Third Committee Delegates Call for Solidarity in Tackling Fallout from COVID-19, Denounce Unequal Vaccine Access, Heavy Toll on Vulnerable Communities

Published date02 October 2021
Publication titleASEAN Tribune

2 October 2021 (UN General Assembly) GENERAL ASSEMBLYTHIRD COMMITTEE


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its general debate today, with delegates expressing concerns about the economic and social toll exacted by COVID-19 on the free expression of human rights and drawing attention to the ways their countries are working to meet the needs of the most vulnerable as they emerge from the crisis.

Pointing to the widening gap in vaccine distribution between the global North and South, representatives from developing countries called for more solidarity, among them, Cuba's representative, who said that until August, more than 80 per cent of the doses globally available were used in high-income countries, even though they represent much less than half the global population.

The representative of China, speaking on behalf of 73 countries, similarly pointed to access challenges encountered by developing countries. He called for vaccine equity, expressing concern over the pandemic's disproportionate impact on women, children, young people, migrants and persons with disabilities.

'The monopoly of vaccines by developed countries is unacceptable,' said Nicaragua's representative, one of many to declare that vaccines must be seen a common good of humanity. Uganda's representative likewise condemned the holding back of vaccines at the expense of poor countries, which should be a 'wake-up call' for developing nations to become more innovative and reduce their dependency on developed countries. Nepal's delegate as well emphasized that the pandemic 'knows no borders' and called for universal access to vaccines.

Speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Trinidad and Tobago's delegate expressed regret over the erosion of hard-won development gains, noting that the pandemic's socioeconomic impact has forced Caribbean countries to reallocate resources. He emphasized that protecting the rights of children is a priority for all CARICOM Governments and that children and youth should have the opportunities and tools they need to reach their full potential.

The representative of Austria condemned persecution, discrimination and violence against minorities, urging Member States to convene a high-level meeting on that issue in September 2022. Emphasizing that free speech is an essential right, he said Austria will present a resolution on the safety of journalists later this year.

Several delegations gave the floor to youth representatives, with the young speaker from Slovenia citing recent research that 30 per cent of his country's youth population reported signs of depression and mental health issues. The youth delegate from Bulgaria outlined a set of priorities for her country's young people.

Various representatives described policies to address the needs of refugees and migrants, with Uganda's delegate noting that his country maintains an open-door policy towards refugees. It now hosts more than 1.4 million people who have fled from elsewhere, making it the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and among the top three in the world. However, hosting refugees poses enormous challenges to local host communities. Calling for more equitable burden-sharing in line with international commitments, he urged the global community to tackle the root causes of displacement.

On that point, El Salvador's representative expressed concern that some States exclude migrants from their COVID-19 responses. She called on States to guarantee that all migrants will have access to diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccinations. 'Vaccine nationalism has no place in this world,' she stressed. Access must be a priority.

Also speaking today were representatives of Luxembourg, Poland, Estonia, Brazil, Indonesia, Oman, Armenia, Iran, Hungary, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Republic of Moldova, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Colombia, Cameroon, Bahrain, Malaysia, Slovakia, Romania, Viet Nam, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Thailand, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Jamaica, Mali, Rwanda, Czech Republic, Maldives, Georgia, Jordan, India, Honduras, Albania, Malta and Portugal.

The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also spoke.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Yemen, Belarus, Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 4 October, to continue its general debate.


ZHANG JUN (China), delivering a joint statement on behalf of 73 countries, said the coronavirus outbreak, one of the greatest challenges in the history of the United Nations, has had a severe impact on all spheres of human society, including exacerbating poverty and hunger. He expressed concern over the pandemic's disproportionate impact on women, children, young people, migrants and persons with disabilities, especially those in vulnerable situations. Warning against hate speech, stigmatization, racism and xenophobia related to the pandemic, he reaffirmed the right of every human being, without distinction, to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. 'The pandemic knows no borders,' he asserted, emphasizing that the solution lies in global solidarity and multilateral cooperation to ensure protection for those most affected, measures to counter misinformation and stigmatization, and in promoting vaccine accessibility and affordability through bilateral and multilateral channels. He pointed out, however, that vaccine equity is still far from being reached, stressing that developing countries in particular lack adequate access to available and affordable vaccines. He went on to warn against vaccine nationalism and the stockpiling of doses.

DENNIS FRANCIS (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the 'Group of 77' developing countries and China, said COVID-19 has increased the hardships of those in already vulnerable situations, a challenge requiring an all-inclusive response. Regrettably, the hard-won gains on the path to development have been eroded, he said, noting that socioeconomic impacts have forced Caribbean countries to reallocate resources. Emphasizing that protecting the rights of children is a priority for all CARICOM Governments, he said children and youth should have the opportunities and tools they need to reach their full potential, including by bridging the digital divide. He went on to state that Governments are designing and implementing programmes to advance the goals of zero hunger, gender equality, peace, justice and strong institutions, stressing that home environments should give equal opportunities to girls and boys.

OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), endorsing the European Union statement, said the protection of human rights is a priority for his country. In that regard, he invited other countries to support Luxembourg's application for membership of the Human Rights Council. Listing his country's priorities for the protection of human rights, he emphasized the urgent need to promote the rule of law and human rights defenders, citing in particular the situations in Myanmar and Syria. He added that the risk of reprisals against human rights defenders in Afghanistan is particularly high. Expressing that civil society continues to be sidelined during United Nations meetings, he said described it as a 'precious source of ideas to achieve peaceful democratic societies'. Stressing his country's support for the protection of women's rights, he welcomed the momentum created by the Gender Equality Forum. He went on to announce that Luxembourg and the European Union will present a resolution on the protection of children's rights.

KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) announced that his country plans to contribute about $190,000 to the World Food Programme (WFP) to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. He said that, as an initiator of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Poland will continue to promote the rights of children. Emphasizing the importance of financing the human rights pillar of the United Nations, particularly during the pandemic, he suggested that States move away from reliance on voluntary contributions and increase funding for human rights through the United Nations regular budget. He went on to express concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, pointing to that country's denial of access to humanitarian convoys. Poland is also concerned about the dire human rights situation and threats to fundamental freedoms in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, as well as the Russian Federation's repression against supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia, he stressed.

ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia), touching upon violence against women and girls amid the coronavirus pandemic, emphasized that the need to empower women and girls is a priority in her country's human rights practice, and addressing challenges relating to the protection of children. Pointing out that a journalist is killed every five days on average, he stressed that access to information and freedom of expression, including media freedom, are key, as is the indispensable role of human rights defenders. She went on to express concern about the human rights situations in Afghanistan, Belarus, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as in Syria. Reiterating the importance of upholding international law, she demanded that in Belarus 'all political prisoners must be released immediately, all perpetrators of the crimes must be brought to justice and punished, democratic elections must be held'.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said that the world is facing the most serious health emergency in living memory, characterized by increasing hunger, growing unemployment and poverty. After initial difficulties...

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