4 December 2013
General Assembly
GA/11462

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

59th Meeting (AM)


General Assembly Adopts Text on Graduation from Least Developed Category


As Vanuatu, Equatorial Guinea Attain Middle-Income Status


Stressing Body’s Critical Global Role, Delegates Call

For Streamlining Overburdened Agenda, Monitoring Implementation of Resolutions


Vanuatu and Equatorial Guinea were now poised to become middle-income countries, the General Assembly heard today as it unanimously adopted a draft resolution on graduation from the least developed category.


Equatorial Guinea’s representative told delegates that since globalization had largely left behind the least developed countries, economic development was an enormous challenge.  To ensure successful transitions of his and other countries into the middle-income category, it was essential that the international community provided the necessary support for that process.


Speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, Benin’s delegate agreed.  Noting that the adoption had implications for all the Group’s member States, he cautioned that the international community’s failure to respect commitments made to least developed countries would undermine the hopeful graduation of a large number of States.


Turning to revitalizing the work of the General Assembly, a number of speakers emphasized the importance of reform and the body’s critical role in the world.


General Assembly President John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda) said the body was the very heart of the United Nations.  He recalled achievements made during the sixty-eighth session, including the passing of a resolution on strengthening the Economic and Social Council, the inauguration of the High-level Political Forum, the first high-level meeting on disarmament and an outcome document charting the path to create a universal and shared sustainable development agenda beyond 2015. 


Given the Assembly’s far-reaching scope, from security, sustainable development and human rights to international law, organized crime and terrorism, he said its work not only carried moral weight but had the power to influence the course of global and national policies.


“Effectively, it changes the world,” he said.  “Such an opportunity is before us once again with the mapping of the post-2015 development agenda.”


Many speakers echoed his point, while some suggested methods to improve the body’s work and bolster its important role, including a recommendation it reduce its workload.


The representative of the Russian Federation said his country supported realistic initiatives to enhance the Assembly’s work and streamline its overburdened agenda.  Japan’s speaker agreed, adding that the Assembly needed to seriously consider and discuss concrete ways and criteria to streamline and prioritize its plenary and Main Committee agendas, especially in light of the 170 items and approximately 300 resolutions and decisions the body adopted every year.


Other speakers said the General Assembly and Security Council must respect their own mandates, with Cuba’s representative stressing that reform efforts must end the dangerous trend of shifting agenda items from the Assembly to the Security Council, with the latter strictly complying with all resolutions of the former.


Pakistan’s delegate emphasized a common concern over the non-implementation of resolutions.  Continued monitoring of the status of implementation required a more effective mechanism, he said, noting his country’s proposal for a special unit to follow that progress.


In other business, the Assembly unanimously adopted four draft resolutions based on its Fifth Committee’s recommendations.


Also delivering statements were representatives of Fiji (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Algeria (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Egypt, China, India, Malaysia, Venezuela, United States and Tunisia. 


A representative of the European Union Delegation also spoke.


The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 5 December to consider the Report of the Credentials Committee and reports of its First Committee.  It will also take up the appointment of a member of the Joint Inspection Unit and a note by the Secretary-General on the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences.


Background


The General Assembly met today to take action on a draft resolution on the Report of the Economic and Social Council (document A/68/L.20) and to consider the reports of the Fifth Committee, including financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors (document A/68/610); Programme planning (document A/68/611); and the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (document A/68/612). 


It would also consider the implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations and the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.


Action on Draft Resolutions


LUKE DAUNIVALU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution on the graduation of countries from the least developed countries category (document A/68/L.20), which noted the graduation of Vanuatu and Equatorial Guinea.


The countries in that category were ready for the next step, he said.  Nations that were graduating would no longer be left to their own devices but would be guided by transition plans with assistance.  Those countries were encouraged to foster bilateral partnerships.  Underscoring that for small nations there would always be vulnerability to unforeseen adversities, he honoured those nations for the step they were taking today.


The Assembly then unanimously adopted the draft resolution.


Anatolio Ndong Mba( Equatorial Guinea), in explanation of position after action, said globalization had largely left behind the least developed countries.  Economic development for those countries was an enormous challenge.  A commitment must be made to provide greater international support for them.


Few countries had graduated from that category, he said.  When conditions were set forth for graduation requirements, least developed countries had no say in the matter.  The least developed countries were synonymous with “poor” countries, pointing out that all nations were making efforts to graduate from that category.


The Istanbul Programme of Action, he continued, included a new element which provided an opportunity to remove all countries from the least developed countries category.  His country had taken its own steps, including oil development and economic planning that addressed infrastructure development.  It was also currently making additional efforts to achieve development goals by 2020.  Graduation for his country was set for 2020.  Yet, under the current draft resolution, effective graduation would take place by 2017.  In that light, the international community must provide the needed support to ensure success.


GRéGOIRE L. HOUDE ( Benin), speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, said today’s adoption of the draft text had implications for all nations in the Group.  He congratulated the graduating countries which courageously had transitioned to the middle income country category.  Support was needed, however, especially during the transitional phase.


There was a desire among the Group to see the goals of the Istanbul programme achieved by 2020, he said.  However, if those goals were to be achieved, commitments by partners must be upheld.  Failure to respect those commitments would undermine the hopeful graduation of large number of countries.


Taking up reports of the Fifth Committee, the Assembly first adopted unanimously a draft resolution contained in paragraph 7 of the Financial reports and audited financial statements, and report of the Board of Auditors (document A/68/610).


The Assembly went on to adopt unanimously a draft resolution contained in paragraph 7 of the report on Programme planning (document A/68/611).


Turning to a draft resolution contained in paragraph 6 of the Report on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (document A/68/612), the Assembly adopted the text without a vote.


United Nations Resolutions and Revitalization of General Assembly’s Work


JOHN ASHE ( Antigua and Barbuda), President of the General Assembly, said the agenda item on the revitalization of the General Assembly’s work offered an opportunity to seek ways to collectively strengthen that body and make it relevant to the entire United Nations system.  While significant changes were in place, the non-implementation of General Assembly resolutions remained a matter of concern; some would say progress had not been fast enough.


The General Assembly was the very heart of the United Nations and at the centre of international policy forums, demonstrated by the annual general debate and high-level participation by Member States, including by more than 100 Heads of State.  “No other body on this planet attracts the same level of representation or benefits from such legitimacy,” he said.


He recalled achievements made during the sixty-eighth session, including the passing of a resolution on strengthening the Economic and Social Council, the inauguration of the High-level Political Forum, the first high-level meeting on disarmament and an outcome document charting the path to create a universal and shared sustainable development agenda beyond 2015.  The Assembly’s scope was far‑reaching, from peace and security, sustainable development, economic and social development, human rights and humanitarian assistance to international law, organized crime and terrorism.


As the Assembly came together to adopt a resolution, such as the Millennium Declaration, he continued, its work not only carried moral weight but had the power to influence the course of global and national policies.  “Effectively, it changes the world,” he said.  “Such an opportunity is before us once again with the mapping of the post-2015 development agenda.”


With that in mind, he noted that he had announced the convening of three high-level thematic debates and three high-level meetings on a range of immediate relevant and direct importance to setting the stage for the post-2015 development agenda.  In the coming days, he would be formally communicating with Member States regarding the 2014 timetable for those meetings and debates.


“As we move forward, let us remain mindful that our true goal is not just to change the General Assembly; it is to change the world we live in,” he said.  “But we must begin right here — today — with the work that is before us and in fulfilling the commitments we have already made.”


Larbi Djacta (Algeria), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed the adoption of Assembly resolution 67/297, which had established an ad hoc working group on the revitalization of the Assembly for the sixty-eighth session.  That was a political process which, in a transparent and efficient manner, strengthened the Assembly as the chief policy making organization within the wider United Nations System.  It was necessary to respect the functions and powers of each principle organ of the United Nations and maintain balance among those bodies.  The Council had to fully observe all Charter provisions and Assembly resolutions.  In that context, he again expressed concern with the Council’s continuous attempts to encroach on the Assembly’s powers.  The Charter did not give the Council the competence to address issues that fell within the powers of the Assembly and Economic and Social Council.


He also expressed support for two proposals from the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization: the creation of an open-ended working group to study the proper implementation of the Charter with respect to the relationship of the various organs; and the working paper on “Strengthening the Role of the Organization and enhancing its effectiveness.”  The Assembly’s intergovernmental, inclusive and democratic character contributed to the Charter’s purposes and the Organization’s goals, and its role and authority included addressing issues related to international peace and security. 


It was necessary, he emphasized, to consult Member States on the initiatives and activities undertaken with the Organization.  Further, as the policymaking organ of the Organization, the Assembly held the authority and the essential role of drawing the framework, setting the principles and identifying the objectives for the wider system.  It should maintain its mandate in laying down priorities for all budgetary and administrative issues and reforms, including its absolute authority to allocate and reallocate financial and human resources, he said.


IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said he welcomed the rotation mechanism of the Main Committees’ Chairs for the next five years.  As well, the Secretary-General should keep holding periodic informal briefings on his priorities, travels and most recent activities.  Regarding the Assembly’s relationship to other principal organs, he said improving transparency and cooperation should remain important goals.  The Assembly would benefit from information about the meetings between the Assembly President and the Council, the Economic and Social Council and chairs of subsidiary bodies.  Periodic briefings by the Assembly President on his recent activities, including travel, would be valuable.  He welcomed Assembly resolution 68/1, which called for the Assembly and Economic and Social Council to ensure their respective agendas avoided duplication.


Regarding working methods, he said that exploring the streamlining of meetings and considering some agenda items on a biennial or triennial basis, or even clustering or eliminating some topics were welcomed.  The views of the Main Committees’ Chairs and bureaus were very important on that issue and he looked forward to their briefings to the ad hoc working group.  The full use of e‑services provided by the Secretariat was very important.  The Main Committees’ and Member States’ widespread use of those services, such as the PaperSmart portal, had helped streamline the Assembly’s work during the main session.  Their use also helped save resources, energy and paper.  The improved coordination of the scheduling of high‑level meetings to optimize their number and distribute the dates throughout the year, while preserving the General Debate’s integrity was also welcomed.


MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL ( Egypt) said revitalization had been on the agenda for two decades, with only modest progress.  Much more needed to be done to ensure that the Assembly played the leading role it deserved in global governance at political, economic and social levels.  If there was a political will to revitalize that body, efforts should focus on identifying areas that had already achieved tangible progress and those where more attention was needed.  While working methods had improved, no progress had been made on the Assembly’s role and the selection of the Secretary-General.  Major obstacles to the body’s authority included the Security Council, which tended to deal with issues that did not pose threats to international peace and security.  The non-implementation of General Assembly resolutions topped a list of challenges to revitalization efforts.  If such resolutions were effectively implemented, the question of Palestine would have been resolved decades ago and the item would have been removed from the Assembly’s agenda.  Streamlining the Assembly’s agenda was among the first steps needed, he said.


Oscar León González( Cuba) said the revitalization process should aim at consolidating the General Assembly’s central role in the United Nations system.  Strengthening the body’s independence was essential.  To restore confidence and credibility in the United Nations, it was necessary that the Organization responded to Member States’ collective interests in the General Assembly.  The main problem was the non-implementation of resolutions.  It was essential to achieve a proper balance among United Nations bodies and to end the dangerous trend of shifting agenda items from the Assembly to the Security Council, with the latter strictly complying with all resolutions of the former.


Petr V. Iliichev (Russia Federation) said he supported realistic initiatives to enhance the Assembly’s work and streamline its agenda, which was overburdened.  Those included the transfer of some topics to a biannual or triannual basis and the elimination of other items.  It was necessary to lighten the Assembly’s load during the high-level debate as the prime ministers, presidents and other leaders had busy schedules during that period.  Further, the number of high-level meetings during that time should be limited and be distributed during the Assembly’s year of work.  He also supported the current selection process by which the Assembly selected and appointed the Secretary-General, upon recommendation of the Council.  In the current session, the process to select Chairs of Committees was being reviewed.  The Assembly should consider the proposals on the table.  All issues with financial implications had to be considered by the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.


Wang Min ( China) said the international world was facing complex changes and needed the United Nations to help solve those issues.  The world looked to the Assembly as one of the most important organs outlined in the Charter.  Developing countries wanted the Assembly’s authority to be expanded so it could better fulfil its duties.  He supported the strengthening of the Assembly’s policymaking efforts.  In addition, the Assembly was needed to scale up efforts for development issues and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 Development Agenda.  The Organization’s main organs, as well, needed to improve their interaction.  Regarding international peace and security, the Assembly should strengthen the coordination of efforts addressing those issues.  He expressed support for the streamlining of the Assembly’s working methods and the promotion of a pragmatic and active culture.


BHAGWANT SINGH BISHNOI ( India) said the Assembly could only be revitalized when its position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations was respected in letter and spirit.  The Assembly should take the lead in setting the global agenda.  Thus, revitalization must restore the primacy of the United Nations in development matters.  “We need to change it from being a mere talk shop to a place where transnational issues that impact each and every one of us are addressed swiftly and truly global solutions prescribed,” he stated.  With that in mind, the General Assembly and Security Council should follow their respective mandates.  The Assembly should have a greater say in the selection process of the Secretary-General and must reflect best practices in its day-to-day functioning.


HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) said ample discussions had seen only some improvements in the Assembly’s working methods.  Progress was needed to address the non-implementation of resolutions and established a more harmonious working relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council.  While convening high-level gatherings was welcomed, he said there was a need to better coordinate among relevant parties to ensure wide participation.  He was concerned over the delay in electing chairs for the Main Committees for the sixty-eighth session, a practice that should not be repeated.  Regarding the selection of the Secretary-General, he said the Assembly should play a more meaningful role.  “Should the pace of reform continue the way it has over the years, we fear being awkwardly left with the agenda of ‘revitalizing’ the revitalization process,” he said, hoping that would not be the case.


Alfredo Fernando Toro-Carnevali( Venezuela) said the General Assembly must continue functioning as a political space for exchanging ideas and cooperation.  While progress had been made in revitalization efforts, continued efforts must be undertaken with principles of democracy, transparency and inclusiveness.  Expressing support for the role of the Office of the General Assembly President, he called for new ways of strengthening its functions.  The process of reforming the United Nations must include bolstering the role of the General Assembly.


KAZUYOSHI UMEMOTO ( Japan) said revitalizing the Assembly and the Council were crucial components of the reform agenda and steady progress was needed.  There had been development with the Assembly’s revitalization, including the creation of a handbook, an updated inventory of Assembly resolutions on revitalization and the practice of holding thematic debates.  “However, much more has to be done and much more effort is needed,” he said.  Moving the election date for the Council and Economic and Social Council to an earlier date should be seriously considered.  Enhancing fairness in Assembly management was an important issue, particularly the manner of organizing the speakers list for the General Debate.  Noting that a rigid categorization of speakers was currently being used when deciding that list, he said that improvements to its organization could be made.


He pointed to the 170 agenda items and approximately 300 resolutions and decisions adopted by the Assembly every year.  “Efforts have been made for the biennialization, triennialization, clustering and elimination of items, but much more had to be done,” he said.  The Assembly needed to seriously consider and discuss concrete ways and criteria to streamline and prioritize the agenda of the Assembly and the Main Committees.  He emphasized the importance of following time restraints when delivering statements.  Member States should be encouraged to distribute any longer statements, which could be maintained on the record, while delivering oral statements that stayed within the time limits.


Rosemary A. DiCarlo( United States) said her delegation supported the best options to revitalize the Assembly and was committed to multilateral engagement and a strong United Nations system.  The Assembly’s work should be more focused and relevant, and a priority for all.  The number of Assembly agenda items, the resolutions adopted and the reports requested of the Secretariat had increased over the years.  The Assembly had to refocus its efforts on streamlining its work.  Some high-level debates could be shifted to dates earlier in the year.  “We should not shy away from efforts to make the Assembly a more nimble and responsive body,” she said.  The Charter made clear the coequal relationship of the Assembly and the Council.  Noting that the issue of selecting the Secretary-General was clearly addressed within the Charter, she said she looked forward to a constructive dialogue for concrete reform.


Nour Zarrouk Boumiza( Tunisia) underscored that the General Assembly was the most representative body of the United Nations and was responsible for defining criteria for international law and other pressing matters.  Accordingly, revitalizing its work should include an agenda that represented the international community’s common interests.  Thematic debates helped to define the international community’s positions and should therefore be continued.  Strengthening the Assembly’s role must also include bolstering its role in maintaining international peace and security.  The Security Council should provide more comprehensive reports to promote better understanding of relevant situations.  Information exchanges among the Assembly’s Main Committees needed improvements, as well.  While working methods had been improved, there should be early elections held for Chairs of the Committees, and efforts should be made to avoid the overlap of topics to be discussed. 


Ahmad Naseem Warraich( Pakistan) said full confidence in the United Nations was critical.  Addressing the non-implementation of resolutions required political will.  As well, continued monitoring of the status of implementation required a more effective mechanism, he said, noting his country’s proposal for a special unit to follow that progress.  Discussions on streamlining should be coupled with a study on the Assembly’s overall effectiveness.  Adherence to Charter mandates would clarify roles of the Assembly and the Security Council.  The Charter also provided enormous space for the General Assembly.  In addition, agreement on the post-2015 development agenda must meet Charter principles.  He emphasized that all reform efforts of the United Nations must respect the views of all countries and not just a few.


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For information media • not an official record