18 September 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 2nd Meeting (AM)

Endorsing General Committee’s First Report, General Assembly Adopts Upcoming Session Work Programme, Placing Responsibility to Protect, Situation in Ukraine on Agenda

Delegates Note COVID-19 Pandemic Will Affect Practical Arrangements for Upcoming Events

The General Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its General Committee, today adopted a work programme and agenda for its seventy‑fifth session, deciding to include the item “responsibility to protect” in its discussions over the coming months and to take note that the COVID‑19 pandemic will affect practical arrangements of forthcoming events.

The Assembly, which had before it the General Committee’s first report (document A/75/250), also endorsed the recommendation that its general debate will be held 22 to 26 September.

Volkan Bozkır (Turkey), President of the Assembly’s seventy‑fifth session, highlighted that the General Committee drew the world body’s attention to the fact that practical arrangements for the conduct of the current session will be affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic, including with regard to whether or not certain events take place, how they are conducted and the number of attendees.  He noted that all changes reflect risk assessments and advice provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Committee of the Crisis Operations Group, and are also based on host city and state guidance, the current phase of the COVID‑19 reintegration plan for the United Nations Headquarters complex and an up‑to‑date understanding of the risks posed by the pandemic to delegates and United Nations personnel.

The Assembly also endorsed the decision, without setting a precedent, that where physical presence is not practicable, a pre‑recorded statement can be submitted by those who are invited to make opening statements at the high‑level meeting to commemorate the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations, scheduled to be held on 21 September.

All but one agenda item was approved by consensus, with Member States disagreeing on the inclusion of the topic known as the “responsibility to protect”.  By a recorded vote of 101 in favour to 13 against, with 22 abstentions, the Assembly decided to include the item “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

Prior to taking action on the item, several delegates explained their opposition to the item’s inclusion, with Syria’s representative, requesting a recorded vote on the matter, saying that the issue lacks transparency.  He said including it on the Assembly’s agenda would only deepen existing misunderstandings, especially since some Governments continue to use the concept as a pretext for interference and the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions.  The representatives of Nicaragua and Iran said, among other things, that there is no clear definition of the concept.  Cuba’s delegate said the item’s inclusion is premature, and the Russian Federation’s representative called for adopting the previous approach of holding informal discussions.

Several delegates, including those from Denmark and Ukraine, indicated that they would vote in favour of its inclusion.  The representative of Germany said divergent views are best addressed through dialogue, and there is clearly a desire to discuss this issue.

Among delegations casting an abstention, the representative of Singapore said doing so was rooted in the belief that informal dialogue is needed to overcome divergence on the issue and that a formal debate is not always the best way to build trust.  Indonesia’s representative said his delegation had abstained for the same reasons it had on 4 September, during the Assembly’s recorded vote on the issue.

Prior to deciding to include on its agenda the item titled “The situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine”, the Russian Federation’s representative said no occupation was taking place in Ukraine, but that a civil conflict had begun following a coup in 2014.  He said including the item is political and is not acceptable to his delegation.  The representative of Ukraine said it is paramount to retain the item, in accordance with the General Assembly decisions and the General Committee’s recommendation.  He said the Russian Federation has been temporarily occupying parts of Ukraine since 2014, and he called on Member States to support the item’s inclusion on the Assembly’s agenda.

Other topics to be considered during the session included:  Promoting investments for sustainable development; Global Code of Ethics for Tourism; Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte; Crimes against humanity; Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – residual functions; Joint courses of action and future‑oriented dialogue towards a world without nuclear weapons; Strengthening and developing the system of arms control, disarmament and non‑proliferation treaties and agreements; and Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Assembly also decided to include on its agenda the following items on observer status for:  Small Island Developing States Dock (SIDS DOCK); Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Institute; Asian Forest Cooperation Organization; and Global Dryland Alliance.

It decided to defer consideration of the item “Question of the Malagasy islands of Glorieuses, Juan de Nova, Europa and Bassas da India” to its seventy‑sixth session.

The Assembly decided that the delegations of the Holy See and the State of Palestine would participate in the seventy‑fifth session as observer States, and that the European Union would participate in the work of the session as an observer.

Regarding the work of its Main Committees, the Assembly endorsed the recommendation that the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) complete its work by 10 November; Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) by 10 November; Second Committee (Economic and Financial) by 25 November; Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) by 20 November; and the Sixth Committee (Legal) by 20 November.

Also speaking today were representatives of Armenia and Liechtenstein.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Monday, 21 September, to open its high‑level meeting to commemorate the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations.

For information media. Not an official record.