Second Committee Approves 22 Draft Resolutions, Including Texts on External Debt Sustainability, Agriculture Development, Combating Illicit Financial Flows

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today approved 22 draft resolutions, including one stressing creditor and debtor nation responsibilities in avoiding the build-up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.

Also by that text, “external debt sustainability and development”, the Assembly would emphasize the special importance of timely, effective and durable solutions to developing country debt in promoting economic growth and development.

By further terms, the Assembly would urge countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.  It would stress the international community’s need to remain vigilant in monitoring developing country debt and take measures to address arising difficulties.

Other drafts the Committee approved similarly focused on mobilizing resources or other essential support as the global community prepares to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a main topic during this year’s session.

A draft on “promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development” would have the Assembly express concern that cryptocurrencies were increasingly being used for illicit activities.  It would encourage Member States and other entities to prevent and counter their illicit use.

By other terms, the Assembly would call for greater international cooperation and sustained dialogue to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return.  It would call for pledges to deter, detect, prevent and counter corruption, increase transparency and promote good governance for all citizens.

Addressing that text, Nigeria’s delegate said the global community should “no longer turn a blind eye” to illicit financial flows.  Adding that his country had expected a more robust outcome from consultations on that issue, he underscored the positive impact of combating illicit finances and the return of stolen assets for more fruitful livelihoods.

The representative of the United States, expressing concern about language in the text that failed to acknowledge existing legal frameworks for recovering stolen assets, said its adoption would undermine the Convention against Corruption and the Conference of States parties.

Another draft, “development cooperation with middle-income countries” would have the Assembly stress that South‑South complemented rather than substituted North‑South cooperation, and call on the United Nations development system to support South‑South and triangular cooperation.

Noting with concern that access to concessional finance diminished as countries’ incomes grew, the Assembly would encourage shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.  It would also encourage banks to explore ways of ensuring their assistance best addressed the challenges of diverse circumstances in middle-income countries.

Addressing natural hazards, a draft on “disaster risk reduction” would have the Assembly emphasize that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly reduce response costs.  It would emphasize the importance of increasing the availability of and access to multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

Another text, “agriculture development, food security and nutrition”, would have the Assembly stress the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally.  That would include improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in sustainable agriculture, land management and rural development.

Also by the text, the Assembly would stress that a universal, rules-based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system would promote agriculture and rural development in developing countries and contribute to world food security and nutrition.  It would urge national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in community, national, regional and international markets.

Also aimed at agricultural production, a further text would have the Assembly declare 2019‑2028 the United Nations Decade of Family Farming.  Introducing that draft, Costa Rica’s delegate said it aimed to strengthen family farming, which played a vital role in ensuring nutrition, earnings and natural resource development.

Seeking to rein in new technologies, a text on “science, technology and innovation for development” would have the Assembly call for strengthened support to those areas, particularly in developing countries.  It would also proclaim 2019 as the International Year of Periodic Table of Chemical Elements to enhance global awareness of and education in the basic sciences.

Addressing special groups of countries, a draft on “follow-up to the fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries” would have the Assembly call for strengthened global partnerships and development support to least developed States in all priority areas of the Istanbul Programme of Action, including through official development assistance (ODA), trade agreements and monitoring of debt.

In a like vein, a draft on “follow-up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries” would have the Assembly call for targeted technical and financial support to implement the Vienna Programme of Action in landlocked developing States and urge the development of international transport and transit infrastructure as well as corridors.

Other texts the Committee approved focused on eradication of poverty, harmony with nature, access to sustainable energy, sand and dust storms, global partnerships, development system operational activities, financial inclusion, agricultural technology, global partnerships and sustainable tourism.  Texts were also approved on implementing international financing conferences as well as conventions on desertification and biological diversity.

Also speaking were the representatives of Albania, United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Canada, Japan, Dominican Republic, Israel, Syria, Mauritania, State of Palestine, Saint Lucia, Italy, Slovenia, Venezuela, Australia and Belarus.

The Committee will meet again on Thursday, 30 November at 10 a.m. to take action on further draft resolutions.

Action on Draft Resolutions

INGRIT PRIZRENI (Albania) presented the draft resolution “external debt sustainability and development” (document A/C.2/72/L.46) as orally revised.  The Committee approved it without a vote.

The representative of the United States expressed general concerns about the enforceability of contracts, as contained in the text.

The Committee withdrew a previous text on the same topic.

HESSA MUNEER MOHAMMED RASHED ALATEIBI (United Arab Emirates) presented the text “financial inclusion for sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.51) as orally revised, approving it without a vote.

The Committee then took up the draft on “promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.53).

The representative of the United States said access to banking services was better addressed in ongoing and existing dialogues.

The delegate of Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed document A/C.2/72/L.53 and reaffirmed its commitment to combat illicit financial flows.  Noting the convention on corruption and other related documents, he said the focus should not be narrowed or limited to the latter.  He therefore regretted the late addition of language on asset return to the text.

The representative of Nigeria, noting that his country made efforts to bridge the knowledge gap on illicit financial flows, said the global community should “no longer turn a blind eye” to that issue.  He said that his country had expected a more robust outcome from informal consultations and, in that regard, urged for efforts to see the positive impact of combating illicit finances and the return of stolen assets for better and more fruitful livelihoods.

The delegate of the United States expressed concern about the language of the text, which failed to acknowledge the existing legal frameworks for recovering stolen assets.  He said that approving that resolution would undermine the Convention against Corruption and the Conference of the States parties.  He said the use of the term “illicit financial flows” had no internationally agreed upon definition and therefore texts should be clear on the activities which constituted that terminology.  In that context, he said States should focus on the implementation of concrete measures at the national level.  He further expressed disappointment that such issues were discussed in the Committee and urged closer cooperation with entities that had better expertise on such matters.

The representative of Canada emphasized her country’s commitment to the resolution, but expressed concern around the linkages on the need to combat illicit financial flows and the return of stolen assets.  She said such linkages created confusion and potential misunderstandings, as some language lacked clarity, including that around online and offline measures.

The Committee withdrew a previous text on the same topic.

It then took up “follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development” (document A/C.2/72/L.50) as revised, approving it without a vote.

The delegate of the United States said his country disassociated from language that would promote technology transfer that was not on agreed terms.  As such, he opposed text that would undermine intellectual property rights and expressed disappointment that the resolution called for a report.

The representative of Japan stressed that the follow-up and review process for financing for development was working successfully.  Therefore, there was no need to duplicate or add non‑productive features to the process in the Committee.  He additionally expressed regret that some paragraphs of the draft had substantive elements, as such items should be contained in the forum outcome document.

The draft resolution was then withdrawn.

The Committee then took up a text on “sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America” (document A/C.2/72/L.30/Rev.1).

The delegate of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said her region received nearly 11 million international tourists in 2016, which generated $11.4 billion in revenues.  In that context, she emphasized the importance of sustainable tourism and its linkages with poverty reduction, job creation, the promotion of entrepreneurship, strengthening of enterprises and the empowerment of less favoured groups.  She additionally noted the challenges faced by the region due to climate change.

The text was then approved, as orally revised, without a vote.

The Committee then took up a draft on “agricultural technology for sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.33/Rev.1), introduced by the representative of Israel, which was put to a recorded vote.

Speaking before the vote, the delegate of Syria said the resolution’s main sponsor — Israel — was not legally or ethically entitled to present a text on sustainable development, as it was hindering agricultural and economic development in occupied Palestinian and Syrian Golan territories.  It had forcibly displaced millions of Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of Syrians, confiscated 28 per cent of agricultural lands in Syria, continued to undermine projects by farmers and confiscated their produce.  Syria would vote against the resolution.

The draft was then approved by a recorded vote of 141 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 34 abstentions.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Mauritania, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said it had abstained from the vote, as Israel had no right to address sustainable agricultural development due to crimes it had committed against Palestinian and Syrian Golan territories.  It had committed violations that contradicted the resolution’s content, as evidenced by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports.  Israel had restricted farmers’ movements and brought on great expense due to additional time spent on checkpoints it had erected on roads.  The checkpoints had also led to delays in agricultural services, especially those related to animals, fauna and flora.

The United States delegate said his country would disassociate itself from references to the Sendai Declaration, as promoting technology transfer could undermine intellectual property rights.  He also stressed that efficient as well as transparent safety assessments were crucial.  As no Government with a market-based economy could assure access and participation in local, regional and international markets, the United States also disassociated itself with language associated with such access.

The representative of Israel noted that using agricultural technology and innovative solutions throughout the food system could give millions of people around the world better opportunities without sacrificing resources of future generations.  Ironically, those preventing a consensus on the resolution were the same people who had accused his country of politicizing the Committee.  They were also the ones who would benefit the most from the resolution.  Yet the leaders of those countries continued to put petty politics before the needs of their own people.  By calling for a vote, those States had shown that they preferred to sow the seeds of hate instead of planting green shoots of peace.

The representative of the State of Palestine said Israel had shown that it did not want Palestine to achieve sustainable development through its planned policies in every aspect of Palestinian life.  Israel, which had presented the resolution, wanted Palestinians to be left behind in the agricultural sector.  The restraints it had placed on movement had made the costs of Palestinian imports and exports double those of Israeli counterparts.  Moreover, Israel controlled Palestinian water and had the ability to prevent it from building or accessing wells on its territory.  Israeli occupation had deprived the Palestinian Government of much agricultural income and its wall had reduced land used for farming.

Next, it turned to a text on “disaster risk reduction” (document A/C.2/72/L.47) as revised, approving it without a vote.

The representative of the United States expressed concern around regional and national efforts to reduce the risk of disasters, stressing that the resolution should not consider specific regions while excluding others.  Additionally, he expressed disappointment that the text did not include any reference to gender-based violence.

A previous text on that topic was then withdrawn.

It then took up a draft on “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.54).

KIMBERLY K. LOUIS (Saint Lucia) presented the draft resolution.  The Committee then approved it as orally revised and without a vote.

The representative of the United States expressed concern that the resolution conflated language from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with language agreed upon in the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties outcomes.  His country would therefore disassociate from the relevant texts that were not voluntary or on agreed upon terms and opposed language that undermined intellectual property rights.

The Committee then turned to a text on “Convention on Biological Diversity” (document A/C.2/72/L.56).

LAURA FASSIO-CANUTO (Italy) presented the draft resolution.  The Committee then approved it as orally revised and without a vote.  A previous text on the topic was withdrawn.

Next, it took up a draft on “education for sustainable development” (document A/C.2/72/L.45), approving it as revised and without a vote.

The representative of the United States noted that the non‑binding resolution should not try to define the elements of or quality of education, as such matters should be consistent with federal, state and local authorities.

A previous text on the same topic was withdrawn.

The Committee then turned to a text on “Harmony with Nature” (document A/C.2/72/L.52) as revised, approving it without a vote.  It also withdrew a text on the same topic.

It then took up a draft on “Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (document A/C.2/72/L.55).

SAŠA JURECKO (Slovenia) presented the draft resolution.

The representative of the United States expressed his country’s commitment to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.  In that context, his country did not support the references to technology transfer in the draft text, as such language was not on mutually agreed terms and voluntary.

The Committee then approved it as orally revised by a recorded vote of 175 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 1 abstention.

The representative of Venezuela said her country abstained as references to the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative were not made in consultation with States.  Such issues could be counter to national sovereignty and could lead to the “destruction” of natural goods and petroleum products.  She expressed reservations around national application and priorities for technology development.

Next, the Committee turned to a text on “Combating sand and dust storms” (document A/C.2/72/L.49), approving it as revised and without a vote.

The representative of the United States expressed concern around the launch of the inter‑agency process to address sand and dust storms.  Similarly, he said language in the draft text on the promotion of technology transfer could undermine intellectual property rights.

The Committee then turned to a text on “science, technology and innovation for development” (document A/C.2/72/L.57), approving it as revised and without a vote.

The representative of the United States said references to the promotion of technology transfer and intellectual property rights were not on mutually agreed upon terms.  She additionally expressed concern around language on food imports, which was not consistent with trade obligations.  A previous text on that topic was withdrawn.

Next, it took up a draft on “development cooperation with middle-income countries” (document A/C.2/72/L.60).

ROSEMARY EMMA O’HEHIR (Australia) presented the draft resolution.

The representative of Belarus thanked Member States that had supported his country’s proposal to hold a high-level meeting in 2018 during the seventy‑third General Assembly session, to examine the shortcomings faced by middle-income countries and the challenges they faced in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

The Committee then approved the text as orally revised and without a vote.

The representative of the United States said nations must implement policies in accordance with international rules and obligations.  Similarly, she noted language around trade, monetary and financial systems and changes to market access which could undermine intellectual property rights.  On concessional finance, she said such monies should be given to States in most need.

A previous text on the same topic was withdrawn.

The Committee then turned to a text on “follow-up to the fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries” (document A/C.2/72/L.61), approving it as orally revised without a vote, and withdrawing a previous text.

The representative of the United States said his country had yet to finalize its policies on climate change and language in the resolution could prejudice its future positions.  His country was not committed to a specific official development assistance (ODA) target, but would focus assistance where it was needed most.  The General Assembly should not be calling on parties to regional trade agreements to strengthen them, which should be left up to each region.  His country was also opposed to language that undermined intellectual property rights.

The Committee then turned to a text on “eradication of poverty and other development issues: implementation of the second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017)” (document A/C.2/72/L.58), approving it as orally revised without a vote, and withdrawing a previous text.

Before the draft was approved, the delegate of Australia, speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said primary follow-up for the decade to eradicate poverty was guided by the 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  A third decade should not lead to the creation of a new process, but simply work to improve previous efforts.

The representative of the United States expressed strong disagreement with the report of the inter‑agency task force.  His country disassociated itself with unacceptable language pertaining to the transfer of technology, as it did not suggest voluntary and mutually agreeable terms.  It was also opposed to language undermining intellectual property rights.  Moreover, language committing to a reduction of food imports could have a negative impact on food security.

Next, the Committee took up a draft on “operational activities for development of the United Nations system” (document A/C.2/72/L.63), approving it as orally revised without a vote, and withdrawing a previous text.

The delegate of Costa Rica then introduced a draft on “United Nations Decade of Family Farming (2019‑2028)” (document A/C.2/72/L.12/Rev.1), noting that family farming played a vital role in ensuring nutrition, earnings and natural resource development.

The draft was approved, as orally revised, without a vote.

The representative of the United States expressed deep concern with the Committee’s procedural issues and problematic trade language.  New language and concepts in the agricultural area should have been introduced in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Committee then took up a text on “agriculture development, food security and nutrition” (document A/C.2/72/L.59).

The representative of the United States said the resolution went beyond the needs of food security and nutrition and outside the role of the General Assembly.  He noted the responsibilities of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in that regard.  He expressed concern around language on food imports which could impact trade obligations, as well as language on technology transfer that could undermine intellectual property rights.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 179 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions.

The representative of Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it supported the trade-related language in the resolution.

The Committee also withdrew a previous text on the same topic.

Finally, it turned to a draft decision on “towards global partnerships” (document A/C.2/72/L.42/Rev.1), approving it without a vote.