|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
90th Meeting (AM)
General Assembly Adopts Text Recognizing Right of Internally Displaced,
Refugees from Georgia’s Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Regions to Return Home
Resolution Passed by Recorded Vote of 69 in Favour, 13 against, 79 Abstentions
Concerned about forced demographic changes, as well as the humanitarian situation resulting from armed conflict in Georgia, the General Assembly recognized today the right of all internally displaced persons, refugees and their descendants to return to their homes throughout that country, including Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.
Adopting a draft resolution on the matter by a recorded vote of 69 in favour to 13 against, with 79 abstentions, the Assembly underlined the urgent need for unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in conflict-affected areas, for favourable security conditions and for a timetable to ensure the voluntary, safe and dignified return of all internally displaced persons and refugees to their places of origin. It also called upon all participants in the Geneva discussions to bolster efforts to establish a durable peace, and to take immediate steps to ensure respect for human rights.
Georgia’s representative introduced the text (document A/68/L.47) and urged all delegations to vote in its favour, emphasizing the scale of displacement — hundreds of thousands were still denied access to their homes — and the length of time that had elapsed. “The draft resolution before us is not a political tool aimed at obstructing the ongoing negotiations, as one delegation repeatedly and misleadingly suggests,” he said. “To the contrary, it forms the basis for respecting the human rights of all those uprooted from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.”
He said the continuing installation of barbed wire fences and the expansion of the occupied zone had caused further displacement and divided entire villages and families in adjacent areas. It was particularly alarming that some authorities in the occupied areas, most recently in Abkhazia, had called for more discriminatory measures against ethnic Georgians, he noted. For its part, Georgia was continuing its efforts to remedy the plight of the internally displaced, in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Its national strategy, updated action plan and new law on internally displaced persons had significantly improved living conditions, financial aid, health care, education, employment and property-restitution rights, as well as registration procedures for the internally displaced.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova, speaking also for the other GUAM countries ( Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan), noted that 2014 marked the Assembly’s seventh consecutive action on the subject. Since the adoption of the last draft, the situation had deteriorated further, creating more impediments to the rights of internally displaced persons. Because the text’s main goal was ensuring respect for the right of safe, dignified return for internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, the GUAM member States would vote in its favour.
Canada’s representative expressed his Government’s continuing support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for unimpeded humanitarian access throughout its territory. Appealing for all participants in the Geneva discussions to step up efforts to establish a durable peace, he denounced the Russian Federation’s continuing installation of fences and its expansion of the occupied zone in Georgia, while also strongly condemning that country’s aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s representative said the issue of internally displaced persons had become relevant to his own country because the Russian Federation’s temporary occupation of Crimea had already displaced more than 10,000 civilians. Noting that the number of internally displaced in Georgia was even higher, he reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment to and respect for that country’s territorial integrity.
Estonia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Baltic and Nordic States, said no substantial progress had been made to improve the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees, and that drawing international attention by adopting the text would help to resolve the issue.
The Russian Federation’s representative then called for a recorded vote, saying he would oppose the text. The draft’s sponsors were politically motivated and short-sighted, and were ignoring the legal reality of the two independent regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he said. The text, submitted year after year, contained a few technical updates, but that mechanical approach did not reflect genuine concern for internally displaced persons and refugees, he said. Instead, it would hamper the Geneva process, which remained the only forum for resolving the issue, and Georgia’s efforts were counterproductive to the search for durable peace.
The representative of Honduras said the text reflected the inalienable rights of internally displaced persons and refugees. It was based on international humanitarian law and the norms of international agreements on refugees. Honduras would vote in favour, he declared.
Brazil’s representative, speaking after the vote, said he had abstained because his delegation could not prejudge issues subject to the Geneva process. While Brazil supported Georgia’s territorial integrity and did not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the dispute between that country and the Russian Federation could be solved through dialogue, he emphasized.
Sierra Leone’s representative said that his vote in favour of the text reflected his Government’s reaffirmation of the rights of internally displaced persons. Sierra Leone stood with all those who sought to resolve displacement challenges, which were as both physical and psychological, he said, adding that his country would remain by Georgia’s side.
Turkey’s representative reaffirmed his country’s commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed concern that the unresolved situation in Georgia had had repercussion for the entire Caucasus region. As Georgia’s neighbour, Turkey stood ready to help resolve the conflict and called on all sides to cooperate in the quest for tangible results.
Uruguay’s representative, who abstained from the vote, said territorial integrity was a priority of his Government’s foreign policy. He also stressed the importance of continuing the Geneva discussions in order to resolve the internal displacement in the region.
At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly appointed Rajab Sukayri (Jordan) as a member of the Joint Inspection Unit for a five-year term that will begin on 1 January 2015.
* *** *For information media • not an official record