Office of the President of the Millennium Assembly
55th session of the United Nations General Assembly
 
 
 

 

Summaries of the Work of the Main Committees of the 55th General Assembly

1. The First Committee

The First Committee concluded its work two days ahead of schedule, it adopted 48 draft resolutions and one draft decision on disarmament and international security items. This Committee's 28 meetings proceeded smoothly without any informal meetings. Twenty-seven of the drafts were adopted without a vote while the remaining 22 went to a recorded vote.

This year's deliberations continued to focus on missile defense systems, particularly the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the impact of the Final Declaration of the 2000 NPT Review Conference on nuclear issues. There was particular emphasis on nuclear disarmament; negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its entry into force; and nuclear-weapon-free zones. In connection with the last mentioned, on 5 October 2000, the United States made a joint statement (on behalf of China, France, the Russian Federation and United Kingdom) on security assurances explicitly respecting Mongolia's declaration of its nuclear-weapon -free-status.

The issue of small arms continued to attract attention, particularly the dates and venue for the forthcoming UN Conference on Small Arms on which decisions were made at the end, namely, 9-20 July 2001 in New York. Discussion of other subjects did not differ from last year although one note should be drawn to voting behaviour on various drafts.

The draft ABM Treaty continued to attract attention entailing a number of explanations of vote. Despite concerns expressed by the overwhelming majority during the general debate, this year's voting pattern retained similar political alliances to last year with 78 votes in favour, 3 against (United States, Israel, Micronesia) and 65 abstentions (mostly EU member states, European states, Latin American and Caribbean states).

The draft on negotiation of a treaty on cut-off fissile materials was again put forward for consideration despite last year's setback. Given the successful conclusion of the 2000 NPT Review Conference and the incorporation of the same language of its Final Declaration in the draft resolution countries refrained from requesting a recorded vote this year and the draft resolution was adopted without a vote. This will pave the way for the possible establishment of an ad hoc committee on the subject to prepare for negotiations in the 2001 session of the Conference on Disarmament.

In a similar vein, the impact of the 2000 NPT Review Conference substantially changed the tone of this year's draft entitled "Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: the need for a new agenda". The language on the comprehensive approach on nuclear disarmament mirrored that of the Final Declaration of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. This led to changes from last year's voting patterns among five nuclear-weapon States. Nonetheless, certain delegations considered this year's draft watered down considerably compared to last year.

The draft on Missiles moved a step forward this year by establishing an expert group to study the subject in a comprehensive manner and report back to the Assembly in 2002. The draft was adopted by 90 in favour, none against, and 60 abstentions. As was the case last year, the abstentions reflected the position of countries wishing to maintain the existing limited framework of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).



2. The Second Committee

It was a positive session of the Second Committee which adopted 35 resolutions by consensus, with the exception of one. This number of resolutions is a decrease over last year, as was the time required to finish the work of the Committee.

The catalytic and policy development role of the United Nations was very much in evidence as preparations were put into place for the international intergovernmental United Nations event, in 2002, on financing for development. There was wide support for the need for genuine partnership in the preparatory process. However, there was a divergence of views on the issues to be included. Many countries called for rethinking the architecture of the international financial system. The launching of this process with the active involvement of all interest groups is an important landmark and prepares for a potentially very significant event in 2002.

The debate in the Second Committee has been expanded to embrace important substantive questions pertaining not only to the immediate crisis but, more fundamentally, to the functioning and management of the international financial system. In this context, there was a call for continued discussion in the United Nations of financial and monetary policies with Bretton Woods Institutions (BWI), and the strengthening of dialogue between United Nations intergovernmental bodies and the BWIs. This reflects the increasing acceptance of the role of the United Nations as a forum for advancing the dialogue on development issues.

The debate and the adopted resolutions demonstrate the high priority Member States attach to the United Nations' work in the area of sustainable development, particularly in the context of implementation of Agenda 21, as well as of the implementation of the "Rio conventions" - on climate change, biodiversity and combating desertification. A significant resolution on Rio +10 was adopted which calls for this event to be a World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in 2002 in South Africa. This resolution also decided to have the final ministerial Preparatory Committee in Indonesia.

Traditional issues before the Second Committee such as globalization, debt, trade, and commodities showed advances. There was general recognition that, despite substantial progress, unfulfilled expectations remain as regards a number of development objectives. Moreover, the process of globalization has posed additional new risks and challenges to the world economy. There was widespread disquiet over the protracted external debt crisis in poor countries and its impediments to long-term economic development.

The work of the Second Committee marked definite progress from the point of view of advancing the role of the United Nations as a forum for the articulation of diverse views and as a catalyst for common action based on shared values.


3. The Third Committee

The Committee concluded its work as scheduled. Action by vote and voting patterns were generally similar to 54th session: 65 resolutions were adopted and recommended for action by Plenary, of which 14 were adopted by vote.

There were three exceptions to traditional voting patters:Draft resolution on situation of human rights in Islamic Republic of Iran was adopted by an increasingly narrow margin this year (58-53-48. While the draft resolution on the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was adopted without a vote as it always has been, a vote was requested on one paragraph (118-0-30) because it contained a reference to the role of the High Commissioner in providing assistance to internally displaced persons, a controversial issue which created difficulties also for ECOSOC at its recent summer session. Draft resolution on Situation of Human Rights in parts of South-eastern Europe (previously Bosnia Herzegovina) was, for the first time in many years, adopted without a vote. It was also the occasion for the reappearance of the delegation of Yugoslavia in the Committee to make a statement before the adoption of the draft.

Honour crimes resolution was adopted by a vote of 120-0-25. The voting on this issue was regretted by many. The companion resolution on violence against women, however, was adopted without a vote. Perhaps the two texts could be joined next year in a draft which is equally resolute and balanced and adopted by consensus.

Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the two Protocols: Work which was begun in the Third Committee at the initiative of Poland in 1998, culminated in Plenary with the adoption of the Convention and the Protocols on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and Smuggling of Migrants. There is a hope that the Protocol on firearms will be ready for action soon in 2001.

Measures to be taken against neo-Nazi ideologies based on assumptions of racial superiority, introduced by Belarus, was adopted without a vote. The text urges States to institute measures to eradicate such activities.

Combatting the criminal misuse of information technologies (Cybercrime) introduced by US was adopted without a vote although CARICOM countries felt that the negotiations were not sufficiently transparent and they were concerned about references in the text to the Group of 8 which might make the text somewhat unbalanced.

Issue of democracy, at the national level and at the global level, subject of two new draft resolutions, from Romania and Cuba, respectively [directly reflects Section V of the Millennium Declaration]. Some delegations thought that the Romanian text, on "Promoting and consolidating democracy", attempted to impose a certain model of democracy on countries when in fact the practice of democratic government is applied differently in different countries. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 145-0-14. With regard to the Cuban text on a "Democratic and Equitable International Order", some delegations thought that it went beyond the scope of the Third Committee and was not adequately based on national efforts. That resolution was adopted by a vote of 91-50-13.


4. The Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)

The Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) had thirteen agenda items for consideration. It held 28 meetings and adopted a total of 26 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions.

In the course of discussion on decolonization participants emphasized the need for revitalization of the decolonization process and for administering Powers to provide information and to promote economic and social development in their Territories. They also welcomed the informal dialogue developed between the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the administering Powers. Speakers supported a Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001 to 2010).

The Committee exchanged views on the effects of atomic radiation. The Chairman of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation provided the latest evaluation of the sources and effects on human beings and their environment. During the discussion, several delegations welcomed the progress made by the Scientific Committee considered it important for the Committee to continue its work and that it should base it on views by specialists of the regions concerned. Delegates hoped further insight into data from other high background radiation areas in the world and encouraged further the cooperation between the Scientific Committee and other international organizations.

The Chairman of the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space stressed that the international efforts to promote the peaceful uses of outer space should focus more on making space applications available to developing countries, which was widely supported. UNISPACE III recommendations were welcomed and the need for greater cooperation with non-governmental organizations and industry in implementing the recommendations was stressed. Several speakers expressed their grave concern about the increasing militarization of outer space. Speakers recognized the important role of the COPUOS in strengthening international cooperation.

The Committee discussed the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The financial stringency under which the agency had to operate was stressed. It was noted that UNRWA's services had been a key factor in providing basic but vital social and economic support to the Palestinian refugees. In the course of the debate, most of the speakers paid tribute to the UNRWA's efforts.

The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories received overwhelming support for its work. Most of the speakers expressed regret concerning Israel's continued refusal to cooperate with the Special Committee negotiations between the parties concerned.

The Committee had an exchange of views on Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects. Delegations reiterated certain recommendations that the Special Committed had made previously to the Secretariat, including the need for geographic balance in recruitment, more systematic procedure for selection of senior personnel, and the importance of immediate reimbursement to troop contributing countries. Members welcomed the Brahimi report as constructive contribution to strengthen the United Nations capacity to promote peace and security. Some Members expressed reservations regarding the argumentation and the recommendations of the Brahimi report.

The need for the DPI to address the challenges posed by the new technologies was stressed. Several delegations expressed concern that the economic and social progress, as well as the cultural identity of the developing countries, was threatened by the concentration of information technology in the hands of the developed nations. The overall objective to enhance the effectiveness of UN information activities was underlined. Several delegations stated that the Millenium Summit and Assembly had provided DPI with a unique opportunity to promote public awareness of the United Nations' work.


5. The Fifth Committee

The Committee held 43 formal meetings; 170 rounds of informal consultations and a number of rounds of informal/informal and bilateral consultations. It recommended to the General Assembly 26 draft resolutions, 5 draft decisions, excluding decisions on statement of programme budget implications recommended by other main Committees.

Being a "Personnel Year", the Committee considered a number of reports by the Secretary-General on the reform of human resources management and other reports dealing with personnel issues. It decided to defer consideration of the item on human resources management to the resumed session. The Committee devoted most of its attention to items and issues requiring decision by the General Assembly before the end of the main part of the 55th session.

The Committee encountered many difficulties in arriving at an agreement on the elements for the methodology of the scale of assessments for the period 2001-2003. After a series of high level consultations, the Committee finally arrived at an agreement to establish a ceiling for the regular budget scale at 22% subject to a series of conditions and arrangements. Likewise, after several rounds of informal consultations and a number of high level bilateral negotiations an agreement was reached to set the ceiling for the peacekeeping scale at approximate 27% and the expansion of the groupings of member states for determining their rate of assessments.

The Committee adopted draft resolutions on the following financing of five peacekeeping operations, namely, the financing of the International Criminal Tribunal in Yugoslavia and Rwanda; the financing of UN peacekeeping operations in UNIFIL; UNTAET, UNMIK and UNMEE. It also recommended to the Assembly a draft decision on the reform of the procedure for determining reimbursement to Member States for contingent owned equipment. Unlike in previous years the draft resolution on the Financing of UNIFIL was adopted by a recorded vote of 109 in favour and 3 against.

The Committee recommended to the General Assembly the adoption of the following] draft resolutions on the first performance report on the programme budget for the biennium 2000-2001, on the Financial reports and audited financial statements and reports of the Board of Auditors; on the pattern of conferences and draft decisions on the various questions relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2000-2001, such as, the capital master plan, the safety and security of UN Personnel, the report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations without a vote.

The Committee endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on the proposed medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005 and recommended on the programme narrative of programme 19: Human rights of the proposed medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005. It would approve the proposed medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005 as contained in draft resolution A/C.5/55/L.18.

On the question of the proposed programme budget outline for the biennium 2002-2003, the Committee recommended the endorsement of the recommendation of the ACABQ, and decided that the preliminary estimate of resources for the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003 should include a provision for special political missions in the amount of 93.7 million dollars at revised 2000-2001 rates. It invited the Secretary-General to prepare his proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003 on the basis of a total preliminary estimate of 2,515.3 million dollars at revised 2000-2001. It would also decide that the contingency fund should be set at 0.75% of the preliminary estimate, namely at 18.9 million dollars.

The Committee also adopted draft resolution on the United Nations Common system which requested the Assembly to defer consideration of the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the international civil service at its resumed 55th session.

The Committee recommended to the General Assembly the adoption of draft resolution on the UN pension system. It approves, with effect from 1 January 2001, an amendment to article 67 of the Regulations of the Fund, which sets the terms of office for the elected members and alternate members of the UN Staff Pension Committee at four years, instead of the current three years.

The Committee will hold two resumed sessions during 2001, the first part from 12 March to 6 April 2001 will be devoted to human resources management, IMIS, the review of the functioning of the ICSC, report of the OIOS, questions relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2000-2001; issues under the item Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations. The second part of the resumed session will take place from 7 May to 1 June 2001 and will be devoted mainly to the financing of peacekeeping operations, and other outstanding issues on the agenda of the Fifth Committee.


6. The Sixth Committee

The Sixth Committee had fifteen items on its agenda, resulting in the adoption by the General Assembly of a total of fourteen resolutions and two decisions, one resolution, on Measures to eliminate international terrorism was adopted by a recorded vote.

With regard to the question of Measures to eliminate international terrorism the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee was extended for 2001. It includes the continuation of the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, the finalization of the draft international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, as well as keeping on its agenda the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations on combating terrorism. The work will also continue during the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly, within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee.

The work accomplished by the Preparatory Commission on the establishment of the International Criminal Court was welcomed, including the completion of the part of the mandate relating to the draft texts of the rules of procedure and evidence and the elements of crimes. Further meetings of the Commission will be convened in 2001 to carry out its mandate.

The Committee, expressed its appreciation to the International Law Commission for the work accomplished at its fifty-second session, in particular with respect to the topic State Responsibility, and encouraged the Commission to complete its work on this topic during its fifty-third session.

The Sixth Committee took up once again the question of the jurisdictional immunities of States and their property and decided to establish a new ad hoc Committee to further the work with a view to elaborating a generally acceptable instrument based on the draft articles on jurisdictional immunities of States and their property adopted by the International Law Commission.

The mandate of the Special Committee on the Charter was renewed and a resolution relating to the question of the implementation of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions was adopted.

Amendments to the Statute of the UN Administrative Tribunal with effect from 1 January 2001, were introduced in relation to the qualifications of its members and the length of their terms of appointment and other issues.