General Assembly Adopts Work Programme for Sixty-eighth Session
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
2nd Meeting (AM)
General Assembly Adopts Work Programme for Sixty-eighth Session
Acting on the recommendations of its General Committee, the General Assembly today adopted the work programme and agenda for its sixty-eighth session, which contained 173 items, and endorsed the recommendation that its general debate, to be held from 24 September to 1 October, would continue on Saturday, 28 September.
Also today, the Assembly adopted two draft resolutions, both of which drew discussion among Member States. The first involved the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council, and the other concerned extension of the Assembly’s intergovernmental process on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system.
Among the topics to be considered in the current session were several new ones, including: the role of the international community in the prevention of the radiation threat in Central Asia; comprehensive review of special political missions; and the United Nations Capital Development Fund. It was also decided that items on the observer status for the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, the International Anti-Corruption Academy, the Pan African Intergovernmental Agency for Water and Sanitation for Africa, and the Global Green Growth Initiative would be included in the work programme.
The Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte was included on the understanding that the matter would not be considered. The Assembly also deferred consideration of the Question of the Malagasy Islands of Glorieuses, Juan de Nova, Europa and Bassas da India to its sixty-ninth session.
An item entitled “Strengthening of the United Nations system” was included on the understanding that the Assembly would consider and revert to a proposal made by the Russian Federation, which states that: “The consideration of the review of civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict, under item 125 of the draft agenda, in plenary meeting shall take place only after the Fifth Committee, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, and the Peacebuilding Commission have had an opportunity to consider the question.”
During approval of various items in the agenda grouped under Heading B of the document, concerning maintenance of international peace and security, Armenia’s representative disassociated his delegation from the consensus to include an item on “The situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”.
The Assembly decided that the delegations of the Holy See and the State of Palestine would participate in the sixty-eighth session as observer States, and that the European Union would participate in the work of the session as an observer.
Also with the adoption of its work programme and agenda (document A/68/250), the Assembly decided that its current session would recess on Tuesday, 17 December 2013, and close on Monday, 15 September 2014.
The Assembly also set the meeting schedule for its Main Committees. During the main part of the session, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) would complete its work by Wednesday, 6 November; the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) by Thursday, 14 November; the Second Committee (Economic and Financial Questions) by Friday, 29 November; the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) by Wednesday, 27 November; the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary Questions) by Friday, 13 December; and the Sixth Committee (Legal Committee) by Friday, 15 November.
A number of speakers took the floor in explanation of position on the resolution entitled “Review of the implementation of General Assembly resolution 61/16 on the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council” (document A/68/L.2), which annexes that review and calls on the Council and other relevant bodies of the United Nations system to implement the measures contained therein.
Switzerland’s representative said he shared the view of other delegations that the Economic and Social Council had not previously fulfilled its mandate as effectively as it could have. However, he had several reservations about the reforms proposed in the current text, saying he was not convinced that they would strengthen the body or make it more cost-efficient. Nonetheless, he supported consensus.
Following the draft’s adoption by consensus, the representatives of Norway and of the European Union delegation said they looked forward to a strengthened role for the Economic and Social Council.
Under the terms of a draft text on “Extension of the intergovernmental process of the General Assembly on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system” (document A/68/L.3), also adopted by consensus, the Assembly decided to extend that intergovernmental process until February 2014, in order to finalize an outcome, and agreed to continue consideration of elements for the substantive resolution.
Several delegations spoke in explanation of position before the vote, including the representative of Indonesia, on behalf of Iceland, both of whom had co-facilitated the intergovernmental process. Looking ahead, they expressed confidence that, with more time, consensus could be reached on an outcome.
The representative of Suriname, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said more time was needed because information and concrete figures were missing on several crucial matters. CARICOM had stressed throughout negotiations the importance of including provisions on capacity-building, and he warned that if a detailed cost assessment was not provided, the intergovernmental process would face further delays.
Similarly, representatives of Switzerland and Liechtenstein expressed their disappointment that it had not been possible to conclude the intergovernmental process.
Following adoption, the representative of the Russian Federation, on behalf of the Cross-Regional Group — Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Syria, Venezuela, Russian Federation — said that that intergovernmental process needed to help consolidate the capacity of the human rights treaty body system by assisting States parties in implementing their obligations.
The scope of problems regarding the functioning of treaty bodies was “deeper and more complex” than it had seemed, he said, adding that the “Way Forward” document submitted by the co-facilitators reflected only their vision, and not that of all Member States. The current state of negotiations made consensus on a substantive outcome “absolutely impossible”, he said, underlining further that the root causes of the treaty bodies’ problems ran deeper than underfunding. He urged broad negotiations, aiming at a single package outcome, but expressed doubt as to whether the February 2014 deadline was enough time to ensure a successful outcome.
Several representatives took to the floor to express regret that it had not been possible to reach consensus, including El Salvador’s representative, who, speaking on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Latin American Countries, said he had worked to align various views during the intergovernmental process and was surprised at the continued reluctance to compromise on a sustainable solution.
He stressed the important role of treaty bodies in boosting accountability, as well as in building the capacities of national-level systems. He said urgent solutions, such as the provision of the necessary financing, were needed.
Also regretting the absence of an agreed outcome, representatives of the United States and Australia stressed the need to preserve the treaty bodies’ independence, while New Zealand’s speaker said negotiations could achieve a robust treaty body system. The representative of the European Union delegation held that the treaty bodies faced urgent challenges. The delegate called for a clear perspective, saying the Union had agreed to a final extension only on the basis that a conclusion would be reached by the 14 February deadline.
The General Assembly will reconvene on Monday, 23 September, to hold a high-level meeting on the Realization of the Millennium Development Goals and Other Internationally Agreed Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities.
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