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  • News in Brief 28 November 2017 – Geneva (AM)

    28 Nov 2017

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    Civilians in Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus are facing “nightmarish” conditions amid ongoing fighting between the government and opposition fighters. Photo: UNICEF/Amer Al Shami

    10 million Syrians “do not know where their next meal is coming from”

    Ten million people inside Syria do not know where their next meal is coming from and some have resorted to scavenging for food, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.

    As a new round of UN-led peace talks begins in Geneva, WFP spokesperson Bettina Luescher told journalists that the situation in Syria is “dire” in opposition-held areas outside the capital Damascus.

    “When our colleagues went to besieged Eastern Ghouta in rural Damascus this month the community leaders told them that people were resorting to eating food from garbage. Children are so weak that they are fainting at school. They’re eating animal fodder, they’re skipping meals, they’re begging on the streets. This is a nightmarish situation in the 21st century that does not have to happen.”

    Around 400,000 people live in Eastern Ghouta, and a total of three million are in besieged and hard-to-reach areas elsewhere in Syria.

    UN aid coordinating agency OCHA has confirmed that a humanitarian convoy to Eastern Ghouta had to turn back on Monday amid fierce fighting.

    The development comes as Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura prepares to meet the Syrian opposition at the UN in Geneva on the opening day of a new round of intra-Syrian talks.

    His office indicated that he had received a message from the Syrian government that they would be arriving in the Swiss city on Wednesday.

    Migrant deaths crossing Mediterranean top 3,000 in 2017

    More than 3,000 migrants and refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, the UN said on Tuesday.

    International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesperson Joel Millman confirmed that this is the “fourth straight year” that the threshold had been overtaken.

    “This mark passed sometime probably over the last weekend …we’ve gone through months of falling arrivals, falling deaths, then this past weekend, something that hasn’t happened very much this year, we recorded eight deaths in Spain, one in Greece and at least 31 in Libya.”

    The IOM spokesperson said that it was significant that the 3,000 deaths had been reached in late November and not in July, as was the case in 2016.

    Fourteen out of every 15 deaths this year have occurred on the so-called Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Europe.

    Yemen diptheria infections “spreading faster than we would wish”, says UN health agency

    To Yemen now, where a deadly diphtheria epidemic is spreading fast amid ongoing delays getting medicine into the country, despite an easing of a blockade put in place by a Saudi-led coalition.

    Issuing the warning on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) that the disease has claimed 20 lives in more than a dozen governorates.

    Yemenis are already reeling from more than two years of conflict between the international alliance supporting President Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels, as well as the world’s biggest cholera epidemic.

    Here’s WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier on the diphtheria threat:

    “It’s spreading faster than we would wish, so while some of the sources have been identified, it’s spreading over 13 governorates and that’s quite large. So everything depends on having access, on getting medicines and supplies in, on getting the vaccinations in and together with UNICEF and partners to vaccinate all the necessary age groups.”

    A vaccination campaign for more than 300,000 infants got under way at the weekend, coordinated by WHO and UN Children’s Fund UNICEF.

    But a boat carrying diphtheria vaccines has yet to dock in the war-torn country, held up by an apparent backlog in unloading other vessels carrying humanitarian aid and other supplies to Yemen.

    These included a World Food Programme (WFP) charter which has reached harbour with 25 tonnes of wheat.

    The UN agency confirmed that it is also coordinating two aid flights a day to Yemen from Amman in Jordan and another from Djibouti.

    WFP provides help to seven million people but a $350 million shortfall has meant that half-rations have been put in place for some.

    Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

    Duration: 4’08″

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  • Concluding Intense Session, Third Committee Approves 5 Draft Resolutions on Children’s Rights, Assistance to Refugees, Persons with Disabilities

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its seventy‑second session today, approving five draft resolutions on the rights of children, assistance to refugees, persons with disabilities, social development and terrorism.

    The role of parents and legal guardians in the education of children, particularly regarding sexual and reproductive health, and opposition to the International Criminal Court once again came to the fore as the Committee took up a draft resolution on the rights of children.

    After its introduction, Egypt’s representative, speaking for the African Group, said the draft was unbalanced as it did not include references to the role of parents, presenting an amendment to reflect such guidance.  South Africa’s delegate proceeded to disassociate from Egypt’s statement, resulting in the amendment being considered as introduced by all African States except South Africa.

    Uruguay’s representative, speaking on behalf of the draft’s sponsors and urging States to vote against the amendment, said education was a fundamental element for society.  Knowledge about human rights, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health was a basic tool for preventing and combating all forms of violence against children. 

    Several Member States reaffirmed their belief that parents must play a central role in education, with Singapore’s delegate stressing that the upbringing of children was best done by parents and legal guardians, and that she would thus vote for the amendment.  The representative of the Russian Federation called the proposed changes reasonable.

    The Committee approved the amendment by a recorded vote of 90 in favour to 76 against, with 8 abstentions (Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Maldives, Nepal, Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka).

    Sudan’s delegate, stressing that the International Criminal Court had obstructed stability in her country, called for references to the Court to be deleted from the draft, a revision that Sudan had proposed for other drafts.

    Delegates defended the Court’s role as a force for justice, with Estonia’s representative, on behalf of the draft’s sponsors, saying language on the Court was balanced.  Lichtenstein’s representative, on behalf of several States, assured delegates that the Court had a vital role where national courts were unable or unwilling to exercise jurisdiction. 

    The Committee proceeded to reject Sudan’s proposed amendment by a recorded vote of 19 in favour, 102 against and 39 abstentions.  It then unanimously approved the draft as a whole, as amended, in a recorded vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would take actions related to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, non‑discrimination, violence against children, and follow‑up on various matters concerning family relations, economic and social well‑being, child labour, the rights of children in particularly difficult circumstances, and migrant children, among other matters.

    Debate over the role of parents and guardians, this time in relation to women’s and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health, resurfaced when the Committee took up a draft on the rights of persons with disabilities.

    Nigeria’s delegate, on behalf of 43 African countries, proposed an amendment that would reflect the role of parents and legal guardians in providing guidance to their children.  As was the case earlier in the day, the Committee approved the amendment, this time by a recorded vote of 82 in favour to 78 against, with 9 abstentions (Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Tuvalu).  Many of those objecting to the amendment, including New Zealand’s delegate, decried that it upset carefully achieved compromise wording, with Argentina’s delegate, among others, stressing it also suggested the rights of girls and women with disabilities were not equally protected, and thus, could not set a precedent.

    The Committee then unanimously approved the draft in a recorded vote that saw 176 States voting in favour.  The text would have the Assembly encourage States to review and repeal any law or policy that restricted women with disabilities from their full and equal participation in political and public life.

    As the meeting opened, the Committee approved — by a recorded vote of 170 in favour, 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Armenia) — a draft on the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly.

    The text would have the Assembly recognize the need to formulate social development policies in an integral, articulated and participatory manner, recognizing poverty as a multidimensional phenomenon.  It would urge States to strengthen social policies, paying particular attention to the specific needs of disadvantaged social groups and inviting them to address the structural causes of poverty.

    Delegates expressed regret that the United States had requested a recorded vote on the draft, typically approved by consensus, from a belief that it went beyond the Committee’s purview and would result in a misuse of resources.  China’s delegate, noting his withdrawal of an amendment, said the United States was “too sensitive” and must learn from Beijing’s commitment to compromise.

    The Committee also approved by consensus a draft on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa, introduced by Madagascar’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, with extensive oral revisions.  Under its terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary‑General to submit a report to its seventy‑third session, taking into account efforts made by countries of asylum and those aimed at bridging funding gaps.

    In final action, the Committee approved a draft on terrorism by a recorded vote of 104 in favour to 1 against (South Africa), with 63 abstentions.  By its terms, the Assembly would strongly condemn all terrorist acts as criminal and unjustifiable while also urging States to protect persons within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction by preventing and countering terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

    Having taken note of its tentative work programme for the seventy‑third session, the Committee concluded its work on a lighter note as representatives of the United Kingdom and Egypt took the floor to recite “silly” poems about the body’s work over the past weeks.

    World Summit for Social Development

    The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution titled “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/72/L.12/Rev.1).  The draft aimed to solve the problem of inequality beyond countries, he said, and spoke to the indivisibility of economic and social rights. 

    After the Chair noted that a recorded vote had been requested on the resolution, the representative of Ecuador asked which delegation had asked for the vote, and was informed by the Chair that it was the United States.

    The representative of the United States, in explanation of vote, said issues remained in the draft that were not linked to social development or the work of the Third Committee, which was a misuse of resources.  Thus, the United States called for a vote and would vote no, urging others to do the same.  Regarding the draft’s reference to foreign occupation, the United States reaffirmed its binding commitment to a solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  On operative paragraph 27, she said the United States understood the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to be consistent with the resolution.  Demands that the international community provide market access or debt relief were unacceptable in a Third Committee draft, she said, noting that terminology, such as the word “shall”, was only appropriate in binding texts.

    The representative of Ecuador, in a general statement, said the Group of 77 and China regretted that the draft resolution would not be adopted by consensus, noting that it had no programme budget implications.  The goals of eradicating poverty and achieving social inclusion deserved support, he said, urging all to vote in favour of the draft.  

    The representative of China said that in the last two days, the United States delegate had mentioned China, thanking her for paying attention to the Chinese “idea”, which was in line with the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.  The United States might be too sensitive, he said, expressing hope for a more open and inclusive attitude.  China had withdrawn its amendment for the benefit of the Group of 77 and the Third Committee, he said, and the United States delegate should learn from China.  All should make concessions and sacrifices.  The United States delegate should reflect on that point.

    The representative of the Russian Federation said international cooperation was a key factor in ending poverty.  She expressed disappointment that the draft had been put for a vote, adding that the Russian Federation would vote in favour.

    The representative of Brazil, in a general statement before the vote, urged support for the draft, explaining that it was crucial to find consensus on issues of social development and poverty.

    The draft resolution was then approved by recorded vote of 170 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Armenia).

    By its terms, the Assembly would recognize the need to formulate social development policies in an integral, articulated and participatory manner, recognizing poverty as a multidimensional phenomenon.  It would urge States to strengthen social policies, paying attention to the specific needs of disadvantaged social groups, and invite them to develop comprehensive and integrated strategies to address the structural causes of poverty and inequality.

    The representative of Mexico, in explanation of the vote, said he had voted for the draft, reiterating his country’s commitment to sustainable development, underscoring the need to focus on bringing United Nations entities together to achieve the draft’s objectives and avoid duplication of efforts.

    The representative of Ecuador called the draft’s adoption important, underscoring the Group’s commitment to work with the Secretariat and Member States to achieve the objectives of the draft.

    The Committee then took note of a Secretariat note on the World Social Situation 2017 (document A/72/211).

    Report of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

    The representative of Madagascar, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft resolution titled “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa” (document A/C.3/72/L.61).  She expressed grave concern over the rising number of refugees and displaced persons in Africa due to conflict, which in turn, triggered violence and food insecurity.  As reported by the Secretary‑General, by the end of 2016, the number of refugees and displaced persons in Africa had risen to more than 5 million and more than 11 million, respectively. 

    The deplorable situation had been worsened by funding shortfalls, she said, noting that Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP) budgets for Africa were among the most underfunded.  The draft highlighted the rising number of refugees and displaced people, stressing the importance of addressing funding gaps.  It also had been updated with initiatives taken during the past year, including the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, which called on donors and partners to fulfil their commitments. 

    She then read out numerous oral revisions to the draft, amending preambular paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13 and 19.  She also read revisions to operative paragraphs 5, 8, 9, 11, 14, 16, 24, 28, 30, 33 and 34. 

    The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

    By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the reports of the Secretary‑General and UNHCR, requesting the former to submit a report on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa to the Assembly at its seventy‑third session, taking fully into account efforts made by countries of asylum and those aimed at bridging funding gaps.

    The representative of the United States, referring to preambular paragraph 19 on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, said trade‑related language had been overtaken by events and was immaterial, and that any reaffirmation of the outcome document had no standing.  The United States dissociated from language on the New York Declaration, underscoring that no language should prejudge or prejudice upcoming negotiations on safe, orderly and regular migration. 

    The representative of Mexico, also speaking on behalf of Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Uruguay and Costa Rica, called attention to the draft’s lack of reference to the New York Declaration.  African countries were hosting millions of refugees, he said, adding that a more equitable distribution of the burden should be sought.

    Rights of the Child

    The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union and other countries, introduced a draft resolution titled “Rights of the child” (document A/C.3/72/L.21/Rev.1).  She made a series of oral revisions to preambuluar paragraphs 11, 17, 19 and operative paragraphs 6, 17, 21, 23, 26, 30, 35, 36, and 37.  The draft resolution was focused on eliminating all forms of violence against children.  Current trends had shown that an estimated 2 million children could be killed by violence from now until 2030 and she called on States to adopt the draft as orally revised.

    The representative of Barbados, on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), accorded high priority to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, stressing that respect and compromise should guide negotiations and calling on States to adopt the draft by consensus.

    The representative of Egypt, on behalf of the African Group, expressed deep commitment to protecting children’s rights.  The African Group had participated in negotiations.  However, it found that the text was not balanced as it did not include reference to parental guidance.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulated clearly that State parties should respect local customs and the responsibility of parents in raising their children.

    The representative of Egypt, in her national capacity, called for operative paragraph 36(k) to be amended to reflect the role of parents in guiding their children.

    The representative of Sudan said the International Criminal Court had been an impediment to the peace and stability in her country, in Africa and in many parts of the world.  She called for references to the Court to be deleted from the operative paragraph.

    The representative of South Africa disassociated from the African Group statement read by Egypt’s representative, noting that her country would support the text as amended by the co‑sponsors.

    The Secretary noted that three African countries had co‑sponsored the original text.

    The representative of Guinea‑Bissau withdrew her country’s co‑sponsorship of the draft resolution.

    The Secretary noted the withdrawal.

    The representative of Lesotho withdrew as a co‑sponsor of the draft resolution.

    The Secretary noted the withdrawal from “L.21/Rev.1” as orally revised.

    The representative of Estonia, on behalf of the sponsors, said operative paragraph 16 addressed children and armed conflict, reading the paragraph in full.  The language on the International Criminal Court was well‑balanced, she said, and the European Union was committed to preventing serious crimes falling under the Court’s jurisdiction.  She would call for a vote on that amendment.

    The representative of Uruguay, also speaking on behalf of the main sponsors, requested a vote on the African Group’s proposed amendments, saying that education was a fundamental element for society.  Knowledge on human rights, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health was a basic tool for preventing and combating all forms of violence against children.  The wording in operative paragraph 31 regarding the promotion of comprehensive education was an essential part of the text and she urged all to vote against the amendment.

    The Committee would first vote on the oral amendment proposed by Sudan’s delegate on operative paragraph 16.

    The representative of Liechtenstein, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand and Norway in explanation of vote, said the oral amendment was unfortunate, as it sought to change agreed language.  Operative paragraph 16 recognized the efforts taken to end impunity by punishing perpetrators.  The International Criminal Court had a key role where national courts were unable or unwilling to exercise jurisdiction.  He called on all delegations to vote against the amendment.

    The representative of Argentina, also speaking on behalf of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, said the International Criminal Court was an important achievement towards a rules‑based world order.  The language of operative paragraph 13 relating to the Court was not only factually correct, he said, but also thematically relevant and merited being kept in the agreed text, urging all States to vote against the amendment.

    The representative of the Russian Federation agreed on the need to ensure responsibility for violations of children’s rights, noting that the Court’s history had discredited it and shown it could not protect their rights.

    The Committed then rejected the oral amendment with a recorded vote of 19 in favour to 102 against, with 39 abstentions.

    The Chair then asked the Committee to vote on the amendment to operative paragraph 36(k) proposed by Egypt.

    The representative of Nigeria said he would support the amendment, as discussions on children must include the role of parents.

    The representative of Egypt said she had presented the amendment on behalf of the African Group.

    The Secretary said the amendment could not be presented on behalf of the African Group due to South Africa’s earlier statement.  However, it could be presented on behalf of all African States except South Africa.

    The representative of Singapore said her country was committed to protecting the children’s rights.  At the same time, Singapore believed the upbringing of children was best done by parents and legal guardians, and thus, would vote for the amendment. 

    The representative of Canada, on behalf of Australia, Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, said the amendment would weaken agreed language on gender equality.  The paragraph already included language referring to education in full partnership with parents and legal guardians, and outlined that education should be age appropriate.  The qualifications already addressed sensitivities.  The proposed amendment would upset the carefully balanced compromise.

    The representative of the Russian Federation said the amendment was not about gender equality, but rather, the rights of children to education.  Citing article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she said any additions proposed by African Group States were reasonable and she would vote in favour of them.

    The Committee then approved the oral amendment to operative paragraph 36(k) by a recorded vote of 90 in favour to 76 against, with 8 abstentions (Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Maldives, Nepal, Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka).

    The representative of Estonia expressed disappointment with the amendment, saying comprehensive education was critical for society.  Adolescents had a right to learn how to stay safe and healthy, and about gender relations.  Violence against children was a topic requiring the strongest possible language.  Operative paragraph 36(k) was not a basis for consensus and she regretted that the vote would lead to a vote on the resolution as a whole.  She urged all delegates to vote in favour of the draft resolution.

    The representative of Nigeria in a general statement expressed appreciation for the Third Committee’s solidarity.

    The representative of Mauritania stressed the importance of human rights outlined in the most important conventions.  Noting that the family was “a sacred bond” and the natural place for children, he said parents bore the responsibility and absolute right to teach children about the values in which they believed.

    The Secretary then said the Third Committee could choose to suspend Rule 130 of the Rules of Procedure to take action on “L.21/Rev.1” as orally revised and amended without a vote.

    The representative of the Russian Federation asked whether a precedent would be set were the Third Committee or any other General Assembly Committee to suspend the Rules of Procedure.  She asked whether it had the authorization to do so.  She would like to approve the draft by consensus, but expressed concern about creating precedent and violating the Rules of Procedure.

    The Secretary said the Committee could indeed suspend the rule in question without creating a precedent.

    The representative of Egypt noted that the Secretary had suspended a rule earlier, and that another rule had been active at another time.  She refused to consider a situation where a precedent would be set, and could not accept “breaking what we are used to doing”.  There should be a vote and she called on the Chair to apply the Rules of Procedure.

    The representative of Morocco asked for a clarification on the statement read by Estonia on behalf of the European Union.

    The representative of Estonia said she had not requested a vote, but rather, she was operating under Rule 130.

    The representative of Singapore called for the Rules of Procedure to be applied and for a vote to be taken.

    The representative of Uruguay, in her national capacity, expressed hope the vote on the amendment had been taken out of conviction and not solidarity, as the issue was the rights of the child.

    The representative of the Russian Federation noted that if the voting procedure had been begun, it would be a violation of the Rules of Procedure to interrupt it.  The Russian Federation would vote for the draft resolution, and if delegates agreed to give their votes in support of it, that might be a more important signal than a consensus adoption.

    The Committee then approved the draft as orally revised and amended by a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 0 against, with 0 abstentions.

    By its terms, the Assembly would take a number of actions related to, among other topics, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, non‑discrimination, violence against children, and follow‑up on various matters concerning family relations, economic and social well‑being, child labour, the rights of children in particularly difficult circumstances, and migrant children, among others.

    The representative of the United States, in a statement after the vote, expressed support for the draft resolution.  However, the draft did not change his country’s obligations to treaty law and other human rights instruments to which it was not a party.  The United States understood the resolution to be focused on protecting the rights of vulnerable children, including those with disabilities and those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.  It also would work with relevant partners to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.

    The representative of Singapore, in explanation of vote after the vote, welcomed the draft’s approval, and while citing reservations to operative paragraph 11, stressing that she had nonetheless voted in favour of the text.

    The representative of Sudan reiterated her country’s dedication to protecting children’s rights.  The International Criminal Court had been unfair to Sudan, which had worked incessantly to maintain peace in the region.  The draft’s sponsors had not heeded suggestions made by her country.

    The representative of Israel said his country was committed to protecting the children’s rights and had participated in negotiations on the text.  He asked that politicized language be removed from future texts.

    The representative of the Holy See said violence against children undermined their rights and the well‑being of society.  He expressed concern over the hostile amendment, a move which could have been avoided.  All efforts must be made to support parents so that children could grow up in a safe environment, he said, noting that the Holy See’s understanding of sexual reproductive health services did not include abortion.

    The Secretary noted the Holy See’s intervention would be considered as a general statement.

    The representative of the Russian Federation noted the openness and inclusiveness in negotiation of the draft and expressed hope that a mutually acceptable decision would be reached next year.

    The representative of Brazil dissociated from the amended operative paragraph 36(k).

    The representative of Morocco, describing a lack of sexual education in school and at home, said young people were finding answers to questions about reproduction online.  The Committee would gain from finding compromises on future resolutions.

    The representative of Mexico dissociated from operative paragraph 36(k) as amended.

    The representative of Uruguay said her country dissociated from amended operative paragraph 36.

    The representative of Argentina said his country had voted in favour of the draft resolution based on its principle of supporting consensus.  He expressed regret that the draft had not been adopted by consensus despite that constructive negotiations had been carried out.

    The representative of the United Arab Emirates said her country voted for the resolution and would interpret it according to its national policies.

    The representative of Peru disassociated from operative paragraph 36(k).

    The representative of Costa Rica expressed regret that the draft had not been approved by consensus and disassociated from operative paragraph 36(k).

    The representative of Guatemala expressed regret over the lack of consensus and disassociated from paragraph 36(k).

    The representative of Panama disassociated from operative paragraph 36(k).

    The representative of Chile disassociated from operative paragraph 36(k).

    The representative of Colombia disassociated from operative paragraph 36(k).

    Persons with Disabilities

    The representative of New Zealand, on behalf of Mexico and Sweden, introduced a draft resolution titled “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto: situation of women and girls with disabilities” (document A/C.3/72/L.18/Rev.1).  He said girls and women with disabilities faced multiple barriers in life.  The draft resolution focused on realizing their rights in areas such as employment, access to health care, equal recognition before the law and freedom to make their own choices.  Noting that numerous open consultations had been held on the text, he made oral revisions to preambular paragraph 9 and an operative paragraph.

    The representative of Nigeria, on behalf of 43 African countries, proposed amendments to operative paragraph 18 to reflect the role of parents in providing guidance to their children, as language reflecting the importance of parental guidance had been rejected by the sponsors.

    The Secretary said the draft’s co‑sponsors included Zambia, Morocco and Guinea.

    The representative of Zambia withdrew sponsorship of the draft resolution.

    The representative of Burundi said her country would like to co‑sponsor the amendment.

    The representative of Madagascar said that while the country supported the amendment, it withdrew from co‑sponsorship.

    The representative of Chad expressed support for the amendment and withdrew from the list of co‑sponsors.

    The representative of Guinea withdrew from the list of co‑sponsors of the amendment.

    The representative of Morocco maintained her country’s sponsorship of the draft resolution.

    The representative of Sierra Leone withdrew from the list of co‑sponsors and supported the amendment.

    A Secretariat official noted that Zambia, Madagascar, Guinea, Chad and Sierra Leone had withdrawn their sponsorship of the resolution.

    The representative of New Zealand, on behalf of Mexico and Sweden, said negotiations on the draft had been open and transparent, with numerous opportunities for States to engage over the last two months.  The inclusion of operative paragraph 18 was important to help women and girls with disabilities enjoy their full human rights and freedoms, notably as they were more exposed to unintended pregnancies, child marriage and other harmful practices.  The proposed amendment would upset the careful balance achieved and he called for a vote on it, stressing that the co‑sponsors would vote no and requesting others to do the same.

    The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, in an explanation of vote, expressed regret that oral amendments had been introduced, saying the paragraph in question reflected a “strong middle ground” on issues related to persons with disabilities.  Regretting the lack of a spirit of compromise, she urged all delegations to vote against the amendment.

    The representative of Switzerland, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Norway and Liechtenstein, said the amendment aimed to weaken previously agreed language on gender equality.  The tabled version referred to partnership with parents and guardians, and stated that education should be age‑appropriate.  The proposed amendment upset the carefully calibrated compromise, she said, urging all to vote no.

    The representative of Brazil said he would vote against the amendment.  The resolution focused on the rights of women and girls with disabilities, and the paragraph presented by the co‑facilitators already noted the partnership with parents, guardians and health care providers.  He called on all delegations to vote against the draft amendment.

    The representative of the Russian Federation said the Committee was voting on the same text for the second day.  The topic of human rights for persons with disabilities was a complex one deserving attention, yet unfortunately, a similar item had been included on the rights of the child resolution, and the co‑sponsors had decided it was also necessary to include the paragraph in a resolution on persons on disabilities.  In the future, co‑sponsors, who understood which resolutions were problematic, should show common sense. 

    The representative of Nicaragua said the most important part of society was the family, adding that future resolutions should be better balanced.

    The representative of Egypt associated herself with Nigeria’s statement and noted that her country had been among the first to join the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The language of the paragraph was unbalanced, and delegates should be more careful with transposing language, she said, adding that Egypt would vote in favour of the amendment and calling on others to do the same.

    The representative of Uruguay noted that the draft resolution included a clause on full cooperation with parents and legal guardians, and said it was necessary to vote against the amendment.

    The representative of Argentina said it was concerning that the same language was being put forward on several resolutions.  The language did not come from the declaration on HIV/AIDS, but from another Third Committee resolution from last year.  He urged all delegates to vote against the amendment, lest they send the message that young women and girls with disabilities did not deserve the same protections as others.

    The representative of Morocco said nothing prevented her from accepting an amendment to a resolution she co‑sponsored if she found the amendment to be an improvement to the resolution.  Morocco wished to keep its co‑sponsorship of the draft resolution.

    The Committee then approved the draft amendment to operative paragraph 18 by a recorded vote of 82 in favour to 78 against, with 9 abstentions (Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Tuvalu).

    The representative of the Holy See, in a general statement, condemned all forms of violence against people with disabilities, underscoring that a commitment to consensus should be respected in the Committee even while it discussed controversial issues.  He expressed reservations on the text, adding that the Holy See did not view abortion as a dimension of sexual and reproductive rights.

    The representative of New Zealand, also on behalf of Mexico and Sweden, expressed disappointment that a vote had been called, as the co‑sponsors believed they had struck a balance in the draft resolution.  By calling for a vote, the Committee sent a message to women and girls with disabilities that they did not have the same rights as others.

    The Committee then approved the draft as orally amended with a unanimous recorded vote of 176 in favour.

    By its terms, States would be called on to consider signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto.  They would be urged to review and repeal any law or policy that restricted women with disabilities from their full participation in political and public life on an equal basis with others, as well as to ensure the equal access of those women to decent work in the public and private sectors, that labour markets were open and accessible to persons with disabilities, and to take measures to both increase the employment of those women and to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability.

    The representative of the United States said women and girls were most marginalized among those persons with disabilities, excluded from services such as health care and education.  Countries did not have to fulfil obligations of international instruments to which they were not party, even though they had supported the resolution.  The United States did not recognize abortion as a form of family planning, she said, noting that she had voted for the draft resolution to urge States to protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

    The representative of Brazil dissociated from operative paragraph 18 as amended, as it compromised the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities.

    The representative of Yemen said his country had voted for the draft resolution as women and girls with disabilities experienced discrimination.  He said the fact that 176 delegates had voted for the draft had shown it addressed the concerns of many countries.

    The representative of Argentina said amended operative paragraph 18 weakened the protection of women and girls with disabilities, and he thus dissociated from it.

    The representative of Australia, on behalf of Canada, Iceland, Norway, and other countries, would have wanted the draft to have been adopted without a vote in its original version.  She welcomed the draft’s focus on women and girls with disabilities, who faced multiple challenges.  She called on States to provide women and girls access to education and health care, to prevent violence and abuse towards them, and to end to practices such as abortion and sterilization.  Stressing the importance of collecting disaggregated disability data, she said States had the common objective to reduce the spread of HIV and unwanted pregnancies among women and girls with disabilities.  There was a need for more education on responsible family planning, she asserted.

    The representative of Libya said the controversial draft on the rights of persons with disabilities should not be introduced in the future.  It was important to respect different cultural practices and values.

    The representative of Uruguay said all women and girls with disabilities should have equal rights and he dissociated from operative paragraph 18.

    The representative of Netherlands expressed disappointment over the vote on the amendment, as his country did not see operative paragraph 18 as the basis for consensus moving forward.

    The representative of Morocco, in a general statement, said the personal, sexual and private life of individuals with disabilities was important.  Morocco had reviewed the provisions of paragraph 18 as drafted by the co‑facilitators, but in the final analysis, had decided to make an addition to the paragraph.  Even if it were considered a weakness by some, she expressed hope there could be consensus on the draft resolution as a whole.

    The representative of Colombia said the amended paragraph limited access of women and girls with disabilities to information, and he disassociated from it.

    The representative of Costa Rica expressed regret that the draft resolution had not been adopted by consensus, saying sexual and reproductive information for young people was important, and disassociating from the amended paragraph.

    The representative of Denmark attached great importance to the rights of girls and women, and did not support the paragraph amended as a basis for consensus moving forward.

    Effects of Terrorism on Enjoyment of Human Rights

    The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the main sponsors, introduced a draft resolution titled “Effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights” (document A/C.3/72/L.49/Rev.1 and programme budget implications contained in document A/C.3/72/L.70).  He said all human rights were universal, indivisible, and interrelated, and that terrorism hampered economic development.  The draft aimed to condemn all acts of terrorism and incitement, and expressed grave concern over the effect of terrorism on human rights.  The draft resolution called on States to remain alert to the use of information technology for terrorist purposes.  The draft’s adoption should send a strong message that the international community was united in the fight against terrorism.  

    The representative of South Africa introduced an amendment to the draft resolution, saying her country’s democracy had been achieved in 1994 through the support of the international community and the Assembly, which had played a pivotal role in recognizing the national liberation movement by distinguishing it from terrorism.  The amendment sought to recognize that the draft resolution did not distinguish just and legitimate movements from terrorist acts.  The stance of the main sponsors was puzzling, given their support for national liberation movements in Africa, she said, adding that the proposed amendment brought the requisite balance to the draft resolution.

    The representative of Egypt said it was unfortunate that South Africa had introduced an amendment and underscored Egypt’s unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.  Making such a distinction would conflate legitimate armed struggle with terrorism, he said, asking South Africa to withdraw its amendment.

    The representative of South Africa, responding to the request by Egypt’s delegate to withdraw her request for an amendment, said she had not heard of such a request in her 17‑year experience in multilateralism and asked the Committee continue with its proceedings.

    The representative of Egypt called for vote on the amendment.

    The Committee then rejected the draft amendment by a recorded vote of 21 in favour to 77 against, with 42 abstentions.

    The representative of Saudi Arabia said his country respected human rights while fighting terrorism.  He called on delegates to support the draft resolution to demonstrate that countries were united in the fight against terrorism.

    The representative of South Africa requested a vote on the draft resolution as a whole.

    The representative of Egypt, in a general statement, said he was deeply disappointed by the position of South Africa’s delegate and called on all States to vote in favour of the draft resolution.

    The representative of South Africa said it was imperative to abide by international human rights law when fighting terrorism.  South African heroes had been labelled by terrorists in the past. The persecution of South Africa’s heroes was the reason why her country’s foreign policy lay on self‑determination and statehood.  She did not share the view that her intention to call for a vote on the resolution was ill‑founded and said her country would vote against the resolution.

    The Committee then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 104 in favour to 1 against (South Africa), with 63 abstentions.

    By its terms, the Assembly would reiterate that all States should take appropriate measures to deny support for terrorists and terrorist groups, particularly political, military, logistical and financial support.  It would emphasize the importance of cooperation, including through technical cooperation, capacity‑building and the exchange of information and intelligence on counter‑terrorism. 

    The representative of Estonia, on behalf of the European Union, said the co‑sponsors went to lengths to accommodate the views of States which had participated in negotiations on the text.  However, the bloc had abstained from the vote as it did not favour a parallel process of protecting rights when fighting terrorism.

    The representative of Qatar said all terrorist acts were crimes and it was clear that terrorism shattered human rights and democracy.  The international community should strengthen cooperation on the fight against terrorism, she said, underscoring the need to raise awareness and education in countering terrorism and addressing the deep roots of that phenomenon.

    The representative of the United States said her country did not recognize an obligation to recognize human rights law when countering terrorism.  The new report called for in the draft resolution was not an appropriate use of resources.

    Having taken note of several documents read out by the Secretary, the Committee then approved its tentative agenda for the seventy‑third session (document A/C.3/72/L.73).

    The representative of Syria, on a point of order, wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

    The representative of Cuba invited everyone to the Cuban festival which would take place on 8 December.

    The representative of the United Kingdom asked for the floor on a point of order “to read a silly poem” reflecting on the work of the Third Committee during the session.

    The representative of Egypt answered with a poem of his own.

    The representative of Nigeria invited all to the African Group’s party.

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  • Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

    The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.

    **Yemen

    Following the announcement by the Saudi‑led coalition of the closure of Yemen’s sea and air ports, humanitarian access into and out of the country is halted.  All parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate safe, rapid, unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need, through all ports and airports.  Any further shocks to imports of food and fuel may reverse recent success in mitigating the threat of famine in Yemen.  Humanitarians have reached more than 7 million people with direct food assistance this year alone.  We urge the parties not to escalate the situation further, and to follow their fundamental obligations of distinction, proportionality and precautions, taking constant care to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.  The UN calls on all parties to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and assets [throughout] Yemen.

    The United Nations calls on all States with influence over the parties to ensure their respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.  Humanitarian agencies operate in an impartial, neutral and independent manner; any party’s interference with these principles significantly hampers humanitarian agencies’ ability to deliver aid to those in need.

    Meanwhile, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that it is deeply concerned by a series of attacks in Yemen over the past week that have killed dozens of civilians — including several children — and it appealed to all parties to respect international law governing armed conflict.  The Human Rights Office is also very concerned that humanitarian aid destined for innocent civilians caught up in the three‑year‑long conflict may be adversely affected by the coalition’s decision on Monday to close all land, sea and air ports into the country.  More details in the Geneva press briefing.

    **Syria

    Turning to Syria, our humanitarian colleagues remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in east Ghouta.  Almost 400,000 civilians remain inside the besieged area, where they face deteriorating humanitarian, health, living and security conditions.  The population represents nearly 95 per cent of the entire besieged population within Syria.  Recent World Food Programme (WFP) assessments indicate severe shortages of food supplies, a sharp increase in the prices of basic commodities [in] communities, further eroding coping mechanisms.  The cost of a standard food basket in October [was] almost 10 times higher than the national average.  The UN is also concerned over a recent escalation of airstrikes in Aleppo and Idlib Governorates.  Over the past 48 hours, multiple and sustained airstrikes were reported in the southern countryside of Aleppo Governorate and parts of Idlib Governorate.  We call on all parties to the conflict to take all measures to protect civilians, as required under international humanitarian law.

    **Iraq

    Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has taken note of the statement concerning the recent ruling by the High Federal Court.  The UN Mission urges the Government of the Kurdistan region of Iraq to acknowledge, endorse and respect the ruling of the Federal Court and reiterate its full commitment to the Constitution.  UNAMI re‑emphasizes the urgent need for political dialogue and negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil, in a spirit of partnership and respect for the Iraqi Constitution that itself respects the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.  The Mission also reconfirmed its readiness to play a facilitating role in this dialogue and these negotiations, if requested by both the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

    **Afghanistan

    Our colleagues at the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan today released a report which shows a sharp increase in attacks against places of worship, religious leaders and worshippers in the country, and in particular against Shi’a Muslims.  The report also documents targeted killings by anti‑Government forces of religious scholars and leaders whom they regard as pro‑Government, as well as the targeted killing of security personnel amidst worshippers inside mosques.  Since January 2016, the Mission has recorded 850 civilian casualties — [273] people killed and 577 injured — in 51 attacks targeting places of worship, religious leaders and worshippers.  This is nearly double the number of documented attacks of this type between 2009 and 2015.  That report is available online.

    **Libya

    The International Organization for Migration (IOM) today said the remains of 26 women and girls were recovered over the weekend during rescue operations off the coast of Libya.  Most of them were Nigerian girls who were making their way to Italy.  The agency warned that it has observed a significant increase in the number of women and girls arriving in Italy over the past three years, noting that most of them are under the age of 18.  IOM said it is most likely that they were victims of human trafficking.  Many of the survivors from the rescue operations said they had been abused, and some had lost relatives at sea.  The UN Migration Agency said some 50 [in this group of] migrants are still missing.  And also on Libya, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday delivered five emergency health kits to the town of Ghat.  These kits are designed to meet the basic health needs of 5,000 people for approximately three months and will help struggling health facilities to deliver primary health services.  WHO is also working on making the local hospital fully functional in the coming weeks.

    **Mali

    The Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Annadif Mahamat Saleh, today condemned a series of attacks that took place yesterday in the country in which nine civilians and one member of the National Guard were killed.  And I also want to flag that Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, was in Mali between 2 and 5 November.  He met with the authorities as well as the G‑5 Sahel Joint Force.  The purpose of the visit was to reinforce the importance of human rights and justice in the peace process, and to discuss the establishment of a mechanism to guarantee respect for human rights during the deployment of the G‑5 Sahel Joint Force.  The Human Rights Office will be issuing a fuller press release shortly.

    **Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Our humanitarian colleagues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo tell us today that a recent mission in Tanganyika, south‑east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, found more than 70,000 displaced people by renewed violence.  Their needs include food security, health, education, shelter and protection.  Humanitarian assistance to the area has been limited, as underfunding has had a significant impact on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the DRC this year, with the response plan being only 42 per cent funded.

    **Bangladesh/Myanmar

    The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has just completed the first phase of Rohingya refugee family counting, where more than half a million refugees from Myanmar have so far been counted.  The exercise, conducted by UNHCR and Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, took place in the Kutupalong camp and extension areas and the Balukhali areas [and] is now extending further south.  So far, the counting exercise has gathered data on 120,284 families comprising half a million refugees.  The UNHCR teams found that one third of the families are vulnerable.  As many as 14 per cent are single mothers holding their families together with little support in harsh camp conditions.  Others are struggling with serious health problems.  There is also a high proportion of elderly people at risk, and children make up 54 per cent of the total population; 52 per cent are women.

    **Climate

    As you know, in Bonn, Germany, the Climate Change Conference is now in full swing.  Some of the highlights from today include a pledge by the HSBC bank to mobilize $100 billion in sustainable financing and investment to support the transition to a low‑carbon economy and to spur green growth worldwide, and the release of a report by the EU [European Union] saying it is on track for its 2020 target on emissions reduction.  We will keep you posted.

    **Guest

    My guest today will be Liu Zhenmin, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs.  He will brief on the Synthesis Report of the 2017 voluntary national reviews, which as you all know, is about progress achieved in the implementation of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].

    **Honour Roll

    And lastly, we say thank you to our friends in Beirut, in Lebanon, who have paid their regular budget dues in full this year, bringing us up to?  [139.]  Perfect.  If you have a question, you can ask.  Otherwise, you can yield.  No question.  Michelle and then James.

    **Questions and Answers

    Question:  Thanks, Stéph.  On the Climate Change Conference, Syria said they’re going to sign up.  Have you received anything…?

    Spokesman:  We’ve not received any official notification that I’m aware of.  We’ve asked a couple people in this building who would be best placed to know, but as soon as we get confirmation that something has happened, we will share that with you.

    Question:  And, on Yemen, has the SG [Secretary‑General] spoken with anyone from Saudi Arabia?

    Spokesman:  There are no contacts that I’m able to share with you at this point, though I… no details I can share, but I can assure you that there have been contacts between the UN and Saudi authorities at various levels over the last 24 to 48 hours.  James and then…

    Question:  On… on Yemen again, does the UN believe that, by its actions, this blockade, that Saudi is in breach of international humanitarian law?

    Spokesman:  I’m not in a position to issue a legal ruling.  What we do know is that the blockading of ports and airports and land routes can have a tremendously negative impact on a situation which is already catastrophic.  We have some food stocks already in‑country that we would be able to deliver, but you also have to imagine there is also… this sort of news can also have an impact on market prices, where food prices may go up in local markets; fuel prices may go up as people start to fear a long‑term impact of a blockade.  So, regardless of the legal implication, the humanitarian implications can be catastrophic.  Madame and then monsieur.

    Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On the allegation by Hezbollah’s role… Hezbollah’s role in the Persian Gulf [inaudible] Yemen, Saudi… Saudi is considering that the missile attack is an act of war by Lebanon as well.  Do you have any reaction on this?  And…

    Spokesman:  Look, we have seen the various reports coming out of the region, which we’re following very closely.  I think we would call for restraint, not only in action, but also in rhetoric in what is clearly a very volatile situation.

    Question:  Do you take… do you take this allegation seriously?

    Spokesman:  I… my… the message coming from the Secretary‑General of the United Nations is for a restraint both in actions and in words.

    Question:  Sure.  On Yemen, I wanted to ask you about pre… President… [Abdrabuh Mansour] Hadi [Mansour] who’s in Saudi Arabia.  It’s reported actually that he… that Saudi Arabia has… has, I guess, banned him from… from visiting even a part of the country not held by the Houthis, Aden.  I don’t know if you’ve seen this report, but my que… I guess my question would be, if he is Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s interlocutor, is he aware that he’s essentially under house arrest?

    Spokesman:  We’ve seen the reports.  We have no way of confirming… we have no way of confirming those reports.

    Question:  Has he… is… is… is the envoy in contact with Hadi [Mansour]?  It seems like…

    Spokesman:  The envoy is in contact with various parties.

    Question:  And… and the… the President of the Security Council said there’s going to be an any‑other‑business briefing on Yemen tomorrow.  And I wanted to know, has anyone in the Secretariat, whether Mr. Lowcock or… or… DPA [Department of Political Affairs] will brief?

    Spokesman:  My understanding is there will at least be a briefing by the Emergency Relief Coordinator.  If others brief, we will let you know.  Madame.

    Question:  On Yemen, too, you said that there were contacts between the UN and different Saudi officials.  Can you… could you elaborate on that and whether these contacts also touched upon what’s going on in Saudi Arabia itself now regarding the [inaudible]…?

    Spokesman:  I can’t give you more detail, but to tell you that the focus of the contacts [was] on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.  Mr. Avni.

    Question:  So, this… the Saudis claim that there was a missile shot from Yemen in… on Riyadh.  Do you have any confirmation of that?  Does the UN…?

    Spokesman:  We have no confirmation… I have no confirmation.  I think Farhan [Haq] addressed that yesterday.  But we have… I have… we have no confirmation.  We’ve seen the reports, but, as I said, Farhan addressed that yesterday.

    Question:  But nothing since yesterday?

    Spokesman:  No.  No, sir.

    Question:  Additionally, the US issued just… just issued a statement based on Saudi, the report from last July of missiles shot from Yemen by the Houthis that were made in violation of Security Council [resolutions] by Iran.  Can you con… do you have any confirmation of that?

    Spokesman:  I do not.  Mr. Abbadi.

    Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The [United States] President Trump will soon meet with President Xi [Jinping] of China to discuss various global issues.  What importance does the Secretary‑General grant to their discussion of global peace?

    Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary‑General is not a foreign policy analyst.  I will let you, all of you, decide the importance of the meeting, but it is clear that, I think, any type of high‑level dialogue, especially between these two countries, is a positive thing.  Sir.

    Question:  Stéph, given the December 2016 agreement in the DRC calling for elections by the end of this year and the subsequent announcement by the Elector… Electoral Commission announcing elections by December 2018, does the United Nations believe that Joseph Kabila [Kabange] should remain President of the DRC in the year ahead?

    Spokesman:  Look, it’s not for the UN to decide who will be… lead one country or… lead one country or another.  We’ve seen the announcement by the Electoral Commission regarding the elections.

    While regretting that these crucial polls have once again been postponed, we continue to call on political leaders, on all sides, to place the interests of the country, of their country and their people, above all else and to ensure the holding of credible, free and fair elections.  It’s important to rebuild the trust, I think, between the political class and the Congolese citizens.

    Question:  [Inaudible] the UN in the past has commented about respecting the constitutional mandates of leaders.  This would not… this would be outside of the mandate.  His term expired last year.  So, it’s a very specific question as to whether he should remain in power given that his mandate has already lapsed.

    Spokesman:  Look, we understand that Parliament — and we call on Parliament to still pass the remaining electoral legislation, legislation encouraging the implementation of confidence‑building measures foreseen in the agreement signed last December, and the full respect for the civil and political rights.  As I said, there is… constitutions need to be… need to be respected, but we’re not in the… and I will leave it at that.  How’s that?  Linda.

    Question:  Thank you, Stéph.  We know that about 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and last… and yesterday, the Security Council obviously issued a presidential statement expressing grave concern over human rights violations, including killings, rapes, etc.  I was wondering if the UN has any statistics or the latest statistics, perhaps, in terms of numbers, in terms of how many people have been raped, how many killings have occurred?

    Spokesman:  You know, our human rights colleagues as well as UNHCR have been, but especially our human rights colleagues, have been interviewing… have been interviewing refugees.  So, we can extrapolate from those interviews the fact that many of these refugees have… have undergone horrendous experiences, whether they were… when they were in northern Rakhine State or when they had to flee or on the road.  I’m not sure we’re in a position to give hard numbers of exactly how many of these incidents have happened.

    Question:  But… just to follow up, but may I ask, is there a sense that we’re… that the UN is referring to hundreds or thousands or, you know, just some general scope?

    Spokesman:  I’m afraid I’m not able to do that.  Mr. Lee and then Mr. Avni.

    Question:  Sure.  Follow‑up… some other stuff, but on the DRC, I wanted to ask you this.  The US has put out… the State Department put out a press release saying: “The US notes the importance of President Kabila [Kabange] abiding by the DRC’s Constitution, reaffirmed in the St. Sylvestre accord, that he will not seek a third term and will step down following elections.”  So, is that… is that the UN’s… is that your understanding as well, that that is what is required?

    Spokesman:  I think my understanding is the fact that I used every word that I could think of in answering your colleague’s question.

    Question:  Right.  I mean, can you get…?

    Spokesman:  I will leave it to what I’ve already answered.

    Question:  Okay.  I wanted… you may have seen the speech by the King of Morocco in which he said that there will be no solution to Western Sahara that’s not fully in accord with Morocco’s sovereignty, which basically means… it’s not really clear what is really being negotiated given that statement.  I wanted to know, is there any response by either Mr. [Horst] Köhler or by the Secretariat?

    And, also, is it the case… was Mr. Köhler’s recent visit to the region… was he restricted of travelling where… anywhere that he wanted within Western Sahara? Because I’ve heard that he has, and I wanted to just ask you…

    Spokesman:  I’m not aware of…

    Question:  Did he visit MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara]?

    Spokesman:  I’m not aware of these, of whatever restrictions.  Obviously, on these trips, itineraries are negotiated.  I’m not going to react to the King’s… the King’s speech.  There is a mandate from the Security Council for the Personal Envoy as well as the… as well as MINURSO, and we will follow that mandate and continue our work.

    Question:  And you’d said earlier… I’d asked you about this case of the Western Sahara journalist, who’s now been twice denied accreditation.  You said you’d look into whether this is under the policy of needing to be from a Member State of the General Assembly.  Were you able to check that out?

    Spokesman:  I don’t recall, but I’ll check again.  Mr. Avni.

    Question:  Just to follow up on your answer before that, you said that you have no independent information on the 20 July report.  Since this is allegedly a violation of Security Council resolution…

    Spokesman:  No, I didn’t say I had no… I just said I had nothing to add.  I didn’t say…

    Correspondent:  You said you had no information.

    Spokesman:  Go ahead, what’s the question?

    Question:  We can go back to the videotape?

    Spokesman:  What’s the question?

    Correspondent:  My question is…

    Spokesman:  Thank God we don’t have instant replay here.  Yes.

    Question:  Can you get instant replay?  My question is, since the allegation by the US and others is that this is a violation of Security Council resolution, should you look at that…?

    Spokesman:  I will go back and look at the July incident.  I have no further information on this most recent incident.

    Question:  But should the UN independent, I don’t know, DPA or any other department, look at allegations of violation of Security Council resolutions…

    Spokesman:  Well, Security Council resolution committees also have authority in this domain.  Mr. Lee.

    Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask you two questions about Cameroon.  One is, since the Secretary‑General’s visit, one, there’s a… there are reports of a crackdown in a place called Jakiri, where one gendarme was killed, and now basically everyone is being told there will be collective punishment unless a gun is turned over.  And I wanted to know, is Mr. [François Louncény] Fall… who… after the visit, who’s keeping track of it?  Also, bigger picture maybe, the… the Cross River State Governor in Nigeria, Ben Ayade, has said that the border has essentially been closed for people fleeing the Cameroon… the anglophone region of Cameroon, and I wanted to know whether that’s something that either Mr. Fall or on the… you know, UNHCR is aware of.

    Spokesman:  UNHCR, you can check with them.  I will… I don’t have anything on… more on Cameroon.

    Question:  Is there any… I guess what I’m saying is, if Mr. Fall was there on the trip… he wasn’t in the photograph with the…

    Spokesman:  He was there.  We already said he was there.

    Question:  All right.  So what was the… was any plan reached for continued work…?

    Spokesman:  If there’s a further visit that he’s able to make, we will announce it.  Mr. Abbadi.

    Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I would like to refer to the report to the General Assembly on the circumstances that led to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and his companions.  It has been put on the web.  What other measures has DPI [Department of Public Information] taken to bring the report to the attention of world community?

    Spokesman:  I think they’ve… they’ve reported… I think it’s been on the UN News Centre and that we rely on the members of the free press to also do that.  Mr. Varma, I will have you brief very quickly, and then we will go to our guest.  Thank you.

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  • Members Voice Support for Separate, More Transparent Budget Section, as Fourth Committee Considers Funding of Special Political Missions

    Head of Field Support, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Shed Light on Reform Proposals in Dialogue with Delegates

    Amid complex global challenges, the increasing need for dynamic, adaptive special political missions warranted the creation of a separate and more transparent budget section to finance them, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it began its its consideration of atof that matter.

    Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, said the Secretary-General’s management reform initiative proposed the creation of a separate budget section for special political missions and raising the threshold for unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, the budgetary mechanism generally supporting the start‑up and expansion of such missions.  The proposed measures would enable the Secretariat to better support special political missions during the critical early stages of deployment and to improve the presentation of their annual requirements to the General Assembly.

    At the outset of the general debate, a number of speakers expressed support for such a budgetary mechanism, with India’s representative saying said that constraints on the funding and backstopping of special political missions remained a serious impediment.  The Secretary-General’s report was silent on the ad hoc handling of their budgets, he said, recalling that many speakers had highlighted the need for reliable resourcing, through a regular budget, for such core prevention and mediation capabilities.  “It is about time the process for establishing a separate new account for special political missions is set in motion.”

    Morocco’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that special political missions should be financed through the same criteria, methodology and mechanisms used to fund peacekeeping operations, including a new separate budget.

    El Salvador’s representative said the increase in the budget for special political missions had been such that it had distorted part of the regular United Nations budget.  A special and separate account to fund special political missions, with separate annual reporting and budgeting, would increase transparency and remove those distortions, she added.

    Cuba’s representative emphasized that the adoption of new missions should not affect the overall budget.  Echoing calls for another financing mechanism, like that used to fund peacekeeping missions, he said that would ensure an independent account for special political missions.

    Switzerland’s representative, meanwhile, said the Secretary-General’s proposed reforms reflected the centrality of special political missions, but underlined that future missions must deal with human rights and development in parallel with peace and security issues.  Regarding the funding and backstopping of special political missions, he said a pragmatic improvement of arrangements, as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), would allow for more efficient management and increased effectiveness.

    Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, delivered a statement on behalf of the Under‑Secretary‑General, Jeffrey Feltman, noting that conflicts today had become enormously diverse, involving competition over State institutions, natural resources and territory.  “The regionalization of the causes and consequences of conflict adds layers of complexity to our efforts to resolve them.”  Moreover, some conflicts now involved political narratives and actors who rejected the modern conception of the State.  Against that backdrop, special political missions continued to play a wide variety of peace and security functions, demonstrating their versatility and flexibility, he said.

    Turning to the women, peace and security agenda, he noted that efforts to deploy more gender expertise to special political missions had met with significant, if incomplete, success.  He emphasized, however, that the impact of women on the work of the missions was tangible, and there was evidence of a gender‑disaggregated approach to planning, executing and monitoring reflected in their reports to the Security Council.

    The Committee also held an interactive segment in which the two officials responded to comments and questions raised by delegates.

    Also speaking today were representatives of Turkey (speaking also for Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia), Canada (also for Australia and New Zealand), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, Finland (also for Mexico), Kenya, Eritrea, Japan, Maldives, Ethiopia, South Africa, Norway, Bangladesh and Libya.

    Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 November, when it is expected to take up assistance in mine action.

    Opening Statements

    ATUL KHARE, Under‑Secretary‑General for Field Support, said the recent extremist attack in Mogadishu was a stark reminder of the volatile environment with which people serving in special political missions dealt regularly.  Much smaller than peacekeeping operations, special political missions had smaller administrative and logistical support structures, yet they were frequently deployed to remote and insecure environments.  That created unique complexities in the management of support and supply chains which the Department of Field Operations must address when developing and delivering solutions for the field.

    He went on to state that the Department had supported the drawdown and closure of the United Nations Mission in Colombia and its seamless transition to the new United Nations Verification Mission in Columbia, which was expanding across the country to monitor the ceasefire between the armed forces and the National Liberation Army.  In Libya, the Department provided support to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), and was also working on an innovative concept relating to support for a rotating core of international staff in Tunis.  In addition to a comprehensive performance framework intended to improve efficiencies, the Department had found the global client survey to be a useful tool that highlighted areas in which improvements must be made.

    Among those areas was the improvement of business processes, an effort that would take on greater prominence under the Secretary‑General’s management reform agenda, he continued.  Within the management reform initiative were several proposals relating specifically to special political missions, including the creation of a separate budget section for special political missions, and raising the threshold for unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, the budgetary mechanism generally supporting the start‑up and expansion of special political missions, he explained.  Those proposed measures would enable the Secretariat to better support special political missions during the critical early stages of deployment, and to improve the presentation to the General Assembly of annual requirements for special political missions.

    TAYÉ‑BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary‑General, delivered a statement on behalf of Jeffrey Feltman, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, noting that conflicts today had become enormously diverse, involving competition over State institutions, natural resources and territory.  “The regionalization of the causes and consequences of conflict adds layers of complexity to our efforts to resolve them,” he observed, noting out that the phenomenon had been seen in Syria, Libya and Yemen.  Moreover, some conflicts now involved political narratives and actors — such as ISIL/Daesh and Boko Haram — who rejected the modern conception of the State.  Against that backdrop, special political missions continued to play a wide variety of peace and security functions, demonstrating their versatility and flexibility.  At the national and regional levels, they had played a vital role in advancing political transitions, supporting governance, strengthening institutions, facilitating democratic processes and identifying early risks while crafting effective preventive responses.

    He said the Secretary‑General’s 2017 report detailed a wide variety of developments relating to special political missions, including the completion of the initial mandate in Colombia, expansion of the mandates of several expert panels, and the strategic assessments and subsequent adjustments of missions in Libya and Somalia.  The Secretary‑General had also called for reorientation of the Organization’s work around a universal prevention agenda, injecting renewed energy into mission efforts to prevent conflict, he said.  That approach had been conceptualized in the sustaining peace resolutions, which called for “preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence” of conflict.

    Strengthening partnerships between special political missions and regional and subregional organizations was another of the Secretary‑General’s priorities, he continued.  Missions must work to strengthen their links with regional blocs and their subsidiary entities, while finding innovative ways in which to collaborate, on the basis of the principles of transparency, mutual accountability and comparative advantage.  Noting the recent major stride forward in the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union on cooperation in peace and security matters, he said the April signing of the Joint United Nations‑African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, in particular, had provided a stronger basis for collaboration and technical exchange.

    Turning to the women, peace and security agenda, he noted that efforts to deploy more gender expertise to special political missions had met with significant, if incomplete, success.  Their impact on the work of the missions was tangible, and there was evidence of a gender‑disaggregated approach to planning, executing and monitoring reflected in their reports to the Security Council.  The Department of Political Affairs (DPA), as the focal point for electoral assistance, also continued to respond to requests for support to electoral processes, including through the special political missions, he said.  Increasingly, such support was targeted at the medium‑ to long‑term objectives of increasing the capacities of electoral bodies and addressing structural challenges affecting success and credibility.

    He went on to state that efforts to improve geographical distribution and gender representation in special political missions were ongoing, as were activities to advance transparency, accountability and efficiency in the execution of mandates.  Whereas some progress had been made in improving the representation of women, it was far too slow and would need to be accelerated in order to meet the Secretary‑General’s goal of achieving gender parity across the Organization, he said, emphasizing that it was, therefore, vital to remain sharply focused on the conditions required for mission success.  They included international and regional political backing, relationships and entry points, as well as effective backstopping and support.

    Interactive Dialogue

    As the floor opened for questions, the representative of Iran recalled that the Secretary‑General had made prevention a core theme cutting across the Organization, and that regional and subregional organizations had the ability of detecting a crisis before conflict could break out.  As such, what other monitoring mechanisms were being used to detect crisis, and how would intervention proceed from the point of detection?  He also asked which activities of special political missions were the most “budget‑consuming”.

    The representative of Morocco noted that the Peacebuilding Commission was not mentioned in the Secretary‑General’s report and asked whether the omission was deliberate.  He also asked whether the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) would work with regional partners on a strategy to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  The withdrawal of Ugandan troops had left a security vacuum, he noted, asking whether it could have been prevented, and whether another troop‑contributing country could have been found.

    The representative of Venezuela asked about common difficulties seen in the relationship between special political missions and host countries, and how they were usually overcome.

    The representative of Colombia asked about the funding proposed for special political missions.  Because many were lighter in content, what was their political, budgetary and financial future?

    Mr. KHARE, Under‑Secretary‑General for Field Support, responded by detailing the most important elements driving the cost of special political missions.  With their budget for 2016 set at $561 million, $317 million had been spent on civilian staff costs, he said, adding that operational costs totalling $214.9 million had been the second largest driver.  The funds covered four main areas, the first being rations for guard units, he said, explaining that missions were sometimes deployed in locations more volatile than the places where peacekeeping operations were based, such as Libya and Somalia, where guard units were required.  Aviation services represented another important cost because of the need for quick and urgent movement in places where that was not possible by commercial means.  Another important cost was self‑sustainment or preservation of life, he said, adding that in many places, missions had to provide their own generators because lived  in limited accommodation within “green zones”.

    As for common difficulties, he said one important challenge involved countries without a status‑of‑mission agreement with the United Nations.  Another challenge arose where guard units were required because of their relationship with local security agencies, especially when the agencies were not yet fully developed, as in Somalia and Libya.  Tax exemptions for contractors also created problems sometimes because people at the working level did not understand the United Nations Convention on Privileges and Immunities, he explained.

    In response to a question from the representative of Colombia, he noted that the new proposal was to present all special political mission budgets for consideration at the same time as the regular budget.  The budget for special political missions was considered annually because it was difficult to predict their needs two years in advance, and the Secretary‑General had therefore proposed an annual, rather than biennial, regular budget.  As such, the proposal involved two major areas of reform: the annual budget, within which a special section would be devoted to special political missions.  As such, he drew the Committee’s attention to the Addendum 1 to document A/72/492, in particular paragraphs 73 and 74, saying it detailed the proposed changes in encapsulated form.  Annex 4 of Addendum 1 provided a mock‑up of the draft budget for special political missions as it would appear under the new system proposed by the Secretary‑General, should the General Assembly adopt it.

    Mr. ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, said that special political missions were deployed at the particular region’s request and were driven by demand.  The UNOCA had been opened in response to a letter sent to the Secretary‑General requesting its presence.  Their major function was to engage with and support the efforts of regional counterparts, he said, emphasizing the two pillars of prevention — early warning and early action.

    In response to the representative of Iran, he said early warning was often triggered when a Member State asked for the Organization’s support, expertise and engagement, adding that the basis for cooperation was the understanding that the United Nations would support regional efforts.  Concerning the Lord’s Resistance Army, he said the decision on Uganda’s withdrawal had been that country’s own.

    Responding to the representative of Morocco, he said he could not explain the omission, but assured him that the Department, reported regularly to the Peacebuilding Commission, adding that he recognized the special dimension and weight that entity brought to special problems.

    General Debate

    Mr. HALFOUNI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized the commitment to effectiveness in special political missions, and reiterated the importance of respecting the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States.  He stressed the importance for the Security Council of drafting clear and achievable mandates for field‑based missions, based on objective assessment.

    He also called upon the Secretary‑General to further consider transparency, balanced geographical as well as women’s representation when filling senior leadership positions.  Furthermore, he stressed the importance of reaching consensus among Member States when developing policies relating to the missions.  The special political missions should be financed through the same criteria, methodology and mechanisms used to fund peacekeeping operations, including the establishment of a new separate account for such missions he said.

    GÜVEN BEGEC (Turkey), speaking also for Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia (MIKTA Group), said that resolutions on sustaining peace provided the necessary strategic guidance for peacebuilding, and in that regard, he expressed support for further consultations on implementation of the concept of sustainable peace.  Noting the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts on peace and security, he said the MIKTA Group would continue to work with stakeholders in the peace and security architecture while awaiting other modalities of reform, including budgetary aspects.  Peacekeeping missions transitioning to political or special political missions often faced challenges relating to insufficient capacities and finances, he noted, while emphasizing that the sustaining peace agenda should be adequately resourced.

    He went on to affirm the Secretary‑General’s other initiatives, such as management reform and repositioning the development system, and saying they should be considered in a comprehensive process.  The “surge in peace diplomacy” was an integral part of that reform.  Special political missions were key in sustaining peace and interactive dialogue with States was the soundest way to improve contributions of them.  Engagement should be designed to take all aspects of conflict into account, particularly the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel, the protection of civilians, including women and young people.  Enhanced coordination and mechanisms would also be crucial in attaining achieving peace objectives, he said, noting in that context, the work of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Fund.

    MICHAEL BONSER (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ Group), said preventing conflict was of the utmost importance in pursuit of sustained peace, and the very reason the United Nations had been created.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda as a way to address the fragmentation hampering United Nations effectiveness and to put prevention at the heart of its efforts, he said each staff member should consider how to adapt their daily work in the spirit of the reform proposals regardless of the restructuring.  Special political missions were indispensable and the most operational expression of United Nations political efforts in the field.  “They are effective tools at a relatively low cost,” he said.

    Regarding the role that they could play in the transition from peacekeeping operations, he said their effectiveness was now urgent given the closure of the peacekeeping mission in Liberia, the downsizing of the hybrid operation in Darfur and the transition to justice support in Haiti.  In Sierra Leone, for example, the transition from a peacekeeping mission had relied on nine years of progressively lighter political missions providing critical support to national capacities, he recalled.  Special political missions were a critical part of United Nations efforts to deploy customized responses into a country context.  The CANZ Group encouraged the Peacebuilding Commission to assist in developing mandates for special political missions, stressing that they must be adequately resourced if they were to be successful.

    INA KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said ongoing peace and security reform must go hand‑in‑hand with reform of the United Nations development system and management.  Emphasizing the host country’s primary responsibility for advancing its nationally identified and owned peacebuilding initiatives, she said it was critical to building the capacity of institutions so that all legitimate national stakeholders could contribute meaningfully to a shared national vision.

    With a mission’s transition from a peacekeeping to a political role, the insufficient capacity and finances should also be addressed, she said.  If sustaining peace was to be a sound strategy, it would be important to build ensure robust capacity and ensure adequate financial support for all activities on the peace continuum, adding that it would also be worthwhile to look into aligning the budgetary considerations of special political missions with those of the peacekeeping operations cycle.  The financial needs of special political missions must be perceived as similar to the assessments of peacekeeping operations, she said, adding that there should be a special and separate account to finance them on an annual basis.

    Speaking in her national capacity, she said civilian capacity was important in mitigating conflicts, underlining that the United Nations, with support from non‑United Nations partners, must more systematically harness the expertise available from developing and conflict‑affected countries that had transitioned to democracy, peacebuilding and development.  Providing qualified and readily deployable civilian expertise for various activities was all the more vital today in ensuring the attainment of sustainable peace and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which were inseparably connected.  She said South‑South cooperation was an increasingly valuable addition to traditional modes of support, and it was high time the United Nations accorded greater attention to mechanisms based on South‑South cooperation in order better to reinforce various activities on the peace continuum.

    CASTANEDES (Guatemala), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for implementation of the strategic plan so that special political missions would be given mandates in accordance with the situation in the field.  As such, it was essential to prepare more realistic policy strategies, he said, adding that DPA should also focus on strengthening international peace and security through mediation and peacebuilding.  With insufficient investment against the underlying causes of conflict, the United Nations had been unable to intervene in the early stages, he pointed out.  As such, Guatemala preferred the prevention of conflict, he said, emphasizing the importance of guidelines on preventing and mitigating election‑related violence.  Guatemala nevertheless welcomed the Secretary‑General’s proposed reforms in the hope that they would improve the effectiveness of special political missions.

    GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) welcomed the reform process initiated by the Secretary‑General and encouraged him to consult Member States on the implementation of his various proposals.  In that regard, Argentina welcomed the sustaining peace narrative, as well as the proposed holistic and integrated strategic approach to peacekeeping, peacebuilding and development, she said.  The proposal to unify the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Political Affairs, as well as consideration of the political aspects of missions should allow progress on financing.  That was in accordance with various recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and other financial entities in favour of a separate account, an annual budgetary cycle and access to support accounts for special political missions.  However, discussions on that subject had reached an impasse in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) for six years, she noted, expressing hope that it would come to an end through political will on the part of the parties concerned.

    Ms. RIVERA (El Salvador) associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that special political missions supported Member States in a number of important ways, she said, citing her own country’s experience of a peace process.  The mission in El Salvador had often found cultural and racial differences at the root of the conflict there, which meant that peacebuilding was linked to dialogue and the resolution of disputes, she said, adding that conflict resolution would not last without those links.  In that regard, special political missions must be funded adequately so they could fulfil their mandates, she said, while emphasizing the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of host countries.  Turning to financing, she said the increase in the budget for special political missions had been such that it had distorted part of the overall United Nations budget.  For that reason, a special and separate account was needed to fund special political missions, with separate annual reporting and budgeting to increase transparency and remove distortions, she said.  There must also be clear and attainable mandates to enable the effective conclusion of field missions.  In that regard, clear exit strategies would be important in allowing local actors to shoulder the long‑term responsibility for sustainable peace and development, she said.  Describing the General Assembly as the most representative body to discuss general aspects of special political missions, she emphasized that any such discussions must enjoy the consensus of Member States.

    MEJIA VELEZ (Columbia) said the transition from the first special political mission in her country to the second had resulted from “tailor‑made process” that had enjoyed regional as well as international support.  The need to respond to situations in the field was important in the complex task of peacebuilding, she said, emphasizing that the process would more comprehensive if it included women.  In the case of the Colombian insurgency, there had been many women and girls in the ranks, and women would also benefit most from peace, she noted.  The mainstreaming quality of the gender perspective would make sustainable peace attainable.

    T.K.S. ELANGOVAN, Member of Parliament, India, associated himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noting that conceptual and organizational fragmentation continued despite growing recognition of the importance of a more comprehensive approach to sustaining peace through linking peacekeeping and political solutions, among others measures.  “Regrettably, policy formulation for special political missions remains opaque and requires much greater transparency,” he said, calling for more consultations between the Security Council and Member States.  India hoped DPA or its subsequent avatar would organize more interactive briefings for States, especially by heads of special political missions.  For example, the ongoing review of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) appeared to be proceeding without much input from the wider membership, he noted.  Furthermore, constraints on funding and the backstopping of special political missions remained a serious impediment.  The Secretary‑General’s report was silent on the ad hoc handling of budgets for such missions.  Despite the fact that special political missions represented the Organization’s most utilized mechanism for addressing numerous crises around the world, they did not follow regular budget cycles, he pointed out.  Reliable resourcing through a regular budget for such core prevention and mediation capabilities had been highlighted by many, he recalled, stressing: “It is about time the process for establishing a separate new account for special political missions is set in motion.”

    OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said the Secretary‑General’s proposed reforms reflected the centrality of special political missions.  Concerning future missions, he emphasized that human rights and development must be dealt with in parallel with peace and security issues.  Switzerland, for its part, had launched the 13 June Appeal of and would continue to work on its implementation, as well as to strengthen synergies for improving conflict‑prevention tools, he said.  Regarding the funding and backstopping of special political missions, he said a pragmatic improvement of arrangements, as recommended by the ACABQ, would allow for more efficient management and increased effectiveness.  Switzerland hoped that current discussions on reform would make substantial progress in that regard.

    KAI SAUER (Finland), speaking also on behalf of Mexico, said special political missions were at the heart of conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding.  They played a crucial role in preventing conflict and in diplomacy and mediation, as well as in building capacity and resilience.  He went on to note that the 2016 resolution paid significant attention to equal representation of women’s and full gender parity in peace negotiations and process, yet the 2017 text on special political missions, contained only technical updates to further enhance the stirring 2016 version.

    MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted with concern the continued ascendancy of transnational threats such as terrorism, violent extremism, human trafficking and irregular migration, saying they constituted the primary factors in emerging conflicts, particularly in Africa.  The creation of a dedicated United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism was a useful step in the right direction, he said, voicing hope that it would deepen collaboration with special political missions in the field.  The success of such missions was dependent on sustainable and predictable funding as well as proper coordination and collaboration at all levels, he added.  Kenya commended the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for its support during the successful conclusion of a competitive electoral process, and for having supported the framework for the establishment of a national security architecture in an environment hitherto characterized by chaos.  However, much more could be achieved if funding were sustained and predictable, and nascent political institutions were nurtured and properly accompanied, he emphasized.

    HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, commended the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts, in particular his efforts to enhance transparency, accountability, and geographical and gender representation.  While agreeing that special political missions had deeply preventive elements and were compatible with the United Nations Charter, he emphasized that they must be considered and developed in accordance with a case‑by‑case analysis.  They must be governed by policies collectively developed by Member States, whereby all voices would be considered, he said, stressing that the United Nations must provide precise and attainable mandates, with material and financial resources tailored to realities in the field.  Underlining that new missions should not affect the overall budget, he said a comprehensive debate on the subject of budget would be required to find another financing mechanism — such as the one used to fund peacekeeping missions — thereby establishing an independent account for special political missions.

    ELSA HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed support for holding regular, inclusive, and interactive dialogues on special political mission policy matters.  Missions should be crafted, implemented, and monitored through consultations and processes in line with the fundamental principles of impartiality and respect for national sovereignty.  The Secretariat must engage States in a timely manner prior to holding such dialogues.  In addition, States’ views should be considered by the Security Council and the Secretariat when mandating or reviewing a special political mission, she said.

    YUTAKA SEKITO (Japan) said special political missions were powerful tools for addressing the entire conflict spectrum.  Offering several examples, he said regional offices such as United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) had worked successfully with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to help defuse electoral tensions in Gambia.  Such missions required strong support from Member States and the international community, host country ownership and well‑designed mandates.  As with peacekeeping operations, the Security Council had a crucial role in determining and adapting mandates to reflect what was needed on the ground.  Periodic strategic reviews of mission performance and efficiency should also be undertaken in conjunction with the Security Council and wider membership to define clear goals.

    Mr. NASIR (Maldives) said political and peacekeeping mission mandates should include State‑building as an important outcome.  Empowering women should become a key focus, as mounting evidence had demonstrated that the chances of sustaining peace were higher when there was gender equality in participation and in shaping peace and security decisions.  Special political missions must also ensure that efforts reflected a deep understanding of and engagement with the broadest approval of people they sought to help.  As such, the cooperation of regional and subregional organizations was important but, at the same time, it was also critical to frame the mission’s mandate through the lens of the host country.  That entailed clear, consistent mandates tailored to the country’s unique political, economic and social circumstances.

    TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the United Nations must continue to use all available tools, including special political missions, to play a meaningful role in resolving conflict.  Equally essential was addressing institutional fragmentation and ensuring coherence across the entire United Nations system.  Encouraged by the signing of the Joint United Nations‑African Union Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, he underlined a need for a greater appreciation of the complementarity and comparative advantages of the United Nations and regional and subregional mechanisms.  In that context, he emphasized the significance of special political missions in ensuring peace and security through prevention and peacebuilding.

    WOUTER H. ZAAYMAN (South Africa) called for strong partnerships between special political missions and regional and subregional organizations.  Such partnerships had been highlighted during a recent Security Council‑African Union Peace and Security Council joint consultation.  Adequate and predictable resources must be allocated to special political missions, with the creation of a separate account increasing predictability and transparency.  The Non‑Aligned Movement’s proposal that special political missions be financed through the implementation of the same criteria, methodology and mechanisms used to fund peacekeeping operations would make them more agile in their deployment and execution of mandates.

    TORE HATTREM (Norway) said operations in Afghanistan, Colombia and Syria demonstrated the indispensable nature of special political missions.  The need for such missions was increasing because there were effective in the field and relatively low in cost.  Failing to support such efforts would lead to the costly alternative of large‑scale peace and humanitarian operations.  He regretted to note that no agreement had yet been made on a funding framework, even though such a solution would save, not increase United Nations spending.  To take a more holistic approach, special political missions must be examined as part of the spectrum of peace operations.

    MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said increased, predictable and sustainable resources for special political missions would enhance their contributions to sustaining peace.  To achieve that, he called for further discussions on financing and backstopping.  Voicing concerns for the safety of mission personnel, he underscored the need for the regular review of security situations confronting field assets.  Expressing regret that the position of Special Advisor to the Secretary‑General on Myanmar had been withdrawn in 2016, he said Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation were pursuing a related draft resolution in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).  Urging delegates to lend support to the draft, he said creating a Special Advisor position was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis, which called for the international community’s sustained engagement.

    EZZIDIN Y. BELKHEIR (Libya), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) had supported provided electoral support in 2012 and 2014, trained Libyans in the rule of law and human rights and had assisted in mine clearing.  Yet, occasionally the Mission did not strictly respect the national ownership principle, including a report on the human rights of illegal immigrants that had not been produced in coordination with the Government.  The Mission personnel’s use of social media had sometimes resulted in “chaos” on the Libyan streets and had demonstrated a lack of language skills and knowledge of the country’s political, social, and historical background, he said, emphasizing that his comments were not meant to diminish the Organization’s role, but only to highlight lessons learned over a long period.

    Right of Reply

    The representative of Myanmar, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said her country’s Government had taken heed of the international community’s concern about the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State since the day it had assumed office.  The Government was committed to all possible actions to alleviating that situation, and many positive developments had occurred, she said, recalling that a ministerial‑level committee had been established since the terrorist attacks of 25 August.  The repatriation, resettlement, and rehabilitation of returnees and was also a focus.  A partnership between the Government, civil society, development partners and United Nations agencies had been launched, and ASEAN was also working with the Government to deliver humanitarian assistance to all displaced persons, she said.  Moreover, Myanmar had asked the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to harvest and store grain from the paddy fields of the displaced.  As a least developed country, Myanmar was dealing with inherited challenges and had made progress in spite of constraints, she said, adding that unconstructive language would not help to resolve the issue at hand.

    The representative of Bangladesh said he took note of renewed commitments to address the ongoing Rohingya crisis and to work with the international community to ensure the sustainable return of those forcibly displaced.  As such, Bangladesh had been working with Myanmar in good faith and would continue to do so.  Based on past experience, however, it would not be able to make much headway in bilateral efforts with Myanmar without the international community’s engagement.  He recalled that an understanding had been reached on the issue and detailed in a 10‑point outcome document.  However, a critical element concerning the return of the Rohingya had been omitted from the document when the Myanmar authorities had uploaded it to social media, he said.

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  • Occupation, Natural Resource Exploitation by Israel Hindering Social, Economic Gains in Palestinian Lands, Syrian Golan, Delegates Tell Second Committee

    Israeli occupation and natural resource exploitation continued to hamper social and economic development in the occupied State of Palestine and the Syrian Golan, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it discussed those territories today.

    Israel had carried out military decisions and discriminatory laws which impacted Palestinian natural resources and economic development, said the representative of the State of Palestine.  By taking over his State’s resources, Israel had imposed full control on Palestinian trade and guaranteed that its economy would be almost completely subservient to Israel.  Israel had also deprived Palestine World Trade Organization (WTO) benefits of 14.5 per cent for transport, transit and shipping fees of low‑income States.

    Although the United Nations had adopted resolutions that determined Israel as the occupying Power of Palestinian territory, he said that Power gave no credence to those resolutions, acting as though it was above the law.  Thus, he said that an international boycott of Israeli settlements and companies was a procedure in line with those resolutions and that the international community must end its dealings with Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

    Qatar’s representative, who spoke on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), stated that recent reports attested to a systematic and escalating pattern of human rights and international law violations because of Israel’s illegal, oppressive and destructive policies.

    Despite calls by the international community to halt those activities, Israel continued its colonial settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, he said.  Israel must be compelled to respect international law, and the Palestinian people could not remain the exception to the responsibility to protect civilians from atrocities.

    Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, said Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan had limited socioeconomic development and prevented Palestinians from the free and direct use of their natural resources.  The Israelis had erected permanent military blockades on the Gaza Strip, which had exacerbated living conditions there.  Noting a link between poverty suffered by Palestinians and Israel occupation practices, he said Israel’s daily activities were the primary reason many Palestinians lived below the poverty line.

    Regarding the occupied Syrian Golan, the representative from the Syria said Israel had “blatantly defied” Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and had continued actions that deprived Syrians of their land.  Israel and foreign companies continued to seize and exploit natural resources in the Occupied Syrian Golan, including water, gas and oil.

    Bangladesh’s representative called upon the international community to impress upon Israel the need to put an end to its systematic violation of international humanitarian law, as well as to its restrictive measures, so that a favourable condition was created for the economies of Occupied Palestinian Territories to grow.

    In response to those criticisms, Israel’s representative said that the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report was full of false narratives and descriptions that were repeatedly used to bash and incite his country, and failed to mention that Hamas was administering the Gaza Strip through violence, human rights violations and exploitation of natural resources.

    Conflict in the area had caused socioeconomic hardship on both sides, including through thousands of rockets that had been fired by Hamas at Israel, he said.  The report also did not include the daily terror attacks by Palestinians against Israel.  As for natural resources, Israel had recently agreed with the Palestinians on a Red and Dead Sea pipe project, an agreement on cross‑border sewage, and the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism.  Concluding, he said it was surreal that Israel was being accused of human rights violations by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.

    Prior to the debate, the Executive Secretary of ESCWA presented the Secretary‑General’s note on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/72/90-E/2017/71).

    Also speaking were representatives of Ecuador (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Namibia, Venezuela, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Brunei Darussalam, Egypt, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Maldives.

    The representatives of Syria, Iran and Israel exercised their right of reply.

    The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 25 October, to discuss operational activities.

    Introduction of Report

    MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM, Under‑Secretary‑General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the Secretary‑General’s note on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/72/90-E/2017/71).  He said serious concerns remained about the use of force by the Israeli security forces.  Between the period of 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, 63 Palestinians, including 19 children, were killed by Israeli army and security forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.  According to the document, at least 37 of the Palestinians killed were carrying out or suspected of carrying out attacks against Israelis.  During the reporting period, 12 Israelis, including 7 civilians, were killed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and 162 Israelis were injured in attacks by Palestinians.

    Palestinians continued to suffer from settler violence and harassment, he said, noting that during the period there were 39 violent settler‑related incidents that resulted in Palestinian casualties in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.  Furthermore, Israeli authorities continued the practice of delaying the return of bodies of Palestinians who carried out or were alleged of carrying out attacks.  That practice, according to the report, may be contrary to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

    Concerning detention and ill‑treatment, he said that as of January, there were 6,500 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and an additional 536 under administrative detention.  According to the report, no criminal investigation was opened into more than 1,000 complaints of torture or ill‑treatment filed since 2001.  Turning to housing, he said that Israel had demolished 726 Palestinian‑owned structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  Furthermore, the settler population in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, had doubled since the Oslo Accords to more than 594,000 persons.

    On movement and access restrictions, he said the closures in Gaza were tightened after Hamas took over the area in 2007, and successive military confrontations exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which undermined development efforts and resulted in recurrent violations of human rights.  In addition, 44 per cent of the West Bank remained off‑limits to Palestinian construction and development, and by mid‑December 2016, there were 472 obstacles to movement there.

    On exploitation, endangerment and depletion of Palestinian natural resources, he said Gaza continued to suffer from the effect of the 2014 military conflict.  Constraints on the rehabilitation of infrastructure left 23 per cent of Gazans disconnected from the sewage network, and damage to electricity and fuel lines had contributed to chronic and electricity and fuel deficit.  As a result, about 2 million Palestinians were left with three hours of electricity per day.  The chronic electricity deficit exacerbated the water crisis in Gaza and affected more than 300 water and wastewater facilities.  By June 2016, the average water consumption by Palestinians in the West Bank was 73 litres of water per capita per day, below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of 100 litres per day and below the 240 litres to which Israelis had access.

    With regards to the socioeconomic conditions, he said the Palestinian economy had improved; however, there were sharp differences between the living conditions in Gaza as compared to the rest of the Occupied Palestinian territory.  Food insecurity remained high, and more than 70 per cent of Gazans received some sort of international aid, primarily food assistance.  He expressed similar concerns relating to education and public health.

    On the occupied Syrian Golan, he said that the Security Council resolution 497 (1981) demanded that Israel should rescind its decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration.  Despite that, settlement expansion by the Israeli authorities continued in violation of international law.  Furthermore, Israeli and foreign‑owned companies continued to exploit natural resources after receiving licenses from Israeli authorities.

    Interactive Discussion

    The representative from the State of Palestine expressed concern over the length of the new report, which was shorter than the previous one.  He also raised numerous concerns over specific language and figures which were presented in the report, and said that he would send a list of those concerns to the Committee and the Office of the Secretary‑General.

    Statements

    ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, State of Palestine, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that a half century had passed since Israeli occupation of his people’s territory had begun.  During that time, Israel had carried out hundreds of military decisions and enacted discriminatory laws that had impacted Palestinian natural resources and economic development.  It had assumed control of Palestinian water, erected a separation wall and deprived his people of the right to use Dead Sea minerals.  Indirectly, Israel had assumed control of his State’s resources by imposing full control of Palestinian trade with the outside world.  That guaranteed that the Palestinian economy would be almost completely subservient to Israel.  It had also deprived the State of Palestine World Trade Organization (WTO) benefits of 14.5 per cent of fees for transport, transit and shipping for low‑income States.  The United Nations had adopted many resolutions that determined Israel as the occupying Power of Palestinian territory.  But Israel gave no credence to those resolutions, acting as though it was above the law.  International boycott of Israeli settlements and companies was a procedure in line with those resolutions.  The international community must end its dealings with Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

    HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said Israel’s establishment of settlements in the Palestinian territory , including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity and constituted a flagrant violation under international law.  It was a major obstacle to achievement of the two‑State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.  She demanded that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, calling on all States to distinguish between the territory of Israel and the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

    She expressed concern about Israel’s exploitation of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and other Arab areas Israel had occupied since 1967.  She was gravely concerned about the extensive destruction of agricultural land and orchards in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the severe environmental and economic impact and the widespread destruction to vital infrastructure, including water pipelines, sewage networks and electricity networks.  Her Group demanded that Israel cease exploiting, damaging, causing loss, depleting and endangering natural resources in those territories, and recognize the Palestinian right to claim restitution because of Israel’s illegal measures.

    AHMAD SAIF Y.A. AL-KUWARI (Qatar) spoke as the coordinator for the working group on development for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).  He stated that the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/72/90-E/2017/71) attested to a systematic and escalating pattern of human rights violations and violations of international law.  Those violations were a result of the illegal, oppressive and destructive policies and measures that continued to be carried out by Israel, he said.  Despite calls by the international community for the halting of Israel’s illegal policies and measures, that country had intensified its illegal actions, which included its colonial settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Israel must be compelled to respect international law, and the Palestinian people could not remain the exception to the responsibility to protect civilians from atrocities.

    TALAL ALI RASHED ALJAMALI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, said Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and occupied Syrian Golan over the past 50 years had limited socioeconomic development in those areas.  The occupation had prevented Palestinians from the free and direct use of their natural resources, including land and water.  The Israelis had erected permanent military blockades on the Gaza Strip, which had exacerbated living conditions there.  There was a link between poverty suffered by Palestinians and Israeli occupation practices.  Israel’s daily activities were the primary reason many Palestinians lived below the poverty line.  Israel had used various reasons to confiscate Palestinian territories, including excavations and tourist projects.

    MOHD SUHAIMI AHMAD TAJUDDIN (Malaysia), aligning himself with the Group of 77, took note of the latest ESCWA report and condemned what he called “ruthless and lopsided treachery” of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as in the Syrian Golan.  That included the exploitation of natural resources, agricultural lands and infrastructure, demolition of homes and discriminatory allocation of water and access to land.  He urged the United Nations system to strengthen its assistance to mitigate the suffering of Palestinians and the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan.  He reaffirmed his country’s strong opposition to expansion of Israeli settlements, urging Member States to garner the necessary political will to act urgently to reverse it and other negative trends on the ground that were creating a one‑State reality instead of a two‑State solution.

    ROUA SHURBAJI (Syrian Arab Republic), associating herself with the Group of 77, said recent reports demonstrated the slow implementation of mandates on the Palestinian situation and the occupied Syrian Golan.  Israel had continued its policies which displaced people, demolished properties, illegally seized land and evicted populations in favour of Israeli settlements.  She recalled the numerous Security Council resolutions that addressed those issues, including resolution 497 (1981), which Israel “blatantly defied” by imposing their “racist” laws.  Israel had continued its illegal activities, including through local council elections and the extension of privileges to Israelis in the Golan settlements.  Such actions had deprived Syrians of their land and prevented them from construction and agricultural activities in the area.  Israel and foreign companies continued to seize and exploit natural resources in the area, particularly water, gas and oil.  To that end, she called upon the international community to force Israel to respect the resolutions and international law.  She noted that the report failed to adequately present the issue of Syrians who were detained and imprisoned by Israel.  The conflict in her country would not prevent its people from pursuing their rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, she concluded.

    MOHAMMED KHASHAAN (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said Israel had continued to violate all international resolutions in their actions against the Palestinian people.  They had closed mosques and imposed blockades.  Stressing that settling the Palestinian issue was at the top of his country’s priorities, he expressed hope that a peace agreement could be signed that would guarantee security for all.  That agreement would be contingent on Israel leaving the Palestinian territory and Syrian Golan.  A Saudi Arabian initiative endorsed by the international community would establish a Palestinian State.  Only then would the region find a peaceful solution.

    DIPU MONI (Bangladesh), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that the continued occupation of the Palestinian Territories for nearly five decades, as well as the indiscriminate attacks against civilians and the expansion of illegal settlements by Israel, constituted an affront to the rights of the Palestinian people.  Gaza continued to face difficulties with water access and sanitation infrastructure, with 23 per cent of its people disconnected from the sewage network.  The ECSWA report noted that the demolition of the water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure continued in those territories.  Food insecurity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory derived primarily from the lack of economic access to food that was intrinsically correlated with poverty, she said.  The principle of “leave no one behind” applied to all, including people under foreign occupation.  She called upon the international community to impress upon Israel the need to put an end to its systematic violation of international humanitarian law, as well as to its restrictive measures, so that a favourable condition was created for the economies of Occupied Palestinian Territories to grow.

    SHERWIN LUMBAN TOBING (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Palestinian people would not be able to undertake transformative steps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals under the Israeli occupation.  That occupation had created severe limitations on social and economic development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan, and the negative impact of persistent policies and practices — including destruction of property and infrastructure, land confiscation, expansion of illegal settlements and prolonged restrictions on movement and trade — risked reversing Palestine’s development trajectory.  Calling for special attention to be paid to the diverse needs and challenges of countries and peoples under foreign occupation, including the Palestinians, he said obstacles to realizing their right to self‑determination must be removed and their sovereignty reclaimed.  That would include measures to end the exploitation and depletion of Palestinian natural resources by Israeli authorities and settlers; lift restrictions on the movement of persons and goods; and redouble the international community’s efforts to end the Israeli occupation through a political solution.

    LINDA ANNE SCOTT (Namibia), associating herself with the Group of 77, called on the Israeli Government to desist from illegal restrictions, construction and settlements that prevented the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory from thriving, and urged them to stop the destruction of Palestinian homes and properties.  Her country was concerned by the Secretary‑General’s warnings that Israel continued to deploy discriminatory policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan.  She also called attention to the debilitating fuel and water shortages in Gaza as well as restrictions on water accessibility and construction permits in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  She stressed the need to preserve the territorial integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and stood with the people of Palestine in their pursuit of self‑determination.

    Ms. AL-SHAMARI (Qatar) denounced Israeli practices that violated international law and international humanitarian law in the occupied territories of Palestine and the Syrian Golan.  She advocated for the protection of schools in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to guarantee the right to education of Palestinian children.  She said it was unacceptable for Israel to continue building settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan.  Accordingly, she called upon Israel to end its policies that ran counter to international law, and provide the Palestinian people the opportunity to enjoy their rights in their territory.  Qatar intended to continue its efforts for peace and security in the Middle East, she stated.

    RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said 50 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory had elapsed and there was no indication that the state of affairs would change.  Instead, Israel had continued to breach international law, violate the principles of the Organization’s Charter and acted in defiance of several United Nations resolutions.  Israel had continued to defy and trample the human rights of the Palestinian people through arbitrary detentions, including children.  Demolitions of property in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were occurring at a record level.  Prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel was one thing, but the country was also illegally exploiting that State’s resources, including water as well as flora and fauna, and limiting its economic development.

    Mr. AL KHAFAJI (Iraq) said Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian territory was a historic injustice in flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and human rights.  Finding a just solution to that issue would lead to increased stability in the Middle East.  The rights of Palestinians to their natural resources, including land and water, were inalienable, yet they were being squandered and endangered due to Israel’s illegitimate measures.  The benefits of the international community’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would be inaccessible to Palestinians.  Adding that the Palestinians needed international support to alleviate its burden, he called for full international social and political support in the area.

    NOUR MAMDOUH KASEB ALJAZI (Jordan), associating herself with the League of Arab States, Group of 77 and OIC, said the Israeli occupation continued to deprive Palestinians of their inalienable rights.  The occupation had affected the development of most Palestinians, who continued to face rampant poverty and unemployment.  The occupying Power denied Palestinians access to their agricultural territories.  It also continued to destroy Palestinian land, while carrying out discriminatory policies over water distribution.  Israeli confiscation of land was a major development obstacle, she added, underscoring that only 10 per cent of those in Gaza had access to running water.  “Development means security and peace,” she stressed, emphasizing that development could not exist alongside occupation.  She urged the international community to continue to support the Palestinian people and to place pressure on Israel to undertake its responsibilities under relevant Security Council resolutions.

    OMAR A.A. ANNAKOU (Libya), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Group of 77, said the illegal separation wall continued to deprive Palestinians access to their fields and farms.  The systemic home demolitions continued in violation of international law, he added, emphasizing that Israel had intensified its home demolitions in an “alarming manner”.  Israel continued to build settlements and impose water and mobility restrictions.  Gaza was a prison of 2 million people, he said, adding that unemployment was rampant there.  Recalling the pledge of the Sustainable Development Goals to “leave no one behind”, he asked how that could be guaranteed when Palestinians remained marginalized at all levels and suffered from discrimination.  Two million people were denied food, medicine and mobility.  Occupation authorities continued their settlements activities and also prevented Syrian citizens from going back to the Golan.  Israel’s actions were a blatant violation of international humanitarian law.  “We stand by the Palestinian people,” he said.

    ABHAR AHMAD (Brunei Darussalam), associating himself with OIC and the Group of 77, said the pledge to leave no one behind meant that the plight of those suffering from war, conflict and occupation should not be forgotten.  Citing findings by ESCWA that showed the Palestinian people might be left behind due to the Israeli occupation, he said the exploitation of their natural resources and unfair and discriminatory acts — including the illegal blockade imposed in Gaza — were hindering them from realizing their full potential and contributing to global development.  The Gaza blockade had reduced the availability of essential services and necessities, worsening its humanitarian crisis and exacerbating poverty rates and aid dependency.  The United Nations had the responsibility to galvanize international efforts to bring about a just and durable solution, he said, encouraging all States and international organizations to pursue fair policies and ensure respect for obligations under international law with respect to all illegal practices and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

    TIBOR SHALEV SCHLOSSER (Israel) noted that a few days ago the leader of the terrorist group Hamas had told Palestinians in Gaza that the discussion regarding his country was now about its elimination, rather than peace.  Hamas was reacting to the international expectation that the Palestinian Government should respect the State of Israel and commit to peaceful negotiations.  Hamas’ death wish would likely not appear in the 2018 ESCWA report.  That biased report was full of false narratives and descriptions that were repeatedly used to bash and incite Israel.  It failed to mention that Hamas was administering the Gaza Strip through violence and human rights violations and was exploiting its natural resources.  He noted that conflict in the area had caused socioeconomic hardship on both sides, including through thousands of rockets that had been fired by Hamas at Israel.  The report also did not include the daily terror attacks by Palestinians against Israel.  As for natural resources, Israel had recently agreed with the Palestinians on a Red and Dead Sea pipe project, which would greatly increase their water resources.  Israel and the State of Palestine had also come to an agreement on cross‑border sewage, including a pipeline from the Jordan Valley.  Israel was also fully committed to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, but that was not mentioned in the present report.  Since 2014, that mechanism had enabled the entrance of nearly 10 million tons of construction materials into the Palestinian territory, which had improved living conditions measurably.  Concluding, he said it was surreal that Israel was being accused of human rights violations by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.

    MOHAMED OMAR GAD (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77, OIC and the Arab Group, said the situation for the Palestinian people had become increasingly worse throughout the 50 years of occupation.  Development efforts continued to be hampered by the realities on the ground, which were a direct result of Israel’s arbitrary policies.  He called the practices applied by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories an “affront to international humanitarian law”.  Palestinian people continued to be forcefully displaced in violation of various international conventions.  Meanwhile, Israel’s destruction of Palestinian livelihoods and refusal to grant them construction licenses continued to fuel tensions.  One out of two Palestinians required some sort of aid, he underscored, calling on Israel to end its occupation and comply with international law.

    EPHRAIM LESHALA MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that Israel’s 50 years of occupation had been devastating to the economic and social development of the Palestinian people.  “The situation on the ground cannot be allowed to continue,” he stressed, adding that unemployment in Palestine was among the highest in the world and that poverty continued to increase at an alarming rate.  Palestinians must be allowed to access opportunities for their socioeconomic development and self‑determination.  A Palestinian economy would be essential for a viable Palestinian State, he added.  Palestinians must be able to lift themselves out of poverty and engage in economic activities.  He also underscored how challenging it was for people living under foreign occupation to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Ms. AL AWAD (United Arab Emirates) said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan had led to socioeconomic deterioration in clear violation of international humanitarian law.  Despite Security Council and General Assembly resolutions calling upon Israel to cease the building of illegal settlements, it continued its activities in breach of international law.  The confiscation of Palestinian land continued to separate Palestinian families and block their access to essential resources.  She emphasized her solidarity with the Palestinian people in realizing their inalienable rights, including the right to self‑determination.  Palestinians had a right to a Palestinian State based on the pre‑1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.  She urged the international community and relevant financial institutions and other donors to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  For its part, the United Arab Emirates would continue to support the Agency’s efforts in rebuilding infrastructure and delivering supplies to the Palestinian people, she said.

    ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan would not improve without adherence to the principles of inadmissibility of acquiring land by force and non‑discrimination, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  He condemned the continued use of force and unlawful killings by Israeli forces, ill treatment towards the large number of Palestinian detainees, including minors, in an environment where there was no proper accountability for torture.  He voiced his continued concerned that Israel had also intensified punitive demolitions of Palestinian homes, which, together with the so‑called “Regularization Law” passed by the Israeli Parliament in February, and the declaration of vast amounts of land in the West Bank as State land, was forcing displacement of Palestinian people.

    Right of Reply

    The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said attempts by Israel to classify her country as a rogue State that did not recognize the United Nations and rule of law were the remarks of a desperate nation.  Israel’s efforts to fabricate events would not affect Syria’s continued commitment to and defence of people’s rights.  People in the Syrian Golan were not only deprived of their incomes, their homes were being demolished and they were being denied medical attention if they did not carry Israeli identification.  None of the Second Committee meetings would have enough time to list all the crimes of Israeli occupation.

    Iran’s delegate said the Israeli regime wanted to divert international attention from their policies by attacking others.  Hamas wanted peace in the region, as demonstrated by its fight against terrorist groups.  The region would not rest as long as illegal occupation continued.

    The representative of Israel, responding to Iran, said that as long as Iran’s leaders continued to express a wish to eliminate Israel, that country could not be considered a respectable member of the international community, but as a regime of terror.  In response to Syria’s delegate, he questioned how dropping barrel bombs on schools and hospitals were compatible with development.

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  • Amid Instability, Security Challenges, New Partnership for Africa’s Development Critical to Continent’s Socioeconomic Advancement, General Assembly Told

    Speakers Welcome Free Trade Area, Other Steps towards Regional Integration

    The New Partnership for Africa’s Development — now fully embedded in the development paradigms of both the United Nations and the African Union — remained the “rallying point” in Africa’s pursuit of growth, the General Assembly heard today, as delegates drew attention to security concerns and other obstacles still facing the continent.

    Speakers stressed that the partnership, known as NEPAD, was particularly critical in the areas of social and economic development, with several welcoming the recent facilitation of a Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement aimed at harmonizing three sub‑regional blocs which previously had their own rules and models for trade.  Meanwhile, others cited serious challenges facing Africa’s security and stability — ranging from human and drug trafficking to terrorism and the illicit flow of resources away from the continent — and urged development partners to redouble their support for national and regional efforts to combat them.

    Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, speaking on behalf of the African Union, expressed concern that Africa’s inequality gap continued to widen, with negative repercussions for political stability, business, growth and social cohesion.  Demographics ‑ especially youth and youth unemployment ‑ was a critical part of the continent’s development, he said, noting that with a median age of 20, Africa must break the generation‑to‑generation poverty cycle that continued to trap many of its people.  Indeed, some 440 million people on the continent would be entering the labour market by 2030, meaning that Africa must rapidly expand its efforts in job creation, entrepreneurship development and skills training.  NEPAD was engaged in several such initiatives, he said, also describing its work in areas such as infrastructure, Internet connectivity and intra‑continental trade.

    Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, was among the many voices this morning hailing recent accomplishments in the global integration and regional streamlining of African trade.  “The Continental Free Trade Area is no longer a distant dream,” he said, adding that it could very soon become a practical reality.  While major hurdles remained across the continent, NEPAD was a strong sign of regional leadership in development, with the African Union, regional economic communities and sub‑regional organizations acting as engine rooms of progress.  In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region could move forward alone, and efforts in Africa must be supported by a revitalized partnership for development.

    Rwanda’s representative, recalling that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda had established a strong foundation for the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, cited notable socio‑economic progress made across Africa since the latter’s adoption in 2015.  Meanwhile, the recent Kigali Amendment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change had reinforced those agendas by setting environmental targets and timeframes.  Agriculture was an important path for Africa’s sustainable development, she said, noting that an impactful transformation in that area would require strong coordination between partners in country‑led processes.  Among other critical challenges were those related to peace and security, which necessitated stronger efforts in conflict prevention and responses to early warning signs of conflict.

    Egypt’s representative, also drawing attention to the peace and security nexus, highlighted Africa’s leadership on those issues and the importance of maintaining its ownership over the development process.  “There can be no lasting security without inclusive development,” he said, while “peace, security and the rule of law underpinned by credible systems of democratic governance are prerequisites and indispensable factors and drivers of development.”  African countries had taken numerous steps to address security challenges, including establishing the “Group of 5” Sahel force ‑ consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — as well deploying a Multinational Joint Task Force to end the Boko Haram insurgency and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

    Libya’s representative, also echoing concerns over security and stability, agreed that Africa would be unable to move forward in its development without addressing those crucial issues.  Many countries on the continent, including Libya, regrettably continued to suffer from deteriorating security situations.  Calling on Member States to urgently support African countries affected by conflict or emerging from it, he said his country suffered especially from instability resulting from transnational migrant flows, trafficking and other cross‑border issues.  “This is not a national or regional problem,” and therefore the responsibility must not fall on transit countries alone, he stressed, noting that origin and destination countries must also work to address the phenomenon’s root causes.

    Sudan’s delegate, voicing regret that conflicts and other security issues had adversely affected the prosperity of Africa’s people, said climate change and its impacts on food security were another source of grave concern.  African countries and the international community must work together to avoid the destructive impacts of that phenomenon.  Echoing support for the continued integration of the 2030 Agenda into the continent’s development plans, he said regional organizations such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had an important role to play in that regard.  Additionally, he called for a redoubling of efforts to establish a comprehensive, strategic partnership to fight terrorism and ensure political stability in Africa.

    Delegates from Asia, Europe and other regions also expressed their support for NEPAD and reiterated their commitment to back development efforts on the African continent.  India’s representative, for one, spotlighted trade and diaspora links with Africa ‑ as well as a shared colonial past — and noted that the Africa‑India cooperative relationship included efforts to build capacity, mobilize financial support and share technical expertise.  Indeed, trade between his country and Africa had doubled in the last five years, making India the continent’s fourth‑largest trading partner.

    Before the Assembly for that discussion was a report of the Secretary‑General titled, “New Partnership for Africa’s Development: fifteenth consolidated progress report on implementation and international support” (document A/72/223), which outlined progress made in implementing NEPAD, spotlighted national and regional efforts to mainstream the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, listed recent accomplishments under the partnership and recommended more measures aimed at providing African countries with financing, trade, capacity development and technology transfer.

    Also before the Assembly was a report of the Secretary‑General titled, “Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa” (document A/72/269), covering the period from July 2016 to June 2017, which highlighted major developments related to peace and security and their links with sustainable development in Africa.

    Also speaking were the representatives of Austria (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development), Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Kuwait, Thailand, Israel, the Russian Federation, Morocco, Indonesia, Mozambique, Turkey, Myanmar, Algeria, Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania.

    The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 26 October, to take up the report of the International Court of Justice.

    Opening Remarks

    MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said that since its adoption, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had led to transformative change and big strides in the integration of African trade.  The recent finalization of the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement was an important step that would harmonize three sub‑regional blocs which previously had their own rules and models for trade.  “The Continental Free Trade Area is no longer a distant dream,” he said, adding: “It could very soon be a reality”.  Nevertheless, major hurdles remained and faster progress was required, not only in agriculture and trade, but also in a wide range of key areas, including infrastructure, industry, economic diversification and poverty eradication.

    NEPAD, together with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063, should be harmonized and integrated, particularly regarding reporting, follow‑up and review, he said.  No development in Africa could take hold unless it was led from within.  The adoption of NEPAD was a strong sign of regional leadership in development, which was then reaffirmed through the African Union’s adoption of Agenda 2063.  The role of the African Union, regional economic communities and sub‑regional organizations had been indispensable and had acted as the engine rooms of progress in sustainable development, as well as in building African capacities in peace and security.  There had also been many exciting developments at the national level, as well as on‑going efforts to integrate the goals and targets of international and regional frameworks into national development plans.

    In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region could move forward alone, he stressed.  Efforts in Africa must be supported by a revitalized partnership for development, and in that context, there needed to be closer partnerships between Africa and its development partners, including United Nations bodies and Member States.  Official development assistance (ODA) and other commitments were crucial to enhance finance, technology transfer and market access, while there must be investment incentives at the national, regional and international levels.  “Development in Africa can never be seen as a standalone activity,” he stressed, highlighting that the trade agreement would be hindered without efforts to address the root causes of conflict.  “Foreign direct investment is not on the mind of someone who is running from a shower of bullets,” he said.

    PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, said the role of industrialization as a catalyst for sustainable development had been well established and was reflected in the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  Welcoming efforts by the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of South Africa and other partners to develop a roadmap for Africa to achieve short‑, medium‑ and long‑term industrialization, as well as efforts by the “Group of 20” (G‑20) nations to support such initiatives through investment promotion and capacity‑building, he said the United Nations should also play its role in assisting countries.

    The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in particular, had a leading role to play in close cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank and the United Nations Office for Africa, he said.  Among other things, UNIDO assisted developing countries in designing and implementing industrial policies and enhancing local productive capacities and entrepreneurship, and its technical assistance contributed to job creation, advancing economic competitiveness and enabling market access, while also advancing the diffusion of environmentally sound technologies and production practices.

    IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the peace and development nexus was particularly evident in the two reports of the Secretary‑General.  “As the world is pursuing the new milestone in the global partnership for development […] it is imperative to continue to place Africa at the centre of United Nations efforts to eradicate poverty,” he said, as well as to address the impacts of climate change and ensure inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.  Eradicating poverty remained the greatest development challenge for African countries, where half the world’s poor people lived.  Expressing concern over the fact that ‑ two years into the 2030 Agenda’s implementation ‑ global hunger was again on the rise and affected some 815 million people, he said efforts should focus on the necessary means of implementation, including financial resources, technology transfer and capacity‑building.  “The scale must be ambitious enough to meet the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stressed, adding that developed countries should fulfil their commitments as laid out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, including those related to ODA.

    While international support was important, he continued, African ownership of the development process was critical and “is not just a mere concept”.  African countries had taken the primary responsibility for their own development, and their experience with the Millennium Development Goals had shown that significant advances had been made with African nations leading the way.  Nevertheless, systemic issues had affected the continent’s rates of economic growth and international support was not sufficient to bring about a significant reduction in unemployment and poverty levels, nor in advancing other goals.  The challenges facing Africa today traversed peace, security and development, he stressed, noting that “there can be no lasting security without inclusive development” and “peace, security and the rule of law underpinned by credible systems of democratic governance are prerequisites and indispensable factors and drivers of development”.  African countries had taken numerous steps to address peace and security challenges at national and regional levels, including establishing the “Group of 5” Sahel force, consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, the Multinational Joint Task Force and the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Partners must enhance their support for such peace and security activities, as no country or region could resolve those challenges alone.

    DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it was encouraging to see many African countries intensify their efforts and seize opportunities to accelerate progress towards durable peace, security and development.  Reaffirming its solidarity with Africa, ASEAN supported NEPAD’s implementation, which would provide a strong foundation for Agenda 2063.  ASEAN was exploring ways to promote synergies and complementarities between its ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda, he said, adding that there was ample scope for greater collaboration between the two regions on mutual concerns and sustainable development.

    Noting that ASEAN and African countries had an enduring friendship dating back to the 1955 Asian‑African Conference in Bandung, he said ASEAN and its member States stood ready to exchange ideas and share experiences in such areas as agriculture, education, information and communications technologies and innovation, trade and infrastructure development.  Emphasizing that a supportive international environment was vital for Africa’s development, he said development partners, international financial institutions, regional and sub‑regional organizations and the international community, especially the United Nations, must redouble efforts to ensure sustainable peace and development on the continent.

    SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India) said that Agenda 2063 was mutually reinforcing with the 2030 Agenda and embraced the core priorities of NEPAD.  International cooperation remained a key element in Africa’s quest to achieve peace and prosperity.  Africa had made rapid strides in recent years — poverty rates had fallen, infrastructure connectivity had improved and economies were more diversified, while banking, telecommunications and retail had expanded, life expectancies had increased, school enrolment had grown and more women were being elected to political office.  Africa’s demographic dividend could be reaped by providing the youth with greater opportunities for education and employment.  Trade and diaspora links as well as a shared colonial past had framed India’s relationship with Africa.  The core strength of the Africa‑India cooperative relationship included efforts aimed at capacity‑building, the mobilization of financial support and the sharing of technical expertise.  He noted that Africa‑India trade had doubled in the last five years, making India the fourth‑largest trading partner for Africa.  Further, he highlighted that the African Development Bank had held its annual board meeting in India.

    Mr. ALMUNAYER (Kuwait) expressed hope that the long‑term development visions of the 2030 Agenda and the 2063 Agendas would be implemented to bring prosperity to Africa.  The harmony and inter‑dependence of the two development plans provided a common path to reach Africa’s aims.  Insufficient financial support, the spread of weapons and transnational crime, and the trafficking of resources were all impediments to development in Africa and undermined progress aimed at achieving development goals.  The recommendations in the Secretary‑General’s report, including those on good governance, the rule of law, the protection of the rights of women, the promotion of peacebuilding efforts and the pursuit of an Africa free of conflict, must be implemented.  He went on to point out that the Kuwait Development Fund had loaned some $20 billion thus far to 106 countries around the world; and that African countries had received 18 per cent of that funding.

    VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda), noting that the Addis Agenda had established a strong foundation to support the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063, said the recent Kigali Amendment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change reinforced those agendas by setting environmental targets and timeframes.  Throughout the continent, notable socio‑economic progress had been made since 2015, including through the African Union’s recent finalization of the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement.  Agriculture was an important path for Africa’s sustainable development, she said, noting that an impactful transformation in that area would require strong coordination between partners in country‑led processes.  The continent still faced challenges, and development could not be sustained amidst conflict.  She therefore underscored the nexus between security and development, as well as the importance of conflict prevention and response to early warning signals with rapid interventions to protect civilians.  The Joint United Nations‑African Union Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security was an important blueprint for boosting coordination between those two organizations, she said.

    OMAR A. A. ANNAKOU (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said Agenda 2063 was a human‑centred plan for achieving Africa’s sustainable development.  Its goals, as well as those of the 2030 Agenda, must be translated into regional and national policies, while taking into account national priorities and local and cultural specificities.  Despite strong efforts and some progress, Africa was still facing many challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda, including poverty, violence, conflicts, climate change, capital outflows, migration and more.  The continent also suffered from high unemployment, low education levels and a lack of basic services.  Donor countries must honour their commitments to the continent and support its countries in strengthening economic stability and attracting investment, he said, adding that “this will lead to true human resource development in Africa.”

    Calling for efforts to ensure Africa’s youth were educated and empowered, he went on to say that, many African countries, including Libya, regrettably continued to suffer from deteriorating security situations.  Development was impossible without security and vice versa, he stressed, calling on Member States to urgently support African countries affected by conflict or emerging from it.  “The African continent cannot move forward with development without enjoying peace, security and stability,” he said, noting that Libya suffered in particular from instability resulting from transnational migrant flows, trafficking and other cross‑border issues.  “This is not a national or regional problem,” and therefore the responsibility must not fall on transit countries alone.  Origin and destination countries must also work to address the phenomenon’s root causes.  Member States must not serve as havens for the trillions of dollars of illicit financial flows that continued to “haemorrhage” from Africa, he added, warning that corruption would continue until such havens were eradicated.

    VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted the similarities between Asia and Africa’s development challenges.  Having become a donor country, Thailand was committed to extending its regular support and assistance to Africa through various forms of cooperation, including scholarships, training and local‑to‑local knowledge transfers.  Through the Thailand‑Africa Partnership for Sustainable Development, it sought to share with its African friends the late King Bhumibol’s homegrown approach to sustainable development.  It was also sharing its health‑care experience and know‑how, particularly in areas related to epidemics and rural healthcare management.

    NOA FURMAN (Israel) said that the relationship between Israel and Africa had never been stronger.  African nations faced many of the same challenge as Israel and both sought to use human capital to create sustainable solutions.  Through its Agency for International Development Cooperation, Israel worked with African partner countries, United Nations agencies, civil society and the private sector to further education and training.  In December 2016, Israel hosted a three‑day ministerial conference with African agriculture ministers, followed by a training session on applied research for agriculture experts.  Knowledge gained from those seminars would be useful in making progress on the African Union’s vision of providing support for 25 million farming households employing climate‑smart agriculture practices by 2025.  She went on to note the non‑governmental organization “Innovation Africa” that was working to bring Israeli solar energy and water technologies to remote African villages.

    SERGEY B. KONONUCHENKO (Russian Federation) said that despite continued weak economic growth and crisis situations on the continent, African countries were demonstrating resolute commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.  It was concerning that the Secretary‑General’s report noted a 3 per cent decrease in foreign direct investment to the continent in 2016.  African countries must have support in achieving the 2030 Agenda, without which there was a real threat that the progress achieved in recent years would stall.  The Russian Federation continuously provided support to Africa through inter‑governmental initiatives, and had forgiven more than 20 billion in African debt, while also using innovative mechanisms to ease African debt burden.  Further, his Government had carried out projects to ensure food security and improve industrial and transport infrastructure through international programmes and other specialized United Nations bodies.  He went on to underscore that his Government was one of the first to react and respond to the Ebola outbreak.  The future of Africa was dependent on the development of the production and trade potential of the continent, he said, adding that his delegation welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank for Least Development Countries.

    OMAR HILALE (Morocco), stressing that only African action based on regional integration would help the continent overcome challenges to sustainable development, said those actions included the financing of the NEPAD programme.  Indeed, the funding capacity of many African countries remained limited and resource challenges were compounded by difficult access to international markets and decreasing development assistance.  Calling for enhanced partnerships to overcome those issues, he said promoting investment, bolstering technology transfer, improving market access and providing debt relief, among other actions, were critical.  Strengthening the private sector was also crucial to boosting income and job opportunities.  Another important issue was agricultural adaptation, which was critical to ensuring Africa’s food security, and was closely related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.  Recalling that, in a meeting on the margins of the twenty‑second Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakesh, African Heads of State and Government had committed to supporting such adaptation, he said those efforts would focus in particular on combating desertification and improving the resilience of farmers.  The promotion of South‑South cooperation would also be essential, he said, outlining a major “upswing” in Morocco’s own cooperation with countries across the African continent.

    INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with ASEAN, said the impacts of the global financial crisis still cast a shadow over many countries, with the pace of recovery uneven around the world.  While 2.6 per cent growth in Africa was expected this year, more rapid growth was needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  There must be enhanced international cooperation to mobilize development financing for Africa, as well as initiatives to generate inclusive and sustained growth.  Collaboration between the United Nations and Africa vis‑à‑vis sustainable development must also be enhanced.  Noting that Indonesia had always been a true partner for African countries, she said it would host the Indonesia‑Africa Forum in 2018 to explore economic opportunities, strengthen technical cooperation and enhance the existing partnership between both sides.

    ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group, said that while the modest increase in ODA to Africa ‑ from $54.3 billion in 2014 to $56.6 billion in 2015 — was encouraging, the continued decline in foreign direct investment was of concern, considering its important role in infrastructure development.  Agriculture continued to be a source of survival in Africa, particularly in rural areas where the majority of Africans lived.  In that context, the need to modernize agriculture would be crucial to efforts to eradicate poverty.  His country remained committed to encouraging the participation of all stakeholders in recognition of the essential role of community empowerment in improving the welfare of the most vulnerable, as well as in the protection of the environment.  Agriculture development, food security and nutrition goals demanded investment capacity to create national resilience as well as holistic multisector coordination.  Providing quality health care was another important undertaking in Mozambique, including child immunizations and treatment for HIV/AIDS and malaria.

    FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said his country’s Africa Partnership Policy fully embraced the principle of “African solutions to African issues”.  Those countries and Governments had the best knowledge to address their own challenges, he said, outlining Turkey’s support in such areas as infrastructure development, humanitarian assistance and the maintenance of security and stability.  Since 2005, Turkey had multiplied its ODA to sub‑Saharan Africa by more than 100 times, and it was engaged in several projects relating to macroeconomic management, health, urbanization, agriculture and education.  It also collaborated with small‑ and medium‑sized enterprises to carry out sustainable development projects related to industrialization and job creation, and organized training programmes around the continent and in Turkey.

    HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) associating himself with ASEAN, called NEPAD a collective vision and strategic framework for African countries.  His Government was encouraged by the impressive progress of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, which targeted 16 cross‑border projects.  Asia and Africa were continents of opportunities and challenges, he underscored.  Given the similarity of the two continent’s development paths, Myanmar recognized the tremendous potential for future collaboration in many areas through South‑South cooperation and the New Asian‑African Strategic Partnership.  Myanmar was a leading country when it came to building friendship and solidarity among Asian and African countries, and in that regard, Myanmar would continue to stand firmly in support of NEPAD’s objectives of political stability, economic growth and sustainable development.

    SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, said the international community should support Africa in creating sustainable growth based on domestic production, effective tax collection and strengthened capacity‑building.  The continent also required improved market access, particularly among developed countries, he said, calling on those nations to show more openness in supporting Africa’s development efforts and its inclusion in the international system.  Economic stabilization measures, as proposed by some voices in rich countries, might impede Africa’s contribution to the world economy.  He said progress in combating poverty in Africa was hampered by several factors, including a multitude of crises, the effects of natural disasters, climate change and volatile commodity prices.  However, the continent’s resilience could and must be strengthened, he said, calling on Africa’s partners to support Agenda 2063 and continental programmes embedded in NEPAD.  He went on to outline initiatives including the Trans‑Sahara Highway project and the installation of 4,500 kilometres of terrestrial optic fibre, both linking Algeria and Nigeria.

    MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that since 2000, Africa had registered encouraging economic growth which had reduced poverty, but the continent still faced multiple challenges.  African leaders had therefore endorsed the Agenda 2063 in order to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent.  The Agenda 2063 was African‑led and African‑owned and was fully aligned with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda.  In realizing the Agenda 2063 vision, special attention must be given to silencing the guns.  Development was the prerequisite for ensuring sustainable peace and security.  It was important to enhance financial, technological and capacity‑building support to the 2030 and 2063 Agendas in a more coordinated and enhanced manner and cooperation and coordination between the United Nations and the African Union should be further coordinated, he said.

    MODEST MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) associated himself with the African Group and said that African countries were determined to eradicate poverty and guarantee prosperity for their peoples.  Africans had always addressed challenges through a common purpose and solidarity.  He stressed the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda, Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  African countries intended to support the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda and to address peace and security challenges through regional initiatives and partnerships with the international community.  Addressing infrastructure development on the continent, investment in industrialization and value addition would be essential for putting the continent on the right track.

    HAMID MOHAMED ELNOUR AHMED (Sudan), associating himself with the African Group, said that Africa’s contributions to human civilization had been proven, yet the continent had been left behind when it came to recent industrialization and development.  Unfortunately, the continent had grown into a region of conflicts, which had resulted in great destruction and adversely affected the prosperity of the African people.  Climate change and its impacts on food security were of grave concern for the African people and in that regard, the international community must work together to avoid the destructive impacts of that phenomenon.  The 2030 Agenda was a roadmap for development in Africa, and in that context, regional organizations including the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) had an important role to play in reaching those development objectives.  He went on to call for a redoubling of efforts to establish a comprehensive, strategic partnership to fight terrorism and ensure political stability in Africa.

    IBRAHIM ASSANE MAYAKI, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency, speaking on behalf of the African Union, said NEPAD was embedded in the latter’s Agenda 2063 and served as the “rallying point” in Africa’s pursuit of transformation and growth.  NEPAD was especially critical in areas related to social and economic empowerment, he stressed, noting that his Agency was set to become the African Union’s development agency in the context of its recent reform efforts.  Key to Africa’s sustainable development was the issue of demographics, especially youth and youth unemployment.  Indeed, it was not enough to expand gross domestic product (GDP) levels if such progress was not accompanied by growth and transformative changes in jobs, economic opportunities, access to education and other human development strides.  With a median age of 20, Africa must break the generation‑to‑generation poverty cycle that continued to trap many of its people.  In that vein, he recalled that the African Union had dedicated 2017 to making progress on the issue of youth unemployment, and noted that some 440 million people on the continent would enter the labour market by 2030.

    Outlining the NEPAD Agency’s initiatives in such areas as employment creation and entrepreneurship development, he said Africa needed to rapidly expand its capacity to offer skills and vocational training to its young people and women.  The expansion of African trade — including intra‑continental trade — was equally critical, he said, spotlighting the need to accelerate progress on the policy front.  Changes were necessary in such areas as customs procedures, visa restrictions and bringing to full ratification the use of the single African Passport, as well as enhancing the form, quality and diversity of transboundary goods and services.  Describing other initiatives aimed at improving Africa’s railways and expanding its Internet connectivity, he said the issue of wealth distribution was also a critical one.  The continent’s inequality gap continued to widen, which was bad for political stability, business, growth and social cohesion.  In that regard, the NEPAD Agency was discussing transformative action within a clear medium‑ to long‑term plan, while also working with African Union member States and other actors to foster a better domestic understanding of inequality.

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  • News in Brief 17 October 2017 (AM)

    17 Oct 2017

    Listen /

    An aerial shot shows thousands of new Rohingya refugee arrivals crossing the border near Anjuman Para village, Palong Khali, Bangladesh. Photo: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

    UNHCR concerned about stranded Rohingya refugees

    The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is urging authorities in Bangladesh to admit thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded near the border with Myanmar.

    It’s estimated that up to 15,000 are squatting in paddy fields after having entered the country through a crossing point in the south-east on Sunday and Monday.

    The new arrivals had been walking for about a week.

    They will join some 582,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority community, who have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since late August.

    Here’s UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic speaking on Tuesday to reporters in Geneva:

    “UNHCR and our partners, the Bangladesh Red Crescent and Action against Hunger, are delivering food and water to the stranded refugees, among them children, women and the elderly who are dehydrated and hungry from the long journey. Our staff are working with Médecins Sans Frontières to identify the sick for treatment. We are advocating with the Bangladesh authorities to urgently admit these refugees fleeing violence and increasingly difficult conditions back home. Every minute counts given the fragile condition they’re in.”

    Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warns that a funding shortfall could affect its support to Rohingya children in Bangladesh, where needs are far outpacing resources.

    The agency says it has received just seven percent of the US$76 million required over the next six months.

    Support for migrants, refugees, held by smugglers in Libya

    In more news from UNHCR:

    Humanitarian agencies have been providing lifesaving assistance to more than 14,500 migrants and refugees held captive by smugglers in Libya.

    They were being held in locations such as farms, houses and warehouses in and around the coastal city of Sabratha, scene of recent fighting.

    The Libyan authorities estimate that smugglers could be holding an additional 6,000 people, said UNHCR.

    The migrants and refugees were taken to a hangar, which has been serving as an assembly point, before being transferred by the authorities to official detention centres.

    They had suffered what UNHCR teams on the ground described as “a shocking scale” of abuse.

    Hundreds were discovered with no clothes or shoes, while scores are in need of urgent medical care, with some suffering from bullet wounds and other visible signs of abuse.

    Most said they were subjected to human rights abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour and sexual exploitation.

    UNHCR has supplied more than 15 truckloads of relief items for the migrants and refugees, including sleeping mats, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits and winter jackets.

    However, the assembly points and detention centres are now full and lack basic amenities such as water tanks and sanitation facilities, while many of the people, including children, have been forced to sleep outdoors.

    Cash assistance programme for refugees in Turkey reaches milestone: WFP

    A programme that provides refugees in Turkey with monthly cash assistance through debit cards has reached one million people in the past year, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported on Tuesday.

    The Emergency Social Safety Net programme allows refugee families to withdraw around US$34 from banking machines, or to use the cards in shops, to cover their basic needs.

    Funded by the European Union, it is currently the biggest cash assistance operation for refugees anywhere in the world.

    This is the first year the programme has been in place, and WFP said data shows the money has been spent primarily on food, utilities and rent.

    Turkey is hosting three million refugees: the largest refugee population in the world, according to the UN agency.

    The majority, more than 90 per cent, are from neighbouring Syria.

    Ana Carmo, United Nations.

    Duration: 3’41″

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  • Libya: UN agencies scale up response in as fighting displaces thousands in Sabratha region

    13 October 2017 &#150 United Nations relief agencies have upped their response in western Libya’s Sabratha region following intensification of conflict that has already driven over 15,000 people from their homes.

    “Because of the conflict, many of the normal systems that people depend on to meet their daily needs have ceased to function,” said Richard Ragan, the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) country office in Libya, in a news release.

    “[Our] support gives hope to those most in need and offers life-saving food assistance during a period when help is most urgently needed.”

    With its partners on the ground, the UN emergency food relief agency has delivered enough food to feed some 1,500 people who have been most affected by the fighting. It is providing food assistance to almost 300 families, with each ration offering a family of five a month’s supply of rice, pasta, wheat flour, chickpeas, vegetable oil, sugar and tomato paste.

    In 2017, WFP aims to assist 175,000 Libyans suffering from food insecurity. It has prioritized the most vulnerable families, especially the internally displaced people, returnees and refugees, as well as households headed by unemployed women, but needs $9.2 million to continue its food assistance operations in the country for the next six months.

    Similarly, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also displaced emergency assistance including sleeping bags, hygiene kits, food and blankets to respond to the immediate needs. It has also deployed staff to various locations to assess needs.

    “The most pressing needs include psychological first aid, emergency medical care, food, water, core relief items and shelter, as many refugees and migrants, including children and vulnerable individuals, are sleeping out in the open,” Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, told reporters at a regular news briefing in Geneva.

    However, information from the ground points to a very grim picture – individuals are suffering from trauma, injuries and diseases, and many are without proper clothing or shoes. There are also unaccompanied and separated children, with some children reporting the recent loss of their parents.

    Located 80 kilometres (about 50 miles) west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, Sabratha city has been the location of three weeks of fierce fighting. The hostilities are reported to have damaged or destroyed over 500 houses and displaced more than 3,000 Libyan families and stranded over 10,000 refugees and migrants, who are need of urgent assistance.

    In 2017, WFP aims to assist 175,000 Libyans whose food insecurity means they do not know where their next meal is coming from.

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