55th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 73rd Session

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17-Dec-2018 03:01:29
General Assembly endorses landmark Global Compact on Refugees, adopting 53 Third Committee resolutions, 6 decisions covering range of human rights at 55th plenary meeting.

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The General Assembly endorsed the Global Compact on Refugees today — an historic agreement aiming to forge a stronger and fairer response to refugee movements — as it adopted 53 resolutions and 6 decisions recommended by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).

By a resolution on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, adopted by a recorded vote of 181 in favour to 2 against (Hungary, United States), with 3 abstentions (Eritrea, Liberia, Libya), the Assembly underscored the importance of the Global Compact on Refugees — as presented by the High Commissioner in part II of his annual report — as an expression of political will to activate the principle of burden- and responsibility-sharing.

Germany’s representative, also speaking on behalf of France and the Netherlands, called the Compact a “major step” towards providing sustainable solutions to the world’s refugees and those who host them. Hungary’s representative, explaining her vote against the resolution, said there is no need for new instruments, as existing international frameworks adequately address refugee issues. Further, the Global Compact fails to distinguish between refugees and migrants and does not take into account the voluntary nature of responsibility sharing. The representative of the Russian Federation, while emphasizing the importance of burden-sharing to ensure international solidarity in addressing refugee issues, stressed that the agreement is not binding and therefore does not impose any legal obligation on his country.

Covering a range of human rights issues — from the rights of children, women, peasants and indigenous peoples, to promoting fundamental freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly and free association — the Assembly adopted most resolutions without a vote, including an inaugural text on combating trafficking in human organs, as a “novel” approach to crime prevention that addresses three perspectives on which such crimes should be analysed: human rights, health and criminal justice.

By its terms, the Assembly urged States to ensure that the removal and transplantation of human organs exclusively take place in centres authorized by national health authorities, as well as to enhance regulatory oversight and establish data registries on each organ recovery and transplant procedure.

Also without a vote, the Assembly adopted a resolution on ending obstetric fistula, which calls for intensified technical and financial support to end that condition within a decade. States in particular are called on to improve maternal health by addressing sexual and reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. Before its passage, Sudan’s representative put forward an amendment to remove references to the International Criminal Court, which was rejected by a recorded vote of 112 against to 17 in favour, with 32 abstentions.

Among the 20 resolutions that required a vote was a text on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, adopted by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States), with 54 abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, a landmark text passed by the Human Rights Council on 28 September 2018. The Assembly invited Governments, United Nations agencies and others to disseminate the Declaration and promote its universal respect and understanding. Switzerland’s delegate, explaining her vote in favour, said peasants provide much of the world’s food yet are disproportionately affected by poverty.

As in years past, the Assembly adopted a text calling for a moratorium on use of the death penalty, by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 35 against, with 32 abstentions. It called on all States to respect international standards on the rights of those facing the death penalty and ensure that the practice is not applied on the basis of discriminatory laws or as a result of discriminatory or arbitrary application of the law.

Explaining his country’s vote against the text, the representative of Maldives said an informal moratorium has been in existence since 1954. Noting that Islam is the basis for all laws, he said that to favour abolition of the death penalty, without preceding domestic legislation, would be unconstitutional and undemocratic.

The Assembly adopted another notable text — on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights — by a recorded vote of 129 in favour to 53 against, with 10 abstentions (Colombia, Fiji, Liberia, Mexico, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Switzerland, Tonga).

By its terms, the Assembly urged States to take legislative measures to ensure that their territories are not used for — and that their nationals do not take part in — the recruitment, assembly, financing, training, protection or transit of mercenaries for the planning of activities designed to impede the right of peoples to self-determination.

The Assembly deferred action on draft resolutions related to the human rights situations in Myanmar, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as a text on ending racism.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Liechtenstein (also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland), Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Netherlands, Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Syria, Venezuela, Jordan, Chile, Burundi, Uruguay, United States, Kyrgyzstan, Monaco, Finland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, China, Bahamas, Iran, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

The General Assembly also took up other matters, which are covered in press release GA/12108.

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