Print
GA/EF/3545
8 December 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 8th Meeting (PM)

Delegates Approve Resolution on Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, as Second Committee Concludes Session

In a contentious debate, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) rejected two amendments to its draft resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review by recorded vote, later approving that text as a whole by another vote.

The representative of Israel proposed an amendment to the draft resolution (document A/C.2/75/l.62), which would have the Committee delete the words “and countries and peoples under foreign occupation” after the words “post‑conflict situations” in operative paragraph 10, affirming that the policy review is the Committee’s most important resolution and had hoped the first draft would escape politicization.  Expressing disappointment that this was not the case, she could not support operative paragraph 10 as drafted, as the United Nations development system must have a clear notion of its work, with Member States separating mandate and politics.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, expressed concern over references to foreign occupation in operative paragraph 10, stating it was unfortunate that inclusion of the paragraph had generated so much controversy.

However, the representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the draft is essentially a package of consensus agreements, and he could therefore not support the amendment.

The Committee then rejected it in a recorded vote of 5 in favour (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, United States) to 106 against, with 45 abstentions.

A second amendment proposed by the Russian Federation (document A/C.2/75/CRP.4/Rev.1), would have the Committee delete from operative paragraph 30 the words:  “ensure full and effective implementation, across the United Nations development system, including its specialized agencies, funds and programmes, of the United Nations System Strategic Approach on Climate Change Action as well as of the United Nations System‑Wide framework of Strategies on the Environment, and of their future revisions, and” after the words “Requests the Secretary‑General to”.  That delegate said by accepting the current wording, Member States will be setting a dangerous precedent, urging delegations to support the amendment so the draft could be approved as a whole with consensus.

However, the European Union’s delegate said the bloc had worked intensely in negotiations to develop language in the draft acceptable to all.  As operative paragraph 30 was therefore acceptable, he would vote against the amendment, calling on all other delegations to do so.

The Committee rejected the amendment in a recorded vote of 2 in favour (Belarus, Russian Federation) to 146 against, with 2 abstentions (Palau, United States).  The Russian Federation’s delegate then submitted a second amendment (document A/C.2/75/CRP.4) to delete the operative paragraph in its entirety, which the Committee rejected in a recorded vote of 2 in favour (Russian Federation, Belarus) to 146 against, with 1 abstention (United States).  The representative of the Russian Federation then expressed regret that he would now be compelled to ask for a vote on the draft as a whole.

The Committee then approved the draft as a whole in a recorded vote of 167 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (Russian Federation).

The representative of Mexico said she voted in favour of the resolution because the United Nations system needs clear, timely and effective guidance to achieve the reforms led by the Secretary‑General.  Calling the resolution the most significant result of the Committee during the seventy‑fifth session, she said the system is on the right path in a complex situation.

The representative of Belize, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said it was unfortunate the Committee’s inability to reach consensus after two months of consultations showed “how disjointed we are.”  An apparent deliberate movement to shift the United Nations development system away from actual development issues is concerning; it cannot work if delegates keep pushing the can down the road as “there simply is not enough road left.”

Also speaking were the representatives of Germany (on behalf of the European Union), Canada (also on Behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Mexico, Hungary, Afghanistan, Japan and the United Kingdom.

An observer for the Holy See also spoke.  Delivering closing remarks, the Assistant Secretary‑General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs said this session of the Committee provided insights on the importance of a more comprehensive global economy, inclusive societies and greener development.  Noting its work also highlighted the global debt crisis and issues of building back better, she cited the current context in which extreme poverty is rising for first time in three decades, with 130 million people on the brink of starvation.  The Committee’s approval of “L.61” provides impetus and guidance for the United Nations development system and accelerates progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Pointing to further work next spring, the Chair stressed all concerned need to be even more dedicated to a revitalized multilateralism.

The Second Committee thus concluded its substantive work for the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Amrit Bahadur Rai (Nepal), Chair of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), said negotiations on the draft titled “Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system” (document A/C.2/75/L.61) were a priority and more critical than ever.  He expressed hope that delegations recognized that the text, while far from perfect and requiring compromise, was a significant achievement and asked the Committee to approve that text as a whole without a vote.

The representative of the Russian Federation, addressing his delegation’s amendment (document A/C.2/75/CRP.4), which would have the Committee delete operative paragraph 30 of the draft, agreed that delegations made major efforts throughout the process.  He noted his delegation had submitted relevant proposals and displayed readiness to reach compromise and consensus throughout the process.  He had introduced a proposal to call on all States to avoid using unlawful unilateral measures in the context of United Nations development system work, as they exert negative influence on States’ abilities to purchase necessary goods and medicines, and to highlight that humanitarian exemptions to unilateral measures do not work in the COVID‑19 environment.  He expressed regret that most of the proposals were not taken up.

The Committee then took action on the two amendments to the draft.

The representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position before the vote on its amendment (document A/C.2/75/l.62), said the policy review is the Committee’s most important resolution and had hoped the first draft would escape politicization.  Expressing disappointed that this was not the case, she could not support operative paragraph 10 as drafted.  It is important for the United Nations development system to have a clear notion of its work, and Member States must separate mandate and politics.

The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the draft is essentially a package of consensus agreements, and he could therefore not support the amendment.

The amendment would have the Committee delete the words “and countries and peoples under foreign occupation” after the words “post‑conflict situations” in operative paragraph 10.  The Committee then rejected it in a recorded vote of 5 in favour (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, United States) to 106 against, with 45 abstentions.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, expressed deep concern over references to foreign occupation in operative paragraph 10.  Her delegation dissociated itself as it weakens the draft, stating it was unfortunate that inclusion of the paragraph had generated so much controversy.

A second amendment (document A/C.2/75/CRP.4), proposed by the Russian Federation, would have the Committee delete from operative paragraph 30 the words:  “ensure full and effective implementation, across the United Nations development system, including its specialized agencies, funds and programmes, of the United Nations System Strategic Approach on Climate Change Action as well as of the United Nations System-Wide framework of Strategies on the Environment, and of their future revisions, and” after the words “Requests the Secretary‑General to”.

The representative of the Russian Federation pointed to the counterproductive wording of paragraph 30, in which the Secretary‑General is called on to implement a strategic document on climate change drafted for the heads of United Nations units.  The strategy is an international document developed in 2017 that was not approved at the intergovernmental level.  By accepting the current wording, Member States will be setting a dangerous precedent, he said, urging delegations to support the amendment so that the draft could be approved as a whole with consensus.

The representative of Guyana, speaking for the Group of 77, said his bloc supported the draft as a package and had demonstrated maximum flexibility to arrive at consensus.  The Group stands by the draft’s wording and its implication for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Therefore, it cannot support the proposed amendment.

The representative of the European Union said the bloc proposed several paragraphs to be included in the draft on climate change and the environment.  In negotiations, it worked intensely to develop language acceptable to all.  Therefore, operative paragraph 30 is acceptable to the European Union, the representative said, stating that it would vote against the amendment and calling on all other delegations to do so.

The Committee rejected the amendment in a recorded vote of 2 in favour (Belarus, Russian Federation) to 146 against, with 2 abstentions (Palau, United States).

The representative of the Russian Federation then submitted an amendment to delete operative paragraph in its entirety, which the Committee rejected in a recorded vote of 2 in favour (Russian Federation, Belarus) to 146 against, with 1 abstention (United States).

The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret that he would now be compelled to ask for a vote on the draft as a whole.

The Committee then approved the draft as a whole in a recorded vote of 167 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (Russian Federation).

The representative of Guyana, speaking for the “Group of 77”, said his bloc supported the resolution, which establishes key policy orientations for development cooperation as well as modalities for the United Nations development system.  It also provides a strong document to provide guidance to the development system in assisting nations to implement the 2030 Agenda.  However, he expressed concern over last minute amendments and votes for specific paragraphs, stressing the need to pay special heed to countries in conflict and under foreign occupation.   He also expressed concern that many delegations are interested in populating the draft with topics of special interest to them and the lack of provisions on United Nations development system recruitment of candidates from qualified nations, who could provide valuable knowledge of the programme country.  Finally, his Group continues to express concern about the imbalance between core and non‑core contributions.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation voted in favour, and in many respects the current text improved on its predecessor, with language on sexual exploitation and gender‑based violence considered for the first time.  However, concerns remain about the need for further reflection, as partially due to a rushed timeframe, the text was not as refined, clear and consensual as hoped for, particularly on human rights and gender issues.  This does not bode well for focusing the current decade on achievement of the 2030 Agenda, he said, as these issues should not be left for the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) alone.  Addressing the Funding Compact, he said the system cannot and should not rely on funding by a small number of Member States, as it requires collective ownership.

The representative of Belize, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that it was unfortunate the Committee could not reach consensus after two months of consultations, illustrating “how disjointed we are”.  Expressing concern over an apparent deliberate movement to shift the United Nations development system away from actual development issues, she noted a doubling‑down on favourite issues and blatant disregard for the required scope of the system.  There is no one‑size‑fits‑all approach, she said, asking if the Committee’s work speaks to a comprehensive approach required for true and lasting development.  The United Nations cannot work if delegates keep pushing the can down the road as “there simply is not enough road left.”

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, expressed disappointment that consensus was broken, but the great majority of Member States came together to offer guidance to the development system, addressing human rights, gender equality and climate.  Their work further reinforced tools for reform at all levels, and pushed for a more coordinated operation.  He noted the Committee and Member States must consider the impact of COVID‑19 on countries navigating graduation issues.

The representative of the United States voted in favour of the resolution but dissociated herself from operative paragraph 10.  Expressing support for national ownership of States in national development issues, she emphasized the importance of broad stakeholder consultations at the country level, with system‑wide accountability required at all levels.  She also noted the Funding Compact language referred to voluntary participation, and that there is more than one pathway and outcome in the transition to green energy.  She further affirmed that per capita income and credit worthiness are the main elements in graduation worthiness.  Widespread reports on gender‑based abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo indicate the United Nations is not doing enough in that domain.

The representative of Mexico said she voted in favour of the resolution because the United Nations system needs to have clear, timely and effective guidance in place to achieve the reforms led by the Secretary‑General.  Effective multilateralism that produces results on the ground, listens to the priorities of countries and can improve peoples’ lives is needed.  This resolution is the most significant result of the Second Committee during the seventy‑fifth session.  Mexico is pleased to see the results.  The system is on the right path.  The situation on the ground is complex, and it is a shame to see a lack of agreement on such issues as gender equality, human rights and climate change.  Yet the text has 127 paragraphs that were agreed upon and shows a degree of convergence.  The facilitators created a balance.  Yet more ambitious language would have been preferred.

The representative of Hungary, associating herself with the European Union, said she is entirely committed to implementing the Goals of the 2030 Agenda and eradicating poverty.  Hungary also fully supports the policy review of the operational activities for development of the United Nations system because this challenging world needs an effective and well‑functioning international development system and cooperation.  Regarding the language in paragraph 12, Hungary would prefer a more general reference to vulnerable groups and people in vulnerable situations since some groups may be missed while others might be cited randomly.  The inclusion of migrants in such enumerations is unpleasant for Hungary.  Therefore, Hungary thinks the text should avoid the taxative enumeration of the people in vulnerable situations.

Closing Remarks

Maria‑Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary‑General for Policy Coordination and Inter‑Agency Affairs of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the commitment and consistent work of Member States are essential to recovery from the coronavirus and its economic affects.  This session provided insights on the importance of a more comprehensive global economy, inclusive societies and greener development.  The Committee’s work also highlighted the global debt crisis and issues of building back better, calling for disaster‑risk informed development and a resilient recovery among other initiatives.  She noted that extreme poverty is rising for first time in three decades, with 130 million people on the brink of starvation, and the Committee had drawn attention to the importance of integrated policy frameworks.  Congratulating the Committee on approving “L.61”, she said it provides impetus and guidance for the United Nations development system and accelerates progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The Chair said the Committee’s session was like no other, given the manifold effects of the pandemic.  Delegates had found cross‑cutting language, and agreed on 35 substantive resolutions containing specific addresses to the pandemic and responses to it, a focused approach that allowed the Committee to make a difference in 2020.  Work was completed on time, proving all concerned to be to be efficient and effective.  With discussions set to continue next spring on that basis, he noted that in the future, all concerned need to be even more dedicated than ever to a revitalized multilateralism.  “We must intensify our work together,” he said.  The Committee theme on “Recovering better from COVID‑19” had been on the mark.  “Let us not lose hope and trust in the power of collaboration,” he concluded.

The Committee thus concluded its substantive work for the General Assembly´s seventy‑fifth session.  The Assembly is expected to take up the resolutions approved by the Second Committee on Wednesday, 16 December.

For information media. Not an official record.