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GA/SPD/719
16 October 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 4th Meeting (PM)

Speakers Voice Fears Over Impact of Liquidity Crisis on Special Political Missions, Peace Operations, as Fourth Committee Continues General Debate

Delegates also Hear Calls for Renewed Impetus on Pending Decolonization Questions

Delegates expressed concerns today about the impact of the worsening United Nations liquidity crisis on peace operations and special political missions supporting transitions, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its joint general debate on a range of topics.

Australia’s representative noted — speaking also for Canada and New Zealand — that that the liquidity situation is affecting both the Organization’s regular and peacekeeping budgets.  Special political missions require adequate resources to support transitions, he said, underscoring the importance of the new United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan.

Norway’s delegate also cited the upcoming transition in Darfur, saying it highlights the need to look at peace operations as a “spectrum, rather than as distinct, separate activities”.  Greater predictability is needed to finance special political missions as well as peacebuilding activities following the withdrawal of peace operations, she said, warning:  “We all stand to lose if there is a relapse to conflict.”

In that context, Nigeria’s delegate stressed that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations remains the only forum mandated to comprehensively review peacekeeping missions.  Noting that the Action for Peacekeeping structure does not cover the entire spectrum of the Special Committee’s mandate, he called for its expansion to accommodate some fundamental issues that have been squeezed out.  A section on issues related to Africa should be included, he added.

Afghanistan’s representative said that, as the Government’s peace talks with the Taliban continue to advance, the good offices of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) are playing a role to bring about a successful outcome in line with core national values.

Similarly, Iraq’s representative praised the active role played by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and various funds working with his country in response to the needs of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Moreover, UNAMI has helped to consolidate peace, strengthen public institutions and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals, he noted.

Several speakers also highlighted pending decolonization matters and called for new impetus in that regard.

Spain’s delegate said decolonization must be verified on the basis of the principle of territorial integrity, highlighting the cases of the Malvinas Islands*, Chagos Archipelago and Gibraltar.  Detailing the history of the United Kingdom’s occupation of Gibraltar, he stressed that “Spain has never accepted these illegal British occupations and has continued to demand their restitution.”  He went on to reiterate Spain’s willingness to enter into a new cooperation framework for the benefit of Gibraltar’s inhabitants, especially in the context of the Brexit transitional period that expires on December 31.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the United Kingdom, Spain and Argentina.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 October, to continue its general debate.

General Debate

The representative of Australia, speaking also for Canada and New Zealand, said the COVID‑19 pandemic has tested peacekeeping missions and undermined already fragile peace processes, but it has also demonstrated their resilience as well as the importance of a multilateral system.  “We commend the way in which peacekeeping missions have prioritized the safety and security of peacekeepers while continuing to deliver on mandates,” he said.  Highlighting the launch of the Integrated Peacekeeping Performance and Accountability Framework, he said greater coherence among performance mechanisms is critical to assessing whole‑of‑mission performance, identifying fault lines, and strengthening accountability.  Moreover, diversity and inclusion form the backbone of effective peacekeeping.  He went on to emphasize that gender advisers are critical in peace operations, for both the military and police, to advance prevention and protection, compliance and accountability, as well as justice for affected populations.  The Canada‑led Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations works to sustainably increase the meaningful participation of women in uniformed police and military roles, he said.

Noting that peacekeeping and special political missions, by definition, rely on strong partnerships, he said partnership with the African Union has maximized the effectiveness of United Nations missions on the continent.  Emphasizing that comprehensive training is the foundation of effective peacekeeping, he applauded the development of virtual platforms to ensure that peacekeepers continue to be properly equipped in that context.  Expressing concern about the worsening liquidity crisis, he said it is affecting the Organization’s regular budget as well as the peacekeeping budget, pointing out that special political missions also require adequate resources to support transitions.  He went on to underscore the importance of the new United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan.  Australia, New Zealand and Canada pay their contributions in full, on time and without conditions, he reported, calling upon all other Member States to do the same.

The representative of Egypt, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted his country’s launch of satellites in support of communications in the Nile delta and East Africa and its hosting of the African Space Agency.  Turning to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, he said the situation remains unchanged due to the failure to implement United Nations resolutions.  As well, Israel’s continued expansion of settlements, its demolition of Palestinian structures and its excessive use of force against civilians have kept the cause from moving forward, he pointed out, urging serious negotiations and calling upon both sides to refrain from negative actions, including annexation of the West Bank.  He went on to underline the important role of UNRWA and expressed his delegation’s support for its reform initiatives.  Condemning the incident in Mali on 15 October that led to the death of an Egyptian peacekeeper and injury to another, he urged the United Nations and the Government of Mali to hold the perpetrators accountable.  Urging enhanced medical care for peacekeepers in the field, he said the Cairo Roadmap constitutes a balanced and practical implementation framework in that context.

The representative of Iraq cautioned that ionizing radiation holds serious environmental and health consequences for future generations and called for limiting its use to peaceful purposes.  Noting his country’s experience of radiation’s effects owing to the many wars it has endured, he said they have increased the incidence of cancers among the population and disabilities among newborns.  Iraq, therefore, supports any project that aims to limit the dangers posed by ionizing radiation, he emphasized.  Turning to UNRWA, he called upon Member States to respect their commitments to the Agency and provide much‑needed funding.  He went on to point out that the occupying Power continues to commit violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including settlement‑expansion and annexation activities, and called upon the international community to force Israel to live up to its obligations under international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.  On special political missions, he applauded the active role played by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and various funds working with his country in response to the needs of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Moreover, UNAMI has helped to consolidate peace, strengthen public institutions and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals, he added.

The representative of Spain said that pending decolonization issues must be given new impetus.  Decolonization must be verified on the basis of the principle of territorial integrity, he emphasized, calling attention to the cases of the Malvinas Islands, the Chagos Archipelago and Gibraltar.  Detailing the history of the United Kingdom’s occupation of Gibraltar, he said that country has expanded the surface area of the colony two square kilometres into Algeciras Bay.  “Spain has never accepted these illegal British occupations and has continued to demand their restitution,” he added.  Both international law and the spirit of the times support Spain’s position in that regard, he said, citing United Nations resolutions.  However, the United Kingdom has at times ignored the Organization’s doctrine, he noted, recalling its past unilateral suspension of negotiations.  Spain has requested renewed negotiations every year, he said.  Highlighting the negative effects of an enclave colony on regional security, he reiterated Spain’s willingness to enter a new cooperation framework for the benefit of Gibraltar’s inhabitants on both sides of the wall, especially in the context of the Brexit transitional period that expires on December 31, 2020.  Turning to multilingualism, he called for setting aside the culture of translation, stressing the importance of multilingual communications in projecting the Organization’s work beyond the “United Nations bubble”.

The representative of Norway echoed other speakers in emphasizing her country’s support for the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative and calling for stronger efforts to evaluate mission performance.  All peacekeeping actions must contribute to overarching political strategies and further positive peace, she said, adding that they must also engage regional actors as part of critical efforts to protect civilians.  Underscoring the importance of meaningful participation by women, she said Norway stands committed to providing financial support and training to ensure that highly qualified women police officers from Anglophone countries can serve in United Nations missions.  Concerning the upcoming transition in Darfur, she said the situation highlights the need to look at peace operations as a “spectrum, rather than as distinct, separate activities”.  Greater predictability is needed to finance special political missions as well as peacebuilding activities following the withdrawal of peacekeeping operations, she added, warning:  “We all stand to lose if there is a relapse to conflict.”  She went on to she warned highlight the importance of UNRWA’s ongoing support for some 5.6 million Palestine refugees especially during the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The representative of Nigeria, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the question of Palestine remains a “blight on the conscience of the international community”.  The lingering Arab‑Israeli conflict and the fate of more than 5.6 million Palestine refugees have a direct impact not only on stability in the Middle East, but also on international peace and security, he emphasized.  Unilateral actions, the expansion of settlements, the obstruction of UNRWA and the blockade of Gaza constitute impediments to resolving the conflict, he said, urging the parties to resume talks based on the principle of a two‑State solution.  He went on to underline the inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self‑determination and independence.  Spotlighting the new challenges facing United Nations peace missions, including the outbreak of COVID‑19, he noted that early steps to keep peacekeepers from getting infected — and ensuring that no peacekeeper spreads the virus — have gone a long way in curbing its spread.  He went on to stress that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations remains the only forum mandated to comprehensively review peacekeeping missions, while pointing out that the Action for Peacekeeping structure does not cover the entire spectrum of the Special Committee’s mandate and should be expanded to accommodate some fundamental issues that have been squeezed out.  He called for the inclusion of a new section on Africa‑related issues in the Action for Peacekeeping initiative.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire welcomed the resumption of negotiations on the Western Sahara question, urging the parties to maintain that positive momentum.  Underlining the Security Council’s call for a realistic, pragmatic solution based on comprise, he expressed his delegation’s support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan.  Noting that humanitarian and economic repercussions of COVID‑19 have complicated peacekeeping and special political missions, affecting the rotations of troops and the deployment of personnel, he applauded  the efforts of missions and their force commanders to prevent the spread of the virus, while welcoming adjustments made to the Action for Peacekeeping structure in light of the pandemic.  Emphasizing the importance of adequate funding for both peacekeeping and special political missions, he expressed concern over recent further reductions, warning they could jeopardize the fulfilment of mandates.

The representative of Costa Rica expressed support for Argentina’s legitimate and urgent claim to the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, and also called for a just and lasting solution to the Western Sahara question, based on the principles and provisions of international law.  On information questions, she applauded the work of the Department of Global Communications, noting that access to objective, unbiased multilingual information “is more urgent than ever” amid the COVID‑19 pandemic.  The Secretary‑General’s reports, statements and other documents must be published in all six official United Nations languages, she emphasized, while urging the Department to continue to support freedom of the press and the free flow of information.  Turning to peace operations, she stressed that all United Nations peacekeeping mandates must be well‑defined, realistic, achievable and matched with appropriate resources and personnel.

The representative of Afghanistan, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, described special political missions as an important tool for supporting countries in conflict prevention and resolution, peacebuilding and sustaining peace.  Among other things, they work to facilitate peace dialogues, consolidate democracy and promote human rights, he added.  Outlining the close partnership between his country’s Government and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since it was established 18 years ago, he said they include UNAMA’S good‑offices role as the Government’s peace talks with the Taliban continue to advance, with a view to a successful outcome in line with Afghanistan’s core values, such as protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens.

Right of Reply

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of his right of reply in response to the representatives of Spain, Chile, Mozambique, Costa Rica and Panama, reaffirmed his country’s sovereignty over Gibraltar and the surrounding waters, emphasizing that the Territory’s people enjoy the right to self‑determination and have a modern, mature relationship with the United Kingdom.  He added that his country, for its part, has pledged to them that it will not enter into any arrangements through which they would pass onto another country.  The United Kingdom remains committed to the trilateral forum as the best platform for dialogue on that issue, and regrets Spain’s withdrawal from talks in 2011, he said.  Refuting allegations that his country illegally occupied Gibraltar and international waters, he stressed that the United Kingdom will continue to employ appropriate naval responses to illegal incursions into British territorial waters.  As for Brexit, he added, the United Kingdom has negotiated on behalf of its territories to ensure that they enjoy an appropriate future relationship with the European Union.  He went on to underline that his country has no doubt as to its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) nor the right of their people to self‑determination.  Argentina should respect the wishes — clearly demonstrated in recent referenda — that the population wishes to remain British citizens, he said.

The representative of Spain pointed out that the General Assembly has been clear about denying the right of self‑determination to the people of Gibraltar.  The Territory’s people were expelled when it was occupied by the United Kingdom and settlers were sent there, he said, noting that the referendum has been called “an eccentricity”.  Memoranda between the parties show Spain’s willingness for a cooperation framework, he added.  Regarding the territorial waters, he recalled that when his country ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it made a clear statement emphasizing that Gibraltar’s waters belong to Spain.

The representative of Argentina said the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands are an integral part of his country’s territory and are illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.  The illegal occupation by the United Kingdom led the General Assembly to adopt 10 resolutions on the matter, he recalled, detailing that history.  Emphasizing that the principle of free self‑determination of peoples cannot be recognized in this case, he said the 2013 vote that took place in the Territory consequently has no legal value and does not change the status of the dispute, nor does it affect Argentina’s legitimate rights.  The International Court of Justice stated that the General Assembly has a right to pronounce a decision on the case, he recalled, reiterating that the holding of a referendum without the General Assembly’s approval lacks legal value.  Moreover, the interests of the Territory’s inhabitants are fully covered by General Assembly resolutions as well as Argentina’s constitution, he added.

Also speaking today were representatives of Chile, Senegal, Mozambique, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Viet Nam, Tunisia, Jamaica and Panama.

An observer for the Holy See also addressed the Committee.

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*     A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

For information media. Not an official record.