66th Plenary Meeting - General Assembly 75th Session

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18-May-2021 01:22:54
General Assembly declares 2022 International Year of Glass, adopts 4 texts on Aral Sea region, financing for Darfur mission.

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Responsibility to Protect Resolution Garners Debate, Vote on Merits of Concept

The General Assembly adopted four resolutions today on issues ranging from security to sustainable development, including a consensus text declaring 2022 the International Year of Glass and directing policy attention to its importance in various sectors, from aerospace and automotive industries to health care and architecture.

Introducing that text, Spain’s representative described glass as a “biomaterial par excellence”, born thousands of years ago in the cradle of civilization. Celebrations during the Year will help advance implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by fostering a fairer and more sustainable future. “Glass has evolved along with humanity,” she stressed.

In a similar vein, the Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of ecological innovations and technologies, through which it encouraged research and scientific advisory activities to recover and improve the environment, preserve natural resources and enhance the quality of life in the region. It called on Member States, the United Nations and international financial institutions to develop and implement environmentally sound technologies.

Introducing the text, Uzbekistan’s representative described the drying of the Aral Sea as “one of the most serious environmental problems of our time”. To avert catastrophic health, socioeconomic and environmental consequences, Uzbekistan, along with the United Nations, is developing ways to mitigate the crisis and strengthen cooperation.

Delivering an explanation of position, the representative of Kyrgyzstan said that while he had joined consensus, concerns remain over the effectiveness of funds being directed towards addressing the situation in the Aral Sea.

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly adopted a resolution on “the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”, by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 15 against, with 28 abstentions, deciding to include the item on its annual agenda and requesting the Secretary-General to report annually on the issue.

The adoption capped a lengthy debate, begun a day earlier, on the merits of the concept. (For more information, see Press Release GA/12323.)

Several delegations delivered explanations of position, detailing their opposition to the draft on grounds that the concept does not enjoy consensus. Therefore, efforts to streamline it across the United Nations system are premature and could derail discussions on the matter.

Egypt’s representative warned that the notion of the responsibility to protect is characterized by legal gaps that cannot be left unaddressed. It is imperative that Member States achieve consensus on the principle before further streamlining it across the United Nations system. The representative of the Russian Federation similarly said consensus on the concept has always been fragile. Informal interactive dialogues are the only appropriate format for discussing its applicability.

Nicaragua’s representative meanwhile rejected manipulation of the concept by powerful countries, cautioning that several States have used it to orchestrate invasions and coups against legitimately elected Governments.

In outlining why his delegation would abstain in the vote, Pakistan’s representative said discussions must focus on bridging differences. Persistent focus on institutionalizing the debate will erode work related to the concept.

“The responsibility to protect is a core principle in preventing atrocity crimes,” declared Albania’s representative, as she voiced strong support for annual discussions on the matter within the General Assembly and suggested future reports of the Secretary-General include examples of responses to atrocity crimes by United Nations entities. With 80 million people displaced across the world, the international community must take action to help vulnerable populations threatened by mass atrocities.

On that point, Ecuador’s representative said preventing conflict is the best way to avoid mass atrocity crimes. She underscored the role of the International Criminal Court in ensuring reparations, calling it the singular body to fight impunity. Kiribati’s representative urged the international community to look at activities within the Pacific region as examples of best practice in how to interpret the concept of responsibility to protect. “We hope the entire world can be like the Pacific,” he emphasized.

Rounding out the day’s action, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution on “Financing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur”, contained in the report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary Committee). By its terms, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments for the Operation in an amount not exceeding $198.78 million for the period from 1 January to 30 June 2021.

Also speaking in today’s debate were representatives of Ecuador and Colombia.

The representatives of Serbia and Venezuela spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Also delivering explanations of position were the representatives of Indonesia, Singapore and Cuba.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 May, to consider the situation in the Middle East.

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