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Economic and Social Council Adopts Texts on Narcotic Drug Control, Human Rights, Technology for Development, as Coordination, Management Session Continues

Continuing its annual coordination and management segment, the Economic and Social Council today adopted a range of texts on such issues as narcotic drug control, human rights, and science and technology for development as it reviewed the work of its relevant subsidiary bodies and heard from senior officials on those topics.

The Council — acting without a vote on all the items before it today — adopted several drafts contained in the recent reports of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, including a resolution supporting the provision of “alternative development” interventions aimed at preventing, eliminating or reducing the cultivation of crops used for illicit drug production.  It also adopted a decision to renew the mandate of the working group tasked with improving the governance and financial situation of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and two texts endorsing the respective 2016-2017 resource projections for the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund and the Fund of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme.

By the terms of an oral decision adopted this morning, the Council also took note of a 2016 report of the International Narcotics Control Board on the precursors and chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.  By the terms of several other texts, the Council supported the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons; the provision of technical assistance for implementing the international conventions and protocols related to counter-terrorism; and the practical application of the United Nations Standard Minimum Roles for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”.

Adopting a draft decision in response to a request by the Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe, the Council also decided to enlarge the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 101 to 102 States.

In addition, the Council adopted a resolution highlighting the centrality of science, technology and innovation in development — especially the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals — as well as one providing an assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on Information.

Throughout the day, the Council also heard from the heads of several of its relevant subsidiary bodies, who outlined recent sessions and highlighted progress achieved.

Mitsuru Kitano (Japan), Chair of the twenty-sixth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Narcotic Drugs, described that body’s efforts to address issues ranging from terrorism to wildlife crime to violence against women.  Noting that the theme of the upcoming United Nations Crime Congress would be “Advancing Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law towards the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda”, he said the Commission’s work was closely related to Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, Goal 4 on health and Goal 5 on gender equality, among others.

Bente Angell-Hansen (Norway), Chair of the sixtieth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, detailed activities undertaken in line with its mandate — namely, to assist the Economic and Social Council in supervising the application of three global drug-related treaties.  The Commission was tackling a number of new issues, she said, citing the emergence of new psychoactive substances and “dark nets” and announcing its decision to add two precursors to the drug fentanyl to those substances banned under the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

On human rights, Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) Research and Right to Development Division described efforts to help States deliver on their commitments to comply with global human rights treaties.  Noting that a lack of available resources was no justification for non-compliance with such instruments, he went on to outline the recent work of several specialized human rights bodies, including the Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Ruijin Wang (China), Chair of the twentieth session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, briefed the Council on the highlights of that session, including a round table on the theme “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions” and discussions on ways to harness new and emerging technologies to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.  Expressing concern about the widening digital divide — particularly for women, who were 31 per cent less likely to use the internet in least developed countries — participants had nevertheless cited rapid growth in broadband access and reaffirmed their commitment to increase access to science and technology for innovation, he said.

Other topics addressed today included review and coordination of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020, sustainable development, international cooperation in tax matters and assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions.

The Council will reconvene on Friday, 7 July, at 10 a.m. to continue its work.

Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and Narcotic Drugs

MITSURU KITANO (Japan), Chair of the twenty-sixth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Narcotic Drugs, presented the highlights of that session, saying the Commission worked on a wide range of issues including terrorism, trafficking in persons, wildlife crime and violence against women, providing policy guidelines on those and other issues.  During its twenty-sixth session, it had approved nine resolutions and four decisions, including several texts recommended to the Economic and Social Council and others that would eventually be forwarded to the General Assembly. 

Among those, he said, the Commission had adopted texts on such items as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rule on the Treatment of Prisoners — sometimes called the “Nelson Mandela Rule” — and on the provision of technical assistance for counter-terrorism.  Among other things, it had also decided that the overall theme of the upcoming Crime Congress would be “Advancing Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law towards the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda”. Pointing out, in that respect, that most of the work under Sustainable Development Goal 16 fell under the Commission’s purview, he added that its work was also related to Goal 5 on gender equality, Goal 4 on health and a number of other topics.

BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN (Norway), Chair of the sixtieth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, then outlined that session, recalling that the Commission assisted the Council in supervising the application of three global drug-related treaties.  Describing several new issues being addressed by the Commission — including the emergence of new psychoactive substances and “dark nets” — she said that it had acted on 12 substances, including adding two precursors to the drug fentanyl to those prohibited under the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.  “This is about saving lives,” she said, underlining the grave dangers posed by that drug. 

Among other drafts adopted by the Commission was one aimed at improving the governance and financial situation of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), another meant to enhance the capacity of law enforcement and border control to counter illicit drug trafficking, one calling for intensified coordination and cooperation between United Nations entities and relevant domestic actors, and another outlining preparations for the Commission’s next session.  Noting that a Joint Ministerial segment would be held at that session to discuss the follow-up to the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, she also outlined several of the Commission’s ongoing technological efforts, such as the creation of an online “knowledge hub” for best practices.

Narcotic Drugs

VIROJ SUMYAI, President of the International Narcotics Control Board, presented its annual report for 2016 and its 2016 report on precursors and chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.  Launched in March 2017, the reports gave recommendations to the international community.  Such reports and technical publications complemented the work of national authorities towards ensuring adequate availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes.  They also provided detailed data on estimates of annual legitimate requirements of each country, as well as on the illicit production, manufacture, trade and consumption of drugs worldwide. 

Highlighting findings in the annual report’s chapter on women and drugs, he said that while women were one third of global drug users, they made up only one fifth of drug treatment recipients.  Women were increasingly being arrested for drug-related offences, which had a heavy impact on families, particularly children.  He highlighted several other sections of the report, including on international controlled drugs for medical and scientific purposes, the functioning of the international drug control system, and international cooperation in precursor control.  The report’s regional analysis of the world drug situation focused in greater detail on Afghanistan.  The report also discussed the regulation of the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes and State responses to drug-related offences, including the need to respect human rights.  The report’s closing chapter contained recommendations. 

In the general discussion that followed, the representative of the Russian Federation welcomed the Commission’s resolution 60/1 on preparations of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.  To ensure success at the Commission’s sixty-second ministerial meeting in 2019, it would be important to focus current work on evaluating progress thus far in achieving specific targets and goals of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem.

The representative of Mexico said it was crucial that the Council help build synergies with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, stressing the need for greater complementarity of global, regional and national efforts.  Gender elements must be taken into consideration, he added, highlighting the specific needs of men and women in preventing crime.  It was also crucial to exchange information on best practices and technical assistance.  He called for the implementation of the outcome document of the 2016 Special Session on the World Drug Problem and highlighted the importance of strengthening the health, criminal justice and education sectors.  The Commission must continue to evaluate implementation of recommendations from the Special Session.

The Council then took action on a number of recommendations contained in the reports of those bodies.  Acting without a vote, it first adopted a draft decision contained in chapter 1, section A of the report of the reconvened twenty-fifth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document E/2016/30/Add.1), by which it took note of that report.  It also adopted a similar draft resolution contained in chapter 1, section A of the Commission’s report on its twenty-sixth session (document E/2017/30).

In the same document, the Council adopted without a vote draft resolution 1, entitled “Follow-up to the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and preparations for the Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice”; draft resolution 2, entitled “Promoting the practical application of the United Nations Standard Minimum Roles for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)”; and draft resolution 3, entitled “Technical assistance for implementing the international conventions and protocols related to counter-terrorism”, as orally corrected.

Turning to a number of texts contained in chapter 1, section B of the same document, it adopted without a vote draft resolution 1, entitled “Implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons”, and draft resolution 2, entitled “Promoting and encouraging the implementation of alternatives to imprisonment as part of comprehensive prevention and criminal justice procedures”.

In chapter 1, section C of the document, it adopted without a vote draft decision 1, entitled “Improving the governance and financial situation of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: extension of the mandate of the standing open-ended intergovernmental working group on improving the governance and financial situation of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime”; draft decision 2, entitled “Report of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on its twenty-sixth session and provisional agenda for its twenty-seventh session”; and draft decision 3, entitled “Appointment of two members of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute”.  It also adopted without a vote an oral decision by which it took note of the report of the Board of Trustees on that body’s major activities (document E/2017/74).

By the terms of a draft decision contained in chapter 1, section A of the report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on its reconvened fifty-ninth session (document E/2016/28/Add.1) — also adopted without a vote — the Council took note of that report.

Turning to the Commission’s report on its sixtieth session (document E/2017/28), the Council adopted without a vote a draft resolution contained in chapter 1, section A, by which it recommended to the General Assembly the adoption of a draft resolution entitled “Promoting the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development and related commitments on alternative development and regional, interregional and international cooperation on development-oriented, balanced drug control policy addressing socioeconomic issues”. 

Acting again without a vote, the Council adopted several draft decisions contained in chapter 1, section B of the same report, including draft decision 1, entitled “Preparations for the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019”; draft decision 3, entitled “Report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on its sixtieth session and provisional agenda for its sixty-first session”; and draft decision 4, by which it took note of the report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2016 (document E/INCB/2017/1).

Also without a vote, it adopted an oral decision by which it took note of Board’s 2016 report on the precursors and chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (document E/INCB/2017/4).

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

GRAINNE O’HARA, Deputy Director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New York, presented an oral report on the coordination aspects of the Office’s activities.  Over the past year, the number of people displaced by conflict, war and persecution had reached 65.6 million, including 22.5 million refugees.  While the conflict in Syria remained the largest source of refugees, the current crisis in South Sudan was resulting in the outflow of some 1.9 million refugees.  Partnership with a broad range of actors was fundamental for addressing the challenges faced by refugees and internally displaced persons.  In 2016, UNHCR collaborated with more than 900 partners, to which it channelled some $1.44 billion.  In 2016, several key events influenced its work, including the World Humanitarian Summit and the adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants.  The latter marked a unique milestone for global solidarity and refugee protection. 

UNHCR had also strengthened its work with various development actors, including the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, she said.  With the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a new Coalition on Every Child’s Right to a Nationality had been launched.  She also spotlighted the fruitful partnership with non-governmental organizations and the need to strengthen coordination with the private sector.  Innovation and entrepreneurship could benefit refugees, she added. 

Acting without vote, the Council then adopted a draft decision titled “Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (document E/2017/L.13), by which it took note of the request in a 7 February 2017 note verbale from the Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe to the United Nations (document E/2017/47) to enlarge the Executive Committee’s membership and recommended that the General Assembly, at its seventy-second session, decide on the question of enlarging the membership from 101 to 102 States.

Human Rights

CRAIG MOKHIBER, Chief, Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, Research and Right to Development Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented three human rights-focused reports: the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on economic, social and cultural rights (document E/2017/70); the report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on its 2016 sessions (document E/2017/22); and the biennial report of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (document A/72/55).  He noted that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and economic, social and cultural rights as well as other human rights had placed great demands on public budgets.  As a matter of law, States could not simply invoke a lack of available resources to justify non-compliance with the human rights treaties that they had ratified.  States must ensure that policy choices prioritize the implementation of all human rights, he stressed, adding that expansion of available resources could be advanced by combating corruption.

The report also highlighted key elements to ensure that States delivered on their commitments, namely with a transparent public decision-making process, full access to information and meaningful public participation, he continued.  To achieve that, it would be necessary to strengthen the capacity of public officials, civil society, and human rights institutions and monitor public budgets from a human rights perspective.  He also noted several recent highlights of the work of the Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and introduced the biennial report of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2015-2016).  The latter report included the Committee’s events, its adopted guidelines on periodic reporting, and its push to promote accessibility across the organization.

The Council then took note of all three human-rights-focused reports.

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

MARIAM WALLET ABOUBAKRINE (Mali), Chair of the sixteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said indigenous peoples were gaining visibility and importance across the United Nations system in light of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda, among other recent frameworks.  Outlining the Permanent Forum’s recent sixteenth session — which she said had been attended by a large number of Member States, over 1,000 indigenous representatives and many non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes — she recalled that its main theme had been the “Tenth Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.  Participants had reviewed some of the achievements and remaining challenges in implementing the Declaration, which established a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the world’s indigenous peoples and elaborated on other relevant human rights standards and fundamental freedoms.

Spotlighting some achievements identified by the Permanent Forum, she cited the recognition of indigenous peoples by some constitutional and legal frameworks and the inclusion of targeted policies and programmes.  Nevertheless, the Permanent Forum was concerned about the gap between that formal recognition and implementation in practice.  Among other things, the body had also welcomed progress in the implementation of the United Nations system-wide action plan on the rights of indigenous peoples and discussed the situation of indigenous human rights defenders, the 2030 Agenda’s implications for indigenous peoples and the empowerment of indigenous women and youth.  As a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, the Permanent Forum had also deepened its engagement with the Council’s other bodies — including the Commission on the Status of Women — and contributed a substantive input to the upcoming high-level political forum on sustainable development. 

As the Council began its general discussion of that item, the representative of the United States recalled that his Government had facilitated a visit of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues earlier this year, and would follow up on her recommendations.  Reiterating his delegation’s commitment to the principles enshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he stressed that the United States would be reluctant to see the development of a system that undermined those principles.  While there was an ongoing discussion on how to define indigenous peoples, he emphasized that “indigenous identity is not exclusively defined by European colonization”.  Underlining the relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals to indigenous peoples, he described the United States efforts to collect disaggregated data on American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Hawaiian/Pacific natives, and outlined its various policies on indigenous health, the empowerment of indigenous women and youth and the preservation of indigenous languages. 

The representative of Mexico, also speaking on behalf of Guatemala, cited a “notable improvement” in the spirit of dialogue on indigenous issues over the period under review.  Making a number of relevant proposals, he called for a special category to be established for representatives of indigenous peoples, as they were not non-governmental organizations; the creation of modalities of participation that did not fall below the threshold currently allowed for non-governmental organizations; and the establishment of a forum for the discussion on indigenous issues, with representation from all regions of the world.

The representative of Australia, also speaking on behalf of Canada, recalled that participants at the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples had committed to enhance their participation in international meetings that affected them.  The General Assembly, in resolution 70/232, had initiated a process to draft a resolution on those issues, which had now been under discussion for 12 months.  Expressing regret that the Assembly’s discussions had moved away from their original purpose, he urged the United Nations to give consideration to the broader participation of indigenous peoples.

The Council then turned to chapter 1, section A of the report of the Permanent Forum of its sixteenth session (document E/2017/43), which contained three draft decisions, titled: “International expert group meeting on the theme ‘Sustainable development in the territories of indigenous people’”; “Venue and dates for the seventeenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”; and “Report of the Permanent Forum on the Indigenous Issues on its sixteenth session and provisional agenda for its seventeenth session”.  The Council adopted all three draft decisions without a vote.

Comprehensive Implementation of Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

The Council then took up that topic, for which there was no documentation or draft proposal.

Implementation of Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries 2011-2020

FEKITAMOELOA KATOA ‘UTOIKAMANU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (document E/2017/60), saying it provided an overview of recent progress made as a result of the efforts of least developed countries and their development partners.  Much remained to be done, however, as not all countries had fully shared in the development progress made in recent years.  While the average growth rate of the world’s least developed countries had risen, it remained far below the 7 per cent target laid out in the Istanbul Programme of Action.

Citing the disproportionate impact on those countries of natural disasters and economic shocks, she said the report highlighted the need for economic diversification and efforts to drive up industrial production and investment.  Recalling the General Assembly’s recent decision to set up the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, she said the report also provided evidence of the need to build their scientific and technological base.  Agriculture remained the sector with the highest share of employment in those countries, she said, adding that the share of the world’s exports originating in them had fallen.  More efforts were also needed in the area of human resources capacity development as gender disparities at the secondary and tertiary education levels persisted.  Additionally, the data revealed a need to scale up climate financing for adaptation in the least developed countries and to address remaining challenges in the areas of governance, transparency and counter-corruption.

Sustainable Development

KEITH NURSE, Rapporteur of the Commission for Development Policy, introduced the report of the nineteenth session of the Committee for Development Policy (document E/2017/33), which examines several sustainable development issues relevant to the Council’s deliberations.  The Committee addressed several themes, including lessons learned from developing productive capabilities, issues relating to least developed countries, and total official support for sustainable development.  The Committee also reviewed the development progress of Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Vanuatu and Samoa, he said, underscoring the development opportunities and challenges faced by those nations.  He noted various recommendations and conclusions outlined in the report, relating mostly to least developed countries, their track to graduate from that status, and the challenges they faced. 

While benefits extended on a case-by-case basis were helpful for least developed countries, such ad-hoc policies would create difficulties and uncertainty to the graduating and graduated countries when they formulated medium and long-term transition strategy, he said.  Additional efforts were needed to reduce existing differences in the least developed countries category application and improve the overall application coherence.  He said the Committee was developing a web-based graduation toolkit, which would help countries map out and assess the type of specific support currently used and available.

The representative of Bangladesh said the report provided updates on many issues facing least developed countries and had clearly shown that more concrete and targeted support was required from the international community.  It showed that poverty was pervasive and that “business-as-usual” would keep most people in least developed countries poor.  “Our countries are still suffering from the world economic and financial crises of 2008,” she said.  Climate change, disease outbreaks and conflict had devastating impacts on least developed countries, she continued, expressing concern that official development assistance (ODA) had further decreased in recent years, as had the share of exports from least developed countries.  Technology and investment were key drivers of structural development in those countries, she said, calling on development partners to reverse declining ODA.

The Council then turned to draft resolution titled “Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2010” (document E/2017/L.25).

The representative of Ecuador, introducing that text on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that it contained some contemporary elements that were critical to the Group.  Among other things, it would have the Council express concern over the recent declines in ODA and foreign direct investment (FDI) and invite the Council President to convene a full session on those issues at its next financing for development follow-up meeting.  It would also have the Council call on donors to contribute to the full operationalization of the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries, he said.

The Council then postponed its consideration of that draft until its 25-26 July coordination and management meeting.

Science and Technology for Development

RUIJIN WANG (China), Chair of the twentieth session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, introduced a report on that session (document E/2017/31), describing the session’s contributions to the Council’s high-level segment and a round table on the theme “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions”.  At that event, he said, there had been universal agreement that science and technology for innovation played an integral role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Participants had highlighted the need to harness new and emerging technologies, as well as to support national innovation systems to deliver on the Goals.  In addition, they had welcomed the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) various reviews on the integration of science and technology for innovation in national policies.  Technology transfer on mutually-agreed terms and conditions had also been highlighted, as had the need to consolidate best practices, success stories and knowledge in order to support developing countries.

Participants had cited rapid growth in broadband access and reaffirmed their commitment to increase access to science and technology for innovation, especially the Internet, he continued.  They had noted with concern the widening of the digital divide, particularly for women, who were 31 per cent less likely to use the internet in least developed countries.  Participants had welcomed the new “e-trade for all” initiative and discussed the need for Governments to take into account the needs of poor and marginalized communities as well as grass-roots groups.  Noting with great concern that every ninth person around the world was undernourished, participants had discussed new and emerging technologies that could help reverse that trend, while States had shared their national experience with using science and technology for innovation to promote growth and development.

DONG WU, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/72/64-E/2017/12).  She focused on three main issues, namely key trends on access and use, recent trends in technology and services, and developments in internet governance.  Half of the world’s people used the internet in 2016, a significant increase from 2005.  Some 60 per cent of the global population subscribed to mobile services.  Such findings varied greatly by geography, however, she said, noting also a widening gender divide.  Other barriers included difficult geographical environments, lack of complementary infrastructure, and weakness in legal and regulatory frameworks.

Social media was becoming the main source of news for a growing number of people, she said.  Substantial investments in developing robotics and artificial intelligence and advances in those fields would likely transform trade and jobs.  That would pose an immense challenge to Government institutions.  Some countries were better equipped than others to benefit from e-commerce.  The report concluded that information and communications technology had become increasingly critical to economic development.  International cooperation was essential to tackling digital divides, she added. 

The representative of China welcomed the progress made in coming up with various ways to incorporate science and technology into national development agendas.  China would continue to host seminars on science and technology for developing countries, as well as welcome their young scientists.  Training programmes in the field were essential for development.  Innovation must play a crucial role in delivering on the 2030 Agenda, he said.

The Council then turned to the report of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development on its twentieth session (document E/2017/31).  Chapter 1, section A of that report contained two draft resolutions, titled: “Assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” and “Science, technology and innovation for development”.  The Council adopted both the texts without a vote.

Turning to chapter 1, section B of the same report, the Council adopted, without a vote, a draft decision titled “Report of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development on its twentieth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the twenty-first session of the Commission”.

International Cooperation in Tax Matters

The Council took action on the recommendation contained in the report of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax matters on its fourteenth session (document E/2017/45).  Turning to chapter IV of the report, the Council adopted a draft decision titled “Venue and dates of and provisional agenda for the fifteenth session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters”.  The Council also took note of the report of its fourteenth session.

Assistance to Third States Affected by the Application of Sanctions

The Council then took up that topic, for which there was no documentation or draft proposal.

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Securitising Africa’s borders is bad for migrants, democracy, and development

South Africa’s National Assembly recently passed a bill to set up a new border management agency. The Border Management Authority will fall under Home Affairs, a government department long distinguished by its lack of respect for immigrant and refugee rights. But there are other, deeper causes for concern.

Whereas previously, police and customs officers were under strict (if not always effective) civilian oversight, this new agency will be able to circumvent constitutional constraints. Broader changes to immigration and asylum policies are also in the works, such as a “risk-based” vetting system that could be used to justify barring most people from entering the country overland. Bolstering these efforts are plans to detain asylum seekers at processing centres dotted along the border. 

South Africa’s new border management strategy has equivalents across the continent that likely do little to prevent smuggling and human trafficking or to stop terrorism – the justifications often used for such securitisation. Instead, they help reinforce authoritarian leadership and undermine regional governance initiatives. In the longer term, they are likely to impact development.

Free movement – within countries or to neighbouring areas – is central to people finding work and surviving in these precarious times. Constraints on such movement, whatever the source, are fundamentally anti-poor and anti-freedom. They treat migrants as suspected criminals, rather than as people legitimately seeking protection or employment. Many of these policies are being implemented with aid from the European Union and strong domestic support. Countries like Eritrea already maintain a repressive “exit visa” system while Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Niger, and Sudan are all planning enhanced border management strategies, including bio-metric tracking and militarisation.

Containment era

Militarising the margins has become an integral plank in the continent’s new approach to “migration management”. Following the Valletta Summit in late 2015, the EU created a trust fund that is funnelling billions of euros of development aid through bilateral arrangements with African states, including those with appalling human rights records, such as Sudan and Eritrea. Legitimised by a language of sovereignty, greater border controls are part of an emerging containment era in which Africans’ movements – not only towards Europe but even across the continent – are becoming pathologised and criminalised. There are continental variations. Some countries and sub-regions are less committed to control than others, but so-called containment development is undeniably on the rise. In this new developmental mode, success is measured primarily by the ability to keep people at home. 

Critics of this approach focus heavily and justifiably on the migrants condemned to camps and detention centres, and the growing numbers who die before reaching their destination. Others note the extraordinary growth in a range of unsavoury professions: smuggling, kidnapping, and trafficking. Although often tinged with an alarmism driven by moral outrage or professional interest, these stories of exploited people and extinguished lives need to be told.

Yet focusing exclusively on the migrant victims of new containment technologies and practices, risks overlooking their implications for the continent’s governance and all Africans’ human rights. At the very least, the kind of bilateral arrangements various African countries are signing with the EU will scupper African Union plans to promote easier and safer movement within the continent. They will similarly curtail free movement policy proposals circulating within sub-regional economic communities.

While the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), already has a working protocol, it has been compromised by fears of terrorism and EU-funded programmes to deter migration through the region. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC), proposals modelled on the ECOWAS framework are now less likely to move forward. This domesticates politics in ways that weaken the regional governance mechanisms needed to address collective development concerns and negotiate more favourable global trade positions. In place of multilateralism, we are likely to get stronger militaries and more authoritarian leaders. Indeed, directing aid and weapons to existing leadership in the region will almost certainly erode democracy and heighten insecurity and instability.

Growth industry

What is perhaps most worrying is how emergent border management approaches are likely to extend and proliferate beyond borders. Efforts promoted by the EU, with complicity from many African leaders, effectively seek to limit movement and freedom across and within countries. Europe fears that any movement – typically towards cities – will beget further moves, some of which will be towards the European motherland.

The EU’s new migration-linked development aid emphasises the need to create local opportunities so people need never move. The results are likely to be increased investment in rural areas. While not in itself a bad thing, such spending will be distorted by the desire to fix people in place. African leaders may care little about migration towards Europe, but under these new agreements they risk losing aid money if they fail to control populations within their borders. And ongoing urbanisation can also present a political challenge to their power. Maintaining people in situ – not only within their countries but within “primordial” rural communities – helps maintain systems of ethnic patronage and prevents unruly urbanites from protesting at the presidential gates.

Securitised border management of the kind South Africa is mooting is a gateway to the kind of containment strategies the EU is promoting.  Within this new paradigm, millions will be detained in facilities across Africa or condemned to die along land and water borders. Smuggling, trafficking, and corruption will blossom in place of trade that could increase prosperity. Overseeing this will be politicians empowered by military aid windfalls and a global community without the moral authority to condemn their human rights abuses.

The vast majority of Africans who have no European fantasies will live in decreasingly democratic countries. The African Union and regional campaigns promoting development through accountable institutions and freer movement will also likely lead nowhere. The results – heightened inequality within and between countries, along with increased poverty and likelihood of conflict – will create precisely the pressures to migrate that Europe hopes to contain.

(TOP PHOTO: South African soldiers apprehend irregular migrants from Zimbabwe. Guy Oliver/IRIN)

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Special Committee on Decolonization Adopts 2 Information-Related Draft Resolutions as It Opens 2017 Substantive Session

Delegates Vote Down Effort to Hear Petitioners on Question of Western Sahara

Opening its 2017 substantive session today, the Special Committee on Decolonization approved two draft resolutions on the transmission of information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, and on the dissemination of information on decolonization.

The first draft, approved annually for adoption by the General Assembly, would have the 193-member organ reaffirm that administering Powers should continue to transmit information under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations.

By other terms, the Special Committee would have the Assembly request that the administering Powers transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other information on the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible.

The second text, on the dissemination of information on decolonization, would have the Assembly approve activities undertaken by the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, encouraging updates to and wide dissemination of an information leaflet on what the United Nations could do to help Non-Self-Governing Territories.  By other terms, the Assembly would request that the two Departments develop ways to disseminate material on the issue of self-determination, exploring collaboration with the decolonization focal points of territorial governments, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, while encouraging the involvement of non-governmental organizations.

In other business, delegations debated whether to hear petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, as representatives of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Timor-Leste, Syria, Chile, and Bolivia said that exercise must be reserved for the Fourth Committee (Special Decolonization Political).  The Special Committee then decided — by 7 votes in favour (Antigua and Barbuda, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Sierra Leone) to 8 against (Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Syria, Timor-Leste and Venezuela), with 5 abstentions (China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali and Russian Federation) — that it would not hear petitioners.  Eight delegations were absent.

Ethiopia’s representative asked why it was only now that the Special Committee wished to hear from Western Sahara petitioners.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative said that any party involved in the matter would help to paint an accurate view of the situation on the ground.  Grenada’s representative expressed a similar sentiment, emphasizing that hearing from all petitioners was in line with the rules and procedures.  Indonesia’s speaker reiterated the need to be fair to all petitioners.  Representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Jamaica and India said there was no legal bar to hearing them.

Morocco’s representative described the vote as evidence that the Special Committee was “extremely divided”, saying the result would have been “very different” had all delegations been present.  All petitioners had a right to express themselves, he said, emphasizing that prohibiting petitioners was strictly political and a contradiction that the Special Committee would not be able to explain to history.

Algeria’s representative said “never ever” had petitioners from Western Sahara spoken before the Special Committee, adding that they would have sufficient time to speak during the Fourth Committee.

In opening the meeting, Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) underlined the need for a substantive debate on the Special Committee’s relevance and effectiveness, expressing hope that the behaviour of States would conform to the norms and practices governing the Special Committee, the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole.  He expressed regret at the lack of respect shown towards the Special Committee on some occasions, as well as the raising of topics that were not relevant to its work or that related solely to the internal affairs of individual States.

The Special Committee also held discussions on the questions of Gibraltar, Tokelau and Western Sahara.

In other business, the Special Committee — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples — adopted its programme of work for the session.

At the outset of the meeting, delegates observed a minute of silence in memory of Miguel d’Escoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, and former President of the General Assembly, who passed away on 8 June.  They expressed condolences to his family and friends.

The Special Committee will resume its work on Monday, 19 June.

Opening Remarks

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), Chair of the Special Committee, said the absence of action towards fulfilling its mandate had led it to suffer an increasing lack of relevance.  One of the main reasons for that reality was the attitude of certain countries towards occupation and colonialization, he explained.  The lack of interest in moving forward towards ending colonialism had had resulted in an attitude of mistrust due, in part, to the unwillingness to cooperate demonstrated on several occasions by some administering and occupying Powers.  Underlining the need for a substantive debate on the Special Committee’s relevance and effectiveness, he expressed hope that the behaviour of States would conform to the norms and practices governing the Special Committee, the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole.  He expressed regret over the lack of respect shown towards the Special Committee on some occasions, as well as the practice of raising topics that were not relevant to the Special Committee’s work or related solely to the internal affairs of individual States.  Such practices were intended to sabotage the Special Committee’s work, he said.  In that context, members should refrain from resorting to the use of force or otherwise despicable tactics, he stressed.

Action

The Special Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/AC.109/2017/L.4).

The representative of Cuba noted that administering Powers were expected to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on the economic, social and educational conditions in Territories for which they were responsible.  The information was important for the Special Committee’s decision-making and for assessing the situation in each Territory.  It should be factual and up to date, he emphasized, while noting with concern that the Secretary-General’s report showed that several administering Powers had not sent the required information.

The representative of Venezuela stressed the vital importance of administering Powers providing such information.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then approved the draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2017/L.4).  By its terms, the Assembly would request administering Powers to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other technical information concerning economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible, in addition to the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments.  By other terms, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General continue to ensure that adequate information was drawn from all available published sources in the preparation of working papers on each Territory.

JANOS TISOVSZKY, Officer in Charge, Strategic Communications Division, Department of Public Information, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from April 2016 to March 2017 (document A/AC.109/2017/18).  He reported that the Department had disseminated 32 press releases covering numerous statements, hearings and meetings in English and French, adding that it had also deployed press officers to cover decolonization seminars held in Nicaragua and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  They worked in close collaboration with the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs during seminars and in efforts to continuously update and maintain the “UN and Decolonization” website in the Organization’s six official languages, he said, adding that the Department also highlighted decolonization activities through its “Global Issues” and other special webpages.  The Department’s various social media accounts also promoted decolonization-related issues and was able to drive traffic to the “UN and Decolonization” website, he said, adding that the Department also provided visitors to United Nations Headquarters with educational information on the topic.

The representative of Cuba welcomed the Department’s outreach efforts, and urged it to expand its activities so as to effect the greatest possible dissemination of decolonization information, using all available platforms.  There was also need to ensure the balanced treatment of all official United Nations languages in terms of the decolonization information made available.

RIE KODOTA, Officer in Charge, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, then provided an update on its contribution to efforts to disseminate decolonization information, in collaboration with the Department of Public Information.  The Department of Political Affairs had uploaded all available statements and discussion papers on the “UN and Decolonization” website, which was now available in all six languages.  The Decolonization Unit was also responsible for the yearly preparation of Secretariat working papers on each of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, she said, emphasizing that all working papers for 2017 had been issued in the first quarter and posted on the website.  There had been a significant increase in the number of page views observed in 2016, she noted, saying that was a testament to the growing popularity of the “UN and Decolonization” website.

The Chair (Venezuela) expressed some concern over the dissemination of information on the Special Committee’s work, saying that some of the material had not been updated.  It was also critical to ensure that information flowed in a timely manner, he added.

The Special Committee then approved a draft submitted by the Chair on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2017/L.5).  By its terms, the General Assembly would approve activities undertaken by the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, and encourage updates to and wide dissemination of the information leaflet on what the United Nations could do to assist Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Additionally, the Assembly would request that both Departments implement the Special Committee’s recommendations and develop ways to disseminate material on the issue of self-determination.  In that effort, they would explore collaboration with the decolonization focal points of the territorial Governments and encourage the involvement of non-governmental organizations, as well as Non-Self Governing Territories.

Taking up the draft “Question of sending visiting missions to Territories” (document A/AC.109/2017/L.6), the Chair noted with concern that the Special Committee had not been able to dispatch a visiting mission for the past two years.  It was important to comply with the mandate set forth by the General Assembly to carry out at least one mission a year, he emphasized.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said his delegation was surprised to see a proposed visit to the Sahara contained in the draft and expressed strong reservations about any such visit.  The Security Council was the organ dealing with the Sahara and such a visit would be in violation of the United Nations Charter, he said, reiterating that a political process was under way, in accordance with Security Council resolutions.

The representative of Grenada, associating herself with Côte d’Ivoire, said the paragraph proposing a visit to Western Sahara should be deleted, emphasizing that the Special Committee should visit all 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, including Gibraltar and the Malvinas.

The representative of Timor-Leste stressed the importance of planning which Territories to visit, adding that it was extremely important to visit Western Sahara.

The representative of Algeria underlined the importance of being careful with language in distinguishing between “Sahara” and “Western Sahara”.  The Special Committee had taken the decision to visit Western Sahara in 1991, he recalled, adding that all that remained was a matter of implementation.

The representative of Morocco said he was perplexed that the Sahara was the only Territory to which reference was being made, adding that the draft should include all requests for visiting missions made over the years.  Why was the Sahara singled out?  He also questioned why the Chair referred to General Assembly resolutions but ignored those of the Security Council.  The Council resolutions said there was a political process that should be allowed to play out, he noted.

The representative of France said New Caledonia could not be the only Territory visited and called for a timetable.

Also speaking were representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Venezuela and Indonesia.

Following that discussion, the Chair indicated that the Special Committee would resume its consideration of the draft resolution at a later date.

Question of Gibraltar

FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said the Chair’s comments on visiting missions “defy logic” and were totally unacceptable.  Recalling that the people of the United Kingdom, as well as those of Gibraltar, had voted to leave the European Union, he said that although Gibraltarians had voted by 96 per cent to remain within the bloc, they would nonetheless abide by the United Kingdom’s decision.  Briefly outlining Gibraltar’s history — including the cruel punishments inflicted on the Territory’s people as a result of their temerity in casting votes to remain British — he reiterated that the question of Gibraltar should have been closed 50 years ago following a referendum by which by more than 99 per cent of the Gibraltarian people had voted to remain British.  “Our right to self-determination is not vitiated by a non-existent doctrine that sovereignty disputes suspend application of inalienable rights,” he stressed.  “We will not roll over” and allow the Spanish to claim Gibraltar as a result of being worn down by years of failure on the part of the Special Committee.

The people of Gibraltar had again confirmed their choice to exercise self-determination in a 2002 referendum on joint sovereignty, he said, recalling that they had also rejected that proposal by 99 per cent.  “Our people wish to be delisted and decolonized,” he said, declaring:  “Brexit or no Brexit, if we held another referendum today on joint or full Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar, the results would be the same.”  The Gibraltarian people did not reject the notion of cooperation with their neighbour, and remained ready to return to the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue, from which only Spain remained absent, he noted.

FRANCISCA MARÍA PEDROS CARRETERO (Spain) said that she appeared before the Special Committee once again without a solution to an anachronistic colonial situation from which her country regrettably continued to suffer.  Recalling that Gibraltar had been taken from Spain by the United Kingdom, causing the Spanish-descended “real people of Gibraltar” to flee, she said the Treaty of Utrecht clearly delineated the seized territory, which had never included the surrounding waters nor the area surrounding “the Rock”.  Spain had repeatedly demonstrated that the question of Gibraltar was a matter of decolonization, she said, citing a number of General Assembly texts — including resolution 2231 (XXI) of 1966, which called on the parties to speed up the process of decolonizing Gibraltar — by which it called for a negotiated bilateral solution between the two countries.  Spain had invited the United Kingdom to the negotiating table year after year, she noted.  Calling attention to the co-sovereignty proposal Spain had presented to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) in October 2016, she said it envisioned both a local authority and a competent regional Spanish authority.  The Special Committee must not permit the delisting of Territories that remained under colonial rule, she emphasized.

RICHARD BUTTIGIEG, speaking for the Self-Determination Group of Gibraltar, said that Spain “says one thing here, but then acts very differently towards us in Gibraltar”.  Because the Special Committee continued to fail in its duty to visit, it had never been able to witness the unnecessary queues at the border or the frequent illegal incursions by Spanish naval assets into British Gibraltarian territorial waters.  Agreeing with Spain’s description of Gibraltar as “a colony within Europe”, he asked why that country continued to oppose the decolonization requests that his group had submitted.  “Spain’s position is not only hypocritical, but in fact downright malicious,” he said, adding that it wished to gain sovereignty over Gibraltar against the people’s democratically expressed wishes.  Underlining that the sharing or transfer of a nation’s sovereignty to third parties was not one of the decolonization methods stipulated by the United Nations, he said Spain’s recent proposal could in fact perpetuate Gibraltar’s colonial status.  He called upon the Special Committee to do more than merely pass a “stale resolution” every year which did not advance matters in any way.  It should inform Gibraltar what more it required if the decolonization criteria submitted so far remained unsatisfactory.  “We have been waiting for an answer for decades,” he said.

The representative of Venezuela encouraged the parties to continue discussions in order to reach a solution to the dispute over the question of Gibraltar by finding areas of common ground.

Question of Tokelau

ALEKI FAIPULE SIOPILI PEREZ, Titular Head of Tokelau, said the Territory had been practising self-governance for quite some time and had discovered that harmonizing the governance of three distinct villages was the biggest challenge.  The lack of key skills among the workforce, Tokelau’s distance from supply markets and transportation requirements made Tokelau’s situation even more challenging.  Building confidence in self-governance would be the best preparation for self-determination, as and when that decision was made, he emphasized, noting that the Tokelau Public Service Commission was now in place and able to provide support and encouragement to the incoming government, which was starting its new three-year cycle.

Noting that the United Nations had taken responsibility for managing global efforts to address the key issues relating to climate change and rising sea levels, he said that Tokelau, as a collection of three low-lying atolls, had already been impacted by climate change through significant coastal erosion and ocean acidification.  The realities of climate change were already visible in the Territory, although its current political status regrettably excluded Tokelau from direct access to financing from various climate-funding mechanisms.  He described Tokelau’s efforts — working with the Government of New Zealand — to improve the quality of education, while also highlighting the success of Tokelau’s first non-communicable disease summit.  Furthermore, a mobile network had been launched earlier this month, and fishing revenues had also increased markedly in recent years, thanks to assistance from the Government of New Zealand.

The representative of Iran noted that the population of Tokelau stood at 1,499 people, although more than 7,000 of the Territory’s people lived in New Zealand.  He noted that each atoll had its own administrative centre, which would make self-governance difficult.

The representative of Sierra Leone noted the close relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand, saying the most recent report made it evident that ties continued to grow stronger.

DAVID NICHOLSON (New Zealand), Administrator of Tokelau, said his country was committed to its constitutional relationship with that territory’s people, who faced a number of challenges as one of the world’s most geographically isolated places.  Noting that Tokelau possessed its own unique culture, language and conditions, he said successive independence referendums had not met the majority thresholds required, which had resulted in a long “pause” in the decolonization process.  New Zealand was focused on improving the quality of life on the atolls and was ready to move ahead in a very careful, deliberate and forward-looking fashion, in accordance with Tokelau’s political development, strengthened self-governance and enhanced national planning, he said.

On paper, he continued, the Administrator and New Zealand’s Foreign Minister had great responsibilities, although in practice, Tokelau’s leaders carried the majority of those duties and made the majority of decisions for their people.  New Zealand sought to ensure that Tokelau would have as much self-governance as was feasible, in line with its people’s preference.  New Zealand was working with Tokelau on rehabilitating reef passages and had helped to facilitate major upgrades that would allow the transfer of passengers from ship to shore, he said, noting that such transfer was currently extremely difficult since all three atolls were surrounded by fringe reefs.  New Zealand also supported Tokelau’s efforts to adapt to climate change and to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases while helping it to strengthen budget preparations in relation to those threats.

The representative of Venezuela expressed his delegation’s desire to continue working closely with the leaders of Tokelau in their efforts towards self-determination, adding that it was committed to ensuring that the decolonization process continued in that Territory.

Question of Western Sahara

The representative of Cuba noted that 54 years had elapsed since the Special Committee had declared Western Sahara a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  Citing a number of United Nations and African Union resolutions that, over those decades, urged the parties to ensure that the people of Western Sahara were able to exercise their right to self-determination, he said Assembly resolution 71/106 called on them to reach a just, lasting solution, to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to fulfil their commitments under international law.  To the contrary, virtually no progress had been made and the issue remained at a standstill, he said, reiterating his country’s support for the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, he outlined its help since 1976, including its dispatch of medical teams to refugee camps and scholarships that allowed young people to study in Cuba.

The representative of Venezuela, also voicing support for the right of Western Sahara’s people to self-determination, recalled that both the Security Council and the General Assembly had ratified more than 40 resolutions on that issue.  Concerned that the people were suffering because one side continued to ignore the Special Committee’s requests, he emphasized that the situation remained untenable, representing a threat to international peace and security.  Venezuela was also concerned about the humanitarian situation and the deterioration of human rights in Western Sahara, he said.  Urging concessions by Morocco in relation to the management of Western Sahara’s natural resources, he called upon all countries currently engaged in economic activities there to end them, in line with United Nations resolutions that repeatedly confirmed the need to protect and ensure the rights of indigenous peoples over their natural resources.

CLAUDE STANISLAS BOUAH-KAMON (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed concern about the stagnation in the decolonization process, saying it was due to the Territories themselves, as well as the difficult international context.  Regarding Western Sahara, he welcomed efforts to take the reality on the ground into account, as well as the Secretary-General’s effort to relaunch the negotiating process.  That could help breathe new life into the situation, he said.  He called upon all sides to demonstrate compromise and ensure that a fair, lasting and mutually agreed political solution could be found.  Côte d’Ivoire awaited the official appointment of a new Special Envoy, as well as the new “road map”, he said.

KEISHA A. MCGUIRE (Grenada) said Morocco’s proposed initiative represented a serious step towards ending the dispute, and took note of the Security Council’s strong encouragement for enhancing cooperation on the issue of Western Sahara, particularly the facilitation of further visits to the region.  Grenada supported fully the Council’s latest resolution, which called for the registration of refugees to guarantee the protection and promotion of human rights.

BIRUK MEKONNEN DEMISSIE (Ethiopia) said it was unfortunate that the Western Sahara situation had been lingering for so long and expressed hope that the appointment of a new Special Envoy would be instrumental in reinvigorating negotiations.  Ethiopia had always supported efforts for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of Western Sahara’s people, he said.

The representative of Dominica said the ultimate objective was a mutually agreed, good-faith political solution, as recommended by various Security Council resolutions.  Voicing support for the “serious and credible” autonomy plan presented by Morocco in 2007 — which would allow the Sahrawi people’s full enjoyment of the right to self-determination, and reinforce stability and security in the region — she also drew attention to Morocco’s new development model, launched in 2015 to improve the Sahrawi population’s living standards.  She welcomed the peaceful, transparent and democratic holding of two crucial elections in 2015 and 2016, as well as Morocco’s work in the area of human rights.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, associating herself with Grenada and Dominica, said the Special Committee should act on a case-by-case basis and base its solutions on compromise.  She also described Morocco’s autonomy proposal as innovative, serious, credible and consistent with international law.

The representative of Nicaragua expressed solidarity with the Sahrawi people and support for efforts for a just, lasting solution to ensure their ability to exercise the right to self-determination.  Expressing concern over the lack of progress on the question of Western Sahara — due to one side’s refusal to respond to the Special Committee’s appeals, as well as its efforts to prevent the holding of a referendum — he urged Member States to support the Secretary-General’s efforts to encourage negotiations, and called upon Morocco to end its occupation.

SAM TERENCE CONDOR (Saint Kitts and Nevis) associated himself with Dominica, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) expressed full support for the Frente Polisario as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara, and for the Secretary-General’s efforts to find a political solution, including through the appointment of a new Special Envoy.

AHMED BOUKHARI, Frente Polisario, described the crimes that Morocco had committed against his people as “unspeakable”.  History would judge that country fully one day and reveal the tragic nature of those crimes, which included use of prohibited weapons and mass killings.  The people of Western Sahara had been the victims of violence, rape, torture and other indignities that had resulted in death, he said, recalling that the  Committee on Human Rights had expressed its concern over the use of torture and other treatment of Western Sahara’s people.  Many observers and journalists attempting to visit occupied zones had been expelled, he noted.

The Sahrawi people had been victims of colonialist harm for more than 42 years and had faced armed aggression in the battlefield, he continued.  Where did the referendum stand today and who was obstructing it?  Morocco had agreed to the referendum, but had subsequently manipulated it to implicate the United Nations and the African Union, he said, emphasizing that to state that the United Nations had abandoned the self-determination referendum was simply false.  The Organization could arrange a new one in just a few months, and the obstacle preventing things from moving forward was the lack of political will.

He went on to describe the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) as a prisoner of the occupying Power, which forced it to “look aside” and not inform New York about the serious incidents taking place there.  Recalling Morocco’s recent expulsion of MINURSO staff and its having prevented then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from visiting the region, he said that country had initiated a military confrontation, in violation of the ceasefire agreement, and done everything in its power to delay the designation of a new Special Envoy.  The Sahrawi people had full confidence in the Special Committee’s work, he said, extending an invitation for a visiting mission.

The representative of Grenada emphasized that the previous speaker had delivered his statement as a representative of the Polisario Front, not of the people of Western Sahara.  While the Assembly had made that designation, it had never been an endorsement of the Polisario Front as the “sole representative” of the people of the Western Sahara, he said, adding that that designation had later been formally amended.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda associated herself with Grenada’s statement.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, also endorsing Grenada’s statement, voiced his clear opposition to the Polisario Front’s participation as representing the people of Western Sahara.

The representative of Sierra Leone warned that unless the Special Committee was viewed as being equitable, it risked eroding its own credibility.

The representative of El Salvador called for the early resumption of negotiations, underlining the importance of protecting colonial Territories against all attempts to break them up because such actions were incompatible with the principles of the United Nations.  Morocco’s return to the African Union “gives us hope” by providing the opportunity to engage in a negotiation process under the auspices of that regional body, he said.

ELTON KHOETAGE HOESEB (Namibia) pointed out that the people of Western Sahara continued to wait for the referendum, expressing concern over the continuing denial of their right to self-determination.

MATÍAS PAOLINO (Uruguay) defended the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and called for resumed negotiations.  Hopefully, the next Special Envoy would be able to begin work at once, and there would be greater cooperation between the parties.

LOIS YOUNG (Belize) emphasized that the Sahrawi people must be permitted to exercise their right to self-determination in a free and democratic manner.  Belize called upon the Special Committee to undertake an official visit to Western Sahara in the next three months, and recommended that the Fourth Committee adopt a resolution that would determine a date for the referendum.

DARLINGTON M. KADYAUTUMBE (Zimbabwe) noted that the people of Western Sahara remained under foreign occupation and were being denied the right to self-determination, while many of them were living in poverty or had been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

FRANÇOIS SOUMAH (Guinea) emphasized the importance of resuming negotiations in order to find a mutually acceptable political solution.

The representative of Gabon, noting that the Maghreb region continued to be undermined by terrorism, described the Moroccan autonomy proposal as “optimal” because it was both in line with international law and reflected the right to self-determination.

The representative of Morocco said only in the Special Committee could someone enter a United Nations meeting and take the floor without registering a formal request.  Indeed, the speaker for the Frente Polisario was not listed and appeared to be receiving special treatment, a violation of procedure.  In all the years that the Frente Polisario had been addressing the Fourth Committee, that body had received and reviewed documents containing formal requests, he said, noting that such a procedure had not been followed today.  Indeed, the Special Committee had lost its honour and become politicized since the present Chairman had taken up his post, he said.

The Chair interrupted the representative, calling on him to refrain from speaking in offensive terms.

The representative of Morocco went on to warn that “somebody is pushing for their own agenda” against the Special Committee’s wishes by violating the consensus.  The matter was not really about the Sahara but about the Special Committee’s credibility and the respect it deserved.  Outlining the history of Western Sahara’s colonization, he said that history confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt that “the Sahara is Moroccan” and should no longer be on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  After years of stalemate, the Security Council had called on all parties to move towards a negotiated political solution, and Morocco had, therefore, put forward a compromise-based autonomy plan, he said.  Recent United Nations resolutions enshrined the international support for that proposal, which reflected a constructive spirit.

In contrast to that expression of goodwill, he said, others continued their obstructionist positions, posturing in ways fundamentally opposed to the principles of the United Nations.  Indeed, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other high officials had declared that basing a solution on a referendum was not realistic or attainable, and since then, various entities and organs of the United Nations had welcomed Morocco’s autonomy proposal as “serious and credible”.  Citing evidence of fraud on the part of the Frente Polisario leadership, he drew a contrast to Morocco’s successful and peaceful conduct of local, regional and legislative elections in recent years.  He underlined that the General Assembly must not make any recommendations on a dispute currently under consideration by the Security Council unless the latter requested it to do so.

The representative of Senegal reiterated his appeal for a fresh look at the changing situation in Western Sahara in light of Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative.  That plan was a basis for the current political process, and was seen by the Security Council as both serious and credible.

The representative of South Africa emphasized the need to ensure that all actions and initiatives relating to Western Sahara were in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

The representative of Algeria said the international community must not abandon its commitment to the people still living under colonial rule in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The people of Western Sahara had been waiting 42 years for the United Nations to fulfil its responsibility, he said, noting that all relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council reaffirmed their right to self-determination.  Indeed, those resolutions recognized no ties whatsoever between the Territory and any other country, he pointed out, expressing regret that the paper recently produced on the question of Western Sahara did not accurately or fully reflect developments on the ground.  Citing various legal and diplomatic opinions supporting that view — including those of the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations Legal Counsel — he stressed that MINUSRO had been deployed to organize and supervise a referendum.

He went on to recall the Secretary-General’s 2015 statement to the effect that the definitive status of Western Sahara was subject to a negotiation process under the auspices of the United Nations — and that the 2007 proposal of the parties had not opened the way to such negotiations.  Encouraging Member States to read the relevant resolutions, he said the African Union, the General Assembly and the Security Council were the sole referees in the dispute, and all unilateral actions attempting to impose a fait accompli should be rejected.  The African Union had continuously committed itself to advancing the decolonization of Western Sahara as a priority issue, he said, recalling that the regional bloc’s recent Summit of Heads of State had unanimously voiced its support for the right of Territory’s people to self-determination while also calling on the General Assembly to set a referendum date.  “Algeria will never back down,” he vowed, emphasizing that there was no alternative to a free choice for the Sahrawi people, as determined by a free and fair referendum organized and supervised by the United Nations.

The representative of Morocco said the Frente Polisario speaker’s request to address the Special Committee had not been formally distributed because he had been attempting to take the floor as a representative of Western Sahara.  “You, Mr. Chair, hide that document”, he said, describing that as an attempt to allow the speaker to take the floor in that capacity.  That reflected a real problem in terms of the Special Committee’s rules, he added.

The representative of Algeria expressed concerns about Morocco’s statement, including the delegate’s use of the word “schizophrenia” and his reference to “Moroccan Sahara”.

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Conflict and drought deepen food insecurity in Africa, Middle East – UN agency

9 June 2017 &#150 Protracted fighting and unrest are swelling the ranks of displaced and hungry ins some parts of the world, even as large agricultural harvests in some regions are buoying global food supply conditions, according to a new report by the United Nations agriculture agency.

&#8220Civil conflict continues to be a main driver of food insecurity, having triggered famine conditions in South Sudan and put populations in Yemen and northern Nigeria at high risk of localized famine,&#8221 said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization on today's release its Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

FAO also notes that adverse weather conditions are exacerbating the threat of famine in Somalia. Refugees from civil strife in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Central African Republic are putting additional pressure on local food supplies in host communities.

It also points out that some 5.5 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in South Sudan, where maize and sorghum prices are now four times higher than in April 2016. In Somalia, about 3.2 million people need food and agricultural emergency assistance, while in Yemen the figure is as high as 17 million.

In northern Nigeria, disruption caused by conflict has left 7.1 million people facing acute food insecurity in the affected areas, with even more deemed to be in less dire but still &#8220stressed&#8221 conditions, according to the report.

According to FAO, 37 countries require external assistance for food, namely Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Southern Africa rebounds, East Africa is parched

While worldwide cereal output is near record levels, production outcomes are mixed across the globe.

According to the report, South America is expected to post strong increases, led by Brazil and Argentina.

Regional production in Southern Africa is expected to jump by almost 45 per cent compared to 2016 when crops were affected by El Niño, with record maize harvests forecast in South Africa and Zambia. This should help to reduce food insecurity in countries, such as Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

After two consecutive years of bumper crops, the report notes that the overall food supply situation in the Sahel region is satisfactory.

However, at the start of the 2017 season, East Africa has suffered insufficient rainfall, armyworm infestations and local conflicts, leaving in the sub-region a record 26.5 million people in need humanitarian assistance.

The report warns that the situation could be aggravated further as the lean season peaks, saying, &#8220An estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions.&#8221

Moreover, cereal domestic prices reached exceptionally high levels in May, with the local cost of maize jumping by as much as 65 per cent this year in parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The report also notes that a severe drought in Sri Lanka, followed by heavy rains and local flooding in late May, will likely reduce the country's paddy production by nearly a third, compared to the average.

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Food insecurity strains deepen amid civil conflict and drought

Photo: :©FAO/Chedly Kayouli

A homestead in Al Hudaydah, once an important food-producing part of Yemen and now at risk of famine.

8 June 2017, Rome--Large agricultural harvests in some regions of the world are buoying global food supply conditions, but protracted fighting and unrest are increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry elsewhere, according to the new edition of FAO's Crop Prospects and Food Situationreport.

Some 37 countries, 28 of which are in Africa, require external assistance for food, according to the report.

Civil conflict continues to be a main driver of severe food insecurity, having triggered famine conditions in South Sudan and put populations in Yemen and northern Nigeria at high risk of localized famine. Adverse weather conditions are exacerbating the threat of famine in Somalia. Refugees from civil strife in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Central African Republic are putting additional pressure on local food supplies in host communities, the report notes.

Some 5.5 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in South Sudan, where maize and sorghum prices are now four times higher than in April 2016. In Somalia, about 3.2 million people are in need of food and agricultural emergency assistance, while in Yemen the figure is as high as 17 million. In northern Nigeria, disruption caused by the conflict has left 7.1 million people facing acute food insecurity in the affected areas, with even more deemed to be in less dire but still "stressed" conditions.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Southern Africa rebounds, East Africa is parched

While worldwide cereal output is near record levels, production outcomes are mixed across the globe. South America is expected to post strong increases, led by Brazil and Argentina.

Regional production in Southern Africa is expected to jump by almost 45 percent compared to 2016 when crops were affected by El Niño, with record maize harvests forecast in South Africa and Zambia. This should help reducing food insecurity in several countries such as Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

The overall food supply situation in the Sahel region is also satisfactory after two consecutive years of bumper crops, the report notes.

East Africa, however, has suffered from insufficient rainfall at the start of the 2017 season, fall armyworm infestations and local conflicts. As a result, a record 26.5 million people in the sub-region are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and the situation could be aggravated further in the coming months as the lean season peaks. An estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions.

Moreover, cereal domestic prices reached exceptionally high levels in May, with the local cost of maize jumping by as much as 65 percent this year in parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the report noted.

A severe drought in Sri Lanka, followed by heavy rains and local flooding in late May, will likely reduce the country's paddy production by nearly a third compared to the average; a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission was fielded in March 2017 to assess the drought impact and the results are expected to be released next week.

Cereal output in the 54 Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) is set to rise by 1.3 percent this year to 480 million tonnes, due to a strong performance in India and the rebound in Southern African countries, according to FAO's forecasts.

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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Oceans

As you will hear more from the [Oceans] Conference Spokesman, Damian Cardona, the Conference has gone under way this morning with a traditional Fijian ceremony in the General Assembly.  In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that the relationship we have with the oceans is under threat like never before due to pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change, and stressed that countries must put aside short-term national gains, to prevent a long-term global catastrophe.  You will get more on the Conference from Damian; the Secretary-General’s remarks are up online.

**Middle East

I do have a statement to read out on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the 50 years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory.  Today marks 50 years since the start of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Syrians.  This occupation has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people.  Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow-up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children.

The occupation has shaped the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis. It has fueled recurring cycles of violence and retribution.  Its perpetuation is sending an unmistakable message to generations of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain that, just a dream; and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition remains unattainable.  Ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a negotiated two-State outcome is the only way to lay the foundations for enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty. It is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

Now is not the time to give up on this goal.  Continued settlement construction and expansion; violence and incitement; and the illicit arms build-up and militant activity in Gaza risk creating a one-State reality that is incompatible with realizing the legitimate national and historic aspirations of both peoples.  Now is the time to return to direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, agreements and international law.  Now is the time to end the conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian State, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel.

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remove a driver of violent extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and open the doors to cooperation, security, prosperity and human rights for all.  In 1947, on the basis of UN General Assembly resolution 181, the world recognized the two-State solution and called for the emergence of “independent Arab and Jewish States”.  On 14 May 1948, the State of Israel was born.  Almost seven decades later, the world still awaits the birth of an independent Palestinian State.  The Secretary-General reiterates his offer to work with all relevant stakeholders to support a genuine peace process.

**Babatunde Osotimehin

I have a statement from the Secretary-General on the death of Dr. Babatunde [Osotimehin], the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).  The Secretary-General said he was profoundly saddened by the sudden passing of his good colleague and friend.  He offered sincere condolences to his family, to the staff of UNFPA, to the Government and people of Nigeria, and to all those around the world touched by this loss.  In the statement, the Secretary-General said that the world has lost a great champion of health and well-being for all.

Dr. Babatunde was admired globally for his leadership of the UN Population Fund and for his forceful advocacy for the world's women and girls in particular.  Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are among the most important, and often most sensitive, on the international agenda; his calm yet ardent efforts helped families get the sexual and reproductive health services they need, and helped the world advance the landmark 1994 Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development.

Our colleagues at UNFPA also issued a statement, saying the death was a devastating loss for them.  UNFPA is dedicated to continuing his grand vision for women and young people and will continue to stand up for the human rights and dignity of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable adolescent girls.

**World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day.  The theme this year is “Connecting People to Nature” and highlights the vast benefits that clean environments provide to humanity including food security, improved health and climatic stability.  The theme also encourages people to simply get back outdoors.

**Press Briefings

After we are done here, we have the press conference at 12:30 p.m., as I told you about.  Then 1 p.m.:  the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson; Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo; the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji and the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden will speak to you at the General Assembly stakeout.

At 2:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing on the launch of the first Global Integrated Marine Assessment.  Speakers will include the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed and the President of the General Assembly.  I think that is happening here in this room.

At 3:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing on the Global Marine Protected Area Target with [Dr.] Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Her Excellency Karolina Skog, the Environment Minister of Sweden.  We have much more items, but we will put them in our highlights, on the web.  Yes, sir?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you Stéphane.  Last night, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, UAE [United Arab Emirates], as well as Libya, Yemen, Mauritius and Maldives cut all diplomatic relations with the state of Qatar; in addition, that they have requested all Qatari citizens on their territory to leave their territory within 14 days, locking airspace, water, land borders.  What is the Secretary‑General action with this?  Did he call… talk, namely to the Amir of Qatar and the King Salman of Saudi Arabia?  And what will be the situation… the humanitarian situation for this small country since they have…?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, we are aware of the situation.  We're watching it closely.  I have no contacts to report at this point between the Secretary‑General and local leaders.  And at this point, we're not going to comment any further on the situation, but we'll continue to watch.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Yeah.  I have a question on the development at the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and ask if Qatar had been historically accused of any incident or act of sponsoring terrorism in… on the UN record, had it been…?

Spokesman:  You know, as I told you earlier on other issues, the UN record is an open book.  There have been lots of debates on lots of issues, but that's not for me to speculate on the motivation behind what happened.

Question:  The second question about the statement on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war, I commend the Secretary‑General for his statement, but what is next?  I mean, how could he take an initiative to make this dream of Palestinian, which has not been attained so far, to make it attainable, to make it reality?

Spokesman:  I think, as the Secretary‑General said and his envoys have said on numerous occasions, it is really… the solution is for the parties themselves to return to direct negotiations, and we will continue to do whatever we can to encourage that.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  Some other things, but I wanted to ask you about what Espen Barth Eide says.  It sounds like he's working quite a lot in terms of a "when actually employed".   So, I wanted to know, how does it work?  For example, my understanding is that the Yemen envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has had a number of, like, month‑long vacations, may end up working fewer days than Mr. Espen Barth Eide.  How is it determined by the UN…?

Spokesman:  Look, listen…

Correspondent:  I'm ser… I'm being serious.

Spokesman:  No, I know you're being serious.  I don't…

Correspondent:  There's legal differences…

Spokesman:  I don't think either of us have the breakdown of staff; any staff, whether an envoy or somebody just starting out, is entitled to a certain amount of leave.  And it's their right to take it or not to take it.  So, that's point one.  Mr. Eide was hired on a "when-actually-employed" basis.  Obviously, I think, as we've seen, especially in these last months, there's been a deep intensification of the discussions.  And he's working the amount of days he's telling you he's working.

Question:  Right.  But, my question is, I'm asking because there… there are differences.  For example, "when actually employed" don't have to file conflict‑of‑interest forms.  It's not directed to him.  I'm saying, for the UN to decide… for example, Michel Kafando, will you… will you say how many days he's working?  And I'm saying again because public money shouldn't require coming here…

Spokesman:  It will be clear when Mr. Kafando will work, and the Secretary‑General expects all his envoys to live up to the highest ethical standards.

Question:  Do you have anything on Morocco and Rif?

Spokesman:  No, I do not.  Go ahead.

Question:  Hi, Simon Tate from Al Jazeera.  Is the Secretary‑General actually involved in active and diplomatic moves with the other GCC countries to try to resolve this?

Spokesman:  No, not that I'm aware of.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you.  Last week, I asked Farhan [Haq] about the number of people or the population which is living in Tindouf that was following a statement by… by him on the situation in these camps in Algeria.  And he said… he referred me to the WFP [World Food Programme] website, but I went there, and the numbers actually don't add up.  They're mentioning 90,000 rations, and they're asking for an urgent need of 7.9… $7.1 million.  So, my question is, how do the WFP know how many people they are feeding in these camps, while… while there was no census of the people living there?

Spokesman:  Well, WFP… Well, I think there's a difference between official census.  That's one thing.  And, obviously, WFP is on the ground, and they know… they're aware of the number of people they need to feed.  And as… I think, as the Secretary‑General made clear in the statement, the rations and the resources available to the people… to WFP in order to feed people, to give them the basic food that people need and are entitled to is running very low.

Question:  Yeah, but on what basis did they come up with the number $7.9 million?

Spokesman:  You can follow up directly with them.  They're obviously on the ground aware of the number of people they need to feed.  Evelyn?

Question:  I was watching the Ocean Conference this morning and watching President [Robert] Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  And I'm wondering if you can check why UNTV made a decision not to show him leaving the podium, because that's common, and we know his health is a question.  And did he… could you check? Could he ask for it?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware but we'll check if…

Correspondent:  Whether that was self‑censorship or his request.

Spokesman:  Yes.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  Yesterday, a young girl called Nawal Erekat from the village of Abu Dis, Eastern Jerusalem, she had a mild heart attack.  Emergency vehicle came and took her to the hospital three miles away.  She was stopped at the checkpoint for 90 minutes, and the driver was begging the Israeli checkpoint to let the vehicle pass.  Yet, he did… he refused, and she died at the checkpoint.  Would you kindly convey this to the… or if [Nickolay] Mladenov knows about this incident…?

Spokesman:  I'll check with them.  Okay.  Yes, one more.

Question:  Back to the situation in Tindouf, so, given, that the lack of census in these… in this region is one of the main factors why there has been embezzlement of humanitarian aid for the last four… four decades, and that was documented by WFP, OLAF and by UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee ].  So, can you update us… update us on the SG's efforts to satisfy this request by the Security… Security Council to register the people of Tindouf?

Spokesman:  I think the… these issues are issues that need to be dealt with in the long term.  The point of the Secretary‑General's message was a humanitarian one that people who need to be fed should be fed.  Thank you.

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General Assembly Elects Slovakia Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák President of Seventy-Second Session, while Selecting Bureaux for Main Committees

The General Assembly today elected Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia’s Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, as President of its seventy-second session, while also selecting members to the Bureaux of its six Main Committees.

In accordance with tradition, the Assembly President’s election follows the system of geographical rotation whereby regional groups — the Eastern European States in the present case — putting a consensus candidate forward every year.

Following the election, the new President outlined six priorities, emphasizing first his intention to focus on people.  “I do believe we can do more to bring the UN closer to the world’s citizens” and make a real difference in their lives, he said.  The Sustainable Development Goals and climate action would also be important priorities, he said, adding that human rights would guide his work as an overarching principle.

He went on to highlight the importance of prevention and mediation in sustaining peace, and of calling attention to the issue of migration.  Emphasizing the importance of quality, he pledged not to launch any initiative that would result in additional burdens, particularly for smaller States, saying he would rather create a streamlined agenda, organized in clusters.

Indeed, creating a stronger United Nations, able to meet the multitude of expectations placed upon it was a common goal, he continued, adding that, to that end, he would facilitate a constructive, informed and open interaction among Member States and with the Secretary-General.  He called for greater trust between the United Nations and its members, stressing that he would do his utmost to support progress on the United Nations reform agenda.  He underlined the vital need to bolster the General Assembly’s role and improve its efficiency, and to transform the Security Council into a twenty-first-century entity.

Extending his congratulations, outgoing President Peter Thomson (Fiji) emphasized the Assembly’s critical role in setting the stage for peace and sustainable development amid massive global challenges — constant conflict, the largest refugee and humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, the spread of terrorism and the destructive effects of climate change.  He expressed confidence that, under Mr. Lajčák’s leadership, the United Nations would be strongly positioned to advance efforts to sustain peace, promote human rights and “stay the course” in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Secretary-General António Guterres also congratulated the new President, commending his “impressive” command of the Organization’s work and strong commitment to its principles.  Mr. Lajčák had expressed his firm belief that “strengthening the UN is the best investment to achieve the universal desire for peace, development, equality and justice in the world”, he recalled.

Also congratulating the President-elect on behalf of regional groups were representatives of the following Member States:  Cameroon (African States), Marshall Islands (Asia-Pacific States), Poland (Eastern European States), Haiti (Latin American and Caribbean States), Austria (Western European and Other States) and the United States (Host Country).

Acting in accordance with tradition, the Secretary-General then drew lots to determine which delegation would occupy the first seat in the General Assembly Hall during the seventy-second session.  The Czech Republic’s delegation was picked for the first seat, to be followed in English alphabetical order by all the other countries, including in the Main Committees.

The Assembly also elected the following 21 Vice-Presidents of its plenary:  Afghanistan, Bolivia, Chile, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Israel, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.  Also serving as Vice-Presidents were the five permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States.

Prior to that action, the outgoing President expressed regret that out of 16 regional nominations, only two representatives had been female.  He encouraged Member States to consider what steps they could take to advance gender parity.

A number of delegates then expressed reservations about Israel’s election as an Assembly Vice-President, with Iran’s delegate representative emphasizing that Israel was “in no way qualified”, having occupied Palestinian lands and committed flagrant violations of international law for decades.  “Israel is no friend to the United Nations,” he stressed, disassociating his delegation from Israel’s election.

Qatar’s representative pointed out that the role of Vice-President demanded respect for United Nations decisions, whereas Israel saw itself as superior to its resolutions and violated them regularly.

Syria’s representative described Israel’s election as part of a “clear policy” by the Group of Western European and Other States, as well as the Assembly’s Fourth (Special Political and Decolonization), Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) and Sixth (Legal) Committees.  Underlining that Israel was an occupying Power, he said its candidacy in elections for any United Nations entity was at odds with the Organization’s Charter.

The Assembly then held consecutive meetings of its six Main Committees to elect members of their respective bureaux.  It elected five Chairs by acclamation, while electing the Chair of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) by secret ballot.

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) elected Mouayed Saleh (Iraq) as Chair; Terje Taadik (Estonia), Alfredo Toro Carnevalli (Venezuela) and Georg Sparber (Liechtenstein) as Vice-Chairs; and Martin Ngundze (South Africa) as Rapporteur.

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) opened its meeting, Haiti’s representative announced the unanimous decision by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) to nominate Rafael Darió Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) as Chair, while emphasizing that no aspect of his country’s current political situation would prevent him from fulfilling his duty in that position.

However, the representative of the United States called for a secret ballot, expressing concern about the state of democracy in Venezuela and the ability of a representative of the Government of President Nicolás Maduro to serve as Chair of the Fourth Committee in a fair and apolitical manner.  To date, nearly 60 Venezuelans had died and hundreds had been injured or arrested in political protests, while thousands had fled to neighbouring countries, she said.  Noting that the Government was attempting to rewrite the Constitution and curbing political freedoms, she said the United States could not support the candidacy of Mr. Ramírez until democratic order was restored in Venezuela.

The Fourth Committee then elected Mr. Ramírez as its Chair after he received 133 votes, surpassing the required majority.

Mr. Ramírez (Venezuela) rejected the attempt by the United States delegation to alter the “posture and position” of the Latin American and Caribbean region as an attack on the multilateral system, aimed at imposing its own will.  “Today, we have taught [the United States] an extraordinary lesson in sovereignty,” he said, vowing to advance the Fourth Committee’s efforts to eradicate colonialism, including the dominion of the United States over Puerto Rico, among other territories.

Acting by acclamation, the Fourth Committee then elected Ahmed al-Mahmoud (United Arab Emirates) and Ceren Hande Őzgür (Turkey) as Vice-Chairs, and Angel Angelov (Bulgaria) as Rapporteur.

In a second secret ballot vote, the Committee elected Yasser Halfouni (Morocco) as the Vice-Chair by 88 votes to 58 for Zaina Benhabouche (Algeria).

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) elected Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) as Chair; Malelaos Menelaou (Cyprus), Kimberly Louis (Saint Lucia) and Valérie Bruell-Melchior (Monaco) as Vice-Chairs; and Chipulu Luswili Chanda (Zambia) as Rapporteur.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) elected Einar Gunnarsson (Iceland) as Chair; Nebil Idris (Eritrea), Alanoud Qassim M.A. al‑Temimi (Qatar) and Dóra Kaszás (Hungary) as Vice-Chairs; and Mariá José del Águila (Guatemala) as Rapporteur.

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) elected Tommo Monthé (Cameroon) as Chair; Abbas Yazdani (Iran), Anda Grinberga (Latvia) and Julie O’Brien (Ireland) as Vice-Chairs; and Felipe Garcia Landa (Mexico) as Rapporteur.

The Sixth Committee (Legal) elected Burhan Gafoor (Singapore) as Chair, as well as Duncan Laki Muhumuza (Uganda), Angel Horna (Peru), Carrie McDougall (Australia) and Peter Nagy (Slovakia) as Vice-Chairs, with Mr. Nagy also elected Rapporteur.

At the outset, Mr. Thomson (Fiji) expressed his deepest sympathies following the terrorist attack earlier today in Kabul, Afghanistan, which claimed many lives, also extending condolences to all family members of the victims of recent terrorist attacks around the world.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 1 June, to discuss implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declarations on HIV/AIDS.

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