7 September 2010

General Assembly Adopts Text Recognizing Right of Return of Internally Displaced Persons throughout Georgia, Including Abkhazia and South Ossetia

7 September 2010
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

General Assembly Adopts Text Recognizing Right of Return of Internally Displaced

Persons throughout Georgia, Including Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Assembly Also Adopts Resolution Extending until 1 January 2014

Transition Period for Samoa’s Graduation from Least Developed Country Status

By a vote of 50 in favour to 17 against, with 86 abstentions, the General Assembly today adopted 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, including in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Russian Federation introduced a motion for no-action on the text, but it was defeated by a vote of 67 against to 32 in favour, with 54 abstentions.

By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly reaffirmed the unacceptability of forced demographic changes and underlined the urgent need for unimpeded access for humanitarian activities to internally displaced persons and refugees in all conflict-affected areas in Georgia.

It also called on all participants in the Geneva discussions, which began in 2008, to intensify efforts to establish a durable peace, commit to enhanced confidence-building measures and to create favourable security conditions for the voluntary, safe and unhindered return of all internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes.

Speaking after adoption, Georgia’s delegate praised the Assembly for raising the hopes of all those in Georgia who had been forced by violence and fear to flee their homes.  Expressing his most sincere gratitude, he said today’s vote marked the third straight year the Assembly had invoked the norms of international law to defend internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their homes.  Each year, support was widening.

Acknowledging tensions that had arisen during the process, he said he understood that support for the text had not come easily, and at times, had little to do with substance, which made an affirmative vote even more noteworthy.  The Georgian Government would remain as determined as ever to bring dignity and relief to long-suffering compatriots.  It would continue to engage, including with those who had led the opposition to the resolution. He could only hope that in a year true progress would be made on the ground.

When he introduced the resolution earlier, he said that over the past 17 years, some 400,000 people of various ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural backgrounds — Armenian, Estonian, Georgian, Greek and Ukrainian, and among them, Christians, Muslims and Jews — had been driven from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.  Apart from their hope for help from the Assembly, all Georgia’s internally displaced persons and refugees had were fading photos and memories.  “We, as a community of States, must make a positive impact every time it is within our reach,” he said.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation explained his Government’s reasons for introducing a no-action motion, saying that the text had nothing to do with noble humanitarian aims.  Its motivations were exclusively political and based on short-term calculations by Georgia, which had not taken responsibility for the events of 7-8 August 2008.

He went on to say that the sponsors of the resolution refused to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as autonomous States.  The text’s provisions were unrealistic.  For example, the idea of a timetable for the early return of refugees and internally displaced persons did not take into account the Secretary-General’s report, which stated that it was premature to develop one.

Moreover, he said the text’s adoption would considerably harm discussions under way in Geneva, where parties were considering the status of internally displaced persons and refugees.  Indeed, it was the Geneva process in which Abkhazia and South Ossetian parties were taking part and it was the only way forward.  Adoption of the text would only detract from realistic, practical measures taking place in the region.  By refusing to consider such a confrontational initiative, the Assembly would do more for internally displaced persons and refugees than by voting for the proposed “odious” text.

In action on other matters, the Assembly, decided to extend by three years, until 1 January 2014, the transition period before Samoa graduated from least developed country status from 16 December 2010.  By a consensus resolution to that effect, introduced by Yemen’s representative, it underlined the exceptional nature of such a decision, taken in the context of the unique disruption caused by the Pacific Ocean tsunami of 29 September 2009.

Speaking after action, Samoa’s delegate, providing context, said that 29 September 2009 would be “forever etched in our national memory and conscience” as the fateful day when part of the country was demolished by the deadliest natural disaster in its recorded history.  One hundred forty three lives were taken, while over 500 families were displaced “in the wink of an eye”.  Suddenly, Samoa’s economic outlook appeared vulnerable, its future uncertain.

Recalling the Assembly’s 2007 decision to graduate Samoa from the least developed country status by December 2010, he said that a year into the transition period, Samoa was contracting severely, due to the global recession, and reeling from the tsunami, neither of which had been envisioned in 2007.  The imminent end to the transition period, coupled with massive rebuilding costs — 20 per cent of Samoa’s gross domestic product — had forced the country to request an extension.

With the adoption of the resolution, the Assembly had brought Samoa a “rainbow of hope”, he said, expressing particular thanks to Nepal’s representative, as Chair of the Least Developed Country Coordinating Bureau, Yemen’s representative, as Chair of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and to Samoa’s development partners who lent support when the country was most in need.

Finally, the General Assembly decided to add Venezuela to the membership of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Speaking after that decision, were the representatives of Cuba and Ecuador.

Speaking after action on the motion for no action were the representatives of Nicaragua, Belarus, United Kingdom and France.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote were the representatives of Switzerland, Lithuania, Estonia, Turkey and Czech Republic.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 September, to discuss the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

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