Speakers Also Discuss Global Counter-terrorism Strategy, Pay Tribute to Former Assembly President John Ashe
The General Assembly today elected Italy to the Security Council for a two-year term from 1 January 2017, with that country’s representative saying it would cede its place to Netherlands after one year.
The Assembly also adopted a resolution setting out the format of a high-level plenary meeting on refugees and migrants that would be held on 19 September during its seventy-first session.
In other business, the Assembly began consideration of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressing concern that this year, “of all years”, might not see consensus among Member States on a resolution addressing that topic.
It also observed a minute of silence in tribute to the memory of John Ashe, President of the Assembly at its sixty-eighth session, who died on 22 June, after which speakers underscored his long international career and his commitment to sustainable development.
Completing the election of Security Council members for two-year terms that would begin on 1 January 2017, the Assembly, in an unrestricted ballot, elected Italy to fill a seat from the Western European and Other States Group.
A total of 192 ballots were cast, of which two were invalid. Six Member States abstained. Italy received 179 votes, the Netherlands four and San Marino one. The required two-thirds majority was 123.
Speaking after the vote, Italy’s representative recalled the agreement reached with the Netherlands, whereby his country would serve the first half of the two-year term, with the Netherlands serving the second half — an arrangement reached, he said, in a spirit of cooperation at a time when cohesion within the European Union was of great importance.
At its 28 June meeting, the Assembly elected Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden to two-year Council terms, but after five rounds of balloting, neither Italy nor the Netherlands obtained sufficient votes for a two-thirds majority.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a text on the high-level plenary meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants (document A/70/L.54) setting out the format of that event. By its terms, it would begin on 19 September in the General Assembly Hall with the adoption of an outcome document and statements from the President of the Assembly, the Secretary-General, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and members of the migrant and refugee community, among others.
The event would continue throughout the day with interactive multistakeholder round tables on such themes as the root causes of refugee movements, the drivers of migration and the positive contributions of migrants, the way ahead for international action and cooperation on refugees and migrants, responsibility-sharing for refugees and respect for international law, refugees and migrants in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the vulnerabilities faced by refugees and migrants en route to countries of arrival.
Also by the text, delegates would reconvene in the General Assembly Hall in the evening for the closing plenary meeting and remarks by the Secretary-General, by the terms of the resolution.
Beginning its consideration of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the Assembly heard Mr. Ban present his report on the activities of the United Nations system on its implementation (document A/70/826). He said he was “profoundly disappointed that this year — of all years — might be the one that does not see the adoption of a consensus resolution”. Recalling the terrorist attack at Istanbul airport, he said people the world over were looking to the United Nations to act with unity and resolve to address “this major scourge of our time”.
Stressing the need for a more systematic, preventive approach to address the drivers of violent extremism, he expressed concern about a growing drift in many countries and regions towards bigotry, anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia and outright racism — a trend that terrorist groups were exploiting to recruit followers.
While Member States bore primary responsibility for implementing the Global Strategy, the United Nations system stood ready to provide support, he said. However, apart from a generous contribution from Saudi Arabia, few new resources have been provided, even as demand had risen exponentially, he said, adding: “No amount of coordination by the United Nations can make an impact without sufficient resources.”
General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark) said the recent tragic events in Istanbul were a reminder of the threats posed by terrorism across the world. Such senseless killing had become all too frequent over the last few years, he said, noting that it demanded a response that was commensurate with the challenge and which focused on the both the short and long term. Through closer cooperation, the international community must redouble its efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, and the United Nations must become more legitimate and capable in responding to terrorism.
The year 2016 marked the tenth anniversary of the Strategy, which aimed at combating terrorism in a unified, inclusive and transparent manner, he said. He called on all Member States to commit to concrete action to keep that Strategy relevant and contemporary in light of emerging trends and new threats. In particular, he called on Member States not to allow their differences to prevent them from reaching a consensus on action to tackle such heinous acts. “We cannot allow ourselves to send a message of disunity to the world” in the face of such a grave challenge, he stressed.
Today’s meeting opened with a minute of silence for Mr. Ashe, with speakers offering condolences to his family and recalling his long international career, through which he served as Permanent Representative for Antigua and Barbuda from 1995 to 2004 and championed the cause of sustainable development.
Mr. Ban said Mr. Ashe had served in many important positions during his time in New York, including as chairman of negotiations during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. Among other things, he had co-chaired the bureau of the preparatory process for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as “Rio+20”, and he had been his group’s consensus candidate to serve as president of the General Assembly during the sixty-eighth session. His service during that challenging year had coincided with important strides made towards pursuing sustainable development and combating climate change.
Mr. Lykketoft said Mr. Ashe’s career had seen him embark on a journey from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to Rio+20 in 2012 and finally to the Summit to adopt the 2030 Agenda in 2015. He had been centrally involved in a range of multilateral processes, including chairing the Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), chairing the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and serving on the governing bodies of major United Nations funds and programmes. “His passion for progress on matters of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation was immense,” he said, adding that his drive to push for an ambitious post-2015 agenda had been critical.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda said Mr. Ashe had made significant contributions to his country and the Organization for more than three decades. Some said he was a “larger than life” individual, he said, recalling that he had transcended nations and worked on behalf of all. His leadership in many United Nations bodies showed courage and bravery as he demonstrated an appetite for change and reform, including working towards a new vision at the Rio+20 conference. His legacy had led to the seminal agreements that countries had signed in New York and Paris in 2015. Mr. Ashe had also been present at the unveiling of the memorial of the transatlantic slave trade. Coming from humble beginnings, he had proved that “it is not where you start, it is the race you run”.
Suriname’s delegate, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that Mr. Ashe had been known for his calm demeanour and determination. Often quoted as saying “no man is an island”, Mr. Ashe had, as President of the General Assembly, urged all stakeholders to work together to set the stage for the new universal agenda for sustainable development. Underscoring Mr. Ashe’s “truly remarkable” diplomatic track record, he noted that the late ambassador had been particularly involved in international efforts to address the adverse effects of climate change. Among other things, he had served as the first chair of the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol and chair of the Convention’s Subsidiary Body on Implementation.
The representative of Barbados, on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said Mr. Ashe’s passion for sustainable development undergirded much of the work he undertook at the United Nations. “We remember his commitment to the negotiation of a transformative and ambitious global development agenda — one that would protect our planet for future generations and create equity, justice and prosperity for all,” he said. In addition, he recalled Mr. Ashe’s dedication to the revitalization and reform of the United Nations, in particular to advancing progress on Security Council reform.
Also paying tribute to Mr. Ashe were the representatives of Bulgaria (on behalf of the Group of Eastern European States), Zambia (on behalf of the Group of African States), Japan (on behalf of the Group of Asia-Pacific States) and Norway (on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States).