Afghanistan + 11 more

Emergency relief must be timely, impartial, speakers say, as Assembly concludes debate on ways to bolster United Nations humanitarian assistance

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original


Sixty-third General Assembly
44th & 45th Meetings (AM & PM)

Assembly Adopts Resolutions on Special Economic Assistance to Yemen, Report of International Criminal Court

During a day that heard more than 30 speakers take the floor to advocate better protection for humanitarian workers, and timely, effective response to disasters both natural and man-made, General Assembly delegates concluded their debate on strengthening coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance, with the adoption of a resolution expressing support for the people of Yemen, who were struggling to rebuild their lives after severe floods that swept the country on 24 October.

With the consensus adoption of a resolution on special economic assistance for Yemen, the Assembly invited Member States and relevant United Nations entities, among others, to provide economic and technical assistance in the post-disaster recovery process, and offer support for Yemen's disaster preparedness capacity.

The text was introduced yesterday, when the Assembly began its debate on humanitarian assistance. At that time, Yemen's representative said the floods, which had followed two days of heavy rains, had been an "unprecedented natural disaster". The extensive damage, totalling nearly of $1 billion, had destroyed thousands of homes, left more than 10,000 people homeless and had damaged 4,000 hectares of land. That profound impact to Yemen's infrastructure had complicated its progress towards achieving its Millennium Development Goals, he added.

In other action today, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the Report of the International Criminal Court, which recognized The Hague-based Court's role in a multilateral system that aimed to end impunity, establish the rule of law, promote respect for human rights, and achieve sustainable peace. It underlined that all such work be done in accordance with international law and United Nations Charter principles.

Further, by that text, the Assembly called on States Parties to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the Court, to adopt national legislation to implement the obligations emanating from the Statute, if they had not yet done so. It also encouraged States to contribute to the Trust Fund created for victims of crimes within the Court's jurisdiction.

Speaking before adoption, the representative of the United States said his delegation could not join consensus on the resolution, explaining that his country's concerns about the Court were over its means, rather than its ends. With respect to Sudan, his Government could not ignore the crimes that had occurred in Darfur. The United States respected the right of States to become Party to the Rome Statute, and hoped that such respect would be shown towards its decision.

Sudan's representative, also speaking before action, said his delegation strongly dissociated itself from the text, and viewed with serious concern that the Prosecutor General chose to use the court as a tool for advancing ulterior motives. He regretted that the Court's Chief Prosecutor intentionally overlooked cardinal international legal principles, and he hoped that the forthcoming meeting of States Parties to review the Rome Statute would rectify such "blunders".

Speaking on the issue of humanitarian assistance, the representative of Canada stressed that while the world was increasingly aware of people in emergency situations, achieving real humanitarian results was a challenge, as shown by experiences in Sri Lanka, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Haiti. Access was fundamental to humanitarian response, and, all too often, it was subordinated to "political bargaining", which imposed even greater suffering on civilian populations.

Humanitarian personnel provided invaluable services to millions of people in need, often at great personal risk, he said. However, aid workers increasingly had become targets of kidnapping and deadly attacks. Aid convoys had been hijacked, and relief workers expelled from their countries of operation. He condemned such abhorrent attacks and actions, and called on States to ensure the safety and security of relief workers.

In that context, the representative of Pakistan urged that respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the national unity of States remain the overarching parameters in all efforts to coordinate humanitarian assistance. The role of the concerned State in the identification, coordination, and delivery of humanitarian assistance where assistance was requested by the global community remained primary.

To that point, Mexico's representative said placing sovereignty before peoples' needs weakened the foundations of humanitarian assistance, and it was in States' interests to improve disaster response. He was concerned that restrictive interpretations on how humanitarian assistance could be received had undermined victims' rights, and he urged recognizing the prerogative to request and receive such assistance.

The Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) added that the magnitude of such challenges as financial instability, climate change and volatile food and energy prices posed operational difficulties in areas of limited access, and as such, a strong partnership between host Governments and other actors was essential for fulfilling the needs of the most vulnerable.

Turning to United Nations efforts, the representative of New Zealand said there was room to improve the quality, efficiency, timeliness and accountability of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a stand-by mechanism created in 2005 to pre-position funding for humanitarian action. She looked forward to the release of management responses to the CERF evaluation later this week. New Zealand would continue to provide un-earmarked, predictable multi-year contributions to the Fund and multilateral agencies with which it partnered.

The representative of South Africa pointed to other challenges, including developing a speedier approval process for usage of funds, and better communication, allowing agencies more understanding of the Fund's role. At the same time, he expressed support for the United Nations "cluster approach" to disaster response, which assigned roles to United Nations agencies according to sector.

The Assembly also took up matters related to the appointment of a member of the Joint Inspection Unit to fill a vacancy to arise from the departure of Mr. Tadanori Inomata ( Japan), whose term of office will expire on 31 December 2009. Referring to document A/63/108, Assembly Vice-President Munionganda Mbuende ( Namibia) communicated information received from the Chairman of the Group of Asian States that his Group had endorsed Japan to propose a candidate for the vacancy among Asian States.

He said that, in accordance with article 3, paragraph 1, of the Unit's Statute, and resolution 61/238 (2006), Japan had submitted the name of a candidate and the relevant curriculum vitae. After consultations with the President of the Economic and Social Council and the Secretary-General in the Secretary-General's capacity as Chairman of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the Assembly President would submit the candidate's name to the Assembly for appointment.

Also speaking on strengthening United Nations humanitarian assistance were representatives of Cuba, Russian Federation, Peru, Norway, China, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Japan, Brazil, United States, Mexico, Kuwait, Australia, Thailand, Colombia and Indonesia.

Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies also spoke.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine also addressed the Assembly.

The representative of the Netherlands introduced draft resolution A/63/L.19 on the Report of the International Criminal Court.

Also speaking on that resolution was the representative of Costa Rica.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply on humanitarian assistance was the representative of Myanmar.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 November, to begin its two-day high-level meeting on the culture of peace.


The General Assembly met today to continue its joint debate on strengthening United Nations coordination of humanitarian assistance (see Press Release GA/10780). It also planned to resume its consideration of the report of the International Criminal Court (see Press Release GA/10774), and take up the appointment of a member of the Joint Inspection Unit.

For such matters, the Assembly has before it a note by the Secretary-General on the appointment of a member of the Joint Inspection Unit (document A/63/108), by which he transmits articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Unit's statute, contained in the annex to General Assembly resolution 31/192 (1976). The articles outline the composition of the Unit, how qualified candidates are reviewed and the duration of terms of office.

It notes that as the term of office of Mr. Tadanori Inomata will expire on 31 December 2009, the Assembly, at its sixty-third session, must appoint one person to fill the vacancy. The person appointed will serve for five years, beginning 1 January 2010.


ILEANA B. NÚÑEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) reaffirmed the 2005-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action and disaster preparedness in particular, stressing that humanitarian assistance must be carried out with full respect for the guiding principles relating to State sovereignty. In less than a month, this year, from 16 to 10 September, she said her country had been affected by four extreme meteorological events. Those were two tropical storms, Fay and Hanna, and two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, with the latter two causing an estimated $8 billion in damage. More than 500,000 homes had been damaged or completely destroyed, along with a third of the agricultural area. The country's power and communications infrastructure had been severely damaged.

However, she said the death toll had been minimal because of measures taken based on previous experience. Over 3 million people had been evacuated to safety, about 28 per cent of the population. The Cuban Civil Defense force had been in charge of ensuring compliance with civil defence measures and with ensuring adherence to standards set out in international instruments on protection of civilians. Use of the mass media, coordination between the Government and non-governmental institutions, and compliance with instructions on the part of the people had all been key factors in minimizing the human loss and ensuring delivery of medical care.

Now, she said, Hurricane Paloma had hit Cuba over the weekend, a category 3-level event on the 5-level Saffir-Simpson scale. Winds over 215 kilometres per hour had caused serious damage again to the Cuban economy, but the Civil Defense force had prevented human loss. The Cuban people would continue to work towards recovery, but the "genocidal" blockade by the United States must cease. The international community had voted for that decision on 29 October through the General Assembly.

Stating that the international cooperation was important in the field of disaster relief and assistance, especially in light of the increasing scale and number of natural disasters ramping up the need for humanitarian services worldwide, ALEXANDER S. ALIMOV ( Russian Federation) highlighted Assembly resolution 46/182, which presented "guiding principles" to the international community in emergency humanitarian assistance delivery. He discouraged politicizing such efforts, and said that humanitarian access, including the provision of adequate, timely delivery of assistance, was a key to humanitarian response operations, and the sovereignty of the recipient State must be respected. Military assets in such operations should be used only as a last resort, in order to save lives, and when civil assets were not available.

The global food crisis was another emerging humanitarian issue, and there had been positive strides aimed at ensuring food security taken by the Economic and Social Council and the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, along with the expanded role of the World Food Programme (WFP), in feeding the world's 900 million hungry people. Climate change had also been an important factor in natural disasters, with increases in tropical cyclones, heat waves, droughts, heavy rains and flooding.

He encouraged international cooperation and a balanced approach that encompassed mitigation and adaptation to current and foreseeable variability in climate extremes. National capacity-building in such endeavours was also urged, along with the development of early warning systems and support of scientific research.

He went on to note effective measures his country had taken in completing renovations to its National Emergency Control Centre, which was equipped with 24-hour inter-agency coordination, operational management and post-disaster relief. He called attention to the fact that the international community was behind in the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, which called for the reduction of disaster damage by 2015. He urged, also, for increased attention to the needs assessment process and criteria adjustment of the Central Emergency Response Fund, an essential financial tool in the provision of timely, flexible humanitarian assistance.

LUIS ENRIQUE CHÁVEZ ( Peru) said that, on 15 August, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Peru, and several cities had been seriously impacted. In Pisco, more than 500 lives had been lost, and damage to housing and infrastructure had been immense. The roles of the civil defence organizations had been very effective. The immediate response would not have been as effective if not for the generous response of the international humanitarian community.

That response showed the value of a coordinated international humanitarian response to disasters. Some of the most effective tools had been early warning systems and systems of risk reduction, he said. It was important to strengthen those systems, and technology transfer and financial assistance were ways to do that. International coordination was of great significance, and it was important to strengthen the legal framework of international assistance. The international community also needed to remember the rights of victims, who were very vulnerable, and protect their human rights, particularly the rights of women and children.

Another effective way to improve humanitarian assistance was to give aid workers unhampered access to equipment and supplies, so they could quickly provide assistance to civilians. Many humanitarian workers faced violent attacks, and States must take action to avoid acts of violence against aid workers, he said. The international community also needed to remember the work of the Fund. It was an effective instrument, and he encouraged contributions to the Fund, which were the most tangible form of assistance to people.

MORTEN WETLAND ( Norway), while acknowledging concerns that the global financial crisis would affect the contributions of donor countries to development and humanitarian aid, pointed out that, in the midst of that financial crisis, his country had reached its targets of providing one per cent of gross national income for international development and humanitarian aid. He urged Member States to do the same.

Recognizing that, without the necessary resources, the United Nations would not be able to respond to the many serious, complex global challenges in the future, he further urged Member States to recognize the importance of predictable funding, and asked more countries to come on board and assume a larger share of the financial burden. In view of the important role the Organization played in coordinating humanitarian assistance, close cooperation between the world body and non-governmental organizations, as well as between the United Nations and national authorities, was essential to ensure an effective response to humanitarian crises, he explained.

Further, Norway expected its humanitarian partners to apply a gender perspective in all programmes and activities. Women and children were particularly vulnerable in humanitarian crises, he said, adding that nowhere in the world was that fact more obvious than in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo today. The widespread and systematic sexual violence had had devastating consequences, not only for every victim, but for future peace and reconciliation in that country.

He went on to stress that, while sexual violence was internationally recognized as a savage weapon of war -- in fact, as a war crime -- it was not an inevitable feature of war and could be stopped if taken seriously enough. The world had too often looked away, and the Security Council had a key role in following up on resolution 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008), he asserted.

The establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) had given the United Nations a rapid response capacity, yet the world seemed more willing to pay for damages after disaster stuck than invest in preventive action, he said. In addition, he urged all States and United Nations agencies to recognize cluster munitions as a serious humanitarian problem, and promote the rapid entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) recalled the devastating earthquake which struck Wenchuan, Sichuan province on 12 May 2008, and thanked all that provided humanitarian assistance to the quake zone. Against the backdrop of more frequent natural disasters, climate change, soaring food prices and the global financial crisis, common challenges required strengthening cooperation among all humanitarian actors, maintaining sustainable resources for assistance, and improving the effectiveness of disaster relief, among other things.

As such, the humanitarian principles set out in the 1991 Assembly resolution 46/182 were a basis for the effective provision of humanitarian assistance, and he urged all humanitarian actors to adhere to those of humanity, neutrality, territorial integrity and national unity of States, among others. While affected States had the primary duty for leading such assistance, all other actors, including the United Nations, were obliged to strengthen cooperation with the host Government.

In recent years, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had played an irreplaceable role in reforming the Organization's humanitarian system. He hoped that Office would, among other things: further improve the humanitarian Resident Coordinator system; improve the "cluster approach" and disaster relief coordinating capacity; refrain from reducing relief inputs to non-climate related disasters; and help affected countries to address their difficulties in facilitating unhindered access in complex emergencies.

On the CERF, China supported efforts to aggressively scale up its activities and appealed to developed countries, in particular, to contribute to it. Calling for full implementation of the Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action, he hoped States would fully support the annual resolution on "international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development". For China, disaster reduction, preparedness and emergency relief were important tasks, and the country had shared its experiences in that area. It had provided cash and, in kind, humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, Bolivia and Somalia, among other countries.

Noting that 9 out of 10 disasters are climate-related, especially with increasing incidents of floods, and soaring food prices, MUHAMMAD ALI SORCAR ( Bangladesh) said "the humanitarian implications are enormous." To save lives and livelihoods, it was essential, therefore, to ensure stronger regional and international preparedness in improving prediction, monitoring and warnings of disasters, along with more effective responses.

He said that the international community must provide necessary resources to those ends, in addition to directing humanitarian funds to "upstream activities", such as disaster preparedness and contingency planning, and investing in disaster risk reduction as part of the Hyogo Framework for Action. He urged the increase of standing response capacities, responsible leadership, aid delivery effectiveness and coordination. He also called for funds to support the CERF, a valuable, impartial tool, and essential feature in international humanitarian action, and to meet its annual target of $500 million.

As a country afflicted by natural disasters "with relentless regularity", he stressed the need for stronger disaster preparedness and risk reduction to reduce resulting humanitarian impacts, and noted that Bangladesh's improvements in preparedness and early warning systems had already saved lives. It had also adopted a comprehensive policy in disaster risk reduction, with the goal of sustainable development through alleviating the burden of disasters on the poor and most vulnerable.

He also noted the high-level forum of the National Disaster Management Council, and a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, which was a ten-year programme to strengthen Bangladesh's resilience and capacity to meet climate change challenges. He called on the international community to support the implementation of this comprehensive strategy.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) recalled a traditional wisdom that those who prepared in advance, suffered less in emergencies. As outlined in the Secretary-General's report, such preparedness had helped affected communities respond effectively to disasters. The implications of disasters in developing countries were immense, and it was important to take measures that improved the response capacity of affected nations.

Climate change, as well as inter-State and intra-State conflicts, would likely increase the demand for humanitarian assistance in the coming decade, he said, noting that 9 of every 10 disasters were climate related. Pakistan had suffered from high-magnitude natural disasters, notably the 29 October 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Baluchistan province.

A devastating earthquake in 2005 had forced the country to go beyond the conventional disaster management model of response, relief and recovery, to a holistic model, which included hazard mitigation and community preparedness. In its rehabilitation, Pakistan had learned important lessons, notably that integration of disaster risk reduction into all sectoral development policies was necessary for achieving sustainable development. Developing institutions at all levels could systematically contribute to building resilience against natural disasters, and offered viable solutions for managing risks, particularly as top-down disaster interventions alone were insufficient.

Such experience had helped Pakistan envision a decentralized mechanism for disaster preparedness, which included the creation of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, and the National Disaster Management Commission, headed by the Prime Minister. In addition, provincial disaster management commissions and authorities had been created, while the national disaster risk management framework guided the entire system. In 2009, disaster management would be integrated into school curricula. In closing, he urged that respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the national unity of States remain the parameters in all efforts for humanitarian assistance.

PETER MAURER ( Switzerland) said the number of civilian victims of armed conflicts and other violent situations, as well as those of natural disasters, remained alarming. Other global challenges included the humanitarian impact of climate change, the food crisis and the international financial crisis. Current and recent crises had severely put international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles to the test. Protection of and assistance to civilian population were too often not met.

He said that rapid and unimpeded access by humanitarian organizations to all victims, whether in armed conflicts or in the case of natural disasters, was essential. Switzerland had held a meeting of experts on 30 June and 1 July to identify the main obstacles to humanitarian access in armed conflicts and the methods to overcome them at the legal, political and operational levels. A follow-up meeting would be held in 2009, and a "good practice" guide might be drafted.

Stressing that the safety and security of humanitarian and United Nations personnel was another major cause for concern, he said it was imperative for the actors concerned to respect their obligations under international law. He encouraged the Secretary-General to implement, within the United Nations system, the recommendations of the June 2008 Independent Panel of Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel and Premises Worldwide report, "Towards a Culture of Security and Accountability".

Further, humanitarian reform at the operational level should be consolidated. In that, a collaborative approach among all humanitarian actors was needed. Highly competent leadership was a must, and the capacities of resident and humanitarian coordinators should be strengthened. Joint humanitarian needs assessments and management of various operational actors' capacities should be improved. A focus on respect for humanitarian principles should be constant. Initiatives to move beyond humanitarian reform and ensure a more effective United Nations response were not only welcome but necessary.

BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said that the CERF had quickly achieved most of its preliminary goals and become a useful and objective instrument for the implementation of humanitarian activities. She welcomed the high-level conference on the mechanism, set to be held in December, as an opportunity for Member States to strengthen their political and financial commitments to that body. She commended the Fund for its fair, timely and effective distribution of resources and noted that Kazakhstan had recently doubled its voluntary contributions to relief efforts.

She emphasized the increasing role of the regional Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kazakhstan and suggested that it be converted into a Central Asian Coordination Centre for the prevention and diminishment of emergency situations, with a logistical base to be located at the Almaty airport. Noting that the city was well situated to respond rapidly to emergencies in Asia and Europe, she looked forward to endorsement of the idea from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and from neighbouring countries.

Continuing, she said that, due to the food crisis, 100 million people could be added to the 800 million already suffering from hunger and noted that Kazakhstan had provided humanitarian support, this year, to Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Ukraine, that amounted to $10 million.

On climate change, noting Kazakhstan's commitment to cooperating with the United Nations, she spoke of the serious challenges faced by Kazakhstan and the world, due to forty years of nuclear testing in Semipalatinsk, and requested the Secretary-General to accelerate the issuance of his report to the current session of the Assembly, as called for in that world body's resolution on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan.

HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) said that, while the world was increasingly aware of people in emergency situations, achieving real humanitarian results was a challenge, as shown by experiences in Sri Lanka, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Haiti. Access was fundamental to humanitarian response, and all too often, it was subordinated to "political bargaining", which imposed even greater suffering on civilian populations.

Humanitarian personnel provided invaluable services to millions of people in need, often at great personal risk, he said. Increasingly, aid workers were targets of kidnapping and became involved in deadly attacks. By example, aid convoys had been hijacked and relief workers expelled from their countries of operation. He condemned such abhorrent attacks and actions, and called on States to ensure the safety and security of relief workers.

Canada strongly supported the United Nations importance in responding to crises, and believed that the cluster coordination approach was a valuable model, in that it helped address weaknesses and provide a more predictable response. He urged helping those clusters that were not performing to expectations, and ensuring that cluster lead agencies had the tools needed to enhance coordination.

Turning to flexible financing mechanisms, he said the CERF had become integral to speeding humanitarian response, and States must ensure that reliable and evidence-based needs assessments underpinned such funding mechanisms. Canada was committed to assisting those most impacted by the food crisis and, in April, had announced an additional $50 million in food aid, bringing its fiscal-year contribution to $230 million. Canada also had completely opened its food aid budget to international procurement, with a special emphasis on procurement from developing countries. In closing, he called for continual refinement of strategies for effective and timely humanitarian action.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that, for Palestinians, international assistance represented the global community's "unwavering commitment" to the ultimate realization of their inalienable rights. For the past six decades, such assistance had been vital to ensuring that they had not been forgotten, despite the many years of conflict.

The past eight years had seen mounting burdens on both the Palestinian society and international donors, resulting from Israel's illegal actions, which had targeted donor-funded projects. Israeli policies had forced a process of "de-development" in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, he said, citing a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report showing that construction of Israeli settlements and ongoing construction of the Wall were directly linked to erosion of the Territory's productive capacity.

Despite best efforts, recovery from the forced plunge into deep poverty had been slow, he said, adding that in the last eight years, the Palestinian economy had transformed from one driven by private-sector investment to one degraded by warlike conditions. The "occupation matrix" of closures included some 630 checkpoints and restricted bypass roads, which struck at the heart of the Palestinian economy through multiple channels. The World Bank concluded that the economy would likely have doubled in size between 2000 and 2007, were it not for such restrictions.

In the Gaza Strip, 80 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line, and more than 80 per cent were dependent on food aid, he said, a situation worsened by the tightened closure since June 2007. International aid had had little effect on Palestinians' grim reality, and as long as the situation deteriorated, no amount of aid could compensate for their astonishing losses.

The unprecedented growth of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in the five years following the creation of the Palestinian Authority, had been "counterproductive", he said. International aid should be helping to build the Palestinian State, rather than simply slowing the economy's deterioration. Despite such difficulties, the Palestinian Authority's commitment to lifting people from deep poverty was unwavering. He called for intensifying efforts to help end illegal Israeli practices, and preventing aid from being spent on repairing the "colossal" damage caused by them. "Instead, the occupying Power must be compelled to recognize that such actions come at a price," he said, adding that only then would such actions stop. He also expected full support to uphold Palestinians' right to self-determination.

AHMED AL-JARMAN (United Arab Emirates) said the Secretary-General's reports on the Organization's humanitarian activities showed the seriousness of the challenges facing the world body in that area, as a result of the increasing number of persons needing emergency relief and humanitarian assistance due to more incidents of natural disasters. The combination of the food and financial crises, as well as issues of poverty, armed conflict and serious diseases, called for the United Nations and its relevant partners to double their efforts to meet the increasing needs. He emphasized the urgent need to supply the United Nations with the necessary financial and human resources, in order for it to discharge its growing responsibilities.

He said, besides fulfilling more than $1 million in financial contributions and commitments to United Nations entities concerned with humanitarian and development activities, the United Arab Emirates had contributed more than $1 billion in international assistance in the last three years, in addition to other contributions directed at reconstruction in countries affected by armed conflict. His country had also played a major role in coordinating and strengthening the international relief efforts through providing high efficient logistic facilities on their land, such as the Dubai International Humanitarian City.

He emphasized the importance of implementing the recommendations and resolutions of all international conferences on national and international strategies to deal with disasters and their aftermath through all stages. He also urged developing countries to take charge of implementing those strategies, and the developed countries to fulfil their commitments to assist them in building their national capacities to deal with natural disasters and the aftermath of armed conflict.

The United Arab Emirates also attached special importance to the support and assistance for the Palestinian people and their Government during the humanitarian crisis caused by the cruel hostile policies imposed on them by the Israeli occupying forces. He stressed the urgency of compelling Israel, to, among others, stop its aggression against Palestine immediately; lift its blockade of the Palestinians; comply with the legal international resolutions; and resume peace negotiations on the basis of the relevant international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

MOHAMED IBRAHIM EL-BAHI ( Sudan) said he valued the efforts of non-governmental organizations and various civil society organizations in providing humanitarian relief. With the present global challenges, humanitarian aid required a broader and better understanding to improve cooperation with national organizations. The increasing frequency of natural and man-made catastrophes made joint coordination and the development of early warning systems even more important. He stressed some of the key guidelines of humanitarian work: neutrality, transparency, respect for the sovereignty of States and territorial integrity.

He hoped there would be tangible humanitarian action on the ground. The role of States at the country level was essential to help with the United Nations' humanitarian assistance. He said Sudan had hosted one of the largest humanitarian operations in the world, Sudan Lifeline. It was a pilot model for international humanitarian assistance in coordination with national agencies.

Greater stability could be achieved through the Sudanese Government's efforts to protect its citizens as it coordinated with United Nations humanitarian agencies. That would happen with a growing role by national organizations, at a time in which Sudan valued the importance of humanitarian assistance. He referred to the Sudanese initiative to solve the problem of Darfur. He noted that the United Nations' intention was to move from the humanitarian and emergency phase to the development phase. He acknowledged that the absence of development was a main cause of conflict.

He again emphasized the importance of complimenting humanitarian assistance with the requirements of development, and the need to make a smooth transition from assistance to recovery and development. He noted that some humanitarian groups exploited that purpose, and their work was for other purposes.

NORIHIRO OKUDA ( Japan) noted the use of the CERF in facilitating initial responses by United Nations agencies and strengthened responses to underfunded crises. Progress was also seen in the rollout of the cluster approach, but he called for improvements in that initiative's excessive use of time on coordination and its dearth of priorities.

He said the international community must focus more on the impact of the global food crisis on the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance, in order to achieve human security. Member States should, therefore, offer such emergency assistance to all suffering from hunger and malnutrition, remove export restrictions on agricultural products, and, in developing countries, increase aid and investment in agricultural sectors, along the lines of this year's G-8 Toyako Summit.

He noted Japan's commitment to those initiatives, along with its $1.5 billion contribution in food aid and other agricultural assistance since January. He also called for the creation of global partnerships between developing countries, the private sector, civil society, donors and international organizations.

As reminders of the importance of disaster preparedness and risk reduction, he noted the severe damage caused by the Myanmar cyclone and the earthquake in China. At the same time, he also highlighted the preparations Cuba had taken ahead of subsequent, devastating hurricanes, which saved many lives. Japan, with its centuries of experience with "every type of natural calamity", stressed its determination to share its knowledge and technology with the international community. He also highlighted Japanese contributions to the formulation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, development of an Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission tsunami warning system, and the World Bank's Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, along with its intentions to continue in the promotion of regional cooperation.

On the deterioration of safety and security conditions for humanitarian personnel, he called for the implementation of recommendations from the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel, along with the establishment of a World Humanitarian Day to honour all relief workers who had lost their lives in the line of duty. In conclusion, he stressed the effective use of military assets, the smooth transition from relief to development assistance, and the provision of sustainable reconstruction, in the vital provision of humanitarian assistance.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said that the dire consequences of humanitarian emergencies heightened the need to strengthen the central role of the United Nations in the coordination of assistance. In regard to access to populations in need, she stressed the importance of both non-intervention and non-indifference, which she maintained were not mutually exclusive but reinforced each other when assistance was rendered transparently, and benefited the populations in need. Denial of access was, on the other hand, a violation of international law. More, she said, should also be done to strengthen national and local capacity for disaster risk reduction.

She appealed to all parties, especially in armed conflicts, to comply with their obligations on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. To raise awareness in that effort, she said a commemorative day should be established for humanitarian workers who had lost their lives in the cause of duty. Brazil had shown its commitment to assistance in emergencies through a steady increase in the provision of food and other aid, and the creation of an inter-ministerial working group to direct its efforts in that regard.

The CERF was an important tool in addressing humanitarian emergencies, and she also welcomed new purchasing mechanisms, such as the one Brazil had instituted, which favoured small farmers both domestically and in affected countries. She also spoke of Brazil's concern over, and contributions to, the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the increased role needed for regional arrangements in assisting affected countries.

TE MANGAI O AOTEAROA ( New Zealand) said that, like others, the Asia-Pacific region faced similar challenges caused by climate-related disasters, conflict situations, and the global food and financial crises. The region's vulnerability and the severity of natural disasters had led to significant loss of lives, as well as economic damage. New Zealand was pleased to participate in the rollout of the cluster approach in the Pacific towards improving predictability and response in the event of disasters.

Turning to the Secretary-General's Report on the CERF and though pleased with the evaluation's positive assessment, she believed there was room to improve the consistency of the quality, efficiency, timeliness and accountability of the system. She looked forward to the release of management responses to the CERF evaluation later this week. New Zealand would continue to provide un-earmarked, predictable multi-year contributions to the Fund and multilateral agencies with which it partnered, in order to let those agencies effectively set priorities based on agreed strategies.

New Zealand supported the United Nations' key role in providing leadership and coordination of international humanitarian action, especially the role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She also considered civil society participation as key to reform efforts. Development and humanitarian activities by communities, non-governmental organizations, the Red Cross Movement and the private sector were substantial, and had to be recognized as equal and complementary partners to the United Nation's humanitarian system, she said.

Humanitarian policy development, planning programmes, and financing needs had to be undertaken in a way that supported and enhanced their activities. New Zealand was deeply concerned that there had been an increase in deliberate and targeted attacks of humanitarian workers, and she urged all parties to a conflict to respect the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel and its Optional Protocol.

T. VANCE MCMAHAN ( United States) said hampered access, by aid workers to communities in need, was among the most significant constraints to the speed and quality of humanitarian response. Even with improvements in response capacities, aid was not always delivered in time due to such restrictions, and States looked to the United Nations for leadership in advocating unimpeded humanitarian access to vulnerable populations. Deliberate attacks on humanitarian workers significantly impeded life-saving aid in many crises, and he urged working together to guarantee their safety and security.

Protracted civil conflicts continued to create the largest situations of forced displacement, with 1.6 million new internally displaced persons produced in Africa alone last year, he continued. As such, he called for protecting those threatened by civil conflict, and supporting coordinated efforts by humanitarian organizations with protection mandates and expertise. Among his country's priorities was the protection of women and children from gender-based violence, and he strongly encouraged all humanitarian actors to integrate countermeasures into their efforts. Non-governmental organizations should participate in all levels of coordination, including the cluster approach, and he urged the United Nations to fully integrate that approach in the field.

While calling the CERF a "positive step forward", he also noted that significant bilateral and regional mechanisms existed, and no one such mechanism should be advocated over others. He reaffirmed strong support for neutral and robust responses to humanitarian needs, and adherence to principles outlined in the Good Humanitarian Donorship initiative. In closing, he called on States to support the United Nations management reforms that sought to develop strong systems for measuring performance.

CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), recalling that the year had seen hurricanes Hanna, Gustav, Ike, Kyle and Omar, reiterated Mexico's solidarity with the victims of those events, and underscored the need to move towards integrated disaster prevention. The Hyogo Plan of Action outlined measures for addressing different levels of risk management. In particular, priority 5 offered a series of steps for strengthening preventive action and raising community awareness, among other things.

The time had come to respond to natural disasters and climate change in a holistic fashion, he said, and the international community's maturity was demonstrated in the diverse means for providing humanitarian assistance. That required having the right tools, engaging in political dialogue at all levels and providing financial resources. In that regard, he noted the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team.

Turning to the CERF, he said Mexico had supported its creation. In 2008, his country had contributed $100,000 to the Fund, and was set to contribute $150,000 next year. Noting the need for common rules, he said the United Nations had an important role in providing technical assistance to States, and he promoted coordination of humanitarian assistance using existing synergies.

He said Mexico was concerned that restrictive interpretations of receiving humanitarian assistance had undermined victims' rights, and he urged recognizing the prerogative to request and receive such assistance. Placing sovereignty before peoples' needs weakened the foundations of humanitarian assistance, and it was in States' interests to improve disaster response. Mexico, with others, had held an international meeting, which focused on international mechanisms for aid. In closing, he underscored Mexico's commitment to ensuring better coordination of humanitarian assistance.

ABDULLAH AL-SALEM ( Kuwait) said Kuwait offered all types of relief assistance and contributed to developing countries from a sense of responsibility. It offered such aid bilaterally and directly. Kuwait had contributed to the CERF since its inception and was very keen to continue its aid. He called on the international community to continue contributing to the Fund. He commended the excellent humanitarian role of the United Nations and its agencies, and appreciated the efforts of all workers in field.

Kuwait was concerned with the threats posed by natural disasters. He also called on host countries to guarantee the security of humanitarian workers, and urged workers responding to crises to promote respect for humanitarian principles, including neutrality and transparency. Kuwait provided assistance to Palestinian people, whether directly or through United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The state of Kuwait demanded that Israel cease all inhuman practices and lift restrictions on travel to Gaza, and cease building the separation wall that had hurt the Palestinian economy.

Turning to the recent natural disaster in Yemen, he said Kuwait had provided various types of aid and assistance to that country since the flooding, and called on the Assembly to adopt the draft resolution introduced yesterday to mitigate the suffering of the people there. He reiterated that Kuwait would continue to provide humanitarian assistance on a bilateral level or through United Nations agencies to provide assistance and spur development.

FLEUR MARGARET DAVIES ( Australia) said the past year's events had shown the importance of international humanitarian assistance, as higher food prices exacerbated existing emergencies and contributed to food insecurity. Natural hazards, especially climate-related hazards, had had devastating consequences in Myanmar, southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Australia recognised the need for greater attention to disaster risk reduction, including prevention, mitigation and preparedness measures, which had to be woven into humanitarian action and early recovery efforts. Australia valued the United Nations' role, and recognized the work of the Emergency Relief Coordinator and the operational agencies of the United Nations. She supported the role of the Humanitarian Coordinator, and encouraged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to build an expanded pool of humanitarian coordinators with high-level capacities ready for deployment.

She went on to say that greater investment was needed to increase the skills of all United Nations resident coordinators in humanitarian relief and disaster management. She said the value of the humanitarian cluster approach had been clearly demonstrated during a number of emergencies over the last year, and had successfully enhanced coordination, prioritization and partnerships.

It was imperative that a gender perspective be integrated into all aspects of humanitarian policy, planning and implementation, since women and men, and boys and girls, were affected differently by conflict and natural disasters. She stressed the importance of integrating measures to reduce gender-based violence into all humanitarian action. Australia advocated for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which had provided for women's protection, and their full and active participation in the peace process and peacebuilding.

Australia was deeply troubled by the increasing number of violent attacks against humanitarian personnel that led to the suspension of programmes and prevented relief from reaching those who needed it most. This disturbing trend had to be reversed, she said.

CHIRACHAI PUNKRASIN ( Thailand) recalled the broadcast images of human suffering caused by natural disasters, and stated that "we know that we cannot look away." To assist those in need, the international community had been generous in responding, but the need for urgent action "has never been greater". He, therefore, urged leadership at national, regional and international levels, especially in responses to climate-related natural disasters. Regional leadership was needed to complement the national leadership when in-state capabilities were insufficient and to shore up national responses, he added.

He went on to highlight some of the regional responses to Myanmar's cyclone Nargis last year, particularly Thailand's emergency relief assistance within the first 72 hours, its constant flow of relief supplies, medical teams and the use of its airport as a staging area for humanitarian assistance.

He also recognized the efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in its role as a "critical diplomatic umbrella" for the international community and through the United Nations, and also in strengthening regional arrangements for disaster risk reduction and preparedness, along with response capabilities. ASEAN was looking into the integration of military assets with its standby and operating procedures, as critical assets for mobilization in case of disasters, as well as pre-positioning a regional stockpile and distribution hubs for relief supplies, he added.

He called for collective global leadership to reinforce leadership on the national and regional levels, in expectation of future natural disasters. He also called for sufficient, predictable and timely resources, with greater emphasis on the funding of disaster risk reduction and preparedness, and he noted Thailand's contribution of $20,000 to the CERF.

ANDRIES OOSTHUIZEN (South Africa), on the increasing demands faced by the United Nations humanitarian system, namely rising food prices and input costs, climate change challenges, and the current financial crisis, called on Member States to contribute to the funding of the WFP, among other humanitarian organizations. Such Organizations and specialized agencies had been negatively impacted by the food crisis, and needed broad support. He also called for the funding of the CERF, to ensure such humanitarian operations' effective functioning.

He went on to note the successes achieved by the CERF in the timely provision of assistance to reduce losses of lives and in substantial contributions to underfunded emergencies, especially in Africa. The international community must not only support the CERF in the finances, but must also support the Secretariat's efforts to improve its functioning, management and oversight. Other challenges included providing quicker access to funding by non-governmental organizations, speedier approval process for usage of funds, and better communication, allowing agencies better understanding of the Fund's role.

He encouraged a coordinated approach and effective partnerships between Member States, United Nations humanitarian organizations and non-governmental organizations to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in need worldwide. He also called for support for the enhancement of humanitarian capacity, in developing countries in particular. In addition, he expressed support for the "cluster approach", the internationally recognized guidelines on civil-military coordination, and ensuring safe access of humanitarian personnel to vulnerable communities. He called attention to gender-based violence, and called for efforts in its prevention and prompt investigations.

In conclusion, he commended the worldwide efforts and courage of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, and called for adequate safety measures in the continuance of their work, as well as more consideration of affected communities' needs, not based solely on financial considerations.

CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) noted Colombia's adoption of laws, policies and programmes for comprehensive assistance, in accordance with international standards, and ensuring the coordination and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its country. National bodies coordinated implementation of those policies by involving national, departmental and municipal authorities, along with the private sector and civil society. An example of such coordination was the National Humanitarian Plenary in Colombia, led by the Presidential Agency for Social Action.

She went on to say that, in order to deploy effective responses to natural disasters occurring at home and related to climate change –- tropical, seismic and volcanic activity –- Colombia's National System and National Plan for Disaster Prevention and Response had been strengthened, among other domestic initiatives and regional cooperative efforts. She also stressed Colombia's "solid responses" to situations involving terrorists, and more comprehensive assistance programmes for others affected by violence and those displaced by violence or disasters. Violence had significantly decreased in the past six years, due to the implementation of the Democratic Security Policy and the massive demobilization of those formerly belonging to illegally armed groups, and that "consolidation of security" had also lessened the number of humanitarian emergency situations.

In closing, she called for international cooperation and technology transfer in adaptation, development of early warning systems and increasing national preparedness and response capacities, along with more dialogue among the United Nations and Governments to identify risks, exchange information, and define improved protection measures for the safety of humanitarian personnel.

ADE PETRANTO ( Indonesia) said the timely provision of humanitarian assistance had become more essential as a way to rapidly meet the needs of victims and aid development efforts. Indonesia believed that an effective demand-driven mechanism should be in place, as embodied in United Nations General Assembly's 1991 resolution 46/182. That resolution had rightly emphasized the principles of neutrality, humanity and impartiality, and had called for full respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.

Indonesia emphasized the importance of strengthening the role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Its synergies with the CERF, an important component of providing more predictable and timely responses for humanitarian emergencies, should be expanded to improve humanitarian assistance. Indonesia appreciated the Secretary-General's independent review of the Fund. Started two years ago, the CERF had effectively enabled rapid mobilization of necessary funds for life-saving operations in many countries that had experienced sudden disasters and conflicts. He encouraged Members States to continue replenishing its funds.

With the increase of disasters around the globe, there was room for improving coordination, effectiveness and efficiency, with an eye towards strengthening partnerships at all levels. Today, Indonesia had launched the Indonesia Tsunami Early Warning System it had developed. On behalf of ASEAN and other countries affected by tsunamis, Indonesia was planning to submit a draft resolution, "Strengthening emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and prevention in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster", for the Assembly's consideration.

The resolution built on recent developments and lessons learned during the rehabilitation and reconstruction phases in the affected countries. Indonesia sought the continued co-sponsorship of Member States for the resolution, which would be taken up for the last time at this year's session.

CHRISTINE BEERLI, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that her Organization acted "exclusively humanitarian" in facing challenges such as serving people ravaged by armed conflicts, natural disasters, scarcity of resources in light of climate change and environmental damage, as well as increasing food insecurity that led to poverty, migration, and the worsening of armed conflict humanitarian situations. Indeed, the ICRC provided assistance without discrimination, and its intention was to adapt to evolving humanitarian needs and conditions, maintaining a strong culture of accountability.

With increased levels of violence present in ICRC-served countries, it was extremely important that the Organization's staff could conduct humanitarian work safely. Safety was more than just an issue of physical protection. Indeed, for the ICRC to operate in safety, it must have acceptance. That acceptance was entirely dependent on the perception of the conflict parties and others that the ICRC was impartial, neutral and independent, without affiliation to any political or military party. That exclusively humanitarian approach was the ICRC's most effective and powerful tool to gain access to countries and regions such as Afghanistan, Colombia and Darfur, among many others.

With dramatic changes in recent years, humanitarian action had seen the integration of crisis-management tools –- blending objectives and activities of political, military, humanitarian and development natures. With those multi-faceted operations, she said, it had at times led to a blurring of the lines between political goals and humanitarian operations. She therefore urged Member States to prevent and resolve conflicts, and to create sustainable conditions for post-conflict recovery, with security forces playing an important role during that period, but with the preservation of independence for humanitarian operations. With the ICRC's legal mandate from the international community, it had placed special attention to displaced persons, and had called for the creation of flexible response strategies in situations of internal displacement, she added.

MICHAEL SHULZ, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, drew attention to a number of key operational challenges facing the international humanitarian community, including an increase in the overall number of emergencies, especially in Africa. Indeed, the number of floods and weather-related disasters in all regions was increasing, as was the number of health emergencies and epidemics related to flooding. As well, there was also a significant increase in the number of small-scale disasters that did not trigger international disaster responses or emergency appeals.

At the same time, the nature of international response operations was changing, with an emerging role for regional organizations and reluctance, by some countries, to accept unsolicited external assistance. Such a situation had occurred recently in Myanmar and had presented the International Federation with the challenge of developing a regional Red Cross and Crescent mechanism to work alongside the arrangements being designed by the ASEAN Governments.

Continuing, he said that before greenhouse gas emission reductions would have an effect on climate, hazards would continue to increase, underlining the urgency to increase humanitarian response capacities in the short-term, while increasing the capacities of individuals, communities and countries to address risks in the medium-term. Negotiations on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provided a welcome opportunity to address the integration of climate risk management in overall disaster risk management and improved coherence with longer-term development processes.

He welcomed the Secretary-General's call for multi-year commitments to humanitarian funding, and the "keen willingness" of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to initiate a dialogue with the Federation on the subject. At the same time, he stressed the importance of further enhancing the contingency planning process at a national level, with a view to recognizing the important roles played by Governments, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations and civil society.

In closing, he drew attention to the adoption of Guidelines for the Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance, at the thirtieth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2007. The Guidelines were already helping Governments prepare themselves to effectively monitor and coordinate international assistance, and were being used as a tool to help a number of Governments proactively examine their legal preparedness for international relief. He welcomed the appreciation shown by the Economic and Social Council over the Guidelines and hoped that the Assembly would share that view.

LUCA DALL'OGLIO, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the magnitude of challenges such as financial instability, climate change and volatile food and energy prices, warranted enhanced coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance. The world had seen complex humanitarian environments this year in which all had been called on to deliver services. Such conditions underscored the operational difficulties in areas of limited access, and, as such, a strong partnership between host Governments and other actors was essential for fulfilling the needs of the most vulnerable.

He said IOM's engagement with the humanitarian reform process centred around enhanced responsibilities for vulnerable migrants and internally displaced persons, assumed under the "cluster approach", which supported national responses and filled gaps where international support was needed.

IOM had taken an active role within the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on incorporating climate change into the humanitarian agenda, and he urged gaining a better understanding of the important linkages between "environmentally-induced migration" and climate change. IOM, with the Standing Committee, was carrying out informal inter-agency meetings to develop appropriate terminology on migration and climate change. It was also working with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), among others, to create an informal framework for cross-cutting cooperation in the field of climate change and environmentally induced migration.

Calling CERF a useful and relevant mechanism that filled an important gap between sudden emergencies and available cash flows, he welcomed revisiting its "life-saving criteria" to recognize the particularly vulnerable situations of certain displaced persons, including stranded migrants. The Fund's $37.5 million represented a "critical mass" of resources, and he called for increasing contributions to it in the omnibus humanitarian resolution.

Action and Introduction of Draft Resolutions

Following the debate on humanitarian assistance, the Assembly adopted, by consensus, a resolution on special economic assistance for Yemen (document A/63/L.21), which had been introduced yesterday.

Speaking after that action, the representative of Yemen warmly thanked those who supported the resolution. He appreciated the consensus and the assistance granted by States, the donor community and United Nations specialized agencies, as well as international financial organizations and international relief agencies.

He said Yemen hoped that more technical and economic assistance would be granted to help the country overcome the effect of the floods that had struck some of its provinces. He reaffirmed that the relief efforts made by Yemen and international institutions were part of the agreed actions of national Governments.

Next, PIET DE KLERK ( Netherlands), introducing the draft resolution "Report of the International Criminal Court" (document A/63/L.19), stated that the number of co-sponsoring countries had doubled since the document was created, to a total of 89 co-sponsors. Calling the Court's establishment "the most significant development in the last decade" in the long, ongoing fight against impunity, he urged universal adherence to the Rome Statute, and welcomed new State parties, Cook Islands, Madagascar and Suriname. He also encouraged others to join.

He went on to stress the importance of the Court to the common multilateral system which strove to end impunity and establish the rule of law. Sustainable peace could only be achieved by bringing to justice the perpetrators of the most serious crimes. The cooperation of States, international organizations and civil society was crucial to the functioning of the Court, especially in the arrests and surrender of those accused, protection of victims and witnesses, and sentencing enforcement. He welcomed the United Nations continued assistance to the Court over the past years, with implementation of the Relationship Agreement. All those endeavours were main objectives of the resolution.

Speaking in explanation of position before action, the representative of the United States said his delegation's concerns dated back to 2000, when the United States signed the Rome Statute, but did not submit it for ratification unless fundamental concerns were satisfied. It could, therefore, not join the consensus on this resolution. Its concerns about the Court are about the means, not about its ends. The United States brought violators of international law to justice wherever the violations occurred and played a leadership role in this area.

With respect to Sudan, there was no doubt about the strength of the United States' commitment. It could not ignore the terrible crimes that occurred in Darfur and the massive human suffering there.

The United States respected the right of other States to become Party to the Rome Statute and hoped other States respected its decision not to become a party. While respecting each other's choices, there were ways to advance the cause of criminal justice. The United States appreciated the importance of the language to the upcoming review conference to address the concerns of non-parties.

The representative of Sudan said that, despite the fact that the resolution contained procedural issues regarding the working of the Court, Sudan strongly dissociated itself from it for various reasons outlined by Sudan, when the report of the body's activities had been introduced to the Assembly last week.

Sudan viewed with serious concern that the Court and its Prosecutor General, rather than being faithful to the aspiration of its State Parties, chose to use the body as a tool of ulterior motives to make threats against Sudan's peace and stability.

It was regrettable that the Prosecutor General had intentionally overlooked the cardinal principles in international law and laws of treaties, and had chosen to target a Member State that was not Party to the Rome Statute. He had also overlooked the immunity enjoyed by a Head of State under relevant laws and norms and repeatedly confirmed by the Court. Sudan hoped that in the forthcoming review meeting, the States Parties would rectify the blunders of the Prosecutor General. For those and other reasons, Sudan strongly dissociated itself from the draft, and called on the chairman to ensure that this was properly reflected in the records.

The Assembly adopted Resolution A/63/L.19.

Speaking in explanation of position, Costa Rica's representative pledged his continued commitment to all efforts to strengthen the International Criminal Court in its consolidation phase, as well as its efforts to help heal past wounds and contribute to progress in sustainable development. Calling the Court "an oasis of hope" in a world of new dangers, he, nonetheless, was not surprised by opposition voiced by "those who hold power and wealth" and believed they were both "beyond the scrutiny of justice" and the Court's jurisdiction.

Calling attention to the "natural mandate" of the Court, with cases referred to it by States and the Security Council, "not by arbitrary discussions", he expressed concern at the seven outstanding arrest warrants which were 3-years-old and worked against the faith and confidence in the Court. He went on to urge States and the wider international community to enforce those warrants, address the problem of lack of enforcement, and to analyse broadly other tools to increase the efficiency of the international system of justice.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Myanmar said that there continued to be statements made about his countries response to Cyclone Nargis many months after that event. One such reference had been made, earlier in the afternoon, by the representative of the ICRC. Although the real motivation for that reference was unclear, Myanmar's delegation deemed it necessary to clarify to the Assembly what had actually transpired concerning the cyclone. In fact, he said, the Government of Myanmar had responded quickly to the catastrophe, and international assistance had been delivered to the country immediately after the cyclone, by land, sea and air.

The fact that the Government's response had been adequate had been confirmed by the relevant international organizations. He said that the international community, working through the United Nations, had worked in partnership with the Government of Myanmar. Further, Myanmar was working with the United Nations and ASEAN to plan joint longer-term recovery and preparedness efforts.

For information media • not an official record