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    Press Release No: UNIS/ECOSOC/799
    Release Date:   31 July 2000
    United Nations Key to Expanding Impact of Information Technology on Development, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council
     

     NEW YORK, 29 July (UN Headquarters) -- "We must not let the new information technologies become another resource that divides rich and poor nations", Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, told the Economic and Social Council this morning in his closing address as the Council prepared to conclude its 2000 substantive session. 

     With help from civil society organizations and the private sector, even the remotest corners of the globe could be connected to the new economy and ensure that the rural poor were not left out, the Secretary-General.  Information technology could give many poor countries the chance to leapfrog some long and painful stages in the development process.  The United Nations could play a key role in expanding the impact of information technology on development and in promoting digital opportunities. 

     It was not only information technology that needed resources.  All the development goals agreed at the United Nations conferences of the 1990s needed to be implemented.  "We must abide by the commitments made, and truly demonstrate global solidarity", he said.  Action must be taken to accelerate debt relief for poor countries.  Pledges were no longer enough:  concrete and immediate measures were needed.  Similarly, debts owed by countries that had suffered major conflicts or natural disasters should be cancelled. 

     Much was expected of the United Nations.  To live up to those expectations, adequate, stable and predictable funding was needed.  "I hope that recent trends of stagnation and declining resources will be reversed, so that the United Nations is able to maintain its capacity to help countries make real progress towards the eradication of poverty, the overriding goal we all share", Mr. Annan said.

     Also this morning, the Council adopted without a vote a resolution on funding operational activities for development of the United Nations system, by whose terms the Council stressed the primary responsibility of national Governments for their country's development, and reaffirmed that the impact of operational activities for development of the United Nations system must be enhanced by a substantial increase in funding. 

     The Council also adopted without a vote a resolution on the triennial policy review of operational activities for development, in which it requested the Secretary-General to assess the extent to which harmonization and simplification had benefited programme countries.
     
     In adopting a decision submitted by its Vice-President, the Council took note of the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance.  The Council also decided to take note of several reports of Executive Boards and Executive Directors of United Nations agencies.

     The Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Ralph Zackling, and the Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, made introductory statements.

     Statements were also made by representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Nigeria (on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China), United States, Mexico, Algeria, Brazil, Canada, Lesotho, Bulgaria, China, Syria, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Libya, Oman, Egypt, Bahrain and Morocco, as well as by the Permanent Observer of the Holy See.

     The Council will meet again at 3 p.m. to conclude its 2000 substantive session.

    Council Work Programme

     The Economic and Social Council met this morning to continue the general segment of its 2000 substantive session by preparing to conclude the session.  With the end of the session now imminent, the Council was expected to conclude its general segment by considering operational activities for international development cooperation and taking action on a number of drafts.  It was then expected to begin its humanitarian affairs segment by considering special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.  In its consideration of social and human rights questions, the Council will also be reviewing implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and other human rights issues.

     The Council has before it a number of documents.

     A draft resolution submitted by the Vice-President of the Council, Bernd Niehaus (Costa Rica), on funding operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document E/2000/L.14), would have the Council stress the primary responsibility of national Governments for their country's development and recognize the importance of national ownership of development programmes.  

     By the terms of the draft, the Council would strongly reaffirm that the impact of operational activities for development of the United Nations system must be enhanced by, measures such as a substantial increase in their funding on a predictable, continuous and assured basis, commensurate with the increasing needs of developing countries.  The Council would stress the need for a continuous overall improvement, in the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the United Nations system in delivering its development assistance.

     By the same draft, the Council would underline the need to avoid overdependence on a limited number of donors, emphasize the importance of shared responsibility, and call on donors and other countries in a position to do so to increase their contributions to the core/regular resources of United Nations funds and programmes. 

     A second draft resolution submitted by Mr. Niehaus, on progress on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 53/192 on the triennial policy review of operational activities for development (document E/2000/L.15), would have the Council request the Secretary-General to assess, the extent to which harmonization and simplification have benefited the programme countries, for example through greater coordination and synergy in programme design and implementation, and to make appropriate recommendations for consideration at the next triennial policy review.

     By the terms of the same draft, the Council would request the United Nations system to take further measures to improve the incorporation of technical cooperation among developing countries in their programmes and projects.  It would request them to intensify efforts to mainstream the modality of technical cooperation among developing countries, for example through support to the activities of the Special Unit for Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.  The Council would also request the programmes and funds to submit to the Council information and analysis on the extent to which cross-cutting themes and goals emerging from global conferences have been integrated into their programme priorities.

     On social and human rights questions, the Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and preparatory process for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document E/2000/75).

     Also before the Council was the report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (document A/55/41), containing conclusions and recommendations adopted by the Committee at its eighteenth to twenty-second sessions, and reports by States parties under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

     In a recommendation of the nineteenth session, Children in armed conflict, the Committee stressed the special responsibility of States parties to the Convention in the search for the most protective solutions, guided by the best interests of the child, and invited States parties to make every effort to facilitate adoption of the optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict before the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention.

     By the terms of a recommendation of the twenty-first session, the administration of juvenile justice, the Committee requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to give priority to promoting the implementation of the provisions of the Convention and existing international standards relating to the administration of juvenile justice, to consider what steps might be taken to identify obstacles preventing their full implementation, and to design ways and means to overcome those obstacles.

     The Council had before it the report on the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on Human Rights (document E/2000/23 Parts I and II, and E/2000/23/Add.1), which contains four draft resolutions and 49 draft decisions recommended for adoption by the Economic and Social Council.

     Draft resolution 1, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, would have the Council approve the Commission's requests to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue and intensify the activities already initiated within the framework of the world information campaign, with a view to mobilization and support for the objectives of the World Conference.  The Council would also approve the Commission's recommendations that the particular situation of children should receive special attention during the preparations for and during the World Conference, and that the importance of systematically adopting a gender-based approach throughout the Conference should be stressed.

     By adopting draft resolution 2, questions of draft optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Council would approve the two draft optional protocols to the Convention.

     By the same draft, the Council would recommend for adoption by the General Assembly a resolution that would have the Assembly adopt the two optional protocols and open them for signature and ratification or accession.

     Draft resolution 3, establishment of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, would have the Council decide to establish a permanent forum on indigenous issues, to serve as an advisory body to the Council.  The forum would be mandated to discuss indigenous issues relating to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

     Draft resolution 4, procedure for dealing with communications concerning human rights, would have the Council request the Secretary-General to screen out manifestly ill-founded communications in the preparation of the monthly confidential summaries of communications [confidential lists of communications] communicated to the members of the Working Group, it being understood that communications screened out would not be transmitted to the Governments concerned for reply.

     By the same draft, the Council would also decide that all actions envisaged in the implementation of the present resolution by the Working Group on Communications, the Working Group on Situations and the Commission on Human Rights shall remain confidential until such time as the Commission may decide to make recommendations to the Council.

     Also before the Council was the report on the twentieth and twenty-first sessions of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (document E/2000/22 and Corr.1), which contains a draft decision recommended for adoption by the Council.

     That draft would have the Council -- concerned that existing meeting arrangements for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights no longer permit it to discharge its responsibilities in an efficient and timely manner, and noting that the effectiveness and profile of the work of the Committee will be further enhanced by holding one of its annual sessions in New York -- approve, the holding of one additional three-week session, as well as a pre-sessional working group of one week's duration, in New York, beginning in 2000.

     Also before the Council was the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the Economic and Social Council (document E/2000/83), and a note by the Secretary-General conveying general comments of the Human Rights Committee (document/E/2000/76).

    Address by the Secretary-General

     KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that during this session, the Economic and Social Council had shown itself to be a vibrant body, open as never before to new ideas and initiatives.  In particular, the impressive roster of participants in the High-level Segment on Information Technology for Development showed that, when the United Nations took the lead in discussing current pressing issues, stakeholders at the highest level were eager to come and contribute.  

     The High-level Segment had helped raise awareness of the tremendous potential the digital revolution holds for economic growth, poverty eradication and development.  However, access was crucial.  "We must not let the new information technologies become another resource that divides rich and poor nations", he said.  

     With help from civil society organizations and the private sector, even the remotest corners of the globe could be connected to the new economy and ensure that the rural poor were not left out.  Investment in basic infrastructure was one key factor.  But helpful government policies, and transparent and consistent laws and regulations, were also essential.  Information technology costs must be reduced and made affordable for all.  Still, he asked, what was the value of an Internet connection to those who could not read or write?  The first step towards technological literacy was basic education for girls and boys alike. 

     Similarly, promoting information technology could complement but not replace efforts to develop human capital and health services, and to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law.  Only healthy people, living in free, open and transparent democracies which provide for their basic needs, would be able to take full advantage of information technology.  Another major obstacle to the emergence of a real World Wide Web was content.  Today, 80 per cent of the material available on the Web was in English, aimed primarily at well-heeled and well-educated people.  Automatic translation, and the creation of local content, must be encouraged to ensure that the Internet revolution brings real benefits to all.

     Information technology could give many poor countries the chance to leapfrog some long and painful stages in the development process, he said.  The United Nations could play a key role in expanding the impact of information technology on development and in promoting digital opportunities.  The Ministerial declaration adopted by the Council contained specific recommendations to that end.  

     It was not only information technology that needed resources.  All the development goals agreed at the United Nations conferences of the 1990s needed to be implemented.  "We must abide by the commitments made, and truly demonstrate global solidarity", he said.

     Action must be taken to accelerate debt relief for poor countries.  Pledges were no longer enough, the Secretary-General said:  concrete and immediate measures were needed.  He urged the donor countries and international financial institutions to cancel the official debts of poor countries that were committed to poverty reduction, and to expand the number of countries eligible for the so-called Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative by allowing them to qualify on grounds of poverty alone.  Similarly, debts owed by countries that had suffered major conflicts or natural disasters should be cancelled.  Those countries had gone through terrible hardships.  International humanitarian aid, even when it flowed generously, was in itself not enough to help them recover. 

     People in poor and devastated countries placed great hopes in the international community to help them live a decent life.  This session showed how much was expected of the United Nations.  To live up to those expectations, adequate, stable and predictable funding was needed.  "I hope that recent trends of stagnation and declining resources will be reversed, so that the United Nations is able to maintain its capacity to help countries make real progress towards the eradication of poverty, the overriding goal we all share."

    Introduction of draft 

     BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) introduced the two drafts entitled:  "Funding operational activities for development of the United Nations system" (document E/2000/L.14); and "Progress on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 53/192 on the triennial policy review of operational activities for the development of the United Nations system" (E/2000/l.15).  

     He said a spirit of cooperation and compromise had characterized the negotiations on both texts.  The product reflected valuable consensus and the shared objective of strengthening the operational activities for development of the United Nations system.  The texts would constitute an important contribution to discussions to be held at the next triennial review of operational activities for development.

    Action on drafts

     Acting without a vote, the Council then adopted draft texts E/2000/L.14 and E/2000/L.15.  

     SERGE TOMASI (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries of Eastern and Central Europe and other associated countries, said the Union was especially sensitive to the quality of the dialogue with the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, the spirit of partnership and the will to succeed.  The facilitator, Atul Khare, (India) had also played an eminent and decisive role, allowing constructive and in-depth dialogue. 

    The Council then took note of the following texts:

     Report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the work of its first regular session of 2000 document E/2000/34, Part 1); extract from the report of the Executive Board of UNICEF on its 2000 annual session (document E/2000/L.8); report of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the first regular session (document DP/2000/9); decisions adopted by the Executive Board of UNDP and UNFPA at its second regular session (DP/2000/19); decisions adopted by the Executive Board of UNDP and UNFPA at its annual session (DP/2000/28); annual report of the Executive Director of UNICEF to the Economic and Social Council (document E/2000/7); annual reports of the Administrator of the UNDP and the Executive Director of the UNFPA to the Economic and Social Council (document E/2000/20); annual report of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), 1999 (document E/2000/54); and report on the first, second and third regular sessions and annual session of 1999 of the Executive Board of the WFP (document E/2000/36).

     VLADIMIR SOTIROV (Bulgaria), Council Vice-President presiding over the humanitarian segment, said briefings and side events both before and after the segment had broadened and enriched consideration of the theme -- that of strengthening the coordination of humanitarian response and the role of technology in mitigating effects of natural disasters and emergencies.  The general debate had been an eloquent expression of the increased importance being attached to special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.  Participation had been at a high level.  The role of technology, particularly in the fields of information, communication and space technology, had come forward as a tool for early warning, prevention, preparedness, disaster mitigation, relief and rehabilitation.

     With regard to the draft agreed conclusions, he said a broad range of issues had been touched upon in preparing them, even though a final draft had not been achieved.  Substantive paragraphs on coordination had been included, in addition to the role of technology in disaster mitigation.  The theme of displaced persons had proven to be the most sensitive and delicate political issue.  However, a comprehensive and substantive discussion on protection and assistance to internally displaced persons had begun.

     He then formally proposed a decision that the Council had adopted in its humanitarian section.  It would take note of the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance (document A/55/82-E/2000/61), and would have the Council request that the Secretary-General report on progress in strengthening coordination at its next humanitarian segment.

     A.P. ETANOMARE OSIO (Nigeria) on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said operational activities would go nowhere without funding.  Underscoring the primacy of declining core resources, which were hampering effectiveness in delivering development assistance, he added that non-core resources were on the rise.  All donors should contribute to the established multi-year funding frameworks, so as to increase core resources and enhance the predictability of funding.

     He said the simplification and harmonization procedures for projects and programming cycles adopted by the Boards would enable them to respond to the needs of developing countries.  The humanitarian segment was a vital aspect of the Council’s deliberations on the theme of the present substantive session.  

     The theme was ambitious, and the title had been carefully negotiated prior to the organizational session.  It was regrettable that the much desired agreed conclusions could not be finalized.  The failure to reach consensus on 17 of 26 paragraphs on internally displaced persons (IDPs) was an index of the politically sensitive nature of the subject, especially as it related to sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Clear and common understanding of those two issues, by both providers and recipients of humanitarian assistance, would enhance the transparency and mutual confidence required for reaching agreement. 

     MARINE DE CARNE DE TRECESSON (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries of Eastern and Central Europe and other associated countries, said the failure to finalize the agreed conclusions did not mean the segment had been a waste.  Agreed conclusions would reinforce coordination of humanitarian assistance between organs agencies, but the lack of a finalized text would not discourage to continue making progress in humanitarian assistance.  She supported the draft decision just submitted by the Council Vice-President regarding the humanitarian segment.

     BETTY KING (United States) said it was regrettable that agreed conclusions on the humanitarian segment had not been achieved.  Even so, concern for civilians who were uprooted by violence remained an imperative under international humanitarian law.  She was prepared to work with the international community to protect those most vulnerable -- who included children, women, those who had been forced to flee into uninhabitable places, and the villagers who had to accommodate them.  

     MAURICIO ESCANERO (Mexico) said it was no surprise that the Council had not been able to finalize a statute on the internally displaced.  That topic was not a matter of humanitarian assistance but a political issue, whose consideration belonged in the General Assembly rather than in the Council or its subsidiary bodies.  Humanitarian assistance was one of the noblest challenges before humanity.  Tackling natural disasters was a matter of the highest priority.  An international strategy to deal with disasters from a comprehensive, long-term approach was needed.

     DALILA SAMAH (Algeria) said the recently held humanitarian segment had triggered an interesting and exciting debate.  She thanked the coordinator for his efforts to secure consensus and agreement on important matters, but regretted that the constructive proposal advanced by the Group of 77 and China, particularly on the issue of IDPs, had not received the expected welcome.

     BENONI BELLI (Brazil) said the theme of the humanitarian segment was delicate and complex.  It never, however, challenged the framework of the kind of humanitarian assistance that came under the aegis of the United Nations, including assistance to IDPs.  Brazil would fully support all efforts to bridge the issues taken up in this recent humanitarian segment.

     ROSS HYNES (Canada) said his delegation regretted that it was not possible to reach consensus on the agreed conclusions.  The United Nations agencies, however, were well placed in terms of existing mandates and procedures to respond to humanitarian relief demands.  He said the time was ripe to review some of the Council’s working methods.  The Bureau might thus want to engage in a process of reflection in the coming months.  In light of what had transpired in the recent humanitarian segment, such an approach would be welcome.

     MR. SOTIROS (Bulgaria) thanked all the delegations and the United Nations Secretariat for their cooperation and support in the Council's efforts to secure a common outcome.

     Coordination Programme and other questions; International cooperation in the field of informatics:  introduction of draft

     PERCY M. MANGOAELA (Lesotho) introduced the draft entitled “Information and communication technologies task force” (document E/2000/L.27).  He said that it was a simple text that recalled the Ministerial Declaration that emerged from the high-level segment earlier on in the current substantive session.  That text had recognized that the United Nations should play a leadership role in the age of information technology, especially in developing countries where it should spearhead efforts to bridge the digital divide.  

     He said the time could not be more opportune for the establishment of a task force.  The Secretary-General’s statement this morning indicated his commitment to promoting information technology, especially in developing countries.  The decision to formulate a resolution on the topic was taken only two weeks ago.  The strong show of cooperation had resulted in the text now before the Council.  

     The Council then decided to take action on the draft at this afternoon scheduled meeting.

     Economic and environmental questions:  introduction of draft

     RAIKO RAICHEV (Bulgaria), introducing the draft on “Assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions”, said the text had already been introduced yesterday.  The resolution was of a procedural nature aimed at facilitating progress in the United Nations.  He said Greece had joined the list of co-sponsors.  He also informed the Council of an oral amendment to operative paragraph 4. 

     The Council then decided to take action on that text this afternoon.

    Social and Human Rights Questions

     RALPH ZACKLIN, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, updated the Council on the question of implementation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) relating to Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

      He said that on 7 July, a Judge in the High Court of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, had dismissed one of the four cases pending against Mr. Cumaraswamy in the Malaysian civil courts.  More than one year after the ICJ had delivered its advisory opinion, a competent Malaysian Court now ruled that the country was obliged to give binding effect to the opinion of the ICJ on immunity for the legal process.  

     The judge in that case, however, had also decided that each party should bear its own costs in the proceedings.  That was unacceptable to the United Nations.  The Organization maintained its position that the Government of Malaysia was ultimately responsible for the costs of $110,000, which would keep accruing as long as there were cases pending.  The United Nations was also concerned that the Government of Malaysia had not taken steps to give effect to the advisory opinion of the ICJ.

     BACRE WALE NDIAYE, Director of the New York Office of the UNHCR, made an introductory statement on behalf of the High Commissioner on her report to the Economic and Social Council.  That report was intended to give an overview of achievements and outstanding issues to be addressed in human rights, since the recent session of the Human Rights Commission held this year. 

     He also introduced the reports of the Commission on Human Rights to the Council; the report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the programme of action for the third Decade to combat racism and racial discrimination; and the report of the Committee on economic, social and cultural rights.

     SHEN GUOFANG (China) said the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on Human Rights had concluded with positive results.  China hoped that reforms to the Commission would serve to improve the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.  Improvement in the work of Commission could only succeed if political confrontation was uprooted. He said all countries should look at their own human rights systems with objective, unprejudiced eyes.

     “AHMAD AL-HARIRI (Syria) made reference to a number of reports, in particular, that of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which contained objectionable paragraphs.  For example, paragraph 30 in the Human Rights report referred to good governance.  However, governance meant improving a situation in the light of experience.  One country’s experience did not necessarily apply to another.  No clear universal definition of good governance existed.  Similarly, polygamy was mentioned as an assault on woman’s dignity.  However, it was a nation’s prerogative to decide for itself about polygamy.  Similarly, spousal responsibilities differed according to a country’s tradition.  The term should not refer to all people the same way.” 

     RHYS GREY, Observer of the Holy See, said the right to health had been identified as related to other human rights.  Human dignity was the basis of human rights.  Statements mentioning the sexual rights of the girl child, for example, violated that right. 

     SERGEI CHOMAREV (Russian Federation) said the subject of human rights was a key agenda item of the United Nations.  The full potential of human rights issues was not being explored because the issues were politicized.  There were double standards in evaluating human rights in various countries.  The entire international community was concerned with promoting and protecting human rights, but that should not be a pretext for pressuring certain states or using force against them under the guise of humanitarian intervention.  There were other mechanisms for influencing human rights in countries.

     ABDUL-AZIZ AL-WASEL (Saudi Arabia) commended the efforts of the High Commissioners for both Refugees and Human Rights, welcoming their reports.  However, certain parts of the report were of concern, he said, particularly those referring to letting women have absolute sexual and reproductive freedom.  That undermined the freedom of the family, and was a contradiction not only to shariah but all religions of all countries.  Dealing with sexual and reproductive rights required great caution.  Those rights should not destroy the family or moral fiber.

     ILHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said the reports on human rights, including that of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, brought out controversial issues where no agreement had been reached.  She had reservations regarding good governance and about some paragraphs on women’s health that emphasized reproductive health.  There were other more important aspects of women’s health.  Malnutrition, malaria, the lack of potable water or services for preventing disease, as well as the high rate of mortality, were some of those.  No agreement had been reached on the sexual rights of women mentioned by the Rapporteur on Violence against women, either, or on sexual rights for girls.  The drafter of the Beijing document in Beijing had refused to include such rights or to advocate exercise of those rights without parental consent.  Polygamy was also mentioned as a violation of rights -- but it was acceptable to Islam and mentioned in the Koran.  The real problems violating women’s dignity were conditions such as slavery, prostitution, poverty, ignorance and underdevelopment.

     ABDELKADER MESDOUA (Algeria) said parental rights had been called into question in the reports.  The human rights report in the future should be more comprehensive and should take in the points of view of all states.  It should not use selective representations of members.

     MUNAWAR SAEED BHATTI (Pakistan) agreed that parts of the human rights reports embraced issues on which no consensus had been reached, such as good governance and reproductive rights.  He said the issues in the most controversial paragraph of the Beijing document, on which no consensus had been reached, were those that appeared in the reports.  The reference to polygamy raised questions about whether there was an attempt to destroy certain cultures.  Instead of such issues, mention should have been made of those who were dying of starvation and disease.  Sexual health would not help them.  The majority of women who died at childbirth did so because of causes related to nutrition, not sexual health.

     ABDALLA ABDALLA (Libya) said some sections of the human rights reports violated sacred principles of the family which formed the basis of society, and which had been founded by God Almighty independently of any particular people or religion.  Muslims were more attached to protecting human rights than others, because they professed noble principles and because God Almighty had reaffirmed those rights.  Respect for human rights was growing, but some rights mentioned in the reports were family virtues unrelated to human legislation.  That distinction should be reflected.  Also, certain groups concerned with human rights received financial assistance for their work and produced reports, placing more importance on political rights than on others in the manner of a single-culture hegemony.  The rights of individuals were important, but so were rights in a broader context.  Human rights was a universal right to which all aspired.  Diversity of cultures and values had to be respected.  Cultural diversity enriched humanity.

     MOHAMMED ABDULLAH SALIM AL-SAMEEN (Oman) expressed regret at concepts in the documents not being approved in the Council's collective action to promote human rights in general.  Those concepts should be amended, with a view to reaching common objectives.  He expressed his reservation to the paragraphs already singled out, particularly by Pakistan.  Those paragraphs were a violation of national rights.

     AHMED DARWISH (Egypt) said the points already noted failed to take into consideration that human rights were not the same everywhere.  Cultural and religious contexts determined human rights.  Sexual rights for children and lack of parental discretion were not universally accepted.  The question of inheritance, as mentioned in the reports, was inaccurately reflected.  In Islam, women had equal rights to inherit and not the right to equal inheritance, which under Islam meant a greater share for women.  There should be no mention of bigamy as a violation of women’s dignity.  It was not necessary to go into family details.

     SALAH AL-MALKI (Bahrain) said the report on human rights contained references that were outside the High Commissioner’s expertise.

     LILIAN ONOH (Nigeria) said she aligned herself with those who had expressed reservations about references to such questions as to polygamy or the role of a husband and wife in the house.

     AHMED AMAZIANE (Morocco) said everyone’s position was well known regarding the follow-up to United Nations conferences.  He added his reservations on paragraphs already mentioned.

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