Daily Archives: November 1, 2017

Second Committee Introduces 36 Draft Resolutions, Including Texts on Protecting Global Climate, Development Needs of Middle-Income Countries

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to introduce 36 draft resolutions, including one highlighting the adverse effects of climate change, such as persistent drought, extreme weather, land degradation, sea level rise and retreat of mountain glaciers.

Introducing that draft on “protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind” (document A/C.2/72/L.26), Ecuador’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, warned that climate change threatened sustainable development, food security and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Mitigation of climate change was an immediate and urgent global priority, he stressed, urging developed States to set up ambitious emission reduction targets and provide adequate finance, technology transfer and capacity-building support for developing countries.

He also introduced 34 additional texts, primarily focused on international, regional and national efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a major concern during the current session.

A draft on “development cooperation with middle-income countries” (document A/C.2/72/L.23) noted that those nations were home to five of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants and 73 per cent of its poor.  The classification of middle-income countries based on per capita income gave an incomplete picture, highlighting the urgent need to ensure that their development needs were duly addressed.

According to another text on “commodities” (document A/C.2/72/L.9), many commodity-dependent developing countries were highly vulnerable to fluctuations in prices, which had dropped during the first four months of 2017 after a brief upswing in 2016.  The draft called on relevant bodies to improve the regulation, efficiency, functioning and transparency of financial and commodity markets.

A draft on “external debt sustainability and development” (document A/C.2/72/L.15) underscored global challenges like sluggish economic and trade growth, net negative capital flows to developing countries, flat commodity prices and expected tightening of monetary policies in developed States.  Creditors should provide swift and flexible debt restructuring, relief and cancellation, especially for developing countries affected by natural hazards.

Another text on “information and communications technologies (ICT) for sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.5) pointed to the continuing digital divide between and within countries as well as among women and men.  It defined access to information and communications technology in all dimensions, from quality to affordability, as well as the risk that developing countries would be further marginalized due to the rapid pace of technology development.

Focusing on macroeconomic policy questions, other drafts were introduced on “unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries” (document A/C.2/72/L.7); “international trade and development”(document A/C.2/72/L.17); “international financial system and development” (document A/C.2/72/L.19); “financial inclusion for sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.10); and “promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen asset recovery in order to foster sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.16).

Under sustainable development, texts were introduced on “oil slick on Lebanese shores” (document A/C.2/72/L.8); “International Year of Camelids, 2024” (document A/C.2/72/L.29); “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/C.2/72/L.39); and “follow-up to and implementation of the SIDS 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/C.2/72/L.27).

Also under that topic, drafts were introduced on “disaster risk reduction” (document A/C.2/72/L.14); “implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa” (document A/C.2/72/L.37); “implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its contribution to sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.34); “education for sustainable development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/72/L.24); “Harmony with Nature” (document A/C.2/72/L.38); “ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (document A/C.2/72/L.3); and “combating sand and dust storms” (document A/C.2/72/L.4).

Focusing on globalization and interdependence, texts were introduced on the “role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence” (document A/C.2/72/L.11); “science, technology and innovation for development” (document A/C.2/72/L.6); and “culture and sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.13).

Under eradication of poverty and operational activities for development, texts were introduced on “implementation of the second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017)” (document A/C.2/72/L.22); “women in development” (document A/C.2/72/L.21); “human resources development” (document A/C.2/72/L.20); “follow-up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries” (document A/C.2/72/L.35); “operational activities for development of the United Nations system” (document A/C.2/72/L.41); and “South‑South cooperation” (document A/C.2/72/L.43).

Further texts were introduced on “follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries” (document A/C.2/72/L.31); “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/C.2/72/L.36); “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/C.2/72/L.40); “follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the international Conferences on Financing for Development” (document A/C.2/72/L.18); and “food security and nutrition” (document A/C.2/72/L.25).

A draft resolution on “World Bee Day” (document A/C.2/72/L.32) was introduced by Slovenia’s representative, who noted that pollinators contributed greatly to nutrition and food security, but were endangered by human activities like intensive agricultural practices, pesticides and pollution.  The text would seek to raise awareness of the need to protect bees and other pollinators, underlining poverty reduction, hunger eradication and human health.

The Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 8 November, at 3 p.m. to hear introductions of and act on further draft resolutions.

High Commissioner Describes New Model Placing Refugee, Migrant Rights at Heart of Crisis Response, as Third Committee Hears Calls for Sharing Responsibility

The High Commissioner for Refugees described a new model for meeting the needs of millions around the world forced to flee their homes due to crisis, presenting his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) amid calls for more equitable sharing of responsibility.

Filippo Grandi said the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework annexed to the landmark 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants provided the new model that placed the rights, interests and potential of refugees at the heart of a comprehensive response.  It was time for change, and the international community appeared to be converging around directions it must pursue, which included easing pressure on host countries and communities, enhancing refugee self‑reliance; expanding resettlement and other third‑country solutions, and creating conditions conducive to voluntary return, he asserted.

As the Committee opened its general debate on the matter, Italy’s delegate pressed the international community to recognize that emergency humanitarian assistance must be complemented by long‑term development responses.  He expressed full support for the “paradigm shift” in responding to forced displacement presented by the new Framework.  Indeed, the number of people who had fled their homes in 2016 was 65.6 million, said the representative of the European Union, adding that 2018 must be a “showcase for collective action”.  South Africa’s delegate said on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the consequences of refugee outflows disproportionately affected the developing world.

Earlier in the day, the Committee concluded its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, with delegates focusing on self‑determination.  Many also addressed the particular dangers refugees faced from discriminatory attitudes, with Nigeria’s representative urging both transit and destination countries to treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality and immigration status.  It was a point echoed by Thailand’s representative, who underscored that social harmony would only come about through dialogue between migrants and host communities.

Also speaking in the general debate on racism and self‑determination were the delegations of Ukraine, Venezuela, Togo, Armenia, Algeria, Morocco, Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates.

Also speaking in the general debate on the report of the High Commissioner for Refugees were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Japan, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, Eritrea, Iraq, Russian Federation, United States, Syria, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Kenya, Iran, Algeria, Belarus and Turkey.

The representatives of Armenia, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Algeria and Morocco spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 November, to continue its dialogue with the High Commissioner for Refugees and take up the report of the Human Rights Council.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4215).

The Committee also had before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/72/12), the Report of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/72/12/Add.1) and the Report of the Secretary‑General on Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (A/72/354).

Statements

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Constitution prohibited any form of discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnic origin or tribe.  Urging States to recommit to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, he said they formed the normative basis for global efforts to eliminate racial discrimination, along with the universal ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Nigeria condemned racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and urged both transit and destination countries to treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality and immigration status.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, said national legislation guaranteed full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, colour, nationality or ethnicity.  As racism and discrimination persisted around the world, there was an urgent need to ensure effective application of existing legislation, and to foster closer cooperation between Governments and civil society.  Russian forces occupying the Crimean Peninsula and Sevastopol had mounted campaigns against ethnic Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatar community, she said, adding that the Russian Federation was attempting to impose ethnic dominance on the peninsula.  Ukraine had filed an application in the International Court of Justice to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its actions, she affirmed, urging that country to immediately halt all acts of racial discrimination on persons in the occupied territories.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Group of 77 and China, affirmed his commitment to promoting a world free of racism and discrimination, adding that cultural diversity was the true path towards peace.  Racism and xenophobia exacerbated violence.  Stressing that technology allowed messages of hate to spread easily, increasing tension and undermining efforts to achieve peace, he said migrants were often victims of discrimination.  Venezuela was working establish a multicultural society free of discrimination, he stressed, adding that a law against racial discrimination had been passed and a related institute was consolidating the instructional architecture on the matter.

KOMLAN AGBELÉNKON NARTEH-MESSAN (Togo) said his Government was committed to implementing international mechanisms to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was developing innovative approaches, yet challenges persisted.  He welcomed global condemnation of acts commemorating the Nazi regime and said migrants and asylum seekers continued to be disproportionately affected by discrimination.  Togo’s Constitution outlined measures to combat that behaviour and ensured equality before the law for all citizens.  Legislative and regulatory measures were also being taken to combat racial discrimination.

THIRANAT SUCHARIKUL (Thailand) said global events had contributed to the rise in racial discrimination and stereotypes, and called for joint efforts to cultivate openness, tolerance and respect.  Thailand’s Constitution guaranteed all persons were equal before the law and the Government was committed to implementing obligations under the International Convention.  Thailand would also continue to improve the situation of migrants and displaced persons, she noted, stressing that social harmony would only come about through dialogue between migrants and host communities.  Strong societies were based on social harmony, she emphasized.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said threats to human security on the basis of racist or xenophobic hatred should be perceived not just as crimes against specific individuals but also as threats to global stability.  The most dangerous form of racial hatred toward other nations was the “institutionalization of racism” by openly encouraging prosecution of ethnic or religious groups, nations or races.  That was exactly what Azerbaijan promoted.  The struggle of the people of Nagorno‑Karabakh for self‑determination and freedom by the “despotic regime” of Azerbaijan exemplified how the use of force could only exacerbate the situation and trap parties into protracted conflict.  Human rights and fundamental freedoms of people residing in conflict areas should be upheld regardless of the legal status of the territories, she said.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said violating the right to self‑determination was a form of racism.  That right was a compulsory rule of international law enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  At a time when conditions were favourable, a free and integrated study could be carried out to help people exercise the right to self‑determination.  Voting was the only way to express self‑determination, she said, calling for that right to be upheld through referendum for all people living under occupation.  Western Sahara had been under occupation for more than four decades, she added.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said there was a double standard when it came to implementing self‑determination.  That principle had been inscribed into two General Assembly resolutions in 1960:  resolution 1514, to overcome the concerns of States, and 1541, which focused on implementation.  The goal was to put into place guidelines for exercising the right to self‑determination.  Assembly resolution 2625, of 1970, reiterated that self‑determination could not encourage action that would threaten the territorial integrity of any sovereign State.  Despite legal and practical changes, self‑determination remained subject to legal interpretations.  The Kabyle people had been deprived of self‑determination, while Algeria was focused on the Sahrawi.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) drew attention to the ethnic cleansing carried out against Azerbaijanis in Armenia and the occupied territories, as well as the creation of a mono‑ethnic State in Armenia.  High‑ranking Armenian officials regularly made statements promoting ethnically and religiously motivated hatred and intolerance.  People in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and those living under foreign military occupation, deserved the right to self‑determination.  Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan was illegal, as unilateral secession from independent States was prohibited by international law.  “The fact that illegal situations continue because of political circumstances does not mean that they are therefore rendered legal,” he added.

Ms. ALHAMMADI (United Arab Emirates) said the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was a tool to combat intolerance, discrimination and hatred.  The United Arab Emirates had long fought discrimination with fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution.  The Government would continue to cooperate with relevant bodies to strengthen human rights.  Encouraging tolerance and compassion was a priority, evidenced by a State institute that carried out such programmes at the national and global levels.  She closed by calling on the United Nations to address the dangerous consequences of discrimination.

Right of Reply

The representative of Armenia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said statements made by her counterpart from Azerbaijan had been modelled after Nazi propaganda strategies.  Armenians had experienced ethnic cleansing at the hands of Azerbaijan and its collaborators, she stressed, adding that Azerbaijan was denying the people of Nagorno‑Karabakh their right to self‑determination.

The representative of the Russian Federation, to remarks by his counterpart from Georgia, called on his colleague to recognize the new political reality, and the new sovereign States which had their own Governments and legal systems.  Responding to the statement by Ukraine’s delegate, he recalled that the people of Crimea had exercised their right to self‑determination, a right enshrined in the Charter and both Covenants.  Residents of Crimea enjoyed all human rights and freedoms, and if anyone was of the view their rights had been violated, they could address the courts.

The representative of Azerbaijan said comments by Armenia’s delegate were full of distortions which his country rejected.  The ruling Republican Party had acknowledged a nationalist ideology, he said, adding that the younger generation was being groomed in that spirit.  Armenia should abandon racist ideology and learn to live in peace with its neighbours.  Armenia had unleashed war against Azerbaijan, carried out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and destroyed cultural heritage of Azerbaijani people.  Nagorno‑Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan and it was essential to recall Armenia’s involvement in a conflict that had claimed thousands of Azerbaijani civilian lives.  Armenia’s leadership was known for hate speech and incitement to violence.

The representative of Georgia, in response to remarks by her counterpart from the Russian Federation, said that country continued to violate Georgia’s sovereign territory and had committed military aggression against Georgia.  All those violations had been noted by the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, she said, recalling that several waves of ethnic cleansing and other crimes had been proved by numerous international documents.

The representative of Ukraine, responding to comments by her Russian counterpart, said the international community had identified Moscow as an occupying power.  The Russian Federation continued to violate United Nations resolutions, she said, recalling that a “Crimean nation” did not exist.  Self‑determination could not be exercised in violation of international law, she noted, urging the Russian Federation to end its tactics that caused human suffering in the region.

The representative of Algeria, responding to statements by Morocco’s delegate, said the United Nations recognized 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and not unilateral rumours launched by Morocco.  She called on Morocco to address its internal problems, and on the international community to look into the shameful human rights situation in that country.  She expressed concern over the situation in the Western Sahara, noting the people of that area had been unable to exercise their right to self‑determination.  Algeria was abiding by all United Nations decisions on the matter, she said.

The representative of Morocco called unfounded statements the norm in Algerian diplomacy.  No territory was being examined in the Third Committee.  The issue of self‑determination was being discussed in the context of the Moroccan Sahara.  He expressed regret that the United Nations had ignored the rights of the Kabyle people in that region, citing Amnesty International reports indicating that Algerian authorities had arbitrarily expelled people from the country and arrested migrants based on racial profiling.  The issue of the Moroccan Sahara was one of territorial integrity, he said, adding that Algeria was financing separatist movements.

The representative of Armenia expressed disappointment that Azerbaijan continued to mislead.  While rejecting the ungrounded accusations, she said equal rights and self‑determination should be among the principles of a resolution on Nagorno‑Karabakh.  Regarding Security Council resolutions, she said Azerbaijan, in line with its usual practices, only referred to some provisions of those resolutions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said in response to Ukraine’s delegate that the right to self‑determination could be exercised by autonomous people.  Until 2014, there had been the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which had been part of Ukraine.  The people of Crimea had already enjoyed self‑determination within Ukraine, but the policy to deny them any rights and opportunities had affected their decision to decide to join the Russian Federation.

The representative of Azerbaijan said in response to Armenia’s delegate that the glorification of Garegin Nzhdeh showed disrespect to Soviet soldiers who had perished during the war.  Regarding accusations around April hostilities, Armenia could not deny that hostilities had been exclusively conducted in territories of Azerbaijan.  Armenia had derailed the peace process and continued a military build‑up.  Military occupation never produced a solution.  Instead, Armenia should engage in the settlement process, and implement the resolutions of the Security Council and other international organizations.

The representative of Algeria, referring to comments by her counterpart from Morocco, said “the camel could not see its head”.  Calling on the international community to consider the appeals of the people of the Western Sahara, she urged Morocco address its internal problems before pointing to any reports about Algeria.

The representative of Morocco said Algeria’s delegate continued to make erroneous comments, seeking only to foment hostility and challenge Morocco’s territorial integrity.  His Government had agreed to find a political solution to the dispute.

Introductory Statement and Dialogue with High Commissioner for Refugees

FILIPPO GRANDI, High Commissioner for Refugees, said the magnitude and complexity of forced displacement had captured the world’s attention, adding that 68 million people and counting were refugees.  Giving figures on the situation in Myanmar, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, he noted that the latter two accounted for one quarter of the world’s forcibly displaced people.  The situation in Yemen was also worrisome, and in Central America, tens of thousands of men, women and children were on the move; along the central Mediterranean route, refugees continued to face grave exploitation and abuse, alongside thousands of migrants.  Principled leadership had given way to irresponsible demagoguery, he said, adding that policies of deterrence and exclusion had taken shape in some countries and regions.  Yet, there had also been a parallel groundswell of solidarity with refugees, rooted in civil society.

Measures to shore up the efforts of refugee‑hosting countries and genuinely share responsibility were both essential, and they represented the fundamental challenge at the heart of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, he said.  The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework annexed to the Declaration provided a new model that placed the rights, interests and potential of refugees at the heart of a comprehensive response.  At the Executive Committee meeting of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last month, he said he had been struck by the recognition among participants that it was time for change, as well as their convergence around directions the international community must pursue.  Those included easing pressure on host countries and communities; enhancing refugee self‑reliance; expanding resettlement and other third‑country solutions; and creating conditions conducive to voluntary return.  The early pursuit of solutions was essential to the new model, he noted, citing refugee resettlement as an important solution.

While progress was happening on statelessness, the lack of citizenship for Rohingya communities was a key aspect of the discrimination and exclusion that had shaped their plight for decades.  The solution was a voluntary, safe and dignified return to Myanmar, but that would not be possible without tackling their statelessness.  “We must identify where our strengths can be of most value”, he said:  where they must translate into direct action and where they should instead help others to engage, with their own expertise and resources.  In his report to the Third Committee next year, he would propose the text of a global compact on refugees for consideration by the General Assembly, which would contain the comprehensive refugee response framework as well as a programme of action to support its application.  A draft of the global compact would be shared in early 2018, he said, around which there would be consultations in Geneva with Member States.  The promise of the New York Declaration must be translated into determined, collective action to find solutions for millions of people uprooted around the world.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Ethiopia said her country had taken various measures to accommodate refugees, introducing a comprehensive response framework, providing access to education and issuing work permits.  However, there was a lack of international support and solidarity with such host countries and she asked how funding could be sustained to help them meet the needs of refugees.

The representative of Norway asked about closing the gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and how the Office would ensure that the needs of internally displaced people were met.

The representative of Iran wondered about the impact of hosting large numbers of refugees, asking the High Commissioner for the reasons behind the decline in countries offering resettlement programs.

The representative of Qatar asked the High Commissioner for solutions to the high influx of refugees.

The representative of Turkey asked the High Commissioner to assess resettlement trends and explain how current figures might evolve as the world moved towards the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees.

The representative of Iraq requested that more aid be provided to his country so it could accommodate refugees.

The representative of Kenya expressed concern over renewed violence in South Sudan, asking about ways to ease the pressure on host countries.

The representative of Azerbaijan wondered how internally displaced people would be reflected in the Global Compact on Refugees.

The representative of Japan asked the High Commissioner about the barriers to cooperation among humanitarian and peacebuilding organizations.

The representative of Iceland said his country had taken Syrian refugees, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals from Africa, stressing that local communities were involved in integrating refugees.  He asked for suggestions on what else Iceland could do to accommodate refugees.

The representatives of Brazil and Cameroon also spoke.

The representative of Myanmar said he was fully aware of the outflow of refugees from his country to Bangladesh.  Accounts from people wanting to cross the border included difficulties in daily life and safety concerns.  Myanmar was implementing repatriation programmes for those who could establish evidence of their Myanmar residency, he assured.

The representative of Morocco asked what steps had been taken to implement the Office’s 2017 strategic guidelines and if the Global Compact on Refugees was having a positive impact on the ground.

The representative of Papua New Guinea asked what role Member States could play to help implement the Office’s strategic plans, and requested information on resettlement processes.

Mr. GRANDI, responding, thanked all States hosting refugees, providing financial support or assisting in resettlement processes.  All Member States had responded positively to the Global Compact and his Office’s strategic guidelines would be strengthened by it.  Noting that the Global Compact did not have normative value and did not substitute any legal instrument, he said it instead aimed to better organize responses and find solutions to the refugee crisis.  The Compact would mobilize support and help States find solutions to forced displacement, he said, commending countries participating in initiatives towards its creation.

He said while financing remained a difficult element of response efforts, the expansion of responses to include development actors such as the World Bank, especially in education, had been a “game‑changer”.  Marrying humanitarian and development actors was a large challenge but the World Bank initiative to establish data systems that accounted for displaced persons was promising.

He said the Office was reviewing how it could be more predictable in responding to refugee crises and fulfilling inter‑agency responsibilities in crises involving internally displaced persons.  Both challenges must be represented at the same level and in the same manner.  He expressed concern over States that had traditionally been good resettlement countries curtailing the number of refugees they were taking in.  That decrease sent a wrong signal about responsibility sharing, he said, commending Iraq for providing statehood to previously stateless persons.  He concluded by calling on Myanmar to include his Office in efforts to resolve its refugee crisis.

JESÚS DÍAZ CARAZO (European Union) said the number of people who fled their homes in 2016 was 65.6 million, and noted that the bloc had received 1.2 million asylum applicants that same year.  About 84 per cent of refugees under the High Commissioner’s mandate were being hosted in low- and middle‑income countries.  Underlining the importance of strengthening protections, he emphasized the relevance of preventive measures to address the causes of displacement.  He echoed the High Commissioner’s call for action to meet the needs of asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons, and stressed that 2018 must be a “showcase for collective action” on the matter.

Affirming the importance of global responsibility sharing and international solidarity among States, he said the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was an expression of commitment to address the refugee situation.  The European Union had proposed a development‑oriented policy framework to address forced displacement as a means to foster self‑reliance among displaced communities, he said.  Noting the increasing financial pressures faced by international organizations, he said the record level of funding received by the Office of the High Commissioner was a testament to its competence.  Still, funding gaps remained, he said.

EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated the Community’s attachment to international instruments to protect refugees and stressed that the Organization of African Unity’s Refugee Convention of 1969 was the main instrument governing their protection on the continent.  He pledged to respect the principle on non‑refoulement, urging all States to do the same.  Expressing concern over the displacement of some 65.6 million people worldwide, he said the consequences of refugee outflows disproportionately affected the developing world.  The Community was particularly concerned with the decrease in assistance funding to address the matter.

He affirmed the Community’s commitment to the New York Declaration and its Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, and applauded States already applying the Framework to respond to large‑scale refugee situations.  The Community also welcomed United Nations efforts to expand funding sources to include the private sector, he said, cautioning against initiatives that further burdened developing countries.  Efforts were being made to target the causes of forced displacement, he said.  Pointing to UNHCR’s new key orientations, he urged States to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure displaced people were granted their rights.

Mr. ALMERI (Saudi Arabia) said his country was at the forefront of countries offering support to Syrian refugees.  The 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia were also granted the right to free movement and afforded the same rights as Saudi Arabian citizens to education and health care, while 141,000 Syrian students had received free education.  The Government also had provided financial support to Syrians in Lebanon and Turkey.  Meanwhile, Yemeni refugees in Saudi Arabia were also provided with job and education opportunities.  On the international level, Saudi Arabia had provided financial assistance to Rohingya refugees, he said, stressing the need to enhance international cooperation.

Mr. FURUMOTO (Japan), paying tribute to the work of the High Commissioner for Refugees, acknowledged the great responsibilities and expectations borne by the agency in the context of humanitarian crises in Syria, South Sudan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.  He recalled that in September, Japan’s 2017 contribution to the UNHCR budget had reached $150 million.  Global action for refugees represented the strong convergence between humanitarian and development aid promoted by his country.  Noting aid projects sponsored by Japan in Uganda and South Sudan, he stressed the importance of the concept of human security, which he called a pillar of the country’s diplomacy.

GILLES CERUTTI (Switzerland) said efforts to assist refugees were falling short.  There was a need to reaffirm the international principle to protect and express full support for the High Commissioner.  Expressing hope that the Global Compact would bring the international community together, he called the inclusion of development partners in assistance efforts a positive initiative.  It was also crucial to ensure assistance to internally displaced persons, and greater global attention was needed.  Welcoming the High Commissioner’s strategic direction, he encouraged inter‑agency cooperation to address issues faced by internally displaced persons.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) underscored the relevance of the New York Declaration, which allowed for greater humanitarian financing.  Colombia had participated in efforts to pursue the global compact on refugees.  Noting references in the High Commissioner’s report to internally displaced persons in Colombia, he said the Government had implemented mechanisms to address the issue.  Legislation and public policy were being implemented to address forced displacement, and relevant institutions were cooperating at all levels of Government to ensure return and resettlement of displaced persons.  Focus was also being given to land return efforts, with more than 4,000 families receiving orders to have land returned to them and another 30,000 such requests under consideration.

ILARIO SCHETTINO (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said most of the 65 million displaced persons worldwide had fled conflict and severe human rights violations.  Referring to the refugee crisis as the worst humanitarian crisis in history, he said its effects had fallen disproportionately on developing countries.  The international community must recognize that assistance must be complemented by long‑term development responses.  To that end, Italy fully supported the paradigm shift in responses to forced displacement presented by the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  The refugee crisis was linked to conflict and human trafficking, he said, adding that the Security Council could be a pivotal partner in the search for solutions to the plight of refugees.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) pointed out that most countries receiving refugees were developing countries.  Financial support to those host countries was a key measure, but it could not be a counterpart for adopting restrictive policies regarding control of entry and permanence in their territories.  He expressed concern that recent steps taken by some States to restrict entry and permanence of refugees and asylum seekers violated international refugee law and humanitarian principles.  His country had approved a new migration law that guaranteed migrants’ rights and integrated foreigners.  He also noted that Brazil was closely following the elaboration of the global compact on refugees, bearing in mind the importance of States’ contributions, so that responsibilities under the compact were compatible with the capacity of each country.

NATALIE COHEN (Australia) said her country had contributed $6.9 million to the High Commissioner’s Office to support implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in Uganda and Ethiopia.  Australia’s refugee resettlement program would expand to include resettlement places for refugees from Uganda and Ethiopia.  The country would also make multi‑year funding commitments to protracted displacement crises and invest in resilience of both refugees and local communities.  The success of the Global Compact on Refugees would depend on the buy‑in of all States and key stakeholders, she said, adding that States were obliged to provide protection and security to those within their jurisdiction.

NEBIL SAID IDRIS (Eritrea) said he deplored the use by some regional Governments to use camps — funded and jointly administered by the High Commissioner — as centres of political agitation and armed recruitment.  The lack of scrutiny and accountability of national camp administrators had led to misuse and diversion of resources allocated to refugees.  People in those camps had been exposed to the dangers of human smuggling and trafficking.  Claims by some, including the High Commissioner, that Eritrea had persecuted citizens returning from overseas was a “false depiction”, as his country maintained a policy of voluntary repatriation and assisted its returning citizens in reintegrating to society.  The High Commissioner’s classification of Eritrean economic migrants as “bona fide” refugees was wrong, as it had led to Eritrean youths leaving for Europe and facing greater vulnerability to human trafficking.

Mr. AL HUSSAINI (Iraq) said the wave of terrorism in the country led to the displacement of some 3.6 million people.  The Government was working to mitigate their suffering by providing shelters and establishing camps, with efforts also ensuring access to bank accounts and receipt of identification cards.  Iraq faced several waves of displacement, he said, and safe corridors were being created for the movement of displaced persons.  Moreover, military personnel were working to ensure the safety of displaced persons, especially in areas were terrorist groups remained entrenched.  Iraqi security forces placed the protection of civilians at the core of their strategy in Mosul, he assured.

ROMAN KASHAEV (Russian Federation) said that during the High Commissioner’s visit to his country, the Government had pledged to do more, especially in terms of financial assistance, to assist displaced persons.  The Russian Federation hosted refugees from several countries, with more than 1 million Ukrainians fleeing internal conflict in that country.  A key element of migration policy was reducing statelessness, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts on that matter. If global efforts were pooled, the situation of people under the Office’s mandate could be greatly improved.  Truly addressing the issue called for ending conflict, he said, adding that the “irresponsible interference” of Western States in the Middle East and Africa had led to the refugee crisis.  Responsible States must carry the financial burden of assisting refugees.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) underscored the need to support countries that had opened their borders to refugees, as well as efforts to protect the dignity of refugees.  This year, the United States had made a historic high contribution of $8 billion to the High Commissioner’s Office, and she called on Member States to follow through on their pledges to end conflicts through durable solutions.  The Office could sustain predictable funding by maintaining transparent and open dialogue with stakeholders, she said, welcoming efforts to invest in the Office’s workforce and increase its efficiency.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria), citing the waves of refugees from Syria, said they were part of a strategy by the United States and European countries to leave his country empty of people.  Indeed, the open door policy of European countries had encouraged more people to leave.  Syrian refugees faced risks of human trafficking in Turkey, while the percentages of child marriages had doubled in refugee camps in Jordan.  He questioned Saudi Arabia’s delegate, who commented that that country had hosted 2.5 million Syrian refugees, as the High Commissioner’s report stated otherwise.  Moreover, it was important to distinguish between a legal resident and refugee, he said, urging Member States to implement Security Council resolutions to end the Syrian crisis and to stop any unilateral actions against his country.

GHULAM SEDDIQ RASULI (Afghanistan) said that finding solutions for refugees must be at the centre of the international community’s response to refugee movements.  That was a key component of the New York Declaration and featured strongly in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework that was annexed to it.  The issue of refugees was of central importance to Afghanistan.  Over 2 million of its citizens were registered as refugees in neighbouring countries, having fled from imposed conflict over the past decades.  His Government was committed to ensuring the return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees and was working closely with UNHCR and a variety of international actors to make that happen, he said.

PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam) noted that in 2017, half of all refugees under the mandate of UNHCR were children.  Refugees and asylum seekers often were driven to use the services of smugglers, exposing them to abuse and exploitation, human rights violations and even death.  The refugee problem was closely linked to the issues of peace and security and human rights.  They needed assistance in obtaining legal status.  Voluntary return or resettlement was an indispensable tool for burden and responsibility sharing.  The commitments under the New York Declaration should be transformed into action.  Countries had a shared responsibility in support of refugees through funding and humanitarian assistance, among other things.

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) expressed concern that some countries had developed measures aimed at keeping refugees in countries of origin, pushing them back at or across borders, and some directly into conflict zones.  Such actions were inconsistent with the principle of non‑refoulement and the New York Declaration.  She expressed hope that the Global Compact for Refugees would address the disparities and include explicit language on more equitable and predictable burden and responsibility sharing.  Kenya maintained an open door policy for admission of refugees.  Since October 2016, her country had witnessed a significant increase in the number of arrivals from South Sudan.  Currently, Kenya was hosting 183,542 refugees in the Kakuma complex, of whom 109,000 were South Sudanese.  Noting difficulties with the Dadaab refugee complex, which had become a base for planning terrorist attacks on Kenya, she said prolonged settlement was resulting in the depletion of scarce natural resources and was leading to conflict.  In May 2016, her Government decided to close the Daadab refugee complex, and sought to relocate the refugees to safe areas in Somalia under the Tripartite Agreement with Somalia and UNHCR.  Since 2014, approximately 75,000 Somali refugees had been voluntarily repatriated to Somalia, and another 13,000 had been resettled to third countries.  In that context, she urged the international community to collectively support the enhancement of stability in Somalia.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said foreign occupation and terrorism had caused massive displacement worldwide.  Developing countries with limited resources were too often the final destination of people fleeing crisis, he said, adding that no country could address the issue alone.  Noting Iran’s long‑standing assistance to refugees, he called for a mechanism to assist countries hosting large numbers of refugees.  Iran’s ability to provide services, while facing sanctions, could not be guaranteed, he said, as the Government was providing health, education and employment assistance to refugees, and it was impossible to do so indefinitely.  He called for the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees, adding that the responsibility to protect was not confined to certain regions.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria) expressed concern over the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa, and underscored that developing countries continued to host the most significant amount of displaced persons.  He called on UNHCR to provide more information on the impact of refugees on the development plans of those host countries.  The most appropriate solution to the crisis was the safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees.  Global efforts to address the problem had to be centred on providing assistance, protection and sustainable solutions.  Noting Algeria’s long‑standing commitment to refugees, he said his Government was waiting for the voluntary repatriation of refugees in Western Sahara.

IRINA VELICHKO (Belarus) commended the efforts made to establish the New York Declaration.  Her country had engaged in national consultations to develop strategies to deal with the global refugee crisis.  Member States needed to agree collectively on the action they would take to meet the needs of refugees, she stressed, noting that the refugee crisis was the result of States which had not followed the norms of international law.  She added that many of the tensions and conflicts felt today were caused by the inability of major countries to build a new world order after the end of the cold war.

YIĞIT CANAY (Turkey) said that, in line with commitments made in Istanbul during the World Humanitarian Summit, his country had pursued an efficient model of cooperation between humanitarian and development actors, and its assistance to those displaced from various parts of sub‑Saharan Africa was an example of that effort.  Hosting close to 3.3 million people displaced due to conflict in the region, including 3 million people from Syria, Turkey was now the largest refugee‑hosting country.  Syrians were provided with free access to education, health services and the labour market, he said, highlighting that the ratio of displaced children attending school had doubled to 60 per cent in 2017, compared to the previous year.  Reducing the number of lives lost at sea and the fight against human smuggling were other areas of importance for Turkey.

As General Assembly Adopts Annual Resolution Urging End to United States Embargo on Cuba, Delegates Voice Concern About Possible Reversal of Previous Policy

The General Assembly today adopted its annual resolution calling for an end to the United States-led economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba, expressing near universal concern over President Donald Trump’s announced intention to tighten the blockade, a reversal from the previous Administration’s efforts to normalize relations.

Of the 193 Member States, 191 voted in favour with the United States and Israel voting against, signifying a shift in policy from last year when both countries abstained from the vote for the first time since it was tabled in 1992.

The resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” (document A/72/L.2), reiterated its call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures, in line with their obligations under the United Nations Charter and international law, which, among other things, reaffirmed the freedom of trade and navigation.  The Assembly also urged States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.

Introducing the text, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla said that the United States’ new policy on Cuba was intended to take relations back to a past of confrontation.  Two thirds of the United States population, including Cuban immigrants living in the United States, were in favour of lifting the blockade, he said.  Action to the contrary meant that the United States Government was acting in an undemocratic fashion.  He recalled that on 16 June, President Trump announced a series of measures intended to tighten the blockade in a hostile speech before an audience made up of staunch followers of the Batista regime, annexationists and terrorists.

He underscored the “total isolation of the United States in this room” and said that without any evidence, it was using as a pretext the ailments affecting some diplomats in Havana and adopting new political measures against Cuba which further tightened the blockade.  “President Trump does not have the least moral authority to question Cuba.  He is heading a Government of millionaires destined to implement savage measures against lower‑income families, poor people, minorities and immigrants,” he said.  The United States had its own set of issues to deal with, including the country’s lack of guarantees in education and health, the assassination of African‑Americans by law enforcement and the brutal measures threatening the children of illegal aliens who grew up in the United States.

Recalling the military interventions carried out by the United States against Cuba, he said that 60 years of domination had been ended by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.  When Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz and then United States President Barack Obama made their hopeful announcement in December 2014, Mr. Obama described the blockade against Cuba as an obsolete policy which had failed to meet its goals.  However, the embargo was never recognized for what it was: a massive violation of the human rights of Cubans and an act of genocide.  Citing Cuban figures, he said between April 2016 and April 2017, losses caused by the blockade to the Cuban economy had been estimated at over $4 billion.  “There is not a Cuban family or social service that has not suffered the deprivations resulting from the blockade,” he said.

The representative of the United States said that people would wonder how the United States passively accepted the resolution in 2016 and adamantly rejected it now.  “The American people have spoken.  They have chosen a new President, and he has chosen a new Ambassador to the United Nations,” she stressed.  As long as the Cuban people continued to be deprived of their rights by their dictator regime, the United States would not fear isolation in the Assembly or anywhere else.

“Our principles are not up for a vote,” she underscored, adding that as long as the United States was a member of the United Nations it would stand up for human rights “even if we have to stand alone”.  “It is true that we have been left nearly alone in the opposition to this resolution,” she added.  But year after year, the Assembly’s time was wasted as the United States was subjected to ridiculous claims.  The Cuban regime was responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people.  The United States response had been to stand with the Cuban people and their right to determine their own future.  She also recalled that only the United States Congress could lift the embargo.

To the Cuban people she said: “I know many of you have been hopeful of the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  That is not changing.”   But since “this gesture of good will”, the Cuban Government had expanded its political detentions, with reports of 10,000 politically motivated detentions in 2016 alone.  The Government of Cuba was busy choosing the successor to the Castro dictatorship; the results of the election process were determined before the first vote was cast.  That was why the United States opposed the resolution in continued solidarity with the Cuban people.  “We might stand alone today, but when the day of freedom comes for the Cuban people we will rejoice with them as only free people can,” she said.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that her region viewed the embargo “not just as a punitive act against Cuba, but as an impediment to our shared regional development.”  She noted that opposition to the embargo policy was almost universal, adding that citizens across the United States were joining the international community by increasingly voicing their disapproval and calling for the lifting of unilateral sanctions.  Today, 73 per cent of United States citizens and 63 per cent of Cubans living in the United States supported the lifting of the blockade.

Many countries said they had welcomed the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in 2015 as a crucial step towards the normalization of relations.  The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that the current United States President’s new policy aimed at strengthening the embargo.  He underscored the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the sovereign equality of States and non‑intervention in internal affairs.  Limited foreign investment and difficult access to development credits translated directly into economic hardship for the Cuban people.  If those economic sanctions continued, Cuba’s development potential would be unfairly undermined, making it impossible for it to embark on the path towards sustainable development.

The representative of the Russian Federation called the embargo a relic of the past and a glaring interference in the internal affairs of a State.  The embargo was not just a discriminatory practice, unfair and pointless, it undermined the basis for regional and global stability by making sanctions a way of life.  He said that while his country had welcomed the United States abstaining from the vote last year, any expected normalization of relations had been halted by the new Administration in Washington D.C.  “What we are hearing today is hostile cold war rhetoric,” he added.

Many Member States said that differences among States must be resolved through the multilateral system rather than unilateral actions, with the representative of Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscoring: “Differences between States should be resolved through engagement and inclusion, not confrontation and isolation.”

Bolivia’s delegate said that the illegal blockade of Cuba was a clear example of the unilateral fashion in which the United States conducted itself.  The United States had sought to “teach” lessons about democracy and human rights to others as it continued to promote torture and maintain clandestine jails.  “They want to believe they are exceptional,” he said, adding that the United States was only exceptional in its prideful acts.

The representative of Venezuela called the embargo a “savage and disproportionate act”, which represented a ridiculous pretext to attempt to prevent Cuba from exercising the right to choose its own system of governance.  Like Cuba, his country had also been subjected to the illegal sanctions of the United States and like Cuba, Venezuela would continue to stand against them.

Also speaking today were Gabon (on behalf of the African Group), El Salvador (on behalf the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Cote D’Ivoire (on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation), Viet Nam, Paraguay, India, Egypt, Algeria, Colombia, South Africa, China, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Estonia (on behalf of the European Union), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Argentina, Kenya, Syria, Iran, Angola, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Namibia, Myanmar, Belarus, Chad, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador and Zimbabwe.

Throughout the day Member States expressed their condolences to the victims and family members of those affected by the terrorist attack which took place in New York’s Lower Manhattan yesterday.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 November, to take up report of the Human Rights Council.

Statements

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), speaking on behalf of the African Group, associated himself with the statement to be delivered by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalling that at a recent summit of the Heads of State and Governments of African nations, leaders had decried “loud and clear” the longstanding embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States.  Following recent improvements in relations, he regretted to note the embargo had been strengthened, which was clearly a step backward in the bilateral relations between the two countries and a matter that must be urgently addressed.

Noting that the embargo had undermined collective efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, he said the international community must stand together to bring an end to that blockade, which had caused hardship and constituted an infringement on the Cuban people’s right to development.  Recalling Cuba’s many positive contributions to African countries over recent decades, he said the Group fully supported “L.2” and called for a diplomatic and political solution that would prove beneficial to both Cuba and the United States.

DIEGO FERNANDO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that the economic, commercial and financial embargo remained in full application.  Recalling the positive steps the Government of the United States had taken between 2015 and 2016, he regretted to note that the current President’s new policy aimed at strengthening the embargo.  The Group of 77 was committed to the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the sovereign equality of States and non‑intervention in internal affairs, and any policy or action disregarding those principles should be seriously considered for immediate repeal.

Underscoring the sanctions’ negative effects, he said that from April 2016 to June 2017, the embargo’s impact on Cuba’s foreign trade amounted to more than $4 billion.  Limited foreign investment and difficult access to development credits translated directly into economic hardship for the Cuban people.  If those economic sanctions continued, Cuba’s development potential would be unfairly undermined, making it impossible for it to embark on the path towards sustainable development.  He also highlighted Cuba’s immense contributions to the international community, including to Ebola‑affected areas in Africa.

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that the draft resolution to end the embargo had been consistently adopted by an overwhelming majority since it was first tabled in 1992.  Since then, ASEAN had voted unanimously in favour of the text.  “Differences between States should be resolved through engagement and inclusion, not confrontation and isolation,” he said, welcoming the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in 2015.  That was an important step toward the normalization of bilateral relations, and remained essential to building better regional relations in the Americas.

A very important step would be for the United States to end its economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba, he said.  That would significantly improve the quality of life and living standards of the Cuban people and contribute to the country’s economic and social development.  Bringing an end to the embargo would also advance the General Assembly’s efforts towards achieving an inclusive 2030 Agenda, he said, calling on the United States and Cuba to chart a new way forward.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), welcomed progress made between 2015 and 2016 by Cuba and the United States.  However, he regretted to note that the blockade was still a reality for the Cuban people, posing an undeniable obstacle to their normal development, and that the new policy announced by the current United States Administration sought to strengthen sanctions.  The latter ran contrary to the letter, spirit, purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

Reiterating his strong rejection of the application of such illegal measures as the Helms‑Burton Act, he urged the United States Government to end those actions.  Highlighting that the United States Congress had the authority to completely eliminate the blockade, he said the President of the United States, if he so wished, could use his broad executive powers to substantially modify the application of sanctions.  Reiterating CELAC’s special declaration on the necessity of ending the blockade, he said the return to Cuba of the territory where the Guantanamo Naval Base was located should be an element of the process of normalizing relations through a bilateral dialogue in line with international law.  CELAC supported “L.2”, he said, hoping it would be adopted.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), associated herself with CELAC, the Group of 77 and the Non‑Aligned Movement.  Noting that CARICOM had maintained close relations with Cuba throughout the years, she said the sanctions worked contrary to the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda.  Striving for peace and the right to development had been CARICOM’s deepest concern.  “In this context, we view the embargo not just as a punitive act against Cuba, but as an impediment to our shared regional development,” she said.

“Opposition to this policy is now almost universal in nature,” she emphasized, noting that citizens across the United States were joining the international community by increasingly voicing their disapproval and calling for the lifting of unilateral sanctions.  Today, 73 per cent of Americans and 63 per cent of Cubans living in the United States supported the lifting of the blockade.  Yet, on 16 June, the current President of the United States had announced intentions to strengthen the blockade.  With such a policy in place, the current Government would reverse any progress achieved by the former Administration.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said during the Assembly’s seventy‑first session, the United States had chosen for the first time to abstain in the vote on the draft resolution on the need to end the embargo against Cuba.  That decision had led to much hope in the international community and had been followed by the reopening of embassies, restoration of commercial flights between the two countries and a visit to Havana by former United States President Barack Obama.

However, recent actions by the current President of the United States had reversed many of those decisions, he said.  “The time had come to lift the embargo against Cuba to enable its people to take full advantage of the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that no one is left behind,” he said, noting that member States of OIC would vote in favour of “L.2” and urging others to do the same.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that apart from violating international law and the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the embargo violated Cuba’s right to fully interact with the international community.  The Non‑Aligned Movement had always rejected unilateral coercive measures, especially against developing countries, and the current sanctions were a perfect example of their adverse effects, including denying Cuba access to global markets and assistance from international financial institutions and erecting obstacles to global connectivity and access to information.  “The embargo is inappropriate for our time,” he stressed, adding that it would negatively affect Cuba’s ability to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Initial steps to normalize relations between the two countries had regrettably been reversed, he said.  Calling for a total end to the blockade, he said 191 Member States had voted in favour of the draft resolution in 2016, which had expressed the international community’s unanimity and urgent call to respect the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  The United States stood alone in implementing such coercive measures, he said, calling on that country to comply with all relevant United Nations resolutions and bring about a full and immediate end to the embargo.  For its part, the international community must stand together against such unilateral and coercive measures.

Mr. RAMÍREZ, speaking in his national capacity, said Venezuela fully supported the critical principles of State sovereignty and non‑interference in the domestic affairs of all countries.  Warning against double standards, he said the embargo ran contrary to international law and was an act of criminal aggression against another State.  That “savage and disproportionate act” was the most abject form of flouting international law and represented a ridiculous pretext to attempt to prevent Cuba from exercising the right to choose its own system of governance.  Even in the face of that hostility, Cuba had been able to stand as a “moral point of reference” for the world, extending support to all counties in need without preconditions.  Their noble people had also played a major role in fighting against colonialism and apartheid around the world.  Describing attempts to reverse the process of normalizing Cuba‑United States relations as a re‑emergence of the latter’s long, sad history of imperialism and aggression, he said Venezuela had also been subjected to that country’s illegal sanctions.  Like Cuba, however, Venezuela would continue to stand strong against them.

NIKKI HALEY (United States) said that for more than 55 years, the Cuban regime had used the General Assembly’s annual debate as a “shiny object” to distract the international community from the destruction it had inflicted on its own people.  Even during the Cuban missile crisis, when the Castro dictatorship allowed the then Soviet Union to install nuclear missiles in Cuba, the Cuban regime and its Soviet allies had claimed that the real threat to peace was not the missiles aimed at the United States, but rather the United States’ discovery of those missiles.  At the time, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations had identified the Cuban regime’s habit of pointing its finger at anyone but itself.

But the real crime was the Government of Cuba’s oppression of its people and its failure to meet their most basic living standards, she said.  Year after year, the Assembly’s time was wasted and the United States was subjected to ridiculous claims.  The regime was responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people.  The United States response had been to stand with the Cuban people and their right to determine their own future.  For that reason, the United States would vote against the resolution.  “It is true that we have been left nearly alone in the opposition to this resolution,” she added.

People would wonder how the United States passively accepted the resolution in 2016 and adamantly rejected it now, she continued.  “The American people have spoken.  They have chosen a new President, and he has chosen a new Ambassador to the United Nations,” she stressed.  As long as the Cuban people continued to be deprived of their rights by their dictator regime, the United States would not fear isolation in the Assembly or anywhere else.  “Our principles are not up for a vote,” she underscored, adding that as long the United States was a member of the United Nations it would stand up for human rights “even if we have to stand alone”.  In reality the Assembly did not have the power to end the embargo.  Only the United States Congress could do that.  What the Assembly was doing today was political theatre.  It was aiding the Cuban regime in sending a warped message to the world that the sad state of the Cuban economy and oppression of its people was not its fault.

The United States strongly supported the Cuban peoples’ dreams to live a country where they could speak freely, have uncensored access to the Internet, provide for their families and determine their leadership, she said.  “I know many of you have been hopeful of the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  That is not changing,” she emphasized.  What the Cuban people did not know was that their Government responded to “this gesture of good will” by expanding its political detentions, with reports of 10,000 politically motivated detentions in 2016 alone.  “Your Government silences its critics,” she underscored, adding that the Government of Cuba had exported its destructive ideology to Venezuela.  “Now millions of Venezuelans join you in being denied their basic rights,” she added.  The Government of Cuba was busy choosing the successor to the Castro dictatorship; the results of the election process were determined before the first vote was cast.  That was why the United States opposed the resolution in continued solidarity with the Cuban people.  “We might stand alone today, but when the day of freedom comes for the Cuban people we will rejoice with them as only free people can,” she said.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), noting that the blockade ran counter to international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter, said it had inflicted enormous damage to the Cuban economy and prevented the country’s people from fully enjoying their human rights.  Despite it, the Government of Cuba had always generously responded to emergency appeals by sending doctors, medicine and equipment to countries affected by epidemic diseases or natural disasters.  Measures recently announced by the United States Government to reinforce the sanctions would reverse positive developments achieved since 2015.  The immediate removal of the blockade would be beneficial for both Cuba and the United States, and for peace and development in the region and the world.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of 77, rejected any measures that contravened international law and eroded the foundation of multilateralism.  Dialogue and direct negotiations in good faith were the appropriate way to resolve disputes between countries.  He urged the United States and Cuba to refrain from reversing recent progress and to start a new chapter based on trust, respect and development.  He expressed support for “L.2”, urging all Member States to do the same.

SUDIP BANDYOPADHYAY (India), associating himself with the “Group of 77” and the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled how 191 Member States had voted in favour of the resolution in 2016, expressing strong support to lift the embargo.  Its continued existence continued to undermine multilateralism and the credibility of the United Nations.  Embargoes impeded the full achievement of economic and social development, in particular among children and women.  They also hindered the full enjoyment of human rights, including the right to development, food, medical care and social services, and would severely impact Cuba’s ability to implement the 2030 Agenda.  He also commended Cuba’s expertise in healthcare and its swift response to the Ebola crisis in Africa.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLIZ (Bolivia) said the illegal blockade was a clear example of the unilateral fashion in which the United States conducted itself in the world.  Recalling that former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela had spotlighted Cuba as an example of selfless service to other nations and peoples, he said the United States had sought to “teach” lessons about democracy and human rights to others as it continued to promote torture and maintain clandestine jails and about multilateralism while refusing to believe in the science of climate change.  “They want to believe they are exceptional,” he said, adding that the United States was only exceptional in its prideful acts and its consistent rejection of, and flagrant disrespect for, international law.  Expressing Bolivia’s firm support for “L.2”, he thanked Cuba for its longstanding assistance to his own country and nations around the globe.

AWAD MUSTAFA (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement, OIC and the African Group, described many of the embargo’s negative effects, emphasizing that it ran counter to the efforts undertaken by Member States to leave no one behind.  Calling for the full and complete lifting of those coercive measures, he expressed hope that Cuba and the United States would take advantage of early efforts that had been made in 2016 to normalize relations between the two countries.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, the Group of 77, OIC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the consecutive annual adoption of the draft resolution calling for the lifting of the blockade was a message not to be ignored, as it reflected a strong wish of the international community.  Cuba must have the freedom of trade and navigation with any economic partner, he said, highlighting some of the country’s contributions.  Cuba had stood by Algeria in “tough times” and had sent doctors to fight the Ebola crisis in Africa for the sake of the entire international community.  It was crucial to rebuild relations between the United States and Cuba, who must engage in a bilateral dialogue leading to ending the embargo.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said maintaining the embargo was not just a relic of the past, but a glaring interference in the internal affairs of States.  Every State had a right to provide its citizens with a decent life.  The embargo was a discriminatory practice, unfair and pointless, undermining the basis for regional and global stability by making sanctions a way of life.  The Russian Federation had welcomed the decision of the United States to abstain from voting on the draft resolution in 2016.  However, the expected improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States had halted upon the arrival of the new Administration in Washington, D.C.  “What we are hearing today is hostile cold war rhetoric,” he said, emphasizing that his delegation would vote in favour of “L.2”.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), associating herself with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the economic blockade ran contrary to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Colombia had voted in favour of the resolution in the past and would continue to do so.  “This is our position regarding the non‑imposition of unilateral measures violating international law,” she said, noting that Member States must increasingly foster relations based on multilateralism and sovereign equality.  “We should undeniably be able to strengthen confidence so we can together face challenges as States.”

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed his disappointment that the current United States Administration had chosen a path of regression that furthered its isolation while causing more harm to the Cuban people.  South Africa had long supported Cuba, he said, calling on the international community to work together to free that nation from the economic shackles imposed on it by the United States for more than half a century.  The blockade could not continue into the modern era, especially in light of the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda, he stressed, noting that it not only affected Cuba but also South Africa’s efforts to trade with Cuban entities.  Indeed, the inhumane blockade must be immediately repealed, as it violated the principles of sovereign equality of States and non‑interference in their affairs.  South Africa therefore pledged its unwavering support for the Cuban people and for the text before the Assembly today, and requested other third‑party countries to do the same.

WU HAITAO (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, agreed that the economic blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba must end immediately.  The Assembly had been adopting a resolution calling for its lifting by an overwhelming majority for 25 years, he said, expressing regret that it had not had practical effect on the ground.  Indeed, the blockade continued to violate the principles of the United Nations, impede the Cuban people’s right to survival and development, and impact the rights of other countries seeking to trade with that country.  China had always imposed illegal unilateral coercive sanctions, he stressed, including of a military, economic and political character.  Describing his country’s positive relationship with Cuba, he said the world was currently undergoing major transformations that required cooperation between States “on an equal footing”.  For those reasons, China would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said international relations should promote peace and harmony between States while also fostering the prosperity of their peoples.  Mutual respect was a critical element of those relationships, he stressed, reiterating his rejection of all unilateral actions imposed against Cuba including the longstanding economic blockade which ran counter to international law and the basic principles of friendship and cooperation between nations.  Issuing a fraternal call on both countries to find common ground ‑ with full respect for the sovereignty of both ‑  he said the blockade’s elimination would help Cuba gain access to the international financial system, rebuild in the wake of hurricane Irma, improve its development opportunities and provide room for reforms.  Noting that social development was at the core of Cuba’s policies, strategies and public programmes, he emphasized that the country had fully committed itself to implementing the 2030 Agenda.

FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with the Group of 77, CELAC, and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said her country would vote in favour of today’s draft resolution.  The embargo against Cuba must be done away with in order to foster the Cuban people’s development.  For its part, Panama maintained relations with all States in the spirit of multilateralism.  It also supported the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, she said, calling for a renewal of dialogue between the two countries.  There was currently an opportunity to move towards a shared agenda.  That opportunity must be seized, she emphasized.

Introduction of draft resolution

BRUNO EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, introduced the draft resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” (document A/72/L.2).  He said the statements delivered by the United States Ambassador against Cuba were disrespectful, also adding: “The United States does not have the slightest moral authority to criticize Cuba.”  He recalled the military interventions carried out by the United States against his country, emphasizing that 60 years of domination, had been ended by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.  “She is lying,” he said of the United States Ambassador.  “This seems to be like one of those tweets that proliferate in this country in these times of division.”

“I speak on behalf of my people and on behalf of those people who cannot call President Trump and Ambassador Hailey by their names,” he continued, adding that “at least she recognized the total isolation of the United States in this room”.  Recalling how Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz and United States President Barack Obama made their hopeful announcement in December 2014, he said that the latter described the blockade against Cuba as an obsolete policy which had failed to meet its goals.  However, the blockade was never recognized as a massive violation of the human rights of Cubans or an act of genocide.  He said that tangible results had been achieved between the United States and Cuba in forming mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation to tackle terrorism, drug trafficking and cybercrime.

However, on 16 June 2017 United States President Trump announced a series of measures intended to tighten the blockade in a hostile speech before an audience made up of staunch followers of the Batista regime, annexationists and terrorists.  “President Trump does not have the least moral authority to question Cuba.  He is heading a Government of millionaires destined to implement savage measures against lower‑income families, poor people, minorities and immigrants,” he said.  United States citizens were being harmed by corruption in politics, he continued, emphasizing that there was an alarming lack of guarantees in education and health.  The assassination of African‑Americans by law enforcement agents, the death of civilians by United States troops, and the brutal measures threatening the children of illegal aliens who grew up and studied in the United States deserved condemnation.

The United States’ new policy on Cuba was intended to take relations back to a past of confrontation to satisfy the spurious interests of extreme right‑wing circles in the United States and a frustrated and aged minority of Cuban origin in Florida, he said.  With two‑thirds of the United States population, including Cuban immigrants living in the United States, in favour of lifting the blockade, the United States Government was acting in an undemocratic way.  Using as a pretext the ailments affecting some diplomats in Havana without any evidence, the United States Government had adopted new political measures against Cuba which further tightened the blockade.  Reiterating the sentiment expressed by President Castro, he said that any strategy intended to destroy the Cuban Revolution was doomed to fail.

Presenting the draft resolution, he said that the text was ever more relevant in the face of actions taken by the new United States Administration against Cuba.  According to Cuban figures, between April 2016 and April 2017, losses caused by the blockade to the Cuban economy had been estimated at over $4 billion.  The blockade was contrary to international law; its aggressive extraterritorial implementation harmed the sovereignty of all States and business interests everywhere.  “There is not a Cuban family or social service that has not suffered the deprivations and consequences resulting from the blockade,” he said.  He recalled how 18 United States companies had refused to sell Cuban medical products.  Citing examples, he said Promega had refused to sell its medical products to a Cuban medical company and Abiomed, a world market leader in circulatory support devices to treat cardiogenic shock and perform interventional cardiology, had refused to respond to Cuba’s call to incorporate its products into the Cuban health system.  The United States Government’s claim that Venezuela was a threat to international peace and security was a lie.  Cuba was embarking on elections “where seats are not bought”, he added, calling on people to vote in favour of the resolution.

The representative of the United States, speaking prior to the Assembly’s action on the draft resolution, said the people of Cuba deserved a stable, prosperous and democratic nation.  The embargo was just one part of the United States’ policy to support the rights of the Cuban people, she said, adding that her delegation would vote against the text.  Year after year, there was an attempt in the Assembly to use the United States as a scapegoat to deflect from the Cuban Government’s own practices.  Indeed, that Government currently had one of the most restrictive economies in the world, she said, adding that irrespective of United States policy the Cuban economy would continue to suffer until its Government began to support free labour markets, fully empower Cuban entrepreneurs, allow unfettered access to the Internet, open State monopolies and put in place sound macroeconomic policies.  The United States was a deep and abiding friend of the Cuban people and supported their human rights, but not their dictatorial regime.  The Government of Cuba continued its politically motivated detentions as well as its harassment of those who advocated on behalf of political and social change.  Even if the embargo were lifted today, Cubans would still not be able to realize their potential without significant reforms by their own Government.

The representative of Nicaragua said Fidel Castro’s legacy continued to grow throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as more of its people succeeded in their struggles for freedom and dignity.  After nearly 60 years of strong resistance by the Cuban people under the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against them, Cuba remained a symbol of humanism, self‑determination, science and innovation around the world.  Expressing hope that the United States would ultimately return to the path embraced by former President Obama, she called on that country to “put things right once and for all” and accept Latin American countries’ right to choose their own path and live in peace and mutual friendship with all nations of the world.  For those reasons, Nicaragua would vote in favour of the draft resolution as it had always done.

Action

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/72/L.2 by a recorded vote of 191 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.

MINNA-LIINA LIND (Estonia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said lifting the embargo on Cuba could facilitate the opening of the Cuban economy to the benefit of the Cuban people.  Positive change in Cuba was best brought about by closer government, economic and civil society engagement and people‑to‑people exchanges.  The European Union deeply regretted the United States’ intention to reintroduce restrictions on its relations with Cuba.  Beyond the embargo’s damaging impact on ordinary Cubans, unilateral United States sanctions and other unilateral administrative and judicial measures were negatively affecting European Union economic interests, The European Union’s Council of Ministers had adopted a regulation and joint action plan to protect against undue interference and problems for European Union citizens, businesses and non‑governmental organizations residing, working or operating in Cuba.

It was crucial that the United States continue to fully respect the United States‑European Union agreement that covered waivers to titles III and IV of the Helms‑Burton Act, by which the Unites States Government committed to resist future extraterritorial legislation of that kind.  The European Union‑Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement signed last year would support and accompany Cuba on its path to social and economic reform, sustainable development and modernisation.  “The United States embargo does nothing to promote these aims; but impedes their achievement,” she said.  For that reason, the European Union’s member States unanimously voted in favour of the draft resolution.

KIM IN RYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his country voted in favour of the resolution, out of the “principled stand” of the Non‑aligned Movement and the Group of 77, which objected to any form of unilateral sanctions.  The United States’ embargo on Cuba was an infringement upon the sovereignty of the United Nations Charter and part of crimes against humanity, human rights and civilization.  The current resolution, adopted by all States except the United States and Israel, demonstrated the international community’s opposition to the economic embargo.  Similarly, the Trump Administration announced “reduction of relations with Cuba” was a continuation of the failed embargo policy which threatened the Cuban Government, its people’s sovereignty and hindered normal development of the region.  All kinds of heinous acts, including the Helms‑Burton Act, inflicted serious economic damages on Cuba and the region.  The passing of the current resolution proved the hypocrisy of the United States, manifested international support to and solidarity with the Government of Cuba and condemned the “America first” policy.  The United States had manipulated the Security Council to denounce the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear tests and the launch of ballistic rockets and satellites.  Those actions, however, had pushed the country to “become a full‑fledged nuclear power of Juche and a rocket power recognized by the whole world”.  Likewise, economic sanctions against Cuba would alert the Cuban people and push them towards the building of a “powerful Cuba”.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, underscored the urgent need to put an end to the illegal embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States, which also ran contrary to the Charter principles.  Argentina was opposed to the use of all coercive unilateral economic measures, he said, voicing concern about the reversal of 2016 efforts to restore relations between Cuba and the United States.  The adoption of today’s resolution by a broad majority of Member States reflected the unity of the international community on the issue, he said, adding that only dialogue between the two nations, without preconditions and based on mutual respect, could lead to its ultimate resolution.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) said unfortunately unilateral sanctions continued to attract the attention of the powerful and dominant.  Such sanctions were prejudicial and purely politically self‑serving and they undermined multilateral solutions.  The United Nations should hold itself up to an ideal that should never demonstrate that the weak could suffer sanctions without recourse and almost without an end.  In the case of the tragic and seemingly perennial unilateral sanctions levelled against Cuba, history had become the intellectual and diplomatic prisoner of the international community.  “Why must we allow our historical habit to become a determinant of our current action?  How tragic is that?” he said.  Last year, the enforcer of the sanctions against Cuba had acknowledged that they finally needed to be stood down.  “The time to end these sanctions is long past,” he said.  The people of Cuba should be free to join the collective of international citizenry that enjoyed unhindered social, economic and political freedoms.  “Let us not let sanctions become the instrument we, or any one uses, to leave Cuba behind,” he said.  For those reasons, Kenya would vote in favour of the resolution.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the embargo demonstrated the disregard of the United States for international law and its determination to implement barbaric policies based on unilateral economic coercive measures against States that refused to be their satellites or to obey their orders.  The international community had welcomed the policy adopted by the previous United States Administration; however, the new one had demonstrated that its political doctrine was based on military force and economic dominance, aimed at forcing people to their knees.  Such measures were a form of collective punishment against entire peoples, hindering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, while also serving as an obstacle to trade and violating the rights enshrined in human rights instruments.  It was imperative that the United States understood that such unjust policies only led to the rejection of the West and provided extremists and terrorists with new weapons as they recruited among the poor and the weak who were most affected by sanctions.  Sound mechanisms must be established to clearly condemn Member States that used illegal embargoes so they would be held responsible for their policies.  The blockade must be lifted and unilateral measures put in place by the United States and the European Union against various States, including his own, must be withdrawn.

Mr. DEHGHANI (Iran) said the ongoing economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba ran counter to the principles of international law as well as the letter and spirit of the Charter.  Differences between States should be resolved through dialogue based on mutual respect, he stressed, adding that the embargo against Cuba served no purpose but to inflict hardship on its people, especially women and children.  Citing the international community’s overwhelming position against that embargo, and against the use of unilateral coercive measurers in general, he said the United States had also imposed such measures against Iran based on various pretexts and even following the agreement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015.  Indeed, such measures had regrettably become a regular part of the United States foreign policy, even in cases where Security Council resolutions had prohibited their use.  Iran remained opposed to the applications of such economic and trade measures, as well as extraterritorial actions that impacted free trade between nations.

JOÃO IAMBENO GIMOLIECA (Angola), associating himself with the African Group, the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution as the persistence of the unjust embargo against Cuba, unilaterally imposed by the United States, continued to cause harm to the Cuban people.  Calling for its immediate lifting, he said the United States should also respect the Cuban people’s right to freely choose their own system of governance.  Voicing regret over the imposition by President Trump’s Administration of additional limitations on already tightly restricted trade with Cuba, he encouraged the Secretary‑General to take measures to end the longstanding embargo.  In addition, the international community should redouble its efforts to encourage constructive dialogue between the United States and Cuba.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that the imposition of the unilateral embargo with its extra‑territorial implications had not only hindered the socio‑economic development of Cuba, it had also contradicted the principles and purposes of the Charter and international law.  His country welcomed the progress achieved in the past few years in re‑establishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, although it was regrettable to see that progress was now being compromised.

CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), associating with the Group of 77 and CELAC, welcomed the previous progress that had been achieved in the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.  Costa Rica stressed the importance of respect for international law and the Charter, and reiterated its rejection of any unilateral measures that one State may impose on another.  Costa Rica and Cuba had continued to strengthen diplomatic relations in recent years, he pointed out, calling attention to the expanded bilateral trade cooperation between the two countries, as well as the exchange of scientific and health knowledge.  The constant dialogue between the countries was aimed at fostering mutual economic development.  Solidarity and respect must be the basis for exchanges, he stressed, adding that the United Nations had clearly shown that it was against the blockade, which should be brought to an end, once and for all.

Mr. RAHMANTO (Indonesia), associating with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement, OIC and ASEAN, said that the Cuban people had been left behind because of the blockade, particularly as the country had been unable to exercise its full rights to reach for broader economic opportunities.  There had been widespread support to end the embargo, he recalled, adding that the United States policy in 2015 and 2016 had been encouraging and injected hope that the two countries could exist in an amicable environment.  It was therefore disheartening to witness new measures being put in place, aimed at strengthening the embargo against Cuba.  Indonesia had voted in favour of the draft resolution and reaffirmed its belief that the continued imposition of the embargo contradicted the main principles of international law, including the Charter.  He went on to emphasize that the application of the embargo ran contrary to objectives of the 2030 Agenda.

NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), aligning with statements made on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, the African Union and the Group of 77 and China, said that the blockade against Cuba was contrary to international law.  It deprived Cubans of a range of rights and severely impacted their economy, impeding recovery from the massive devastation of Hurricane Irma, in addition to other negative effects.  After hopeful signs of the embargo’s demise during the Obama Administration, the current tightening of measures by the United States was doubly disappointing.  He urged that country to reconsider the new measures, retaining hope that both Cuba and the United States would soon reap the benefits of normal relations.

HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of 77, ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that as a country that had experienced similar unilateral sanctions, Myanmar fully understood that the imposition of sanctions on developing countries could cause great economic hardships, especially to poor and vulnerable populations.  Myanmar had consistently demonstrated that such a unilateral measure was inconsistent with international law, transgressed fundamental humanitarian principles and contravened the purposes and principles of the Charter.  Myanmar believed that an immediate end to the economic embargo against Cuba was necessary, and that doing so would serve to promote the economic and social development of the people of Cuba.

Ms. FEDOROVICH (Belarus), noting that her delegation had voted in favour of the resolution, said Belarus had consistently stood against the use of unilateral coercive economic measures which imposed pressure on sovereign nations.  Despite recent reversals, the process towards normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba had given the international community hope that the situation could be resolved in a civilized way, she said, adding that such a peaceful resolution was the only way forward.  In addition, she said attempts by any State to change the governance system of another country through the application of military, economic or political pressure were unacceptable.

ERIC MIANGAR (Chad), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and OIC, underscored his country’s support for the Charter principles of sovereignty, non‑interference in the domestic affairs of States as well as the preservation of relations between nations.  Urging the lifting of the United States embargo against Cuba ‑ and recalling that Chad had been in favour of recent efforts to work towards normalizing diplomatic relations between the two nations ‑ he regretted the decision to reverse that progress and said Chad had voted in favour of today’s resolution.  Among other things, the embargo impeded Cuba’s efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the building of international commerce and solidarity between States.

GHISLAINE WILLIAMS (Saint Kitts and Nevis), associating herself with the Group of 77, the Non‑Aligned Movement and CARICOM, expressed the strong belief that the embargo imposed on Cuba should be brought to an end.  Cuba was a close ally and had helped develop the healthcare system of Saint Kitts and Nevis.  The embargo was a burden on Cuba, negatively impacting the economy of that small island developing State, which was profoundly unfair to the Cuban people.  As the international community focused on the 2030 Agenda, Cuba remained stunned by the embargo, which went against the very principles of partnership that the United Nations stood for.  The fact that the majority of the United Nations membership traditionally voted in favour of the draft resolution signified that the overriding sentiment was that the embargo was wrong on all levels.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that for decades, Brazil had defended the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  In that context, Brazil regretted the recent measures announced by the current Government of the United States, aimed at strengthening the embargo against Cuba, including the extraterritorial dimensions.  The embargo constituted a flagrant violation of the principles of the Charter and international law, and continued to negatively affect the well‑being of the Cuban people, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.  Calls for ending the embargo had the undeniable support of the international community, as evidenced by the vote on today’s draft resolution.  Dialogue and cooperation between the two countries should be resumed as soon as possible, with the aim of overcoming the recent backslide in the normalization of relations.

CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said her delegation had voted in favour of the text because the embargo against Cuba ran counter to the principles of the Charter.  Uruguay did not recognize the application of extraterritorial laws against other States, nor any unilateral coercive measures, she said, condemning the longstanding embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States in that regard.  Noting that that policy had resulted in incalculable damage to Cuba’s development and deprived its people of their rights, she said that, in voting for today’s resolution, Uruguay was reaffirming its commitment to multilateralism.

HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, agreed that the embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States was contrary to the spirit of the United Nations and the principles enshrined in its Charter.  Regretting the continuation of the embargo, as well as recent backtracking in previous efforts to improve diplomatic relations between the two nations, she called for an immediate cessation of such unilateral measures, adding that lifting the embargo would benefit not only Cuba but the entire international community.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Group of 77, Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that his country believed that the embargo constituted a violation of the principles of international law as well as the principles enshrined in the Charter.  It also infringed on the rights of other countries to trade freely with Cuba.  Despite the embargo, Cuba continued to play a constructive role in international affairs and was among the first countries to send doctors to West Africa following the outbreak of Ebola.  With today’s vote, the international community had once against spoken in favour of dialogue and cooperation.

Sandia’s international peer mentorship program improves management of biorisks

view counter

BiothreatsSandia’s international peer mentorship program improves management of biorisks

Published 2 November 2017

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected. While this has definite advantages, it also makes it easier to spread disease. Many diseases don’t produce symptoms for days or weeks, far longer than international flight times. For example, Ebola has an incubation period of two to twenty-one days. Improving biosafety practices around the world to prevent the spread of diseases to health care workers and biomedical researchers is an important part of halting or minimizing the next pandemic, said Eric Cook, a Sandia National Laboratories biorisk management expert.

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected. While this has definite advantages, it also makes it easier to spread disease. Many diseases don’t produce symptoms for days or weeks, far longer than international flight times. For example, Ebola has an incubation period of two to twenty-one days.

Improving biosafety practices around the world to prevent the spread of diseases to health care workers and biomedical researchers is an important part of halting or minimizing the next pandemic, said Eric Cook, a Sandia National Laboratories biorisk management expert.

Two weeks ago, during the American Biological Safety Association annual conference, Cook gave a plenary talk on Sandia’s biosafety peer mentorship program.

Sandia Lab says that this mentoring program, called the Biosafety Twinning program, pairs experienced biosafety professionals from developed countries with their counterparts in the developing world. The twins work together over six months on self-selected projects to improve the biosafety and biosecurity of the Middle East and North Africa regional twin’s home institution or country. Posters on five of the twinning projects also were presented at the annual conference.

Experts from Sandia’s International Biological and Chemical Threat Reduction group have been working for more than fifteen years to enhance global biosafety and biosecurity through this innovative mentoring program, other training programs and biorisk manuals.

Six-month projects with substantial impacts
The Biosafety Twinning projects are planned to achieve results in six months but often grow to impact whole countries, said Cook.

Bassel Mamdouh, from Egypt’s Central Public Health Lab and a member of the second Twinning class, planned to develop a biorisk management structure for some of Egypt’s Ministry of Health labs. His project expanded to include assigning biosafety coordinators for each of the twenty-seven regional public health laboratories, getting ministry leadership approval, determining roles and responsibilities for biosafety coordinators and officers, and ensuring they were properly trained. In addition to laying down the biorisk management infrastructure for the whole country, this project also helped identify future twins, said Will Pinard, a Sandia biorisk management expert also involved in the program.

Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Need for Shift from Managing to Preventing Disasters through Better Handling of Existing Risks

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks on building resilience to natural hazards, including tsunamis, and the need to reduce disaster risk for the Sustainable Development Goals, as prepared for delivery in New York today:

I thank the Government of Japan and my colleagues at UNISDR [United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction] and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] for organizing this important discussion.

This year in the Caribbean and on the American mainland, hurricanes have left millions of people in need of assistance.  The Secretary-General recently travelled to Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica to show solidarity and see for himself the damage.

In Puerto Rico, 3.4 million people have been scrambling for basic necessities, including food and water.  Barbuda was rendered uninhabitable and Dominica was hit hard for the second year in a row.  Across the globe, floods in Bangladesh, India and Nepal have affected some 40 million people.  Twenty countries have also declared drought emergencies in the past 18 months, with major displacement taking place across the Horn of Africa.

In light of such impacts, and the growing influence of climate change, which is increasingly exacerbating them, one conclusion is clear: sustainable development and the achievement of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] will remain elusive or significantly delayed so long as hazards are left unchecked.

It is difficult to maintain social and economic progress if development gains are so regularly and profoundly wiped out.  Clearly, more must be done.  We need to build a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, and that in turn underpins resilient economies, communities and livelihoods.  We must also rebuild differently, and better.

This is not a new suggestion.  For years, the international community has called for the need to invest in disaster risk reduction.  As outlined in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, we need to shift from managing disasters to preventing disasters by better managing existing risks.  This means tackling risk drivers such as poverty, rapid urbanization, weak governance, the decline of ecosystems, desertification and climate change.  These are all driving up disaster risk around the world.

It also means investing appropriately in structural and non-structural measures to prevent and prepare for worst-case scenarios.  In this area, we have seen some success.  Thanks to the efforts of Member States, supported by the United Nations and other development partners, there has been a decline in mortality in relation to most natural hazards in recent years, particularly storms and floods.  In places where strong building codes are observed there has been a decline in mortality from earthquakes.

Most countries make efforts to educate and inform children about disaster risk.  One major life-saving measure to emerge from the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was the region’s Tsunami Warning System.  This now provides alerts through three regional watch centres in India, Indonesia and Australia, and a network of 26 national tsunami information centres.

It is an efficient system which disseminated early warnings within eight minutes of the Banda Aceh earthquake in 2012.  There are also now tsunami early-warning systems in place for the Caribbean and the North-East Atlantic, Mediterranean and connecting seas to match the system that has long been available in the Pacific.

As we celebrate this progress, it is also important to remember that warnings are not always enough.  The Sendai Framework reminds us that a key element in reducing the number of people affected must be education and information.  We must ensure that people are well-informed and well prepared to take the necessary action.

For that reason, I welcome the work of the United Nations, undertaken with support from Japan, to boost tsunami-awareness throughout the Asia-Pacific region.  By working with local officials across 18 countries, in particular with school children, the programme is helping to increase knowledge of risks, to prepare evacuation plans, and to hold tsunami drills.  Together, this is leading to concrete and practical results that will undoubtedly help save lives.

As we look ahead, it is important that we build on the work undertaken by Governments, the United Nations and partners to boost awareness of tsunami and other risks.  Increased access to information and the ability to anticipate and absorb risk must become the norm, not the exception.  The United Nations system is committed to delivering on this task.

Let us reflect on the lessons that have brought us here today and the impacts that have been so deeply felt by some of the world’s most vulnerable people.  Let us recognize progress and commit ourselves to investing the resources needed to protect people and development gains.

Thank you.