|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
31st Meeting (PM)
delegates in Second Committee approve draft resolution expressing deep
concern over israeli destruction of lebanese oil storage tanks
Members Pass Text by 138 Votes in Favour, 5 Against, 1 Abstention; Act on 3 Others
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) approved a draft resolution this afternoon, by which the General Assembly would express deep concern over the destruction, by the Israeli Air Force, of oil storage tanks and a Lebanese electric power plant, particularly for its adverse impacts on sustainable development in Lebanon.
By a recorded vote of 138 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention (El Salvador), Committee members approved that text, on the oil slick on Lebanese shores, by whose terms the General Assembly would call on Israel to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the Government of Lebanon for the costs of repairing the environmental damage caused by the destruction, including the restoration of the marine environment. It would also encourage Member States, regional and international organizations, regional and international financial institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to provide financial and technical assistance to support Lebanon’s efforts to clean up its polluted shores and sea, with a view to preserving its ecosystem.
Speaking after the vote, Israel’s representative described the draft resolution as a blatant attempt to politicize an issue of environmental concern and to paint Israel as an unjust aggressor. If the text earnestly sought to address the development ramifications of this summer’s Israel-Hizbollah conflict, it would have mentioned the thousands of trees, as well as the planted and natural forests in Israel, that had been burnt down as a result of Hizbollah rocket fire, or the 25 damaged Israeli buildings made of cement-asbestos that had polluted a large area.
Lebanon’s delegate retorted that if thousands of trees had been destroyed in Israel, even more had been destroyed in Lebanon. In addition to the 2,000 people killed and many thousands more displaced and injured, civilian lives had also been claimed by some 1.8 million cluster rockets, which had also prevented the population from using their lands. The oil slick had caused colossal and irreversible damage to Lebanon’s environment, economy and human health. Strenuous efforts would be required to reverse the destruction of animal habitats and unforeseen effects on the human body.
The Committee also approved two other draft resolutions and a draft decision. Acting without a vote, it approved a text on the international financial system and development, by which the General Assembly -- while noting with great concern the net outflow of financial resources experienced by developing countries -- would request that the Secretary-General analyse, in continued collaboration with international financial institutions and others, the reasons for, and consequences of, that trend.
Also by that text, the Assembly would underline the importance of promoting international financial stability and sustainable growth, while welcoming efforts to that end by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Financial Stability Forum.
The Committee also approved, without vote, a draft resolution on International cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon and a draft decision on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.
In other business, the representative of Australia introduced a draft resolution on the proclamation of international years, saying it would address an important “Second Committee issue”, having arisen while the text on the International Year of Fibres was being drafted.
The Second Committee will meet again on the afternoon of Friday, 1 December, to take action on all outstanding draft resolutions.
The Committee met this afternoon to take action on three draft resolutions and a draft decision relating to the international financial system, sustainable development and training and research. A draft on the proclamation of international years was also expected to be tabled.
Before the Committee was a draft resolution on the International financial system and development (document A/61/C.2/L.41), by which the General Assembly -- while noting, with great concern, the net outflow of financial resources experienced by developing countries -- would request the Secretary-General to analyse, in continued collaboration with international financial institutions and others, the reasons for, and consequences of, that trend.
Also by that text, the Assembly would underline the importance of promoting international financial stability and sustainable growth, while welcoming efforts to that end by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Financial Stability Forum, as well as consideration by the Fund’s International Monetary and Financial Committee to sharpen tools designed to promote international financial stability and enhance crisis prevention. Such activities would involve, among other things, the even-handed surveillance of capital markets and of “systemically and regionally important countries”, with a view to the early identification of problems and risks, integration of debt sustainability analysis and the possible provision of financing and other instruments designed to prevent financial crises and their spread, and to improve the transparency of international financial data.
By the same draft, the Assembly would underline the importance of national efforts to increase resilience to financial risk, stressing that better assessment of a country’s debt burden, and ability to service debt, was important in preventing and resolving crisis, and would welcome the ongoing work of the IMF in assessing debt sustainability. It would recognize the need for multilateral surveillance to remain at the centre of crisis prevention efforts with a focus not only on crisis-prone countries, but also on the stability of the system as a whole.
The text would have the Assembly stress the importance of reaching early agreement on a credible and time-bound package of reforms that would ensure an increase in the voice, representation and effective participation of developing countries in the Bretton Woods institutions. Also, it would emphasize the need to ensure the effective and equitable participation of those countries in formulating financial standards and codes, while underscoring the need to implement them on a voluntary and progressive basis.
Further by the draft, the Assembly would call for continued effort by the multilateral financial institutions to provide policy advice, technical assistance and financial support to member countries, to work on the basis of nationally owned reform and development strategies, to pay due regard to the special needs and implementing capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition and to minimize the negative impacts of the adjustment programmes on the vulnerable segments of society. It would stress the need continuously to improve standards of corporate and public sector governance, including accounting, auditing and measures to ensure transparency, while noting the disruptive effects of inadequate policies.
By a draft resolution on the Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/C.2/61/L.23/Rev.1), the Assembly would express its deep concern over the destruction by the Israeli Air Force of the oil storage tanks in the direct vicinity of Lebanon’s El-Jiyeh electric power plant, in particular, for its adverse implications for the achievement of sustainable development in Lebanon.
Also by that text, the Assembly would call on Israel to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the Government of Lebanon for the costs of repairing the environmental damage caused by the destruction, including the restoration of the marine environment. It would encourages Member States, regional and international organizations, regional and international financial institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to provide financial and technical assistance to Lebanon in support of its efforts to clean up its polluted shores and sea, with a view to preserving its ecosystem.
A draft on International cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon (document A/C.2/61/L.45) would have the Assembly call for measures to strengthen the International Centre for the Study of the El Niño Phenomenon, and invite the international community to provide scientific, technical and financial assistance and cooperation for this purpose.
The Assembly would, by other terms, underscore the importance of maintaining the El Niño/Southern Oscillation observation system, continuing research into extreme weather events, improving forecasting skills and developing appropriate policies for reducing the impact of the El Niño phenomenon and other extreme weather events, and emphasize the need to further develop and strengthen these institutional capacities in all countries, particularly developing ones.
By a draft decision on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (document A/C.2/61/L.38), would have the Assembly take note of the report by the Institute’s Executive Director and decide to consider harmonizing the submission of that report with that of the Secretary-General at its sixty-second session.
Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on the Proclamation of international years (document A/C.2/61/L.46), by which the Assembly would invite the Secretary-General to bring to the attention of Member States and United Nations entities, the guidelines for future international years contained in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1980/67 of 25 July 1980, as adopted by the General Assembly in its decision 35/424 of 5 December 1980, and call on Member States to take into account criteria and procedures contained in those guidelines when considering future proposals for international years.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
The representative of Australia introduced the draft resolution on the Proclamation of international years (document A/C.2/61/L.46), saying it would address an important “Second Committee issue”, having arisen while the text on the International Year of Fibres was being drafted. The support of other delegations would be welcomed.
Action on Draft Resolutions
As the Committee took up the draft resolution on the International financial system and development (document A/61/C.2/L.41), its Rapporteur, Vanessa Gomes ( Portugal) introduced the text, expressing the hope that members would take quick action on it.
The Committee then approved that text without a vote, while withdrawing an earlier version (document A/C.2/61/L.3).
The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the O il slick on Lebanese shores (document A/C.2/61/L.23/Rev.1) and decided to hold a recorded vote.
Introducing the draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the representative of South Africa orally amended the text by deleting the word “donor” in operative paragraph 4 and pointing out that there were minor errors in the Spanish and Arabic versions.
Explanations of Position
The representative of the United States expressed his condolences to the Lebanese people for the tragic loss of Minister Pierre Gemayel and reiterated his country’s support for the desire of the Lebanese people to live in peace. However, the United States did not plan to support the draft resolution since it was one-sided and unbalanced. It placed demands on one party while failing to note those responsible for provoking the conflict in the first place -- Hizbollah. While the United States regretted the pollution of the Lebanese coast, the Second Committee was not the appropriate forum for advancing such one-sided issues as seeking compensation from one party for damage caused during armed conflict.
The representative of Israel said the resolution was a blatant attempt to politicize an issue of environmental concern and to paint Israel as an unjust aggressor. The Second Committee could not allow politicization to infiltrate its work as that would only distract it from economic and developmental issues.
He said the text omitted crucial details relating to the context of the events described. While noting that the disaster had been caused by the Israeli Air Force, it had not mentioned that the entire reason for the conflict was the crossing of Hizbollah terrorists into Israel, and the kidnapping and killing of its soldiers. Had the Lebanese Government exercised its sovereignty and fulfilled the conditions of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), the conflict of the past summer would not have occurred. It went without saying that in response to Hizbollah’s attack, Israel had done what it was expected to do: protect its citizens amid the firing of 4,000 Katyusha rockets.
Meanwhile, professional agencies, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), were working to assess the situation and doing more good than the draft resolution would ever do, he said. If the text was earnest in its desire to address the development ramifications of the conflict, it would have mentioned the more than half a million trees and 52,000 dunams of planted and natural forests in Israel that had been burnt down as a result of the Hizbollah rocket fire, or the 25 damaged buildings in Israel made of cement-asbestos that had polluted a large area, or the direct hit by a Katyusha rocket on a sludge-thickening plant in an Israeli town. Israel urged Members States to distance themselves from yet another act of partisan politicking.
The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 138 in favour to 5 against ( Australia, Canada, Israel, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention ( El Salvador). (See annex.)
The representative of South Africa thanked fellow delegates for the strong support shown, singling out the European Union for demonstrating a “positive spirit” during discussions. A direct reference to international law had been present in the original draft but had been dropped in the final version, even though the Group of 77 would have preferred an explicit reference to that law.
Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Canada said his country was very concerned by the serious impact of the oil spill and had provided $2 million to a relief fund overseen by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which would contribute to clean-up efforts and the recovery of Lebanese fisheries. However, Canada had voted against the draft resolution because the General Assembly was not an appropriate forum for addressing issues of legal liability, or determining who should compensate for environmental damage.
In a general statement, the representative of Lebanon, aligning himself with the Group of 77, expressed deep appreciation to those who had supported the draft. The amount of damage that the oil slick had inflicted on the environment, the economy and human health in Lebanon was “colossal” and irreversible. Strenuous effort would be required to reverse the destruction of animal habitats caused by the slick and other unforeseen effects on the human body.
With regard to the economy, he said the oil slick affected such sectors as fisheries and tourism. The man-made disaster could have been avoided and had been done with complete knowledge of its consequences. The international community had a duty to tell Israel its actions would not be tolerated. It must send a strong message to the polluter, demonstrating that it stood ready to act whenever its shared future was compromised.
Noting that international law prohibited damage to the environment, he said it was based on the preventive action and “polluters pay” principles, which the text helped to uphold. Most of the ideas mentioned by a certain representative were divorced from reality, and Lebanon urged all delegates to remember the events that had occurred before 12 July. Indeed, Lebanon had been the victim of Israel’s aggression more than once, including in 1972, 1973, 1982, 1986, 1993, 1996 and 2006. On many of those occasions, Hizbollah had not even been formed, having only emerged in 1982. If it was true that 10,000 trees had been destroyed in Israel, 30,000 had been destroyed in Lebanon. Some 2,000 people had been killed and many thousands more displaced and injured. Some 1.8 million cluster rockets had helped to claim the lives of civilians and prevented the population from using their land.
On a technical note, the representative of Argentina said Spanish speaking delegates were undertaking consultations on how best to title the draft resolution since the current translation had been taken from the French version, which might not yield the best result. The group would report back to the Secretariat on its progress.
Introducing the draft resolution on International cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon (document A/C.2/61/L.45), Committee Vice-Chairman Benedicto Fonseca Filho ( Brazil) thanked facilitator Nicole Ruder ( Switzerland) for her efforts, noting that the text reflected the agreement achieved during informal consultations.
The Committee then approved that draft without vote and withdrew an earlier version (document A/C.2/61/L.26).
Finally, the Committee took up the draft decision on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (document A/C.2/61/L.38*), approving it without a vote. The representative of Indonesia thanked Member States for demonstrating consensus on that text.
Vote on Oil Slick on Lebanese shores
The draft resolution on the oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/C.2/61/L.23/REV.1) was approved by a recorded vote of 138 in favour to 5 against, with 1 abstention, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: Australia, Canada, Israel, Palau, United States.
Abstain: El Salvador.
Absent: Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nauru, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.
* *** *For information media • not an official record