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In Recorded Vote, General Assembly Adopts Resolution Underlining United Nations Cooperation with Chemical Weapons Prohibition Organization

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GA/12315

General Assembly
Plenary
Seventy-fifth Session, 56th Meeting (AM)

Five Other Texts Adopted, Including One Encouraging Strengthening Kimberly Process for Removing Conflict Diamonds from Global Supply Chain

The General Assembly adopted six draft resolutions today, including one — by a recorded vote — that underscored cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

By a recorded vote of 109 in favour to 3 against (China, Russian Federation, Syria), with 11 abstentions, it adopted the draft resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” (document A/75/L.56).

By doing so, it noted with appreciation OPCW’s ongoing efforts to implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. Among other things, it also took note of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council on 9 July 2020 titled “Addressing the possession and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic” and welcomed its transmission to the Security Council and the Assembly.

Prior to adopting the text as a whole, the Assembly, through four recorded votes, retained a like number of its operative paragraphs.

The Netherlands’ representative — whose country hosts OPCW in The Hague — introduced the draft, saying that it contained both updates and language that emerged from balanced and constructive negotiations. The international community must ensure that those who violate the Chemical Weapons Convention be brought to justice, he said, adding that a strong message of support for cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW is more important than ever.

Syria’s representative, who requested that several paragraphs be put to a vote, said that the draft contained paragraphs unrelated to its title, making it a politicized, unobjective draft that focused on his country. He added that his delegation was unable to participate in negotiations, and that the draft is biased and mentions non-consensual mechanisms.

Five other draft resolutions before the Assembly today were adopted without a vote.

Through the text titled “The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts” (document A/75/L.65), introduced by the Russian Federation’s delegate, the Assembly encouraged strengthening the Kimberley Process — aimed at removing conflict diamonds from the global supply chain — to enhance its effectiveness in addressing challenges posed to the diamond industry and related communities.

By the terms of the draft resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe” (document A/75/L.64), introduced by Germany’s representative, the Assembly recognized the need for the two organizations to speed up implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and encouraged them to strengthen their cooperation to address the COVID-19 health crisis. It also reiterated its call for reinforced cooperation between the two organizations for the promotion and protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

Through the text titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea” (document A/75/Ll.66), introduced by Tajikistan’s delegate, the Assembly noted the importance of stronger cooperation and coordination between the United Nations system and the Fund. It also noted a proposal for a United Nations special programme for the Aral Sea basin, with consultations to that effect to be held in 2022.

In addition, the Assembly adopted draft resolutions, introduced by the representatives of Morocco and India respectively, to proclaim 10 May every year as the International Day of Argania and 2023 to be the International Year of Millets.

Also speaking today were representatives of Botswana, United Kingdom and South Africa.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 19 March, to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which falls this year on Sunday, 21 March.

The Role of Diamonds in Fuelling Conflict

The Assembly first took up the draft resolution titled “The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts” (document A/75/L.65). Through that text, the Assembly, noting the postponement of the chairmanships of the Russian Federation and Botswana in the Kimberley Process to 2021 and 2022 respectively, would reaffirm the importance of the tripartite nature of the Process and encourage participants to effectively implement the Kimberley Process certification scheme.

It would further encourage strengthening the Kimberley Process to enhance its effectiveness in addressing challenges posed to the diamond industry and related communities, including from instability and conflict, and to ensure that the Process continues to contribute to international peace and security and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Assembly would also look forward to advancing the ways in which the Process contributes to peacebuilding and sustaining peace.

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, delivered opening remarks, saying that the mining of conflict diamonds remains a major international concern. He underscored their impact on regional security, particularly in Africa, adding that Member States must continue to take action on conflict diamonds to meet their peace and security obligations under the Charter of the United Nations. Noting how the Kimberley Process brings together Governments, the diamond industry and civil society, he said it is an example of what can be achieved when the international community works together. He went on to emphasize how the legal diamond trade can help fuel development, reduce poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Going forward, the Kimberley Process must remain relevant so that diamonds fuel development and not conflict.

EVGENY Y. VARGANOV (Russian Federation), underscoring the key role of the Process in regulating the global trade in rough diamonds, said that in the more than 20 years since it went into effect, its participating parties have expanded the agenda to incorporate responsible supply chains and business conduct, respect for human rights and labour rights, and mitigating the impact of diamond mining on the environment, among other things. Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic led the Kimberley Process to essentially freeze its work for a year, he said that the draft resolution is largely technical in nature. He went on to express regret that a member of the Secretariat of the Kimberley Process, who was supposed to travel to New York for today’s plenary meeting, was unable to due to the non‑issuance of a United States visa. That testifies to the abuse by the United States of its Host County status and to the measures it applies vis-à-vis certain delegations.

PEGGY VISSERS, European Union, said that the bloc is proud of what the Kimberley Process — of which it is a member — has achieved since it began its work. For many countries, it has made the difference between war and peace, she said, adding that its tripartite structure has largely contributed to its success. She noted the work that the European Union and Botswana are undertaking to strengthen the Kimberley Process certification scheme and welcomed Austria’s candidacy to host its Secretariat. She went on to express concern about the situation in Central African Republic and welcomed efforts by its Government to work with the Kimberley Process monitoring team. She concluded by stating that the European Union is committed to seeing the Process continue its role as a unique tool for conflict prevention and transparency in natural resource management.

KATLEGO BOASE MMALANE (Botswana) said that the draft resolution underscores the challenges faced by diamond-producing countries during the pandemic. For four decades, Botswana, a supporter of the text for the past 18 years, has depended on rough diamonds to help fund its development. He highlighted several aspects of the draft resolution, including its references to the benefits of the legitimate diamond trade, as well as international action on the ethical exploitation and trade in rough diamonds. “We must not regress on what we have achieved to date,” he said, adding that, while the trade in conflict diamonds has fallen drastically, the pandemic is threatening the progress made due to disruptions to the programme of the Working Group on Monitoring.

PHILIP REED (United Kingdom) noted that his country, having left the European Union, joined the Kimberley Process in 2021 and that it looks forward to working with the entire Process community to advance its important agenda.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said that the Kimberley Process has come a long way in the 18 years since it was established, with 99.8 per cent of the world’s diamonds now coming from conflict-free areas. However, trade in conflict diamonds persists and remains a serious international concern, clearly pointing to the need to keep enhancing the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process. South Africa welcomes the draft resolution and gives it its full support.

The Assembly then adopted “L.65” without a vote.

Follow-Up to Major United Nations Conferences

The Assembly then turned to two draft resolutions under its agenda item on “Follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields”.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), introducing the draft resolution “International Day of Argania” (document A/75/L.62), said a commemoration held annually on 10 May would pay due attention to an ancestral source of agricultural heritage, as recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Argan oil production in Morocco and other countries, operated primarily by women, is worthy of this attention, including for its role in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. By marking the day, the United Nations will honour the role of women, farmers and entrepreneurs. As the Arganian heritage crosses borders, he said “L.62” will be a catalyst to support developing countries and local producers to access international markets and to advance scientific research while also reaffirming a commitment to sustainable development and to adapting to climate change with a view to leaving no one behind.

T. S. TIRUMURTI (India), in introducing the draft resolution “International Year of Millets, 2023” (document A/75/L.63), said this diverse group of cereals have served as a traditional staple crop for millions of families in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, where more than 90 per cent of production occurs at present. More nutritious than rice or wheat, glute‑free and rich in protein, fibres and micronutrients, millets also grow on poor soils and have a low carbon and water footprint. While millet cultivation has been historically widespread, their production is declining, demonstrating an urgent need to promote their nutritional and ecological benefit to consumers, producers and decision makers while improving production efficiencies, research and linkages between development investments and the food sector. “L.63” aims to raise awareness and direct policy action to the nutritional and health benefits of millets consumption and their suitability for cultivation under adverse and changing climatic conditions. Based on the resolution on the benefits of millets consumption adopted by FAO in 2019, “L.63” will help to promote them as a key component of the food basket while creating greater awareness of production thereby contributing to food security, nutrition, ensuring livelihoods and incomes of farmers, poverty eradication and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in regions that are drought prone or threatened by climate change.

The Assembly then adopted “L.62” and “L.63” without a vote.

The representative of the United States, explaining his delegation’s position, underscored that certain documents mentioned in both resolutions, including the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, are non-binding and do not create rights or obligations under international law. On preambular paragraph 14 in “L.62”, he stressed the importance of private sector involvement in climate action mitigation in argan production.

The representative of the Russian Federation said “L.63” reflects that millets are among the world’s most ancient crops. Noting recent decreases in millet production, he said the FAO position will help to promote, among other things, holistic agricultural development.

Council of Europe

The Assembly went on to consider the draft resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe” (document A/75/L.64). Through that text, it would welcome the contribute of the Council of Europe and its member States to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and recognize the need for the United Nations and the Council to keep working together to expedite the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It would encourage the two organizations to strengthen their cooperation to address the COVID-19 health crisis. The Assembly would also reiterate its call for reinforced cooperation between the two organizations for the promotion and protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

GUENTER SAUTTER (Germany) introduced the draft resolution, explaining that it was agreed by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, chaired by his country, before submission to the Assembly for further consultations. The text addresses numerous issues, including COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on women and girls, as well as the efforts which the United Nations and the Council of Europe are making to counter the pandemic while promoting the Sustainable Development Goals and fighting terrorism, transnational crime and drug trafficking. He regretted that it was not possible to include a reference to the abolition of the death penalty due to the resistance of some Member States, adding, however, that the Council of Europe will continue its fight against that practice, which is proven to have no deterrent effect.

The Assembly then adopted “L.64” without a vote.

The representative of Hungary, while acknowledging the contributions of the Council of Europe, said with regards to operative paragraph 17 that her country cannot support its reference to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and its call for Member States that have not yet done so to consider signing and ratifying that instrument. Hungary agrees that combating violence against women and girls is important, but eliminating such violence will come through Government action, not the ratification of a treaty, she said. Turning to operative paragraph 19, she said that Hungary disassociates itself from references to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees.

The representative of Egypt, pointing to operative paragraph 3, said that there is no consensus on the term “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.” The term “multiple and aggravating forms of discrimination” would have been consensual and more relevant.

The representative of Ukraine drew attention to the 14 January 2021 decision by the European Court of Human Rights regarding Crimea, as well as the Assembly’s own resolutions on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He echoed Germany’s regret that the resolution does not include a reference to the abolition of capital punishment, which is a condition of membership in the Council of Europe. He went on to say that it is unacceptable to hear that the United Nations should focus on armed conflict while the Council of Europe should target human rights, as if the two were unrelated. Going forward, Ukraine expects the Council of Europe to pay due attention to human rights violations in Donbas and illegally occupied parts of the country.

The representative of Iraq expressed reservations about the reference to “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, saying that that concept lacks a specific definition.

The representative of the Russian Federation, which joined the Council of Europe 25 years ago, said that negotiations on the text — in New York, as well as in Strasbourg, France — left an unpleasant aftertaste. Those who coordinated work on the draft disregarded the views of some Council of Europe members, he said, adding that the sponsors failed to incorporate a key principle of international cooperation, namely that a State can only render assistance with the consent of the host State. He added that his delegation is similarly dismayed to see that the text fails to mention the Secretary-General’s call for a halt to unilateral sanctions. He noted efforts in some countries to discriminate against the Russian language, adding that the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime features a dangerous loophole which enables foreign Powers to encroach on the digital sovereignty of States through cross-border access to data. Going forward, the sponsors of this resolution should seek common ground and heed the views of the Member States of both organizations, he said.

The representative of Syria said that resolutions such as “L.64” should focus on cooperation, dialogue, diplomacy and solidarity, and not to antagonize, isolate or accuse countries or parties or Member States. The aim should be cooperation, not increasing tension.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

It then turned its attention to the draft resolution “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” (document A/75/L.56). That text would have the Assembly take note of the 2018 annual report, and the draft 2019 report, of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and note with appreciation its ongoing work to implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. Among other things, it would take note of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council on 9 July 2020 titled “Addressing the possession and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic” and welcome its transmission to the Security Council and the Assembly.

MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands) introduced “L.56”, saying that, as the host nation of OPCW, his delegation is committed to its goals and work. “L.56” contains updates and the results of balanced, constructive negotiations. Some recent incidents must be investigated, and the international community must bring perpetrators to justice. As such, a strong message of support for cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW is more important than ever before, he said, expressing hope that “L.56” can be adopted unanimously.

The representative of Syria, explaining his delegation’s position, emphasized that all efforts have been made to abide by OPCW guidelines. However, “L.56” contains paragraphs unrelated to its title, making it a politicized, unobjective draft that focuses on Syria. His delegation was unable to participate in negotiations, meaning that the process was not transparent. The draft also mentions non-consensual mechanisms and is biased. In fact, the Netherlands has been terrorizing Syria by funding the Levant Front, which is considered a terrorist group. As such, he requested a recorded vote on several paragraphs and called on Member States to put a stop to targeting countries, like Syria, in draft resolutions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said “L.56” is highly politicized and threatens to worsen cooperation. This is the second attempt to do so, he said, recalling a 2020 adoption of a related resolution. Asking his Western colleagues why 90 per cent of “L.56” contains targeted language against Syria, he said OPCW has overstepped its mandate in creating the Investigation and Identification Team. Some States are trying to transform OPCW to advance their geopolitical agendas, with the fruits of such endeavours including the Investigation and Identification Team’s first report. The Russian Federation cannot recognize this team nor its report. To discuss the multitude of violations, the Russian Federation held an open-format meeting, he said, calling on Member States to review the outcome documents. The essence of “L.56” should be an overview of cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW, but as it stands, the focus is on Syria. What is absent, among other items, is the United States current stockpiles of chemical weapons. There have been no genuine negotiations, with only one round of consultations that failed to produce practical results. “L.56” should be consensual, as the purpose is to send a political message of the international community’s unconditional support to address chemical weapons concerns. Instead, “L.56” aims primarily at denigrating Syria’s efforts. As such, his delegation will vote against “L.56”, he said, calling on Member States to continue with efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime for chemical weapons.

The representative of Iran said his delegation has shared its input during negotiations. Highlighting some priority areas, he said “L.56” must focus on cooperation between the two organizations. However, operative paragraphs 5, 6, 7 and 8 are politicized, which must be avoided. Unfortunately, Iran’s concern about this issue was not considered.

The Assembly then held separate recorded votes on several operative paragraphs prior to voting on “L.56” as a whole.

By a recorded vote of 85 in favour to 10 against, with 21 abstentions, it decided to retain operation paragraph 5, by which it would recall the report of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention on its fourth special session and the decision adopted at the special session “Addressing the threat from chemical weapons use”.

By a recorded vote of 83 in favour to 11 against, with 22 abstentions, it decided to retain operation paragraph 6. By this provision, the Assembly would note the establishment of the Investigation and Identification Team with the purpose of identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

By a recorded vote of 77 in favour to 10 against, with 25 abstentions, it decided to retain operation paragraph 7, by which it would take note with grave concern of the first report of the Investigation and Identification Team.

By a recorded vote of 88 in favour to 8 against (Belarus, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe), with 16 abstentions, it decided to retain operation paragraph 8. By its terms, the Assembly would recall Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), which requested the OPCW Director General to report to it, on a monthly basis, on its implementation. The Assembly would also recall paragraph 5 of Security Council resolution 2209 (2015), which welcomed the intention of the Director General to include in these monthly communications the future reports of the OPCW fact-finding mission in Syria, which was mandated to establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals for hostile purposes in the country.

The Assembly then adopted “L.56” as a whole, by a recorded vote of 109 in favour to 3 against (China, Russian Federation, Syria), with 11 abstentions.

The representative of Argentina said his delegation voted in favour of “L.56” and respects its provisions. In terms of operative paragraph 7, he said this is not the appropriate place to focus on one country, which could damage cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW.

The representative of Cuba said her delegation supports OPCW’s work, but not the action of singling out a specific country, especially one that is already a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Adopting this resolution should in the future again be done by consensus as it was in the past, she said.

The representative of Indonesia said that consensus on this topic is important in order to send a message of support for full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the need for unity to achieve its goals. His delegation abstained during the voting on operative paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 as the question of compliance should be resolved through the appropriate Chemical Weapons Convention mechanisms in a credible, professional and impartial manner.

The representative of Egypt said that, while his delegation voted in favour of “L.56” as a whole, it voted to abstain during voting on some of the operative paragraphs due to the lack of details that would have made it possible to make an informed decision. He added that some of the co-sponsors have been obstructing efforts to totally eliminate chemical weapons or to create a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The representative of Malaysia said that it might have been possible to explore ways to overcome differences on the text had there been more consultations. Cooperation with OPCW is at the heart of the resolution, but referring to the 2018 decision by States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to give OPCW an attribution mandate will only widen divisions among Member States. He added that operative paragraphs 6 and 8 cover matters duly covered in the annual draft resolution on OPCW from the General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea

Finally, the Assembly considered the draft resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea” (document A/75/L.66). Through that text, it would note the need to further improve the activities of the Fund to strengthen regional cooperation in such areas as social and economic development; environmental protection and response to natural disasters; water resources management; adaptation to climate change; and science and innovation. It would also note the importance of stronger cooperation and coordination between the United Nations system and the Fund and invite the Secretary-General to hold for that purpose regular consultations with the Chair of the Fund’s Executive Committee. It would go on to note a proposal for a United Nations special programme for the Aral Sea basin, with consultations to that effect to be held in 2022.

FURKAT LAFIZOV (Tajikistan) said that the draft is only a technical update on the annual resolution, which had been always adopted by consensus. The ecological crisis in the Aral Sea basin is a global concern, he said, calling for greater regional and international cooperation to save the basin.

The Assembly then adopted “L.66” without a vote.

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Kyrgyzstan said his country froze its participation in the Fund due to the lack of progress in its reform aimed at improving efficiency. Kyrgyzstan is prepared to discuss the reform, which requires concerted efforts and expertise outside the Fund. He said his delegation is hopeful that the Fund will implement reform that equitably benefits all Central Asian States.

For information media. Not an official record.