General Assembly: 82nd Plenary Meeting, 75th Session

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18-Jun-2021 01:09:50
General Assembly reappoints Secretary-General to second five-year term, adopting resolution condemning lethal violence by Myanmar’s armed forces.

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Permanent Representative, Supporting Text, Denounces Delayed International Response, Calls for Strongest Action by Security Council

The General Assembly today unanimously appointed Secretary-General António Guterres for a second five-year term beginning 1 January 2022, while adopting a landmark resolution calling upon the armed forces of Myanmar to immediately stop violence against peaceful demonstrators and allow the sustained democratic transition of the country.

Acting first on the recommendation of the Security Council to reappoint Mr. Guterres, the Assembly adopted a resolution by acclamation renewing his term for another five years. By the text, the Assembly also expressed its appreciation for his effective and dedicated service during his first term, which ends on 31 December 2021.

Mr. Guterres, after taking the oath of office, said he is “deeply honoured and grateful” for the trust Member States have placed in him”. History can go either way: breakdown and perpetual crisis or breakthrough and prospect of a greener, safer and better future for all, he said, declaring: “I pledge to you that I will do everything in my power during my second term in office to contribute to the positive, breakthrough scenario.”

Outlining some of his strategic priorities, he stressed that the United Nations must consolidate the current reforms and continue to develop new methods of work. A United Nations “2.0” needs to accelerate transformation through a quintet of change — better data, analysis and communications’ innovation and digital transformation; strategic foresight; stronger performance and results orientation; and a work culture that reduces bureaucracy.

Equally, what is needed is a much more aligned and integrated Organization that works seamlessly across its pillars, he said, acknowledging that the Secretary-General alone neither has all the answers nor seeks to impose his views. Rather, the top official supports Member States and relevant stakeholders to lead the necessary changes by using the unique convening role of the United Nations and working as an honest broker to help find solutions.

He said the Secretary-General must feel every day the acute responsibilities of the office. “It is my intention to serve with humility… in the spirit of building trust and inspiring hope,” he declared. “This is our common mission.”

Following the reappointment of Mr. Guterres, the Assembly reconvened to take up the draft resolution on the situation in Myanmar, introduced by Lichtenstein’s representative, who described a “real and present danger of full-fledged civil war”. The military crackdown has reversed the democratic transition, killed peaceful protesters and stifled political dissent, he said, stressing that the text aims to bring Myanmar “back on the path to democracy”.

Adopting the resolution by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 1 against (Belarus) with 36 abstentions, the 193-nation organ called on the armed forces to respect the will of the people — as freely expressed in the 8 November 2020 general election — to end the state of emergency, respect all human rights and to allow sustained democratic transition, including the opening of a democratically elected parliament and by bringing all national institutions under a fully inclusive civilian Government.

By other terms, the Assembly called on Myanmar’s armed forces to immediately and unconditionally release President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and all others who have been arbitrarily detained, charged or arrested, and to engage constructively with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to realize an inclusive, peaceful dialogue among all stakeholders through a political process led and owned by the people of Myanmar. To de-escalate violence, the Assembly called on all Member States to prevent the flow of arms to the country.

When delegates took the floor to explain their positions, Myanmar’s representative said his delegation supported the resolution from a belief that it will pressure the “murderous military” to cease its inhumane acts and consolidate the people’s efforts to restore democracy. He expressed disappointment, however, that it took three months for the Assembly to act, recalling that on 26 February — “from this very seat” — he had appealed for the strongest possible action to end the coup. If the international community had acted sooner, he observed, it could have prevented more than 800 civilian deaths.

Many delegates supported the resolution’s recognition of ASEAN’s efforts in the region and emphasizing the need to support the will of Myanmar’s people to restore democracy. The resolution may be imperfect, some observed, but it is timely. Others abstained, either stating that the text does not do enough to address the Rohingya crisis, falls outside the General Assembly’s purview, or citing a principled position against adopting country-specific resolutions.

The representative of Belarus — who called for the vote and cast the one lone ballot against the measure — denounced the “rushed”, “closed” process to produce a text, stressing that the failure to consult his delegation amounted to “open discrimination”. Country-specific resolutions are always biased and one-sided, he added, and today’s text was no exception.

Canada’s representative, however, emphasized that attacks on civilians are not matters pertaining to just one country, and that, while the Charter of the United Nations speaks of the principle of sovereignty, it does not say that it “trumps every other value that we have as an Assembly”.

The representative of Bangladesh, whose country hosts 1 million Rohingyas who fled violence in Myanmar, said her delegation abstained from the vote, as the resolution fell short of its expectations, failing to recognize the urgent need to create the conditions for the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of the Rohingyas. Any resolution on Myanmar will remain incomplete if it does not recognize the root causes of the crisis and make recommendations to address them, she asserted.

Also speaking in explanation of position on “L.85/Rev.1” were representatives of Iran, Egypt, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Viet Nam, Algeria, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Representatives of Costa Rica, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, Republic of Korea and Japan delivered general statements.

Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, delivered opening remarks on the Secretary-General’s reappointment. Delivering statements were representatives of Eritrea (on behalf of the African States), Kiribati (on behalf of the Asian States), Slovakia (on behalf of the Eastern European States), Costa Rica (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States), United Kingdom (on behalf of the Western European and other States) and the United States (on behalf of the host country). Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal, also spoke.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 21 June, to discuss the United Nations global counter-terrorism strategy.

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