The General Assembly today adopted two resolutions promoting the importance of sport as a unifier and proclaiming 24 January the International Day of Education, as it also heard a briefing on progress in the investigation into the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.
By the terms of the draft resolution “Sport as an enabler of sustainable development” (document A/73/L.36), the Assembly recognized the contributions sport makes to the empowerment of women, young people and communities and to health, education and social inclusion. It urged Member States to consider signing, ratifying, acceding to and implementing several instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Assembly also called on the United Nations and other organizations to collaborate to maximize the potential of sport to contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers said sport has immense potential to bring people together and advance peace and development. Australia’s delegate said it teaches life skills, including discipline and perseverance. Pointing out that his country’s para-athletes are some of the world’s most recognized, he said today’s observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities can serve as a reminder to include all people in sport. Echoing the sentiment of several Member States, the representative of Belarus said physical fitness is an important factor in broadening the rights of women and young people. “Athletes are models for our youth,” said Monaco’s representative, adding that athletes demonstrate the importance of teamwork.
By the draft resolution “International Day of Education” (document A/73/L.39), the Assembly decided to proclaim 24 January as the day, inviting all Member States, the United Nations, international organizations and the private sector to observe it. It further invited the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to facilitate the observance of 24 January of every year as the International Day of Education. It also stressed that the cost of all activities that may arise from the implementation of the resolution should be met from voluntary contributions.
The Assembly also considered the Secretary-General’s report “Strengthening the global framework for leveraging sport for development and peace,” (document A/73/325).
In other business, the Assembly heard a briefing from Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, on progress made in the investigation into the death of Mr. Hammarskjöld and members of the party accompanying him in a plane crash on 18 September 1961 during a peace mission in Africa. The active participation of Member States remains the most important factor in a shared search for the truth, he said, adding that the Eminent Person’s interim report will be available to Member States following today’s briefing, with the final report to be submitted in mid-2019.
Also speaking today were representatives of Tunisia, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Nigeria, Sweden and the United States.
The General Assembly will meet again at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 December, for a high-level discussion on the gaps and challenges of middle-income countries in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Sport for Development and Peace
MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia), introducing a draft resolution titled “Sport as an enabler of sustainable development” (document A/73/L.36), said the text represents an important way to promote social cohesion. “Sport is an important enabler of sustainable development,” he said, noting that sports empower women. The draft recognizes the need to adopt global approaches to promote physical activity to prevent and control non-communicable diseases. “L.36” welcomes United Nations-International Olympic Committee cooperation and identifies the Kazan Action Plan as an integral tool to harmonize national and international policymaking on sport. Sport must be brought into a central role in development strategies, he said, adding that the draft requests international organizations to intensify inter-institutional cooperation in line with the United Nations Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace.
PETER JAMES STONE (Australia) recognized the important role that sport plays in teaching life skills such as discipline, perseverance and teamwork. Australia has invested in national policies and initiatives to promote physical activity and sport participation. Australia’s para-athletes are some of the world’s most recognized, motivating and inspiring citizens. Noting that today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, he said the Day serves as an important reminder to include all people in sport. On a regional level, Australia has been partnering with neighbouring countries to promote sports and physical activities with the aim of promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus) said that physical fitness and sports are important factors in ensuring sustainable development and broadening the rights of women and young people. Sport continues to be a resource that promotes peace, friendship and teamwork. The health of its people is a top priority for Belarus, he continued, noting that sport is different from politics. Sport is politically neutral and must remain so. Unfortunately, sport has become increasingly associated with non-sportsmanlike activities. “We support the principles of fair play,” he said, noting that sports have a unique capacity to bring together people from different cultures.
AHMED NASIR (Maldives) said sports unite people and promote equality. “The Olympic ideal helped create equality,” he asserted, noting that Maldives first participated in the Olympics in 1988. The Government prioritizes sport as an instrument of youth development and is implementing its first-ever national Sports Act to promote competitive sports and cultural activities. Sport councillors have been established across the country to eliminate wage differences between men and women’s national sports teams and encourage female participation in sports to challenge gender stereotypes. “It is important to empower youth to be active citizens in their communities,” he said, concluding that the recent success of sports teams from the Maldives encourages the country’s youth to “dream bigger”.
Mr. AL BRAIKI (United Arab Emirates) said sports enable sustainable development as they promote peace and equality. He said his country is set to hold the Special Olympics World Games — “a key sports event for people with mental disabilities”. The Government attaches great importance to promoting Jiu-jitsu and is implementing programmes to improve the physical abilities of youth in the discipline and encourage students to take positive attitudes towards sports. The United Arab Emirates believes the role of women and girls in sport is essential for their empowerment. “Sports strengthen partnerships and participation in youth development,” he said, adding that sports programmes allow young people to contribute to social cohesion.
DARREL CHUA (Singapore) said sports inspire people to push boundaries and strive for greater heights, as well as contribute to improvements in health and quality of life of individuals. “Singapore celebrates the importance of sport,” he said, adding that sport helps build human and social capital and promotes social integration. Noting that sports engender greater acceptance and awareness of persons with disabilities, he said Singapore’s Disability Sports Master Plan ensures that sports in the country remain inclusive. “Sports transcend national boundaries,” he asserted, adding that the 2030 Agenda recognizes the role of sport in the realization of development and peace.
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) said sport offers numerous opportunities to achieve the 2030 Agenda. In the recent Olympic Games held on the Korean peninsula, sport acted as a tool to break down barriers and bring people together. Noting the unifying power of the International Olympic Committee, she underscored ways sport contributes to social cohesion. “Athletes are models for our youth,” she said, adding that they can send a message of discipline and positivity to all young people. They also demonstrate the importance of teamwork. While sport is a key educational tool that must be available in schools, regular physical activity must continue to be promoted, as it combats and helps prevent cardiovascular diseases.
The Assembly adopted draft resolution “L.36” without a vote.
The representative of the United States, explaining her delegation’s position, said she joined consensus under the understanding that her country is not required to join any new agreements mentioned in the draft resolution. The United States underscores that the 2030 Agenda is non-binding and does not require any new financial commitments. All countries have a role to play in implementing the 2030 Agenda in accordance with their own national priorities. The Agenda does not alter any World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements. She further added that United Nations principles for sports-related organizations provide valuable guidance.
Follow-up to United Nations Summits in Economic, Social Fields
The Assembly then turned to its agenda item on follow up to outcomes of United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria), introducing the draft resolution “International Day of Education” (document A/73/L.39), said the text calls for the observance of 24 January as the day to promote education as a critical aspect of development. “Education is essential to global development,” he said, adding that it is important to accord it a day of recognition. The United Nations identified education as a “passport to human development” and as a contributor peace and human rights. “Any denial of education is a serious and permanent injury,” he asserted, inviting the international community to endorse the observance of the International Day of Education and to widen opportunities for vulnerable populations. The day will galvanize support by Member States to promote access to education for all people.
The Assembly then adopted “L.39” without a vote.
The representative of the United States, explaining her delegation’s position, said education serves as a foundation to promote the development of vulnerable populations and called attention for the need to clarify language in the draft related to the 2030 Agenda.
Investigation into Death of Dag Hammarskjöld
MIGUEL DE SERPA SOARES, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, presented an oral briefing — as requested by the General Assembly through resolution 72/252 — on progress made in the investigation into the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and members of the party accompanying him in a plane crash on 18 September 1961 during a peace mission in Africa. He said that Mohamed Chande Othman (United Republic of Tanzania), reappointed in March 2018 as Eminent Person leading the investigation, asked nine Member States (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States) to appoint independent and high-ranking officials to carry out internal reviews of their respective intelligence, security and defence archives and identify any potentially relevant information. Following cooperation from seven of those Member States (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Russian Federation, Sweden and United States), and from other sources, new information has been received that will be assessed by Chief Justice Othman for its probative value.
“A preliminary review indicates that new information, including that from within intelligence, security and defence archives, is of probative value in respect to our knowledge of the context and surrounding events of 1961, the presence of foreign paramilitary and intelligence personnel in and around the Congo, and the capacity of armed forces present in and around the region at that time,” he said. In recent months, another five Member States (Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Portugal, Zambia and Zimbabwe) have been requested to appoint independent and high-ranking officials, with two States (Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe) notifying the Eminent Person that they have done so. He went on to remind Member States which might be holding information to appoint similar officials, or enable a full review of their archives, in line with resolution 72/252. The active participation of Member States remains the most important factor in a shared search for the truth, he stated, adding that the Eminent Person’s interim report will be available to Member States following today’s briefing, with the final report to be submitted in mid-2019.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden), welcoming progress made in advancing the investigation since Chief Justice Othman’s reappointment at its helm, recalled that her delegation also appointed Mathias Mossberg as a special investigator to ensure that all relevant information in the Swedish archives reaches the United Nations investigation. In this vein, she strongly urged those countries that have been asked to do so, but have not yet appointed a national investigator, to do so without delay. Chief Justice Othman has concluded that the burden of proof has shifted to Member States, she said, adding that it is up to them to demonstrate the conduct of full reviews of all records and archives, including those that remain classified. “We must show beyond any uncertainty that we have done just that,” she said, adding that the international community owes it to the families of those who perished 57 years ago and to the United Nations itself.