1 December 2017
Seventy-second Session, 61st Meeting (AM)

Global Community ‘Not Yet Up to Par’ in Fight against Terrorism, General Assembly Hears, Adopting Resolution Condemning Attacks on Sacred Sites

World Body Also Passes Two Texts on Oversight, Conferences

The General Assembly today adopted a resolution condemning all forms of terrorism directed against religious sites — as well as any “advocacy of religious hatred” that constituted an incitement to violence — as well as two texts submitted by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), relating to internal oversight and to United Nations conferences.

The Assembly strongly condemned all acts of violence and destruction directed against religious sites, acting without a vote to adopt the draft resolution “Effects of terrorist acts directed against religious sites on the culture of peace” (document A/72/L.20).  It also condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urged Member States to take measures to combat hatred, intolerance and acts of violence, including those motivated by religious extremism.

The representative of Egypt, introducing “L.20”, recalled that a 24 November terrorist attack in Cairo had claimed more than 300 lives, constituting the deadliest and most brutal attack in his country’s modern history.  “We are all the more convinced to send out a united message to categorically rebuke and reject terrorist attacks,” he stressed, adding that it was critical to undertake measures to protect religious sites and promote peaceful coexistence everywhere.

Delegates shared their condolences for the people and delegation of Egypt and condemned the recent terrorist attack there in the strongest terms.  Ghana’s delegate said “L.20” sent a strong message and renewed the United Nations commitment to combat heinous terrorist acts.  Speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the African Group, she underscored the need to advance mutual respect and tolerance, including among ethnic and religious minorities.  The effects of terror on the culture of peace must be carefully evaluated and addressed.

While the text had been adopted by consensus, representatives of several delegations expressed concern at its “fast‑tracked” negotiation process.  Some said more consultations could have led to broader agreement on its content, and others raised alarm over the resolution’s inclusion of “unbalanced” and “non‑agreed” language and its exclusion of any human rights protection references.

Among speakers expressing concern over the text’s exclusion of references to human rights frameworks were the representatives of Norway and the United States, with the latter voicing disappointment that the resolution had been adopted without consultations that could have helped address several important issues.  Indeed, States’ counter‑terrorism efforts must always be conducted in line with their international obligations, including those related to the protection of human rights, and the text’s inclusion of unbalanced and non‑agreed language meant that the United States could not consider it — or the negotiations leading to it — as a precedent for future agreements.

The representative of the European Union delegation also expressed regret that no negotiations on the text had taken place.  “L.20” omitted an important reference to international law and thus was unbalanced.  Any counter‑terrorism activities must abide by international humanitarian law, she stressed, adding that the fight against terrorism and the protection of human rights were mutually reinforcing goals.

Echoing concerns about how the text had been fast‑tracked and tabled quickly, Canada’s delegate voiced several reservations, including over the removal of critical references to human rights and the use of non‑agreed and outdated references.  Regarding operative paragraph 6, he expressed concern that only references to religious extremism were included, which contradicted more modern perspectives and the international community’s commitment to counter extremism.

Switzerland’s representative also voiced concern that the text had not been open to negotiation and that language developed by the international community on combating terrorism had not been reflected in it.  Brazil’s representative, meanwhile, noted that despite the seriousness of the situation, it was not in the Assembly’s best interest to produce a text without leaving any room for negotiation, a critical tool at the very core of multilateralism.  “L.20” did not refer to the right to peace, the obligation of States to refrain from the use of force and that any measure taken to combat terrorism must abide by international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The representative of Iran, condemning callous attempts by terrorists to demonstrate their existence following myriad defeats in the Middle East, called for collective efforts to combat them.  Israel’s delegate, noting that his was a country that had experienced decades of terrorism, echoed calls for the international community to stand united to combat the phenomenon.

Syria’s representative said Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Nusrah Front — supported by parties that were well known to all — had launched attacks in his country and beyond in an effort to impose their own ideologies.  Despite a recent escalation in the frequency of attacks, there remained a lack of political will to combat terrorism.  “The international community has not yet been up to par” in that respect, he said, warning against double standards and the politicization of counter‑terrorism efforts, as well as interference in nations’ internal affairs and their sovereignty.

In other business, the Assembly then adopted two draft resolutions without a vote, based on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  In adopting the draft resolution “Report on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services”, contained in a report of the same name (document A/72/610), it requested the Secretary‑General to continue to promote effective coordination and collaboration with regard to the audit, evaluation and investigation functions of the Office and ensure the full implementation of its accepted recommendations.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Pattern of conferences”, contained in an eponymous report (document A/72/611), the Assembly approved the draft biennial calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings for 2018 and 2019, as submitted by the Committee on Conferences.  Noting that the overall utilization factor for conference serving resources at the United Nations four main duty stations stood at 80 per cent in 2016 — unchanged from 2015 and 2014 — it urged the secretariats and bureaux of bodies that underutilized such resources to consider changes aimed at achieving that benchmark.  The Assembly also made additional recommendations relating to the modernization of the Organization’s Official Document System and its language services.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 4 December, to take up a raft of draft resolutions and decisions submitted to it by its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

For information media. Not an official record.