Delegates Also Conclude Debate on Protracted Conflicts in GUAM Area
The General Assembly adopted two resolutions today broadly addressing the follow-up to the 2000 Millennium Summit, one aimed at strengthening the role of the Economic and Social Council, and another on the format of the 54-member organ’s high-level political forum.
By the first text — passed by a recorded vote of 90 in favour to none against, with 47 abstentions — the Assembly called on the Economic and Social Council, its subsidiary bodies and other relevant United Nations bodies and platforms to implement its provisions expeditiously. Arrangements outlined in the present resolution will be reviewed at its seventy-eighth session in conjunction with the review of the high-level political forum, and the mandates contained therein should be implemented starting with the Council’s 2021–2022 cycle.
By the second text, adopted without a vote, the Assembly reiterated that the review of the Economic and Social Council at subsequent review cycles shall be done in conjunction with the forum’s review process, while recognizing their distinct roles and mandate. At its seventy-seventh session, the Assembly will agree on the annual themes for the 2024 sessions of both the Council and the forum, and the set of Sustainable Development Goals to be reviewed by the latter.
Both resolutions passed after the adoption of a controversial amendment — by a recorded vote of 71 in favour to 51 against, with 10 abstentions — introduced by Guinea’s representative on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, which he said would address every issue in a “holistic and balanced manner” and avoid bias.
The amendment replaced the third preambular paragraph with language recalling that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter and informed by the Declaration on the Right to Development, among other instruments. It also replaced paragraph 19 of the annex relating to the Council’s coordination segment, and the third sentence of the annex’s paragraph 25.
Several delegates denounced the measure for its modifications to internationally agreed language, with Portugal’s representative, speaking for the European Union, also expressing deep regret that the process concluded in an unnecessarily rushed and polarized manner.
Australia’s representative, speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, recalled that the draft had already passed the silence procedure and reflected numerous concessions, including by her own delegation. “We were ready to join others and adopt this resolution by consensus,” she said. The changes remove important language on human rights that was agreed in the Declaration on the Commemoration of the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations.
While the text did have its shortcomings, added the Republic of Korea’s representative, they were not serious enough to merit the tabling of an amendment after the conclusion of negotiations. The changes devalue the tireless work of the cofacilitators.
Guatemala’s representative, whose delegation voted with the Group of 77 and China, expressed support for women’s empowerment as a vital element in achieving the 2030 Agenda. Language in the amendment does not prevent the coordination segment from considering such issues, he assured.
At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly concluded its debate on protracted conflicts in the GUAM area (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova), with delegates calling for increased protection for refugees and displaced persons in the region. (For more information, see Press Release GA/12338).
Also speaking today were representatives of United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Israel, Senegal, Mexico, Chile and Switzerland.
The Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.
Protracted Conflicts in GUAM Area (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova)
MITCHELL PETER FIFIELD (Australia), speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, expressed concern about forced demographic change in Georgia and the humanitarian situation stemming from 2008 events. He called for respecting the protection needs and human rights of those in the area, including forcibly displaced persons. Expressing concern that the European Union-mediated ceasefire concluded in 2008 remains “largely unfulfilled”, he said “borderization” along the administrative boundary line, and denial of human rights monitors to Abkhazia and South Ossetia represent a grave deterioration of the humanitarian situation. “These acts prolong the conflict,” he stressed, and negatively impact people’s safety. He called on all parties to facilitate immediate access for international humanitarian organizations and to implement their ceasefire obligations, reaffirming support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
Mr. THOMAS (United Kingdom), recalling that there are more than 280,000 people registered as internally displaced in Georgia, and that this is why his delegation supported the resolution adopted last week, recalled that the topic of refugees and internally displaced persons is being taken up under the Geneva International Discussions. He urged parties to re-engage with all such issues and to implement the 2008 ceasefire agreement and its implementing measures. Expressing deep concern over the political and human rights situation in the breakaway regions in Georgia, he said the United Kingdom will continue to draw attention to the lack of access of international monitoring mechanisms. He also focused on the rights of persons forcibly displaced and need to enable their dignified and voluntary return, expressing the United Kingdom’s unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty. He called on the Russian Federation to end impediments to the return of displaced persons to their homes and its disrespect for international law.
RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) said Washington, D.C., is actively working with the United Nations to protect refugees and internally displaced persons in the region and considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia as integral parts of Georgia. “Russia’s presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia puts at risk the health and lives of conflict‑affected populations,” he declared, calling for the immediate cessation of the construction of artificial border barriers and urging Moscow to allow unhindered access to humanitarian agencies.
RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said his delegation abstained in the vote on the related draft as the text could have a detrimental effect on relevant negotiations in Geneva. “We encourage all actors to seek lasting solutions to the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees,” he said, calling on all concerned parties to adopt confidence-building measures to bring conflict to an end.
MICHAEL BARUCH BAROR (Israel) welcomed the work accomplished under the Geneva International Discussions, leading to concrete activities related to humanitarian issues. He expressed support for the spirit of reconciliation promoted by Georgia, and also for the country’s territorial integrity. He advocated for resolution of the conflict through negotiations, rather than through unilateral actions.
Follow-up to Outcome of Millennium Summit
The Assembly then turned to two draft resolutions, and the annexes contained therein, submitted by its President (documents A/75/L.101 and A/75/L.102), reviewing implementation of resolutions 72/305 on strengthening the role of the Economic and Social Council, 67/290 on the format of the high-level political forum on sustainable development, and 70/299 on the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level.
The first draft, “L.101”, on the Economic and Social Council would have the Assembly call on the 54-member organ, its subsidiary bodies and other relevant United Nations bodies and platforms to implement its provisions expeditiously, deciding that the arrangements outlined in the present resolution will be reviewed at its seventy-eighth session in conjunction with the review of the high-level political forum. It would further declare that both the Council and the forum should be closely coordinated in supporting the accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda throughout the Decade of Action, from now until 2030.
In connection to “L.101”, the Assembly had before it a draft amendment contained in document A/75/L.104 which would replace the third preambular paragraph with language recalling that the 2030 Agenda is guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter, grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit outcome, and informed by the Declaration on the Right to Development, among other instruments.
It would also replace paragraph 19 of the annex with language stating that, during the coordination segment, the Council “may also hold discussions on existing coordination-related mandated agenda items that have been thus far considered during the management segment”. It would also replace the third sentence of the annex’s paragraph 25.
Through draft “L.102” on the Forum, the Assembly would reiterate its decision that the review of the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council at subsequent review cycles shall be in conjunction with the Forum review process, while recognizing their distinct roles and mandate. It would also decide to agree at its seventy-seventh session on the annual theme of the 2024 session of the Economic and Social Council, as well as the 2024 high-level political forum on sustainable development and the set of Sustainable Development Goals to be reviewed at the latter.
The representative of Guinea, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, took the floor to introduce amendment “L.104”, noting that the Group had worked in the spirit of compromise to reach consensus on the draft. However, despite efforts to reach a balanced text, “L.101” does not properly define several relevant terms. He urged Member States to address every issue in a holistic and balanced manner to avoid bias and to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. “This amendment will help us all achieve final consensus on this resolution,” he concluded.
The representative of Senegal, also speaking on behalf of the other cofacilitator, Austria, said that, while negotiations were difficult, thorough consultations resulted in agreeable drafts and he hoped that the same constructive spirit would prevail allowing the General Assembly to adopt the texts.
The representative of Portugal, speaking for the European Union, said his delegation called for the vote and expressed deep regret that the process concluded in an unnecessarily rushed and polarized manner. While welcoming the engagement demonstrated by most delegations who participated constructively, the European Union had hoped for an outcome that enjoyed support by all involved. Last week, the third version of the final text passed the silence procedure. He said his delegation is appalled that the Assembly is faced with an amendment to three paragraphs in this very text, which undermines trust in the process and the entire premise of multilateral negotiations, notably as these changes were deemed unacceptable during discussions. On substance, operational paragraph 3 represents agreed language from the Declaration on the Commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations. On paragraph 19 of the annex, he opposed the current wording which listed two existing Council agenda items. On paragraph 25 of the annex, he expressed dismay over the new language, which deviates from the humanitarian and peace nexus, and thus will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Australia, speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, said the draft, which passed the silence procedure, had reflected numerous concessions made, including by her own delegation. “We were ready to join others and adopt this resolution by consensus,” she said, expressing disappointment that delegates now had to consider multiple amendments after already having passed this important stage. She expressed deep disappointment about the proposal to delete much-needed wording. The proposed changes remove important language on human rights that was agreed in the Declaration on the Commemoration of the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations, and as such, her delegation cannot support the amendment.
The representative of the Republic of Korea voiced disappointment that amendments were tabled in relation to draft “L.101”. Noting that the draft resolution did have some shortcomings, he assured the Assembly that they were not serious enough to merit the amendments tabled after negotiations had concluded. “We regret that these amendments devalue the tireless work of the cofacilitators,” he said, stressing he would vote against the amendment.
The Assembly then adopted the amendment “L.104” by a recorded vote of 71 in favour to 51 against, with 10 abstentions.
It then took up “L.101” as amended, adopting it by a recorded vote of 90 in favour to none against, with 47 abstentions.
Next, the Assembly adopted draft “L.102” without a vote.
The representative of Portugal, speaking for the European Union, said his delegation is extremely disappointed by this process and disapproved of it as a way of proceeding. The European Union abstained in the vote and joined consensus on the political forum review. “We have not done it without reservations,” he explained, stressing that the text maintains the obsolete high-level segment and duplicative Development Cooperation Forum. Another problem is the allocation of additional time for a certain session, describing its continuance as “not the right way of travel”, as the work of the Council and forum must be rationalized. The European Union will watch carefully how Council and the Secretariat will use the time.
He likewise expressed extreme concern over attempts to weaken stakeholder participation in both bodies, as the participation of a variety of stakeholders only enriches discussion. The European Union would like to see the uninhibited participation of all stakeholders, notably national human rights institutions, which cannot be qualified as either governmental or non-governmental, and thus, cannot access the United Nations. He went on to explain the bloc’s lack of support for paragraph 21 of the Council annex, reiterating that human rights are part of the concept of sustainable development and underpin all actions related to the 2030 Agenda. The European Union would have wished for far more explicit language and it was disappointed that its proposal to hold reviews during the Assembly’s seventy-seventh session was rejected. Nonetheless, he welcomed the elimination of the integration segment, which has long been obsolete, noting that the new iteration of a transition meeting will be used by the European Union to highlight implementation of the humanitarian and peace nexus. His delegation does not read any provision as undermining or changing provisions of the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of Mexico said her delegation voted in favour of both resolutions despite that their value has been watered down and now addresses the priorities of only one negotiation group. Preambular paragraph 3 has modified language agreed during the seventy-fifth session. Further, a change has been made to the Council annex “to its detriment” she said, stressing that by not recognizing that the Council should address economic, social, cultural and health issues, and be involved in upholding human rights denies its founding principles.
She reiterated that sustainable development and human rights are “two sides of the same coin”. On changes made to paragraph 5 of the annex, she said sustainable peace is “not equal with” Sustainable Development Goal 16. The link between development and peace is dealt with on a daily basis in Council discussions, whereas the review is aimed at improving work methods. This paragraph now denies what has taken place in the operational and humanitarian segments.
She also objected to the watered-down participation of civil society in related deliberations and to the assertion that including human rights and gender issues in the resolution is “cherry picking”, emphasizing that this assertion is neither accurate nor adequate. She pointed out that the United Nations has recognized in multiple documents adopted since the beginning of this century that development, peace and security, and human rights are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. “The documents we are adopting fall far behind our expectations,” she stressed, also taking issue with the fact that negotiations extended beyond the silence procedure.
The representative of the United Kingdom regretted that amendments were put forward and said that the Sustainable Development Goals and their delivery must remain the priority of the Economic and Social Council and high-level political forum. Streamlining and ensuring the efficiency of the bodies must remain a priority, he said, calling for increased efforts to agree on the theme for future high-level political forums. He warned the Assembly that the Economic and Social Council calendar has grown to a point where the workload prohibits it from working effectively. “Development and human rights must go hand in hand,” he stressed, lamenting that the texts adopted today did not make that priority clear enough.
The representative of the United States said his delegation abstained on “L.101” as a form of protest to Member States that did not approach negotiations in good faith. “Our priority must be to make the Economic and Social Council and high-level political forum more effective,” he stressed, noting that the amendment adopted undermined the fundamental work of the United Nations, including its efforts to incorporate the input of civil society organizations. He concluded by noting that the term “right to development” lacked international consensus, adding that his delegation would dissociate from the preambular paragraph 3 in “L.101” and preambular paragraph 6 in “L.102”.
The representative of Chile, also speaking for Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Lebanon and Uruguay, said gender equality and women’s empowerment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. “Women and girls are one of the most impacted groups by the socioeconomic fallout of COVID-19,” he stressed, pointing out that paragraph 13 of the annex states that the Council must redouble efforts to address these issues. It is equally important to promote discussion of the gender perspective in all policies and programmes, notably the Council’s coordination segment, as the inclusion of a gender perspective is essential to achieving international commitments and advancing the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of Guatemala said his delegation voted with the Group of 77 and China, representing the view of developing countries related to sustainable development. On preambular paragraph 3, he reaffirmed support for the commemorative declaration on the United Nations seventy-fifth anniversary, while on paragraph 19, he expressed support for women’s empowerment as essential for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, pointing out that language in the amendment does not keep the coordination segment from considering such issues. On paragraph 25, he recalled that the three pillars of the United Nations are mutually reinforcing, including the nexus among development, peacebuilding and humanitarian action.
The representative of Guinea, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, despite efforts by the cofacilitators it was not possible to address the Group’s concerns. He assured the Assembly that the Group had shown flexibility throughout the negotiation process and was forced to introduce its amendment following an unwillingness by the cofacilitators to address concerns regarding the sections of “L.101” related to the amendment. Many of the segments of the Economic and Social Council need reform so that the body can reach the expectations placed on it to advance the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, he concluded.
The representative of Switzerland said the cofacilitators made every effort to reach consensus on “L.101” and welcomed the ongoing review of the Economic and Social Council’s work. However, following action on the drafts today, the body’s work has not been streamlined and gender mainstreaming has been relegated.