Explanation of Vote on the draft resolution “Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action” on behalf on the European Union by Mr. Janne Jokinen, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN, UNGA 61st Session, 81st Plenary Meeting; Agenda Item 65(a), New York
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Country former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Liechtenstein, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.
As a result of developments that have taken place since the Third Committee ended its session, it has become necessary for the European Union to make an explanation of vote regarding the draft resolution on Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action.
The European Union attaches the highest importance to combating all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Over the years, we have set up a number of institutions and policies to meet this important goal. To mention just one recent example, the year 2007 has been designated by the European Union as the “European Year for Equal Opportunities for All”; a year devoted to combating all types of discrimination.
The European Union is firmly committed to the implementation of the Declaration and Program of Action of the Durban World Conference. In accordance with our policies on combating racism as well promoting human rights and multilateralism, we aim at a concrete, realistic and constructive follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. We have repeatedly stressed that, in light of the gravity of the subject, the follow-up must be agreed by consensus and has to be carried out as a joint effort of the whole international community. Attempts to politicize the issue should be utterly rejected by all those who are genuinely committed to moving forward, together, on this crucial issue.
Less than three weeks ago, the Third Committee of the General Assembly adopted the draft resolution III contained in the report A/61/441 on Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, presented by the Russian Federation and South Africa on behalf of the Member States of the Group of 77 and the People’s Republic of China.
The European Union had a number of serious concerns regarding the proposals put forward in the negotiations. However, we resolved to negotiate in good faith, and sought to actively engage all delegations, including the main sponsors, so as to overcome differences, and to reach a conclusion that could be supported by all delegations and would make a genuine contribution to the comprehensive implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The European Union was able to vote in favour of the draft resolution – as we have done in previous years – on the basis of the following understanding which the main sponsors of the draft resolution assured us was the framework within which it would be put to
1. The review of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action would be conducted in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly;
2. The review would focus on the implementation of what was agreed in Durban and would not involve any reopening of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;
3. Any preparatory work conducted by the Human Rights Council would not entail the creation of new mechanisms;
4. The Human Rights Council would use for this end its relevant existing follow-up mechanisms, especially the Inter-Governmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
5. The further study of the content and scope of substantive and procedural gaps in the existing framework for combating racism, as identified by the Inter-Governmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, would be carried out by a group of 5 experts who would produce a base document containing concrete recommendations on the means by which such gaps could be bridged, including but not limited to the possible drafting of an additional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination or the adoption of new instruments.
It was with profound dismay and surprise that the European Union, having participated in good faith in the negotiations at the General Assembly, learned a few days later of two texts – contained in documents A/HRC/3/L.2 and A/HRC/3/L.3 – which had been tabled at the Third Session of the Human Rights Council by some of the main sponsors of the draft resolution just adopted by the III Committee. These texts completely contradicted both the spirit and the letter of draft resolution III contained in the report A/61/441 and of the agreed understanding explained above, as well as the consensus reached, in Geneva, at the Inter-Governmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Such a breach of trust casts doubt on the commitment of those states to pursue a consensus approach on this issue. We note once again that the most effective way forward is the one in which all members of the international community can participate equally.
In Geneva, The European Union sought to engage the sponsors of the HRC draft resolutions in negotiations with the objective of bringing the texts into agreement with the draft resolution adopted by the III Committee of the General Assembly. To our deep regret, our efforts met with inexplicable indifference. For obvious reasons, neither text managed to reach anything close to a consensus, and we were compelled to join other delegations in voting against them.
The European Union would like to draw the attention of delegations on the fact that Operative Paragraph 33 and Operative Paragraph 36 of the present draft resolution contain the agreement that was reached among delegations at the Third Committee of the General Assembly on the review of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and on the process through which the framework for combating racism is to be further developed. It is the understanding of the European Union that this review and this process will take place in accordance with, respectively, the provisions of Operative Paragraphs 33 and 36 of the present resolution, consensually, and transparently. These paragraphs formed the basis on which the European Union was able to vote in favor of the resolution in the Third Committee. Any re-interpretation of this understanding is unacceptable.
We call on the co-sponsors of the draft resolution III to take the necessary steps in Geneva to restore the agreed course of action and ensure that the present resolution is properly implemented and that the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee may continue to work towards the same goal in a cohesive and coherent manner.
As we stated in the beginning of this explanation, the European Union attaches great importance to combating racism in all its forms. We intend to take an active part in the implementation of the present resolution, should it be adopted. In doing so, we will firmly resist any effort to exploit this issue for political gain. Let us be clear: the fact that the assurances made to us by some delegations in New York were broken in Geneva is unacceptable. Negotiations cannot prosper in an atmosphere of bad faith. For its part, the European Union will continue to negotiate in good faith. We expect the same from others.
On the basis of the understandings explained above, the European Union will vote in favour of draft resolution III.
Thank you, Madam President.
* the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.