21st Plenary Meeting - General Assembly 75th Session

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05-Nov-2020 03:00:50
General Assembly decides to hold high-level special session in response to COVID-19 pandemic, 3-4 December.

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Delegates Pass Measure by 150 in Favour to None against, with Three Abstentions

The General Assembly decided today that Headquarters will host a special session at the level of Heads of State and Government on 3 and 4 December in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic. It also debated the annual report of the Human Rights Council and earmarked 1 December for a special solemn meeting in memory of the victims of the Second World War.

Adopting the draft resolution “Special session of the General Assembly in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) pandemic” by a vote of 150 in favour to none against, with three abstentions (Armenia, Israel, United States), it decided that the opening segment will feature statements by its President, the Secretary‑General, the Presidents of the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council, and the Chair of the Non‑Aligned Movement.

In addition to a general debate, the special session will include a presentation by the heads of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other relevant United Nations entities, who will also lead an interactive dialogue on inter‑agency efforts to address the global pandemic and its impacts.

The resolution stipulates that Member States can submit pre‑recorded statements by their respective Head of State or Government, head of delegation or other dignitary, to be played in the General Assembly Hall during the opening and general debate, following introductions by their representatives physically present in the Assembly Hall.

By recorded votes, the Assembly rejected three draft amendments introduced by its President, Volkan Bozkir (Turkey).

Also today, the Assembly adopted the resolution “Seventy‑fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War” without a vote, which requests that the President hold a special solemn meeting of the Assembly on 1 December in commemoration of all victims of the war.

Prior to the adoption, by a vote of 54 in favour to 40 against, with 45 abstentions, the Assembly amended the draft to delete a preambular paragraph by which it would have noted the inadmissibility of desecration or destruction of monuments erected in remembrance of those who fought in the Second World War on the side of the United Nations.

Introducing the Human Rights Council’s report, Elisabeth Tichy‑Fisslberger (Austria), President of the Geneva‑based organ, said it has found innovative ways to deliver on its mandate amidst the pandemic. The Council was the last entity to go into lockdown in March, and the first to resume activities in June, she said, reporting that it held its forty‑fourth regular session in hybrid form. Over three sessions this year, the Council adopted 97 resolutions, 72 without a vote, and four decisions.

She went on to note that the Council extended the mandates of special procedures on human rights situations in Syria, Burundi and Yemen, as well as the mandates of independent fact‑finding missions on Libya and Venezuela. Meanwhile, it ended the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, where the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) now has a field presence and a country office. Turning to the universal periodic review process — which she described as “the jewel in the crown” of the Council — she said it enjoys “political will at the highest level” and that its next session, postponed in May due to the pandemic, will begin this month.

The European Union’s representative recalled the Assembly’s election on 13 October of 15 Member States to three‑year terms on the Human Rights Council (see Press Release GA/12277). While noting that no State has a perfect human rights record, she said the newcomers are expected to engage in the Council’s work with self‑reflection and an eye to improving their own implementation of human rights, she said.

The Russian Federation’s representative, whose country is among those elected, said it is unfortunate that the Council has proven effective as an instrument for Western States to pursue short‑term political goals. The Russian Federation will do everything possible to restore faith in the Council and the tenor of its work, he vowed.

Mexico’s representative said that, as a re‑elected member, his country has endeavoured to promote international cooperation and to create synergies with international law. However, he expressed regret over the prevalence of “certain political attitudes, which undermine what brings us together”.

The United Kingdom’s representative, speaking as a newly elected member, said the international community must be open to the views and experiences of Member States, providing them with needed access rather than forcing them to face reprisals.

In other business, the Assembly took note of the annual report of the Economic and Social Council, introduced by Mona Juul (Norway), President of its 2020 session.

Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, Pakistan, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Switzerland, Algeria, Austria, Cuba, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Malaysia, Philippines, Belarus, Costa Rica, Myanmar, India, Argentina, Turkey, Iran, Kenya, Georgia, Venezuela, Egypt, Maldives and Syria.

Speaking in explanation of position were representatives of Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Germany (on behalf of the European Union), United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Israel, Mexico, United States, El Salvador, Ecuador, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia and Ukraine.

Representatives of Bangladesh and Myanmar spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 November, to consider the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and take action on a related draft resolution.

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