17 December 2007
General Assembly
GA/10676

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Plenary

74th Meeting (AM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY STRONGLY CONDEMNS ALL THREATS AND ACTS OF VIOLENCE


AGAINST UNITED NATIONS, ASSOCIATED HUMANITARIAN PERSONNEL

 


Adopts Non-Legally Binding Instrument

On Forests, Which Are Disappearing at Alarming Rate


Expressing deep concern at the “dramatic escalation” in attacks against aid workers, the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian assistance, and the impunity seemingly enjoyed by the perpetrators of such acts, the General Assembly today strongly condemned “all threats and acts of violence” against United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel.


In a meeting that began immediately after a system-wide moment of silence for the 17 United Nations staff confirmed dead in the wake of a terrorist bombing that wrecked two of the world body’s facilities in Algiers last Tuesday, the Assembly adopted a resolution expressing its “deep concern” at the dangers and security risks faced by United Nations and associated humanitarian workers in the field, operating in increasingly complex situations, as well as the continuous erosion, in many cases, of respect for the principles and rules of international law.


“Strongly condemning” all threats and acts of violence against United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel, such as murder, rape, abduction, hostage-taking and kidnapping, the Assembly, through the adopted text, reaffirmed the need to hold those responsible for such acts accountable.  It also strongly urged all States to take stronger action to ensure that any such acts committed on their territory were investigated fully, and to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice, in accordance with national law and obligations under international law.


Further, strongly urging States to end impunity for such acts, the Assembly called on all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies “to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies, and to ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and delivery of supplies and equipment, in order to allow those personnel to efficiently perform their task of assisting the affected civilian population”.


The Assembly also called on all other parties involved in armed conflicts to refrain from abducting United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel, or detaining them in violation of relevant conventions and applicable international humanitarian law, and speedily to release, without harm or requirement of concession, any abductees or detainees.


Among the 10 resolutions adopted by consensus today was a text included in the report of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) on the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests.  By that text, the Assembly adopted the instrument and invited members of the governing bodies of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to support implementation of it, consistent with their mandates.


By the text, the Assembly invited donor Governments and others to make voluntary financial contributions to the Trusts Fund of the United Nations Forum on Forests, so that it could address, within the context of its multi-year programme of work, the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument, and provide support for participants from developing countries and transition economies to attend the Forum’s meetings.


In an informal special event that followed the adoption of the instrument, Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said that forests needed to be protected because they were disappearing at an alarming rate.  Over the past 15 years, over 3 per cent of the planet’s forests had vanished.  “The instrument we have just adopted thus expresses our will to respond to this alarming trend,” he said.


At the same time, there was much more to the instrument than just protecting trees, he said, emphasizing the growing recognition of the role of forests in stabilizing climate change, and protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.  “And let us not forget that today, over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for fuel, food, medicine and income.  So protecting forests really means fostering sustainable development,” he said.


Speaking ahead of the text graduating Samoa from the United Nations list of least developed countries, the representative of that country said his Government had pursued the draft resolution for one simple reason:  it had wanted to place the decision to graduate Samoa squarely on the Economic and Social Council, the intergovernmental body with the mandate to do so, irrespective of the processes and reports it might have used to arrive at that decision.


Despite uncertainties about its ability to sustain economic performance, and the lingering fear of “venturing beyond one’s comfort zone”, Samoa felt the resolution clearly represented a defining moment in its relations with its development partners, he said.  At the same time, he said his country was vulnerable to climate change, and that the socio-economic shocks that “prey and feed on its structural weaknesses, are real challenges that can not be wished away”.  Those concerns had been at the heart of his country’s contention that it was not ready to graduate.  Further, the inevitable loss of preferential treatment granted to Samoa through its least developed country status would impact its efforts to consolidate solid gains made in past years.


Samoa had strongly reiterated those points during the negotiations, he explained, and had always been reassured by its partners that they would be “willing and ready to assist us once we rid ourselves of the least developed country tag”.  While those positive signals were tempting, they also meant that if Samoa did not respond appropriately, it could end up with its least developed country status intact, but at the expense of losing its partners’ goodwill in the process.


[The defining criteria for listing include a low income, based on a three-year average estimate of the gross national income (GNI) per capita (under $750 for inclusion, above $900 for graduation); human resource weakness, involving a composite Human Assets Index based on indicators of nutrition, health, education and adult literacy; and economic vulnerability.]


In other action, the Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 2010 the Year of Rapprochement of Cultures, and recommended that, during the course of this Year, appropriate events be organized on interreligious and intercultural dialogue, including, among others, a high-level dialogue and/or informal interactive hearings with civil society.


Also adopted today were texts on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010); strengthening emergency relief, reconstruction and prevention in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster; international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development; strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian assistance of the United Nations; assistance to the Palestinian people; and assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence.


Background


The General Assembly met this morning to take action on a number of outstanding draft resolutions on matters related to the culture of peace, and on strengthening the coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief operations, including special economic assistance.  It was also expected to consider a draft resolution recommended for action by the Economic and Social Council, as well as another text recommended by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial).


Among the resolutions before the Assembly was a text on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) (document A/62/L.6), which would have this body welcome the annual designation of 2 October as an International Day of Non-Violence, and reiterate that the objective of the Decade is to further strengthen the global movement for a culture of peace.  The Assembly would commend the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) –- the Decade’s lead agency –- for its activities, and commend other relevant United Nations bodies for their efforts, especially promoting peace education.


Further, by the text, the Assembly would encourage the Peacebuilding Commission to promote a culture of peace and non-violence for children in its activities.  It would further encourage the appropriate authorities to provide education, in children’s schools, that includes lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active citizenship, human rights and the promotion of a culture of peace.


The Assembly is also set to consider a draft resolution on The promotion of interreligious dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace (document A/62/L.17/Rev.1), by which it would decide to declare 2010 the Year of Rapprochement of Cultures, and recommend that, during the course of this Year, appropriate events be organized on interreligious and intercultural dialogue, including, among others, a high-level dialogue and/or informal interactive hearings with civil society.  The draft would also have the Assembly take note of its relevant high-level dialogue, held from 4-5 October 2007, and emphasize the need to sustain the momentum generated by that meeting.  It would also encourage the promotion of dialogue among the media from all cultures and civilizations, and emphasize that everyone has the right to freedom of expression.


A draft resolution on The safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/62/L.38) would have the Assembly express its “deep concern” at the dangers and security risks faced by United Nations and associated humanitarian workers in the field, operating in increasingly complex situations, as well as the continuous erosion, in many cases, of respect for the principles and rules of international law.  It would urge all parties to armed conflict, in compliance with international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions, to ensure the protection of such personnel.  Further, the Assembly would “strongly condemn” all threats and acts of violence against United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel, and reaffirm the need to hold accountable those responsible for such acts.  It would strongly urge all States to take stronger action to ensure that any such acts committed on their territory are investigated fully, and to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with national law and obligations under international law.  The Assembly would also urge States to end impunity for such acts.


The Assembly would further call on all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, “to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies, and to ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and delivery of supplies and equipment, in order to allow those personnel to efficiently perform their task of assisting the affected civilian population”.  The text would also have the Assembly call on all other parties involved in armed conflicts to refrain from abducting United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel, or detaining them in violation of the relevant conventions and applicable international humanitarian law, and speedily to release, without harm or requirement of concession, any abductees or detainees.  The Assembly would welcome ongoing efforts to promote and enhance the security consciousness within the organizational culture of the United Nations system, and request the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures in this regard.


By a draft text on Strengthening emergency relief, reconstruction and prevention in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster (document A/62/L.30), the Assembly would note that progress has been achieved in the recovery and rehabilitation efforts to assist tsunami-affected countries, and note that assistance is still required to re-establish the basis for long-term sustainable development.  It would encourage donor communities and international and regional financial institutions, as well as the private sector and civil society, to strengthen partnerships and continue to support the medium- and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction needs of the affected countries.  The draft would also have the Assembly urge Governments of the affected countries to identify their unmet needs in terms of financial and technical assistance, in order to foster the ongoing efforts to enhance national capacity and to create a reliable tsunami early warning system in the region, in concert with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and UNESCO.


According to the text, the Assembly would commend the launch of the Multi-Donor Voluntary Trust Fund on Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia, and would invite Governments, donors and relevant organizations to consider contributing to that mechanism. 


A draft resolution on International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/62/L.34), would have the Assembly express deep concern at the number and scale of natural disasters and their increasing impact, resulting in massive loss of life and property worldwide, particularly in vulnerable societies that lack adequate capacity to effectively mitigate the long-term negative socio-economic and environmental consequences of natural disasters.


It would therefore call upon States to fully implement the Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action 2005-2015:  Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters, in particular those commitments related to assistance for developing countries that are prone to natural disasters, and for disaster-stricken States in the transition phase towards sustainable physical, social and economic recovery; for risk-reduction activities in post-disaster recovery; and for rehabilitation processes.  It would further call on States to effectively implement necessary legislative and other appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and integrate disaster risk reduction strategies into development planning, and in this regard requests the international community to continue to assist developing countries, as well as countries with economies in transition, as appropriate.


Also before the Assembly was a draft on Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/62/L.37), by which it would request the Emergency Relief Coordinator to continue to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian assistance, and encourage the United Nations to pursue efforts to strengthen global partnerships with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, among others.


It would have the Assembly call on relevant United Nations organizations to pursue efforts to improve the humanitarian response to disasters by further strengthening the humanitarian response capacities at all levels; strengthening coordination of humanitarian assistance at the field level; and further enhancing transparency, performance and accountability.  The Secretary-General would be asked to strengthen support to United Nations resident/humanitarian coordinators and country teams by providing training, identifying resources, and improving the identification and selection of coordinators.  The Assembly would also emphasize the civilian character of humanitarian assistance, and recall the request by the Economic and Social Council that the Secretary-General report on the use of military assets for disaster relief.  Further, the Assembly would call on donors to provide adequate, timely and predictable resources, based on and in proportion to assessed needs, including for under-funded emergencies, and encourage adherence to the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship.


Reaffirming the target of $500 million by 2008, the Assembly would urge all States -– and invite the private sector, among others -– to consider making contributions to the Fund, and invite States to promote a “culture of protection”, taking into account the particular needs of women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities.


By a draft resolution on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/62/L.36), the Assembly would urge Member States, United Nations international financial institutions and intergovernmental organizations to extend economic and social assistance to Palestinians, in close cooperation with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and through official Palestinian institutions.  The Assembly would welcome the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, held in New York on 24 September 2007, and the perspective of the Paris Donors’ Conference on 17 December 2007, encouraging donors to increase their direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority.  The Assembly would call on United Nations organizations to intensify their assistance, urge Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products on the most favourable terms, and stress the importance of ensuring the free passage of humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and free movement of persons and goods.  Further, it would stress the need for continued implementation of the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations of 29 April 1994.


By the terms of a text on Assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence (document A/62/L.26/Rev.1), the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to encourage the United Nations to provide assistance in the areas of education for orphans, medical care for victims of sexual violence, trauma and psychological counselling, skills training, and microcredit programmes.  Requesting the Secretary-General to continue the activities of “The Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations” outreach programme, the Assembly would also note the importance of such residual issues as witness protection and victim support, the Tribunal archives, judicial issues and capacity building for the Rwandan judiciary.


A draft resolution on the Graduation of Samoa (document A/62/L.33) would have the Assembly take note of the decision of the Economic and Social Council to endorse the recommendation of the Committee for Development Policy that Samoa be graduated from the list of least developed countries.


Also before the Assembly was a report by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) containing a draft resolution on The non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests (document A/62/419 (Part I)).  By this text, the Assembly would decide to adopt the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests, and invite members of the governing bodies of the member organizations of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to support implementation of it, consistent with their mandates.  To this end, the Assembly would invite the United Nations Forum on Forests to provide guidance to the Partnership.  The Assembly would invite donor Governments and others to make voluntary financial contributions to the Trust Fund for the United Nations Forum on Forests, and would decide that the Forum would review the non-legally binding instrument as part of its overall review of the international arrangement on forests, decided upon by the Economic and Social Council in resolution 2006/49 of 28 July 2006.


An annex to the report further details the purpose of the resolution:  to strengthen political commitment and action to sustainably manage forests; enhance forests’ contribution to internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals; and to provide a framework for national and international action.  The annex is organized into the following categories:  principles; scope; global objectives on forests; national policies and measures; international cooperation and means of implementation; monitoring, assessment and reporting; and working modalities.


Introduction of Draft Resolution and Action on Draft


Introducing the draft resolution on the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace (document A/62/L.17/Rev.1), the representative of the Philippines stressed that the text would welcome the designation of the Office for Support and Coordination of the Economic and Social Council as a focal point in assisting the Secretary-General in coordinating contributions for the interreligious and intercultural dialogue.  It also emphasized the need to sustain the momentum generated by the October 2007 dialogue, and declared 2010 as the International Year of Rapprochement of Cultures.  He noted that draft resolution A/62/L.6 also contained an agenda item 49 that had already been introduced.


The Assembly then adopted by consensus the texts on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) (document A/62/L.6) and the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace (document A/62/L.17 Rev.1).


Statements of Position after Action


The representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union in explanation of position on “L.17/Rev 1”, said his delegation had joined consensus on the text, based on an understanding of the sense of purpose behind it.  The European Union saw the resolution as an expression of commitment to interreligious and intercultural dialogue.  A culture of peace could only take place if human rights were protected.


Promotion of dialogue was essential to building a more peaceful world, he continued, and the Union supported the decision taken at a recent UNESCO conference.  He recalled that Economic and Social Council guidelines for considering international years, reaffirmed last year, had stated that prior to consideration by the Assembly, proposals for such years should first be brought to the attention of that Council.  The Union believed it was important that the Council’s mandate be respected, and regretted that it had not been in this case.  He hoped the two years leading up to 2010 would be used to properly prepare for the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, to ensure that it would make a difference in bringing cultures together.


The representative of the Russian Federation welcomed the resolution on the promotion of interreligious dialogue, as it marked a “new step” in strengthening interaction among nations.  The diversity of cultures and religions must be taken into account, as demonstrated in forums such as the Alliance of Civilizations, among others.  Also, the high-level dialogue from 4-5 October had shown the need for such talks, and that positive experience should be reproduced and more rigorously developed.  The dialogue had made use of the United Nations’ potential to use interreligious peace as a means for promoting its goals in pillar areas.  He called on States to use that dialogue as an impetus to acquire experience in such areas.  The resolution provided a good way to do that.


Introduction of Draft Resolutions and Action on Drafts


The representative of Indonesia, introducing a draft resolution on strengthening emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and prevention in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster (document A/62/L.30), said the terrible events of that natural crisis had brought out the best in the human spirit of solidarity.  That unconquerable spirit had enabled nature’s obstacles to be overcome time and again.  Still, while progress was being made in getting survivors back on their feet, recovery would take years.  The resolution would do much towards that end by, among other things, ensuring a long-term perspective on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas. 


Pakistan’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/62/L.34).  Noting that the poverty-disaster interface had the potential for immense suffering and loss, he said that even if the suffering caused by natural disasters could not be completely eliminated, commitment to enhancing preparedness and response capacity could help in the early recovery and long-term rehabilitation of those affected by such disasters.  That was one of the resolution’s main objectives, as was recognizing the role information and telecommunication technology played in disaster response, as well as the importance of rapid access to funds to ensure a more predictable United Nations response to natural disasters.


The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, said the text addressed the issue of strengthening the normative framework for safety and security of humanitarian personnel, and protection of United Nations personnel, as well as the promotion and enhancement of the world body’s overall security management system.


He also introduced a draft resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/62/L.36), recalling that today, international donors were holding a conference in Paris, which represented an essential building block for the political process launched at Annapolis on 27 November.  It also constituted a unique opportunity for the international community to back its commitment to assist in the economic and financial development of a future viable and prosperous Palestinian State.


Introducing the draft text on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/62/L.37), the representative of Sweden said the resolution reaffirmed the unique and leading role the United Nations had to play in humanitarian emergencies.  It put a particular focus on disaster-risk reduction and preparedness, and reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action in that regard.  He noted that two years ago the resolution had upgraded the Central Emergency Response Fund, and few could have predicted the Fund’s enormous success.  Last week, 74 countries had pledged almost $420 million for humanitarian assistance in 2008.


The representative of Botswana, introducing the draft resolution on Rwanda (document A/62/L.26 Rev.1) on behalf of the African States, said that the international community had a duty to shout the words “Never again!” today and every day.  At the same time, neither those words, nor any form of assistance intended for the survivors of the genocide would ever be enough.  It would never replace those who perished, nor would it ever wipe away the memory of that “unimaginable atrocity”.  It was, however, necessary to act, to honour the memories of those who had died by helping the survivors to continue to believe in humanity, to tell the story of the horrors they witnessed, and to help them build communities that believed in tolerance.


Under agenda item 71, the Assembly adopted by consensus the resolution on strengthening the United Nations’ emergency humanitarian assistance (document A/62/L.30), as orally revised.  It then adopted by consensus the following resolutions on humanitarian assistance and assistance to the Palestinian People:  document A/62/L.34, document A/62/L.36, document A/62/L.37 and document A/62/L.38.  Under agenda item 72, the Assembly adopted the resolution on Rwanda (document A/62/L.26 Rev.1).


Explanation of Position after Action


Speaking after adoption of the text on assistance to the Palestinian people, the representative of Israel said his Government had long supported such assistance, although in the past, due to realties on the ground, it had been compelled to abstain from the Assembly’s decision.  This year, as the current Palestinian leadership met the standards of the international community, Israel was glad to join consensus.  At the same time, Israel’s support of the text should not be misunderstood as an unconditional endorsement of all its elements.  Rather, it was support for the overall concept of “assistance to the Palestinian people”.


In fact, there were many aspects –- omissions, in particular –- that Israel found problematic.  He said that the resolution’s failure to mention Hamas, whose violent takeover of the Gaza Strip was causing the humanitarian situation there, highlighted one of his delegation’s most grievous concerns.  “‘Assistance to the Palestinian people’, under the direction of the United Nations, cannot ignore Hamas’ terrorist rule of Gaza”, he said, adding that it was similarly regrettable that the resolution made only a passing reference to Annapolis.


Israel viewed the recent United States-sponsored meeting as a major and positive step forward.  That momentum should be reflected in the approach of the United Nations to the region.  “‘Assistance to the Palestinian people,’ under the direction of the United Nations, cannot ignore the push for peace and negotiations between the two parties,” he said.  Surely there was no monopoly on suffering.  In the Middle East conflict, Israelis and Palestinians had both suffered unjustly, and it was the obligation of all parties to respect each others’ rights and to adhere to the rule of law.  The security concerns of Israel, which was under daily siege from rocket barrages launched by Palestinian terrorists inside the Gaza Strip, could not be neglected.


He went on to say that Israel was also disappointed that the resolution failed to mention Corporal Gilad Shalit, now in his nineteenth month of captivity, held since June 2006 by terrorists in Gaza.  Israel, for its part, would continue to support the Palestinian Authority, the Government of Prime Minister Salam Fayad and President Abu Mazen, as it was a leadership that embraced the diplomatic Quartet’s three basic conditions:  recognition of Israel, an end to violence and terrorism, and abiding by previous decisions.  His delegation was hopeful that Israelis and Palestinians could work together to improve the security of both their peoples.


The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, in explanation of position after action on strengthening the coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief, reconfirmed his delegation’s commitment to fundamental principles underpinning the effective provision of humanitarian assistance.  At the same time, he would have liked to have seen further progress on important contemporary humanitarian issues raised in the Secretary-General’s reports, such as rapid access to victims and the need to further address sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies.  The Union looked forward to working with the Assembly to “strengthen our political messages and guidance” on such issues.


Reiterating his strong commitment to respect –- and to ensure respect for –- international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, he expressed appreciation for the work undertaken by humanitarian actors.  As the world’s largest humanitarian donors, the Union was as committed as ever to responding to victims’ needs on the ground, through assistance and continued positive engagement with the humanitarian system, notably the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


The representative of Liechtenstein said protecting United Nations personnel and ensuring the safety of humanitarian personnel was of the utmost importance to those suffering from humanitarian disasters.  In addition, it was imperative for the Organization that the safety of those working in the field was ensured, particularly in complex emergencies.  Stressing that it was vital for the resolution to recall that attacks against peacekeepers and humanitarian workers were war crimes, he expressed regret that operative paragraph 13 did not refer to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associate Personnel.  He highlighted the fact that 15 out of every 16 staff members had been recruited locally, and said his delegation joined other countries in stressing that local personnel were more vulnerable and their protection should be increased.


The representative of Rwanda, aligning his country with the statement previously made on behalf of the African Group, said 1994’s tragic events were among the darkest and most dreadful in human history.  Regrettably, the international community had not taken timely and decisive action to prevent the tragic events from unfolding, or to stop them once they started.  His delegation’s understanding of the international community’s responsibility to protect populations from genocide was that it entailed a responsibility to prevent genocide from occurring, a responsibility to protect if prevention failed, and a responsibility to rebuild if protection failed.  Thus, the United Nations system and the wider international community could, under the current agenda item, exercise their responsibility to rebuild Rwanda after genocide.


The Rwandan people had, for the most part, decided to put their painful history behind them and rebuild their country on a solid foundation of reconciliation, justice, good governance, development, human rights and democracy, he said.  The support provided to his country by the international community and the United Nations was commendable.  Yet challenges remained, particularly among vulnerable groups like orphans and widows, who needed assistance in shelter, health and education.  Victims of sexual violence continued to need medical care and treatment, as well as trauma and psychological counselling.  Economic programmes were also needed to promote self-sufficiency and poverty alleviation.


Commending the work of the Department of Public Information, he said its work on Rwanda genocide victim remembrance and education should be continued into the next biennium.  Pointing to the Security Council’s decision to begin completion of the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2008, he stressed that much work remained to be done, including the completion of many trials.  He expressed appreciation for the support of delegations in that regard.


The Observer for Palestine, speaking on agenda item 71(c), said international assistance was vital for continued Palestinian subsistence in the current critical period of socio-economic difficulties in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Assistance provided over the years, through the United Nations and donors, had helped to alleviate Palestinian hardships through various crises.  It had been instrumental in helping the Palestinian Authority repair and reform, as well as develop its institutions and public sector capabilities.  She expressed her delegation’s gratitude to the resolution’s co-sponsors, particularly the European Union for its generosity, as displayed today at the Paris Donors’ Conference.


Palestine appreciated the “spirit of consensus” on the resolution, which sent an important message in the context of the Paris Conference, and in follow-up to the conference at Annapolis.  She hoped efforts would lead to increased assistance to the Palestinian people and leadership.


At same time, it must be made clear, she said, that while joining consensus, Israel should not be absolved of accountability for obstructing assistance to Palestinians, notably through its siege and closure of the Gaza Strip, destruction of infrastructure, and daily creation of “new reasons” that required even more assistance to Palestinians, including the ongoing construction of settlements and the wall, and restrictions on movement of peoples and goods in the West Bank.  Such actions further aggravated the humanitarian situation and undermined assistance efforts.


Israel had clear obligations under international law as the occupying Power, with which it should be compelled to comply.  The global community’s duty to ensure respect was clear.  Only by addressing such important issues could the international community turn the process of assistance from one of poverty alleviation and crisis management to one of genuine nation building, with a view to establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian State.


While meeting Palestinians’ humanitarian food and medicine needs was primary, she called for attention to address high levels of unemployment and poverty.  Combined, such efforts could promote real economic recovery and development, including strong Government institutions and security for both peoples.  In closing, she reiterated her deepest gratitude to the international community and the United Nations for support over the years.


Introduction of Draft Resolution A/62/L.33


Introducing the draft resolution on the report of the Economic and Social Council (document A/62/L.33), the representative of Pakistan said that “no country wants to live in poverty forever”, cautioning, however, that criteria and rules for graduation needed to be examined.  She said Samoa was economically vulnerable and susceptible to the impact of climate change.  She urged partners to be mindful of that in considering Samoa’s long-term development, and reiterated the call for effective implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, the Barbados Programme of Action, and the Mauritius Strategy to address least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States.  She thanked all of the resolution’s co-sponsors and hoped it would be adopted by consensus.


Explanation of Position before Action


Speaking ahead of adoption of the text, the representative of Samoa said his Government had pursued a draft resolution on the current matter for one simple reason:  it had wanted to put the decision to graduate Samoa squarely before the Economic and Social Council, the intergovernmental body with the mandate to do so, irrespective of the processes and reports it might have utilized to arrive at that decision.  Past Assembly resolutions on the matter appeared to give greater prominence to the recommendation by the Committee for Development Policy for countries to graduate from the “least developed country list”, rather than on the Council’s role in the final decision-making process.   Samoa’s input had therefore been intended to provide clarity, and to link the graduation decision to the substantive decision maker.


The resolution was a short one, but its brevity belied the amount of time and efforts spent by all concerned, “to get us to this juncture”.  After nearly two years of discussion and negotiations, he said the record would show that the issue of Samoa’s graduation had led to a divided vote in the Economic and Social Council in May, and on more than one occasion “it polarized the positions of [Council] members”.  With that in mind, he recalled that despite the simplicity of the resolution just adopted, critical obligations still had to be met, including the vital role of the three-year transitional period for Samoa to cultivate durable partnerships to enhance its resilience and endurance to external shocks to its economy, thus guaranteeing long-term sustainability and development. 


Also important going forward was the Council’s call for the Committee on Development Policy to develop a consistent set of criteria that could be applied to all recommendations on the inclusion in and graduation from the list, with due account taken of economic vulnerability as a structural characteristic of least developed countries.  He went on to recall that during the Council’s May session, Samoa had finally accepted, albeit with some foreboding, the international community’s verdict, or, more precisely, “the clearly expressed wish of our development partners that Samoa now possessed the minimum requirements necessary for it to cross to a new threshold in its nation building endeavour”.


“Despite uncertainties about our ability and capacity to sustain our economic performance at current levels, coupled with lingering fear of venturing beyond one’s comfort zone into uncharted territories”, he said that the current resolution clearly represented a defining moment in Samoa’s international relations and collaborative efforts with its development partners.  At the same time, he said his country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, and to the socio-economic shocks that “prey and feed on its structural weaknesses, are real and true challenges that can not be wished away”.  Those concerns had been at the heart of Samoa’s contention that it was not ready to graduate yet.  In addition, the inevitable loss of special and preferential treatment granted Samoa through its least developed country status would have an impact on its efforts to try and consolidate the solid gains it had made over past years.


He said that Samoa had strongly reiterated those points during the negotiations, and had always been reassured by its partners that they would be “willing and ready to assist us once we rid ourselves of the least developed countries tag”.  All of those positive signals, “dangling so suggestively”, were tempting, to say the least.  Seriously, they meant that if Samoa did not respond appropriately, that Samoa could end up with its least developed country status intact, but at the expense of losing the goodwill of its partners in the process.


Needless to say, Samoa must work hard to build bridges of understanding with its partners, developed and developing, to enhance it human, financial, and institutional capacity so that it could successfully integrate into the global economy.  “In good faith, we had made our decision to graduate.  Only the future knows what it had in store for us”, he said, but knowing deep down that “partners and friends would not abandon you in your time of need”, was all the assurance one needed to turn this new page in a new chapter of Samoa’s history.


The Assembly then adopted resolution A/62/L.33 without a vote.


Introduction of Report of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial)


The Assembly decided not to discuss the Second Committee’s report (document A/62/419 (Part I)), limiting statements to explanation of vote.


The Assembly then adopted by consensus resolution A/62/419 (Part I), on the non-legally binding instrument on forests.


Explanation of Position after Adoption


The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said it considered the present moment a “milestone”.  It was the remarkable result of efforts by the community of the Forum on Forests.  It was also a moment of confidence in what could be achieved through dialogue.


The instrument required responsible actions by all, he said.  Progress was expected; the clock was ticking.  He reiterated support for the work of the seventh meeting of the Forum on Forests.  He expressed the expectation that the challenges ahead would be won.  Yet Governments working alone were not enough.  In that light, he reminded Member Sates of the collaborative work of the Forum on Forests.  He also paid tribute, at this “next chapter” in the dialogue on forests, to those who had worked towards the creation of this non-legally binding instrument.


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For information media • not an official record