion from other donors.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) welcomed collective efforts to improve international cooperation to address migration and displacement.  Whenever people were on the move, they were vulnerable to exploitation.  The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration would provide an opportunity to build global consensus for practical action.  Regional action was also critical.  Noting that more than 50 per cent of the world’s people subject to forced labour were in the Indo‑Pacific region, she said Australia worked closely with its neighbours in Southeast Asia to combat trafficking and forced labour, and funded the largest single anti-trafficking investment in that region.  Domestically, Australia was establishing a new reporting requirement for large businesses to publish annual statements outlining their actions to address modern slavery in supply chains.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ, Director General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said there was a low prevalence of human trafficking in his country.  In February, the Government approved the national action plan for the 2017‑2020 period, coordinating its actions with civil society to implement a “zero tolerance” policy.  Cuba’s experience had demonstrated it was possible to achieve results in the fight against trafficking in persons even with few resources, under a tight blockade and amid the growing complexity of the crime.

ISMAIL CHEKKORI (Morocco) said his country was an origin, transit and destination country for trafficking.  The Political Declaration would strengthen the international resolve to protect victims, and to that end, Morocco had prioritized the issue.  In line with the National Policy for Migration and Asylum, Morocco had taken measures to ensure the integration, preservation and protection of migrants and refugees, notably through the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to address asylum and migration, while adhering to the main human rights conventions.  He called for the adoption of a global, multi‑sectoral approach to combat trafficking in persons.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said States must enhance efforts to tackle trafficking in persons and bring perpetrators to justice.  Noting that restrictive immigration policies could compound the effects of trafficking, he called for effective approaches that ensured fundamental rights.  Discussions on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration could also help to eliminate the practice, while safeguarding migrants’ rights.  As a global network to protect and assist victims would discourage demand and prevent re-victimization, Brazil had adopted a national law to prevent and suppress domestic and international trafficking.  It also was working on its third national anti-trafficking plan with involvement from civil society.  He called for greater cooperation among Member States, as well as with the Secretary-General, UNODC and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), commending the work of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group.

IB PETERSEN (Denmark), associating himself with the European Union, said the Global Plan of Action was a critical instrument, but would only be useful if States implemented it.  Trafficking in persons was an offense of human dignity and rights that understood no borders, he stressed, pledging that Denmark would do its part, including as a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period 2019‑2021.  “We must raise awareness about this issue, and make sure that no one can ever say again that they did not know about modern slavery,” he said, urging States to put in place flexible and adaptable policies, and work harder to prosecute perpetrators.  Denmark supported victims all over the world, he added, announcing that it would contribute $160,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund.

SANDI ČURIN (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, and noting that trafficking in persons and related forms of modern slavery were on the rise, said their underlying causes included exploitive tendencies, loss of values, increased demand for cheap labour and global poverty.  The increasing shadow economy, underground labour market and unfair competition reflected a cheap labour force, which too often, stemmed from trafficking.  Calling for a multidimensional approach, he drew attention to Slovenia’s appointment of a National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in 2002, enhanced efforts to prosecute perpetrators and strong cooperation between law enforcement authorities and non-governmental organizations.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), expressing concern that millions of people were being exploited in forced labour around the world, said trafficking could not be resolved by Governments alone.  Thanking Malaysia and Australia for organizing the Bali Business Forum in an effort to engage the private sector, he noted that Myanmar was a source country.  The Government had adopted an anti-trafficking law in 2005, and recently reviewed its national action plan, with a focus on such issues as forced marriage, debt bondage and forced labour.  The industries in which Myanmar migrant labourers suffered the most included fisheries and forced prostitution.  In response, the Government was cooperating with countries in the region that received large numbers of people trafficked from Myanmar, and had signed on to several regional agreements in that regard.  Voicing concern that people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh could be at risk of trafficking, he said that flight had resulted from terrorist violence by “the so-called Arankhan Rohingya Salvation Army” in Rakhine State on 25 August, whose “scorched earth” tactics had spread fear among the population.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said his country was a transit and destination country for human trafficking, mainly involving cases of sexual and labour exploitation, and forced begging.  Austria paid particular attention to the linkages between migration and trafficking in persons, as it had lately been affected by large mixed migration movements.  It had intensified efforts to identify victims, or those at risk of being trafficked, and supported both regional and international organizations in assisting victims along migration routes.  Advocating a victim‑centred approach, with a focus on prevention, he expressed support for UNODC and the involvement of civil society, especially in protecting victims.

MANUEL ALBANO (Portugal), recalling that his country along with Cabo Verde had co‑facilitated negotiations for of the 2010 United Nations Global Action Plan, said all his country’s national efforts were in line with that instrument as well as the 2030 Agenda.  Portugal had joined the “Blue Heart” global awareness campaign, provided support to victims and was working on its fourth national action plan which took both a victim‑centred and gender‑based approach.  Its Support and Protection Network for Victims of Trafficking had improved coordination between police forces, justice systems, civil society and victims, among others.  The Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings, created in 2008, also had allowed Portugal to reinforce its referral mechanisms and consolidate and share both data and best practices.

Ms. PELAEZ (Mexico), recognizing the links between inequality and marginalization in relation to human trafficking, called for enhanced regional cooperation to address that crime.  Only by renewing support to people‑centred policies could States make progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Global Action Plan.  To that end, Mexico enforced a robust legal framework to care for victims.  It had increased sentences for traffickers and created a reparations fund for victims, working with academic and civil society groups to bolster such work.  At Mexico’s request, UNODC had conducted a national diagnosis which identified gaps in anti‑trafficking efforts.  As a result, Mexico established a national system that featured an information database, care and protection services for victims, and improved reporting, tools and maps.  Those improvements would be used to support investigation and prosecutorial activities, and efforts to protect victims, including through the “Blue Heart” campaign and a new telephone hotline.

REYNALDO A. CATAPANG (Philippines) said the threat of human trafficking could not be overemphasized.  With 10 per cent of its population working abroad, the Philippines adhered to the mandate of migrant protection.  To better serve vulnerable populations, the Government had moved to criminalize attempted trafficking.  Stressing that effective mitigation efforts must acknowledge the link between migration and trafficking, he said multi‑sectoral approaches focused on enshrining cooperation between civil society groups, the private sector and Government.  That approach had energized stakeholders to devise robust responses to trafficking, he said, also noting the benefits of international cooperation in the region.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), voicing support for the Political Declaration, said human trafficking was as complex as the horrors it generated.  It resulted from various dynamics, including the use of social networks, the exploitation of migrants and refugees and armed conflict situations.  Peru’s national strategy to combat trafficking was anchored by such activities as caring for victims, protection and reintegration and prosecution.  However, “we cannot wage this war alone”, and the support of the United Nations was crucial.  The specific challenges and circumstances of certain regions also highlighted the important role to be played by regional organizations, he said.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), pointing out that the crime of human trafficking also threatened sustainable development, outlined national strategies to combat the practice in cooperation with civil society and others.  Paraguay’s national convention against trafficking provided comprehensive care for victims, while a related 2012 law levied a maximum 20‑year sentence for anyone involved in the crime.  Calling for international support in several areas, he stressed that migration must not be criminalized.  States should highlight the link between drug trafficking and human trafficking, while efforts to prosecute offenders must be effective.

JAIDEEP GOVIND (India) said his country had adopted a multi‑pronged, multi‑stakeholder approach to tackling human trafficking, with 264 anti‑trafficking units and 150 investigative units for crimes against women established across the country.  Capacity building for law enforcement agencies and the judiciary had been accorded high priority, while special “Operation Smile” drives were conducted regularly to rescue trafficked children.  The “Track Child” and “Khoya Paya” portals, which showcased the innovative use of information technology, had also produced results.  Greater focus must be placed on development in the countries of origin, and on demand for trafficked persons for exploitative purposes in the destination countries, he said.

TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said trafficking in persons had worsened as increased migratory movements had made people more vulnerable.  New forms of trafficking, by groups such as Boko Haram, were also on the rise, marked by the recruitment, forcible removal or luring of girls and boys, who were then exchanged for ransom, indoctrinated or forced into marriage and sexual slavery.  Boko Haram also used young people as “human bombs”, sending them into civilian populations to carry out suicide attacks.  Cameroon had become a party to the Palermo Convention and its Additional Protocols, as well as to the 1949 Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 105 and 138 respectively on the abolition of forced labour and the minimum age of work.  In addition, it had enacted a national law to combat trafficking, regularly organized awareness-raising campaigns in its most vulnerable regions, and cooperated with other States in West and Central Africa under a UNODC supported initiative.

SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas) said that due to its geographic location and porous borders, the Bahamas experienced large mixed migration and was used as a trafficking transit point.  The Government had signed the United Nations Convention and passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act in 2008, which criminalized the practice and prescribed strict penalties for offenders.  Working with non-governmental groups, the Bahamas had created the national anti‑trafficking strategy for the 2014‑2018 period.  It also had established coordination groups, police and task forces, a nationwide campaign, and developed standard operating procedures and protection services for victims.  In August 2017, the Bahamas had convicted two people of trafficking and several trials were ongoing, he said, adding that the success of the national action plan had led to the development of similar models in other Caribbean countries.

JUNGMIN SEO (Republic of Korea), emphasizing that human trafficking “preys on the weakness of individuals and thrives in conflict”, expressed support for the Global Plan of Action and outlined national efforts taken in line with it.  The Republic of Korea had codified human trafficking as a serious crime in 2013 and had ratified the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol in 2015.  As prevention played an important role in combating the practice, the Government sought to build capacity at the national level while addressing social inequalities and discrimination, among other root causes.  “Perpetrators of such crimes thrive in the shadows of lawlessness and must be brought to justice,” he stressed, adding that the sharing of best practices and lessons learned should be more broadly shared and promoted between States.

JÜRGEN SCHULZ (Germany) said his country’s resolutions in the Human Rights Council, submitted alongside Philippines, underscored the need to support victims and employ a human rights approach in all anti-trafficking measures.  “Traffickers treat their victims as mere commodities,” he said, calling for States to address that gross abuse of human dignity.  Describing his country’s support for anti‑trafficking efforts in various regions, including the Sahel in Africa, he underscored the transnational nature of the practice and the fact that refugees and migrants were particularly at risk.  Preventing human trafficking involved many facets, he added, citing the example of forced labour and noting that companies with international supply chains bore a particular responsibility to protect victims and their human rights.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), associating himself with the Group of Friends against Human Trafficking, said political will and cooperation were required to achieve results.  Balanced attention must be paid to both countries of origin and destination, and he thus echoed support for a comprehensive approach and efforts to combat root causes, such as the legalization of prostitution, poverty and unemployment.  Recalling that the Russian Federation had hosted a conference on public‑private‑partnerships to combat human trafficking in July, he outlined its involvement in similar efforts under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and spotlighted the central role of the United Nations, especially UNODC.  Every country had the right to define its own optimal mechanisms to combat human trafficking, he asserted.

KHALIL HASHMI (Pakistan) called for international resolve and commitment to clear away bottlenecks and obstacles in implementing the Convention and relevant laws.  Financial and technical support would help developing countries streamline processes, collect and share data, and implement grassroots projects.  Drawing attention to the legislative and regulatory measures that Pakistan had taken, he said there must be coordination and cooperation among stakeholders to develop synergies policies to address human trafficking.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said comprehensive, people-centred approaches were needed to guarantee safe migratory flows and respect for migrants’ human rights.  The dangers of irregular migration must also be discussed.  He advocated cooperation as a way to strengthen the protection and repatriation of victims, as well as the prosecution of traffickers.  Noting that Guatemala was the first country in Central America to join the UNODC campaign to fight trafficking in persons, and would continue to comply with its commitments, he said the Government also had developed a database and reference cards to assist in tracking missing persons.  To protect victims, it had established temporary shelters, medical programmes, psychological and social support, and initiatives to promote technical and labour training.  On the prosecution front, Guatemala had passed 19 sentences against traffickers, two of which had received 28‑year sentences.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said armed conflict, unemployment, poverty and natural disasters were factors that prompted migration, displacement and trafficking.  The conditions fostering the expansion of criminal networks must be also examined, he said, citing the role of preventative diplomacy in the cessation of conflict.  He also advocated support for developing countries to address poverty, hunger, unemployment and service‑sector performance, while encouraging cooperation in efforts to prosecute traffickers and criminal networks, including by building human and institutional capacities.  He called for solidary in providing new resources to refugees and migrants, as well as improved data collection and analysis, and information sharing related particularly to disasters and migration.  In partnership with the United Nations and others, Libya’s coast guard had saved thousands of migrants on route to Europe, he said.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), calling for further political attention to the “hidden nature” of human trafficking, drew attention to the United Kingdom’s establishment last week of a “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking” plan, which had already been endorsed by 37 nations, and urged others to join it.  All countries should create policies based on prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership, and consider producing domestic “estimates of prevalence” reports.  Trafficking must also be stamped out in countries’ economies, which required better regulated labour policies.  The United Kingdom had enacted a Modern Slavery Act and introduced a comprehensive legal framework which was resulting in a growing number of convictions.  To address the scale of the problem, United Nations agencies must join together, rather than fight over turf.  “We have reviewed our plan, now let us act,” he concluded.

VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand) said his country had made the eradication of human trafficking a national priority, adopting a policy based on prosecution, protection, prevention and partnership.  On prosecution, he said Thailand had recently convicted 62 offenders involved in the Rohingya case, with some sentences up to 94 years.  On prevention, the Government was working to establish a national screening mechanism for undocumented immigrants, trafficking victims and refugees, which would identify those in need of protection.  It had also signed labour cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries to facilitate legal employment in Thailand for some 400,000 migrant workers from four countries, and had strengthened public-private-civil society partnerships.  “We have to step up our efforts to make sure that trafficking is a ‘high‑risk, no reward’ business,” he stressed, advocating stronger support for victims and improved data collection and analysis.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the fight against trafficking must be holistic and include a variety of stakeholders at all levels.  Argentina had focused on preventing trafficking, and providing assistance to victims, in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 5 to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he said Argentina had taken measures to protect victims’ privacy and to ensure their physical, psychological and social recovery through safe housing, counselling, medical and material assistance, as well as offers for employment, education and training.  Victims were given the option to remain in Argentina by filing for refugee status, or offered repatriation assistance.  The Government also had carried out awareness raising, particularly in border areas.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) expressed support for the Political Declaration and Sustainable Development Goal targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 to combat human trafficking.  Noting the links with transnational organized crime, he described the challenges in terms of prevention, investigation and prosecution.  Each year, Colombia identified and assisted victims of all kinds of trafficking.  It had established sexual and reproductive rights training programmes for children and adolescents, strengthened the legal branch through training initiatives and provided assistance to victims.  He called for greater international commitment, notably through enhanced work with UNODC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) said people from areas of conflict were especially vulnerable to being trafficked, as they experienced such “push factors” as a lack of economic opportunity, poverty and low education rates.  It was important to consider the causal link between racism, bigotry, prejudice and human trafficking so as to enhance legal and policy responses.  Noting that Kenya had signed protocols and formulated laws to combat trafficking, she said the Government also had created an advisory committee to guide inter-agency activities, developed a national action plan to promote cooperation, and set aside $800,000 through the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat.  To protect workers, the Government in 2014 had revoked the licenses of more than 900 agencies recruiting workers for jobs in the Middle East and the Gulf region.  Today, it continued to vet agencies, requiring them to apply annually for fresh licenses, she added.

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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

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UN envoy calls on Security Council to further support fight against terrorism in West Africa, Sahel

13 July 2017 &#150 Amid rising terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa and the United Nations envoy for the region called on the Security Council to further support national and Regional efforts to combat this “serious threat”, including strengthening the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.

The efforts of the region’s States towards broader development, increased investment, improved infrastructure and job creation are being undermined by factors of insecurity “both traditional and new,” warned Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWAS).

Terrorism and violent extremism, which aggravate humanitarian crises and erode the integrity of the region’s States, have exacerbated traditional threats in West Africa and the Sahel region, which includes Mali, Mauritania, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Nigeria and Niger and Chad.

“These factors, combined with climate change, youth bulge and unemployment and unchecked urbanization constitute veritable push factors underpinning the surge in irregular migration and human trafficking,” he explained to the Council.

In the Sahel, the envoy continued, instability in Mali continues to spread into north-eastern Burkina Faso and western Niger, as evidenced by the recent deadly attacks in the border areas between these three countries. In the Liptako-Gourma region, which links Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the past month has been marked by an intensification of terrorist activities and violent extremism, including coordinated cross-border attacks on border crossings.

The leaders of those three countries met in Niamey on 24 January, and announced the formation of a multinational security force. The announcement came in the context of ongoing discussions on the operationalization of the G5 Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5S), an initiative that also includes, in addition to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, Chad and Mauritania. He called on the Security Council to further support the national and regional initiatives of the Sahel States against violent extremism and terrorism.

Turning to the situation in the Lake Chad Basin, Mr. Chambas said that despite the remarkable efforts of the Multinational Joint Force against Boko Haram, recent attacks demonstrated that the terrorist group remains a “serious threat” to the region. The mode and sophistication of these attacks, he added, suggest that the terrorist group has benefited from reinforcements.

The attacks, the UNOWAS chief stressed, have “devastating humanitarian consequences” in the Lake Chad Basin, where 5.2 million people, many of whom are displaced, are in a vulnerable situation.

At the same time, the threats posed by extremists and terrorist groups should not obscure other traditional threats to security in the region, such as the rise of inter-communal tensions in several countries, including clashes between herders and farmers. Also of concern is the intensification of smuggling, cross-border crime and human trafficking in areas where State structures are scarce.

“This insecurity,” he said, “also extends to the Gulf of Guinea, where piracy is increasing.”

In view of these threats, he considered that the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel presents an effective multidimensional response to streamline efforts and reduce duplication between the various initiatives in the Sahel.

In that context, Mr. Chambas said he is ready to continue working with the States of the region to strengthen justice, the rule of law, security reform and national reconciliation.

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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.)

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General Assembly Debates Breadth of Human Rights Council’s Mandate as Members Consider Its Annual Report

While some delegates spotlighted the link between ensuring fundamental freedoms and achieving sustainable development, several others expressed concern that the Human Rights Council was overstepping its mandate, the General Assembly heard today, as it considered that body’s annual report.

Briefing Member States on the Council’s latest report, Choi Kyonglim (Republic of Korea), its President, said it was exploring new opportunities to advance human rights based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In its many debates, the Council had focused on the relationship between climate change and the rights of the child, the contribution of civil society in preventing abuses, women’s equal rights and business and human rights.

Given its many resolutions on a wide range of issues, the Council had demonstrated its ability to overcome political differences, he continued.  Despite the tireless efforts of the Council and the wider United Nations, however, human rights abuses were still rampant, humanitarian conditions were worsening and armed conflicts continued to rage.  “But we cannot lose our hope and optimism,” he emphasized.  “These two words are our guiding lights, with which we illuminate the darkest corners of the world.”

Over the course of 2016, he noted, the Council had established an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and a Special Rapporteur on the right to development.  Challenges persisted in regards to the universality of its work and small countries had been encouraged to strengthen national processes to enable more engagement.  The active participation of civil society was also central to the work of the Council, he said.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said the Council had time and again indeed “shone a light” on human rights violations, helping to establish new international norms and provide accountability.  It now had a central role in promoting the 2030 Agenda and ensuring that its implementation was pursued in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.  With much more work remaining to be done in the decade ahead, the international community must stand firmly in its support of the Council’s work, however difficult that might be, he stressed.

In the ensuing discussion, many delegates expressed concern that the Council may be overstepping its mandate, with several speakers citing the adoption of resolution 32/2, titled “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.  The Russian Federation’s representative said the Council had become a tool for airing political grievances and demonizing certain States.  He expressed alarm at relentless efforts to bring up matters unrelated to its work, including issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Elaborating on that issue, Botswana’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, expressed deep concern over attempts to focus on certain persons on the basis of their sexual interests and behaviours, while ignoring the existence of other types of intolerance and discrimination.  Concerned that the Council was delving into matters that fell within the domestic jurisdiction of States, he said notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.

However, the representative of the United States emphasized that those issues clearly belonged on the Council’s agenda.  No one should face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, he added.

Delegations raised other concerns, with some saying they had been unfairly targeted.  Israel’s representative said special items, politicized debates, preposterous reports and unfounded accusations had characterized the attitude of the Council towards her country.  “Instead of trampling in the political swamp,” she said, “it is crucial that the Human Rights Council finally focus on promoting human rights.”  While Israel had faced many security challenges, it remained committed to upholding human rights.

Raising a similar concern, Iran’s delegate said it was regrettable that certain countries had been persistent in politicizing the issue of human rights.  He urged the Council to firmly maintain its fairness and mutual respect for different religions, values and cultures while refraining from imposing a single lifestyle on others.  It was more important to focus on issues such as confronting violent extremism and raising awareness towards the imminent threat of terrorism, he said.

Many delegates welcomed the Council’s universal periodic review process for enabling all Member States to engage with one another on equal footing in order to improve human rights in all countries.  The representative of Maldives said that as a small island developing State at the forefront of climate consequences, it had long advocated that the climate change issue and its impact on populations be viewed through a human rights lens.  Despite its situation, Maldives had maintained a strong presence at the Council.  “We are proud to have given a voice to the smallest members of the international community,” she added.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Liechtenstein (also on behalf of Iceland), Australia, Mongolia, Cuba, Kuwait, India, Switzerland, Argentina, Hungary, Costa Rica, Norway, Colombia, Philippines, Georgia, Ukraine, Cameroon and Qatar, as well as an observer for the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia and Ukraine.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., Monday, 7 November, to begin its consideration of the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other related matters.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the comprehensive human rights mechanisms the Council oversaw, particularly the universal periodic review, special procedures mandate holders and treaty bodies, had put it at the forefront of upholding human rights.  “They have allowed us to establish new norms, provide accountability and remedies for violations and ensure that the human rights dimensions of emerging challenges are elevated and understood,” he said.  Time and again, the Council had “shone a light” on human rights violations requiring urgent action by the international community.  The universal periodic review had been key in enabling all Member States to engage with one another on equal footing in order to improve human rights in all countries.  The open and inclusive nature of the review process had also been fundamental to its credibility.

He welcomed the participation of civil society and encouraged Member States to support national institutions, academia and other human rights defenders so that they could conduct their work freely.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, if implemented effectively, would build peaceful and inclusive societies, empower women and girls, tackle discrimination and inequality, promote rule of law, eliminate extreme poverty and fight climate change.  The Council had a central role to play in promoting the 2030 Agenda and ensuring that its implementation was pursued in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.  With much more work remaining to be done, the international community must, in the decade ahead, stand firmly in its support of the Council’s work, however difficult that might be.  It was essential for the Council to remain credible and retain its universal character.

CHOI KYONGLIM, President of the Human Rights Council, said many of its resolutions, including country-specific issues, were cross-regional initiatives, affirming the body’s capacity to overcome political differences and take unified action.  With Syria remaining high on its agenda throughout the year, the Council had, in October, held a session on the deteriorating situation in Aleppo.  The Council had requested its Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to conduct an investigation and identify all those responsible for alleged violations and abuses of human rights law.  The Council had also considered updates of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea and the report of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, having dispatched a mission of independent experts to the latter country to investigate human rights violations.

Recalling the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said a group of independent experts were mandated to focus on issues of accountability, in particular to violations amounting to crimes against humanity.  The experts were expected to deliver their report to the Council in March 2017, when a report stemming from monitoring the situation in South Sudan was also expected to be presented.  In 2016, the Council had extended the existing country-specific special procedures mandates to Belarus, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan.

He said the Council was exploring new opportunities in advancing human rights based on the 2030 Agenda, including discussions on how to help to bring the three pillars of the United Nations closer together.  To that end, the Council had engaged in a range of thematic debates, holding 20 panel discussions specifically focusing on the relationship between climate change and the rights of the child, the contribution of civil society in the prevention of human rights abuses, women’s equal rights and business and human rights.  The Council had also focused on the issue of improving accessibility for people with disabilities, pursuant to obligations arising from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council, he said, had acted as its “ears and eyes”, constituting one of the main sources of reliable information on human rights situations around the world and providing a solid basis for debate.  In 2016, the Council had established an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and a Special Rapporteur on the right to development.  The Council had also amended the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to represent each of the seven indigenous sociocultural regions.

Regarding the universal periodic review, he said one challenge to the principle of universality had been the participation of small countries that did not have representation in Geneva.  To that end, regular attention had been given to those States’ needs through programmes and activities that had contributed to keeping them engaged in the process.  Going forward required strengthening the focus on follow-up and implementation in order to safeguard the mechanism’s effectiveness and credibility.  States were also encouraged to strengthen national processes to enable more engagement with and follow-up on recommendations.  The active participation of civil society was central to the work of the Council and its representatives must be afforded adequate protection to operate in open and safe environments.

Highlighting the many resolutions the Council had adopted, he said it had recommended that the Assembly submit the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the Security Council for appropriate action.  The Council had also requested the Assembly to submit to all relevant organs of the United Nations the report of the Commission of Inquiry in Eritrea and that the world body remain apprised of the matter of ensuring justice for all violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Turning to challenges, he said the Council continued to adopt a high number of resolutions, which carried significant resource implications.  While the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had been requested to comply with Council decisions, its regular budget had not kept pace with the growth.  The Council was also faced with the real possibility of having its meeting time reduced, which would impact its responsiveness to address human rights issues worldwide in an efficient and timely matter.

He said that despite the tireless efforts of the Council and the United Nations, as a whole, to effectively respond to the multiple crises that the world faced in 2016, the current situation did not appear to have vastly improved.  Human rights abuses were still rampant, humanitarian conditions were worsening and armed conflicts continued to rage.  “But, we cannot lose our hope and optimism,” he said.  “These two words are our guiding lights with which we illuminate the darkest corners of the world.”

Statements

FRANCESCA CARDONA (European Union) underscored the severe consequences of the Syrian crisis and violations that had been committed by all parties.  Any breaches of international law, especially humanitarian and human rights law, which might constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice.  The Council’s ongoing response to the crisis remained vital, as mirrored by related efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity.  The Council had also provided technical assistance to authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Mali to promote human rights and continued to assist the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Guinea, South Sudan and Ukraine.  It should continue to closely monitor situations where technical assistance and capacity building could make a difference and should act when necessary.

She expressed concern over a draft resolution, tabled in the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), on the Council’s report.  That text sought to subvert a legitimate Council decision by deferring one particular resolution from its report — Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 on “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.  Any attempt to call into question the legitimacy of the Council resolution had no legal foundation, she said, noting that based on its adoption, Vitit Muntarbhorn had been appointed the new Independent Expert in September, with the agreement of all 47 Council members.  Questioning that mandate was to question the delicate institutional relationship between the Council and the Assembly.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasized the importance of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the Council’s work.  Expressing support for the Council’s agenda item on technical cooperation and capacity building on human rights issues, he stressed that related advisory services should only be issued upon the request of the State concerned, based on its priorities and national ownership and with full respect for sovereignty and political independence.  Deploring all forms of stereotyping, exclusion, stigmatization, prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, hate speech and violence, he expressed deep concern over attempts to introduce and impose new notions and concepts that were not internationally agreed upon, particularly in areas where there was no legal foundation in any international human rights instrument.  The Group was even more disturbed at attempts to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviours, while ignoring that other types of intolerance and discrimination regrettably still existed.

Spotlighting the Council’s adoption of resolution 32/2 as such an attempt, he expressed concern that such efforts were being pursued to the detriment of issues of paramount importance, such as the right to development.  Alarmed that the Council was delving into matters that fell within the domestic jurisdiction of States, the African Group believed that notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.  Recalling that the Group had tabled a resolution to defer the consideration of resolution 32/2 in order to engage in further discussions on the matter, he reiterated a call for the suspension of the appointed Independent Expert’s activities, pending the determination of clarity on the issue.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), also speaking on behalf of Iceland, said that what had begun in 2006 as a project that had faced opposition from different sides had now become one of the international community’s most important instruments in promoting universal respect for all human rights.  Unfortunately, the Council had recently become more polarized, with opposition to certain country-specific and thematic issues being a matter of politics and the actual human rights of thousands of people sometimes taking a backseat.  Noting that Member States’ voluntary pledges and commitments now barely factored into the selection of the Council’s members, he stressed that overall political commitments, such as support for the Accountability, Transparency and Coherence Group’s code of conduct on mass atrocities, should play an important part in decision making in Council elections.  Expressing particular concern about the Council’s insufficient action on the situations in Yemen and Syria, he called on all countries to cooperate with the body’s special procedures, such as by issuing standing invitations and enabling them to conduct their work independently and without interference.

CAITLIN WILSON (Australia) welcomed the Council’s increased focus on improving the human rights outcomes for indigenous peoples, including through strengthening of the expert mechanism.  She supported the body’s resolution on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, saying it represented a significant step towards protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.  However, it was disappointing to hear that some States were challenging the appointment of the independent expert.  Furthermore, she noted that Australia had put forward its candidature for the Human Rights Council for 2018-2010.  Given the opportunity to serve, her country would focus on five key areas, including good governance, freedom of expression, national human rights institutions, and the rights of women, girls and indigenous peoples.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said that as a newly-elected Council member, his country was focusing on a wide range of issues in the promotion and protection of equitable rights and fundamental freedoms that were at the core of all governmental policies.  Mongolia’s report had been reviewed a second time and a national action plan, developed through consultation with all stakeholders, had been adopted to implement the resulting recommendations.  He called for more focus in the Council on such implementation through constructive engagement, cooperation and technical support.  Commending efforts that had been aimed at improving the Council’s working methods, he affirmed his Government’s commitment to continue to contribute to the body’s activities.

SARAH MENDELSON (United States), expressing her delegation’s strong support for resolution 32/2, said no one should face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and that those issues clearly belonged on the Council’s agenda.  She strongly supported the appointment of an Independent Expert.  Yesterday, the African Group had tabled its annual resolution on the Report of the Human Rights Council, which, during the current session, had contained “incredibly problematic language” and had attempted to delay consideration of resolution 32/2.  Such actions could undermine the Council’s ability to function if countries could reopen any mandate they deemed objectionable under the guise of legal concerns.  Warning that the African Group would set a dangerous precedent, she recalled that the Latin American Group would table an amendment removing the language that went against the Council’s decision.  She strongly urged all Member States to vote in favour of the amendment, and, if that failed, to vote against the resolution itself.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), underlining the need for the Council to avoid a repeat of the negative practices that had discredited the Human Rights Commission, expressed regret over the former’s increasing trend to impose double standards in its consideration of human rights.  “The Council must be rescued from a situation in which selectivity and political manipulation will prevail,” she stressed, noting that the universal periodic review, which was the sole comprehensive mechanism for the consideration of human rights, had distinguished itself from the Human Rights Commission through its respect for the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity.  Stressing the need for those principles to also be observed by the Council’s special procedures and its treaty bodies, she said that, as long as the current unfair and exclusive international economic and political order continued, the Council must take a stand in favour of equity and democracy.  In particular, it must reject such universal and coercive measures as the one which had faced Cuba for more than 50 years.

NOUR KHALED ALDUWAILAH (Kuwait) said promoting and protecting human rights was the full responsibility of States.  She welcomed the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and international efforts to promote the sustainable development agenda.  For its part, Kuwait had already implemented national plans to promote human rights and public freedoms in line with international conventions.  Indeed, the concept of human rights was closely linked to sustainable development.  The United Nations Charter urged the international community to promote human rights and preserve fundamental freedoms.  Having hosted three international conferences to address the humanitarian situation in Syria, Kuwait called for a concerted international effort to find a political settlement to the crisis.  Her Government also strongly condemned Israel for violating the most fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

Mr. LUKYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said international cooperation was increasingly important and the United Nations must ensure ongoing dialogue between States.  While the Council played a particularly crucial role, its agenda had become a tool for airing political grievances and demonizing certain States.  Citing certain dubious actions that had diluted the work of intergovernmental bodies, he said the Council itself was becoming a platform to test-run politically loaded matters.  United Nations bodies with human rights mandates should not encroach on matters of international security, development, counter-terrorism and human trafficking.  They must also have limits and avoid duplication.  The Council’s agenda went beyond its mandate and jurisdiction, he said, expressing alarm at “relentless efforts” to bring up other matters, including issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Overstepping its mandate was becoming a typical characteristic of the Council.  While welcoming the objectivity of the universal periodic review process, he raised concerns about other worrisome trends that could discredit the work of the United Nations in protecting and promoting human rights.

MAHESH KUMAR (India) said that intrusive monitoring and finger-pointing while dealing with specific human rights situations was inimical to the Council’s objectives.  The Council must continue to strengthen its adherence to principles of universality, transparency, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and historical, cultural and religious backgrounds.  The universal periodic review mechanism provided a forum for non-politicized, non-selective and non-confrontational discussions.  The mechanism should not be adjusted, as any such attempt could dilute the universal support it currently enjoyed.  Related issues could not be approached in isolation, nor could addressing them ignore the complex relationship between human rights, development, democracy and international cooperation, he said.

AISHA NQEEM (Maldives) underlined the importance of the Council’s work, as human rights violations and abuses were rapidly increasing.  The universal periodic review process had come to be widely recognized as the biggest achievement of the Council.  Special attention must be given to the situation in Syria, particularly the grave human rights violations being committed in Aleppo, she said.  She called on the Council to step up efforts and adopt a more proactive role in addressing the grave violations being committed against the women, men and children there and the violations Israel was committing against the Palestinian people.  As a small island developing State at the forefront of climate consequences, Maldives had long advocated that the climate change issue and its impact on populations be viewed through a human rights lens.  Despite its limitation, Maldives had maintained a strong presence at the Council.  “We are proud to have given a voice to the smallest members of the international community,” she added.

OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said the draft resolution on the Human Rights Council’s report was not necessary, as it aimed at isolating Council resolution 32/2 in its call to defer its consideration.  The relationship between human rights and peace and security was worthy of special attention, not least because of its conflict-prevention potential.  While the Council’s increasing workload had confirmed the relevance of its mandate, that pace was not sustainable over the medium-term.  It was crucial to continue reflecting on optimizing working methods and implementing relevant proposals to do so.  Stressing the importance of improving its working atmosphere, he pointed out a lack of transparency in a number of negotiations and resolutions, a growing and combined use of written and oral amendments and requests to vote on concerns that had never been expressed during informal negotiations.  Such issues fostered a mood of confrontation, he said, calling on all States to work constructively to enhance the body’s credibility and efficiency.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said his Government had always been a strong defender of the Council’s independent efforts to protect human rights and believed that the body should be placed on an equal footing with the United Nations main organs.  Among other things, he said, the Council had increased dialogue between States on crucial human rights issues.  Expressing concern over recent actions aimed at undermining the Council’s legitimacy, including questions posed about the legal basis for its appointment of an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, he said it was unacceptable that attempts, through the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), had been made to disregard the mandates created by the Council.  Pointing to other important issues on the body’s agenda, he spotlighted the protection of the rights of older persons and the consideration of human rights and transitional justice, noting that the latter could contribute to the prevention of grave violations of human rights and international law.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said her country had been active in the work of the Council, having led various initiatives on a number of thematic issues, including the independence of the judiciary and the prevention of reprisals against individuals cooperating with the United Nations.  Hungary had also facilitated the exchange of views and disseminated knowledge about the Council and its mechanisms.  In that regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had continued to host the annual Budapest Human Rights Forum, which had been launched in 2008.  The upcoming forum would focus on major human rights issues such as the prevention of mass atrocities and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

NELLY SHILO (Israel) said special items, politicized debates, preposterous reports and unfounded accusations characterized the attitude of the Council towards Israel.  “Instead of trampling in the political swamp,” she said, “it was crucial that the Human Rights Council finally focus on promoting human rights.”  The United Nations faced an unending list of calls to address the situation in Syria.  Meanwhile, others worldwide continued to face torture, rape and starvation.  Israel was a strong democracy in the Middle East region.  While facing many security challenges, Israel would remain fully committed to upholding human rights and would continue to firmly object any attempts for the political abuse of the Council.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica) said the work of the universal periodic review was guided by principles of cooperation and constructive dialogue.  She reiterated firm support for the Council’s work and its independence while expressing concern that some practices could undermine its legitimacy.  The Council must be recognized as the main international body to promote and protect human rights, and all efforts must be focused on strengthening that system.  Costa Rica had historically been committed to human rights.  To stray from independence would be to deny the universality of human rights, she said, adding that the system could be further refined through increasing support and maximizing resources and capacities.  The Council must avoid scattering its efforts and must focus on grave and systematic violations around the world.  Women, children and the most vulnerable deserved the protection of the international community now more than ever before.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) stressed that when the Council adopted a resolution, the General Assembly had no role in reopening or overturning those decisions.  Such a step undermined the very role and independent mandate that States had given that body.  She called on States to respect the Council’s decisions, including those specifically establishing special mandate holders.  “There is no shortage of rights to be implemented,” she said.  “It is the implementation itself that is the problem.”  Special mandate holders were crucial to implementing commitments that had been made.  Norway was disappointed and troubled by the decision to again bring forward a resolution in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), aiming at reopening the Council’s report.  She strongly opposed the attempt to defer the decision establishing the Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, stressing that the attempted deferral had no legal basis.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), spotlighting the Council’s transformative impact on the lives of millions of people around the world, emphasized the need to continue to work towards streamlining the number of resolutions to be adopted and items to be considered.  Noting that controversy and dispute were inherent in the Council’s work, he stressed that “we should not fear the differences” that arose between States, as critical and constructive debate was positive and enabled gradual progress towards consensus.  In that regard, he called on Member States to avoid polarization and redouble their efforts to strengthen the Council’s work.

THERESE RODRIGUEZ CANTADA (Philippines) said her country remained committed to actively participating in the Council’s work, while recognizing the growing complexity and breadth of human rights issues.  The performance of special procedures mandate holders must always be in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/251, which recognized that the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and strengthening the capacity of Member States to comply with their obligations.  The universal periodic review was a very useful tool in upholding and allowing Governments concerned and members of the international community to engage with each other.  However, the review process should not be the “end-all and be-all” of the human rights protection process.  Given that migrants were recognized as positive contributors to inclusive and sustainable development in origin, transit and destination countries, she urged everyone to respect their economic, social and cultural rights.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) said that, over the past decade, the Council had stood at the forefront of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Nevertheless, systematic human rights violations remained a common phenomenon worldwide, and violence and brutality continued to infest the world.  Welcoming the body’s work in addressing the human rights situation in Syria, Ukraine, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, South Sudan, Burundi and other countries, as well as its adoption of several landmark thematic resolutions, she underscored the importance of universally applying universal periodic review regulations.  The effective participation of civil society representatives in the Council’s work was instrumental, she said, noting that such organizations were actively involved in all of Georgia’s major reform processes.  The basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of residents of Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions continued to be violated in a systematic manner.  The attention of the Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to that matter was of paramount importance.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union delegation, said his country had been suffering from military aggression and the grave human rights violations caused by the Russian Federation.  The human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine continued to document numerous compelling accounts of violations, he said, expressing concern that international organizations still had no access to Crimea, where the situation was worsening.   The systemic character of the ongoing situation required a separate detailed OHCHR report.  Transparency, dialogue and cooperation were essential in achieving human rights around the world.  Further evidence-based research must advance understanding and ensure the effective implementation of measures that could prevent human rights violations.  In that regard, the Council had adopted a resolution requesting an expert workshop be held to discuss the role of civil society and other groups.  Despite challenges in the field of security, Ukraine had embarked on the path of comprehensive reform, with human rights at its core.

MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran) said the universal periodic review had the potential to translate human rights discourse from confrontational to cooperative.  Iran had begun implementing the latest review recommendations.  Despite the existence of cooperative mechanisms, it was regrettable that certain countries were persistent in continuing their “worn-out policy of confrontation”.  Their sinister ways of politicizing human rights was hard to comprehend, he said, urging them to stop “naming and shaming”.  He disassociated himself with part of the report that included the situation in Iran.  The Council should firmly maintain its fairness and mutual respect for different religions, values and cultures, and should refrain from imposing a single lifestyle on others, he said, emphasizing that Iran did not recognize the body’s work in sexual orientation or gender identity.  He highlighted the important role of the Council in confronting and addressing violent extremism and raising global awareness towards the imminent threat of terrorism, which was “creeping throughout the Middle East” and beyond.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council served as a platform for dialogue and exchange of views between States on human rights issues.  Cameroon hosted the United Nations Sub-regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, which held capacity-building seminars on human rights and submitted regular activity reports to the Assembly and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Expressing hope that the latter would provide increased attention to the Centre and bolster its financial and human resources, he went on to say that human rights were enshrined in Cameroon’s Constitution and its national laws, policies and programmes.  Among other things, his Government published an annual report on efforts to promote and protect civil, political, economic and cultural rights, in particular those of vulnerable groups.  In December 2015, Cameroon had also adopted a national action plan for the protection and promotion of human rights.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), emphasizing the Council’s importance as the most appropriate international human rights mechanism, said the body was faced with new burdens emerging from recent increases in conflict, extremism and terrorism.  Spotlighting the gravity of the violations committed against the Palestinian and Syrian people in particular — which required the prompt attention of the international community — she said Qatar was sparing no effort to address those matters and ensure peace throughout the world.  Among other things, the country was working to build the capacity of States to address human rights violations and it had launched numerous initiatives aimed at promoting the right to education, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and ending human trafficking.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, replying to the statements by Georgia and Ukraine, said that Georgia should recognize the political reality on the ground.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia existed as autonomous republics and any concerns of human rights there could be referred to their governments.  In regards to the Ukraine, the people of Crimea and Sevastopol had voted and, just like any other individuals under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, enjoyed all the human rights ensured under Russian law.  If they had any concerns, the appropriate Russian bodies would respond to them accordingly.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea called the accusations made by the European Union groundless and said that the European Union was the main violator of human rights.  The European Union had a “deplorable” human rights record, especially in its treatment of refugees, who were far from being protected.  The European Union and other Western countries should address their own human rights records first and refrain from interfering in the sovereignty of other countries.  They should focus on engaging in constructive dialogue instead.

The representative of Georgia, replying to the Russian Federation, said that she did not mention the Russian Federation in her statement.  In regards to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, she said that the Russian Federation was an occupying Power and that human rights were systematically violated in those territories.  She reiterated her call for the monitoring of human rights in the occupied territories and said that given the Russian Federation’s role as occupying Power, its statements on the matter had no credibility.

The representative of Ukraine, responding, stressed that the conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk had begun with the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea.

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