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GA/12307
31 December 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 48th Meeting (resumed) (AM)

Approving $3.21 Billion Budget, General Assembly Adopts 25 Resolutions, Decisions from Its Main Committees, Concluding Main Part of Seventy-Fifth Session

Concluding the main part of its seventy-fifth session, the General Assembly approved $3.21 billion for 2021 and adopted 22 resolutions and 3 decisions recommended by its Main Committees.

Adopting a range of drafts recommended by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly approved resources for 2021, the Organization’s second annual budget in nearly 50 years, by a recorded vote of 168 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States) and no abstentions.  The 2021 budget was greater than the $2.99 billion budget proposal unveiled by Secretary-General António Guterres in mid-October.  Up slightly from last year’s $3.07 billion appropriation, the 2021 budget keeps the Organization’s doors open and its staff working amid a global pandemic and ongoing funding challenges.

The Assembly also adopted a wide-ranging, 26‑part text on special subjects related to the 2021 programme budget.  It earmarked $728.21 million for the 40 continuing special political missions authorized by the Assembly and/or Security Council.  The massive document also allocated more than $25 million for Umoja, the Organization’s enterprise resource planning project, and set deadlines and funding for renovations to keep historic United Nations structures in Geneva and Addis Ababa open and operating safely while making the Organization’s regional commission in Bangkok a safer, more efficient working space for more than 600 employees.

In other business, the Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), adopted the draft resolution “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” by recorded vote of 106 in favour to 14 against, with 44 abstentions.

In doing so, it decided to hold a one-day high-level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, at the level of Heads of State and Government, on the second day of the general debate of the seventy-sixth session, on the theme “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent”.

Taking up another Third Committee text, it adopted the draft resolution “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar”, by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 9 against (Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe), with 25 abstentions.  In an explanation of position after the vote, Myanmar’s representative said that his country and its democratically elected Government has taken strides in addressing human rights.

The Assembly’s 56-page omnibus draft resolution “Oceans and the law of the sea” was adopted by a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 1 against (Turkey), with 4 abstentions (Colombia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Venezuela).  Among other things, it reaffirmed the unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the vital importance of preserving its integrity.

Delegates also took up several draft resolutions and draft decisions submitted by its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

By a recorded vote of 92 in favour to 50 against, with 21 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution on “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”.  By its terms, the Assembly decided to convene a new open-ended working group on security of and in the use of information and communications technologies 2021-2025.  Prior to approval, the Assembly held separate votes focusing on two of its paragraphs.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted two draft decisions that sketched out timeframes for two bodies:  the Open-Ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security and the Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace in the Context of International Security.

It adopted the draft resolution “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” without a vote, after deciding — by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (Angola, Guyana, Madagascar) to retain a preambular paragraph welcoming the successful conclusion of the third United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in 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, held in 2018.

Adopting the draft decision “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus” without a vote, the Assembly took note of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of the related Group of Governmental Experts to meet in 2020 and requested the Secretary-General to convene it in 2021 so it can complete its work.

Finally, and without a vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — residual functions”.  By its terms, the Assembly requested 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.

Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, in closing remarks, said that much work remains in advancing the key priorities of the seventy-fifth session, including multilateralism, the humanitarian agenda, empowering people in the most vulnerable situations, and gender equality.  “I believe in the power of humanity to create a better future for all,” he said, calling on Member States to commit to the United Nations Charter and underscoring their “solemn duty” to engage in constructive dialogue.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced in the United Nations Journal.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly turned first to the report of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) “Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (document A/75/476) with a view to taking action on draft resolution II, “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”.

The Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 106 in favour to 14 against, with 44 abstentions.  The draft’s budget implications, as considered by the Fifth Committee, are contained in a related report (document A/75/678).

By that 10-page text — which spans eight sections — the Assembly reaffirmed the paramount importance of universal adherence to and full implementation of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.   It would likewise express concern at the lack of progress in elaborating complementary standards to the Convention to fill gaps through the development of new normative standards, and requested the Chair-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to present a progress report at the Assembly’s seventy-sixth session.  It also decided to hold a one-day high-level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, at the level of Heads of State and Government, on the second day of the general  debate of the seventy-sixth session, on the theme “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent”.

The text’s other sections cover the following topics:   International Decade for People of African Descent; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Group of Independent Eminent Experts on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; Trust fund for the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination; Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; and Follow-up and implementation activities.

Turning to another Third Committee report, “Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives” (document A/75/478/Add.3), the Assembly considered draft resolution IV, “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar”, contained therein.

By a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 9 against (Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe), with 26 abstentions, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution, expressing grave concern at reports of serious rights violations by the military and security forces against the Rohingya, notably in Kachin, Rakhine, southern Chin and Shan States, leading to the forced displacement of more than 860,000 Rohingya and other minorities to Bangladesh.  Budget implications, as considered by the Fifth Committee, are contained in a related report (document A/75/677).

The representative of Myanmar, speaking in explanation of position, said his delegation voted against the draft resolution because it is an exploitation of human rights initiatives for political purposes, which should be avoided.   Its provisions intrude into Myanmar’s jurisdiction.  Myanmar has taken strides in addressing human rights, and the current leaders of its democratically elected Government do not condone violations, with 67 per cent of cases having been investigated.  The winning party in recent elections has reached out to others in forming a new Government and is willing to engage in meaningful dialogue with related ethnic groups.  His delegation categorically rejects the resolution and Myanmar is not bound by it.

The representative of Guyana corrected her delegation’s vote to “in favour”.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution “Oceans and the law of the sea” (document A/75/L.39) by a vote of 152 in favour to 1 against (Turkey), with 4 abstentions (Colombia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Venezuela).  The draft’s budget implications were contained in a related report (document A/75/679) from the Fifth Committee.

Through that 56-page text, the Assembly reaffirmed the unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the vital importance of preserving its integrity.  It called upon all States that have not done so to become parties to the Convention and the Part XI Agreement, which established the International Seabed Authority and provided for a regime relating to minerals outside a State’s territorial waters or Exclusive Economic Zone.  It similarly called on those States that have not done so to become parties to the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (the Fish Stocks Agreement).

It further called upon States to harmonize their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention and, if they have not done so, to deposit with the Secretary-General charts or lists of geographical coordinates, as provided for in the Convention.  It went on to urge all States to cooperate, directly or through competent international bodies, in taking measures to protect and preserve objects of an archaeological and historical nature found at sea, in conformity with the Convention.  Other sections of the text addressed such matters as the Convention’s implementation, capacity-building, peaceful settlement of disputes, maritime safety and security, and marine environment, biodiversity and science.

The representative of Turkey, speaking in explanation of position, said his delegation felt obliged to request a vote on “L.39” due to its references to the Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Turkey is not a party to the instrument and disagrees with the view that it has a universal character.  The Convention is not the only legal framework governing the oceans and the seas.

The representative of Venezuela said his delegation is not a party to the Convention, adding that his delegation would provide the Secretariat with a longer statement to be included in the records of today’s meeting.

The representative of Gabon said her delegation intended to vote in favour of the resolution.

The representative of Cyprus, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Convention codifies customary international law and its provisions are thus binding on all States.  If Turkey has any issues with the implementation of the law of the sea, there are always ways to resolve them, including the International Court of Justice.

The representative of Colombia said “L.39” contained language regarding the Convention that his delegation does not share, and such resolutions cannot be interpreted as an acceptance of the instrument and its provisions.

By a recorded vote of 92 in favour to 50 against, with 21 abstentions, the Assembly adopted draft resolution II on “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”.  By its terms, the General Assembly decided to convene a new open-ended working group on security of and in the use of information and communications technologies 2021-2025 and to submit annual progress reports with a final report adopted by consensus on the results of its work to the General Assembly at its eightieth session.  The draft’s budget implications, as considered by the Fifth Committee, are contained in a related report (document A/75/674).

Prior to its approval, the Assembly decided, by a recorded vote of 81 in favour to 52 against, with 22 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 10, through which it stressed that it is in the interest of all States to promote the use of information and communications technologies for peaceful purposes, with the objective of shaping a community for humankind in cyberspace.

The Assembly then decided, by a recorded vote of 73 in favour to 51 against, with 28 abstentions, to retain operative paragraph 1, through which it decided to convene, starting from 2021, a new open-ended working group on security of and in the use of information and communications technologies.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, draft decision I, “Open-Ended Working Group on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/27 of 5 December 2018”.  By its terms, the Assembly decided that the Open-Ended Working Group — whose session scheduled for 6 to 10 July 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic — shall convene its third and final substantive session from 8 to 12 March 2021.  The draft’s budget implications, as considered by the Fifth Committee, are contained in a related report (document A/75/675).

It also adopted, without a vote, draft decision II, “Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security established by the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/266 of 22 December 2018”.   By its terms, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to convene the third and fourth (final) sessions of the Group of Governmental Experts in 2021 before the end of May.  The draft’s budget implications, as considered by the Fifth Committee, are contained in a related report (document A/75/676).

Turning to the First Committee report “General and complete disarmament” (document A/75/399), the Assembly took action on two drafts.  Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolution XXV, “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” contained therein.  By its terms, the Assembly called upon all States to implement the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.  The draft’s budget implications, as considered by the Fifth Committee, are contained in a related report (document A/75/672). 

Prior to adopting the draft as a whole, the Assembly decided by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (Angola, Guyana, Madagascar) to retain preambular paragraph 7.  Through that provision, the Assembly welcomed he successful conclusion of the third United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in 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, held in New York from 18 to 29 June 2018.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft decision IV, “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus”.  Through it, the Assembly took note of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of the Group of Governmental Experts established pursuant to resolution 72/55 to convene in 2020.   As such, the Assembly decided to request the Secretary-General to convene for up to 10 working days in 2021 the group of governmental experts so it can complete its work.  The draft’s budget implications, as considered by the Fifth Committee, are contained in a related report (document A/75/673).

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, recalled his previous statement that “all roads lead to the Fifth Committee” and that Member States were nearing their destination.  For the first time in its history, the United Nations was adopting its budget on the last day of the preceding year.  Given related difficulties, he felt it necessary to express concern and disappointment in a written statement, but was pleased that remaining issues had been solved the previous night, 30 December, and welcomed the spirit of flexibility and compromise evinced in concluding deliberations on time.

“You are the innovators of the United Nations,” he said, noting that Member States have met both in person and remotely.  The Organization has played a vital role in addressing and mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic and requires a strong budget and allocations of crucial resources to pursue its engagements.  The Secretary-General has expressed concern about the financial situation several times, he said, and there are stark projections on the ramifications of the current liquidity crisis.  Stating that the world “cannot have the future we want without the United Nations we need”, he called on all Member States to fulfil their responsibilities and obligations.

TSU TANG TERRENCE TEO (Singapore), Rapporteur of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), introduced that body’s reports and provided an overview of its work.  (See Press Release GA/AB/4362 of 30 December).

The Assembly first, on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee, took up the report “Appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other appointments: appointment of members of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee” (document A/75/583/Add.1), and appointed Imran Vanker (South Africa) for a three—year term of office beginning on 1 January 2021.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft contained in the report on the financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors (document A/75/665).

Next, it adopted the draft contained in the report “Programme planning” (document A/75/666), without a vote.

The representative of the Russian Federation introduced an oral amendment, drawing reference to the statement he made 30 December in the Fifth Committee, to replace language about the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria.

The representative of Syria said his delegation supported the oral amendment.

The representative of Switzerland, also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, expressed regret that the oral amendment undermines the General Assembly’s determination to finance the Mechanism through the regular budget, calling for a vote on the amendment.

The Assembly then rejected the oral amendment by a recorded vote of 88 against to 19 in favour, with 55 abstentions, and adopted the draft resolution as a whole, without a vote.

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in explanation of position, disassociated his delegation from paragraphs of the draft referring to the Mechanism.

The representative of Myanmar disassociated his delegation from the approval of programme planning for the Mechanism.

The representative of Syria, disassociating himself from paragraphs pertaining to the Mechanism, rejected it, as his delegation does not recognize its mandate or activities.  Further, the General Assembly does not have the authority to establish such mechanisms.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly then adopted the draft resolution contained in the report “Pattern of conferences” (document A/75/667).

The Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “United Nations common system” contained in an eponymous report (document A/75/670).

Taking up the report on the United Nations pension system (document A/75/669), the Assembly adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution contained therein.

It also acted without a vote in adopting the draft resolution “Report on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services”, contained in a related report (document A/75/671).

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution contained in the report “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (document A/75/668) without a vote.

It went on to adopt, without a vote, the draft resolution contained in the report “Financing of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals” (document A/75/680).

Taking up the report “Financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (document A/75/664), it considered the draft resolution contained therein.  By a recorded vote of 99 in favour, to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States), with 57 abstentions, the Assembly first decided to retain the preambular paragraph 3 and operative paragraphs 1, 2 and 3.

The Assembly then adopted the draft as a whole by a recorded vote of 166 in favour, to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States), with no abstentions.

The Assembly turned to the report “Proposed programme budget for 2021” (document A/75/682), containing five drafts.

The representative of the Russian Federation proposed an oral amendment to draft resolution I, “Questions relating to the proposed programme budget for 2021”.

The representative of Cuba, proposing an oral amendment to draft resolution II, “Special subjects relating to the proposed programme budget for 2021”, said there is no governmentally negotiated agreement on the proposed programme budget for 2021, and the Secretariat has put forward no mandate for Member States to make headway in that domain.  Amendments put forward do not seek to undermine the special adviser on genocide, and so budgetary estimates should be deleted and only considered when the General Assembly has decided on the scope of implementation.

The representative of the United States said the United Nations is replacing principle with expediency and is extending hate, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias.  Recalling that the United States is the Organization’s largest and most reliable partner, providing 25 per cent of its peacekeeping budget and $9 billion in humanitarian aid, she noted that human rights abusers are rewarded with seats on the Human Rights Council.  The United Nations must uphold its responsibilities in maintaining peace and security and advancing human rights, she said, adding that the Organization has ceased to require a moral centre.  The Durban declaration is poisoned by anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias, running contrary to battling racial discrimination.  Meanwhile, with the signing of the Abraham Accord peace agreements with Israel, the world is moving forward while the United Nations is stuck in the past, she said, calling for the reimposition of sanctions against Iran.

The representative of Canada called for all delegations to vote against oral amendments regarding the Office of the Special Advisory on the Responsibility to Protect, as his country has done every year since 2015.

The representative of Venezuela said his delegation would support the proposed amendments, adding that the concept of the responsibility to protect lacks consensus among Member States.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea supported the proposed amendments from Cuba and the Russian Federation, adding that the concept of the responsibility to protect is used to justify interference in the internal affairs of smaller and weaker countries.

The representative of Syria, reiterating his delegation’s rejection of the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria, supported Cuba’s proposal.  However, he said the statement made by his counterpart from the United States was inconsistent, given that Washington, D.C., supports terrorists and separatist militias in Syria and is occupying Syrian territory.

The representative of Israel said his delegation will refuse to vote in favour of a budget that allocates resources for a commemoration of the Durban Conference, which would be a part of a wider anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.

The representative of Nicaragua said the concept of the responsibility to protect lacks both consensus and a legal basis.  With regard to the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria, she said establishing such an initiative should entail a political agreement that reflects the will of Damascus and the Syrian people.

The representative of Germany said his delegation would vote against the amendment proposed by the Russian Federation.

Rejecting the oral amendment to draft resolution I, proposed by the Russian Federation, by a recorded vote of 93 against to 17 in favour, with 53 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted draft resolution I as a whole without a vote.

The Assembly rejected the oral amendment to draft resolution II, proposed by Cuba, by a vote of 81 against to 19 in favour, with 58 abstentions, and then adopted draft resolution II as a whole without a vote.

The representative of Belarus, speaking in explanation of position, said among other things that funding for the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria is counterproductive at a time when the Organization is facing liquidity issues.  He also welcomed the ACABQ recommendation for a gradual increase in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The representative of the Russian Federation disassociated his delegation from all references to the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria.

The representative of Myanmar said that while his delegation supports the 2021 budget package, it disassociates itself from the allocation of resources to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.

The representative of Syria disassociated his delegation from consensus on funding for the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria, adding that Damascus will fulfil its financial obligations to the United Nations on that basis.

The representative of Venezuela underscored his delegation’s condemnation of resolutions or special procedures on human rights situations in particular countries.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution III, “Programme budget for 2021”, by a recorded vote of 168 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolution IV, “Unforeseen and extraordinary expenses for 2021”.

It also adopted draft resolution V, “Working Capital Fund for 2021”, without a vote.

Taking up the report “Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations” (document A/75/683), the Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft decision “Questions deferred for future consideration” contained therein.

The Assembly adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution “Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — residual functions” (document A/75/L.51).  By its terms, the Assembly requested 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 text was introduced in the Assembly on 21 December (For information, see Press Release GA/12305).

The Assembly decided to take note of a number of items on its agenda that remain open for consideration.

Closing Remarks

Mr. BOZKIR (Turkey), Assembly President, thanked Member States for their engagement during the holiday season of a “historic year”, a testament to their professionalism.  In 2020, he said the General Assembly continued to lead on the world stage, pursuing its mandates and instituting new mitigation measures to ensure continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic to “meet the needs of people we serve”.  Each delegation epitomized diplomacy during the greatest challenge in the Organization’s history, with more than 75 plenary meetings convened in the General Assembly Hall, prioritizing inclusion and meaningful participation of important stakeholders.

“This is the time for New Year’s resolutions,” he said, emphasizing that much work remains in advancing key priorities of the seventy-fifth session, including multilateralism, gender equality, the humanitarian agenda and empowering people in the  most vulnerable situations.  In 2021, the United Nations must first address the needs of those furthest behind, he said, citing such crucial issues as addressing climate change, which has not paused during pandemic.  The General Assembly became the United Nations home during 2020, offering one of the few rooms able to accommodate social distancing.  “I believe in the power of humanity to create a better future for all,” he said.  Calling on Member States to commit to the Charter of the United Nations and strengthen multilateralism, he underlined the “solemn duty” to engage in constructive dialogue in pursuit of its goals.

For information media. Not an official record.