65th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session - Part 2

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SIX OFFICIAL 19-Dec-2016 01:27:47
Differing opinions on social and cultural issues, along with wider agreement on disadvantaged peoples’ need for humanitarian assistance, animated the General Assembly, at 65th meeting of the 71st session.
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Covering a range of issues, from the plight of migrants and other vulnerable populations, to the right to digital privacy, the Assembly adopted 35 of those resolutions without a vote.

Sexual orientation and gender identity was an underlying theme of close voting on several texts, including on the annual Report of the Human Rights Council. After narrowly rejecting a proposed amendment to the resolution — by a recorded vote of 84 against, to 77 in favour, and 16 abstentions — there was greater agreement on the text as a whole, which the Assembly adopted by a recorded vote of 106 in favour, to 2 against (Belarus, Israel) and 74 abstentions.

Delegates speaking before and after the vote outlined differing perspectives on the issue, with Burkina Faso’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, saying more time was needed to address concerns around the issue of sexual orientation or gender identity, including the special mandate holder referred to in the Council report.

Other delegates underscored the important precedent-setting potential of reopening a Human Rights Council decision in the General Assembly, with Slovakia’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, stressing before the vote that if the Assembly took a selective approach to deciding which Council resolutions to support, it would undermine the work of an important subsidiary body.

Brazil’s representative, also speaking for Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico and Uruguay, said the Assembly should not reopen Council reports, which would have far-reaching implications. It was in States’ common interests to protect the effectiveness of the human rights system. The United States representative, speaking forcefully against the amendment, said rights protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were universal.

A resolution titled “Trafficking in Women and Girls” also attracted controversy when Sudan’s representative introduced an amendment seeking to delete a preambular paragraph mentioning the International Criminal Court, as he objected to portraying that body as the only instrument handling gender-related crimes.

The representative of the Philippines, speaking before the vote on the amendment, recalled that preambular paragraph 15 had been in the resolution unchanged since the fifty-seventh session in 2002. The paragraph did not require action from Member States; rather, it was a factual statement acknowledging the inclusion of gender-related crimes in the Rome Statute.

Defeating the amendment by a recorded vote of 115 against, to 23 in favour, with 29 abstentions, the Assembly went on to adopt the resolution by consensus. By its terms, the Assembly encouraged the United Nations to mainstream the issue of trafficking in persons, especially women and girls, into its broader policies and programmes on economic and social development, human rights and the rule of law, among other issues.

In later action, the Assembly adopted a resolution titled, “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” by a recorded vote of 117 in favour, to 40 against, with 31 abstentions. By its terms, it called on all States to respect international standards that provided safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, to comply with their obligations on consular relations, to progressively restrict death penalty use, to establish a moratorium on executions and to make available relevant disaggregated data.

Singapore’s representative, while noting that the amended draft was an improvement to the version that had been adopted in 2014, said there was no international consensus against capital punishment, making it a sovereign matter for States. The focus of the draft had, over the years, shifted from being a moratorium to a push for abolishing the practice, and for those and other reasons, his delegation had voted against the text as a whole.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a resolution on digital privacy, calling on States to respect and protect the right to privacy, including in the context of digital communication, to take measures to end violations of those rights and to create the conditions to prevent such violations. It called upon businesses to respect human rights, as set out in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and to inform users about the collection, use, sharing and retention of their data that might affect their right to privacy and to establish transparency policies.

As in previous years, resolutions on country-specific situations garnered contentious debate, including the text on the human rights situation in Syria, which the Assembly adopted by a recorded vote of 116 in favour, to 16 against, with 52 abstentions. Syria’s representative, speaking before that action, reviewed thousands of years of Syrian history, to illustrate that, despite recurrent conflict, Syrians would prevail. In 2016, Aleppo had been emancipated, he said. The city was not an Ottoman protectorate nor would it be the capital of the Saudi regime. Iran’s representative added that the resolution had blurred the line between terrorists and those who were heroically fighting them. Indonesia’s representative, welcoming the Security Council’s agreement earlier in the day on humanitarian access to Aleppo, said now was time for the international community and all parties in Syria to unite, save innocent lives and end the humanitarian crisis.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly also passed the Third Committee’s work programme for the seventy-second session.

As the meeting concluded, several delegations expressed condolences to the Russian Federation over the death of a Russian ambassador in Turkey. Thanking them for their kind words, the Russian Federation’s representative said they would be conveyed to the victim’s family.

Also speaking today were representatives of Liechtenstein (on behalf of a group of countries), Philippines, Israel, New Zealand (on behalf of a group of countries), Netherlands, Thailand, Finland, France, Eritrea, Poland, Hungary, Costa Rica, Spain, Paraguay, Norway (on behalf of a group of countries),

Uruguay Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Canada, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Iran, China, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Venezuela, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
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UN Photo/Manuel Elias
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