Results

United Nations General Assembly

05/18/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/18/2021 15:28

General Assembly Declares 2022 International Year of Glass, Adopts 4 Texts on Aral Sea Region, Financing for Darfur Mission

Responsibility to Protect Resolution Garners Debate, Vote on Merits of Concept

The General Assembly adopted four resolutions today on issues ranging from security to sustainable development, including a consensus text declaring 2022 the International Year of Glass and directing policy attention to its importance in various sectors, from aerospace and automotive industries to health care and architecture.

Introducing that text, Spain's representative described glass as a 'biomaterial par excellence', born thousands of years ago in the cradle of civilization. Celebrations during the Year will help advance implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by fostering a fairer and more sustainable future. 'Glass has evolved along with humanity,' she stressed.

In a similar vein, the Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of ecological innovations and technologies, through which it encouraged research and scientific advisory activities to recover and improve the environment, preserve natural resources and enhance the quality of life in the region. It called on Member States, the United Nations and international financial institutions to develop and implement environmentally sound technologies.

Introducing the text, Uzbekistan's representative described the drying of the Aral Sea as 'one of the most serious environmental problems of our time'. To avert catastrophic health, socioeconomic and environmental consequences, Uzbekistan, along with the United Nations, is developing ways to mitigate the crisis and strengthen cooperation.

Delivering an explanation of position, the representative of Kyrgyzstan said that while he had joined consensus, concerns remain over the effectiveness of funds being directed towards addressing the situation in the Aral Sea.

At the meeting's outset, the Assembly adopted a resolution on 'the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity', by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 15 against, with 28 abstentions, deciding to include the item on its annual agenda and requesting the Secretary-General to report annually on the issue.

The adoption capped a lengthy debate, begun a day earlier, on the merits of the concept. (For more information, see Press Release GA/12323.)

Several delegations delivered explanations of position, detailing their opposition to the draft on grounds that the concept does not enjoy consensus. Therefore, efforts to streamline it across the United Nations system are premature and could derail discussions on the matter.

Egypt's representative warned that the notion of the responsibility to protect is characterized by legal gaps that cannot by left unaddressed. It is imperative that Member States achieve consensus on the principle before further streamlining it across the United Nations system. The representative of the Russian Federation similarly said consensus on the concept has always been fragile. Informal interactive dialogues are the only appropriate format for discussing its applicability.

Nicaragua's representative meanwhile rejected manipulation of the concept by powerful countries, cautioning that several States have used it to orchestrate invasions and coups against legitimately elected Governments.

In outlining why his delegation would abstain in the vote, Pakistan's representative said discussions must focus on bridging differences. Persistent focus on institutionalizing the debate will erode work related to the concept.

'The responsibility to protect is a core principle in preventing atrocity crimes,' declared Albania's representative, as she voiced strong support for annual discussions on the matter within the General Assembly and suggested future reports of the Secretary-General include examples of responses to atrocity crimes by United Nations entities. With 80 million people displaced across the world, the international community must take action to help vulnerable populations threatened by mass atrocities.

On that point, Ecuador's representative said preventing conflict is the best way to avoid mass atrocity crimes. She underscored the role of the International Criminal Court in ensuring reparations, calling it the singular body to fight impunity. Kiribati's representative urged the international community to look at activities within the Pacific region as examples of best practice in how to interpret the concept of responsibility to protect. 'We hope the entire world can be like the Pacific,' he emphasized.

Rounding out the day's action, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution on 'Financing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur', contained in the report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary Committee). By its terms, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments for the Operation in an amount not exceeding $198.78 million for the period from 1 January to 30 June 2021.

Also speaking in today's debate were representatives of Ecuador and Colombia.

The representatives of Serbia and Venezuela spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Also delivering explanations of position were the representatives of Indonesia, Singapore and Cuba.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 May, to consider the situation in the Middle East.

Statements - Responsibility to Protect

BESIANA KADARE (Albania) said she strongly supports annual discussions on the matter within the General Assembly and suggested that future reports of the Secretary-General include examples of responses to atrocity crimes by United Nations entities. The responsibility to protect is a core principle in preventing atrocity crimes, she declared, noting that special focus on prevention is necessary to ensure mass atrocities do not occur. She further encouraged mandate holders to share findings and recommendations with the United Nations system to ensure early warning mechanisms are effective in protecting and promoting human rights and preventing conflict. Concluding, she said that as 80 million people remain displaced across the world, the international community must take action to help vulnerable populations threatened by mass atrocities.

TEBURORO TITO (Kiribati) noted that Pacific Island States have a long history of peace and cooperation and said that existing declarations in the region have enshrined the core principles of the responsibility to protect. He urged Member States to look at his region's efforts as an example of best practice. 'We hope the entire world can be like the Pacific,' he declared, stressing that when a country cannot address its own problems, it can call on the international community for assistance.

IRINA ALEXANDRA BARBA BUSTOS (Ecuador) said it is clear that the emergence of conflicts relates to inequality and exclusion, and the prevention of conflict is the best way to avoid mass atrocity crimes. She underscored the role of the International Criminal Court in ensuring reparations and called it the singular body to fight impunity. She went on to say that the three pillars should be followed chronologically, with the understanding that the third pillar must only be used in exceptional circumstances and should not undermine the sovereignty of States.

ANDRÉS JOSÉ RUGELES (Colombia) responded to comments made by the delegation of Venezuela in which Colombia was accused of being tolerant of crimes in its territory. He rejected such claims as false and biased, calling the Venezuela's regime illegitimate and saying that it seeks to distract from its own situation and the suffering of its people. States must focus on protecting their own populations, he said, reaffirming Colombia's commitment to international humanitarian and human rights law.

Action

The General Assembly then took up its draft resolution titled 'The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity' (document A/75/L.82), introduced by the representative of Croatia a day earlier. (For more information, see Press Release GA/12323.)

Several delegations explained their positions on the draft prior to taking action.

The representative of Egypt warned the Assembly that the notion of the responsibility to protect is characterized by legal gaps that cannot be left unaddressed. As such, it is imperative that Member States achieve consensus on the principle before further streamlining it across the United Nations system. He reaffirmed that the primary responsibility to prevent atrocity crimes rests with States and urged the international community to focus its efforts on preventive diplomacy. Egypt will continue to work towards reaching consensus on the matter.

The representative of the Russian Federation said consensus on the responsibility to protect has always been fragile, and as such, informal interactive dialogues are the only appropriate format for discussing the matter and its applicability. However, certain States are putting the concept into practice, based on their own interpretation, only deepening conflict. He said the General Assembly remains divided on the matter and places the Secretary-General in the difficult position of producing a report on a non-consensual matter. As such, the Russian Federation will vote against the draft and he asked others to do the same.

The representative of Nicaragua said the responsibility to protect does not have international consensus and presents problems for small and developing countries. Since 2005, in the name of the responsibility to protect, the world has seen invasions, coups and attempts to bring down legitimately elected Governments. While Nicaragua stands with the international community against crimes against humanity, it rejects the manipulation of the responsibility to protect by powerful countries, which use it to conceal the use of force as a means for destabilizing legitimate Governments.

The representative of Indonesia said his delegation would vote against the adoption because the responsibility to protect does not need to be a standing annual agenda item. Furthermore, any propositions or ideas that seek to enrich the discussion on the concept should not derail the perimeter set out by the 2005 World Summit outcome document. However, Indonesia's position should not be mistaken as against the responsibility to protect, he said, pointing out that in 2005, Indonesia joined the consensus that adopted the concept as written in resolution 60/1.

The representative of Singapore said his country would abstain from the vote because it is incumbent on Member States to build trust and find common ground on the issue. The draft resolution represents a missed opportunity as it imposes an annual agenda item without making any effort to do so. When the inclusion of the agenda item was proposed, it was clear that the request would be a one-time occurrence and would only be included in the General Assembly's seventy-second session. However, the agenda item has become an annual occurrence and continues to divide Member States, he said, suggesting that it is more important to build trust through informal dialogue rather than a formal debate in the Assembly, which only results in public statements of national positions and posturing.

The representative of Cuba said certain States manipulate the concept of responsibility to protect to pursue expansionist agendas and warned that draft 'L.82' seeks to impose on the General Assembly matters that do not enjoy consensus. Warning of myriad risks that would result from the adoption of the draft, she stated that she would vote against the text.

The representative of Pakistan said discussions must focus on bridging the differing perspectives on the responsibility to protect and that persistent focus on institutionalizing the debate will further deteriorate work related to the concept. Pointing to the situation in Palestine, he said the Security Council has stood silent amid the suffering of people living under occupation. He called for the international community to act in a consistent and impartial manner in the face of mass atrocities and declared that Pakistan would abstain in the vote.

The Assembly then adopted the draft by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 15 against, with 28 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly decided to include the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in its annual agenda. It also requested the Secretary-General to report to it annually on the issue.

Right of Reply

The representative of Serbia responded to comments made by the delegation of Albania, stressing that there were victims on both sides of the conflict in their region regardless of religious or ethnic background. Furthermore, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervention was launched without Security Council approval and serves as an example of the responsibility to protect concept being used as a pretext for an attack on a sovereign State. Indeed, no one was held responsible for the civilians killed during the NATO aggression, she said.

The representative of Venezuela said the accusations made by Colombia's delegate are unfounded. Colombia has been engaged in a war for 60 years and all its neighbours are suffering from the overflow of its internal chaos, he said. Colombia seeks to blame Venezuela for its own problems and export the consequences of its internal strife. In Colombia, there are daily reports of massacres and mass graves, as reported by a United Nations fact finding mission. Furthermore, Colombia is the biggest producer of drugs in the world and its Government provides support to terrorist groups that have attacked Venezuela.

Sustainable Development

The General Assembly then turned to its draft resolution titled 'Declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of ecological innovations and technologies' (document A/75/L.83).

The representative of Uzbekistan, introducing the draft, declared: 'The drying of the Aral Sea has become one of the most serious environmental problems of our time.' The deteriorating environmental situation in the region will have far reaching socioeconomic, humanitarian and health implications, he warned, noting that the volume of the Aral Sea - the fourth largest lake in the world until the 1960s - has decreased at an alarming rate. The crisis has prompted Uzbekistan and the United Nations to establish a unified platform for mitigating its consequences, with draft resolution 'L.83' marking a step in that direction by emphasizing the importance of strengthened regional cooperation in efforts to stabilize the ecological situation.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution 'L.83' without a vote, declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of ecological innovations and technologies. It encouraged research and scientific advisory activities to recover and improve the environment, preserve natural resources and enhance the quality of life in the region. In this context, the Assembly called on Member States, the United Nations and international financial institutions to develop and implement environmentally sound technologies, as well as energy- and water-saving technologies, in line with Goal 17.7 (partnerships) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan, explaining his delegation's position after the adoption, said that while he had joined consensus on the draft, concerns remain over the effectiveness of funds being directed towards addressing the situation in the Aral Sea.

Impact of Rapid Technological Change on the Sustainable Development Goals

The Assembly then turned to its draft resolution titled 'International Year of Glass, 2022' (document A/75/L.84).

The representative of Spain, introducing draft resolution 'L.84', said the basis of the draft was born thousands of years ago in the cradle of civilization when glass was first discovered. Glass has evolved along with humanity, she stressed, highlighting the need to develop technologies that will foster a more sustainable future. Describing glass as a 'biomaterial par excellence', she said celebrations during the Year of Glass will contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by fostering a fairer and more sustainable future. She closed by urging that the draft be adopted by consensus.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution 'L.84' without a vote, deciding to proclaim 2022 as the International Year of Glass. The Assembly invited all relevant stakeholders to observe the International Year through activities aimed at raising awareness of and directing policy attention to the importance of glass in daily life.

The representative of the United States, explaining his delegation's position, said he joined consensus but underscored that certain documents referenced in the draft are non-binding and do not create obligations under international law. 'The United States does not support calls for technology transfers that are not voluntary,' he said.

Financing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur

Finally, the Assembly took up the report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary Committee) titled 'Financing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur' (document A/75/681), which contained an eponymous draft resolution.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote, endorsing the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions and requesting the Secretary-General to ensure their full implementation. It also authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments for the Operation in an amount not exceeding $198.78 million, for the period from 1 January to 30 June 2021.