29th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 74th Session

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08-Nov-2019 03:01:56
Amid financial crisis, General Assembly should reduce number of meetings, streamline activities to better meet development goals, speakers stress at 29th plenary meeting.

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At a time when the continued operations of the United Nations face uncertainty because of budgeting shortfalls and a liquidity crisis, reducing the number of meetings and consolidating the work of General Assembly is vital to address global challenges and meet development goals, speakers said today during a joint debate on implementing resolutions and revitalizing the organ’s work.

“Noting the current financial situation of the Organization, it will be prudent of us to streamline our activities,” Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad‑Bande (Nigeria) said as he opened the debate.

While reflecting positively on the “vibrant engagement of Member States at the highest level,” he encouraged delegations to examine their practices to enhance the collective functioning of the Assembly and ensure it remains the most pertinent forum for multilateral engagement. “We must also be self‑critical and improve the way we conduct our work,” he said. “We all know there is lots to do.”

He said that implementing existing resolutions on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly is key. This is particularly true for the Assembly’s Second (Economic and Financial) and Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Committees, and the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies. Addressing gaps, overlaps and duplication is essential, as activities must be modernized.

He asked Member States to support the Secretary‑General’s proposal to secure a permanent position in the Office of the President of the General Assembly in order to offer continuity for successive Presidents and strengthen institutional memory. Malaysia’s speaker endorsed this suggestion, calling for additional permanent staff and adequate funding from the regular budget to be allocated to that Office.

Several States supported proposals recommended by the representative of Zambia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, including preserving the primacy of the General Debate by restricting the number of high‑level meetings and side events, as well as limiting the amount of annual resolutions. “Every resolution these days is an annual resolution,” he said, calling for some of those resolutions to be transitioned to biannual, triannual or quadrennial resolutions.

Delegations from numerous countries called for focusing on achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and avoiding the duplication of efforts by different United Nations entities. “It’s a question of the amount of empty work we find ourselves involved with,” said the speaker from Belarus, a comment echoed by others. “This is the sad reality of work at the United Nations today.”

Conversely, the representative from Cuba rejected the notion that the Assembly’s effectiveness and efficiency can be determined by the rationalization of its work, much less by the removal of items and resolutions from its agenda. He also echoed a comment made by others in expressing worry that the Security Council was gradually encroaching upon the Assembly’s territory.

The delegation from the United Arab Emirates said that revitalization of the Assembly must factor in the attitudes of young people, citing a 2019 study by Edelman Public Affairs, which found that young people have a limited awareness of concrete initiatives the United Nations has undertaken, associating it with words such as “important”, as well as “outdated” and “boring”.

Suggesting another challenge to reforming the Assembly, the representative of the Maldives said that the organ is in danger of becoming polarized. “We must never see this Assembly as a forum which allows for ‘us’ versus ‘them,’” he said. “Instead, this Assembly must be a platform where the entire world comes together as a collective ‘us’ versus ‘humanity’s biggest challenges.’”

The speaker from the Russian Federation advocated for the Assembly concentrating on resolutions that are likely to be implemented. He also supported the Zambian delegation’s call for reducing the number of events held during the General Debate.

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly filled vacancies in five subsidiary bodies — the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Committee on Contributions, Investments Committee, Board of Auditors and the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Thailand (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Switzerland (on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group), Algeria (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement), India, Liechtenstein, Norway, Indonesia, South Africa, Singapore, China, Afghanistan, Slovakia, United States, Costa Rica and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 11 November to consider the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Appointments to Fill Vacancies in Subsidiary Organs, Other Appointments

The Assembly considered several vacancies in five subsidiary bodies as well as the International Civil Service Commission. It had before it reports of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the appointment of members of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (document A/74/482/Add.1); Committee on Contributions (document A/74/525); Investments Committee (document A/74/524); Board of Auditors (document A/74/526); and Independent Audit Advisory Committee (document A/74/527). The Assembly first turned its attention to filling six three‑year slots on the 16‑member ACABQ, which plays a crucial role in helping its Fifth Committee examine the Organization’s budget and numerous management initiatives. The Assembly appointed Patrick Chuasoto (Philippines); Udo Klaus Fenchel (Germany); Olivio Fermín (Dominican Republic); Marcel Jullier (Switzerland); Takeshi Matsunaga (Japan); and Ye Xuenong (China). They will serve terms starting 1 January 2020.

For the 18‑member Committee on Contributions, which advises the Assembly on the distribution of the Organization’s expenses among Member States, it appointed five people for three‑year terms starting 1 January 2020. They are: Cheikh Tidiane Dème (Senegal); Gordon Eckersley (Australia); Bernardo Greiver del Hoyo (Uruguay); Ugo Sessi (Italy); and Alejandro Torres Lépori (Argentina).

For the nine‑member United Nations Investments Committee, which advises the Secretary‑General on strategies and reviews the investments of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund at its quarterly meetings, the Assembly appointed four people as regular members for three‑year terms beginning on 1 January 2020. They are Simon Jiang (China); Achim Kassow (Germany); Michael S. Klein (United States); and Luciane Ribeiro (Brazil). They will serve a three‑year term beginning 1 January 2020. The Assembly also reappointed Madhav Dhar (India) as a regular member and as Chair of the Committee for a one‑year term of office beginning on 1 January 2019.

Also regarding the Investments Committee, the Assembly appointed Tay Lim Hock (Singapore); Abel Moffat Sithole (South Africa); Katina Stefanova (Bulgaria); and Macky Tall (Canada) as ad hoc members for a one‑year term of office beginning 1 January 2020.

The Assembly then appointed the Auditor‑General of the National Audit Office of China as a member of the Board of Auditors for a six‑year term of office beginning on 1 July 2020.

For the vacancies of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, the Assembly appointed Dorothy Bradley (Belize) and Anton V. Kosyanenko (Russian Federation) as members for three‑year terms beginning on 1 January 2020.

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