"Together, we have taken major strides to initiate the process of revitalization that we all agree is necessary if the United Nations is to thrive in the twenty-first century. Together, we are making this the 'reform Assembly'."
So stated Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the fifty-second session of the General Assembly -- which suspended its work on Monday, 22 December -- prior to adoption of his proposals for renewing the United Nations.
The broad discussions on the reform proposals, said Assembly President Hennadiy Udovenko (Ukraine) at the same meeting, demonstrated a notable convergence in the aspirations and intentions of Member States to prepare the Organization to face new realities and challenges.
A major outcome of the "reform Assembly" was the establishment of the post of Deputy Secretary-General as an integral part of the Office of the Secretary-General. The Deputy will be appointed by the Secretary-General, with a term of office not exceeding his own, and will assist the Secretary-General in managing the operations of the Secretariat, ensuring coherence of activities and programmes, and "elevating the profile and leadership of the United Nations in the economic and social spheres".
The Secretary-General presented his reform proposals to the Assembly in July. On 12 November, the Assembly, through adoption of a consensus resolution, endorsed a set of actions described in the report, including: establishment of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, consolidating the work of the
* In Press Release GA/9390 of 22 December, the meeting number should be 79th.
Secretariat in those areas; creation of a Vienna-based Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, headed by an Executive-Director; and the merger of the Geneva-based programmes on human rights into a single office headed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
On 19 December, the Assembly adopted a wide-ranging, 10-part reform resolution by which it decided to discontinue the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development; designated the Emergency Relief Coordinator as the United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator, with responsibility for coordination of natural disaster relief; and transferred to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) the responsibilities for operational activities for natural disaster mitigation, prevention and preparedness.
Also by the resolution, which, like the 12 November text, was negotiated in "open-ended informal consultations of the plenary", the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to provide further details on several of his recommendations. Among others, he was requested to elaborate on the proposed revolving credit fund, which would be used to finance overdue assessments by Member States; provide examples of the proposed shift to results-based budgeting; and provide further details on the convening of a Millennium Assembly, a new concept of trusteeship, and the so-called "sunset provisions".
The Secretary-General was also requested to submit specific proposals for the establishment of a new system of core resources for development activities. The Assembly requested submission of those additional reports by the end of March 1998, including a detailed one on the "development account", to be funded from savings from possible reductions in administration and other overhead costs, which the Assembly decided to establish in the programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999.
In the area of peace, security and disarmament, the Assembly asked that specific measures be considered to enhance the rapid deployment capacity of the United Nations in peacekeeping operations. The Assembly also decided that the Security Council, in establishing a peacekeeping operation in the future, should prescribe a time frame for the conclusion of the status-of-forces agreement between the United Nations and the host government. Pending the conclusion of such an agreement, a model status-of-forces agreement would apply provisionally "unless otherwise agreed by the parties concerned".
Also by the resolution, the Assembly established a fifth segment of the Economic and Social Council's substantive sessions, with effect from 1998, that will address humanitarian affairs. The Council was invited to: consider recommendations of the Secretary-General relating to the reform of its subsidiary bodies and its methods of work; conduct a general review of the regional commissions; and consider arrangements for closer integration of the governance
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oversight of the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP)/United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), all in 1998.
The fifty-second session began its work on 16 September. It considered 138 items, adopted 270 resolutions -- 205 without a vote -- and 77 decisions.
The suspension of the fifty-second session followed the adoption by the Assembly, on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), of the scale of assessments for 1998-2000, which maintains a ceiling rate of 25 per cent, but lowers the floor rate to 0.001 per cent. The Assembly also appropriated $2.532 billion for the 1998-1999 budget, which incorporates elements of the Secretary-General's reform proposals.
Adoption by the Assembly of the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings was the climax to the work of its Sixth Committee (Legal). Meant to identify, define and punish those who commit such crimes, the Convention provides that States either prosecute or extradite offenders. The Assembly adopted 16 resolutions recommended by the Committee, among them proposals to establish a permanent international criminal court, review the composition of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country and ask the United States, as the host country, for further measures to protect the functioning of permanent missions to the United Nations.
The Assembly decided to convene a two-day resumed session of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial) to consider the topic of financing for development, and established an ad hoc open-ended working group to meet during its fifty-third session to formulate recommendations for a high-level international consideration of that topic. In the Committee, there was a major disagreement over the concept of development, specifically the phrase "sustained economic growth and sustainable development" in several draft resolutions, which resulted in recorded votes on those texts, a breakdown in the Committee's tradition of consensus. The phrase was subsequently modified, which allowed the Assembly to adopt the same resolutions without a vote.
Human rights questions dominated the agenda of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) during the current session, as it had in the past, with nearly one third of the Committee's 50 meetings devoted to human rights. Implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development also received a great deal of attention. A resolution on the matter, adopted by vote, reaffirmed the importance of the right to development as an integral part of fundamental human rights.
On the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), the Assembly pressed for bilateral and multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, although disagreement over which of those
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approaches should be primary dominated the Committee's debate and deadlocked deliberations in the 1997 substantive session of the Conference on Disarmament, the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament. Similarly, following extended
Committee debate over anti-personnel mines, the Assembly adopted three texts with the same humanitarian intent -- elimination -- but with differences in the approach to that goal.
Based on recommendations of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Assembly took action on a broad range of issues relating to peacekeeping, information questions, decolonization, Palestinian refugee relief, Israeli practices in the occupied territories, the peaceful uses of outer space and the effects of atomic radiation. The Assembly reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development.
Highlights of the fifty-second session follow. *
(*) The sections on the work of the Assembly's First, Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth Committees were previously issued as stand-alone press releases.
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The fifty-second session lived up to its description as the "reform Assembly" from its high-level beginning. The issue of reform dominated the Assembly's general debate, which began on 23 September and occupied nearly three weeks.
The Assembly was addressed by the representatives of 176 nations, including 18 Heads of State, 1 Crown Prince, 14 Prime Ministers, 16 Deputy Prime Ministers, 111 Ministers for Foreign Affairs, four other ministers and 12 heads of delegations. Almost every speaker welcomed the Secretary- General's proposals to restructure and revitalize the Organization. Many also emphasized the importance of strengthening the Assembly's role and streamlining its procedures. Speakers also stressed that the United Nations must address the complex new challenges of globalization, particularly the impact on developing countries.
The Assembly held three separate meetings on reform of the Security Council, focusing on its size, composition, working methods and the use of the veto. Many delegates said the overriding objective was a more balanced geographical representation, particularly between industrialized nations and developing countries, in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of membership.
The need for greater transparency in and reform of the Council's working methods and decision-making processes was also stressed, with several representatives expressing concern over the secretive nature of informal consultations. Some described the veto power as anachronistic and undemocratic and said its use should be limited to issues falling under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
On other issues, the situation in the Middle East was again the source of great concern. At its resumed tenth emergency special session (in November), the Assembly called for new momentum in the stalled peace process and condemned Israeli settlement activity. A majority of Member States also supported holding a conference on applying the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war to the occupied territories. A draft proposal that would confer on Palestine, in its capacity as observer, the same rights and privileges of participation as those conferred upon Member States, with the exception of voting and candidature, was withdrawn by the sponsors, after the defeat of a proposal to nullify an amendment that would have delayed putting the measure into effect.
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In a debate on the report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a number of speakers said the work of the Tribunal, like that of the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, should be the prelude to the establishment of a permanent international criminal court.
As in previous years, after a debate on the United States-imposed embargo against Cuba, the Assembly again sought the repeal of legislation like the Helms-Burton Act, whose extraterritorial provisions were said to affect the sovereignty of other States and freedom of trade and navigation. The vote was 143 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United States, Uzbekistan), with 17 abstentions. (In 1996, the vote on a comparable resolution was 137 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United States, Uzbekistan), with 25 abstentions.)
The link between social development and peace, freedom, stability and security was highlighted during the Assembly's review of implementation of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen. It decided that a four-day preparatory committee next May should pave the way for a special Assembly session in the year 2000 to review the Summit's outcome.
The Assembly sought closer ties between the United Nations and a number of regional organizations, including the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the League of Arab States and the Latin American Economic System. It urged increased cooperation with the OAU in preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping operations, and in joint fact-finding missions, as well as in assistance in dealing with refugees.
During the Assembly's review of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the international community was asked to support assistance to such countries as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Angola, Madagascar, Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan, Tajikistan and Burundi and the Palestinian people. It was said the new Office of Emergency Relief Coordinator would bring greater policy consistency to United Nations activities both at Headquarters and in the field.
In another debate, Member States drew attention to the scourge of landmines worldwide and urged those with the technical know-how to assist affected countries with mine detection and clearance, as well as mine- awareness programmes. Many Member States urged countries which had not done so to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.
On 4 October the Assembly elected Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia and Slovenia to serve two-year terms as non-permanent members of the Security Council.
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On 5 November, the Assembly completed the election of 18 members to serve three-year terms in the Economic and Social Council, as follows: Algeria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Comoros, India, Italy, Lesotho, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone, United States and Viet Nam.
On 20 November, the Assembly appointed Ioan Barac (Romania), E. Besley Maycock (Barbados), C.S.M. Mselle (United Republic of Tanzania), Mahamane Amadov Maiga (Mali) and Hasan Jawarneh (Jordan) as members to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) to serve three- year terms, beginning on 1 January 1998.
The 21 Vice-Presidents of the Assembly are: China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guinea, Ireland, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Panama, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Togo, United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
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Issues of nuclear disarmament once again dominated the debate in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), as members sought to narrow differences over the pace, form and ultimate goal of those negotiations. Acting on the recommendations of the Committee, the General Assembly adopted 45 disarmament drafts and decisions, of which 14 concerned nuclear weapons.
The critical issue in that debate was whether to proceed on a multilateral or bilateral basis in negotiating nuclear disarmament. Many Committee members pressed for multilateral negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament, with the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons within a specific time frame. Such negotiations, they said, could even be a precondition for specific progress in other disarmament areas. Others, however, including the United States and the Russian Federation, favoured a gradual, bilateral approach and, they said, any attempts to prematurely "multilateralize" that process could only complicate and retard it.
The representative of the United States told the Committee that the pace of nuclear disarmament was accelerating because the countries whose arms were directly involved had moved in "bold but practical increments". Linking all other disarmament progress to agreement on a timetable for the elimination of nuclear weapons had landed the Conference "in the grip of a linkage virus" and stalled the proven, step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, he added. The representative of the Russian Federation warned that insisting on such linkages would force the Conference into an approach to nuclear disarmament that was incapable of assessing the security interests of all countries.
However, the representative of Myanmar, voicing the concerns expressed by a number of other speakers, said that the contention of nuclear-weapon States that a phased programme of nuclear disarmament was the exclusive domain of their bilateral negotiations was "fatally flawed and morally indefensible". The representative of India said that given the fragility of the bilateral process, nuclear disarmament efforts must be based in a framework that would lead to the ultimate goal of the elimination of those weapons.
Many members expressed concern that such divergent views had deadlocked deliberations in the 1997 substantive session of the Conference on Disarmament, and produced competing drafts in the Committee. In a statement to the Committee on 21 October, the President of the Conference attempted to allay concerns about the lack of progress by explaining that the Conference was experiencing a period of "pause and reflection" following hard-won
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agreements, such as the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996. Still, delegations continued to link the recent paralysis in the Conference with the impasse on the nuclear question.
By a related and controversial Committee text, the Assembly once again underlined the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice in 1996 that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control. The text elaborated on the Court's opinion by calling on all States to fulfil that obligation immediately by commencing multilateral negotiations in 1998 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention. In the Committee's debate, however, some members opposed the use of a selective portion of the Court's opinion in order to repeat calls for immediate multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.
Concerning other weapons of mass destruction, the Committee approved two texts that were adopted by the Assembly. One calls for the ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. The other urges all States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) to meet in full their Convention obligations and to support the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in its implementation activities.
In a forthright appeal to the Committee on 16 October, the Director- General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the verification mechanism triggered by the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention last April, said that unless the Russian Federation ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention by the end of October, it could be cut out of critical decisions on the inspection system. With 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, Russia was the largest declared possessor of those weapons, and, therefore, its presence in the Convention was essential, he said. The Russian Federation subsequently ratified the Convention on 5 November.
On the subject of anti-personnel landmines, the Committee's debate reflected the division over the recently concluded Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines. It was opened for signature on 3 December in Ottawa, Canada, and remains open at United Nations Headquarters. Despite overwhelming support for the Convention's humanitarian intent, critical countries, such as the United States, China, and the Russian Federation, remain outside the Convention, citing national security concerns, as well as shortcomings in the Convention itself.
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Unable to strike an acceptable balance with a single landmines text, the Committee recommended and the Assembly adopted three texts, described by several speakers as "complementary" rather than "competing". One resolution dealt with support for the recently concluded Convention on a total ban, another with the 1981 Convention on the Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed To Be Excessively Injurious or To Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons), and the third text urged the Conference on Disarmament to intensify efforts on landmines. Consensus eluded the Committee despite widespread and overlapping support by many countries for the objectives of each text.
Prior consensus on the issue of transparency in armaments dissolved during consideration of how to expand the scope of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, specifically whether to include weapons of mass destruction. The Register, established in 1992, is a voluntary yearly record by Member States of their weapon transactions. As a result, two transparency texts were approved by the Committee and adopted by the Assembly. By one text, Member States were asked to provide the Secretary-General with their views on the Register's further development and on transparency measures related to weapons of mass destruction. The other text reaffirmed the interrelationship between transparency in the fields of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction.
The Committee achieved consensus on the call to convene a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament and the Assembly adopted the resulting resolution. During the Committee's debate, disagreement was expressed over the terms of convening the session, which the United States had said was yet one more way to focus multilateral debate on nuclear disarmament. However, once Colombia, on behalf of the draft's co-sponsors, revised the text so that the convening of the session was subject to the emergence of "consensus" on its objectives and agenda, rather than subject to "a general agreement", the United States joined in supporting the resolution.
The officers of the First Committee are: Chairman, Mothusi Nkgowe (Botswana); Vice-Chairman, Sudjadnana Parnohadiningrat (Indonesia) and Alejandro Verdier (Argentina); and Rapporteur, Milos Koterec (Slovakia).
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The question of development financing and disagreement over the concept of development were contentions issues in the work of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), as it recommended 32 resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly. Among those texts was one deciding to convene a two-day resumed session of the Committee to consider the topic of financing for development.
That resolution also established an ad hoc open-ended working group to meet during the Assembly's fifty-third session to formulate recommendations for a high-level international consideration of that topic. In addition, it decided to consider at the fifty-fourth session the convening of a summit, an international conference, a special session or other appropriate high-level forum on financing for development, not later than the year 2001, to further the global partnership for development.
In a special briefing to the Committee on the theme "The implementation of the Agenda for Development in a renewed United Nations system", the Secretary-General said that international development was based on solidarity and partnership rather than on competing interests. The Agenda for Development reflected an emerging consensus on what constituted development in the new international environment. Calling on the international community to strengthen its economic and moral underpinning, he said the decline in official development assistance (ODA) must be reversed and new ways of financing development must be explored.
The spirit of consensus that has traditionally guided the work of the Second Committee was shattered by a disagreement over the concept of development, particularly of sustainable development. The situation, however, was later reversed.
In the Committee's penultimate meeting, the representative of the United States requested recorded votes on six resolutions -- on industrial development, human resources development, women in development, renewal of the dialogue for development through partnership, external debt problem of developing countries, and global financial flows and their impact on developing countries -- stating that his Government could not accept the equation of "sustained economic growth" and "sustainable development". The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said most countries recognized that the United States' approach to sustainable development was restrictive.
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After extensive consultations before the Committee submitted its recommendations to the plenary of the Assembly, those texts were later adopted without a vote after being amended so that the phrase "sustained economic growth and sustainable development" was followed by a phrase taken from provisions of Assembly resolution 51/219, on programme planning, stating the following: "in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions and recent United Nations conferences".
In a related manner, the Assembly adopted a text on business and development, on which the Committee had decided not to take action at its last meeting. By that resolution, the Assembly called on the funds and programmes of the United Nations to promote entrepreneurship and to give due consideration to the private sector's role in development. While similar resolutions had been adopted in previous sessions, the representative of the Group of 77 asked in the Committee that no action be taken on the text. Referring to the series of votes which, he said, were meant to make sustained economic growth irrelevant, he added that the Group was highly disappointed with the United States.
The backdrop for the work of the Committee was the state of the world economy, including the recent turmoil in financial markets in South-East Asia, the process of United Nations reform and development issues, including the adoption of the Agenda for Development. In the general debate, several representatives placed emphasis on the importance of macroeconomic policies in creating a conducive environment for establishing long-term capital flows.
The debate on development issues continued to focus on trade, investment and the external debt problem of developing countries. The need to find a durable solution to the debt problem of developing countries, particularly those in Africa, was stressed by several delegations. The discussion on the external debt crisis also focused on the implementation of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative and the declining trend in ODA. The Assembly urged creditor countries and multilateral financial institutions to continue to extend concessional financial assistance to support the implementation of economic reforms and structural adjustment programmes by developing countries.
A four-part text on international trade and development deplored attempts to bypass or undermine multilaterally agreed procedures on the conduct of international trade by resorting to unilateral actions over and above those agreed to in the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. It affirmed that environmental and social concerns should not be used for protectionist purposes.
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For the first time, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the role of microcredit in eradicating poverty. The text, co-sponsored by developing and developed countries, encouraged the adoption of policies that supported the development of microcredit institutions so that credit might be made available to the increasing number of people living in poverty.
Building on the Assembly's recent special session to review the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and looking towards the Third Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto in December, the Committee achieved consensus on several mainly procedural texts under its consideration of environment and sustainable development. In response to the growing international concern about the devastating economic and social effects of the El Niņo phenomenon, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to facilitate an international strategy for the prevention, mitigation and rehabilitation of the damages caused by it.
Also through its Second Committee, the Assembly took several actions relating to the recent United Nations major development conferences. Among those were resolutions deciding: to convene a three-day special session in 1999 to review and appraise the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted by the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, September 1994); and to hold a special session in the year 2001 for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) (Istanbul, June 1996).
Divergent views were expressed over the possibility of convening a United Nations conference on international migration and development. Some delegations said a global conference would accomplish little and that bilateral and regional discussions were more useful modalities to deal with migration issues. Other representatives said international migration could only be successfully dealt with if there was a coordinated effort by the entire international community. In the resulting consensus text, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit to its fifty-fourth session a report recommending ways and means to address the problems related to migration and development, including the possibility of convening an international conference.
The Committee held a series of special events related to its agenda, including three panel sessions with outside experts, two keynote addresses by academics, and 13 executive briefings by high-level United Nations officials, including the convenors of the new Executive Committees set up in the Secretariat. The Committee also participated in a joint videoconference meeting with the high-level segment of the Trade and Development Board of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in Geneva. The
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event was the first time the two intergovernmental bodies in different locations held a joint meeting through a live video hook-up. The two bodies discussed electronic commerce and the first meeting of the "Partners for Development" initiative, to be held in Lyon, France, in November 1998.
The officers of the Second Committee are: Oscar de Rojas (Venezuela), Chairman; Hans-Peter Glanzer (Austria) and Adel Abdellatif (Egypt), Vice- Chairmen; and Rae Kwon Chung (Republic of Korea), Rapporteur.
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Human rights questions dominated the agenda of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) during the current session, as it had in the past, with nearly one third of the Committee's 50 meetings devoted to human rights questions. On the recommendation of the Committee, the Assembly adopted 78 resolutions and decisions, 30 of which were on a broad range of human rights issues, with others adopted on the advancement of women, international drug control, crime prevention and criminal justice, the elimination of racism and racial discrimination and refugees.
Implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development received a great deal of attention in the Committee's debate and the Assembly, through adoption of a resolution on the matter by a vote of 129 in favour to 12 against, with 32 abstentions, reaffirmed the importance of the right to development as an integral part of fundamental human rights. The Assembly also recognized that the Declaration on the Right to Development was an integral link between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action through its elaboration of a holistic vision integrating economic, social and cultural rights with civil and political rights.
The debate on the Declaration was an indicator of the diverse positions of Member States in the discussions on human rights issues in general. Developing countries, by and large, called for respect for cultural and religious diversity around the world, respect for sovereignty and for an end to the politicization of human rights issues. Several developed countries, on the other hand, called for common standards of human rights and stressed that economic and social rights did not come before individual liberties. Those diverse approaches to human rights resulted in recorded votes being required on 15 of the 30 human rights resolutions.
Among the human rights resolutions adopted by the Assembly were those on human rights and terrorism, non-interference in the State's electoral processes, unilateral coercive measures, family reunification, strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights, the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights and implementation of human rights instruments. Resolutions were also adopted on the human rights situations in Cuba, Kosovo, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Burundi. A report, but not a resolution, was presented on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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The emphasis on human rights issues took on added significance this year as the Committee continuously stressed the importance of the forthcoming commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the first five-year review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. The related activities will take place within the context of Human Rights Year (1998), which was launched on 10 December. In that connection, one of the highlights of the Committee's session was the first address to the Committee by the newly-appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who told the Committee it would be farsighted for the international community to offer the same level of protection to individuals in economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, as it afforded them in the political and civil sectors.
Another highlight of the Committee's session was the address by the newly-appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Study the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. In his address, Olara Otunnu said that on the eve of the millennium, it was an abomination that children were being abused in situations of armed conflict and were being brutalized and forced to brutalize others. The Committee was also addressed by the Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, Ofelia Calcetas-Santos, who focused on the combined role of the media and education as powerful tools that could either cure or inflict irreversible harm on children.
The concerns about the rights of children were stressed in two resolutions adopted by the Assembly, one that stressed the need for full and urgent implementation of the rights of the girl child and the other on the rights of the child. The eight-part resolution on the rights of the child urged the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and emphasized such issues as children with disabilities, the damaging effects of armed conflicts on children, refugee and internally displaced children, child labour and street children. Related resolutions were adopted on traffic in women and girls, on traditional and customary practices affecting women and girls, and assistance to unaccompanied refugee minors.
On the issue of the advancement of women and follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), the Assembly adopted resolutions on women in rural areas, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), improving the status of women in the Secretariat and violence against women workers. Throughout the Committee's debates and in numerous resolutions, the issue of mainstreaming a gender perspective in every aspect of social, humanitarian, human rights and cultural issues was reinforced. The Committee was also addressed by the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Angela King.
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There was a high level of participation in the Committee's debates on international drug control and crime prevention and criminal justice. The Assembly, through adoption of a seven-part resolution on international drug control, decided to hold a special session on illicit drugs from 8 to 10 June 1998, and called for Member States to participate at a high political level. The resolution, which received widespread support from Member States, covered such issues as increased international cooperation to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking, principles for demand reduction and the decline in resources for international drug control. The newly-appointed Executive Director of the new Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Pino Arlacchi, also held a dialogue with the Committee. He called on Member States to reassert their strong commitment to drug control as a priority at the national and international levels in the political declaration to be adopted at the special session. The Assembly adopted three resolutions on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination and three on the rights of peoples to self- determination. Before the debates on those issues, the Committee heard from the Special Rapporteur on the Use of Mercenaries to Undermine the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination, Enrique Bernales-Ballesteros, who said Africa was hardest hit by mercenary activities and highlighted the increase in mercenary activity through companies selling protection services. The Special Rapporteur on Measures to Combat Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo, in his statement to the Committee emphasized the need to combat use of the Internet for spreading racist propaganda. As in past years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata, also addressed the Committee. She said it was urgent for States to reaffirm their commitment to upholding humanitarian principles and to manifest more clearly their resolve to address the political dimensions of humanitarian crises. The Assembly adopted five resolutions concerning refugees and with adoption of one of those texts decided to continue the Office of the UNHCR for a further period of five years, from 1 January 1999. That matter is taken up by the Committee every five years. On social development issues, the Assembly, on the Committee's recommendation, called on the Secretary-General to launch the International Year of Older Persons in 1998, with the theme "A society for all ages". In addition, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People and called for an International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The officers of the Third Committee are: Chairman, Alessandro Busacca (Italy); Vice-Chairmen, Choe Myong Nam (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and Karim Wissa (Egypt); and Rapporteur, Monica Martinez (Ecuador).
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The General Assembly took action on a broad range of issues concerning peacekeeping, information questions, decolonization, Palestinian refugee relief, Israeli practices in the occupied territories, the peaceful uses of outer space, and the effects of atomic radiation, based on the recommendations of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
On the question of Palestinian relief and Israeli practices, it acted on recommendations relating to the reports of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, as well as of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Among its actions, the Assembly reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development. It demanded complete cessation of the construction of the new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim and of all Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territory. It deplored those policies and practices of Israel which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.
The Assembly commended the Israeli Practices Committee for its efforts and demanded that Israel cooperate with it. It called on UNRWA to continue contributing towards economic and social stability in the occupied territory, and called on Israel to respect the safety of the Agency's personnel and facilities. Israel was again called upon to compensate the Agency for damage to its property and facilities resulting from Israeli actions.
In an address to the Fourth Committee, Peter Hansen, Commissioner- General of UNRWA, drew attention to the financial crisis that the Agency continues to undergo, about which many representatives expressed concern.
With respect to information questions, the Assembly adopted two resolutions and one decision based on the Fourth Committee's recommendations. By a text on information in the service of humanity, it urged all countries, organizations of the United Nations system, and all others concerned to cooperate, with a view to reducing disparities in information flows at all levels, by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities of developing countries.
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By the second information resolution, the Assembly took note of the failure by the Committee on Information to complete the task of its 1997 session relating to United Nations public information policies and activities, and asked the Secretary-General to continue to implement already mandated activities. It also decided to add Georgia as a new member of the Information Committee.
On decolonization matters, the Assembly adopted resolutions on such questions as the activities of foreign and other interests, military activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories, the role of the United Nations specialized agencies, information provided by administering Powers, and offers by Member States of study facilities for inhabitants of the Territories. It also addressed the questions of Western Sahara, New Caledonia and Gibraltar.
In addition, the Assembly dealt with specific and general conditions in 12 Non-Self-Governing Territories: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands. It called on the administering Powers to facilitate political education programmes in the Territories, so as to foster the people's awareness of their electoral options.
The Assembly took note with satisfaction of the agreements reached between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro for implementation of the settlement plan in Western Sahara, reached during their private direct talks under the auspices of the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James Baker III. It urged them to implement those agreements fully and faithfully, and to refrain from any action that would undermine implementation of the settlement plan.
The Assembly also took action on two texts submitted directly by the Special Committee on decolonization. By the first text, on implementation of the Declaration on decolonization, the Assembly called on the administering Powers to eliminate the remaining military bases in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, in compliance with its resolutions, and urged them not to involve those Territories in any offensive acts or interference against other States.
By the second draft, on the dissemination of information on decolonization, the Assembly asked the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information to take account of the Special Committee's suggestions that they continue their efforts to publicize the United Nations work in the field of decolonization through all available media.
The Assembly endorsed the proposals, recommendations and conclusions in the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and urged Member States, the Secretariat and relevant organs of the United Nations to
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take all necessary steps to implement them. It also decided that the Special Committee should continue its efforts for a comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations, review the implementation of its previous proposals, and consider new proposals to enhance the peacekeeping capacity of the United Nations.
The Assembly also took action on recommendations relating to the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. It asked that body's Scientific and Technical Subcommittee to continue its priority consideration of a number of subjects, including the United Nations Space Applications Programme; preparations for the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration of Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), as its Advisory Committee; satellite remote sensing of the Earth, including applications for developing countries; the use of nuclear power sources in space; and the question of space debris.
With respect to UNISPACE III, the Assembly agreed that it should be convened at the United Nations Office in Vienna from 19 to 30 July 1999, as a special session of the Outer Space Committee and open to all Member States. It encouraged all Member States, United Nations bodies, other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and space-related industries to contribute actively to achieving the objectives of the Conference.
The Assembly commended the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation for its valuable contribution to understanding of the levels, effects and risks of atomic radiation and asked it to continue that work. It also invited Member States, United Nations bodies and non- governmental organizations to provide the Scientific Committee with relevant information on the effects of atomic radiation in affected areas.
The officers of the Fourth Committee are: Chairman, Machivenyika Tobias Mapuranga (Zimbabwe); Vice-Chairmen, Ravjaa Mounkhou (Mongolia) and Petru Dumitriu (Romania); and Rapporteur, Riitta Resch (Finland).
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Under the scale of assessments for 1998-2000 adopted by the Assembly, 10 countries will be responsible for 80 per cent of the budget of the United Nations, which it has set at $2.532 billion for the next two years. They are the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands.
Negotiations on the scale and the budget, which incorporates elements of the Secretary-General's reform proposals, were conducted by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) mainly in informal meetings until the very last day of the just concluded segment of the Assembly session.
Reaffirming the fundamental principle that the expenses of the Organization should be apportioned among Member States broadly according to their capacity to pay, the Assembly kept the ceiling rate at 25 per cent, and lowered the floor rate to 0.001 per cent, from 0.01 per cent. In 1998, 30 Members will be paying at the minimum.
The Assembly President said the adoption of a new scale would lead the Organization away from the brink of bankruptcy and open the possibility of financial stability in the future. The programme budget for the next biennium also reflected the Secretary-General's reform measures.
In the Fifth Committee debate on the scale, the representative of the United States said it was seeking to cut its assessment for the regular budget to 22 per cent by 1998 and 20 per cent by the year 2000. Belgium, speaking for the European Union and associated States, said that the existing ceiling rate was a significant exception to the principle of capacity to pay. A ceiling that fell below 25 per cent would be "unreasonable and contrary to the to the principle of equity". The representative of the Marshall Islands, speaking for "like-minded States", said the floor rate posed a number of difficulties to a number of smaller countries, which had few resources to finance their membership at the United Nations. The anomaly in the scale meant that they were spending more funds on membership than on their actual presence at Headquarters.
In adopting the new scale, the Assembly also decided to consider reviewing the scale for the years 1999-2000 during its resumed fifty-second session, in light of all relevant factors including the status of Member States' contributions.
The new scale would be used to apportion the $2.532 billion appropriated for the 1998-1999 budget, after adjustments mainly for currency fluctuations. The Secretary-General had initially proposed $2.583 billion. By the terms of
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the resolution on questions related to the budget, the Assembly stressed that the reform would be implemented with full respect for the United Nations medium-term plan for 1998-2001 and reaffirmed that it must not entail involuntary separation of staff. By other provisions of the resolution, the Assembly:
-- Approved the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the salary and emoluments of the new post of Deputy Secretary-General;
-- Decided that the amount saved by the abolition of the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development will be transferred to the development account, which will increase the total in that account to a little more than $13 million;
-- Approved the comments and the recommendations contained in the reports of the Advisory Committee on the 1998-1999 budget, which includes the view that the new Department of Disarmament Affairs and the Office of Communications and Public Information shall be led by Under-Secretaries- General; and
-- Approved the establishment of one post each at the level of Principal Officer (D-1), Professional P-5 and P-4, and General Service for the Strategic Planning Unit.
On the 1996-1997 budget, the Assembly resolved that the final appropriations for the two years would be reduced by about $61.2 million to $2.542 billion.
Other actions taken by the Assembly on the recommendation of the Fifth Committee included those concerning human resources management, the United Nations common system, pattern of conferences, reports of the Board of Auditors, review of United Nations efficiency and the financing of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, as well as of missions.
For the two International Tribunals, the Assembly decided to appropriate some $125.6 million gross for 1998. Of that amount, $68.8 million is for the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, with about $56.7 million for the Rwanda Tribunal.
The Assembly also authorized the Secretary-General to implement without delay, the administration and payment procedures for awards in cases of death and disability sustained by troops in United Nations peacekeeping operations for incidents occurring after 30 June. To clear inventory backlog at the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, it authorized the Secretary- General to commit $4.2 million, and endorsed his proposal for development and
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implementation of a field assets control system. The Base has been operating since 1994, and is central to United Nations peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa.
The Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to commit up to $10.6 million gross for the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) for the period from 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1998. The sum would add to the $178.9 million gross appropriated last June by the Assembly. It appropriated $155 million gross ($150 million net) for the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) for the period from 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1998. It also reduced the appropriation for the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) to approximately $9 million gross ($8.4 million net) for the same period. Taking into account the $5.1 million gross ($4.7 million net) already assessed for July through September, the Assembly decided to defer the apportionment of the additional $3.8 million gross ($3.7 million net).
Regarding the reports of the Board of Auditors, the Assembly requested the Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to complete the implementation of Auditors' recommendations. The Office of the High Commissioner was asked to acquire goods and services on the widest possible geographical basis.
On the common system, the Assembly approved, effective 1 March 1998, a revised base salary scale that would raise pay for Staff members at the Professional and higher categories by about 3 per cent. By other terms of the resolution, the Assembly endorsed the principles and guidelines for appointments of limited-duration contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).
In a separate action on human resources management, the Assembly approved the introduction of a performance award system for United Nations staff and urged the Secretary-General to adopt a step-by-step approach to introducing that system.
On the pattern of conferences, the Committee recommended, among other measures, that Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha shall be official holidays at United Nations Headquarters and at other applicable duty stations.
The officers of the Fifth Committee are: Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Chairman; Erica-Irene Daes (Greece) and Nazareth Incera (Costa Rica), Vice-Chairmen; and Djamel Moktefi (Algeria), Rapporteur.
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In a session marked by efforts to combat international terrorism and to promote world-wide acceptance of international law, the Sixth Committee (Legal) recommended 16 resolutions for adoption by the Assembly, one of which established the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.
The International Convention was the eleventh United Nation legal instrument meant to identify, define and punish specific terrorist acts as international crimes. It provides that States either prosecute or extradite those accused of terrorist bombings within their territory. It also calls on States to adopt further measures to prevent terrorism and strengthen international cooperation in combating such crimes. While States expressed reservations to some of its provisions, the Convention represents the best possible compromise, representatives said.
The main issues in the debate on the Convention were whether it should exempt the acts of those struggling against foreign occupation and whether some acts of State military forces could be considered terrorism. In its final form, the Convention made no distinction between terrorist acts and the activities of national liberation movements. It also said the activities of military forces of States were not governed by the Convention. Despite those differences, the Sixth Committee approved the Convention by consensus.
The Committee also took a major step towards the creation of a permanent international criminal court. The Assembly adopted its recommendation to convene a diplomatic conference of plenipotentiaries in Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998 to finalize and adopt a convention to establish the court. The conference will be preceded by the final session of the court preparatory committee in March. It is proposed that the court shall investigate and bring to justice individuals who commit crimes of the most serious concern to the international community, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The idea of a permanent court was first considered at the United Nations in 1948 during the adoption of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. While there have been four international courts -- the Second World War tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo and ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia -- this will be the world's first permanent international criminal court.
The Assembly also adopted Sixth Committee recommendations on the Committee on Relations with the Host Country that may lead to a change in its membership. The 15-member Host Country Committee was requested to review its membership and composition to make it more representative of the United
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Nations. While some delegations objected to its current size, the United States believed the current number contributed to the Committee's efficiency. The Sixth Committee also recommended that the United States, as the host country, should continue to take all measures to prevent any interference with the functioning of United Nations Missions. In particular, it should review measures and procedures relating to the parking of diplomatic vehicles and to consult with the Host Country Committee on that issue.
Also among the Sixth Committee's accomplishments was the proposal, accepted by the Assembly, to amend rule 103 of the General Assembly's rules of procedure to allow each Main Committee to elect three instead of two Vice-Chairmen. The amendment would enable all regional groups to be represented in the bureau of each of the Main Committees. The change, which would take effect from the Assembly's fifty-third session (1998), was also meant to alleviate some of the workload experienced in some Committees.
On another agenda item, the Sixth Committee addressed problems that arose when a debtor with holdings in more than one country went bankrupt. The Assembly adopted its recommendation for a United Nations Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, designed to assist States in formulating a modern legislative framework to address more effectively instances of cross-border insolvency. It was agreed that national insolvency laws were often ill-equipped to deal adequately with cross-border insolvency cases. The Model Law, prepared by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), offered such solutions as determining when a foreign insolvency proceeding should be accorded "recognition", and what the consequences of recognition might be. It also provided a transparent regime for the right of foreign creditors to commence, or participate in, an insolvency proceeding in the enacting State.
Other issues dealt with by the Sixth Committee included the effects of the application of sanctions on third States under Chapter VII of the Charter. Many delegations expressed the view that the United Nations had a legal obligation under Article 50 of the Charter to assist third States. In the resolution approved by the Committee, and subsequently adopted by the Assembly, the Security Council was requested to consider establishing further mechanisms or procedures to resolve the special economic problems of third States affected as a consequence of sanctions. The Security Council was also asked to increase the effectiveness and transparency of the various committees which monitor the implementation of the sanctions. The Committee also endorsed a proposal by the Secretary-General to convene an ad hoc expert group early next year to develop a means of assessing the effects of sanctions on third States.
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In recognition of the United Nations Decade of International Law (1990-1999) the Sixth Committee made a number of recommendations, accepted by the Assembly, to recognize the spirit and purpose of the Decade. Among them, the Committee encouraged States to consider ratifying or acceding to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and international organizations. It also underlined the importance of effective negotiations in the management of international relations, peaceful settlement of disputes and in the creation of new international norms of conduct of States.
In relation to the Decade, the Committee welcomed the programme of action dedicated to the 1999 centennial of the first International Peace Conference, which was presented by the Governments of the Netherlands and the Russian Federation. The programme includes a centennial peace conference planned for 17 to 19 May 1999 in The Hague and other regional activities. The year 1999 also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions for the protection of victims of war, which will also be commemorated.
On the work of the International Law Commission at its forty-ninth session, the Sixth Committee made a number of recommendations which the Assembly accepted. It invited governments to submit comments and observations on the practical problems raised by nationality in relation to the succession of States. It also recommended that the Commission continue its work on the topics such as diplomatic protection, the unilateral acts of States and reservations to treaties. Under the auspices of the Committee, a colloquium was held at Headquarters on 28 and 29 October to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the International Law Commission. Among the topics were ways of strengthening the Commission's role in the international law-making process and the selection of subjects for codification and progressive development by the Commission.
Finally, a draft resolution approved by the Committee and adopted by the Assembly will amend article 13 of the statute of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal to allow its competence to be extended to the staff of the Registry of the International Court of Justice. The amendment would also enable the Tribunal to hear and pass judgement on cases alleging non-observance of the Regulations of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. It would extend the Tribunal's competence, with the approval of the General Assembly, to any other international organization or entity established by a treaty and participating in the common system of conditions of service.
The officers of the Sixth Committee are: Chairman, Peter Tomka (Slovakia); Vice-Chairmen, Rolf Welberts (Germany) and Craig J. Daniell (South Africa); and Rapporteur, Ghassan Obeid (Syria).
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