EU Actions in International Fora

AuthorEuropean Union Publications Office
Pages61 - 65

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5.1. 60th session of the UN General Assembly: Th Third Committee

The UNGA Third Committee took place from 3 October to 23 November 2005. Of the 62 resolutions considered by the Third Committee, 58 were adopted, a total of three resolutions (Human rights and Corruption [introduced by USA], Human Rights Mainstreaming [NL/BE] and Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Children [Egypt]) were withdrawn and only one resolution (Situation of Human Rights in Sudan [EU]) fell to a “no-action motion”. Eight resolutions dealt with by Third Committee experts were considered directly in the General Assembly Plenary.

As in the past, the EU played a leading role in the work of the Committee. The EU Presidency delivered a total of 27 statements and explanations of vote and of position in the Third Committee, and the EU as a whole, including individual Member State initiatives, tabled 19 resolutions, which represented about one-third of the adopted resolutions. On 6 of these drafts there was a vote.

The EU achieved some notable successes on country resolutions, despite a worsening atmosphere and increased number of no- action motions. The EU presented six country-specifi c resolutions, of which fi ve were adopted (Myanmar, DRC, DPRK, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan). The resolution on Turkmenistan was cotabled with the USA and the one on the DPRK with Japan. The Third Committee took place against the background of negotiations to establish the Human Rights Council and the most contentious issue in those negotiations was how to deal with country situations. This spilt over into Third Committee, where the trend begun in 2004 of presenting no-action motions on country resolutions, was extended to all but one of the EU's initiatives (DRC). Regrettably, the EU narrowly lost the no-action motion on Sudan. But no-action motions were defeated and resolutions subsequently adopted on Burma/Myanmar, DPRK, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. A resolution on Iran, that what presented by Canada and cosponsored by EU-25 was adopted after a vote.

The resolution on Burma/Myanmar expresses grave concern over, among other things, continued denial of freedom for human rights defenders to pursue their activities. It strongly calls on the Myanmar Government to end systematic human rights violations; to bring to justice human rights abusers, and to make it a high priority to become party to all international human rights instruments. It also strongly calls on Myanmar offcials to end recruitment and increase demobilisation of child soldiers and maintain close dialogue with UNICEF, to end widespread rape and sexual violence by the armed forces, and end systematic enforced displacement that led to refugee fl ows to neighbouring countries. Furthermore, it calls on Myanmar offcials to release all political prisoners, and fully cooperate with the Special Envoy and the Special Rapporteur to bring the country towards civilian rule. The resolution was adopted without vote.

The resolution on the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan was a new resolution in the UN General Assembly. It expressed grave concern over allegations of serious human rights violations in Uzbekistan, particularly the Government's use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force to quell the May 2005 Andijan demonstrations resulting in many civilian casualties; pressure to prevent Uzbek refugees from travelling to third countries; arbitrary arrest and detention; increasing restrictions on and harassment and censorship of journalists and civil society activities; continued blocking of opposition parties; lack of freedom of thought and religion; and serious constraints and harassment of non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders, including the ICRC. The resolution was adopted by vote of 73 in favour to 38 against, with 58 abstentions.

In 2005 the resolution on Turkmenistan was cotabled by the US and the EU, though initially drafted by the US, and amended following some comments from the EU and other co-sponsors. The text was adopted by a vote of 70 in favour to 38 against, with 58 abstentions. The resolution had over 40 co-sponsors and was also supported by many Latin American States. The OIC had a group position to support the censure motion, and subsequently to vote against the text, though some delegations abstained (Tunisia, Algeria) or were absent during the vote (TR) as in previous years. The Russian Federation also abstained in the vote on the resolution itself. Many of the African group, which did not have a common position, also abstained on the text. The resolution expressed grave concern at human rights violations, including the repression of political opposition, arbitrary detentions, imprisonment and surveil-lance as well as at poor prison conditions and credible reports of torture and mistreatment of detainees, at the Government's complete control of the media and continued restrictions on the exercise of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.

On DRC, the DRC played a constructive role throughout, including voting for the text. In this resolution, the GA condemns ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. It urges all parties to the confl ict to cease hostilities, and calls upon the Government of National Unity and Transition to hold free and transparent elections and to re-establish stability and the rule of law, comply fully with international human rights obligations, and continue to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms. The resolution was adopted by a recorded vote of 96-2 (Uganda and Rwanda) with 66 abstentions.

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The traditional CHR resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK came for the fi rst time to the GA with much press attention. In the resolution, the GA expresses serious concern over a long list of human rights violations in the DPRK and the refusal of its Government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights. The GA notes serious concern over severe sanctions imposed on citizens repatriated from abroad, the abduction of foreigners, restrictions of the freedom of religion, expression and assembly and traffcking of women. The resolution was introduced by the UK on behalf of the EU/ Japan and had over 40 co-sponsors. It was adopted by 84 to 22 with 62 abstentions

On thematic initiatives, the EU resolution on Religious Intolerance was adopted after lengthy negotiations by consensus with new and welcome language on the right to change religion or belief. On the Rights of the Child, as in 2004, the GRULAC (Latin American and Caribbean Group) split over the issues of corporal punishment in schools and CARICOM (Caribbean Community) as a whole refused to join the main sponsors. The resulting text – which contained a strong, focussed section on children with HIV/AIDS – was acceptable to the EU and was passed but was subjected to a large number of votes. The draft was adopted with 173 delegations voting in favour to 1 against (USA), with 1 abstention (Nauru). The resolution had over 100 co-sponsors. In additional to its own initiative on the Rights of the Child, the EU25 co-sponsored the resolution on the Girl Child introduced by Namibia.

The EU maintained a common position on all but two of the 69 resolutions (Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, known as INSTRAW). There were only two split EU votes – INSTRAW and Right to Development – though this was reduced to only one (INSTRAW) upon adoption of the resolutions in Plenary.

The national initiatives of EU Member States – Torture (DK), International Covenants (SE), Minorities and Administration of Justice (AT) – were also successfully adopted. Gains were also made on non-EU texts where determined engagement by the EU on the most problematic elements of some third country resolutions produced modest results, but perhaps opened the door for further dialogue and improvement in the future.

5.2. Establishment of the Human Rights Council, UN Reform

At the UN summit in September 2005, Heads of States and Government resolved to establish a Human Rights Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights. The details of how the HRC would operate, its mandate, functions and working methods were left to be worked out by the General Assembly as soon as possible during its 60th session.

Building on the provisions of the outcome document of the UN summit, consultations on the modalities and details of the HRC started immediately under the guidance of the President of the GA, Jan Eliasson, assisted by two Co-chairs (Republic of Panama and South Africa). The aim was to fi nalise negotiations and establish a Human Rights Council by the end of 2005. Albeit various eff orts by the Co-chairs, including four open-ended consultations, and major lobbying efforts from the EU and other likeminded states, continuing strong disagreement on the HRC among delegations, made an agreement before Christmas impossible.

In January 2006 consultations resumed in New York and continued until March. Finally, on 15 March GA Resolution 60/251 on the establishment of a Human Rights Council was adopted after a vote. The clear voting result, with 170 in favour, 4 no votes and 3 abstentions gave a clear signal and a strong impulse for the ongoing reform process. There was broad agreement among delegations that the establishment of the Human Rights Council constitutes an essential element in further strengthening the UN human rights machinery and represents an important step in the UN reform process. The US voted against the resolution, but pledged to work cooperatively and constructively with the Council. In its Explanation of Vote at the time of the adoption of the GA's resolution establishing the Human Rights Council, the US explained that their reasons for voting against the resolution were the lack of an eff ective mechanism to prevent countries with a questionable human rights record to sit on the Council.

The EU, all along, participated very actively in the negotiations. From the outset the EU has aimed for a Council that would be equipped with the status, mandate, structures and membership necessary to give human rights the central role foreseen by the Charter of the UN. The EU has supported proposals that would make the new Council a genuine improvement in relation to the existing Commission on Human Rights. In particular, the EU was lobbying that the new Council should be a standing body, able to address human rights issues and situations as they occur, with real flexibility in the way the Council works, and a focus on dialogue, co-operation and assistance for addressing human rights shortcomings. Also the continuing participation of NGOs and Special Procedures in the new Council, by building on achievements of the CHR, was a clear priority for the EU.

Throughout the whole process the EU undertook lobbying and outreach activities in capitals as well as in New York with the aim to build support for a strong Council. This proved successful in the end as a vast majority supported the fi nal compromise text presented by the President of the General Assembly. The European Union member states pledged not to support countries in elections to the Human Rights Council which are under sanctions of the Security Council for human rights related reasons.

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Not everything that the EU had aimed for is reflected in the fi nal text of the resolution. The newly established Council represents, however, an improvement over the Commission on Human Rights. The resolution contains several elements which will help to improve the credibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system: higher institutional status as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, which will be reviewed within fi ve years, more regular meetings throughout the year, direct elections of members by an absolute majority of the UN membership, requirement for members of the Council to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and to fully cooperate with the Council, suspension of HRC members in case of gross and systematic human rights violations. The new universal periodic review will submit all states to scrutiny and remind them of their primary responsibility to protect human rights. The participation of NGOs and system of special procedures as crucial elements for the effcient and effective functioning of the Council will be continued.

As mandated by the GA Resolution the elections of the fi rst 47 members of the Council took place on the 9th of May. All candidates submitted voluntary pledges and commitments as foreseen in resolution 60/251, which have been published as offcial UN documents. The EU attached high priority to improve the membership in the Human Rights Council. For this purpose the EU agreed on a common approach guiding individual member states in the elections. For this purpose, the EU member states agreed not to support candidates responsible for gross and systematic human rights violations, in particular candidates under UNSC sanctions for human rights related reasons and candidates whose government are under EU restrictive measures for human rights related reasons.

The establishment of the Human Rights Council also brought to an end the era of the Commission on Human Rights. The last and purely procedural session of the CHR, was held on the 27th of March and lasted only for half a day.

At its last session the Commission transferred all its existing mandates, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities to the Human Rights Council according to the operative paragraph 6 of GA resolution 60/251 of 15th March 2006. Also all the reports of the CHR were referred to the Human Rights Council for further consideration at its fi rst session in June 2006. The EU did not give a statement at the final session of the CHR as only the five regional groups were able to take the fl oor.

The EU declaration which was delivered in Brussels on the occasion of the final session of the CHR reminded that despite the criticism the Commission had attracted in recent years, it had contributed signifi cantly to identifying and addressing challenges for the protection and promotion of human rights. The EU also paid tribute to the human rights instruments and mechanisms created by the Commission and welcomed their further strengthening in the Human Rights Council.

The inaugural session of the Human Rights Council took place from 19 to the 30 June in Geneva. UNGA President Jan Eliasson as well as the newly elected HRC President Luis Alfonso de Alba, the UNSG Kofi Annan, the HCHR Louise Arbour and the 2004 Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai addressed this new institution during its opening ceremony, which was followed by a High Level Segment with the participation of a total of 85 dignitaries. The atmosphere was generally positive and forward- looking with dignitaries expressing great expectations and faith in the new Council while emphasising the need for practical results and follow-up. The EU was represented by the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ursula Plassnik.

In laying the foundation for its future work, the first session of the Council, held in June 2006 did achieve positive but also some less welcome results. Under considerable time constraints and with many issues to be resolved, President De Alba, with the assistance of the Vice-Presidents, steered delegations towards consensus on all outstanding procedural decisions.

The EU was a key player during the first session and delivered altogether 12 statements and two explanations of votes. The majority of EU priorities for the fi rst session, including the adoption of the two standard-setting texts (Convention for the Protection from Enforced Disappearance, Declaration on the rights of the indigenous peoples), the extension of all mandates of Special Procedures to avoid a protection gap during the period of review of their mandates as well as the agreement on a generic agenda and flexible work programme for the fi rst year, were successfully achieved. During the negotiations on the two working groups concerning the review of mandates and the establishment of the UPR-mechanism the EU was able to ensure that the processes will be inclusive and transparent and allow for additional facilitation. The interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights set an important precedent, providing an opportunity for an open and constructive debate on any human rights issue or situation. In its statement, the EU addressed several country situations, such as in Nepal, Sudan, Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Burma/Myanmar. Consensus could also be reached on five priority themes to be discussed under a topical issues heading in the second week of the Council. The EU succeeded in including the situation in Darfur as well as the issue of human rights defenders among these priority themes. The other issues addressed in the debate, which was held in a constructive spirit, were the situation in the OPT, religious intolerance and migration. Throughout these negotiations the participation of NGOs was ensured. The active involvement of NGOs in the interactive dialogue with the HCHR can be considered a small, albeit signifi cant enhancement of their future role in the HRC, which should further be built on for all future inter-active dialogues.

Despite these positive elements, the last days of the session were overshadowed by the deteriorating situation in Palestine which rendered an agreement on a consensual Council statement on the fi ve identifi ed issues impossible and led to the tabling by

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The EU supported and encouraged the enquiries conducted by Mr Terry Davis, Secretary-General of the CoE, and Mr Dick Marty, Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Legal Affairs, into alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe Member States.

5.4. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

For the EU democracy, the rule of law, the promotion and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms are at the very heart of the actions of the OSCE. The OSCE provides an extensive set of politically binding norms in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and mechanisms to monitor the participating States' compliance with them.

The EU voices actively its concerns of human rights violations and faults at the OSCE permanent council and in the OSCE human dimension meetings and conferences. At the permanent council the EU has raised, inter alia, the following issues: human rights violations in Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, death penalty in the United States, elections in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan and the enactment of the Russian law on non-profi t organisations.

The EU made active contributions to the preparations of the ministerial Council of the OSCE, which was held in Ljubljana 6 December 2005. At this meeting the ministers adopted decisions concerning tolerance and non-discrimination, promotion of human rights education and training in the OSCE area, upholding human rights and the rule of law in criminal justice systems, combatting traffcking in human beings, women in conflict prevention, crisis management and post-confl ict rehabilitation, preventing and combating violence against women, and ensuring the highest standards of conduct and accountability of persons serving on international forces and missions.

Tolerance and non-discrimination remained high on the agenda of the OSCE. The participating States condemn without reserve racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance and discrimination, including against Muslims and Christians. The EU has been active in the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination in a comprehensive manner and emphasized that there are no forms of discrimination and intolerance that can be ignored. Kazakstan hosted an extraordinary meeting on inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-ethnic understanding in Almaty 12-13 June. The EU supports actively the work of ODIHR (Offce for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights), including its intention to improve the collection of data and statistics, and is in favour of good cooperation between the EUMC and the ODIHR.

The EU recognises the important role of the annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). The the OIC of two contentious decisions on OPT and religious defamation. The EU, while clearly demonstrating readiness to discuss and engage on both of the issues, explicitly voiced concern to single out specific situations and issues in an unbalanced manner, and was therefore unable to support the texts. The negotiations and voting on these texts also indicated the risk of reverting back to regional block politics and will be a major challenge for the EU to build broad cross-regional support on key human right questions.

On the last day of the HRC, events in the Middle East also triggered a request by the Arab Group to hold a special session on the issue of the occupied Palestinian territories,67 which was subsequently held on the 5th and 6th of July. Although the debate in the plenary was conducted in a constructive atmosphere, the final draft resolution introduced by the OIC again presented the situation in an unbalanced manner and was thus unacceptable for the EU. In spite of the EU voting against the resolution, it was adopted with a clear majority. By adopting the resolution, the HRC decided to dispatch an urgent factfi nding mission headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard.

5.3. Council of Europe

The EU and the Council of Europe (CoE) share the same values and pursue common goals with regard to the protection and the promotion of democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The EU's aim is to enhance the cooperation in these priority areas.

The EU has good cooperation with the CoE in a number of joint projects funded through the EIDHR. Most joint programmes are country-specific and they cover Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine. There are also multilateral thematic joint programmes regarding for instance national minorities, Roma, and the fight against organised crime and corruption.

The EU's main priority at the CoE has been to enhance the implementation of the Warsaw Summit decisions that confirmed the fundamental role of the CoE in promoting and defending human rights, democracy and the rule of law on. The EU aims at reinforcing the relationship between the EU and CoE and guaranteeing the long-term eff ectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights by all appropriate means.

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Goal of the two-week-meeting, held in Warsaw, is to assess, and to ensure follow-up of the activities of the OSCE in the human dimension. In the last meeting special attention was paid to the media freedom, prevention of torture and tolerance and non-discrimination. The EU considers the meeting especially valuable since it provides a forum for genuine interaction with the civil society that can participate in the meeting on an equal footing with the governments.

The EU has emphasized in the ongoing discussions concerning the strengthening the effectiveness of the OSCE the maintenance of the functioning of OSCE human dimension activities, election monitoring and preserving election related commitments as a top priority. The EU continues to support the ODIHR as a focal actor in the OSCE human dimension.

5.5. Analysis of the eff ectiveness of EU Action in international fora

The year covered by this Report was exceptional in terms of the evolution of the global human rights machinery. The outcome of the UN Summit in September 2005, the decision to establish the Human Rights Council in March 2006, and fi nally the inaugural session of the new Council in June 2006 were all essential developments. The EU had a very active role in the negotiations during the whole process and, even if not all EU objectives were fulfilled, it can still be said that the EU's role in promoting this development was significant. Also, in the General Assembly III Committee, the EU was able to have most of its initiatives, including country initiatives, passed.

The new situation, especially working in the framework of a Human Rights Council that is more permanent and has new working methods, will present a challenge also to the EU and its traditional working methods. During the year, the EU continued to improve its internal working practices in relation to human rights fora, for example through clearer identifi cation of priorities and increased contacts with third countries. The EU is conscious of the need to continue developing its working practices, particularly in light of the establishment of the Human Rights Council, which will convene on several occasions throughout the year, and the success of which requires innovative working methods. Already during the fi rst session of the Council, increased burden-sharing among partners, as well as frequent contacts with other delegations proved very useful.

Also in the multilateral framework, the challenge of coherence is clearly relevant: coherence between EU's activities in the various international organisations; systematic follow-up to deliberations on multilateral fora in bilateral relations and contacts; making more systematic use of reports and recommendations by regional and UN human rights mechanisms.

The strength of the EU as an actor in UN fora builds upon the unity of the member states. It is important to make the most of the combined resources of the EU member states.


[67] GA Resolution 60/251 provides for the possibility of a special session on the request of 1/3 of the membership.

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