General Assembly: 61st Plenary Meeting, 76th Session

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15-Mar-2022 02:52:55
General Assembly unanimously adopts texts on combating islamophobia, protecting rangelands, Tackling difficulties for widows, bicycles as public transportation.

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A resolution proclaiming 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly today, along with three other texts addressing the difficulties facing widows, the preservation of rangelands and a call to integrate bicycles into public transportation methods.

The representative of Pakistan, introducing the resolution calling for establishing the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, said Islamophobia has emerged as a new form of racism that includes, among others, discriminatory travel bans, hate speech and the targeting of girls and women for their dress. The text called for expanded international efforts to create a global dialogue that will encourage tolerance and peace centred on respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs.

The representative of Guyana said the designation of an international day is an important way to counter Islamophobia and its negative trends, such as limited access to housing, education and employment. Global action will help counter increasing acts of violence against Muslims and Muslim communities around the world, she said.

However, the representative of France noted that Islamophobia has no agreed definition in international law. France supports the protection of all religions and beliefs, he said, adding that his delegation had proposed a text that endorsed the freedom of all religions and beliefs. The creation of an international day does not respond to concerns to counter all forms of discrimination, he stressed.

The representative of Nigeria introduced the draft resolution addressing the difficulties facing widows in certain parts of the world, which was also adopted by consensus. Spotlighting those difficulties, he pointed to the absence of high-quality data and gender statistics on the estimates of widowhood and particular information on the needs and roles of widows, which, in turn, prevented comprehensive and useful analysis and policy action. Having such data would help ensure widows were accounted for now and in the future and would help in closing the gap in gender inequality.

The representative of Sierra Leone, recalling that his country has been a torch bearer on this issue, noted that Sierra Leone has an uncountable number of widows after enduring a civil war that ended two decades ago, the Ebola crisis and the Covid—19 pandemic. This resolution helps make women powerful actors in their communities and their countries, he said.

Following the introduction of the text on rangelands by Mongolia’s delegate, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution declaring 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. In his introduction, he pointed out that pastureland accounts for more than half of the world’s land and more than 200 million people around the globe raise livestock in pastoral and agro-pastoral systems.

The representative of Turkmenistan, introducing the resolution on integrating bicycles into public transportation methods in urban and rural locales around the globe, noted the bicycle has been a major mode of transportation for 140 years and offers health benefits, convenience and accessibility for millions of people, as well as supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The General Assembly then turned its attention to the election of members of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) to six-year terms that begin on 27 June. That date corresponds with the first day of the Commission’s fifty-fifth session. In December 2021, the Assembly decided to increase the body’s membership from 60 to 70 States.

However, the election of a representative of Belarus to one of the five seats designated for Eastern European States prompted several delegates to dissociate themselves from participating in consensus.

The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that Belarus’ participation in the military aggression of the Russian Federation was a flagrant violation of international law and undermined international stability and security.

The representative of Ukraine dissociated his delegation from the consensus as well, stressing that Belarus’ actions were an attack on the Charter of the United Nations. The election of a representative of Belarus to the Commission was unethical and immoral.

The representative of Belarus, in response, said the General Assembly should avoid the politicization of issues when they were irrelevant to a meeting’s subject. Belarus remains committed to international law, he said.

The appointment of a representative from the Russian Federation to fill one of four vacancies on the Joint Inspection Unit also prompted several delegates to dissociate themselves from the Assembly’s decision.

The representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, condemned the unprovoked and illegal attack on Ukraine and dissociated the delegations for which he was speaking from consensus.

The United Kingdom’s delegate reminded the Assembly that the international community had called on the Russian Federation to withdraw from its unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Concerned with lies propagated in the Assembly or any forum, he said the Russian Federation remains in breach of the Charter. Therefore, he disassociated his delegation from consensus.

The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret over the elections’ politicization and the mendacious allegations. Further, he noted that the Russian candidate being discussed has a great deal of experience. There was no doubt he would make a great contribution to the Joint Inspection Unit, he said.

The Assembly closed its session with the appointments of Costa Rica, Croatia, Mauritius, Senegal, Sweden and the United States as members of the Board of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. The appointments begin 15 March and expire on 14 March 2022.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Iran, Syria, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Algeria, Malaysia, Jordan, Qatar, Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United States. An observer for the Holy See also spoke.

The General Assembly will convene again at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, 18 March, to mark the annual commemorative meeting during the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

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