Delegates Also Pass Text on Countering Hate Speech through Intercultural Dialogue
The General Assembly adopted two resolutions today pertaining to an upcoming high-level meeting on global road safety and to countering hate speech through the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, respectively, as delegates debated a draft amendment to the former resolution and sparred over the appropriate way to determine which non-governmental organizations will be able to participate in the 2022 high-level meeting.
The Assembly first considered the draft resolution titled “Scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting on improving global road safety” (document A/75/L.109), along with a draft amendment concerning the same (document A/75/L.114).
Introducing that amendment, the representative of the United Kingdom said that language in the tabled draft resolution would allow any Member State to arbitrarily and unilaterally block any non-governmental organization, from anywhere in the world, from participating in the high-level meeting on road safety in 2022. The amendment seeks to return the Assembly to its consensus approach, present in three modalities resolutions adopted earlier in 2021 on HIV/AIDS, cybercrime and human trafficking, to empower the organ — rather than any single Member State — to take a corporate decision on whose voices it can or cannot hear. Recalling one Member State’s attempt to block a non-governmental organization from the high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS for political reasons, and the subsequent vote by the Assembly that overwhelmingly supported that group’s inclusion, he stressed that “we know this amendment works because we have seen it work”.
The representative of Brunei Darussalam, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that some 1.3 million people are killed each year in road traffic crashes. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability. More than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, she warned, describing road crashes as “a major threat to public health and global development”. Welcoming the initiative in raising awareness to improve global road safety, she expressed the bloc’s commitment to supporting the General Assembly in its effort to halve global traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.
Speaking in explanation of position before the vote, the representative of Slovenia, speaking for the European Union, stressed the importance of civil society participation in the high-level meeting and said that the draft amendment aims to bring the power to make decisions on such participation back to the Assembly. Emphasizing that the Assembly cannot afford to have experiences concerning global road safety unheard and expressing concern over previous abuse of non-objection clauses, she underscored that the final decision on the list of civil society organizations allowed to participate in the meeting must be made by the organ as a whole, not by a single Member State.
Also speaking before the vote, China’s representative urged that the draft resolution as it stands reflects the consensus formulated within the Assembly over the years; namely, that non-governmental organizations possessing consultative status with the Economic and Social Council can register to participate, while others can attend on a non-objection basis. He said his country will vote against the draft amendment, as it weakens Member States’ role in considering this matter on a non-objection basis and deviates from the consensus previously reached by broad membership.
The Assembly then adopted the amendment by a recorded vote of 81 in favour to 36 against, with 30 abstentions, and subsequently adopted the resolution, as amended, without a vote.
Through the text, as amended, the General Assembly decided that its high‑level meeting on improving global road safety will be held in New York in 2022 back to back with the Economic and Social Council’s high-level political forum on sustainable development, under the theme of “The 2030 horizon for road safety: securing a decade of action and delivery”. The Assembly also decided that the meeting will adopt a concise, action-oriented political decision to be submitted by the President of the General Assembly for adoption by that organ. Further, the Assembly invited certain entities to participate in the high-level meeting and requested its President to draw up a list of representatives of other relevant non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector who may participate in the high-level meeting. The President must then submit such list to Member States for their consideration on a non-objection basis and bring the list to the attention of the Assembly for a final decision on participation in the meeting.
After the vote, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire, also speaking for the Russian Federation, welcomed the adoption of the resolution, expressing hope that the 2022 high-level meeting will become a milestone event. A political declaration to be adopted — hopefully by consensus — at the meeting will lay out a robust guideline on road safety towards 2030, adding to the impressive list of existing instruments.
The General Assembly next turned to the draft resolution titled “Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech” (document A/75/L.115).
The representative of Morocco introduced the draft resolution, pointing out that the text outlines three main actions — designating 18 June as the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, convening a high-level meeting in 2022 to commemorate that day and inviting Member States to collect and analyse data to inform effective responses.
The Assembly adopted the resolution without a vote.
By the terms of the text, the General Assembly called on Member States to consider, as appropriate and where applicable, interreligious and intercultural dialogue as an important tool in efforts aimed at achieving peace, social stability and the full realization of internationally agreed development goals. The organ also decided to proclaim 18 June as the International Day for Countering Hate Speech and requested the President of the General Assembly to convene an informal high-level meeting on 18 June 2022 to mark the commemoration of the first such day. The Assembly also invited Member States to support transparent, accessible systems to identify, track, collect data and analyse trends on hate speech to support effective responses. The resolution further called on Member States — who have the primary responsibility to counter discrimination and hate speech — and all relevant actors to promote inclusion and unity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to speak out and take strong action against racism, xenophobia, hate speech, violence, discrimination and stigmatization.
After the vote, the representative of Slovenia, speaking again on behalf of the European Union, voiced concern that the number of initiatives on interreligious dialogues outside of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) is growing. Expressing regret that the bloc’s several proposals were not taken onboard, she pointed out that the draft addresses hate speech in the narrow context of religious tolerance. She also reiterated the Union’s position against the proliferation of international days.
An observer for the Holy See, deploring a lack of understanding of the distinction between intercultural and interreligious dialogues, pointed out that the latter is promoted by religious leaders and the United Nations has no mandate in that space.
Also speaking in explanation of position on the draft resolution and draft amendment pertaining to the high-level meeting on global road safety were representatives of India, Australia (also for Canada and New Zealand), the United States, Iran, Syria and Belarus.
Also speaking in explanation of position on the draft resolution on countering hate speech were representatives of the United Kingdom, Australia and the Russian Federation.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 23 July, to continue its work.