68th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session - Part 2

Preview Language:   English
23-Dec-2016 01:45:40
Concluding the main part of its seventy-first session, the General Assembly adopted resolutions on oceans, nuclear disarmament and international law, at 68th meeting.

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In addition to revising the Organization’s budget to $5.61 billion for the 2016-2017 biennium, the General Assembly adopted a wide-ranging human resources resolution aimed at finishing major reforms begun half dozen years ago to overhaul how tens of thousands of staff around the world were being hired, trained and paid.

The Assembly asked the Secretary-General to investigate the reasons for delays at each stage of the staff selection and recruitment process and present in his next overview report a comprehensive strategy aimed at achieving the 120-day target for filling a post. It decided to reduce the standard posting period for position-specific job openings from 60 days to 45 days for the Professional and higher categories on a provisional basis as a pilot phase.

The Assembly also approved $639.53 million to keep the 33 special political missions of the United Nations running smoothly. The representative of Syria, while voting in favour of the text, expressed a reservation on the allocation of resources to implement Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), stating that Mission’s Special Adviser had been acting beyond the mandate given to him in that resolution.

In another text, the Assembly called for $1.57 million gross ($1.46 million net) before recosting to continue improving the Organization’s administration of justice system — comprising of informal and formal mechanisms to resolve disputes for tens of thousands of employees worldwide. That call had been deemed necessary after an independent review last year concluded that, despite increasing transparency, only about half of the workforce had access to the system and many were unaware of it.

Taking up the Fifth Committee report “Programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017”, several speakers addressed the contents of draft resolution I, “Special subjects relating to the programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017”. The representative of Burkina Faso, on behalf of the African Group, proposed an oral amendment, relating to protection against violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as matters around gender orientation did not have a basis in international law.

However, the representative of Argentina, speaking on behalf of a number of like-minded States, said the proposed amendment would reopen an issue that had already been decided by the Human Rights Council, the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) and the Fifth Committee. Voicing serious concern that the oral amendment proposed by the representative of Burkina Faso would threaten the Human Rights Council’s independence, he called for a vote, which resulted in the amendment failing to be adopted.

In other matters, the Assembly also adopted 11 resolutions, including the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) texts “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” and “treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons”.

Addressing the adoption by recorded vote of the resolution “Oceans and the Law of the Sea”, delegates who had voted against the text emphasized that some provisions related to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which they were not signatories.

Despite abstaining from the vote, El Salvador’s representative stressed the importance of protecting oceans and the sea and ensuring their sustainability. Oceans were full of resources and were critical for the food security of millions. To date, there were gaps in areas of sustainable fishing, conservation and the use of marine biodiversity. Nonetheless, the resolution mirrored aspects of the Convention, to which his country was not a signatory.

Also adopted were several outstanding texts on issues ranging from expanded cooperation with regional organizations to the United Nations relationship with the International Criminal Court. Among other things, the Assembly decided to establish the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, hosted by Turkey, as its newest subsidiary body.

Introducing that text, Assembly Vice-President Zohrab Mnatsakanyan (Armenia) declared: “It is through mechanisms like this that the concept of leaving no one behind comes to life.” Indeed, the resolution would contribute to building momentum for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely Target 17.8, which called for the full operationalization of the technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries by 2017.

As the meeting concluded, the representative of Thailand, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, underscored that the Group’s resolve to address the needs of developing countries had been challenged throughout the session. Negotiations had been taxing and, at times, tested the path to sustainable development. Despite that, the Group had much to be hopeful for. “Where there is a will to find compromise, there is always a way,” he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Bangladesh, Turkey, Netherlands, Sudan, China, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, United States, Israel, Cuba, Iran, and Nicaragua.
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