Criticizing Late Submission of Annual Report to General Assembly, Delegates Question How Seriously Security Council Takes Its Charter Responsibilities
The General Assembly adopted two resolutions in support of Africa’s development today, despite some disagreement among Member States over the inclusion in the texts of language referring to “win-win cooperation”.
It first adopted — by a recorded vote of 110 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 38 abstentions — a draft resolution “New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): progress in implementation and international support” (document A/73/L.96/Rev.1), as orally corrected.
By the terms of that text, the Assembly took note of the Secretary-General's sixteenth consolidated progress report and his third biennial report reviewing the implementation of commitments made towards Africa’s development. It also recognized NEPAD’s efforts, welcoming in that regard efforts by development partners to strengthen cooperation and acknowledging that much more needs to be done in its implementation.
The Assembly recognized, by other terms, the importance of supporting Agenda 2063 and its first 10-year implementation plan (2014–2023) and acknowledged the NEPAD programme, both of which are integral to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also emphasized that economic development, including inclusive industrial development, and policies seeking to enhance productive capacities in Africa can generate employment and income for the poor and, therefore, be an engine for eradicating poverty.
By further terms, the Assembly recognized the need for Africa’s development partners to align their efforts to invest in infrastructure with support for the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, and requested that the United Nations continue to provide assistance to NEPAD and to African countries.
The Assembly expressed concern, by other terms, over the increasing challenges posed by the adverse impacts of climate change, drought, land degradation, desertification, biodiversity loss and floods, as well as their negative consequences for the fight against poverty, famine and hunger.
Also by that text, the Assembly noted with concern that preliminary data indicate that the bilateral aid flows to Africa decreased by 4 per cent in 2018 compared with the 2017 figures, reiterating that the fulfilment of all official development assistance (ODA) commitments remains crucial.
Before the adoption, an observer for the State of Palestine presented the draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, highlighting the progress made by African countries through projects supported by development partners. Citing various attempts to weaken the resolution, he said the Group of 77 and China would have wished to see explicit examples of progress by African countries, notably efforts to promote public-private partnerships for infrastructure.
Finland’s representative, speaking for the European Union, then proposed an amendment calling for the deletion of operative paragraph 42 and its replacement with language put forward by the European Union. He recalled that the bloc expressed concern throughout the negotiations over use of the phrase “win-win cooperation”, which stands for an approach focused on economic gains — often at the expense of the sustainable development needs of people and local communities.
The Assembly rejected the proposed amendment by a recorded vote of 96 against to 45 in favour, with 2 abstentions (Brazil, Norway).
Finland’s delegate, speaking in explanation of position, noted that for the first time in the resolution’s history, European Union member States did not join the consensus because the bloc’s concerns were again ignored. Pointing out that those member States provide more than half of global ODA, he said that in 2017, the European Union invested €85 billion in aid, of which a large part supported projects in Africa at the national, regional and continental levels. He went on to express deep disappointment over the unwillingness of the Group of 77 and China to accommodate the bloc’s concerns about the reference to “win-win cooperation” — a concept that ignores internationally agreed principles of development cooperation and undermines the people-centred approach outlined in both the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.
The representative of the United States said her delegation voted against the resolution due to its repeated elevation of a single Member State’s domestic policy rhetoric. Whereas the United States supports NEPAD’s efforts to address Africa’s challenges and continues to seek new areas of cooperation with the African Union through initiatives that enhance sustainable development and trade and investment, it cannot, however, support the reference to “win-win cooperation”, a phrase promoted by one country in order to insert a signature policy agenda of its Head of State and which does not reflect the views of all Member States.
Hungary’s representative said his delegation cannot accept the reference to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration contained in preambular paragraph 21 of the NEPAD resolution, because his country did not endorse the Compact’s adoption in 2018 and will not take part in its implementation.
Brazil’s representative said his delegation disassociates itself from the Global Compact from its belief that migration should be addressed by States on the basis of their right to adopt national policies that address the challenges emerging from their own realities. Brazil also disassociates itself from the language contained in preambular paragraph 21 and considers it not to be a basis for any future negotiation, he added.
Algeria’s representative, speaking as facilitator for the NEPAD text, expressed disappointment at the request for a recorded vote, pointing out that the resolution has enjoyed consensus since 2002. While the concerns of some delegations over the use of a certain phrase is understandable, they did not seek a vote in 2018, he noted, urging development partners to broaden their contributions in order to improve living standards for all Africans.
Chile’s representative said her country did not participate in the Global Compact for Migration and therefore disassociates itself from preambular paragraph 21.
Libya’s representative said his delegation abstained over preambular paragraph 21 since it does not consider Libya’s concerns as a transition State, nor the concerns of origin, transit and destination countries, nor the responsibility of all States.
The Assembly then adopted — by a recorded 115 votes in favour to 1 against (United States), with 40 abstentions — a draft resolution, “Implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa” (document A/73/L.97/Rev.1), as orally corrected.
By its terms, the Assembly recalled the adoption of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and its first 10-year implementation plan (2014–2023), welcoming in this regard the high-level events organized during the 2019 Africa Dialogue Series on the theme “Towards durable solutions for forcibly displaced persons in Africa”.
The Assembly stressed, by other terms, the importance of creating an environment conducive to national reconciliation, transitional justice and social and economic recovery in countries emerging from conflict. It recognized that international and regional efforts to prevent conflict and consolidate peace in Africa should be channelled towards the sustainable development of Africa, and encouraged African Governments to strengthen national structures and policies in order to create an environment conducive to the promotion of sustainable, inclusive economic growth.
Further by the text, the Assembly called upon the international community to enhance support and fulfil its commitments to take further action in areas critical to Africa’s economic and social development. It urged continued support for measures to address the eradication of poverty and hunger, the creation of decent jobs and sustainable development in Africa — including through debt relief, improved market access, support for the private sector and entrepreneurship, fulfilment of ODA commitments and increased flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and transfer of technology on mutually agreed terms.
Before the adoption, an observer for the State of Palestine submitted the draft on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, emphasizing that it serves as an important framework within which to address the causes of conflict and promote durable peace and sustainable development on the continent. Without addressing the causes of conflict, Africa cannot meet the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he added.
Finland’s representative spoke for the European Union, proposing an amendment to operative paragraph 8, which includes contains a reference to “win-win cooperation”.
The Assembly then rejected the proposed amendment by a recorded 107 votes against to 47 in favour, with 2 abstentions (Brazil, Kazakhstan).
Finland’s representative explained the European Union’s position, saying the bloc’s member States abstained because the resolution contains a concept that ignores internationally agreed principles of development cooperation and undermines the people-centred approach outlined in both the 2030 Agenda and the Agenda 2063. The European Union wished to see the text accurately reflect all causes of conflict and highlight climate- and environment-related threats, he said, adding that it also wished to see more progressive language on peacebuilding and on conflict prevention in general. He went on to stress that the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism is of the essence because preventing violent extremism is of key importance in the fight against terrorism.
The representative of the United States said her delegation voted against the resolution for the same reason it rejected the NEPAD draft.
Representatives of Brazil, Chile and Libya explained that they did not join the consensus due to the text’s reference to the Global Compact.
Japan’s representative aligned himself with the positions of the United States and the European Union regarding the reference to “win-win cooperation” in both resolutions, expressing regret that the Assembly did not accept the amendment proposed by European Union.
China’s representative, underlining that the term “win-win cooperation” was agreed by consensus in the 2030 Agenda, warned against unilateralism that undermines international cooperation and efforts to misrepresent and water down the concept.
In other business, delegates objected to the late submission of the annual Security Council report to the General Assembly today, emphasizing that the wider United Nations membership’s consideration of the highly anticipated document is a vital exercise in transparency and questioning how seriously the 15-member organ takes its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.
Expressing a common complaint, Valentine Rugwabiza (Rwanda) noted that the report was only made available on 22 August, leaving little time to review the 200-page document — a disservice to Member States and the Council itself, which could gain beneficial feedback about its work.
Delegates also called attention to Note 507, which addresses many aspects of the Council’s work and sets the timeline for completing the report’s introduction at no later than 31 January of any given year, with the report’s submission to the Assembly taking place “in the spring of that calendar year”. Many also pressed the Council to submit its report no later than April, stressing that it should include more analytical introduction.
Presenting the “Report of the Security Council for 2018” (document A/73/2), Council President Vassily A. Nebenzia (Russian Federation) said the 15 members sought to discharge their responsibilities by urging the peaceful resolution of conflict and undertaking various peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities around the world. In keeping with recent trends, the Council’s activities increased during the reporting period, he added, noting that it held 288 formal meetings, of which 275 were public. It adopted 54 resolutions, issued 21 presidential and 87 press statements and conducted three visiting missions.
The Council also continued to focus on unresolved conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, he said. Large-scale humanitarian crises persisted, and worsened in some cases, while large flows of displaced people within and across borders continued. While acknowledging that divisions prevented the Council from taking effective action on some key conflicts, he said there were also positive developments. Countries in the Horn of Africa made progress towards resolving long-standing bilateral disputes, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) completed its work and a peace agreement was signed in South Sudan. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula were reduced as a result of dialogue, he added.
He went on to note that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) was driven out of Iraq and lost control of most the territory it held in Syria. Meanwhile, the peace process in Colombia, as well as elections in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Lebanon, all made contributions to political stability. Convinced of the vital role of the United Nations — and the multilateral system — in preventing and resolving conflict, the Council took advantage of a range of tools, from mediation and the deployment of peacekeeping and special political missions, to the imposition of targeted sanctions and arms embargoes, he said.
Some Council members underlined the importance of taking action at every stage of the conflict cycle, while stressing the need to respect international law and maintain the global non-proliferation regime, he continued. Throughout 2018, the Council also focused on the implementation of thematic resolutions, notably the need to consider the role of women role in preventing and resolving conflict. By the end of 2018, almost 90,000 peacekeepers were deployed in 14 missions to support Council mandates, he said, noting that 98 of them were killed.
Consistent with usual practice, the report’s introduction was prepared by the United Kingdom, which held the Council presidency in August 2018, he said, adding that other Council members also contributed to its preparation.
Dominique Michel Favre (Switzerland), speaking for the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, said the report’s submission and transmission to the Assembly is an obligation under Article 24(3) of the United Nations Charter. The Assembly’s consideration is an equally important exercise in transparency, yet the process has fallen short of these requirements as the Council only adopted the report on 20 August and the Assembly debate is being held during the “very last days” of its session — for the third consecutive year. “We are deeply troubled about the signals that this unfortunate situation sends regarding how seriously the Security Council is taking its obligations,” he said. The Council must make full use of the consultative process envisaged in paragraph 129 of note 507.
Vitavas Srivihok (Thailand), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Assembly’s consideration of the Council report is a “crucial exercise” and a fundamental aspect of the relationship between the 15-member organ and the wider United Nations membership. The report’s preparation has taken much longer than the time required by note 507 and its late adoption pushed the Assembly to consider it at the very end of its session, he added. “It is not credible that an eight- or nine-month gap exists for the General Assembly to discuss the work of the Council,” he said, pressing for Member States to have sufficient time to study the report. ASEAN also sees the value of incorporating more regular feedback on the Council’s work into the report, he said, noting that the monthly wrap-up sessions offer a useful platform in this regard.
Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine) took issue with the report’s content, saying it provides only limited insight into the substantive nature of the Council’s work. A reader will see what was discussed and adopted, but nothing about why and how the work was carried out, he added, suggesting a more analytical introduction and, perhaps, a short exposé on aspects that Council members viewed differently. Failure to adopt draft resolutions deserves more than a mention of mere voting outcomes, he emphasized. On procedural votes, which signal a particular issue’s importance, he questioned why the introduction cites only one such case, when in fact there were four in 2018. Finally, he described the report’s presentation of the Russian Federation-Ukraine conflict as “utterly inadequate”, pointing out that it neglects to mention how many open meetings were held on that question (four), as well as details about who initiated them and why. He went on to ask why the introduction omits the 26 November 2018 meeting convened following the Russian navy’s armed attack on three Ukrainian vessels, citing the standard policy of a certain Council member to suppress, cover up and distort publicly important information.
Christian Wenaweser (Liechtenstein) described the report as a key mechanism of accountability between two Charter bodies with carefully crafted mandates. The fact that today’s debate is being held at the last minute is not a good sign because it demonstrates the Council’s disrespect for its own mandate and working methods, he said, urging it to submit its report no later than April. He also pressed the Assembly President to set a date for its consideration that is conducive to the broadest possible participation. He also cited the Council’s failure to maintain international peace and security in Syria, Myanmar and Yemen, as well as its potential squandering of opportunities to ensure justice in Darfur. Furthermore, greater use of veto power has created enormous negative consequences and must be kept in check, he stressed, suggesting that the Assembly discuss any veto use in a formal meeting, without prejudice to any possible outcome.
Burhan Gafoor (Singapore), associating himself with ASEAN, expressed disappointment that the Council made no effort to respect the timeline in Note 507, asking whether the Secretariat submitted the draft report to the Council by 15 March, as required. “Today’s meeting is fundamentally an exercise in accountability, transparency and legitimacy,” he said, adding that the Assembly’s consideration of the report is a Charter requirement, highlighted in Articles 15 and 24. “We have to seriously look at changing the timeline for consideration of the report by the General Assembly.” The report should be submitted no later than April each year, and paragraph 132 of Note 507 should be amended accordingly, he said, urging the Assembly President to allow three to four weeks for delegations to consider the report before scheduling the plenary meeting.
Martín García Moritán (Argentina) recommended greater transparency and democracy in the Council, pressing the Assembly to exercise its authority on international peace and security matters when necessary. The introduction should include more analytical content, he added.
Jan Kickert (Austria) encouraged Council members to make monthly assessments available to the wider United Nations membership.
Luis Homero Bermúdez Álvarez (Uruguay), meanwhile, emphasized the importance of the Council’s visiting missions, saying the practice should be maintained.
The Russian Federation’s representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply, taking issue with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group’s focus on the calendar. He explained that the report’s release was timed for 30 August but was postponed until today at that Group’s request. Whereas the Council would try to send the report earlier, it is “completely possible” to read a 12-page document in three weeks, he said.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 September, to continue its debate.