GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLS ON ALL STATES TO ENSURE SAFETY, SECURITY OF UN, OTHER HUMANITARIAN WORKERS

17 December 2003
GA/10221

GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLS ON ALL STATES TO ENSURE SAFETY, SECURITY OF UN, OTHER HUMANITARIAN WORKERS

17/12/2003
Press ReleaseGA/10221

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

75th Meeting (PM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLS ON ALL STATES TO ENSURE SAFETY,

SECURITY OF UN, OTHER HUMANITARIAN WORKERS

Adopts 15 Texts on Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance;

Assistance to Palestinians; Situations in Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia, Timor-Leste

As the General Assembly pushed to 22 December the recess date for its current session, it pressed ahead this afternoon on the final stages of its work, adopting 15 texts on a variety of issues, including resolutions on the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, coordination of humanitarian assistance, assistance to the Palestinian people and several country-specific situations.

Expressing its deep concern over the dangers and security risks faced by United Nations and other humanitarian personnel in the field, the Assembly adopted, by consensus, a resolution on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and the protection of United Nations personnel.

By that text, the world body urged all States to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel and to ensure respect for the inviolability of United Nations premises.  It also called upon all other parties involved in armed conflicts to ensure their safety and protection and to refrain from abducting or detaining them in violation of their immunity.

Strongly condemning any act or failure to act that obstructed or prevented United Nations and other humanitarian personnel from discharging their humanitarian functions, or that entailed their subjection to threats, the use of force or physical attack, the Assembly affirmed the need to hold to account those committing such acts.  It also expressed its deep concern that threats against the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian workers have escalated at an unprecedented rate over the past decade.

However, prior to the text’s adoption, the Assembly had voted to retain its thirteenth preambular and tenth operative paragraphs of the text by a recorded vote of 149 in favour, to 1 against (United States), with 8 abstentions (Albania, Belarus, India, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia and Tuvalu)(see Annex II).  Both paragraphs referred to the International Criminal Court, with operative paragraph 10 calling upon States to become parties to the Rome Statute.

The Assembly also adopted, by a recorded vote of 170 in favour, to none against, with 2 abstentions (Israel and Kenya) a resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people (see Annex I).  By that text, Member States, international financial institutions and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations were urged to extend, as rapidly as possible, economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people, in close cooperation with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and through official Palestinian institutions.  The convening of a 2004 United Nations-backed seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people was suggested.

And by the results of a third recorded vote, the Assembly adopted a resolution on special assistance for the economic recovery and reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 169 Member States voting in favour to 1 against (Rwanda), with no abstentions (see Annex III).  By the text, the world body welcomed the conclusion of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement on the Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other agreements and urged all parties concerned in the region to cease military activities, as well as any support for armed groups.  It also expressed deep concern, in particular, at the dire humanitarian situation in Ituri and emphasized that the consolidation of peace and the resumption of economic activity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were inextricably linked.

In other action related to strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the Assembly unanimously adopted an omnibus resolution welcoming the appointment of the new Emergency Relief Coordinator and encouraging the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to continue its efforts to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian assistance.  It also called on relevant United Nations organizations to improve and increase consistency in the way humanitarian needs are assessed, and called for cooperation with the Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator to ensure the implementation of humanitarian resolutions.

The world body adopted country-specific resolutions related to the situations in Somalia, Djibouti, Comoros (as orally revised) and Timor-Leste, as well as resolutions on the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Central America, the “White Helmets” and the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Assembly also adopted –- without votes –- texts on the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage (as orally revised) and the Commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development.

Finally, it adopted a resolution approving the report of the Credentials Committee, contained in the report of that body, but postponed action on a resolution related to the representation of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

At the top of meeting, General Assembly President, Julian Robert Hunte (Saint Lucia), expressed the world body’s deepest sympathy and condolences on the passing of Heydar Aliyev, former President of Azerbaijan.

Also acting upon a number of proposals contained in the reports of other bodies, the Assembly endorsed the Economic and Social Council’s recommendation that Timor-Leste be added to the list of the least developed countries and adopted a number of recommendations of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), each by acclamation.

Thus, Andrzej T. Abraszewski of Poland, Besley Maycock of Barbados, Collen Vixen Kelapile of Botswana, Manlan Narcisse Ahounou of Côte d’Ivoire and Murari Raj Sharma of Nepal were appointed to serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2004 on the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

Haile Selassie Getachew of Ethiopia, Kenshiro Akimoto of Japan, Meshal Al-Mansour of Kuwait, David A. Leis of the United States, Petru Dumitriu of Romania and Ihor V. Humenny of Ukraine were appointed to serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2004 on the Committee on Contributions.  Additionally, David Dutton of Australia was appointed to fill the unexpired term of office of Henry Fox of Australia.

The Assembly also authorized the reappointment of the First President of the Court of Accounts of France for a six-year term beginning on 1 July 2004 on the Board of Auditors.  It appointed Ahmad Abdullatif of Saudi Arabia, Fernando Chico Pardo of Mexico and J.Y. Pillay of Singapore to fill three-year terms of office beginning on 1 January 2004 on the Investment Committee, and Julio Barboza of Argentina and Dayendra Sena Wijewardane of Sri Lanka to four-year terms beginning on 1 January 2004 on the United Nations Administrative Tribunal.

Lastly, Canada, Jordan, Mexico, Niger and Slovenia were appointed members of the Consultative Committee of the United Nations Development Fund for Women for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2004.

The Assembly also decided to defer its consideration of the agenda items related to the armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and to the launching of global negotiations on international economic cooperation for development to its fifty-ninth session.

Addressing the Assembly this afternoon were the representatives of Azerbaijan, Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), South Africa (on behalf of the African States), Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Sweden, Panama, Argentina, Russian Federation, Timor-Leste, Israel, Cuba, Japan, Rwanda, United States, Egypt, Iran and Malaysia.

The Observer for Palestine also addressed the Assembly this afternoon.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representative of Israel, as well as the Observer for Palestine.

The Assembly will next reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

Background

The Assembly met this afternoon to take action on various outstanding issues, including a draft resolution on the report of the Committee for Development Policy (document A/58/L.36), by which it would endorse the Economic and Social Council’s recommendation that Timor-Leste be added to the list of least developed countries (LDCs).

And by a text on Assistance for humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and development for Timor-Leste (document A/58/L.46), the Assembly would welcome the commitment of the international community to meet the country’s external requirements for rehabilitation, reconstruction and development activities.  It would urge the United Nations, other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and Member States to continue to support the Government and its people in their endeavours towards self-sustainable nation-building and in facing remaining vulnerabilities and challenges, such as nation-wide capacity-building in all sectors, sustainable development, national reconciliation and the return of refugees to Timor-Leste.

Deeply concerned by the dangers and security risks faced by humanitarian, United Nations and associated personnel at the field level, the Assembly had before it a draft resolution on Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/58/L.47).  By the terms of that text, the world body would urge all States to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel and to ensure respect for the inviolability of United Nations premises.  It would also call upon all other parties involved in armed conflicts to ensure the safety and protection of United Nations and other humanitarian workers, to refrain from abducting or detaining them in violation of their immunity and speedily to release, without harm, any abductee or detainee.

The Assembly would also strongly condemn any act or failure to act, which obstructs or prevents United Nations and other humanitarian workers from discharging their humanitarian functions, or which entails being subjected to threats, the use of force or physical attack, and affirm the need to hold accountable those who commit such acts.  It would express deep concern that, over the past decade, threats against the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian workers have escalated at an unprecedented rate and that perpetrators of acts of violence seemingly operate with impunity.

Furthermore, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure that United Nations and other personnel are properly informed about the conditions under which they are called upon to operate and the standards they are required to meet and to ensure that adequate training in security, human rights and international humanitarian law is provided.  Moreover, the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations would be invited to strengthen the analysis of threats to their safety and security.  It would also emphasize the need to give further consideration to the safety and security of locally recruited humanitarian personnel, who account for the majority of casualties.

The Assembly also had before it a text on Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/58/L.39), by which it would welcome the appointment of the new Emergency Relief Coordinator.  Calling on relevant United Nations organizations to improve and increase consistency in the way humanitarian needs are assessed, it would also call on relevant organizations of the United Nations system, other relevant international organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations to cooperate with the Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator to ensure timely implementation of and follow-up to Economic and Social Council resolutions.

The Assembly would also strongly condemn all forms of violence to which humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel are increasingly subjected and urge all States to take necessary measures to ensure their safety and security.  It would also call upon all governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations to ensure the safe and unhindered access to affected civilian populations of humanitarian personnel, as well as supplies and equipment.  Reaffirming the obligation of all States and parties to armed conflict to protect civilians in armed conflicts, the Assembly would invite States to promote a culture of protection.

Also before the Assembly were a number of country-specific texts, including one on Special assistance for the economic recovery and reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/58/L.31/Rev.1).  By its terms, the Assembly would welcome the conclusion of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement on the Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the subsequent establishment of the Government of National Unity and Transition, as well as the declaration of Principles on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.  Urging all parties concerned in the region to cease military activities, as well as any support for armed groups, it would strongly condemn the acts of violence systematically perpetrated against civilians and stress the need to bring those responsible to justice.  It would also urge all parties to stop recruiting, training and using child soldiers.

Urging all parties to respect fully international humanitarian law and to ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel to all affected populations, the Assembly would call on the international community to increase its support for humanitarian relief activities within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Expressing its deep concern, in particular at the dire humanitarian situation in Ituri, it would call on all Congolese parties to cooperate fully with the institutions of the transition and urge all parties to avoid further population displacement and to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

Emphasizing further that the consolidation of peace and the resumption of economic activity are inextricably linked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it would stress the importance of restoring river traffic –- welcoming in that regard the reopening of the Congo and Oubangui rivers –- and call for the reopening of the Kisangani-Kindu rail and river link.  It would also request the Secretary-General to prepare an international conference on peace, security and development in Central Africa and the Great Lakes region.

According to a text on Assistance for humanitarian relief and the economic and social rehabilitation of Somalia (document A/58/L.40), the Assembly would reiterate its firm support for the national reconciliation process sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and urge all parties throughout the country to participate in the process.

Underlining the urgent need to put in place practical measures for alleviating the consequences of drought in Somalia, it would call upon the Secretary-General to continue mobilizing international humanitarian, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance for the country.  It would call upon all parties to respect the safety and security of the personnel of the United Nations, the specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations and to guarantee their complete freedom of movement and safe access.  Finally, it would urge the international community to provide continuing and increased assistance for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance for Somalia, including the alleviation of the consequences of drought.

By a text on Economic assistance for the reconstruction and development of Djibouti (document A/58/L.41*), the Assembly would declare its solidarity with the Government and people of Djibouti, who continue to face critical development and humanitarian challenges, and request the Secretary-General to continue, in close cooperation with the Government, his efforts to mobilize the resources necessary for an effective programme of financial, technical and material assistance to the country.

A text on International assistance to and cooperation with the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Central America (document A/58/L.42) would have the Assembly reiterate the importance of supporting and strengthening the efforts of Central American countries in the implementation of the Regional Mechanism of Coordination of Mutual Assistance in Case of Disasters and the Regional Plan for Disaster Reduction, as well as the implementation of the Strategic Framework for the Reduction of Vulnerability and Disasters in Central America.  The relevant bodies of the United Nations system, all States, international financial institutions and regional and subregional organizations would be requested to continue to provide the support needed to attain the objectives of the programme for the sustainable development of Central America.

The Assembly would also recognize efforts and achievements relating to mine clearance in Central America and call on the relevant organs of the United Nations system, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the wider international community to continue providing material, technical and financial support for mine-clearance, mine-awareness and victim assistance activities in the region.

In addition, a text on Special emergency economic assistance for the recovery and the development of the Comoros (document A/58/L.45) would have the Assembly express its appreciation to all States and to all the international organizations for assistance provided for the country’s relief, but would stress that the financial resources made available nevertheless remain insufficient, particularly for what is needed to cover the most basic needs for ensuring the Comoros’ humanitarian, economic and political recovery.

The Assembly would thus request Member States, international organizations and other relevant organs of the United Nations system, in the event of an agreement between the Comoros and the authorities of the autonomous islands, and while awaiting the finalization of the Fomboni Agreement by early 2004, to direct their financial and technical assistance towards the most affected sectors of the population during and after the transition period.  It would also urge the Government of the Comoros and the governments of the autonomous islands to pursue the efforts under way to accelerate the organization of legislative elections and to establish the remaining national institutions as stipulated in the Constitution.

The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution on Strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster (document A/58/L.44), by which the Assembly, conscious of the long-term consequences of that catastrophe, would stress the continued need for response to the exceptional needs of the affected populations and the region, chiefly in the areas of health, ecology and research, as the transition is made from the emergency to the recovery phase of mitigating the consequences of the accident.  The Assembly would welcome the decision by the Council of Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to proclaim 26 April the International Day Commemorating Victims of Radiation Accidents and catastrophes in States members and urge United Nations Member States to participate in the Day.

The Assembly would also welcome the launch of the International Chernobyl Research and Information network, with the aim of supporting the ongoing global, national and civil society efforts towards the sustainable development of the affected territories by compiling and coordinating relevant scientific research, which would allow informed decision-making for long-term recovery as the process moves forward.

Also before the Assembly was a text on Participation of volunteers, “White Helmets”, in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development (document A/58/L.43).  It would have the world body express its satisfaction for the progress of the White Helmets initiative as a singular voluntary international effort to provide the United Nations system with the voluntary expertise to respond, in a quick and coordinated manner, to the Organization’s appeals concerning humanitarian relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development, while preserving the non-political, neutral and impartial character of humanitarian action.

By a text on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1), the Assembly would urge Member States, the United Nations financial institutions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, among others, to extend, as rapidly as possible, economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people, in close cooperation with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and through official Palestinian institutions.

That text would also have the Assembly urge States to open their markets to Palestinian products on the most favourable terms, consistent with appropriate trading rules, and to implement fully existing trade and cooperation agreements.  Besides suggesting the convening of a 2004 United Nations-backed seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people, the Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to submit a report during its fifty-ninth session that would include an assessment of the assistance actually received and the needs still unmet.

Also for the Assembly’s consideration was a draft resolution on the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage, 2002 (document A/58/L.11/Rev.2), by which it would note the activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) undertaken during the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage and invite UNESCO, in collaboration with States, observers, relevant United Nations bodies and other international and non-governmental organizations, to continue to intensify the implementation of programmes, activities and projects aimed at the promotion and protection of the world cultural heritage.  It would also invite Member States and observers to continue to promote education and raise public awareness so as to foster respect for national and world cultural heritage.

According to a text on Commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (document A/58/L.29), the Assembly, considering that 2004 will mark the anniversary, would decide to devote one day, during its fifty-ninth session, to the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development.

The Assembly also had before it a report of the Credentials Committee on Credentials of representatives to the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly (document A/58/625), which states that at its meeting on 11 December 2003, the Committee accepted the credentials of the representatives of 191 Member States to the current session.  The Assembly’s adoption of a draft resolution approving the Committee’s report is recommended.

By terms of a text relating to the report of the Credentials Committee, on the Representation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/58/L.48), the world body would reaffirm the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and affirm that the Observer delegation to the General Assembly represents the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and that the credentials of the delegation of Israel do not cover that territory.

Action to Endorse Timor-Leste as Least Developed Country

The Assembly, this afternoon, adopted without a vote a resolution on the report of the Committee for Development Policy (document A/58/L.36) endorsing the Economic and Social Council’s recommendation that Timor-Leste be added to the list of the least developed countries.

Introducing the text, the representative of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalled that the Committee for Development Policy had recommended the inclusion of Timor-Leste on the list of least developed countries, and that recommendation had been approved by the Economic and Social Council, contingent upon that country’s acceptance of the recommendation.  Timor-Leste had since given its acceptance to its placement on the list of least developed countries.

Action on Recommendations of Fifth Committee

The Assembly also adopted a series of recommendations from the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), each by acclamation, to fill vacancies in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Committee on Contributions, Board of Auditors, Investments Committee and United Nations Administrative Tribunal, contained in that Committee’s reports on appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other appointments (documents A/58/561/Add.1, A/58/562, A/58/563, A/58/564 and A/58/565).

Accordingly, the five new members appointed to the ACABQ, to serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2004, were:  Andrzej T. Abraszewski of Poland –- from Eastern European States; Besley Maycock of Barbados –- from Latin American and Caribbean States; Collen Vixen Kelapile of Botswana and Manlan Narcisse Ahounou of Côte d’Ivoire –- from African States; and Murari Raj Sharma of Nepal –- from Asian States.

The six new members of the Committee on Contributions, appointed to serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2004, were:  Haile Selassie Getachew of Ethiopia –- from African States; Kenshiro Akimoto of Japan and Meshal al-Mansour of Kuwait -– from Asian States; David A. Leis of the United States –- from Western European and Other States; and Petru Dumitriu of Romania and Ihor V. Humenny of Ukraine –- from Eastern European States.  David Dutton of Australia was also appointed to fill the unexpired portion –- until 31 December 2004 –- of the term of office of Henry Fox, also of Australia, who resigned from the Committee.

Turning to the Board of Auditors, the Assembly authorized the reappointment of the First President of the Court of Accounts of France for a six-year term beginning on 1 July 2004.

Subsequently, Ahmad Abdullatif of Saudi Arabia, Fernando Chico Pardo of Mexico and J.Y. Pillay of Singapore were appointed to fill three-year terms of office beginning on 1 January 2004 on the Investment Committee.

Then, Julio Barboza of Argentina was reappointed and Dayendra Sena Wijewardana of Sri Lanka was appointed to serve four-year terms, beginning on 1 January 2004, on the United Nations Administrative Tribunal.

Finally, in light of the expiration on 31 December 2003 of the terms of office of five members of the Consultative Committee of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Canada, Jordan, Mexico, Niger and Slovenia were appointed to three-year terms on that Committee, beginning on 1 January 2004.

In other action, the Assembly decided to defer its consideration of the agenda item entitled “Armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and its grave consequences for the established international system concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and international peace and security” to its fifty-ninth session.

Introduction of Drafts on Humanitarian and Disaster Relief

As the Assembly took up a series of texts related to strengthening of the coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, including special economic assistance, the representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the drafts on, respectively, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Djibouti and the Comoros (documents A/58/L.31/Rev.1; A/58/L.40; A/58/L.41 and A/58/L.45.)

He updated the Assembly on the current humanitarian conditions in each of those countries, stressing in several instances the lead role of the United Nations in mitigating the effects of natural disasters, as well as the links to peace and long-term development.

Next, the representative of Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, then introduced the text on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations staff, and assistance to the Palestinian people, respectively.

He said the safety of humanitarian staff was a key issue for the European Union.  The atrocious 19 August attacks on the Organizations’ headquarters in Baghdad, and ever-increasing acts of violence against relief workers in other parts of the world heightened the importance of the issue.  The text (document A/58/L.47) called on all States to take the utmost care to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel, as well as safe access to vulnerable populations.

It also invited the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies to strengthen their intelligence and threat assessment and evaluation mechanisms in order to ensure informed decision-making on the ground.  He added that while consensus on the draft had been close, at the close of negotiations yesterday, one delegation had expressed reservations on some of the language.  He urged Members to move past their differences and adopt the text by consensus.

Turning to the text on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1), he said the language stressed, among other things, the need for the full engagement of the United Nations in providing such assistance.  The draft also contained a new element in its preamble, welcoming the Security Council’s unanimous support of the Road Map peace plan, which called for reciprocal actions from both sides towards the achievement of peace.

Next, the representative of Sweden introduced the draft resolution on Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/58/L.39), saying that the text reaffirmed the principles of neutrality and impartiality in the provision of humanitarian assistance.  It urged all States to do the utmost to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers.

The representative of Panama introduced the text on International assistance to and cooperation with the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Central America (document A/58/L.42).  She said the draft highlighted the vulnerabilities of the region to natural disasters and recognized the valuable contributions of the United Nations system and civil society in their important efforts to mitigate such disasters and to strengthen regional capacities to cope with them.

The representative of Argentina then introduced the draft resolution on the Participation of volunteers, “White Helmets”, in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development (document A/58/L.43).  He said the text acknowledged the role the important role of “White helmets” and volunteers in providing specialized assistance in complex emergencies.

The Russian Federation’s representative introduced the text on Strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster (document a/58/l.44), saying it was aimed at addressing the unique needs of the affected peoples and countries, as well as supporting a new strategy to mitigate the effects of the disaster, shifting the focus to socio-economic rehabilitation, while not detracting from the very important health-care and medical research tracks.

Introducing a text on Assistance for humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and development for Timor-Leste (document A/58/L.46), the representative of Timor-Leste said the measure acknowledged the progress that had been made there, but also recognized the need for continued international and United Nations support, especially in health, judicial, and law enforcement sectors.  He hoped the draft would be adopted by consensus.  He read out a technical correction to the text.

Statements in Explanation of Position

Before the Assembly turned to vote on the whole series of texts related to the strengthening of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position on the draft related to assistance to the Palestinian people, said his country shared the concern over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the region.  Violence and terrorism, by their nature, entailed hardship for civilian populations and both Israelis and Palestinians had suffered from the upsurge in violence of the last years.  Bringing the violence to an end and providing for the security of all the region’s inhabitants were critical components of any peace initiative and objectives of Israeli policy.

Thus, Israel supported efforts to relieve the suffering of innocents and had done its utmost to facilitate international humanitarian work and to improve living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said.  Despite the threat of terrorism, the country had tried to permit the flow of food and other necessities to the greatest extent possible.  However, Palestinian terrorists had consistently exploited any Israeli attempt to ease the conditions of the Palestinian people and had used increases in freedom of movement to infiltrate Israeli cities.

It was clear that terrorists posed a threat to those they targeted, as well as those they hid behind, he added.  It was disingenuous to suggest that Israeli policies were the source of the hardships facing the Palestinian people.  It had only been with the breakdown of the peace process, and the Palestinian resort to a deliberate terror campaign that living conditions had declined.  And while it was useful to some to place the blame on Israel, it would do little to help Palestinian citizens who did not participate in acts of terror.

The international community, he continued, should insist that the Palestinian leadership end its campaign of violence and terror, as called for in signed agreements and the Road Map.  Israel had, in previous years, joined the consensus, in spite of the use of language to refer to the West Bank and Gaza Strip that was inconsistent with the terms used in agreements between the parties and that did not reflect his country’s view on the legal status of those territories.

At the same time, the international community’s attention should not be devoted solely to the welfare of Palestinian citizens in the conflict, he said.  Israeli citizens were no less deserving of attention.  Israel would abstain on the draft this year due to new language unrelated to humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, including outright reference to Security Council resolution 1515, which was inappropriate.  Regretting the use of the Assembly, once again, to further a partisan and political agenda, he said that Israel, for all its goodwill, did not feel in a position to support the draft.

Speaking in explanation of position on the draft related to strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, the representative of Cuba voiced concern over the use of inconcretely defined language in part of the text, but said his country supported the draft as a whole.

In reference to the same text, the representative of Japan said that his country had long attached great importance to the effective and efficient coordination of humanitarian activities and had been an active supporter of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  He also supported the need to strengthen the Office’s financial base through broadening its donor base, and in that regard, the tenth preambular paragraph of the text was particularly welcomed.  A broadened donor base would in turn contribute to strengthening the solidarity of the international community on the subject of humanitarian assistance by providing a sense of ownership to a wider range of countries.

However, strengthening OCHA’s financial base should not lead to an increase in the overall United Nations regular budget, he added, and operative paragraph 3 of the text caused concern.  The current agenda item was not the appropriate venue for a discussion of the Organization’s regular budget.  Moreover, he reminded other delegations of a General Committee report (document A/58/250), which expressed concern at the tendency of the Assembly’s substantive Committees and other intergovernmental bodies to involve themselves in administrative and budgetary matters.  The Fifth Committee was the committee entrusted with responsibility for administrative and budgetary matters.

In order not to prejudge the Fifth Committee’s work, he continued, operative paragraph 3 should be interpreted as a political statement, which did not lead to concrete budgetary implications.  If the paragraph were more than a statement of the Assembly’s political will, Japan would be opposed to it.  However, on the understanding that the paragraph pointed out the need to increase the share of OCHA’s budget in an incremental way in the normal course of the Secretary-General’s budget process, and that it did not contradict his country’s above-stated position, Japan would go along with the consensus.

Regarding the text on assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the representative of Rwanda said he regretted that despite his country’s recognition of the special needs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda could not support the related draft.  The text failed to recognize recent developments in the peace process in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.  Only last month, the heads of State of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa had met and affirmed by the third-party mechanism that no Rwandan troops were present on the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Moreover, he added, none had been present since the troop pullout in October last year.  Thus, operative paragraph 5 of the text was unacceptable and did not reflect reality.  On the contrary, his Government had been supportive of the Government in Kinshasa.  What should have been a simple humanitarian resolution had been unnecessarily politicized, and his country could not support it.  However, Rwanda would extend its assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including through the continued hosting of tens of thousands of Congolese refugees in various parts of Rwanda.

Action on Drafts

The Assembly then adopted, by a recorded vote of 170 in favour, with two abstentions (Israel and Kenya), the resolution on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1).  (See Annex I.)

It also adopted, without a vote, a resolution on Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/58/L.39).

The resolution on Assistance for humanitarian relief and the economic and social rehabilitation of Somalia was also adopted, without a vote (document A/58/L.40).

Subsequently, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on Economic assistance for the reconstruction and development of Djibouti (document A/58/L.41).

Then, it adopted, without a vote, the text on International assistance to and cooperation with the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Central America (document A/58/L.42).

The text on Participation of volunteers, “White Helmets”, in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development was also adopted, without a vote (document A/58/L.43).

The Assembly further adopted, by acclamation, the text on Strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster (document A/58/L.44).

It also adopted, as orally revised, the resolution on Special emergency economic assistance for the recovery and the development of the Comoros (document A/58/L.45).

Then it adopted, without a vote, the text on Assistance for humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and development for Timor-Leste (document A/58/L.46).

Before action was taken on the text on Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel, the Secretariat informed the Assembly that certain paragraphs of the draft called on the Secretary-General to undertake certain measures to ensure safety of the Organization’s staff.  Implementation of those objectives would require a detailed review and development of specific measures in that respect, including the provision of additional resources, and would be submitted in a report to the Assembly at its resumed fifty-ninth session in 2004.

A separate vote was requested on operative paragraph 10 and preambular paragraph 13, both were retained by a vote of 149 in favour to one against (United States), with eight abstentions (Tuvalu, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Lebanon, Belarus, India, Albania and Tunisia).  (See Annex II.)

The text as a whole was adopted unanimously.

The resolution on Special assistance for the economic recovery and reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/58/L.31/Rev.1) was adopted by a vote of 169 in favour to one against (Rwanda).  (See Annex III.)

Explanation of Vote after the Vote

The representative of the United States said the lack of safe access to many vulnerable communities around the world continued to plague humanitarians and even, in the most tragic incidents, claim the lives of relief workers.  The United States was committed to supporting humanitarian work.  Her delegation had proposed a replacement for language in the text of safety of humanitarian staff “noting the role that the International Criminal Court (ICC) could play in bringing justice to those responsible for violating humanitarian law”, with “the need for States to end impunity for such acts”.  But that amendment had been rejected.

The delegation had also opposed the inclusion of the operative paragraph calling on all States to join the Rome Statute of the ICC.  The United States could only accept neutral references to the ICC and that was why it had voted against the paragraphs.  It had nevertheless supported the text as a whole.

In a general statement, the Observer for Palestine expressed deep thanks to all delegations that had supported the draft on assistance to the Palestinian people.  He also thanked all agencies and groups that had provided humanitarian and other forms of assistance to the Palestinian people, living under extreme conditions that could be called a humanitarian tragedy.  Israel’s position seemed to oppose relief that would allow genuine economic progress in the occupied territories.  That position had only increased the importance of the Road Map and the need to pursue a diplomatic path to peace.

He also regretted Israel’s position on the text, which had serious connotations.  That delegation had broken consensus; that position should be strongly condemned.  He added that Israel’s statement in explanation of vote had been befitting of racist, oppressive occupiers and had been aimed at ending all peaceful negotiations.  He particularly noted Israel’s decision today to refer to the occupied Palestinian territories as simply “disputed territories”, which was a blatant contravention of international law.

In other action, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution on the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage, 2002 (document A/58/L.11/Rev.2), introduced by the representative of Egypt, who read out several technical corrections to the text.

The Assembly then deferred its consideration of items related to the launching of the global negotiations on international economic cooperation for development.

The Assembly then adopted a resolution on the Credentials of representatives to the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly, contained in the report of that Committee (document A/58/625).

Following that action, the representative of Iran said that his delegation would disassociate itself from references in the report construed as recognition of the State of Israel.

The representative of Malaysia then introduced the text on Representation of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/58/L.48).  He said the text did not in any way intend to challenge the Report of the Credentials Committee, which had just been adopted.  At the same time, the co-sponsors of the draft wished to stress that the representation of Israel to the United Nations, including in the General Assembly, must be in conformity with international law.

He said the text would have the Assembly affirm that the Observer delegation of Palestine to the General Assembly represents the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and that the credentials of the delegation of Israel do not cover that territory.  Another paragraph of the text would express the Assembly’s hope that the Palestinian people would soon exercise sovereignty in their State, Palestine, he added.

The draft should not be considered an attempt by the Assembly to enter territorial disputes, and adopting it would not have any bearing on the currently stalled efforts on final status negotiations between Israel and Palestine.  But nevertheless, given the importance of the issue, Malaysia recognized the need to continue with informal consultations and did not insist that the Assembly take action today.  The co-sponsors intended to revisit the issue in the immediate future, during the Assembly’s current session.  

The Assembly subsequently deferred consideration of the text.

It then adopted, by acclamation, a decision on the Commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (document A/58/L.29) by the world body.

Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel expressed grave concern that the Palestinian Observer had once again attempted to further the political campaign against his country.  The new language added to the text this year, under the pretext of defining Israel’s credentials, granted rights of territorial representation to an observer and was an attempt to politicize a wholly technical function of the United Nations.

Indeed, territorial issues should not have been included under the item.  The draft text was rife with political assertions that sought to predetermine the outcome of a territorial dispute.  Such a presumption was unprecedented.  It represented a conspicuous act of discrimination, and might open a “Pandora’s Box” that could hamper negotiations on disputed territories around the world.  Using the Assembly as a platform for scoring political points should be rejected, he added.

The Observer for Palestine said that his delegation did not quite understand Israel’s intervention, particularly since no statement had been made to which a right of reply had been warranted.  Nevertheless, the case in question had nothing to do with technical aspect of the credentials process of Committee’s report.  It was the case of one State –- Israel -- occupying the entire territory of another people –- Palestinians -- for nearly 40 years, annexing and confiscating Palestinian lands throughout that time.  Further, Israel had been the only Member State defined as an occupying Power by United Nations resolutions.  None had ever been complied with.

Israel’s statement had been a further rejection of a two-State solution for peace.  The draft had always been necessary, but it had become more so now that Israel was building its expansionist wall inside the Palestinian occupied territories.  That wall would end any hope for diplomatic negations.  He hoped the matter could be dealt with in the very near future.

ANNEX I

Vote on Assistance to Palestinians

The draft resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1) was adopted by a recorded vote of 170 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  None.

Abstain:  Israel, Kenya.

Absent:  Barbados, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Kiribati, Liberia, Malawi, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles.

ANNEX II

Vote on Safety, Security of Humanitarian Personnel

Preambular paragraph 13 and operative paragraph 10 of the draft resolution on the security of humanitarian personnel (document A/58/L.47) were retained by a recorded vote of 149 in favour to 1 against, with 8 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  United States.

Abstain:  Albania, Belarus, India, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Tuvalu.

Absent:  Barbados, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kiribati, Kuwait, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Myanmar, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Vanuatu, Viet Nam.

ANNEX III

Vote on Assistance to Democratic Republic of Congo

The draft resolution on special assistance for the economic recovery of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/58/L.31/Rev.1) was adopted by a recorded vote of 169 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Rwanda.

Abstain:  None.

Absent:  Barbados, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Uganda.

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For information media. Not an official record.