Monday, December 21, 2015

Update: UN General Assembly Plenary Vote on North Korean Human Rights, December 18, 2015

by Raymond Ha, HRNK Office Manager & Outreach Coordinator



Following the passage of draft resolution A/C.3/70/L.35 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the Third Committee of the General Assembly on November 18, the human rights situation in North Korea has maintained a high profile at the UN.

Most notably, the Security Council held its second discussion of the subject on December 10, following the historic discussion last December. China requested another procedural vote on whether to keep the human rights situation in North Korea on the agenda of the Security Council, and the motion passed with 9 votes for, 4 against, and 2 abstentions. The subsequent briefing consisted of statements from Jeffrey Feltman (Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs), Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (High Commissioner for Human Rights), all fifteen Security Council members, and the ambassadors of Japan and the Republic of Korea.

A week after the Security Council discussion, the plenary session of the General Assembly convened to consider the report of the Third Committee. Resolution A/C.3/70/L.35 was included on the agenda, and a recorded vote was requested. The resolution (A/RES/70/172) passed with 119 votes for, 19 against, and 48 abstentions.

The analysis below summarizes changes in member states’ voting positions since last month’s vote in the Third Committee, as a follow-up to the initial analysis of the Third Committee vote last month. While a complete analysis is not possible until the official records of the plenary session are released, it is assumed for the purpose of this analysis that all votes, as recorded electronically on December 17, are true and accurate representations of member states’ preferences.


Analysis of Changes in Voting Behavior

The table below extends and updates the information in the previous analysis. Azerbaijan, Equatorial Guinea, and Mongolia are excluded once again, as they did not participate in any of the four votes.


Third Committee
Nov. 18, 2014
111-19-55
(A/C.3/69/L.28/Rev.1*)
Plenary Session
Dec. 18, 2014
116-20-53
(A/RES/69/188)
Third Committee
Nov. 19, 2015
112-19-50
(A/C.3/70/L.35)
Plenary Session
Dec. 17, 2015
119-19-48
(A/RES/70/172)
Algeria
Abstain
Abstain
Against
Against
Antigua-Barbuda
Abstain
Abstain
(Did not vote)
For
Benin
For
For
(Did not vote)
For
Burkina Faso
For
For
Abstain
For
Burundi
For
For
Against
Against
Central African Republic
For
For
(Did not vote)
For
Chad
For
For
(Did not vote)
For
Comoros
Abstain
Abstain
For
For
Congo (Republic of)
Abstain
Abstain
(Did not vote)
For
Dominica
(Did not vote)
For
(Did not vote)
For
Ecuador
Against
Against
Abstain
Abstain
El Salvador
Abstain
For
For
For
Gabon
Abstain
Abstain
For
For
Gambia
Abstain
Against
Abstain
Abstain
Ghana
For
For
Abstain
For
Guinea-Bissau
(Did not vote)
For
For
For
Kiribati
For
For
(Did not vote)
For
Rwanda
For
For
For
(Did not vote)
Sao Tome & Principe
(Did not vote)
For
(Did not vote)
(Did not vote)
Saudi Arabia
Abstain
Abstain
For
For
Seychelles
For
For
For
(Did not vote)
Somalia
For
For
(Did not vote)
Abstain
South Sudan
Abstain
For
For
For
Sri Lanka
Against
Against
For
For
Swaziland
(Did not vote)
(Did not vote)
Abstain
Abstain
Tajikistan
For
Abstain
For
For
Togo
Abstain
Abstain
For
For
Tonga
Abstain
Abstain
For
Vanuatu
For
For
For
(Did not vote)

Table 1: Summary of Changes in Voting Behavior


The list of countries that opposed the resolution did not change between the Third Committee and the plenary session. Algeria and Burundi maintained their opposition to the resolution. Comoros, Gabon, Saudi Arabia, and Togo, which had abstained last year, signaled clear support for the resolution by voting in favor on both occasions this year. Somalia was the only member state that moved away from supporting the resolution, by abstaining during the plenary vote after voting in favor last year.

Three member states moved towards supporting the resolution after abstaining in the Third Committee. Burkina Faso and Ghana, which had voted in favor of the resolution on both occasions last year, reverted to supporting the resolution. Tonga voted in favor of the resolution for the first time since last year.

Most of the member states that did not participate in the Third Committee vote last month voted in favor of the resolution during the plenary session: Antigua-Barbuda, Benin, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Dominica, and Kiribati. This accounts for most of the increase in the number of votes in support of the resolution. Of these seven countries, Antigua-Barbuda and the Republic of the Congo supported the resolution this year after abstaining on both of last year’s votes. Three consistent supporters of the resolution were absent at yesterday’s vote: Rwanda, the Seychelles, and Vanuatu. This indicates that the margin of support for the resolution could arguably have been even wider.