Fifty-sixth General Assembly
11 SEPTEMBER ATTACKS FAILED TO DEFLECT ASSEMBLY FROM PURSUIT OF GLOBAL PEACE,
SAYS PRESIDENT OF FIFTY-SIXTH SESSION
In his closing statement, Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea said the terrorist attacks of 11 September on the host country had created unexpected constraints that had not deterred the Assembly from pursuing common goals of global peace and progress. He recalled the five-day plenary debate on terrorism and the two-day meeting on the Dialogue among Civilizations which was the culmination of the Year, the promotion of inter-cultural exchange carrying particular significance in light of events.
Combating terrorism had been considered as the highest priority, he continued, citing the Assembly’s swift adoption of a strong resolution following the 11 September events and progress on strengthening the legal framework against international terrorism in the Sixth Committee (Legal). Yet major advances had also been made in implementing the historic Millennium Declaration of a year ago because of the Secretary-General’s “road map” report. The 11 September attacks had also impacted on issues of disarmament and international security. It had spurred delegates to make the world safer with measures to control nuclear proliferation and prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists.
On the economic and social fronts, he said the Assembly had focused on the fight against terrorism and on addressing the world economy’s move towards global recession. Noting that sustainable development would be addressed comprehensively at the summit in Johannesburg next year, he encouraged Member States to participate at the highest level. The Assembly had also focused on strengthening humanitarian coordination to evolve in the changing humanitarian environment. An increase in natural disasters called for enhancement of national and regional capacities for disaster preparedness and response.
He added that the situation in Afghanistan had seen a turning point this year, after the issue had been on the agenda since 1980. In light of a rapidly changing scene, the Assembly and the Security Council had taken coordinated measures to restore peace and security and to reconstruct the war-ravaged country, responding promptly to the massive needs for humanitarian assistance.
In general, he noted the Assembly's growing recognition of the critical contribution made by non-governmental organizations and civil society in finding solutions to challenges in the economic, social and related fields. He said the global women's movement had long been a driving force in United Nations efforts to promote women’s equality and empowerment. Multi-stakeholder participation had become established practice in areas such as health and children, as well as information and communication technology for development. Good progress had been made in forging global partnerships.
Noting with gratification the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations and its Secretary-General, he said it was both a recognition of achievements and a summons to move forward with renewed energy and dedication. Every member of the United Nations "family" shared both the honour and the responsibility. All in all, the 100 days since the terrorist attacks of 11 September had proved that even the most universal human values could not be taken for granted, and that only the vigilance of a global community could address those threats.
The terrorist attacks against the United States on 11 September informed the work of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), as it grappled with that profound and unequivocal global security challenge and added yet another complex dimension to the already fragile regional stability in certain parts of the world. Throughout the session, and reflected in the Committee’s 51 draft texts, were calls for a new security paradigm that took into account the insecurity and instability emanating from that event. Delegations urged the two major nuclear Powers to scale down their nuclear arsenals and all States to adhere, without delay or conditions, to the Conventions banning the production and use of chemical and biological weapons.
The impact of the attacks of 11 September on the already slowing global economy provided the backdrop for discussions in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this session. As chronic underdevelopment and poverty were sometimes a breeding ground for extremism, it was crucial, now more than ever, to step up development efforts. In addition to addressing issues such as poverty reduction, environment, trade and development assistance, the session was also devoted to building momentum for two major upcoming international gatherings in 2002 -– the International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The events of 11 September also cast a long shadow over the work of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). One consequence was the postponement of the special session on children to next May. During a week-long segment devoted to panel discussions on human rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was clear the attacks had redefined international priorities. Throughout the eight weeks of the Committee's work in which 72 resolutions were approved, 16 by recorded vote, there were repeated calls for addressing the root causes that sparked social ills and threatened human security. The situation in Afghanistan came into central focus, as did the human rights problems of populations already at risk, including migrants and asylum seekers.
Discussions of the Middle East in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) reflected deep concern over the escalating violence that had begun in September 2000. Drafts on the Israeli practices that had led to more than 700 Palestinian deaths were among the 24 resolutions and three decisions the Committee approved. On peacekeeping, a closer partnership between the United Nations and troop contributors was called for, along with better rapid reaction capability and comprehensive strategies for conflicts. The situation in the Western Sahara was addressed among other decolonization issues. On information questions, the outreach activities of the Department of Public Information (DPI) were emphasized in light of DPI’s rapid response to the crisis of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the host country.
The main achievement of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this year has been the adoption of the Organization's $2.63 billion budget for the 2002-2003 biennium. Out of this amount, the United Nations will finance most of its core activities other than peacekeeping missions for the next two years. The work on the budget took place in the context of an improved financial situation of the Organization. With more Member States making payments of their dues, United Nations unpaid assessments were down; cash was up; and debt to Member States had been drastically reduced.
Also high on the Fifth Committee's agenda were peacekeeping financing; safety and security of United Nations personnel; measures to encourage timely payment of Member States assessed contributions; and oversight activities. During the session, the Committee also made recommendations on the financing of five peacekeeping missions, as well as the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) approved 21 decisions and resolutions, including one on establishing an ad hoc committee to study the elaboration of an international convention against the reproductive cloning of humans. The 11 September attacks added urgency to the debate on combating international terrorism, and substantial progress was made on a comprehensive convention. The Assembly’s ad hoc committee on the issue would continue discussions in January. The Committee also took note of the International Law Commission’s accomplishment, after 40 years of work, on elaborating 59 articles on State responsibility for internationally wrongful acts. Finally, by one of two resolutions on the work of the Special Committee on the Charter, the Committee urged the Security Council to establish a mechanism for consulting with third States affected by sanctions.
Summary of plenary and Committee action follow.
As a result of the 11 September attacks on the United States, the problem of international terrorism dominated the Assembly’s debates. On 12 September, the Assembly unanimously adopted the session’s first resolution, strongly condemning the heinous acts of terrorism. Speakers stressed that the attack on the host country was also an attack on the values of the United Nations, and that terrorism should not be associated with any religion or culture.
As a consequence of the attack, the Assembly decided to consider measures to eliminate international terrorism, a Sixth Committee (Legal) item, directly in plenary. Prior to the week-long debate, on 5 October, the Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, addressed the Assembly, which then heard from 168 representatives and observers, the largest number of speakers ever to address one agenda item. Speakers stressed that, apart from such short-term measures as the speedy conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention on the elimination of terrorism, a long-term strategy was needed addressing such root causes as poverty, foreign occupation and injustice.
During the general debate -- postponed from the beginning of the session to mid-November because of the attack -- the issue of terrorism was again raised by many of the 188 speakers, including 41 heads of State and government, two vice-presidents, nine deputy prime ministers and 96 ministers for foreign affairs. Other issues addressed were: the impact of the economic slowdown on developing countries, including the continuing lack of full access to markets of developed countries for products from developing countries; declining official development assistance; unsustainable debt levels; and the threat of HIV/AIDS. The situations in Africa and Afghanistan were also highlighted.
Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, speakers expressed the strong hope that the country would now set up a broad-based, gender-sensitive, multi-ethnic and fully representative government. Establishing the Interim Authority was the first step in a process aimed at ushering in a new era of peace and security free from terrorism and drugs. However, it would take an enormous effort and many years to rehabilitate the socio-economic structures of the country.
Africa was the poorest continent of the world, and one fifth of its population was living in conflict situations, speakers said during several debates on Africa. Colonialism had kept the continent economically impoverished and shortcomings in international trading and finance had then barred it from realizing its own potential. Economic growth would lead to peace and sustainable development. By adopting the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, formerly known as the New African Initiative, democracy would be strengthened, a human rights culture entrenched, existing conflicts ended and corruption dealt with. That initiative deserved the full support of the international community, speakers emphasized.
The Assembly also celebrated the fact that the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded both to the United Nations and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Assembly's President said the international community should view the award not just as recognition of past achievement, but as a beacon illuminating the way forward for the United Nations as it rose to confront new challenges. The Secretary-General said that at the Millennium Summit a year ago, heads of State had committed themselves to the values of a better world. Now, the Nobel Committee had proclaimed that the only way to that better world lay through the United Nations.
If the Millennium Declaration, adopted at the end of the Millennium Summit last year, were not to become another waste paper lying buried in the archives, it would have to be implemented in all sincerity and entirety, the Assembly was told during its consideration of follow-up to that Summit. The follow-up fell far short of the goals set in the Declaration. The Secretary-General's report on the subject, called the "road map", contained numerous observations, recommendations and suggestions on such issues as peace and security, development and poverty eradication, environmental degradation, human rights, protecting the vulnerable, the special needs of Africa and strengthening the United Nations.
Two days of high-level meetings on a dialogue among civilizations was the culmination to the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations that had been an Iranian initiative. The outcome was the adoption of a global agenda and programme of action to advance such goals as inclusiveness, equity, equality, justice and tolerance, as well as to promote rights and freedoms along with understanding of common ethical standards. By the resolution adopted, States and the United Nations system agreed to concretely promote the dialogue by facilitating interaction and exchanges in such fields as art, sports, science and culture, in such forums as competitions, festivals and visits.
On 20 December, the Assembly's Tenth Special Emergency Session held its fifteenth meeting to consider "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory" as a consequence of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, during which it adopted two resolutions. The first resolution demanded the immediate cessation of violence and called for implementation of the previously agreed recommendations in the Mitchell report and a monitoring mechanism to oversee a ceasefire. The second resolution reiterated the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied Territories with regard to protecting civilians.
The Assembly elected Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico and Syria to serve as non-permanent members of the Security Council for a two-year term, commencing on 1 January 2002, filling the seats vacated by Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine. It also elected Australia, Bhutan, Burundi, Chile, China, El Salvador, Finland, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Libya, Qatar, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe as members of the Economic and Social Council for a three-year term, commencing on 1 January 2002.
The Assembly, acting concurrently with the Security Council, elected Nabil Elaraby of Egypt to fill a vacancy on the International Court of Justice. It re-elected Klaus Toepfer to a second four-year term as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Assembly also elected 29 members to the Governing Council of UNEP for four-year terms beginning 1 January 2002, and 34 members to the International Law Commission for a period of five years beginning on 1 January 2002.
By the time of its recess, the fifty-sixth session had considered 143 items out of a total of 177 agenda items, and had adopted more than 280 resolutions.
The President of the fifty-sixth session is Han Seung-soo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. The 21 Vice-Presidents of the Assembly are: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and South Africa (Group of African States); Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and Saudi Arabia (Asian States); Republic of Moldova (Eastern European States); Guatemala, Nicaragua and Paraguay (Latin American and Caribbean States); Greece and Malta (Western European and Other States); as well as the five permanent members of the Security Council -- China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States.
The 11 September attacks against the United States brought a new urgency to the work of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), as it grappled with the implications of such a strike being carried out using nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.
Throughout the general debate, which began on 8 October, Committee members called for a new security paradigm that took into account the insecurity and instability emanating from that event. In that context, many urged the two major nuclear Powers to achieve further drastic cuts in their nuclear arsenals, and all States to adhere, without delay or conditions, to the Conventions banning the production, stockpiling and use of chemical and biological weapons.
Members also called for a fundamental review of strategic doctrines and military postures, as well as practical measures, for preventing the acquisition of mass destruction weapons by terrorists. Warnings were expressed about the potentially destabilizing effects to deterrence of the introduction of anti-ballistic missile systems, particularly in South Asia, with speakers pointing out that escalating asymmetry there and elsewhere with respect to the build-up of conventional arms was a recipe for generating ambitions of domination and military conquest.
Indeed, the events of 11 September and their significant impact on the tone and content of the debate were reflected in several of the 49 texts eventually adopted by the General Assembly. One text, submitted and then revised by Committee Chairman André Erdös (Hungary) in an effort to achieve consensus, emphasized the need for progress in disarmament and non-proliferation to help maintain international peace and security and contribute to global efforts against terrorism.
Another resolution, highlighting the danger of the use of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, in terrorist acts and the urgent need for concerted international efforts to control and overcome it, had the Assembly recognize that the time was now opportune for all the nuclear-weapon States to take effective disarmament measures with a view to eliminating those weapons.
Entitled "a path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons", another text called on all States to maintain the highest possible standards of security, safe custody, effective control and physical protection of all materials that could contribute to the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in order to prevent those materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.
A resolution on reducing nuclear dangers called for a review of nuclear doctrines and immediate and urgent steps to reduce the risks of unintentional and accidental use of nuclear weapons. Still another reiterated its request to the Conference on Disarmament, the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament, to commence negotiations on an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Hope was expressed for the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear tests in all environments. Opened for signature five years ago, the Treaty awaits ratification by 31 States critical to its successful operation.
Conventional disarmament was another central theme of the debate, with many delegates insisting on more decisive action, particularly with respect to the scourge of small arms. Overwhelming support was expressed for the convening last July of the 2001 global small arms Conference. But, several speakers expressed the hope that the events of 11 September would tilt the balance towards incorporating certain vital elements into the outcome document, namely, the private possession of those weapons and their transfer to non-State actors.
The Chairman of the Committee is André Erdös (Hungary). Vice-Chairmen are Lee Kie-cheon (Republic of Korea), Milos Alcalay (Venezuela) and Stéphane De Loecker (Belgium). Sylvester Rowe (Sierra Leone) is Rapporteur.
Through its work on poverty reduction and promotion of sustainable development, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) could make a useful contribution in response to the challenges posed by the attacks of 11 September, said Belgium’s representative on the first day of the Committee’s general debate. Speaking for the European Union, he said that chronic underdevelopment and poverty were sometimes a breeding ground for extremism. A deficient educational system and an oppressive political climate could all give rise to fanaticism.
The effects of the attacks on sustainable development and on the global economy permeated discussions throughout the session. The Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, said the impact of the attacks would depend on its effects on consumer confidence and capital flows between countries. However, there were indications that the economy was already slowing down prior to 11 September. Delegates stressed the importance of continuing development assistance and sustainable development efforts despite the economic downturn.
Reform of the multilateral trading system was again a source of much discussion. A number of barriers still hindered the exports of developing countries, noted Brazil’s representative. In the agricultural sector, developed countries were allowed to subsidize their products, generating unfair conditions in areas in which developing countries were competitive. Delegates stressed the need for a multilateral trading system that was more open, equitable and non-discriminatory. Many called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to remove policies that constrain developing country exports.
A number of meetings were dedicated to the environment and sustainable development. A World Bank representative told the Committee that a combination of resource depletion and pollution growth placed sustainable development at risk in many of the poorest countries. The promotion of renewable energy resources in developing countries was seen by many delegations as crucial for reversing that environmental degradation. In that regard, the World Summit for Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to
4 September 2002, should develop concrete policies and the political will to meet those environmental challenges.
Discussions also focused on building momentum for the Financing for Development Conference to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, from 18 to 22 March 2002. Delegates called attention to the decline in official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment over recent years. There remained gaps and contradictions between development rhetoric and the actual thrust of international development cooperation, said the representative of Malaysia. There was a need for a new consensus on the mobilization of resources, and the adoption of measures to implement that goal could provide substantial impetus in achieving sustainable development.
The evolution of science and information technology was seen as a major factor in bridging the development gap between North and South. Iran’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the immense potential of technology must be harnessed to avoid further marginalizing developing countries. He urged the United Nations to focus its work on building domestic technologies to promote the competitiveness of developing countries. To address those issues, the Committee decided this session to support the holding of a World Summit on the Information Society, to be held in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003, and in Tunis in 2005.
Two of the more than 30 resolutions approved by the Committee this session were by a recorded vote. By a vote of 131 in favour to 3 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, United States), and 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Nicaragua), the Committee approved a resolution which would have the Assembly recognize the right of the Palestinian people to claim restitution as a result of any exploitation, loss or depletion of or danger to their natural resources. By a vote of 74 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 47 abstaining, the Committee also approved a text which would have the Assembly urge the international community to adopt urgent steps to eliminate the use of unilateral economic measures not authorized by relevant organs of the United Nations or inconsistent with the principles of international law.
Among the new proposals of the Committee this year was a recommendation to the Assembly to provide the Office of the President of the Economic and Social Council with the means to carry out the Council’s important functions. Also, the Committee recommended the establishment of an Office of the High Representative for Least Developed, Landlocked and Small Island Developing States. In addition, it approved transforming the Commission on Human Settlements and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) into the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, to be known as UN-Habitat.
The Second Committee’s officers were: Chairman, Francisco Seixas da Costa (Portugal); Vice-Chairmen, Dharmansjah Djumala (Indonesia), Garfield Barnwell (Guyana) and Felix Mbayu (Cameroon); Rapporteur, Jana Simonova (Czech Republic).
From the very opening of this year’s session through spirited debate on the protection of refugees to the final hours, when delegates were deliberating a resolution on terrorism, the events of 11 September cast a long shadow over the work of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural). During a week-long segment devoted to panel discussions with international observers and human rights experts, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson noted it was clear the shocking terrorist attacks on the United States had redefined international priorities and could seriously affect human interaction for perhaps years to come.
Throughout the eight-week session, delegations repeatedly emphasized the need for global actors to address the root causes that sparked or exacerbated numerous social ills -- including widespread poverty and underdevelopment, racism and intolerance, gender inequality and lack of access to basic education -- which threatened social progress and human security. Corruption, transnational organized crime and money laundering were also identified as formidable problems that not only undermined public trust, but also financed a variety of international scourges, terrorism among them.
Ultimately, the Committee approved 72 resolutions, among them, texts on specific countries, as well as on the right to development, globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights, advancement of women, and the rights of disabled persons. Sixteen of the drafts were approved by recorded vote, including the text on terrorism. Under that draft, approved by a vote of 84 in favour to none against, with 64 abstaining, the Assembly, among other things, urged all States to deny safe haven to terrorists.
The horror of the events of 11 September had placed terrorism high on the international agenda, and efforts to identify perpetrators and causes had brought Afghanistan into central focus. During a panel discussion with top officials from the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), delegations were told that just one week before the attacks, the Commission on Crime Prevention had reached broad consensus on an action plan on terrorism. Meanwhile, the terrorism branch of the Centre for International Crime Prevention -- the United Nations body most qualified to deal with the issue -– remained underfunded and understaffed, they said.
The events of 11 September had also directed international attention to the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. This was reflected in the resolution adopted by the Committee. The text, which was approved without a vote, called upon all Afghan parties to respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms, without discrimination of any ground, including of gender, ethnicity or religion, in accordance with international law.
The terrorist attacks also created serious human rights problems for populations that were already severely at risk – namely, refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons. A representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told Committee members that their perilous situation had been exacerbated since the terrorist attacks. Migrants were bearing a disproportionate share of the reaction to the events of
11 September, he said. Responding to the situation, the Committee approved, without a vote, a resolution on the protection of migrants, in particular unaccompanied migrant children.
Efforts to help the world's children were delayed –- another casualty of
11 September. In another example of the unique circumstances surrounding the session, the Assembly was forced to postpone its special session on children, which was initially scheduled for 19-21 September. It was rescheduled for May of 2002. Delegations called for broad support of that event and several other upcoming meetings and United Nations conferences, particularly the Second World Assembly on Ageing, scheduled to be held from 8 to 12 April in Madrid, Spain. Along these lines, the Committee approved two resolutions and two draft decisions, all without votes. Among them was one on the United Nations Trust Fund for Ageing, and another on Follow-up on the International Year of Older Persons. The two decisions solidified preparations for Madrid by endorsing arrangements for non-governmental organization (NGO) participation, and outlining the provisional rules of procedure for that conference.
The Bureau for the Third Committee's 2001 session included Chairman Fuad Mubarak Al-Hinai (Oman); and Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez of El Salvador, Carina Martensson of Sweden and Yehia Oda of Egypt as its Vice-Chairmen. Juraj Priputen of Slovakia was the Committee's Rapporteur.
Discussions of Middle East-related issues in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) reflected deep concern over the escalating violence, as the renewed fighting that began between Israelis and Palestinians in September 2000 showed few signs of diminishing.
Following a heated general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, the Committee approved five related draft resolutions, including one recommending that the General Assembly condemn the excessive use of force that had resulted in more than 700 Palestinian deaths. Several delegations, explaining their abstention from the vote, said the text singled out only one party, while both sides had a responsibility to end the violence.
The drafts on Israeli practices were among a total of 24 draft resolutions and three draft decisions approved by the Fourth Committee. Besides Israeli practices, the Committee also considered questions of Palestine refugee relief; peacekeeping; decolonization; information; effects of atomic radiation; and the peaceful uses of outer space. The Committee deferred action on a peacekeeping draft.
As the Committee considered the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), many speakers criticized Israel's economic blockade of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as its restrictions on free movement by Palestinians and Agency personnel. The delegates said such policies exacerbated UNRWA's chronically dire financial situation and hindered its already strained capacity to alleviate the plight of Palestinian refugees. Israel defended the restrictions, citing its wider security concerns.
The Committee's discussion of peacekeeping issues was dominated by calls for a more meaningful partnership between United Nations organs and troop-contributing countries; the need to improve United Nations rapid reaction capability; and the urgency of formulating a comprehensive strategy for conflicts. One speaker said a handful of Security Council members continued to block the will of the majority on proposals made by troop contributors.
As the Committee took up decolonization issues, two different approaches marked the debate over the best way to resolve the Western Sahara question. Most speakers underlined that both Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) had agreed on the existing Settlement Plan for Western Sahara, pointing out that it enjoyed widespread international support. Algeria's delegate described the recently proposed alternative draft framework agreement as an effort to initiate a parallel track, saying it was in reality a programmed integration of Western Sahara into the territory of the occupying Power.
On the other hand, some countries agreed with Morocco that the draft framework agreement was a means to reconcile that country's sovereignty issues with the Saharawi people's right to manage their own affairs through the election of democratic institutions. Morocco's delegate said the Settlement Plan was inapplicable, as the parties could not agree on a list of voters for a self-determination referendum.
The Committee's consideration of information questions put the focus on the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, as Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), made an opening statement. He said the Organization's extensive outreach activities following the atrocities should reassure Member States of DPI's ability to respond rapidly to a crisis situation. Other issues highlighted during the discussion included media coverage of the terrorist attacks; the developing world's right to the benefits of advances in information and communications technology; the pilot project for an international United Nations radio broadcast capacity; the importance of traditional media and United Nations information centres; and the need for parity among the six official United Nations languages.
The Fourth Committee's officers are: Chairman Hasmy Agam (Malaysia); Vice-Chairs Alexandrina Livi Rusu (Romania), Cristián Streeter (Chile), and Anna-Maija Korpi (Finland); and Rapporteur Graham Maitland (South Africa).
The major achievement of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this year was its adoption of the Organization's $2.63 billion budget for the biennium beginning on 1 January 2002. Out of this amount, the United Nations will finance most of its core activities other than peacekeeping missions for the next two years.
The estimate for income (other than that from staff assessment) amounts to $51.76 million, bringing the net expenditure for the biennium to an estimated $2.57 billion. The budget shows a reduction of the resources proposed by the Secretary-General in such areas as travel of staff ($2.8 million); contractual services ($6.4 million); general operating expenses ($19.7 million); supplies and materials ($1.4 million); and furniture and equipment ($7.2 million).
For the first time this year, the budget was presented on the basis of a results-oriented format, which was approved by the General Assembly a year ago. The work on the budget took place in the context of an improved financial situation of the Organization. Reporting to the Committee last October, Under-Secretary-General for Management Joseph E. Connor said that after several years in the red, financial stability was “close at hand” for the United Nations. The good news for 2001 was that Member States were expected to contribute more in assessed payments than ever before. Some $4.72 billion, which had already been paid or was expected in the next three months, far exceeded the $2.89 billion paid in 2000. Unpaid assessments were down; cash was up; and debt to Member States had been drastically reduced.
Many speakers welcomed the Organization’s brighter prospects after years of crisis, due to the payments from Member States, and in particular the major contributor, the United States. It was said to be particularly satisfying since many countries had assumed an added financial burden, following painstaking negotiations on the scale of assessments at the end of last year. (Under the newly revised scale, the United States’ regular rate went down from 25 to 22 per cent. This year, that country made payments to the United Nations amounting in October to $621 million.)
Another important aspect of the Committee's work during the past three months has been the question of financing for peacekeeping. In particular, the Committee took up the programme budget implications of the strategic plan, developed on the basis of a comprehensive review of United Nations peacekeeping undertaken on the recommendations of the so-called Brahimi Panel. To implement the proposed reorganization of current structures, which involves creation of new entities and strengthening the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Committee recommended approval of $1.58 million for the advancement of the United Nations peacekeeping activities and approved an additional 121 support account-funded posts.
Following the 11 September events, safety and security of staff were high on the Committee's agenda, when it took up the financial aspects of implementing General Assembly decisions on the matter. Many speakers in the debate pointed out that the attention and resources given by the Assembly to the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator last year were already paying dividends.
For 2002-2003, the Committee also recommended appropriation of gross amounts of $242.79 million for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; and $192.31 million for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. However, as a result of late submission of the courts' budget proposals, those amounts were appropriated on a provisional basis, pending further review at the resumed March session. The Tribunals' staffing was kept at the 2001 levels until appropriate requirements for 2002-2003 were determined at the resumed session.
Among other issues considered during this session were various aspects of internal oversight, with the Committee acting on the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit, the Board of Auditors and the Office of Internal Oversight Services. Also considered were such questions as the visitors' experience; the management of buildings; the Organization's commercial activities, the Development Account; information technology plan of action; and the use of private management consulting firms.
The Committee's Bureau consisted of its Chairman, Nana Effah-Apenteng (Ghana); its three Vice-Chairmen: Durga P. Bhatterai (Nepal), Oleksii V. Ivaschenko (Ukraine) and John Orr (Canada). Santiago Wins (Uruguay) was the Committee Rapporteur.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) recommended 21 decisions and resolutions to the General Assembly, among which was a proposal on the establishment of an ad hoc committee to study the elaboration of an international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings. The ad hoc committee will meet next February, and formal negotiations on the instrument, proposed by France and Germany, would begin once agreement was reached on a negotiating mandate.
The 11 September attacks against the United States added urgency to this year’s debate on measures to combat international terrorism. Substantial progress was made on a number of articles of a draft convention on international terrorism, and it was agreed to schedule further negotiations within the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism from 28 January to 1 February 2002. The Committee will also continue its discussions on a draft convention for the suppression of nuclear terrorism.
The Sixth Committee took note of a significant achievement of the International Law Commission -- its completion, after more than four decades, of work on State responsibility. The 59 draft articles on responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts are intended to have general application to the entire field of international law. The Law Commission’s productive fifty-third session this year also saw completion of work on the subject of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities, a portion of the international liability topic.
With ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court gathering pace, two sessions were scheduled -- from 8 to 19 April and from 1 to
12 July 2002 -- for the Preparatory Commission for the Court to complete the practical arrangements for the Court’s operation. The Court would come into being when 60 States ratify its Statute, and 47 have so far done so. It was recommended that the Secretary-General undertake preparations for the convening of the first meeting of States Parties to be held at Headquarters once the Statute enter into force.
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), which reports to the Sixth Committee, achieved a milestone with its completion and adoption of two instruments –- a draft Convention on the Assignment of Receivables in International Trade, and the United Nations Commission on International Law Model Law on Electronic Signatures. The Sixth Committee expressed appreciation for the texts and commended them to governments.
In one of two draft resolutions on the work of the Special Committee on the Charter, the Security Council was urged to consider establishing a mechanism or procedures for consulting with third States affected by United Nations sanctions.
The Chairman of the Sixth Committee is Pierre Lelong (Haiti). The Vice-Chairmen are: Siddig M. Abdalla (Sudan), Zsolt Hetesy (Hungary), and Alexander Marschik (Austria). Mahmoud M. Al-Naman (Saudi Arabia) was appointed Rapporteur, and Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) was elected as Chairman of the Working Group of the Sixth Committee on measures to eliminate terrorism.
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