The General Assembly adopted six texts today, the first postponing the closing date of its seventy-fifth session to 14 September 2021, with others more broadly addressing issues in Africa and the Caribbean, and deciding that the United Nations Ocean Conference co-hosted by Kenya and Portugal will take place in Lisbon from 27 June to 1 July 2022.
In the latter decision, submitted by its President, the Assembly also set the schedule for plenary meetings and interactive dialogues during the Ocean Conference — known formally as the “2022 United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
It requested the Assembly President to appoint two co-facilitators — one from a developing country and one from a developed nation — to conclude the intergovernmental consultations on the Conference declaration and to finalize the organizational arrangements no later than May 2022.
By another decision, submitted by its President, the Assembly decided to convene the United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities — which is typically held under the Assembly’s auspices in November — shortly after the operational activities for development segment of the Economic and Social Council session, on an annual basis, in order to be informed by the discussions. In recent years, the Council has convened its operational activities segment in May.
The Assembly decided to include in the scope of the Conference all United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies engaged in operational activities for development. It urged development system entities to enhance the visibility of Member States’ contributions, and in turn, urged Member States to consider increasing their contributions to development system activities.
The representative of Paraguay said it was an honour for his delegation to lead the informal dialogue exploring possible alternatives for the Pledging Conference that would allow for a “less rigid” event. The aim of the Conference is more important than ever, he said, as sustainable and flexible financing will allow the development system to help countries rebuild after the COVID-19 crisis, optimizing United Nations operational activities to meet this commitment. Noting that the decision modifies the scope and date of the Pledging Conference, he said that event can now include fundraising.
“This is a critical catalyst for reforms to the United Nations development system and an essential element in achieving its goals,” he said. In changing the date, the Conference will complement the Council’s activities and be informed by the Secretary-General’s annual analysis on funding for the development system, which is published in April. The new date will also increase the convenience and compatibility of the budget cycles of the main donors. “We are satisfied with the outcome,” he said, noting that the text was well-received by delegations and that the silence procedure for informal consultations was not broken.
Turning to its annual resolution on the “New Partnership for Africa’s Development: progress in implementation and international support”, the Assembly adopted the text by consensus for the first time in four years. By its terms, it noted with concern the multidimensional impact of COVID-19 on African countries, calling for effective measures and targeted investments to strengthen national health systems and to ensure access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.
Expressing concern over the increased debt burden of many African countries, exacerbated by the pandemic, the Assembly underlined the importance of debt sustainability, transparency and liquidity, debt crisis prevention and prudent debt management in Africa. It noted with concern Africa’s disproportionately low share of international trade and reiterated the need for all countries and relevant multilateral institutions to enhance coherence in their trade policies towards African countries.
The representative of Guinea, introducing the resolution on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalled that the text in recent years had been adopted by a vote, bringing adverse effects. Noting that his delegation worked to demonstrate “maximum flexibility” in developing a consensual text, he said international cooperation, in the spirit of mutual benefit, is of great significance to developing countries. African countries will step up efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063.
Several delegations offered explanations of vote on the text’s adoption, with the representative of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the African Group, saying the resolution’s value cannot be overstated, as it provides a crucial space to focus on areas that require support in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals — efforts that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. She reiterated the call for equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and health care in Africa.
Various delegations welcomed that the text is “back on the path of consensus”, said the representative of Canada, also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, expressing strong support for internationally agreed upon sustainable development goals as they pertain to Africa. The representative of Switzerland similarly hailed the resolution’s adoption by consensus and said that sustainable development and peace in Africa should be given the crucial importance it deserves. The representative of the United Kingdom, meanwhile, expressed support for African-led efforts to unlock pathways to development, education, health and job creation — critical issues for Africa’s future. The consensus shows that past challenges do not preclude its current approval. The representative of the Republic of Korea welcomed the text’s passage by consensus, taking note of its significance in driving sustainable development across the continent.
Others offered more nuanced explanations. The representative of Hungary clarified that her country had voted against the 2018 Global Compact for Migration and thus cannot accept any reference to it in the resolution, especially due to the Compact’s description of migration as the best solution for labour market and demographic problems of destination countries. Explaining that Hungary seeks to implement development programmes that establish lasting solutions locally for those in need, she disassociated from the resolution’s preambular paragraph 18.
The representative of the United States, citing references to debt service in the resolution, clarified that the most recent debt relief extension will be the last, and that common framework treatments will be required beyond 2021. As such, the United States dissociated from operative paragraph 18, he said, recalling that the 2030 Agenda recommends that each country must work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals according to their own priorities and policies. On the topic of technology transfer, references to transfer of or access to such technologies must be on a voluntary mutually beneficial basis. Furthermore, the term “illicit financial flow” lacks an international agreed upon definition, he said.
China’s delegate declared that his country stands united with Africa to achieve common development and recalled that his nation delivered medical aid to the continent at the onset of the pandemic. While China has always supported the resolution’s adoption by consensus, some countries insist on negating such agreement and politicizing development. China responded to that challenge by participating constructively in negotiations, he said.
The Czech Republic’s representative explained that her country had not joined the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, nor participated in the Conference in Marrakech. It also had voted against resolution 73/195, by which the General Assembly endorsed the Global Compact. As such, the Czech Republic cannot accept the expression “reaffirm” in preambular paragraph 18 and dissociates from that paragraph, she said.
The representative of Japan applauded the collective commitment to advance infrastructure investment, health-system strengthening, good governance, the rule of law and education in Africa. Yet, he expressed concern over lack of transparency after the conclusion of informal consultations and during the silence procedure, explaining that transparent consultations are a core value of the Assembly and expressing hope that they will start earlier in 2022. The Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development meeting will be held in 2022 in Tunisia, aiming to chart a development pathway in a post-COVID-19 era.
Speaking in a general statement, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, objected to the insertion of controversial language. Welcoming that alternative wording was eventually found and that the African Group worked to achieve consensus, he said the European Union has long called for making the resolution more focused and action oriented. He expressed disappointment on the way the process ended, however, as one delegation introduced changes that were not discussed during meetings. The Union had shown “utmost flexibility” in working to return to consensus and called on all to adhere to established principles and standards when negotiating. He went on to outline the bloc’s support for Africa, pointing in particular to the European Union External Investment Plan, through which €10 billion were leveraged in 2020 to support small businesses, women entrepreneurs and others.
Turning to the Caribbean, the Assembly next adopted the resolution titled, “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Caribbean Community”, emphasizing the continued importance of regular engagement between the two organizations and expressing concern over the significant impact of COVID-19 on Caribbean States.
The Assembly called on the United Nations to intensify its assistance to Caribbean nations, enabling them to address the diverse challenges posed by their unique vulnerabilities. It also encouraged cooperation in addressing the regression in educational gains due to COVID-19 related school closures.
Introducing the text, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines described it as “succinct yet substantive”, building on predecessor resolutions adopted during the seventy-first and seventy-third sessions. It ensures that the strong partnership between the Community and the United Nations can be pursued and deepened, vigorously. It emphasizes the region’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and the Samoa Pathway [Small island developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action], as well as to pursuing the empowerment of women and girls, maintenance of peace and security, and addressing communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Noting that the region continues to be hammered by the adverse impacts of climate change, with Hurricane Ida, the 14 August earthquake and a volcanic eruption in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines underscoring the urgency of addressing the systemic nature of risk in the region, she said it is imperative to fast-track initiatives that advance socioeconomic transformation, including the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Debt Swap Initiative.
The representative of the United States, explaining his vote, said debt swaps are inappropriate for countries with unsustainable debt. Other approaches that have higher potential to deliver success should be the primary focus in addressing climate objectives.
In its final adoption, the Assembly passed a consensus resolution on “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Cooperation Organization”, inviting the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Trade Centre to develop strategies for the States members of the Economic Cooperation Organization.
By other terms, the Assembly encouraged all the relevant international financial and specialized institutions to consider participating in the implementation of the decision taken by the bloc’s Ministers of Transport to address investment gaps in transport infrastructure. It encouraged finalization of the framework agreement on operationalizing and commercializing the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway route by developing a common corridor management mechanism to raise operational efficiency. It encouraged States to harness the benefits from increasing regional electricity trade and integrating power systems through the establishment of a regional electricity market.
Introducing the text on behalf of the Economic Cooperation Organization, Turkmenistan’s representative said economic cooperation is becoming more necessary and relevant. The bloc’s member States are working to implement the Sustainable Development Goals based on a forward-looking development plan covering the period to 2025. The resolution ensures a basis for their further cooperation with the United Nations in trade, transport, energy, human resources, tourism and combating COVID-19. It also notes the specific needs of landlocked countries and contains a call for United Nations agencies to provide assistance to the group.
Several delegations took the floor to explain their positions, with Slovenia’s representative, speaking for the European Union in its capacity as observer, recalling that the resolution in past years had contained problematic language that made it difficult to join consensus. Given her delegation’s constructive approach, it would have expected a more thorough examination and attempts to address its concerns. “This did not happen,” she explained, objecting to new language introduced in operative paragraph 6. Concerning the Baku Declaration and records of the fourteenth summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Cooperation Organization, she said references related to Cyprus are inconsistent with Security Council and Assembly resolutions on the same issue — and therefore, with international law and the Charter of the United Nations. As such, the Union disassociates from references to operative paragraph 3 in the new operative paragraph 6 and urges the bloc to refrain from adopting positions that undermine international law. Adoption of the resolution does not imply the Assembly’s endorsement of these documents, she added.
The representative of the United States explained that the resolution is a technical rollover and does not consider recent developments in Member States. The United States does not consider language in operative paragraphs 13 and 33 to reflect any view of the Assembly of a situation in any particular Member State. Noting further that the United Nations must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade negotiations, he said the United Nations is not the appropriate venue for these discussions.
The representative of Armenia said operative paragraph 3 refers to a document that distorts the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and contains selective references to international law. He called on the Economic Cooperation Organization to refute attempts to abuse its platform by those interested only in propagating their own self-serving views.
The representative of Argentina said that while his delegation had joined consensus on the resolution, the recent Secretary-General of the Economic Cooperation Organization is being sought for arrest by Argentina for his involvement in a terrorist attempt in 1994.
Several delegations also exercised their right of reply.
The representative of Turkey said the statement by the European Union delegation is neither objective nor constructive. A solution to the conflict in Cyprus requires a genuine and serious stance, he stressed, adding that all relevant parties must contribute to negotiation efforts in good faith and without bias. As long as the European Union does not acknowledge Turkish Cypriots, it will not be a credible broker of peace there, he said.
Azerbaijan’s delegate said Armenia’s statement contained selective references and omitted the mention of four Security Council resolutions which ensured the cessation of military activities in Azerbaijan. In fact, no commitments have arisen from the working papers in the peace process. As for self-determination, he pointed out that what Armenia refers to as self-determination, the Security Council considers the unlawful use of force.
The representative of Iran called comments by Argentina’s delegate about the Economic Cooperation Organization Secretary-General “ridiculous”, expressing regret over the politization and hijacking of the proceedings.
The representative of Cyprus said comments by Turkey’s delegate demonstrate its long-standing agenda to partition Cyprus. The argument that such a move would be in line with international law is easy to dispute, as laid out in relevant Security Council resolutions. A two-State solution would serve the strategic objectives of Turkey, not Cyprus, and would only perpetuate the division.
The representative of Armenia said all attempts by Azerbaijan to misrepresent the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict while omitting facts are a deliberate distortion of the conflict and its historical context. The right to self-determination represents the fundamental principle of the resolution of the conflict, he stressed.
The representative of Azerbaijan said his country’s territory is indivisible and any reference by Armenia to areas using “fake names” is invalid and inconsistent with international or national law.
The representative of Armenia, in a second intervention, said attempts to whitewash Baku’s responsibility for the war unleashed against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are undertaken because Azerbaijan’s leader realizes his country is responsible for starting the war. He cited 14 August remarks that “Azerbaijan started the war of salvation” by that country’s leader. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an internationally agreed term, referenced in documents of the United Nations and other international organizations, he asserted.
In other business today, the Assembly deferred consideration of numerous agenda items and sub-items to its seventy-sixth session: “Space as a driver of sustainable development”; “Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution”; “Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte”; “Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965”; “Multilingualism” and the reports of the Secretary-General and the Joint Inspection Unit; “Implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations”; “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries”; and “Financing of the United Nations Mission in East Timor”.
By a recorded vote of 71 in favour to 12 against with 45 abstentions, the Assembly also decided to include an item titled “The situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine” on the agenda of its seventy-sixth session.
The representative of the Russian Federation, in requesting the vote, denounced “destructive approaches” that seek to impose an alternative reality of an aggressor being presented as a victim of external factors. In Donbass, civil conflict between Kyiv and Ukraine’s citizens has been ongoing for six years. Security Council resolution 2202 (2015) confirmed parameters for resolving the situation: the Package of Measures for Implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Yet, Kyiv continues to “drag its heels” in respecting this document or openly sabotages it, ignoring the justified demands of people in Donbass, and throwing around anti-Russian accusations in the Assembly, as if there were only Russian aggression in the country. Such “fairy tales” are supported by Kyiv’s Western allies. The Russian Federation opposes this pernicious practice.
The representative of Ukraine, noting that this is first time his Russian counterpart has requested a vote on the item, expressed regret over the disrespectful attitude of Moscow towards the General Assembly. “The Russian Federation is an occupying Power,” he said. It has not ended its illegal actions in temporarily occupied Crimea, contravening international law, and continues its militarization of the peninsula in violation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Drawing attention to the Crimea Platform — a new consultation and coordination format designed to raise the international response to the temporary occupation of Ukraine’s peninsula — he expressed regret that after its inaugural summit, Russian occupation authorities worsened their practices against Ukrainian citizens. On 3-4 September, the Russian Federation’s Federal Security Service conducted house searches and detained five Crimean Tatars, including one who took part in the summit. The fate of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea, including those detained since 2014, is a profound concern. He called on the Assembly to vote “yes” on the item’s inclusion, stressing that foreign occupation in Ukraine is not a new topic for the Assembly and citing resolution 68/262 in that context. “By voting yes, you are investing in your own future security,” he emphasized.
The representative of the United Kingdom said he would vote in favour of the text as his country does not recognize the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea and stands with the international community in unwavering support of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Slovenia’s representative, on behalf of the European Union in its capacity as observer, reaffirming her delegation’s support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, condemned Crimea’s annexation by the Russian Federation as a violation of international law and a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international legal order. The Union continues to call for compliance with international human rights standards on the peninsula, she said, stressing that torture and killings must be thoroughly investigated, with observers given full access to Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. She also called for full implementation of all relevant resolutions, adding that the bloc will vote for the item’s inclusion on the agenda of the seventy-sixth session.
The representative of Latvia, speaking on behalf of the Nordic Baltic countries, said her group will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea, which constitutes an ongoing and serious breach of international law. Moreover, her delegation, along with its international partners, will continue to resist measures aimed at implicit recognition of the annexation.
The representative of Iran said his delegation would vote against the inclusion because debating a multifaceted issue will have little if any utility and could actually undermine settlement efforts in Ukraine. Iran supports a peaceful resolution between the concerned States, he said, warning that any solution reached outside that framework will not succeed.
The representative of the United States expressed support for the inclusion of the item as it addresses an ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty in the Donbass and Crimea regions.
The representative of Georgia expressed support for the inclusion of the item, as it does not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea. Furthermore, his country is gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories, he said, calling the conflict a direct challenge to peace and security in the region.
Speaking after the vote, the Russian Federation, thanked the 122 delegations that did not back the proposal to include the item on the agenda.