Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6173
    25 July 2005

    ECOSOC Continues General Segment with Action on Texts Related to Refugees, Informatics, Statistics, Population, Crime, Drugs, Indigenous Issues

    NEW YORK, 23 July (UN Headquarters) -- As the 2005 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council neared its close, it today took action on a broad range of texts recommended by its subsidiary bodies pertaining to refugees, informatics, statistics, population, crime prevention and criminal justice, narcotic drugs and indigenous issues.

    The 18 resolutions and 11 decisions adopted by consensus included a resolution to convene the ad hoc working group on informatics to facilitate easy access to the computerized databases and information systems of the United Nations for all Member States and observers, as well as accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

    The remaining texts adopted were contained in the respective annual reports of the Commissions on Statistics, Population and Development, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and Narcotic Drugs, along with that of the Forum on Forests and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Also adopted was a decision on enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    Contained within the report on criminal justice was a decision concerning the Secretary-General’s report on capital punishment, which presented the results of a quintennial survey on the subject.  Welcoming the decrease in the application of the death penalty worldwide, as shown by the survey, the representative of the United Kingdom, on behalf of the European Union, reiterated the Union’s strong support for the global abolition of the practice.

    By a decision contained in the report of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on its fourth session, the Council decided that the theme for the fifth session of the Forum would be:  “The Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples -- redefining the Goals”.

    Introducing the reports on human rights, which would be taken up at the Council’s next meeting, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the Director of the New York Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the reports included the human rights implications of the Millennium Declaration and, in particular, the links between human rights and the Millennium Development Goals.  The Millennium Goals process provided an unprecedented opportunity to realize the human rights of millions the world over.  At the same time, human rights provided the comprehensive and universally accepted framework for strategies to achieve the Goals.

    Following his presentation, the representatives of China and the Russian Federation spoke on reform of the Human Rights Commission.  Both agreed that a reformed body should be less confrontational and less selectively accusatory.  In addition, China’s representative said that reforms must aim to secure a balance between civil and political rights, which were now favoured, and economic, social and cultural rights.  Reforms should also make human rights bodies more democratic and representative, allowing all States to participate on equal footing.

    Also today, the representative of Jamaica, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reported on the results of the forty-third session of the Commission for Social Development.

    The representative of Switzerland introduced the report of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Social Justice.

    In addition, the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union) made statements of position on the texts of the Statistical Commission and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, respectively.

    The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 25 July, to continue to take action on the recommendations of its subsidiary bodies.

    Background

    The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to continue the general segment of its current session by considering the coordination matters before it and taking action on them.  (For background on documentation, see Press Release ECOSOC/6172 issued yesterday.)

    In addition to those documents, the Council has before it a number of reports related to a regional approach for achieving internationally agreed development goals (documents E/2005/15 and Adds.1 and 2, and E/2005/16-21).  A draft on that matter is also before the Council (document E/2005/L.21).

    Other reports related to implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (documents E/CN.4/2005/16 and 17; E/CN.4/2005/20-22; E/CN.4/2005/125 and Corr.1); human rights (documents E/2005/22 and 23; E/2005/L.34, E/CN.4/2005/L.10 and Adds.1-10 and E/2005/65); and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (document E/2005/43).  The draft resolutions before the Council today are contained in those reports.

    Other texts to be taken up by the Council are on:  enlarging the Executive Committee of the Refugees Commissioner’s Programme (document E/2005/L.17); international cooperation in the field of informatics (document E/2005/L.33); the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force (document E/2005/L.23); and the Europe-Africa fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar (document E/2005/L.21).

    Statements

    ARIEL BOWEN (Jamaica), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reporting on the results of the forty-third session of the Commission for Social Development, said there had been advances in the issues under its purview, but much remained to done in critical areas.  Poverty eradication had become a national priority, but there were uneven results across the regions.  More than 1.1 billion people worldwide were struggling to subsist on less than one dollar per day, and the number of poor was increasing dramatically in sub-Saharan Africa.  South Asian figures had remained stagnant.

    Since the Copenhagen Conference, there had been a rise in unemployment, as well, especially among youth, she noted.  There were, however, many initiatives to improve the living conditions of vulnerable groups, including the ageing.  She expressed concern over the effects of HIV/AIDS and natural disasters on developing countries.  Further progress in the Copenhagen Programme required greater commitment on the part of States and their partners in the international community.  She renewed the commitment of the Group to the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.

    Action on Drafts

    The Council took up a draft decision on enlarging the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document E/2005/L.17).  The draft was adopted without a vote.

    The Council next took up a draft resolution on the need to harmonize and improve United Nations informatics systems of optimal use by all States (document E/2005/L.33).  The draft was adopted without a vote.

    The Council took up the report on Statistics (document E/2005/24, Supplement No. 4) containing a draft resolution on the 2010 World Population and Housing Census Programme and a draft decision on the report of the Statistical Commission’s thirty-sixth session, which also contained the provisional agenda for the next meeting.  Both the resolution and the decision were adopted without a vote.

    The representative of the United States said that his country had joined the consensus and he supported the Statistical Commission’s work in strengthening statistical capacity in developing countries.  He wanted to make clear, however, that it was his understanding that references to countries in the resolution were references to developing countries only.  In addition, the recommendations in resolution A/56/326 had not been endorsed in an intergovernmental process, and he said his delegation disagreed with some of the indicators.  Some were not in the purview of international organizations.

    The report of the Commission on Population and Development was taken up (document E/2005/25, Supplement No. 5), containing a draft decision on the Commission’s report on its thirty-ninth session.  The decision was adopted without a vote.

    Next taken up was a report of the United Nations Forum on Forests (document E/2005/42, Supplement No. 22) containing a draft resolution on the report.  The resolution was adopted without a vote.

    The Council then turned to the report of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document E/2005/30, Supplement No. 10). 

    The representative of Switzerland, who facilitated discussions in that regard, said that in the revitalization effort, certain functional commissions sent drafts directly to the General Assembly.  They had found that was an unwieldy process, since the parent body of those commissions was the Economic and Social Council.  The report lists certain resolutions that should be adopted by ECOSOC and not the General Assembly.

    The Council then adopted, without a vote, 10 resolutions contained in one section of the report.  Those were:  model bilateral agreement on the sharing of confiscated proceeds of crime or property covered by the relevant conventions; the Eleventh Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; protection of witnesses in action against transnational organized crime; international cooperation in fighting transnational organized crime; assistance with capacity-building to implement the Convention against Corruption; strengthening cooperation and technical assistance to implement instruments to fight terrorism; guidelines on justice relation to child victims; strengthening technical cooperation in the area of rule of law and criminal justice reform; promoting effective crime prevention; and strengthening reporting on crime. 

    The Council then turned to another section of the report containing three draft decisions on:  the Secretary-General’s report on capital punishment and protection of rights in facing the death penalty; a round table for Africa on crime, drugs and the rule of law; and the Commission’s report.  The drafts were adopted without a vote.

    The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said that United Nations standards and norms were crucial in regard to crime and punishment issues.  In the report on the application of the death penalty, he was pleased to note the decrease in the number of countries that were still executing people.  The death penalty constituted a violation of the right to life and was in itself cruel and inhuman.

    The European Union, he said, was taking systematic action to universally abolish the death penalty.  It was disturbed to note that the death penalty still existed as punishment for crimes below the most grave in some places and that there were gaps in procedural safeguards.  In addition, it was disturbing to note that execution of juvenile offenders and mothers of small children still continued in some countries and that humiliating methods of execution such as stoning still existed.

    Where the death penalty was still carried out, it must be done so humanely, he stressed, and those countries that could not immediately abolish the practice should establish a moratorium.  He said the Union firmly condemned executions of women for sexual crimes and executions of minorities.  Finally, he welcomed the attention drawn to the issue by the Secretary-General’s report, but expressed concern over the low reporting rate of countries that retained the death penalty.

    Next taken up was the report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (document E/2005/28, Supplement No. 8) on its forty-eighth session.  First considered was a draft resolution in one part of the report on providing support to Afghanistan for its counter-narcotic efforts.  The resolution was adopted without a vote.

    Four drafts in another part of the report were taken up:  treatment of pain using opioid analgesics; demand and supply of opiates for medical purposes; international assistance to States affected by illicit drugs; and meetings of drug law enforcement agency heads.  The resolutions were adopted without a vote.

    Finally, two draft decisions in a third part of the report were taken up on the Commission’s report and on the report of the International Narcotics Control Board.  The decisions were adopted without a vote.

    BACRE WALY NDIAYE, Director, New York Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the first of two reports submitted to the Council addressed the human rights implications of the Millennium Declaration and, in particular, the links between human rights and the Millennium Development Goals.  The Millennium Goals process provided an unprecedented opportunity to realize the human rights of millions the world over.  At the same time, human rights provided the comprehensive and universally accepted framework for strategies to achieve the Goals.

    The report, he continued, also devoted a large section to an analysis of how human rights impacted on strategies to achieve the Goals.  In the process of achieving the Goals, human rights insisted that the principle of non-discrimination be respected; that active, free and meaningful participation be conducted with communities and individuals with stakes in the development process; that States’ human rights obligations be explicitly recognized; and that adequate monitoring and accountability mechanisms be put in place.

    The report also drew attention to the significant work already undertaken by the various human rights mechanisms, including the treaty bodies, the special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights, and the research work done by the High Commissioner’s Office, he added.  The report also called on the Council to explicitly recognize both the benefits and the obligations that human rights brought to the efforts to reach the Goals.

    He went on to note that the Council also had before it the report from the thirty-second and thirty-third sessions of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, held during 2004.  During those sessions, the Committee considered reports submitted by the 10 States parties to the Covenant.  The respective concluding observations appeared in Chapter IV of the Committee’s annual report.  The Committee also considered draft general comments on the right to work, on the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the Covenant, and on the right of a person to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which she or he was the author.

    In addition, he said, the Committee continued to explore ways to strengthen its cooperation with the United Nations specialized agencies.  A second meeting, on the right to education, was held by the Joint Expert Group of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Committee on 3 and 4 May 2004 in Geneva during the Committee’s thirty-second session.  At its November session, the Committee held a second meeting with members of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.  The first meeting was held in November 2003 and the main issues discussed were complementarities between treaty monitoring under the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights and ILO Conventions, and follow-up to the Committee’s concluding observations at the national level.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that there had been much progress in the arena of human rights since the founding of the United Nations 60 years ago.  However, it was important not to lose sight of the formidable constraints and challenges that existed in the international human rights field.  To meet those challenges, it was necessary to have a credible human rights body, and all delegations agreed that there was a “credibility deficit” in the current Commission on Human Rights.  There was widespread discontent with the existing problems of polarization, selectivity and double standards.  The question was how to remedy the situation through reform.

    Any reform, he said, must lead to fair discussions of human rights issues.  At this year’s session of the Commission, a good number of countries set forth concrete proposals on changing the modality of country-specific discussions.  Some proposed elimination of country-specific agenda items; some proposed that at least “thresholds” and clear standards be laid down for country-specific items; and some proposed that country-specific resolutions be introduced only when widespread, systematic gross violations of human rights had, indeed, occurred and other means had been exhausted.  Those proposals were all worthy of careful study.

    In addition, he said, reforms must aim to secure a balance between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.  That imbalance did disservice to the promotion of human rights as a whole.  Reforms should also make human rights bodies more democratic and representative, allowing all States to participate on equal footing.  The current under-representation of Asian and African membership must be rectified. Finally, the Office of the High Commissioner should be more devoted to promoting dialogue, cooperation and communication among Member States and fostering the capacity-building of developing countries in related areas.

    Mr. PARSHIKOV (Russian Federation) warned against any excessive haste in reforming the Human Rights Commission.  The matter was too serious and too important to engage in reform for the sake of reform, which might exacerbate existing problems.  His country had often criticized the work of the Commission, and there was often a confrontational atmosphere.  Confrontation must be toned down.

    He agreed that there should be an independent expert on minorities and compensation for victims of violations of human rights.  He supported the results of women’s rights bodies, although they were often too confrontational, as well.  He then described a range of other international meetings and their outcomes.

    The Council took up the report on the fourth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (document E/2005/43) containing three draft decisions.  Those were on:  the international expert group meeting on the Millennium Goals and indigenous participation, along with an oral report on programme budget implications; the venue and dates for the Forum’s fifth session; and the provisional agenda and documentation for the fifth session.  The three draft decisions were adopted without a vote.

    The representative of the United States said she had joined the consensus on the drafts, but could not fully endorse the language in them.  Some terms and some indicators had not been agreed upon by all governments.

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