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Statement by Ambassador Sha Zukang on Human Rights during the Substantive Session of ECOSOC
July 23, 2003, Geneva

2003/07/23

Mr. President,

As the main UN organ for promoting and protecting human rights, the Commission on Human Rights has been given a specific mandate in realizing the purposes of the UN Charter. The Chinese delegation wishes to make the following observations on the work of the Commission on Human Rights.

Since its inception, the Commission on Human Rights has played an undeletable historical role in formulating international instruments, in supporting the realization of the right to self-determination and in combating the large-scale violations of human rights caused by foreign aggression and occupation, colonialism, racism and apartheid. However, the Commission on Human Rights was flawed by confrontation along political lines against the international background of fierce rivalry between the two major blocs. With the end of the Cold War, many countries were hoping for a shift in the work of the Commission on Human Rights from confrontation to the genuine promotion and protection of human rights in all countries. However, this legitimate aspiration is yet to become a reality.

At present, the Commission on Human Rights suffers from the problems in the following three areas:

Firstly, the confrontation between the East and the West had been a history, but the confrontation between the North and the South is on the increase. Every year, the Western countries propose many country resolutions directed at developing countries. Most of these resolutions are a result of political confrontation and double standards. If the confrontation between the East and the West was a one between two blocs of equal strength, the North-South confrontation is a confrontation between the rich and the poor countries and is marked by the strong bullying the week. In most cases, the North-South confrontation manifests in the former colonial powers bullying the former colonies. It is a reflection of distorted nostalgic mentality.

Secondly, international instruments such as Vienna Declaration and the Programme of Action reaffirm that civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are of equal importance and that the right to development is an inalienable human right. To some extent, economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development are the foundation for realizing civil and political rights. However, there exists a glaring imbalance in the treatment of two categories of human rights by the Commission on Human Rights. As a result, the realization of the right to development has become indeed an empty slogan and many developing countries are increasingly disappointed at the Commission on Human Rights.

Thirdly, the sessions of the Commission on Human Rights have suffered from an over-crowded agenda, a lengthy duration, disorganized proceedings and low efficiency. Of the ECOSOC functional commissions, only the annual session of the Commission on Human Rights has a duration as long as 6 weeks and requires, nonetheless, many additional meetings. In a bid to increase efficiency, worthwhile attempts were made this year for the Commission on Human Rights. A high-level segment was organized. Interactive dialogues between the thematic procedures of the Commission and its member states were conducted. Under the effective and competent leadership of the Libyan Ambassador Najat Al-Hajjaji, this year's session of the Commission on Human Rights completed its consideration of all the agenda items despite a cancellation of night meetings. However, the organization of work of the Commission on Human Rights still leaves much to be desired.

Mr. President,

The UN Charter clearly provides that to achieve international cooperation is a way of promoting and encouraging the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. There is no doubt that such a provision in the UN Charter is correct and far-sighted.

In order to become an effective organ for promoting and protecting human rights, it is necessary for the Commission on Human Rights to abandon the current way of considering country specific situations, which is characterized by political confrontation. The confrontation should be replaced by dialogue, exchange and cooperation on the basis of equality. The diversity of the world is a reality we must face in a correct way. Prejudice and confrontation will not contribute to human rights or a culture of peace. High-handed power will only sow the seed of hatred and defiance. Only through mutual respect and learning will the countries be able to make up one another's shortcomings in the quest for common progress.

In order to become an effective organ for promoting and protecting human rights, it is imperative to do away with the practice of one-sided emphasis on civil and political rights while ignoring economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development. Equal importance should be accorded to the two categories of human rights. The greatest difficulty facing many developing countries in promoting and protecting human rights lies in the level of their economic development. Without resolving the right to development, other human rights will not be fully and completely realized. The Commission on Human Rights should focus its attention on the legitimate appeals of developing countries and should adopt practical measures to help the people in all countries realize their right to development and their economic, social and cultural rights.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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