Delegations Mark Passing of Two Former Assembly Presidents
Following expressions of condolences to the people of Argentina and Namibia for the recent deaths of two influential leaders, the General Assembly today unanimously adopted a resolution underlining the importance of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025), which highlights and encourages efforts towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal targets related to hunger, undernutrition and extreme poverty.
By the terms of the resolution titled, “Implementation of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025)” (document A/72/L.63), the Assembly expresses concern that the world is not currently on track to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Noting that the number of undernourished people around the globe has been rising since 2014 — reaching some 815 million in 2016 — the Assembly takes note of a related report of the Secretary-General (document A/72/829) and described the work plan for the Decade’s implementation as a “living document” that builds upon and connects initiatives of Governments and their partners.
Encouraging Governments, United Nations organizations, civil society, the private sector and others to help advance the Decade’s implementation, it further calls upon the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to further strengthen their efforts to lead and monitor the Decade’s implementation in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), utilizing such coordinating mechanisms as the Standing Committee on Nutrition and such multi-stakeholder platforms as the Committee on World Food Security.
Introducing that text, Esteban Cadena Duarte (Ecuador) described it as a succinctly put and important resolution seeking to advance activities in support of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition’s implementation. Expressing concern over the rising number of people suffering from undernutrition and the fact that millions of children under five years old still suffer from chronic malnutrition, he said the text points out that sustainable farming practices — especially family farming and small-holder farming — can play a role in reducing those numbers. It also spotlights the disproportionate impact of undernutrition on women and calls for more open and inclusive dialogue on the issue, he said.
Speaking in his national capacity, he also underscored that the adoption is a clear message of optimism. His Government promotes healthy food practice and supports agriculture, including by investing in new agricultural technologies, as a way to reduce chronic malnutrition. Ecuador is facing pressing health challenges related to rising childhood obesity rates, he said, adding that it is working to promote healthy lifestyles with a focus on early childhood development and the promotion of breastfeeding. “The main cause of hunger in the world is poverty,” he stressed, noting that his Government has adopted a national plan for food security and provides comprehensive, intersectoral care and social support to its citizens.
Stefanie Amadeo (United States), while noting he had joined consensus, underscored that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains a non-binding document that does not create or affect rights or obligations under international law, or create any new financial commitments.
At the meeting’s outset, the General Assembly observed a moment of silence and heard expressions of condolence to the Governments and peoples of Argentina and Namibia, respectively, for the recent passing of Dante Maria Caputo (Argentina), President of the Assembly’s forty-third session, and Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of its fifty-fourth session.
Conveying their sympathies were General Assembly Vice-President Amrith Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) — who expressed the organ’s sympathies to the two men’s families and spotlighted elements of their respective diplomatic careers — and Under-Secretary-General Maria Luiza Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary‑General, who expressed sorrow on behalf of Secretary-General Anónio Gueterres.
Ms. Viotti said Mr. Caputo will be remembered for his wide-ranging contributions to peace and democracy in his native Argentina, as well as his productive and close ties to the United Nations. Recalling that he had served as Argentina’s Foreign Minister, as well as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Haiti in the early 1990s, she said he facilitated the latter’s democratic transition following decades of repressive rule.
Turning to the career of Mr. Gurirab — “one of Namibia’s founding fathers” — she recalled that his work with the United Nations dated back to the 1960s. During his career, he served as both Namibia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and its Prime Minister, helping to bring independence to that country. “Both [men] were committed to diplomacy, international cooperation and a rules-based global order,” she said, adding that “both showed how the United Nations can bring about peaceful, positive change”.
Martín García Moritán (Argentina), thanking all those who expressed condolences, said Mr. Caputo embodied the recovery of democracy and the fight for human rights. Noting that he developed many foreign policy principles that continue to guide Argentina today, he said Mr. Caputo will undoubtedly inspire many future generations of Argentinians. He believed in truth, justice and freedom for all, as well as the core national principles of peace, equality and development. Mr. Caputo was also a firm defender of dialogue and supported many compromises that brought together groups and individuals with divergent beliefs. Some of his greatest achievements included supporting the Peace and Friendship Treaty between Chile and Argentina, as well as other regional agreements that paved the way for the establishment of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).
Neville Melvin Gertze (Namibia), also thanking the Assembly’s expressions of condolences, described Mr. Gurirab as a hero of his country’s liberation struggle and one of the world’s finest diplomats. Having grown up in a rural village, Mr. Gurirab rose to become a distinguished global citizen and statesman. It was under his stewardship at the United Nations that he succeeded in making the case for Namibia’s independence. Security Council resolution 435 (1978), containing an internationally accepted plan to bring independence to Namibia, was one of the high points in his political career. “He was an extraordinary representative of the values and principles which this, our international Parliament of the People, the United Nations, was founded,” he said, adding: “Namibia has lost a son, Africa has lost a visionary and the world as lost a great leader.”
Also expressing condolences today were representatives of Kenya (for the African States), Singapore (for the Asia-Pacific States), Czechia (for the Eastern European States), Antigua and Barbuda (for the Latin American and Caribbean States), Luxembourg (for the Western European and Other States) and the United States (for the host country).
The Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.