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Cablegate: Unga Commemorates Universal Declaration of Human

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DE RUCNDT #1177/01 3521038
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171038Z DEC 08
FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5539
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 0615
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA PRIORITY 1978
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA PRIORITY 0128
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 1352
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 1994
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3464

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 USUN NEW YORK 001177

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA AND IO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2018
TAGS: PREL PHUM AG MO IS NU UNGA
SUBJECT: UNGA COMMEMORATES UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN
RIGHTS 60TH ANNIVERSARY

Classified By: AMBASSADOR T. VANCE MCMAHAN FOR 1.4(B,D).

1. (U) SUMMARY: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) marked the
60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR) in New York on December 10. Despite some initial
uncertainty about which states would be permitted to speak,
the commemoration, which included two panel discussions and a
plenary meeting, proceeded smoothly. Speakers agreed that
while much had been achieved since the adoption of the UDHR,
much remained to be done, and the UN needed to respond to new
challenges presented by the global financial, food, and
energy crises, climate change, and the widening gap between
the rich and the poor resulting in higher poverty levels. In
addition to touching upon the more traditional rights,
speakers focused on "new" human rights including the right to
development and the right to water, and emphasized that equal
attention needed to be given to economic, social and cultural
rights as to civil and political rights. The United States
made a statement in our capacity as the "Host Country."
Israel spoke on behalf of the Western European and Others
Group (WEOG). END SUMMARY

2. (C) During the December 10 UDHR commemorative plenary
meeting, the UNGA adopted by consensus a Declaration on the
anniversary of the UDHR. Five countries, one from each
region, co-authored the draft of a Declaration marking the
60th anniversary of the UDHR: Algeria (Africa), Indonesia
(Asia), Argentina (Latin America), Germany (WEOG, which
includes the United States), and Azerbaijan (Eastern Europe).
The Declaration maintained a generalized, laudatory tone
while avoiding specific enumerations of controversial
documents or situations. The UNGA also adopted by consensus
the Third Committee resolution which took note of the
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights.

3. (C) During his opening statement, Miguel d'Escoto
(Nicaragua), the President of the General Assembly (PGA),
called for adherence to the values enshrined in the UDHR at
this point in history "marked by the maniacal, suicidal
selfishness of an increasingly discredited system aimed at
the ever-increasing concentration of wealth and power." He
outlined a number of phenomena which "we cannot tolerate,"
including poverty, hunger, trafficking in persons,
deforestation, torture, and foreign military bases
established in sovereign nations. The PGA also called for
democratization of the UN, stating "All dictatorships must
end, including dictatorship in this house." These remarks
were in keeping with the PGA's efforts to prevent Israel,
Morocco and the United States from taking the floor during
the commemoration, in direct contravention of established
procedures (see below). While his maneuvers were perceived
both in the press and by delegations as a slight towards
Israel, which held the monthly rotation as WEOG chair in
December, his actions were also apparently aimed at Morocco
(the monthly African group chair) at the instigation of
Algeria.

4. (C) Seven recipients were presented with Human Rights
Awards, including Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General
and defense attorney for Saddam Hussein and Slobodan
Milosevic. The winners were chosen by a committee headed by
PGA D'Escoto and comprised of the Human Rights Council (HRC)
President, the Economic and Social Council President, the
Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women, and the Chair
of the Advisory Committee of the HRC (a Cuban). The other
recipients were Human Rights Watch, Louise Arbour, Dr. Denis
Mukwege, Dr. Carolyn Gomes and, posthumously, Benazir Bhutto
and Sister Dorothy Stang. The seven recipients were chosen
from over 150 nominations provided by governments, NGOs and
individuals after an opaque and secretive vetting process
from which the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights was marginalized.

5. (U) On December 5, after first announcing no Member States
would be allowed to speak at the commemoration, the PGA
reversed himself and scheduled the five regional groups to
speak at the end of the meeting, after the award ceremony and
the formal adoption of the Optional Protocol on Economic,
Social and Cultural rights. The usual practice for such
commemorations, however, as codified by the General Committee

USUN NEW Y 00001177 002 OF 002


of the UNGA, is for speeches to be made by the chairmen of
the Regional Groups and by the Host Country. Under protest
from the USUN, the PGA reluctantly added the host country
back onto the agenda, but said Cuba, as coordinator of the
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), would also be added. Once word
of this departure from normal procedure became known, other
groups also requested a speaking role. Ultimately nine
additional groups spoke in addition to the five regions and
the Host Country: the African Union (Tanzania), the European
Union (EU) (France), the NAM (Cuba), the Arab States (Egypt),
the Rio Group (Mexico), MERCOSUR (Brazil), Nordic Countries
(Iceland), CANZ (Canada), and CARICOM (Guyana). Morocco
(speaking for Africa), Colombia (speaking for Latin America
and the Caribbean), and Cuba (speaking for the NAM), stressed
the importance of the right to development. Egypt (speaking
for the Arab States) and Cuba (speaking for the NAM)
underscored the rights of persons in territories under
foreign occupation, with Egypt calling for the international
community to divest itself of "selectivity, politicization
and double standards," and to reiterate commitment to
supporting the Palestinian people's right to
self-determination. Despite our prior misgivings, the
speeches at the event were less inflammatory than had been
anticipated.

6. (U) Other speakers included the HRC President, the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, and (by video message)
Secretary-General Ban. Speakers agreed that the lack of
political will on the part of some to make the UDHR
principles a reality remained a problem. They also agreed
that the global financial, food, and energy crises were
presenting new challenges on the human rights front, which
required international cooperation. Virtually every speaker
expressed concern about the widening poverty gap, noting that
poverty led to exploitation and abuse. Many speakers
emphasized the need to give as much attention to economic,
social, and cultural rights as given to civil and political
rights.

7. (U) The December 10 UDHR commemorative events also
included panel discussions on lessons learned and on
challenges ahead and the way forward. Panelists agreed that
there had been much progress achieved since the adoption of
the UDHR, but that rights continued to be violated around the
world, and human rights education would be key to moving
forward. Former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights Mary Robinson expressed concerns related to the
fight against terrorism and secret detention. The
representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International echoed similar concerns, though their comments
were not as heated as Robinson's.

8. (U) In addition to touching upon the more traditional
rights, speakers focused on a number of "new" rights which
they argued merited equal attention, namely the right to
development and the right to water. Panelist Maude Barlow, a
water rights activist, made the point that water must be
viewed as a human right rather than a commodity, arguing that
it should be a free public good. A few speakers noted that
some developed countries were more focused on addressing
human rights problems in other countries than those within
their own borders, and Syria raised the need to protect the
human rights of persons living in territories under foreign
occupation.

9. (U) A fuller reflection of the debate during the panel
discussions and the UNGA plenary meeting can be found at
www.un.org/apps/pressreleases. The complete text of the U.S.
statement can be found at www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov.
Khalilzad

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