Print
GA/EF/3560
18 November 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 7th Meeting (PM)

Second Committee Approves Nine Resolutions, Including One Voicing Deep Concern over 1.3 Billion People Living in Multidimensional Poverty

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today approved nine resolutions, voting on three of them, including one expressing deep concern over 1.3 billion people in 109 developing countries living in multidimensional poverty, with steep inequities in income, wealth and opportunities.

Further to that draft, on “Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018–2027)”, the Assembly would also express concern over high global unemployment, with 220 million people unemployed in 2020, which rose by 33 million during that year.  Further, more than 1.5 billion children and young people were affected by school closures since the COVID‑19 pandemic struck, with over 500 million estimated to have no access to remote learning.

Addressing that text, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed the draft’s importance during the pandemic, which has put global development gains at risk.  The virus has hit those in vulnerable situations the hardest, she said, highlighting the need to build resilience to future shocks in a greener, more inclusive way.

By another draft on “Commodities”, the Assembly would stress that developing countries face special challenges, as lower prices for commodities threaten their sustainable growth and debt positions.  Also by the text, it would call for national, regional and international actions to address price volatility and support commodity-dependent developing countries in mitigating negative impacts.

The draft was approved by a recorded vote of 175 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions.

The Committee approved a further draft on “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources”.

By that text, the Assembly would demand that Israel cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion and endangerment of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

The draft was approved in a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 14 abstentions.

Speaking to that text, the observer for the State of Palestine said the international community must demand an end to Israeli occupation, underscoring the need to bring that country into line with its legal obligations.  Syria’s delegate noted that Israel has continued to exploit the occupied Syrian Golan by confiscating water and energy sources as well as building settlements on agricultural lands.

Israel’s representative noted that the resolution fails to mention the support his country is affording Palestine through programmes promoting its economy as well as projects for clean energy and water.  The delegate of the United States lamented that the Committee continues to focus on an unbalanced resolution targeting Israel, displaying unfair bias against a Member State.

A draft titled “Oil slick on Lebanese shores” would have the Assembly acknowledge that environmental damage to Lebanon from the oil slick amounted to $856.4 million in 2014, requesting United Nations bodies to carry out a further study.  It would further request the Government of Israel to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to Lebanon and other affected countries for damage incurred.

The Committee approved the draft in a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Tonga).

Addressing that text, Israel’s representative said the draft unfairly scapegoats his country, noting that the oil slick resulted from a Hizbullah attack that dragged his country into unwanted conflict.  The representative of Lebanon lauded the draft for reaffirming the Committee’s commitment to international and environmental law, acknowledging the oil slick hampers achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Drafts were also approved on development of small island States; disaster risk reduction; education for sustainable development; culture and sustainable development; and operational activities for development of the United Nations system.

Also speaking today were representatives of Guinea, United Kingdom, Iran, Mexico, Hungary, Bolivia and Slovenia.  An observer for the Holy See also made a statement.

The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 November, to act on further draft proposals.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up a draft on “Commodities” (document A/C.2/76/L.26/Rev.1), approving it by a recorded vote of 175 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions.

By its terms, the General Assembly would stress that developing countries face particular challenges, as lower prices for commodities they produce threaten sustainable growth and debt positions.  It would call for policy actions at the national, regional and international levels to address excessive price volatility and support commodity-dependent developing countries in mitigating negative impacts.

Further to the text, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors as well as high investment in commodity-dependent developing countries to promote diversification and upgrade productive structures.  It would note with concern that slow and uneven recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic particularly harms commodity-dependent developing countries, acknowledging that international trade can play a role in achieving sustainable, robust and balanced growth.

Addressing that draft, the representative of the United States said his country did not join consensus on the resolution, expressing concern over text that referred to the international financial and economic crisis as well as vague language concerning trade and its barriers.  The resolution calls on international institutions to take actions beyond the scope of what the draft should address, he said.

Next, the Committee took up a draft titled “Oil slick on Lebanese shores” (document A/C.2/L.15), approving it in a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Tonga).

According to that draft, the Assembly would acknowledge that environmental damage to Lebanon from the oil slick amounted to $856.4 million in 2014, and request the Secretary‑General to urge United Nations bodies involved in the initial assessment of damage to undertake a further study, building on initial work presented by the World Bank.

Further to the draft, the Assembly would request the Government of Israel to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to Lebanon for the damage.  It would also request Israel to compensate other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as Syria, whose shores were partially polluted.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of the United States expressed disappointment that the Second Committee continues to take up this unbalanced resolution critical of Israel, displaying unfair bias against a Member State.  His country will vote against the resolution and continue to oppose every effort to delegitimize Israel.

Introducing the resolution, the representative of Guinea, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that the draft addresses destruction of a Lebanese power plant on 15 July 2006, which caused the oil slick.  The slick affected two thirds of Lebanon’s coastline, he said, and also negatively impacted its economy.  The draft requests that Israel take responsibility and compensate Lebanon, noting that the Secretary-General has expressed grave concern over Israel’s non-implementation of resolutions relating to this matter.

The representative of Israel said his country will vote no on the draft, as it is without merit and has taken up the Committee’s valuable time and resources for far too long.  Adding that it avoids real issues and scapegoats Israel, he said the oil slick resulted from a Hizbullah attack that dragged his country into an unwanted conflict.  The resolution is based on false premises, he said, serving as a distraction from Lebanon’s true problem.

The representative of Lebanon said the draft’s approval reaffirms the Committee’s commitment to international and environmental law as well as the Charter of the United Nations, acknowledging that the oil slick hampers achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  It is high time to make peace with nature, he said, and take remedial efforts to protect the environment during armed conflict.

Following that, the Committee took up a draft on “Follow-up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document A/C.2/76/L.41), approving it without a vote, withdrawing a previous text.

By its terms, the Assembly would call for urgent and ambitious global action, in line with the Paris Agreement, to address the threat and impact of climate change on small island developing States.  It would further call for immediate and substantial actions to help small island developing States recover from the pandemic, addressing the unprecedented health and economic crises unfolding in such States.

On that text, the representative of the United Kingdom said the draft captures the importance of taking unprecedented action in addressing the plight of small island developing States.  They are facing great financing challenges, she said, adding that the draft’s language is an important step in the right direction.

The representative of the United States said the economic downturn due to the pandemic has acutely affected small island developing States, adding that his country is committed to supporting its island partners through a cooperation framework.  Improved policies and programmes must include access to concessional finance and recognize their vulnerability to climate change, he said, although this can vary widely depending on indicators.  However, multilateral development banks and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are appropriate forums for resources, rather than the United Nations.

The observer for the Holy See welcomed references in the draft to the severe consequences of COVID‑19 for sustainable development in small island developing States, including far-reaching consequences for poverty eradication, employment and growth, as well as the call for substantial actions to facilitate COVID‑19 responses by small island developing States.  He also lauded language about the way forward towards finalizing the multidimensional vulnerability index for small island developing States by December 2022.

The Committee then took up a draft on “Disaster risk reduction” (document A/C.2/76/L.43), approving it without a vote, withdrawing a previous text.

By that draft, the Assembly would urge States to conduct inclusive and multi-hazard disaster risk assessments considering climate change projections to support evidence-based disaster risk reduction strategies, and guide risk-informed development investments by the private and public sectors.  Further, it would urge due consideration to the review of global progress in implementing the Sendai Framework as part of the integrated and coordinated follow-up processes to United Nations conferences and summits.

Regarding that text, the representative of the United States said his country is committed to disaster risk reduction and voted in favour of the draft.

The Committee next turned to a draft on “Education for sustainable development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/76/L.40), approving it without a vote, withdrawing a previous text.

According to that text, the Assembly would call for stakeholders to scale up efforts to prioritize education and safely reopen educational institutions for in-person learning, based on scientific evidence and in consideration of local contexts.  It would call for prioritizing students’ and educators’ health, ensuring that reopening plans are equity-oriented, gender-responsive and inclusive, mainstreaming education for sustainable development as key in building resilient systems.

Speaking after action, the representative of Iran said his country is not committed to those parts and elements of the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Education 2030 Framework for Action and the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development, which contradict his country’s national priorities, laws and regulations.  Furthermore, they run counter to Islamic principles, instructions and teachings, cultural and religious norms, and the traditions and values of Iranian society.  Iran has no legal obligation with respect to implementation of those instruments, which are non-legally binding.  Due to the references made to those instruments, his delegation disassociates from preambular paragraph 12 and operative paragraphs 2, 3 and 14 of the draft resolution.

The representative of the United States said that while his country supports the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, it upholds and respects the authority, independence and mandates of other existing institutions.  He clarified United States policy positions on several issues found in the Committee’s resolutions, noting that resolutions negotiated as part of the Second Committee should only reference Member State-negotiated outcome documents in conferences.  His country does not support references to the Kunming Declaration or the “Spacetown Declaration”, which are conference host statements rather than United Nations declarations.

The observer for the Holy See welcomed that this year’s text recognizes the unprecedented global school closures caused by the pandemic, resulting in significant learning losses and increased dropout rates, and reaffirms the importance of safely reopening schools as soon as possible and supporting all children to return to school.  He expressed appreciation that this year’s text highlights the need to ensure stronger parental or guardian support for children, especially in the context of digital learning and access to the Internet.  The global compact on education, recently launched by Pope Francis, is a concrete sign of the Holy See’s commitment to promote a form of education that seeks to integrate all aspects of the human person, to generate peace, justice and fraternity within the human family, and to look to the future with hope, he said.

Following that, the Committee took up a draft on “Culture and sustainable development” (document A/C.2/76/L.42), approving it without a vote, withdrawing a previous text.

By its terms, the Assembly would call for enhanced support, including additional financial resources and investments, for cultural and creative sectors in the context of COVID‑19 recovery efforts.  It would recognize culture’s fundamental role in societies to protect artists and cultural professionals; foster knowledge, innovation and intercultural dialogue; strengthen linkages between culture and education and safeguard cultural heritage.

Speaking before action, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the cultural and creative sectors were among the hardest hit by the pandemic, due to the cancellation of events and closure of venues, resulting in serious economic challenges for those sectors.  She expressed appreciation that the resolution recognizes the need to adapt cultural and creative sectors to digital transformation, which remains a critical challenge.  She expressed regret that the resolution does not mention the first-ever Group of 20 Culture Ministers’ Meeting held in July in Rome, and its Rome Declaration, which firmly positions culture as a major engine for sustainable socioeconomic recovery in the context of the pandemic.

Speaking after action, the representative of the United States said culture is an essential component of human development that can enable and enhance sustainable development.  He noted that as of 31 December 2018 the United States had withdrawn from UNESCO and is currently not a party to it.

The representative of Mexico expressed concern about the reluctance of some countries to include indigenous peoples and local communities as a fundamental part of culture, as well as the inherent recognition of their traditional knowledge.  Although not ideal, she said, her country is grateful for the efforts to reach an agreement and include them in the text.  Noting that the misappropriation of creative works includes the cultural manifestations, diversity, art and creativity of indigenous peoples and local communities, she expressed regret that it was not possible to include those topics in the resolution, due to the limited working modalities of the Committee, which placed procedure ahead of substance.  Nonetheless, her delegation supports the consensus, recognizing the important role of culture in achieving sustainable development.

Next, the Committee took up a draft on “Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018–2027)” (document A/C.2/76/L.39).

By that text, the Assembly would express deep concern that 1.3 billion people in 109 developing countries still live in multidimensional poverty and that levels of inequality in income, wealth and opportunities remain high.  It would call on the international community to strive for more inclusive, balanced, stable and development-oriented socioeconomic approaches to overcoming poverty, emphasizing the importance of inclusive and sustainable industrialization for employment creation and poverty reduction.

Further to the draft, the Assembly would note with concern continuing high levels of unemployment and underemployment, with 220 million people unemployed globally in 2020, a number that rose by 33 million during that year.  Further, since the pandemic struck, more than 1.5 billion children and young people were affected by closures of educational institutions, with over 500 million children and young people estimated to have been without access to remote learning options.

Speaking before action, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said her delegation joined consensus as the resolution takes on renewed importance given the effects of the pandemic, putting global development gains at risk.  There are challenges posed to the entire 2030 Agenda, with the pandemic hitting those in vulnerable situations hardest.  The resolution underscores the need for action in all sectors, she said, also highlighting the importance of building resilience to future shocks in a commitment to build back better, greener and more inclusive.

The Committee then approved the text without a vote, withdrawing a previous draft.

Speaking in explanation after the action, the representative of Hungary, associating herself with the European Union and speaking in her national capacity, said the eradication of poverty remains a key element in achieving sustainable development.  Regarding language in preambular paragraph 22, her delegation would have preferred a more general reference to people in vulnerable groups and vulnerable situations, as some may be missed and some others cited randomly, and the inclusion of migrants in such enumerations is unpleasant.

On that text, the representative of the United States said his delegation joined consensus, but on cross-cutting issues including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendai Framework and the New Urban Agenda, and references to trade and technology transfer, he referred Member States to the general explanation of position delivered in the Second Committee on 18 November.  He noted the United States is the world’s largest development assistance provider and will continue to work for greater economic opportunities and against social exclusion and inequality.  He emphasized the importance of transparency in governance as delineated in operative paragraph 21.

Addressing that draft, the observer for the Holy See praised the inclusion of up-to-date data about the global number of people that the pandemic is expected to push into extreme poverty, as well as the reference to the impact of the pandemic on the non-income dimensions of poverty, such as inequality, lack of access to education and health care and social exclusion.

The Committee then turned to a draft on “Operational activities for development of the United Nations system” (document A/C.2/76/L.44), approving it without a vote, withdrawing a previous text.

By that text, the Assembly would commit to taking more tangible steps to support people in vulnerable situations or countries and reach the furthest behind first, calling on the United Nations development system, within their respective mandates and resources, to assist States in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Speaking in explanation after the action, the representative of the United States said his delegation joined consensus, and referred Member States to its explanation of position on the reconfigured United Nations resident coordinator system on 28 October, and to the general statement of 18 November on cross-cutting issues.

Finally, the Committee took up a draft on “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources” (document A/C.2/76/L.35), approving it in a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 14 abstentions.

By further terms, the Committee demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion and endangerment of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Also by the draft, the Committee called on Israel, the occupying Power, to halt all actions, including those by Israeli settlers, harming the environment, including the dumping of all kinds of waste materials, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, which gravely threaten their water and land resources, posing an environmental, sanitation and health threat to civilian populations.

Addressing that draft before the vote, the representative of Bolivia said his country supports the text, hoping the international community will soon cross the inevitable turning point and do justice for the oppressed.  Bolivia hopes the content of the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on the economic and social repercussions of Israeli occupation will let the Assembly take decisive action.  The action should enable, once and for all, the Palestinian people to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms that have been denied to them for nearly 70 years.

The representative of the United States stressed that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve freedom, dignity and prosperity, adding that the way to move forward is the two-State solution.  Expressing disappointment that the Committee is again taking sides against Israel, he said his country will continue to oppose every effort to delegitimize it and hope others will join him in voting no.

Introducing the resolution, the representative of Guinea, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said Palestinians are continuing to suffer under Israeli occupation after more than half a century.  The draft reiterates the need to respect international law, expressing grave concern over Israel’s destruction of agricultural land, farms and greenhouses in Palestinian Territory.  It also points to an energy shortage in the Gaza Strip as well as scanty groundwater, of which only 5 per cent remains potable.

The representative of Israel noted that the Committee preferred to criticize his country rather than take part in sincere dialogue and move forward with its agenda.  The world is tackling a virus destroying lives and livelihoods, he said, stressing that now is the time to come together on critical issues.  The resolution fails to mention ways Israel is supporting Palestine through programmes to promote its economy as well as projects for clean energy and water.  Palestine refused his country’s offer of 1 million doses of COVID‑19 vaccine, he said, choosing to be anti-Israel rather than promote the welfare of its people.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said his bloc supported the resolution, but would like to note that use of the term “Palestine” in the draft should not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of Member States on that issue.

The observer for the State of Palestine said approval of the draft represents the international community’s clear commitment to international law and rights of Palestinians and the people of the Syrian Golan over their natural resources.  It renews the call for Israel to cease exploiting land and water resources, destroying agricultural land and dumping waste material.  The international community must demand an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, he said, stressing that strong action is needed to bring Israel in line with its legal obligations and United Nations resolutions.

The representative of Syria said the draft shows a commitment to the Palestinian and Golan people’s rights over their natural resources.  Israel has continued to exploit the human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan by confiscating water and renewable and non-renewable energy sources as well as building settlements on agricultural lands that belong to Syrians.  The international community must take concrete, decisive actions in compelling Israel to end its occupation.

The representative of the United Kingdom also made a statement regarding the rights of Palestinians and the people of the Syrian Golan to their natural resources.

Taking the floor a second time, the observer for the State of Palestine referred to Israel’s statement about offering his country 1 million COVID‑19 vaccines, calling it mendacious, as the doses were expired and unusable.

For information media. Not an official record.