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Human Rights Council adopts 10 resolutions and one Presidential statement

AFTERNOON

Establishes Mechanism to Collect Evidence of Crimes Committed in Myanmar, Extends Mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Calls on Venezuela to Accept Humanitarian Assistance, and Requests a Comprehensive Report on the Human Rights Situation in Venezuela

GENEVA (28 September 2018) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted 10 resolutions and one Presidential statement, including texts that established an independent mechanism to collect evidence of most serious international crimes committed in Myanmar; extended the mandate of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar until the new mechanism was operational; called on Venezuela to accept humanitarian assistance in order to address the scarcity of food, medicine and medical supplies; and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive written report on the human rights situation in Venezuela.

Other adopted texts concerned the right to development, the use of mercenaries, preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings, the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, the safety of journalists, fostering of cooperation between local government and local stakeholders for the effective promotion and protection of human rights, the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the World Programme for Human Rights Education, and reports of the Advisory Committee.

By a vote of 35 in favour, three against and seven abstentions, the Council decided to establish an ongoing independent mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011.  The mechanism would report on its main activities on an annual basis to the Human Rights Council as of its forty-second session and to the General Assembly as of its seventy-fourth session.  The Council requested the Secretary-General to appoint the staff of the mechanism as soon as possible, and it decided to extend the mandate of the independent international fact-finding mission until the new mechanism was operational.  The Council also requested that the fact-finding mission submit a final report on its main activities to the Council at its forty-second session, and it requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a written report to the Council at its forty-third session.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, seven against and 17 abstentions as orally revised, the Council called on the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to accept humanitarian assistance in order to address the scarcity of food, medicine and medical supplies, the rise of malnutrition, especially among children, and the outbreak of diseases that had been previously eradicated or kept under control in South America, and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive written report on the human rights situation in Venezuela and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session, to be followed by an interactive dialogue, and to present an oral update on the human rights situation to the Council at its fortieth and forty-second sessions.

By a vote of 30 in favour, 12 against and five abstentions, the Council decided that the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development shall prepare a draft legally binding instrument on the right to development to serve as a basis for substantive negotiations on the instrument.  It also requested the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, while taking into account the views of Member States, to prepare a research-based report on the importance of a legally binding instrument on the right to development, to present an oral update on the preparation of the report to the Council at its forty-second session, and to present the report to the Council at its forty-fifth session.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 15 against and two abstentions, the Council requested the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination to report its findings to the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session and to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session.

In another resolution adopted without a vote, the Council requested the High Commissioner to prepare a follow-up report on good practices and challenges in the elimination of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity in humanitarian settings, and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.  The Council also requested the High Commissioner to organize a two-day meeting in 2019 to discuss good practices, gaps and challenges in the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity in humanitarian settings, and to submit a summary report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session.

By a vote of 27 in favour, 15 against and five abstentions, the Council urged States to continue their efforts, through enhanced international cooperation, towards the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, and it requested the Independent Expert to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its forty-second session, a report on the implementation of the resolution.

In a resolution on the safety of journalists, adopted without a vote, the Council called upon States to develop and implement strategies for combatting impunity for attacks and violence against journalists, and to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction.

In another text, adopted without a vote, the Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on effective methods to foster cooperation between local government and local stakeholders for the effective promotion and protection of human rights at their level through local government programmes, and to submit the report to the Council prior to its forty-second session.

By a vote of 44 in favour, one against and two abstentions as orally revised, the Council requested the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation with all the resources and assistance necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate.

The Council decided to make youth the focus group of the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, and it requested the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a plan of action for the fourth phase of the World Programme (2020-2024) and to submit the plan of action to the Human Rights Council for its consideration at its forty-second session.

In a Presidential statement on the reports of the Advisory Committee, adopted without a vote, the President of the Human Rights Council stated that the Human Rights Council took note of the reports of the Advisory Committee on its twentieth and twenty-first sessions, and it noted that the Advisory Committee had made two research proposals.

Venezuela and Myanmar spoke as concerned countries.  

Speaking in introduction of draft texts were Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Austria on behalf of the European Union, Slovenia, Cuba, Austria, Republic of Korea, Spain, Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Colombia, Russian Federation,  

Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Cuba, Australia, Georgia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Egypt, Venezuela, Tunisia, Ecuador, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland, South Africa, Mexico, Pakistan, Qatar, Hungary, and Iraq spoke in general comments.

Ecuador, China, Brazil, Egypt, Iceland, Japan, Peru, Philippines, Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Kyrgyzstan, Panama, Switzerland, Mexico, and Nigeria spoke in explanation of the vote before the vote.

The Council will reconvene on Friday, 28 September, at 9 a.m. to continue taking action on resolutions and decisions before closing its thirty-ninth session.

Action on Presidential Statement under the Agenda Item on Organizational and Procedural Matters

Action on Presidential Statement on the Reports of the Advisory Committee

In a Presidential statement (A/HRC/39/L.4) on the Reports of the Advisory Committee, adopted without a vote, the President of the Human Rights Council states that the Human Rights Council takes note of the reports of the Advisory Committee on its twentieth and twenty-first sessions, and notes that the Advisory Committee has made two research proposals.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on the Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Action on Resolution on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.1/Rev.1) on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, seven against and 17 abstentions, the Council welcomes the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights entitled “Human rights violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight”, published in June 2018; calls on the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to accept humanitarian assistance in order to address the scarcity of food, medicine and medical supplies, the rise of malnutrition, especially among children, and the outbreak of diseases that had been previously eradicated or kept under control in South America; and urges the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner and the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council.  The Council requests the High Commissioner to prepare a comprehensive written report on the human rights situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session, to be followed by an interactive dialogue, and to present an oral update on the human rights situation to the Council at its fortieth and forty-second sessions.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (23): Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Against (7): Burundi, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Pakistan and Venezuela.

Abstentions (17): Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.

Peru, introducing draft resolution L.1/Rev.1 on behalf of a group of countries, said the group of countries was convinced that Member States of the United Nations were duty bound to uphold the universal protection of human rights.  The group of countries expressed deep concern about the human rights situation in Venezuela, which had resulted in over 2 million people fleeing to neighbouring countries in search of safety.  The aim of this draft resolution was to give a voice to the millions of Venezuelans suffering from this crisis which was unprecedented in the region.  The group of countries urged the Venezuelan Government to accept the generous offer of assistance from the Council.  The proposal was governed by the legitimacy granted under the Human Rights Council to take a stand when there was a situation that truly imperilled human rights.  In respect of the sovereign legitimacy of Venezuela, there was no desire to interfere in the country.  The text of the draft resolution had been subject to review by many delegations which participated in the two consultations that were convened.  The Council should examine, discuss and approve this resolution.

Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said the European Union was deeply concerned about the serious human rights violations in Venezuela, including failure to protect rights to food, health, and the non-respect for democratic institutions, the repression of political opponents, and the obstacles to free and fair elections.  To end the current crisis Venezuela urgently needed a political and peaceful solution.  A sustainable solution needed to encompass a return to constitutional normality and the rule of law as well as the release of all political prisoners.  Venezuela was a member of this Council and as such was called on to fulfil its obligations and cooperate with the Council.  Sponsors were thanked for presenting L.1/Rev.1 and the only thing this resolution was requesting was to put the situation of Venezuela on the Council’s agenda.  

Cuba, in a general comment, rejected the use of human rights mechanisms to attack the people of Venezuela and said it did not contribute to dialogue and cooperation between Member States.  Cuba would reject the adoption of L.1/Rev.1 and would be voting against it.  

Australia, speaking on behalf of the Lima Group and other concerned States, in a general comment, said the humanitarian situation in Venezuela could not be ignored nor its impact on children.  The resolution recognized that multifaceted crisis.  The speakers urged the Government of Venezuela to restore access to the country.  

Georgia, in a general comment, said that the idea behind the resolution was to keep Venezuela on the Council’s agenda so the Council could closely monitor the situation.  The proposal was a follow up to the joint statement, which had enjoyed the support of 35 States.  The High Commissioner’s Office continued to receive reports on human rights violations in Venezuela.  Over two million Venezuelans had fled the country and the Office of the High Commissioner was supported in their efforts to alleviate the suffering.

Mexico, speaking in a general comment on behalf of a group of countries, said they were deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Venezuela, which had provoked unprecedented migration flows in the region.  A peaceful solution was needed and many interventions would be conducted with that aim.  Military interventions were rejected.

United Kingdom, in a general comment, said it remained seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Venezuela.  The United Kingdom emphasized that the situation in Venezuela rightly deserved the attention of the Council.  The resolution represented the next logical step to address the crisis in Venezuela.

Venezuela, speaking as the concerned country, rejected the draft resolution L.1/Rev.1.  Never had such a hostile initiative been proposed, which affected sovereignty and constituted interference in the affairs of a State.  It was promoted by countries in line with the United States and Israel.  Venezuela did not approve of the practice of adopting resolutions that did not have the approval of the concerned State.  Venezuela was a Latin American country that protected migrants and ensured that all human rights were guaranteed.  The resolution falsely represented what was happening as a humanitarian process.  This was part of coercive unilateral measures against the Venezuelan Government.  Some behind the draft resolution had generated xenophobic movements against the Venezuelan people.  Venezuela condemned the United States’ policies, particularly its moving of the American Embassy to Jerusalem; 128 countries had rejected that movement, however, those were the same States that submitted this resolution against Venezuela; it was the start of an interventionist escalation.  Venezuela had intervened to support developing countries while in other places, drug cartels were determining State policy.  Venezuela also did not accept the xenophobia generated against southern countries.  Venezuela asked that the resolution be subject to a vote within the Council.  

Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the Venezuelan people required the support of the region as well as the international community in the situation they faced, which had caused migration flows to Ecuador and other countries.  Ecuador had devoted huge resources to assist Venezuelans, in a spirit of regional solidarity.  However, the reality outstripped existing resources, so Ecuador had organized a meeting where 11 countries had gathered to prepare a regional response.  The Government of Ecuador was open to the Government of Venezuela to find a joint resolution to this internal situation through dialogue.  For all those reasons, Ecuador would vote in favour.

China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it always followed the principle of non-interference.  Venezuela could handle its own matters and dialogue was supported within the existing framework in Venezuela.  This was the greatest common denominator for all sides.  Country resolutions were not supported by China, as all differences could be resolved through dialogue.  In view of the above, China would vote against the resolution.

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it would vote in favour of the resolution.  Brazil reaffirmed its commitment to the restoration of democracy in Venezuela and to overcoming the grave economic and humanitarian crisis ongoing in that country.  Brazil urged the Venezuelan regime to put an end to its human rights violations, to release political prisoners, and to shoulder its responsibility in this crisis.  Brazil expressed its repudiation of any military action and the use of force or violence in Venezuela.

Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its long-standing position rejecting resolutions that did not gain the support of the country concerned.  For this reason, Egypt would be voting against the resolution.

The Council then adopted resolution L1/Rev 1 by a vote of 23 in favour, 7 against, and 17 abstentions.

Action on Resolution on the Situation of Rohingya Muslims and other Minorities in Myanmar

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.22) on the Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, adopted by a vote of 35 in favour, three against and seven abstentions, the Council decides to establish an ongoing independent mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law; and also decides that the mechanism shall, inter alia, report on its main activities on an annual basis to the Human Rights Council as of its forty-second session and to the General Assembly as of its seventy-fourth session.  The Council requests the Secretary-General to appoint the staff of the mechanism as expeditiously as possible… (and) allocate the resources necessary for the implementation of the present resolution, including the logistical and technical resources necessary to support the functioning of the mechanism.  

The Council decides to extend the mandate of the independent international fact-finding mission… until the new mechanism is operational to ensure that the large and continually increasing amount of evidence of human rights violations and abuses it has collected is fully documented, verified, consolidated and preserved…, and requests the fact-finding mission to submit a final report on its main activities to the Council at its forty-second session; (and) requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a written report, to be followed by an interactive dialogue, to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session, on the root causes of the human rights violations and abuses the Rohingya Muslim minority and other minorities in Myanmar are facing…,and to recommend concrete measures to be taken by the Government of Myanmar and the international community to address the current situation.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (35): Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom.

Against (3): Burundi, China and Philippines.

Abstentions (7): Angola, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Mongolia, Nepal and South Africa.

Pakistan, introducing resolution L.22 on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union had worked closely to agree on the common text that was presented.  The text was their united voice in support of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.  Both parties had reached common grounds on their principled positions on various issues in view of a grave tragedy that merited an exceptional and robust response from the international community.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation hoped that the Council would stand united for the helpless Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, who had suffered in Myanmar for decades, a plight that had largely been ignored by the international community.  A consensual adoption of the resolution today would ensure accountability for the perpetrators of those horrific crimes and justice for the victims.  Pursuant to the adoption, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation also requested the High Commissioner for an early preparation of the terms of reference for the appointment of the staff of the Mechanism, in consultation with all States, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries.

Austria, introducing on behalf of the European Union resolution L.22, said it presented for the first time in the Council’s history a joint resolution on behalf of the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  The resolution was the result of a carefully crafted compromise between two regional groups.  The report of the Fact-Finding Mission provided a harrowing account of the human rights situation in Myanmar, pointing to the possible genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states by the military and security forces.  The International Criminal Court had ruled recently that it might exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya to Bangladesh.  The Fact-Finding Mission was invited to share all relevant information with the International Criminal Court.  The Council was urged to adopt the resolution by consensus, and send the signal to victims that they remained high on the Council’s agenda.

United Kingdom, in a general comment, acknowledged the cooperation between the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  The adoption of the resolution would send a message of commendation of the brutal actions of repression committed against the Rohingya Muslims.  The United Kingdom urged the Council to respond to the brutal repression occurring in Myanmar, which left no doubt of the need for the investigation of those responsible so that they could be held to account by an independent court.  The United Kingdom urged the Council to recognize that this resolution was responding to a report unlike any that had gone before.  The countless victims of the atrocities carried out by “Burmese” armed forces were looking to the Council for action.  The United Kingdom called on all Council members to firmly support this draft resolution.

Egypt, in a general comment, reiterated its condemnation of all forms of violence against Muslims in Myanmar, and urged all to allow safe and unhindered access to humanitarian organizations.  Egypt had supported numerous different initiatives aimed at putting an end to the violence against the Rohingya minority.  Egypt had engaged constructively throughout the preparation of the draft resolution, and recognized the contribution of the Organization Islamic Cooperation and the European Union.  The Council should deliver a clear message to the victims and families of this violence that the international community was supporting them.  However, Egypt noted that some of its concerns with the resolution had not been dealt with in a sufficient manor.  There was reference to treaties to which Egypt was not party to, specifically the references to the International Criminal Court and the proposed establishment of an independent mechanism to collect and analyse evidence, which Egypt felt did not fall within the mandate of the Human Rights Council.  Egypt therefore said it would support the resolution but put on reservation all references to the International Criminal Court and the independent mechanism.

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, said that many delegations had stressed that constructive approaches and genuine cooperation were important for the promotion and protection of human rights.  What had happened to those principles when crafting this resolution, which was based on impetuous judgement based on the Fact-Finding Mission’s report, replete with unverified information.  Objectivity and impartiality were essential principles for all to adhere to, especially when it came to issues that had a far-reaching impact on a Member State’s sovereignty.  The Government of Myanmar had rejected the Fact-Finding Mission since the beginning, as its acceptance could have created strong opposition and instability inside the country.  They had, therefore, set up their own independent commission of enquiry.  The Fact-Finding Mission’s report was found to be unbalanced and seemed to encourage the disunity of the nation by dividing among national races.  The draft resolution was based on serious but unverified accusations.  Non-constructive measures and retributive actions would only further polarize the divided communities they wished to reconcile and undermine the Government’s ongoing efforts to bring peace, national reconciliation and development in the entire nation.  Impetuous judgement on a country over such serious and important issues should never be made.  The Government of Myanmar took the allegations of human rights violations seriously and had established the Independent Commission of Inquiry, including two diplomats, to investigate the allegations at its own initiative.  Time and space needed to be given for the Commission to come up with their report.  The Government was keeping up efforts for the peace process and national reconciliation, Rakhine was one of the many challenges facing Myanmar on its path to democratization.  It was regrettable that the draft resolution contained intrusive language and demands that would not contribute to finding a lasting solution to the delicate and complex situation of Rakhine state; some elements challenged the sovereignty of the nation.  Myanmar believed that country specific resolutions were not conducive to meaningful dialogue but gave rise to polarization and confrontation.  The delegation of Myanmar categorically rejected draft resolution L.22 and appealed to the Council’s Member States to vote against it.

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said they were worried about the situation of Rohingya and other minorities.  Concern was shared over findings in the final report of the Fact-Finding Mission pointing to crimes against humanity that had been committed.  A full investigation was needed as well as concrete measures to combat hate speech and uphold the rights of all minority groups.  A conducive environment had to be created for the return of displaced Rohingya.  All parties were called upon to end the problem of statelessness.  Steps taken by Myanmar to address the situation were acknowledged, including the ongoing dialogue with Bangladesh, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry.  Bangladesh was praised for its assistance to refugees.  Myanmar had to enhance its efforts.  Brazil would support the current text.

China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, condemned all forms of violence against civilians.  Recently, positive progress had been noted after Bangladesh and Myanmar had a meeting, reaching consensus on some important issues.  Myanmar recently established the Commission of Inquiry.  China provided humanitarian support to Bangladesh and Myanmar.  The Rakhine state issue was a complex one, involving history and ethnicity and could not be solved overnight.  Both Bangladesh and Myanmar were China’s neighbours.  The immediate priority was to address repatriation and practical measures had to be taken.  China was ready to provide support to improve the living conditions of people.  Development cooperation at the border area had to be enhanced and China was working with both countries to improve the situation.  Today three ministers were working in New York to find a solution to this crisis.   The Council had to play a constructive role.  Myanmar had made its comments but the draft resolution did not respect the views of Myanmar.  The views of China were not adopted either and the draft resolution would only deteriorate the situation and would not address the issue comprehensively.  China requested the Council to put L.22 to a vote and China would vote against it.

Iceland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed deep regret that a vote had been called on this resolution, which had the support of approximately 100 co-sponsors from all regions.  Iceland noted that the findings in the Fact-Finding Mission’s final report were unprecedented in scope and provided a harrowing account of the human rights situation in Myanmar, pointing to the possible commission of genocide.  These findings warranted the firmest response from the Council.  Iceland supported the proposed mechanism to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law.  For those reasons, Iceland would vote in favour of the resolution.

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed concern over the situation of human rights in Rakhine state, and the precarious situation facing those who had fled to Bangladesh.  Japan emphasized the necessity to allow access for United Nations personnel to Rakhine state.  Japan commended the commencement of activities by the Independent Commission of Inquiry, which constituted an important step forward in resolving this crisis.  However, Japan emphasized that it was vital that Myanmar itself carried out a transparent and credible investigation into the current situation.  Based on this, Japan had elected to abstain from the vote on this resolution.  Japan would continue to participate in discussions with the international community to improve the human rights situation in Myanmar.

Peru, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, regretted the fact that the resolution had been put up for a vote.  The draft resolution was a natural reaction to a situation of extreme gravity.  The findings of the Fact-Finding Mission were unprecedented and set forth a devastating scenario of human rights violations indicating a possible genocide and crimes against humanity.  They required a robust response.  The mechanism proposed included the collection, consolidation and maintenance of evidence regarding allegations in Myanmar.  From Peru’s view, it was a clear response that the Council was giving.  Peru would vote in favour of the resolution and called on other members to do the same.

Philippines, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said they shared the view that those responsible for appalling acts of human rights violations must be brought before the courts.  The international community had a critical role to play in the humanitarian crisis and to assist Myanmar.  The Philippines recognized the burden that the situation in Myanmar had placed on Bangladesh and was interested in accords between the two countries to repatriate the Rohingya people.  However, they did not see the value in implementing resolutions that polarized.  Modern democracies were not built overnight, but needed time to establish the rule of law.  The report of the Fact-Finding Mission recognized the social and political situation as well as terrorist groups within the country.  There was a will of the Myanmar leadership to cooperate in good-will towards an end to the human rights violations.  Those processes needed to be supported by the Council, and that was why the Philippines would vote against L.22.  

The Council then adopted resolution L.22 by a vote of 35 in favour, 3 against, and 7 abstentions.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Action on Resolution on the World Programme for Human Rights Education

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.2) on the World Programme for Human Rights Education, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to make youth the focus group of the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, with special emphasis on education and training in equality, human rights and non-discrimination, and inclusion and respect for diversity with the aim of building inclusive and peaceful societies, and to align the fourth phase with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and specifically with target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare, from within existing resources…, a plan of action for the fourth phase of the World Programme (2020-2024)…, and to submit the plan of action to the Human Rights Council for its consideration at its forty-second session.

Slovenia, introducing resolution L2, explained that the resolution titled the World Programme for Human Rights Education was a signature Human Rights Council resolution.  The resolution made youth the focus as the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education and requested the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a plan of action for this fourth phase of the World Programme.  The resolution was the result of inclusive and transparent negotiations between Member States, specialized agencies, and civil society organizations.  Slovenia encouraged States and relevant stakeholders to also strengthen their efforts to advance the implement the three earlier phases of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.  Slovenia thanked all Member States who had co-sponsored the resolution.

The Council adopted the resolution without a vote.  

Action on Resolution on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.5) on the Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, 15 against and five abstentions, the Council urges States to continue their efforts, through enhanced international cooperation, towards the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; invites the Independent Expert to continue his research into the impact of financial and economic policies pursued by international organizations and other institutions on a democratic and equitable international order, in particular those of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to provide all the necessary human and financial resources for the effective fulfilment of the mandate by the Independent Expert.  The Council also requests the Independent Expert to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its forty-second session, a report on the implementation of the present resolution.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (27): Angola, Burundi, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Against (15): Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine (after an oral correction by the delegation) and United Kingdom.

Abstentions (5): Afghanistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru.

Cuba, introducing draft resolution L.5, explained that a democratic and equitable international order could not be achieved in the current context of deregulation of finance, trade and services.  Accordingly, it invited the Independent Expert to continue his studies about the impact that economic and financial policies had on international organizations and other institutions.  No country could fully and freely exercise the right to peace and self-determination in a healthy environment without a change to the international order, which constituted the major obstacle to the right to development of the countries of the South.  Cuba expressed hope that the initiative would be adopted.  

Venezuela, in a general comment, welcomed the presentation of draft resolution L.5 as proposed by Cuba and shared its views.  Venezuela had extended an invitation to the Independent Expert and his fruitful contact with the Venezuelan Government and social bodies were reflected in this session of the Council.  A new world order was needed, with a rejection of domination and hate based on discrimination and intolerance.  In moving towards an equitable culture, it was important to recognize that all were equal.  In that respect, there were also wars that jeopardized the existence of humanity.  Venezuela supported the draft resolution and would vote in favour.  Venezuela supported multilateralism and deplored neo-colonialization and domination; it worked for a world of peace where all could enjoy what was provided by mother earth.

Slovakia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was founded on a shared determination to promote peace and stability and build a world founded on human rights, human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.  Those principles underpinned all aspects of the internal and external policies of the European Union.  On several occasions, they had underlined their commitment to continue efforts to further a democratic and equitable international order and were open to engage to find a way forward on that topic.  They felt the issues raised in the text of the draft resolution presented by Cuba needed further and careful analysis.  They regretted not having had sufficient time to engage on it and encouraged the main sponsor to hold at least two informal consultations on presented initiatives.  The European Union believed a significant number of defining elements of the resolution extended beyond the Council’s mandate and regretted the selective quoting of documents such as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  They called for a vote on the text and said they would vote against it.  

The Council then adopted resolution L.5 by a vote of 27 in favour, 15 against, and 5 abstentions.

Action on Resolution on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.6) on The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 15 against and two abstentions, the Council requests the Working Group [on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination] to continue to study and identify new sources and causes, emerging issues, manifestations and trends with regard to mercenaries and mercenary-related activities and their impact on human rights, particularly on the right of peoples to self-determination; and urges all States to cooperate fully with the Working Group in the fulfilment of its mandate.  The Council also requests the Working Group to… report its findings on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination to the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session and to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (30): Angola, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Against (15): Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Abstentions (2): Afghanistan and Mexico.

Cuba, introducing resolution L.6, said it was an honour to present the draft resolution on the use of mercenaries.  The phenomenon of the use of mercenaries had to be dealt with by the Council.  Practice of the use of mercenaries in modern times violated the United Nations Charter.  The draft resolution condemned the impunity of mercenaries and all States were urged to prevent and combat such practices.  There was a need to examine the link between mercenaries and between private security companies.  Some States were against this, and those were the same opposing a legally binding agreement on regulating private security companies.  All States that were committed to combatting mercenaries were called to vote in favour.

Slovakia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, said that it had made a number of proposals that would have helped to ensure much greater conceptual clarity on the resolution, which in its current form confused the roles and actions of mercenaries, a category specifically defined in international law, and the activities of private military and private security companies.  The European Union had also proposed to phase out the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, and proposed to replace it with a United Nations Independent Expert on the issue of regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies.  The European Union expressed disappointment that its proposals were not acceptable and that they were not reflected in the resolution.  The European Union hoped that Cuba would further explore its proposals in view of future negotiations.  For these reasons, the European Union said it could not support resolution L6.

The Council then adopted resolution L6 by a vote of 30 in favour, 15 against and 2 abstentions.

Action on Resolution on the Safety of Journalists

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.7) on The safety of journalists, adopted without a vote, the Council condemns unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers… online and offline… in both conflict and non-conflict situations; and strongly condemns the prevailing impunity for attacks and violence against journalists, and expresses grave concern that the vast majority of these crimes go unpunished, which in turn contributes to the recurrence of these crimes, and calls upon States to develop and implement strategies for combating impunity for attacks and violence against journalists.  The Council urges States to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction, to bring perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes to justice, and to ensure that victims and their families have access to appropriate remedies; and encourages States and all other relevant stakeholders to take the opportunity of the proclamation of 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists to raise awareness regarding the issue of the safety of journalists and to launch concrete initiatives in this regard.

Austria, introducing resolution L.7, was proud of introducing a text with the support of numerous co-sponsors across all regions.  Free, independent and courageous journalism was fundamental to every democratic society.  Today, political leaders were increasingly denouncing critical media and the factual information they reported as false, intentionally weakening their credibility and leaving citizens unsure whom to believe.  The resolution addressed this worrying development and urged political leaders to refrain from discrediting and intimidating the media.  Over 300 journalists had been killed in the past five years.  The text called upon States to protect the confidentially of journalists’ sources, to ensure that defamation and libel laws were not misused, and to emphasize particular risks with regard to the safety of journalists in the digital age.  Resolutions by themselves offered little protection unless matched with national action to ensure implementation.  All delegations were thanked for their constructive engagement through three rounds of negotiations.  Austria hoped that the resolution would be adopted by consensus.

Tunisia, in a general comment, said that resolution L.7 was an additional step towards providing support for freedom of expression and provided solutions to strike a balance between freedom of expression and other rights.  Tunisia could not conceive of freedom of expression if journalists were targeted or constrained.  Freedom of expression was a fundamental pillar of human rights.  It was essential for regional organizations and civil society to establish legal frameworks to guarantee the protection of that right.

Australia, in a general comment, said that threats to the safety of journalists were an affront to freedom of expression.  Australia underlined that freedom of the press created a culture of accountability.  Australia called for a thorough investigation of all those responsible for violence against journalists.  Australia called on the international community to do more to raise public awareness of the importance of journalists, particularly given the rise of targeted attacks and misinformation campaigns against journalists.  Australia commended resolution L.7 and expressed its full support for it.

Ecuador, in a general comment, said Ecuador respected human rights and fundamental freedoms and was convinced that a free and independent press was a key element to guarantee the inclusive participation of all parts of society.  The Government thus enabled the promotion and guarantee of all rights of people working in that profession.  Ecuador was working on the right to communication; it rejected categorically acts committed by transnational crime against journalists.  In the face of those threats, joint action between States and within the framework of the United Nations was necessary to protect human rights.  Ecuador welcomed the efforts of all parties that worked on the resolution.

Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, believed in the freedom of press and opinion, which fostered accountability and brought prompt and timely issues to the public in a balanced manner.  The country safeguarded the rights of journalists to be able to function without fear and considered them as partners in to the positive functioning of the government.  They thanked the core group for their constructive approach and for presenting a balanced draft.  They looked forward to the draft’s adoption by consensus.  

The Council then adopted resolution L.7 without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Local Government and Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.8) on Local government and human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council, reaffirming the crucial role that the national Government can play in promoting a positive contribution by local government to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights, requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report… on effective methods to foster cooperation between local government and local stakeholders for the effective promotion and protection of human rights at their level through local government programmes, including raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals, and to indicate the major challenges and best practices in this regard, and to submit the report to the Council prior to its forty-second session.

Republic of Korea, introducing draft resolution L.8, on behalf of a cross-regional core group, said that the initiative behind this draft aimed at realizing the potential of local governments as final enablers of human rights.  Empowering local governments was all the more relevant in building good governance to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which required multi-stakeholder partnerships.  The draft resolution built upon the panel discussion on local government and human rights, held in September 2017, which highlighted the role that local stakeholders could play in local governance.  Local stakeholders could take various forms, ranging from tribal leaders, minorities and women’s associations.  The draft aimed to encourage interaction and exchange of knowledge between local governments and local stakeholders and increase their cooperation.  The text mandated the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a report on effective methods to foster such cooperation.  Hope was expressed that the resolution would be adopted by consensus.

Resolution L.8 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.11) on The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, adopted by a vote of 44 in favour, one against and two abstentions as orally revised, the Council calls upon States to, inter alia, implement the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals and targets, including Goal 6 on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; ensure the progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for all in a non-discriminatory manner while eliminating inequalities in access; promote both women’s leadership and their full, effective and equal participation in decision-making on water and sanitation management, (and) ensure that a gender-based approach is adopted in relation to water and sanitation programmes; address the widespread stigma and shame surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene; and make efforts to mitigate the disproportionate impact of water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases on children and reduce child mortality, morbidity and stunting by ensuring the progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.  The Council requests the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Special Rapporteur [on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation] with all the resources and assistance necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (44): Angola, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Venezuela.

Against (1): Kyrgyzstan.

Abstentions (2): Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

Spain, introducing resolution L.11, titled ‘The Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation,” explained that substantial changes had been made to this resolution with the goal to further increase the support for the text and to preserve the consensus on this most important issue of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.  Spain emphasized that, along with Germany, it had demonstrated great flexibility during consultations to ensure that everyone would be able to fully support the text.  Spain said it was content that the useful updates could be agreed on in light of the importance of the 2030 Agenda for the human rights to water and sanitation.  Spain emphasized that the resolution now addressed specific challenges for woman and girls.  

Action on Amendment L.25

Kyrgyzstan, introducing amendment L.25, said it was committed to the realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation at the national level following the generally recognized principles of international law.  It was imperative that human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation be confined to their own territories, thus allowing for the definition of the precise area of responsibility and adopting the resolution on a consensus basis.  In 2016 and 2017, Kyrgyzstan put forward the proposal to limit the rights for safe drinking water and sanitation to national boundaries but because of lack of support from a majority, they had to vote against those resolutions.  To save the consensus on the draft resolution, Kyrgyzstan proposed the written amendments: that States had the primary responsibility to ensure the full realization of all human rights and must take steps to achieve progressively the full realization of the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation on their own territories by all appropriate means, and to ensure the progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for all within their own territories in a non-discriminatory matter while eliminating inequalities in access.

Germany, in a general comment, said it could not accept the amendment L.25 as it was narrowing the right to safe drinking water and sanitation to State territory.  It went against the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and questioned the very foundation of the Council and its mechanisms.  Germany called for a vote on the amendment.

Iceland, in a general comment, said it could not support the amendment.  The access to safe drinking water was central to living a life in dignity and it derived from the right of an adequate standard of living.  Attempting to narrow this right was against the fundamental spirit of the Council.  Iceland would vote no on L.25 and encouraged others to do so.

Switzerland, in a general comment, said it could not agree to the amendment.  The realization of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation could not stop at the State border.  The amendment was at odds with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and against the fundamental spirit of the Council which strived towards international cooperation.  Switzerland regretted that Kyrgyzstan presented as an amendment something which could have been introduced as an explanation of position.

The Council then rejected amendment L.25 by a vote of 2 in favour, 33 against, and 12 abstentions.  

Kyrgyzstan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, explained that it had not managed to come to a consensus with the sponsoring States, and given that the Council had rejected its amendment, Kyrgyzstan said it had no choice but to put the entire resolution to a vote and would be voting against it.

Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it was of vital importance to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation because of the many people who suffered from water shortage.  Panama recognized that the right to water and sanitation was vital to the enjoyment of human rights more broadly.  Panama noted the grave impact of lack of access to water and sanitation, particularly on women and children who were facing greater obstacles every day.  Panama emphasized that the text submitted by the resolution’s sponsors was the outcome of an open consultation process where respect and constructive dialogue prevailed.  Panama regretted the fact that the resolution was put to a vote, and said it would be voting in favour of the draft resolution.

The Council then adopted resolution L.11 by a vote of 44 in favour, 7 against, and 1 abstention.

Action on Resolution on the Right to Development

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.12) on The right to development, adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 12 against and five abstentions, the Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner, in the implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development, to take sufficient measures to ensure balanced and visible allocation of resources and due attention to ensure the visibility of the right to development by identifying and implementing tangible projects dedicated to the right to development; decides, inter alia, that the Working Group [on the Right to Development] at its twentieth session shall commence the discussion to elaborate a draft legally binding instrument on the right to development through a collaborative process of engagement, including on the content and scope of the future instrument; and that the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group shall prepare a draft legally binding instrument on the basis of the discussions held during the twentieth session of the Working Group and the resource material from previous Working Group sessions, to serve as a basis for substantive negotiations on a draft legally binding instrument, commencing at its twenty-first session.  The Council requests the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, while taking into account the views of Member States, to prepare a research-based report on the importance of a legally binding instrument on the right to development, to present an oral update on the preparation of the report to the Council at its forty-second session, and to present the report to the Council at its forty-fifth session.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (30): Afghanistan, Angola, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Against (12): Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Abstentions (5): Iceland, Japan, Mexico, Panama and Republic of Korea.

Venezuela, introducing on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement draft resolution L.12, believed that without the right to development, it was not possible to have other human rights.  The right to development should be raised to the same level as other rights and fundamental freedoms.  The Non-Aligned Movement also recognized the efforts of the Working Group and its important contributions to the mandate.  In this vein, the eradication of poverty in all its forms was a critical element to achieving this right.  In the Optional Protocol 17, the Working Group’s mandate was developed.  They asked the Special Rapporteur to prepare a draft, a legally binding instrument, which would serve as a basis for negotiations.  In the Optional Protocol 18, the draft resolution stated that the advisory committee of the Council should prepare a draft to be submitted.  Concluding, the Non-Aligned Movement believed that mainstreaming the right to development was important to the work of the Human Rights Council and the way needed to be smoothed to implement elements of that universal right.
 
Australia, in a general comment, said it could not support the draft resolution L.12 and its efforts to further develop international legal standards for development.  Australia said there were already numerous international human rights treaties, and moreover, Australia worried that the international human rights architecture was already facing great pressure.  Australia therefore could not support a proposal which would put further pressure on the international rights system.

South Africa reminded the Council of the legacy of Kofi Annan: the dream that no one should be left behind.  South Africa emphasized that human rights were at the centre of all United Nations work.  South Africa asked: Who can be opposed to the right of every child to go to bed on a full stomach? Who can be opposed to the right of every child to enjoy safe drinking water and sanitation? South Africa expressed the hope that in the centenary of Nelson Mandela, and in memory of the late Secretary-General Annan, that the Council would stop quibbling about the right to development.  South Africa underlined that the international community could not talk about the promotion and protection of human rights without addressing the problems of poverty and inequality.  The 2030 Agenda was applicable to all.  South Africa called on all States to work constructively in the context of the Intergovernmental Working Group.  South Africa urged all members to support the resolution.

Switzerland, in an explanation of vote before the vote, said that it was crucial to move past the impasse when it came to topics such as this one.  Unfortunately, the Non-Alignment Movement had not opted for a constructive approach, particularly on paragraphs concerning the legally binding instruments.  If co-sponsors were ready to have a more nuanced approached, maybe this would not be a missed opportunity.  According to the General Assembly resolution, the options to achieve the right to development could take different forms.  Switzerland did not believe that a legally binding instrument would be appropriate mechanism to achieve the right to development, which was precisely what the draft resolution suggested.  Switzerland would vote against the resolution and it invited others to do so.

Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its support for the right to development, which required the full realisation of civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.  The importance of a rights-based approach was highlighted, encompassing all human rights, including the right to development, and the primary responsibility for ensuring the realisation of that right was owed by States to their citizens.  The European Union was not in favour of the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument.  The resolution prejudged the outcome of the ongoing discussions in the Working Group.  Divergent views in understanding the right to development remained and there was no common position.  Fundamental differences included the role of indicators, the content of the right to development, and appropriate instruments.  Disappointment was expressed that the Non-Aligned Movement had not shown flexibility during the negotiations on this resolution and failed to accommodate concerns put forward during the process.  The European Union would not support the resolution.

Iceland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said one of the major advances of the Sustainable Development Goals compared with the Millennium Development Goals was that they applied to developed and developing countries alike.  Human rights were essential components to human rights and the goal to leave no one behind served as an inclusive policy.  Iceland believed that was particularly important in their discussion on the right to development as well as on the link between development and human rights.  It was also founded on their commitment in the Vienna Declaration, where they reaffirmed that democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  Iceland would like to continue engaging on the right to development in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with a view to building a foundation for a common understanding among States.  However, the new paragraphs proposed that related to creating a legally binding instrument were not conducive to that goal.  Iceland would abstain from the vote on that resolution.  

Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the international community had a progressive framework and that States should base themselves on that.  It was important to remember that all States had agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, so they did not see the value of a legally binding instrument in that area; compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was more effective.  Strengthening the social needs of the most vulnerable as well as combatting discrimination in all forms was the way to move ahead.  In the past, Mexico voted in favour of the resolution but the current resolution was moving towards being a legally binding instrument.  They hoped to resume a dialogue in the future to bring consensus and urged sponsors to work toward that goal.  

The Council then adopted resolution L.12 by a vote of 30 in favour, 12 against, and 5 abstentions.

Action on Resolution on Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Human Rights in Humanitarian Settings

In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.13/Rev.1) on Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings, adopted without a vote, the Council requests States and other relevant actors to give renewed emphasis to maternal mortality and morbidity initiatives in their development partnerships and international assistance and cooperation arrangements… and to integrate a human rights-based perspective into such initiatives, addressing the impact that discrimination against women and girls has on maternal mortality and morbidity; and requests the High Commissioner to prepare, from within existing resources, … a follow-up report on good practices and challenges to respecting, protecting and fulfilling all human rights in the elimination of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity… and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fifth session.  The Council also requests the High Commissioner… to organize a two-day meeting in 2019, to discuss good practices, gaps and challenges in the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity in humanitarian settings, and to submit a summary report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session.

Colombia, introducing resolution L.13/Rev.1, said it was an honour to present the draft co-sponsored by over 50 States.  The world was facing a huge humanitarian crisis and the Council had to make a difference.  Women and girls were exposed to trafficking, sexual slavery, forced sterilization, unwanted pregnancies and sexual violence, particularly in situations of forced displacement.  The resolution recognized such tragic realities and sought to provide a response in terms of prevention and offering remedies.  It asked for better data collection, better coordination between humanitarian and development actors and better international cooperation.  It was asking for a meeting in 2019 to be held to discuss practices on preventing maternal mortality and morbidity.  If correctly implemented, the Council would be saving lives of girls and women everywhere.  The high participation of countries during the drafting process was commended and the States were asked to adopt the resolution by consensus.

Action on Amendment L.31

Russia, introducing amendment L.31, noted the constructive approach taken by sponsors in search for acceptable wording.  However, there were still contradictory ideas in the text, so Russia on behalf of other countries introduced the amendment.  The approach towards preventing maternal mortality and morbidity was agreed.  However, was comprehensive sexual education really such a significant factor in preventing it?  It was important to raise awareness of girls; however, there was no direct link to prevention of maternal mortality and morbidity.  Such an approach could be detrimental to the well-being of girls, which would run counter to the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Post-natal services, nutrition and adequate medicine were missing in a humanitarian setting, not sexual education.

Iceland, in general comment explaining the position of co-sponsors, said that they could not accept the amendment from the Russian Federation, which sought to remove the term ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ and the references to sexual and reproductive health education in the context of women and girls living in humanitarian settings, who faced disproportionate vulnerability.  Iceland reminded the Council that it had often reaffirmed the importance of sexuality and reproductive education for women and girls, and underlined the importance for the Council to maintain consistency with respect to this issue.  Iceland called for a vote on the proposed amendment and encouraged members to vote against this amendment.

Egypt, in a general comment, said that preventing maternal mortality and morbidity was a central concern of the Egyptian Government.  However, Egypt regretted that it was not possible to reach a more balanced text which took into account other dimensions, including the necessity for international cooperation in access to health.  Egypt emphasized that while it applied age appropriate education on sexual health, it rejected the term ‘comprehensive sexual education,’ fearing that it would lead to promote issues such as abortion and same-sex sexual relations.  Egypt underlined that while it firmly believed in the equal rights of women, it remained worried about the unjustified obsession with matters of sexuality and sexual health. Egypt emphasized that ensuring the right of everyone to the highest standard of reproductive and sexual health must be achieved while respecting the sovereign rights of each country, and with respect for the religious and cultural background of its people.

Mexico, in a general comment, rejected draft resolution L.31.  As Iceland said, certain paragraphs in the resolution referred to women and children in a humanitarian setting and had their rights exposed.  Sexual education was integral and vital in that context, as it informed and empowered all people to make free independent decisions on their reproductive health and allowed people to develop a positive view of their sexuality.  Each step should provide that education, essential for preventing discrimination against women and girls.  For those reasons, Mexico would vote no to the resolution.

Pakistan, in a general comment, said they took steps to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity.  Some paragraphs concerning comprehensive sexual education had not been universally agreed upon and those should be consistent with national laws with full respect of religious and cultural backgrounds of each State.  For those reasons, Pakistan would vote for the proposed amendments by the Russian Federation.

Qatar, in a general comment, thanked the sponsors of the resolution, and those that led the negotiations.  Qatar believed the rights of women were a priority, in particular as part of their action to promote human rights.  Laws that strengthened women’s status in society and protected their rights had been undertaken in Qatar.  It hoped to reach a more balanced text without reflecting a unilateral point of view.  Qatar respected all international human rights mechanisms, with respect to nationality as well.  No mandatory aspect should be included, and their interpretation would be in step with their own country’s political and social aspects.  

Australia, in a general comment, said it could not accept amendment L.31, as it removed the responsibility of the State to ensure comprehensive sexual education to all.  It was also against the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular against target 3.7 to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services.  Comprehensive sexual education had been recognized as a human right on its own by the United Nations treaty bodies and Special Procedures.  The importance of comprehensive sexual education in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity was recognized by various United Nations agencies.  Women and girls were at greater risk in humanitarian settings.  Adopting the amendment would mean depriving them of the right to gain understanding on sexual education and make informed and safe choices.

Hungary, in a general comment, attached great importance to preventing maternal mortality and morbidity, which was why Hungary had co-sponsored the resolution.  Hungary was however worried that sponsors failed to accommodate its concerns.  Namely, there were paragraphs which were unclear, as they offered different legal and ethical meaning and could be interpreted differently so Hungary re-emphasized its position.

Iraq, in a general comment, expressed its support for the inalienable human rights of girls and women.  Iraq expressed support for women’s rights to education and healthcare.  However, Iraq expressed disappointment in the wording of the resolution that was not agreed upon during negotiations, which was why it did not agree with the resolution.  Iraq in particular highlighted its opposition to the terminology ‘comprehensive sexual education’, as well as putting adolescent women on an equal footing as adult women.  The resolution exceeded Iraq’s social, cultural and religious values.  Iraq supported the amendment presented by the Russian Federation.

The Council then rejected amendment L.31 by a vote of 14 in favour, 27 against, and 4 abstentions.

Nigeria, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, recognized the important role of the Council’s efforts to combat maternal mortality and morbidity.  They remained fully committed to global efforts in its prevention.  The term comprehensive sexual education did not enjoy universal acceptance and they disassociated themselves from it.

The Council then adopted resolution L.13/Rev.1 without a vote.

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