Delegations Object to Text’s Omission of Reference to Self-Determination for Countries, People under Colonial or Foreign Occupation
The General Assembly decided today that the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development — mandated to coordinate the follow-up to and review of global sustainable development commitments — would spend the next three years focusing on a range of specific themes and targets, ranging from eradicating poverty to building resilience to empowering communities.
While the Assembly adopted the draft resolution titled “Follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level” (document A/70/L.60) by consensus, significant discussion emerged about issues that delegates said had been omitted from the text — in particular, recognition of the inalienable right to self-determination for countries and peoples living under colonialism and foreign occupation.
By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly decided that the sequence of themes for each of the Forum’s four-year work cycles would reflect the integrated, indivisible and interlinked nature of the Sustainable Development Goals and the three dimensions of sustainable development, including cross-cutting and emerging issues, and would serve as the framework for reviewing all 17 Goals.
In that regard, the Assembly decided that the themes for the remainder of the Forum’s current cycle would be “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world” in 2017; “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” in 2018; and “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” in 2019.
The Assembly further decided that the Forum would discuss a set of Sustainable Development Goals and their interlinkages at each session representing the three dimensions of sustainable development, with a view to facilitating an in-depth review of progress made on all the Goals over the course of a four-year cycle, and that the sets of Goals to be reviewed in depth for the remainder of the current cycle would be Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14 in 2017; Goals 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15 in 2018; and Goals 4, 8, 10, 13 and 16 in 2019.
By other terms of the resolution, the Assembly decided that the Economic and Social Council — under whose auspices the Forum was held — would ensure the alignment of its annual main themes with those of the Forum in order to foster coherence.
Taking note of the Secretary-General’s report on critical milestones towards the agenda’s coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review (document A/70/684), the Assembly decided to convene the biennial Development Cooperation Forum prior to the High-Level Political Forum, and invited the Economic and Social Council to consider timing its engagement with various intergovernmental bodies in order to support their contribution to the Forum.
Also by the text, the Assembly requested that the President of the Economic and Social Council jointly convene that body’s high-level segment and the Forum’s three-day ministerial segment in order to avoid duplication, enhance efficiency and strengthen complementarity and synergy. It also decided that the Forum would have only one negotiated political declaration, covering the different and complementary functions of both sessions when the Forum was convened twice in the same year.
Prior to the action, Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark) described the resolution as a step towards ensuring that implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was off to the best possible start. While it was regrettable that technical discussions had at times veered towards a renegotiation of issues decided in September 2015 with the Agenda’s adoption, Assembly resolution 70/1, together with other resolutions, provided the context for the current text, he reminded delegates. Through the 2030 Agenda, world leaders had agreed on a universal agenda to be met by all nations and peoples and all segments of society.
In adopting the Agenda, he continued, States had decided that the goals and targets must be integrated and indivisible, balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development. They had also addressed a wide range of other issues including, in paragraph 35 of the Agenda, the issue of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, and in paragraph 74, principles relating to the follow-up and review processes. Expressing hope that a spirit of consensus would prevail in the Assembly today, he said it would help to preserve the universal ownership of the 2030 Agenda and sustain global efforts to transform the world for the better.
Mexico’s representative, speaking in explanation of position before the action, said his delegation had joined others in endorsing the 2030 Agenda and committed to action towards its implementation. However, Mexico was concerned that operative paragraph 5 of today’s draft resolution, outlining the various Sustainable Development Goals to be reviewed by the Forum, could hinder the indivisibility of the 2030 Agenda because it fragmented the follow-up process and gave de facto priority to implementation of some Goals over others.
Following the text’s adoption, Thailand’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed deep disappointment that the principle of self-determination of countries and peoples living under colonialism and foreign occupation had been omitted. Underscoring the Group’s commitment to that principle as an anchor of the United Nations, he noted that even a benign reference to the right to self-determination, as proposed by the Group, had been rejected. While the resolution made no explicit reference to the issue, paragraph 35 of the 2030 Agenda was nonetheless validated in the text’s reaffirmation of the 2030 Agenda itself. Cautioning that the Group’s flexibility on the issue could not be used as a pretext to adopt a new methodology for future negotiations, he expressed hope that all Member States would engage in future discussions with an open mind in order to leave no one behind.
Belgium’s representative, speaking for the European Union, said that while the bloc had shown significant flexibility and good faith in the negotiation process, that approach had not always been reciprocated by other parties. The European Union had joined the consensus on the present resolution but wished to register reservations concerning operative paragraph 9, which the bloc believed must be implemented in accordance with Assembly resolution 67/290, and which could not constitute a precedent in any way. Turning to operative paragraph 4, he reiterated that every single Sustainable Development Goal was of equal importance, emphasizing that the relevant provisions of the 2030 Agenda were still valid and the present resolution did not modify them.
Jordan’s representative, speaking for the Group of Arab States, said that while the Group had joined the consensus, it was disappointed that fundamental principles underscored by the 2030 Agenda — especially in paragraph 35 on the right to self-determination — were absent from the resolution. That principle was directly linked to sustainable development and to human rights, he said, emphasizing the need to avoid double standards in applying Agenda.
Ecuador’s representative, also associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed regret that the reference to countries and peoples living under colonialism and foreign occupation had been omitted from the resolution due to the opposition of a few delegations. Operative paragraph 11 of the text implicitly included those countries and peoples, he said, voicing further concern that a few countries remained systematically opposed to including well-established language on such clear and historic principles.
Cuba’s representative also associated herself with the Group of 77 and China, saying her delegation was displeased with the growing trend of imposing particular criteria on Member States during negotiations. Calling for a return to traditional negotiations without such impositions, she also warned against time limits and deadlines, stressing that resolutions should be drafted wisely and without haste.
Venezuela’s representative, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the 2030 Agenda was a universal plan based on solidarity, justice, equity, social inclusion, human rights and participation by citizens. However, it was necessary to guarantee that the sensitivities of all countries — especially developing countries — were reflected in all relevant resolutions.
Nicaragua’s representative, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed regret that the negotiations had been deferred for months and that the text did not include issues important to developing countries. All States — large and powerful ones as well as small developing ones — had the same rights. Rejecting the trend of impositions by negotiation facilitators, she warned that such impositions would not help to eradicate world poverty or implement the 2030 Agenda. In particular, the present resolution did not take into account the rights of countries and peoples living under colonialism and foreign occupation. Joining the consensus did not mean that Nicaragua agreed with such an omission, which could not constitute a precedent for the future work of the United Nations, she stressed.
For his part, Japan’s representative expressed regret over the “unfortunate turn of events” in the negotiations, but voiced confidence that the international community could nevertheless move forward with implementation of the 2030 Agenda. She cautioned that agreeing to address several of the Sustainable Development Goals each year should not lead to a narrow or silo approach, and that duplication of efforts between the Financing for Development Forum and the High-Level Political Forum should be kept to a minimum. Underlining that nothing in the resolution altered what had been agreed in the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, she declared: “We have no more time to spend on reopening or renegotiating what we have already agreed.”
Sudan’s representative, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China as well as the Arab Group, underscored the need for a comprehensive, transparent and robust system of follow-up and review that would help Member States realize the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. Emphasizing the voluntary nature of such a process, he said States must be able to direct their own sustainable development processes while taking into account the cultural specificities of their people. Recalling that the 2030 Agenda pledged to leave no one behind and to pay special attention to the needs of countries in special situations, he said that applied to countries living under colonialism and foreign occupation, something left out of the resolution without any justification. Indeed, the right to self-determination was among the basic tenets of the United Nations.
Bolivia’s representative, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed the need to remove all obstacles to sustainable development, including barriers to the right to self-determination. She also expressed regret that the resolution omitted a reference to the right of all people to development.
Algeria’s representative, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, also expressed regret, deploring the omission of the right to self-determination for countries and peoples living under colonialism and foreign occupation. Describing occupation as the worst form of human rights violation, he said the right to self-determination was clearly enshrined in the United Nations Charter and many global conventions, and the peoples of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories legitimately expected to exercise that right. Indeed, it was deplorable to hear voices raised against the principle of self-determination in the twenty-first century. The manner in which the present resolution had been adopted — namely, the flexibility on the part of the Group of 77 and China — should not constitute a precedent for future intergovernmental work at the United Nations, he stressed.
The representative of the United States noted her delegation’s disappointment with the way in which the final stages of the negotiation process had unfolded, and expressed hope that such a situation would not repeat itself. It was to be hoped that a return to collegiality would prevail.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.