25 July 2008
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6370

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

Economic and Social Council

2008 Substantive Session

44th & 45th Meetings (AM & PM)


EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE, LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES, HUMAN TRAFFICKING AMONG ISSUES,


AS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL ADOPTS 12 TEXTS, CONCLUDES ANNUAL SESSION


President Léo Mérorès ( Haiti) Calls Session ‘Truly Historic’, Highlighting

Annual Ministerial Review, Development Cooperation Forum, Ministerial Declaration


The Economic and Social Council today concluded what its President called a “truly historic” annual session, adopting 9 resolutions and 3 decisions, and for the first time, resorting to a vote to approve its customary text on strengthening coordination of United Nations emergency humanitarian assistance.


By a show-of-hands vote of 38 in favour, with 13 abstentions, the Council adopted the resolution on humanitarian assistance, by which it expressed grave concern at the increased number of people affected by humanitarian emergencies, including those associated with natural hazards and complex emergencies, as well as at the increasing challenges posed to the United Nations humanitarian response capacity by the consequences of natural disasters, including the impact of climate change and by the humanitarian implications of the current global food crisis.


While delegations welcomed “new and progressive” elements included in this year’s resolution -- its condemnation of sexual-based violence and attacks on aid workers, its calls for disaster preparedness and risk reduction, among others -– they were deeply troubled that disagreement over language on humanitarian access had forced a vote.  Many considered such access a prerequisite for an effective humanitarian response.


After the vote, a speaker said that providing humanitarian assistance was of the utmost importance in all situations and was troubled that his delegation’s reference to strengthening such assistance to civilians living under foreign occupation had been “repeatedly rejected”.  Another said the vote could be the precursor of a “dangerous trend” of attempts by some States to politicize humanitarian issues.  Expressing yet another view, a speaker stressed that, while State sovereignty was a well-established principle, it must be exercised within the framework of international law.  Humanitarian assistance was both a right for victims and a duty for the international community, he added.


In closing remarks, Council President Léo Mérorès ( Haiti) hailed the 54-member body’s “remarkable” 2008 substantive session, which began on 30 June.  He highlighted the Council’s successful implementation of key new functions mandated just two years ago by the General Assembly, including the Development Cooperation Forum.  Calling it “one of the central pillars of a new, revitalized Council”, he said that the Forum had made significant strides towards positioning the Council as the principle venue for global dialogue and policy review on effectiveness and coherence of international development cooperation.


Citing the “vital role” played by another of the Council’s new functions -- the Annual Ministerial Review -- he said the exchange of information during the Review’s voluntary national presentations had been “encouraging and significant”.  Chile, Kazakhstan, United Republic of Tanzania and Lao People’s Democratic Republic presented lessons learned in formulating and implementing their national development strategies, while Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, and the United Kingdom reported on progress assisting developing countries in their efforts.


Mr. Mérorès summed up the 2 to 3 July Review, saying that the volunteering developing countries had agreed on one common theme:  that they could only eradicate poverty by pursuing development that was economically, socially and ecologically sustainable.  The developed countries, on their part, had acknowledged gaps in their development cooperation strategies, while highlighting successes with their development partners.


“The momentum is continuing,” he said, announcing that 11 countries had already volunteered for the 2009 Review on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health”.  To ensure a balance, he urged more developed countries to come forward and requested some developing nations to defer their requests to 2010 or 2011.


Noting some of the session’s other high points, he said that the Ministerial Declaration, adopted on 3 July, had been “full of determination” to fight common challenges like rising food prices and biodiversity loss.  Mr. Mérorès was also pleased to see the Council’s role in peacebuilding and post-conflict development being recognized and promoted, evidenced by its extension of the mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti.  The Council was also making steps to expand its relationship with the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, and hoped that initial informal discussions paved the way for strengthened ties between the two bodies.


“Our work has been cut out for us […] we must continue our effort to further strengthen the role of the Council,” he said, calling on members to immediately begin preparations for the body’s 2009 substantive session.  In the fall, the Council must focus on two important issues.  First, it must respond to its mandate regarding adaptation of its working methods, and he planned to convene a meeting to explore possible areas for further action.  Second, the Council must find ways to further strengthen its oversight role on the funds and programmes, as envisaged in the resolution adopted on the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review.


Sha Zukang Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs remarked on the “breadth and depth” of stakeholders’ engagement in the Council’s work, and said that the successful implementation of its new mandates “marked a new beginning”.  The Council has also demonstrated new strength by pronouncing on some of the most pressing issues of our time, sending an unequivocal message that no effort should be spared to ensure sustainable development for all.  Otherwise, there was a serious risk that hard-won gains could be undermined.


The Council had also pronounced on the global food crisis, rising oil prices, financial turmoil and the worldwide economic slowdown, and, of course, climate change, which United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called “the defining challenge of our time”.  Underscoring the crux of the Council’s messages on those issues, Mr. Sha said it was clear there were no piecemeal solutions and no quick fixes:  the issues must be addressed comprehensively, through both short- and long-term measures, especially the food crisis.  Further, since lasting and durable solutions were crucial, “ECOSOC can serve as an effective forum for launching such action […] we need to fully utilize the Council’s potential,” he added.


On organizational matters, the Council adopted two texts without a vote, deciding that the theme of its 2009 thematic discussion will be “current global and national trends and their impact on social development, including health”.  It also decided that the themes for its annual ministerial reviews in 2010 and 2011 will be, respectively:  “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender quality and empowerment of women”; and “implementing the internationally agreed gaols and commitments in regard to education”.


By a roll-call vote of 49 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States) with 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Japan), the Council adopted a resolution on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.  By the text, it expressed hope that the resumed peace process will speedily advance to pave the way for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State and the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.


Turning to the follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, the Council adopted without a vote, as orally revised, a resolution on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010.  By the text, the Council expressed its concern at the insufficient progress in implementing the Programme of Action, and stressed the need to address areas of weakness.


Expressing deep concern that the number of people living in extreme poverty was significantly higher in least developed countries, it also stressed that the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, could be achieved through the timely fulfilment of the Brussels Programme of Action.


Also by the text, the Council underlined that, for further implementation of the Programme, least developed countries and their partners must be guided by an integral approach, a broader genuine partnership, country ownership, market considerations and results-oriented actions.  Progress would require implementation of national policies for sustained economic growth, among others.  The Council urged least developed countries to strengthen country ownership by translating goals into specific measures within their national development frameworks and poverty eradication strategies.


In other action, the Council adopted without vote, resolutions on:  the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau; strengthening coordination of the United Nations and other efforts in fighting trafficking in persons; report of the seventh session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration; mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system; and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) (document E/2008/L.37).


The Council also adopted a draft decision on enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document E/2008/L.11), taking note of the requests to enlarge the membership of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and recommending that the General Assembly, at its sixty-third session, decide on the question of enlarging the membership from 76 to 78 States.


Introducing the draft resolution on strengthening United Nations action to fight trafficking in persons was the representative of Belarus.


Also speaking today were representatives of, United States, France (on behalf of the European Union), Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Algeria, Canada, Japan, Israel, Syria, Benin, Kenya, Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Bangladesh, Brazil, Republic of Korea, Cameroon, Liechtenstein, Russian Federation, Uruguay, New Zealand, Pakistan, Mexico and the United Republic of Tanzania.


The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine also addressed the Council.


The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator also delivered a statement.


The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.


Introduction of drafts


The representative of Belarus began today’s session with the introduction of a draft resolution on strengthening coordination of the United Nations and other efforts in fighting trafficking in persons, (document E/2008/L.31), by which the Economic and Social Council would urge all States to increase efforts to counter trafficking in persons, and urge those States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.


It would further invite all Member States to make full use of existing instruments against human trafficking; and invite Governments, regional and international organizations, and civil society to address the economic and social factors that breed trafficking in persons, and provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of trafficking victims.


Also by the text, the Council would call upon Governments to take into account the age, gender and special needs of victims of trafficking in persons, and fully implement the provisions of Council resolution 2006/27.  In addition, it would call for full implementation of relevant instruments for the prevention and combating of trafficking in persons, and protection of trafficking victims.  It would reiterate the invitation to States to consider establishing a United Nations strategy or plan of action on preventing trafficking in persons, prosecuting traffickers and protecting and assisting victims of trafficking.


The Council would welcome work carried out under the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking and encourage the Office on Drugs and Crime to continue to cooperate with relevant international organizations outside of the United Nations system, utilizing extrabudgetary resources.


Further by the text, the Council would invite Member States to provide voluntary contributions to the Office on Drugs and Crime to facilitate optimum implementation of coordination functions.  Highlighting the role of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols, the Council would also reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to provide the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme with sufficient resources for the full implementation of its mandates, in conformity with its high priorities.


Council Vice-President JEAN MARC HOSCHEIT then announced that the Council would take up agenda item 6 (b) entitled “The Review and Coordination of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed countries for the Decade 2001-2010” at a later time.


Action on drafts


The Council then adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution on the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau (document E/2008/L.34), by which the Council stressed the importance of addressing the structural causes of conflict and urged continued support and funding for the implementation of the nation’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, security sector reform plan and anti-narcotics operational plan.


It further expressed appreciation for the constructive role of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group, and to the Secretary-General for support provided to that Group.  It decided to terminate the mandate of the Group, and invite the Peacebuilding Commission to consider the work of the Group and draw upon lessons learned.  It would further invite the Commission to continue to inform it about the economic and social aspects of peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau, and decide to consider that matter at its substantive session of 2009 under the agenda item entitled “African countries emerging from conflict”.


Next, the Council adopted without a vote a draft decision on report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on its seventh session and provisional agenda for its eighth session (document E/2008/L.30),by which it approved the convening of the eighth session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration from 30 March to 3 April 2009 on the main theme, “The human factor in capacity-building and development”.


It further approved the agenda for that session on:  the human factor in capacity-building and development; compendium of basic United Nations terminology in governance and public administration; review of the United Nations Programme on Public Administration, Finance and Development; and public administration perspectives on the theme of the 2009 annual ministerial review:  implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health.


Also without a vote, the Council then adopted the draft resolution entitled Report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on its seventh session (document E/2008/L.33), by which it took note of the conclusions on the topic of capacity-building for development in the Committee’s report and encouraged Member States to continue to strengthen their capacities to better utilize the various aid modalities and disseminate the understanding and implementation of capacity-building as a judicious combination of institution-building and human resource development.


Emphasizing that capacity-building is essential and needed in administrative restructuring, civil service reform, human resources development and public administration training, the Council also invited Member States to continue to monitor the progress made towards the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and to prepare an inventory of good administrative policies implemented to support the Goals.


It also requested the Secretariat to enhance its support for capacity-building, including in the public sector, ensuring that available resources are adequate and existing resource levels are maintained.  It also requested the Secretariat to continually focus on the United Nations Public Service Awards, the United Nations Online Network in Public Administration and Finance (UNPAN), the Network of Innovators, the World Public Sector Reports and the Global Forum on Reinventing Government.


The Council then adopted, without a vote and as orally amended, the draft resolution onstrengthening coordination of the United Nations and other efforts in fighting trafficking in persons (document E/2008/L.31).


Prior to adoption, the representative Belarus said the delegation of China joined the draft as a co-sponsors.


The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, appreciated all efforts to address human trafficking from a multilateral perspective.  Such endeavours required a comprehensive approach that addressed both demand and supply.  The Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime provided a forum for States to cooperate in those areas, while the Protocol created a “road map” of minimum requirements to prevent human trafficking, and protect victims, and he encouraged all States to use it.


He went on to explain that the work of multilateral organizations was integral to supporting the work of Governments, and he encouraged the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization on Migration (IOM), among other relevant agencies, to both focus on their core competencies, and ensure that their efforts on the ground were not at cross purposes.  He further called on the Inter-Agency Cooperation Group against Trafficking in Persons to explore with States ways for multilateral organizations to align their efforts with the goals of the Protocol.


The Vice-President then proposed that the Council take note of the Secretary-General’s report on “the role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, in light of relevant General Assembly resolutions, including resolution 61/16 (document A/61/83-E/2008/77).


The Council then adopted the draft resolution mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system (document E/2008/L.32).  By that text, the Council recognized that the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender remained an important forum for the exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas on gender mainstreaming within the United Nations system.


Recognizing that a large gap remained between policy and practice and that building United Nations staff capacities alone was not sufficient for the Organization to meet its commitment and obligations with respect to gender mainstreaming, the Council requested the United Nations system to, among other things, strengthen institutional accountability mechanisms for both management and staff; continue efforts to achieve gender balance in appointments within the United Nations system at the Headquarters and country level; provide specific ongoing capacity-building; include clear gender equality results and gender-sensitive indicators in their strategic frameworks; collaborate with the resident coordinator system to provide gender specialist resources in support of gender mainstreaming in country-level activities.


By that text, the Council further stressed the role that senior management plays in creating an environment that actively supports gender mainstreaming and called upon it to do so.  It also requested the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality to continue to provide practical support to its members in gender mainstreaming and explore the possibility of developing a database of trained facilitators at the country and regional levels.


Speaking after adoption and in explanation of position, the representative of France, on behalf of the European Union, said that this resolution would make it possible to clearly reinforce the position of States on the issue.  He welcomed the resolution, although his delegation would have liked a more in-depth discussion on the topic.  It would be a major tool for achieving gender equality and building women’s capacity, which was a prerequisite for achieving the internationally-agreed development goals and the Millennium Development Goals.  He emphasized the relevance of gender mainstreaming in the triennial comprehensive policy review, which reinforced the commitment of the Organization to implement gender mainstreaming through its work.


The Council also took note of the report of the Secretary-General on future work to strengthen the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (document E/2008/62); the report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Institute for the Advancement of Women on the work of its fifth session (document E/2008/73); and the note by the Secretariat on a report on the results of the fortieth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document E/2008/91).


Also without a vote, the Council next adopted a draft decision on Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document E/2008/L.11).  By that text, the Council took note of the requests to enlarge the membership of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees contained in the 29 February 2008 letter from the Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the Secretary-General and the 30 May 2008 letter from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Moldova to the Secretary-General.  It also recommended that the General Assembly, at its sixty-third session, decide on the question of enlarging the membership of the Executive Committee from 76 to 78 States.


The Council then took note of the report delivered by the Deputy Director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on behalf of the High Commissioner.


Before concluding its consideration of its agenda item on human rights, the Council took note of the Report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on its thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth sessions (document E/2008/22); the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document E/2008/76); and the Report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (document A/63/41).


Under its consideration of the agenda item on the “Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”, the Council took note of the Report of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on its seventh session (document E/2008/43).


Following conclusion of that agenda item, the representative of Kyrgyzstan, returning to the draft just adopted, explained that her delegation would like to be added to the list of co-sponsors.


The Vice-President responded that it was no longer possible to become a co-sponsor, as the draft resolution had already been adopted.


Following that, the representative of the United States, exercising his right of reply, addressed the Cuban delegation’s remarks from a day earlier, explaining that the United States’ policy was to provide humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people, and the families of political prisoners.  Recently, Cuba had signed the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and he hoped the Government would soon ratify it.  He hoped that the tenets enshrined in it could be seen in a release of 200 prisoners, who were in jail for disagreeing with the Cuban Government’s policies.


At a United States-organized panel event at the United Nations yesterday, he said former political prisoners had shared their stories.  One panellist, the sister of former political prisoner in Cuba, explained that her brother had been told by the Government that he could travel only if he agreed not to return to the country.  The United States urged Cuba to respect its obligations under the Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant to allow this man to leave and return to Cuba at his will.  In closing, he said the United States would continue to uphold its commitments under the Declaration on Prisoners of Conscience.


The representative of Cuba, responding, said nothing surprised him in the United States’ statement, which was full of hatred and indicative of the pride of a decadent Power.  He rejected that statement, and recognized no moral authority in it for the heroic people of Cuba.  On the United States’ panel event, he asked that the United Nations not be used for campaigns that promoted confrontation and a lack of trust.  That panel had affected the United Nations’ credibility by establishing a negative precedent.


Stressing that the United States did not recognize the right to development, food, health, or the rights of children or women, he added that the United States also wished to put up a “smoke screen” to cover its flagrant human rights violations at its Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons.  The United States had been rejected for the “legal limbo” under which it detained people, in contravention of international law.  Also, five anti-terrorist Cuban fighters had been held in United States prisons for 10 years.  The recruitment and financing of mercenaries, in service of United States policies on the island, had been central to the carrying out of an anti-Cuban strategy.


Next, turning to its consideration of agenda item 15, the Council adopted without a vote a draft resolution on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) (document E/2008/L.37), by which it reiterated that training and capacity-development activities should be accorded a more visible and large role in support of the management of international affairs, and in the execution of the economic and social development programmes of the United Nations system.


The text acknowledged the progress made by UNITAR, in light of its strategic reforms introduced by its Executive Director, for the Institution to be a centre for excellence, and noted with concern that a lack of voluntary contributions could lead to a cessation of its core diplomatic training service, which is particularly important for the training of delegates from developing and least developed countries.  The Council, therefore, appealed to the Institute to continue its fund-raising strategy, and to all Governments, particularly those of developed countries, and to private institutions, to give the Institute “their generous financial support”.


The Council then took up the draft resolution entitled economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan contained in documentE/2008/L.26.


The Chairman noted that Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa had joined in co-sponsoring the draft.


The representative of Algeria read a number of amendments to the text, which he said had been made to achieve the broadest possible consensus.  He also said a roll-call vote had been requested.


Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said his delegation would vote “no” on the resolution because, as drafted, it was unbalanced, expressing concern for one side of a conflict only.  Criticizing Israel, it ignored the purposeful targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists.


Noting that the United States deeply regretted the deaths of civilians on both sides, he emphasized that his Government was the largest bilateral donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), with its aid totalling $154 million last year.  It also contributed significant amounts to other organizations, such as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that also provided assistance.


While gratified that the current resolution had been amended to promote good governance, his delegation would still vote no on it because it remained unbalanced.  The United States remained committed, however, to working with both sides and the Quartet for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel, he said.


Holding a roll-call vote, the Council then adopted the draft resolution 49 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States) with 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Japan).


By that text, it expressed its hope that the resumed peace process will speedily pave the way for the establishment of the independent Palestinian State and the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.  It further called for the lifting of the severe restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip and stressed the need to preserve the national unity and the territorial integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.


It demanded that Israel comply with the Protocol on Economic Relations between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed in Paris on 29 April 1994, calling upon that country to restore and replace civilian properties, vital infrastructure, agricultural lands and governmental institutions that have been damaged or destroyed as a result of its military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


The Council also called upon Israel to cease its destruction of homes and properties, economic institutions and agricultural lands and orchards in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. It further called for a halt to the cease if dumping of all kinds of waste in those areas and implementation of critical environmental projects, including the sewage treatment plant in the Gaza Strip.


Speaking in explanation vote after the vote, the representative of Canada said that her delegation noted the positive amendments that had been made to the text, but regretted that it remained one-sided in its criticism of Israel.  Concerned with the situation of the Palestinian people, Canada was working with the Palestinian Authority and other donors and organizations to meet the needs of the Palestinian people.


The representative of Japan expressed appreciation for those delegations who had worked hard on the resolution, but her delegation believed the issue was not suitable for debate in the Council.  It was also regrettable that such a resolution was put to action in contravention of the “24-hour” rule.  That did not contribute to the goals of the Council, nor the long-standing issues the resolution was designed to address.


The representative of Israel said that the Council resolutions were intended to be non-political and deal with economic and social development.  Thus, the resolution, as well as the item under which it was brought, did not belong on the Council’s agenda.  If the conflict was to be considered by the Council, a number of others should be as well.


Noting new elements included in the draft resolution this year -- particularly on the “firing of rockets”, which was done by Palestine and posed dangers to Israeli citizens -- he said the resolution nevertheless remained unbalanced.  Stressing that the situation posed an obstacle to achieving peace, he emphasized that Israel was committed to the peace process.  By seeking to assign blame, the resolution did not support the peace process and those delegations who supported peace should not have voted in favour of it.


The representative of Syria thanked those delegations who had voted in favour of the draft resolution, but emphasized that the new language in preambular paragraph 17 had been speedily presented and his delegation had not been consulted.  That paragraph had put the occupier and the victims on the same par.  But, they were not equal.  Israel exercised State terrorism and perpetrated crimes against the Palestinian people; Israel violated international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, and not vice versa.  Stressing that the Palestinian people had the right to use all means to resist Israel’s occupation, he said his delegation did not support the language in preambular paragraph 17.


The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine thanked all those delegations who had voted in favour of the resolution, saying that the Palestinian people lived and suffered under the occupation of their territory and the resolution highlighted all the obstacles and hardships facing them.  She expressed the hope that the Israeli State would heed the call of the international community and uphold its obligations under various United Nations resolutions and seek peace.


Responding to the comment made by Israel on the politicization of this resolution, she said that her delegation would continue to ask the Organization as a protector of human rights to address the issue as many times and in as many forums as possible.  Finally, she underlined the fact, which she said had been acknowledged within the United Nations, that rockets had recently been fired from illegal settlements onto Palestinian civilians.


The Council then took note of the Note by the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/63/74 – E/2008/13).


The Council then took up the recently issued draft resolution entitled Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (no document number).


The representative of Benin asked that the text not be adopted at this point since it did not have a document number.


FREDERICK MATWANG’A ( Kenya), taking the floor as facilitator to make slight amendments to the text, thanked his colleagues who had worked to bring the text before the Council.


Responding to an appeal by the Chairman, the representative of Benin noted again a number of problems with the document, emphasizing that it did not have a number.


The Chairman noted that postponing the adoption of the document would mean the resolution would not be adopted during this session, thereby postponing an issue that was quite important to the Council.


The Secretary further said the document would be published in all languages by Monday, or Tuesday by the latest.


The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and noting that the Council would continue this afternoon for a short while, suggested that the draft be considered at that time, so that delegations would not feel dissatisfied.


The representative of Benin said that the Council should finish its work today not September, but the document should nevertheless be presented in a form that paid tribute to the dignified work of the Council.


The representative of Bangladesh expressed support for the suggestions of the other delegations to postpone the adoption of the text until the late afternoon.


The Council then took up its draft resolution on strengthening of the coordinator of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document E/2008/L.28*).


Speaking prior to adoption, the representative of Brazil, called attention to editorial changes in paragraph 11 of the draft.


The representative of France, on behalf of the European Union, asked for a vote on the draft resolution.


Speaking in a general statement prior to adoption, the representative of the Republic of Korea expressed her delegation’s disappointment that the text could not be tabled as a consensus resolution, even after extensive negotiations.  It nevertheless supported the resolution, especially since it contained many elements on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, including capacity-building, preparedness and risk reduction.  Furthermore, mainstreaming a gender perspective into humanitarian assistance had been addressed for the first time.  It also aimed to empower all relevant national actors, including the national arms of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Society, which were critical first responders, particularly in the wake of natural disasters.


But, despite those positive elements, the draft ultimately failed to address access -- one of the most critical aspects of humanitarian assistance, she said.  Indeed, ensuring timely and unhindered access to populations in need was the core prerequisite for an effective humanitarian response.  “Since we have witnessed with frustration the denial or limited access causing unnecessary casualties and prolonged suffering of many people in emergencies […] we strongly believe that the resolution on humanitarian assistance should deal with this urgent and critical issue,” she said.  It was the responsibility of each and every Member State to make sure the resolution resolved this issue.


“This is not optional, but mandatory,” she said, noting that, during the negotiation on the text, his delegation had been most concerned about ensuring accountability for the beneficiaries of such assistance.  The Republic of Korea still hoped the text could be adopted by consensus, at least, if not based on the broadest support, then because of the long negotiations conducted in good faith.


France’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and in explanation of vote before the vote, said his delegation strongly supported the provision of humanitarian aid, as well as the work being done by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  The European Union also considered access to victims as the fundamental prerequisite for any effective humanitarians action and reiterated, therefore, that all States and parties in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law, facilitate timely, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and their equipment to populations in distress.


He recalled that the United Nations Emergency Coordinator had told the Council that the past year had been marked by an increase in access restrictions, including in Burma/Myanmar, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza and Somalia, as well as a rising number of attacks on humanitarian personnel.  “State sovereignty is a well-established principle, but it must be exercised within the framework of international law and international humanitarian law,” he said, adding that humanitarian assistance was both a right for victims and a duty for the international community.  Restraining or forbidding access to populations in distress aggravated suffering and risked the very survival of those populations.


Acknowledging that the resolution did contain some positive aspects, including references to the Central Emergency Response Fund and sexual and gender-based violence, he said the European Union “deeply regretted” that it was not possible to include such a reference to humanitarian access to victims, even though it had put forward eight versions of a paragraph on access.  The Council must be able to take into account the changes and new realities in the international environment, in order not to lessen the impact or credibility of its decisions, and avoid weakening the 54-member body in the long run.  For those reasons, the European Union could not join consensus and would abstain in the vote.


Japan’s representative said his delegation would vote in favour of the resolution, as humanitarian access was a prerequisite for effective humanitarian assistance.  He regretted that the resolution contained no language on the issue of access, though other paragraphs addressed topics such as disaster risk reduction, the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, and the humanitarian consequences of natural disasters.  It was extraordinary that a vote should be requested on a humanitarian resolution of this kind.  He urged showing flexibility, and expressed hope that the Council would never see another vote on a humanitarian resolution.


The Council adopted by a show-of-hands vote of 38in favour to none against, with 13 abstentions, and as orally revised,its draft resolution on Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document E/2008/L.28*), by which it encouraged Member States to create an enabling environment for the capacity-building of their national and local authorities.  Stressing that the United Nations make efforts to enhance existing humanitarian capacities, knowledge and institutions, the Council also urged States to develop disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures at all levels, in line with the Hyogo Framework for Action.


By the text, the Council encouraged States and, where applicable, regional organizations to strengthen operational and legal frameworks for international disaster relief, and called on the relevant United Nations organizations and other humanitarian actors to continue strengthening field-level coordination of humanitarian assistance.  It also encouraged the Organization to pursue efforts to strengthen global partnerships with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, among others, and urged States to continue taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel operating within their borders.


Welcoming decisions taken at the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference, and taking note of the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, the Council, by the text, also noted with interest the report of the Secretary-General on the use of foreign military assets in disaster relief, and emphasized the fundamentally civilian character of humanitarian assistance.


It reaffirmed the need, in situations where military capacity is used to reinforce such assistance, that its use be with the consent of the affected State.  It urged Member States to continue to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of gender-based violence, including sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies, and calls for strengthening support services to victims of such violence.


Further by the text, the Council called on United Nations humanitarian organizations, in consultation with Member States, as appropriate, to strengthen the evidence base for humanitarian assistance by further developing common mechanisms to improve the quality, transparency and reliability of humanitarian needs assessments.


Immediately after the vote, Cameroon’s representative pointed out that, in case his vote had not been counted, he had voted in favour of the draft.


In light of that circumstance, the Vice-President then requested another vote.


Speaking after that vote, the representative of Liechtenstein said he would have strongly preferred to adopt the text without a vote.  He agreed that access was crucial for effective delivery, and regretted the text did not contain language to that effect, especially in light of the fact that locally recruited humanitarian workers were subjected to violence.  The text, however, was “value added”, and for that reason, his delegation had voted in favour of it.


The representative of the United States said his delegation was compelled to abstain from voting.  He was “deeply saddened” by that fact, as the draft did contain many positive elements, including strong support for the principle of neutrality and impartiality; steps forward on sexual-based violence; condemnation of attacks on aid workers; and substantial progress in addressing pressing issues.  In addition, the text highlighted the vital role of the United Nations in ensuring that the delivery of assistance reached victims of natural disasters, and he commended OCHA in that regard.


Nonetheless, he was disheartened by what had not been included in the resolution, notably on the issue of humanitarian access.  It was extremely disappointing that the resolution would fail to address such a fundamental issue to saving lives, especially given that the suffering of victims of a recent cyclone had been compounded by Government-imposed restrictions on humanitarian supplies.  Such delays and constraints undermined the foundation of relief efforts.


Consensus on that issue was not without precedent, he explained.  Resolution 62/94 had called on populations needing assistance to cooperate fully with the United Nations to ensure safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel, and the United States would continue to consider such language valid.  He believed similar language on ensuring access to those in need should have been included in the present resolution.


Canada’s representative said that her delegation was disappointed that the text, traditionally adopted by consensus, had been put to the vote today.  After much consideration, the Canadian delegation had voted in favour of the resolution, largely because it contained many progressive elements.  But, like others, Canada was troubled by the lack of concrete language on humanitarian access, which it believed was “the” critical priority for strengthening the coordination of international humanitarian relief.


Indeed, full, safe and unhindered access was a priority for all States and future resolutions should make concrete reference to access.  Such mention would go a long way towards addressing an ongoing challenge that ultimately left too many people without the relief they needed.


The representative of the Russian Federation said that his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution because it attached a great deal of importance to that area of the United Nations work.  At the same time, he was disappointed that, for the first time, the text had not been adopted by consensus.  He believed that a “dangerous precedent” had been set today.  The vote could be the precursor of a “dangerous trend” of attempts by some States to politicize humanitarian issues.  He expressed the hope that, in the future, such resolutions on humanitarian issues could be again adopted by consensus.


The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that, while her delegation was pleased that the text had been adopted, it was nevertheless “extremely disappointed” that, for the first time, the Council had resorted to a vote on the issue.  “I wish to be very clear on what has brought us to this point; the Group of 77 and China has never had, and does not now have, any difficulty with the reference to safe, timely and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance, with the consent of affected States and with full respect of resolution 46/182 of the General Assembly,” she said.


The provision of humanitarian assistance is of the utmost importance to the members of the Group in all situations and that is why they were troubled that their proposal to include a reference to strengthening humanitarian assistance to civilians living under foreign occupation had been repeatedly rejected.  That proposal had been rejected despite its importance to the members of the Group; despite the fact that it had been included in previous versions of the resolution; and despite the fact that the Group had resorted to previously agreed language.


Further, under pressure of time, and in the spirit of compromise, many of the Group’s proposals had not been incorporated in the resolution, including on humanitarian assistance to countries affected by the global food crisis; support by the international financial institutions; and transfer of new technology to developing countries affected by natural disasters.  The text did, however, include several new issues related to the continued strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian assistance, including, among others, gender mainstreaming, and the relationship between emergency assistance, rehabilitation and development.


Noting the “hard work and effort” all constructively engaged delegations had put into the negotiations, she said that the call for a vote belied the agreements and compromises that had been made on many important and difficult issues and diminishes the importance of the subject of the resolution.  Nonetheless, the Group reiterated its support for the resolution.


The representative of Brazil said that his delegation thanked all those that had voted in favour of the text, though disappointed that it had not been adopted by consensus.  At the same time, Brazil, who had provided a member of its delegation to facilitate the negotiations on the resolution, remained certain that humanitarian assistance and those working in that field could continue to count on the support of all Member States.


Uruguay’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Argentina, Bolivia Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic, said his delegation welcomed the adoption of the text, but was concerned that it had been put to a vote.  The countries on whose behalf he spoke would, therefore, call on all delegations to continue to strengthen the resolution, towards ultimately ensuring greater cooperation and coordination between the United Nations, relevant other national and international humanitarian actors and the authorities of affected countries.


The delegation deeply regretted that matters regarding humanitarian access had been left out of the resolution.  To that end, the Council’s Humanitarian Affairs segment must spare no effort to ensure trust and mutual understanding among all States.  Despite certain sensitivities on the matter, there should be no doubt about the international community’s intention to save lives and relieve suffering, in accordance with international humanitarian law.  He was certain that when the topic was taken up again next year, delegations would show more flexibility.


Syria’s representative associated herself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and was gratified by the adoption of the resolution.  In spite of the many positive elements on which States agreed, the issue of access had blocked the achievement of consensus.  Many Western States had rejected her delegation’s insistence on allowing assistance.  Her delegation had only sought what had been reflected in resolution 50/2004, which called on States to fully comply with international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, and called on the international community to strengthen their humanitarian and other assistance to people living under foreign occupation.  Further, she underscored preserving the legal gains that had accumulated over the years in the Council and other forums, on the illegitimacy of foreign occupation.


New Zealand’s representative said her delegation had voted in favour of the resolution, saying it had supported the improvements in language.  Such improvements included strengthened language on gender; support for the resident humanitarian coordinators; and the need to better link humanitarian and climate change efforts.  She looked forward to working with members on possible further improvements that could be made.


The representative of Pakistan, aligning herself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, appreciated the role of all delegations in the negotiations process.  Indeed, it was encouraging that the resolution addressed issues such as disaster risk reduction and preparedness, food security, climate change, and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.  Nonetheless, she regretted that, despite the strong desire of many delegations, the question of access -- and other developing-country concerns -- was missing from the resolution.  She also pointed out that respect for States’ territorial integrity must remain central to the provision of assistance.  Pakistan was saddened that the text had been put to vote for the first time, and she hoped that such a process would not be repeated in the future.


Mexico’s representative, aligning himself with Uruguay’s statement, regretted that the resolution did not discuss safe, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian workers.  Access was essential to the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.  Mexico deplored that the resolution had gone to a vote.  Nonetheless, his delegation would continue working towards more effective and rapid deployment of humanitarian assistance.


Before concluding its consideration of its agenda item on special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the Council then took note of the Secretary-General’s report on the strengthening of emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and prevention in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster (document A/63/84-E/2008/80).


In her remarks, CATHERINE BRAGG, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that, during the Council’s humanitarian affairs segment, OCHA had been pleased to note that this year there had been alignment between Member States and humanitarian actors in defining priority concerns.  The importance of access as a fundamental operational prerequisite for humanitarian response, and the safety of humanitarian personnel had been reaffirmed by most Members during the Council’s humanitarian affairs segment.


She also noted that concerns such as the plight of millions affected by the humanitarian implications of climate change, the global food security crisis, displacement and gender mainstreaming in humanitarian assistance had been captured by the resolution just adopted.  The resolution had also acknowledged OCHA’s own efforts to enhance the equity, efficacy, speed, accountability and predictability of humanitarian response.  At the same time, she hoped that, in the future, regarding resolutions on humanitarian assistance, Member States would be able to reach an agreement on how to address the issue of access.  “Improving access in concrete and practical terms remains a key priority for all of us,” she said, adding that without such access, all efforts to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian assistance were in vain.


Concluding the humanitarian affairs segment, Council Vice-President PARK IN-KOOK, ( Republic of Korea) said the fact that the principle of access had been deemed by all as “very important” was a “positive step”.  The resolution just adopted had underscored several important issues, including a condemnation of attacks on humanitarian personnel, and sexual and gender-based violence.  It also reiterated the need for national capacity-building.  Regrettably, however, it could not be adopted by consensus.  He hoped that a constructive spirit of engagement would continue to prevail during the General Assembly’s upcoming sixty-third session.


Turning its attention to the implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, the Council then adopted without a vote, as orally revised, a draft resolution on Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (which will be issued as document E/2008/L.38).  By the text, the Council took note of the Secretary-General’s annual progress report on the implementation of the Programme of Action, and reaffirmed that the Programme constituted a fundamental framework for accelerating sustained economic growth, sustainable development and poverty eradication in least developed countries.


The Council welcomed the Declaration adopted at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly’s sixty-first session on the midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Programme of Action; the contributions made in the lead-up to that review; and the continued progress of many least developed countries.


At the same time, the Council remained concerned at the insufficient progress in implementing the Programme of Action, and stressed the need to address areas of weakness.  Expressing deep concern that the number of people living in extreme poverty was significantly higher in least developed countries, it also stressed that the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, could be achieved through the timely fulfilment of the Brussels Programme of Action.


Also by the text, the Council underlined that, for further implementation of the Programme, least developed countries and their partners must be guided by an integral approach, a broader genuine partnership, country ownership, market considerations and results-oriented actions.  Progress would require implementation of national policies for sustained economic growth, among others.  The Council urged least developed countries to strengthen country ownership by translating goals into specific measures within their national development frameworks and poverty eradication strategies.


Further, the Council urged development partners to implement commitments in the Programme of Action; welcomed Cape Verde’s graduation from the group of least developed countries, and reiterated its invitation to all development and trading partners to support countries graduating from that list, and avoid abrupt reductions in either official development assistance (ODA) or technical assistance.


Continuing, the Council encouraged the United Nations Resident Coordinator system, among others, to help least developed countries translate the Programme’s goals into actions, and stressed the importance of follow-up, monitoring and reporting for the Programme’s implementation.


Stressing the need to assess the Programme’s implementation sector by sector, the Council reiterated the invitation to the United Nations system to provide full support to the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and requested the Secretary-General to ensure the Organization’s full mobilization in facilitating the Programme’s implementation.  Concerned at the insufficient resources in the trust fund created for the participation of least developed countries in the annual review of the Programme’s implementation, the Council also reiterated the importance of Government participation from those countries in that review.


Finally by the text, the Council reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to include least developed countries issues in all relevant reports in the economic, social and related fields; recalled the paragraph 114 of the Programme on holding a fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries; and requested the Secretary-General to set up measures for implementation of the advocacy strategy, submit a results-oriented annual progress report on the Programme’s implementation, and make adequate resources available to that end.


The representative of France, on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to implementing the Brussels Programme of Action, stressing that it was among the most important supporters of the least developed countries category.  Despite progress in implementing the seven commitments of the Programme, he noted with concern that extreme poverty remained high in the least developed countries and that malnutrition seemed to be worsening.


The Union considered the holding of a fourth Conference on the least developed countries towards the end of the decade as a “great opportunity” for development partners to make a comprehensive appraisal of the Programme’s implementation, and looked forward to considering the note outlining the modalities of such a conference, as requested in General Assembly resolution 62/203.


Turning next to organizational matters, the Council adopted without a vote a draft decision submitted by its President (document E/2008/L.35) deciding that the theme of its 2009 thematic discussion will be; “current global and national trends and their impact on social development, including health”.


Also adopted without vote a President’s draft decision (document E/2008/L.36), deciding that the themes for its annual ministerial reviews in 2010 and 2011 will be, respectively:  “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender quality and empowerment of women”; and “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education”.


Making closing remarks were the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China; France, speaking on behalf of the European Union; and the United Republic of Tanzania.


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For information media • not an official record