Secretary-General Remembers Béji Caïd Essebsi as Trailblazer Admired across Region
The General Assembly, by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to none against with 12 abstentions, adopted a resolution today urging the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum to strengthen their joint pursuit of sustainable development outcomes, while also underlining the need for coherent approaches to build resilience to extreme weather in the region.
By the terms of the text titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum”, the Assembly welcomed progress made in enhancing the partnership between the two organizations and called for additional efforts in that regard. Encouraging continued support from the United Nations system for the efforts of Pacific States and relevant regional organizations to achieve sustainable development, it also called for greater accountability and regular reporting.
Further by the terms of the resolution — which was introduced by the representative of Nauru in her capacity as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum — the Assembly urged the United Nations system to align its work across the region in support of internationally agreed outcomes, including the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, while taking into account the priorities of the Pacific Islands Forum members. It also reiterated the importance of strengthening the United Nations field presence in the region and taking coherent and integrated approaches to building resilience to extreme weather events, as well as to stressors related to increased climate variability across the Pacific.
By other terms, the Assembly looked forward to the planned September 2019 high-level review of the progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing States through the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway, and encouraged the next meeting between the Secretary-General and Pacific Islands Forum leaders to be scheduled that same month on the margins of the Assembly’s annual general debate. It also looked forward to further consultations with all concerned countries related to the configuration, capacity, resource needs, role and development services of multi-country offices in the Asia-Pacific region.
Prior to the adoption, several delegates explained their countries’ positions, with the representative of China stressing that the coordinator of negotiations failed to consider his delegation’s contributions and the concerns of other States. As such, China would abstain. However, his delegation stands willing to strengthen and promote economic and cultural exchanges with Pacific island countries.
The representative of the United States said her delegation would vote in favour of the resolution, recognizing the needs of countries in the region. Expressing concerns about references to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on climate change, she said details of these concerns were voiced in the General Assembly in November 2018.
Following the action, the representative of Indonesia said his delegation abstained for several reasons, including the text’s reference to the Communiqué of the Forty-ninth Pacific Islands Forum. Underlining a need to conduct inclusive negotiations, he also regretted that one member of the Pacific Islands Forum continued to interfere with Indonesia’s domestic affairs.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation abstained because negotiations failed to consider the justified concerns of certain States.
At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly observed a minute of silence in honour of the late President of Tunisia, Béji Caïd Essebsi, who passed away on 25 July.
Secretary-General António Guterres, paying tribute to Mr. Essebsi, said the late President was an Arab and African trailblazer for respecting the fundamental rights of Tunisians and was key in helping his country through its democratic process. He drew admiration from across the region for his advocacy for women’s rights and human rights. The legacy he leaves behind include championing democracy and inclusive dialogue. Recalling many meetings he had with Mr. Essebsi, the Secretary-General expressed condolences to the Government of Tunisia and its people for their loss.
Sami Bougacha (Tunisia), delivering a statement on behalf of Foreign Affairs Minister Khemais Jhinaoui, said his country mourns a father figure who has helped to shape the nation’s new destiny. Recalling his long career, from fighting for independence at age 15 to holding ministerial positions in the Government, he said Mr. Essebsi was known for his sharp memory, sparkling wit and clarity of thought, guided always by a sense of duty towards the country. A friend of the United Nations and in relentless pursuit of a “zero-enemy foreign policy”, Mr. Essebsi was looking forward to Tunisia’s term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, urging the Foreign Affairs Ministry to prepare for constructive participation in advocating Africa’s agenda for stability and prosperity and supporting just causes, chief among them Palestinians’ right to a free and sovereign State.
Highlighting the many contributions he made to Tunisia and the region — including leading a democratic process that resulted in the Tunisian Quartet being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 — he said that in death as in life, Mr. Essebsi upheld a message of unity, having left behind a young but confident democracy. “He may rest in peace in the certitude that Tunisia has charted an irreversible course of progress, freedom and democracy,” he said. “He shall be greatly missed, but his journey does not end here and his legacy will live on.”
Also paying tribute to Mr. Essebsi and conveying their condolences to the Government and people of Tunisia were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the African States); Uzbekistan (on behalf of the Asia-Pacific States); Slovakia (on behalf of the Eastern European States); El Salvador (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States); Andorra (on behalf of the Western European and Other States); and the United States (on behalf of the host country).
The Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.