General Assembly: 81st Plenary Meeting, 75th Session

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16-Jun-2021 00:39:15
General Assembly adopts resolution recognizing right of return for Georgia’s displaced persons, refugees, deferring action on Security Council reform.

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Aspiring Permanent Members, Led by Brazil, Propose Amendment, Triggering Divisions on How to Restructure 15-Member Organ

The General Assembly adopted a resolution today that recognizes the right of return of all internally displaced persons and refugees and their descendants, regardless of ethnicity, to their homes throughout Georgia, including in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.

By a vote of 80 in favour to 14 against, with 70 abstentions, it adopted the text “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia” under its agenda item on protracted conflicts in the GUAM area, which comprises Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova.

Georgia’s representative introduced the text, saying that almost 400,000 forcibly displaced persons from Georgia are still hoping for their safe, dignified and sustainable return to their places of origin. “We should all recognize the utterly humanitarian nature of the principle of return,” he said.

Ukraine’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the human rights and humanitarian situation in the two areas. Speaking in his national capacity, he urged the Russian Federation to respect its obligations as an occupying Power and to stop its temporary occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

The Russian Federation’s representative, who requested a vote, said in an explanation of position that the text represents a “fresh attempt” to undermine the normalization process in the region by applying pressure on the sovereign States of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It will also harm ongoing humanitarian efforts and the Geneva International Discussions, he warned.

Earlier in the day, the Assembly took up an oral draft decision from its President to carry intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform — including the question of equitable representation and an increase in the number of Council members — into its seventy-sixth session.

Similar texts have been routinely adopted by consensus in years past, but a draft oral amendment put forward by Brazil, Germany, India and Japan — which support each others’ bid for permanent Council seats — triggered divisions among Member States who hold different views on how to reform the 15-member organ to better reflect twenty-first century realities.

Brazil’s representative said the draft oral amendment would have the Assembly reaffirm the commitment made by Heads of State and Government to “instill new life" in the discussion on Council reform, as they did in the “Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations” adopted on 21 September 2020. (See Press Release GA/12267.)

Other speakers — notably from the Uniting for Consensus Group, which supports an enlarged Council with no additional permanent members, and the Committee of Ten, tasked with advocating the Common African Position on Council reform — favoured adopting the draft oral decision without changes, saying that the proposed amendment was a substantive one that would undermine progress towards a consensual agreement on revamping the 15-member organ.

After three hours of debate, during which a total of 35 delegations took the floor in explanations of position, Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) said that the Assembly would resume its consideration of the issue on 22 June, allowing time for further consultations in the interim.

Also speaking today were representatives of Lithuania (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries), as well as the European Union.

The Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday, 18 June, to consider the appointment of the Secretary-General.

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