14th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly, 74th Session

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10-Oct-2019 01:24:45
General Assembly adopts political declarations on realizing universal health coverage and helping small island developing states tackle climate change at 14th plenary.

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The General Assembly today adopted three resolutions including two containing political declarations on realizing universal health coverage by 2030 and addressing the priorities of small island developing States amid the rising threat of climate change.

By the terms of the text on health coverage, Member States — agreeing to scale up action to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all — committed to progressively cover 1 billion more people by 2023 with quality essential health services, as well as safe, affordable vaccines, with a view towards universal coverage by 2030. Also by that date, Member States committed to stop the rise and reverse catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditures through measures that ensure financial risk protection and end poverty due to health-related expenses.

Expressing concern about the global shortfall of health workers, primarily in low- and middle-income countries, Member States further committed to take immediate steps to address the demand for 40 million new health worker jobs by 2030, taking into account local and community health needs. Among other pronouncements in the wide-ranging text, they pledged to strengthen efforts to deal with both communicable and non-communicable diseases, increase services for all persons with disabilities and mobilize resources for health-related Sustainable Development Goals in developing countries, noting that an additional $3.9 trillion by 2030 could prevent 97 million premature deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Several delegations including Guatemala, Libya and the United States, said that while they had joined consensus on the text, they wished to disassociate themselves from paragraph 68, which states that the Declaration ensures by 2030 “universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes”.

The representative for Libya said that language runs counter to the religious and social specificities of some countries, while the speaker for the United States said it is deplorable that some countries politicized the text by using language to promote abortion. “There is no international right to abortion,” she said, adding that rather than pursuing divisive policies that undermine the family unit, the United States supports a positive vision for advancing gender equality. For its part, Guatemala’s representative emphasized that article 13 of her country’s Constitution guarantees the right to and protection of life from the moment of conception.

Adopting another draft titled “Political declaration of the high-level meeting to review progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing States through the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway”, Member States renewed their solidarity with such States, reaffirming that they remain a special case for sustainable development. Member States remained especially concerned about the devastating impacts of climate change on small island nations and noted with concern the scientific findings in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius” special report.

They called for urgent and ambitious global action in line with the Paris Agreement and pledged to remain committed to helping small island developing States further explore innovative financial instruments and mechanisms — such as debt-for-development and debt-for-climate adaptation swaps, and blue or green bonds — while remaining mindful of the need to ease debt burdens with a view to improving their access to finance.

The representative from Belize, speaking on behalf of small island developing States, stressed that it is incumbent upon all States to translate these words into actions, as the window for critical early steps to mitigate the impact of climate change is closing.

Andrei Dapkiunas, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, speaking on the item regarding strengthening the United Nations system — which the Assembly also considered today — welcomed the Organization’s reform initiatives. Expressing concern about the issue of overlap, he stressed that the time has come for the Assembly to excise redundant items.

In other matters, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution submitted by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) titled “Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations: requests under Article 19 of the Charter”, and contained in an eponymous report (document A/74/483). By its terms, the Assembly agreed that the failure of the Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia to pay the full minimum amount necessary to avoid the application of Article 19 of the United Nations Charter was due to conditions beyond their control, and thus decided to permit these States to vote in the Assembly until the end of its seventy-fourth session.

Turning to the Fifth Committee report titled “Appointment of members of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions” (document A/74/482), the Assembly decided to appoint Donna-Marie Chiurazzi-Maxfield of the United States as a member of the Advisory Committee for a term of office beginning on 14 October 2019 and ending on 31 December 2020. The Assembly also took note that on 7 October 2019, Andreas Mavroyiannis of Cyprus was elected Chair of the Fifth Committee.

Also speaking today were representatives of Japan, Hungary and Switzerland, as well as European Union and the Holy See.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 15 October, to consider the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and other major conferences.

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