Second Committee Approves 7 Draft Resolutions, including Texts on Debt Sustainability, Food Security, as It Concludes Session

Concluding its work for the main part of the General Assembly's seventy-first session today, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) voted against a proposed amendment to a text by recorded vote, unanimously approving that draft as a whole, for a total of seven draft resolutions on topics ranging from debt sustainability and development to food security and beyond.

The Committee voted against the proposed amendment by a recorded vote of 5 in favour (Australia, Canada, Israel, United States, Palau) to 115 against with 45 abstentions. The amendment was part of a draft resolution titled "Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system". By that text, approved as a whole without a vote, the General Assembly would stress 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.

The Assembly would also call upon the United Nations development system to continue supporting developing States in their efforts to achieve international agreed 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.

The meeting was suspended for one hour and 20 minutes in the afternoon when Israel's representative proposed a deletion to a paragraph of that text and Thailand's representative, on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, opposed the change. The Committee proceeded to a recorded vote on the amendment.

Other texts approved today touched on issues such as outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development, operational activities for development and macroeconomic policy questions, as well as housing and sustainable urban development.

Along those lines, another draft approved by consensus was 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)". By its terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to 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 would further encourage 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.

However, the representative of the United States protested the relevant budget costs, adding that her country had been a consistent supporter of UN-Habitat, but its current action served to underscore existing concerns about its ability to plan and manage its resources.

Agreeing, Japan's representative, also speaking on behalf of Canada, said the Secretariat's statement was inconsistent with the New Urban Agenda which was intended to have a cost-neutral approach.

Also speaking as action was taken on the draft texts today were representatives of Guyana, South Africa, Burkina Faso (on behalf of the African Group), Mexico, Russian Federation, Singapore, Ecuador, Switzerland, Lebanon, Nigeria, Venezuela, Armenia, Sudan, Cuba, Australia, Republic of Moldova and Saint Lucia. A representative of the European Union spoke as well.

At the close of the meeting, Navid Hanif, Director, Office of Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, made a statement on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Action on Drafts

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to conclude its action on seven draft resolutions.

At the opening of the meeting, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled "Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development" (document A/C.2/71/L.62).

The representative of Guyana made some oral revisions to the text and expressed appreciation to his colleagues and the Secretariat.

The Committee then approved the text by consensus.

The representative of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the mobilization of resources was fundamental to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He, however, expressed disappointment at the working spirit of the Committee when development partners refused to engage on the original draft proposal at the beginning of negotiations on the resolution. Some developed partners had also walked out of discussions at that period in informal consultations. That negative conduct could not set a precedent for the future work of the Committee. He urged that all official development assistance (ODA) donor commitments be fulfilled, especially by those countries that had not met their targets to make additional concrete efforts. He also reiterated that the outcome of the resolution must not set a precedent for any future resources on that item or related issues.

The representative of the European Union, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States, said there would be no need for an additional report on financing for development in the Committee, given the report of the Inter-Agency Task Force. She expressed deep concern regarding Secretariat interference from outside to the Member State process that almost saw the loss of consensus on the resolution. Providing unsolicited advice to some Members during the silence procedure with the intention of influencing a decision constituted interference in the Member State process.

The representative of South Africa, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the negotiations had not indicated any propensity to implement the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, particularly from development partners. The draft had come into being because of the flexibility of the Group of 77, and thus it constituted a huge disservice to millions of people who had placed their hopes in the United Nations. He expressed concern that the resolution had been weakened, because that did not augur well for development. There was an urgent need to reignite universal will around all seven areas of the Agenda, as those matters were not the sole mandate of the Economic and Social Council forum for financial development.

The representative of Burkina Faso, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that his continent remained far behind other regions in terms of development. The eradication of poverty in all its forms must be at the heart of all development efforts. That would enable a focus on one aim rather than conflicting issues which continued to impede growth in developing States, especially African developing countries. ODA remained relevant to surmounting challenges in Africa, he said, urging those who had not yet fulfilled their commitments to do so. Africa also had Agenda 2063, a plan to achieve economic growth, which would be difficult to implement without financial resources. The Group was deeply troubled at the absence of a Secretary-General's report on the agenda item in the current Assembly session. It was a critical political tool and its generation on the item should be continued.

The representative of Mexico said it was crucial to move beyond a short-term focus towards implementing the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, with a cross-cutting and multidimensional approach. He noted that the restructuring to come would be necessary and painful to some, and there would be some resistance to change. However, it was important to effectively, efficiently and transparently comply with mandates and Member States should support the Secretary-General in his endeavours to change.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the resolution was the fruit of a difficult compromise and that every participant was aware of the cost of that compromise and the significance of maintaining consensus on how issues of financing would be addressed. She expressed concern over the statement delivered by the European Union and recalled that the prompt and professional briefings were delivered by relevant departments of the Secretariat in the spirit of cooperation. She also advocated the maintenance of constructive cooperation between the Member States and Secretariat. That distrust could not be undermined by hasty conclusions.

The Committee then took note of the Secretary-General's report titled "Supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development" (document A/71/534).

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on "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/C.2/71/L.59). The Secretary made a statement regarding programme budget implications.

The representative of Singapore made some oral revisions to the text and thanked the Secretariat for their support.

The Committee approved that resolution without a vote.

The representative of Ecuador said that the timely implementation of the outcomes of Habitat III was crucial, and expressed disappointment that the text did not reflect substantive references that had been in the original draft.

The representative of the United States said it was forced to protest budget costs. After intense and difficult negotiation in Quito, it had been agreed that the report would be cost-neutral, with the elimination the Economic and Social Council's annual report. The United States had been a consistent supporter of UN-Habitat, but its current action served to underscore existing concerns about its ability to plan and manage its resources. She reiterated the view that the New Urban Agenda had not tasked UN-Habitat with costly data collection and research, but rather, it was tasked with compiling secondary data to be drawn from existing reports.

The representative of Japan, also speaking on behalf of Canada, said the current draft represented the strong will of Member States to implement the New Urban Agenda. However, the agreement of Member States should always be implemented as agreed and not interpreted by any United Nations entity in a manner different from the will of Member States. The Secretariat's statement was inconsistent with the Agenda which was intended to have a cost-neutral approach.

The representative of the European Union said the New Urban Agenda took into account the diversity of cities while building on urban-rural linkages, recognizing the central role of culture and the availability of quality public space. The bloc had been in support of a report on implementation, she said, but expressed concern about the preliminary estimates of programme budgetary implications. UN-Habitat should collect and analyse qualitative and quantitative data as secondary data from countries and stakeholder organizations, avoiding duplication and building on existing information. The report was intended to replace the Secretary-General's annual report, meaning that resources previously allocated to the document should now be used to prepare the quadrennial progress report.

Next the Committee took up a draft resolution titled "Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system" (document A/C.2/71/L.63).

The representative of Switzerland expressed gratitude to Member States and the Secretariat and said that despite a critical mass of topics, the text remained short and concise.

The representative of Israel proposed a deletion of the words "countries and people under foreign occupation" in paragraph 10, saying that the language polarized the resolution and was an unfortunate distraction from the work of the Committee.

The representative of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77, said it opposed the amendment and cited Rule 120 in the Rules of Procedures.

The Secretariat then read Rule 120 which said that no proposal should be discussed and put in a meeting unless copies of the proposed amendment were circulated no later than the day preceding the meeting. The Chairman may, however, permit the discussion and consideration of the amendments proposal even though such amendments and motions had not been circulated or circulated that day.

The Chair asked the representative of Thailand if he agreed to the amendment.

Taking to the floor once again, the representative of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77, said he would not consider the proposal on the basis of Rule 120.

Following a suspension of the meeting, the representative of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, withdrew his request on the basis of Rule 120 and instead requested a vote on the amendment proposal made by Israel.

The representative of Lebanon expressed support for the original proposal made by the Group of 77.

The representative of Nigeria also expressed support for the Group of 77 challenging the procedure.

The United States, also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, urged others to vote in support of the amendment, saying that the Missions had devoted many hours to reaching a consensus on the language. She expressed concern at the way some negotiations had been discussed and remained of the view that political issues should not undermine the substantive working of the Committee. She encouraged others to vote in favour of the amendment.

The representative of Venezuela expressed support for the proposal made by the Group of 77, but regretted that part of the text had come to a vote despite the hard work of many delegations.

The Committee then voted against the proposed amendment to operative paragraph 10 of that text, with 5 in favour (Australia, Canada, Israel, United States, Palau) to 115 against with 45 abstentions.

In explanation of position, the representative of Armenia welcomed the landmark resolution, and the environment of informal consultations, commending the power of multilateralism. She expressed pleasure that it gave special consideration to landlocked and middle-income countries, but expressed regret at the inclusion of politically sensitive language, which could have been made more consensual. Thus, Armenia had abstained on that vote.

Making a general statement, the representative of Israel said it attached great importance to the resolution. His delegation had worked to find an effective compromise, demonstrating flexibility and agreeing to a far-reaching compromise, but it was faced with no flexibility from its counterparts. He expressed regret that, in the end, after weeks of negotiations, delegations had reverted to the original language in operative paragraph 10, which had then required a vote. The Group of 77 had an agenda to politicize the Committee, deteriorating the atmosphere and the quality of its work. Israel had made efforts and concessions, and although the language in that paragraph was not country-specific, he asked why it had been brought up by only one delegation. "This is not the place and not the Committee in which to deal with these issues," he stressed.

The Committee then approved the resolution as a whole without a vote.

The Committee then approved the draft "Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system" (document A/C.2/71/L.63).

The representative of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, expressed concern that the resolution had to go through a vote. Everyone had the opportunity to voice their concern when the text was placed on silent procedure and yet no delegation broke silence during that time. It was alarming that the Committee had voted for the amendment for a resolution that was calling for the promotion of the 2030 Agenda. The vote was based on political interests, he said, reaffirming that it was in the best interest of all Member States to provide a direction for the world to move towards sustainable development. He also expressed concern with certain language in the text, calling some of it "beyond the scope" of the text.

The representative of the European Union said the resolution provided strategic guidance on critically important cross-cutting issues. She expressed concern that discourse around finance issues in the Committee remained outdated. She referred to language in the text and reiterated that humanitarian assistance must be provided in accordance with humanitarian principles. While fully aware of the complexity of the language on foreign occupation, she said it should not divert attention from the work of the Committee.

The representative of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, said the resolution was especially balanced and that the language on foreign occupation was fair. Consensus on language opened the door of compassion and would help address the challenges of people under occupation.

The representative of Cuba, associating herself with the Group of 77, said development efforts must always respect United Nations principles of neutrality and sovereignty.

The representative of the United States thanked delegates for the constructive spirit of the negotiations and said that the resolutions gave important guidance to promoting operational effectiveness within the United Nations development system enabling agencies to make better decisions. Humanitarian assistance must be delivered based on need, she stressed, noting that her country's concerns regarding the right to development were well-known.

The representative of Australia, also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review was the main instrument to better position the United Nations to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Human rights and gender equality were imbued within the DNA of that resolution.

The representative of Nigeria, associating himself with the Group of 77, said though his nation was a "friendly country" it was bound to follow the path of integrity and maintain fairness to all parties.

The following is an abbreviated record of the meeting, since summaries were not available from this point due to lack of interpretation.

The Committee then approved without a vote the draft resolution on "External debt sustainability and development" (document A/C.2/71/L.60). The representatives of Saint Lucia, Russian Federation and the United States spoke during action.

The Committee turned to the text on "Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017)" (document A/C.2/71/L.55), approving it, as orally corrected, without a vote. Speaking during action were the representatives of the Republic of Moldova and the United States.

Next taking up "Agriculture development, food security and nutrition" (document A/C.2/71/L.56), the Committee approved that resolution without a vote. The representatives of the Republic of Moldova, United States and Thailand (on behalf of the Group of 77) spoke during action.

Next, the Chair made a statement on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly after which the Committee approved the "Draft programme of work of the Second Committee for the seventy-second session of the General Assembly" (document A/C.2/71/L.64).

The representative of Venezuela made a general remark on her country's position on all draft resolutions approved by the Committee.

With the approval of the last draft, the Committee completed its work for the session.

Concluding Remarks

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office of Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, made a statement on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The Chair thanked all delegates, members of the Bureau and the Secretariat. The representative of Thailand also made concluding remarks.

Source: United Nations

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