General Assembly, Stressing Seriousness of Climate Change, Urges Member States to Approach Copenhagen Conference with ‘Ambition, Optimism and Determination’
General Assembly, Stressing Seriousness of Climate Change, Urges Member States to Approach Copenhagen Conference with ‘Ambition, Optimism and Determination’
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
59th & 60th Meetings (AM & PM)
General Assembly, Stressing Seriousness of Climate Change, Urges Member States
to Approach Copenhagen Conference with ‘Ambition, Optimism and Determination’
Also Adopts Texts on Disaster Relief, Cultural Property, Volunteers, El Salvador,
Malaria, Safety of Humanitarian Workers, Culture of Peace, Intercultural Dialogue
Stressing the seriousness of climate change, the General Assembly today adopted a consensus resolution, by which it called on States to work cooperatively towards achieving the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change through the urgent implementation of its provisions.
With adoption of the text, which was recommended by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the Assembly noted its appreciation for the Danish Government’s hosting of the fifteenth session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention and the fifth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, from 7 to 18 December. It also encouraged States to approach Copenhagen with “ambition, optimism and determination”, and with a view to making the Conference a success.
Further, the Assembly urged developed countries to take enhanced commitments under the Kyoto Protocol in subsequent commitment periods, including through new, additional and predictable financial resources, capacity-building and access to and transfer of technology. It also recognized the urgency of providing financial and technical resources, as well as capacity-building and technology transfer, to assist developing countries.
Immediately following that action, the Assembly launched its day-long joint debate on strengthening the United Nations’ coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, which culminated in the consensus adoption of 8 other resolutions spanning diverse issues, from provision of emergency relief to El Salvador and return of cultural property to countries of origin, to the intensified combat against malaria and importance of fostering a culture of peace.
By a text on humanitarian assistance, emergency relief and rehabilitation for El Salvador, the Assembly expressed deep regret for the loss of life caused by Hurricane Ida on 7 and 8 November. It appealed to all States and United Nations bodies, as well as international financial institutions and development agencies, to provide speedy support.
El Salvador’s delegate, speaking after action, said Central America had experienced a series of natural disasters in recent years, which had raised concerns about achieving the Millennium Development Goals. She thanked the United Nations for issuing its urgent appeal and asked those that had not yet done so to join those efforts.
By a text on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations, the Assembly reaffirmed the principles of neutrality, humanity, impartiality and independence in providing assistance and called on relevant United Nations bodies to improve the humanitarian response to disasters by improving coordination at the field level. Among other things, it encouraged States to create an enabling environment for the capacity-building of local authorities, as well as national and local non-governmental organizations, to ensure better provision of humanitarian assistance. Donors were called upon to provide adequate, timely and predictable resources based on ‑‑ and in proportion to ‑‑ assessed needs. All States and parties to an armed conflict were obliged to protect civilians, in line with international humanitarian law.
By a resolution on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel, delegates strongly urged States to respect ‑‑ and ensure respect for ‑‑ the inviolability of United Nations premises, and called on all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies to cooperate with the United Nations, in ensuring the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel.
On that point, Pakistan’s representative said, after adoption, that his country had allocated an “adequately sized” piece of land to the United Nations in Islamabad in the highly secure diplomatic enclave eight years ago. In its discussions with the Secretariat, Pakistan had emphasized the need to consolidate the United Nations offices currently scattered around Islamabad. Pakistan had understood that the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Common Premises had yet to allocate resources for that purpose.
By a text on the participation of volunteers ‑‑ “White Helmets” ‑‑ in United Nations humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation efforts, the Assembly noted efforts made by the World Food Programme and the White Helmets to coordinate integration mechanisms that allowed for joint action in the framework of food security. It also encouraged operational partners, including the World Health Organization, to provide psychosocial support to the disaster-affected population in emergency and disaster situations.
Speaking to those issues in early debate, Gry Larsen, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Norway, asked why national Governments were still either unable or unwilling to invest in disaster preparedness when everyone understood that it would save lives and money. Did people affected by natural disasters feel that humanitarian assistance was being delivered in a more timely manner? “I am not sure they do”, she said, noting several reasons for that, including a lack of access for humanitarian assistance, lack of civilian protection, increased sexual violence and lack of early recovery and disaster preparedness plans. “We need a robust international humanitarian system supported by all Member countries,” she said.
The Assembly also adopted a resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin, after which Pavlos Yeroulanos, Minister of Culture of Greece, said heritage did not only need protection; it often needed healing. Given that, States must seek to heal great symbols of heritage, particularly when they were so unique as to represent the values of many cultures,
and became a global symbol. The Parthenon stood as a beacon for past and future achievements, and Greece could only rejoice that parts of that monument had been voluntarily returned. The integrity of monuments and works of art should be a right as sacred as any the United Nations defended.
Also adopted today were resolutions on the 2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa; the International Decade on a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010; and a related text on the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace.
The General Assembly President opened the debate. Also speaking on strengthening the United Nations’ coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance were the representatives of Thailand (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Brazil, Japan, Colombia, Russian Federation, Australia, Pakistan, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Kuwait, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, India (also on behalf of Sweden), United States, China, Ukraine and Rwanda.
The Observer of Palestine addressed the Assembly on that topic, as did the observers for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Organization for Migration and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Draft resolutions were introduced by the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Argentina, the United Republic of Tanzania and Benin.
Speaking in explanation of position after action on the resolutions were the representatives of Sudan, Iraq (on behalf of the Arab Group), Colombia, United States and Bangladesh.
Colombia’s representative raised a point of order.
Making oral amendments to resolutions under consideration today were the representatives of Ireland, Sweden (on behalf of the European Union) and Syria.
The Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. Thursday, 10 December, to discuss the implementation of United Nations resolutions, among other matters.
The General Assembly met today for its joint debate on strengthening the United Nations’ coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.
For its discussion, the Assembly had before it the Secretary General’s report on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (A/64/336), which outlines the various threats against such personnel over the last year, and provides an update on measures taken to mainstream enhanced system-wide security.
The report says that United Nations and humanitarian personnel faced deteriorating security conditions in many places. During the 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 reporting period, they were subjected to collateral damage in situations of open conflict and, increasingly, targets of attacks by extremists, armed groups and disenfranchised elements in various areas of operation.
By way of example, the report says the 29 October 2008 terrorist attack on the United Nations offices in Hargeisa, Somalia killed two United Nations staff and wounded six others; two incidents of protracted abduction of senior officials was a clear sign of the success of extremists’ call to arms against such personnel. On 9 June 2009, two senior Organization staff were killed in a suicide attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Increased challenges to the United Nations security management system worldwide compelled an extensive review of operating procedures during the reporting period, the report says. A reinforced common framework for security risk management and a new threat-focused concept for a security-level system would aim to maintain an effective United Nations presence in situations of extreme insecurity, but new strategic tools were urgently required.
The number of deaths of United Nations personnel as a result of violence increased to a total of 27, versus 23 during the previous reporting period, the report says. Of that number, 11 occurred in Africa ( Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Sudan); 7 in the Middle East (Israel, West Bank, Gaza); 5 in the Americas ( Haiti, Colombia); 4 in Asia and the Pacific ( Pakistan and Afghanistan).
Among its conclusions, the report recommends that the United Nations take steps at the highest level to address the recommendations of the Chief Executives Board as priorities, notably to work closely with host Governments and local communities, to reaffirm States responsibility to respect the safety and security of United Nations staff and provide, where needed, increased financial resources to match needs.
Among other things, the report calls for support for the Saving Lives Together framework, which works to increase security collaboration among the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations. The Department of Safety and Security would intensify efforts to maintain a flexible information management capacity to support analytical and operational requirements, and introduce methods to help operations based on security-risk assessments. Member States were urged to support the Departments new strategic vision, which recognized that the unified security structure must implement well-designed programmes and policies throughout a decentralized security management system.
Also before the Assembly was the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (A/64/84), which describes the trends and challenges over the last year, and analyses two thematic issues: respecting and implementing the guiding principles of humanitarian assistance at the operational level, and addressing the impact of current global trends and challenges on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. It covers the June 2008 to May 2009 reporting period.
The report says that global demand for humanitarian assistance, including requests by national Governments, continued to rise, triggered by increased severity of natural hazards, escalating conflict, a dramatic increase in vulnerabilities caused by the global financial crisis, high food prices, scarcity of energy and water, population growth and urbanization. In 2009, the humanitarian consolidated appeal process requested $8.6 billion to provide 30 million people with life-saving assistance, an almost 23 per cent increase from 2008 requirements of $7 billion to support 25 million people.
During the reporting period, extreme weather events caused over 235,000 deaths and affected some 211 million people. There was growing scientific consensus that the increased severity and frequency of hazard events were more than 90 per cent likely to be a result of climate change. On a positive note, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for the first time since 2005, reported a decrease in the global number of refugees, from 11.4 million in 2007 to 10.5 million by end-2009.
Among its conclusions, the report encourages States to consider that safe, timely and unhindered access to vulnerable populations was a prerequisite for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. They were urged to facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian personnel and supplies to affected communities. States and non-State actors alike were urged to take steps to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and refrain from public incitement that could jeopardize the safety of humanitarian workers.
For its part, the United Nations and its partners were encouraged to boost preparedness, with a greater focus on disaster risk reduction and strengthening response capacities at local, national and regional levels. States should maintain diverse humanitarian funding channels and provide predictable support to meet humanitarian needs, including provision of multi-year commitments to humanitarian pooled funds, like the Central Emergency Response Fund. They should also enhance efforts to address sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.
Next, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Central Emergency Response Fund (A/64/327), which says that, during the 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 reporting period, the Emergency Relief Coordinator allocated $374.3 million from the Fund to implement life-saving activities in 50 countries and territories. Fourteen humanitarian agencies received funds to address emergency needs. To improve the Fund’s effectiveness, increased political and financial support was needed, particularly given the negative effects of the global economic crisis.
Funding through the rapid response window aimed at jump-starting efforts to effectively address crises, the report says, with a breakdown of rapid-response grants showing that projects that responded to protracted conflict-related emergencies received the highest total allocations at $113.9 million. Natural disaster-related allocations totalled $84.2 million, while funding to respond to the global food crisis hit $72.4 million.
The report concludes that the Fund continued to be an essential part of the multilateral humanitarian financial architecture, enabling agencies to jump-start relief operations following sudden-onset disasters and filling gaps in time-critical emergencies. Looking forward, the Fund secretariat would focus on developing and implementing a performance and accountability framework to further reduce transaction costs, notably by simplifying procedures and improving guidance materials.
The secretariat also would continue to strengthen the Fund’s complementarity with other humanitarian financing mechanisms, including country-based pooled funds and agency emergency funds, the report says. States were reminded of the $450 million annual funding goal set by the Assembly and also of the need to maintain support for diverse humanitarian funding tools. The Fund needed political and financial support to better promote a more predictable, timely and equitable humanitarian response.
The Secretary-General’s report on International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (A/64/331), also before the Assembly, provides an overview of the occurrence of disasters associated with natural hazards during the 1 January 2008 to 31 May 2009 period. During 2008, research showed that 354 disasters associated with natural hazards were responsible for 235,264 deaths, affecting 214 million people. While the number of disasters was lower than the 2000-2007 average of 397 disasters per year, the number of deaths was some three times higher, owing to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (138,366 people killed) and the Sichuan earthquake in China (87,476 people killed).
The number of recorded disasters doubled from an average 200 to 400 per year in the last 20 years, the report says, a trend partly attributed to better reporting, but also reflecting changes in the patterns of natural hazards and human settlement. Floods were the most common type of disaster in 2008 (166 recorded events), followed by storms (112) and earthquakes (23). Asia was again the region most affected by disasters associated with natural hazards: 40 per cent of recorded disasters, 99 per cent of disaster-related deaths and 62 per cent of economic losses. China, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States reported the largest number of natural disasters.
In 2008, such disasters caused $190 billion in economic losses, the report says, more than double the 2000-2007 annual average and mainly attributable to the Sichuan earthquake ($85 billion) and Hurricane Ike in the United States ($30 billion). Despite high absolute financial loss in the United States and Europe, the relative economic impact of disasters was greatest in low- and middle-income countries.
Among other things, the report recommends that States, the United Nations and other humanitarian actors to speed implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action and emphasize strengthening of disaster preparedness at all levels. States should help humanitarian actors cope with the increasing burden associated with climate change, as well as revise pandemic-response plans. They also should increase their legal preparedness for disaster management by using the Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance, and consider signing the Model Customs Facilitation Agreement.
For their part, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations should integrate early recovery into its work across all sectors and thematic areas, and improve application of tools for early recovery activities. Together with States, they would consider the unique consequences of natural disasters in urban areas, notably vis-à-vis disaster-risk reduction, preparedness and early-recovery strategies.
Also before the Assembly was the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual abuse (A/64/313), which analyzes challenges to the delivery of relief and rehabilitation assistance to those survivors. In a review of major developments, the report says Rwanda’s economic performance was on track, with growth driven mainly by the agriculture sector.
The Government had shown a strong commitment to national reconciliation by demobilizing and reintegrating ex-combatants, the report explains. Democratization efforts focused on a decentralized and inclusive administration, representing all segments of the population and, as a result, “remarkable” progress had been made in peace and stability. Poverty fell from 60.5 per cent in 2000/2001 to 57 per cent in 2005/2006. Infant and maternal mortality, and HIV and malaria infection, also dropped.
However, Rwanda’s challenges included high population density, limited access to safe water and energy, poor infrastructure, high reliance on subsistence and limited private sector participation in the economy, the report says. The genocide and surge in HIV/AIDS cases left the country with one of the world’s highest proportions of child-headed households. Access to economic and social services by genocide survivors was limited, with most survivors’ families lacking access to housing and safe water, and suffering from discrimination, particularly in accessing bank credit.
Moreover, the Ubudehe programme, which enforces the tradition of mutual assistance to create income-generating opportunities, was not addressing such challenges. The right to security of genocide survivors was threatened by a lingering “genocide ideology”, seen in the recent destruction of a banana plantation owned by genocide survivors in the Rusizi district and attacks on those who testified in court in the Northern Province.
To address those challenges, the Government was working to modernize the agriculture sector, notably by introducing irrigation systems, and capitalize on opportunities offered by the East African Community, which Rwanda recently joined. Generally, the Government was revising investment regulations to create stimuli for private sector development.
The report concludes that within the common operational document (2008-2012) -– the basic reference for United Nations support -- interventions for genocide survivors included improving access to justice and witness protection programmes; promoting young people’s participation in democratic processes; providing alternative education for out-of-school children; enhancing retention rates at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and improving access to preventive, curative, promotional and rehabilitative services to victims of sexual violence and HIV-positive persons. Supporting groups to build micro-, small- and medium sized enterprises, and other income-generating activities, remains a priority for poverty alleviation.
The Secretary-General’s report on Assistance to the Palestinian People (A/64/78-E/2009/66) describes United Nations efforts, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and donors, to support Palestinian populations and institutions during the May 2008 to April 2009 reporting period. It notes that the operational context for the United Nations led to a two-pronged approach: refocusing attention on longer-term economic, infrastructure and capacity-building delivery interventions in the West Bank, and delivering emergency interventions in Gaza.
However, United Nations agencies and programmes faced severe restrictions in the delivery of assistance, the report observes. While the recent conflict in Gaza would continue to emphasize the importance of delivering emergency and humanitarian assistance, efforts to support long-term recovery of Palestine should remain high on the agenda. The United Nations would continue to focus on institution building and aligning its programmes with the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan.
Also under its item on strengthening coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the Assembly was set to consider several draft resolutions.
By a draft text on Humanitarian assistance, emergency relief and rehabilitation for El Salvador as a result of the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida (A/64/L.19), the Assembly would deeply regret the loss of life caused by that Hurricane on 7 and 8 November. Conscious that Central American countries were prone to natural hazards, it would express its support for the Government and people of El Salvador, and appeal to all States and United Nations bodies, as well as international financial institutions and development agencies, to provide speedy support. Finally, the Secretary-General would be requested to report to it at its sixty-fifth session on the implementation of the present resolution.
By a draft resolution 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 (A/64/L.31), the Assembly would note the importance of the White Helmets initiative to strengthen the comprehensive regional mechanisms for managing prevention and response activities in emergency and disaster situations, particularly its model for setting up regional networks of focal points. That initiative could play an important role in the promotion, diffusion and implementation of decisions adopted in the Millennium Declaration.
Also by the draft text, the Assembly would note efforts made by the World Food Programme and the White Helmets to coordinate integration mechanisms that allowed for joint action in the framework of food security. It would encourage operational partners, including the World Health Organization, to provide psychosocial support to the disaster-affected population in emergency and disaster situations. Finally, it would invite the Secretary-General to suggest measures to enhance integration of the White Helmets initiative in the United Nations’ work and report back to the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session.
By a draft resolution on Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (A/63/L.32), the Assembly would request the Emergency Relief Coordinator to continue strengthening the coordination of humanitarian response and, further, call on the relevant United Nations bodies to improve the humanitarian response to disasters by improving the coordination of humanitarian assistance at the field level. It would request the Secretary-General to boost support provided to United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinators including through the provision of training and identification of resources.
Also by the text, the Assembly would encourage States to create an enabling environment for the capacity building of local authorities, and national and local non-Governmental organizations, to ensure better provision of humanitarian assistance and request them, along with humanitarian organizations, to ensure that all aspects of the humanitarian response -– including disaster preparedness -- take into account the needs of affected populations. Donors would be called upon to provide adequate, timely and predictable resources based on -– and in proportion to -– assessed needs.
Further, the Assembly would reaffirm that all States and parties to an armed conflict to protect civilians, in line with international humanitarian law, and invite them to promote a culture of protection, taking into account the particular needs of women and children, among others. Recognizing the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, it would encourage States to collaborate with host communities to provide a more predictable response to the needs of internally displaced persons. The Secretary-General would be requested to report back on action taken by the Secretariat to apply special emergency rules to ensure quick disbursement of emergency funds. He would also be aksed to report to the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session, through the Economic and Social Council at its 2010 substantive session, on progress made and submit a report on the use of the Central Emergency Response Fund.
By a draft resolution on Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (A/64/L.33), the Assembly would strongly urge all States to take measures to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and to respect – and ensure respect for –- the inviolability of United Nations premises. It would call on all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, notably armed conflicts and post-conflict situations, to cooperate with the United Nations, among others, in ensuring the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel.
Further, it would call on States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. It would strongly condemn all threats against humanitarian personnel, reaffirm the need to hold accountable those responsible for such acts, strongly urge all States to take stronger action to ensure that any such acts committed on their territory were fully investigated and to end impunity for such acts.
Among other things, it would request the Department of Safety and Security to continue to improve an effective and flexible information management capacity in support of operational requirements, and stress that the effective functioning, at the country level, of security operations required a unified capacity for policy, standards, coordination, communication and risk assessment. It would underline the urgent need to allocate resources for the safety and security of United Nations personnel through regular and extra-budgetary resources, and the need for better coordination between the United Nations and host Governments.
Finally by the text, the Assembly would recall the essential role of telecommunication resources in facilitating the safety of humanitarian personnel and request the Secretary-General to submit to the sixty-fifth session a report on such matters.
By a draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (A/64/L.17/Rev.1), the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, as well as the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property. It would recognize the decision taken in resolution 41, adopted 23 October, by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on the issue of cultural objects displaced in connection with the Second World War.
Further, it would recognize the importance of cooperation among States in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property, and its illegal removal from countries of origin. It would request the Secretary-General to cooperate with UNESCO in bringing about the attainment of objectives in the text and, in cooperation with the Director-General of UNESCO, submit to the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session a report on its implementation.
By a draft text on 2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa (A/64/L.28), the Assembly would urge the international community, together with United Nations agencies and private organizations, to support implementation of the Global Malaria Action Plan, and further, help meet in the financial needs of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through country-led initiatives.
Further to the text, the Assembly would call on malaria-endemic countries to assure favourable conditions for research institutions, including by developing policies and legal frameworks to inform strategic interventions on malaria. It would reaffirm the right to use provisions contained in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, among others, to promote access to medicines, including the production of generic drugs, and resolve to assist developing countries in that regard.
Further, the Assembly would call on the international community to support ways to expand access to vector control measures, including indoor residual spraying, long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and artemisinin-based combination therapy for those at risk of exposure to resistant strains of falciparum malaria. It would request the World Health Organization, UNESCO and donor agencies to provide support to countries choosing to use DDT for indoor residual spraying. Malaria-endemic countries should encourage regional and intersectoral collaboration, especially in education, health, agriculture and the environment to advance malaria-control objectives. The international community would be called upon to support enhancing national pharmaceutical policies to counter trade in counterfeit antimalarial medicines and provide technical assistance to improve monitoring systems.
Finally, the Assembly would note that the 2010 high-level plenary meeting would provide an opportunity to review progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General and the Director-General of the WHO would be requested to submit to the Assembly, at its sixty-fifth session, a report on progress in implementing the first Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa.
By a draft resolution on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010 (A/64/L.5), the Assembly would reiterate that the objective of the Decade was to strengthen a culture of peace. Among other things, the Assembly would encourage civil society to adopt a programme of activities that would complement the initiatives of States, the United Nations and other international organizations. It would invite States to observe 21 September each year as the International Day of Peace and request the Secretary-General to explore enhancing mechanisms to implement the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. It would also decide to include on the agenda of its sixty-fifth session, an item on the “Culture of Peace”.
By a draft text on the Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace (A/64/L.15/Rev.1), the Assembly would take note of the Fourth Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace, held on 25 September in New York and support the General Assembly President’s proposal to hold, at its sixty-fourth session, an informal thematic debate on dialogue among civilizations. It would urge States, in the context of the International Year of Reconciliation 2009, to promote reconciliation to ensure durable peace and sustainable development, including through acts of service and encouraging forgiveness and compassion among individuals.
Further by the text, the Secretary-General would be invited to organize, within existing resources, a special activity to launch the celebration of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, which would include the ringing of the peace bell. He would be further requested to report to the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session on the implementation of the resolution and, at its sixty-sixth session, to solicit States views on the possibility of proclaiming a United Nations decade for interreligious and intercultural dialogue and cooperation for peace.
By a draft text on Institutionalization of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (A/64/L.27), the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to provide resources to finalize the institutionalization of that Task Force without delay in order to ensure overall coordination and coherence in counter-terrorism efforts.
Action on draft text of the Second Committee
The Assembly first turned to the report of its Second Committee on protection of the global climate for present and future generations (document A/64/420/Add.4), which contains a draft resolution of the same name. That text stresses the seriousness of climate change and calls on States to work cooperatively towards achieving the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change through the urgent implementation of its provisions. It strongly urges States that have not yet done so to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to that Convention in a timely manner.
Among other provisions, the text notes with appreciation the Danish Government’s offer to host the fifteenth session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention and the fifth session of the Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol from 7 to 18 December. It encourages Member States to approach Copenhagen with ambition, optimism and determination, with a view to making the Climate Change Conference a success. It urges developed countries to undertake ambitious and enhanced commitments under the Kyoto Protocol in subsequent commitment periods, including through new, additional and predictable financial resources, capacity-building and access to and transfer of technology. Parties to the Convention are urged, and Parties to the Kyoto Protocol invited, to continue to use the information in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Countries are further urged to fully implement their commitments under the Convention, to take effective and concrete actions and measures at all levels and to enhance international cooperation in the framework of the Convention.
The text also reaffirms that efforts to address climate change in a manner that enhances the sustainable development and sustained economic growth of the developing countries and the eradication of poverty should be carried out through promoting the integration of sustainable development three components -– namely economic development, social development and environmental protection. It recognized the urgency of providing financial and technical resources, as well as capacity-building and technology transfer, to assist those developing countries adversely affected by climate change.
The representative of Ireland made an oral revision to the text, deleting the word “ Copenhagen” in the phrase “United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change Conference” from operative paragraph 6.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution without a vote.
Statement by President of General Assembly
General Assembly President ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI ( Libya) said the world continued to face complex emergencies. Without much warning, lives had been shattered and families uprooted. Climate change, pandemics, the global food and financial crises had created new emergencies and the United Nations’ response to humanitarian crises was as important as ever. The resolutions before the Assembly reflected added global challenges that had increased peoples’ vulnerability. With climate change threatening to exacerbate natural disasters, the most vulnerable populations would be disproportionately affected and development gains achieved over past years risked being reversed.
In 2008, some 36 million people had been displaced by sudden-onset natural disasters, he said, and of those, 20 million by climate-related disasters. Also, internal displacement due to conflict was of serious concern, with some 26 million displaced, often for years. The resolutions emphasized the urgent need to reduce the risk of disaster and prepare for emergencies through capacity building and other mechanisms. He looked forward to a constructive debate and the Assembly’s adoption of decisions to enhance the global community’s capacity to respond to humanitarian situations around the world. With that, he called on States to provide financial resources to enable the United Nations, among other international and regional organizations working in the field of humanitarian assistance, to effectively undertake their tasks.
Statement by State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Norway
GRY LARSEN, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Norway, asked why the international community and national Governments were still either unable or unwilling to invest in disaster preparedness when everyone understood that it would save lives and money. The international humanitarian system was under growing pressure and such questions indicated what the problems were. The United Nations would remain indispensable to solving such problems. Natural hazards were fewer in number, but their impacts had increased. In 2008, the number of deaths caused by such disasters was three times the average of the 2000-2007 period. Complex emergencies had escalated in recent years, with impacts on peoples’ lives and well-being. They were often coupled with the impacts of global challenges, such as the global food, fuel and financial crises. “We have only seen the beginning”, she stressed.
Did those people affected by the increased severity of natural disasters feel that humanitarian assistance was being delivered in a more timely and efficient manner? “I am not sure they do”, she said, noting that there were several reasons for that, including a lack of humanitarian space and access of humanitarian assistance; a lack of civilian protection; an increase in sexual and gender-based violence; and a lack of early recovery and disaster preparedness.
Time and again, the world witnessed that the humanitarian space was being limited -- not respected, she explained. A lack of safe and unimpeded access to victims continued to be one of the key obstacles to effective civilian protection. Norway would continue to promote respect for fundamental humanitarian principles and a clear division of roles between humanitarian organizations and military forces. Indeed, the core principles of international humanitarian law were as valid as ever. Yet, the complexity of modern armed conflict demanded renewed reflection on their implementation. Accountability was essential; warfare conducted in violation of international humanitarian law should carry a strong political stigma and perpetrators should be punished.
She said mandates to protect civilians had yet to be matched by political resolve or resources, or clear guidance for peacekeeping personnel. Women and children were particularly vulnerable in humanitarian crises. Nowhere was that more obvious than in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where widespread sexual violence had had devastating consequences, particularly for peace and reconciliation. Internationally, sexual violence was considered a weapon of war and threat to peace. “It can be stopped if we take it seriously enough”, she stressed. The world had too often looked away. She welcomed the increased coordination in the field of women, peace and security, and particularly looked forward to the imminent appointment of a special representative to address sexual violence. Norway called on humanitarian organizations to enhance the capacity to support victims and establish more effective preventive measures.
She said the international humanitarian system was more robust than ever but early recovery following natural disasters urgently needed renewed attention. The link between reconstruction and prevention had to be strengthened. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) gave the United Nations a rapid-response capacity and the humanitarian community must now place prevention and preparedness higher on the reform agenda.
“We need a robust international humanitarian system supported by all Member countries”, she said. “We all share the same world”. For those reasons, Norway had been a predictable supporter of the United Nations. It had signed a four-year framework agreement with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs providing $40 million in un-earmarked funding, and later this week, would allocate 325 million Norwegian kroner to the Fund, more than $58 million, representing a 10 per cent increase over the current year. With that, she expressed the hope of moving forward together in renewed partnership.
Introduction of drafts
CARL SKAU ( Sweden) introducing the draft resolution on the “strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/64/L.32), acknowledged that tensions between international humanitarian assistance and the notion of national sovereignty were always present in the sometimes difficult deliberations on the draft resolution before the General Assembly. There had been many advances in support of international humanitarian law and the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. But, there were obstacles when combining such universal norms with the sovereignty of nations, he said.
While there was a need to always respect the primary role of the affected State in providing humanitarian assistance and protecting civilians, it was also necessary to ensure that the international community took collective responsibility for dealing with challenges that affected everyone, he noted, stressing that sovereignty meant above all responsibility. Respect for human life and the protection of vulnerable people were universal concepts, supported by all the religious traditions and accepted in all cultures.
In his view, there was too often a perception that humanitarian assistance was not genuinely neutral or independent, but a Western affair reflecting a Western agenda. While recognizing remarkable humanitarian efforts at the national and local level in many developing countries, traditional international humanitarian assistance had indeed for many years been a Western dominated endeavour. To that end, tribute should be paid to all humanitarian workers wherever they came from, for their unselfish efforts, often in dangerous situations, to save lives and alleviate suffering.
Continuing, he observed that the world faced a series of interconnected global trends, which would transform the humanitarian landscape in the years to come. Climate change, the global food crisis, population growth and the risks of pandemics, among many others, were some of the challenges that went well beyond the ability of any State to deal with alone.
He said: “We cannot tackle these challenges successfully without greater cooperation, coherence and coordination within the international community. We must reshape our understanding of humanitarian versus development aid to deal with situations where there are humanitarian needs in developmental contexts.” He added that the draft resolution before the Assembly should ensure that the fruits of the collective thinking of all were into action for the benefit of all people in need. What counted, at the end of the day, was not how many paragraphs had been agreed upon, but “how many lives we save and how much human suffering we alleviate.”
GABRIEL FUKS (Argentina), introducing the draft resolution 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 (A/64/L.31), noted that the “White Helmets” initiative was having its fifteenth anniversary this month. It had worked around the world in such places as Rwanda, Paraguay, Peru, Palestine and Haiti, among others.
Noting that this Argentine initiative was born at a time when the debate focused on coordinating humanitarian assistance, he said that, for the future, it wished to move toward a closer cooperation with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and to deepen the focus on priority 5 in the Hyogo Framework of Action, as well as in risk management. Argentina hoped this would be part of the Assembly’s debate. It also recalled the Secretary-General’s assessment, in his report, that the White Helmets could provide an interesting model for the organization of volunteers on the regional and local levels.
He further noted that Argentina had shown interest in the issue through the White Helmets and through contributions to the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), as well as support for the Global Platform. Its well-known commitment to volunteers was also seen in its support to the International Year of Volunteers. Its current initiative should be valued for the fact that it came from a developing country and it had the possibility of being replicated by other developing countries. Moreover, at a time when disasters were of ever greater scope, the work of volunteers deserved special support.
PER ÖRNÉUS ( Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, first introduced draft resolution L.33, saying that in recent years, there had been a “dramatic” escalation of threats against humanitarian and United Nations personnel. For the first time, there had been alarming reports of politically motivated attacks. The draft suggested ways to address such developments and urged States to ensure the full and effective implementation of international law. It emphasized the need to pay particular attention to the safety and security of locally recruited personnel and requested the Department of Safety and Security to implement an effective and flexible information management capacity to reduce risks arising in the context of United Nations related operations. Finally, it underlined the urgent need to allocate adequate and predictable resources, with a view to reinforcing the Department’s efforts. “There can be no programme without security, and no security without adequate resources”, he said.
Turning next to a draft resolution on “Assistance to the Palestinian People”, he said it had been shared with Member States and would be considered on 11 December. He expected it to be adopted by consensus. The Union reaffirmed its commitment to providing assistance to Palestinians and stood ready to enhance its bilateral relations with the Palestinian Authority. The Union would promote Palestinian state-building and intensify work, in partnership with the Authority, to implement the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan. It also fully supported the “ Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State” plan and would work for more international support for it. The Union also welcomed the Authority’s efforts to develop a reformed security sector, and the civil police would continue to be a focus of European Union support.
Gravely concerned at the situation in Gaza, he called for the immediate and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons. He reaffirmed the Union’s solidarity with humanitarian actors whose safe and unhindered access to civilians was essential for the fulfilment of their mandates, and welcomed Israel’s steps to ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank, which had fostered economic growth. There should be further improvements in movement and access, as many check points and roadblocks remained in place. Finally, he called on all partners to help achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, urging Arab countries to be politically and financially forthcoming in assisting the Palestinian Authority. Encouraged by enhanced United States engagement, the Union stood ready to use all instruments at its disposal, including the European Neighbourhood Policy. It would also carefully assess how its policies could promote concrete and early results on the path to conflict settlement.
Taking up the issue of strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, he said the world was facing inter-connected “mega trends” like climate change, population growth and urbanization, and more efforts were needed to strengthen disaster preparedness at the local, regional and national levels. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was central to coordinating international efforts, which had to be integrated into planning and policies. Further steps were needed to ensure the timely and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and, in that context, he said the cluster approach had improved capacity in the field and enhanced accountability. More should be done to strengthen the capacity of humanitarian coordinators.
Regarding resources, he urged the creation of a framework for common needs assessments, which would contribute to a more optimal resource allocation, and cooperation of all relevant humanitarian actors in those efforts. He also urged donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship and was looking forward to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) high-level meeting this week. Displacement was the most significant humanitarian challenge, with an estimated 26 million displaced by armed conflicts and violence. In that context, he welcomed the recent adoption of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. Also, in complex emergencies, the preservation of humanitarian space was a challenge and he urged all States and parties to a conflict to ensure the safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to affected populations. His delegation would continue to strongly advocate for respect for the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
The Union also called for the urgent strengthening of civilian protection, he said, and welcomed Security Council resolution 1894 (2009). He also looked forward to the Secretary-General’s appointment of a Special Representative to address sexual violence. Deliberate attacks against United Nations and other humanitarian personnel were unacceptable and reports of politically motivated attacks were a grave concern. “We need concerted international action now” he said. The Union was concerned by increased involvement of military actors in humanitarian assistance, which must be civilian by nature. In that context, he underscored the need to use the Oslo Guidelines. Finally, he said by forging a deeper global humanitarian partnership, legitimacy of international humanitarian assistance could be enhanced. The Union would continue to engage all States in strengthening that partnership. Next year’s fifth anniversary of the Central Emergency Response Fund would provide the opportunity to take stock and, more importantly, look to the future.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Association was gravely concerned about the changes in the pattern of natural hazards, specifically those that were climate related. That worrisome trend made clear what was at stake for everyone at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and the Association’s members were committed to ensuring a satisfactory outcome, which was vital in mitigating the impact. ASEAN also believed that enhancing capacity at the local and national levels must be a priority to mitigate risks to populations and to ensure disaster preparedness, risk reduction and response capacities. Regional leadership would also be crucial to complement local and national leadership, and ASEAN had pledged at its October summit to enhance regional cooperation in disaster management.
He further noted the Association’s efforts to enhance cooperation with its partners across East Asia, highlighting the Statement on East Asian Disaster Management adopted in October, in which East Asian countries expressed determination to strengthen cooperation and capacities for transboundary, multi-hazard disasters, end-to-end early warning system and response capabilities. Among other things, they would enhance linkages and networks among disaster management agencies and share best practices, experiences and operational manuals. ASEAN also believed in the synergy of partnership between the United Nations and regional organizations, and, in that regard, he noted the role of ASEAN in response to Cyclone Nargis and in the resulting Tripartite Core Group mechanism, which was still conducting joint-planning for long-term recovery and preparedness in the affected areas through its Prioritized Action Plan.
He went to stress that well-targeted, timely and needs-based humanitarian response plans would provide the best basis for a properly functioning humanitarian financing system. Greater effort should be made to improving the quantity and quality of humanitarian funding and to better coordinate humanitarian financing tools with cluster leads and resident and humanitarian coordinators. ASEAN strongly supported the Central Emergency Response Fund in that regard, and called on all States to provide grater political and financial support to it. It also supported efforts to strengthen the United Nations security management system to ensure better protection for those working for the Organization around the world.
REGINA DUNLOP(Brazil) said that as in previous years, the international community had been forced this year to confront the stark reality that so many people around the world were seriously affected by disasters that had been caused by natural hazards or human action. That fact was even more distressing once it was realized that the direst consequences of those disasters could be avoided could be avoided but putting in place effective prevention, disaster risk and preparedness strategies that would significantly reduce the number of casualties. She cited Bangladesh, Cuba, and Mozambique as among the few countries that had put in place successful strategies to mitigate disasters before they had reached catastrophic proportions.
Fortunately, the hurricane season this year in the Caribbean had not been as sever as 2008. Still, Hurricane Ida had struck El Salvador and Nicaragua, causing hundreds of deaths. The fact that such events and their impact were unpredictable only reinforced the conclusions that reducing disaster risk and vulnerability, as well as enhancing preparedness to deal with natural disasters were fundamental tasks, especially in disaster-prone areas and regions. Increased transfer of know-how and funding should be a priority for disaster-prone countries and donors alike, she said. In those countries, which were largely in the developing world, the approach should be ensure that relief strategies incorporated reconstruction and development elements, and funding to those ends.
She said her Government was particularly concerned with the worsening global food crisis. Despite all the commitments that had been made over the past year and a half to increase international cooperation to reduce food insecurity, the crisis had not abated, and had indeed become even more dire, with more than 1 billion people worldwide now suffering from hunger and malnutrition. For its part, Brazil supported projects such as the World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress, which opted for local procurement and therefore helped bolster community-level or regional agricultural sectors in affected countries.
She noted that while the Assembly was discussion humanitarian assistance, the United Nations Climate Change Conference was just getting underway in Copenhagen. International cooperation was necessary to enhance adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change, including through the provision of new and additional financial resources, technology and support for capacity-building in developing countries. “Furthermore, we must not shy away from addressing the causes that compound the negative impact of climate change, such as poverty and exclusion, which make communities especially vulnerable to climate-related disasters,” she added.
NORIHIRO OKUDA (Japan) said he was concerned about the impact of the global financial and economic crises on the ability of the international community to provide humanitarian assistance. As major donor country, Japan had continued to provide assistance to the best of its ability. One example was its $5 billion programmes for Afghanistan over 5 years. Another example was its doubling of official development assistance (ODA) to Africa by 2012 in such areas as agriculture, food, health and water.
Japan was also committed to addressing the implications of climate change, and to that end, had last year announced it would contribute a total of $10 billion to the “Cool Earth Partnership” over the next five years, a commitment it was already fulfilling. Japan also pledged to work to make the fifteenth Conference of state parties to the Climate Change Convention, which opened in Copenhagen today, a success.
On natural disasters and disaster management, he said Japan had offered to host an international conference next year focussing on the enhancement of risk reduction in urban communities, because of the country’s belief in the importance of regional cooperation in that field, adding that, for its part, Japan wanted to put the know-how and technologies the country had developed at the service of the international community and, thereby, contribute to disaster risk reduction worldwide. In that connection, he announced that Japan would host the first global meeting of INSARAG -– the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group –- in November next year to address policy issues, including capacity-building of international emergency rescue teams in individual countries. He hoped the meeting would be a productive one and that Member States would actively participate.
He said, as Japan had been calling for efficient and effective humanitarian assistance, he welcomed the progress of such humanitarian reforms as the improvement of the Central Emergency Response Fund, strengthening of the humanitarian coordinator system and implementation of the cluster approach. Japan supported all the efforts of the United Nations, in particular the Fund, as a product of the United Nations reform enacted in 2005. In addressing the challenges posed by humanitarian issues, Japan devoted particular attention to the protection and empowerment of each individual from the perspective of human security, which his country had made efforts to realize through the establishment of the Human Security Fund. He added that Japan would continue to work to protect and empower those vulnerable individuals and communities that through no fault of their own found themselves caught up in humanitarian crises.
CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia) said her government had focused specific attention on humanitarian affairs, especially because the country was all too familiar with the consequences of natural disasters associated with climate, seismic and volcanic phenomena in the region. Colombia also had experiences with internal displacement, which continued to occur due to violence generated by the armed terrorist groups that had remained active, even after the success of the Government’s Democratic Security Policy that had been in place since 2002. In light of such facts, she said, Colombia had assumed its primary responsibility for initiating, contributing to and organizing effective delivery of humanitarian assistance within its territory.
Colombia had established to that end, among others, the National System for Disaster Prevention and Response, which coordinated the actions of State-wide, as well as departmental and municipal authorities, private sector and civil society groups, and international partners working within the country. She also recognized the importance of regional and subregional cooperation on humanitarian issues. In the Andean community of Nations, Colombia had actively participated in developing operational guidelines for mutual disaster assistance, a strategy that aimed to strengthen coordination and articulation of assistance where efforts that exceeded the capacity of affected countries was required.
She said it was essential for United Nations agencies to strengthen their coordination, both among themselves and with States, in supporting the transition from relief to development. Humanitarian assistance should be framed in a sustainable process that sought to help rebuild the social fabric of affected communities. To that end, she said such assistance should contribute, from the earliest stages, to the rehabilitation and development of structures that ensured stability in the immediate wake of emergencies and pointed the way towards durable solutions. She went on to stress the importance of gender mainstreaming to meet the specific needs of women and girls in post disaster situations and to protect them from gender-based violence. She joined those that had condemned violent attacks on humanitarian personnel, and she stressed the need to strengthen field-level coordination between the United Nations actors and respective Governments to identify risks and define more effective protection measures against possible criminal acts affecting the performance of humanitarian actors and relief agencies.
ALEXANDER S. ALIMOV ( Russian Federation) supported enhanced international humanitarian assistance, urging the international community’s commitment to the guiding principles of resolution 49/108 (1994). The consistent incorporation of those principles into humanitarian work would optimize resolutions. A results-based response was also important to assessing humanitarian assistance. On climate change-related disasters, he urged a balanced approach to mitigation and adaptation. In the context of the global economic crisis, developing countries faced increased vulnerability to natural disasters and dependence on humanitarian assistance and States must not lose sight of the importance of humanitarian assistance delivery.
Continuing, he underlined that Governments receiving assistance had the exclusive prerogative of assistance coordination, including in choosing partners and establishing parameters. In that context, he highlighted the important role played by humanitarian access, which should be based on the timely delivery to populations in need. The granting of access of foreign humanitarian personnel was just one part of that important task. His Government agreed with the idea that key to improving effectiveness was building capacity at national and local levels, including in the development of an early-warning system and improvement of evaluation and forecasting mechanisms. It was also important to enhance scientific and applied research in that area.
As for the cluster approach, he said it should be used thoughtfully, bearing in mind local particularities. Particular attention should be paid to the efficiency of national and international humanitarian agencies. His Government also advocated cooperation with non-Governmental organizations, with the United Nations playing a lead role in such efforts. Important to that was CERF, and tomorrow’s high-level conference would be important to improving its effectiveness. In closing, he said his Government was prepared to strengthen that Fund.
ANNETTE ELLIS (Australia), recognizing a link between climate change and the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, urged the international community to extend current disaster risk reduction efforts to help meet the challenges of climate change. To build resilience and preparedness in communities and countries for the long term, she advocated that risk reduction be incorporated into humanitarian and early recovery efforts.
Expressing concern over the effects of natural disasters and conflict on vulnerable persons, she supported the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to assist persons driven from their homes, and said that disabled persons must be included in all aspects of humanitarian policy, planning and implementation. She also stressed that a gender perspective must be integrated into all those areas, along with measures to prevent gender-based violence and to ensure access to reproductive health services in emergency situations.
Finally, she said violent attacks against humanitarian workers had a devastating impact on the delivery of assistance, ultimately preventing people from necessary life-saving measures they vitally needed. She called for a reversal of the increase in attacks on humanitarian workers and their facilities, underlining that the need for all actors to respect the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence had never been greater.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said there must be a concerted, effective response based on innovative thinking and stronger efforts to anticipate and overcome humanitarian emergencies. While exploring new solutions to emerging challenges, the international community must improve the coordination mechanism of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), particularly in a time of constrained resources and to prevent overlap among relevant humanitarian agencies, as well as avoid politicizing the issue by focusing on whether humanitarian challenges due to complex emergencies were more compounded than those due to natural disasters or vice versa. There could not be a one-size-fits-all approach to humanitarian aid. He called for alternate steps, such as: increasing the local procurement of material resources and hiring of local expertise to save funds; continuous efforts to build trust among donors, international humanitarian actors and affected States; building capacity in countries most likely affected by humanitarian emergencies; and accountability of all actors involved.
Reporting mechanisms should follow facts and remain cognizant of situations that were not comparable, he said. Undue politicization of humanitarian relief work negatively impacted affected populations. He condemned terrorist attacks against humanitarian actors. The Organization should provide the requisite training and capacity-building for humanitarian actors to remain cognizant of their operating environment. Pakistan had gained valuable experience, especially in the post-2005 earthquake rehabilitation phase, which led to the creation of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, the National Disaster Management Commission and the National Disaster Risk Management Framework. It had created a federal Special Support Group for relief, a provincial Emergency Response Unit, cash grants for affected families, a return policy for dislocated people, and a relief package to write off farm and non-farm agricultural loans.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine, noted that international assistance to the Palestinian people had been indispensable for decades. While the Palestinian people and their leadership were deeply grateful for such assistance, it was imperative to ask whether that assistance had reached its full potential and how much its efforts toward sustained assistance had been sabotaged. How many more internationally funded projects would the occupying Power be allowed to undermine and decimate, forcing that assistance off the development and State-building track toward relief and crisis management? Indeed, because Israel’s illegal actions had turned the clock back on Palestinian development, international agencies bore an enormous burden in addressing the continuously emerging needs of the Palestinian civilian population.
He underscored the situation, noting recent reports from the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and saying that the picture was most bleak in the Gaza Strip, which was on the verge of collapse due to Israel’s illegal and inhumane siege. This collective punishment, which undoubtedly amounted to a war crime, went on unfazed by international expressions of concern and calls for it to end. Restrictions and reductions in the amount and quality of goods allowed to enter and leave Gaza meant that its once-thriving agricultural export sector was now at the top of Gaza’s most endangered economic sectors. The vast majority of the Palestinian population had been forced into utter dependence on international aid, even as relief and assistance were obstructed by the occupying Power.
Socio-economic indicators continued to show significant decline throughout the Palestinian community, he said, because an intricate matrix of roadblocks and movement restrictions continued to encroach on economic development and health and education services. In five years, the Palestinian economy had lost $8.4 billion in potential income. This was twice the size of its economy today and showed the grave trap both Palestinian efforts and international assistance had fallen into. While assistance had increased significantly in recent years, it had had little effect on the grim reality on the ground. To reap the intended benefits of that assistance, the international community must focus on helping the Palestinian National Authority implement its State programme, through funding, as well as the removal of those obstacles by which Israel undermined it. Otherwise, international assistance would only end up covering the cost of the Israel occupation, rather than achieving the development of an independent Palestinian State.
He noted that the Palestinian Government had presented a programme on 25 August 2009, entitled “ Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”, which envisioned the establishment of an independent State within two years. It had received wide support, including from the United Nations. He called on Member States to join the Palestinian Government in its effort to establish justice and peace and by compelling the occupying Power to cease its violations and put an end to its crippling siege of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
EDGARD PEREZ ALVAN ( Peru) said his country had suffered from the impact of natural disasters and was aware of the need to be prepared to confront such phenomena, with the assistance of the international community. Indeed, in the wake of many emergencies, Peru had benefited from the assistance of the United Nations, civil society groups and others. He said the relevant reports of the Secretary-General noted that climate change and its attendant weather anomalies would spark more frequent and destructive natural disasters in the coming years.
To that end, it was necessary to not only implement the Hyogo Framework for Action, but to coordinate the work of international organizations, humanitarian workers, scientists and academics to ensure that affected and disaster-prone countries could supply the proper response. He was concerned that, despite the international community’s best intentions, it was clear that the biggest obstacle to the delivery of timely relief and disaster assistance was excessive red tape. That was an issue that needed to be addressed quickly and head-on, in order to save lives and ensure long-term post-disaster development in affected countries.
AHMED AL-JARMAN (United Arab Emirates) said the relevant reports indicated that challenges facing the Organization in the area of humanitarian assistance had doubled due to the increase in natural disasters caused by climate change, the growing number of displaced persons due to armed conflict, and more generally, an increase in the number of overall persons needing such assistance, especially in developing countries. Such developments, particularly in light of the ongoing global financial and food crises, meant that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners must redouble their efforts to meet growing humanitarian needs. The United Nations must be provided with adequate human and financial resources to discharge its growing responsibilities.
He said it was also necessary that all State and parties to armed conflict protected civilians in accordance with international humanitarian laws, and took preventive and effective measures to bring those that breached such laws and norms to justice. The United Arab Emirates would stress the essential role of the United Nations in mobilizing and coordinating international efforts to provide emergency humanitarian relief assistance. For its part, the United Arab Emirates had focused on coordinating many of its humanitarian initiatives and contributions with the United Nations and its relevant agencies.
His country was a member of the Donor Support Group and it had also contributed to enhancing the work of field-level operations. The United Arab Emirates was also working with a number of groups led by the Red Crescent societies in the region and beyond, and its relief assistance amounted to some $3 billion over the past three years. He went on to say that his delegation attached great importance to providing assistance and support to the Palestinian people and their Government, as they suffered under Israel’s brutal occupation of their lands. The United Arab Emirates had translated its political and moral support for the Palestinian people into financial contributions and economic support that had included emergency relief and long-term development and technical assistance that had amounted to some $3 billion. His Government had also doubled its donations to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to enable it to better carry out its important work.
SOCORRO ROVIROSA ( Mexico) voiced concern at the increase of hydro and meteorological events stemming from climate change and called for States to redouble efforts to reduce the loss of human life. Underscoring the international community’s consolidation of steps towards a true culture of prevention, she said the 2005-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action was a firm step in that direction, as it offered steps on what to do in the various stages of risk management. In that context, she underscored its use of studies and vulnerability maps and creation of early warning systems, among other actions. She expressed hope that the United Nations Climate Change Conference, now underway, would lead to steps that were in tune with today’s world. She urged that climate change be comprehensively addressed and that opportunities in adaptation and disaster risk reduction be seized.
Also, the many humanitarian assistance tools must be strengthened, she explained, noting that moving forward required participating in dialogue at all levels. In that context, she underscored the importance of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, mechanisms to address emergencies, and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system. CERF was central to the timely and quick humanitarian response. Mexico had supported its creation and worked to increase its annual contribution, despite the effects of the global financial and economic crisis. Her Government would be able to maintain a donation amount similar to that of this year.
In strengthening humanitarian assistance, efforts should be in step with needs, she said, and common rules to that end were required. Further, the United Nations was important in providing technical assistance to States. Mexico underscored the importance of avoiding spending on tasks that had been incorporated in existing mechanisms. Deepening the dialogue for improving the international response was in the international community’s interests. Reiterating concern at restrictive interpretations of humanitarian assistance, she said, in emergencies, States were called on to make use of their prerogative to request -- and receive -- assistance within modalities that were deemed appropriate. Imposing sovereignty over populations only endangered their health and life. In closing, she reiterated Mexico’s support for the Interagency Standing Committee and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
SUL KYUNG-HOON ( Republic of Korea) reiterated his country’s firm resolution to work with the United Nations to help those in dire need, even as he joined the call for stronger coordination of humanitarian and disaster-relief assistance and underscored the need for strict adherence to the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The proliferation of humanitarian players called for a greater effort to coordinate among different actors to improve delivery and foster effective results. The United Nations must play a leading role in the coordination process and should introduce existing coordination mechanisms to new players, while it also actively promotes awareness of humanitarian principles and codes among all humanitarian actors. Coordination at the regional level required further improvement. Regional cooperation mechanisms should be fully integrated for local disaster response. His Government hoped the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would further increase proactive engagement with regional processes.
It would be critical, he said, for the United Nations to intensify its efforts to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. Recent events in Afghanistan, central Africa and the Philippines indicated that humanitarian workers were increasingly at risk of hostile attacks. Complex emergencies in Gaza, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Yemen and Sudan in 2009 demonstrated how limited access to victims could impair humanitarian action. He commended the Secretary-General’s efforts to reinforce the Organization’s security management system. The United Nations needed to engage local non-governmental organizations and regional organizations to bolster these networks in the field. The disaster risk reduction framework also needed to be mainstreamed in reconstruction plans. The gender perspective should be incorporated in humanitarian affairs. The Republic of Korea had steadily strengthened its humanitarian assistance system and adopted its first policy document on that topic in 2008, he added.
CLAUDIA PÉREZÁLVAREZ (Cuba), expressed concern at the growing number of natural disasters arising out of climate change, which she noted were in addition to the humanitarian consequences of conflict situations, the food crisis, and the current global economic and financial crisis. While reaffirming humanitarian assistance needed to be carried out fully respecting the principles laid out in resolution 46/182, she rejected what she called “the imposition of ambiguous concepts” not agreed upon, which could be easily manipulated to justify any action, contrary to the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference in the internal affairs of States.
She said States in need were essentially required to request and consent to receive humanitarian assistance, under the principles and purposes established in the United Nations Charter, which needed to be respected in any situation, including humanitarian emergencies, and its purposes and principles could not be rewritten or distorted. In that context, Cuba took very seriously its key role in initiating, organizing, coordinating, and providing humanitarian assistance in its territory when the country had been affected by natural disasters, n accordance with General Assembly provisions. Thus, she reiterated the importance of implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 and particularly the preparation in the event of disasters.
Further, Cuba considered it important to continue efforts to strengthen the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, as a mechanism to coordinate the efforts in that international area. Also, Cuba was committed to continuing collaboration with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, she stated. Expressing regret at the loss of human lives and material damage through natural disasters, she said the United Nations system and the international community both had an important role to play, helping developing countries to improve humanitarian capacities, know-how, and institutions they already had, and assisting them so that they had a greater access to new technologies, financial resources and technical know-how.
She said Cuba reiterated its willingness to support countries in need. As an example, the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors was created in August 2005 initially to help the population affected by Hurricane Katrina. Since then, the contingent had rendered services in seven countries. Cuba had also developed several collaboration programmes on health care in numerous countries, such as the Latin American School of Medicine, where nearly 8,300 students from 24 countries had graduated in 10 years.
TALAL AL-MANSOUR ( Kuwait) said that his delegation shared the Secretary-General’s concern that natural disasters were on the rise and their severity was increasing. That situation required the international community to step up and comprehensively coordinate its actions to alleviate the suffering of disaster victims and blunt the impact of such unpredictable, but often devastating events. He said that Kuwait actively supported the Central Emergency Response Fund and called on the wider international community to support that Fund, so it could continue to carry out its important work to help communities in the developing world recover from natural disasters. Kuwait also expressed support for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and was concerned about the safety of humanitarian workers, he said, joining the call on all nations to ensure that relief workers were allowed to carry out their important work to improve the lives of those populations that needed it the most.
Providing a brief overview of Kuwait’s humanitarian assistance efforts, he said that the Government was working throughout the Arab world to boost education and job creation. It had also doubled the agreed 0.7 per cent gross domestic product to developing countries for official development assistance. Finally, he stressed that it was incumbent on the entire international community to work harder to end the suffering of the Palestinian people and, to that end, he urged the wider international community to enhance its support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). He also called on Israel to end its blockades of the Gaza strip, which was severely handicapping efforts to rebuild the area and to provide humanitarian assistance to the suffering people there. Kuwait would continue to provide development assistance, bilaterally and through United Nations efforts to ensure sustainable development for all and ensure that the entire world lived together in peace.
MOTUMISI TAWANA ( South Africa) said States needed to demonstrate their commitment to the humanitarian community to ensure effective humanitarian relief during a time of increasing demand and declining resources. The Central Emergency Response Fund, after a few years of operation, had already been successful in helping deliver assistance in a timely manner, thus reducing the loss of life. The Fund had also made it possible to contribute to “forgotten emergencies”, many of which occurred in Africa. But, there were still challenges within the Fund that needed addressing. The humanitarian response capacity must be strengthened at all levels, including at field level, where Governments had the lead role, which must be respected.
Concerned about attacks against humanitarian personnel, he said violence against them should be condemned. They needed safe and unhindered humanitarian access in their areas of operation, within the framework created by General Assembly resolutions. He offered condolences to the families of all United Nations and humanitarian personnel who had lost their lives in the line of duty, and commended those who continued to serve affected communities. States that had not yet done so were encouraged to adopt preventive measures and to respond effectively to acts of violence against civilians; protection of civilians during armed conflict was of serious concern to the South African Government.
He stressed the importance of effective partnerships between Member States, United Nations humanitarian organizations and non-governmental organizations. With the increase in natural disasters, and disasters related to climate change, it was important for developed countries and international organizations to increase assistance to affected States. That was especially true given the poor capacity of developing countries to deal with the social, economic and environmental impacts of disasters. Those countries needed support in terms of preparedness, rapid response recovery and development. Emergency humanitarian assistance, as well, should be delivered in a way that would support early recovery, sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction. Technology transfer was important, as was the need to implement commitments made at the World Summit on Food Security last month to deal with the world’s hunger problem. He also appealed to the world to support the people of Rwanda to overcome the challenges noted in the Secretary-General’s report.
HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) said the number and diversity of humanitarian actors had increased considerably in the almost 20 years since the adoption of the humanitarian framework resolution 46/182 (1991). The military was playing an increasing role in relief coordination and civilian protection, which was now firmly fixed as an issue requiring action. “We do not need a crystal ball to see that the landscape will continue to change rapidly and generate new humanitarian needs in a non-traditional context,” he said, citing increased migration, population and urbanization as growing trends. Positive steps had been made to address that changing landscape, notably to improve the ability to respond swiftly across natural disaster and complex emergency situations. Reforms put in place four years ago had begun to take shape. And yet, there was an ongoing struggle to find the right strategies to address threats to the safety and security of aid workers.
Despite repeated commitment to humanitarian principles, including access, implementation had faltered, he said, noting a 277 per cent increase in murders, kidnapping or serious injury to aid workers in the last two years. Recent attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan were, sadly, still fresh. Efforts must focus, first, on streamlining work, particularly to move beyond past rivalries and share information. He urged being skilful in various approaches, as natural disasters were multifaceted. In that context, he said that, while the Central Emergency Response Fund had attracted new donors in 2009, it must be complemented by other efforts and Canada had repeatedly called for improvements in the knowledge and capacity of the humanitarian and resident coordinators. Second, such work relied on ensuring a strong evidence base, at the heart of which was an urgent need to improve needs assessments. States must work together to make progress towards joint assessments, which was part of a wider engagement needed from all stakeholders.
Finally, he underscored the need to continually enhance dialogue across a range of actors, particularly at local levels, and expressed Canada’s support for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ outreach efforts in that respect, as they built partnerships between recipients, local communities, donors and the United Nations. Included in such discussions must be those in the development, scientific, financial and private sector communities who had expertise that could be leveraged. Large challenges disguise large opportunities, he said, urging States to be strategic in their plans, innovative in their delivery and synchronized in their approach.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said 2009 had seen the emergence of new conflicts and a range of natural disasters, the magnitude of which was illustrated by the scale of the United Nations Consolidated and Flash Appeals, with 2008 requirements requiring funding of $7.1 billion. For 2009, funding requirements hit $10 billion. The Asia Pacific had not been immune -– the last few months alone had seen the tsunami that struck Samoa, American Samoa and northern Tonga, an earthquake in West Sumatra, Indonesia and floods in Nepal. There was a compelling need to reduce the impact of such calamities by investing more in disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness.
Specifically, the global community had to do much more in the area of climate change mitigation and adaptation, he said, noting that small island nations in the Pacific were among the world’s most vulnerable to potential disaster. New Zealand supported the United Nations’ leadership in humanitarian action, preparedness and response. He specifically endorsed the role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, noting New Zealand’s membership in the Donor Support Group. His Government also supported the Good Humanitarian Donorship principles and would continue to provide unearmarked funding to the United Nations and support the Central Emergency Response Fund.
Much was being done to strengthen the United Nations’ in-country leadership, the rigour and consistency of needs assessments and the quality of humanitarian appeals, and he urged that such efforts continue, with national Governments as full and active partners. It was absolutely essential that the United Nations’ work be based on maximum efficiency. Stressing the need for humanitarian interventions to be taken in partnership with local civil society, among others, he said the United Nations, Governments and other agencies should fully address the importance of gender equality. He also urged Governments and relevant parties to ensure that the United Nations enjoyed unrestricted and timely access to victims of emergencies. It was extremely disturbing that the past year had seen an escalation in bombings on United Nations’ facilities. New Zealand abhorred such atrocities and called on all parties to all conflicts to respect international humanitarian law.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India), speaking also on behalf of Sweden, said that complex emergencies continued to affect millions of people and the necessity of coordination and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance could not be overemphasized. The challenges facing the humanitarian community had been accented by the ongoing global financial and food crises, among others. He said Sweden and India affirmed respect for, and adherence to, the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and he noted that those principles must be scrupulously respected, as they were essential to preserving the space and integrity needed to deliver humanitarian assistance to those urgently in need. At the same time, he stressed the overall duty of Member States to protect and meet the needs of their citizens.
At the same time, however, he stressed that there might be some situations where Member States found such emergencies hard to manage on their own. If that became the case, then the role played by the United Nations and the wider international community was vital to bridging gaps, in coordination with host Governments. India and Sweden deeply valued the role of the United Nations in coordinating emergency humanitarian assistance. There was an imperative need to continue to work to evolve ways and means through which the United Nations capabilities in the delivery of such assistance were further enhanced and strengthened. To that end, he called for augmenting the operational coordination capacities of the OCHA and strengthened synergy throughout the United Nations system. He also urged delegations to consider adopting more proactive measures with disaster-prone countries.
WELLINGTON WEBB ( United States) underscored that to deliver critical assistance to populations in need, humanitarian agencies must be present. That was dangerous work in the best of times. His Government was deeply concerned at the increasing violence against humanitarian workers, including those working at United Nations agencies and, in that context, he cited recent attacks against the World Food Programme in Islamabad, Pakistan, which reflected a deliberate strategy by armed groups to disrupt operations on which vulnerable populations depended. The United States supported the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence of humanitarian assistance and he encouraged all parties to conflict to do the same.
The Secretary-General had cited overly bureaucratic procedures as an impediment to the timely delivery of operations, he said. Calculations that placed politics ahead of needs resulted in such behaviour as delayed issuance of visas and restricted travel permits. Such campaigns to limit the presence of humanitarian actors in crisis zones cost lives, and such behaviour should be overwhelmingly rejected. The degree that mistrust fed into such behaviour -- that mistrust was baseless. Assistance provided by humanitarian agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations did not present a threat, but rather an opportunity to work collaboratively to help those whose lives had been upended by crisis or a natural disaster.
The United States applauded the attention given to civilian protection, he said, adding that the Security Council’s adoption of resolutions 1888 (2009) and 1889 (2009) underscored the protection challenges in post-conflict environments and the needed will to develop robust responses to violence against civilians. His Government encouraged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to work in a constructive, yet vigorous manner with States to address protection concerns. The United States was committed to the field of emergency and humanitarian assistance and stood ready to allocate appropriate resources to ensure that the system worked in a timely fashion. In closing, he recognized the indispensable contribution of humanitarian workers in delivering assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons. Those working for aid agencies put their lives at risk daily to reach those touched by conflict and natural disasters. With that, he urged coming together in a show of support for the United Nations and other humanitarian actors who made the difference between life and death in disaster-torn communities.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that the guiding principles on humanitarian assistance of resolution 46/182 were the foundation for effective humanitarian assistance. All relief partners must abide by the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality, and respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and culture of the affected country, as well as comply with its national laws and international law. He supported intensified training for all United Nations personnel to ensure full respect for those principles and create accountability under them.
He called on the international community to assist affected countries in strengthening their capacity for disaster reduction and relief, as a matter of priority. The United Nations system, he said, should enhance the existing humanitarian response capacity, knowledge and institutions, and should facilitate the fulfilment of commitments to transfer disaster relief and reduction technology. The coordinating role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in humanitarian assistance should be constantly strengthened; it should endeavour to obtain adequate resources, make capacity-building recommendations based on in-depth research, help cushion humanitarian operations from media considerations, maintain a focus on non-climate-related disasters, ensure representative staff recruitment and promote communication and trust between itself and Member States.
He stressed that China, while coping with enormous challenges brought about by natural disasters in its own territory, attached great importance to international cooperation in humanitarian assistance and supported the efforts of the United Nations system in disaster risk reduction, preparedness and relief. It would continue to take an active part in international relief efforts and widely share its experiences in disaster relief and reduction.
YURIY SERGEYEV ( Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, said humanitarian and disaster relief assistance had been growing in importance, and it was essential to preserve the fundamental principles of neutrality, humanity, impartiality, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. He attached the utmost importance to the United Nations’ role in strengthening cooperation in mitigating the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. In the coming session, States would revise the implementation of resolution 62/9 (2007) and the action plan for Chernobyl recovery to implement the “Decade of recovery and sustainable development of the affected regions.” Ukraine was looking forward to adopting a new and ambitious resolution on Chernobyl in the sixty-fifth session, bearing in mind that next year would mark the half-way point in the Third Decade after the Chernobyl disaster.
Noting that, in April, States would commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy, he said it was essential to remind the global community about the consequences of that tragedy to avoid such disasters in the future, on the one hand, and address issues of secure nuclear energy, on the other. Given the magnitude of the catastrophe, the issue should remain on the Assembly’s agenda and considered in plenary. Recalling international efforts to complete construction of the Shelter facility and related nuclear safety projects at Chernobyl, he extended thanks to all States and organizations that had worked to mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda) said that, for the first time, Rwandans were at the centre of planning processes and active in the implementation of programmes that impacted their lives. By way of example, he cited the “Vision 2020” programme, the design and execution of Rwanda’s national unity and reconciliation strategy, delivery of the Gacaca system of justice and drafting of a new Constitution. There was now a system of laws and institutions that guaranteed justice for all. The Secretary-General’s report identified actions undertaken by the United Nations, including a comprehensive programme to address access to economic and social rights by genocide survivors, and it was imperative that the Organization, working with his Government, identify and develop programmes to provide assistance to the survivors of the Rwandan genocide.
Also, the report underscored that numerous challenges remained, ensuring young people’s participation in democratic processes and providing alternative education for out-of-school children among them, he said. Rwanda had taken steps to address those challenges through “home-grown” approaches, like the Gacaca Courts, Itorero (a culture-based platform through which people solved problems) and Igando (a tool to build coexistence within communities). Also, this year, the Rwandan diaspora, with the Government and local civil society, launched the “One Dollar Campaign”, which aimed to ensure that every orphan had a decent home and that the social welfare of all genocide survivors was addressed. In closing, he said it was crucial that the Secretary-General’s recommendations were implemented to ensure that survivors were offered the assistance they deserved.
WALTER A. FÜLLERMAN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said it was difficult to determine an appropriate humanitarian response in conflict situations, where States were weak, the economy was debilitated, infrastructure was collapsing and criminal groups and politically-motivated actors committed acts of hostility. Often, environmental degradation, drought, floods or pandemics made people even more vulnerable. At the same time, the operating environment for humanitarian agencies had become more diverse and challenging. Access to people in need was becoming more limited for political or security reasons, and repeated attacks on humanitarian workers made it difficult to ensure their safety. The ICRC was not spared in that respect -- it had experienced several serious incidents lately. Several host Governments had subjected the work of humanitarian organizations to strict conditions, to the point of sometimes impeding work.
He remarked on the tendency of the armed forces, be they national or international, to become involved in humanitarian action, which was sometimes exploited for political purposes. United Nations peace-support operations increasingly combined widely different activities, which posed problems in situations of conflict when those operations appeared to support only one party. It had sometimes blurred the lines between roles and objectives, reducing the acceptance of humanitarian action by warring parties and potential beneficiaries. It was essential that, in all circumstances and especially armed conflict, a clear and visible distinction be preserved between the different roles and activities of political, economic, military, development actors and humanitarian organizations. Humanitarian action must be kept clearly separate from political and military agendas, including those of international actors. That was equally important for comprehensive or integrated approaches to crisis management.
He described the ICRC’s effort to maintain, and to enhance where possible, its operational coverage in difficult contexts such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan/Darfur, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen and Pakistan. Critical to that endeavour was proximity to the people it sought to help. For the ICRC, engaging not only with the host State, but with all parties was an established practice. That included non-State actors whether or not they were recognized by States. Such dialogue had helped the ICRC better understand values, customs and sociocultural rules in the places where it operated, allowing it, for instance, to attain access to detainees and wounded people on both sides of the frontline.
He said the ICRC was intent on preserving its neutral, independent and strictly humanitarian approach, which had led it to refrain from being associated with any approach that combined different objectives -- such as where the United Nations was engaged in peace operations along with humanitarian work. But as an observer in inter-agency coordination mechanisms, it had never hesitated to share, to the extent compatible with its independent status, its experience and technical expertise. Today, civilians had become the main victims of hostilities, even though they were clearly protected by the Geneva Conventions and protocols. According to polls conducted by the ICRC, displacement ranked as one of the most traumatic experience among those who had experienced war, just behind losing a loved one and economic hardship. The Geneva Conventions and protocols had proved essential for reuniting families and brining comfort to prisoners of war. If they were better complied with, much suffering could be avoided, and he appealed to States to make those provisions a reality.
MARWAN JILANI, Observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said that, as the Asia-Pacific region reeled from one disaster after another, millions of people had been uprooted and left homeless and jobless in the wake of typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes. It was clear that the impact of such disasters, in terms of human suffering and economic costs, depended on the preparedness and resilience of an affected country. That was why his organization invested heavily in preparedness and in strengthening the capacities of local communities, including through training of local volunteers as first responders. Such initiatives had clearly contributed to minimizing the loss of life across disaster areas.
Nevertheless, he continued, much remained to be done in the field of disaster preparedness and risk reduction, as well as to strengthen the capacities of first responders. It was also vital to enhance the effectiveness of disaster responses and, to that end; he noted that more than a dozen States had already adopted the new IFRC-backed Guidelines for Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance. On other matters, he said the safety and security of relief workers and humanitarian volunteers was one of the International Federation’s great concerns. “Our ability to reach the most vulnerable in difficult circumstances and in all corners of the world, depends on the level of safety of our staff and volunteers, expats as well as locals,” he said, reiterating the Secretary-General’s call on Member States and non-State actors to take ‘all necessary steps’ to ensure the security and safety of humanitarian personnel, supplies and facilities within their area of control.
LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said strengthening coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance was a topic intrinsically characterized by collaboration and partnership with a broad range of humanitarian partners, particularly in areas that were most relevant to his organization’s work, namely population displacement and sudden population movements. In that context, he welcomed the recently adopted African Convention on the protection of internally displaced persons, which was the first legal framework of its kind and would help strengthen national, regional and global measures to prevent or mitigate internal displacement and provide durable solutions.
He went on to say the provision of humanitarian assistance was becoming increasingly complex and, unfortunately, trends for 2009 did not seem to indicate a substantial improvement. That complexity, especially in light of ongoing food, water and energy scarcity, made coordination and coordination all the more relevant to ensure that gaps were filled and that vulnerable populations could be adequately protected in a timely manner. He said that climate change, and migration and displacement were among the most pressing issues of the day. As such, the IOM had joined forces with other humanitarian actors to raise awareness about the impact of climate change, and to call for urgent adaptation measures. Noting the combined efforts in pursuance of a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, he urged participants in Copenhagen to include in the outcome of the meeting provisions on protecting and assisting those who might be forced to move, migrate or otherwise relocate.
ROBERT L. SHAFER, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, said the Order enjoyed full diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level with 104 Member States, and focused its activities on humanitarian affairs. Its 80,000 volunteers and 20,000 employees worked in 120 countries, based on principles of political and religious impartiality. It recognized the role of the Central Emergency Response Fund and United Nations agencies in responding rapidly to large-scale natural disasters, and was at the fore of emergency relief and long-term development projects in many countries receiving Fund support, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Palestine. On Wednesday, the Order planned to make a contribution to the Fund for 2010, and all Member States were encouraged to do likewise.
He said the Order worked with United Nations agencies, States and non-governmental organizations to meet humanitarian challenges in Kenya, where it was building hospitals and health centres to combat malaria and other illnesses. It was delivering food supplements to nearly 20,000 people, including pregnant and breast-feeding women. It was also distributing mosquito nets and water purification tablets. Elsewhere in the world, the Order worked with humanitarian organizations in Indonesia, Viet Nam and the Philippines to provide victims with food, blankets, cooking sets and other basic life items, and to repair schools and other infrastructure. It would soon implement community-based preparedness projects. In view of the politically or criminally motivated targeting of humanitarian workers, as evident in Somalia, the Sudan and Haiti, the Order agreed on the need to take steps at the highest levels, and on the ground, to prevent those incidents and to punish perpetrators.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, made an oral correction to preambular paragraph 12 of resolution A/64/L.33.
Next the Assembly adopted without vote resolution A/64/L.19 on humanitarian assistance and emergency relief to El Salvador in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
It also adopted without vote resolution A/64/L.31 on participation of volunteers in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief.
After that action, the representative of Syria made a technical correction to the Arabic text of resolution A/64/L.32 on “strengthening coordination of emergency assistance of the united Nations.” That text was adopted without vote.
The draft on safety and security of United Nations and humanitarian personnel, A/64/L.33, was also adopted without a vote.
Speaking on a point of order, the representative of Colombia requested that the agenda item on “the provision of emergency assistance” be kept open, because the Group of 77 developing countries and China was still negotiating a draft text for consideration within the next few days.
Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Sudan welcomed the adoption of the text on security and safety of humanitarian assistance personnel. His delegation had participated in the negotiations on that resolution, but would express its reservations to language in that text regarding the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute. He reminded the Assembly that only those that were party to that Statue would be bound by its principles.
Explaining his position after action, Pakistan’s representative, said resolution L.33 was important to all and his delegation had joined consensus on it. Pakistan had been taking all steps to ensure the safety, security and protection of humanitarian and United Nations personnel working across his country. His Government was determined to continue taking all preventive steps to ensure their safety and protection. It also had allocated an “adequately sized” piece of land to the United Nations in Islamabad in the highly secure diplomatic enclave eight years ago. In its discussions with the Secretariat, Pakistan had emphasized the need to consolidate different United Nations offices currently scattered around Islamabad. Pakistan had understood that the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Common Premises had yet to allocate resources for that purpose. Security considerations should not be made secondary to procedural and financial considerations.
The representative of Iraq, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the resolution on strengthening humanitarian assistance contained many important elements, and he thanked the facilitators for efforts to meet the concerns of the group. He also welcomed the positive trends in the text. Yet, there was an important element that had not been agreed, and that was the provision of humanitarian assistance for “peoples chaffing under the yoke of occupation.” The Arab Group had requested the inclusion of such language as a result of the aggression of the Israeli regime against the Palestinian people at the beginning of the year. Deliberate obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Occupied Palestinian Territory was a disturbing reminder that it appeared that in some instances, the Organization practiced double standards regarding humanitarian assistance.
El Salvador’s delegate, speaking on resolution A/64/L.19, said Central America had been exposed in recent years to a series of natural disasters and experienced major difficulties as a result. That had given rise to concerns about achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The humanitarian, economic and social impacts of Hurricane Ida compounded the situation of the most vulnerable populations. The United Nations team on the ground said El Salvador had suffered many deaths. Some 52 municipalities had been impacted. She was confident the international community would offer its generous cooperation in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the coming months, which would complement Government efforts. In closing, she thanked the United Nations’ urgent appeal and asked those that had not yet done so to join those efforts.
The General Assembly then concluded its consideration of those sub-items.
The Assembly then adopted by consensus resolution on Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (document A/64/L.17/Rev.1), by which it reaffirmed the importance of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, as well as the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property. It recognized the importance of cooperation among States in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property, and its illegal removal from countries of origin. It requested the Secretary-General to cooperate with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in bringing about the attainment of objectives in the text and, in cooperation with the Director-General of UNESCO, submit to the Assembly’s sixty-seventh session a report on its implementation.
PAVLOS YEROULANOS, Minister of Culture of Greece, said the United Nations was built on unique and powerful ideas: no child should go to bed hungry; knowledge and health were rights, not privileges; and the environment should be kept in balance. To reach common understanding, the Organization conducted a dialogue of cultures, with profound respect for the distinct identities each culture brought to the table. In the dawn of the new century, States appeared steadfast in their commitment to deal with global problems globally, creating a safe and more complete world. In the decision to protect heritage, tangible or otherwise, States had reached the pinnacle of the Organization’s mission.
Thanking the departing Director-General of UNESCO, he said heritage was the foundation of global dialogue. “We need strong identities,” he said. A sustainable global culture could not be created without respecting the power and uniqueness of localities. In a dialogue of equals, a creative environment for future generations could be secured. In protecting heritage around the world, the United Nations had committed to keeping identities unique. The resolution was a testament to the commitment to work together towards that cause.
He said heritage did not only need protection; it often needed healing. In the same context, States must also seek to heal great symbols of heritage, particularly when they were so unique as to represent the values of many cultures, and become a global symbol. In the Parthenon, several cultures had recognized the symbol of humanness; the fundamental idea that people were good and that they could create incredible things if given the freedom to think and govern themselves. It stood as a beacon for past and future achievements. Greece could only rejoice that parts of that monument had been voluntarily returned, notably from Heidelberg. The integrity of monuments and works of art should be a right as sacred as any the United Nations defended. The symbol of heritage could be as important as heritage itself.
Colombia’s delegate explained that his country was not a State Party to the Conventions mentioned in operative paragraph 5 and understood that paragraph within the context of national law. He emphasized the sovereign rights of States over their decisions on international instruments. He also drew attention to the work of Greece in preparing the draft resolution.
The United States’ representative clarified that, in joining consensus, her Government understood that recommendations contained in operative paragraph 2 were those of UNESCO-sponsored meetings, including the 2008 extraordinary session, held in Seoul. The recommendations referenced did not include those of the 2008 meeting of non-governmental experts, also held in Seoul and sponsored by the Government of the Republic of Korea.
The General Assembly then concluded consideration of agenda item 43.
Introduction of Draft
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, JOYCE KAFANABO (United Republic of Tanzania), introduced the draft resolution entitled 2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa (document A/64/L.28), saying that an estimated 74 per cent of Africa’s population lived in malaria endemic areas, with about 95 per cent of the global 2-3 million malaria-related deaths occurring on the continent. The disease was a major economic burden.
This year’s updated text included new elements, including to acknowledge progress, in parts of Africa, to reverse malaria through national malaria control programmes. It emphasized the importance of strengthening health systems and welcomed the 23 September launch of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance to provide the highest-level political leadership in fighting the disease. It also welcomed the United against Malaria Campaign ahead of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and urged the international community to help fund implementation of the Global Malaria Action Plan. It also called for scaling up malaria prevention, control and treatment to meet agreed goals. Noting that 2010 marked the end of the Decade to roll back malaria, she said the resolution requested the Secretary-General to submit a report at the sixty-fifth session on progress towards achieving internationally agreed targets for 2010.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution on 2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa by consensus.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on the International Decade on a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010 (document A/64/L.5), without vote. It also acted without vote to adopt a related text on the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue (document A/64/L.15).
After that action, the representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, thanked the delegations of the Philippines and Pakistan for the spirit in which they had led the negotiations. At the same time, the European Union had similar reservations again this year; while the European Union believed that cultural dialogue could make a significant contribution to understanding and tolerance among peoples of different backgrounds, it did not support initiatives seeking to establish religion and religious values as a cornerstone of the United Nations.
The European Union believed that States should play facilitating roles to foster such intercultural dialogue, but not set the course for its outcome. She said the European Union was also concerned with the phrasing of certain paragraphs of the text that appeared to give States a mandate to set the way people interacted on the basis of faith. Allowing people to freely express different
opinions was also essential to dialogue, she said. The European Union was also concerned that the text categorized individuals exclusively on the basis of religion or faith. The European Union regretted that the co-sponsors had been unwilling to integrate all basis of genuine dialogue in the text and had only joined under the understanding that they were implied. Finally, she said that her delegation attached great importance to the promotion of intercultural dialogue, especially by the UNESCO, which was the lead United Nations organization in that field.
Also speaking in explanation of position was the representative of the United States, who said that, as in past years, the text contained many worthwhile elements and affirmed that understanding and dialogue were crucial to ensuring lasting peace. The United States was committed to a world that fostered tolerance and understanding and forged bonds among all religions and beliefs. It also acknowledged that faith was a powerful and mobilizing force and that interfaith efforts could be one of the major protectors against intolerance.
At the same time, she said that the United States believed that everyone had a right to freedom of opinion and expression. It did not believe that restricting opinion or belief could combat intolerance. Indeed, United Nations resolutions must not be read as restricting peaceful expression of opinion or belief. The United States believed in the right of all people to express themselves freely. United Nations resolutions must not be used to persecute or even imprison those that held different views from those of the Government in power.
Bangladesh’s delegate thanked those who sponsored resolution L.5, saying that its adoption showed a collective resolve to create a world free of violence.
JORGE ARGÜELLO (Argentina), introducing resolution A/64/L.27, spoke on behalf of Austria, Burkina-Faso, Croatia, Pakistan and Argentina. Far from decreasing, terrorist acts continued to occur in various Member States. Countless civilian victims suffered daily from horrible violence, which ran counter to human dignity and civilized coexistence. Terrorist acts inhibited the full exercise of human rights and sustainable development. United Nations staff were daily targets of that scourge and it was, therefore, imperative not to falter in efforts to combat terrorism with the legitimacy, unity and strength provided by the multilateral system, wherein the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted in 2006, was the central operational framework.
He urged States to strive for the Strategy’s full implementation with the highest possible efficacy and to intensify efforts, and those of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, to implement its four pillars in an integrated manner. The introduction of the text by a group of countries from all regions was a natural step forward in the process of institutionalising the Task Force. The text called on the Secretary-General to establish an adequate financial structure for the effective implementation of the Strategy and resolution 62/272 (2008).
He said existing staff and resource arrangements were not sustainable, as they came from extra-budgetary sources. The resolution, therefore, proposed to institutionalize the Task Force with adequate resources in the Organization’s regular budget and long-term, independent, voluntary donor funding from a small donor group. That framework was essential to achieving coherence of system-wide counter-terrorism efforts. His delegation looked forward to continued discussions related to budgetary implications by the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committee on Budgetary and Administrative Questions.
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