4 September 2020

General Assembly Adopts Resolutions Placing Situation in Ukraine, Responsibility to Protect on Agenda for Upcoming Session

The General Assembly fleshed out the agenda of its upcoming seventy-fifth session today, deciding by recorded vote to include the situation in Ukraine and the responsibility to protect, on the second day of its first in-person proceedings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March.

The Assembly first adopted the resolution “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” (document A/74/L.90) without a vote.  The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained his delegation’s position, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic had hampered efforts.  However, he expressed disappointment over a lack of results in the alignment process and a lack of willingness among partners to address overlap on such issues.

The Assembly then adopted the resolution “Interaction between the United Nations, national parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union” (document A/74/L.85) without a vote after it was introduced by Mexico.  By its terms, the Assembly called upon Member States, including their national parliaments, supported upon their request by the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and other relevant stakeholders to coordinate, as appropriate, so that their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are people-centred and provide access, without discrimination of any kind, to safe, effective, affordable and quality essential medicines, vaccines, testing and diagnostics, personal protective equipment and medical equipment.

A proposal to delete preambular paragraph 6, requested by the United States, was rejected by a vote of 1 in favour (United States) to 161 against, with 6 abstentions (Benin, Brazil, Japan, Kiribati, Oman, Senegal).  Hungary’s representative, in an explanation of vote after the vote, regretted the text’s reference to the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  The representative of the United States said that his delegation did not concur with its reference to the World Health Organization (WHO).  In a general statement, the Russian Federation’s delegate noted the text’s reference to the world conference on interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue, which his country will host in 2022.

The Assembly then decided to include the following items in the draft agenda of its seventy-fifth session:  item 31(b) “Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution”; item 33 “Zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic”; item 37 “The situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”; item 38 “Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte”; item 63 “The situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine” (document A/74/972) (by a vote of 81 in favour to 17 against, with 65 abstentions); item 86 “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” (document A/74/991); item 120 “Implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations”; item 130 “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” (document A/74/989) (by a vote of 121 in favour to 13 against, with 32 abstentions); item 131 “Seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War”; and item 154 “Financing of the United Nations Mission in East Timor”.

Some delegates voiced concerns about several items.  The representative of Armenia said his delegation did not support the inclusion of item 37 in the provisional agenda of the Assembly’s seventy-fifth session.

On item 63, several delegates explained their positions on the situation in Ukraine.  The Russian Federation’s representative, requesting a vote on including the issue on the Assembly’s agenda, reminded delegates that since the 1940s, there have not been occupied territories in Ukraine, recalling that a referendum had preceded the annexation of Crimea.  As such, Moscow would vote against it, he said.  Iran’s delegate said the 2015 Minsk agreements outline measures needed to address the situation, and his delegation did not support inserting the issue into the General Assembly, which would not be beneficial to the two countries involved.  Syria’s representative said the issue has been politicized, bringing unfair pressure on the Russian Federation, and for this and other reasons, his delegation does not support the inclusion of the situation in Ukraine on the Assembly’s agenda.

Expressing another view, Germany’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, condemned the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and supported the inclusion of the issue on the Assembly’s agenda.  That position was echoed by the representatives of Georgia, United Kingdom and United States.  Ukraine’s representative expressed regret that statements made demanding a recorded vote on the issue.  The Assembly has decided to include the agenda item during the current session, as did the General Committee, and every United Nations Member State has a right to be heard.  The representative of Armenia, explaining his position following the vote on item 63, said there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

On item 130, Germany’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled that the Assembly has, since its seventy-second session, voted in favour of including the responsibility to protect on its agenda.  Denmark’s representative said that its debates on the responsibility to protect had been useful and inspired Member States to “make a difference”.  Syria’s representative, on the other hand, questioned how the item’s inclusion could facilitate free discussion on a concept that some States use to justify military aggression.  The representatives of Iran, Venezuela and Russian Federation similarly spoke against including the item on the Assembly’s agenda.

Speaking after the vote, Indonesia’s representative, noting the divisive nature of the topic, recommended that it be discussed through an interactive informal dialogue.  Pakistan’s representative, explaining his delegation’s decision to abstain, noted ongoing differences over the definition, scope and application of the concept of the responsibility to protect.  Myanmar’s delegate, who voted against, recalled that past debates had failed to narrow prevailing gaps.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria) President of the seventy-fourth session, concluded the meeting by reminding members that, as stated in his letter of 12 June 2020, the following chairpersons for the Main Committees had been elected for the seventy-fifth session, which opens on 15 September:  First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), Agustín Santos Maraver (Spain); Second Committee (Economic and Financial), Amrit Bahadur Rai (Nepal); Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Katalin Annamária Bogyay (Hungary); Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana); Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), Carlos Amorín (Uruguay); and Sixth Committee (Legal), Milenko Esteban Skoknic Tapia (Chile).

Also delivering statements today were representatives of Cuba, Philippines, China, Ukraine, Egypt, Nicaragua, United States, Costa Rica and Uruguay.

The General Assembly will meet at a time and date to be determined.

For information media. Not an official record.