GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS CONVENTION ON NUCLEAR TERRORISM; WILL OPEN FOR SIGNATURE AT HEADQUARTERS 14 SEPTEMBER
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS CONVENTION ON NUCLEAR TERRORISM; WILL OPEN FOR SIGNATURE AT HEADQUARTERS 14 SEPTEMBER
Fifty-Ninth General Assembly
91st Meeting (AM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS CONVENTION ON NUCLEAR TERRORISM; WILL OPEN
FOR SIGNATURE AT HEADQUARTERS 14 SEPTEMBER
Also Adopts 16 Budget Committee Texts;
Peacekeeping Finance, Reform of UN Justice System among Issues Addressed
The General Assembly today adopted, by consensus, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and requested the Secretary-General to open it for signature at Headquarters from 14 September 2005 to 31 December 2006. It also adopted 16 texts recommended by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) during the first part of its resumed fifty-ninth session.
Based on an instrument originally proposed by the Russian Federation in 1998, the Convention will provide for a definition of acts of nuclear terrorism and covers a broad range of possible targets, including those against nuclear power plants and nuclear reactors. Under its provisions, the alleged offenders must be either extradited or prosecuted. It also encourages States to cooperate in preventing terrorist attacks by sharing information and assisting each other in connection with criminal investigations and extradition proceedings.
The Convention will play a crucial role in preventing terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, the use of which could lead to catastrophic consequences. It will contribute to strengthening the international legal framework for the suppression and combating of terrorism, as well as promoting the rule of law in general, and become a valuable addition to the existing 12 universal anti-terrorism conventions.
By its action today, stated several speakers, the Assembly had shown that it could, when it had the political will, play an important role in the global fight against terrorism, as well as in the setting of legal norms. Member States were called on to build on the success of that effort and to conclude the still outstanding comprehensive convention on international terrorism, hopefully before September’s high-level summit at the opening of the Assembly’s sixtieth session.
At the same time, a number of delegations expressed concern about the exclusion of armed forces from the scope of the Convention. That exclusion, stated Iran’s representative, would make the bulk of military activities by armed forces immune from the application of the Convention, even if such activities amounted to nuclear terrorism. Terrorist acts, added Egypt’s representative, were considered criminal acts, whether committed by States or non-States.
Acting on the recommendations of its Fifth Committee, the Assembly increased this year’s budget of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to almost $1 billion. The amount of $991.7 million would provide for the deployment of an additional 5,900 personnel and implementation of the Mission’s expanded capacity following the expansion of its mandate by the Security Council last October.
To be appropriated by one of the 16 drafts approved without a vote today, an additional $245.64 million for the maintenance of the mission in the 12 months ending on 30 June includes $49.95 million previously authorized by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in addition to $746.07 million appropriated by the terms of resolution 58/259 B.
Regretting that the administration of justice in the Secretariat continues to be slow, cumbersome and costly, the Assembly -- by a four-part resolution -– decided to form a panel to consider redesigning the United Nations justice system. Composed of external and independent experts, that body will be tasked with proposing a model for resolving staff grievances that is “independent, transparent, effective, efficient, adequately resourced and ensuring managerial accountability”. The panel is to start its work no later than 1 February 2006 and present its findings and recommendations by the end of July the same year.
By two other drafts, the Assembly acted on requests for additional financing for peacekeeping missions in Cyprus and Kosovo, whose budgets for the period from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 had been initially approved last June. Additional appropriations were required due, in part, to changes in subsistence allowance rates, revised salary scales and currency fluctuations between the euro and United States dollar.
The Assembly also took a decision on the means of enhancing the capacity of the Office of Internal Oversight Services to conduct its mandated functions efficiently. Among the issues addressed by the resolution on this matter is the need to ensure protection against retaliation for staff who report misconduct, and implement appropriate managerial, disciplinary or legal action in response to misconduct and criminal behaviour.
Another three-part resolution addressed the procurement reform recently initiated within the United Nations system, as well as the Office’s recommendations related to the audit of air safety standards in peacekeeping missions and the functioning of the Headquarters Committee on Contracts.
Other Budget Committee texts concerned: outsourcing practices; an information and communication technology strategy; appropriations for $81.17 million for special political missions in Iraq and Bougainville; increased annual salary for the members of the International Court of Justice and the judges of the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals; offices in New York representing United Nations system organizations headquartered elsewhere; standards of accommodation for air travel; construction of additional office facilities in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia); and the Secretary-General’s report on the review of the regular programme of technical cooperation and the Development Account.
Also, in view of the fact that printed copies of vacancy announcements for the newly-established Department of Safety and Security had not been distributed to delegations as required by its resolution 59/266 of 23 December 2004, the Assembly adopted a draft decision, by the terms of which three D-2 posts and one D-1 post would, on an exceptional basis, be re-advertised for 30 days. The Assembly also decided that the deadline for receipt of applications for the 14 P-3 to P-5 posts, for which vacancy announcements had been issued between 3 and 31 March in the Galaxy system, but not distributed in printed copy, would be extended by 15 days, also on an exceptional basis.
Finally, the Assembly deferred for future consideration a number of reports on the Fifth Committee’s agenda, including the implementation of the capital master plan and measures to strengthen the international civil service. Consideration of the Office of Internal Oversight Services report on the review of the operations and management of United Nations libraries was deferred to the Assembly’s sixtieth session.
Addressing the Assembly today were the representatives of Cuba, United States, Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Group of Latin America and CaribbeanStates), Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), Russian Federation, Indonesia, Malawi (on behalf of the African Group), India, Pakistan, Syria, Sri Lanka, Norway and Mexico.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 14 April, to consider follow-up to the Millennium Summit.
The General Assembly met this morning to consider the report of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210/of 17 December 1996 (document A/59/766) and a number of reports submitted by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the first part of its resumed fifty-ninth session.
Report of Ad Hoc Committee
A resolution contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, also known as the Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism recommended that the Assembly adopt the International Convention for the suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which was annexed to it. (For more information on the Convention, see Press Release L/3085 of 1 April.)
Fifth Committee Reports
The Assembly had before it a report on the Programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005 (document A/59/448/Add.3), which contains a three-part draft resolution on “special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005” and four draft decisions.
By part I of the draft, on “estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council”, the Assembly would appropriate an amount of some $81.17 million for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville.
By part II, on “information and communication technology strategy”, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to develop and implement cost-neutral measures to provide, in the working languages (English and French) of the Organization, Member States with secure access to information currently accessible only on the Intranet of the United Nations Secretariat. It would also request a more detailed analysis of the return on investment in information technology and the impact of such investment on the quality and timelines of service delivery and of the resource requirements resulting from information and communication technology projects.
Taking note of ongoing efforts in the field of disaster recovery and security threats in the new Department of Safety and Security, as well as in the Information Technology Services Division of the Office of Central Support Services, the Assembly would encourage all decision-makers involved to elaborate a comprehensive approach in this matter. It would also reiterate the need for further integration and compatibility of administrative platforms of the inter-agency network and request the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to ensure that technological infrastructures fully supported Latin, non-Latin and bidirectional applications so as to enhance the equality of the official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).
Part III, on “conditions of service and compensation for officials other than Secretariat officials: members of the International Court of Justice, judges of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and ad litem judges for the Tribunals”, would have the Assembly decide, among other things, to increase the annual salary and pensions of the members of the Court and the judges of the Tribunals by 6.3 per cent, effective 1 January as an interim measure, pending issuance of a comprehensive report that would address such issues as proposals for a mechanism of remuneration, based on market exchange rates and local price fluctuations, that would limit such remuneration divergence from that of comparable senior-level United Nations officials; and protection of judges’ pensions.
The Assembly would also decide that the conditions of service and compensation of the members of the ICJ and judges of the two Tribunals would next be reviewed at its sixty-first session.
By draft decision I, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Fund for International Partnership (document A/59/170).
By draft decision II, the Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General on the construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (document A/59/444) and endorse the recommendations contained in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/59/572).
Draft decision III would have the Assembly take note of the Secretary-General’s report on the review of the structure and functions of all liaison offices or representation in New York of organizations headquartered elsewhere funded from the regular budget (document A/59/395) and the ACABQ’s related report (document A/59/552).
By draft decision IV, the Assembly would decide to defer to its sixtieth session consideration of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the review of the operations and management of United Nations libraries (document A/59/373).
By the text of draft decision V, the Assembly would consider, as a matter of priority, the Secretary-General’s report on the review of the regular programme of technical cooperation and the Development Account (document A/59/397). For summary of the report, see Press Release GA/AB/3663 of 17 March.
Draft decision VI, on standards of accommodation for air travel, would have the Assembly take note of the Secretary-General’s and ACABQ’s reports on the matter (documents A/59/523 and A/59/573, respectively). For summary of the report, see Press Release GA/AB/3659 of 7 March.
The fifth committee’s report on Programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005: Human resources management (document A/59/774) contained one draft decision by which the Assembly, in view of the fact that printed copies of vacancy announcements had not been distributed to delegations with respect to the establishment of the Department of Safety and Security, as required by Assembly resolution 59/266 of 23 December 2004, would decide that three D-2 posts and one D-1 post should, on an exceptional basis, be re-advertised for 30 days, while the process of recruitment actions already under way would be continued. The Assembly would also decide that the deadline for receipt of applications for the 14 P-3 to P-5 posts, for which vacancy announcements had been issued between 3 and 31 March in the Galaxy system, but not been distributed in printed copy, would be extended by 15 days, also on an exceptional basis.
A report on programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005: Administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/59/773) contains a four-part draft resolution. By the terms of the text, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of an efficient and effective system of internal justice, which would ensure that individuals and the Organization are held accountable for their actions. Recognizing that a transparent, impartial and effective system of administration of justice is a necessary condition for ensuring fair and just treatment of staff, important for the success of human resources reform in the Organization, it would regret that the present system of the administration of justice in the Secretariat continues to be slow, cumbersome and costly.
The Assembly would decide to form a panel of external and independent experts to consider redesigning the administration of justice system within the United Nations. That body would be tasked with proposing a model for a new system for resolving staff grievances that is “independent, transparent, effective, efficient and adequately resourced and ensuring managerial accountability”. The model should involve guiding principles and procedures that clearly articulate the participation of staff and management within reasonable time frames and limits. The panel would start its function no later than 1 February 2006 and present its findings and recommendations by the end of July that year.
Among measures put forward by the text are the training of managers and implementation of a sound performance appraisal system as potential means of avoiding conflict. The Assembly would also stress the link between managers’ ability to respond in the course of a proceeding with their own performance appraisal and affirm the need to ensure proper training for the participants of the administration of justice system. It would note that Staff Rule 112.3 relating to the financial liability of managers has yet to be implemented and decide that the reduced time limits recommended by the Office of Internal Oversight Services for the appeals process will be mandatory no later than January 2006.
The text addresses both measures to strengthen informal mechanisms of conflict resolution, such as the Office of the Ombudsman, and formal bodies, including the Panel of Counsel, the Administrative Law Unit, Joint Appeals Board and the United Nations Administrative Tribunal. By its terms, the Assembly would recognize the need to strengthen the capacities of the Panel of Counsel, which would be encouraged to increase outreach activities, and invite the staff representatives to explore the possibility of establishing a staff-funded scheme that would provide legal advice and support to the staff. The Secretary-General would be invited to consider appropriate incentives to be built into the system to encourage staff members to serve on the panels.
Taking note that the Administrative Law Unit has multiple functions of administrative review, appeals, disciplinary matters and advisory services, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to present proposals to separate those functions to avoid conflict of interest, through redeployment of resources.
Stressing that increased accountability of managers would contribute to the elimination of the backlog of appeals cases, the Assembly would decide that, as a means to facilitate early consideration of cases, staff members wishing to appeal an administrative decision should send a copy of their request to the executive head of their department. The Administrative Law Unit should clarify with managers the requirements for the respondents’ reply, including time limits expected from managers. The Secretary-General would be requested to ensure that written explanations by managers are submitted to the Unit within eight weeks with no possibility of extension. Compliance with this responsibility would constitute part of the managers’ Performance Appraisal System (PAS).
On the Tribunal, the Assembly would regret that steps were not taken to separate its secretariat from the Office of the Legal Affairs and endorse the Secretary-General’s proposal to transfer the resources of the Administrative Tribunal to a separate section of the budget, effective with the beginning of the 2006-2007 biennium. It would also acknowledge the need for further strengthening of professionalism of the Administrative Tribunal by increasing membership by professional judges and amend the statute of the Tribunal to say, in part, that its Members “shall possess judicial experience in the field of administrative law or its equivalent within their national jurisdiction”. The Tribunal would be requested to review the rules, practices and procedures of similar tribunals towards “enhanced effective management of caseloads”.
The report on the United Nations common system (document A/59/647/Add.1) contained a draft decision by the terms of which the Assembly would decide to consider, as a matter of priority, the questions of the strengthening of the international civil service during its sixtieth session.
The report on the Financing of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) (document A/59/770) addressed the Secretary-General’s request for some $1.9 million in additional financing (see Press Release GA/AB/3662 of 16 March). By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would decide to keep the matter under review during its current session and urge Member States in arrears to pay their contributions to the Force, taking note of the fact that, by 28 February, only 41 Member States had paid their assessments in full. As of that date, outstanding dues for the mission amounted to $24.1 million. Also by the text, the Assembly would invite voluntary contributions to the Force in cash and in the form of services and supplies, as appropriate.
[The budget of UNFICYP for 2004-2005 was approved in June 2004, but additional appropriations were requested, mostly due to an unexpected relocation of military personnel from their current accommodations. Other reasons for a revised request included substantial changes in the cost parameters, including subsistence allowance rates, revised salary scales for staff and currency fluctuations between the euro and United States dollar. Additional requirements would be needed despite anticipated savings from the downsizing of the Force from 1,230 to 860 military contingent personnel, subsequent to Security Council resolution 1568 (2004).]
Emphasizing that all peacekeeping missions should be given equal and non-discriminatory treatment and provided with adequate resources to effectively discharge their mandates, the Assembly would further request the Secretary-General to ensure that the Force is administered with maximum efficiency and economy. In particular, it would reiterate its request that fullest possible use be made of facilities and equipment at the United Nations Logistics base at Brindisi, Italy, in order to minimize the costs of procurement for the Force; and that efforts continue to recruit local General Service staff.
Endorsing the observations and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to ensure their full implementation.
[In its report, the Advisory Committee recommended that any additional requirement be reported in the performance report of the mission. However, it stated that it only made such a recommendation in view of the relatively minor amount being requested, as requests for revised appropriations should be made exclusively in exceptional circumstances.
While recognizing the obligation of the United Nations to provide safe and sanitary accommodation for troops, and the necessity of transferring them from their current dilapidated premises, the ACABQ pointed out, however, that the military contingent of the mission would move from accommodations provided by the Government of Cyprus to facilities to be financed by the mission. Intensive contacts and discussions on the question of accommodation for troops had been maintained with the host country, and the mission had yet to receive a formal reply from the Government of Cyprus.]
In that connection, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to expedite negotiations with the host Government on issues surrounding the relocation of the mission’s personnel, in accordance with the provisions of the March 1964 agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Cyprus.
The report on the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) (document A/59/771) contained a draft resolution by which the Assembly would appropriate an additional amount of some $245.64 million for the maintenance of the Mission for the period from 1 October 2004 to 30 June 2005, inclusive of the amount of some $49.95 million previously authorized by the ACABQ and taking into account the total amount of $746.07 million already appropriated and apportioned for the 2004-2005 period by the terms of resolution 58/259 B.
Also by the text, the Assembly would take note of the status of contributions to MONUC as at 15 March 2005, including the contributions outstanding in the amount of $309.4 million, and note with concern that only 45 Member States have paid their assessed contributions in full. The Assembly would urge all other Member States, in particular those in arrears, to ensure payment of their outstanding assessments. The Assembly would also emphasize that every effort should be made to introduce strict budgetary discipline.
The report on the Financing of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document A/59/772) contained one draft resolution by which the Assembly would decide to appropriate an additional amount of $30 million for the maintenance of that Mission from the period 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005. A total amount of $278.41 million had already been appropriated for the Mission for the same period under resolution 58/305.
In his report, the Secretary-General had asked an additional appropriation for the Mission of $37.4 million, some $3.6 million of which could be met through reprioritization of funds. Those appropriations were necessary because of the increase in subsistence allowance rates effective 1 May 2004, revised salary scales for national staff effective 1 March 2004, currency fluctuations and a new air-operations contract effective 15 September 2004 (for more background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3662 of 16 March).
Finally, the Fifth Committee’s report on Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations (document A/59/652/Add.1), contained three draft resolutions. By the terms of a draft on the “Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on strengthening the investigation functions in the United Nations” (document A/58/708), the Assembly would re-emphasize the principle of separation, impartiality and fairness of those with responsibility for the investigation function and note the need to enhance the capacity of the Office to conduct its mandated investigation functions efficiently. It would also recognize that the Office has established an efficient mechanism to enable staff and other persons engaged in activities under the authority of the Organization to convey their allegations directly to the Office.
Further by the text, the Assembly would decide that, while the Office may entrust trained programme managers to conduct investigations on its behalf, in cases of serious misconduct and/or criminal behaviour, investigations should be conducted by professional investigators. As serious misconduct falling under category I, the Assembly would single out sexual exploitation and abuse. It would also note that sexual harassment constitutes a serious concern to Member States.
For the handling of minor forms of misconduct, the Secretary-General would be requested to implement the Office’s proposals to increase basic investigation training, develop written procedures for the proper conduct of investigations and promote the concept of an independent investigation function within the United Nations. Deciding that the results of investigation conducted by programme managers should be reported to the Office, the Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to establish an administrative mechanism for mandatory reporting by programme managers of allegations of misconduct to the Office. By the terms of the draft, such a mechanism should not adversely affect the right of individual staff members to report misconduct directly to the Office.
Where poor management is a contributory factor in cases of misconduct, the Assembly would address the need to ensure appropriate managerial action by the Office of Human Resources Management and request the Secretary-General to ensure protection of staff who report misconduct within the Secretariat against retaliation. In cases of proven misconduct and/or criminal behaviour, the Secretary-General would be requested to ensure expeditious disciplinary or legal actionin accordance with established procedures.
Also by the text, Member States would be informed on an annual basis about all actions taken, and all staff of the Organization would be told of the most common examples of misconduct and criminal behaviour and their disciplinary consequences, including any legal action, with due regard to the protection of the privacy of the staff members concerned. When conclusions of the Office of Internal Oversight Services are disputed by a programme manager, appropriate action would be taken to resolve the dispute. Information thereon would be included in the annual report of the Office.
The report contained a three-part draft resolution on “procurement reform”. By the terms of part A, the Assembly would welcome the progress achieved in addressing recent concerns and significant improvements made by the Secretary-General in procurement reform at Headquarters and in the field missions. It would call on the executive heads of the funds and programmes of the United Nations to continue their efforts to improve the efficiency of procurement by reducing duplication and harmonizing procurement procedures throughout the system, in close cooperation with the Procurement Service of the Office of Central Support Services.
Further by the text, the Secretary-General would be requested to encourage all the organizations of the United Nations system to further improve their procurement practices, among other things by participating in the United Nations Global Marketplace. Noting efforts made by the Secretary-General to increase procurement opportunities for developing countries and countries with economies in transition, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to simplify the vendor registration process, taking into account access to the Internet, and take further steps to sensitize the business community to procurement opportunities within the United Nations system. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General, when applying the principle of “best value for the money”, to continue safeguarding the financial interests of the Organization, consider best practices and ensure that adequate records are kept.
The Secretary-General would also be requested to implement measures to reduce the timeline associated with invoice payment. The Secretary-General should further issue ethical guidelines for those involved in the procurement process and adopt a code of conduct for vendors. He should also continue to ensure that consistent non-compliance and poor performance by vendors was recorded and that appropriate action was taken with respect to their inclusion on the list of vendors. Noting the plan to provide purchasing cards to departments and offices for low-value items, the Assembly would request the Secretariat to develop strong internal control mechanisms.
Addressing the increase in the number of ex post facto cases, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to take appropriate actions in order to minimize that practice to those cases which fully complied with the criteria of exigency.
By the terms of the same draft, the Assembly would encourage the Inter-Agency Procurement Working Group to continue its efforts to produce comprehensive and generally applicable statistics on procurement activities of all United Nations entities.
By part B, the Assembly would, as recommended in the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the audit of safeguarding air safety standards while procuring air services for peacekeeping missions, request the Secretary-General to fully document the reasons for not following up on the recovery of liquidated damages for contracts and apply consistent methods to the collection of liquidated damages from vendors. To ensure the highest level of air safety, he would also be requested to ensure compliance within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations with the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization regarding the chartering of civilian registered aircraft.
Further by the text, the Assembly would note with concern the delay and difficulties in recruiting aviation safety officers in some missions and request the Secretary-General to fill all vacancies expeditiously. In view of the limited number of site visits by aviation experts to operational bases of air carriers, he would be requested to ensure that experts are able to conduct the necessary technical assessment of vendors. Also, noting with concern that occurrences attributed to specific vendors were not included in the vendor performance reports, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to ensure that such occurrences are reflected in appropriate documents. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations would be requested to communicate the information on vendor performance to all aviation offices involved, including the Procurement Service.
Part C addresses the Office of Internal Oversight Services report on the audit of the functioning of the Headquarters Committee on Contracts. By its terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to review without delay options to better safeguard the independence of that Committee and examine the appropriateness of the current threshold for its review of procurement cases, taking into account the development of delegation of authority to the field offices as described in an ACABQ report on the matter.
By a draft resolution on outsourcing practices, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to consider outsourcing actively in accordance with the guidance and goals mentioned in Assembly resolution 55/232 and to ensure that programme managers satisfy, in their assessment of whether or not an activity of the Organization could be fully, or even partially, outsourced, criteria of: cost-effectiveness and efficiency; safety and security; maintaining the international character of the Organization; and maintaining the integrity of procedures and processes.
The Assembly would, as recommended in the report, defer for future consideration a number of agenda items and related documents, including reports on the capital master plan.
Action on Fifth Committee’s Drafts
The Fifth Committee Rapporteur, DENISA HUTANOVA (Slovakia), introduced the Committee’s reports.
The Assembly first took up the report on the programme budget for the 2004-2005 biennium (document A/59/448/Add.3).
Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a three-part draft resolution entitled, “Special subjects relating to the 2004-2005 programme budget”.
It then adopted, all without a vote, a series of draft decisions, including: draft decision I on the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships; draft decision II on construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa; and draft decision III on the review of the structure and functions of all liaison offices or representation in New York of organizations headquartered elsewhere funded from the regular budget.
It also adopted draft decision IV on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the review of the operations and management of United Nations libraries; draft decision V on review of the regular programme of technical cooperation and the Development Account; and draft decision VI on standards of accommodation for air travel.
Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Cuba said, referring to decision V, that he regretted the fact that there had been no opportunity to discuss the subject during the first part of the resumed session, and hoped it would be examined as soon as possible. If it could not be considered during the renewed resumed session of the Committee, the matter should be considered outside the budget framework. Until a decision on the Secretary-General’s proposals was taken, including on consolidation of two budget items, his delegation understood that the two parts should be considered separately during the budget exercise. On decision VI, he reiterated that there was a need for corresponding and detailed information to take decisions and pointed out that the Secretariat, in preparing a new report, should take into account the recommendations in the report of the ACABQ and recommendations made during informal consultations. New developments in air travel conditions should also be taken into account.
Turning to the report on human resources management (document A/59/774), the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft decision on recruitment.
It then adopted, without a vote, a four-part draft text on the administration of justice contained in document A/59/773.
Also acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a draft decision contained in document A/59/647/Add.1 on the United Nations common system.
Taking up several drafts on the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on the financing of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) (document A/59/770).
It adopted, without a vote, a text on the financing of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) (document A/59/771).
The Assembly, without a vote, also adopted the draft on the financing of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document A/59/772).
Turning to the review of the efficiency of the administration and financial functioning of the United Nations (document A/59/652/Add.1), the Assembly adopted, without a vote, draft resolution I on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on strengthening the investigation functions in the United Nations.
Draft resolution II on procurement reform was also adopted without a vote, as was draft resolution III on outsourcing practices.
A draft decision on questions deferred for future consideration was also adopted without a vote.
Action on Nuclear Terrorism Convention
The Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism by acclamation.
Speaking after the adoption, STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) said that, by its action today, the Assembly had shown that it could, when it had the political will, play an important role in the global fight against terrorism. The Convention, when it entered into force, would strengthen the international legal framework to combat terrorism. It would provide a legal basis for international cooperation in the investigation, prosecution and extradition of those who commit terrorist acts involving radioactive material or a nuclear device.
The Convention, he said, recognized the right of all States to develop and apply nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. That right, of course, was predicated on ensuring that development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was not used as a cover for nuclear proliferation. The Convention was the first counter-terrorism convention adopted by the Assembly since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. He called on Member States to build on the success of that effort and to work cooperatively to conclude the still outstanding comprehensive convention on international terrorism. He also urged them to sign the Convention when it opened for signature in September and to ratify and implement it as soon as possible.
GAILE A. RAMOUTAR (Trinidad and Tobago), on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the Convention adopted today filled an important lacuna in the body of international conventions that sought to establish a criminal law regime to deal adequately with acts of terrorism. She urged Member States to undertake the necessary measures to ensure the early entry into force of the Convention.
While celebrating today’s achievement, she said it must be borne in mind that the Assembly must still conclude the negotiation of the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism. In that regard, she noted that the last meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee examined exhaustively the elements for a definition of terrorism proposed in the Report of the High-Level Panel and in the Secretary-General’s Report “In Larger Freedom”, and that it found that those suggestions were already properly reflected in the draft convention being considered by the Ad Hoc Committee. Such a definition must be a technical legal concept, suitable for a criminal law instrument, and not a broad political statement. In that context, she was convinced that the Ad Hoc Committee and its sister working group of the Sixth Committee were the appropriate expert bodies to negotiate a broadly acceptable definition of the crime of terrorism.
JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said that in his report, the Secretary-General had identified several priorities in the fight against international terrorism, including the earliest conclusion of the convention on the suppression of nuclear terrorism. Member States had heeded his call. The European Union thanked the Russian Federation for submitting the draft convention to the Ad Hoc Committee established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 210/51.
Expressing the hope that work on the comprehensive convention against international terrorism would proceed in the same spirit of constructive cooperation, he said that preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear material, and creating such a complete legal system to that end, were elements of inestimable value in the common struggle against international terrorism.
ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that the Assembly’s adoption of the convention had particularly important political and legal consequences. In an environment of unrelenting escalation, and the use by terrorists of violent and sophisticated methods, it was important not to leave the slightest loophole for immunity for terrorist acts.
Noting that the convention provided a mechanism for the return of seized nuclear material to the States parties to whom they belonged, he expressed the hope that the instrument would be implemented with strict respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. The success of the convention depended on the willingness of States parties to implement it.
AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt), referring to the interpretation of paragraph 1 of the Convention’s article 4, affirmed that States should abide by international law applicable in armed conflict, particularly the principles and rules of international humanitarian law. Egypt’s interest in emphasizing that had led it to present a preambular proposal to affirm those elements but, despite the support of various delegations, Egypt had realized that it could lead to prolonging the negotiations. His delegation had, therefore, withdrawn the proposal in order to ensure the adoption of the Convention in the current Assembly session, bearing in mind the content of paragraph 1, article 4.
He emphasized that terrorist acts were considered criminal acts, whether committed by States or non-States. The exclusion of armed forces from the scope of the Convention should not be interpreted to mean the acts of States could not be considered terrorist acts, even where such acts were criminalized under different legal regimes, whether related to international law or international humanitarian law. From legal perspectives, terrorism was not limited to non-States; States could also commit terrorist acts.
PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) said that a significant contribution of the Convention adopted today lay in the fact that it would prevent individuals or groups from gaining access to nuclear materials that could be used for terrorist attacks. Along with the existing 12 conventions, the Nuclear Terrorism Convention would strengthen and make more comprehensive the international legal framework for combating terrorism. He thanked the Russian Federation for its initiative to bring the issue to the attention of Member States in 1998. That initiative paved the way for the Convention before the Assembly today.
The conclusion of the Convention, he said, would improve the means available to the international community to combat international terrorism. Because terrorism was a danger to all nations, they must act in concert to deal with the challenge. Evidence of that solidarity must be evidenced in their willingness to strengthen the international community’s capacity to deal with such scourges. As a nation that had been a victim of terrorism, Indonesia had always been consistent in its condemnation of terrorism and its cooperation to combat terrorism. Given the borderless nature of terrorism, international cooperation should be a salient feature of the international strategy to tackle it.
Turning to the negotiations, he said that the decision by the Assembly to establish the Ad Hoc Committee had proven effective. The existence and operation of that Committee had served to keep the Assembly in the forefront of the multilateral process of concluding such an instrument. The current negotiating forum should continue to be used to complete the comprehensive terrorism convention.
BROWN BESWICK CHIMPHAMBA (Malawi), on behalf of the African Group, said that after seven years, Member States had been able to mobilize their collective will to adopt the Nuclear Terrorism Convention. The adoption of the Convention reaffirmed the pivotal role of the Assembly in combating terrorism and in establishing legislative norms. He appreciated the foresight and commitment that informed the initiation of the Convention by the Russian Federation. The Convention strengthened the existing legal arsenal for fighting terrorism. The African Group hoped the draft comprehensive convention would also soon attain a positive outcome.
NIRUPAM SEN (India) said his country attached high priority to the formulation of international legal standards to combat terrorism. The General Assembly, by adopting the convention today, had demonstrated its resolve to deny terrorists access to nuclear materials and enhance international cooperation between States in devising and adopting effective practical measures for the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism, and for the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. India was happy to note that the convention was the first international legal instrument adopted by the General Assembly since 11 September 2001. That was the optimal approach to international law-making.
Emphasizing that the international community would have to remain united in persevering with its collective campaign to root out terrorism, he said terrorists tried to usurp the role played by secular and democratic nationalist forces. Their reactionary vision could only strengthen reaction while their brutal anti-humanism doomed them to certain failure. The importance of the Secretary-General’s recent calls upon Member States to expeditiously conclude both the convention on the suppression of nuclear terrorism and the comprehensive convention on international terrorism could not be overestimated. He had also called upon Member States to conclude negotiations on the comprehensive convention on international terrorism by the sixtieth Assembly session and it was to be hoped that Member States would demonstrate the same resolve and flexibility in concluding that instrument.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) expressed his country’s full support for the strengthening of the international legal regime for countering all forms of terrorism and described the use by terrorists of nuclear weapons or materials as unacceptable and “the ultimate nightmare scenario”.
Pakistan shared a number of concerns raised, particularly regarding paragraph 2 of article 4, which could be interpreted to imply that it was permissible for States in certain cases to attack or subvert the nuclear facilities or installations of another State. Pakistan had suggested the addition of a new paragraph to clarify that nothing in the convention would justify undertaking, encouraging or participating in, directly or indirectly, any action aimed at causing the destruction of, or damage to, any nuclear installation or facility. However, in response to assurances from the convention’s principal sponsors, and in order to facilitate its adoption by consensus and advance the campaign against terrorism, Pakistan had decided not to press its proposals.
He underlined the importance of interpreting and applying the convention in a manner that was fully compatible with the requirements of international law applicable in armed conflict, particularly those of the principles and rules of international humanitarian law. Second, a distinction must be maintained between counter-terrorism and non-proliferation.
Expressing concern that terrorists were more likely to acquire biological and chemical weapons rather than nuclear weapons, which were difficult even for States to develop, he said there was a need to address that concern also, especially through the adoption and implementation of effective verification schemes to ensure compliance with the comprehensive ban against chemical and biological weapons. Finally, for sustained success against terrorism, there was a need to adopt a comprehensive strategy that effectively addressed the root causes of terrorism, such as foreign occupation, denial of self-determination, as well as political and socio-economic injustices.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that the deliberations on the Convention had lasted seven years. That signified the great importance of the issue at hand, and provided sufficient time to consider the valuable proposals presented over the years. While he was glad that many of the views expressed were included in the Convention, he had hoped to see a clear reference in the Convention banning the military forces of States using nuclear weapons while carrying out their duties. At the same time, he was satisfied that the Convention stipulated that it did not deal with the use of nuclear weapons by States. That meant that the door was still open for Member States to deliberate on that important aspect in the future.
He reiterated his appreciation to all delegations that participated in the deliberations and spared no effort in concluding the Convention, as well as for the role played by the Russian Federation in submitting the idea for the Convention. Syria had been the target of terrorism, and he reaffirmed his country’s willingness to cooperate with countries to eliminate that scourge, as well as share its experiences with others.
VIJAYASIRI PADUKKAGE (Sri Lanka) said that the adoption of the Convention today by consensus constituted an unequivocal commitment by the Assembly to address the scourge of terrorism through collective action. It was also a clear manifestation of the pivotal role of the Assembly in the international law-creating process. The Convention supported the broad rationale that terrorist offenders who resorted to nuclear terrorism should not find safe haven within the territory of Member States.
“Our work is not yet complete”, he stated. Although Member States had achieved significant progress in the draft comprehensive convention, there were still differences among the delegations on certain key provisions. Undoubtedly, the positions of different delegations needed to be taken into account in negotiating a legal instrument, which involved issues of political and legal complexity. Nevertheless, it was necessary to find a way to surmount the differences through collective efforts, in a spirit of cooperation and compromise. The coming months leading to the high-level summit in September would provide a unique opportunity to engage in consultations on the outstanding issues. Once finalized, the draft comprehensive convention would fill the legal vacuum that still existed in the anti-terrorism regime.
HANS JACOB FRYDENLUND (Norway) said that today marked an important step towards a more complete international regime for fighting international terrorism. Today’s adoption was of vital importance as it would contribute to the denial of nuclear material to terrorists. The need to ensure the protection of radioactive materials and to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was an objective Norway fully shared. It was one of the primary reasons for its long-standing cooperation with Russia, the United States and the European Union in ensuring that radioactive material in north-western Russia was disposed of in a safe and controlled manner. He hoped that the future debates on the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism would be carried forward in a spirit of cooperation and compromise.
JUANA ELENA RAMOS RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said her delegation had gone along with the consensus to ensure the convention’s adoption. However, none of its provisions should be interpreted as encouraging or condoning the threat or use of force in international relations, which, in all cases, should be done in accordance with international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. The unjustified use of State forces against another State could not be condoned in the light of the convention, the very purpose of which was to fight nuclear terrorism.
Noting that nothing in the convention should be interpreted as authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against another State, she said it provided guarantees for those States that possessed nuclear weapons. Cuba considered that the best guarantee to ensure that nuclear weapons did not fall into terrorist hands was the total and complete elimination of all nuclear weapons, the very existence of which constituted a threat to international peace and security.
MOSTAFA DOLATYAR (Iran) said his country had suffered from the scourge of terrorism, including cross-border terrorism, and had taken decisive measures towards the elimination of all forms and manifestations of international terrorism. Iran was concerned that paragraph 2, article 4 stipulated that the activities of a State’s military forces in the exercise of their official duties, inasmuch as they were governed by other rules of international law, were not governed by the convention. The phrase “in exercise of their official duties: was vague and left room for a broader interpretation of the immunities of military forces than was provided for in general international law. That would make the bulk of armed forces activities immune from the application of the convention, even if such activities may amount to nuclear terrorism.
Echoing the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, he said that any attack or threat of attack against peaceful nuclear facilities –- operational or under construction –- posed a great danger to human beings and the environment, and constituted a grave violation of international law, as well as of the principles and purposes of the Charter and regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Any such attempt would, as such, be a clear manifestation of nuclear terrorism.
Referring to the lacuna created by paragraph 4 of article 4, he recalled that non-use of force or threat of force in international relations was a Charter obligation of all Member States and that labelling the activities of the military forces of States as “official duties” could and should not be justified in any circumstances if such activities ran counter to the Charter or established norms and principles of international law. With respect to the twelfth preambular paragraph, Iran underlined that the phrase “adoption of effective and practical measures for the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism” should be read in line with article 4 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). It should not be used as a pretext to restrict the inalienable right of all parties to the treaty to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
ALFONSO ASCENCIO (Mexico) welcomed the adoption of the Convention. Throughout the negotiations, his delegation had underscored the importance of the Assembly being able to arrive at concrete results. The successful outcome of the Convention was a sign of the clear will of Member States to overcome differences in order to bring about a safer world. The Convention would serve as a necessary catalyst to bring to conclusion the negotiations on the draft comprehensive convention on terrorism. He reiterated Mexico’s commitment to fighting terrorism in all its manifestations, whatever its causes. Regarding the consolidation of the legal framework to fight terrorism, he stressed the need to tackle the negotiations of each instrument on its own merits. Today’s Convention would have to substantively strengthen the legal strategy to fight terrorism, particularly the framework constituted by the existing 12 anti-terrorism instruments.
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