Third Committee Approves Six Draft Resolutions, Including Texts on Human Rights in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Myanmar, Assistance to Africa’s Displaced

November 15th, 2023  •  Author:   United Nations General Assembly  •  12 minute read
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In another full day of action, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved six resolutions today, including on the human rights situations in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Myanmar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” (document A/C.3/78/L.40/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, introducing the draft also on behalf of the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that, over decades, the Rohingya Muslim minorities have faced systemic rights violations resulting in mass displacement.  Since 2017, over 1 million fled Myanmar to Bangladesh and other countries.  The current situation in Myanmar has only exacerbated their situation, he said, recalling the recent hurricane.  Further tragic developments prevent the voluntary, safe return of these refugees, he said, condemning human rights violations and calling on Myanmar to fulfil its obligations under international law.  He also called on the country to guarantee the safety of all civilians, including the Rohingya and other minorities.  This draft was adopted by consensus for the first time at the seventy-sixth General Assembly session, he said, noting that consensus reflects the international community’s unity in responding to the crisis in Myanmar.  The resolution is balanced, he said, voicing hope that it will be again adopted by consensus.

The representative of Myanmar voiced appreciation that the resolution continues to address the situation of Rohingyas and condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of the inhumane and illegitimate military junta.  Welcoming references in the draft highlighting the military, including references to junta airstrikes and indiscriminate nature of their violence, he noted, however, that the draft falls short of expectations of the Myanmar people.  It lacks references to the illegal military coup, the junta’s atrocities and embargo. Further, references to the National Unity Government should be strengthened, he said.  For over 33 months, Myanmar has suffered from junta violence, including heavy weaponry shelling, ground attacks on civilian areas and massacres, he said, adding that the resolution would be more beneficial for the Rohingya and all minorities in Myanmar if it included practical solutions as well as references addressing root causes of the crisis. The devastating situation on the ground has revealed that the root causes of the crisis in the country, including the Rohingya crisis, point at the inhumane military and its ongoing impunity. “Please do not forget that the Rohingya issue is part of the crisis in Myanmar,” he said, noting that his delegation will support consensus and calling on the Committee to follow suit.

The Committee adopted “L.40/Rev.1” by consensus.  By the text, the Assembly would condemn in the strongest terms all violations and abuses of human rights against civilians, including the arbitrary detention, arrest and politically motivated convictions, sentencing and executions, including of opposition activists, as well as violent acts including extrajudicial killings, sexual and gender-based violence and torture.  It would reiterate its deep concern at the widespread, indiscriminate and excessive use of force by Myanmar security and armed forces across the country, including aerial attacks against and burning of villages and civilian infrastructure.  It would express deep concern that, in Rakhine, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims remain largely segregated and discriminated against with respect to accessing citizenship and enjoying their human rights and fundamental freedoms, many of whom remain confined in camps with no freedom of movement and grossly restricted access to basic services.

Against this backdrop, the Assembly would urgently call on Myanmar or the Myanmar military to end immediately all violations of international law in the country; take all measures necessary to provide justice to victims and ensure full accountability; engage in peaceful dialogue and reconciliation, in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar, including Rohingya Muslims; ensure the right to return of all refugees hosted in other countries; and take concrete actions to create conditions necessary for their voluntary, safe and dignified return and reintegration.  Further, it would request the Secretary-General to swiftly appoint a Special Envoy on Myanmar and to provide all assistance necessary to enable the Special Envoy to effectively discharge its mandate.

Speaking after the adoption, the representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the resolution addresses atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims for many years, which in 2017 led to over 1 million of them leaving the country.  It also addresses human rights abuses on minorities in the country since the illegal 2021 military coup.  Since last year the humanitarian situation has further deteriorated, she said, spotlighting indiscriminate use of force by the military junta, including through air attacks, the burning of villages, attacks on internally displaced persons camps and sexual and gender-based violence.

Journalists and human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained and the Myanmar military continues to block access to humanitarian aid, including after the Mocha cyclone, she added.  Voicing concern that there seems little hope for a safe, voluntary return to the country for Rohingya who are generously hosted in Bangladesh, she called on the international community to act to put an end to the atrocities.  She noted that the text recalls Security Council Resolution 2669 (2022) calling on the Secretary-General to appoint a new Special Envoy to Myanmar, and contains strong references to ongoing procedures of the International Criminal Court.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that his delegation does not support country-specific resolutions and this draft is no exception.  Underscoring the importance of avoiding violence and showing restraint for both sides, he expressed concern over the one-sided presentation of facts by the so-called Independent Investigative Mechanism of Myanmar, which was established without the consent of the concerned country.  Voicing grave concern over 6,700 deaths at the hands of opposition armed groups, including 233 children, she noted that the Organization’s lack of condemnation only serves to escalate the situation.  Further, the draft contains no mention of efforts by Myanmar’s leadership to aid the return of the Rohingya.  For all these reasons, the Russian Federation disassociates from consensus on the draft.

The representative of Thailand said that, given his country’s proximity to Myanmar, establishing a peaceful Myanmar remains a priority.  All parties must cease hostilities and establish peace through constructive engagement with each other and international actors, he said, noting this is the only solution to the crisis in Myanmar  and for the Rohingyas.  The people of Myanmar need a solution that is country-led, he said, noting that Thailand will continue to work with the country to create an environment conducive to solutions, helping it to address trafficking in persons, online scams, and other organized crimes.  Thailand attaches high importance to unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance, he added, voicing support for the role of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in that regard and especially ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus.

The representative of Singapore said the situation in Rakhine State is complex.  Encouraging Myanmar to work with agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to create proper conditions for the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, he recalled that ASEAN, including Singapore, has provided humanitarian assistance in that regard.  However, there must be political stability in Myanmar for there to be stability in Rakhine State, he underlined, expressing grave concern over conditions in Myanmar since the 2021 military coup.  Voicing deep disappointment that the Five-Point Consensus has yet to be implemented, he called on Myanmar authorities to work with ASEAN to implement it without delay.  ASEAN and Singapore will continue to work with external partners to work toward a peaceful solution in Myanmar and look forward to the next Special Envoy on Myanmar, he said.

The representative of Malaysia said that, as a neighbouring country, the situation is gravely concerning for his country.  The ongoing conflict has only exacerbated the situation of the Rohingya, he said, expressing extreme disappointment that the Five-Point Consensus has not been implemented. The Consensus remains the main reference for a solution to the crisis and should be implemented in its entirety, he underscored.  Welcoming Security Council resolution 2669 (2022) supporting ASEAN’s role in finding a peaceful solution to the situation in Myanmar, he lamented the persistent violence in Myanmar.  Follow-up from the Security Council will be crucial, he said, calling on the organ to take decisive action to stop the violence.  He underscored that focus on Myanmar should never forget the Rohingya population and highlighted that the influx of Rohingya are putting pressure on host countries, including Malaysia.  Calling on countries to share the burden of hosting, he underscored that the root causes must be addressed to facilitate their return to Rakhine State.

The representative of Liechtenstein, speaking on behalf of AustraliaCanadaIcelandNew ZealandNorway and Switzerland, said the resolution remains a key priority for her group, but this year’s text lacks language from previous versions, which is regrettable.  The resolution itself acknowledges that the Rohingya crisis has been exacerbated by the 2021 military coup and that root causes must be addressed to solve these interlinked crises.  The draft further illustrates the international community’s commitment to addressing the impunity of the Myanmar military, she said.  Voicing deep concern over ongoing humanitarian crises and deploring the mass violence and human rights violations committed by the military, including the razing of villages and escalating attacks on civilians, she called for accountability.  Her group of countries supports the Independent Accountability Mechanism and continues to call for referral by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court, she said, voicing further support for ASEAN and the Five-Point Consensus.

The representative of Bangladesh said that six years had elapsed since Bangladesh had opened its borders to the Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.  Lamenting a lack of progress allowing their safe return, she said that the root causes remain unaddressed, and the situation continues to deteriorate, given continued armed conflict in the country.  Against this backdrop, she hailed the draft as a significant development and renewed commitment and attention on the issue. Bangladesh is a small, population-dense country with limited resources and the protracted presence of Rohingya inside its borders is not an option, she said.  Favouring the creation of conditions allowing for a safe return, she noted that the responsibility lies with Myanmar to ensure that basic rights, including freedom of movement and access to livelihood opportunities, must be ensured on their return.  The international community and ASEAN are critical in this regard.  This year the text benefits from the first ever Security Council resolution on Myanmar, adopted in September 2022, she added, noting that recognition of ASEAN’s critical role in the region is a welcome improvement.

The representative of Belarus said that his delegation shared the concerns of the international community over the Rohingya Muslim population, but added that numerous resolutions and mandate-holders’ reports are instruments of confrontation and not dialogue.  A new way of solving problems is needed that is agreeable to all parties, he said, noting that, while Belarus supported the approval of the resolution without a vote, it disassociates from consensus given its principled position on country-specific approaches.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the conflict in Myanmar continues, with more than 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and 2 million displaced.  It is essential that Member States halt the flow of arms to the junta regime.  He reiterated that any reparations of Rohingyas must be safe, voluntary, dignified and in consultation with the refugees.  His Government supports the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar and encourages Member States to do likewise. He called for an immediate end to the violence and a return to democracy.

The representative of Indonesia welcomed adoption of the resolution by consensus, adding that it underscores ASEAN’s commitment to resolving the crisis.  That is not only a humanitarian imperative but a crucial component in resolving Myanmar’s broader political challenges, she said.  Inclusive national dialogue through the Five-Point Consensus is vital for establishing lasting peace.  She emphasized the need for sustained support from the international community for Rohingya refugees, expressing concern about the action of the Myanmar junta, which is deepening the humanitarian issues.  She called on the regime to fulfil its obligations towards Rohingyas.

The representative of China expressed support for ASEAN to handle the situation, particularly through its Five-Point Consensus.  The international community must create a favourable environment for this. She described the resolution as seriously unbalanced, adding that exerting pressure on parties may aggravate conflict and hamper effective crisis resolution.  China opposes using human rights as pretext to exert pressure on other countries and setting up country-specific mechanisms without the consent of countries involved.  It therefore disassociates itself from the resolution.

The representative of Myanmar said his country will implement the adopted resolution and continue cooperation with relevant stakeholders.  He urged the international community to render assistance in implementing the text’s recommendations.  Myanmar is determined to end military dictatorship, restore and advance democracy, and seeks support in this regard.  The General Assembly should convene a follow-up plenary on resolution 75/287 on Myanmar to address issues and reinforce Security Council resolution 2669 (2022).  The Council should also adopt and immediately follow up its resolution.  He advised the main sponsors of today’s resolution to engage with his delegation in drafting a subsequent text, which adequately reflects the people’s aspirations.  He urged the UN to decisively act in a timely manner to save the lives of Myanmar’s people.

See the original press release.