Home » General » Condemning Attacks on Aid Efforts, General Assembly Adopts Package of Texts, One Urging States to Better Protect Humanitarian Workers, Respect International Law

The General Assembly today adopted seven draft resolutions, among them texts on credentials, the culture of peace and on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

Condemning in the strongest possible terms the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of aid workers, the Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22).  By its terms, the Assembly urged States to make every effort to ensure the full implementation of the rules of international law that protect aid workers.

Also by the text’s terms, the Assembly called upon all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies in countries in which humanitarian personnel were operating to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations and to allow those personnel to perform efficiently their task of assisting the affected civilian population, including refugees and internally displaced persons.  It also called upon all States to consider becoming parties to relevant international instruments.

Prior to taking action on “L.22” as a whole, the Assembly, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, decided to retain two paragraphs referencing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Several speakers, including the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that language related to the Court was worthy of inclusion.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s representative, whose delegation had requested the vote, warned against politicizing humanitarian efforts.  Stressing that the International Criminal Court was not a United Nations organ, he reiterated that it was instead “at best a threat to the peace and stability” in his country.

Also under the humanitarian assistance umbrella, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, three draft resolutions on:  international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development; strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations; and assistance to the Palestinian people, which had been introduced on 8 December.  (See Press Release GA/11990 of 8 December).

Sharing the perspective of those providing aid, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

Raising another concern, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  As such, she encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Turning to its agenda item on the culture of peace, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), reaffirming that interreligious and intercultural dialogue constituted important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations.  It also condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence and underlined the importance of moderation as a value within societies for countering violent extremism and for further contributing to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, tolerance and cooperation.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), adopted without a vote, the Assembly urged the appropriate authorities to provide age-appropriate education in children’s schools, including lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active and global citizenship and human rights.  It also underlined that early childhood development contributes to the development of more peaceful societies through advancing equality, tolerance, human development and promoting human rights.

The Assembly, by the draft’s terms, called for investment in early childhood education, including through effective policies and practices.  It also invited Member States to continue to emphasize and expand their activities promoting a culture of peace and to ensure that peace and non-violence were fostered at all levels.

Considering the Report of the Credentials Committee (document A/72/601), the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution, contained therein, on the credentials of representatives to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.

In other business, the Assembly also elected the following 17 members to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a three‑year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom, and United States.  It postponed to a date to be announced the appointment of members to the Committee on Conferences.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also for Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway) Russian Federation, Ireland, Iran, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Armenia, United States, Brazil, El Salvador, as well as the State of Palestine and the Holy See.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Azerbaijan.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 December, to consider global health and foreign policy.

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said everyone must work together to ensure “no one gets left behind” in the quest for sustainable development.  All United Nations aid to the Palestinian people was strictly for relief and reconstruction.  “We cannot use these funds for true development,” he said, emphasizing that the Israeli occupation must be rejected so Palestinians could attempt to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Describing a five‑year Palestinian strategy focused on the adaptation and monitoring of development goals, he said all such progress, however, was being jeopardized by the Israeli occupation.  Despite grave scarcity of resources and problems caused by the occupation, Palestinian determination remained unshakeable.  “We are capable of overcoming all difficulties,” he said, noting all the sacrifices the Palestinian people had made to date.

PHILIP SPOERRI, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said there were two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  Inadequate detention policies also posed a risk to development and peace because inhumane detention practices could increase political grievances.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

ANNE CHRISTENSEN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  Those included individuals crowded in urban slums without access to reliable water and electricity sources as well as displaced persons in disaster‑prone and climate‑exposed areas.  Addressing such risks would require increased investment in local action and strong effort to ensure assistance reached those suffering the most.  Ways must be found of linking science to policy, decision‑making and action on the ground — for example, addressing climate extremes through early warning systems that reached the most vulnerable communities and enabled them to act.  Her organization had been working on quick and early action by communities and local authorities through an innovative method of advance financing based on weather forecasts.  She encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Prior to taking action on the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22), representatives explained their delegations’ positions.

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway, regretted to note that a separate recorded vote had been called on several paragraphs of “L.22”, which sought to remove text that had been agreed upon for years.  Recent attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel in recent years only amplified the text’s relevance, she said.  Preambular paragraph 28 underscored the role the International Criminal Court could play and operative paragraph 7 called on all States to consider becoming party to the Court, she said, calling on all to vote to retain those paragraphs.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the seventy‑second session marked the second year that delegations were calling for others to review language in certain paragraphs because the draft resolution could no longer be considered consensual.  With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the international community was expecting concrete actions to deal with impunity, settle existing conflicts and prevent new flashpoints of tension.  Yet many years into the Court’s existence, those expectations remained.  The alternative wording that had been proposed to the paragraphs in question deserved support because they considered salient issues.  Moreover, the proposed amendments should be supported because if adopted, they would return “L.22” to its consensual nature.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret that Sudan had called for a vote on preambular and operative paragraphs in “L.22”.  The International Criminal Court was a tool to fight impunity and contribute to international peace.  Its role was to complement rather than replace existing national judicial systems, he said, also stressing that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must always be held accountable.  The fight against impunity for the most serious crimes was critical in ensuring a fair and just society.  Peace and justice were complementary and not mutually exclusive, he said, expressing support for the paragraphs in question.

The representative of Sudan expressed serious reservations regarding the inclusion of references to the International Criminal Court in “L.22”.  The Court was not an organ of the United Nations, despite some parties painting it as such.  The principle of free consent meant that only those who were party to an agreement were bound by it.  Since 2003, the Court had been an impediment to peace in Darfur, creating a wedge between peace and justice, and was “at best a threat to the peace and stability in my country”, he said, adding that the Court was also fraught with corruption and scandals and lacked independence, as half of its budget was drawn from voluntary contributions from States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who exercised control over it.  Noting the rejection of his delegation’s proposal to replace language in preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7, he emphasized that lofty goals of humanitarian assistance must not be mixed with a political agenda.

The Assembly then decided, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7 of “L.22”.  Acting without a vote, it adopted “L.22” as a whole.

In a point of order, the representative of Israel referenced an Assembly resolution that had been adopted in 1998 on the participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations.  The subject matter of today’s resolution did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship, which were clearly indicated in the rules governing the United Nations.  Any decision to disregard those rules violated United Nations resolutions and undermined the Organization’s work.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.23).

The representative of Israel said Palestine’s participation as a co-sponsor did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship.  Any decision to disregard those rules undermined the United Nations work.

The Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.24).

Also without a vote, it adopted the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/72/L.25).

An observer for the Holy See reiterated his delegation’s reservations, including the belief that abortion was not a dimension of the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “health-care services”.  With reference to gender, that concept was not to be interpreted as a social construction.

Credentials Committee

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Chair of the Credentials Committee, introduced the “Report of the Credentials Committee” (document A/72/601), containing a draft resolution on the credentials of the representatives of Member States to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.  The Committee had approved that draft resolution, which would have the Assembly accept the credentials of representatives of a number of Member States.

The representative of Iran, explaining his delegation’s position, said he supported a consensus decision, but expressed reservations to parts of the report that could constitute the recognition of the Israeli regime.

The representative of Indonesia drew attention to the “unfriendly” action of Vanuatu in including on their list of delegations a non-citizen of Vanuatu who had acted in a separatist movement of West Papua.  That person had spread malicious rumours and should not be granted credentials.  Indonesia objected to that act and rejected whatever message it had intended to convey.  It violated norms of multilateral conduct and the rights of Member States, he said, adding that the accreditation of Vanuatu, with knowledge that those individuals had such a mindset, was an act of hostility against Indonesia.  Member States should not play into the hands of separatists.  As such, Indonesia requested an explanation from Vanuatu concerning their delegation.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Culture of Peace

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), introducing the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), said the text aimed to strengthen mechanisms and take action to promote sincere and constructive dialogue across cultural and religious divides.  The world was facing seemingly intractable conflicts and complex challenges that not only caused immense human suffering and economic loss, but also hindered socioeconomic cooperation and the pursuit of inclusive societies.  Suspicion and ignorance among various religions and civilizations were being exploited by extremist and terrorist groups to propagate their agendas.  It was essential to build on shared values and aspirations by strengthening mechanisms and actions through constructive dialogue, better understanding, moderation and promoting a global culture of peace.  He also pointed out several oral revisions to the text.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), said that the current version of the text contained four new elements.  It acknowledged the high-level event on Culture of Peace and its focus on early childhood development and recalled that General Assembly resolution 70/272 on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture had introduced the notion of “sustaining peace”.  In addition, “L.30” noted the establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and recognized the role of the work of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in promoting a culture of people.  The draft also reiterated the request to consider convening in September 2018 a high-level forum devoted to the implementation of the Programme of Action.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote “L.29” as orally revised.

Also without a vote, it adopted “L.30”.

The representative of Armenia, explaining his delegation’s position, said objections to some paragraphs in “L.29” were based on the fact that Azerbaijan had abused international fora.  Preambular paragraph 23 concerned an event named World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which was a glaring example of manipulation against Armenia.  Due regard should be given to Azerbaijan’s destruction of heritage, as in the case of the obliteration of a medieval cemetery.  As such, Armenia disassociated itself from that paragraph.

The representative of the United States said his country was committed to a culture of peace through rejecting violence and promoting human rights, including by supporting efforts to enhance interreligious dialogue.  However, each country had its own development priorities.  The word “moderation” remained undefined in international law, he noted, adding that programmes and policies must respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Canada said operative paragraph 10 in “L.29” noted that interventions countering violent extremism were context-specific.  Respect for human rights, diversity and inclusion were needed to help communities to become more resilient.  Intercultural and interreligious dialogue was needed to create mutual respect and understanding.  It was a difficult balance, but Canada was committed to working with partners to preserve it.

The representative of Brazil said his delegation endorsed the twin resolutions on the peacebuilding architecture, yet cautioned that while supporting both the culture of peace and sustaining peace concepts, those actions should run on parallel tracks to avoid conflating mandates and concepts.  The General Assembly could do more on the human rights and development elements of the culture of peace.

The representative of El Salvador said constructing a culture of peace required institutions to be strengthened, noting that “L.30” underscored the importance of development in early childhood.  It was crucial to ensure children completed their early education and for curricula to include the culture of peace.  El Salvador was a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, adding that his country had experienced a transition and was now working on supporting the United Nations to facilitate a new national agreement.  It was important to create strong institutions, he said, calling on all Member States to support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in implementing a culture of peace in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also appealed to the General Assembly President to convene a high-level forum on the implementation of the Programme of Action.  Peace could not be considered in a reductive fashion as just the absence of war; peace was an endeavour that the international community must produce together.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said multiculturalism was a long-standing tradition in his country.  “L.29” welcomed the Declaration and referred to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and other fora.  Yet, there was nothing surprising in Armenia’s attempts to politicize resolutions.  By obstructing efforts and challenging global initiatives because of its relation to Azerbaijan, Armenia had demonstrated that its good faith was elusive.  Regarding human rights and international humanitarian law, he said Azerbaijan had preserved its diversity to the present day.

Programme and Coordination Committee Elections

The Assembly then turned to the election to the Committee for Programme and Coordination the following members, nominated by the Economic and Social Council, for a three-year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom and United States.

The Economic and Social Council had nominated Botswana, Burkina Faso and Cameroon for the three of the four seats among African States; India, Iran, Japan and Pakistan for the four seats among Asia-Pacific States; Belarus, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova for the three seats among Eastern European States; Brazil, Chile and Cuba for three of the four seats among the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States for four of the five seats among the Western European and other States.

The following States were eligible for immediate re-election, after 1 January 2018:  Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Haiti, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The Economic and Social Council had postponed the nomination of one member from each of the following groups:  African States, Latin American and Caribbean States and Western European and other States for election for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2018.  Members were also reminded of the remaining two vacancies among the Western European and other States, for terms beginning on the date of election and expiring on 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2018, respectively.

As one seat from Asia-Pacific States for a term beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019 remained vacant, the General Assembly President appointed China to fill that vacancy.  The General Assembly would take action to fill remaining vacancies upon the receipt of nominations by the Economic and Social Council.

The Assembly then postponed to a later date the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences.

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