On Wednesday 7 December, ECOSOC Member States will be asked to vote on the accreditation of 9 NGOs that have been arbitrarily blocked from UN participation, including one that has been blocked for 15 years - the longest in the history of the institution.
The undersigned civil society organisations mark the conclusion of the UN General Assembly’s (GA) 77th Third Committee session with the following observations on some thematic and country-specific resolutions considered at this session. We urge all States to implement the commitments they have made in the resolutions discussed below to their full extent.
- Joint statements
We welcome the joint statement on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, China delivered by Canada on behalf of a cross-regional group of 50 countries. This statement echoes the UN Human Rights Office’s independent, objective analysis and its findings which the UN’s human rights office determined may amount to crimes against humanity, and urges China to implement that report’s recommendations, in particular on enforced disappearance. There was an increase in State support compared to last year, signalling hope for future initiatives to debate the situation and support victims to secure accountability. Nonetheless, there is more work to ensure support from member states, in the EU and globally, as well as from Muslim-majority countries.
We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by Ireland and joined by a cross-regional group of countries, calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. We welcome that 80 States continued to sign on to the statement but urge more States to sign on to future such statements.
We welcome a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. The resolution integrates much of the progressive language seen in the most recent Human Rights Council version of the resolution, contending with new and persisting challenges for the right to privacy worldwide, with a particular focus on the impact on human rights defenders and journalists. However, the resolution missed an opportunity to make strong recommendations on the proliferation of private surveillance technologies, including spyware, which global experts are calling to ban or suspend through a moratorium. We call on future resolutions to contain stronger language on biometric technologies, particularly recognising that these technologies should never be used for mass surveillance of public spaces.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions by a vote which aims to uphold the right to life, liberty and security and acknowledges that impunity is a major contributor to executions. We welcome the new references to freedom of religion or belief, new technologies, institutions as places of custody, as well as strengthened language on the role of civil society and human rights defenders in the protection against arbitrary deprivation of life. We also welcome that the resolution once again highlighted the targeting (including killing) of specific groups of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, indigenous communities, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists or demonstrators, or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Critically, we welcome the rejection by a vote of an oral amendment attempting to remove the reference to ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ in that listing.
We welcome support by an overwhelming majority of States for the resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty proposed by Australia and Costa Rica (on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of States). A record number of 126 States voted in favour of the text (including Ghana, Liberia and Myanmar, after abstaining in the GA plenary in 2020), while 37 voted against and 24 abstained. The text reiterates calls made in previous resolutions, including to halt executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty. It also includes additions on the importance of transparency and access to information regarding the use of the death penalty and criminal prosecutions to identify discriminatory practices, the negative impact on the rights of children and youth whose parental caregivers face the death penalty, the need to ensure that trial leading to imposition of the death penalty complies with fair trial and non-discrimination guarantees, ensuring the death penalty is not applied on the basis of laws targeting individuals for exercising their human rights, the need to improve conditions in detention for those on trial for capital crimes or on death row, ensuring respect for their inherent dignity, and complying with international standards, in evaluating, promoting, protecting and improving their physical and mental health.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities, that newly calls for leadership and participation of persons with disabilities in disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and other climate change policies and programmes, as well as affordable and accessible internet, and continues to emphasize non-discrimination, accessibility and inclusion in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including for women and girls with disabilities. In particular, we welcome the request for the Secretary-General to report on participation of persons with disabilities in COVID-19 response and recovery, and on the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. We regret that despite wide support, language supporting the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of sexual and reproductive health of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, was not included in the final resolution.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on the Human rights treaty body system. We regret that States were not able to ‘welcome’, but merely ‘take note’ of the biennial report by the UN Secretary-General on the state of the treaty body system and the report of the most recent meeting of treaty body chairpersons. We urge all States to follow through with their reaffirmation in the resolution of the formula contained in General Assembly resolution 68/268, and allocate corresponding financial and human resources in the Fifth Committee that the treaty bodies require to function effectively.
We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) presented by Canada and Zambia, and for the first time co-sponsored by 125 States, including several countries with high CEFM prevalence. We welcome new references to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including in the context of climate change, conflict and poverty. We particularly welcome the call to Member States to address the root causes of gender inequality, gender stereotypes and negative social norms that underlie CEFM and for participatory and adequately funded measures to address the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 including school closures; the digital divide; uninterrupted access and funding for sexual and reproductive health-care services; adolescent-centered services; and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work. We regret that despite significant support, references to comprehensive sexuality education and intimate partner violence were omitted.
The resolution on Intensification of efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, presented by Netherlands and France, was adopted by a vote for the second time. We welcome the text, focused this year on eliminating gender stereotypes and negative social norms. It included commitments to prevent and eliminate violence against all women, including intimate partner violence, femicide, commitments to protect, respect and fulfill all human rights, including sexual reproductive health and reproductive rights; recognize challenges and obstacles to eliminating discriminatory attitudes perpetuating multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls; text on migrant and indigenous women and girls, racism, xenophobia, women human rights defenders, promoting young women and adolescents’ participation and leadership in decision making positions as well as full, effective, equal and meaningful participation of all women in all their diversity. Although we are encouraged by the rejection of 9 amendments presented by Guatemala, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, we regret that consensus was not achieved on a number of important commitments, that have been previously agreed, aiming to prevent and eliminate gender stereotypes and negative social norms and take multisectoral, effective and gender-responsive measures to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence. We are also dismayed that a vote was called on the reference to the Generation Equality Forum, an initiative with wide support from diverse stakeholders globally.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM) presented by Burkina Faso (on behalf of African Group) which has not been fully opened up since 2018. The resolution failed to strengthen the most pertinent and pressing areas for preventing and eliminating FGM, especially in relation to health outcomes for girls, adolescents and women including the lack of inclusion on sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sexuality education and multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Despite this, we welcome language on the cross-border and transnational practice of FGM, an important component of FGM prevention and elimination.
The resolution on Intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula presented by Senegal (on behalf of African Group) was a technical rollover (with no substantive changes to the respective 2018 and 2020 texts) and adopted by consensus. Given the devastating impact of Obstetric fistula on women and girls, and the exacerbation of root causes due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, we are disappointed about the missed opportunity to outline global, regional and national level efforts to end this tragedy by 2030, an integral component of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Trafficking in women and girls presented by the Philippines, which includes references to access to justice for victims, government commitments to eliminate, prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls including trafficking, and the linkage between climate change and trafficking. While encouraged that the text maintained critical elements from previous years, we regret that it did not include: progressive references to gender transformative, survivor, victim-centred and trauma-informed approaches to anti-trafficking efforts; references to women and girls in all their diversity; comprehensive sexuality education; and recognition of the importance of full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in addressing trafficking.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with 50 cosponsors by a vote of 79 (80) votes in favour (Panama voted after votes were locked), 28 against and 68 abstentions. We welcome new references expressing concern on the violent enforcement of the hijab and chastity law by the Iranian morality police, ‘widespread use of force against non-violent protestors’, the proposed bill on the use of firearms during protests, and calls to release persons participating in peaceful protests, to address poor conditions of prisons, and to implement the amendment to the Nationality Law, which gives Iranian women married to foreign nationals the right to request Iranian citizenship for their children under 18. We also welcome calls to end violations of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion including internet disruption practices, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief against recognized and unrecognised religious minorities, particularly Baha’is being subject to increased persecution, arrest, destruction and confiscation of property.
We welcome the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, cosponsored by 32 Member States. The resolution references the wide range of human rights violations and abuses perpetrated in Syria, many of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. We particularly welcome the decision to take further actions on the issue of missing people in Syria, based on the SG’s recommendation in his report on the matter, and to include survivors and their families throughout the process. We call upon the Member States to implement the SG’s recommendation by establishing an International Mechanism to reveal the fate and whereabouts of the missing persons in Syria without further delay.
We regret that the resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, which was adopted by consensus, does not reiterate key elements of the 2021 UNGA resolution which followed the military coup in February 2021. We regret that it fails to comprehensively address, condemn, and call for an end to ongoing and escalating human rights violations by the military, as described in detail by the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar. However, we acknowledge that language regarding the ongoing commission of rights violations against and protection needs of the Rohingya has been retained, and the expression of solidarity with the Rohingya made by Myanmar’s Permanent Representative.
We welcome the consensus adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We welcome in particular the retention of a call for the UN Security Council to resume discussions on the human rights situation in the DPRK, supplemented with a call for the OHCHR to brief it. The Security Council held formal meetings annually on the human rights situation in the country in December from 2014-2017, however in December 2020 and 2021, the subject was discussed in closed consultations under ‘Any other Business’.
We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine. We welcome in particular the resolution’s condemnation of the ‘unprecedented wave’ of violations that Russian forces have committed in Crimea following the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, including arbitrary detention, forcible transfers and enforced disappearances. We also welcome the call on Russia to cease violations and abuses including those within the framework of so-called filtration procedures and forcible transfers or deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, and to lift discriminatory regulatory barriers prohibiting or limiting the activities of religious groups.
- Civil society access
While we welcome the action by some States to welcome civil society organisations to join informals as observers this session, it was deeply disappointing that only a few States extended this invitation. This year, civil society again faced additional challenges in even keeping abreast of information regarding informal negotiations as information on informals taking place was once again not shared in the UN journal as it previously was. This year this information was only published on the e-deleGATE platform to which civil society has no access. These critical barriers to civil society access to Third Committee negotiations, deprive the Committee of civil society’s technical expertise and mean that its outcomes fail to leverage the contributions of a crucial stakeholder in promoting the implementation of human rights.
Association for Progressive Communications
Center for Reproductive Rights
Fòs Feminista, International Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Justice Centre
Human Rights in China
Human Rights Watch
International Disability Alliance
International Service for Human Rights
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
Outright Action International
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
ISHR joins open letter to the embassies of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America to Egypt, and the European Union Delegation to Egypt.
The two independent UN anti-torture expert bodies, the Committee Against Torture and its Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, publicly 'deplored Nicaragua's refusal to cooperate', and publish confidential report in an unprecedented move. Over the past year, Nicaragua has refused to undergo reviews by six UN committees on torture, women's rights, racial discrimination, civil and political, and economic, social and cultural rights.