Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/GA/1731
        8 November 2000
     Committee Debates World Refugee Movement, Congratulates 
    High Commissioner on 10-year Stewardship

    Committee Adopts Text 
    On Palestinian Right to Self-Determination After Recorded Vote

    NEW YORK, 6 November (UN Headquarters) --  "We lived with the times", the High Commissioner for Refugees told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning as it met to take up issues related to refugees, including the High Commissioner's report.  Sadaka Ogata was describing the legacy of her Office during her 10-year stewardship, saying that despite the challenges, "we always tried to be on the ground with the people in need".

    In addition to the High Commissioner's ensuing dialogue with members, four draft resolutions were approved by the Committee this morning.  One, on the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination, was approved by a recorded vote of 147 in favour and 2 against (Israel and United States), with 3 abstentions (Canada, Marshall Islands and Tonga).  (See Annex.)  The other drafts were approved without a vote, as was a resolution containing budget implications and a decision to take note of a report on the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).

    In her address, Mrs. Ogata said that while the UNHCR had not been able to solve every problem, it could claim many successes.  Changes took time, she added, particularly those involving long-held human beliefs and centuries of animosity.  Still, lives had been saved in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  Although her colleagues often faced dangerous and complex situations, at least they were there.  Among the most complicated conditions were so-called humanitarian wars, where real international engagement came too late, and only after humanitarian suffering had reached dramatic proportions, particularly in instances of violence and genocide that forced massive displacements.

    On 14 December, Mrs. Ogata concluded, the Independent Refugee Education Trust would be launched.  It would give refugees in developing countries opportunities for post-primary education and would be the lasting legacy of the UNHCR's fiftieth anniversary.

    Turning to the draft resolutions, the Committee first took up the draft on the critical situation of INSTRAW.  That text would have the Assembly express grave concern that INSTRAW could not continue operating beyond December 31.  The Assembly will decide to fund INSTRAW's core activities from the regular budget as of 1 January 2001, while urging contributions to the INSTRAW Trust Fund.  The Assembly will approve the assistance for a one-year period by another draft if approved. 

     The draft on the Palestinian people's right to self-determination was taken up next.  By it, the Assembly will express the hope that the Palestinian people will soon exercise their right to a State, urging States to continue helping them in that regard.

     By a draft on the Convention to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families, the Assembly will express deep concern at the growing manifestations of discrimination against migrant workers around the world.  It will call on States to sign and ratify or accede to the Convention on the protection of migrant workers and their families.

     The Assembly will condemn all forms of torture, according to a resolution on inhuman treatment or punishment.  The Assembly will stress that all allegations of torture should be examined by a national authority, that perpetrators should be severely punished and that legal systems should ensure fair compensation and rehabilitation for victims.  It will invite contributions to the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and will call for observing the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June.

     Taking part in the question and answer sessions with Ms. Ogata were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Libya, Guinea, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tanzania, Angola, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Burundi, Sudan, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Mexico, Iran, Congo and Croatia.

     Speaking on the resolutions were the representatives of the United States, Israel, Australia, Canada, Russian Federation, France (on behalf of the European Union) and Syria.

     The observer of Palestine also spoke on the resolution concerning her people's rights to self-determination.

     The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue considering issues related to refugees, including the High Commissioner's report and humanitarian aspects, as well as returnees and displaced persons. 

    Committee Work Programme

     The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin considering issues related to refugees, including the report of the High Commissioner for Refugees and questions related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, as well as humanitarian questions.  The Committee was also expected to consider several resolutions.

     Before the Committee are a number of reports, including the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/55/12).  The report summarizes the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over the past year and includes tables detailing contributions to the UNHCR assistance programmes as well as expenditures in 1999 by regional bureau/country and types of activities.  It states that the global refugee population has increased slightly during 1999, to 22.3 million as compared to 21.5 million in 1998.  That figure includes asylum-seekers, returning refugees, internally displaced persons and other populations of concern, mainly victims of conflict.  This figure, however, does not reflect the dramatic and massive humanitarian crises which confronted the Office during the year.  Systematic violations of human rights, failed peace negotiations, internal strife and war forced large numbers of people to flee their homes in many regions of the world.

     According to the report, while the international community responded rapidly to high-profile emergencies, its response frequently resulted in overcrowded operating space for humanitarian agencies.  Just "being there" became almost a necessity for a variety of actors.  Resources were increasingly used by governments and channelled through national and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  This situation was further complicated by the involvement of the military in humanitarian operations, which sometimes confused roles and exposed refugees to danger.  These trends diminished the ability of humanitarian agencies to operate and emphasized the need for improved cooperation within the international community at large.

     The report goes on to state that one of the positive consequences of the intense media focus on these high-profile crises was the heightened interest on the part of civil society and corporations in contributing to the response to them.  Many generously volunteered their resources and expertise, often providing innovative ideas and solutions.  Only a few humanitarian emergencies retained sustained international attention, however.  While world attention was focused on press accounts of certain cases, other smaller but equally urgent humanitarian disasters occurred, mainly in Africa.  The UNHCR encouraged the international community to adopt broader, regionally based peace-building approaches to assist regions and countries trying to emerge from conflict, poverty and human displacement.

     The increased demand for rapid solutions resulting from the proliferation of conflicts was sometimes at the expense of humanitarian and refugee protection principles, and frequently required the UNHCR and its partners to work quickly and simultaneously in countries of asylum and return.  The report notes that often humanitarian staff found themselves working in unsafe situations.  In addition, the civilian character of refugee camps continued to be compromised as governments were unwilling to move those camps away from borders, and the lack of commitment to address the problem of militarization of the camps.  The UNHCR continued to raise this issue in international forums, including the Security Council, to heighten awareness and encourage States to uphold their international obligations.

     Despite the turmoil caused by resurgent conflicts around the world, the report states that solutions to refugee situations continued to be found.  Repatriation remained the preferred solution to many of those situations, and over 1.6 million refugees returned home in 1999.  Also, 45,000 refugees were resettled to third countries this year.  Several South American countries opened up the possibility of receiving limited numbers of resettled refugees.  Although a less frequent option, integration provided limited opportunities for some refugees.  In other situations, however, solutions remained elusive, resulting in protracted refugee situations that in some cases span decades.  In 1999 the UNHCR received $912 million in voluntary contributions towards its General and Special Programmes.

     An addition to the report (document A/55/12/Add.1) contains a summary of the UNHCR Executive Committee's fifty-first session (2 to 6 October).  In addition to procedural matters, the report contains the text of the High Commissioner's opening address to the Executive Committee.  It describes opening statements also by the Secretary-General and by the Executive-Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), both of whom stressed the need to give absolute priority to security. 

     The report carries the texts of decisions and conclusions reached by the Executive Committee, a number of which again focus on security issues.  Annex I contains the decision and conclusions adopted by the Standing Committee.  The High Commissioner's opening address is contained in Annex II.  Annex III contains the text of the Chairman's summary of the millennium theme, UNHCR@50: from response to solutions.

     Also before the Committee is the Secretary-General's report on follow-up to the Regional Conference on problems of refugees and other displaced persons in the vicinity of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries (document A/55/472).  The report recalls that 1999-2000 is the last year of the follow-up to the 1996 CIS Conference.  Follow-up mechanisms established within the UNHCR and the International Organization on Migration (IOM) continued to ensure the implementation of the Programme of Action in concert with local agents, including governments.  The Conference process had considerably advanced a number of issues identified in the Programme of Action and had met its essential objectives to provide a reliable international forum for information exchange and dialogue on population displacement problems.

     The report states that during the final year of implementation, the Programme of Action was characterized by further strengthening of cooperation among all actors, with an increasing involvement of NGOs.  The report details numerous initiatives undertaken in areas such as capacity-building and legislative infrastructure strengthening.  The report reviews progress and outlines future plans, including actions of the Working and Steering Groups.

     Briefly, it states that the Working Group was unanimous in its desire to see future activities related to the Conference process continue beyond the year 2000, in a framework that better addressed immediate interests of States.  The Steering Group recognized the significant progress achieved in implementing provisions of the Programme of Action, but agreed by consensus that the results were fragile.  Therefore, it decided that the official title of the future process would be “Follow-up to the 1996 Geneva Conference on the Problems of Refugees, Displaced Persons, Migration and Asylum Issues”.

    The process would last for five years, starting in 2000, the report continues.  Activities would centre on four broad thematic issues:  assuring continued focus on groups of concern as listed in the Programme, including illegal migrants, formerly deported peoples and ecological migrants; migration management, including the combating of trafficking; sustaining achievements; and implementing legislation. 

     Finally, the Committee has before it the Secretary-General's report on the situation of refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/55/471).  An overview shows that despite significant socio-economic progress and relative stability, Africa continues to count many hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons due to violence, poverty, drought and famine.  The main refugee groups continue to originate in Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, Angola, Eritrea and Burundi.  Even after limited return movements, the Office of the UNHCR was assisting nearly 6.3 million persons at midyear.

     In the Horn of Africa, the report continues, a Tripartite Agreement signed on 7 April by Eritrea, Sudan and the UNHCR raised hopes that some 160,000 Eritrean refugees living in Sudan would finally go home.  However, a month later the resumption of hostilities sent some 90,000 Eritrean refugees fleeing to Sudan and displaced an estimated 750,000 persons within Eritrea itself.  In Sierra Leone, the situation at the beginning of the year was considered to be gradually returning to normal with peacekeepers in the country.  However, the resumption of fighting in May led to new departures and by midyear, some 4,000 Sierra Leonean refugees had crossed into Guinea, where the UNHCR was assisting them.

     In the Great Lakes region, the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to be of major concern.  In southern Africa, the unresolved conflict in Angola continued to cause grave concern.  Detailing all those situations, the report concludes that if peace were to replace war and suffering, the shared responsibility of all Africans would be required.

    Resolutions

     By a draft on the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/C.3/55/L.16/Rev.1), sponsored by Nigeria and Mexico, the Assembly would express grave concern that revitalization and fund-raising had not raised enough contributions to keep INSTRAW operating beyond 31 December.  It would also express grave concern over the lack of resources to ensure the future of the only research and training institute for the advancement of women in the United Nations system.  It would decide that the Institute's core activities would be funded from the regular budget as of 1 January 2001.  It would request the Secretary-General to ensure continuity of the Director's role and would urge all States and organizations to contribute to the INSTRAW Trust Fund. 

     In connection with that resolution, the Committee has before it a draft containing programme budget implications for INSTRAW beyond 1 January 2001 (document A/C.3/55/L.33).  It indicates that in view of INSTRAW's difficult financial situation, the General Assembly would provide assistance from the regular budget on a non-reimbursable, non-recurrent basis in a fashion to be determined by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

     By a draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/55/L.32), the Assembly would reaffirm that right, including the right to a State.  It would express the hope that the Palestinian people would soon be exercising that right in the peace process; and would urge all States and the United Nations system to continue assisting the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination.

     A draft on the Convention to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families (document A/C.3/55/L.29) would have the Assembly express its deep concern at the growing manifestations of racism and other forms of discrimination and degrading treatment directed against migrant workers in different parts of the world.  It would call upon States, in view of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention, to sign and ratify or accede to the Convention as a matter of priority.  It would welcome the work of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants in relation to the Convention, requesting the Secretary-General to continue reporting on the situation.

     By a resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/55/L.30), the Assembly would condemn all forms of torture, including through intimidation, as described in the Convention against torture.  It would stress that all allegations of torture should be examined by a national authority, that perpetrators should be severely punished and that legal systems should ensure fair compensation and rehabilitation for victims.  The resolution would note with appreciation that 122 States had become parties to the Convention and would urge the others to become members.  It would further urge States to notify the Secretary-General of their acceptance of amendments to the Convention and to comply strictly with their obligations under it.

     The Assembly would urge States to take fully into account the recommendations of the Committee against Torture upon reports being considered.  The Assembly would also urge the inter-sessional, open-ended Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights to complete a final text of a draft optional protocol dealing with monitoring and implementation of the Convention.  It would ask the Special Rapporteur to continue examining questions of torture, in particular torture of children, also calling on governments to cooperate with him.  Stressing the need for a regular exchange of views between the Committee, the Special Rapporteur and others of the United Nations system, the Assembly would also stress the need for improving effectiveness through cooperation with United Nations programmes such as with the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme.

     Finally, the Assembly would express appreciation for contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, stressing the importance of the Fund's Board of Trustees in view of the ever-increasing demands made on the Fund.  Further requesting assistance from the Secretary-General on behalf of the Fund, the Assembly would invite States to include provisions for preventing torture in bilateral agreements.  It would call for an observance on 26 June of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.  An annex contains the principles on the investigation and documentation of torture and related inhuman punishment.

     SADAKO OGATA, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that as this would be her last address as High Commissioner, she would briefly reflect on the past decade before turning to the challenges of today and the priority areas of future action.    She said that she had become High Commissioner in 1991, just after the cold war ended.  While people began to speak of a “new order” then, things had become complicated, particularly in her field of work.  Shortly after she took office, nearly two million Iraqi Kurds fled to Iran and Turkey.  And in the years that followed, protracted conflict situations or violent flare-ups -- particularly in the Balkans and Central Africa –- constantly challenged her Office to rethink its strategies and approaches.  New patterns in conflicts made forced population movements more fluid and complex than ever before.  The times also demanded innovative approaches to asylum.  In that regard, new ground had been broken and many lives had been saved by promoting temporary protection for refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

     “We faced terrible ambiguities and dilemmas, frequently alone”, she continued.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, real international engagement had come too late and only after human suffering had reached dramatic proportions.  When the failure of political and diplomatic initiatives eventually triggered a military reaction by the international community, the world entered into a new era of so-called “humanitarian wars”.  That was a term which troubled her greatly.  Worse, in the Great Lakes region of Africa, violence of genocidal proportions and massive forced displacement provoked no meaningful international engagement other than humanitarian work.  In spite of all those difficulties, there had been successes, she said.  It had been seen that the complex refugee problem could be solved when governments were committed and resources were made available.  The UNHCR had helped millions return home -– in Mozambique, in Indochina and Central America.  But a key lesson learned was that real and lasting solutions take time, effort and sustained international engagement.

     Turning to the current challenges facing her Office, she said that she would briefly focus on significant situations and on those where some solutions might be at hand.  For example, she said that minority returns were finally becoming a reality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia.  Tensions had subsided, security had improved and the obstacles to return were more often practical than political.  As the UNHCR scaled down its operations in the region, the international community must be aware that more money was needed now to build houses and create jobs that would anchor those returns.  The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had also reached a real turning point with the election of a new President and the country’s admission to the Stability Pact and the United Nations.  The international community must move quickly to support those changes, as 500,000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia –- the largest refugee population in Europe -– had placed an enormous strain on the battered Yugoslav economy and the nation’s deteriorating services.  Turning to Africa, she said that Rwanda had been making progress in healing its deeply wounded society.  The UNHCR’s reintegration activities were ending, but development partners were expected to step forward more decisively with the investments needed to consolidate returns and foster reconciliation.

     Burundi, too, was at a crossroads.  The choice was between peace and an intensified conflict situation that would certainly cause massive displacement.  President Nelson Mandela had given new momentum to the Arusha negotiating process, but the continued fighting was deeply discouraging.  When peace did come, the UNHCR was prepared to help more than half a million refugees go home from Tanzania.  In the Horn of Africa, fighting earlier this year had uprooted nearly 1.5 million Eritreans and 350,000 Ethiopians.  Determined international efforts had produced a ceasefire and had helped avoid the worst consequences of the latest drought in that region.  Deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission was under way.  Elsewhere, unfortunately, solutions to refugee problems remained elusive. 

    She then focused on Africa, which she had visited 31 times since 1991, and which continued to demand the greatest share of her Office’s concern, attention and resources.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo and West Africa were areas of particular concern.  She was also deeply troubled that international backing for the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone was weakening just when they were needed most.  In most of those situations, the combination of rebel movements, weak conflict resolution processes and a lack of international engagement created a dangerous spiral that made solutions difficult to achieve.  She said that humanitarian efforts in West Africa must be coupled with security support.  Turning to the situation in East Timor, she said the plight of the refugees there also worried her deeply.  Throughout the year, her colleagues had worked under harrowing conditions, extracting over 170,000 refugees from camps and helping them to repatriate.  The brutal murder of three UNHCR staff in September had forced the agency to abandon nearly 250,000 refugees.  Many would have chosen repatriation.  They all needed a solution, she said.  But the humanitarian workers could not go back to the region until the authorities disarmed and disbanded the militias. 

    She urged the Committee not to forget that 2.5 million refugees remained in exile in Afghanistan, and the renewed fighting added to those numbers daily.  On a visit to the region in September, she had been shocked by the impact that funding constraints had on her Office’s ability to meet the basic needs of refugees and to help them re-establish themselves.  She went on to say that some 170,000 people had been displaced in Russia, with another 170,000 displaced in the neighbouring republics of the Russian Federation.  Very dangerous security conditions rendered humanitarian work extraordinarily complicated.  On a recent visit to Moscow, she had been assured by President Putin that any returns to Chechnya would be voluntary. 

    She said that meeting those and other challenges would require boldness, foresight and planning.  Looking into the future, she saw a number of areas where her Office and the international community must take concrete action.  There was a need to continue strengthening the UNHCR’s preparedness and response capacity –- which lay at the heart of the agency’s ability to save lives.   While emergency mechanisms established in 1992 had dramatically improved capacity to respond in crisis, the humanitarian situation had changed just as dramatically since that time.  Intensified efforts were required to create a secure environment for refugee-populated areas and humanitarian operations. Action was also required to develop new approaches to complex forced population movements.  Particular attention needed to be paid to the critical phase that followed conflicts.  Many post-conflict situations were chronically under-funded, she said.

    She went on to say that in order to meet those challenges, the UNHCR had to be managed, trained and equipped for a faster, technologically advanced and globalized environment.  Unfortunately, the agency’s financial situation was not encouraging.  By early this year, she could already project that contributions would not meet the budget.  Meanwhile, new emergencies had added nearly $100 million to the UNHCR’s requirements.  Efforts had been taken to make the agency’s work more transparent.  Budgets had been repeatedly prioritized or reduced.  Cut-backs had extended to activities that directly impacted upon the UNHCR’s policy priorities:  women, children and the environment.  The lack of reliable funding had made long-term planning impossible, diminished capabilities, and strained relations with refugees, NGOs and governments.  She stressed that the UNHCR would be critically weakened if an urgent response to its funding needs was not forthcoming. 

    She hoped that Friday’s Pledging Conference would provide an opportunity to begin fulfilling commitments for 2001.  Finally, she said that the UNHCR would mark its 50th anniversary in December.  But, since mere longevity was no cause for celebration, the agency would celebrate refugees –- their courage, their determination and the capacity for survival against the odds.  On 14 December, the independent Refugee Education Trust would be launched as the lasting legacy of the UNHCR.  That Trust would give refugees in developing countries opportunities for post–primary education.  The focus would be on providing quality education to the largest number of refugees where the needs were greatest.  She also hoped that the General Assembly would take up the recommendation to designate 20 June each year as “World Refugee Day”, to coincide with “Africa Refugee Day.”

    Questions and Answers

     The representative of the Russian Federation asked what more could be done for CIS refugees and whether the lessons learned in that region could be applied elsewhere.  The representatives of Libya and Guinea asked for an assessment of the High Commissioner's 10 years as head of the agency.  What were the highlights and failures?  The speaker for The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia asked for suggestions on how his region could do better in the future with regard to refugees.  Finally, the representative of Tanzania asked what could be done to elaborate a better definition of refugees.  She also pointed to a discrepancy between the number of refugees cited in the reports and the actual numbers of refugees on the ground.

     Before responding to questions, Ms. Ogata thanked Guinea and Tanzania for taking on large numbers of refugees over the years.  That situation had made it clear that the international community should mobilize much earlier to alleviate such burdens.  It was unfair to let those countries take on over 500,000 refugees for Sierra Leone and other neighbouring countries for so long.  Her concerns were not just that such sustained influx would impact economies, but also that borders might be severely weakened.  It was up to the international community not to let such situations fester for so long.  Perhaps her Office could do a better job in this area, she added.  The old philosophy had been to wait for people to cross borders before any action was taken.  That could no longer be the case.  Her Office and the international community must be proactive and work together to come up with answers.  On the question of statistics in her report, which detailed the number of refugees in Tanzania, she noted that those totals related to those for persons who had come into the country after 1993, and those for whom the UNHCR had records and those the Office was assisting.  It was true, however, that there had been an influx in 1972 and the agency stood ready to help those persons as well. 

    Responding to the concerns of the Russian Federation, she noted that the UNHCR had established one of its first country offices there in 1992.  That had primarily been a result of the enormously complicated situation of the movements of people in that region.  The UNHCR had initiated a CIS Conference to try and help regulate and standardize movement and asylum measures to cover the various populations, which included refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and others.  She said she hoped that other countries could learn from the management system the Russian Federation was initiating.  She noted that there was a need for legal specialists, migration specialists and humanitarian workers to continue to study the situation.  To the concerns of the representative of Guinea, she said that the UNHCR would always care for displaced persons and vulnerable populations.  She was afraid, however, that refugee situations would not become easier.  Her Office would continue to work, with the support of the Committee, to identify humane ways to manage the situation of forced displacements and displaced populations.

    She said that unfortunately the UNHCR’s shortcomings had been enormous.  While the agency had not been able to solve every problem, however, it could claim many successes.  Changes took time, she said, particularly those long-held human habits and centuries of animosity.  She called on governments to act sooner to search out and address such animosities.  Still, lives had been saved in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  Despite the challenges, what could be said of her stewardship of the agency would be that the Office “lived with the times”.  “Whatever the circumstances, we always tried to be on the ground with the people in need”, she said.  That would be her legacy.  Although her colleagues often faced dangerous and complex situations, at least they were there, on the ground with the people.  Finally, she assured the Committee that she did not plan to become a hermit when her time in Office came to an end.

     Resuming the questioning portion of the exchange, the representative of Angola suggested that for the sake of an accurate count, the total number of refugees -- and not only those being helped by the UNHCR -- should be reflected in the reports.  Costa Rica's representative commented on the integration of refugees, while Venezuela's clarified a statement in the High Commissioner's report by saying there were no "hidden" Colombian refugees in the country.  The representative of Burundi asked the High Commissioner to visit refugees in the Great Lakes region.  Sudan's representative said prevention was better than cure, while Morocco's asked for advice about future actions.

    Responding to another round of questions, Ms Ogata stressed that the UNHCR did not in any way distinguish the disbursement of assistance on a regional or any other basis.  The only distinguishing factor was the basis of need.  There were, however, certain contributions which were “earmarked” for specific causes or regions, and while she tried to discourage that practice among donors, it would often lead to some countries receiving more assistance than others.  She said that in its attempts to ensure that funds were distributed in an equitable manner, her Office would continue to try to request that funds not be earmarked.

    Responding to the concerns of the Committee, Ms. Ogata again stressed the disparity of statistical information provided in her report.  She said that her Office always tried to clarify such disparities whenever it could.  To the specific concerns of the representative of Angola, she noted that the figures listed in the report included “people of concern” among the total number of refugees.  That had been the case even though those persons might not be receiving any assistance.  She realized the situation was complex, as it was always difficult to take a thorough census of all refugee situations.  To the concerns of the representative of Venezuela, she said that some outflow from Colombia had taken place recently, and it was of concern to neighbouring countries as well as her Office.  She added that she would study the situation further and get back to the representative. 

    She said that the situation on Burundi concerned her enormously, and that she would pass those concerns on to her successor.  As the peace accord neared implementation, she hoped that the various opposition movements would accept the inevitability of peace and move forward.

     The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina noted the importance of assistance being given immediately after conflict in a country.  Rwanda’s representative noted that power-sharing had been implemented in his country starting in 1994.  He welcomed UNHCR’s launching of the “imagine coexistence” pilot programmes, which were a reconciliation mechanism.  The representative of Mexico recalled the successful programme for Guatemalan refugees that had been set up in his country with UNHCR.  Iran’s representative asked about the refugees in his country, and that of Congo appealed for protection of refugees, for cooperation among her neighbours and for the support of the international community.  Finally, the speaker for Croatia asked what the role of the UNHCR would be with the Stability Pact in place.

     Ms. OGATA pointed out that all the last speakers represented countries she had visited.  More than 600,000 refugees were in the region of the former Yugoslavia.  Some would return to their homes and others would be integrated.  All, however, would be accommodated in some way.  She said Rwanda was making tremendous progress and appeared ready to continue doing so.  That was also true of Mexico, she added.

    In response to Iran, she said she had an important announcement.  First, there was a joint programming project between the Iranian Government and the UNHCR.  By that plan, those who opted to return voluntarily to Afghanistan were being given the money to do so.  At the same time, the Government was implementing a screening process for those who wanted to remain in Iran.  That amounted to about one-third of the refugees, who could not return to Afghanistan and needed Iran's protection.  Her Office wanted to do more for Iran, but much depended on the amount of assistance the international community would give to Afghanistan.  The burden on both Iran and Pakistan was very heavy.

     With regard to the Congo, she said her Office was troubled by the large inflow of refugees into that country.  She appealed for the assistance of neighbouring countries in improving conditions.  In Croatia, she said efforts were focused on assisting the return and reintegration of refugees.  "Hopefully, the Stability Pact will fund those activities", she said, adding that the funding should be handled in a way that added to the peace and stability of the region as refugees were reintegrated.

    Action on Drafts:  INSTRAW

    The Committee took up the draft resolution on the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/C.3/55/L.16/Rev.1).  It adopted the draft without a vote.

     The following were added as co-sponsors:  Austria, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Portugal and Romania.

     In addition, again without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution (document A/C.3/55/L.33) containing programme budget implications for the resolution on INSTRAW.

     The representative of the United States said the programme budget estimate did not contain the expected budgetary statement from the Secretary-General, as it should have.  Also, there were unpaid pledges that, if collected, would alleviate INSTRAW's immediate problem.

     The Committee then decided to recommend that the Assembly take note of the Secretary-General’s note transmitting the report on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (document A/55/271).

    Action, Right of Palestinian People to Self-Determination

    The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian People to self-determination (document A/C.3/55/L.32).

    Saint Lucia was deleted as a co-sponsor while the following were added: Angola, Argentina, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guyana, Iceland, India, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey and Lesotho.

    A recorded vote was requested.

     Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Israel said he supported the principle of the right to self-determination.  In the Oslo process, Israel and Palestine had agreed to support each other's rights.  The present resolution negated that process.  Israel would vote against the resolution with the hope that the violence in the Middle East would soon end.

     The resolution was adopted by a recorded vote of 147 in favour and 2 against (Israel, United States) with three abstentions (Canada, Marshall Islands, Tonga).

     Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, Australia's representative said she voted in favour of the resolution as a whole, but would have abstained on operative paragraph 1 if a separate vote had been called for.  The question of a Palestinian State was an issue to be resolved by the parties themselves through a process of negotiation.

     Canada’s representative said it was important that a Palestinian State emerge as a result of negotiation.  Therefore, he had abstained.

     The Russian Federation had voted in favor of the resolution because it was engaged in active efforts to further understanding between Palestinians and Israelis, the representative of that country said.  It was also trying to stop the violence and to further the peace process through a comprehensive settlement.  It was important at this point to stabilize the situation and not identify the authors of provocations.

    The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, reaffirmed the continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination.  The Union also reaffirmed that the right of the Palestinian people to build a sovereign, democratic, viable and peaceful State should not be called into question.  That right was established and it was now just a matter of timing.  She called upon Israelis and Palestinians to seek a mutually negotiated solution in good faith, on the basis of existing agreements and without prejudice.  This would be the best guarantee of Israel’s security as well as its acceptance as an equal partner in the region.  The approach defined in today’s resolution was the best way to achieve peace through an agreement that was mutually acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.

     The observer of Palestine thanked members of their overwhelming support.  She said the adoption of the resolution by such a large majority was an endorsement of the Palestinians' rights, including that of having their own State.  This year, there were 91 co-sponsors.  Hopefully the United States would change its position.  The rights of Palestinian people did not derive from any agreements.  They were inalienable rights to begin with. 

    Action, Convention on Protection of Migrant Rights

    The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/C.3/55/L.29).

    The following were added as co-sponsors:  Azerbaijan, Ghana, Honduras, Portugal, Tunisia, Turkey, Paraguay, Kenya and Haiti.

    The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

    Action, Torture and Other Cruel or Degrading Punishment

    The draft on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/55/L.30) was taken up.

     The Committee Secretary read out a statement by the United Nations Controller with regard to budgetary provisions. 

    The following were added as co-sponsors:  Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malta, Poland, Sierra Leone and Colombia.

    The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

    The representative of Syria said she had been unwilling to be an obstacle to the consensus, but took issue with operative paragraph 18 regarding the cooperation of governments with the Special Rapporteur on Torture.
     

     __________________________________
     

    ANNEX
     

     Vote on Palestinian Self-Determination

     The draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/55/L.32) was adopted by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 2 against, with 3 abstentions, as follows:

    In favour:  Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

    Against:  Israel, United States.

    Abstain:  Canada, Marshall Islands, Tonga.

    Absent:  Afghanistan, Albania, Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, Gabon, Georgia, Grenada, Kiribati, Madagascar, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Suriname, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan.

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