46th Plenary Meeting - General Assembly 75th Session

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16-Dec-2020 01:55:45
General Assembly adopts 48 Third Committee resolutions, proclaims International Day for People of African Descent, covering broad Themes of Human Rights.

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The General Assembly proclaimed 31 August as the International Day for People of African Descent today, seeking to promote greater recognition and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies, as it adopted 48 resolutions and one decision recommended by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).

Presiding over the meeting, held in a sparsely populated General Assembly Hall, President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), praised the Third Committee’s commitment to ensuring business continuity despite the challenging work conditions brought on by COVID‑19, embracing a hybrid format of in‑person and virtual meetings that featured dialogue with 64 special procedure mandate holders.

During its half day of action, the Assembly convened in person to pass resolutions that covered a range of issues: from the advancement of women and protection of children, to indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees and a host of social development questions related to youth, family and ageing, to name a few.

Following those themes, the Assembly adopted a consensus resolution on strengthening international cooperation in organ donation and transplantation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal. By its terms, it urged Member States to uphold accountability by preventing, investigating, prosecuting and punishing such trafficking. A resolution on trafficking in women and girls likewise called on States to put in place or to enhance legislative and punitive measures to deter exploiters of trafficked persons — and to ensure their accountability.

Simmering differences over human rights questions bubbled over into votes on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Both resolutions passed — the first by a vote of 123 in favour to 38 against, with 24 abstentions, with the Assembly calling on States to respect international standards around death penalty use, and the second by a vote of 132 in favour to none against, with 53 abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly demanded that States ensure the practice of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is brought to an end.

China’s delegate, noting that he abstained from the vote related to extrajudicial executions, expressed regret that amendments proposed by his country were not approved by the Third Committee. He questioned the resolution’s expansion of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and objected to the use of terms that lack internationally agreed definitions, such as “human rights defenders” and “media workers”.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Maldives, who voted against the resolution on the death penalty moratorium, was quick to point out that his country has a long‑standing informal ban on the practice. Because no law in the Maldives can run contrary to Islam, the punishment is only carried out for convictions of “premeditated murder and deliberate manslaughter”.

On questions of social development, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly, by a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions. It stressed the importance of removing obstacles to realizing the right to self‑determination, underlining that South‑South cooperation is an important element of international cooperation for development as a complement to, not a substitute for, North‑South cooperation.

In one of its most definitive actions, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution on indigenous peoples, deciding to convene a high‑level event in 2022 for the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.

The Assembly deferred action on two draft resolutions: “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar”, and “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow‑up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”, pending budgetary considerations to be determined by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

In its one decision of the day, the Assembly adopted the work programme of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) for the seventy‑sixth session.

Also speaking today were representatives of Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Venezuela, Burundi, Canada, Eswatini, Ukraine, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Syria, Cuba, Croatia and the Russian Federation.

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