General Assembly Takes Action on Second Committee Reports by Adopting 37 Texts

Resolution Establishing International Mechanism Concerning Syria Passed in Direct Plenary Action

Reaffirming the role of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) in promoting sustainable development, the General Assembly today adopted 36 resolutions and one decision forwarded by that Committee.

Five of those took a recorded vote, including a resolution 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 the terms of which the Assembly demanded that Israel stop exploiting, damaging, depleting or endangering natural resources in that Territory. Further, it recognized the Palestinians’ right to claim restitution for damage, loss, depletion or endangerment of natural resources due to illegal measures taken by Israel and its settlers.

The Assembly approved the text in a recorded vote of 168 in favour and 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 11 abstentions.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution titled Oil slick on Lebanese shores by a recorded vote of 166 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Tonga, Vanuatu).

By that text, the Assembly considered that the oil slick had heavily polluted the shores of Lebanon and partially polluted Syrian shores and consequently had serious implications for the Lebanese economy. It reiterated its request to the Government of Israel to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the Government of Lebanon for that damage as well as to other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as Syria.

Also by recorded vote, of 131 in favour to 49 against, with 4 abstentions (Palau, Republic of Korea, Tonga, Turkey), the Assembly adopted a resolution on Towards a New International Economic Order by which it called for fulfilling the commitment to pursue policy coherence and an enabling environment for sustainable development at all levels and by all actors and to reinvigorate the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

Adopted by a recorded vote of 147 in favour and 26 against, with 7 abstentions (China, Ecuador, Guinea, Mali, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey) was a resolution on Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development. By that text, the Assembly encouraged Governments to take a coordinated and inclusive approach to promoting entrepreneurship involving all stakeholders, and to develop policies addressing the legal, social and regulatory barriers to equal, effective economic participation. It also called upon the relevant United Nations organizations and bodies to further recognize and integrate entrepreneurship in its various forms into their policies, programmes and reports, as appropriate.

The Committee also took up a resolution on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which was adopted by a recorded vote of 134 in favour to 44 against, with 7 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Switzerland, Turkey).

By the terms of that resolution, the General Assembly stressed the importance of seeking innovative and coordinated approaches in integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development � economic, social and environmental � at the global, regional and national levels, and requested the Organization to further mainstream and integrate the three dimensions throughout the United Nations system.

Promoting sustainable development in different regions of the world was a key concern in many other resolutions adopted today including Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations and Sustainable mountain development, both of which were adopted without a vote.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution titled Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system by which it called upon the United Nations development system to continue to support developing countries in their efforts to achieve internationally agreed development goals and their development objectives. Further, it requested the system to address the special challenges facing the most vulnerable countries and the need for special attention to countries in conflict and post-conflict situations and countries and peoples under foreign occupation, as well as the specific challenges facing the middle-income States.

Prior to its adoption, the Assembly voted on a draft amendment, which proposed deleting the reference to countries and peoples under foreign occupation in the text of the resolution. That draft was defeated by a recorded vote of 8 in favour (Australia, Belize, Canada, Israel, Palau, Seychelles, South Sudan, United States) to 114 against, with 46 abstentions.

In other business today, the Assembly also adopted a draft resolution on International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.

By the terms of that text, adopted by a recorded vote of 105 in favour and 15 against, with 52 abstentions, the Assembly decided to establish that Mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations to closely cooperate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law.

Presenting the Second Committee’s reports was Glauco Seoane (Peru), its Rapporteur.

Speaking during action today were the representatives of Thailand (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Turkey, France (also on behalf of Bulgaria and Romania), Liechtenstein, Syria, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, South Africa, Iran, Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, China, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, Iraq, Mexico, Thailand, Paraguay and Belize.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., Thursday, 22 December to take up the agenda items on culture of peace and cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Introduction of Reports

GLAUCO SEOANE (Peru), Rapporteur of the Second Committee, introduced that body’s reports, as well as the draft resolutions contained therein, noting oral revisions to some of them. He began by introducing Information and communications technologies for development (document A/71/460); Macroeconomic policy questions (document A/71/461); International trade and development (document A/71/461/Add.1); International financial system and development (document A/71/461/Add.2); External debt sustainability and development (document A/71/461/Add.3); and Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/71/462).

Under the Committee’s cluster on sustainable development, he then introduced the following reports: Sustainable development (document A/71/463); Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/71/463/Add.1); Follow-up to and implementation of the Small Island Developing States 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/71/463/Add.2); Disaster Risk Reduction (document A/71/463/Add.3); Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/71/463/Add.4); Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/71/463/Add.5); Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/71/465/Add.6); Report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (document A/71/463/Add.7); Harmony with Nature (document A/71/463/Add.8); Promotion of new and renewable sources of energy (document A/71/463/Add.9); Sustainable mountain development (document A/71/463/Add.10).

Mr. Seoane went on to submit the following reports: Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (document A/71/464); Globalization and interdependence (document A/71/465 and document A/71/465/Add.1); International migration and development (document A/71/465/Add.2); Groups of countries in special situations (document A/71/466); Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/71/466/Add.1); and Follow-up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/71/466/Add.2).

He also introduced reports on: Eradication of poverty and other development issues (document A/71/467); Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) (document A/71/467/Add.1); Industrial development cooperation (document A/71/467/Add.2); Operational activities for development (document A/71/468); Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/71/468/Add.1); South-South cooperation for development (document A/71/468/Add.2); and Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/71/469).

Finally, he introduced reports on the 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/71/470); Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/71/471); and Programme planning (document A/71/472).

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly then turned to reports of the Second Committee, taking up a draft resolution on Information and communications technologies for development (document A/71/460) by the terms of which the Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to bridging digital and knowledge divides, and stressed the need for the enhanced participation of Governments and stakeholders from all developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, in all meetings of the Internet Governance Forum. The Assembly adopted that resolution without a vote.

Turning to macroeconomic policy questions, the Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution titled Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/71/461), by which it reiterated its deep concern about the impact of illicit financial flows on the economic, social and political stability and development of societies.

Further, it urged Member States that had not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto.

The representative of Nigeria, explaining his position and reiterating earlier calls on States to pursue policy coherence and create an enabling environment to combat illicit financial flows, called on international financial and monetary institutions and systems to engage their expertise and mandates to combat such flows and assist in the recovery of stolen assets. Their activities, including those of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), should move beyond data collection to providing intelligence leads to assist in forestalling and recovering them. Underscoring the targets set by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, he urged Member States that had not yet done so to ratify and accede to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to support the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, to combat money-laundering and terrorism financing, and to ensure the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Also without a vote, the Assembly then adopted a draft on International trade and development (document A/71/461/Add.1) as orally revised. By that text, the Assembly strongly urged States to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that impeded the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.

Also adopted today without a vote was a resolution on International financial system and development (document A/71/461/Add.2), by the terms of which the Assembly reiterated that debtors and creditors must work together to prevent and resolve unsustainable debt situations and that maintaining sustainable debt levels is the responsibility of the borrowing countries. It further acknowledged, however, that lenders also had a responsibility to lend in a way that did not undermine a country’s debt sustainability.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution titled External debt sustainability and development (document A/71/461/Add.3), by the terms of which it emphasized the special importance of a timely, effective, comprehensive and durable solution to the debt problems of developing countries to promote their economic growth and development.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/71/462), by the terms of which the General Assembly emphasized the need to work towards the full and timely implementation of all the commitments included in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.

The Assembly then turned to the resolutions under sustainable development issues, some of which were orally revised by the rapporteur. First under that cluster, the Assembly took up a resolution titled Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/71/463), adopting it by a recorded vote of 166 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Tonga, Vanuatu).

By that text, the Assembly considered that the oil slick had heavily polluted the shores of Lebanon and partially polluted Syrian shores and consequently had serious implications for the Lebanese economy. It reiterated its request to the Government of Israel to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the Government of Lebanon for that damage as well as to other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as Syria. That compensation should include the costs of repairing the environmental damage caused by the destruction, including the restoration of the marine environment.

Next, it unanimously adopted a resolution titled Combating sand and dust storms (document A/71/463), by which it acknowledged the role of climate change while encouraging regional, subregional and interregional organizations and processes to continue to share best practices, experiences and technical expertise.

The Assembly then took up a draft titled Cooperative measures to assess and increase awareness of environmental effects related to waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea (document A/71/463). By that text, it encouraged voluntary sharing of information on waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea, through conferences, seminars, workshops, training courses and publications. The Assembly adopted the resolution without a vote.

It then took up the draft resolution Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development (document A/71/463), adopting it by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 26 against, with 7 abstentions (China, Ecuador, Guinea, Mali, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey). By that text, the Assembly encouraged Governments to take a coordinated and inclusive approach to promoting entrepreneurship involving all stakeholders, and to develop policies addressing the legal, social and regulatory barriers to equal, effective economic participation. It also called upon the relevant United Nations organizations and bodies to further recognize and integrate entrepreneurship in its various forms into their policies, programmes and reports, as appropriate. It further decided to give consideration, as appropriate, to the contribution of entrepreneurship to sustainable development in the follow-up and review framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Turkey said his country had joined the consensus on the resolution relating to the environmental effects related to waste dumped at sea because it attached importance to such issues. However, it disassociated itself from any references to international instruments it was not a party to, and its joining of consensus did not construe a change in its legal position with regards to those instruments.

Next, the Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution titled International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development’, 2018-2028 (document A/71/463/Add.1) by which the Assembly proclaimed the start of the International Decade on World Water Day, 22 March 2018, and its end on World Water Day, 22 March 2028.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/71/463/Add.1).

Adopted by a recorded vote of 134 in favour to 44 against, with 6 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Turkey), that text stressed the importance of overcoming silos in sustainable development.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, expressed disappointment that a consensus could not be reached on this resolution because of attempts to bring revitalization discussion into the substantive work of the Second Committee.

The Assembly then took up a draft resolution titled Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations (document A/71/463/Add.2), by which the Assembly recognized the Caribbean as a highly biodiverse and fragile ecosystem. It welcomed the Plan of Action adopted by the Caribbean Sea Commission, including its scientific and technical components and its governance and outreach components, and encouraged the international community to support its implementation. The Assembly noted with concern the rise of invasive species such as sargassum seaweed, the deterioration of coral reefs, and the increase in the severity of hurricanes in the region.

Another draft, adopted without a vote, focused on follow-up to and implementation of the Small Island Developing States 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/71/463/Add.2).

By that text, the Assembly reaffirmed the outcome document of the third International Conference on Small Island Developing States � the Samoa Pathway – and urged its speedy and effective implementation as well as monitoring, follow-up and review. By further terms, it urged full and effective implementation of commitments and partnerships announced at the Conference as well as provisions on implementation.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Turkey disassociated his country from the reference to international instruments it was not part of. Those could not be construed as change in the legal position of Turkey.

Also adopted unanimously today were two resolutions on disaster risk reduction. By the text on Disaster risk reduction (document A/71/463/Add.3), the Assembly urged the effective implementation of the Sendai Declaration and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, while according to the resolution on Effective global response to address the impacts of the El NiAo phenomenon (document A/71/463/Add.3), the Assembly reaffirmed the importance of developing strategies at the national, subregional, regional and international levels aiming to prevent, mitigate and repair the adverse economic, social and environmental impacts of the El NiAo phenomenon.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the text on Protection of global climate for present and future generations (document A/71/463/Add.4), adopting it without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly reaffirmed that climate change was one of the greatest challenges of our time, expressing profound alarm that the emissions of greenhouse gases continued to rise globally, and remained deeply concerned that all countries, particularly developing countries, were vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Also without a vote, the Assembly adopted a text, as orally revised, titled Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/71/463/Add.5). That resolution stressed the importance of the further development and implementation of scientifically based, sound and socially inclusive methods and indicators for monitoring and assessing the extent of desertification, land degradation and drought.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the resolution titled Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its contribution to sustainable development (document A/71/465/Add.6). By its terms, the Assembly urged parties to the Convention to facilitate technology transfers for its effective implementation in accordance with its provisions, as agreed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Next, the Assembly adopted without a vote a draft resolution titled Report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (document A/71/463/Add.7). By its terms, the Assembly urged all Member States and other stakeholders in a position to do so to increase voluntary funding to the United Nations Environment Programme, including to the Environment Fund.

Turning to a resolution titled Harmony with Nature (document A/71/463/Add.8), the Assembly adopted it without a vote. By the terms of that text, the Assembly called for holistic and integrated approaches to sustainable development to guide humanity to live in harmony with nature and lead to efforts to restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystems.

Next, the Assembly took up a resolution titled Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/71/463/Add.9), adopting it unanimously. By its terms, the Assembly emphasized that the increased use and promotion of new and renewable sources of energy for sustainable development could make a significant contribution towards the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

Finally in that cluster, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text, as orally revised, titled Sustainable mountain development (document A/71/463/Add.10), highlighting the vulnerability of people living in mountain environments and encouraging States to adopt long-term and holistic approaches and incorporate mountain-specific policies into national sustainable development plans.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of France, also on behalf of Bulgaria and Romania, said that the texts concerning sustainable mountain development and promotion of sustainable tourism referred to the rights of indigenous people. Persons belonging to indigenous populations were too often victims of violations of fundamental freedoms. However, coming from a political and legal tradition of human rights that recognized individual rights, his delegation, and those he was speaking on behalf of, could not support the reference to collective rights in those resolutions.

Next, the Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution titled Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (document A/71/464). By its terms, the Assembly requested that the Secretary-General report on the progress of the New Urban Agenda’s implementation every four years, with the first report to be submitted to the Assembly through the Economic and Social Council in 2018.

It further encouraged Member States, international and bilateral donors and financial institutions to contribute to UN-Habitat through increased voluntary financial contributions to the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation, inviting Governments and other stakeholders to provide predictable multi-year funding and increased non-earmarked contributions to support the implementation of its mandate.

On globalization and interdependence issues, the Assembly then adopted, by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 49 against, with 4 abstentions (Palau, Republic of Korea, Tonga, Turkey), a resolution titled Towards a New International Economic Order (document A/71/465). By that text, it called for fulfilling the commitment to pursue policy coherence and an enabling environment for sustainable development at all levels and by all actors and to reinvigorate the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. It also stressed the need for policy space to allow for the formulation of national development strategies by developing countries.

Taking note of a text titled Globalization and interdependence (document A/71/465/Add.1), the Assembly then took up a draft resolution titled International migration and development (document A/71/465/Add.2). By its terms, the Assembly emphasized the need to respect and promote international labour standards, as appropriate, and to respect the rights of migrants in their workplaces, including appropriate measures for the protection of women migrant workers in all sectors, including those involved in domestic work.

Further by that text, the Assembly strongly condemned the acts, manifestations and expressions of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against migrants and the stereotypes often applied to them, including on the basis of nationality, religion or belief, urging States to apply or reinforce laws when xenophobic or intolerant acts, manifestations or expressions against migrants occurred. The Assembly also decided to hold the third High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in the first half of 2019. That resolution was adopted without a vote.

Next, the Assembly took note of a report titled Groups of countries in special situations (document A/71/466). Without a vote, the Assembly then adopted a resolution titled Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/71/466/Add.1).

By the terms of that text, the Assembly stressed the need for the international community to remain vigilant in monitoring the debt situation of the least developed countries and to continue to take effective measures, preferably within existing frameworks, to address those debt problems, including through coordinated policies aimed at fostering debt financing, debt relief, debt restructuring and sound debt management. The Assembly also called for effective delivery on climate change commitments and access for the least developed countries to all relevant climate change related funds, as applicable.

By a unanimously adopted resolution titled Follow-up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/71/465/Add.2), the Assembly stressed that cooperation on fundamental transit policies, laws and regulations between landlocked developing countries and their transit neighbours was crucial for the effective and integrated solution of cross-border trade and transit transport problems. It further stressed the magnitude of resources required to invest in the infrastructure development and maintenance needed, and recognized that both public and private investment had a key role to play in infrastructure financing. The Assembly adopted the resolution without a vote.

Turning to the eradication of poverty and other development issues, the Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution titled Promotion of sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, for poverty eradication and environment protection (document A/71/467). By its terms, the Assembly emphasized the need to optimize economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits of sustainable tourism, especially in African, least developed and small island developing States. Further by that text, the Assembly emphasized that sustainable tourism could contribute to sustainable development, particularly in conserving and sustainably using biodiversity as well as natural resources.

Also adopted today without a vote was a text on Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) (document A/71/467/Add.1). By its terms, the Assembly called upon the international community, including Member States, to continue to accord the highest priority to poverty eradication within the United Nations development agenda and to urgently take measures to address the root causes and challenges of poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, hunger and all forms of malnutrition. It also called upon donor countries to support the effective national efforts of developing countries in that regard through predictable financial resources and technical assistance on bilateral and multilateral bases.

Next, the Assembly took up a resolution, Industrial development cooperation (document A/71/467/Add.2), adopting it by consensus. By its terms, the Assembly emphasized the essential role of inclusive and sustainable industrial development as part of a comprehensive strategy of structural economic transformation in eradicating poverty and supporting sustained economic growth, and thus in contributing to achieving sustainable development in developing countries. It further emphasized that countries in situations of conflict also needed special attention, as well as underlined the potential benefits of developing countries stepping up efforts to finance their own development by improving domestic resource mobilization and promoting financing to achieve a long-term impact.

Next, the Assembly took note of a report titled Operational Activities for Development (document A/71/468). In that area, it then turned to a draft resolution titled Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/71/468/Add.1). First, it considered a proposed draft amendment (document A/71/L.51), rejecting that amendment by recorded vote of 8 in favour (Australia, Belize, Canada, Israel, Palau, Seychelles, South Sudan, United States) to 114 against, with 46 abstentions. The Assembly then went on to adopt the resolution as a whole without a vote.

By that text, it stressed that Governments had the primary responsibility for their countries’ development and for coordinating all types of external assistance in order to effectively integrate such support into their development processes.

Further, the Assembly also called upon the United Nations development system to continue supporting developing States in their efforts to achieve internationally agreed-upon development goals and objectives, requesting the system to address the special challenges facing, among others, countries in conflict and post-conflict situations and countries and peoples under foreign occupation.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77, expressed its disappointment about the proposed amendment, which had been based on a political motivation. The need for special attention to some countries, such as those under conflict and under foreign occupation was important. It was absurd, he said, that a year after pledging to leave no one behind, a delegation in the Assembly had called for such an amendment.

Next, the Assembly adopted a text titled South-South cooperation (document A/71/468/Add.2). By its terms, it stressed that South-South cooperation was not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South cooperation. It called upon the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant United Nations organizations to assist developing countries in implementing South-South cooperation projects, including sharing best practices and experiences from the South, especially with the least developed countries.

The Assembly then turned to the draft resolution on Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/71/469), by which it emphasized that sustainable agricultural production, food security and nutrition were key elements for the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions, and called upon the international community to intensify its support for the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme and its results framework. The resolution was adopted without a vote.

Another resolution adopted without a vote was Sustainable Gastronomy Day (document A/71/469), which designated 18 June for that purpose. Further by that text, the Assembly invited Member States, United Nations organizations and other international and regional bodies as well as civil society to observe the Day in raising public awareness of its contribution to sustainable development.

The Assembly then turned to a resolution titled 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/71/470), adopting it by a recorded vote of 168 in favour and 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 11 abstentions. By that text, the Assembly demanded that Israel stop exploiting, damaging, depleting or endangering natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan, stressing that the wall and settlements Israel was building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were against international law and deprived Palestinians of natural resources.

By further terms, the Assembly called on Israel to end all actions harming the environment, such as the dumping of waste materials, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and occupied Syrian Golan, recognizing the Palestinians’ right to claim restitution for damage, loss, depletion or endangerment of natural resources due to illegal measures taken by Israel and its settlers.

Also by the text, the Assembly called on Israel to stop destroying vital infrastructure, including water pipelines, sewage and electricity networks, and stop demolishing or confiscating Palestinian homes and civilian infrastructure, agricultural lands and water wells. It stressed the urgent need for reconstruction and development projects, including in the Gaza Strip.

Next, the Assembly unanimously adopted the decision on the Draft programme of work of the Second Assembly for the seventy-second session of the General Assembly (document A/71/471), and also took note of the report on Programme planning (document A/71/472), thus concluding its consideration of the Second Committee’s reports.

The Assembly then resumed its plenary agenda items, taking up a draft resolution on International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 (document A/71/L.48).

Introducing that text, the representative of Liechtenstein said that, with regards to the situation in Syria, actions taken by members of the Security Council with veto power had led to a breakdown of multilateral diplomacy. The Assembly had taken up the challenge in the form of the resolution recently put forward by Canada and the draft before it today. It addressed the need for accountability for crimes committed since 2011, an issue consistently neglected in spite of its urgency. There had been multiple calls to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, but it had been made impossible by the Security Council dynamic. The draft under consideration today allowed for one decisive step towards ensuring accountability, proposing the establishment of an international and impartial mechanism in close cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry to collect and preserve evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, preparing files to facilitate and expedite future proceedings. It would also lay the groundwork for future criminal trials. While the country itself had the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes committed, in the absence of such proceedings, other steps had to be taken. The mechanism would apply standards of proof, meeting formal criminal justice standards.

The Secretary then made a statement about programme budget implications.

The representative of Syria then made a general statement, saying that the resolution violated the United Nations Charter, which stated that the Organization could not intervene in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of States. Legal counsels should have studied that matter, he emphasized, adding that the contents of the resolution had gaps regarding the sovereignty of Member States. Referring to the Charter, he noted that while the Security Council was reviewing a dispute, the Assembly should not make any recommendations with regards to that matter unless the Security Council requested it. In the case of Syria, the Security Council was still seized with its responsibilities, having recently adopted Security Council resolution 2328 (2016). Thus, the actions of Liechtenstein and Qatar, in launching the current initiative, violated the Charter. The establishment of the proposed mechanism was a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a Member State, undermining the legal jurisdictions of national authorities and organs as well as national reconciliation efforts undertaken by his Government, thus constituting a direct threat to a political solution in Syria. He added that the co-sponsors had also made no reference to terrorism in Syria. That was to be expected since the co-sponsors of that terrorism were among the co-sponsors of the resolution, he said.

Also speaking in explanation of position, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the Assembly did not have the right to establish subsidiary bodies with power that the body did not have. Therefore, the adoption of the draft resolution would exceed the Assembly’s mandate and would constitute direct interference into the internal affairs of Member States. That would also set back the peace process in Syria. Further, the secretive nature of the preparation of the resolution was telling. Therefore, the Russian Federation would vote against the draft.

The representative of Venezuela, condemning the continued escalation of violence in Syria as a result of the war waged by more than 60 terrorist groups seeking to undermine the legitimate Government, said that the war was also destabilizing the region as a whole. The main people responsible for the suffering were now saying they were concerned about the suffering. It was clear that there was a bias in favour of toppling the Government. Noting the disastrous consequences of such actions in Libya and Iraq, he asked why war crimes in Palestine and Libya and Yemen were not investigated as well. The current resolution was biased and politically motivated and Venezuela would vote against it.

The representative of Ecuador said that it was important to bring the perpetrators of war crimes to justice including those which provided financial or military support to terrorists. The draft created an unprecedented mechanism and undermined the sovereign jurisdiction of States while weakening the architecture of international justice created by the Rome Statute. The draft also did not take into consideration the complex nature of the conflict and sought to illegitimately cause regime change in Syria. Further, by requesting that the mechanism be funded by voluntary contributions, the co-sponsors were undermining the impartial nature of the mechanism.

The representative of Cuba said that her delegation could not support a resolution that failed to recognize that the Syrian Government and its judicial system were primarily responsible for investigating any crime committed on that country’s territories.

The representative of South Africa, voicing support for the protection of human rights of all people affected by different international crises, said that when we were dealing with human lives, extensive dialogue and consultations were crucial. One-sided resolutions in the Assembly were not helping to resolve the conflict in Syria.

The representative of Iran said that the international community had a long way to go in addressing terrorism. Syria had suffered and it was incumbent upon the international community to support that country in their difficult fight against extremism. The current draft did exactly the opposite. It was an unconstructive move on both political and legal grounds.

The representative of Algeria said that there should be no double standards in the battle against impunity. His country had contributed actively in the discussions about reforming the United Nations. Condemning all violations of human rights all over the world, he called for accountability wherever they are. The Security Council had not submitted any request to the Assembly regarding establishing a Mechanism as called for by the draft. Establishing such a Mechanism in such an expedient manner without broad consultations would lead to failure.

The representative of Syria said that many delegations had raised procedural issues. Article 12 of the United Nations Charter prohibited the Assembly from considering any issue as long as it was seized by the Security Council. What was the legal opinion on this? he asked.

The President of the General Assembly said that Article 12 did not prevent the body from considering items on the agenda of the Council, especially if the items were not identical. The words is exercising had been interpreted as exercising at this moment.

The representative of Syria recalled Article 12 of the Charter again. The legal advisers in this room had cheated Member States several times with twisted rulings, he said.

The President said that if the representative of Syria wished to challenge the President’s ruling, which was based on the legal advice available to him, it was necessary to inform the Assembly about that intention.

The representative of Syria said that it was necessary to open the eyes of Member States about irresponsible activities taking place in the Organization. Legal advisers had to be impartial.

The President said that it was necessary to move on since the representative of Syria had made his point of order.

The Secretary then made a statement about co-sponsors to the resolution.

The Assembly then adopted that resolution by a recorded vote of 105 in favour and 15 against, with 52 abstentions. By the terms of that text, the Assembly decided to establish that Mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations to closely cooperate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law.

Also in explanation of position, the representative of Argentina recalled that his country had on many occasions supported referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Therefore, it had voted in favour of the resolution today in order to ensure the preservation of evidence and enable effective accountability in the future. That was without prejudice to reaffirming that the primary jurisdiction over the events occurring during that conflict and the obligation to investigate them corresponded to Syrian courts. A United Nations accountability mechanism should be funded from the regular Organization budget as a guarantee of impartiality and independence, he stressed, adding that his country would have preferred that reflected in the text.

Explaining his position, the representative of Brazil said his country had voted in favour of the resolution, sharing the concern that evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity was rapidly vanishing. Preserving such evidence was instrumental to the goal of bringing all perpetrators to justice in accordance with due process. Stressing the legitimacy of the Mechanism, he said it should not be instrumentalized to enable in absentia trials based on questionable claims regarding universal jurisdiction.

The representative of Guatemala said his country had voted in favour of the resolution, reaffirming that it was incumbent on the international community to facilitate access to justice. It was important to collect and preserve evidence as soon as possible. However, Guatemala would have preferred the Mechanism to be financed through the regular budget of the Organization to preserve its impartial nature. He called on all parties to fully cooperate with the Mechanism to ensure it could discharge its mandate.

The representative of China appealed for an end to the conflict and the resolution of the issue through dialogue and consultations. It was opposed to any acts in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights. While addressing impunity, precedence should be given to respecting the country’s sovereignty. The Special Envoy had announced that the Geneva peace talks would be resumed in February. The international community should respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and avoid complicating the problem.

The representative of Vietnam, while expressing concern about the humanitarian situation, also warned about the establishing of a new mechanism without proper consultation with all parties concerned. The Mechanism also failed to ensure impartiality, she said, stressing that its functions and obligations must be conform to the United Nations Charter, including the principle of respect for sovereignty and non-intervention into States’ internal affairs. Therefore, Vietnam had abstained from voting.

The representative of Indonesia said resolutions already adopted on the issue provided a solid basis for the cessation of hostilities, the granting of humanitarian assistance and the finding of a political solution. His country had abstained from voting today because of questions around the need for establishing a new mechanism with an uncertain mandate in a time of emergency. That had the potential for shifting focus from the needs of the population on the ground. He urged States to consider implementing resolutions already adopted, stressing humanitarian assistance and access for humanitarian workers.

The representative of Egypt stated that accountability for human rights violations was of utmost importance, wherever they were perpetrated, whether in Syria, Libya or Iraq. His delegation had abstained from voting because of the lack of transparency in preparing the draft resolution. It was unacceptable that a small group of States had consulted among themselves about a draft that concerned the international community, acting as if the draft were a military secret. Some States cried for accountability when they were the ones implicated in supporting terrorism.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan, voicing support for an expeditious end to the armed conflict in Syria, said that the work must be done on the basis of the United Nations Charter. The adoption of a resolution not supported by the country in question politicized the work of the Assembly.

The representative of Singapore, expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in Syria, said that he had abstained because the terms of reference of the proposed Mechanism were not clear. He questioned as to how the Mechanism would relate to existing international courts and tribunals. International efforts should focus on supporting all involved parties from ceasing hostilities and improving the humanitarian situation.

The representative of Iraq, recalling that his country was suffering from terrorist attacks, stated that the Mechanism should be clear in its purposes and target terrorist groups. The draft resolution did not name certain terrorist groups, and its terms of reference were not established in consultation with the relevant State.

The representative of Mexico called on all parties to the conflict to resume peace talks and achieve a solution through diplomatic means. Since 2014, Mexico had promoted an initiative to restrict the use of the veto in the Security Council in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It was important to give high priority for accountability, she said, adding that her country had voted for the resolution. However, the legitimacy of the new Mechanism was critical for its success, and its source of financing was of great importance for that purpose.

The representative of Thailand said his country had supported the resolution because of the importance it attached to the principles of the Charter and international law. However, in practical terms, many challenges remained regarding how it would proceed, as well as concern regarding the lack of clarity about its relationship with the Commission of Inquiry.

The representative of Paraguay said his country had abstained from voting. Accountability and responsibility for abuses of human rights was critical. However, the Security Council and General Assembly had responded in those terms in recent weeks through resolutions which moved towards alleviating the situation. Thus, once the urgency of the humanitarian aspect had been addressed, other elements of the current resolution had not been discussed with the time that the topic deserved.

The representative of Belize said her country had supported the resolution. It applied to all parties to the conflict as well as civil society and was neither selective nor punitive. It was critical that the Mechanism functioned verifiably and served its purpose to consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Qatar said that the representative of Syria was continuing to make false allegations, and taking advantage of the United Nations to launch propaganda against Member States.

The representative of Turkey said that the representative of Syria’s intervention contained many distortions. It was obvious that the resolution adequately addressed the situation in that country.

The representative of Saudi Arabia also rejected the distorted facts in the words spoken by the representative of Syria and thanked the countries who had adopted the current resolution. It was in harmony with the request for accountability at the Arab League meeting held about Syria.

The representative of Syria said that the Assembly had adopted a resolution that violated the Organization’s Charter and legitimized interference in the internal affairs of his country.

Source: United Nations

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