14 May 2020

Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, General Assembly, in Silence Procedure, Adopts 7 Resolutions, 13 Decisions between 27 March and 14 May

The General Assembly adopted seven resolutions and 13 decisions since 27 March amid the coronavirus pandemic, including one adjusting its work methods and two others calling for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat COVID-19 and for Member States and stakeholders to take steps to prevent speculation and undue stockpiling that may hinder access to required equipment to address the spread of the virus.

The organ first decided to use a silence procedure when considering draft resolutions and decisions, adopting on 27 March decision 74/544, “Procedure for taking decisions of the General Assembly during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic”.

By its terms, the Assembly, on the proposal of its President, noted with concern the situation concerning COVID-19 and the limitations recommended on meetings within the United Nations premises as precautionary measures aimed at containing its spread.

As such, it authorized its President, where, in his view, a plenary meeting of the General Assembly was not practicable due to the coronavirus pandemic, to circulate, after consultation with the General Committee, its draft decisions to all Member States under the silence procedure of at least 72 hours.  It also decided that, if the silence is not broken, the decision should be considered adopted.

The Assembly decided that decision 74/544 should be in effect until the end of May, unless extended through this procedure.  It also decided that the Assembly should take note of this decision at its first plenary meeting held after the cessation of the precautionary measures as soon as the circumstances allow.

Since taking that decision, the Assembly has adopted packages of decisions and resolutions, including one encouraging international cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic and others postponing planned meetings.

Today, it adopted the following four decisions to postpone events:  decision 74/554, “Twenty-first meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea”; decision 74/553, “Twentieth session of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation”; decision 74/552, “Seventh Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects”; and decision 74/551, “High-level dialogue to assess the progress made in the fight against desertification, land degradation and drought and to map the way forward”.

On 20 April, the Assembly adopted two drafts, including resolution 74/274, “International cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19”.

By its terms, the Assembly reaffirmed the fundamental role of the United Nations system in coordinating the global response to control and contain the spread of COVID-19 and in supporting Member States, and in this regard acknowledged the crucial leading role played by the World Health Organization.  It also called on Member States and stakeholders to help to prevent actions that could hinder access to safe, effective and affordable essential medicines, vaccines, personal protective equipment and medical equipment as may be required to effectively address COVID-19.

The Assembly further encouraged Member States to work in partnership with all relevant stakeholders to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, leverage digital technologies, and strengthen scientific international cooperation necessary to combat COVID-19 and to bolster coordination, including with the private sector, towards rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, antiviral medicines, personal protective equipment and vaccines, adhering to the objectives of efficacy, safety, equity, accessibility and affordability.

The Assembly then adopted resolution 74/273, “International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda”, reaffirming 7 April as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.  It also called on Member States that have not yet ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to consider doing so.

On 13 April, the Assembly adopted two resolutions and six decisions.  It first adopted resolution 74/272, “Construction of a new facility for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha branch”.  In doing so, it endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), subject to several provisions in the present resolution.

In adopting resolution 74/271, “Progress towards an Accountability System in the United Nations Secretariat”, the Assembly endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the ACABQ report.

The Assembly then adopted the following three decisions postponing planned events:  decision 74/550, “Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice” (scheduled to take place 20–27 April in Kyoto, Japan); decision 74/549, “Fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia, 2020” (scheduled to be held on 24 April at United Nations Headquarters in New York); and decision 74/548, “2020 United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14:  Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” (scheduled to be held 2–6 June in Lisbon, Portugal).

In adopting decision 74/547, “Interactive dialogue on Harmony with Nature”, it decided to cancel the event scheduled to be held during the Assembly’s seventy-fourth session.

The Assembly also adopted decision 74/540 B, “Questions deferred for future consideration”, and a decision to fill vacancies on the Committee on Contributions.

The Assembly adopted one resolution and two decisions on 2 April.  In adopting resolution 74/270, “Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic”, the Assembly called for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic.  It also emphasized the need for full respect for human rights, and stressed that there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic.

Further by the resolution’s terms, the Assembly expressed optimism that the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be mitigated and successfully reversed through leadership and sustained global cooperation and solidarity.

Deciding to postpone scheduled meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Assembly adopted decision 74/546, “Disarmament Commission” and decision 74/545, “Seventy-second session of the International Law Commission”.

On 31 March, the Assembly adopted two resolutions.  In adopting resolution 74/261 B, “Financing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID)”, it endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the ACABQ report, and requested the Secretary-General to ensure their full implementation.

The Assembly then adopted resolution 74/269, “Scope, modalities, format and organization of the summit on biodiversity”.  By its terms, it decided that the summit on biodiversity at the level of Heads of State and Government, to be convened by the General Assembly President, shall be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on the first and second days of the general debate of its seventy-fifth session.

The final version of decisions adopted during the resumed part of the General Assembly’s seventy-fourth session will be contained in the General Assembly’s official record (document A/74/49 (Vol. III)) after editorial review.

For information media. Not an official record.