Magazine article UN Chronicle , Vol. 23
Economic and Social Council considers issues relating to human rights, women, drugs, homeless, southern Africa
Action by the 54-member Economic and Social Council at its first regular session of 1986 concerned a wide range of issues, including human rights, illicit drug traffic, the homeless, the status of women, crime control, racial discrimination, population, youth and the disabled. Particular situations relating to southern Africa, the Middle East and other areas of the world were also the focus of Council attention.
The Council, in adopting 43 resolutions and 35 decisions during its four-week session (New York, 28 April-23 May), also reviewed matters relating to the International Year of Peace, being observed during 1986.
Debate on some human rights situations and issues concerning southern Africa, including transnational corporations (TNCs) and mercenaries, resulted in votes reflecting opposing views.
The Council condemmed collaboration by TNCs with South Africa in the nuclear, military and economic fields, and the increased recruitment, financing, training, assembly, transit and use of mercenaries to destabilize and overthrow certain African Governments.
Texts were adopted on the human rights situations in southern Lebanon and Kampuchea, with calls made for withdrawal of troops from both countries. Approval was given to continued monitoring of situations relating to El Salvador, Chile, Iran, Afghanistan, and Guatemala, as well as to investigations of torture, summary executions and disappearances. Calls for support to women in southern Africa and to Palestinian women were also made, and action to advance the status of women in general was recommended.
Preparations continued for the holding of an international conference under United Nations auspices on drug abuse, and the observance of the international Year of Shelter for the Homeless, both in 1987. Other resolutions called for action regarding family violence and physical abuse of women, and for the creation of a crime and criminal justice information network.
The Council approved a number of texts concerned with the situation in southern Africa. Its resolution (1986/1) on TNCs is to be reviewed at the World Conference on Sanctions against Racist South Africa, scheduled for Paris, from 16 to 20 June.
By it, the Council reiterated that their collaboration with South Africa "perpetuates the system of apartheid and the illegal occupation of Namibia'. At the same time, it welcomed as an "initial positive step' measures taken by home countries of certain transnationals to restrict further investment in South Africa and bank loans to the Pretoria regime, and requested more detailed information on TNCs operating in the region.
The body urged implementation of recommendations of an 11-member Panel of Eminent Persons that held public hearings in September 1985 on transnational activities in southern Africa (see UN Chronicle 1985, No. 10/11).
The roll-call vote on the resolution as a whole was 34 in favour to 2 against (United Kingdom, United States), with 6 abstentions (Belgium, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain). Provisions relating to the Panel's work were retained after a separate vote of 23 to 2 (United Kingdom, United States), with 11 abstentions.
In its resolution 1986/43 on mercenaries, the Council said support to mercenaries, including "so-called humanitarian aid', aimed to destabilize and overthrow the Governments of southern African States and fight against national liberation movements of peoples for the exercise of their right to sell-determination. States were called on to ensure that their territories were not used for such purposes.
The vote on the text was 38 to 7 (Belgium, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Finland, Iceland, Jamaica, Spain, Sweden, Turkey). …