|Statement by H. E. Ambassador Liu Zhenmin, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, at the Third Committee of the 63rd Session of the General Assembly under items on Human Rights|
28 October 2008, New York
2008 is a year of extraordinary significance for the international human rights cause. In two months, we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first landmark human rights instrument of the United Nations. The United Nations as well as many countries and regions will celebrate the birth of this historic human rights instrument in various ways.
In retrospect, the United Nations has made numerous achievements over the past 60 years in the field of human rights: a relatively comprehensive international human rights instruments system based on nine core human rights conventions was put in place; since 1980's, more than 30 human rights special procedures covering economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights were established; in 2006, the Human Rights Council replaced the widely criticized Commission on Human Rights and after difficult negotiations among its members, the task of institutional building was completed and the work of the Council has gradually got on track; the Universal Periodic Review has become operational and Member States are generally satisfied with the review process.
At the same time, we have to admit that the United Nations human rights machinery still leaves much room for improvement.
First, there is a considerable gap between the prevailing atmosphere in the Human Rights Council and the spirit advocated by General Assembly Resolution 60/251. In order to avoid the pitfalls of the Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 60/251 explicitly stipulates that the work of the Council should move away from politicization, selectivity and double standard. Regrettably, however, the Council is still repeating the same mistakes of the Commission on Human Rights on many issues, particularly on those involving country-specific human rights situations. Some countries are still keen on selectively naming and shaming other countries.
Second, the developing countries are still under-represented in the United Nations human rights area. This is particularly serious in the composition of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Some of the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) are yet to be implemented. Some special procedures have long been held by candidates from the western countries. The work of the special procedures has not given sufficient consideration to the specificities of different cultures and legal systems. In addition, not many non-governmental organizations from the developing countries participate in international human rights activities. This makes it difficult for the aspirations of the citizens of these countries to be reflected in the relevant activities. In order to resolve the above-mentioned problems, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations recruitment system must work together to eradicate institutional and non-institutional barriers and fully implement the principle of equitable geographical representation. The relevant United Nations departments should continue to help with the capacity-building of NGOs from the developing countries and support their increased participation in human rights activities.
Third, the aspirations of the developing countries for the right to development are far from being realized. Although it's been more than two decades since the Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted, we are still a long way from achieving the goals enshrined in the Declaration. The widening economic gap between the North and the South, mounting trade barriers, harsher terms of foreign assistance, and the negative impact of climate change all make it increasingly difficult for the developing countries to achieve development. The recently concluded High-level Meeting on MDGs reminds us that there is still a long way to go before we achieve the MDGs. The international community should demonstrate political will and provide financial and technical assistance to the developing countries to help them achieve development so as to effectively promote the fulfillment of the right to development.
2008 is also a special year for China. This year, we experienced deep sorrow because of the devastating earthquake that hit Wenchuan County and we shared with all peace-loving peoples of the world the joy of the Beijing Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. In the face of the tragic event, the Chinese Government led our people in responding quickly to the earthquake and organized effectively the relief efforts and post-disaster reconstruction. The government's absolute focus on saving lives, the nation-wide mobilization for rescue and recovery, and the timely and smooth transfer of information fully demonstrate that the Chinese Government attaches great importance to protecting and promoting human rights and consistently puts human life above everything else. The successful hosting of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics has showcased China's achievements in various fields and will further promote development and progress in our country.
2008 marks the 30th anniversary of China's policy of reform and opening-up. Since 1978, we have, mainly with our own efforts and through reform and opening-up, accelerated the pace of development. In less than 30 years, we have brought down the number of people living in absolute poverty from 250 million to around 15 million, achieved free nine-year compulsory education throughout China, particularly in the rural areas and put in place a new type of cooperative health care system mainly financed by the government, which has benefited 800 million farmers. We have set up the system of village and community self-governance for rural and urban residents and introduced public administration transparency, democratic oversight and direct election at the community level. In order to implement the constitutional principle on safeguarding human rights, the Chinese Government is in the process of developing the National Plan of Action on Human Rights 2009-2010 to plan and coordinate in a comprehensive manner the goals and measures of governments at all levels in promoting and protecting human rights in the coming two years.
China will be reviewed by the Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review in February 2009. China attaches great importance to this review. To this end, we have set up the Drafting Working Group on National Human Rights Report, which is led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and composed of more than 30 legislative, judiciary and administrative departments. The drafting group widely consulted non-governmental organizations and academic institutions, and sought public opinion on line. The preparatory work is currently well underway with the initial draft of the report already completed. China looks forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with members of the Human Rights Council.
China has achieved remarkable progress in the promotion and protection of human rights since it adopted the policy of reform and opening-up 30 years ago. At the same time, however, we are soberly aware that China is still a developing country with 1.3 billion population and its development is uneven between urban and rural areas, among different regions and between economic and social fields. The rural areas, particularly those in western China, are underdeveloped. There is still a lot of work to do in the field of human rights. The Chinese Government will continue to abide by the constitutional principle of respecting and safeguarding human rights, implement in good faith the Scientific Outlook on Development with people at its centre, strive to build a harmonious society, and steadfastly promote the cause of human rights in China. At the same time, China will continue to engage in international dialogue and cooperation in the area of human rights and contribute to the healthy development of international human rights cause.
China has presented the candidature of Professor Yang Jia to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Graduated from Harvard University, Professor Yang is the first visually impaired female working in Chinese university and she has devoted herself to the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities for decades. We believe her election will contribute to the work of the Committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.