General Assembly: 78th Plenary Meeting, 75th Session

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11-Jun-2021 02:56:22
Citing COVID-19’s global impact on peace, speakers say Security Council must overcome divisions, address current realities, as General Assembly considers its 2020 report.

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Delegates Also Elect Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, United Arab Emirates Non-Permanent Security Council Members for 2021-2022

The Security Council must swiftly overcome divisions that have led to deadly consequences and fully address current realities, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact peace worldwide, delegates told the General Assembly during a debate on its 2020 annual report following elections to fill non-permanent seats on the 15-member organ.

In one round of voting, the Assembly elected Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates to fill non-permanent Council seats. The elected States will replace those members whose term of office expires on 31 December: Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Viet Nam. India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway will continue as elected members, completing the second year of their respective terms in 2022.

The five new members were elected in accordance with the following pattern: three from African and Asia-Pacific States, one from Eastern European States and one from Latin American and Caribbean States.

Opening the debate on the Security Council’s 2020 annual report, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) welcomed the organ’s ability to continue its work, in both virtual and hybrid formats, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he regretted to note occasional divisions rendering the Council unable to deliver on its mandate, with deadly results and untold human consequences. As the world is looking to the United Nations as it builds back better from the pandemic, he said that for millions of people the Council is the face of the Organization. As such, its success or failure to fulfil its mandate of maintaining international peace and security means success or failure for the United Nations.

Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), Security Council President for June, introduced the report (document A/75/2), highlighting activities related to issues on its agenda amid pandemic-related limitations. While the Council succeeded in issuing 46 statements, adopting 57 resolutions and holding 81 in-person meetings and 269 videoconferences, it was unable to undertake field visits. He added that despite pandemic-related restrictions, the Council managed to complete its annual report earlier than in 2020.

In the ensuing debate, many delegates commended Council members for being flexible through the pandemic, but said improvements are needed. Delegates called for, among other things, efforts to restrict veto use by permanent members, deepen interactions with the wider United Nations membership and work harder to resolve long-standing conflicts.

Many requested more depth and analysis in future reports. South Africa’s delegate said the 2020 report served merely as a record of activities during the period. She underscored the urgent need for reform, given the lack of progress on the ongoing questions of Western Sahara and Palestine. Indeed, the Council must reflect contemporary realities, she said.

Summing up a common thread, the representative of the United Arab Emirates emphasized that: “As we respond to security threats, pandemics and environmental challenges, multilateral institutions need to step up their game and prove their usefulness.”

Canada’s delegate agreed, citing the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable and that the Council took too long to address the consequences of the pandemic, itself. “This was a major failure of leadership,” he added.

Portugal’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, said the pandemic will still pose exceptional challenges to the Council’s functioning and to almost all items on its agenda in 2021. As such, the Council should give due consideration, in the report’s introduction, to the pandemic’s impact on international peace and security and the Council’s work and tools.

Several delegates said the Council can do more about advancing the women, peace and security agenda. Switzerland’s delegate said a global coherence is needed to fully implement resolution 1325 (2000). Some representatives said more efforts are needed on the ground in this regard.

Mexico’s representative, whose country is an elected Council member, noted that several draft resolutions aimed at facilitating humanitarian access to conflict zones were vetoed in the Council, and the 2020 report fails to explain why some members used that power. Emphasizing the need for a formal mechanism to guarantee transparency and accountability, he said the Council must act promptly in the face of any threat to international law and international humanitarian law while playing its critical role in protecting civilians.

Pakistan’s delegate, noting that the report shed no light on how the Council dealt with specific situations or how it reached its decisions, said the organ has become more cloistered than ever before. As it resumes open meetings, the Council must strike a judicious balance between punctuality and openness, with non-members participating in its work, especially in matters which directly concern them.

In other business, the Assembly confirmed the appointment of Rebeca Grynspan (Costa Rica) as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and took up the note from the Secretary-General titled “Notification by the Secretary-General under Article 12, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/75/300).

The Assembly also took note of the election of the chairs of its Main Committees at its seventy-sixth session: First Committee, Omar Hilale (Morocco); Second Committee, Vanessa Frazier (Malta); Third Committee, Mohamed Siad Doualeh (Djibouti); Fourth Committee, Egriselda Aracely González López (El Salvador); Fifth Committee Mher Margaryan (Armenia); and Sixth Committee, Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani (Qatar).

Also delivering statements were representatives of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Liechtenstein, Singapore, Iran, Pakistan, Georgia, Austria, Chile, New Zealand, El Salvador, Ukraine, Qatar, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Italy, Cuba, Bangladesh, Ghana and Egypt.

The representative of Pakistan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

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