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GA/12305
21 December 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 47th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Declares International Day of Human Fraternity in Response to Growing Religious Hatred amid Pandemic, Adopts 3 Other Texts on Myriad Issues

The General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted three resolutions and one decision today, including one calling for a further comprehensive review of United Nations peacebuilding in 2025 and another proclaiming 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity.

Adopting the resolution “International Day of Human Fraternity” (document A/75/L.52), the Assembly invited Member States, the United Nations system and others to observe every 4 February in a manner they would each consider appropriate to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

Introducing the resolution on behalf of several countries, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said “L.52” is a response to growing religious hatred amid the COVID‑19 pandemic.  Germany’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that while joining consensus, the bloc believes that the proliferation of international days must be avoided.

In adopting the resolution “Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture” (document A/75/L.53), the Assembly welcomed progress in the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and called upon the Peacebuilding Commission to strengthen its efforts in countries and regions under its consideration.  Calling for a further comprehensive review of United Nations peacebuilding in 2025, it requested the Secretary‑General to present to the Assembly and the Security Council an interim report in 2022 and a second detailed report in 2024.

Introducing the resolution, Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) said peacekeeping is an essential part of the work of the United Nations.  However, the COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated conflicts and has had a devastating impact on human rights.  The resolution would advance efforts to bring greater coherence to the Organization’s peacebuilding efforts and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its work, he said.

Denmark’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said “L.53” reflected an agreeable compromise among Member States.  While commending its emphasis on including women in the peace process, the focus on preventing conflicts and the recognition of the links between human rights and peace, she said sustainable fundraising for peacekeeping efforts is essential, and viable options must be explored.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, underlined the resolution’s strong emphasis on peacebuilding and welcomed its reaffirmation of national ownership and its focus on the participation of women and youth in the peace process.

In adopting the resolution “Education for democracy” (document A/75/L.46/Rev.1), introduced by Mongolia’s delegate, the Assembly strongly encouraged Member States and relevant authorities to integrate the concept into school curricula and to do more to empower young people to shape — in the aftermath of the COVID‑19 pandemic — societies anchored in respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The Assembly also decided to extend the investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him.  In adopting the decision contained in document A/75/L.49, the Assembly requested the Secretary‑General to report to it before the end of its seventy‑sixth session on progress made in the ongoing investigation of the 1961 airplane crash that took the life of the United Nations second Secretary‑General during a peace mission in Africa.  Introduced by Sweden’s representative, the decision followed a request from Mohamed Chande Othman, the Eminent Person leading the investigation, for a one‑year extension due to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

In other business, the Assembly heard the introduction of the draft resolution “Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — residual functions” (document A/75/L.51).  By its terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary‑General to continue his consultations with the Government of Cambodia to finalize a proposed framework for completing the work of the Extraordinary Chambers, established in 1997 to try senior members of the Khmer Rouge for crimes against humanity and other offences.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. today to take up draft resolutions and decisions recommended by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

Action on Draft Texts

The Assembly, taking up its agenda item on “Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — residual functions”, considered an eponymous draft resolution contained in document A/75/L.51.  By its terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary‑General to continue consultations with the Government of Cambodia in order to finalize, for consideration by the Assembly, a proposed framework for the completion of the Extraordinary Chambers’ work, including its drawdown.  It would also request him to report by 15 May 2021 on the implementation of the text.

The representative of Australia, introducing “L.51”, said the Extraordinary Chambers has, since its inception, made substantial progress in fulfilling its mandate to prosecute cases involving former members of the Khmer Rouge regime.  He underscored the importance of residual functions, including the management of records and archives, revision of judgments, protection of witnesses and enforcement of sentences.  “L.51” would give the Secretary‑General a further mandate to continue his consultations with the Government of Cambodia to finalize a proposed framework for the completion of the work of the Extraordinary Chambers.

The representative of Cambodia co‑introduced the draft resolution, recalling that at least 1.7 million Cambodians had died before the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, ending a brutal period of forced labour, starvation and execution.  Established to prosecute senior members of the regime for grave violations of national and international law, the Extraordinary Chambers brought justice and reconciliation to the Cambodian people, he said, adding that it has substantially achieved its mandated objective.  As the tribunal winds down its work, it is essential that residual functions are performed, he said, noting that “L.51” contributes to that process.

The Assembly then turned to its agenda item on “Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him”, taking up a draft decision of the same name contained in document A/75/L.49.  By its terms, the Assembly — taking note of the letter dated 5 November from the Secretary‑General — would request the Secretary‑General to report to the Assembly before the end of its seventy‑sixth session on progress made in the investigation.

[In his letter dated 5 November and addressed to the President of the Assembly (document A/75/635), the Secretary‑General said he had reappointed Mohamed Chande Othman (United Republic of Tanzania) in March 2020, to continue the investigation.  He also conveyed the Eminent Person’s suggestion that the investigation be extended for one year, owing to the COVID‑19 pandemic.]

The representative of Sweden, introducing “L.49”, said that during the previous session, a resolution was adopted that called for the continuation of the investigation, with an update on the matter slated for the Assembly’s current session.  However, due to the pandemic, “L.49” requests that the update be delayed until the seventy‑sixth session.

A representative of the Secretariat said that, should the Assembly adopt “L.49”, additional resource requirements would be included in the proposed programme budget for 2022 for the amounts of:  $120,500 under overall policymaking, development and coordination; $109,500 under General Assembly and Economic and Social Council affairs and conference management, for one pre‑session document with a word count of 35,000 words in all six official United Nations languages; and $13,100 under staff assessment, to be offset by the same amount under income from staff assessment.

The Assembly then adopted draft decision “L.49” without a vote.

Next, under its agenda item on the integrated and coordination implementation and follow‑up to the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits, the Assembly took up the draft resolution “Education for democracy” (document A/75/L.46/Rev.1).  Through that text, it would strongly encourage Member States and relevant authorities to integrate lessons for democracy into academic standards and to develop and strengthen programmes, curricula and activities aimed at promoting and consolidating democratic values, governance and human rights.  It would also encourage Member States to intensify their efforts towards educating and empowering young people, in particular to shape — in the aftermath of the COVID‑19 pandemic — societies anchored in respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The representative of Mongolia, introducing “L.46/Rev.1”, said the draft recognizes the transformative power of education towards strengthening democratic institutions, the realization of human rights and moreover, the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Throughout the negotiation process, Member States voiced concerns over a rise in hate speech across the world and warned that the pandemic disrupted the link between young people and educational institutions.  “Promoting a culture of peace and democracy is becoming more crucial than ever in building inclusive, peaceful and resilient post‑pandemic societies,” he said, noting that “L.46/Rev.1” encourages Member States to intensify efforts towards educating and empowering young people to uphold the values of human rights and the rule of law.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution “L.46/Rev.1” without a vote.

The representative of the United States, explaining his delegation’s position, said education creates pathways to better health, economic growth and peaceful societies.  To that end, the United States is implementing a policy that recognizes the role of non‑State actors and the private sector in helping students access the tools they need.  Washington, D.C., joins consensus with the understanding that the text is consistent with its federal, state and local education policy.  However, he said operative paragraph 7 cannot allow for the suppression of free speech, as “no State should restrict free thought.”

The representative of Iran assured the Assembly of the non‑binding nature of the 2030 Agenda and the Incheon Declaration, “Education 2030:  Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all”.  As Tehran is not committed to items that run counter to its national legislation, his delegation disassociates itself from preambular paragraphs 5 and 9 and operative paragraph 4.

Under the Assembly’s agenda item on the “Culture of peace”, it considered the draft resolution “International Day of Human Fraternity” (document A/75/L.52).  By its terms, the Assembly would decide to declare 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity, to be observed each year beginning in 2021, and would invite Member States, the United Nations system and others to observe the day in a manner that they would each consider appropriate, with the cost covered by voluntary contributions.

The representative of United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, introduced the text, saying the international community is deeply concerned that religious hatred is increasing in the face of the COVID‑19 crisis.  “L.52” is a global response based on international solidarity, as the elimination of discrimination is necessary, she said, underlining the importance of interreligious dialogue.

The Assembly then adopted “L.52” without a vote.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained the bloc’s position of supporting a culture of peace.  Yet, the proliferation of international days must be avoided, he said, noting the rejection of the European Union’s proposal of merging this international day with existing ones.  He also regretted to note that preambular paragraph 9 refers to pluralistic traditions.  Despite these reservations, his delegation will join the consensus today, with the noted clarifications.

The representative of the United States, noting the possible confusion surrounding the reference to pluralistic traditions in preambular paragraph 9, wondered with concern about which traditions the paragraph refers to.  The United States prefers the concept of religious pluralism.

The Assembly, turning to its agenda item “Peacebuilding and sustaining peace”, took up the draft resolution “Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture” (document A/75/L.53), submitted by its President.  By its terms, the Assembly would welcome progress made by Member States and the United Nations system in the implementation of resolutions on peacebuilding and sustaining peace.  It would also call upon the Peacebuilding Commission to strengthen its advisory, bridging and convening roles in support of nationally owned priorities and efforts in countries and regions under its consideration.  It would further call for a comprehensive review of United Nations peacebuilding in 2025 and request the Secretary‑General to present to the Assembly and the Security Council an interim report in 2022 and a second detailed report in 2024 in advance of the review.

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said global peacebuilding efforts are an essential part of the Organization.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated conflicts and has had a devastating impact on human rights.  “L.53” will advance efforts to bring greater coherence to the Organization’s peacebuilding efforts and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its work.  It also renews the Organization’s commitment to peacebuilding and recognizes that sustaining peace is at the heart of its work.

The Assembly then adopted “L.53” by consensus.

The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained the bloc’s position on “L.53”, which reflects an agreeable compromise.  She commended its emphasis on including women in the peace process, the focus on preventing conflicts and the recognition of the links between human rights and peace.  Sustainable fundraising for peacekeeping efforts is essential and viable options must be explored.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, thanked all the parties for their cooperation in developing “L.53”.  The strong emphasis on peacebuilding is very important, she said, welcoming its reaffirmation of national ownership and its emphasis on the participation of women and youth in the peace process.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the African Peacebuilding Caucus and associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement, drew attention to the text’s emphasis on implementation and action to address remaining gaps.  He also commended the fact that “L.53” reaffirms such principles as national ownership, the need to strengthen the Peacebuilding Commission, advancing the 2030 Agenda and healing the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The representative of the United States, saying “L.53” was a balanced resolution, clarified his delegation’s position on the 2030 Agenda, which it set out in its general statement on 18 November.

The representative of Switzerland said that over the past five years, significant progress has been achieved in the realm of peacebuilding and sustaining peace.  Member States must acknowledge, however, that significant challenges persist, including the pandemic, which imperils gains made.  He underscored the need for predictable financing for peacebuilding and for greater unity and coherence in sustaining peace efforts.

NAMAZU HIROYUKI (Japan), Vice‑Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that his delegation has consistently supported making “L.53” both forward‑looking, by reflecting Member States’ strong commitment to peacebuilding and sustaining peace, and action‑oriented, by laying out concrete ways to strengthen the United Nations peacebuilding architecture.  While appreciating that some proposals — such as having a paragraph on the Peacebuilding Commission’s role and the need to keep strengthening its working methods — were in the final text, he regretted to note that in the rush to a final draft, the reference to institution‑building was dropped at the very last stage, without any transparent and inclusive consultations.  Throughout the process of the 2020 United Nations peacebuilding architecture review, Japan has emphasized the importance of institution‑building as a means, along with financing, of building and sustaining peace.  Effective, accountable and inclusive institutions are essential to develop people’s trust in their Governments, which is a precondition for tackling the root causes of conflicts, he said, adding that his delegation was encouraged that during negotiations, many Member States supported focusing attention on institution‑building, a primary purpose of the Peacebuilding Commission when it was created 15 years ago.

For information media. Not an official record.