SECOND COMMITTEE DRAFT EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER OIL SLICK ON LEBANESE COAST, REQUESTS ISRAEL TO COMPENSATE FOR COSTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL REPAIR

26 November 2008
GA/EF/3234

SECOND COMMITTEE DRAFT EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER OIL SLICK ON LEBANESE COAST, REQUESTS ISRAEL TO COMPENSATE FOR COSTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL REPAIR

26 November 2008
General Assembly
GA/EF/3234
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Second Committee

30th Meeting (AM)

SECOND COMMITTEE DRAFT EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER OIL SLICK ON LEBANESE COAST,

REQUESTS ISRAEL TO COMPENSATE FOR COSTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL REPAIR

Also Approves Texts on Caribbean Sea, Small Island Sustainable Development;

Reducing Effects of Natural Disasters; Desertification; Information Technology

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today approved eight draft resolutions on a wide range of topics, including a text that would have the General Assembly reiterate its deep concern over the Israeli Air Force’s deliberate destruction of oil storage tanks near the Lebanese el Jiyeh electric plant for its adverse impact on sustainable development in Lebanon.

By other terms of that text –- approved by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Palau, United States), with 3 abstentions (Cameroon, Chad, Colombia) –- the Assembly would request that the Israeli Government assume responsibility for promptly and adequately compensating the Government of Lebanon, as well as the Government of Syria, whose shores had been partially polluted, for the costs of environmental repair, including marine environment restoration.  The Assembly would decide to set up a voluntary trust fund for Eastern Mediterranean oil spill restoration to help and support States affected by the oil slick in their efforts at integrated environmentally sound management, such as cleaning up and safely disposing of oily water, and request that the Secretary-General implement the decision before the end of the Assembly’s sixty-third session.

Speaking after the vote, Israel’s representative described the draft as anti-Israel and a blatant attempt to politicize an issue of environmental concern.  Many oil accidents had occurred in recent history, with oil spills 15 times greater in tonnage than the Lebanese slick, in some cases.  However, none of those had warranted a resolution. 

Lebanon’s representative retorted that the oil spill was a premeditated Israeli act that violated international law and that the draft sent a strong message of repudiation.  The oil slick’s damage to Lebanon’s sustainable development was colossal and to some extent irreversible, destroying the natural habitat of many species, reducing the fish population and harming fish and farming communities.  The World Bank had put the spill’s economic cost at an estimated $203 million, but that conservative figure excluded the health-related impact and cost of clean up operations. 

The Committee also approved, by consensus, a draft titled “towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations”, which would have the Assembly call upon the United Nations and the international community to help Caribbean countries and regional organizations protect the sea from degradation due to pollution from ships, illegal dumping or hazardous wastes, as well as call upon States to become contracting parties to relevant international agreements to enhance the Sea’s maritime safety and protection.  The Assembly would also express deep concern over the severe destruction and devastation in several Caribbean countries caused by heightened hurricane activity in recent years, and it would urge the United Nations and the international community to continue providing aid to those countries for long-term disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation, management, relief and recovery. 

The representatives of Guatemala and Barbados described the draft as an important step forward for the Caribbean region’s sustainable development.  While supporting the text, Turkey’s representative disassociated itself from the language relating to treaties to which Turkey was not a state party, as did Venezuela’s representative.

A third text approved by the Committee would have the Assembly urge all Governments, relevant organizations, United Nations bodies and the Global Environment Facility, among others, to take timely action to effectively follow-up and implement the MauritiusDeclaration and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.  The Assembly would call upon the international community to help those States adapt to climate change’s adverse impacts, including through dedicated sources of financing, capacity-building and the transfer of appropriate technologies, as well as call for new and additional voluntary resources to revitalize and sustain the Small Island Developing States Information Network.  It would decide that national, subregional and regional preparations should be made before the Assembly’s two-day high-level review in September 2010 on progress made in implementing the Mauritius Strategy.

By the terms of a fourth text, the Assembly would call upon the international community, particularly developed countries, to provide adequate and predictable resources and technology transfer to developing countries vulnerable to the adverse effects of natural disasters, as well as express its deep concern over the number and scale of natural disasters and the subsequent consequences for small island developing States, least developed countries and other vulnerable countries in particular.  The Assembly would also urge the international community to continue development cooperation, technical assistance and other ways of reducing those adverse effects, while stressing the importance of the Hyogo Declaration and the Hyogo Framework for Action in disaster risk reduction.

In a similar vein, a draft on International Strategy for Disaster Reduction would have the Assembly call upon the international community to step up efforts to fully implement the Hyogo documents, encourage it to continue providing adequate voluntary financial contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund for Disaster Reduction and encourage Member States to make multi-annual, non-earmarked contributions as early in the year as possible.  Further to that text, the Assembly would call upon the international community to support development and the strengthening of institutions, mechanisms and capacities, particularly at the community level, that could systematically help build resilience to hazards, as well as stress the need for better understanding and knowledge of the causes of disasters, stronger coping capacities and disaster risk reduction training programmes.

A sixth text, on the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, would have the Assembly reaffirm its resolve to address the causes of desertification and land degradation and the poverty that ensued by mobilizing adequate and predictable financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building.  The Assembly would also reiterate its call upon Governments to, where appropriate and in collaboration with relevant multilateral organizations, integrate desertification and land degradation into their sustainable development plans and strategies.  It would encourage affected States parties and donors to take into account civil society’s participation in Convention processes when setting priorities in national development strategies, as well as urge the Committee on Science and Technology to expedite efforts to create links with scientific communities in order to fully use relevant initiatives in sustainable land and water management. 

The Committee also approved a draft on information and communication technologies for development, which would have the Assembly stress the important role of Governments using those technologies to create public policies and services responsive to national development needs and priorities.  It would call upon all stakeholders to provide adequate resources, enhanced capacity-building and technology transfer, on mutually agreed terms, to developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, as well as encourage stronger, continued cooperation among stakeholders to implement the Geneva and Tunis outcomes through partnerships.  The Assembly, recognizing the need to harness the potential of knowledge and technology, would also encourage the United Nations development system to continue promoting the use of those technologies as a critical enabler of development and a catalyst for the achievement of the millennium targets and other internationally agreed goals.

An eighth text would have the Assembly stress the importance of continuing substantive consideration of the issue of commodities and request that the Secretary-General submit a report on it during the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Guyana, France (on behalf of the European Union), United States and Switzerland. 

Committee Vice-Chairman Andrei Metelitsa ( Belarus) also spoke.

The Committee will meet again at a time and date to be announced to take action on all outstanding draft resolutions.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to take action on draft resolutions relating to information and communications technologies for development, macroeconomic policy questions, sustainable development, implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), globalization and interdependence, groups of countries in special situations, eradication of poverty and other development issues, and operational activities for development. 

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee began by adopting by consensus a draft resolution on information and communications technologies for development (document A/C.2/63/L.55).

Guyana’s representative then took to floor to thank the co-sponsors and other delegates that had worked hard on the text. 

The Committee then adopted, also by consensus, a draft on commodities (document A/C.2/63/L.42).

The Committee then approved by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Palau, United States) with 3 abstentions (Cameroon, Chad, Colombia) (see Annex) a draft, as orally corrected, on the oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/C.2/63/L.24/Rev.1).

Statement in Explanation of Vote after the Vote

France’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union voted in favour of that draft because of the consequences it had for the recovery, rehabilitation and clean-up operations of the oil slick that heavily polluted Lebanese shores.  The European Union was one of the first to actively support the clean up.  However, the focus and principles of the resolution should not be diluted.  The European Union’s position on this year’s resolution should not be considered as prejudging its position during next year’s resolution. 

Israel’s representative said the resolution blatantly politicized the issue of concern.  Most alarming was that it reflected a disturbing increase in the politicization of the Committee, distracting it from addressing issues of substance and importance.  The resolution was an act of political demonization and another example of anti-Israelism in the United Nations.  Many oil accidents had occurred in recent history, some of which were 15 times greater in tonnage than the Lebanese slick.  However, none of those had warranted a resolution. 

Lebanon’s representative thanked the resolution’s supporters.  The high-levels of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere because of the oil slick had caused high levels of pollution.  Neighbouring countries were also affected by the oil spill.  The amount of damage to sustainable development was colossal and part of that damage was irreversible.  The oil slick had destroyed the natural habitat of many species in Lebanon, damaged fish larva and eggs, reduced the fish population and caused damage to farming and fishing communities.  The economic impact of the oil slick on Lebanon was catastrophic.  The World Bank conservatively estimated that cost to be $203 million, or 1 per cent of Lebanon’s gross domestic product in 2006.  That figure excluded the health-related impact and cost of clean up operations.  The oil spill was a premeditated Israeli act that violated international law.  Israel was duty-bound to prevent the pollution of the environment.  The resolution sent a strong message of repudiation to the polluter.

The Committee then approved without a vote as orally corrected, a draft on follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/C.2/63/L.44). 

Following that action, Venezuela’s representative said paragraphs 26 and 27 of that draft relating to the action plans for sustainable development of small island developing States, which referred to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, were directed to states parties to that Convention only.  Venezuela was not a State party to that Convention, so those paragraphs were not legally binding for Venezuela.  Venezuela would take all steps necessary to support the means of achieving the aims of the text. 

Turning to the draft titled “towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations” (document A/C.2/63/L.52), Guatemala’s representative thanked delegations for their constructive spirit and for reaching agreement on the draft.  It was a very important step forward for the Caribbean region’s sustainable development. 

The Committee then approved that draft without a vote, as orally corrected.

Following the action, Turkey’s representative said it strongly supported the efforts towards sustainable development in the Caribbean Sea, but it disassociated itself from parts of the resolution that referred to treaties to which Turkey was not a party.

The representative of the United States said it viewed the consideration of the concept of sustainable development in the Caribbean Sea, as set out in the resolution, as a regional and domestic concern. 

Venezuela’s representative reiterated his firm commitment to supporting Caribbean Sea initiatives, but noted once again that Venezuela was not a state Party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

Barbados’ representative said the Caribbean Sea was a vital source of development in the region.  She noted the concerns expressed by some delegations and assured them of Barbados’ continued willingness to address all of those concerns.

The Committee then approved, also without a vote, a draft on the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (document A/C.2/63/L.51).

ANDRE METELITSA ( Belarus), Committee Vice-Chairman, then thanked the facilitator of a draft on natural disasters and vulnerability (document A/C.2/63/L.50) for her work.

Switzerland’s representative also thanked the co-sponsors for their cooperation and support. 

The Committee then approved that draft, as orally corrected. 

The Committee Vice-Chairman then thanked the facilitator of a draft on implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/C.2/63/L.53).  

Lebanon’s representative then thanked the draft’s co-sponsors for their support.

The Committee then approved that draft, as orally corrected.

ANNEX

Vote on Oil Slick on Lebanese Shores

The draft resolution on the oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/C.2/63/L.24/Rev.1) was approved by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 5 against, with 3 abstentions, as follows:

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

Against:  Australia, Canada, Israel, Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Cameroon, Chad, Colombia.

Absent:  Azerbaijan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.