Pakistan + 4 more

Attacks on refugees condemned, humanitarian, non-political nature of High Commissioner's work reaffirmed, under text approved by Third Committee



Sixty-third General Assembly
Third Committee
39th Meeting (AM)

Also Approves Drafts on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, Indigenous Issues, Disabilities Convention, Crime Prevention, Drug Problem, Regional Arrangements

The General Assembly would condemn attacks on refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, and call on concerned States -- and, where applicable, parties involved in an armed conflict -- to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, according to one of seven draft resolutions approved today without a vote by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).

By the terms of that text -- on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees -- the Assembly would strongly reaffirm the humanitarian and non-political character of the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, while recalling that those solutions included voluntary repatriation and, where appropriate, local integration and resettlement in a third country. It would further reaffirm that voluntary repatriation remained the preferred solution, supported as necessary by development assistance to facilitate sustainable reintegration.

At the same time, the text would have the Assembly re-emphasize that the protection of refugees was primarily the responsibility of States, and would strongly emphasize the importance of international solidarity and burden-sharing in that context. In a similar fashion, the Assembly would re-emphasize that the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons was the responsibility of States, in appropriate cooperation with the international community. The Assembly would take note of activities of the Office of the High Commissioner related to protection of, and assistance to, internally displaced persons, though it would emphasize that such activities be consistent with relevant General Assembly resolutions and not undermine the mandate of the Office for refugees and the institution of asylum.

By the same text, the Assembly would further note the importance of States and the Office of the High Commissioner discussing and clarifying the role of the Office in mixed migratory flows, in order to better address protection needs in that context, including by safeguarding access to asylum for those in need of international protection.

Although the draft was approved without a vote, the representative of Pakistan, in a general statement after action, explained his concern over the notion of "local integration" as contained in the text, which could not be an option for the refugee population in Pakistan. He reminded the Committee that large groups of refugees could have adverse impacts on a host country's economy, as well as on the social sector, such as the area of health. The international community must share the burden of responsibility with countries like Pakistan, who had opened their country to large numbers of refugees. In particular, he called on the international community to further support the voluntary return of Afghan refugees currently in Pakistan.

Other drafts approved without a vote today included a text on human rights and extreme poverty which would have the Assembly express concern over the worldwide "crises" in food, energy and finance. With its focus on extreme poverty, the draft would have the Assembly invite relevant parties to contribute to consultations led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor.

Also approved without a vote were draft texts on international cooperation against the world drug problem; strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity; and regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights. In addition, the Committee approved texts on indigenous issues and on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto.

The Committee deferred action on two drafts: on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, as well as on the future operation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.

Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of sixteen draft resolutions on a wide range of topics, including on the report of the Human Rights Council, the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights, and on the right of peoples to self-determination. Two of the drafts were country-specific resolutions -- on the situation of human rights in Myanmar and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In addition to the representative of Pakistan, the representatives of Cuba, United States, South Africa, Venezuela, Iran and Russian Federation also delivered statements before or after acting on the texts.

The Democratic Republic of Korea spoke in the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 18 November, to take action on, and hear the introduction of, additional draft resolutions.