Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), Former Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, updated the Assembly on the report of its fifteenth session (document A/76/687), noting that Egypt assumed its chairmanship at the third comprehensive review of the peacebuilding architecture. Throughout 2021, the Commission — in line with the mandate under the twin resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council — led efforts to operationalize this review, exploring avenues to strengthen the Commission’s advisory, bridging and convening roles. The Commission achieved “considerable” progress, he said, expanding the scope of its geographic and substantive focus. For the first time, it held meetings on the situation in the Gulf of Guinea, and the transition in Chad. It engaged with 23 countries and regions, the highest since its inception.
In terms of thematic engagement — which comprised 40 per cent of its meetings — the Commission explored new themes, he said, including the links between peacebuilding and peacekeeping; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and security sector reform; the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report; and mental health and psychosocial support. It produced 66 outcome documents, including remarks delivered at the Aswan Forum and the Stockholm Forum, and expanded its relationships with the General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council. For the first time, it advised the Security Council on the Great Lakes region.
Moreover, he said the Commission convened meetings with all relevant stakeholders, solidifying the trend of greater engagement, with non-United Nations briefers comprising 67 per cent of all its meetings. These included national and local Government officials, regional and subregional organizations, civil society organizations, youth, international financial institutions, companies and representatives from academia, think-tanks and independent experts. For the first time, it engaged with the World Trade Organization (WTO), notably on ways to foster the accession of conflict-affected countries.
In terms of financing, the Commission advanced discussions to explore options introduced by the Secretary-General since 2018, with its work culminating in the submission of a letter to the Assembly encouraging it to consider voluntary, assessed and innovative sources of funding. He looked forward to the conclusion of negotiations to translate commitments into actions. To advance implementation of the peace and security agendas for women and youth, respectively, the Commission adopted action plans on both and took actions to enhance their roles in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. He reported that 91 per cent of its outcomes promoted the importance of women’s full, equal and meaningful participation. It recorded a significant increase in the participation rate of youth, from 5.4 per cent in 2020 to 44.4 per cent in 2021.
ROBERT RAE (Canada), speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund were created to fulfil what former Secretary-General Kofi Annan called “a gaping hole” in the United Nations institutional architecture to sustain global attention, political support and advocacy for countries managing the risks of violent conflict. Despite its successes, these challenges are greater today than in 2005. Today, the Commission is grappling with the devastating impact of COVID-19, the climate crisis, worsening food insecurity and other shocks triggered by the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine. Underscoring the importance of peacebuilding and preventing conflict, he said “the earlier we act, the more will be able to save lives and financial resources, and act based on our convictions”. He welcomed efforts to expand the Commission’s work beyond Africa, voicing regret that the Commission was not fully able to exercise its role as a bridge and could not accept an invitation to brief the Human Rights Council in 2021. He welcomed that the invitation was renewed this year and encouraged the presidency to accept it. With its adoption of action plans on gender and youth, he expressed hope that other bodies will follow its example. Indeed, building peace requires time, patience and above all, a willingness to listen.
However, “strategy without resources is better called hallucination”, he said, pointing out that the United Nations conflict-prevention and peacebuilding work — which involves several agencies — is fragmented and underfunded, relying too often on a small donor pool and voluntary funding. He called for this work to be adequately, predictably and sustainably financed, underscoring his delegation’s ranking as a top donor and pledge to remain committed. He called on all stakeholders to consider making and increasing voluntary contributions to the Fund, and voiced support for the Secretary-General’s idea to incorporate assessed contributions, with modalities to be determined by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh), Chair of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, said conflicts, impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and accelerating global challenges pose serious risks on the peacebuilding gains that the Commission has supported for years. To ensure tangible support to national and regional peacebuilding priorities, the Commission has focused on achieving results and expanding the Commission’s work to more settings, based on requests. Citing highlights of the Commission’s work in the last six months, he said that it has convened 13 ambassador-level meetings and a field visit by the Chair of the Liberia configuration. It has held country-specific meetings at the request of Colombia, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Burkina Faso, and region-specific meetings on the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and the Pacific islands, where peacebuilding challenges and priorities were discussed. On the thematic front, a meeting on youth, peace and security was convened and preparation is underway for other thematic meetings, including on women, peace and security and peacekeeping, among others.
The Commission has continued to prioritize national ownership and inclusivity in all its interactions, engaging with an array of relevant national and regional stakeholders to ensure that it responds to the real needs on the ground, he said, citing consultations with representatives of the Sahel and Pacific countries. Noting engagement with a large number of local actors, he pointed out that they accounted for 43 per cent of all those who briefed the Commission at its meetings. The participation rate of women briefers so far has been 80 per cent and that of young peacebuilders 60 per cent. In addition, the Commission has placed emphasis on synergies with the Peacebuilding Fund. Citing various related activities, he said the Commission will continue to bring all relevant parts of the United Nations system together, with a focus on its representatives in the field, who are leading the Organization’s efforts to support national peacebuilding priorities, address conflict risks and enhance the capacity of national institutions.
He went on to say that the Commission has been pursuing effective partnerships with a wide range of regional and subregional organizations and with international and regional financial institutions. To date this year, the African Union, European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum, among others, participated in its meetings. The Commission is also working to enhance South-South and triangular cooperation and exploring opportunities to further strengthen its relationships with international and regional financial institutions. Turning to financing, he said that in the lead up to the Assembly’s high-level meeting on peacebuilding financing held from 27 to 29 April, the Commission held an interactive dialogue with the Secretary‑General and also provided input to the President of the Assembly encouraging that body to consider all options for enhanced peacebuilding financing. The Commission will continue its advocacy for ensuring adequate, predictable and sustained financing for peacebuilding, including by exploring ways to encourage flexible funding for local peacebuilding organizations, and developing approaches to foster innovative financing for peacebuilding.
Turning to the Commission’s efforts to enhance its advisory, bridging and convening role, he said it has focused on improving the quality and timeliness of its submissions and briefings to other intergovernmental bodies and peacebuilding fora. So far, during its sixteenth session, the Commission sent eight advisories and delivered 10 statements in different meetings. The Commission’s submissions to the Security Council include advisories on Burkina Faso; Central Africa; the Great Lakes; women, peace, and security; and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on peacebuilding. The Commission has also briefed the Council this year on the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the Commission’ work plan and capacity‑building in Africa, he said, citing its other submissions to United Nations bodies. On how to improve the Commission’s advisory role vis-à-vis the Assembly, he said there is scope to further deepen that role particularly in the context of the current efforts to revitalize the Assembly’s work and its increasing role in addressing the root causes of conflicts. To better align their programmes of work, the Commission, for the first time, formally shared its programme of work with the Assembly immediately after its adoption in March, he said, noting it as a major step towards institutionalization of the advisory relations between the two bodies.
He went on to say that the Commission also appointed South Africa as its informal coordinator for the General Assembly, as a new practice established only last year. In addition to the informal coordinator, the members of the Peacebuilding Commission who are elected from the Assembly, as well as the countries that have engaged with the Commission, can play a significant role in advancing the Commission’s advisory role to the Assembly and in increasing the Commission’s visibility and impact among the broader United Nations membership. More regular dialogues between the Assembly and the Commission both in a formal and informal setup would go a long way in strengthening their relationship, he said, noting that those meetings could also possibly be included in the annual agenda of the Commission and the Assembly’s work.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast ASEAN), said his bloc has endorsed numerous frameworks to support peacebuilding and efforts in sustaining peace. Among them is the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting where regional security issues, mitigations and initiatives were comprehensively discussed to promote harmonious partnerships for peace and stability in the region. In the broader security context, he said the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus and the ASEAN Regional Forum are regional frameworks established to yield cooperation through preventive diplomacy mechanisms and to ensure any disputes and differences be addressed peacefully and constructively. ASEAN continues to pursue sustained economic growth and sustainable development, with a view to supporting peace and stability, he added.
In support of the full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels of peace processes and security efforts, he said ASEAN works to advance the women, peace and security agenda as a regional priority agenda. ASEAN women military and law enforcement officers have continued to make a positive impact globally through their active participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, including in their role as early peacebuilders in line with their mandates and host countries’ peacebuilding and national development priorities. In that regard, he encouraged Member States to further translate the women, peace and security agenda into practice and work to build capacities and increase opportunities for women at the local, national, regional and global levels. Every Member State must advance possible solutions and make commitments to address the financing gap for prevention and peacebuilding, he said, calling on them to contribute to peacebuilding efforts.
NATALIE TOLSTOI, representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, said the Secretary-General has set new ambition for preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, confirming the peacebuilding architecture as a cornerstone of United Nations peace and security efforts. She welcomed that the Fund delivered its highest level of investment and second-highest level of donor contributions, recognizing its leadership in promoting women and young people’s meaningful contribution to peacebuilding. She recognized the importance of investments in monitoring and evaluation, allowing the Commission to double its evaluation coverage, while also voicing full support for all recommendations to further strengthen and streamline its efforts presented in the report. The European Union’s engagement has been strengthened with the enlargement of its contribution to the Fund and adoption of the new €900 million programme for peace, stability and conflict prevention.
She urged United Nations agencies to improve their coordination and donors to move towards better information-sharing. New ways of financing peacebuilding also must be explored to ensure adequate, stable and predictable funding. Recognizing that voluntary contributions have been insufficient to meet growing needs, making assessed contributions essential, she said the bloc is engaged in the development of an Assembly resolution on peacebuilding financing. She went on to note that the Commission has strengthened its convening power and proven to be an influential adviser to the main United Nations organs. Enhancing its role as a promoter of the systemwide coherence and fostering partnerships must be continued, and synergies further explored between the Commission and the Fund.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said her country, a leading troop- and police‑contributing country, has over 5,500 personnel deployed across 9 missions, with 177 soldiers having made the supreme sacrifice “under the blue flag”, the highest number among these contributors. The Commission and Fund need increased focus and support from Member States to fulfil their mandate. She stressed the importance of the “cardinal principle” of inclusivity to advance national peacebuilding objectives, noting that an exclusively donor-driven approach would not be the most prudent path to follow. Greater financial support from sources outside voluntary contributions merits a careful study of their potential impact on the United Nations ecosystem. Any decision to this effect must be consensus‑based, she said, noting that the Commission should exercise its convening role more effectively. It is important to set clear benchmarks and criteria for an exit strategy in the country under consideration, with advocacy drawing down when such criteria are met.
For its part, India has always played a significant role through its extensive development partnerships with countries in the global South, assisting them through bilateral and multilateral forums, notably through substantial grants and soft loans, he said. India stood in solidarity by strengthening existing development partnerships. She drew attention to the India-United Nations Development Partnership Fund, noting that over five years, it has launched 66 development projects in partnership with 51 countries, featuring various South‑owned and South-led initiatives. In the last three months alone, India has exported over 1.8 million tons of wheat to Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Yemen, while also helping Sri Lanka by providing $4 billion in food and financial assistance.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) voiced concern that the pandemic, global economic downturn, food and energy crises, political instability, terrorism and violent extremism — as well as the marginalization of women and girls — will continue to exacerbate poverty, threatening peacebuilding gains. She called for an action-oriented outcome to negotiations on the financing for peacebuilding resolution which addresses the financing gap to support nationally owned and regional peacebuilding processes in all settings. As the demand for peacebuilding far outpaces the resources available, the provision of new, more sustainable funding sources — including voluntary and assessed contributions — will strengthen the Fund’s catalytic role. South Africa will continue to engage the proposals on the New Agenda for Peace in the Our Common Agenda report, which underscores the importance of investing in prevention and preparedness. As outlined in the Common African Position on the 2020 review of the peacebuilding architecture, South Africa believes regional organizations are uniquely positioned and experienced in conflict prevention in Africa, she said. Both must undertake joint conflict analyses, assessments and action in preventive diplomacy, conflict resolution and mediation. She underscored South Africa’s commitment to intensify interventions aimed at enhancing women’s role in peacebuilding, notably in political leadership, mediation and negotiations, adding that peace operation mandates can better reflect gender-responsive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The space for the participation of young people in peacebuilding must also be broadened, she added.
KIMIHIRO ISHIKANE (Japan) said the Peacebuilding Commission’s thematic meetings should be utilized to share knowledge and best practices among a wide range of stakeholders within and outside the United Nations system, stressing that building trustworthy institutions in areas related to the basic functions of the State is key to sustaining peace. The Commission’s advisory roles to the Security Council, General Assembly and other United Nations organs should be strengthened. Noting the recent momentum to actively submit written advice from the Commission to the Security Council, he said his country will be an elected Council member from January 2023 and will further contribute to strengthening the Commission’s advisory role. As well, the Commission’s role as a platform to strengthen partnerships with various peacebuilding actors outside the United Nations system must be enhanced, he said, noting the steady increase in the number of non-United Nations briefers at the Commission since 2018. Turning to the Peacebuilding Fund, he said it is important to monitor and evaluate the results of its programmes, visualize them and publicize within and beyond the United Nations system, including to international financial institutions, Member States and the general public. His country has been steadily implementing its commitment of $10 million to the Peacebuilding Fund for 2020-24.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the Commission’s advisory, bridging and convening roles make it well-suited to promote greater coordination among relevant parties in countries at risk of relapsing into conflict. It can also mobilize regional and international financial institutions; support implementation of peacebuilding activities by peacekeeping operations; and mobilize political support to promote reconciliation. However, it could do more. “The Commission is but a teenager within the UN family,” he asserted, noting its relations with the Security Council, Economic and Social Council and General Assembly remain to be fully explored. This matter has a priority status for most Commission members, which is why it was included in the 2020 work programme. On the issue of communication, he suggested that a seminar take place wherein current or former Commission- or Fund-supported countries share their experiences, a long-due measure for clarification for those countries hesitating to seek the Commission’s support for lack of understanding of its role. The Assembly is “by far” the best venue to address the stigmatization still hindering the Commission’s outreach.
He drew attention to the issue of financing, recalling that the Fund is conceptually geared as a seed resource, not as a replacement for traditional development cooperation. He called for balancing the goals of agility and accountability, which often work at cross-purposes, noting that the Fund should not be seen as means to make up for the significant reduction of development cooperation seen today. No final decision on the adoption of assessed contributions should be taken at this stage, he said, as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) must assess the impact of such a proposal on the Commission and the Organization as a whole. Only when this matter is comprehensively addressed should the Committee make a decision, he asserted.
Global Health and Foreign Policy
Ms. JOYINI (South Africa), introducing the draft resolution on the “High-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response” (document A/76/L.76), said that, with the COVID-19 pandemic in its third year, the need for inclusive and durable solutions for pandemic preparedness and response remains as important as ever. Continued demonstration of political will is vital to ensure that a whole-of-society approach to pandemic prevention, preparedness and response are adopted and operationalized. Concerted political action at a global level is also needed.
The Assembly adopted “L.76” without a vote.
MARIA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina), introducing the draft resolution “International Day for Interventional Cardiology” (document A/76/L.77), said the International Day is to be commemorated on 16 September to raise awareness about that field of medicine which improves public health and increases life expectancy. The adoption of the draft resolution would allow greater recognition of interventional cardiology as a very powerful diagnostic and therapeutic tool. The date chosen coincides with the first percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty carried out on a patient on 16 September 1977, in Zurich, Switzerland, by Dr. Andreas Grüentzig.
The Assembly adopted “L.77” without a vote.
The representative of Brazil, speaking in explanation of position after action on “L.76”, said COVID-19 underscored the need to urgently redouble efforts to detect and respond to health emergencies. She welcomed the decision to convene a high-level meeting on the matter, however it will only succeed if it is in line with the Geneva negotiation process. She stressed that the proposal should have moved the date until after the negotiation of an instrument on prevention, preparedness and response to the pandemic, and reform of international health regulations. In addition, the text should have included fundamental elements that are integral to the Geneva discussions. For example, the preamble lacks a reference to equitable access to medical countermeasures. The text also lacks references to research and development, the production of vaccines and health technologies, and recovery as an element to address the issues at hand. On modalities, she said crucial negotiations must be held that allow for a transparent, open and inclusive process that features sufficient time for consultations. She looked forward to ensuring that the modalities and declaration give adequate political impetus to the issue while negotiations in Geneva run their due course.
The representative of Switzerland welcomed the recognition of WHO’s leadership on global health and involvement in preparations for the high-level meeting. It is essential to ensure complementarity and coherence between the high-level meeting and the discussions in Geneva, she said, noting that Switzerland would have wanted to focus on discussions at WHO and elsewhere, and return to the General Assembly in the format of a high-level meeting once a draft of a new instrument would have been presented to the World Health Assembly in 2024. The process must be characterized by transparency and inclusiveness, she added.
The representative of the United States voiced support for its aim to strengthen political attention on pandemic prevention and response. The special session proposed has the ability to support these goals in New York City, while supporting work in Geneva, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. The timing must be planned accordingly, including as related to pandemic discussions at WHO on international health regulation amendments and the development of a pandemic preparedness and response instrument at WHO. He expressed concern over the short procedural text, which was not properly negotiated or placed under a silence procedure. Only two brief formal meetings were held. The United States aims to ensure that future events on health priorities ensure a strong “value add”, he said, emphasizing that pandemic preparedness and response requires ongoing political attention and mobilization.
The representative of the Republic of Korea stressed that the high-level meeting should relate to universal health care processes, as well as complement work under way in Geneva. The General Assembly can best do this by mobilizing political will among all States. “We must better engage with multiple stakeholders,” he added, drawing attention to engagement with the private sector, civil society and WHO in a transparent, inclusive manner. The Republic of Korea will proactively contribute to these processes, underscoring that the high-level meeting must yield practical and action-oriented results.
AXEL DE LA MAISONNEUVE, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, welcomed the adoption of the resolution on a high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, noting that lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic have underlined the need to improve global health security, and prevent and prepare better for future pandemics in a joint and global effort. Team Europe, the European Union and its member States, have been at the global forefront of showing multilateral solidarity and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it be in supporting countries in need with essential health supplies, providing vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, or providing support to vaccine manufacturing capacities in developing countries, he said. Also, they will be the first to assist initiatives that aim to strengthen the international community’s political support for measures to prevent and respond to future pandemics. Noting a forthcoming renewed European Union global health strategy, he invited stakeholders to partake in the ongoing public consultation in preparation of that Strategy.
Election of Members of the Economic and Social Council
Results of Seventh Round
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Since no candidate obtained the required two-thirds majority, there remains one seat to be filled among Eastern European States. The Assembly then proceeded to the eight unrestricted balloting round.
Results of Eighth Round
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Since no candidate obtained the required two-thirds majority in the ballot, there still remains one seat to be filled among Eastern European States. The Assembly then proceeded to the ninth unrestricted balloting round.
Results of Ninth Round
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Since no candidate obtained the required two-thirds majority in the ballot, there still remains one seat to be filled among Eastern European States. Further balloting will take place during the seventy-seventh session on a date to be determined.
Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
Mr. MAHMOUD (Egypt) then introduced the draft resolution titled, “United Nations action on sexual exploitation and abuse” (document A/77/L.78) which calls for immediate measures to ensure accountability and underscores the important role played by the blue helmets in building international peace and security. The text places victims at the heart of United Nations efforts, with assistance provided through a follow-up mechanism. “Accountability is a core principle of this text,” he assured, including at missions and at Headquarters, stressing that the text gives pride of place to prevention of these heinous acts.
The Assembly then adopted “L.78” without a vote.
International Cooperation/Access to Justice for Sexual Violence Survivors
DAVID JOHN FRANCIS (Sierra Leone) introduced the draft resolution on “International Cooperation for Access to Justice, Remedies and Assistance for Survivors of Sexual Violence” (document A/76/L.80), noting that more than one third of women affected by sexual violence have contemplated suicide. The draft is focused on addressing the need for access to justice and remedies, including support and care for all survivors of sexual violence, and the way forward for international cooperation, he said, calling on Member States for their support in adopting the resolution by consensus.
NNAMDI OKECHUKWU NZE (Nigeria), introducing the draft amendments to the draft resolution referenced immediately above (documents A/76/L.81, A/76/L.82, A/76/L.83 and A/76/L.84), specified the proposed amendments therein, voicing regret that the main sponsors of the resolution employed non-agreed language with no basis on international human rights law. The proposed amendments to the draft resolution aim to achieve consensus and make the text more balanced, consensual and representative of the wider United Nations membership and not just a group of States, he said, urging all to vote in favour of the amendments to restore balance to the resolution.
[By “L.81”, the Assembly would delete the eighth preambular paragraph; by “L.82”, the Assembly, in the sixteenth preambular paragraph, would delete “including intimate partner violence”; and by “L.83”, the Assembly, in operative paragraph 2 (a), would delete “paying particular attention to women and girls facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”.
By “L.84”, the Assembly, in operative paragraph 6, would delete “including through the development and enforcement of policies and legal frameworks and the strengthening of health systems that make universally accessible and available quality, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health-care services, commodities, information and education, including safe and effective methods of modern contraception, emergency contraception, prevention programmes for adolescent pregnancy, maternal health care, such as skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care, which will reduce obstetric fistula and other complications of pregnancy and delivery, safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law, and prevention and treatment of reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, HIV and reproductive cancers, recognizing that human rights include the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence.”]
JULIEN BOURTEMBOURG, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, said legal and justice systems must be reformed to ensure, safe and trauma-informed complaints and reforming mechanisms for victims/survivors; better equip institutions to address sexual and gender-based violence, including through dedicated training; and ensure access to essential services. Voicing support for the recommendations in the resolution, he said his bloc is committed to working with all partners to step up international cooperation on access to justice for survivors of all forms of sexual and gender-based violence.
The representative of Uruguay said the draft resolution is the result of various compromises to achieve a balanced text that considers the priorities of all. She lamented the introduction of amendments that derail the Assembly’s adoption of a text that would condemn all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, notably amendment “L.82”, which relates to intimate partner violence. Noting that WHO reported in 2021 that more than 641 million women aged 15 and older have been the victim of intimate partner violence, he emphasized that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported in 2020 that 47,000 women and girls were killed by their intimate partners or family members — translating to one woman or girl killed every 11 minutes. This crisis is worsening, he insisted. A report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) found that a rise in domestic violence cases was reported to refuge centres, all related to isolation caused by COVID-19. “We are truly worried about domestic violence,” he stressed, urging delegates to support preambular paragraph 16 as presented by the co-facilitators.
The representative of Chile condemned the assassination attempt against Vice-President Christina Fernández de Kirchner. “The path must always be that of debating ideas and dialogue,” she insisted. “The path forward is never violence.” In Latin America alone, 29.8 per cent of women who have been in relationships have been physically or sexually abused within them, she said, underscoring the value Chile places on the inclusion of preambular paragraph 16 as presented and expressing support for the draft resolution.
The representative of the United States encouraged all countries to adopt this “historic” text by consensus without modifications, thanking the civil society representatives and survivors who helped to bring it to fruition today. Today marks an historic moment, as for the first time, survivors are recognized in a standalone resolution. “It is a reflection of the global commitment to this issue,” he said, describing it as a landmark text that “takes us one step closer” to eliminating sexual and gender-based violence. Emphasizing the importance of access to survivor-centred justice, he said that, in co-sponsoring the text, the United States does not recognize any change to conventional or customary international law. It notes that only States have obligations under human rights law. He emphasized the need to stamp out sexual violence wherever it occurs.
The representative of Argentina, associating with the Group of Friends, said the text includes essential services that States should provide for survivors and highlights the barriers preventing access to them. “We must include the perspective of diversity as a cross-cutting perspective in all policies and measures against sexual and gender-based violence,” she said, lamenting the introduction of last-minute amendments that undermine consensual language.
The representative of China said the text prioritizes survivors and improvement in their living conditions. She highlighted the war of aggression against China and other countries waged by Japanese militarists during the Second World War, in which 700,000 women and girls were forced to be comfort women and thereby subjected to heinous sexual violence. She described this as “the most humiliating and painful memory of the twentieth century”. Incomplete statistics show that only 12 comfort women are alive in mainland China, most with mental and physical trauma. Stressing that victims who passed away did not see justice done before their death, she said “Japan owes the world an apology.” Rather than reflecting on its evil deeds, Japan denies the facts of its invasion and even glorifies its war of aggression. It has refused to acknowledge its State responsibility on the issue of comfort women. Only by facing up to history can one avoid mistakes of the past. Paying lip service about morality and responsibility will in no way gain the trust of the international community and she urged Japan to act honestly to address the forced recruitment of comfort women.
The representative of Japan said it has been a great honour for his delegation to take part in the initiative, expressing appreciation to Sierra Leone for choosing his country to be its partner. All survivors of sexual violence have the right to be free from stigma, live in dignity, fully recover from their wounds and further develop their human potential, he said, expressing hope that the first-ever Assembly resolution devoted to international cooperation on this agenda will be adopted by consensus.
An observer for the Holy See, voicing regret that the potential impact of the resolution is severely diminished by unclear, controversial and long‑disputed terms and concepts with little relation to the theme, said the text — and the survivors it aims to help — will be best served by concentrating on access to justice, remedies, assistance and international cooperation in support of those three prior elements. Delegations should be permitted to take the lead in striking the necessary balances and in finding compromises. Controversial elements and weakly related topics, which divert time and attention from substantive provisions, should be avoided.
A representative of the International Development Law Organization said there is a need to implement a comprehensive surivor-centred justice response to gender-based violence that meets the needs of diverse groups of women, including the use of effective gender-responsive laws and the elimination of discriminatory ones. Citing other ways to enhance justice for gender-based violence survivors, he said the international community should strengthen the legal empowerment of women and girls, including by raising awareness of their rights; and support women’s collective action against gender-based violence, including by providing targeted financing for local women’s organizations.
The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking for the European Union in its capacity as observer, expressed deep regret over the decision to make last‑minute amendments on such an important resolution. The text represents a fine balance between various positions expressed during negotiations. The co‑facilitators referred to agreed language when it became clear that efforts to find alternative wording would not lead to an acceptable solution. Member States — many of which hold divergent views on the issue at hand — have always been able to agree the language attacked by the amendments presented today. “This illustrates how carefully crafted and balanced these longstanding paragraphs are,” he said. “The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action clearly defines these terms.” The European Union will vote against these hostile amendments and he called on all Member States to do likewise.
The representative of Sierra Leone objected to the proposed amendments to preambular paragraph 15 and operative paragraphs 2 and 6 outlined in the four amendments presented by Nigeria. This objection is premised on the facilitation process and on substance. On the facilitation of draft “L.80”, Sierra Leone and Japan led open and transparent negotiations for over five months, with consultations on the various iterations of the text, from the pre-draft and zero draft through five revised versions. All were able to express their views, including Nigeria, which was part of the core group. The final text represents a fine balance among the positions expressed and offers practical guidance on addressing the trauma of survivors. It is based on agreed language.
On “L.81” and “L.83”, he noted that several international instruments and human rights mechanisms explicitly recognize multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls. The Vienna Declaration, the fourth World Conference on Women and the third Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance address discrimination based on sex, religion, disability and other grounds. On the deletion suggested in preambular paragraph 16, he said this contradicts established facts and agreed language, notably by WHO. The language is taken verbatim from operative paragraph 11 of resolution 71/170, which was adopted by consensus, and recalls the need to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health for victims and survivors of sexual violence, in line with the International Conference on Population and Development, Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of their reviews.
“These references have been regularly included in General Assembly resolutions since 1994 and 1995,” he said, and in several African-led initiatives. He highlighted a plethora of other instruments and outcomes dealing with issues, including abortion, pointing out that the proponent of the amendments had joined consensus on resolution 71/170, which has the same language in paragraph 14 (f), and resolution 75/161. While respecting the sovereign will of each nation, “we can only ask for Member States to do so in good faith”, as also required by the Charter. He called on all Member States to reject the amendments.
The representative of Malaysia lamented that the process leading to the resolution had done a great disservice to such an important issue. Malaysia entered negotiations in good faith. However, after many rounds of consultations, it appeared to many, including Malaysia, that there was no genuine interest in finding the lowest common denominator to achieve consensus. Concerns fell onto deaf ears and he expressed regret over the inclusion of such terms as “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, despite repeated opposition by many delegations. Malaysia will vote in favour of the amendments, he explained.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea described it as ironic that Japan sponsored the draft resolution, as it seeks to cover up its own sexual violence and evade responsibility for atoning for such crimes. Japan denies the sexual slavery enforced by its army, shamelessly attempting to avoid legal and moral responsibility for its past crimes. He denounced the kidnapping of Korean women by Japanese imperialists for service as sexual slaves.
The representative of the United Kingdom rejected the four amendments that seek roll-back or deletion of agreed language, stressing that the language has been carefully crafted over the years to reflect the various views of Member States. The Assembly has agreed that multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination exist”, she said, underscoring the importance of prioritizing the needs of all survivors. One third of women and girls aged 15 to 49 years old report having been subjected to physical or sexual violence by their intimate partners. The weakening of operative paragraph 6 — which was taken verbatim from other resolutions — undermines the rights of survivors and spirit of multilateral negotiations.
The representative of Egypt said it will vote in favour of all amendments to the draft resolution, which aim to bring balance to the text. She voiced regret that delegations were asked during the negotiations process to change their national positions in order to accept controversial terms despite those delegations’ well-known consistent and long-standing positions regarding those terms. Copying, pasting, compiling and altering language from its sources regardless of context cannot be considered agreed language. Delegations’ reservations in the Assembly should not be ignored during the negotiations.
The representative of Iran said that, despite having taken part in pertinent meetings, her country’s main concerns and multiple requests were disregarded and objected to by the co-facilitators. The proliferation of controversial and non-consensual language will prevent Member States from finding common ground and weaken their shared efforts, she said, noting that her delegation will vote in favour of the amendments. Citing various preambular and operative paragraphs, she said her delegation disassociates itself from them, noting that the draft resolution will be interpreted in a manner consistent with her country’s national laws, cultural and ethical values and religious background.
Acting on the amendments presented by Nigeria to the draft resolution, the Assembly first took up “L.81”, rejecting the amendment by a recorded vote of 84 against to 31 in favour, with 12 abstentions. It then rejected “L.82” by a recorded vote of 84 against to 30 in favour, with 15 abstentions; “L.83” by a recorded vote of 83 against to 31 in favour, with 13 abstentions; and “L.84” by a recorded vote of 80 against to 33 in favour, with 15 abstentions.
Next, the Assembly took up operative paragraph 6 of the draft resolution “L.80”, voting to retain that paragraph by a recorded vote of 87 in favour to 24 against, with 20 abstentions.
The Assembly then adopted “L.80” without a vote.
The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking for the European Union, highlighted the critical importance of access to justice for survivors. Three years ago, the European Union hosted the first ever “survivors town hall” calling on the Assembly to adopt a resolution on the human rights of survivors. The bloc took note of recommendations by the Generation Equality Forum in this regard. As survivors are too often faced with barriers in access to assistance, justice and reparations, the text outlines a series of actions that States should take to set up effective accountability and assistance mechanisms.
The resolution rightly emphasizes the need to tackle conflict-related sexual violence, he said, pointing to conditions in Tigray, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine and elsewhere, where sexual violence is used as method of war, and drawing particular attention to such violence against children in Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Rape and other forms of sexual violence can be war crimes and crimes against humanity, punishable under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He called on the Russian Federation to stop its war of aggression against Ukraine and instead to abide by international law, including principles reiterated in today’s resolution. Any attempt to roll back human rights is unacceptable, he said, recalling the fundamental principle that women’s rights are human rights. To ban violence, States must ban all forms of discrimination, including on grounds of sex.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Gulf Cooperation Council, said his delegation joined consensus through its “emphatic conviction”, notably on the issue of assistance for victims and survivors. He pointed to reproductive health programmes in Saudi Arabia. On wording in paragraph 6, and other contentious terms, he called for harmoniously ensuring implementation, in line with the culture and rules within various countries. Speaking in a national capacity, he reaffirmed the importance of protecting victims, noting that Saudi Arabia stipulates such protection and criminalizes such crimes. Punishment is more stringent for perpetrators of such heinous crimes, notably in cases of recidivism. Saudi Arabia participated in negotiations from day one, taking a constructive approach. He expressed regret that amendments were not taken into account, and he thus disassociated himself from terms that are non-consensual, including operative paragraph 6 and paragraph 16.
The representative of Nicaragua pointed to law 779 against violence against women, as well as reforms to law 641. He lamented the inclusion of language that does not enjoy consensus and disassociated himself from operative paragraph 6, which promotes abortion as a human right, explaining that Nigeria’s amendment would have balanced today’s resolution. Abortion must never be promoted as a family planning method. He disassociated himself from preambular paragraphs 9 and 10, noting that Nicaragua does not recognize the Rome Statute, and from other paragraphs that contain concepts or terms that do not enjoy consensus.
The representative of Indonesia said his country has established 41 service centres for the protection of women and children across its provinces. Moreover, it has launched and operationalized call centres to provide rapid access for violence reporting and response. He voiced regret that the deliberations on the resolution were conducted in a rushed manner and with a “take it or leave it” approach, resulting in a document that falls short of addressing the real needs on the ground. Citing various elements lacking from the resolution, he said the document instead includes elements that divert discussion away from what really matters. He noted his country’s reservations to specific references, including to “gender-based violence” and “gender-based crimes”, in the text, noting that they are not universally agreed language.
The representative of the Philippines said her country joins consensus and recognizes the importance of the access to justice, remedies and assistance for survivors of sexual violence. Clarifying its position, she said the Philippines dissociates itself from preambular paragraphs 9 and 10 and in all other paragraphs in other resolutions making reference to the International Criminal Court. Her country withdrew from the Rome Statue effective 17 March 2019. Notwithstanding, sexual and gender-based violence has no place in modern society and perpetrators of such violence should be held fully accountable.
The representative of the Russian Federation voiced regret that the draft resolution has little to do with its initial objective and has shifted emphasis away from completely different issues largely reflected in other Assembly resolutions. His delegation had expected that discussions around the issue would be centred solely on victims of sexual violence and measures to provide them with support and rehabilitation, he said, noting a shift in discussions to gender-based violence — a contentious concept among States. He said his delegation disassociates itself from consensus on the document and does not view its provisions as agreed upon.
The representative of Iraq said his delegation joined consensus, noting that the resolution, while containing many positive elements, deviated from its main goal and included ambiguous and controversial terminologies, all of which had been objected to by many delegations, including his own. A more inclusive approach is needed in the future, he stressed, specifying the paragraphs from which his country disassociates itself.
The representative of Cuba disassociated himself from references to the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction it does not recognize, notably mentions in preambular paragraphs 9 and 10. “We do not consider this agreed upon language,” he insisted.
The representative of Senegal underscored her country’s firm commitment to end sexual violence, citing document 2020/05, which criminalizes rape and paedophilia. She lamented that today’s resolution was examined in plenary before Member States reached consensus. The stakes in the fight against all forms of violence against women should prompt all delegations to consider the positions they have taken unstintingly since the start of negotiations. She voted in favour of the four amendments, objecting to the use of non-consensual terms in the final document. She clarified that the term “gender” refers only to social relations between males and females, and that gender-based violence exclusively refers to violence against women. It is not a term that addresses sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, she said any mention of abortion should refer to paragraph 825 of the International Conference on Population and Development outcome, stipulating that abortion cannot be promoted as a method of family planning. She disassociated herself from such terms.
The representative of China said there is no internationally agreed legally based definition of human rights defenders. “Countries have different views on who those people are,” he said dissociating himself from paragraphs that contain this term. He denounced Japan’s forced recruitment of comfort women was a serious crime committed during the Second World War.
Source: United Nations