General Assembly, in Resolution, Recognizes Right of Return of All Displaced Persons in Georgia, Reaffirms Unacceptability of Forced Demographic Changes

3 June 2015
GA/11651

General Assembly, in Resolution, Recognizes Right of Return of All Displaced Persons in Georgia, Reaffirms Unacceptability of Forced Demographic Changes

Sixty-ninth General Assembly,
92nd Meeting (AM)

Other Texts Endorse Sendai Summit Outcomes; Establish Expert Group to Gauge Progress; Declare World Statistics Day; Back Turkmenistan’s Neutrality

The General Assembly today adopted, by a recorded vote, a resolution recognizing the right of return of all internally displaced persons and refugees and their descendants, regardless of ethnicity, to their homes throughout Georgia, during a session that drew unanimous action on four other texts.

By a vote of 75 in favour to 16 against, with 78 abstentions, the Assembly stressed the need to respect the property rights of all internally displaced persons and refugees affected by the conflicts in Georgia, including in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, and to refrain from obtaining property in violation of those rights.  It reaffirmed the unacceptability of forced demographic changes, and called for unimpeded access for humanitarian activities.

Seeking consensus on the draft, the representative of Georgia stressed that the text was not aimed at any party nor did it point fingers at those responsible for the displacements.  Rather, it was intended to affirm the rights of the displaced and the urgent need for action in that regard. 

However, the representative of the Russian Federation, opposing the text, which he contended was politicized and opportunistic, requested a recorded vote.  He said the Georgian side was using humanitarian principles to pursue its political agenda in defiance of the wishes of the peoples and regions concerned.

By a second text, the Assembly reiterated its support for the status of permanent neutrality declared by Turkmenistan and called once again on United Nations Member States to respect and support that status as well as the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Through a third resolution, the Assembly endorsed the Sendai Declaration and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 adopted at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction from 14 to 18 March.  It also expressed its profound gratitude to the Government and the people of Japan for hosting the conference and for providing all necessary support.

By a fourth resolution, the Assembly decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental expert working group comprising experts nominated by States and supported by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, aimed at developing a set of possible indicators to measure global progress in the Framework’s implementation, coherent with the work of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators.

Through the fifth text, the Assembly decided to designate 20 October 2015 as the second World Statistics Day under the general theme “Better data, better lives”.

Lyutha S. Al-Mughairy (Oman), Vice-President of the Assembly, announced the postponement of action on a draft resolution concerning the development of an international legally-binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.  He said further consideration was needed on the programme budget implications of the text, which was introduced today by the representative of Trinidad and Tobago.

In other business, the Assembly noted that Vanuatu had made the payment necessary to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Philippines, Japan, Peru, United States, El Salvador, Chile, Ukraine (on behalf the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development (GUAM) — Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova), Lithuania (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries), United Kingdom, Canada, Sierra Leone, Brazil, Uruguay and Israel.

Action on Drafts

Introducing the draft resolution titled “World Statistics Day” (document A/69/L.72), the representative of Hungary stressed the need to advance innovation and analysis to support national data capacities and a global data partnership, and said the text sought to bring worldwide focus to the topic.   

Adopting the text without a vote, the Assembly decided to designate 20 October 2015 as the second World Statistics Day under the general theme “Better data, better lives”.  It also decided to celebrate the Day every five years on 20 October and invited all to observe it in an appropriate manner.  It stressed that the cost of all activities that might arise from the implementation of the present resolution should be met from voluntary contributions.

Speaking after the adoption, the representative of the Philippines emphasized the critical importance of data for evidence-based policymaking, particularly in the monitoring and review of the implementation of the sustainable development goals to be adopted in September 2015.

Turning to the next agenda item, the Assembly adopted, also without votes, two resolutions relating to the international strategy for disaster reduction.

By the first text, titled “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” (document A/69/L.67), the Assembly endorsed the Sendai Declaration and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 adopted by the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction from 14 to 18 March.  It also expressed its profound gratitude to the Government and the people of Japan for hosting the conference and for providing all the necessary support.

By the second text (document A/69/L.68), the Assembly decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental expert working group comprising experts nominated by States and supported by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, with the involvement of relevant stakeholders.  It aimed at developing a set of possible indicators to measure global progress in the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, coherent with the work of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators.

The work of the open-ended intergovernmental expert working group, according to the resolution, should be completed by December 2016 and its report submitted to the General Assembly for consideration.  Also by the text, the Assembly reiterated its strong encouragement of and the need for effective coordination and coherence among intergovernmental processes, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the post-2015 development agenda and other relevant processes, in order to build synergies.

Speaking after its adoption, the representative of Japan thanked General Assembly President Sam Kutesa (Uganda) for supporting his country.  He was also grateful for the participation of the more than 6,500 people at the conference, including at the level of Heads of State and Government, as well as that of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Stressing the importance of follow-up and review of the Framework and agenda, he said the international community’s support for Nepal following the earthquake was testament of its commitment to the Sendai Framework.

The representative of Peru stressed the importance of the establishment of the intergovernmental group and thanked Japan for the successful organization of the Sendai conference.  The sustainable development goals needed coherent and coordinated processes.  In that connection, the establishment of the intergovernmental group, though small, was an important step towards to the central goal of sustainable development.

The representative of the United States, thanking Japan for hosting the conference and providing leadership on the issue, reiterated her country’s disassociation with certain paragraphs of Sendai’s outcome texts, particularly concerning technology transfers.

The representative of El Salvador said his country, highly vulnerable to natural disasters, welcomed the impetus towards international cooperation on the matter.  Stressing also the importance of focusing on the direct and indirect economic costs of such disasters, he said United Nations agencies and funds needed to operationalize the Sendai Framework on the ground to build national capacities for effective local response.

The representative of Chile urged all countries to work on the follow-up of the Sendai Framework.

Introducing the draft resolution titled “Permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan” (document A/69/L.70), the representative of Turkmenistan said a General Assembly resolution in 1995 had laid the ground for work on the subject.  It was a matter of pride for her country to bring to light the path of neutrality and translate it into the practical arena of the country’s foreign policy.  The draft also provided an opportunity to foster greater understanding of how neutrality could support the broader cause of peace, security and development.

Adopting the text without a vote, the Assembly reiterated its support for the status of permanent neutrality declared by Turkmenistan and called once again on United Nations Member States to respect and support that status as well as the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.  It also welcomed the decision of the Government to declare 2015 the Year of Neutrality and Peace and to host an international conference on the theme “Policy of neutrality: international cooperation for peace, security and development”, in December 2015.

Introducing the draft resolution titled “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia” (document A/69/L.69), the representative of Georgia said that each vote in favour would send a powerful signal to the displaced people of the country, who amounted to about 10 per cent of the population.

He said Georgia sought to reaffirm from the high platform their right to voluntary return and property.  The text was not aimed at any party nor did it point fingers at those responsible for the displacement.  Rather, it was intended to affirm the rights of the displaced and the urgent need for action in that regard.  His Government remained committed to peace talks and to seeking a solution, leaving politics aside and focusing on the humanitarian dimension.

Through the text, the General Assembly would recognize the right of return of all internally displaced persons and refugees and their descendants and, in that context, it would underline the need for a timetable to ensure the safe and unhindered return of those affected by the conflicts in Georgia to their homes.  It would reaffirm the “unacceptability of forced demographic changes” and call on the participants in the Geneva discussions to intensify their efforts.  It also would underline the urgent need for unimpeded humanitarian access to all internally displaced persons, refugees and others residing in all conflict–affected areas throughout Georgia. 

The representative of Ukraine, speaking before the vote on behalf of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development (GUAM) — Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova — said support was growing for the text, which had been adopted annually by the Assembly since 2008.  Since the last adoption, the situation on the ground had deteriorated.  The text was an important tool to reaffirm international support for the Geneva discussions.  The issue of forced displacement had gained new and daunting dimensions as a result of aggression against Ukraine, and, as of now, the number of internally displaced persons in Ukraine stood at more than 1.2 million.   

The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, reiterated the countries’ firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, also underscoring its support for the resolution’s objectives.

The representative of the United Kingdom said his country looked forward to the draft’s adoption, which reaffirmed the inalienable rights of internally displaced persons and refugees.  That humanitarian issue should not be impeded by political issues or considerations, he said, stressing the importance of a strong message from the international community to the affected peoples and communities.  He urged the Russian Federation to cease activities that were a direct impediment to the return of those persons as well as a threat to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  It would be actions from the region, and not words in New York, that would achieve progress, he added.

The representative of Canada, similarly expressing its support for Georgia, said that his delegation viewed the so-called “partnership treaties” signed between the two Georgian regions and the Russian Federation as illegal.  He supported the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and its September 2008 Implementing Measures.  Further, he strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression in Crimea and eastern regions of Ukraine.

The representative of Sierra Leone said his country’s vote today was not against parties but one which affirmed that internally displaced persons were worthy of the international community’s concern.  He urged all delegations to consider the resolution in furtherance of the recognized norms of the Charter.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the initiative was politicized and opportunistic.  The Georgian side was using humanitarian principles to pursue its political agenda in defiance of the wishes of the peoples and regions concerned.  The return of internally displaced persons depended on security, which the policies of the Georgian Government had not advanced.  The Geneva discussions provided a forum to consider all dimensions of the issue, he said, stressing that Georgia had blocked the Geneva-based discussions on refugee returns.  The Russian Federation considered it pointless to discuss the issue in New York without the participation of the concerned populations.  As that approach was counter-productive, he called for a recorded vote and would oppose the text.

The resolution was then adopted by a recorded vote of 75 in favour to 16 against, with 78 abstentions.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Brazil said his country abstained because the text prejudged an issue that should be resolved by the parties concerned.  He urged all parties to seek a lasting solution to the issues of internally displaced persons and refugees in a spirit of cooperation.

The representative of Uruguay stressed the need for ensuring greater access of humanitarian personnel to the affected areas while upholding the principles of international humanitarian law.  He urged speedy discussions in Geneva to accelerate progress.  The delegation had abstained.

The representative of Israel said the Georgian Government’s strategy on internally displaced persons and refugees had borne positive results, adding that her Government did not support unilateral declarations of independence.

The representative of Georgia thanked the delegations that had voted in favour of the resolution, which was a vote to uphold the Charter’s principles.

Introducing the draft resolution titled “Development of an international legally-binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction”, the representative of Trinidad and Tobago said the text was the product of extensive consultations based on prior General Assembly resolutions. 

Lyutha S. Al-Mughairy (Oman), Vice-President of the Assembly, informed delegations that voting on the draft resolution had been postponed to allow further consideration of programme budget implications.

For information media. Not an official record.