Threats of censorship at the United Nations must be resisted, say NGOs


(Update - 15 November 2016) - A no-action motion proposed by Belarus to prevent consideration or action in relation to country situations of concern by the General Assembly's Third Committee has been resoundingly defeated following an NGO campaign to safeguard freedom of expression and prevent censorship at the UN. The no-action motion was defeated by a vote of 101 to 32, with a further 37 States abstaining. 

(New York) - Open debate on country-focused resolutions is threatened at the United Nations Third Committee on Tuesday. NGOs are urging States not to support a procedural tactic — a 'no-action motion' — designed to halt discussion and action on country situations. This move would provide a worrying precedent, effectively censoring debate about serious human rights situations of concern at the United Nations.

Country-focused resolutions, considered under Third Committee Agenda Item 68(c) focus on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria. The addition to this year’s slate is a resolution on Crimea, tabled by Ukraine, which may be a fillip for this attempt to close down discussion on country resolutions, led by Russia and others. 

In a letter to all Member States of the United Nations, a group of NGOs are emphasising the importance of discussion between States to fulfil the UN Charter, including encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

‘We urge States not to support any procedural tactic designed to stifle debate,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. 

It would be the first time that a single ‘no-action motion’ has been called for on all country resolutions under this agenda item. This move would set a disastrous precedent and signal that the UN is not a place where freedom of expression is respected, nor open debate encouraged. 

‘This would be a terrible message for the UN to send to the world. We urge Member States to refrain from supporting this initiative,' said Ms Openshaw.


  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • United Nations
  • Third Committee of the UN General Assembly
  • Belarus
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Russia
  • Syria
  • Ukraine