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Amid Divisions over Jerusalem, Korean Nuclear Programme, General Assembly Hears Defence of Diplomacy, Dialogue to End Crisis, Put World on Sustainable Path

Secretary-General, Other Leaders Raise Alarm about Climate Change, Terrorism, Warning Safety of Millions Dependent on Robust Action, Funding

Convening for its seventy-second session amid a multilateral system overwhelmed by crises, the General Assembly heard world leaders defend diplomacy and dialogue while expressing a strong will to galvanize support to confront climate threats, resolve languishing conflicts and build a sturdy path towards sustainable development for all.

Along with a series of high-level events on some of those pressing matters, the Assembly convened in December a rare emergency meeting on the status of Jerusalem, during which it decided to ask nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem, as delegates had warned that the recent decision by the United States to do so risked igniting a religious war across the already turbulent Middle East and even beyond.

The Assembly declared “null and void” any actions intended to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition, by the terms of the draft resolution “Status of Jerusalem”, adopted by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 9 against (Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo, United States), with 35 abstentions.  The Assembly also demanded that they comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions and work to reverse the “negative trends” imperilling a two‑State resolution of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.

Addressing the general debate for the first time since taking office, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that conflict was spreading, inequality growing and the climate changing while people around the world were hurting and angry.  “We are a world in pieces,” he said.  “Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.”

Furthermore, global anxieties about nuclear weapons were at their highest in decades, he went on to say.  Condemning missile tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he urged that country to comply with Security Council resolutions and stressed “we must not sleepwalk our way into war.”

Raising a range of critical concerns, he said more must be done to address the threat of terrorism by examining the roots of radicalization, including high levels of youth unemployment.  Political solutions were needed in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and beyond.  On climate change dangers, he said “science is unassailable” and it was time to act.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development served as a blueprint to solve challenges, including inequality in a world where eight men still held the same wealth as half of humanity.

Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) said that in recent years, some 65 million people had been forced to flee their homes.  In conflict, civilians rather than armed soldiers paid the heaviest price.  And still, too much time and money was being spent reacting to conflicts and not enough on prevention.

The United Nations was not made for diplomats or dignitaries — it was made for people, he said.  Indeed, the Organization would be tested by how it addressed the plight of millions.  “We cannot turn this into an exercise of bureaucracy,” he said, adding that the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change could not be met without adequate financing.  “We cannot sit and wait patiently for trillions of dollars to materialize.”

During six days of debate during which world leaders criticized both the United Nations and one another, some expressed concern over allegations levied against their countries.  Many called for United Nations reform, stressed that climate change must be attributed to nations emitting dangerous levels of pollution and urged rich countries to help build a fairer world order.  Meanwhile, in his first speech to the Assembly, the President of the United States struck a notably different tone compared to recent years.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States warned that if forced to defend itself or its allies against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, his country would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”.  He condemned that country’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, saying that those weapons now threatened the entire world.  President Trump also said it was “far past time” to address the threat posed by Iran, which continued to fund terrorism, support the Syrian regime and finance Yemen’s civil war.  “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities,” Mr. Trump said, characterizing the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme as “an embarrassment”.  The United States would no longer enter deals from which it received nothing, he explained, pledging to always “put America first”.

Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that his country had a right to defend itself as outlined in the United Nations Charter.  “The possession of nuclear deterrence by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a righteous self-defensive measure” intended to establish a balance of power with the United States, he explained, emphasizing that the United States would now “think twice” before launching a military provocation.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said it would be a pity if the Joint Plan of Action was destroyed by “rogue newcomers to the world of politics”.  Iran would not be the first to violate the pact, he declared, adding that his country would nevertheless “respond decisively and resolutely to its violation”.  By violating the agreement, the new United States Administration would only destroy its credibility and undermine international confidence.

Against that backdrop, some Heads of State defended diplomacy and multilateralism, with Foreign Minister Margot Wallström of Sweden saying the world was facing a critical and opportune time to come together.  Unless countries grasped that chance, they would “face the consequences”.  It was simple.  “Going it alone” was not an option.  “This is the moment for multilateralism, not unilateralism”.  President Emmanuel Macron of France, while respectfully noting the decision of the United States to pull out from the Paris Agreement, emphasized that the accord was “not up for renegotiation”.  Taking it apart would demolish the existing pact between States — and between generations, he added.

In similar vein, several Caribbean delegations described the death and destruction wrought by the 2017 hurricane season.  Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda said that half of his two-island nation had been completely “decimated” by Hurricane Irma.  Two category 5 hurricanes hitting the Caribbean in just 12 days could no longer be dismissed as “vagaries of the weather”, he said.  Echoing that sentiment, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Straker of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that any attempt to disavow the Paris Agreement was an “act of hostility” and an insult to the intelligence of the peoples of island States.

President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia stressed that inequality — whether spurred by the destruction of the environment, greed, inequality — was immoral.  President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria added that many of the globe’s woes stemmed from widening inequalities between rich and poor countries that were also “underlining root causes of competition for resources, and anger leading to spiralling instability”.  Urging wealthy countries to carry their share of the burden, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey called on the European Union to make good on its pledge to help his country feed, shelter and care for three million Syria refugees.

On the question of Palestine, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt stressed that “it is time to permanently overcome the barrier of hatred”.  While peace would eliminate one of the main pretexts used by terrorists in the Middle East, responsibility must be shared widely.  “We in the Muslim world need to face our reality and work together to rectify misconstrued notions which have become an ideological pretext for terrorism,” he said.

The General Assembly also held several high-level events during that week.  On 26 September and amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, ministers and representatives of 46 Member States, delegations, United Nations system and civil society took the floor to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.  Many called for firm political will to advance towards the total elimination of all nuclear weapons.  “The only world that is safe from the use of nuclear weapons is a world that is completely free of nuclear weapons,” said Secretary‑General Guterres.

On 27 September, the Assembly endorsed the “political declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons”.  Member States agreed to address factors that increased people’s vulnerability to trafficking, including poverty, unemployment, conflict and gender discrimination.  “It is so important to hear the voice of survivors,” emphasized Grizelda Grootboom, a civil society representative from South Africa, as she described her emotional personal experience working in brothels and as a drug trafficker for her pimps.  Secretary-General Guterres said tens of millions of people around the world were victims and that countless businesses in both the global North and South benefited from that misery.

As the main part of the session got under way, speakers continued to call for unity even as rifts between nations widened on several critical issues.  Debate emerged during the Assembly’s second plenary meeting, with countries divided on whether to include a new agenda item on the concept of the “responsibility to protect”.  Concerns about selectivity and double standards emerged as the Assembly considered the report of the Human Rights Council, Security Council reform and its own revitalization.  While delegates welcomed historic indictments by the International Criminal Court and other judicial bodies, the latter part of the session was dominated by the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and by expanding political and humanitarian crises in the region.

Intense debate in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) spanned a range of pressing issues, from divergent views over the newly adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to alarmed calls for action to address the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s testing activities.  That crisis should serve as a “wake-up call” for Member States, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, said, with delegates agreeing that it illustrated the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and its verification regime.  Overcoming the languishing impasse in the disarmament machinery was also discussed, with representatives stressing that political will was the key to advancing gains.  Towards that end, the Committee approved 58 draft resolutions and decisions on a broad range of concerns, from addressing chemical weapon threats to reigning in the illicit arms trade, including new texts on the role of science and technology in disarmament efforts and on further practical measures to prevent an arms race in outer space.

Underscoring sluggishness in global economic growth, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) focused on bolstering efforts to implement the ambitious 2030 Agenda.  With development hampered by weak investment, low productivity, economic uncertainty and climate change, delegates noted that the international community had fallen behind in eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition.  In tackling slow growth, they highlighted the need to reverse a decline in development financing, especially for least developed countries, tackle unsustainable debt, open up trade and reform the international financial system.  Speakers also stressed the importance of South-South cooperation and innovative financing with outside partners, including the private sector.  Pointing to the devastating effects of climate patterns, they urged financial institutions to make recovery financing accessible for middle-income countries.  Addressing those and other vital concerns in meeting development goals, the Committee sent 41 resolutions to the General Assembly for adoption.

Unilateralism found many expressions in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), with States unafraid to stand alone throughout the substantive segment as they discussed social development, crime and drugs, women’s advancement, and the rights of children and indigenous peoples in the broader promotion of fundamental freedoms.  Over eight weeks, the Committee produced 59 resolutions, most by consensus but several only after contentious votes on amendments to them, illustrating a general theme:  while delegates might agree on larger, abstract goals, they were divided on the best path to achieve them.

Dozens of petitioners addressed the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), which held 28 formal meetings to consider topics including decolonization, Middle East questions, peacekeeping operations, special political missions, atomic radiation and questions relating to information.  The Committee also held numerous interactive dialogues as well as a joint meeting with the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on outer space activities.  The session culminated in the approval of 38 draft resolutions and two draft decisions for adoption by the General Assembly.

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) approved 15 resolutions and 2 decisions for adoption by the Assembly, including a $5.397 billion programme budget for 2018-2019 — 5 per cent less than the final budget approved for the 2016-2017 biennium and $193 million below the $5.405 billion proposed 2018-2019 budget unveiled by the Secretary-General.  In doing so, the Committee reached consensus on across-the-board reductions in such areas as contractual services, furniture and equipment, consultants and travel, as well as reduced funding for special political missions.  Examining the Secretary-General’s management reform package, it agreed that the Organization should adopt a yearly budget cycle from 2020 with a view to simplifying and streamlining its work.  The Committee also approved draft resolutions for funding the newly-established Office of Counter-Terrorism and the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate, plus texts on human resources, flexible workplace strategies at Headquarters, the Umoja enterprise resource management project and the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, among other topics.

While fiery discussions on the rule of law and the International Law Commission’s use of a recorded vote during its consideration of immunity tested the Sixth Committee’s (Legal) tradition of consensus, delegates also reaffirmed their commitment to international law education, tackled a wide-range of topics as diverse as international trade and protection of atmosphere, and analysed the best approach to support the fight against impunity.  Those vigorous debates resulted in the Committee recommending 17 resolutions and 6 decisions to the General Assembly, all of which were adopted without a vote.

Plenary

The General Assembly opened its seventy‑second session — the first to begin under Secretary-General António Guterres’ tenure — on 12 September.  In opening remarks that day, Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) said the session would see several historic events, including the negotiation of a new intergovernmental compact on migration and the signing of the recently‑negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Member States would also work to maintain momentum for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with support from the United Nations system.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts, some of which would be reflected in the Assembly’s own revitalization process, he declared: “We must follow our commitments from yesterday with actions now”, adding that the Assembly should contribute to maintaining a “fresh outlook” at the United Nations.

Despite those calls for unity of purpose, however, polarization on several key issues emerged on 15 September, during an organizational meeting convened to adopt the Assembly’s work programme and provisional agenda.  Debate erupted over a proposed new agenda item — namely, the concept of the “responsibility to protect”, which would obligate States to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and could allow for United Nations action in situations where that obligation was not met.  Favoured by some States, the item also drew strong condemnation, as delegates including those of Syria, Cuba and the Russian Federation warned that it could be easily manipulated to further countries’ own political goals.  Other speakers, however, described the responsibility to protect as the “cornerstone” of the Secretary‑General’s new conflict prevention agenda.  The Assembly ultimately voted to include the item on its agenda, with States voting by 113 in favour to 21 against, with 17 abstentions, to do so.

Calls for enhanced multilateralism dominated the Assembly’s annual high‑level debate, held from 19 to 25 September.  On its closing day, however, President Lajčák acknowledged that not all remarks had been positive, with many officials having criticized both other States and the United Nations itself.  Delegates also rebutted allegations, levied by others during the debate, that their Governments had violated human rights or sponsored terrorism.  Myanmar’s delegate, recalling that some had accused his country of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, warned that such a term “must not be used lightly”.  Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, joined others in condemning United States President Donald Trump’s threats of war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, echoing former President Hugo Chávez’s famous 2006 declaration that the “stink of sulphur” had returned to the Assembly with President Trump’s arrival.

Among several historic bright spots over the course of the session was the Assembly’s consideration of the final report of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, established in 1993 to prosecute serious crimes committed during the Balkan wars.  Briefing the Assembly for the last time as the Tribunal prepared to close its doors on 31 December, President Carmel Agius recalled that it had brought to justice 161 individuals over its 24 years of work.  Many delegates hailed the Court as having “blazed a trail of remarkable firsts” while also making significant contributions to international jurisprudence.  The Tribunal’s two remaining cases, involving the accused war criminals Ratko Mladić, Jadranko Prlić and five of the latter’s associates — including Slobodan Praljak, who would later commit suicide by poisoning — were slated to be finalized before the end of 2017.

The Assembly also considered the reports of the International Court of Justice (28 October) and the International Criminal Court (30 October), with the latter’s President, Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, declaring: “The Court is not perfect, but […] it is delivering”.  Since 2016, convictions or sentences had been issued against six persons, including Jean Pierre Bemba, former Vice‑President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Court had also delivered its first verdict regarding the destruction of cultural property, convicting a former Al‑Qaida affiliate group member of directing attacks against religious and historic sites in Mali.  In the subsequent debate, many speakers welcomed reversals by the Gambia and South Africa of earlier decisions to withdraw from the Court’s Rome Statute, while calling on Burundi to do the same.

In three separate meetings, the Assembly — convening concurrently with, but separate from, the Security Council — struggled to fill five seats on the International Court of Justice.  On 9 November, four of the five judges — Ronny Abraham (France), Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia), Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade (Brazil) and Nawaf Salam (Lebanon) — were elected, having received the required absolute majority of votes in both the Assembly and the Council.  However, in several rounds of voting on 9 and 13 November, the two bodies failed to reach an agreement on the final vacancy.  The deadlock between the two remaining candidates — Dalveer Bhandari of India and Christopher Greenwood of the United Kingdom — was broken on 20 November following the withdrawal of Mr. Greenwood’s candidature.  Mr. Bhandari, along with the four other elected members, would begin a nine‑year‑term on the Court on 6 February 2018.

On 1 November, longstanding political divisions took centre stage as the Assembly considered its annual resolution calling on the United States to lift its decades‑old economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.  Historically adopted by a vote, the text — by whose terms the Assembly reaffirmed the sovereign equality of States and the importance of free trade between them — was once again favoured by most States, with only the United States and Israel voting against it.  That vote marked a departure from 2016, when the United States had chosen to abstain for the first time amid improved diplomatic relations between Cuban President Raúl Castro and then‑United States President Barack Obama.  “The American people […] have chosen a new President”, the representative of the United States said this year, referring to the reversal.  In response, Cuba’s Foreign Minister said President Donald Trump lacked any authority to question Cuba, and described the blockade as brutal, illegal and obsolete. 

Concerns about selectivity continued to emerge over the next few weeks as the Assembly considered the work of the Human Rights Council (2 November), reform of the Security Council (7‑8 November) and revitalization of the Assembly itself (13‑14 November).  Following a briefing by Human Rights Council President Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli (El Salvador), the representative of the European Union said the Geneva‑based body had addressed violations around the globe and given a voice to the most vulnerable.  However, some delegates — including those of Syria, Iran and Israel — raised alarms over double standards in the Council’s work.  Meanwhile, on 7 November, the Assembly heard expressions of frustration that a lack of political will on the part of an “elite few” continued to stymie efforts to transform the Security Council into a more modern, fair and representative body.  As the Assembly turned to its own revitalization, representatives stressed that the organ must remain a forum for constructive dialogue and urged nations to resist drawing “red lines” or clinging to “static positions” in negotiations.

Member States considered issues related to nuclear energy on 10 November, as the Assembly considered the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s annual report.  Echoing statements delivered at the Assembly’s 26 September high‑level summit on nuclear disarmament, many speakers said the peaceful use of nuclear energy could help achieve important development and environmental goals.  Many expressed concerns over recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, calling on Pyongyang to immediately abandon such activities.  Representatives also cited the IAEA’s certification that Iran was complying with its obligations under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  That country’s delegate stressed that the agreement — also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal” — could neither be renegotiated nor unilaterally annulled at the behest of one of its signatories.

Taking up the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East on 29 and 30 November, the Assembly adopted six related resolutions, all by recorded votes.  Among those was a text titled “Jerusalem”, by whose terms the Assembly stated that any actions by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the Holy City were illegal and therefore “null and void”.  Convening on the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations resolution that had partitioned Palestine with the aim of creating two separate States, the Assembly heard expressions of concern that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land continued to thwart that goal.  “The people of Palestine will not disappear, nor will they surrender to a dismal fate,” said the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, emphasizing that Israel’s illegal settlement expansion, human rights abuses and refusal to heed the international community’s calls were seriously jeopardizing the pursuit of peace.

Meeting on 6 December — the same day President Donald Trump announced the United States’ intention to become the first country to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — the Assembly adopted a resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by a recorded vote.  By its terms, the Assembly welcomed the OIC’s work in combatting violent extremism and terrorism.  Syria’s representative, however, said the OIC’s host nation, Saudi Arabia, was in fact the chief sponsor of most terrorism around the globe.  Citing the United States decision on Jerusalem as a “historical turning point”, he also asked: “What is the OIC doing today on behalf of Jerusalem?”, adding that Saudi Arabia had pushed OIC members to accept a communiqué welcoming the United States aggression against Syria.

On 1 December, States diverged in their interpretations of a new resolution titled “Effects of terrorist acts directed against religious sites on the culture of peace”.  By the terms of the text — which was drafted in the wake of a 24 November terrorist attack against a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and adopted without a vote — the Assembly condemned terrorism directed against religious sites as well as any “advocacy of religious hatred” that constituted an incitement to violence.  While many speakers welcomed the resolution’s strong message, some raised concerns over its “fast‑tracked” drafting, which had lacked any significant negotiation.  Meanwhile, others expressed alarm over its use of “unbalanced” language and its omission of references to human rights.

During a rare emergency meeting 21 December, the Assembly decided to ask nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem, as delegates warned that the recent decision by the United States to do so risked igniting a religious war across the already turbulent Middle East and even beyond.  By a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 9 against (Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo, United States), with 35 abstentions, the Assembly adopted the resolution “Status of Jerusalem”, by which it declared “null and void” any actions intended to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition.

Calling on all States to refrain from establishing embassies in the Holy City, the Assembly also demanded that they comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions and work to reverse the “negative trends” imperilling a two‑State solution to the conflict between Israel and the State of Palestine, both of which call Jerusalem/Al‑Quds Al‑Sharif their capital.

“America will put its embassy in Jerusalem,” said Nikki R. Haley (United States).  In addition, her country’s citizens would remember the countries that had voted on the draft resolution and had disrespected the United States.

Riad Al‑Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, said the United States’ decision to recognize the city as Israel’s capital and to move its embassy there was an aggressive and dangerous move that could inflame tensions and lead to a religious war.  The text’s adoption echoed the voice of the majority of the international community on the question of Jerusalem.  The decision would have no impact on the Holy City’s status and compromised the role of the United States in the peace process.

Danny Danon (Israel) said “Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the capital of the State of Israel” and that his country knew the Holy City was sacred to billions worldwide and encouraged everyone to visit and pray there.  However, one‑sided anti‑Israel resolutions had been pushing the Middle East peace process back for years and the newly adopted draft resolution only encouraged more violence and instability, he said, warning that the text sanctioned Palestinians to continue on a dangerous path.

First Committee

Despite differences on the way forward, delegates of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) expressed a common desire to achieve a nuclear‑weapon‑free world.  During a session that heard 131 statements and approved 58 draft resolutions and decisions, 28 without a vote, many speakers stressed a need for a new approach to nuclear disarmament made all the more urgent by recent testing activities conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, cautioned that crisis should serve as a “wake‑up call” to Member States, as the world was facing unprecedented danger.  With some delegates saying the situation illustrated the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and its verification regime, the Committee approved a related draft that had the Assembly urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and all annex 2 States, to promptly sign and ratify the Treaty.

But, on the heels of the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at a United Nations conference in July, divergent views emerged.  Non‑nuclear‑weapon States held up the instrument as a lightning rod for hope and some delegates pointed to awarding the 201  Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons as validation of an increasingly powerful movement.  Some nuclear‑weapon States said new language referring to the treaty had affected their vote on several draft texts, emphasizing that the Conference on Disarmament was the sole negotiating platform for such international instruments.

Other delegates, including Canada’s representative, remained unconvinced that the new instrument would be effective, asserting that the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the cornerstone for progress.  Meanwhile, many delegates said fresh efforts to improve arsenals compromised the non‑proliferation regime’s credibility and presented a real disarmament setback, with the Permanent Observer of the Holy See saying nuclear Powers were racing to modernize weaponry, making clear that atomic bomb use remained a real option.

Assessing new and emerging threats, several delegates expressed concern about cyberspace and the potential misuse of information and communication technology to the detriment of international peace and security.  Without the proper governance in place, even the most positive technological advances could be repurposed with dangerous consequences, the Committee heard.

Such advancements at a time of global instability could lead to a potentially “combustible situation”, warned Ms. Nakamitsu.  As the United Nations grappled with such challenges, she urged the Committee to pick up the pace of its work, stressing that the pace of technological innovation had “outstripped the pace of international deliberations”.  Cross‑border terrorist threats, punctuated by regional tensions, ignited new fears about weapons of mass destruction.  In that context, issues pertaining to the Middle East featured prominently in discussions, with recent reports on chemical weapon use in Syria central to the discourse.  Consensus on a draft resolution condemning the use of such weapons eluded the Committee for a second year as contested language on Syria triggered a spirited exchange among Member States.

Delegates also traded views throughout the session on a host of other critical issues, including nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, fissile material, humanitarian challenges posed by improvised explosive devices and the detrimental effects of unregulated arms transfers.  On the latter issue, a number of speakers underscored the need for major weapons exporters to join the Arms Trade Treaty.  Citing the “astronomical proportion” of global defence budgets, Nigeria’s representative condemned the enormous resources devoted to nuclear arsenals by nuclear‑weapon States while some delegates expressed concerns about the burgeoning $1.7 trillion military expenditures surpassing development spending.  The illusion of security that nuclear weapons provided must be exposed, otherwise other countries might be tempted to develop them, Brazil’s delegate said, adding that it was unacceptable that arsenals continued to play a key role in military strategies.

The Committee Chairperson was Mohammed Hussein Bahr Aluloom (Iraq).  Serving as Vice‑Chairs were Alfredo Fernando Toro‑Carnevali (Venezuela), Terje Raadik (Estonia) and Georg Sparber (Liechtenstein).  Martin Eric Sipho Ngundze (South Africa) was Rapporteur.

Second Committee

As the international community geared up to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) focused on major obstacles in its path, including sluggish economies, persistent poverty, climate change and meagre resources.

Briefing the Committee’s general debate, Columbia University Economics Professor Arvind Panagariya hailed the global agreement on development goals, but noted that modes of reaching them remained in dispute.  The international community must focus on rapid economic growth by expanding manufacturing, exports, services, urbanization and wages.  Similarly, Liu Zhenmin, Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that economic progress was far below needed levels to meet 2030 targets.  Weak investment and low productivity had hampered development, compounded by high levels of economic uncertainty, declines in average income and extreme weather patterns.

Emphasizing that about 1.6 billion people still lived in multidimensional poverty, speakers said the world was also behind in eradicating hunger and malnutrition.  The number of chronically undernourished people had increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.

Delegates repeatedly highlighted the need to increase development financing in tackling the global economic slowdown and natural hazards, especially in small, vulnerable countries.  They also pointed to the imbalance between core (general) and non‑core (project‑specific) United Nations funding, which increased operational costs and fragmented the development system.  Particularly challenged was the Group of Least Developed Countries, where total official development assistance (ODA) had declined from $41 billion in 2014 to $37.3 billion in 2015, speakers stressed.  Also struggling was the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, where investments were urgently needed in transport, energy and communications — vital in reducing the high costs of trade.

With development financing on the decline, attaining development goals meant scaling up on alliances and partnerships, especially with the private sector, delegates argued.  Moving from philanthropic funding to innovative financing — putting markets to work for sustainable development — would be critical in development planning.  Compounding meagre resources were unsustainable developing country debt levels, the inequitable trading system and unilateral sanctions, they noted.  Moreover, globalization had failed to bring sweeping benefits, as several middle‑income countries were now suffering from the so‑called “megatrends” of labour market shifts, rapid technological advances and climate change.

Hazardous climate patterns plunged 26 million people into poverty each year, delegates stressed, with annual average loss in less developed countries more than 20 per cent of social expenditure.  Efforts had been made to combat the phenomenon, they agreed, but those endeavours would fail unless the world changed production and consumption levels, promoted renewable energy and protected oceans.  Middle‑income nations were particularly hard hit by natural hazards, as they were unable to access concessional financing for rebuilding, speakers said.  It was “unthinkable” that States reduced to abject poverty within hours of a hurricane were barred from accessing needed funding, forcing them to borrow at market rates.

As in previous sessions, delegates also expressed concern about Israel occupation and natural resource exploitation in the occupied Palestinian Territories and the Syrian Golan, which continued to hamper social and economic development.  In tackling 2030 Agenda roadblocks, the Committee approved 41 resolutions, including texts focused on liberalizing trade, strengthening multilateral finance, avoiding unsustainable debt and boosting commodity trade.  Other drafts sought to bolster transport links, agricultural technology and climate efforts as well as open up funding for middle‑income nations, increase ODA and expand South‑South cooperation.

The Second Committee Bureau was chaired by Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), with Cristiana Mele (Italy), Menelaos Menelaou (Cyprus) and Kimberly Louis (Saint Lucia) serving as Vice‑Chairs, and Theresah Chipulu Luswili Chanda (Zambia) as Rapporteur.

Third Committee

Unilateralism found many expressions in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), with States unafraid to stand alone throughout the substantive segment as they discussed social development, crime and drugs, women’s advancement, and the rights of children and indigenous peoples in the broader promotion of fundamental freedoms.  Over eight weeks, the Committee produced 59 resolutions, most by consensus, but several only after contentious votes on amendments to them, illustrating a general theme: while delegates might agree on larger, abstract goals, the were divided on the best path to achieve them.

Votes on those drafts, and States’ occasional dissociation on consensus resolutions, revealed issues that continued to garner agreement and others that sheared individual nations off their regional and political blocs.  The consensus eventually reached on four texts — rights of the child, persons with disabilities, youth and the girl child — papered over divisions on the role of parents and guardians, particularly in sexuality education.  All four faced amendments passed by recorded votes, forcing changes before their approval.

The willingness to stand alone was expressed in familiar refrains, with Sudan’s delegate suggesting three separate amendments to remove references to the International Criminal Court from texts on children’s rights, internally displaced persons and torture.  All three proposals failed in recorded votes.  States’ appetite to go it alone was also seen in calls for votes on texts usually approved by consensus, including one on drinking water and sanitation, which Kyrgyzstan rejected following the defeat in recorded votes of two amendments it had proposed.

The United States, meanwhile, bucked the trend on several occasions, requesting a vote on a draft on the World Summit for Social Development, which it opposed along with Israel, while 170 others voted in favour.  Expressing regret over that request, China’s delegate said the United States was “too sensitive” and must learn from Beijing’s commitment to compromise. 

The United States also stood out by disassociating from references to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in a draft on the protection of migrants.  On a draft aimed at strengthening the United Nations role in enhancing elections and promoting democratization, the United States helped to stymie three amendments put forward by the Russian Federation that would have altered language around national electoral bodies and observer missions.  In other action, the United States and Ukraine voted against a text introduced by the Russian Federation on combating the glorification of Nazism, after Washington’s copious proposal to change sections deemed dangerous to freedoms of speech, thought, expression and association was narrowly rejected.  

Delegates hued to more traditional positions on all four country‑specific drafts — on the situations in Myanmar, Iran, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with the latter passing by consensus and several questioning the merit of targeted drafts.  Myanmar’s delegate called the resolution related to his country discriminatory and “procedurally unwarranted”, as the issue was under the purview of the Human Rights Council.  

The draft nonetheless passed on 16 November by a vote of 135 in favour to 10 against (Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Syria, Vietnam and Zimbabwe) with 26 abstentions, following a 25 October update by the Special Rapporteur on the situation, who pressed authorities to allow the Council’s fact‑finding mission access to the region and to let the Rohingya population know they were welcome to return.

In other cases, the Committee found consensus where it previously had none.  A text on human rights defenders — a hard‑fought showdown in 2015 — was approved by consensus with nary an explanation of vote save Estonia’s delegate, on behalf of the European Union, expressing concern about qualifying language.  Approval of a draft on the Human Rights Council report — by an overwhelming recorded vote of 117 in favour to 2 against (Belarus and Israel) with 66 abstentions — was less dramatic in 2017 than a year earlier, when the text faced both substantive and procedural opposition. 

The Committee also found consensus on other weighty issues such as drugs and crime, approving without a vote two separate omnibus drafts titled “International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem” and “Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, respectively.  Other areas of convergence included texts on albinism, the safety of journalists and a text designating 21 August as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism.

In all, the Committee heard from 10 treaty body representatives, 35 Special Rapporteurs, 6 Independent Experts and 6 Working Group Chairs, as well as the Special Representatives on Children and Armed Conflict, and on Violence against Children.  It also held dialogues with the High Commissioner on Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the President of the Human Rights Council. 

The Third Committee Bureau was chaired by Einar Gunnarsson (Iceland), with Nebil Idris (Eritrea), Alanoud Qassim M. A. Al‑Temimi (Qatar) and Dóra Kaszás (Hungary) serving as Vice-Chairs and Andrés Molina Linares (Guatemala) as Rapporteur‑designate.

Fourth Committee

Many petitioners and delegates called for upholding the rights of indigenous populations over those of colonizers, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) held its annual debate on decolonization against the backdrop of preparations for a historic referendum in New Caledonia and concerns over environmental degradation, immigration and militarization in Guam.

In relation to the decades‑old dispute over Western Sahara, several petitioners called for a renewed spirit of compromise in negotiations on the self‑determination of that Non‑Self‑Governing Territory.  Eric Jenson, former Head of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), recalled that the Secretary‑General had issued an unusually comprehensive and compelling report on that issue in April.  Radically, its proposals included agreement on the form and nature of a self‑determination exercise, he said, pointing out that the Secretary‑General had appointed a new Personal Envoy to help restart the talks.

Moreover, delegates from several African countries called for greater regional cooperation for a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Western Sahara.  Senegal’s representative noted that a settlement in Western Sahara could potentially lead to the resolution of other regional challenges, including terrorism, organized transboundary crime and irregular migration, among others.

Amid commemoration of the landmark Outer Space Treaty’s fiftieth anniversary, and in a break with traditional practice, the Committee took up the question of peaceful uses of outer space in a joint meeting and panel discussion with the First Committee.  Officials briefing the joint session agreed that transparency on security in space as well as confidence‑building measures could help to reduce mishaps, misinterpretations and miscalculations in that realm.

Thomas Markram, Deputy High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, acknowledged that some aspects of the legal regime covering outers space remained largely undeveloped, including the lack of a common understanding on applying the right of self‑defence in accordance with international law while avoiding severe long‑lasting consequences.  He observed that the Outer Space Treaty was not designed to resolve comprehensively all possible challenges to outer space security, adding that concerns about the weaponization of space had been left for future deliberations.

By the conclusion of its session on 10 November, the Committee recommended 38 draft resolutions and two draft decisions for adoption by the General Assembly, having tackled, in addition to those topics, its other regular agenda items: questions relating to information; United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; peacekeeping operations; special political missions; mine action; and atomic radiation.

Alongside Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), Committee Chair, the Fourth Committee Bureau comprised Vice‑Chairs Ahmed Abdelrahman Ahmed Almahmoud (United Arab Emirates), Ceren Hande Őzgür (Turkey), Yasser Halfaoui (Morocco) and Angel Angelov (Bulgaria), Rapporteur.

Fifth Committee

With a new reform‑minded Secretary‑General in place, and under pressure to rein in spending, the Fifth Committee approved 15 draft resolutions and 2 draft decisions, including a $5.397 billion budget for the 2018‑2019 biennium — 5 per cent less than the final budget approved for 2016‑2017, and $193 million below the proposed 2018‑2019 budget which the Secretary‑General put before the Committee on 11 October.

The reductions were due, among other things, to across‑the‑board cutbacks in such areas as contractual services, furniture and equipment, consultants and travel.  The Committee also agreed to limit spending on 34 special political missions to $508.49 million, compared with the Secretary‑General’s request for $636.6 million.

The proposed 2018‑2019 biennium budget could be the last of its kind, after the Committee — acting on the Secretary‑General’s management reform proposals — agreed that the Organization should, from 2020, shift to an annual budget period with a view to simplifying and streamlining its work.  The change would be initially on a trial basis, pending a final decision that would be taken during the Assembly’s seventy‑seventh session.

“Clearly the status quo is not an option,” the Secretary‑General told the Committee on 4 December when he introduced two reports on shifting the management paradigm at the United Nations.  He argued that, in order to take effective and timely action, managers must have the authority — under clear conditions — to make decisions closer to the point of delivery.  He went on to ask Member States for a broader scope of commitment authority that would allow a swifter response to unforeseen development and human rights issues.

Tasked with overseeing the Secretariat’s financing and management, including pay and conditions for its nearly 40,000 staff, the Fifth Committee met 29 times between 5 October and 23 December.  From the outset, delegates called for transparency and flexibility in tackling the new budget, while at the same time voicing their frustration over the perennial problem of delayed documentation.

The Committee agreed on financial and staff resources for the newly established Office of Counter‑Terrorism and the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate, asked the Secretary‑General to pursue the implementation of flexible workplace strategies at Headquarters, and approved $62.06 million for the ongoing implementation of the Umoja enterprise resource management project.  It also reached consensus on staffing and financing requirements for the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINJUSTAH), as well as the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.

During its meetings, delegates emphasized that cost‑of‑living adjustments must be applied consistently throughout the United Nations system, after several Geneva‑based organizations and staff associations disputed an overall post adjustment decrease of 4.7 per cent for staff in that city.  The International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) had recommended the decrease following a cost‑of‑living survey.  The Committee also discussed strengthening measures to protect whistle‑blowers from retaliation.

As in years past, representatives considered the state of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.  While its assets totalled a record $62 billion at the end of October, delegates expressed concern over the quality of service it was giving to its more than 200,000 participants, as well as its failure in 2016 to meet its 3.5 per cent return‑on‑investment target.

The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the $2.31 billion overhaul of Headquarters known as the Capital Master Plan until its first resumed session in March.  It did, however, debate other major renovation and construction projects.  Those included an upgrade to the Bangkok headquarters of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), a proposed $14.19 modernization of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) premises in Santiago, Chile, and a sweeping renovation of the historic Palais des Nations campus in Geneva.

Comprising the Committee’s Bureau were Michel Tommo Monthe (Cameroon) as Chair, with Abbas Yazdani (Iran), Julie O'Brien (Ireland) and Anda Grinberga (Latvia) serving as Vice-Chairs.  Felipe Garcia Landa (Mexico) was Rapporteur.

Sixth Committee

Vigorous debates on legal subtleties punctuated the Sixth Committee’s (Legal) meetings during its seventy‑second session, as it discussed matters such as the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, the responsibility of international organizations, and the expulsion of aliens.  In particular, the subject of rule of law provoked a heated discussion, with some speakers noting that definitions of the principle varied, while others warned against its politicization.  During the course of that debate, delegates spotlighted country‑specific initiatives that put rule of law into practice and made its application more effective.

The representative of Colombia said that a new era was emerging in his country, which was working towards judicial reform with the passage of a law that permitted the reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Arm (FARC‑EP) members into society.  The representative of Senegal, meanwhile, noted that his country had created “houses of justice”, which were provided free of charge and made the judicial process available to all.

However, despite such progress, several representatives offered a note of caution, with Indonesia’s delegate recalling violations of international humanitarian law in the State of Palestine.  The rule of law at the international level would always be a fiction if the international community did not minimize its politicization, she said.  Zimbabwe’s representative also weighed in, stating that the “rule of law should not be an abstract concept in academic discourse”.  The issue should not exist in a vacuum, independent of the realities on the ground.  That idea was also echoed by Ronny Abraham, President of the International Court of Justice, as he addressed the Committee on the judicial practice of the Court.  The trust that States placed in the International Court of Justice was vital to the future of international jurisdiction, he said, underscoring that States were sovereign entities and in full freedom to consent and not consent to the Court’s jurisdiction.  Outlining several complex and contentious cases, he called on delegates to ensure that the trust of States in the Court was strengthened.

During the Committee’s annual consideration of the International Law Commission report, delegations investigated the delicate balance between codification and the progressive development of law, with speakers praising the Commission’s hard work while reminding that body of the limitations of its mandate.  Almost a dozen legal matters were considered during the seven‑day review.  Among those topics was “Protection of the atmosphere”, with speakers parsing legal nuances while acknowledging the urgency of the issue.  Chile’s delegate emphasized that it was not enough to address the protection of the environment alone.  However, the representative of the Czech Republic noted that the Commission had no competence to tackle underlying issues such as the interaction between the oceans and the atmosphere, and the impact of human activities on the climate. 

The Marshall Islands’ delegate, speaking for the Pacific small island developing States, pointed out that member nations of her group were among those who had contributed the least to global warming but were now most at risk of being obliterated by the phenomenon before the century was over.  She and other delegates also called for the inclusion of a new topic in the work of the Commission: the legal implications of rising sea levels.

In a significant achievement, the International Law Commission had adopted a complete set of draft articles, “Crimes against humanity”, during its sixty‑ninth session.  Georg Nolte, Commission Chair, pointed out that, among the three core international crimes, only crimes against humanity lacked a treaty focused on building up national laws, national jurisdiction and inter‑State cooperation in the fight against impunity.  Several delegates applauded the emphasis on prevention in the draft preamble and praised the draft texts for being concise. 

However, during the Commission’s consideration of “Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction”, the proposed draft article 7 — which addresses crimes under international law in which immunity ratione materiae does not apply — had elicited strong divergent views, leading the Commission to depart from its tradition of consensus and to adopt the text by a recorded vote.  China’s delegate called for caution and prudence, saying that the draft article had been hastily adopted without thorough discussion.  Germany’s representative stressed that it was States, not the Commission, that created international law.  The Commission’s mandates “must not be blurred”, she warned, while Greece’s delegate called for a balance between respect for the sovereign equality of States and the crucial need to combat impunity for the most serious crimes under international law.

As in past sessions, the Sixth Committee’s debate on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law highlighted its commitment to meeting the increased need for international law training and research materials.  The Programme was stepping up to that task through regional courses and online resources.  Its Audiovisual Library of International Law was hailed as “a practical and living tool”, reaching 1.5 million users from all 193 Member States, with lectures in Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian.  Further, in order to reach users in countries with limited access to reliable high‑speed Internet, the Codification Division had begun to make audio files of the lectures available on the Library web platform.

The Regional Courses in International Law, funded through the United Nations regular budget, had been held in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Asia‑Pacific in 2016 and 2017.  Expressing appreciation for the foundational knowledge in international law provided by those courses, Tonga’s representative pointed out that in his small island developing State, whose legal counsels were often inundated with domestic legal affairs, the Programme played a crucial role in legal education.

During the Committee’s annual deliberation on the report on relations with the host country, various delegations raised their concerns, ranging from the question of privileges and immunities and the issuance of entry visas to travel regulations and restrictions on certain Member States.  During the debate, the Russian Federation’s delegate called attention to “an unprecedented violation” by the host country of the immunity of mission premises, spotlighting the 2016 seizing by United States authorities of a Long Island premise that had been part of the Russian Permanent Representation to the United Nations.  Nonetheless, the representative of the United States said that property did not fall within its obligations under the Headquarters Agreement or the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The Committee also got a glimpse into the fast‑moving currents of international commerce during its debate on the report of United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).  The finalization and adoption of two legislative texts addressing electronic commerce and secured transactions marked a productive year for that international trade body.  While the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and Explanatory Notes would bring about a number of benefits to commerce due to speed and security of transmission, the Guide to Enactment of the Secured Transactions Model Law would be of key assistance to legislators.  Delegates exhorted the body to continue to keep pace with rapid technological advances and diversification of trade activities.

Chairing the Sixth Committee Bureau was Burhan Gafoor (Singapore), alongside Vice‑Chairs Duncan Laki Muhumuza (Uganda), Angel Horna (Peru), Carrie McDougall (Australia), and Rapporteur Peter Nagy (Slovakia).

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News in Brief 27 November 2017 (AM)

27 Nov 2017

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Moroccan peacekeepers serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on patrol in Bangassou. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

UN chief condemns Central African Republic attack

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned Sunday’s attack allegedly carried out by the anti-Balaka group against a convoy of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), in which one peacekeeper from Egypt was killed and three others were injured.

In a statement issued by his Spokesperson's office, the Secretary-General offered his deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of the victim and to the Government of Egypt.

He also wished the wounded a speedy recovery.

This latest attack brings the total number of peacekeepers killed in CAR to 13, since the beginning of the year.

The statement said that the Secretary-General firmly recalls that attacks against UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime and calls on the country’s authorities to investigate the attack to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

The Secretary-General reaffirmed the determination of the UN to advance the implementation of the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in CAR,  (MINUSCA), recently renewed by the Security Council, in particular to protect civilians.

Zimbabwe sanctions must go to boost post-Mugabe economy: UN rights experts

Sanctions on Zimbabwe should be lifted following the resignation of President Robert Mugabe to help the country recover from their "devastating" economic impact, two UN rights experts said on Monday.

In their appeal to the international community, Special Rapporteurs Idriss Jazairy and Alfred de Zayas insisted that the embargoes in place since the early part of the century have been neither "limited" nor "targeted".

The departure of Mr Mugabe six days ago "heralds the emergence of a new era" based on democracy and the rule of law, the UN Human Rights Council-mandated investigators said in their joint statement.

But these things cannot happen if Zimbabwe continues to face "economic coercion", they added, explaining that some businesses had been "over-complying" with sanctions, owing to confusion about their scope.

Madagascar plague epidemic "declining" but response must continue

Madagascar's "unprecedented outbreak" of deadly pneumonic plague is slowing down, but there's no room for complacency and the response must be sustained, said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.

According to the African island nation's Ministry of Health, the number of new infections has steadily declined in recent weeks, which indicates that measures taken to contain the outbreak have been effective, so far.

Between August and last week, a total of 2,348 cases of the ancient killer disease have been reported, including 202 deaths.

"It's a tragedy that a disease from the Middle Ages that can be easily treated, could threaten an entire country and kill more than 200", said Peter Salama, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

More infections of both bubonic and pneumonic plague are expected until the end of the plague season in April next year, but WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that "the worst of the outbreak is over".

Nearly all identified plague patients and almost 7,300 people who were exposed to them, were provided with life-saving treatment free of charge, said WHO.

Natalie Hutchison, United Nations.

Duration: 2’45″

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Africa: Remarks at the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you. And good morning, everyone. It really is my honor to welcome all of you to the State Department this morning.

And we are grateful to see so many friends and partners here in the United States, and appreciate you traveling to be with us today for this event.

I have been very eager to host this ministerial meeting to bring together leaders from the continent to address our shared goals and, as I was sharing with the chairman of the African Union yesterday evening, I have not had the chance during my time as Secretary of State to travel to the continent. In my prior life, I came to your continent a lot and I visited many of your countries. But I do look forward to coming early next year. We have a trip that’s in the planning now, so – but in the meantime, really did not want to wait that long to get this group together. So very eager to host this ministerial meeting and appreciate you all coming to address our shared goals and challenges, and I look forward to a full day of discussions on how we can work together to achieve those shared goals.

I know all of us are following very closely the events in Zimbabwe and they are a concern to I know each of you, they are a concern to us as well, and we all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution.

Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path – one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights.

Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government. In our conversations today, we have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways that we could help them through this transition.

Our aim today is to expand and enrich the United States’ relationship with Africa along three fronts that we’re going to be discussing today: promoting trade and investment; encouraging good governance; and countering terrorism.

Let me briefly touch on how these issues will help us strengthen U.S.–Africa relations and our ties in the coming decades.

We’re going to begin today’s proceedings with a discussion on ways we can work together to expand trade and investment, and grow economic opportunities that benefit the people of Africa and the American people.

Trade and investment between the United States and African countries is growing. U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa grew from $17 billion in 2010 to more than $25 billion in 2014. And last year, the U.S. direct investment in Africa grew to $57.5 billion – the highest level to date.

Our trade and investment is stronger than it’s ever been, and the United States sees even more opportunity ahead in the coming years.

Africa is a growing market with vast potential. Five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and consumer spending there is projected to exceed $2 million[1] by the year 2025.

By the year 2030, Africa is expected to represent about one quarter of the world’s workforce and consumers, with a population of more than 1.7 billion. By 2050, the population of the continent is projected to double to more than 2.5 billion people – with 70 percent of that population being under the age of 30. All of these young people will have expectations for entering the workforce. The challenge is how to prepare Africa with the appropriate education for its workforce, and to prepare economically and financially for this future, so our partnership can facilitate greater growth and prosperity for both the United States and Africa.

This administration seeks to refocus our economic relationship squarely on trade and investment – to encourage policies that increase openness and competition within Africa.

A more economically vibrant and competitive Africa will grow the middle class, increase standards of living, and make the entire continent more prosperous.

I am also pleased to welcome with us today USAID Administrator Mark Green, and I look forward to his comments on this topic shortly. We also look forward to hearing from private sector leaders, and are very eager to learn more about your views and priorities for expanding trade and investment. Through Power Africa, for example, the United States and its partners have helped the private sector bring 82 power projects to Sub-Saharan Africa.

But economic growth and lasting prosperity can only thrive in environments of good government – good governance.

So we are going to discuss at our working lunch today how a country’s success is firmly rooted in good governance, which fosters strong, accountable relationships between citizens and their elected officials, how that drives economic progress, and improves overall security.

Lasting peace and economic growth are undermined when governments fail to provide good governance, respect for human rights, or to uphold the law.

Peaceful, democratic transitions are important and contribute to stability. But democracy is not just about elections, and elections are neither the first nor are they the final step in the long road to building resilient democracies.

Democracy requires the inclusive, peaceful participation of a nation’s citizens in the political process. That includes freedoms of expression and association, an independent press, a robust and engaged civil society, a government that is transparent and accountable to all of its citizens, and a fair and impartial judiciary. Corruption and weak governance, restriction on human rights and civil society, and authorities who ignore the rule of law and change their constitutions for personal gain are all obstacles to the development of prosperous, free societies. In fact, an African Union study estimated that corruption costs the continent roughly $150 billion a year.

This is money that should be used to create jobs, build schools and hospitals, improve security, and provide social services.

A quality basic education is another powerful contributor to economic growth and development – one that reduces poverty and provides children and youth the skills they need for gainful employment. We have worked with you to build the capacity for your national education system to offer quality education for more people, and we look forward to continued partnership to address low literacy rates, teacher shortages, and greater access to education across all of Africa.

We encourage our African counterparts to address these many governance challenges, and in doing so, unlock your country’s development potential. We look forward to discussing today specific ways to strengthen democracy and promote better governance over our lunch discussions.

The United States also stands with you as we work to defeat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, which have taken so many innocent lives in Africa and across the world. That will be our final topic of discussion today.

We are particularly grateful for the work of African countries to expand multinational and regional cooperation to counter terrorism. The United States is committed to partnering with you to defeat ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups across your continent.

Just last month, I announced that the United States pledged up to an additional $60 million in funding to support the G-5 Sahel Joint Force in counterterrorism efforts, and to bolster our regional partners in their fight to provide security and stability.

The United States, as the largest peacekeeping capacity-building contributor, is also helping over 20 African countries train, deploy, and sustain peacekeepers. This year, such efforts have already supported the training of more than 27,000 African peacekeepers to the UN and AU missions.

But we recognize that the force of arms alone is insufficient.

It is imperative that we work together, and with civil society, to address the root causes of violent extremism. To create sustainable peace, we must also combat marginalization, strengthen accountability, and create more economic opportunity.

Before I conclude, let me stress that the United States seeks greater support from our African partners on growing global security matters, including North Korea.

We appreciate the statements condemning the DPRK missile launches that many of your governments have made. But all nations must act to implement UN sanctions in full and cut off all UN-proscribed ties.

Further, I urge you to take additional measures to pressure the DPRK by downgrading your diplomatic relationships with the regime, severing economic ties, expelling all DPRK laborers, and reducing North Korea’s presence in your country in all other ways it may be found.

The DPRK presents a threat to all of our nations. Everyone – including each country represented here today – must play a part in this peaceful pressure campaign to convince the DPRK that the only way to achieve true security and respect from the international community is to abandon its current path and choose a meaningful dialogue about a different future.

The United States will continue to support your efforts to secure your citizens, encourage stronger institutions and better governance, and promote greater economic growth for each of your countries.

I really do look forward to our time together today and in particular to hear how you are working to address these challenges, and how we can learn from your experience and strengthen this already very fruitful partnership.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

[1] trillion

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Africa: Remarks at the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you. And good morning, everyone. It really is my honor to welcome all of you to the State Department this morning.

And we are grateful to see so many friends and partners here in the United States, and appreciate you traveling to be with us today for this event.

I have been very eager to host this ministerial meeting to bring together leaders from the continent to address our shared goals and, as I was sharing with the chairman of the African Union yesterday evening, I have not had the chance during my time as Secretary of State to travel to the continent. In my prior life, I came to your continent a lot and I visited many of your countries. But I do look forward to coming early next year. We have a trip that’s in the planning now, so – but in the meantime, really did not want to wait that long to get this group together. So very eager to host this ministerial meeting and appreciate you all coming to address our shared goals and challenges, and I look forward to a full day of discussions on how we can work together to achieve those shared goals.

I know all of us are following very closely the events in Zimbabwe and they are a concern to I know each of you, they are a concern to us as well, and we all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution.

Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path – one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights.

Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government. In our conversations today, we have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways that we could help them through this transition.

Our aim today is to expand and enrich the United States’ relationship with Africa along three fronts that we’re going to be discussing today: promoting trade and investment; encouraging good governance; and countering terrorism.

Let me briefly touch on how these issues will help us strengthen U.S.–Africa relations and our ties in the coming decades.

We’re going to begin today’s proceedings with a discussion on ways we can work together to expand trade and investment, and grow economic opportunities that benefit the people of Africa and the American people.

Trade and investment between the United States and African countries is growing. U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa grew from $17 billion in 2010 to more than $25 billion in 2014. And last year, the U.S. direct investment in Africa grew to $57.5 billion – the highest level to date.

Our trade and investment is stronger than it’s ever been, and the United States sees even more opportunity ahead in the coming years.

Africa is a growing market with vast potential. Five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and consumer spending there is projected to exceed $2 million[1] by the year 2025.

By the year 2030, Africa is expected to represent about one quarter of the world’s workforce and consumers, with a population of more than 1.7 billion. By 2050, the population of the continent is projected to double to more than 2.5 billion people – with 70 percent of that population being under the age of 30. All of these young people will have expectations for entering the workforce. The challenge is how to prepare Africa with the appropriate education for its workforce, and to prepare economically and financially for this future, so our partnership can facilitate greater growth and prosperity for both the United States and Africa.

This administration seeks to refocus our economic relationship squarely on trade and investment – to encourage policies that increase openness and competition within Africa.

A more economically vibrant and competitive Africa will grow the middle class, increase standards of living, and make the entire continent more prosperous.

I am also pleased to welcome with us today USAID Administrator Mark Green, and I look forward to his comments on this topic shortly. We also look forward to hearing from private sector leaders, and are very eager to learn more about your views and priorities for expanding trade and investment. Through Power Africa, for example, the United States and its partners have helped the private sector bring 82 power projects to Sub-Saharan Africa.

But economic growth and lasting prosperity can only thrive in environments of good government – good governance.

So we are going to discuss at our working lunch today how a country’s success is firmly rooted in good governance, which fosters strong, accountable relationships between citizens and their elected officials, how that drives economic progress, and improves overall security.

Lasting peace and economic growth are undermined when governments fail to provide good governance, respect for human rights, or to uphold the law.

Peaceful, democratic transitions are important and contribute to stability. But democracy is not just about elections, and elections are neither the first nor are they the final step in the long road to building resilient democracies.

Democracy requires the inclusive, peaceful participation of a nation’s citizens in the political process. That includes freedoms of expression and association, an independent press, a robust and engaged civil society, a government that is transparent and accountable to all of its citizens, and a fair and impartial judiciary. Corruption and weak governance, restriction on human rights and civil society, and authorities who ignore the rule of law and change their constitutions for personal gain are all obstacles to the development of prosperous, free societies. In fact, an African Union study estimated that corruption costs the continent roughly $150 billion a year.

This is money that should be used to create jobs, build schools and hospitals, improve security, and provide social services.

A quality basic education is another powerful contributor to economic growth and development – one that reduces poverty and provides children and youth the skills they need for gainful employment. We have worked with you to build the capacity for your national education system to offer quality education for more people, and we look forward to continued partnership to address low literacy rates, teacher shortages, and greater access to education across all of Africa.

We encourage our African counterparts to address these many governance challenges, and in doing so, unlock your country’s development potential. We look forward to discussing today specific ways to strengthen democracy and promote better governance over our lunch discussions.

The United States also stands with you as we work to defeat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, which have taken so many innocent lives in Africa and across the world. That will be our final topic of discussion today.

We are particularly grateful for the work of African countries to expand multinational and regional cooperation to counter terrorism. The United States is committed to partnering with you to defeat ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups across your continent.

Just last month, I announced that the United States pledged up to an additional $60 million in funding to support the G-5 Sahel Joint Force in counterterrorism efforts, and to bolster our regional partners in their fight to provide security and stability.

The United States, as the largest peacekeeping capacity-building contributor, is also helping over 20 African countries train, deploy, and sustain peacekeepers. This year, such efforts have already supported the training of more than 27,000 African peacekeepers to the UN and AU missions.

But we recognize that the force of arms alone is insufficient.

It is imperative that we work together, and with civil society, to address the root causes of violent extremism. To create sustainable peace, we must also combat marginalization, strengthen accountability, and create more economic opportunity.

Before I conclude, let me stress that the United States seeks greater support from our African partners on growing global security matters, including North Korea.

We appreciate the statements condemning the DPRK missile launches that many of your governments have made. But all nations must act to implement UN sanctions in full and cut off all UN-proscribed ties.

Further, I urge you to take additional measures to pressure the DPRK by downgrading your diplomatic relationships with the regime, severing economic ties, expelling all DPRK laborers, and reducing North Korea’s presence in your country in all other ways it may be found.

The DPRK presents a threat to all of our nations. Everyone – including each country represented here today – must play a part in this peaceful pressure campaign to convince the DPRK that the only way to achieve true security and respect from the international community is to abandon its current path and choose a meaningful dialogue about a different future.

The United States will continue to support your efforts to secure your citizens, encourage stronger institutions and better governance, and promote greater economic growth for each of your countries.

I really do look forward to our time together today and in particular to hear how you are working to address these challenges, and how we can learn from your experience and strengthen this already very fruitful partnership.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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Sixth Committee Speakers Highlight Country‑Specific Initiatives Illustrating Best Rule of Law Practices in Local, National Settings, as Debate Continues

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its consideration of the report of the Secretary‑General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities, speakers spotlighted country‑specific initiatives that put that principle into practice and made its application more effective.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3543.)

A new era was emerging in his country, the representative of Colombia said.  Together with the United Nations team, his Government had spear‑headed new initiatives aimed at judicial reform.  That reform included its Special Jurisdiction for Peace, as well as the passage of a law that permitted the reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members into society.

Senegal’s delegate described the “houses of justice” in his country, which were provided free of charge to make justice available to all.  Those establishments were able to settle minor conflicts using alternative means for dispute settlement.  They not only used local languages, thus dispelling any language barrier, but were also in physical proximity to the people they served.

On an international platform, the rule of law was also being made more effective on the ground by Slovenia too, according to that country’s representative.  With women’s empowerment a priority in her country, her Government was providing workshops for 900 refugee women in Lebanon.

Ghana’s representative noted that the rule of law was at work in her country’s legal institutions through access to legal representatives and legal aid.  All citizens were ensured equal access to the legal system and legal representation.  On top of that, the Justice for All Programme gave prisoners on remand their own access to proper legal representation.

However, offering a note of caution, the representative of Indonesia recalled violations of international humanitarian law in the State of Palestine.  The rule of law at the international level would always be a fiction if the international community did not minimize its politicization.

Zimbabwe’s delegate also weighed in, stating that the “rule of law should not be an abstract concept in academic discourse”.  The issue could not exist in a vacuum, independent of the realities on the ground.  As a small State, his country depended on the rule of law for protection from “the aggressions of the rich and powerful”.  The Organization should continue to be guided by respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States.

In that regard, the representative of Sri Lanka stressed that the rule of law should always be context specific.  It was not a concept that would conform to an external prescription that ignored domestic realities.  More so, all States, especially developing ones, should have an equal opportunity to be a part of the development of international law, she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Singapore, Peru, India, Syria, Brunei, Libya, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, Russian Federation, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Cuba, South Africa, Mauritius, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Tonga, United States, Mongolia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Uruguay, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Viet Nam, China, Ukraine, Eritrea, Zambia, Brazil, Argentina, Togo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gambia, Serbia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Venezuela and Iran.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Qatar, Russian Federation and Syria.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 October, to continue consideration of the rule of law and take up the subject of criminal accountability.

Statements

LUKE TANG (Singapore), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of the rule of law at both national and international levels.  Small States such as his depended on a rules‑based multilateral system for survival and success.  In regard to strengthening rule of law, he cited programmes of both the Office of Legal Affairs and his Government’s that focused on disseminating information and building necessary capacity.  Singapore also supported the United Nations online Audiovisual Library of International Law.  Reaffirming the importance of registration of treaties, as noted in the Secretary‑General’s report, he voiced support for efforts to make United Nations rule of law assistance more coherent and accessible in a way that better recognized local actors and conditions.  Citing the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes, he also welcomed the establishment of the new office of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in his country.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA VELÁSQUEZ (Peru), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the contribution by the United Nations in advancing an international system based on multilateralism.  Noting that his country had recently signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he also expressed support for the General Assembly resolution establishing the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for the Syrian Arab Republic.  Stating his country’s firm commitment to the work of the International Criminal Court, he added that, at the national level, his Government was establishing mechanisms to fight corruption.

YEDLA UMASANKAR (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law defined modern societies and nation States.  As globalization picked up pace, it was imperative that countries continued to come together to define rules of cooperation in order to prevent chaos.  Regrettably, there were areas where the international community had not been able to develop international rule of law.  In that regard, the rise of terrorism was alarming, as well as other emerging challenges, such as artificial intelligence, cyber security or maritime piracy.  In his country, the independence of judiciary, legislature and executive branches, a free media and a vibrant civil society, and a strong tradition of electoral democracy were the basis of rule of law.

AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that rule of law was “an indivisible whole” and it was not permissible to focus on some of its principles while ignoring others.  The main challenge to rule of law was not the inadequacy of international instruments, but the double standards and a selective approach by some influential countries.  The crisis experienced by his country was an example of flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a country, with some Governments supporting, funding, and arming radical terrorist elements.  Turning to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, he urged colleagues to read document A/71/799, a letter sent by his delegation to the Secretary‑General showing the legal violations involved in the General Assembly resolution that had led to the adoption of the Mechanism.  There were dangerous political intentions underlying the Mechanism, he said, and Syria could not acknowledge its legality.

ADI FAISAL OMAR (Brunei), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of rule of law and the leading role of the United Nations in coordinating efforts to strengthen it at the global level.  In that context, he cited the usefulness of the Programme of Assistance, particularly for small States such as his own.  The elucidation of international commercial law through the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was also extremely useful; the country had based several pieces of domestic legislation on that Commission’s models.  Participating in meetings on rule of law at the regional and international levels as well, the country remained committed to working closely with all partners to abide by the international framework, especially in the maintenance of international peace and security.

MAMADOU RACINE LY (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the new dynamic approach of the Secretary‑General’s report showed the resolve of the Organization to strengthen and coordinate United Nations activities in the area of the rule of law.  However, a culture of lawfulness must be created, and marginalized groups must have access to justice.  Senegal had inscribed those as important elements in its own judiciary, working to make justice available to all by establishing “houses of justice”.  Those houses settled minor conflicts using alternative means for dispute settlements, and provided guidance for citizens involved in the legal system.  They were physically close to the people they serve, free of charge and were not very formal.  Local languages were used in those houses as well, thus removing any language barrier, he said.

ESSA A. E. ESSA (Libya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the promotion of the rule of law was an essential element for peaceful coexistence.  Strengthening the rule of law was a keystone of the efforts to respond to violent crimes and terrorism.  Building the rule of law on an international basis called for respect for the United Nations Charter and the courts and mechanisms established under that Charter.  However, it was important to note the principle of non‑interference in domestic affairs and the right to self‑determination.  The rule of law was a preventive measure and it was essential to promote the concept in all its aspects, he said.

DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said she was pleased that the Secretary‑General’s report attested to the instrumental contribution made by the United Nations to strengthening the rule of law at the national level.  Much of that work aligned with Slovenia’s priorities, she said, noting that women’s empowerment was a priority in her country’s development cooperation.  In that regard, her Government was currently providing workshops for 900 refugee women in Lebanon, and was engaged in a project in Jordan that focused on empowerment through the education and vocational rehabilitation of Syrian refugee families.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that while the United Nations had supported many Member States in establishing and maintaining rule of law, it must do more.  The principle had a clear impact on poverty eradication and fostering gender equality, in addition to fighting corruption and impunity.  In order for people to have access to justice they must be aware of the rights they held and the mechanisms available to ensure those rights.  Furthermore, access to justice must be measured not only in quantitative terms, but also in qualitative terms.  Guatemala was strengthening its investigation of violations of human rights, he said, lauding the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, a novel institution established with help from the United Nations at the request of his Government.  That Commission was “a daring attempt to overcome structural obstacles” and strengthen the Government’s ability to fight impunity.

DIE MILLOGO (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for increased access to justice, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and children.  Any action to strengthen rule of law must be based on internal solutions adapted to the specific context of each country.  Highlighting how citizens had an important role in influencing national Governments, he noted that the people of his country had chosen to build a State that respected individual rights.  The Constitutional Commission with multiple stakeholders had been established, and after broad consultations, had given the President a draft constitution that would soon be subject to a referendum.  Burkina Faso was also resolutely implementing international treaties that it was party to.

LARISA CHERNYSHEVA (Russian Federation), noting the section in the Secretary‑General’s report on enhancing the effectiveness and coherence of United Nations efforts in improving rule of law, said that her delegation was “not sure that the Sixth Committee was the right place” for discussing matters relating to peacekeeping operations.  Those should be considered within the competent bodies, specifically the Third Committee.  The international dimension of rule of law should be the focus of the work of the Sixth Committee, she stressed, calling for more detailed information about the international mechanisms which were enjoying universal support.  Voicing regret that the International Court of Justice, one of the six principal organs of the Organization, was mentioned only in passing, she added that the focus of the report had shifted to non‑United Nations institutions such as the International Criminal Court.  Furthermore, it was not fully clear why the report also focused on a non‑legitimate mechanism to deal with crimes in Syria.  That was a mechanism established by the General Assembly which, in violation of the Charter, had exceeded its powers.  She urged delegates to not support it.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the rule of law was fundamentally imperative for a secure international landscape.  A strong foundation was in place to transform Afghanistan into a country of peace and stability.  It was conducting a major overhaul of its judicial and other institutions to enhance transparency within those bodies.  Its anti‑corruption justice centre was taking bold measures to investigate and prosecute officials, holding them to account; some 21 cases had already been completed in that area.  A culture of meritocracy was also in place for the recruitment of officials, as well as to ensure transparency in the issuing of Government contracts.  Those actions demonstrated the seriousness with which Afghanistan was pursuing good governance.  A reform agenda was an important initiative that demanded the full support of all Member States, he said.

INTISAR TALIL AL-JUBOORI (Iraq), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said her country had always been committed to the rule of law.  That was confirmed in the 2005 Constitution of Iraq, which contained the principle of respect for State sovereignty and non‑interference.  The Iraqi Anti‑Corruption Academy had been established to fight corruption nationally and internationally.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had supported her Government to build more accountable institutions in order to deal with crises and enhance the rule of law.  In 2015, the Iraqi National Security Service and UNDP created a strategy to build civil society capacity.  UNDP also provided legal assistance to refugees and those displaced by assisting with documentation, for example by providing birth certificates to children who had been born to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) fighters and the women who had forced to bear those children.

ALINA JULIA ARGÜELLO GONZÁLEZ (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that her country respected the rule of law, and that every State had the responsibility to preserve democracy, transparency and fairness.  She stressed in particular the importance Nicaragua attached to the protection of human rights of women and children who were sometimes very vulnerable, as well as to the restoration of rights in the areas of health, education, access to land and access to justice.  Strengthening the rule of law meant that the international community should respect the judicial systems of all States, as well as the right to self‑determination.

MIRTA GRANDA AVERHOFF (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed that a true rule of law, as stated in the Secretary‑General’s report, began with a reformed United Nations.  It was also important to note that the high‑level Declaration clearly stated in paragraph 36 that a true rule of law implied democratizing international economic, monetary and financial organizations, so that they served the development of the people rather than the permanent enrichment of the few.  Her country was also committed to working towards a broad and profound reform of the Security Council in order for it to become an inclusive, transparent and democratic organ reflecting the genuine interests of the international community.

SABONGA MPONGOSHA (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, noted that his country’s Constitution contained a unique founding provision that entrenched the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.  Citing section 232, he stated that when interpreting any legislation, every court must prefer any reasonable interpretation of the legislation that was consistent with international law over any alternative interpretation.  However, he pointed out that the content of international law must in and of itself be fair if it were to promote the rule of law.  Fairness had both substantive and procedural dimensions, he said, encouraging delegates to pause and ask themselves if the rules being made were truly fair.

RISHY BUKOREE (Mauritius), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that equality before the law, accountability to the law, and separation of powers were some of the important components of the rule of law.  They guarded people against despotism and the Government against anarchy.  Rule of law had enabled his country to attract investments and benefit from economic opportunities.  The Constitution implied legal processes and substantive norms that were consistent with human rights.  Every international treaty Mauritius adhered to was codified in national legislation.  Customary international law must also be respected; the statute of the International Court of Justice acknowledged its existence.  When it came to rule of law, the United Nations Charter was the most important document.  It had helped create a better world as well as an Organization where all States, whether big or small, were entitled to one vote.  Unfortunately, some States advanced exceptionalism, he said, expressing the hope that the notion of “might is right” would soon give way to rule of law.

YANG JAIHO (Republic of Korea) said that the dissemination of international law was vital, and would not only address various global and regional challenges but would also promote and advance the rule of law in a deeper and wider way.  However, when it came to the dissemination of international law, it was a stark fact that many States were facing a scarcity of resources.  He commended the activities of the Programme of Assistance, and took note that the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs continued to share legal publications and information online.  While laudable, those could never be sufficient.  The Republic of Korea had played its part to increase the dissemination of international law, with various institutions and organizations focused on those specific issues.  The Center for International Law had launched the Seoul Academy of International Law in 2016 with a view to training and educating those working in that field.

VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that laws were only as good as their implementation.  Calling for mechanisms that enforced the just application of agreed‑upon laws, in particular the principles enshrined in the Charter, she stressed that rule of law was a common denominator of peace, security and development.  International justice systems must avoid political manipulation, and at the national level, partnerships between stakeholders were essential.  National context should be at the centre of rule of law, she said, adding that Rwanda’s recent tragic past and “real life experience” of what it took to remove discrimination and violations of rights, including the most basic human rights to life, was the context of her country’s application to rule of law.

SONALI SAMARASINGHE (Sri Lanka), recalling how her country had suffered “under the yoke of terrorism” and an accompanying culture of impunity, said Sri Lanka was therefore acutely aware of the value of a nation built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.  Achieving justice in times of transition from conflict — through accountability, redress to victims and the recognition of their rights — promoted civic trust and strengthened the rule of law.  In that regard, States had a duty to guarantee that violations would not reoccur and to reform institutions which, in the past, had proven incapable of preventing abuses.  Another important principle underpinning the rule of law was that of sovereign equality and non‑interference, as well as the prohibition on the threat or use of force and the obligation to settle international disputes peacefully.  It was therefore vital that all States, including developing countries, had an equal opportunity to participate in the process of developing international law.  The rule of law was not a concept that could be externally forced, nor could it conform to an external prescription that ignored domestic realities.

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the Secretary‑General’s report gave Member States the opportunity to explore implementing the rule of law on national and international platforms.  Access to legal representatives and legal aid was provided for under the Constitution of Ghana.  Its legal aid, together with civil society organizations, had developed a robust mechanism for ensuring that all citizens of Ghana had fair access to the legal system.  In addition, its Justice for All Programme afforded prisoners on remand access to legal representation, she said.

The representative of Lebanon said that while there was no agreed‑upon common definition of the rule of law, it was based on principles such as equality before the law and ensuring fundamental rights.  Strengthening the rule of law meant greater respect for existing international treaties, including the Charter.  The basic role of international law to advance the rule of law was important to small States, which were often decisive in the preparation of landmark conventions.  Lebanon was a part of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example.  Disseminating the rules of international law was crucial.  On a national platform, the Lebanese National International Humanitarian Law Committee, established in 2010, had laid out a plan on how to incorporate relevant laws into the country’s domestic legislation.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that despite extraordinary progress in social indicators, the international community was confronting a plethora of new problems such as climate change, mass migration and terrorism.  Calling for a robust international order based on the rule of law, he said that national experience and international evidence showed that countries where the principle was enforced had better living conditions for their citizens.  Costa Rica was committed to the legal mechanisms provided by international law, and he called on all States to comply fully with the decisions of the International Court of Justice.  It was not possible to live in peace without the confidence provided by rule of law, he stressed.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga), emphasizing the importance of  capacity‑building initiatives, said that the ability to understand sophisticated and cooperative responses set under international law was necessary for all key players, including small island developing States such as his country.  Rule of law at the national and international levels played a critical role in ensuring an enabling environment for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Acknowledging that there were existing gaps in international law, he added that dissemination of international law must also include information on those gaps, and guidance on actions to address those gaps.

MARK A. SIMONOFF (United States) said that when delegates in the Sixth Committee debated on the important work of the International Law Commission and other items, “we breathe life into the words of the Charter” which set out the progressive development of international law as one of the functions of the General Assembly.  Rule of law demanded that all people, in all corners of the world, whether stateless or not, received the benefits conferred by the Charter.  Domestically, rule of law functioned best with an independent and impartial judiciary, he stressed, also commending the work of the private legal associations in their efforts to disseminate international law.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, outlined various steps his Government had taken to maintain the rule of law as an integral part of the national development agenda.  Mongolia had improved the conformity of domestic law and regulations with international human rights treaties and conventions.  As Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the country had abolished the death penalty, and had adopted laws concerning the rights of the child.  Mongolia was also paying particular attention to combating corruption in the public sector, he said.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that his country, in support of efforts by the United Nations to disseminate international law, had been co‑hosting relevant regional courses.  Noting that many diplomatic conferences had been successfully convened under the auspices of the United Nations, enabling the Organization to codify international law, he recalled the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which Thailand had signed and ratified in September.  The international community must intensify the effort to ensure the rule of law for those were marginalized, including women and children, older persons, persons with disabilities and persons under custody.

ELIAB TSEGAYE TAYE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, cited the Secretary‑General, who said in his report that there was no single model for the development of the rule of law at the national level.  He expressed gratitude for the support his country had received from United Nations entities in its national efforts to strengthen the rule of law.  However, much more needed to be done to ensure the universalization of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as to ensure the full implementation of various international agreements that would enable the international community to effectively address the challenge of climate change.

MARINA SANDE (Uruguay) recalled that the United Nations had been created to “sow the seeds of peace” through a system that would enable Member States to solve disputes peacefully.  The coexistence of countries was only possible if norms were established.  Treaties between States obligated those States to behave in a certain way.  There should be common will in international law to support countries, so that, in their domestic legislation, there were rules fostering the full respect of human rights, an independent judiciary and a regulatory framework.  States had a responsibility to comply with their commitments and to apply international treaties, while aligning national legislation with those standards.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, stressed that “rule of law should not be an abstract concept in academic discourse”.  The Organization should continue to be guided by respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States, he said, adding that “small States such as ours depend on rule of law for protection from the aggressions of the rich and powerful.”  Though his country supported international efforts to end impunity, the international criminal justice system operated in a selective manner, thus undermining confidence in it.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that it was critical that the Organization’s rule of law assistance was duly factored into the ongoing reform initiative in the peace and security pillar.  Calling on the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to facilitate in‑depth discussion regarding the impact of rule of law on eliminating poverty and reducing inequalities, he added that it would be particularly interesting to learn from Member States’ experiences and innovations in that area.  It was also necessary to address the financial concerns of the International Criminal Court for conducting investigations and prosecutions into cases referred to it by the Security Council.

KYYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that to strengthen the rule of law, his country had launched a strategic plan to protect the legal rights of individuals and the national interest, as well as to inspire public trust and confidence in the justice system.  He noted that Myanmar’s State Counsellor had championed the promotion of the rule of law before she came into office.  Rule of law centres had been established in 2015 under the guidance of the Pyithu Hluttaw Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee.  Four centres had been opened so far, providing training with a substantive focus on local justice issues linked to international rule of law principles.  As well, with the democratic transition in Myanmar, a series of reforms on the practice of policing had also been introduced.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that her country was continuing a legal harmonization process to align its legislation with international treaties to which it was a signatory.  Together with other members of ASEAN, it was striving to build South‑East Asia into a zone of peace, stability and prosperity.  In the context of complex developments in the East Sea, also known as the South China Sea, she called upon all concerned parties to exercise self‑restraint and settle disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Furthermore, all parties should fully respect diplomatic and legal processes, implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and expedite the completion of a legally binding code of conduct.

ZHANG PENG (China) said that the United Nations and other international organizations, along with all Member States, had a greater role to play in advancing communication in the area of international law.  Voicing his appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs and other relevant entities, he also hailed the positive contribution of the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.  Because teaching and promoting a wider knowledge of international law at institutions of higher learning was high on his Government’s agenda, it had contributed expertise and wisdom to the capacity‑building efforts of developing countries in international law, he said.

IGOR BONDUIK (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, said that the many emerging threats confronting the international community required responses grounded in international law.  In addition to judicial and economic reforms, Ukraine was making progress against corruption and conducting banking sector reforms.  Rule of law at the international level should be strong and effective in the promotion of human rights and State sovereignty.  Recalling the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he condemned the human rights violations conducted by the Russian Federation in Crimea.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that lack of compliance with international law was the root cause of many international conflicts.  Emphasizing the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, he added that Eritrea had been taking measures to achieve a peaceful and inclusive society, including by establishing community courts and ensuring the participation of women in those courts.  Advancing rule of law was an evolutionary process that involved all stakeholders and it was vital to recognize the importance of national ownership in the matter.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), noting that his country had been recognized in the Secretary‑General’s report for many of its recent efforts towards national reconciliation, said the document had drawn special attention to the creation of its Special Jurisdiction for Peace and for its work to ensure the peaceful co‑existence of its citizens and the protection of women and girls.  While Colombia had enjoyed a strong legal tradition, it had also been beleaguered by violence for many years.  Today, a new era was emerging, where a united Colombia was recommitted to the rule of law.  Together with the United Nations team, the Government was spear‑heading initiatives aimed at judicial reform, including by passing a law allowing for the reintegration of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members into society.  The peace agreement with that group underscored Colombia’s ownership over its own transition process, he emphasized, calling for the United Nations to employ a cooperative approach with States in all its work related to the rule of law and the maintenance of international peace and security.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, recalled the violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in Palestine and said that rule of law at the international level would always be a fiction if the international community did not minimize its politicization.  At the national level, domesticating international law did not mean much unless there was improved knowledge on the part of people, including Government officials, practitioners, academicians and students.  Her country had enacted a law concerning public information, obliging all Government institutions and courts to publicize legislations, court rulings and jurisprudence.

MUKI M. BENAS PHIRI (Zambia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that rule of law hinged on independent, efficient and effective judicial systems.  Unless it was held together by a functional judiciary, rule of law dissipated and the nation was ruled by the whims and vagaries of fellow human beings.  For that reason, judicial independence was recognized in many international and regional human rights instruments, he said, adding that Zambia’s vision of becoming a prosperous middle income country by 2030 had led to fundamental policy shifts.  The Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission was ensuring that all provisions of the country’s amended Constitution were operationalized systematically in order to translate them into an accessible and accountable justice system.

PATRICK LUNA (Brazil) said that abiding by the rule of law at the international level meant that no single country, no matter how powerful, was exempt from rigorous compliance with its legal obligations or beyond reproach for circumventing international law.  Either the Charter must remain at the centre of the international order, or there would be no order, he warned.  Debates on the rule of law might be complicated due to the difficulty in identifying, in different languages and legal traditions, expressions that encompassed all dimensions of the concept, he said, adding that “something gets lost in the translation”.  Access to justice challenged the root causes of poverty, exclusion and vulnerability, given that such access enabled the full enjoyment of rights and public services.  It was crucial to ensure that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers had a legal identity.  States should be encouraged to provide free and effective legal aid to vulnerable populations.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), welcoming the reform processes spear‑headed by the Secretary‑General, noted that the Organization’s capacity‑building activities were pivotal in establishing rule of law, especially in situations of conflict.  Justice and peace were complementary to each other, he stressed, calling on the international community to continue the fight against impunity.  Turning to the impact of the rule of law on the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that an international network of legal assistance providers could be helpful in buttressing rule of law.  Finally, he highlighted the work of the Treaty Section whose databases were crucial to all working in the field of international law.

DEKALEGA FINTAKPA LAMEGA (Togo), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that his country was party to 222 multilateral treaties, covering all aspects of international law.  Those treaties, as well as various regional and bilateral agreements, had been incorporated into the national legislation.  The Government had also adopted a plan of action to modernize the legal system and make the judicial system accessible to all.  Included in that plan were programmes to improve the legal framework, strengthen prison administration and modernize equipment and logistics.  Lauding the crucial role played by the Office of Legal Affairs in facilitating and promoting an international framework of legally binding mechanisms to settle disputes, he encouraged the Treaty Section to continue organizing workshops on the matter.

MOHAMMED AL AJMI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of respecting the Charter and international law, two crucial pillars when dealing with the threats the international community was facing.  His country had adopted a democratic constitutional system that highlighted respect for the rule of law through the separation of powers while still maintaining cooperation between those sectors.  At the international level, his Government remained committed to international conventions, principles and laws.  However, ongoing violations of human rights weakened resolve to respect the law, he said. That was demonstrated by the violations being committed by Israel, which was continuing to build illegal settlements and defy all resolutions and international legal norms.  More must be done and all possible measures should be taken to ensure respect for the rule of law at the international level.

ABDULLAH ALSHARIF (Saudi Arabia) said the law should be applicable to everyone, “whether the ruler or the ruled”.  His country was currently studying all international treaties; that emanated from Saudi Arabia’s desire to accede to the appropriate treaties that were consistent with the values of the country.  Those treaties should have no contradiction between international law and sharia, as both upheld human rights.  On a national level, men and women had both voted in municipal elections, and women were currently assuming high‑level Governmental posts.  In addition, there was a prohibition against inequalities in salaries between men and women.

AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia) associating himself with the African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that to preserve the dignity of its people, in line with international practice, his country had devised a three‑step approach in its National Development Plan, focusing on human rights, peace and security, and development.  The Government relied heavily on the rule of law as the vehicle to promote, protect and respect the values of human rights.  The Gambia had prioritized security sector reform, emphasizing inclusivity, respect for human rights and rule of law.  His Government also attached great importance to economic growth and development; that was why the connection between rule of law and development was highly appreciated and at the centre of the country’s development agenda.

SANDRA PEJIC (Serbia) said that at the national level, rule of law was the key prerequisite for political stability, without which there was no economic growth or social development.  At the global level, the rule of law was a precondition for international peace and stability, and played a critical role in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  Recalling that his country had participated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, he voiced strong support for further strengthening of the Court’s institutional capacity.  “The Rome Statute’s acceptance should be universal” and impunity should never be allowed, he stressed, also emphasizing his country’s long‑standing commitment to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  Indeed, it had cooperated with the Tribunal substantially and without exception on all matters related to serious international criminal crimes, while also trying crimes in its own courts.

MOHAMMED BENTAJA (Morocco), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for the adoption of an integrated approach to the United Nations work, based on the primacy of international law and one that fostered the peaceful settlement of differences in line with the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non‑interference in States’ domestic affairs.  In the world’s current complex environment — when international relations had seen major changes and nations were confronted with emerging challenges including climate change, migration and large refugee flows — he described the rule of law as an “essential lever” possessed by the United Nations to pursue all aspects of its work.  Through Morocco’s long‑standing commitment to peacekeeping operations, it had helped many countries rebuild their national institutions and re‑establish the rule of law.  The Programme of Assistance was another critical tool to build the capacity of developing countries, he said, calling for meetings held for those purposes to be funded from the regular United Nations budget.

HUMAID ABDALLA ALNAQBI (United Arab Emirates), noting that his country’s foreign policy was based on partnerships and good neighbourliness, said that his region continued to suffer from crises due to the expansionist policies of some countries.  Rule of law was critical to safeguarding regional stability and promoting human rights.  By creating development‑oriented legislation and providing opportunities for industry, his country was guaranteeing economic progress.  Since its birth, the Emirates had been at the forefront of rule of law in the region.  The “flexible national legislation” contributed to the maintenance of peace and security, as well as the total absence of governmental corruption and low crime rates.  Condemning those States that provided safe havens to terrorists, he said they were responsible for the increase in terrorism lately.

The representative of Egypt, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that international security and stability depended on rule of law, which was the best foundation for peaceful settlement of disputes.  Calling on the international community to resolve conflicts without politicizing them, he said that it was necessary to put an end to foreign occupation.  Reiterating the role played by the United Nations and international bodies, he added that the Organization must provide support to Member States while also respecting their territorial integrity and sovereignty.  A more flexible approach that took into account the unique features of each Member State was essential, he concluded.

FÁTIMA YESENIA FERNÁNDES JÚAREZ (Venezuela), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that the rule of law helped all States “stand on an equal footing”.  It further helped underpin and bolster Government responsibilities to protect all people under their jurisdictions.  States should refrain from applying or enacting unilateral sanctions and other measures that violated international law and hindered the development of other nations, she stressed, also calling for the revitalization of the General Assembly and reform of the Security Council.  The latter, in particular, was linked to achieving the rule of law at the international level, and the Council must avoid going beyond its mandate or taking an overly security‑based focus to its work.  Among other things, she said the web compendium of international treaties was a useful tool which should be made available in all the United Nations official languages, a task which should not be hindered by a lack of resources.

ABBAS BAGHERPOUR ARDEKANI (Iran), while underscoring that the principle of State immunity was one of the cornerstones of the international legal order, said that a handful of countries seemed to believe that they could breach the fundamental principle of State immunity by unilaterally waiving it under an unsubstantiated legal doctrine not recognized by the international community.  Each nation had the sovereign right to shape its model of the rule of law and administration of justice based on its specific traditions, needs and requirements.  Domestic legislation must not violate the basic principles of international law, the international obligations of the State or the sovereign rights of other States, nor must it be applied unilaterally to extraterritorial matters involving other countries.  Warning against “norm-setting” through flawed processes that undermined multilateral legal frameworks, he said threats to the rule of law at the international level were not due to a lack of proper norms or insufficiency of rules, but instead were deeply rooted in unilateralism, disregard for international law and disrespect for the international community’s common interest.

Right of Reply

The representative of Qatar, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Syria’s delegate had made many false claims.  Qatar had played a pioneering role, in collaboration with partners, to bring the Syrian regime to accountability by establishing the Mechanism to investigate the crimes conducted by that regime.  When it came to anti‑terrorism, Qatar had a good record as opposed to the Syrian regime whose oppressive practices had led to the prevalence of ISIL.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that Kiev had been raising anti‑Russian provocations in various Committees of the General Assembly.  The tragedy in the east of Ukraine was the consequence of the significant military operation unfurled by Ukraine’s Government against their own people in 2014.  The International Criminal Court had not been effective or impartial; however, since Ukraine had contacted the structure, the Russian Federation hoped the Court would demonstrate objectivity.

The representative of Syria, expressing regret that some representatives were politicizing issues and deviating beyond the topics assigned to the Committee, said that Qatar’s delegate “probably does not know the United Nations Charter very well”.  Condemning the “terrorists financed by that Government” he added that on 15 August, two charities working as a front for Qatari intelligence had transferred $15 million to Al‑Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant.

The representative of Qatar said Syria often used the United Nations as a forum to make baseless allegations against other States.  Qatar’s history in the fight against terrorism was clear, but the Syrian regime took any chance to hide its own oppressive policies.  Indeed, the resolution creating the Mechanism had been a “milestone” in achieving justice and fighting impunity.  It had proved that the international community wished to see those perpetrating violations in Syria — especially the regime, which even used chemical weapons against its own people — was held to justice.  “We cannot take any steps backwards where that is concerned,” he stressed, adding that his delegation reserved the right to respond in writing to all allegations made by the representative of Syria.

The representative of Syria advised the representative of Qatar not to speak about legitimacy, as his country remained totally removed from that concept when it came to terrorism.  Recalling a recent statement by the Head of State of Qatar to the effect that his country “may have a different vision regarding the roots of terrorism” or about who ought to be defined as a terrorist, he stressed that was exactly the case when it came to Al‑Nusrah.  Regarding the so‑called International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, he recalled that he had made a very definitive statement yesterday, including by drawing attention to a letter contained in document A/71/799 in which his delegation had alerted the Secretary‑General to the grave violations to its sovereignty resulting from the Mechanism’s establishment.  Qatar wished to continue its support for terrorism, while at the same time working to sabotage and subvert the Syrian political process in Geneva, he said.

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Full Support of Member States Key to Effective Sanctions Regimes, Assistant Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Effective implementation of sanctions required support from all Member States, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today, emphasizing that when used effectively, they should lead to comprehensive political strategies for preventing and peacefully resolving conflicts.

“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” said Assistant Secretary-General Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, echoing a sentiment expressed by many delegates as the Council considered the subject of enhancing the effectiveness of United Nations sanctions.  Having evolved over the years from comprehensive to more precise and targeted measures, sanctions were increasingly used to counter terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Tailored and calibrated measures were also used to deter unconstitutional changes of government and the illicit exploitation of natural resources that funded the activities of armed groups.

The 13 current Security Council sanctions regimes continued to play a key part in maintaining international peace and security, he said, while adding, however:  “Even the best designed United Nations sanctions resolutions are not self-implementing.”  While adopted in New York, they were implemented mainly at border crossings, ports and airports, as well as in banking and financial institutions, he said, noting that they required the support of myriad partners.  They remained flexible and subject to regular review, adjustments and terminations.

While the Council had adopted 26 sanctions regimes since 1966, it had terminated 15 to date in 2016 alone, including the measures previously imposed on Iran, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.  Reviews of such regimes had also resulted in the strengthening of responses to growing and emerging threats, he said.  In Libya, the Council had expanded prohibitions on the export of petroleum products, and in the Central African Republic, it had adopted the designated sanctions criteria for acts of sexual violence.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members noted that each sanctions regime was unique and required particular tailoring, agreed that all such measures required the full support of Member States to be effective.

The representative of the United States said that when sanctions lacked wide support, they remained meaningless and degraded the Council’s credibility.  When Member States failed to comply with sanctions levelled against an aggressor, the Council lost credibility.  “If widespread support is the way to do sanctions right, the way to do them wrong is unfolding before us,” she noted, pledging that her country would act to defend human rights around the world.

Ethiopia’s representative warned against politicizing sanctions and applying double standards in their design and implementation.  The fervour with which the Council implemented sanctions must remain steady in all cases, he said, emphasizing that the Council must never shy away from strengthening sanctions in cases that call for it.

Many Council members echoed the Assistant Secretary-General, welcoming the evolution of sanctions from broad to more precise measures, while stressing that more remained to be done in mitigating their unintended humanitarian consequences.

Senegal’s representative pointed out that sanctions regimes were mostly imposed on developing countries, particularly in Africa, and increasingly targeted the illicit exploitation of natural resources.  He called for strengthening cooperation among the Council, its sanctions committees and affected Governments to ensure such measures were applied to ensure that natural resources would support development rather than fuelling conflict.

The Russian Federation’s representative emphasized that sanctions must be directed at those who caused crises and never at civilians.  Furthermore, restrictive measures should not be used to bring down undesirable regimes for economic reasons.  Unilateral restrictions contravened international cooperation and violated State sovereignty, he underlined, adding:  “It is no secret that some people want to see certain outcomes.”

Bolivia’s representative rejected unilateral sanctions as illegal actions extending the domestic legislation of one State to another.  Sanctions should be a measure of last resort, to be applied when there was a clear threat to international peace and security, or when an act of aggression was eminent.

Echoing a similar sentiment, China’s representative said that Security Council decisions on sanctions must be part of an overall political package since such measures were not an end in and of themselves.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uruguay, France, Italy, Sweden, Japan and Egypt.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:48 a.m.

Briefing

TAYÉ-BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, just as causes of conflicts were complex and interlinked, the responses to them must be effective and mutually reinforcing.  “Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” he added, emphasizing that, at their most effective, sanctions must contribute to a comprehensive political strategy to prevent and peacefully resolve conflicts.  The current 13 Security Council sanctions regimes continued to play a role in preventing conflict, countering terrorism and constraining the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The Council had adopted tailored and calibrated sanctions measures to deter unconstitutional change of Governments and the illicit exploitation of natural resources which fund the activities of armed groups.

Security Council sanctions were also a flexible instrument, subject to regular review, adjustments and terminations, he continued.  In 2016, three sanctions regimes — Iran, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia — were terminated.  While the Council had adopted 26 sanctions regimes since 1966, it had also terminated 15 regimes to date.  Reviews of sanctions regimes had also resulted in strengthening responses to growing threats, he said, adding that, in Libya, the Council had expanded prohibitions on the export of petroleum products, and designation of criteria was adopted for acts of sexual violence in the Central African Republic.

Effective sanctions required broad-based support from all Member States, he stressed, adding:  “Even the best designed United Nations sanctions resolutions are not self-implementing.”  The diversity and complexity of targeted United Nations sanctions regimes had imposed considerable implementation burden on countries.  Sanctions committees continued to meet with stakeholders on the ground to hear their challenges.  “Sanctions are adopted in New York, but they are mainly implemented at border crossings, ports and airports, as well as in banking and financial institutions,” he added.

Since 2014, the Inter-Agency Working Group on United Nations Sanctions, comprising 26 Organization entities, had worked to ensure system-wide support to sanctions.  Meanwhile, the Security Council Affairs Division had continued to play a key role in supporting the nine sanctions monitoring groups, team and panels, which comprised 59 sanctions experts.  The critical importance of support to those individuals was highlighted with the killing of Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, who were members of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Group of Experts.  He called for full accountability for those crimes and stressed the need to reassess the security arrangements governing the work of sanctions experts.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that sanctions turned words into tangible actions against those who threatened international peace and security.  They were not the first resort, nor a measure that could ever be taken lightly, he said, adding:  “We know that they work.”  Noting that the Iran deal had not been forged from sanctions alone, and that victory over Da’esh would not come about from the work of the 1267 Committee alone, he said sanctions must sit alongside other tools, such as direct political dialogue, negotiations and peacekeeping efforts.  It was important that they remain fit for purpose, although there were challenges to building the political commitment for effective follow-up to recommendations for improving sanctions regimes.  For such measures to be effective, it was essential that all States fully implemented them.  It was not good enough for a majority of countries to implement sanctions, he said, stressing that a chain was only as strong as its weakest link.  There could be no “ifs” and no “buts”; sanctions were obligated under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  The work on some of the most important sanctions dossiers, including on North Korea [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], needed improvement, particularly as the number of States reporting on the implementation of those sanctions still fell far short of where it needed to be.  There was no clearer reminder for strengthening sanctions capabilities than the North Korean case, which was a State that continued to threaten not just the region, but the entire world.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said his delegation supported Security Council sanctions, which were important preventive measures that helped to sustain or restore international peace and security.  Sanctions should be designed with the aim of modifying behaviour and whenever possible, they must be subjected to pre-assessment on their probable impact from a humanitarian point of view, as well as enforcement and efficacy.  Every sanction regime was unique and carefully tailored to address specific and clear objectives, although there was always room for improvement and the dissemination of best practices.  Throughout the sanctions phase, every effort should be made to continue with diplomacy and mediation for Member States to comply with Security Council resolutions.  Just as vital was the timely sharing and management of information between the Council, Member States, regional or subregional bodies and technical bodies.  Further, States needed to be helped to understand and upgrade legal procedure and enact new domestic legislation in keeping with United Nations standards.

LIU JIEYI (China) said that, under the provisions of the United Nations Charter, sanctions were a peaceful means of conflict resolution and played a positive role in maintaining international peace and security.  Some sanctions regimes had served their purpose and had been lifted, although, at the same time, there must be awareness that some faced problems that should be cause for serious consideration by the Security Council.  Its use of sanctions must be in full keeping with the provisions of the Charter, entailing prudent deliberations when imposing them, he emphasized, adding that their imposition should be predicated on exhausting all non-coercive means.  Security Council decisions on sanctions must be part of an overall political settlement package, as such measures were not an end in and of themselves.  Sanctions must be part of an overall political package and should be advanced holistically, while the implementation of resolutions should be not selective.  The Council should enhance the relevance of sanctions to avoid negative impacts and focus on the key issue at hand, he said, stressing that they should not affect normal, legal trade relations nor exacerbate humanitarian situations on the ground.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said sanctions were one of the most important tools at the Security Council’s disposal and must be part of a broader political strategy aimed at managing and preventing conflicts.  Sanctions had, however, evolved significantly in recent years, he added, noting the effectiveness of targeted sanctions.  If used appropriately and in a targeted manner, sanctions had the potential to exert pressure on individuals whose attention the Council was seeking.  Sanctions must include clear objectives, he added, emphasizing that they must be reviewed and tailored in a timely manner.  More often than not, however, arguments took place on the overall effectiveness of sanctions.  That remained a counterproductive practice.  To achieve desired objectives, it would serve well to look at each sanctions case individually.  If a particular situation warranted the lifting of sanctions, the Council must not hesitate to take that action.  It must also never shy away from strengthening sanctions in cases that call for it.  “What really matters here is the reality on the ground,” he added.  He opposed the politicization of sanctions and the application of double standards in their design and implementation.  The fervour with which the Council implemented sanctions must not be different from one case to another.

VASSILY ALEKSEEVICH NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that restrictive measures could not be an end to themselves.  It was the Council alone that had the right to impose sanctions.  Such actions must be restrictive in terms of time and must have clear criteria for drawdown.  Their focus must be targeted at those who cause crises and never on civilians.  Restrictive measures must not be used to bring down undesirable regimes for economic reasons.  As seen from experience, that was likely to lead to mass chaos and endless civilian suffering.  Sanctions must never be used against diplomatic or consular representatives.  That would be a clear violation of the Vienna Convention.  Each sanctions regime was individual and unique and what was useful for one may well be counterproductive for another.  He stressed that those decisions must be made solely by Member States.  “It is no secret that some people want to see certain outcomes,” he added, expressing regret over the application by some Member States of unilateral restrictions.  Such measures countered international cooperation and violated State sovereignty.  He also stressed the need to examine the outcome document of the Council’s Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, which had made a significant contribution to improving the work of the 15-nation body.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said that prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the Security Council had been recognized as the most powerful non-military response to threats to global peace for more than 50 years.  The current practice of introducing more precise, targeted sanctions continued to seek to strike a balance between sought results and possible unintended socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences.  Along with the developments in sanctions’ design and calibrating their nature and scope, the issue of enhancing their effectiveness and efficiency required sustained attention by the Council.  He outlined two major challenges in making them more efficient:  lack of will and outright obstruction or evasion of the existing sanctions.  While the deficit of political will and abuse of veto right merited a separate debate, he underscored the need to restrain from giving assistance to any State against which the United Nations was taking preventive or enforcement action.  In that respect, the Council had to explore ways of further strengthening the role of respective committees in identifying possible cases of non-compliance and determining appropriate course of action.  Outreach activity, including awareness-raising and dialogue with relevant international and regional organizations, was important, as well.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) stressed that sanctions should only be considered once all other means of peaceful resolution of disputes had been exhausted.  Further, sanctions should only be imposed after their long- and short‑term impacts had been evaluated.  Sanctions should not be an end in themselves and should be a measure only of last resort, when there was a clear threat to international peace and security or when an act of aggression was eminent.  He expressed concern that there was a dangerous trend towards the proliferation and imposition of unilateral sanctions.  Such measures were categorically rejected by his delegation as illegal acts that extended the domestic legislation of one State over another.  Such actions were not only illegal, but they were actions that sought to usurp the function of legal bodies such as the Security Council.  Any measure that was unilaterally adopted by one State over another State outside the framework of the Council was contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.  When sanctions were imposed, there must be due process and respect for international law.  The design of sanctions should be fair and transparent and include procedures that clearly laid out conditions for States.  Further, every effort should be taken to limit the humanitarian impact of sanctions.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said it was important that the Security Council work to improve the effectiveness of sanctions.  Each sanctions regime should be seen as an instrument through which the Council could achieve a goal and used in conjunction with other tools, such as mediation and dialogue.  When designing sanctions, it was imperative that specific goals were established so that it would be clear when sanctions could be lifted.  Sanctions should also be designed with a view towards reducing the adverse impacts on civilian populations.  Uruguay supported the proposal to conduct a comprehensive, global review of sanctions, such as the one that had taken place on the peacebuilding architecture.  He underscored the need for strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and other institutions such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), as well as regional financial institutions.  He went on to stress the need for further cooperation between States in the implementation of the provisions of various sanctions regimes, which were often inhibited due to the lack of national capacities or political will.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) noted that, with 13 active regimes, sanctions had become an important tool for the Security Council.  Although they were not an end in themselves, sanctions regimes were important given their contributions towards targeting terrorists groups or individuals and by supporting those States threatened by a lack of security, the presence of armed groups, political shortcomings, the existence of weapons, as well as violations of human rights.  He recalled that sanctions implemented in the 1990s were sometimes pursued an indiscriminate manner, although they had now significantly evolved.  Since then, the Council had worked to ensure that sanctions targeted, as precisely as possible, those that directly undermined the stability of States and that they did not have a negative impact on populations.  He highlighted that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the sanctions regime and arms embargo had been continuously adapted to reflect the evolving situation in that country since 2003.  It was critical to continue to improve the function and transparency of sanctions regimes, while it was also crucial that sanctions and embargoes be fully respected and implemented by all stakeholders present on the ground.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said sanctions, which were being used with increasing regularity and growing in their complexity, had to strike the right balance between achieving desired results and managing potentially harmful and unintended socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences.  United Nations sanctions had significantly evolved over the years and their effectiveness depended on clarity and harmonization with the measures and actions of regional and national partners.  Integrating sanctions work into other United Nations systems was crucial to improving the overall global security architecture.  Greater focus must be placed on harmonizing efforts of regional and subregional stakeholders.  In most sanctions regimes currently in place, it was evident that cooperation was critical in their effective implementation.  Most sanctions regimes were applied to developing countries.  It was therefore essential to pay special attention to those nations’ needs particularly through technical assistance that could ensure the appropriate dissemination of information.  Noting that natural resources were being increasingly targeted by sanctions regimes, particularly in Africa, he said that strengthening dialogue and cooperation between the Council, sanctions committees and affected Governments would strengthen national economies and ensure natural resources were used for development rather than to fuel conflict.

MICHELE SISON (United States) said sanctions required patience and were among the most important tools that the United Nations had at its disposal.  When implemented swiftly and effectively, sanctions could have widespread positive impact.  The United States and Russian Federation had worked together in formulating sanctions against Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Because the Security Council spoke with one voice, those sanctions were showing real results on the ground.  By the same token, when sanctions lacked wide support, they remained meaningless and degraded the credibility of the Council making the next threat to peace and security more likely.  And yet, the Council had been unable to come together to agree on several issues including a format to discuss cross-cutting issues relating to sanctions.  “When it does this, the Council shoots itself in the foot,” she said.  “If wide-spread support is the way to do sanctions right, the way to do them wrong is unfolding before us.”  When Member States failed to comply with sanctions levelled against an aggressor, the Council lost credibility.  The Council continued to threaten but failed to follow up and had closed its eyes to repeated violations.  She said the United States would act to defend universal human rights from Venezuela to Zimbabwe and from Crimea to Syria.  It was a promise of a people no longer able to conceal their impatience.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said more needed to be done, including in the area of assessing and reviewing progress on sanctions implementation.  Sanctions must never be an end in itself.  They were a useful tool to support political processes, negotiations and dialogue.  He stressed the need to ensure coherence and establish a periodic review which could have an impact on the design and implementation of sanctions regime.  Input from Member States would help the Council adjust its approach and improve the management of socioeconomic and humanitarian unintended consequences.  He called for constant and effective dialogue with Member States.  The Secretariat and sanctions committees must engage in more outreach activities and provide Member States with a platform to express their perspectives.  United Nations bodies could also be useful in providing Member States with clarity, guidance and assistance.  Review processes must ensure an appropriate balance between implementation and what the Council had initially agreed upon.  He warned that when the Council was perceived in lacking coherence there could be an issue of legitimacy spilling over to real results on the ground.

CARL SKAU (Sweden) recalled that in the mid-1980’s, his country introduced economic sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa, that were essentially unilateral in nature, but with strong political symbolism.  Since then, Sweden had been engaged in processes aimed at making sanctions more effective and transparent.  His delegation believed that United Nations sanctions, when properly applied and well-calibrated within a broader political strategy, could serve as a versatile tool for responding to security challenges.  The evolution from comprehensive to targeted sanctions had largely addressed many concerns about unintended consequences and adverse effects.  Sanctions could never be successful in isolation, he warned, adding that they must always be part of a broader political strategy, featuring elements of peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding.  The common obligation to implement decisions by the Council coexisted with obligations to respect fundamental human rights.  By further improving fair and clear procedures, the Council would render the sanctions tool more effective and legitimate, thereby enhancing the authority of the Council and the United Nations as a whole.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that sanctions were tools to achieve specific political objectives, including the restoration of peace after civil war, prohibition of support for terrorists, disarmament of armed groups and denuclearization.  Sanctions must never be tools for punishment, however.  They must have clear goals and exit strategies.  Each sanctions regime generally had its own internal exemption clauses or mechanisms to minimize unwanted adverse effects.  To that end, the evolution in the way the Security Council used such measures was a welcome one, he continued, adding that the periodic review of sanctions in each sanctions committee could be useful.  Once the Council decided to take certain sanctions measures, they must be fully implemented in order to be effective.  That could be challenging and complex, and may require both time and capacity-building for Member States.  Neighbouring countries had a particularly vital role to play in ensuring that the sanction measures were effective.  He also emphasized that sanctions must be fully implemented by each Member State before the Council discussed their effectiveness.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), Council President for August, spoke in his national capacity, highlighting that Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter had granted the Security Council the mandate to take different measures to confront any threats to international peace and security without the use of force.  Despite the use of the word “sanctions” to describe such measures, he recalled that the Charter did not make any reference to that term.  As such, the Council had the responsibility of rectifying the use of that commonly used term and its punitive measures.  The Council had made significant progress in developing the concept of sanctions; moving from comprehensive measures to smarter and more effective measures, benefiting from the knowledge gained from previous experiences.  As a result, the international community had been able to mitigate the negative impacts of such sanctions, including on civilians and States that were not party to conflicts.  The unique nature of the threats to international peace and security made it necessary to adopt sanctions regimes that were tailor-made and in line with the nature of the situation.  Maintaining the same approach and considering sanctions from a narrow perspective would not help achieve the desired results.  Identifying adequate dialogue mechanisms, monitoring lessons learned and taking into consideration the views of every party were efforts that should not be undermined, underestimated or ignored by the Council.

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