Acting without a vote, the General Assembly adopted three resolutions today, two proclaiming World Wetlands Day and World Cotton Day, respectively and the third expressing solidarity with the people and Government of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating 14 August earthquake in that country.
Introducing the text “World Wetlands Day” (document A/75/L.125), the representative of Costa Rica noted that wetlands serve both people and nature, with an intrinsic value and services quantified in billions of dollars annually. Those ecosystems directly and indirectly service humans and crops, especially the cultivation of rice, a staple for a large percentage of humankind, as well as fishing, he added. Wetlands also regulate global climate, storing carbon in a natural manner, with peatlands covering 3 per cent of the Earth’s surface yet storing 30 per cent of its carbon. However, despite the benefits they provide, wetlands have been threatened for decades, with 35 per cent lost since 1970 and 74 per cent of the planet’s surface altered by human action, he noted, emphasizing that they are crucial to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Adopting the resolution, the Assembly proclaimed 2 February — the date of adoption of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention), as World Wetlands Day. It further acknowledged that wetlands are among the ecosystems with the highest rates of decline, loss and degradation. Also by the text, the Assembly stressed that the cost of all activities that may arise from implementing the resolution should be met from voluntary contributions, subject to their availability and provision.
Introducing the text “World Cotton Day” (document A/75/126/Rev.1), the representative of Burkina Faso noted that millions of people around the world consider cotton to be “white gold”, a vital source of fibre and food. Cotton creates sustainable jobs worldwide and is grown in more than 100 countries, of crucial benefit to least developed and developing countries, he pointed out. Pointing out that the resolution acknowledges the crop’s role and importance, he said the text raises awareness of cotton’s many roles and urged all delegations to support it.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of his delegation’s position on “L.126”, operative paragraph 7, urged the Assembly to uphold the labour rights of all workers and oppose the use of child labour. As a water-intensive crop, cotton offers opportunities for developing enhanced water‑management initiatives, he noted.
Adopting the text, the Assembly proclaimed 7 October as World Cotton Day, to raise awareness of the importance of cotton production, processing, marketing and consumption, and of the related challenges and emerging opportunities, especially for developing and least developed countries. Also by the text, it invited all relevant stakeholders to raise the visibility of the cotton sector and its critical role in economic development, international trade and poverty alleviation. It further encouraged Member States to ensure that people in developing countries in general, and least developed countries in particular, benefit from the earnings and results of cotton production and cotton processing.
Introducing the text “Solidarity with and support for the Government and people of Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake” (document A/75/L.127) on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis noted that, 11 years after Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, “our sister country” was ravaged yet again by a 7.2 magnitude event followed by Tropical Storm Grace, which resulted in flooding and landslides. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency recorded a death toll of almost 2,000 people, he said, adding that 684,000 are in need of humanitarian assistance and 138,600 families registered in shelters in the most affected area.
He noted the resolution’s expression of deep concern about the devastating effects of the earthquake, and the subsequent tropical storm, and the urgent need to restore normal conditions to Haiti, as well as to scale up access to and administration of vaccines to address the coronavirus pandemic. Emphasizing the environmental vulnerability that small island developing States continue to face, he said the resolution calls upon the international community to increase its support.
Adopting the resolution, the Assembly expressed its solidarity with and support for the Government and people of Haiti, further calling upon the international community to scale up its humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation to repair and strengthen the country’s prospects for realizing sustainable development. Also by the text, the Assembly urged international financial institutions and organizations to continue contributing generously to the delivery of immediate relief while maintaining support for the long-term rehabilitation of Haiti, reducing its vulnerability by systematically promoting long-term socioeconomic development.
Speaking after the adoption, Haiti’s representative thanked Member States for their invaluable support for the resolution, a tangible sign of their solidarity with the country’s people in their hour of need. He said Haiti’s entire southern peninsula was severely impacted by the earthquake, which damaged every city, town and community. Not a single building or home in the department of Nippes was left standing, he added. The Centre d’opérations d’urgence nationale reported 2,200 deaths, 332 missing and 12,000 injured, with more than 136,000 families affected and 700,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance, he said. Infrastructure was severely impacted, with 30,000 homes completely destroyed and 42,000 others damaged, as were schools, churches and other public buildings that provided shelter.
He hailed the speed of relief-effort engagement as a sign of compassion that prevails in such disasters, citing CARICOM boats and helicopters delivering medicine, search-and-rescue teams and the visit by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. Country teams were mobilized the day after the calamity to find survivors and provide drinking water and food, he noted, with the United Nations and its partners launching an appeal for $187 million in emergency aid to provide 800,000 people with shelter, food and water, and medical assistance. “There is a major challenge ahead for Haiti,” given its economic situation was already troubling, but the Government is nonetheless turning towards reconstruction, he emphasized. With satellite analysis revealing $1.2 billion in damage, he asked the international community to step up its humanitarian assistance, with a pointing focus on building a bridge between emergency assistance and sustainable development.
Gabon’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that the second earthquake in a decade hit a country already grieving the death of its President, Jovenel Moïse. Pledging the African Group’s full support, he endorsed the call to strengthen emergency assistance under the United Nations system, mobilizing all resources and “coming together in a show of love for people of Haiti” in their hour of need.
The representative of the United States expressed support for Haiti’s people in the face of two natural disasters that cost many lives and caused extensive damage to critical infrastructure. Noting that the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Haiti faces a shortfall of almost $220 million, he reaffirmed that his delegation remains committed to working with global partners to enhance resilience to disasters, as well as predicting and preparing for such disasters and adapting to change, and urged others to do the same.
Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, joined the global community in expressing condolences and support for the people of Haiti. Noting that the looming spectre of climate change is visible in most parts of the Caribbean, and that Haiti is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, he echoed the call for immediate humanitarian relief to build back better. He further stressed the importance of expanded vaccination against COVID-19 to avoid a deeper disaster.
The General Assembly will next meet at a time and date to be announced.