Organ also Adopts Resolutions, Decisions Including on Zone of Peace, Reliable Global Transport for Sustainable Development
The General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted two resolutions and three decisions today after debating the annual report on the Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Fund. Meanwhile, consideration of a draft resolution to establish a Permanent Forum of People of African Descent was rolled back to a later date.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolutions “Zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic”, introduced by Uruguay’s representative, and “Strengthening the links between all modes of transport to ensure stable and reliable international transport for sustainable development during and after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic”, introduced by Turkmenistan’s delegate.
It decided to authorize the Preparatory Committee for the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries to hold an additional half-day meeting to act on a draft outcome document to be recommended to the Conference scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar, from 23 to 27 January 2022.
It also decided to reschedule to its seventy-sixth session the Fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia, which it previously postponed on 13 April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, acting on the recommendation of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), it adopted a set of proposals aimed at revitalizing the work of that body.
Procedural matters stalled action on the draft resolution “Establishment of the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent”, submitted by the President of the Assembly. Through that text, the Assembly would establish the Permanent Forum as a consultative platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent.
Meeting annually, alternatively in Geneva and New York, the 10-member body would provide expert advice and recommendations to the Human Rights Council, the Main Committees of the General Assembly and the wider United Nations system. It would also consider the elaboration of a United Nations declaration on the promotion, protection and full respect of the human rights of people of African descent.
By a vote of 47 in favour to 66 against, with 19 abstentions, the Assembly rejected a motion — put forward by the representative of the United States — to defer consideration of the text to give delegations time to consider oral and written amendments, some of which were only circulated earlier in the day.
Delegations then debated whether the text, presented under agenda item 70(a) on the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, should be reallocated to agenda item 70(b), which deals with the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The meeting, which was twice suspended, was eventually adjourned, with the Assembly to revert to the issue at a date to be announced.
The annual joint debate on the report of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Secretary-General’s report on the Peacebuilding Fund featured presentations by the representatives of Canada and Egypt, the former and current Chairs of the Peacebuilding Commission respectively, who emphasized its growing advisory role vis-à-vis the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.
Speakers applauded the Peacebuilding Commission for the way it swiftly adapted its working methods amidst the pandemic. They also encouraged 31-member intergovernmental advisory body to further deepen its relationship not only with other United Nations organs, but also with regional and subregional organizations. Several delegates warned, however, that the Peacebuilding Fund is underfunded. They appealed for the Fund, overseen by the Secretary-General, to receive adequate, predictable and sustainable financing, with some delegates proposing that a wider net be cast to attract new donors.
Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Gambia (on behalf of the African Group), Ecuador, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, South Africa, Nigeria, United Kingdom, El Salvador, Kenya, Bangladesh, France, China, Liechtenstein, India, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Netherlands, Philippines and Lebanon, as well as the European Union and the African Union.
The representatives of the United Kingdom and Argentina spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
The General Assembly first considered the Report of the Peacebuilding Commission on its fourteenth session (document A/75/747) and the Report of the Secretary-General on the Peacebuilding Fund (document A/75/735).
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada), former Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, presented that body’s report, saying that 2020 was a “landmark year” with the convening of a record 37 meetings. It engaged in support of 15 country- and region-specific contexts, including new regional engagements with Central Africa and the Pacific Islands, in addition to renewed engagement in support of peacebuilding in Somalia and the Great Lakes region. Nearly all its work was conducted on virtual platforms owing to the pandemic and many discussions emphasized the need to tailor socioeconomic responses to COVID-19 to nationally defined peacebuilding priorities, he said.
The Commission continued to make efforts to improve the timeliness and quality of its advice to the General Assembly and the Security Council, he continued. It advised the latter organ 12 times on such topics as mandate renewals for the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). It conducted an informal interactive dialogue on the impact of COVID-19 on peacebuilding as well as a formal Council briefing on peacebuilding in the Sahel. It used its convening role to foster strong partnerships with regional and subregional groups, including the African Union. Throughout the year, and during its annual session, the Commission called for adequate, predictable and sustained resources for peacebuilding, he said.
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that in the first half of 2021, it expanded and strengthened its advisory and bridging role with the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. It advised the Security Council on the Great Lakes region as well as the Assembly on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. It joined the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade for Peace Network and briefed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on its new strategy for conflict-affected States.
Looking ahead, he said that the Commission aims to further enhance its role in building back better from the pandemic. It will help bring together key stakeholders and generate inputs for the high-level meeting on financing for peacekeeping to be held during the Assembly’s seventy-sixth session. It will strive to advance its advisory role with the Security Council and to expand partnerships with regional and subregional organizations and international financial institutions. It will further advance the role of women and youth in peacebuilding and consider all tools at its disposal to advance the peacebuilding priorities of host States, he added.
MARÍA ANTONIETA SOCORRO JÁQUEZ HUACUJA (Mexico) said that she is pleased to see the Commission continuing to expand the scope of its work since 2016, and that in 2020 it carried out support work in 15 situations in specific regions and countries. The Commission should explore new synergies with international partners and regional, national and local Governments in the processes of consolidation of the peace, urging it to continue to develop the great potential of its mandate, as it can link the three pillars of the United Nations work and can exploit its power to convene Member States to support countries in conflict or transition settings. The Commission is called upon to resolve the fragmentation of responses and play an advisory role with the Security Council, Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. The Commission and the peacebuilding architecture must have adequate, predictable and sustainable resources, he said, expressing hope to find realistic and creative solutions to this topic as part of the follow-up to the 2020 review of the peacebuilding architecture.
OSUGA TAKESHI (Japan) said that the Commission can leverage its bridging role to convene key actors. The ultimate objective is to help post-conflict and fragile countries to stand on their own feet. In this regard, human security is vital to leave no one behind, including women, youth and the marginalized groups. Welcoming its focus on critical cross-cutting issues, he proposed that the Commission hold a meeting to discuss linkages between financing and institution-building. The Peacebuilding Fund can make a real difference on the ground. It is important to take on the areas where it can clearly add value, such as supporting cross-border issues. For instance, it can use its comparative advantage in contributing to resolving a natural resource management issue between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Fund is best positioned to fill financial gaps in supporting countries’ smooth transition. The 2020 review is an opportunity to take stock of achievement and challenges.
MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea) said that his country’s engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission has strengthened the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement as well as a second initiative concerning two provinces in the Highland region where positive results are emerging. The allocation of $5 million from the Peacebuilding Fund, and the renewal of Papua New Guinea’s eligibility for the Fund in July 2020, could not have come at a more opportune time, he said, citing the challenges posed by the pandemic not only in his country, but also in the wider Pacific region, where peacebuilding efforts and the existential threat of climate change cannot be divorced from each other.
ARND DIETMAR BECK, observer of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, outlined the many challenges facing peacebuilding, noting that climate change and environmental degradation “are not going away anytime soon”. Particular attention must be paid to the manner in which the pandemic is aggravating inequalities. He acknowledged the progress made in 2020 in operationalizing conflict prevention in the United Nations system, adding however that more is needed. Turning to the Peacebuilding Commission’s annual report, he said that it illustrates the complexity of financing peacebuilding efforts. Country-specific configurations have shown themselves to be valuable platforms for bringing main actors together. He went on to say that the Peacebuilding Fund has achieved significant results and that the European Union and its member States remain staunch supporters of the peacebuilding architecture.
VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand) said that a comprehensive political strategy across the entire peace continuum is key to successful peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Peacebuilding efforts must build upon supporting national ownership through system-wide coherence, joint planning and assessment, and partnership with all stakeholders, especially women and youth. Peacebuilding efforts must also support the building of efficient, transparent, and accountable institutions which can respond to public needs and strengthen trust in Governments for long-term socioeconomic resilience. He went on to stress the importance of sufficient peacebuilding financing as demands on the Fund keep growing.
LANG YABOU (Gambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that bold steps taken to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional groups are encouraging. The hopes and aspirations of Agenda 2063 must be attained through innovation and commitment between the Organization and the African Union. Collaboration between the Peacebuilding Commission and the African Union Peace and Security Council should take into account the African Common Position on the 2020 Review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture. Going forward, the Peacebuilding Commission will be a reliable platform to discuss ideas for preserving the gains made in peacebuilding in such areas as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, he said.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) stressed the need to deal with the causes of conflict and the coordinated and integrated approach to peacebuilding. The future of peacebuilding depends on effective multilateralism, he said, urging all States to renew their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, especially the principle of non-use of force. Underscoring the link between conflict, peace and human rights, he said these elements are interdependent. Calling for a focus on conflict prevention, he said Ecuador is committed to humanitarian work, hosting refugees from Venezuela. Recalling its own commitment to the culture of peace and the greater role of women in peace, Ecuador is the first Latin American country to adopt a policy of gender equality in the armed forces, having done so in 2013. The twin resolutions consolidate the mandate of the Commission, showing the commitment of the United Nations to cope with challenges in peacebuilding.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), commending the Commission, under the successive chairs of Canada and Egypt, for adapting its work to a new set of realities so quickly during the pandemic, stressed that strengthening synergies and coherence across the pillars of the United Nations remains relevant. The twin General Assembly and Security Council resolutions of 2020 reiterated the centrality of sustaining peace for inclusive, nationally-owned efforts, supported by coherent international engagement. Predictable and sufficient financing for peacebuilding remains pivotal. Therefore, in January, Switzerland increased its annual contribution to the Fund until the end of the 2020-2024 strategy. The Commission benefits from the increasing diversity of stakeholders. It strengthened the participation of women peacebuilders and civil society briefers and provided space for discussion on horizontal issues. The task now is to continue these efforts, including by implementing the Commission’s gender strategy and action plans on women, peace and security and youth, peace and security.
EDUARDO MANUEL DA FONSECA FERNANDES RAMOS (Portugal) said that the Commission’s gender perspective must filter down through country-specific configurations and inform every aspect of peacebuilding work on the ground. Such configurations should emphasize national ownership and overcome the idea that they are heavy structures, he said, underscoring their potential to develop tailor-made approaches. Going forward, the Commission can help raise awareness of the linkages between climate change, conflict prevention and sustaining peace. He also stressed the need for predictable financing for peacebuilding, adding that his country will make a multi-annual pledge towards the Peacebuilding Fund until the end of this cycle.
ANNA KARIN ENESTRÖM (Sweden) said as the coronavirus poses challenges to peacebuilding, the cross-cutting approach is critical. Welcoming the annual report’s clear focus on the impacts of the Commission’s work on the ground, she said work must continue to address the most pertinent risks, including climate-related security risk. The participation of civil society actors and the women, peace and security agenda are vital to both the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund. Financing for peacebuilding remains a challenge, she deplored, calling for an increased level of funding and a broader donor base. A high-level meeting on peacebuilding during the seventy-sixth General Assembly session offers a chance to engage international financial institutions. The Commission is uniquely positioned to bring actors together. Country-specific configurations should exercise greater flexibility. Its advisory role to the Security Council should be further strengthened.
GUILLERMO ROQUE FERNÁNDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia) said the annual report reflects the attainment of the Commission’s goals. All bodies in the system must continue to work together to obtain better results. Lessons learned include fostering collaborative efforts, combating the pandemic in an inclusive way and targeting efforts to achieve common goals, including those set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Highlighting the importance of the partnership between the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, he said Colombia has benefited from these efforts. Welcoming the decision for greater discussions on these bodies, he pledged support for ongoing efforts in this regard.
MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said that over the past 10 years, her country has received substantial support from the Peacekeeping Fund to strengthen social cohesion and prevent violent extremism. The second peacebuilding priority plan, concluded in 2020, focused on improving the penitentiary system to reduce the risk of radicalization. The next phase of Kyrgyzstan’s peacebuilding projects supported by the Fund will include a qualitative assessment of the needs of the border areas, with a focus on socioeconomic aspects, trade, education, and cultural and humanitarian cooperation. She cautioned against touching upon sensitive issues, such as border delineation and the distribution of water and land resources, when implementing transboundary projects.
GÜNTER SAUTTER (Germany) commended the Commission’s work and encouraged continued efforts to address such issues as climate change and gender equality. Welcoming the initiative to identify informal focal points in the Commission and the General Assembly, he said such steps reflect the commitment of United Nations organs, including the Security Council, to work towards sustaining peace. Member States have also committed themselves to financing, especially given current needs. However, peacebuilding financing must be put on more solid footing, he said, welcoming the Commission’s leading role on advancing discussions on the matter. He anticipated contributing to this process, welcoming the United Nations leadership in this regard. Germany strongly advocates innovative financing options, including blended models, and has hosted meetings on this issue, he said.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) underscored the importance of national ownership, partnerships and institution-building for successful peacebuilding processes. He welcomed the Peacebuilding Commission’s more systematic engagement with women peacebuilders and its calls for youth to be included in all peacebuilding efforts. Going forward, the Commission must continue to enhance its advisory role with the Assembly and the Security Council while also engaging with regional and subregional bodies, such as the African Union, and civil society. He added that South Africa supports initiatives to bolster the Peacebuilding Fund, which should get part of its financing through assessed contributions.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria) said his country is fully committed to building sustainable peace across the world, especially in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions of Africa, and has been at the forefront of activities geared towards achieving this. It championed the establishment of the Multinational Joint Task Force with Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, as well as the Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit to help countries in the region overcome security challenges, especially the threat of terrorism and armed conflicts. He commended the Commission for the effective use of its convening role to engender stronger partnerships and greater cooperation with regional authorities, including the African Union and international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF. Nigeria is also particularly pleased by the Commission’s efforts to galvanize support for States in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa, including Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as its ongoing efforts to fund the electoral process in the Gambia.
ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom) said that 15 years after its establishment, the Peacebuilding Commission is the teenager among intergovernmental bodies at the United Nations. It is heartening to see how far it has come, but there is scope to go further. More can be done to strengthen its engagement with the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. It can also strengthen its engagement with diverse stakeholders and do more to increase the impact of its discussions on the ground. Turning to the Peacebuilding Fund, she said that her country is among its staunchest supporters, contributing $220 million since 2006. She stressed, however, the need to broaden its donor base and for data to be provided to donor Governments to confirm that the Fund is having a catalytic impact.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) said the Peacebuilding Commission’s enhanced geographical scope and its analysis of cross-cutting issues signal its important advisory role and the trust that Member States put in it. Its efforts to support the women, peace and security agenda must continue, particularly in the context of increased violence against women and girls during the pandemic. She echoed the Commission’s recommendations to ensure suitable financing to empower young people as positive agents of change. Going forward, the Commission’s advisory functions should be enhanced to ensure that the entire United Nations system works together to prevent conflict and build peace. She also called for adequate and predictable financing for the Peacekeeping Fund, which has been supporting a joint effort by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address human mobility in the subregion.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya), associating himself with the African Group, said that 2020 was an extraordinary year, in which the Commission managed to table the important agenda, with 37 meetings held, the most since its inception. The peacebuilding architecture consistently underscored the importance of adequate funding. The Fund provided flexible resources, but demand continues to outpace available funding. Stressing the need to foster stronger partnerships, including international financial institutions and the private sector, he stressed the need to engage the manufacturing sector to build back better and recover together from the pandemic.
RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh) welcomed the Commission’s work, including the holding of a record number of meetings in 2020 and its efforts to explore new avenues for greater cooperation. The Peacebuilding Fund increased cross-border activities despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, she said, calling for further support to create a positive footprint. The principle of national ownership should remain central to the Commission’s work. There should be more emphasis on national capacity-building and building local institutions. Welcoming the replenishing conference in January, she stressed the need to find a permanent solution and called for stronger work on the women, peace and security agenda and the youth, peace security agenda. The issue of vaccine equity cannot be separated from the Commission’s work.
ALEXANDER MURUGASU (France), commending the Commission’s work, welcomed country project achievements, including efforts to combat the pandemic and address such critical issues as the role of women. Strengthening partnerships with the World Bank and regional organizations should be a priority. France has increased its support four-fold in 2021, he said, pledging continued assistance to make peacebuilding more sustainable and reliable.
JIANG HUA (China), expressing support for ongoing work of peacebuilding architecture, said challenges remain. National leadership must be recognized and respected, and supporting countries should include assistance to enable them to achieve development goals on their own. Scaling up support for conflict prevention is also essential. Peacebuilding work should forge synergies with international financial institutions and should involve the General Assembly. In terms of current challenges, she underlined the importance of targeted efforts to fight COVID-19 and of fostering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), describing the work of the Peacebuilding Commission as “an investment in the future”, said that the preventative aspect of its work should be developed further. He underscored the direct overlap of the work of the Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund with the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions. Going forward, the Commission should reinforce its vital role in complementing the Security Council’s thematic agenda. He went on to say that the United Nations peacebuilding efforts deserve financial support through both assessed and voluntary contributions.
PRATIK MATHUR (India) said his country, as a democracy, is conscious of the need to prioritize institution-building, in particular governance structures to strengthen institutional capacity and the rule of law, taking into account the views of the host Government. Consequently, these need to be the building blocks on which peacebuilding should rest. India, through its extensive partnership with developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, has always played a constructive and significant role in peacebuilding. The India-UN Development Partnership Fund was established in 2017, and in four years, the Fund has developed a portfolio of 64 development projects, including 17 countries in Africa, focusing on South-led, demand-driven development and transformational projects. Through these funds, India has focused on climate resilience, environmental sustainability, gender equality, renewable energy, improving maternal health, water and sanitation, education, employment and livelihoods, disaster recovery and risk management, agricultural development and infrastructure. The Fund has put forth a comprehensive scenario, covering a horizon of five years. However, in the middle of the pandemic, funds are increasingly being programmed away to humanitarian assistance other than peacebuilding activities, he warned, stressing the need to reaffirm commitments to realize the 2030 Agenda, so as to not falter in the context of COVID-19.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), stressing the nexus between peace and development, said that the institutional relationship between the Peacebuilding Commission and the Security Council should be strengthened. She applauded the Commission’s ability to bring together all relevant stakeholders to share experiences and best practices, adding however that there is still a need for greater coherence and collaboration with other parts of the United Nations system as well as international financial institutions and regional and subregional partners. She also emphasized the need for adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for the Peacebuilding Fund, saying that it is currently significantly underfunded.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) stressed the effectiveness of the Commission’s work and the potential it holds for peacebuilding efforts. The Commission should act within its mandate and can complement the work of other United Nations organs with a clear division of labour. The Commission can transmit critical information to the Security Council. Welcoming the Peacebuilding Fund’s projects to support national reconciliation, she asked that any international support is in line with national priorities. Stressing the importance of transparency and accountability, she urged efforts to avoid duplication of work.
QASIM AZIZ BUTT (Pakistan) said his country, as one of the top troop-contributors to United Nations peacekeeping, sees the value of the Commission’s work, including expansion of its regional coverage, including cross-border issues in Central Africa and the Pacific Islands. Strengthening the peacebuilding architecture is not just important but imperative. Stressing the need for sustainable financing, he said it is critical to mitigate the pandemic and recommit resources to implement the 2030 Agenda. Demand for peacebuilding projects outpaces resources. Finding innovative solutions is critical, with a model of blended financing being a good option. He also supported the Secretary-General’s call for developed countries to target 20 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) to peacebuilding in conflicted-affected countries.
MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands) said the Commission is a key addition to the United Nations peace agenda and has become more important than ever. Having joined the Commission, his delegation attaches importance to mental health and inclusive justice as key elements of sustaining peace. Financing is another focus area for his delegation, which is among the top donors to the Peacekeeping Fund. Welcoming the Fund’s attention to mental health, he said: “We can’t build peace with a broken mind.” However, the Fund is underfunded, he said, urging Member States to make financial contributions.
ANGELITO AYONG NAYAN (Philippines) described how his country’s Government over the years sought to sustain peacebuilding gains in its southern region, including capacity-building for State and non-State actors. Since 2005, the concept of the peacebuilding architecture has evolved. Today, it stands as the most essential element in United Nations efforts to save humanity from the scourge of war. The success of the Fund is determined by the value it adds.
Mr. HITTI (Lebanon) said that the Peacebuilding Commission, as an advisory body, can scale up its work on the impact of climate change, which poses a security threat in many parts of the world. Turning to the Peacebuilding Fund, he said that the need for adequate, predictable and sustainable financing cannot be stressed enough. The pool of donors must be enlarged, he said, adding that the Commission can do more to engage potential donors, including those from the private sector. He went on to say that the Commission would benefit from more meetings with the wider United Nations membership and from listening to more voices from the field.
FATIMA KYARI MOHAMMED, Permanent Observer of the African Union, welcomed the work of the Commission as conflict prevention and peacebuilding are key to sustained peacebuilding on her continent and are anchored on the bloc’s architectures for peace and security and governance, complemented by three important policy frameworks: the African Union Policy on Post-Conflict, Reconstruction and Development, Agenda 2063 and the African Union Master Roadmap for Silencing the Guns — all contributing towards enhancing the global peacebuilding architecture. Stressing the urgent need for increased funding for medium- to long-term development, she said sustainable funding is needed to complete the Peacebuilding Fund’s programmes to ensure that such projects do not falter when the Fund’s support ends. Welcoming the increase of the Commission’s efforts on cross-cutting and thematic issues, she stressed the importance of greater engagement with women peacebuilders. The bloc also welcomes the Commission’s proactive engagements with various partners across the board including civil society, regional and subregional organizations, and international financial institutions.
Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution “Zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic” (document A/75/L.113). Through that text, it would stress the role of that zone as a forum for increased interaction, coordination and cooperation among its member States. It would call upon States to cooperate in the promotion of the objectives of peace and cooperation established through Assembly resolution 41/11 and reiterated in the Montevideo Declaration and the Montevideo Plan of Action. In addition, it would request the United Nations system to render all appropriate assistance that States members of the zone may seek in their joint efforts to implement the Montevideo Plan of Action.
The representative of Uruguay, Chair of the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic, introduced the text, saying that it contains technical updates to previous resolutions adopted by the Assembly by consensus in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Among other things, it reaffirms the Zone’s role as a forum for greater interaction and support among its member States, which consists of those countries in Africa and South America with South Atlantic coastlines.
The representative of Brazil said that the Assembly’s adoption of “L.113” would reaffirm the principles which have guided the Zone of Peace and Cooperation since its inception. The Zone’s eighth Ministerial meeting, hosted by Cabo Verde, will be fundamental for deepening its activities and achieving its objectives. He also highlighted the importance of responsible navigation. While each country bears primary responsibility for the sustainable use and conservation of their maritime resources, responsible ocean navigation must be promoted through measures aimed at preventing and investigating serious incidents of marine pollution.
The representative of Argentina said that her country views the South Atlantic as a geostrategic space with abundant natural resources for the sustainable development of the Atlantic nations of Latin America and Africa. The member States of the Zone of Peace and Cooperation are determined to deepen their cooperation on ocean issues. Noting her country’s claim of sovereignty over the Malvinas islands*, she added that the Zone of Peace and Cooperation is also a zone free of nuclear weapons. States must therefore refrain from introducing weapons of mass destruction in the South Atlantic.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that his country has no doubts regarding its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and surrounding maritime area or the right of the Falkland Islanders to self-determination. There can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless the Falkland Islanders so wish, he said.
The representative of Argentina, recalling the statement delivered by the President of her country to the General Assembly in September 2020, said that the Malvinas, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime area are an integral part of its national territory. It is illegally occupied by the United Kingdom and the subject of a sovereignty dispute, she said.
The resolution was then adopted without a vote.
United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries
The Assembly then considered a draft decision (document A/75/L.122) to authorize the Preparatory Committee for the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held in Doha, Qatar, from 23 to 27 January 2022, to hold an additional half-day meeting between mid-December 2021 and 10 January 2022, in order to take action on the draft outcome document to be recommended to the Conference.
The decision was adopted without a vote.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia
The Assembly then took up the draft decision “Fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia” (document A/75/L.118), through which it would further postpone that Conference to a later date to be decided at the Assembly’s seventy-sixth session. [The Assembly, through its decision 74/549 of 13 April 2020, had initially postponed the one-day Conference, to be held in New York, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.]
The representative of Mongolia, introducing “L.118”, said the language in the text was agreed upon by participants at a meeting in June and the final decision has not been made on a new date. He expressed hope that Member States would support the draft decision.
It adopted the decision without a vote.
Strengthening of the United Nations System
The Assembly then considered the draft resolution “Strengthening the links between all modes of transport to ensure stable and reliable international transport for sustainable development during and after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic” (document A/75/L.117). Through that text, it would underline the importance of international cooperation between relevant modes of transport and transport-related industries to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. It would emphasize the need to promote the development of a sustainable transport sector; emphasize the importance of reliable and sustainable channels for mutual exchange of information about the impact on transport operations and the movement of people in situations such as the pandemic; and call for the promotion of the resilience of passenger transport to any outbreaks and other public health threats to contain the spread of infectious diseases in all modes of transport and in transport infrastructure facilities.
The representative of Turkmenistan introduced “L.117”, saying that efficient transport infrastructure and initiatives are increasingly important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Stressing the need to improve recovery, she called for faster investment in sustainable infrastructure that affects over 90 per cent of the Goals. “Transport is one such area,” she said, adding that it plays a key role in the delivery of medical supplies, food and other essentials to countries and regions affected by COVID-19. Moreover, the text focuses on the need to promote digitalization of global supply chains, including blockchain technology as the shortest and fastest path to simplification of border-crossing procedures, reducing corruption and long delays at borders. Creation of such multimodal digital corridors are especially important for landlocked developing countries and least developed countries.
L.117 was adopted without a vote.
The representative of the United States, citing operative paragraph 14, stressed the role of individual Governments in increasing the resilience of transport systems. The United Nations should not promote a single country’s signature initiative.
The representative of India said his delegation joined consensus as it shares the view that physical connectivity brings benefits and expanding such connectivity is in line with his country’s growth policy. Politics could be an impediment to expanding connectivity, which must be based on economic viability. Such projects must not create unsustainable debts. Such initiatives must uphold the principles of transparency and equality and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries. Lastly, such projects should not lead to conflict and tensions.
Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly
Next, the Assembly took up a draft decision titled “Revitalization of the work of the Second Committee”, contained in a report submitted by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial) (document A/75/467/Add.1). Through that two-page text, the Assembly would invite delegations to take into account the theme of the Committee’s general debate when making their interventions. It would invite the Committee’s Bureau to continue to make proposals to streamline debates on individual agenda items, to consider convening Committee side events early during its session and to continue to encourage greater interaction in discussions on reports from the Secretary-General. In addition, the Assembly would invite delegations to consider streamlining updates on draft resolutions; agree to start discussions on a common definition of technical rollovers; and invite the Bureau to facilitate a separate negotiating track to facilitate talks on cross-cutting issues that would appear in several draft resolutions, so as to avoid duplication.
It adopted the decision without a vote.
Follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Finally, the Assembly turned its attention to the draft resolution “Establishment of the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent” (document A/75/L.119). Through that text, it would decide to establish the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent as a consultative mechanism for people of African descent and other relevant stakeholders as a platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent, as well as an advisory body to the Human Rights Council, in line with the programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent and in close coordination with existing mechanisms.
Meeting annually, rotating between Geneva and New York, the 10-member Permanent Forum would, among other things, contribute to the full political, economic and social inclusion of people of African descent in the societies in which they live as equal citizens without discrimination of any kind and contribute to ensuring equal enjoyment of all human rights. It would provide expert advice and recommendations to the Human Rights Council, the Main Committees of the General Assembly and the wider United Nations system to address racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance confronted by people of African descent which impede the full realization and enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Permanent Forum would also consider the elaboration of a United Nations declaration on the promotion, protection and full respect of the human rights of people of African descent. In addition, it would identify and analyse best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives to address, as appropriate, the issues highlighted in the provisions of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action relevant to people of African descent.
The Assembly also had before it a draft amendment (document A/75/L.121) that would delete the word “gender” from operative paragraph 1 (h).
In addition, an oral amendment to operative paragraph 2, circulated today by the President of the Assembly, would replace the words “nominated by organizations of people of African descent to be selected and appointed in accordance with the rules of procedure of the Human Rights Council” with “to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council following consultation with the Bureau and the regional groups through their coordinators, on the basis of broad consultations with organizations of people of African descent”.
A second oral amendment, to operative paragraph 9, would replace the words “to provide the Permanent Forum” by the words “to strengthen substantive support to the Forum and to provide the Forum”.
The representative of the United States, speaking on a point of order, said that two oral amendments were circulated earlier in the day by the President of the Assembly, together with an amendment to an amendment already submitted in writing. It was not clear that Member States have had enough time to review these changes with other delegations or with their capitals. She asked that the Assembly consider delaying action on this very important issue.
The representative of Nigeria rejected the proposal by the United States, saying that delaying action would not be in anyone’s interest. He believed that the request was part of tactics by some delegations to kill the draft resolution. The Assembly should proceed with its adoption, he said.
The representative of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, agreed with the United States that more time is needed to consider these important substantial revisions. She supported the motion to postpone action.
The representative of Costa Rica said that he opposed the United States proposal, saying that delegations had plenty of time to study the draft resolution, which was submitted in due time as per the Assembly’s rules of procedure. The time to act is now, he said, emphasizing that it was a very significant resolution and part of a global discussion of racism that is now under way.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that he appreciated the efforts made by Chad and Costa Rica to facilitate the resolution and understood their desire to proceed expeditiously. However, there are at least three issues which remain under discussion. He suggested that action be postponed to the Assembly’s scheduled meeting on 17 August “so we can get our house in full order”. He added in response to Nigeria that no one has any intention of blocking the text.
The representative of Japan, noting the draft resolution’s programme budget implications and the need to consult capitals, agreed on the need for “a little more time” to fully examine the text and conduct thorough deliberations among Member States.
The Assembly then rejected a motion to defer consideration of “L.119” and related draft amendments by a vote of 47 in favour to 66 against, with 19 abstentions.
The representative of the United States proposed an oral amendment, requesting placement of this draft resolution under agenda item 70(a), “Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”, instead of item 70(b), “Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”. She said this reallocation would enable the Permanent Forum to broaden and mainstream its work in the United Nations.
The representative of Cuba asked the Secretariat to explain implications of this last-minute change so that his delegation can make an informed decision. The representative of Algeria sought views of other delegations as the proposed change would detach the work of the Permanent Forum from the Durban Declaration, under which its establishment was agreed upon.
Then, the meeting was suspended for informal consultation.
When the meeting resumed, the representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that he neither agreed nor supported the oral amendment put forward by the United States. If the United States insists on proposing this oral amendment, then the African Group will call for a vote.
The representative of Cuba said that he agreed with Nigeria’s position.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that it was very clear that this had become a very highly charged issue. The Assembly should therefore proceed dispassionately and carefully. He suggested that the Assembly, through its President, request advice from the Office of Legal Affairs on the implications of moving the text from agenda item 70(b) to item 70(a).
The representative of the Secretariat said that only the Assembly can request a legal opinion in the form of a draft decision or a draft resolution. It cannot be requested by a delegation or group of delegations.
The representative of Nigeria said that the question before the Assembly is part of a ploy to delay adoption of the text. Opposition to the proposed amendment is reason enough for a vote.
The representative of the United Kingdom said delegations are not trying to delay a decision on the text, but rather to understand fully what they are doing. He then reiterated his proposal to request advice from the Office of Legal Affairs.
The representative of the United States said that her delegation is not proposing an amendment to the text, but rather raising a question about which agenda item it should be allocated to. She added that she also would like to hear the Secretariat’s response to the United Kingdom’s question.
The representative of Cuba, citing the rules of procedure, said that once a vote has been requested, a vote must be held, and Nigeria had requested a vote. He proposed that the Assembly move directly to a vote on the oral amendment proposed by the United States.
The representative of the Secretariat reiterated that a request for a legal opinion can only be made through a decision or resolution adopted by the Assembly containing a clearly formulated question. He then asked the Vice-President of the Assembly to adjourn the meeting, as the interpreters were about to be released for the day.
AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon), Vice-President of the Assembly, adjourned the meeting, saying that the Assembly would revert to this question at a date to be announced.
* 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).