The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today introduced 16 draft resolutions and approved two, including one calling on the international community to condemn unilateral economic, financial or trade measures impeding development.
Further to that text, on “Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries”, the Assembly would urge the international community to eliminate measures that are unauthorized by United Nations organs, inconsistent with international law or contravene basic principles of the multilateral trading system.
The Committee approved the draft in a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with 52 abstentions.
Most countries in favour of the text agreed that unilateral coercive measures infringe on sovereignty, defy international law and impede a nation’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of Syria referred to the clear political and economic repercussions of coercive measures, which undermine United Nations principles and breach its very Charter. Seeking to use these measures to target crime is a lie, the delegate of Nicaragua said, as women, children and other vulnerable groups bear the brunt of these inhumane measures.
Highlighting the harmful effects of unilateral measures or “political coercion” on her country, the delegate of Cuba said the screws of the Helms‑Burton Act have been brutally tightened. Its cumulative economic damage on her nation over the past six decades amounts to $922 billion, she said, with every single citizen and element of society feeling the blockades impact.
Iran’s representative called such measures “collective punishment of a national population”, using financial might for political gains by harming civilians in his country for four decades. Adding that measures that restrict access to medicine and food are crimes against humanity, he said, “It is a war without a name”, one aimed at children and the most vulnerable.
Opposing the draft, the delegate of the United States said each Member State has a sovereign right to determine its trading policy, especially if such measures encourage a country to return to rule of law or democratic systems. Taking a neutral stance, Finland’s delegate, speaking for the European Union, said such measures may contradict international law, but are admissible in efforts to fight terrorism or uphold human rights, the rule of law and good governance.
The Committee approved another draft, without a vote, on “Natural plant fibres and sustainable development” without a vote.
Introducing the text, Bangladesh’s representative said a diverse range of natural plant fibres provides vital income for farmers, thus playing an important role in eradicating poverty. Promoting these fibres, especially the lesser known ones like jute, abaca, coir, kenaf, sisal, hemp and ramie, will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the macroeconomic and globalization areas, the Committee introduced drafts on “Follow‑up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development”; “Development cooperation with middle‑income countries”; and “Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence”.
On sustainable development and poverty eradication, texts were introduced on “International Tea Day”; “Agriculture development, food security and nutrition”; “Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018‑2027)”; “Human resources development”; “Eradicating rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”; and “Women in development”.
Further drafts were introduced on, “Science, technology and innovation for sustainable development”; “Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries”; “Follow‑up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries”; “Operational activities for development of the United Nations system”; South‑South cooperation; and “Culture and sustainable development”.
Also speaking today were representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Zimbabwe, Russian Federation, Venezuela, China and Nicaragua.
The Committee will meet again on Tuesday, 26 November to take further action on draft resolutions.
Action on Draft Resolutions
Prior to action on the draft resolutions, the representative of the United States underscored that many outcome documents referenced in Second Committee resolutions, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Addis Ababa Action Agenda, are non‑binding and bring about no financial commitments. She applauded the call for national responsibility, noting each country must work towards implementing the 2030 Agenda according to its own priorities. The 2030 Agenda is no precedent for decisions and actions underway in other fora, including providing new market access for goods and services.
She noted that the United States submitted its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change on 4 November and therefore references to it are without prejudice to her country’s positions. Each Member State has a sovereign right to decide how it governs trade with other nations, she affirmed, noting that the United States has applied sanctions with specific objectives including promoting a return to the rule of law or democratic systems, protection of human rights and preventing threats to international security, and is within its rights to do so. She noted that United States President Donald Trump had declared that the country does not take its policy directives from the United Nations, which must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade negotiations. The United Nations is not the appropriate venue for those discussions. She further noted the term “inclusive growth” appears in multiple drafts but is vaguely defined.
The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a number of draft resolutions including one titled “Follow‑up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development” (document A/C.2/74/L.13). She underlined that financing for development is key for the 2030 Agenda and poverty eradication is a priority, and that the developing countries are not on track for implementation. A text on “Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence” (document A/C.2/74/L.26) reaffirmed the importance of a transparent and inclusive multilateral system, and the United Nations as the key forum for that issue. Furthermore, a draft on “Science, technology and innovation for sustainable development” (document A/C.2/74/L.27) underlines the need to address digital divides and protect data.
Further drafts were introduced on “Culture and Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/74/L.17); “Development cooperation with middle‑income countries” (A/C.2/74/L.25); “Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries” (A/C.2/74/L.29), expressing deep concern of the fall of official development assistance (ODA) to least developed States; “Follow-up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries” (A/C.2/74/L.30); “Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018–2027)” (A/C.2/74/L.19); “Women in development” (A/C.2/74/L.28); and “Human resources development” (A/C.2/74/L.20).
Text were also introduced on “Eradicating rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/74/L.22), with the Secretary‑General’s report noting 80 per cent of the extreme poor live in rural areas, with rates three times higher than in urban ones; “Operational activities for development of the United Nations system” (A/C.2/74/L.38); “South‑South cooperation” (A/C.2/74/L.39); “Agriculture development, food security and nutrition” (A/C.2/74/L.7); and “International Tea Day” (document A/C.2/74/L.6).
The Committee then turned to a draft titled “Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries” (document A/C.2/74/L.5/Rev.1).
Addressing that draft before the vote, the representative of the United States stressed that each Member State has a sovereign right to determine its trading policy, including restrictions placed on other nations. Unilateral measures like sanctions can be a successful means of encouraging a country to return to rule of law or revert to democratic systems. Emphasizing that countries are within their rights to use trade as a tool for achieving objectives through non‑violent means, she said her country would vote against the resolution.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stating that his delegation would vote in favour of the resolution, condemned unilateral sanctions against developing countries as infringements of their sovereignty and violations of the Charter of the United Nations. Adding that such sanctions hinder economic and social development in achieving the 2030 Agenda, he called on Member States to support the resolution with an overwhelming majority.
The Committee then approved the draft in a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with 52 abstentions.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his bloc abstained from voting on the resolution, as such measures can contradict international law and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. They are admissible in certain circumstances, however, such as in the fight against terrorism as well as efforts to uphold human rights, the rule of law and good governance.
The representative of the Russian Federation said unilateral economic measures are unlawful, going against international law and the Charter of the United Nations as well as nations’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Those who use them claim to be punishing nations for inappropriate actions, but such measures are actually dishonest ways of gaining uncompetitive access to international markets.
The representative of Syria said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution due to the clear political and economic repercussions of coercive measures, which seriously hinder achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Such measures undermine all of the principles the United Nations was founded on, breaching its very Charter. Noting that the world is just 11 years from the 2030 target for the Sustainable Development Goals, he said such blockades have seriously held up economic development and impacted human rights by leading to the collapse of social as well as economic services. Syria has suffered for years from unilateral coercive measures, which weigh heavily on its economic development.
The representative of Zimbabwe said unilateral economic measures totally disregard the Charter of the United Nations, especially economic blockades against other nations. His country’s efforts to reunite land with the Zimbabwean people has led to illegal sanctions being imposed on it by the European Union and United States. The consequences to people’s daily lives has been dire, as they have decimated the economy and diverted foreign investment flows, hindering economic and social development.
The representative of China said a sense of urgency is required in seeking new drivers for development towards the goal of leaving no one behind. Some developing countries have undergone recent turbulence aggravated by external pressures, which contravene the norms governing international relations. He said the international community must act against unilateral trade measures and work for the benefit of all.
The representative of Venezuela underscored that unilateral economic measures are a clear violation of international law and the multilateral trade system. No State has the authority to apply those economic or political coercive measures to subordinate another State to its will. He noted one Member State seeks to extend its economic and political power over other States, with over one‑third of humanity affected by those measures. The attempt to convert its national laws into international laws is illegal. Those measures and sanctions constitute a collective punishment, he said, undermining human rights under “economic terrorism”, restricting access to medicine and food, and impacting basic supplies such as water and electricity. They further harm national economies and trade. He called for an end to what he called unlawful and neo‑colonial policies.
The representative of Iran noted that when the world badly needs multilateral solutions, the increasing promulgation of unilateral coercive measures is unlawful and harmful. They embody collective punishment of national populations, using financial might for political gains by harming civilians, including those of his country for four decades. Measures that restrict access to medicine and food constitute a crime against humanity. “It is a war without a name” he said, and one aimed at children and the most vulnerable.
The representative of Cuba said a handful of countries with hegemonic ambitions impose unilateral measures to bring political coercion to bear over certain peoples. They constitute illegal interference in national sovereignty, aiming to cause economic and political harm to those populations, with a disproportionate impact on vulnerable people. She said Cuba is the victim of the longest and harshest measures ever implemented by one State against another, constituting the main hindrance to its development. Over last few months, the screws of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms‑Burton Act) have been brutally tightened. She noted the cumulative economic damage over the past six decades amounts to $922 billion, with the human cost being immeasurable. Every single citizen and element of society has felt the impact of the blockade. Instead of sanctions, she said, the international community must strengthen multilateralism and “stop frittering away” massive resources on wars.
The representative of Nicaragua noted that powerful countries continue to hinder achievement of the 2030 Agenda through coercive measures, limiting their access to financial markets and basic goods. Emphasizing that no State has the right to cause so much harm and suffering, he said such measures are an affront to appropriate behaviour outlined in the 2030 Agenda. Seeking to use these measures to target crime is a lie, as women and children and other vulnerable groups bear the brunt of these inhumane measures.
The representative of Bangladesh then introduced a draft on “Natural plant fibres and sustainable development” (document A/C.2/74/L.2/Rev.1). He noted that a diverse range of natural plant fibres provides a vital source of income for farmers, thus playing an important role in eradicating poverty. His delegation believes that promoting these fibres, especially the lesser known ones like jute, abaca, coir, kenaf, sisal, hemp and ramie will contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Hopefully, the resolution will pave the way for fostering scientific research, development and cooperation at the national, regional and global levels to ensure the high end, value-added and innovative use of all lesser known natural plant fibres.
The representative of the United States congratulated Bangladesh on the natural fibres draft, stating that her country was pleased to join consensus. She drew attention, however, to her country’s recorded stance on climate change and language used in the resolution.
The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.
Speaking after the approval, the representative of Mexico said his delegation joined consensus on the text, noting that use of natural fibres is of major importance to many nations and a driver of sustainable development. Such fibres are vital for the economies of developing countries and small holders around the globe. However, he found the text to be symptomatic of a major Second Committee challenge, as it fails to align itself with the work of the 2030 Agenda by identifying the impact it would have on the ground.