Calling Migration a Human Rights Issue, Delegates Urge States to Consider Migrants as ‘Key’ to Development, Third Committee Hears / reliefwebs

Concluding General Debate on Human Rights, Delegates Raise Concerns about ‘Politicized’ Resolutions Targeting Specific Countries

The protection of human rights, without distinction of migratory status, was key to development, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it concluded its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, including the introduction of two resolutions – on the rights of the child and on celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

More than one billion people in the world were migrants across or within borders, Michele Klein Solomon, of the Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told the Committee. “The paradox is that at a time of such significant human mobility, we are seeing increasingly harsh and restrictive responses to migration in the developed world,” she said, pointing out that since 2000, more than 40,000 people had died trying to cross international borders. Overly “securitized” responses created conditions that left migrants vulnerable to violence, including the loss of life at border crossings, she said. “We need to put an end to this cycle.”

Governments had the sovereign right to determine which non-nationals might enter and remain in their territories, she said, but determination and the processes of addressing such realities must be carried out in accordance with all relevant international legal standards. “All migrants, irrespective of their legal status, were entitled to protection as human beings under international human rights law,” she continued. As recent tragedies continued to illustrate, it was clear that “we all need to do much, much more”, she said.

During the day-long debate, many delegates agreed that mobility was indeed a human right. Guatemala’s speaker emphasized that equality was the link between migration and development, calling upon Member States to create an institutional capacity that would guarantee the protection and promotion of migrants’ rights. A delegate from Ecuador noted that despite increasing awareness on the issue, the legislation and measures adopted by certain States restricted the human rights of migrants. It was also concerned that public policies in countries of destination included sanctions and disproportionate measures against migrants. Accordingly, El Salvador’s delegate stressed the need for a comprehensive approach incorporating human rights, migration and development.

Promoting migration policies based on tolerance, shared responsibility and non-discrimination were States’ responsibilities, a number of delegates said. Sharing the perspective of a destination State, a representative of Greece said her country, a transit of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, had faced strong migratory pressure due to its geographical position at the external border of the European Union. Despite the recent financial crisis, her country remained committed to use all means to ensure the fundamental rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Some speakers provided examples of the root causes of migration. A representative of Maldives had drawn attention to the indivisible link between climate change and migration. Noting that migration was a human rights issue that had been neglected far too long, he said that his country was at grave risk of rising sea levels and land erosion, which could ultimately drive people to relocate.

Another theme that threaded through the debate concerned politically motivated resolutions singling out States, with Sri Lanka’s speaker voicing concerns about country-specific targeting in the Human Rights Council and in the General Assembly. Calling upon Member States to treat all on equal footing without selective approach, many delegates urged that and constructive discussions on human rights should not be politicized. A representative of Belarus said some countries had applied double standards when debating human rights, while Iran’s delegate emphasized his regret over country-specific solutions promoted by “self-proclaimed” human rights champions. Several delegates pointed out that human rights challenges existed in all countries.

Expressing a point raised by a number of delegates, Viet Nam’s representative emphasized that universal periodic reviews were among the most effective tools to facilitate dialogue and cooperation among Member States, as well as to promote the implementation of human rights internationally.

Among other topics discussed today, several speakers highlighted the legal and human rights implications of drone strikes. A representative of Pakistan said that the use of armed drones and mass surveillance must strictly comply with the provisions of international human rights and humanitarian law. Indeed, he underlined, the extraterritorial use of drone strikes was inconsistent with the United Nations Charter, as they had caused civilian casualties and had resulted in an environment of fear.

Also participating today were speakers representing Brazil, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Kuwait, Argentina, Morocco, Tonga, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Gabon, Albania, Uruguay, Bolivia (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Kiribati, Cyprus, Libya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Canada, Philippines, South Africa, Costa Rica, Nepal, Tuvalu, and Syria, as well as the State of Palestine and the European Union Delegation.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also delivered a statement.

Exercising the rights of reply were representatives of Armenia, Bahrain, China, Russian Federation, Turkey, Serbia, Egypt, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Azerbaijan, State of Palestine, Albania, Syria and Cyprus.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 3 November, to begin its general discussion on racism and self-determination.


The Third Committee met this morning to continue its consideration of the protection and promotion of human rights. It also expected to hear the introduction of two draft resolutions: Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/69/L.12/Rev.1); and Rights of the child (document A/C.3/69/L.24). For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4108 of 22 October.


ERIKA ALMEIDA WATANABE PATRIOTA (Brazil) shared memories of the dictatorial regime that had lasted two decades, claiming the lives of many Brazilians. Only through recognizing that victims and their families had the right to know the truth and to identify perpetrators would the country be able to prevent impunity and to evolve institutionally. Turning to the right to development, she said programmes had included conditional cash transfers, decent minimum wage policies and the Government’s procurement of food and services. Those and other efforts had significantly contributed to eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities. Among her country’s concerns was the global problem of violence and discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, which affected all regions of the world.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) said that in the past year, the international community had witnessed dreadful atrocities and violence around the world, and the consequent failure to realize the human rights of millions of people. “We cannot continue to let this happen”, he stressed, welcoming the reports of various Special Rapporteurs that had focused on the rights of vulnerable groups, such as indigenous people and women. New Zealand considered the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples a significant milestone. Further, it was vital to continue to develop policies that addressed the root causes of violence against women, including by raising awareness about access to multisectoral services and avenues of safe redress. His country welcomed ongoing progress towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, and remained concerned at the secrecy and uncertainty that surrounded the use of that practice in some States.

DIYAR KHAN (Pakistan) said that despite commendable achievements, the dream of protecting human beings around the world from indignity and freeing them from basic wants was still far from reality. Credibility demanded that the weak and the strong were held equally accountable for their violations. While civil and political rights formed the foundation of justice, the promotion of social and economic rights facilitated the realization of civil and political rights. The death penalty issue demanded to be examined in a holistic manner, taking into account the rights of victims. His delegation believed that the universal periodic review offered the best process to engage Member States in a genuine dialogue on human rights, based on international cooperation. As a founding member of the Human Rights Council, Pakistan took its obligations seriously, implementing affirmative action for the political empowerment of women, and high budget allocations for child education. Turning to the subject of drone strikes, he said that such strikes had caused civilian casualties and resulted in an environment of fear. The extraterritorial use of drone attacks was inconsistent with the United Nations Charter.

MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI (Sudan) said that his country had signed various international human rights treaties, including those on the rights of the child and the rights of people with disabilities. The United Nations must also fulfil its obligations regarding technical cooperation and capacity building. Sudan had established an independent commission on human rights work years ago, and had completed a comprehensive judicial system overview. As Sudan was considered to be a transit point for human trafficking, the country was taking action to combat that crime, including by promoting international and regional cooperation. His delegation believed that the family was the basic unit of society, and was concerned about attempts to advance new sexual notions that ignored religious and social tradition. No country in the world, big or powerful, was immune to human rights problems, which made it incumbent on all States to cooperate with each other, instead of judging and evaluating others.

PALITHA KOHONA (Sri Lanka) said despite a long internal conflict, his country continued to achieve high Human Development Index indicators, maintaining an expanding economy. When conflict ended in 2009, Sri Lanka had launched a number of reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes in affected areas. Accordingly, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had visited in 2013, noting that there had been threats against human rights advocacy groups in the country. Sri Lanka promised not to tolerate any force of extremism, addressing genuine allegations. However, his country was deeply concerned about the selective targeting of States for country-specific action in the Human Rights Council, as well as in the General Assembly. Concluding, he called upon United Nations entities to engage with Sri Lanka in a constructive, fair and objective manner.

FOROUZANDEH VADIATI (Iran) expressed regret over country-specific resolutions promoted by self-proclaimed human rights champions. Canada had committed human rights violations against indigenous people in the form of physical and sexual assault, poor unemployment and health, she added. At the international level, the unjust and bias attitude of the Canadian government was exemplified by extending support to Israel’s killings in Gaza. Turning to the human rights situation in the United States, she noted over 25 cases of human rights violations, including assassinations, drone strikes and the improper use of solitary confinement. She then called on that Government to investigate the detention of innocent Iranians. Grave violations of human rights had also been recorded in European countries, she added, pointing out reports of hate speeches and intolerance against migrants, Muslims and the Roma community. In the United Kingdom, she noted the approval of a new emergency law granting intelligence forces the permission to conduct mass surveillance. In Norway, she said, 83 unaccompanied children seeking asylum had disappeared, and that country had experienced increases in violence against women in their homes.

RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador) emphasized the importance of creating spaces for constructive dialogue on the promotion and protection of human rights. He was convinced that the respect of human rights was a cornerstone for social and economic progress. “The protection of human rights, without distinction of migratory status, is key to development,” he said. The country was promoting migration policies based on tolerance, solidarity, gender-equality, social equality, shared responsibility and non-discrimination. At the national level, he noted the need for a comprehensive approach incorporating human rights, migration and development, calling on all countries committed to human rights protection to raise awareness regarding instruments to protect unaccompanied children.

VADIM PISAREVICH (Belarus) expressed his opposition to the politicization of human rights and the need for a comprehensive approach, taking into consideration the economic, cultural and traditional differences of each country. At the national level, he said the focus was on economic and social rights, underscoring his country’s participation in the universal periodic review. He then expressed concern over the pressures applied by some States under the pretext of human rights. On unilateral sanctions, he welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the negative effects of sanctions. Some countries applied double standards when debating human rights, he added, pointing out that in Canada, the human rights of indigenous people to land and resources had been violated. In the United Kingdom, journalists were arbitrarily arrested if they published documents coming from Edward Snowden. In the United States, demonstrations against proposals to bomb Syria were broken up and people were still being held in custody in Guantanamo Bay. Providing additional examples, he said the Czech Republic was discriminating against the Roma people and, in Switzerland, Muslim people saw an increase in racism and intolerance, sometimes leading to extradition to countries where they had been tortured.

XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador) said that the legislation and measures adopted by some States had restricted the human rights of migrants. Public policies in certain countries of destination included sanctions and disproportionate measures, which prevented migrants from exercising their full rights. Some developed States only recognized the rights of migrants on the basis of their migrant status. It was vital to protect the sexual and reproductive health of all migrant persons, and the full range of their human rights. The instability caused by the financial crisis was gravely affecting migrants through unemployment, xenophobia and an increase in discrimination. His country reaffirmed the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of migrant children and unaccompanied minors. In 2008, Ecuador had declared human mobility a human right. His country was not only a country of origin, but also a country of transit and destination, and had fully shouldered its responsibilities by ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. It was regrettable that none of the developed countries had assumed those responsibilities.

AMINA SMAILA (Nigeria) said her country had actively participated in the work and activities of the Human Rights Council, supporting all strategies at regional and international levels to promote and protect human rights. In terms of the legal framework, Nigeria had acceded to several international human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. However, the world faced great challenges in the advancement of economic and social rights. Accordingly, poverty, conflicts and diseases remained some of the world’s biggest problems, especially in developing countries. Concluding, he said, Nigeria looked forward to working with all relevant stakeholders to advance dialogue and cooperation.

ALIA ABDULLAH ALMUZAINI (Kuwait) said that her country attached a great deal of importance to human rights and sustainable development. Kuwait had enacted various laws to protect human rights and was teaching human rights in its education system, as well as raising awareness on democracy and the role of international organizations. Her country was also a party to various international human rights instruments, including the conventions on racial discrimination, rights of the child and people with disabilities. Kuwait had also ratified 10 labour instruments, including one against labour discrimination in the workplace. Condemning illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she expressed concern about the violence and alarming refugee situation in Syria, and called on the international community to resolve this crisis immediately.

MARÍA LUZ MELON (Argentina) said that it was impossible to draw a distinction between development and human rights. She reiterated the need to achieve the largest number of adherents to the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Argentina also supported the promotion of the human rights of the child, regardless of their status as migrants. National legislation and international laws should be up to date with new realities and take into consideration new risks to children, such as those associated with communications technologies. Turning to forced disappearances, she added that her country was one of the co-sponsors of a related draft resolution, which would be introduced soon.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said her country urged the strengthening of human rights bodies. For its part, Morocco had adopted a reform process aimed at progressively moving the country forward with regard to the rule of law and the protection of human rights, as it pertained to building inclusive societies. Morocco’s scope of efforts was broad, focusing on specific rights, particularly the rights of children, refugees and women, as well as on its national policy on migration. It also sought to provide a sustainable development framework to ensure the well-being of its people. At the international level, she emphasized the country’s commitment to dialogue and constructive discussions on human rights, urging, however, not to politicize them and to treat all countries equally, without using a selective approach.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that his country was committed to the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action, known as the SAMOA Pathway document, which reaffirmed the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was agreed to by the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States earlier this year. The 2010 universal periodic review had found that the democratization of the Tongan political system had been completed to the furthest extent possible. Tonga had also made further commitments to promote education and improve the ratio of women in leading positions. Challenges remained and assistance from other countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was crucial. Nowhere was that more true than in efforts to ensure the avoidance of human rights violations resulting from the climate change.

HTIN LYNN (Myanmar) said the international community was concerned with the issues of extremism, hostility, inequality, climate change and fear of pandemics. However, he emphasized that globalization, interconnectivity and technology were bringing opportunities to address those and other emerging challenges. On the issue of the promotion and protection of human rights, Myanmar had always sought for engagement, dialogue and cooperation rather than confrontation. Accordingly, his country had been working with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, receiving technical assistance and capacity-building support in promoting human rights. Thus, he called upon the Member States to change their view and approach on the “new” Myanmar, which was changing in the right direction for a democratic society.

MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said the independent judiciary, vibrant civil society and free media were all important partners, consistently monitoring and partnering the Government in the realization of its citizens’ human rights. Turning to the challenges, he said that poverty impeded economic development, depriving people of their economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights were indivisible and mutually reinforcing, he stated, underscoring his delegation’s position being based on the principles of universality, non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity. Based on those very principles, he said his country did not support country-specific resolutions, as they did not contribute to the improvement of the overall human rights situation.

HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) reaffirmed her commitment to protecting the rights of missing persons and families, expressing concern over armed conflict and the violations of human rights caused by them, including missing persons. The lack of progress in resolving that issue, she added, contributed to hostilities and conflicts. The right to life, as well as the right to a fair trial, were fundamental human rights and should be observed by all States, she added. On missing persons, she underscored that high priority should be given to ensure that the right of family members to know their whereabouts should be respected among all parties of conflicts. Special attention should be given to accountability for perpetrators of war crimes, she added, welcoming prompt and impartial investigations on those cases. Referring to Armenia’s occupation of some parts of her country, she asked for information on hostages to be released.

2NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) recalled the Security Council’s discussions on women, peace and security, underlining the plight of women in conflicts. Figures on worldwide development showed that millions of people were deprived of their basic human rights to health, education and nutrition, among others. Emphasizing that peace and development were the main aspirations of all countries, she noted the central role played by the United Nations in the achievement of those ambitions. Recognizing that the Human Rights Council and the universal periodic reviews were essential in promoting human rights dialogues, she called for the strengthening of dialogue, technical assistance and capacity-building efforts to ensure human rights, especially for women, children and persons with disabilities.

VLAD LUPAN (Republic of Moldova) said his country was an active member of the Council of Europe and was currently conducting a human rights dialogue with the European Union. His country had also steadily contributed to the synergies between international and regional human rights mechanisms. The Republic of Moldova had taken the decision to abolish the death penalty in 1995 and, as a candidate to the Human Rights Council for the term 2020–2022, stressed that the universal periodic review had proved to be an important tool to promote the implementation of human rights internationally. Human rights-related problems were rising in conjunction with security developments inside States, he added, and his country was concerned about the situation in the Transnistrian region of the Republic. Due to an unresolved conflict, the region remained outside the monitoring process of national and international human rights mechanisms. His Government appealed to the Transnistrian side to refrain from any unilateral actions that could lead to a deterioration of conditions.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) said that the protection of human rights was closely linked to the rule of law at both national and international levels. Therefore, the promotion of democratic governance, the rule of law and human rights for all should be central to the post-2015 development agenda. His country was taking measures to improve the regulatory frameworks and the judiciary, law enforcement and penitentiary systems. It was also focusing on gender equality and strengthening the rights of children and persons with disabilities. Further, Kyrgyzstan had abolished the death penalty. The promotion of human rights remained a difficult task, especially for developing countries that lacked resources to support appropriate institutions and mechanisms. It was important to take this into account within the framework of the United Nations and multilateral cooperation.

SERGE THIERRY MANDOUKOU OMBEGUE (Gabon) said that human beings were at the centre of any development process, and respect for human dignity was the foundation of a just society. For its part, Gabon had established various human rights programmes. In February 2010, Gabon had abolished the death penalty and ratified an Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Gabon was also supporting successive resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on that issue. Finding consensus solutions to human rights problems was a priority for Gabon, and the country’s approach involved resolving such problems through dialogue rather than confrontation and politicization. Gabon had ratified various human rights instruments, including on the rights of the child, and had adopted revolutionary measures to improve the representation of women in the Government and judiciary. Health care insurance and social benefits were available throughout the territories, showing the determination of the President of the country to have human rights prevail for all.”


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