69th Plenary Meeting - General Assembly 75th Session

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24-May-2021 01:36:11
Adopting 3 texts, General Assembly decides to hold international meeting in Stockholm marking fiftieth anniversary of United Nations Conference on Human Environment.

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Other Drafts Authorize Continuing Comprehensive Review of Peacekeeping Operations, Non-governmental Organizations’ Participation in Upcoming High-Level HIV/AIDS Meeting

The General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted two draft resolutions and a draft decision today, including one to convene an international meeting in Stockholm on 2 and 3 June 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm that gave birth to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

By the terms of the resolution titled “International meeting entitled ‘Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all — our responsibility, our opportunity’” (document A/75/L.88), the eponymous meeting — to take place during the week of World Environment Day — will contribute to the environmental dimension of sustainable development to accelerate the implementation of commitments in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development, including a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the text, the meeting should mutually reinforce the commemoration of UNEP’s fiftieth anniversary, known as “UNEP@50”, thus avoiding overlap and duplication. The resolution also welcomed the Government of Sweden’s offer to assume the costs of the international meeting, with the support of Kenya, which hosts UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi.

Sweden’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Kenya, introduced the draft, recalling that the Stockholm Conference contributed greatly to the global environmental agenda, including UNEP’s creation. Despite significant progress over the past five decades, however, environmental changes are undermining hard‑won development gains, a situation only aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to do more, faster and better,” he said. The international meeting will be a platform to promote collective action for sustainable development, including its environmental dimension, while also contributing to a sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

The Russian Federation’s representative, in an explanation of position, welcomed the resolution, calling it a balanced text that was negotiated in the spirit of multilateralism, with the views of all delegations taken into consideration. He added that the international meeting should consider not only environmental issues, but also the socioeconomic dimensions of sustainable development and narrowing the gap between developing and developed countries.

The representative of Guinea, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said in an explanation of position that the Group understands that the international meeting is not expected to redefine, renegotiate or mandate new mechanisms or new commitments, nor go beyond the provisions of multilateral environmental agreements. He noted that the international meeting will result in a summary of discussions as its outcome document and looked forward to the Assembly adopting by consensus a concise modalities resolution.

The United States’ representative, also expressing support for the international meeting, thanked Sweden and Kenya for their leadership in drafting a text that reflected the views of all delegations.

Held in the Swedish capital from 5 to 16 June 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Environment was the first international conference to make the environment a major issue. In addition to launching UNEP, it produced the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment, putting environmental issues at the forefront of international concerns.

In other business, the Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), adopted a draft resolution titled “Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects” (document A/75/413/Add.1). Through that text, the Assembly endorsed the proposals, recommendations and conclusions of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations contained in chapter V of its report (document A/75/19). It also decided that the Special Committee, in accordance with its mandate, shall continue its efforts for a comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, review the implementation of its previous proposals and consider any new proposals so as to enhance the United Nations’ capacity to fulfil its responsibilities in that field.

Also today, the Assembly adopted a draft decision titled “Participation of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector in the high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS” (document A/75/L.86). By its terms, the Assembly decided to approve the participation of a total of 256 non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions and private sector entities, in the high‑level meeting on HIV/AIDS that it will convene from 8 to 10 June, pursuant to resolution 75/260. (See Press Release GA/12314.)

Prior to taking action, the Assembly adopted an amendment (document A/75/L.89) which added MIT World Peace University to the list of participants contained in a seven-page annex to “L.86”. It was introduced by India’s representative, who explained that it would restore to the list a university in his country which had previously been omitted. He also drew attention to a diminishing space for civil society globally and stressed the universal right to freedom of expression.

The United States’ representative, emphasizing that civil society should be at the table at all meetings of the United Nations, expressed concern at a growing trend of some countries objecting to the presence of non-governmental organizations from other countries. Expressing support for the amendment, she said that the organization named in “L.89” meets all of the criteria set out by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council.

The Russian Federation’s representative said that some delegations had provoked the Assembly into considering an issue that fell outside its competence, thus undermining the prerogative of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. He also wondered how the list of participating civil society organization came to include groups which advocate the legalization of drug use and prostitution. He added that the list features a disproportionate number of proponents of a “risky lifestyle”.

China’s representative said that his country is a consistent supporter of civil society in the work of the United Nations. However, the Organization is intergovernmental, and therefore decisions regarding the participation of any non‑governmental organization must be ignore the objections of a Member State. He added that the organization named in “L.89” is engaged in political activities which have nothing to do with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

The United Kingdom’s representative said that there is a long history of civil society participation in high-level meetings on HIV/AIDS going back to 2001. It would be a disservice not to take advantage of their expertise, she added.

Pakistan’s delegate, supporting the remarks made by China and the Russian Federation, said that the Assembly should adhere to existing rules and guidelines regarding civil society participation. Some 5,000 non-governmental organizations enjoy special consultative status, but it is highly regrettable to see the participation of one organization polarize the Assembly, she stated.

Belarus’s representative said that while her delegation joined consensus, it did not support the procedure through which the organization named in “L.89” was added to the list of participating civil society group. She also requested that the deadline for submitting amendments be respected, thus giving delegations time to consult with their capitals.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that civil society participation is a high priority for the bloc and the reason why its member States supported the amendment. It was also happy to see the inclusion of all civil society organizations which appeared on the initial list of participants.

In addition, the Assembly took note of a letter dated 21 May from the Secretary-General to the President of the Assembly (document A/75/661/Add.3), informing him that Congo has made the payment necessary to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 25 May, to resume its debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, which began on 20 May.

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