|09PARISFR1481||2009-11-04 17:41:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Mission UNESCO|
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 PARIS FR 001481
1. Summary: The October 16-21 meeting of the Social and Human
Sciences Commission was the scene of some of the most heated debates
at UNESCO's 35th General Conference. The Commission began its work
by discussing whether to initiate negotiation of a proposed
"Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles in Relation to Climate
Change." Several states (e.g., Canada, UK, Brazil, and the U.S.)
warned that UNESCO should not preempt work being done in preparation
for the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, but small island developing
states (with some blatant cheerleading from the Secretariat) were
keen to proceed. In the end, the Commission confirmed language
agreed at the just-concluded September Executive Board that asked
the Director-General to consult with member states and stakeholders
and submit at the September 2010 Executive Board "a report on the
desirability of preparing a draft declaration of ethical principles
in relation to climate change."
2. A draft resolution submitted by the Secretariat on activities
carried out to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights also sparked controversy. U.S. efforts
to eliminate mentions of rights within UNESCO's competence met
pushback. Not all such references were eliminated. The Secretariat
which again made little pretense of neutrality succeeded in
including language in the resolution adopted that requests the
Secretariat to report on implementation of UNESCO's "Strategy on
Human Rights and the Integrated Strategy to Combat Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance" at its
September 2010 Executive Board session.
3. France's effort to include language in UNESCO's Draft Program
and Budget that would have required UNESCO to undertake "initiatives
to combat anti-semitism" occasioned the longest and most heated
debate. Islamic delegations objected strenuously that such language
was unbalanced and did not require UNESCO to combat other forms of
intolerance. The effort might, nonetheless, have succeeded if not
for an ill-timed intervention by the chair (Lebanon's Salwa Saniora
Baassiri) that overturned a private understanding between France and
Iran that would have allowed adoption of the language in return for
permitting Islamic states to record their concerns for the record.
The chair instead dictated language that made no mention of
anti-semitism and merely enjoined UNESCO to combat "all forms of
racial and/or religious intolerance." France with firm support from
Germany and the U.S. strongly protested the chairperson's action.
Proposed Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles in Relation to
4. The Secretariat kicked off discussion of the climate change
issue by informing Member States that the World Commission on the
Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) had
recommended at its sixth Ordinary Session (June 16-19, 2009, Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia) that UNESCO should develop an ethical framework of
principles in relation to climate change. Assistant
Director-General for Social and Human Sciences Pierre San and
COMEST Chair Alain Pompidou (France) both strongly advocated
immediate action. After an impassioned presentation about the
disappearing Carteret Islands off Papua-New Guinea, ADG San
outlined four broad areas that a universal declaration might focus
on: state responsibilities, access to scientific knowledge,
international solidarity, and dissemination of ethical practices.
He also said that most ethical principles are already articulated in
international frameworks; the principles just need to be adapted to
climate change. San emphasized that UNESCO should claim its "right
place in the climate change debate" and ethics is an area where
UNESCO has a comparative advantage.
5. Several Member States warned that it is premature to decide
whether UNESCO should launch an effort to negotiate a declaration on
climate change ethics. Canada noted the world is not without
ethical principles. The U.K. expressed concern that launching a
separate climate change process at UNESCO will undercut Copenhagen
and referred to COMEST's efforts as "premature." The U.K. strongly
insisted that a decision to go forward with an intergovernmental
negotiation cannot be left to the Executive Board alone and all
Member States at UNESCO need to be consulted. Brazil commented that
this was an "uncalled for initiative," and that Brazil cannot
support any instrument on ethical principles. Japan thought
consideration of this issue should wait until after COP15." The
U.S. noted that climate change is a serious issue, and that ethics
will be an important element in what is discussed in Copenhagen.
The U.S. also stressed that UNESCO should complement not compete
with the Copenhagen process.
6. There was strong support for UNESCO action on the ethics of
climate change from the Caribbean island nations and from the
Scandinavians. Norway intervened in the lengthy debate to note that
the Executive Board had considered this issue in September and had
reached a careful compromise. Norway in the end persuaded the
Commission to adopt the text approved by the Executive Board without
change. This ignited a round of applause from the Commission.
7. As the chair was announcing that the measure had been adopted,
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the United Kingdom representative protested furiously and declared
that the UK must have the Secretariat's assurance that Member States
will be consulted before the report is submitted to the Executive
Board at its 185th Session. This was agreed upon and included in
the final report of the SHS Commission. The original text was
adopted without change.
Report of the Director-General on the Activities carried out to
celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
8. The Report of the Director-General on the Activities carried out
to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights contains a short proposed amendment sponsored by
Austria regarding "the facilitation of youth participation," which
was widely supported and adopted without opposition. The rest of
the text, however, which was drafted by the Secretariat, provoked a
lengthy debate, and resulted in the Commission examining the
document paragraph by paragraph. The representatives of 17 Member
States and one Observer took the floor. Numerous countries proposed
amendments, including the U.S.
9. The U.S. joined other states in stressing the importance of
human rights and endorsed Austria's proposed amendment. The U.S.
raised a couple of questions regarding the cost of human rights
mainstreaming and which UN normative instrument is referenced in
this text. The Netherlands supported the U.S. in regard to
questioning the UN normative instrument. The Netherlands also
supported Cuba in regard to examining the text paragraph by
paragraph. France was in favor the queries put forward by the U.S.
and additionally endorsed the proposed amendment by Austria. France
also stated that it supports UNESCO's efforts in human rights
10. Cuba proposed to add language at the end of para 2 that cited
the Vienna Convention. This proposal was overridden by Canada's
proposed amendment to use the language crafted by the Executive
Board. Cuba wanted to add "universality" and "indivisibility" to
para 2 and was defeated again by Canada, who proposed to use
language approved by the Executive Board. The Commission decided to
replace both para 2 and 3 with the Executive Board language provided
11. The U.S. suggested deleting "the rights within UNESCO's
competence" in para 5. This was accepted without opposition. When
the U.S. made the same argument to delete "...in particular those
within the UNESCO mandate..." in para 7, a debate erupted. The
outgoing UNESCO Board Chairman, Olabiyi Yai (Benin), directed a
question to USDEL, asking why the U.S. would want to remove language
involving the rights within UNESCO's mandate. USDEL stated there
may not be agreement on the rights under the competence of UNESCO.
Additionally, USDEL said his delegation believes human rights are
within the competency of the Human Rights Council.
12. Italy, Peru, and Cuba stated their support for the amendment
proposed by the U.S. in para 5, but did not agree with the U.S.
proposed amendment in para 7. Italy said that eliminating "within
the UNESCO mandate" could imply UNESCO has no human rights authority
at all. Italy stated this is now a question of a legal matter and
requested the Secretariat's legal advisor. Indonesia, Pakistan,
and India were also not in favor amending para 7. India explicitly
said they cannot accept the deletion proposed by the U.S.
13. On the other hand, St. Lucia and France supported the U.S.
amendment in para 7. St. Lucia pointed out that in their opinion
the sentence implied that the financial impact has more seriously
violated the rights within UNESCO's mandate, as opposed to other
rights. France said that using language that refers to only the
rights "within the UNESCO mandate" actually waters down the text.
Luxembourg echoed France's intervention and added that deleting this
language, as the U.S. is proposing, clarifies the text.
14. Germany shared the concerns of the U.S. and suggested replacing
"in particular" with "including." Grenada endorsed Germany's
proposal. The U.S. stated it could accept the proposal made by
Germany. India, however, said it cannot accept it and proposed
replacing "in particular" with "especially."
15. The Chair intervened and proposed replacing "in particular"
with "with particular attention to". The Chair's proposed amendment
16. Regarding operative para 4, the Secretariat proposed moving
Austria's proposed amendment "the facilitation of youth
participation" to operative para 9. This was accepted by the
Commission without opposition.
17. Regarding operative para 5, Canada proposed to keep the
language consistent with other UNESCO documents and use
"research-policy linkages" rather than "policy-oriented research."
This was adopted without opposition. Canada also proposed to
rephrase the later half of para 5, which was accepted and also
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included India's proposal to move "gender equality and women's
rights" to the top of the sentence. The adopted text read
"...including on gender equality and women's rights, on the
relationship between access to safe drinking water, sanitation and
human rights, and on the struggle against poverty, in full
conformity with universal human rights standards".
18. Also, in regard to operative para 5, the U.S. proposed
replacing "universal human rights standards" with "international
human rights law." Canada supported this proposed amendment, but
most countries objected, such as India, who was most vocal. India
stated the U.S. "frequently" tries to replace "standards" with "law"
and asked the legal advisor of the Secretariat to clarify the
difference between the two. The legal advisor said "standards" is
wider in scope and can refer to non-binding instruments. The legal
advisor also said "law" refers to binding instruments only and it
"is our practice to use law". India called a point of order and
asked the Secretariat if international human rights law is better
than universal human rights standards, why did the Secretariat
include this language in the text? The Chair continued to call on
countries and this question was not answered. Indonesia
specifically noted their support for "standards" over "law." Italy
stated it could accept "law" over "standards," but had a problem
with "international" vs. "universal." Additionally, Italy believed
"international" was ambiguous and could also include bilateral
instruments. The Chair stated "standards" is of broader scope and
gaveled through the original text using the phrase "universal human
rights standards." (When the Commission met to approve the Chair's
report, the U.S. asked the Chair to include in her report that the
U.S. preferred to use the term international human rights law.)
19. The document's mention of "right to water" sparked diverging
opinions among some countries. India firmly supported the right to
water and stated that governments have an "obligation" to their
people to uphold this right. Madagascar also supported the language
"right to access safe drinking water." Brazil adamantly disagreed
and noted that the international community has not come to an
agreement on the "right to water." The Netherlands strongly
supported Brazil and said it is premature to refer to "right to
water." France echoed that there is no point in acknowledging a
right that does not exist. The legal advisor of the Secretariat
stated it is not up to him to say if the "right to water" is an
emerging right or not. The legal advisor noted it is up to the
Commission to decide which "rights" are emerging rights.
20. Regarding operative para 6, the U.S. suggested that the name of
the UN normative instrument be specifically mentioned. India
proposed deleting the later half of the sentence which would remove
"...and participation in the elaboration of a United Nations
normative instrument concerning human rights education". India's
proposal was adopted.
21. Regarding operative para 8, Cuba felt the language related to
"new partners" was unclear, but did not propose an amendment. Cuba
did propose, however, adding at the end of the para 8, "avoiding
unnecessary duplication," which was not accepted. Cuba later
amended its proposal to suggest a full stop after "...Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights" which would delete "...the
United Nations treaty bodies, the Human Rights Council and special
procedure mandate holders and to undertake, when necessary, steps to
institutionalize such cooperation;" India supported deleting this
language and noted that any such cooperation with other UN
specialized agencies will require a MOU. Para 8 was adopted with
deleted text as proposed.
22. Regarding operative para 10, the Netherlands questioned what
are UNESCO's "new priorities"? The Secretariat replied the economic
crisis and the environmental crisis. The Secretariat also said that
research is still being conducted on these issues and have not yet
identified the implications of these crises. Canada intervened to
say that it cannot approve "new priorities" if we don't know what
they are and suggested a full stop after "...Related Intolerance"
and start up again with "by taking due account of (deleting: new
priorities and challenges in the area of human rights, notably those
deriving from the global economic and financial crises, as well as
the achievements and) lessons learned from the commemoration of the
60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, and to present a
report thereon to the Executive Board at its 185th session".
Germany was also worried about the Secretariat's explanation and
fully supported Canada. The U.S. and Peru also supported Canada's
proposed amendment, which was adopted.
Revision of the Statutes of the Intergovernmental Committee for
Physical Education and Sport (CIGEPS).
23. Member states gave a Secretariat proposal to revise the
statutes of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education
and Sport (CIGEPS) a rough reception. The Secretariat's draft
proposed to: (1) increase the number of Member States from 18 to
30, (2) establish an International Expert Committee, (3) revitalize
the International Fund for the Development of Physical Education and
Sport, and (4) replace references to physical "activities" with
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physical "education." The representatives of 22 Member States took
the floor. Cuba, as the Chair of CIGEPS, strongly supported the
revisions of the statues, arguing that these changes were necessary
for CIGEPS to operate most effectively and said that this reform
would be carried out through the existing budget. It was backed by
Spain, and garnered additional endorsement from Ecuador, Algeria, El
Salvador, Columbia, Madagascar, Cote D'Ivoire, and Niger.
24. Even with this support the revisions were not adopted. Germany
opposed them, stating it was not in a position to accept these
revisions without having a discussion about the budgetary
implications. Germany's concern was echoed, but articulated in
different ways by India, Finland, Norway, Brazil, Canada, Japan,
India, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Grenada, Czech Republic, and
Barbados. India pointed out that the Executive Board had not
reviewed this item nor had there been an informational meeting on
this topic. Brazil said it was open to revising the statutes but
felt it just did not have enough information on which to base a
decision. In the end, the Commission requested the Director-General
to conduct the required studies and consultations and to submit,
after consideration by CIGEPS, a report thereon containing, if
appropriate, a proposal for revision of the Statutes to the
Executive Board at its 185th session.
Draft Resolutions Relating to the Draft Program and Budget:
25. The Social and Human Sciences Commission also considered
several proposed amendments to UNESCO's draft program and budget.
It notably agreed to adopt 35 C/DR.6 (Islamic Republic of Iran)
which asked UNESCO to strengthen "regional and international
cooperation in the field of bioethics . . .," after clarification
that the proposal had no budgetary implications. A proposal by the
Dominican Republic that asked for UNESCO to promote the
philosophical heritage of each region also was adopted. Other
proposed amendments offered by Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican
Republic, and Egypt were either withdrawn or not retained.
26. A budget amendment proposed by France, supported by Argentina,
and co-sponsored by the Netherlands and Poland caused more
controversy than any other measure in the entire General Conference.
These countries proposed to amend UNESCO's strategy and budget to
request it to encourage ". . . initiatives to combat anti-Semitism
and all other forms of xenophobia, anti-religious and racial
intolerance," while working to implement UNESCO's Integrated
Strategy to Combat Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
27. The French expected their proposal would meet opposition and
had a careful planned strategy to overcome it. First, they
approached like-minded countries like Germany, Netherlands, Czech
Republic, Argentina, and the United States and lined them up to
speak in favor of the French proposal. Second, they also held very
discreet discussions with Iran and obtained agreement that Iran
could ventilate its views but would not/not block consensus on the
28. When the time came for debate on the draft resolution, it
looked like France's scenario would be followed. The U.S. and
others took the floor to support the French text, while Iran, as
expected, criticized it. Specifically, the Iranians complained that
the language proposed by France does not incorporate all forms of
intolerance, such as "islamophobia," and thought France's amendment
was "unnecessary." Significantly, Iran did not offer amendments to
the French text and did not say it would block consensus. Iran's
reservations were supported by Indonesia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, and Cuba. Again, despite the reservations of these
countries, no country said that it would block consensus.
29. SHS Commission Chairperson Salwa Saniora Baassiri (Lebanon)
then destroyed France's careful plan. She suddenly announced that
there was no consensus on the French text. She then dictated aloud
her own version, which left out anti-Semitism and just referred to
combating "all forms of racial and religious intolerance."
Pandemonium followed. Turkey supported the Chair's proposed text.
India suggested replacing "racial" with "ethnic," which was
accepted. Peru thought the reference to all forms of intolerance
was better than specifically mentioning any form of intolerance.
Germany noted that the Commission now has lost consensus; therefore,
Germany proposed using Geneva language, which would have listed
"anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Christianaphobia, and all other forms
of intolerance." Iran supported listing each phobia. Madagascar
criticized the Chair for her intervention and asked that she permit
consensus to stand when it exists. U.S. Ambassador Killion seconded
Madagascar and noted how difficult it is to work on contentious
issues. Furthermore, he said the Chair's intervention raised doubts
as to whether solutions negotiated in good faith would be honored.
Ultimately, the language "encouraging initiatives to combat all
forms of racial and/or religious intolerance" was adopted.
30. Comment: This was not the only time the Chair intervened to
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the detriment of the U.S. (e.g., see para. 18 above). The U.S. and
French delegations both felt the Chair was out of line in imposing
her personal views rather than waiting for a consensus to emerge and
wrote privately to the President of the General Conference, Davidson
Hepburn of Bahamas, to complain strongly. End Comment.
31. France and Germany also insisted in having a reservation on the
text finally adopted be included as a footnote in the written report
of the Commission. This also occasioned a lengthy debate with
frequent appeals to the legal advisor as to what sort of reservation
could be put in the text of the commission's report. Predictably,
Iran intervened to say that if one Member States' statements are
included, all statements should then be included. Pakistan said
this would open up "Pandora's box." Nonetheless, in the end a
footnote was added as follows: "France and Germany expressed
reservation on this point, which will be included in the final
report of the Chair person and the report of the General
32. Other countries followed the French lead and asked that their
reservations be included in the Chair's oral report. The U.S., for
example, in regards to the discussion in Para 18 above, requested
that the Chair report that the U.S. believes that the proper
terminology is "international human rights law," versus "universal
human rights standards". The Chair agreed to include to do so.
33. Madagascar mentioned that the rapporteur (Belgium) summarized in
the oral report the objection made by Brazil to the right to water.
Madagascar asked that the oral report also mention that a number of
African states would like to use the language, "right to water."