17 December 1998


Press Release
GA/9538



IN CLOSING REMARKS, ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT SAYS SPIRIT OF COOPERATION SHOWN DURING CURRENT SESSION IS CAUSE FOR SATISFACTION

19981217
Texts Adopted on Emergency Assistance for Sudan, Role of Non-Governmental Organizations; Final Actions Expected Tomorrow

There was a right to feel legitimate satisfaction with the work done over the last three months, Didier Opertti (Uruguay), President of the General Assembly, told delegates in his closing remarks this afternoon.

While it would not be opportune at this moment to evaluate the work done, he continued, there were some elements that needed to be highlighted. Financial problems were still being experienced by the United Nations, yet the Organization continued to function. Those problems were not just issues from the current session but dated back to previous years; they negatively affected the work, results and deliberations on important issues.

He said compromise and cooperation prevailed in consultations even though some elements of confrontation and tension were present on some important issues. In every case consensus was sought.

In a resolution adopted without a vote, the Assembly designated its fifty-fifth session as "The Millennium Assembly of the United Nations" and decided to convene a Millennium Summit as an integral part of that event.

Also this afternoon, the Assembly adopted a resolution approving the second report of the Credentials Committee. In other action, the Assembly took note of Chapters I to VII and Sections A to C of Chapter VIII, and Chapters IX and X of the report of the Economic and Social Council.

The Assembly called on the international community to continue contributing generously to the emergency needs, recovery and development of the Sudan, and urged all States, donor countries, the United Nations system, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to provide assistance to alleviate the plight of the population affected by the recent floods.

It took that action by adopting, without a vote, a text introduced by the representative of Senegal, on emergency assistance to the Sudan. The


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Assembly also called on the donor community and the United Nations system to provide financial, technical and medical assistance, guided by the actions called for in relevant Assembly resolutions to combat diseases, and to support national programmes of rehabilitation, voluntary resettlement and reintegration of returnees and the internally displaced, as well as assistance to refugees. Further, the Assembly urged all parties involved to continue to offer assistance to guarantee the success of Operation Lifeline Sudan.

Adopting a resolution on the role of non-governmental organizations in activities of the United Nations system, the Assembly requested the Secretary- General to seek the views of Member States, members of the specialized agencies, observers, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations on the Secretary-General's report on the subject (document A/53/170). The Secretary-General was asked to submit a further report at the Assembly's fifty-fourth session, taking into account the submissions received.

The representative of the United States spoke on a point of order. Statements were made in explanation of vote by the representatives of the United States, Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Canada and the Sudan.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, 18 December, to consider the situation in Afghanistan, a note by the Secretary-General (A/53/701) on the Participation of the International Organization of la Francophonie in the sessions and work of the Assembly as an Observer, and the reports of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). It will then suspend its current session.


Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider the second report of the Credentials Committee; the report of the Economic and Social Council; United Nations reform: measures and proposals; strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance; and strengthening of the United Nations system.

United Nations Reform: Measures and Proposals

By the terms of the draft resolution on the Millennium Assembly (document A/53/L.73), submitted by the Assembly President, the Assembly would decide to designate the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly in the year 2000, as "The Millennium Assembly of the United Nations". It would also decide to convene, as an integral part of the Millennium Assembly, a Millennium Summit for a limited number of days on dates to be decided by the Assembly at its resumed fifty-third session.

Further, the Assembly would decide to continue its consideration of the item entitled "United Nations reform: measures and proposals" and to take a decision at the earliest opportunity at its resumed fifty-third session on the intergovernmental preparatory process, particularly its format and terms of reference, ensuring the full and effective participation of all Member States, members of the specialized agencies and observers in preparing for the Millennium Assembly.

The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States, members of the specialized agencies and observers to propose, after a process of intergovernmental consultation, a number of forward-looking and widely relevant topics that could help focus the Millennium Summit within the context of an overall theme -- the proposals to be considered by the Assembly at its resumed fifty-third session. Also, the Secretary-General would be requested to consult with non-governmental organizations, as appropriate, before submitting his proposals.

Credentials of Representatives to Current Assembly Session

In its second report on the issue (document A/53/556/Add.1), the Credentials Committee states that at its second meeting on 14 December, having examined the credentials of the representatives of Member States to the current session of the General Assembly referred to in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the report, it decided to accept those credentials and recommend to the General Assembly to adopt a draft resolution approving the second report of the Credentials Committee.

Paragraph 4 of the report refers to the credentials of the following Member States: Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Canada,


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Croatia, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Paraguay, Poland, Qatar, Seychelles, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.

Paragraph 5 of the report refers to the credentials of the representatives of the following Member States: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Ecuador, Egypt, Federated States of Micronesia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Uganda, United Kingdom and Vanuatu.

Strengthening Humanitarian and Disaster Relief

The Assembly had before it a draft resolution (document A/53/L.72) on emergency assistance to the Sudan, sponsored by Senegal. By the terms of the text, the Assembly would call on the international community to continue contributing generously to the emergency needs, recovery and development of the country, and urge all States, donor countries, the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to provide assistance to alleviate the plight of the population affected by the recent floods. It would also call on the donor community and the United Nations system to provide financial, technical and medical assistance, guided by the actions called for by the Assembly in its relevant resolutions to combat such diseases as malaria and other epidemics in the Sudan.

The Assembly would urge the international community to give assistance for the rehabilitation of transportation means and infrastructure vital for the provision of relief supplies in the Sudan and their cost-effectiveness, and in this context stress the importance of continued cooperation by all the parties involved so as to facilitate and improve the delivery of relief supplies. Also, it would urge the international community to continue to support national programmes of rehabilitation, voluntary resettlement and reintegration of returnees and the internally displaced, as well as assistance to refugees.

Further, the Assembly would urge all parties involved to continue to offer all feasible assistance, including facilitating the movement of relief supplies and personnel, so as to guarantee the success of Operation Lifeline Sudan in all affected parts of the country, with special emphasis on national capacity-building in the humanitarian field for governmental and non- governmental organizations, and on meeting emergency relief needs.

In addition, the Assembly would stress the need for Operation Lifeline Sudan to be operated and managed to ensure its efficiency, transparency and effectiveness, with the full involvement and cooperation of the Sudan, in cognizance with the relevant Operation Lifeline Sudan agreements reached by


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the parties, and consultations in the preparation of the consolidated annual inter-agency appeal for the Operation. It would also stress the imperative of ensuring the safety of humanitarian personnel, and safe and unhindered access for providing relief assistance to all affected populations, and the importance of strict observance of the principles and guidelines of the Operation, and of international humanitarian law reaffirming the necessity for humanitarian personnel to respect the national laws of the country.

Situation in Afghanistan

By the terms of a two-part draft resolution on the situation in Afghanistan (document A/53/L.66), the General Assembly would stress that the main responsibility for finding a political solution to the conflict lies with the Afghan parties and urge them to respond to the United Nations calls for peace.

By the terms of part A of the text, which has 23 operative paragraphs focusing on implications for international peace and security, the Assembly would call upon all Afghan parties to cease all armed hostilities, to renounce the use of force and to engage, without delay or preconditions, in a political dialogue aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement of the conflict through creating a broad-based, multi-ethnic and fully representative government.

The Assembly would urge the parties to take further confidence-building measures and the Taliban and other Afghan parties to refrain from all acts of violence, especially against civilians. It would also condemn continued foreign military support to the Afghan parties and call on States to strictly refrain from any outside interference and to end the supply of arms and military equipment, training or any other military support to the parties of conflict in Afghanistan, including the presence of foreign military, paramilitary or secret service personnel. It would request the Secretary- General to authorize the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA) to continue its efforts to facilitate an immediate ceasefire.

The Assembly would further endorse establishing a separate civil affairs unit of the Special Mission to deter grave violations of human rights and promote respect for minimum humanitarian standards and to send an assessment mission to the country, as soon as security conditions permit, to determine the exact mandate, composition and location of the civilian monitors. It would welcome the constitution of groups of interested States, in particular the "Six plus Two" group, to coordinate their efforts, as well as the activities of international organizations, in particular the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the initiatives of its Secretary-General, and urge them to continue their efforts in a constructive manner to promote peace in Afghanistan.


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Also by the terms of the draft, the Assembly would call upon the Taliban to provide security guarantees for an investigation under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the reports of massacres of civilians and mass executions of prisoners of war, as well as on reports of killings in Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamyan, and urge all the parties, in particular the Taliban, to demonstrate their full commitment to the safety and security of international and humanitarian personnel.

It would further take note of the Supplementary Protocol to the Memorandum of Understanding of 13 May, signed by the United Nations and the Taliban, on the security of United Nations personnel in Afghanistan and urge the Taliban to proceed with an investigation of the death, serious injury and disappearance of staff members and persons employed by the United Nations, in particular the killing of the two Afghan staff members of the World Food Programme (WFP) and of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jalalabad and of the Military Adviser to the UNSMA in Kabul, and to keep the United Nations regularly informed about the progress of that investigation.

The Assembly would strongly condemn the killing of the diplomatic and consular staff of the Consulate-General of Iran in Mazar-e-Sharif and the correspondent of the Islamic Republic News Agency, and urge the Taliban to inform the Government of Iran and the United Nations about the result of its investigation to date. It would call upon the Taliban to cooperate fully with an international investigation of the murders with the view to prosecute the guilty parties.

Also by the terms of the text, the Assembly would urge the Taliban and other parties to recognize, protect and promote all human rights and freedoms and call upon them to end discriminatory policies and to recognize the equal rights and dignity of men and women. It would condemn the continuing widespread violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan and urgently call upon all parties to respect its provisions that provide essential protection for the civilian population in armed conflicts.

The Assembly would demand that all parties, in particular the Taliban, stop harbouring and training terrorists and that all Afghan parties cooperate with efforts to bring indicted terrorists to justice. The Assembly would reiterate its call to all parties to halt all illegal drug activities and to support international efforts to ban illicit drug production and trafficking. It would further call upon all Afghan parties, in particular the Taliban, to protect the cultural and historic relics and monuments of Afghanistan and request all Member States to take appropriate measures to prevent the looting of cultural artifacts and to ensure their return to Afghanistan.

By the terms of part B of the draft resolution, which has 15 operative paragraphs, addressing emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy


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and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan, the General Assembly would endorse the observations contained in the report of the Secretary-General. It would call upon all relevant organizations of the United Nations to continue to coordinate their humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan on the basis of the strategic framework, in particular to ensure a consistent approach on matters of principle, human rights and security. It would also appeal to donor countries and other humanitarian organizations to cooperate closely with the United Nations.

It would further call upon the leaders of all Afghan parties to place the highest priority on national reconciliation, demand that all Afghan parties respect international humanitarian law and that they, in particular the Taliban, ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of all humanitarian personnel and the protection of property of humanitarian organizations, and to cooperate fully with the United Nations and associated bodies as well as with other humanitarian organizations in their efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of the people of Afghanistan. The Assembly would condemn all blockades or other interference in the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies to the Afghan people, and note the recent lifting of the blockade in central Afghanistan by the Taliban.

Also by the terms of the draft, the Assembly would urge all Afghan parties to provide unimpeded access and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and to prevent the looting of United Nations premises and food supplies. It would also take note of the Supplementary Protocol to the Memorandum of Understanding of 13 May, signed by the United Nations and the Taliban, on the security of United Nations personnel in Afghanistan, and urge the Taliban to take the steps for its full implementation. It would denounce the continuing discrimination against girls, women and religious minorities and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Afghanistan, and call upon all parties within Afghanistan to respect fully the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion, in accordance with international human rights instruments.

The Assembly would also strongly urge all of the Afghan parties to end discriminatory policies and to recognize and promote the equal rights and dignity of women and men, including their rights to full and equal participation in the life of the country, freedom of movement, access to education and health facilities, employment outside the home, personal security and freedom from intimidation and harassment, in particular with respect to the implications of discriminatory policies for the distribution of aid. It would appeal to all States and to the international community to ensure that all humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan integrates a gender perspective and promotes the participation of both women and men, and that women benefit equally with men from such assistance.


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The Assembly would express concern over the continued laying of landmines and urge all Afghan parties to put a complete halt to their use, which continues to take a heavy toll on civilians and seriously impedes the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It would urgently appeal to all States, organizations and programmes of the United Nations system, specialized agencies and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to continue to provide, when conditions on the ground permit, all possible financial, technical and material assistance for the Afghan population and the voluntary, safe and secure return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would also call upon the international community to respond to the inter-agency consolidated appeal for emergency humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance for Afghanistan to be launched by the Secretary-General for the period from 1 January to 31 December 1999, bearing in mind the availability also of the Afghanistan Emergency Trust Fund. It would request the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its fifty-fourth session a report on the actions taken pursuant to the present resolution and decide to include in the provisional agenda of its fifty-fourth session, under the cluster of items on coordination of humanitarian assistance, the item on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan.

The draft is sponsored by Afghanistan, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uzbekistan.

Strengthening United Nations System

The Assembly had before it a draft decision entitled "Non-Governmental Organizations" (document A/53/L.68), by the terms of which it would request the Secretary-General to seek the view of Member States, members of the specialized agencies, observers and intergovernmental organizations, as well as the views of non-governmental organizations from all regions on his report, contained in document A/53/170, and to submit a further report at the fifty- fourth session of the Assembly, taking into account the submissions received. It would also decide to continue its consideration of the question at its fifty-fourth session.

By the terms of the draft resolution, submitted by the President of the Assembly, on the strengthening of the United Nations system (document A/53/L.74), the Assembly would decide that the fifty-third session of the


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General Assembly would close on Monday, 13 September 1999, and that the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly would open on Tuesday, 14 September 1999. It would also decide to further consider during its fifty-third session the question of the opening and closing dates of future regular sessions of the General Assembly.

Action

The Assembly adopted without a vote the draft on the Millennium Assembly (A/53/L.73), under the agenda item on United Nations reform.

On a point of order, REGINA MONTOYA (United States) said her delegation was deeply disappointed and gravely concerned that the Assembly had so far failed to address its responsibilities, as contained in the report to the Secretary-General by the United Nations Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements. Her delegation believed that "we have a duty to work with our partners here in the General Assembly to assist and support reform efforts to be undertaken by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Commission on Human Settlements".

Full consideration of the agenda item could not be delayed, she said. As such, the United States would like to join its partners in regular and transparent consultations aimed at moving the reform process forward. Her delegation strongly believed that a failure to do so, would unnecessarily delay reform efforts undertaken by UNEP and the Commission which would be to the grave detriment of their continuing operations.

Credentials Committee

The Assembly adopted the draft resolution recommended by the Committee in paragraph 11 of its second report without a vote.

Report of Economic and Social Council

The Assembly took note of Chapters I to VII and sections A to C of Chapter VIII, and Chapters IX and X of the report of the Economic and Social Council.

Economic Assistance to Individual Countries or Regions

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), introducing draft resolution A.53/L.72 on emergency assistance to the Sudan, noted that it was part of a group of resolutions dealing with humanitarian situations in Africa. Those resolutions were important, focusing on Africa's assistance needs, especially in the areas of food and the fight against sickness and epidemics.

The Assembly adopted the draft by consensus.


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Ms. MONTOYA (United States) said that her delegation joined the consensus to ensure that the international community was sufficiently seized with the humanitarian tragedy affecting that country. The United States continued to have concerns about the cooperation of the Government of the Sudan in facilitating the delivery of relief assistance. It recalled that the Sudan's denial of flight clearances to Bahr-el-Ghazal in February through April this year had contributed to the devastating famine that had placed 2.5 million Sudanese at risk of starvation. She urged the Government of the Sudan to ensure that it did not happen again and called on Khartoum to fulfil its commitment at peace talks in May to provide free and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian supplies, as called for in the resolution adopted today.

She said that meant granting clearances for all relief flights on a timely basis or explaining clearly why any had been refused, as well as providing access for a United Nations assessment team to the Nuba Mountains. That had been agreed to at a meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General in May this year, and Khartoum had reaffirmed the offer at the August peace talks. But the commitment remained unfulfilled. She cited specific steps the Government of the Sudan should take and said the United States also urged that Government to implement fully the agreements signed in mid-November with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Rome, providing for increased security for relief workers and supplying a framework for increased use of rail corridors and cross-line food deliveries. The situation in southern Sudan was one of the world's most devastating humanitarian tragedies. The resolution adopted today could help lead to an improvement of that situation, provided the Government of the Sudan took significant and concrete steps towards facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those who needed it.

HANZ PETER MANZ (Austria), for the European Union, said members of the Union were glad the resolution on emergency assistance to the Sudan had been adopted without a vote, departing from a pattern of disagreement on that resolution in recent years. The text was a marked improvement, compared with previous years. It took into consideration the situation on the ground and reflected agreements on international humanitarian law and principles. The European Union also hoped it would have a positive impact on the work of international humanitarian organizations in the Sudan and on the efforts of all parties to the conflict to achieve a lasting peaceful solution.

The European Union attached particular importance to the emphasis in the resolution on the need for Operation Lifeline Sudan to be operated and managed with a view to ensuring its efficiency, transparency and effectiveness.

DREWAN LYNNE MCVEY (Canada) said that in any negotiation there was compromise; any change in the management of Operation Lifeline Sudan had to be subject to the approval of all the parties to the agreement on its


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functioning. As the Operation constituted the basic framework for assistance to the Sudan, the principles of the agreement must be respected by all parties. As in the past, Canada would continue to support the Operation. It urged the Sudan to extend the ceasefire in duration and in boundaries. It also urged all parties to seek an early resolution to the conflict.

ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) thanked the Chairman of the African Group and all the parties who helped to get the draft adopted by consensus. He reaffirmed his country's commitment in adopting and implementing the draft, and to the principles contained in it.

Introducing the draft decision on non-governmental organizations (A/53/L.68), Ms. MCVEY (Canada) said the Secretary-General had prepared a report on the arrangements and the details of the participation of non- governmental organizations in all activities of the United Nations, which formed a good basis for the consideration of that issue. Her delegation had conducted consultations with Member States on the matter, and it was agreed that a follow-up report should be presented at the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly, so that consideration of concrete cooperation on the issue could be taken up. She thanked all who had taken part in the consultations and hoped the decision would be adopted by consensus.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft decision on non- governmental organizations.

The Assembly then agreed that suspension of its current session should take place tomorrow, 18 December, on the completion of the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

The PRESIDENT then said a note by the Secretary-General (A/53/701) on the Participation of the International Organization of la Francophonie in the sessions and work of the Assembly as an Observer would be considered tomorrow.

In his own closing remarks, the Assembly President, DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay), said they could feel legitimate satisfaction with the work done over the last three months. There were 168 items on the Assembly's agenda, and 250 resolutions and 60 decisions had been adopted by 15 December, many of them with important political content. It would not be opportune at this moment to evaluate the work done, but there were some elements to be highlighted.

Financial problems still beset the United Nations, yet the Organization continued to function. Those problems were not just issues from the current session, but dated back to previous years; they negatively affected the work, results and deliberations on important issues. He hoped that those in arrears with assessments would make their required payments without conditions.


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He said compromise and cooperation prevailed in consultations even though some elements of confrontation and tension were present on some important issues. In every case, consensus was sought; during the current session 190 proposals had been adopted by consensus. The resolution on dialogue among civilizations was an eloquent illustration of the spirit of understanding and tolerance which seemed to be progressively spreading throughout the international community. By adopting that text, the Assembly found another way to strengthen understanding and solidarity among the peoples of the world.

He said the adoption of a resolution on the question of equitable representation in the Security Council was another example of how much could be achieved when there was a genuine will to understand each other and make reciprocal concessions and compromises. In this session there was no substantive progress on the issue, but hopefully more progress would be achieved next year during the meeting of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Security Council reform.

Reviewing the work of the Assembly's Main Committees, he highlighted actions condemning nuclear testing in south Asia, a text on stressing the need for coordination between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the impact of the Wye River memorandum on the deliberations of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). He also welcomed the decision to convene the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court. Noting that this was a year of important commemorations, he recalled the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fiftieth anniversary of peacekeeping operations. He said it been a very fruitful Assembly session.

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