UN GA adopts text recognizing right of return of internally displaced persons throughout Georgia, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia
Also Adopts Texts Concerning HIV/AIDS, Multilingualism, International Criminal Courts for Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda
Following extensive debate that included a motion by the Russian Federation to take no action that was ultimately defeated, the General Assembly today adopted a resolution that recognized the right of return of all internally displaced persons and refugees and their descendants to their homes throughout Georgia and that underlined the urgent need for unimpeded access for humanitarian activities to peoples residing in all conflict-affected areas in that country.
Introducing the draft resolution, which was entitled "Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia" (A/63/L.79) and was adopted by a recorded vote of 48 in favour to 19 against, with 78 abstentions, Georgia's ambassador said the text spoke to the essence of the Assembly's humanitarian mission and sent a powerful signal of solidarity to displaced people and refugees around the world (See Annex II for details of the vote).
Too little progress had been made in helping Georgia's displaced return to their homes over the past 15 years, he argued, highlighting the deterioration of the situation with each passing year. "We strongly believe that last year's armed conflict -- and the new wave of displacement and misery it created -- gives ample cause for the General Assembly to consider anew the question of internally displaced persons and refugees in Georgia."
To that end, he said the resolution had three goals. First, it represented a moral and legal commitment to the rights of the displaced. Second, it proposed a reporting mechanism to the General Assembly. Third, it expanded the geographic scope of the Assembly's involvement to include internally displaced persons from the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. It also addressed the question of humanitarian access to Georgia's war-affected regions, which had emerged as a concern after last year's war and had not been sufficiently incorporated in resolution 62/249 of 15 May 2008.
The resolution also encompassed the objectives set forth by the participants of the Second Working Group of the Geneva Discussions elaborated during the second and third rounds in November and December 2006, he said. Rather than impede ongoing talks in Geneva or their arrangements, it was designed to reinforce that process by addressing the undisputed right of return. By adopting the resolution the General Assembly would give new impetus to those discussions.
In contrast, the ambassador of the Russian Federation said that draft's adoption would considerably undermine ongoing discussions in Geneva. The Georgian side knew that, but continued to insist on its own initiatives. That clearly had to do with its desire not to ease the plight of those in a situation of forced displacement, but to distract from the genuine constructive work under way to build confidence between the sides.
Moreover, he said the initiative was exclusively politically motivated and based on the immediate expediency of the Georgian side's attempt to shirk responsibility for the situation that had emerged due to the policies of its authorities during the attack on the eve of 7 August 2008. Furthermore, the resolution had been advanced by its authors in a confrontational manner; the Russian Federation had been the only delegation that had not received it. Proposals submitted to the authors in a spirit of good will had been ignored, and there had been no attempts to consult with the Abkhazia or South Ossetia sides.
Stressing that the members of the General Assembly and the United Nations should not discuss such a politically motivated and confrontational text, he tabled 17 amendments (documents A/63/L.81 to L.98) to the draft resolution, as well as a "no action" motion, on which he requested a vote.
After the Assembly voted against that "no-action" motion in a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 64 against, with 50 abstentions (See Annex I), the representative of the Russian Federation withdrew all amendments to the text, asserting that the vote's outcome indicated that a specific group of countries continued to use double standards and a political approach to bringing about a solution in the region.
He went on to say that those same countries had prevented the Security Council from extending the mandate of the United Nations presence in the region and had stubbornly prevented the genuine truth from emerging about the situation. Since the backers of the initiative persisted in rejecting reasonable dialogue, Russian Federation believed that those countries who voted for the counterproductive text would shoulder full responsibilities for the consequences of its adoption.
Among the many speakers taking the floor in explanation of vote before action on the full resolution, Ukraine's representative said his delegation had carefully studied the Secretary-General's report, which concluded that the conditions ultimately required for organized returns had not been met. Ukraine believed the draft's adoption would be a step forward in that direction, as it would enable practical steps to settle the issue of internally displaced persons and refugees in full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within internationally-recognized borders. It further considered the resolution to be humanitarian in nature.
Earlier in the meeting, the Assembly approved by consensus the recommendation contained in the Fifth Report of the General Committee (A/63/250/Add4) to defer the item on the "Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte" to the Assembly's sixty-fourth session and to include it in that session's draft agenda.
Also acting by consensus the Assembly adopted, as orally amended, a draft decision on "Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS" (A/63/L.73). The Assembly had debated the item on 16-17 June. By today's text the Assembly, among other things, took note of the Report of the Secretary-General on progress made in implementing the Declaration, as well as the Report of the Joint Inspection Unit on the review of the progress made by the United Nations system organizations in achieving Millennium Development Goal 6, Target 7, to combat HIV/AIDS. It also decided to include the topic in the provisional agenda of its sixty-fourth session.
The Assembly also adopted a draft resolution on "Multilingualism" (A/63/L.70/Rev.1) by consensus. Speaking after the vote on behalf of the French-speaking group, France's representative said the resolution met two needs: It ensured a global approach to multilingualism and promoted an approach that was both ambitious and reasonable. While the text's adoption was not an end in itself, it was a key milestone for the United Nations because multilingualism was the "linguistical" and "civilizational" equivalent of multilateralism.
Turning to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Assembly endorsed the recommendation of the Secretary-General that was also endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 1878 (2009) of 7 July 2009, which addressed staffing changes and adjustments for the International Tribunal, particularly in light of progress in implementing its Completion Strategy. The Assembly also took note of the appointment of Professor Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov as a permanent judge of the International Tribunal effective from 18 August 2009 until 31 December 2010 or until the completion of the cases to which he will be assigned. It further decided to include an item on the International Tribunal in the draft agenda of the sixty-fourth session and decided to consider this item directly in plenary.
Turning to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Assembly endorsed the recommendation of the Secretary-General that was endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 1877 (2009) of 7 July 2009, which addressed several staffing changes and adjustments and amended several articles in the Statute of the International Tribunal. It also took note of the appointment of Judge Guy Delvoie, Judge Howard Morrison and Judge Burton Hall to the International Tribunal for a term of office 1 September 2009, 31 August 2009 and 7 August 2009, respectively, until 31 December 2010. Finally, it decided to include an item on the International Tribunal on the draft agenda of the sixty-fourth session and further decided to consider this item directly in plenary.
At the top of the meeting, the Assembly was informed that Chad had made the necessary arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter. [Under Article 19, a Member State in arrears in the payment of its dues in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly.]
During action on draft resolution proposed by Georgia, the representatives of Nicaragua and Belarus spoke in support of the "no action" motion while the representatives of France and the United Kingdom spoke against it under rule 74. [By its terms, a representative may move to adjourn debate on an item under discussion. Two representatives may speak in favour of, and two against, the motion, after which the motion shall be immediately put to the vote.]
Representatives of Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic and Lithuania also spoke in explanation of vote before the vote. Representatives of Turkey, Portugal, Syria, Kazakhstan and Ecuador spoke in explanation after the vote.
Tunisia's delegate spoke in explanation of position during action on the multilingualism draft, which was introduced by Senegal.
Representatives of Syria, Cameroon and Bhutan spoke on points of order.
The Assembly will meet again at a time and date to be announced.
Vote on Motion to Take No Action
The motion to take no action on the draft resolution on document A/63/L.79 was rejected by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 64 against, with 50 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Algeria, Armenia, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Libya, Mongolia, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Serbia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Against: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu.
Abstain: Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guyana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Suriname, Swaziland, Thailand, Togo, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Zambia.
Absent: Afghanistan, Angola, Belize, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu.
(END OF ANNEX I)
Vote on Internally Displaced Persons throughout Georgia
The draft resolution on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia (document A/63/L.79) was adopted by a recorded vote of 48 in favour to 19 against, with 78 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu.
Against: Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.
Abstain: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Suriname, Swaziland, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zambia.
Absent: Afghanistan, Angola, Belize, Bhutan, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu.
For information media - not an official record