The General Assembly, adopting six consensus resolutions today on issues ranging from preventing the trafficking of human organs to enhancing the participation of indigenous peoples in the United Nations work, also took up its own revitalization, committing to enhancing its role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency.
Following the adoption of the resolution — titled “revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” and contained in a report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly (document A/71/1007) — Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said the text contained a number of key developments, including provisions to better align its work agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals. It also called for changes to the Journal of the United Nations that would reflect the Organization’s commitment to multilingualism, as well as provisions on the need to enhance decorum during the high-level segment of the general debate.
“The process of revitalizing the work of the General Assembly is not an easy one, but it is a necessary task,” he said. “It is one that requires diligence, determination and an unwavering commitment to ensuring that the General Assembly can best fulfil its role of guiding the critical work of the United Nations.”
By the terms of the text, the organ also decided to establish, at its seventy-second session, an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of Work of the General Assembly, open to all Member States. The Group would identify further ways to enhance the Assembly’s role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency, and submit a report thereon at the organ’s seventy-second session. It further decided that, during that session, the Ad Hoc Working Group would begin considering the potential concept and scope of a code of conduct to guide the election campaigns by Member States, with a view to improving the standards of transparency, accountability and equity.
The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group following the adoption, recalled that several previous Assembly resolutions on revitalization had dramatically improved the transparency of the process of selecting the Secretary-General. The “next natural step” would be to solidify those achievements without delay, she said, expressing regret that today’s resolution had not been able to find consensual wording on the lessons learned during the new Secretary-General’s selection. Two broader issues remained to be thoroughly discussed in upcoming sessions, namely, that of the communication between the Security Council and the General Assembly, and the selection and appointment of senior officials.
The representative of Colombia said the text strengthened various previous elements while also presenting new ones. In particular, it highlighted the importance of accountability, transparency and inclusiveness. He also expressed regret that none of the incoming Chairs of the Assembly’s six main committees were women, a point with which Mr. Thomson voiced agreement.
The representative of Croatia, one of the Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group, recalled that the annual resolution had, in previous years, aimed to strengthen the accountability of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, including by introducing a new code of conduct to which Mr. Thomson had been the first to adhere. It had also focused on improving the Assembly’s working methods and the transparency of the process of selecting the Secretary-General.
By the terms of a resolution titled, “New Partnership for Africa’s Development: progress in implementation and international support” (document A/71/L.70/Rev.1) — introduced by the representative of Ecuador on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and adopted without a vote — the Assembly reaffirmed its support for the Partnership, as well as for the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Taking note of several recent international and regional agreements in that arena, it expressed concern about the adverse impact of continuing fragility and the slowdown of global growth and trade, including development, on the African continent. In that regard, it stressed the need to address systemic fragilities and imbalances and to reform and strengthen the international financial system.
Expressing further concern at Africa’s disproportionately low share of the volume of international trade and the increased debt burden of some its countries, as well as the reduction of bilateral official development assistance (ODA) to the continent, the Assembly called upon developing countries and those with economies in transition to continue to create a domestic environment conducive to encouraging entrepreneurship and attracting investments. It also called on developed States to devise source-country measures to encourage and facilitate the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) to African nations and urged the international community to continue to support efforts to address the challenges of poverty eradication, hunger and malnutrition and job creation and sustainable development in Africa, including through debt relief, improved market access and support for the private sector and entrepreneurship.
The representative of Ecuador, in his introduction, said the text highlighted the importance of ongoing progress in Africa in such areas as inclusive growth, poverty eradication, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability, in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 . It also acknowledged the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union.
Speaking in explanation of position following the adoption, the representative of Djibouti, on behalf of the African Group, recalled that the Assembly had deliberated on the present agenda item for the last 15 years, always adopting the resolution by consensus. It was of the utmost importance to Africa, including in the context of its implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and addressed the most critical challenges facing the continent. It also underlined the importance of addressing Africa’s special development needs and spotlighted the importance of improving the continent’s market access.
The representative of the United States underscored that the non-binding resolution did not create any new rights or obligations under international law. While supporting the Partnership’s overall mission, her country was concerned about the text’s references to trade, and disassociated itself from paragraph 48, references to “improved market access”, as well as paragraph 54 in which the United Nations opined on some Member States’ trade policies to others. References to multilateral institutions were confusing, as not all such bodies had trade policies. The United States further rejected any indication that the United Nations provided direction to multilateral institutions regarding trade policy. She also stressed that all measures aimed at developing Africa’s agricultural and industrial sectors must be in line with its international rules and obligations, and in the case of members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), also with its rules.
The United States further disassociated itself on all language related to climate change and the Paris Agreement, she continued. While her delegation recognized that as a complex global challenge, United States President Donald J. Trump had announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement while indicating his willingness to reengage on terms more favourable to the American people. Expressing concern about language related to “technology transfer”, she rejected all language that undermined intellectual property rights. In addition, references to the 2008 financial crisis were outdated and detracted from efforts to address Africa’s current challenges. Regarding paragraph 55, she said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Paris Club were the effective mechanisms for debt crisis management, and added that the term “illicit financial flows” in paragraph 68 still had no agreed international definition. In that context, countries should focus on addressing the corrupt practices that led to such money flows, while discussions on such topics were best left to technical and specialized bodies.
The representative of South Africa, associating himself with the African Group, said the continent “can and must shape its future” based on a new development paradigm. African countries had committed to bring about a new age of peace, security, stability, economic growth and sustainable development. Today’s resolution once again reflected the continued support of international community, in line with the bold agreements agreed in the recent two years.
The representative of the European Union said its member States had joined consensus with a number of substantive reservations. It was time to update its language regarding the state of the world economy, he said, adding that the resolution had been used by some as a vehicle to fight for language not relevant to the issue under discussion. He also said that the text, at 92 paragraphs, was far too long, and he questioned whether it needed to be considered every year.
The Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution titled, “enhancing the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of relevant United Nations bodies on issues affecting them” (document A/71/L.82), as orally amended. By its terms, the Assembly welcomed recent discussions on indigenous participation, and encouraged the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of indigenous peoples to continue to address the issue of indigenous participation. It further requested the Secretary-General to report, by the end of the Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session, on achievements, analysis and recommendations on ways to enable such participation.
Speaking after the adoption, the representative of Canada, also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said it was disappointing that, after nearly two years of consultations, no new category for indigenous participation at the United Nations had been established. It was important that the door remain open to enhancing indigenous participation, he said, welcoming also the expansion of the mandate of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples.
The representative of China, speaking on behalf of a group of like-minded States, said the resolution underlined the importance of continuing discussions on enhancing the participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations meetings on issues that affected them. While there had been appreciable convergence on several topics during the consultations thus far, it was not surprising that significant divergence still existed overall. There remained no international definition of the term “indigenous peoples”, he said, adding that their situation varied from country to country and that ethnic minorities should be distinguished from indigenous peoples. All relevant discussions must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States. In addition, he said, operative paragraph 4 was only applicable to existing arrangements within the Organization, and should be read in conjunction with operative paragraph 7. Indeed, the text should not be misinterpreted as introducing the establishment of new mechanisms.
The representative of Ghana, on behalf of the Co-Advisers to the President of the General Assembly, emphasized the need to continue dialogue on the appropriate means of indigenous peoples’ participation in the Organization’s work. The Co-Advisers hoped that the spirit of compromise and good faith that led to the resolution’s adoption would be reflected in its implementation.
The representative of Bolivia, welcoming the resolution’s adoption by consensus, said his country, which, in 2006, had elected its first President of indigenous origin, would continue to dismantle colonial practices and promote the rights of indigenous peoples at the national and international levels.
The representative of Mexico said the participation of indigenous peoples enriched the work of the United Nations. However, his delegation regretted that Latin America was under-represented in the process that led to the resolution’s adoption. It also regretted that Member States had not agreed to approve a new category of participation of indigenous peoples during the current session.
The representative of Ecuador emphasized the importance of improved, effective participation of indigenous peoples in the United Nations system. Those peoples were not non-governmental organizations, he said, noting that their life experiences and knowledge needed to be heard in a way that did not undermine the Organization’s intergovernmental nature.
The representative of Viet Nam said her country attached great importance to intergovernmental consultations and the role of consultations in bringing countries closer to common ground. Intergovernmental processes must be upheld, she added.
The representative of India said it was clear during consultations that there was no internationally agreed definition of “indigenous peoples”. That concept could not be expanded arbitrarily to include societies where diverse ethnic groups had lived together for thousands of years. India understood that the current process applied only to those States that recognized indigenous peoples as distinct from others residing there.
The representative of Bangladesh, noting that his country did not join the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said consultations on the participation of those peoples must remain inter-governmental. He added that in the absence of an agreed definition of “indigenous peoples”, a creative solution was needed to address the question of their enhanced participation.
The Assembly then turned to a resolution titled, “strengthening and promoting effective measures and international cooperation on organ donation and transplantation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs” (document A/71/L.80), which was introduced by the representative of Spain and adopted without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly urged Member States to prevent and combat such trafficking, in line with their obligations under international and national law, and to uphold accountability through measures in that regard. It urged them to strengthen legislative frameworks, adopt laws necessary to guarantee that the donation of organs was guided by clinical criteria and ethical norms and ensure equitable access to human organ transplantation based on non-discrimination, and asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop international guidelines on the health, criminal and human rights aspects of those crimes.
The representative of Spain, in his introduction, said the “innovative” text aimed at tackling both the crimes of trafficking of individuals with the intention of harvesting and selling their organs, and the trafficking of those organs themselves. The resolution dealt with those issues in three ways, namely through the lenses of human rights, health and crime. Among other things, it called for a regulated system for organ transplants, as social and economic problems often rendered certain individuals more vulnerable to both crimes, he said.
Following the adoption, the representative of the United States voiced regret that the text had moved away from a health-oriented, regulatory focus in favour of a crime-focused approach. Many of the measures set forth in the resolution had the potential to advance States’ efforts and international cooperation on organ donation and transplantation and contribute to preventing and combating both trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs themselves. Underscoring the difference between the crime of preying on poor and desperate people to traffic their organs and that of forcing, defrauding or otherwise coercing people into having their organs removed, she expressed concern that such a critical distinction was not maintained in the current resolution. In addition, United States law precluded any legislation that purported to grant anonymity to victims, and accorded defendants the right to the evidence against them, including the ability to confront their accusers. No international legislation could contravene those rights, she said.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See expressed hope that the resolution would make Member States consider further consolidating initiatives to provide medical and ethical guidelines for the donation and transplantation of human organs.
Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted a resolution titled, “cooperation between the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries” (document A/71/L.84), which was introduced by the representative of Brazil. By its terms, the Assembly noted with appreciation the final declaration of the eleventh Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries in 2016 and stressed strengthening cooperation between the group and the United Nations system. In addition, it stressed the need for Guinea-Bissau to continue to take steps towards peace, security and stability, welcomed the six-point road map brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and endorsed the Conakry Agreement as the primary framework for a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.
In his introduction, delivered on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe, and Timor-Leste), the representative of Brazil pointed out that Portuguese was the world’s fifth most spoken language. Recalling the Community’s 2016 summit in Brasilia, he said the resolution aimed to deepen its partnership with the United Nations in such areas as human rights, health, education, science, culture, food and agriculture, public administration, and science and technology. The text also addressed the situation in Guinea-Bissau, welcoming the international community’s support for the country’s efforts towards sociopolitical stability, reconciliation and economic development.
By the terms of a resolution titled, “succession by the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development — GUAM in the General Assembly” (document A/71/L.85), which was also adopted without a vote, the Assembly recalled its resolution 67/109. In that resolution it had taken note that the GUAM had been transformed into the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development — GUAM by the Heads of State, and decided that the organization would assume the rights and responsibilities of the group as an observer invited to participate in the sessions and the work of the Assembly in accordance with its resolution 58/85.
In other business, the Assembly decided to include a number of items in the agenda of its seventy-second session. Those were: “prevention of armed conflict”, “zone of peace and cooperation in the South Atlantic”, “the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”, “the question of the Comorian island of Mayotte”, “the situation in Central America: progress in fashioning a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development”, “question of Cyprus”, “armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, “question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*”, “the situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti”, “armed Israeli aggression against Iraqi nuclear installations and its grave consequences for the established international system concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and international peace and security”, “consequences of the Iraqi occupation of and aggression against Kuwait”, “appointment of members of the Board of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns”, “implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations”, “strengthening the United Nations system”, “cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union” and “financing of the United Nations Mission in East Timor”. Furthermore, it elected to include in the agenda of its seventy-third session “the role of the United Nations in promoting a new global human order”.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 11 September, to take up its other outstanding items and conclude its session in the afternoon.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).