|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
121st Meeting (AM)
General Assembly Adopts Text Recognizing Right of Return of Internally Displaced,
Refugees to Homes throughout Georgia, Including Abkhazia, South Ossetia
Other Resolutions Adopted Establish 2014 as Year of Crystallography;
Urge Strengthened UN Support to Promote, Consolidate New, Restored Democracies
Concerned by the forced demographic changes resulting from the conflicts in Georgia, and the humanitarian situation causes by the 2008 armed conflict, the General Assembly this morning recognized the right of return of internally displaced persons to their homes throughout that country, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while adopting consensus texts on the Year of Crystallography and United Nations support for promoting democracy.
By a recorded vote of 60 in favour to 15 against, with 82 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a text that stressed the need to respect the property rights of all internally displaced persons and refugees affected by the conflicts in Georgia, underlined the urgent need for unimpeded humanitarian access to them and reaffirmed the unacceptability of forced demographic changes. Further to the text, the Assembly called upon all participants in the discussions begun on the matter in 2008 in Geneva to bolster efforts to establish a durable peace and take immediate steps to ensure respect for human rights while creating favourable security conditions conducive to voluntary, safe return. (For details of the vote see annex.)
In its consideration of the topic, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia (document A/66/813).
Urging adoption of the draft, the representative of Georgia, in his introduction of it, regretted the fact that there had been no action in recent years on the right of return of the half-million displaced persons concerned, who were of diverse ethnic origins and had represented three-fourths of the total population of their domicile, which they longed to return to. “Regrettably the right of return had fallen victim to politically-motivated obstructionism”, he said.
“Return is both a human right and a humanitarian issue”, he added, requesting the international community to treat the issue as a humanitarian one and not a political one. Following the vote, he expressed gratitude on the part of the displaced, adding that each year political will was growing stronger to ameliorate their plight. He resolved to continue to engage with all stakeholders to ensure that their rights were exercised.
In explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said the draft did not reflect the region’s current political realities, including the fact that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were independent States that did not belong to Georgia. Georgia had clearly ignored the humanitarian situation and it did not care about the fate of thousands of people that had suffered from aggression. The draft would not facilitate normalization in the region, nor create trust among the parties. Instead, by seeking the return of internally displaced persons and refugees, it merely complicated the already fragile Geneva negotiation process.
No one was surprised by the Georgian Government’s stubborn lack of desire to conclude a legally binding agreement on the use of force by Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he said, adding that “if the Georgian side wants to continue to discuss this topic in New York, then the representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia need to be here”. The Russian Federation would vote against the text and it trusted that other Member States would follow suit and not support “this clearly politicized” attempt by Tbilisi.
The representative of Belarus said a solution to the Georgia conflict must be based on consensus and be the result of an open, transparent negotiation process. It was important to maintain the Geneva discussions, which since 2008 had been the only forum for providing key stakeholders with a forum for resolving security, stability and humanitarian issues through a mutually acceptable solution. Adopting a non-consensus text could harm those discussions. For those reasons, Belarus would abstain from the vote.
The representative of Israel, welcoming the steps taken by Georgia as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, said Georgia’s strategies had brought about a marked improvement in the status of internally displaced persons and refugees, as had its programme of engagement. He reiterated Israel’s support for and recognition of Georgia’s territorial integrity, and said he did not recognize the independent status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Explaining their abstentions after the vote, the representatives of Switzerland and Turkey expressed deep concern over the situation of the displaced, but added that the Geneva Talks were the appropriate forum, and pledged to support all efforts directed towards making a consensus resolution possible. They invited all parties to work to a comprehensive peace that would provide for the rights of the displaced.
Explaining a negative vote, the representative of Serbia said the General Assembly should continue to work on the issue in general resolutions regarding refugees and displaced persons. Singling out specific situations could bring about a proliferation of texts, she said, stressing also the need for consensus in each situation.
The Assembly then adopted a text by which it established 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography. Introducing the text, the representative of Morocco said that it decided to proclaim the Year considering that crystallography was ever-present in modern life in drug development, nanotechnology, biotechnology and the development of new materials, and that 2014 marked the centenary of the science.
The Assembly, through the text, invited the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to facilitate implementation of the Year and encouraged all Member States, the United Nations system and all other actors to promote awareness of the Year and of the importance of crystallography. Morocco’s representative said it was hoped that the Year would have a significant educational component, particularly in developing countries where the science was least developed.
Following the adoption of the crystallography resolution, the representative of Bolivia welcomed attention to the benefits of the science, but stressed that it must be ensured that applications of the science and the creations of new materials did not have a negative impact on the environment. There was a need for a moratorium on the use of some applications until their effects were better known.
The representative of the European Union, while also welcoming the recognition of the importance of crystallography, expressed concern over the proliferation of International Years, with 2009 seeing the celebration of five such years at the same time. Proper observance of guidelines should be observed, so that the subject of the Years received the attention they deserved.
Through the text entitled “Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies”, the Assembly, bearing in mind that such support was only offered in accordance with the Charter and only at the request of Member States concerned, encouraged Governments to strengthen national programmes devoted to the promotion and consolidation of democracy and invited all stakeholders to contribute actively to the follow-up to the International Conferences of New or Restored Democracies.
The Assembly, through the text, urged the Secretary-General to improve the capacity of the Organization to respond effectively to the requests of Member States for democracy-building support, through the activities of the United Nations Democracy Fund and other mechanisms and through the improvement of the coherence and coordination among the Organization’s initiatives in the area.
Introducing the text, the representative of Venezuela said it was important to recognize that there was no single model of democracy, as stated in the text, and that the citizens of each State were entitled to develop an appropriate model. He urged Government, parliaments and civil societies to work for democracy at the national and at the international level by participation in conferences and other activities.
Vote on Internally Displaced Refugees from Georgia
The draft resolution on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia (document A/66/L.50) was adopted by a recorded vote of 60 in favour to 15 against, with 82 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Comoros, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu.
Against: Armenia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nauru, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.
Abstain: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Suriname, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Zambia.
Absent: Afghanistan, Belarus, Belize, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mauritius, Netherlands, Niger, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen.
* *** *For information media • not an official record