20/12/2002
Press Release
GA/10127



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

HIGHLIGHTS


NEED FOR MULTILATERALISM, ELIMINATION OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

STRESSED DURING CURRENT GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION


Strengthening of United Nations, Poverty Eradication, Sustainable

Development in Face of Globalization, Fight against HIV/AIDS Also Highlighted


As the international community commemorated the tragic events of

11 September 2001, persistent terrorist activities and attacks in some parts of the world forced the General Assembly to maintain its focus on ways to eliminate the scourge of international terrorism.  This issue, which was woven into discussions on a range of development matters, including the law of the sea, remained a priority among the 168 items on the Assembly’s agenda.  Without exception, all States condemned terrorism and called for international cooperation to effectively prevent such acts from being carried out.


In his opening address, General Assembly President Jan Kavan (Czech Republic) anticipated those issues that would be of great importance to Member States.  He specified poverty eradication, the fight against HIV/AIDS and sustainable development in the accelerating process of globalization.  The spotlight was put on Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, in considering those issues.


The need for multilateralism enjoyed widespread support among Member States.  In his statement to the Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared himself a multilateralist -– by precedent, by principle, by Charter and by duty.  His sentiments were representative of those firmly held by Member States.


The Assembly concluded its work with the adoption of a resolution providing direction on how to proceed further with the reform process.  Many of the proposed actions would strengthen the impact of the Organization’s work, especially in economic and social fields, through a revised 2004-2005 programme budget to better reflect the Organization’s new priorities, through rationalization of its work and its information services, streamlining management and clarification of the roles and responsibilities in technical assistance.


After Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala called for fresh thinking and concrete action to lead the world out of the shadow of mass destruction weapons, warning that their possible use was more likely than ever, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) took up its wide-ranging agenda.  It approved 53 new and traditional texts, with votes that reflected broad unity on the fundamental disarmament and non-proliferation goals, in particular, the need to safeguard the human race from the fearsome destructive

potential of weapons of mass destruction.  Substantial disagreements remained on how to achieve those goals. 


Delegates throughout this year's session of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) focused on the need for developed countries to honour commitments made at major conferences over the past few years, to open up their markets, increase foreign aid, reduce subsidies and ease the debt burden.  They also emphasized such obstacles to development as costly transport services, corruption, encroaching desertification, natural disasters, technology needs and funding shortfalls for various United Nations bodies.  Some 43 draft resolutions approved during the session focused on various economic priorities for developing countries, environmental concerns and implementation of conference outcomes.


Overall this year, the fundamental nature of the discussions in the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) revealed broad support of all efforts to ensure the right to life, liberty and security of person, freedom from torture, and protection from arbitrary detention -– all among the freedoms guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Committee members approved the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which will establish a preventive system of visits to places of detention in order to strengthen protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and other inhuman treatment.  On the Committee’s recommendations, the Assembly ultimately adopted 75 draft resolutions and 12 draft decisions, including on the Khmer Rouge trials and on protecting human rights while countering terrorism.


The deepening humanitarian and political crisis facing Palestine refugees dominated the later half of the debate of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), as it considered the operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people.  At the Committee's recommendation, the Assembly adopted a resolution condemning recent events in the Jenin refugee camp, including the loss of life, injury and displacement of many of its civilian inhabitants.


Positive developments in the field of decolonization, including the independence of the former Non-Self-Governing Territory of Timor-Leste and the successful outcome of a visiting mission to Tokelau, marked the beginning of the Committee's discussions.  Other issues addressed were the ongoing, comprehensive review of the Department of Public Information, peacekeeping, the peaceful uses of outer space and the effects of atomic radiation.


Among the main achievements of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was swift action on the capital master plan to refurbish the Organization’s New York Headquarters.  Construction of a new 800,000 square-foot building is estimated to begin in October 2004 with a projected budget of some $1.05 billion, plus or minus 10 per cent, depending on the exact timing of the project.  In the meanwhile, major repairs are to be carried out on the existing complex.


Also during the current session, the Committee arrived at a preliminary budget outline for the next biennium, estimating the Organization’s requirements for 2004-2005 at some $2.9 billion.


The Sixth Committee (Legal) recommended 21 decisions and resolutions to the General Assembly on legal aspects of issues covering human cloning, the International Criminal Court, terrorism, dispute settlement among States, diplomatic and peacekeeping protection, commercial conciliation and the granting of observer status in the Assembly to four intergovernmental organizations.  The formal establishment of the International Criminal Court with the entry into effect of the Rome statute was a major achievement.


A summary of plenary and Committee actions follows.


Plenary


In addition to its work to combat international terrorism, the fifty-seventh General Assembly found itself dealing with the prospect of war to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.  Critical interventions by the Security Council and the Secretary-General chilled fervour for immediate action to resolve the issue.


But even as the international community commemorated the tragic events of

11 September 2001, persistent terrorist activities and attacks in some parts of the world forced the Assembly to maintain its focus on ways to eliminate the scourge of international terrorism.  This issue, which was woven into discussions on a range of development matters, including the law of the sea, remained a priority among the 168 items on the Assembly’s agenda.  Without exception, all States condemned terrorism and called for international cooperation to effectively prevent such acts from being carried out.


The address of the President of the United States to the Assembly underscored Iraq’s defiance of United Nations resolutions.  The Iraqi regime was depicted as a grave and gathering threat.  Security Council resolutions would be enforced and the demands of peace and security met, he warned, or action would be unavoidable.


To avoid the possibility of war in the Middle East, Iraq was urged by Members States to comply with all resolutions, in particular Council resolution 1441 calling on it to disarm peacefully.  During the debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, that point was emphasized.  It was the view of most Member States that the other part of the Middle East peace process would necessitate Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territory in Palestine and Syria’s Golan Heights.  Much support was also expressed for the work of the Quartet to advance the cause of peace in that region.


In his opening address, the General Assembly President anticipated those issues that would be of great importance to Member States.  He specified poverty eradication, the fight against HIV/AIDS and sustainable development in the accelerating process of globalization.  The spotlight was put on Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, in considering those issues.


The international community came out in full support of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), regarded as a distinctly African initiative to engage continental problems that had long defied solution and made development an elusive goal.  Along with indigenous African efforts, the international donor community recognized that it still had an important role to play in helping African nations to pull themselves out of the morass of arrested development.


The need for multilateralism enjoyed widespread support among Member States.  In his statement to the Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared himself a multilateralist -– by precedent, by principle, by Charter and by duty.  His sentiments were representative of those firmly held by Member States.  On almost no item of the agenda, stated the Secretary-General, did anyone seriously contend that each nation could fend for itself.  Even the most powerful countries knew they needed to work with others, in multilateral institutions, to achieve their aims.


Another matter engaging the attention of the General Assembly was the need for reform of the General Assembly and the Security Council.  Only a minority of States felt the Security Council should not undergo substantial change in terms of membership, both permanent and non-permanent.  On the other hand, there was deep concern about the unrepresentative nature of the Council’s permanent membership, given the change of the composition of the General Assembly.  It was argued that the Council’s membership should be expanded to include permanent representatives from South America, Africa and the Middle East, as well as another permanent representative from Asia, apart from China.


The Assembly concluded its work with the adoption of a resolution providing direction on how to proceed further with the reform process.  Many of the proposed actions would strengthen the impact of the Organizaiton’s work, especially in economic and social fields, through a revised 2004-2005 programme budget to better reflect the Organization’s new priorities, through rationalization of its work and its information services, streamlining management and clarification of the roles and responsibilities in technical assistance.  The adoption of the resolution was a significant achievement in that it represented an important stepping stone for the future work and deliberations in the continuous process of reforming the Organization, noted the President.


At the beginning of the Assembly, Switzerland was welcomed into the “family of nations”, thereby strengthening the universality of the United Nations.  With the admission of Timor-Leste (East Timor) later in the session, the membership of the United Nations increased to 191.


Consistent with the revitalization of its work as recommended by resolution 56/509 of 8 July 2002, the General Assembly set a precedent by electing its President and 21 Vice-Presidents two months earlier than usual.  Jan Kavan, a Deputy in the Czech Parliament, was elected President.  Vice-Presidents came from Austria, Bahrain, Barbados, Chad, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Gambia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Swaziland, Togo, United Kingdom, United States and Viet Nam.


First Committee


When the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) opened its session on 30 September, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala pressed delegations for fresh thinking and concrete action to lead the world out of the shadow of mass destruction weapons, warning that their possible use was more likely than ever. 


Setting a sombre tone for the general debate and the subsequent approval of 53 draft resolutions and decisions, Mr. Dhanapala stressed that the administrative and substantive challenges to disarmament were formidable, adding that the benefits were as wide as they were rich. 


Similarly, Committee Chairman Matia Mulumba Semakula Kiwanuka (Uganda) urged members to rekindle the spirit of multilateralism and strengthen global norms to eliminate the world's deadliest weapons, promote controls over other weapons that threatened international peace and security, and explore measures to advance conflict prevention and the peaceful resolution of disputes. 


With that in mind, members debated some of the most important issues on the international peace and security agenda, from small arms to the deadliest of weapons.  Through new and traditional texts, they emphasized, among other things, the critical need for compliance with arms control and non-proliferation agreements, as well as the implications of non-compliance on global security and stability. 


The voting patterns on the whole range of texts -- 23 of them required recorded votes -- reflected broad unity on the fundamental disarmament and non-proliferation goals, in particular the need to safeguard the human race from the fearsome destructive potential of weapons of mass destruction, with substantial disagreements remaining on the ways to achieve those goals. 


Five new resolutions were approved, either without a vote or by large majorities, on terrorism and mass destruction weapons, strategic nuclear arms reductions, reductions in non-strategic nuclear weapons, national legislation on military transfers, and the promotion of multilateralism. 


The new resolution on the possible acquisition by terrorists of mass destruction weapons expressed deep concern about the growing risk of such linkages and urged Member States to undertake and strengthen national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring those weapons, their delivery means and related materials and technologies.


The Assembly agreed, by the text on the new strategic framework between the Russian Federation and the United States, that new global challenges and threats required the building of a qualitatively new foundation of strategic relations between those two countries and welcomed their commitment to strategic nuclear warhead reductions in the 2002 Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (Moscow Treaty).


Under another new text, the Assembly called on those two States to initiate negotiations on an effectively verifiable agreement on "significant reductions" of non-strategic nuclear weapons, reiterating the particular responsibility of the nuclear-weapon States for transparent, verifiable and irreversible reductions in nuclear weapons leading to nuclear disarmament. 


In other developments during the session, the Committee learned that the States of the Central Asian region (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) had agreed on the text of a treaty to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.  Those States had previously hosted more than 700 tactical nuclear weapons and more than 1,400 former Soviet strategic nuclear weapons.


Members also welcomed, including in late amendments to draft resolutions, the recent decision by Cuba to ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), leaving only three States -- India, Israel, Pakistan -- outside that instrument.


The world's problems might not have been solved, but some progress had been made, the Chairman told the Committee in closing the session on 1 November.  Of the 23 resolutions that had been subjected to recorded votes, 15 had gained support over previous recorded votes, and more than half of those gaining votes dealt with nuclear issues. 


The Committee Chairman is Semakula Kiwanuka (Uganda).  Vice-Chairmen are Jamal Nassir Al-Bader (Qatar); José Nicolás Rivas (Colombia); and Razvan Rusu (Romania).  The Rapporteur is Mehmet Samsar (Turkey).


Second Committee


Developed countries must honour their promises to the developing world by opening up their markets, increasing foreign aid, reducing domestic subsidies and easing the debt burden, delegates stressed throughout this year’s session of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).


Trade was especially vital to development, they emphasized, yet hypocrisy and protectionism in international trade had kept commodity prices low and cut out the two most competitive sectors for developing countries –- agriculture and textiles.  Massive agricultural subsidies in developed nations had forced even the most efficient developing-country producers out of the market.


It was time that developed countries ended the double standard of promoting global free-market reforms while using subsidies to protect their own economic interests, delegates stressed, pointing out that eliminating trade barriers would increase the economic capacity of developing countries to $130 billion, more than double the target proposed at the Millennium Summit.


Another key focus during the session was the emphasis on increased exports and trade, which delegates said could help developing countries overcome another huge obstacle to development -- foreign debt.  Many countries spent more than half their budgets on debt-servicing, rather than sinking those funds into desperately needed economic and social programmes.


Debt was a particular burden for least developed countries, where HIV/AIDS had begun to severely hamper development.  Some representatives welcomed the enhanced highly indebted poor countries (HIPCs) initiative, but stressed that it covered a mere fraction of the unsustainable debt owed by developing countries and imposed difficult eligibility rules on potential beneficiaries.


Other speakers emphasized that countries lacking the infrastructure to attract investment and boost production were also in desperate need of foreign aid.  Noting that official development assistance (ODA) had dropped to        $51.4 billion in 2001 from $53.7 billion in 2000, they stressed the crucial need for developed countries to increase their aid contribution to 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP), especially in view of dwindling foreign direct investment (FDI) and other private flows.


Addressing the special needs of landlocked countries during a Second Committee meting, Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, noted that they faced the added burden of costly transport.  They spent three times as much as developed countries to move their goods, which slowed export growth, raised import prices and limited any trade gain.


Development was also thwarted by corruption, the encroaching desertification, natural disasters and lack of up-to-date technology, delegates noted.  Funding was desperately needed to implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, especially in Southern Africa.  The developed world must also fulfil commitments to transfer technologies -- the prices of which were soaring due to intellectual property rights regimes -- to developing countries.


Several speakers lamented funding shortfalls for such development bodies as the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and United Nations operational activities.  The current mechanism of annual pledging conferences to fund operations had failed to obtain the support and resources required from major donors or individuals, they noted.


Development needs were repeatedly linked during the session with the results of major conferences and summits held over the past few years.  World Bank President James Wolfensohn noted that the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development had laid down a framework within which all nations could work.  Developed nations had recognized the need to increase aid, open up markets and tackle subsides, and developing countries had agreed to strengthen capacities, improve legal and judicial systems, combat corruption and implement poverty-reduction strategies.


Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the Johannesburg Summit had mobilized resources and technology for developing countries, and held developed nations to sustainable production and consumption goals.  The international community must now link the targets, timetables and commitments on resources and technology set forth in Johannesburg with country-specific programmes to ensure that the conference goals were realized.


Others were less optimistic that conference results would be so easily realized.  Eveline Herfkens, the Secretary-General’s Executive Coordinator for the Millennium Development Goals, said the best news in centuries for developing countries would be that the Millennium Development Goals were actually being implemented.  The biggest problem would be to keep them from becoming part of the United Nations “alphabet soup”, she added.


Delegates also noted that last year's World Trade Organization (WTO) declaration in Doha reflected mainly the aims of major trading partners on industrial tariffs, investment, competition policy, environmental issues and trade facilitation.  Until the priorities of developing countries -– implementation, agriculture, tariff peaks and escalation and anti-dumping measures –- were dealt with, they should not be expected to accept further obligations that were of interest to the developed world.


Some 43 resolutions that the Committee approved during the session reflected its main concerns, with several focusing on trade, debt, commodities, the international financial system, industrial development, least developed countries and poverty reduction.  In addition, some 12 environmental texts addressed such key areas as climate change, the El Niño phenomenon, biological diversity, desertification and natural disasters.


The Committee also approved texts concerned with the implementation of various international conferences and summits, while others dealt with upcoming international meetings, such as the International Ministerial Conference on Transit-Transport Cooperation, to be held in Kazakhstan next August, and a meeting devoted to small island developing States, scheduled for 2004 in Mauritius.


Officers of the Second Committee for the just-concluded session were:  Chairman Marco Antonio Suazo (Honduras); Vice-Chairmen Abdellah Benmellouk (Morocco), Jan Kára (Czech Republic), and Bruno van der Pluijm (Belgium); and Rapporteur Walid Al-Hadid (Jordan).


Third Committee


During its fifty-seventh session, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its tradition of expressing strong support for international human rights treaties, mechanisms and instruments, particularly by approving the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  The objective of the Optional Protocol was the establishment of a system of regular visits to places where people were deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture, as well as the establishment of a Subcommittee on Prevention to carry out the functions laid down by the Protocol.  In this connection, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to open it for signature, ratification and accession at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 1 January 2003.


Also during this session, Sergio Vieira de Mello addressed the Committee for the first time in his capacity as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the goals and targets of his Office.  The principle of the rule of law would form the centrepiece of his approach, he told the Committee.  Strengthening the rule of law required that the entire range of institutional arrangements were actively implemented to ensure that human rights based on international commitments were advanced, realized and defended.


Within the context of the rule of law and addressing human rights violations of the past, the Third Committee this year recommended that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to resume negotiations to conclude an agreement with Cambodia's Government to establish extraordinary chambers for the prosecution of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in that country.


When the High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, addressed the Committee on durable solutions -- including development through local integration -- to the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons, the Committee noted with deep appreciation the effective manner in which the High Commissioner's Office had been dealing with the essential humanitarian tasks entrusted to it.  During the session, the Committee recommended that the Assembly continue the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees for a further period of five years.  The Committee also endorsed the recommendations of the Working Group on the future of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and decide to link the Institute to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.


Issues surrounding terrorism remained among the dominant themes this year, and Member States stressed the need to respect human and civil rights while undertaking anti-terrorism measures.  For the first time, the Committee approved a resolution which would have the Assembly call on States to take into account relevant resolutions and decisions on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, and encouraged them to consider the recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights, including its special procedures.


In this connection, Member States highlighted the importance of the fight against racism and religious intolerance, the protection of the rights of migrants, and the promotion of cultural diversity.  In a resolution approved on the fight against racism, the Assembly affirmed its commitment to a global drive for the total elimination of racism, discrimination and intolerance and urged States to adopt effective measures to combat criminal acts motivated by racism and xenophobia.  The Assembly also decided to proclaim 2004 as the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and Its Abolition.


Among the nearly 90 resolutions considered -- ultimately forwarding 75 texts and 12 decision to the Assembly -- the Committee dealt with issues ranging from social development, crime prevention, drug control, advancement of women, the rights of the child, the rights of indigenous people, the right to self-determination and the implementation of human rights instruments.  Several resolutions highlighted that persisting poverty and armed conflict remained serious threats to the respect for human rights worldwide.  The Committee, therefore, approved texts related to extreme poverty, the right to development, the right to food, and the right to a culture of peace.


As the Committee discussed and acted on these social, humanitarian and cultural issues, Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights and Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on racism, human rights defenders, human rights of migrants, freedom of religion, extrajudicial executions, torture, and the right to food addressed Member States, as well as experts, on country-specific human rights situations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sudan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


As the year 2003 marked the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Committee recommended that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to make the necessary arrangements for awarding human rights prizes in a plenary meeting on 10 December 2003.  At this time, the Assembly will also celebrate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights.

The Committee Chairman is Christian Wenaweser (Liechtenstein).  Ilham Ibrahim Mohamed (Sudan), Toru Morikawa (Japan), and Loreto Leyton (Chile) serve as Vice-Chairmen.  Oksana Boijo (Ukraine) is the Committee’s Rapporteur.


Fourth Committee


The deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories dominated much of the discussion of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) as it took up Middle East-related issues.


Following heated debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, the Committee adopted five related draft resolutions, including a text by which the General Assembly condemned the loss of life, injury, destruction and displacement inflicted on the Jenin refugee camp.  Following action on the texts, several delegations said that the unbalanced and "one-sided" criticism would not further the quest for peace in the region.


Almost half of the 25 resolutions and three decisions adopted by the Fourth Committee during the session focused on Middle East-related issues, including the operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices.  The Committee also considered decolonization, the effects of atomic radiation, the peaceful uses of outer space, peacekeeping and information.


The Committee's consideration of the operations of UNRWA resulted in the adoption of seven texts.  Delegates expressed concern over the environment in which the Agency was forced to work, as well as its persistent financial problems.  Many speakers, criticizing Israel for its policies of blockades, curfews and other restrictions in Palestinian refugee camps, said that Israel's destruction of the Agency's facilities and infrastructure not only hampered UNRWA's ability to function, but also threatened its very existence.  Israel responded to criticism by saying that delegates had failed to recognize that Israeli actions did not occur in a vacuum.  While supporting the Agency's humanitarian mission, Israel's delegate said Palestinian terrorists positioned in the camps were the ones endangering UNRWA personnel.


During the Committee's consideration of decolonization issues, delegates enthusiastically welcomed two positive developments, namely the independence of the former Non-Self-Governing Territory of Timor-Leste and the successful outcome of a visiting mission by the Special Decolonization Committee to the small Pacific island Territory of Tokelau.  With Timor-Leste's independence, only 16 Territories remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Developments in Tokelau towards independence were hailed as a model of how progress could be achieved in the remaining Territories on the Committee's agenda.


Arriving at a final solution to settle the question of Western Sahara dominated much of the decolonization debate.  Two different approaches marked the debate over the best way to resolve the Western Sahara question.  Numerous petitioners called for the speedy implementation of the original Settlement Plan, saying that the so-called Framework Agreement presented by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy would merely formalize the colonial situation of the country.  Algeria's representative said the Settlement Plan was the only acceptable framework to resolve the Western Sahara matter. 


Morocco's representative, however, endorsed the draft Framework Agreement as a platform for a political settlement to the "so-called" question of Western Sahara.  That Agreement, he said, was not a "dead letter document", but was aimed at reconciling Morocco's legitimate right to exercise its sovereignty over its territory and the aspirations of the territory's population to manage their own affairs.


On the question of peacekeeping, citing successful peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Sierra Leone and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno described the past year as a very good year for peacekeeping operations.  He said the first new operation since the issuance of the Brahimi Report on peacekeeping operations -- the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) -- was innovative, in that it brought together relief, rehabilitation and reconstructive activities under a single pillar. 


Looking ahead, the Under-Secretary-General advocated moving the peacekeeping discussion from reform and strengthening of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to actual peacekeeping operations themselves.  In that regard, he highlighted six outstanding areas, including rapid deployment; enhancing the African peacekeeping capacity; training; security sector reform and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; comprehensive rule of law strategies in the peacekeeping context; and best practices.  At the conclusion of the peacekeeping debate, the Committee adopted a resolution designating 29 May as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.


The Committee's consideration of information questions focused on the ongoing review of the Department of Public Information (DPI), as Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, made an opening statement.  The aim of the comprehensive review, he said, had been greater effectiveness, while recognizing that, in an era of budgetary constraint, new priorities would not be matched by additional resources.  Part of the reform effort was the Secretary-General's decision to establish a new operating model for the Department, which became operational at the beginning of November.  The creation of regional information "hubs", another key element in the reform proposals, would require the approval of Member States.  Other issues highlighted during the discussion included the importance of traditional media; language parity, particularly on the United Nations Web site; and the Department's live radio project.


The Fourth Committee's officers are:  Chairman Graham Maitland (South Africa); Vice-Chairmen Debra Price (Canada), Mansour Ayyad Sh. A. Al-Otaibi (Kuwait), and Margaret Hughes Ferrari (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines); and Rapporteur Andrej Droba (Slovakia).


Fifth Committee


Among the main achievements of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) during the current session was swift action on the capital master plan to refurbish the Organization’s New York Headquarters.  Construction of a new 800,000 square-foot building is estimated to begin in October 2004 with a projected budget of some $1.05 billion, plus or minus 10 per cent, depending on the exact timing of the project.  In the meanwhile, major repairs are to be carried out on the existing complex.


As for the budgetary aspects of its work, the Committee arrived at a preliminary budget outline for the next biennium, estimating the Organization’s requirements for 2004-2005 at some $2.9 billion.  It also took up a number of requests for additional resources for previously unscheduled activities in connection with recent decisions by intergovernmental bodies and international conferences.


Committee members expressed concern over growing expenditures presented in the first performance report for the current biennium, with many speakers noting that demands from new mandates, unforeseen expenditures and costing variations confronted Member States with steep increases over the adopted budget of

$2.63 billion.


Updating the Committee on the financial situation of the Organization in October, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Joseph E. Connor, also expressed doubt about the capacity of the budget to fund all the mandates of the United Nations.  Currently, the United Nations was struggling to meet a

$75 million budgetary reduction for 2002-2003, and new requirements would push the budget level of some $300 million higher, he said.  Regarding the main indicators of the Organization’s financial health, he said, at the end of 2002, cash balances were expected to be higher than in 2001, but so would unpaid assessments and debt to Member States.


Under the Committee’s biennial cycle of work, 2002 was a "personnel year", so the Committee focused much attention on the issues of human resources management and the United Nations common system.  Speakers in the debate emphasized high priority for the ongoing reform, which seeks to establish a fair, transparent and measurable human management system and attract and retain high-quality staff.  The time had come, it was pointed out, to further consolidate and institutionalize the changes introduced to date.


Among the main issues addressed in the debate were gender balance, contractual arrangements, equitable geographical distribution, proposed changes in the age of separation, staff mobility, delegation of authority and accountability.  Also stressed was the need to rejuvenate the Organization and achieve a fair system of recruitment, placement and promotion.  Among recently introduced initiatives in this respect, speakers highlighted a new staff selection system, which had come into force on 1 May this year.


The Committee also carefully considered the proposals by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), focusing on a pay-and-benefits review; simplification of the job classification system; introduction of so-called “broad-banding” of salaries; and creation of a new job evaluation system.  In an effort to realign the salary levels within the United Nations with those of the United States federal employees, as of 1 January 2003, a revised scale of salaries for professional and higher categories of staff will be introduced.


The Committee also considered several reports related to the functioning of the United Nations pension system.  In 2000-2001, the number of participants in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund increased by 16.2 per cent, and the number of periodic benefits in award increased by 7 per cent.  Due to market volatility and a broad correction in global equity markets since the March 2000 peak, however, the market value of the Fund’s assets had decreased from

$26.06 billion to some $19.9 billion as at 30 September.


During the discussion of the two international Tribunals’ financing, many speakers expressed concern over an 85 per cent over-expenditure by the Rwanda Tribunal in 2001.  Appropriations for defence counsel for 2002 and 2003 had jumped to $17.11 million and were expected to go up by another $3.7 million, if current patterns persisted.  To address the situation, delegates stressed the need to set up effective monitoring and control mechanisms, strengthen expenditure structures and make use of existing resources.


The bureau of the Fifth Committee consists of its Chairman, Murari Raj Sharma (Nepal); Vice-Chairmen Guillermo Kendall (Argentina), Bogdan Dragulescu (Romania) and Michel Tilemans (Belgium); and Haile Selassie Getachew (Ethiopia), Rapporteur.


Sixth Committee


The Sixth Committee (Legal) recommended 21 decisions and resolutions to the General Assembly on legal aspects of issues covering human cloning, the International Criminal Court, terrorism, dispute settlement among States, diplomatic and peacekeeping protection, commercial conciliation and the granting of observer status in the Assembly to four intergovernmental organizations.  The formal establishment of the International Criminal Court with the entry into effect of the Rome statute was a major achievement.


Keeping the item of cloning on the Assembly’s agenda was among the most delicate agreements.  Behind that decision were a number of drafts that attempted to address a gap between opposing views over the elaboration of an International Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings.  One view held that cloning of a human was at hand and the convention was urgently needed.  Another pointed out that the ban implied approval of other forms of human cloning, such as for stem cell research.  Since that was, in effect, reproductive cloning, only a comprehensive convention banning all human cloning would suffice.  A Sixth Committee working group will meet again in September to continue trying to narrow the gap between the two positions.


The Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court held its last meeting to establish the Court after the Rome Statute entered into force on  1 July.  The Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute held its first meeting at Headquarters from 3 to 10 September.  It considered the Preparatory Commission’s report, which contained procedural resolutions and recommendations related to budget, rules of procedure, elements of crimes and a Headquarters agreement to be negotiated with the host country, the Netherlands.  Addressing the Committee in October, that country’s representative said the Court was ready to function in both physical and organizational terms.  Its inaugural session will take place on 11 March 2003.  The Assembly of States Parties will resume its first session in February at Headquarters to elect judges and prosecutor, among other matters.


Also this year, the work of developing a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism continued to dominate the Legal Committee's agenda.  Its working group and the General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on the matter continued to elaborate two draft conventions as a matter of urgency, one a comprehensive instrument on terrorism and the other an instrument on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.  The convening of a high-level conference to formulate a joint organized response also remained on the agenda.  Debate in the Committee focused on the need to combat terrorism with a "single voice" and as a matter of urgency, to address its root causes and to conduct the anti-terror campaign without compromising gains already made in the strengthening of human rights.


Protection of United Nations and associated personnel on peacekeeping missions was another major concern for the Committee.  On its recommendation, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the scope of legal protection offered by the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and associated personnel, and another on acts of violence against diplomatic missions.  On the recommendation of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, the Assembly requested the host country to take all necessary measures to prevent interference with the functioning of United Nations missions.  Another resolution, on the status of protocols additional to the Geneva conventions, concerned the protection of armed-conflict victims.


By other resolutions, it was decided that the Ad Hoc Committee on jurisdictional immunities of States and their properties would continue elaborating an instrument on those immunities and that the International Law Commission would continue work on international liability for acts not prohibited by International law.  Of concern to the Commission was the decision by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to cut the honorarium paid to members of certain bodies, such as the Commission, members of which had decided not to collect the symbolic honorarium of one dollar per year.  Of concern to both the International law Commission and the Committee was the proposed transfer of the Sixth Committee's technical secretariat from the Office of Legal Affairs to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.  Delegations during debate expressed concern over the ability of the new arrangement to meet the level of expertise required by the Commission in areas such as the codification of international law.


A major accomplishment of the session in the area of international law was the adoption of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation.  The Assembly commended the 14-article Model Law, together with its Guide to Enactment and Use, to States for enhancing or formulating legislation concerning conciliation and for enforcement settlement agreements.  Also this year, it was decided that UNCITRAL's membership would be increased from 36 to 60, that participation of least developed countries in UNCITRAL activities would be increased by encouraging contributions to the voluntary fund for the purpose, and that measures to strengthen the Commission's secretariat would be considered.

Finally, in its report to the Legal Committee, the Special Committee on the Charter and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization dealt with three critical areas related to international peace and security.  One was the peaceful settlement of disputes, in regard to which States were urged to use existing procedures and mechanisms.  Another concerned assistance to third States affected by the imposition of Security Council sanctions.  The last measure covered the Special Committee's ongoing consideration of issues related to peace and security.


Receiving observer status with the General Assembly on the basis of the Sixth Committee's recommendation were:  Partners in Population and Development, the Asian Development Bank, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.  The request for such status from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance was deferred until next year.


Officers of the Sixth Committee for the session were Arpad Prandler (Hungary), Chairman, with Shuichi Akamatsu (Japan), Augusto Cabrera (Peru) and Valentin Zellweger (Switzerland) as Vice-Chairmen.  Karim Medrek (Morocco) was Rapporteur.


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