AS (2015) CR 21
2015 ORDINARY SESSION
Tuesday 23 June 2015 at 10 a.m.
Written replies to questions to Mr Ban Ki-moon
1. Mr ARIEV (Ukraine, EPP/CD) – Mr Secretary-General, what is your assessment of the possibility of sending a peace-keeping contingent to Ukraine and why did you go to the military parade of the Russian Federation, a State which has carried out an attack on Ukraine, a fellow member State of the United Nations?
The deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation requires a decision by the Security Council. Accordingly, I remain guided by Security Council members. Thus far, there has been no indication that the Security Council is ready to consider a peacekeeping mission for Ukraine.
The Russian Federation's enormous contributions and sacrifices during World War II, with tens of millions of lives lost, can never be forgotten. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I attended World War II commemorations in Moscow after attending similar events in Gdansk and Kiev, to pay tribute to the countless lives lost in all theatres of this war. I commemorated in solidarity with all of the countries and saluted in particular their veterans who helped to end this vicious war. I also emphasized the message of peace and the need to end the conflict in Ukraine, during all three stops of my May visit to the region.
2. Mr BENSAID (Morocco) – Mr Secretary-General, in less than 40 years, one human being out of four will be African. Plainly, the overall reform of the United Nations system should enable Africa to take its full place in its executive body, the Security Council, through the conferment of seats among its permanent members which are representative of the weight carried by the continent in the world. What is the position in that regard?
Security Council reform is a prerogative of Member States. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that substantial progress will be possible during the current session of the General Assembly. It is important to reform the Council into a more transparent, accountable and broadly representative body. The on-going efforts by African countries towards reform of the Security Council are welcome, and I encourage them to continue their active engagement in the General Assembly negotiations.
3. Mr DE BRUYN (Belgium, NR) – Mr Secretary-General, in many countries in Europe we have recently seen very positive developments in the rights of LGBT people. But, in some, regrettably, things have gone backwards, with the introduction of laws restricting freedom of expression of sexual orientation or gender identity. In most countries, transgender people are still forced to be sterilized before legal gender recognition is possible. From your perspective, do you see human rights applying equally to LGBT people everywhere? What are the obligations of States in this respect and in particular of the Council of Europe?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights unequivocally states that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Everyone -including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people - are entitled to the same human rights, and it is the obligation of all States to protect, respect and fulfil these rights, without discrimination or arbitrary restrictions.
As I have repeatedly stated, the abuses and indignity suffered by members of the LGBT community are an outrage - an affront to the values of the United Nations and to the very idea of universal human rights. I consider the struggle to end these abuses to be a great cause on a par with the struggle to end discrimination against women and on the basis of race. I am a champion of the Free and Equal campaign of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which seeks to raise awareness of violence and discrimination against LGBT people, and to promote fair treatment and generate support for measures to protect their rights I have also taken measures within the United Nations Organization itself to ensure equal entitlements for LGBT staff members by ensuring full benefits to employees in same-sex unions, regardless of whether their home country recognizes marriage equality.
All around the world, including in Europe, we have seen positive developments, as countries have stepped up measures to reduce violence and discrimination faced by LGBT and intersex people. At the same time, in all regions of the world, there are continuing, serious and widespread human rights violations perpetrated, too often with impunity, against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. UN human rights bodies have highlighted five key obligations of States in this respect that apply equally to Council of Europe Member States: to combat homophobic and transphobic violence; to prevent torture and ill-treatment of LGBT and intersex people; to repeal discriminatory laws; to prohibit and combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and to uphold the rights of LGBT and intersex people to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Laws, regulations and policies of all States should thus ensure that sterilization, or procedures resulting in infertility, is not a prerequisite for legal recognition of preferred sex/gender. States should legally recognize the preferred gender of transgender persons without abusive preconditions such as sterilization, forced treatment and divorce. The recent report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides more detailed recommendations (A/HRC/29/23).
4. Ms DE SUTTER (Belgium, SOC) – Mr Secretary-General, despite the fact that the Millennium Development Goals have given significant attention to the protection and empowerment of women and girls, they have only partly achieved their goals. All over the world, women are still victims of discrimination and violence, and they are the first victims of climate change and migration. We are now in the final negotiations of the new sustainable development goals. How do you think they can or should ensure the protection of women’s rights in a more binding way than is currently being negotiated?
I attach great importance to the protection and empowerment of women and girls, and I agree that gender inequality is a pervasive form of inequality around the world. Achieving gender equality requires the involvement of women and men, girls and boys, and is the responsibility of all stakeholders. Transformative changes in laws, social norms, social institutions, and public policies are required. Gender roles and relations must be transformed. We need to advance gender equality in order to realise human rights and create and sustain peaceful societies.
The MDGs saved millions of lives and improved conditions for millions more around the world. The 2015 MDG report confirms that many more girls are now in school compared with 25 years ago. The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled during the same period, although only one in five members is a woman. Since 1990, the maternal mortality ratio declined by almost half worldwide, and most of the reduction has occurred since 2000.
When seeking to migrate, women and girls often fall prey to unscrupulous human traffickers who force them into sexual exploitation. The 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, ratified by 167 countries, is one of our strongest international instruments to combat this heinous crime, to prosecute its perpetrators, and to protect its victims. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, based in Vienna, works tirelessly with Member States to incorporate the protocol into national law. The role of civil society in advocating for greater protection and in combatting discrimination against migrant women and girls before, during and after their migration is essential.
I am very pleased that the proposed post-2015 development agenda, in particular SDG 5, includes firm commitments in the area of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. I believe the SDGs will be successful, because they are building on the lessons learned from the MDGs, and they are directly tackling the structural underpinnings of gender inequality. In addition, SDG 5 enjoys great support by a number of member States, and the cross-cutting issue of gender inequality has been mainstreamed throughout the OWG proposal.
Policy makers should put in place macroeconomic policies that reduce income inequalities; generate decent work for all; regulate labour market and employment policies; provide socially protection to women, and thereby facilitate the realization of women's economic and social rights. Legal and policy frameworks should also be aligned with international human rights norms and standards, eliminate sex- and gender-based discrimination and provide for women's access to justice and their legal empowerment. In addition, environmental and climate policies should enable women's active and equitable involvement in governance, decision-making, access and benefit-sharing related to sustainable use of biodiversity and natural resources.
It is important that the SDG commitments include references to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to international human rights treaties, which of course includes the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women. Member States are also expected to commit to engage in systematic follow-up and review of implementation of the agenda over the next fifteen years. A robust, voluntary, effective, participatory, transparent and integrated follow-up and review framework will make a vital contribution to implementation and will help countries to maximize and track progress in implementing the Agenda in order to ensure that no one is left behind.
5. Mr DIVINA (Italy, NR) – Mr Secretary-General, considering that:
- Italy faces the biggest migration phenomenon in recent centuries;
- the excessive number of migrants arouses reactions of closure and phenomena of intolerance since it is perceived as cultural aggression;
- Italy can no longer cope with the burden of this presence which increases daily;
- France, Switzerland and Austria systematically turn back migrants at the border posts of the Alps;
- no assistance has been given to Italy by either the United Nations or the European Union;
why do the United Nations not tangibly address a situation which has now become intolerable?
The plight of migrants and refugees in the context of the recent crisis in Mediterranean and elsewhere in the world represents a human tragedy. All those fleeing conflicts and persecution should be given protection in a safe environment. Migration policies should be principled and evidence-based and start from the premise that all migrants, regardless of their legal status, how they arrive at borders or where they come from, are entitled to enjoy their human rights, in line with international law. Under international law, the prohibition of refoulement also prohibits States from returning refugees in any manner to countries or territories where their lives or freedom may be threatened because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
I share your concern with regard to the rise in xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance faced by migrants and their families. We need to create a political environment that allows us to sustainably address the issue. Politicians and parliamentarians in particular, play an important role in creating such an environment. I appreciate the challenges faced by countries affected by increased migration, including Italy. I have appealed, including during my visit to Italy this April, to the international community for solidarity and burden-sharing as no single country can alone respond to these challenges. As I have repeatedly stressed, we need to find a comprehensive, rights-based and systemic response to this challenge, including by addressing root causes through sustainable development, protection needs of migrants and refugees in accordance with international law, and taking initiatives to develop safe, regular and orderly channels for migration. I hope the Council of Europe, including the Parliamentary Assembly, as well as national parliaments will strongly support a rights-based response.
I and the UN system attach the utmost importance to this issue. Through the Secretariat and UN agencies, funds, and programmes such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Development Programme, my Special Representative on Migration and Development, and many others, the Organization supports the efforts led by national governments and parliaments, as well as regional and other international organizations, such as the Council of Europe, to address this diverse and complex issue not just in Europe, but across the globe.
I welcome the holding by the European Union and the African Union of a Special Summit on the question of migration on 11-12 November 2015 in Malta. This is a good example of EU and Africa, including those countries that are parties to the Khartoum and the Rabat processes, working closely together on the challenges and opportunities that migration brings.
6. Mr EL OUAFI (Morocco) – Mr Secretary-General, in view of the Geneva treaties of 1951 on the census of refugees and given that:
- Tindouf is the only refugee camp in the entire world not subject to the laws of the receiving country (Algeria), but to the “non-law” of the Polisario separatist group;
- these Tindouf refugees are denied their basic rights, in particular the right to travel and to leave the refugee camps, to return home, or to go to a third country;
- thousands of elderly women and children live in inhumane conditions, without rights, and are forbidden from reuniting with their families or returning home;
do you envisage to take the necessary steps to ensure that the immediate registration of the refugees in the Tindouf camps is put into effect?
In my most recent report to the Security Council on the situation in Western Sahara of 10 April 2015, I noted continuing questions about the number of refugees requiring assistance highlighting the need to address registration of the refugee population. In principle, the responsibility for registration of persons of concern lies with the host government and UNHCR continues to engage with the Algerian authorities on this matter, and has offered technical advice and expertise on registration.
In this context, I have urged the international community to provide urgent additional funding for UNHCR. Since then, the humanitarian situation remains a serious concern, and I call on all donors to increase their support to the refugees, including to UNHCR and WFP. The conditions in the refugee camps only underline the need for a "mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara", as repeatedly called for in successive Security Council Resolutions. Contrary to allegations regarding violations of the refugees' rights, including leaving the camps, the Sahrawi refugees have no restrictions to travel other than the lack of means at their disposal.
7. Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD) – Mr Secretary-General, on 29 January 2015, this Parliamentary Assembly passed almost unanimously a resolution called "Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians". Given the increased number of acts of hostility, violence and discrimination against Christians, I would like to ask you: what is the United Nations doing to uphold the freedom of religion and to ensure the effective enjoyment of the protection of freedom of belief and full participation of Christians in public life, including the protection of core moral values, in particular marriage and the dignity of life?
The UN strongly promotes, and works with States and other actors to protect, the fundamental human right of freedom of religion or belief for all, and condemns persecutions against individuals or groups of all religions and beliefs. Supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief is mandated by the Human Rights Council to identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations through his interim and annual reports or country visits on ways and means to overcome such obstacles. The UN also engages with different stakeholders and partners in combatting intolerance and incitement to hatred.
It is important not to confuse violations of freedom of religion or belief with the erosion of certain Christian family values, for example on LGBT issues. At the same time, it is undeniable that conservative Christians sometimes face a climate of social hostility in Western Europe. Doctrinal secularism has also become a mainstream attitude in parts of Europe and has generated new forms of narrow-mindedness and misunderstandings, even if it has not reached the threshold of a serious violation of freedom of religion or belief. The UN advocates for more dialogue and promotion of tolerance and respect for religious diversity in society in order to overcome stereotypes and foster a better understanding among various constituencies of each other's attitudes and concerns.
8. Mr LE BORGN’ (France, SOC) – Mr Secretary-General, which parts of the world are the most directly affected to date by climate-influenced migration movements and what can the United Nations do to come to the assistance of the populations concerned?
All countries are vulnerable to extreme hazards (flash flooding, prolonged drought, intense hurricanes and cyclones). Areas of the world where migration could be particularly influenced by deteriorating environmental and climatic situation include: the Sahel region, parts of West Africa, including Senegal, South Asia (Bangladesh, but also Nepal and countries affected by glacier melt in the Himalaya's), and parts of Southern Latin America that depend on Andean glaciers for fresh water.
Asia is home to 60 per cent of the world's population, but accounted for 87 per cent of the people displaced by disasters worldwide in 2014. 16.7 million people were forced to flee their homes in the region. Eleven of the 20 countries worst affected by displacement over the last seven years are in Asia. Europe experienced double its average level of displacement for the past seven years in 2014, with 190,000 people displaced, most of them by flooding in the Balkans and Hungary.
Developing countries are consistently the worst affected, with almost 175 million people displaced since 2008, accounting for 95 per cent of the global total. The figure for 2014 was 17.4 million, or 91 per cent of the global total.
We are at a turning point. It is important to ensure that important policy processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendal Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and preparatory work for the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit take human mobility into account. Each of these may offer tools to assist vulnerable populations.
UN agencies can play a catalytic and co-ordinating role in a wide variety of areas relevant to disaster and climate change related displacement, including protection of internally displaced persons, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and resilience building. UNHCR, for example, co-ordinates an Advisory Group on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Human Mobility, which has been providing evidence from the most recent research to the Parties in the process. UN agencies also contribute by identifying people at risk of being displaced, strengthening early warning, risk transfer and social protection measures, and fostering coherence and complementarity between the initiatives of countries and multilateral organisations.
9. Mr NEGUTA (Republic of Moldova, SOC) – Mr Secretary-General, the countries of the East European group have many problems. The election as UN Secretary-General in 2016 of a politician from a country of this group would breathe moderate optimism into the citizens and would constitute a proper rotation. What are the chances for this?
The selection of the next Secretary-General of the United Nations is the responsibility of UN Member States.
Mr Secretary-General, an article of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova proclaims its permanent neutrality. It has operated for 20 years now, but we have not yet received real recognition for this constitutional provision. Many political forces, including the Socialist Party which I represent, consider it necessary to adopt institutional legislation which would amplify this status of permanent neutrality. Given that we need UN support to achieve this aim, can we count on the support of the Organisation that you represent and do you believe that Moldova can obtain recognition for its permanent neutral status?
I have taken note of the intent of the Republic of Moldova to seek international recognition for its permanent status of neutrality, enshrined in its Constitution. A number of countries have over the years declared themselves neutral, though they have taken different paths to have their status recognized. One country that has had its status as permanently neutral formally recognized by the United Nations is Turkmenistan, whose permanent neutrality was supported by the UN General Assembly through resolution A/RES/50/80 in 1995. It is for Moldova and the UN Member States to come to an agreement on whether such a resolution concerning Moldova's status would be possible or not.
10. Ms OHLSSON (Sweden, SOC) – Mr Secretary-General, living free from violence is a human right. At the same time, we know that millions of women and girls around the world, both in peace and war, are beaten, raped, mutilated and killed – because they are girls (cause of death unknown). How can we stop this gender-based violence?
Rape does not just impact the individual, it is devastating, and has an impact on the family and often on the community. We have to make every effort to ensure that it is not cost-free to rape a woman, child or man. My Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has been working with national authorities to strengthen military and civilian justice systems to respond effectively to fighting sexual violence, hold people accountable through prosecutions, and address the issue of impunity. One major challenge is to address crimes committed by non-State actors who may not follow the same rules of engagement and are not necessarily accessible. In all of this, it is critical to redirect the stigma of sexual violence from the victims to the perpetrators, and to do this, it must be a priority to create the necessary protective environment for survivors to come forward, and to put in place the requisite services to help them. Beyond this, the most effective way to put a stop to sexual and gender-based violence is to ensure a radical change in the norms and values that allow it to happen in the first place, educating young people, both girls and boys, and putting in place public policies and interventions that promote gender equality.
11. Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands, EPP/CD) – Mr Secretary-General, I would like to raise the issue of Anders Kompass, who sent a report to the French authorities that detailed what can only be described as crimes that shock the conscience: the rape of starving refugee boys in the Central African Republic by French troops. Nevertheless, Mr. Kompass is the only one to have suffered consequences for his actions.
How are Mr. Kompass’s actions not in line with the OHCHR mandate and his duties as a human rights officer?
Confidentiality forms one of the central tenets of the UN's human rights work. Respect for confidentiality is fundamental. Any breach of confidentiality can have serious consequences for the victims, as well as those providing the information or those implicated. It can also endanger the credibility and safety of human rights officers and the confidence enjoyed by the UN's field presence among the local population. Ultimately, it undermines the effectiveness of the UN's human rights work.
The do no harm principle should underpin all our work on these matters. UN officials have to make every effort to avoid causing harm in the conduct of their work, so as to avoid jeopardising the safety of victims, witnesses and other individuals with whom they come into contact. It is therefore of the utmost concern that the principles of do no harm and of confidentiality may have been breached in this case. This is the reason the High Commissioner launched an OIOS investigation - which is still ongoing. As you know, I have appointed an External Independent Review to examine the UN system's handling of the allegations of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic. The Review will have a broader scope than the OIOS investigation launched by the High Commissioner.
I hope it will shed light on this case and make recommendations to prevent such situations from arising in the future.
The United Nations maintains that Anders Kompass ’leaked’ the report on child sex abuse in the Central African Republic. Yet he sent it through official channels to the French mission and the report was sent to your office where it was received and acknowledged. These don’t seem to be the actions of a "leaker" but rather someone who thought he was doing his job. Why then was he put on leave and investigated?
As you are aware, the Secretary-General has appointed a panel to conduct an external independent review of a number of issues regarding this matter, including those referred to in the two questions above. The Secretary-General does not wish to interfere in any way with the panel's review by responding to these questions at this stage. The UN will be guided by the report of the panel.
How does the UN protect whistle blowers?
The UN's policy for the protection of whistle blowers is set forth in ST/SGB/2005/21 on "Protection against retaliation for reporting misconduct and for cooperating with duly authorized audits and investigations", a copy of which is attached herewith.
12. Mr ROCHEBLOINE (France, EPP/CD) – Mr Secretary-General, how do you assess the recent encyclical of Pope Francis on “care for our common home”? How, to your mind, can the Council of Europe encourage the search for the political choices whose necessity the Pope so forcefully proclaims?
I welcomed the release of Pope Francis' Papal Encyclical in which the leader of the Catholic Church deplored climate change as one of the principal challenges facing humanity and called for a 'new dialogue' about shaping the future of our planet. Humanity has a significant obligation to care for and protect our common home, the planet Earth, and to show solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable members of society who are suffering most from climate impacts.
I urge governments to place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement in Paris this year. I welcome the contributions of all religious leaders, people of influence as well as intergovernmental organizations, such as the Council of Europe, in responding to the climate challenge and in strengthening sustainable development.
13. Mr ROUQUET (France, SOC) – Mr Secretary-General, you emphasised how heavy a collective responsibility we bear for the plight of the migrants in the Mediterranean. Given that in July the International Conference on Financing for Development will take place in Addis Ababa, which decisions do you expect of the European countries in order to give the youth of Africa, risking their lives to flee from poverty, a future in their country?
I have repeatedly called for a comprehensive, rights-based and systemic response to the challenge of migration. Sustainable development is a crucial component of efforts to address the root causes of migration, including poverty and a lack of economic opportunities. Three key events in 2015 - on climate change, sustainable development, and development financing - are a unique opportunity to put the world on a safer, more sustainable and equitable pathway. Sustainable development financing and the concrete outcomes in Addis Ababa on the means of implementation are critical for the implementation of the future development agenda, and leverage political momentum towards the summits in New York and Paris. Therefore, I have called on all Member States, including European countries, to set the world on the right course, based on the foundation of a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development as agreed in Addis Ababa, towards an agenda for people and our planet.
14. Mr SABELLA (Palestine) – Mr Secretary-General, Palestine remains under Israeli occupation, the efforts of the last twenty years for a negotiated settlement not having borne fruit. Isn’t it time for the United Nations to uphold international legitimacy and to recognize a State for the Palestinians through an appropriate Security Council resolution? Would the efforts of Mr Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, bear fruits in this regard? How would you ensure that the conclusions of the latest report on Gaza are implemented by the United Nations?
The United Nations remains committed to a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine resulting in two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Any decision on membership in the organization and/or any resolution towards the recognition of Palestine as a State remain under the strict purview of Members States.
While I have called for the international community's renewed, active engagement in advancing the Middle East Peace Process, I believe that the only path towards a sustainable peace is through direct and meaningful negotiations between the parties. Israelis and Palestinians must return to the negotiating table in good faith.
I have taken note of the recent release of the Human Rights Council's independent Commission of Inquiry's report on Gaza as well as of the Human Rights Council's adoption of a resolution calling on Israel and the Palestinians to prosecute alleged war crimes committed in Gaza during the 2014 conflict. The implementation of the report's conclusions rests with the Human Rights Council.
15. Mr YATIM (Morocco) – Mr Secretary-General, one of the main aims of the United Nations is preserving peace and stability. The Council of Europe, through its neighbourhood policy, also works towards the same goal by furthering the values of democracy, human rights and rule of law. How do you assess this complementarity and how do you envisage promoting it? Which roles can the parliamentarians play to that end? Which role regarding this do you think Morocco can perform as a favoured partner in the neighbourhood policy?
I commend the Council of Europe, its members, and its partners for their efforts to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Indeed, the United Nations also works towards peace and security, development, democratic governance and human rights. As you rightly suggest, it is a common endeavour of many actors. The UN and the Council of Europe are not striving towards these goals alone, but, as envisioned in the UN Charter, our joint efforts involve people, civil society, the private sector, Member States, regional and international partners. Only when these efforts are complementary can we be truly effective. I am grateful to the Council of Europe, including its Parliamentary Assembly, for its co-operation with the UN towards these ends.Parliamentarians play an important role in the democratic process and governance. Parliamentarians continue to shape the institutions and hold them accountable, they ensure the plurality of the public discourse, and translate the will of the people into legislative decisions. They foster a continuous dialogue and an exchange of ideas, also across continents, without which democracy cannot be the living ideal it needs to be.