Condemning Holocaust Denial, General Assembly Adopts Resolution Urging Development of Educational Programmes to Prevent Genocide Acts among Future Generations
Delegates also Postpone Fifth United Nations Least Developed Countries Conference
Rejecting and condemning Holocaust denial, the General Assembly urged Member States today to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the atrocity to prevent acts of genocide.
Adopting a draft resolution titled “Holocaust denial” (document A/76/L.30) without a vote, the 193-member organ also urged Member States and social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion in cyberspace. “L.30”, tabled jointly by Israel and Germany, was cosponsored by more than 100 Member States.
Israel’s representative said that 6 million Jewish men, women and children were murdered throughout the Holocaust in the most horrific ways imaginable, which was due to the Nazi documentation of their crimes, “the most meticulously documented genocide in history”. The victims included the wife and children of his grandfather Chaim, a Holocaust survivor, whose family perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, he said.
“Today, as the number of Holocaust survivors diminishes, Holocaust denial is growing at a terrifying speed,” he said, pointing out that partly due to popular disinformation flowing through social media platforms, only 54 per cent of the world’s population has heard of the Holocaust, with one third of them sceptical of the facts. Despite this, such platforms “do little to combat this sick phenomenon” as they are only service providers, he added.
Germany’s delegate said that through the adoption of the text, the Assembly stands united in sending a strong message against the denial or distortion of the facts surrounding one of the worst crimes against humanity. Her country is aware of its special obligation and responsibility in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, and will relentlessly oppose any attempts to diminish, distort or deny historic facts.
Iran’s representative disassociated his country from the resolution although it did not block the passage of the text. Strongly rejecting the attempt to misuse the concept of the Second World War to provide cover for the continuing practices of racism and expansionism, he said: “The Israeli regime has applied both in its policies and practices over seven decades.” Its brutal crimes against Palestine, which include ethnic cleansing, an inhumane blockage and forced evictions, have continued, he said.
Turning attention to conference management issues deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the Assembly adopted without a vote a draft decision on follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, by which it decided to further postpone the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which was scheduled to take place in Doha from 23 to 27 January 2022. The new dates are to be determined at the earliest possible time.
The Assembly then adopted, in a contentious vote, a draft decision, as amended, postponing the first negotiating session of the Ad Hoc Committee to elaborate an international treaty on countering the criminal use of information and communications technologies, which was scheduled to take place in January 2022.
By the text, the Assembly also decided to convene a one-day meeting in New York as soon as possible, preferably before 28 February 2022, to address organizational matters, and hold the first negotiating session in New York no later than 18 April 2022, health conditions and space permitting. If those conditions are not met, the Ad Hoc Committee would hold the first session in May 2022 in Vienna.
In other business, the Assembly extended the terms of office for Maimunah Mohd Sharif (Malaysia), Executive Director of United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), by two years, beginning on 20 January 2022. Ms. Sharif’s first four-year term expired on 19 January.
The Assembly also took note of a solemn appeal for the observance of the Olympic truce (document A/76/648), presented by Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives).
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Cyprus, Guatemala, United Kingdom, Egypt (for the Arab Group), Belarus, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, France (for the European Union), Venezuela, Switzerland, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, Syria, Ethiopia, Jamaica (for the Caribbean Community), Turkey, Indonesia and Algeria, as well as an observer of the European Union.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 21 January, to hear a briefing by the Secretary-General on his priorities for 2022 and to discuss the topic.
Scale of Assessments for the Apportionment of United Nations Expenses
Opening the meeting, the General Assembly took note of a letter on 10 January addressed to its President from the Secretary-General (document A/76/636) informing the Assembly of Member States in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter, as well as two subsequent notes on 14 and 18 January, (documents A/76/636/Add.1 and A/76/636/Add.2 respectively), and the document to be released as A/76/636/Add.3, informing members that Antigua and Barbuda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have made the payment necessary to reduce their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19.
Sport for Development and Peace
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, presenting a solemn appeal in connection with the observance of the Olympic Truce (document A/76/648), said the Olympic movement aspires to contribute to a peaceful future for all humankind through the educational value of sport, in particular youth. Moreover, the Games will bring together athletes from all parts of the world in the greatest of international sports events to promote peace, mutual understanding and goodwill among nations and peoples — goals that are also part of the founding values of the United Nations.
Noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges sport as an important enabler of sustainable development, he recalled that on 2 December 2021, the Assembly adopted resolution 76/13, in which it urged Member States to observe the Olympic Truce individually and collectively, from the seventh day before the start of the XXIV Olympic Winter Games until the seventh day following the end of the XIII Paralympic Winter Games, to be held in Beijing in 2022.
He then solemnly appealed to all Member States to demonstrate their commitment to the Olympic Truce for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and to undertake concrete actions at the local, national, regional and world levels to promote and strengthen a culture of peace and harmony based on the spirit of the Truce. Recalling the original tradition of the Olympic Truce practiced in ancient times, he also called upon all warring parties of current armed conflicts around the world to boldly agree to true mutual ceasefires for the duration of the Olympic Truce, thus providing an opportunity to settle disputes peacefully.
The Assembly then took note of the President’s appeal.
Culture of Peace
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel), introducing a draft resolution titled “Holocaust denial” (document A/76/L.30), recalled that 6 million Jewish men, women and children were murdered throughout the Holocaust in the most horrific ways imaginable, which was, due to the Nazi documentation of their crimes, “the most meticulously documented genocide in history”. The victims included the wife and children of his grandfather Chaim, a Holocaust survivor, whose family perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, he said.
“Today, as the number of Holocaust survivors diminishes, Holocaust denial is growing at a terrifying speed,” he said, pointed out that partly due to popular disinformation flowing through social media platforms, only 54 per cent of the world’s population has heard of the Holocaust, with one third of them sceptical of the facts. Despite this, such platforms “do little to combat this sick phenomenon”, stating that they are only service providers, he said.
Noting that today marked 80 years since the holding of the Wansee Conference — the meeting in which 15 high-ranking Nazi officials were presented with the Final Solution, the plan to exterminate the Jewish people — he went on to thank five Holocaust survivors who attended the meeting; Germany, for cofacilitating the text; and the more than 100 co-sponsors, and encouraged others who had not done so to follow suit.
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of position ahead of the vote, strongly rejected the attempt to misuse the concept of the Second World War to provide cover for the continuing practices of racism and expansionism, adding: “The Israeli regime has applied both in its policies and practices over seven decades.” Its brutal crimes against Palestine, which include ethnic cleansing, an inhumane blockage and forced evictions, have continued, he said. Iran condemns genocide as a crime against humanity. Therefore, Iran disassociates itself from the text in its entirety.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Holocaust was a mass murder of incomprehensible crimes committed by Nazi Germany and its allies across several countries. Recalling that as many as 1.3 million members of the Red Army were killed and wounded during the war, while 27 million Russians were killed, he underscored the need to make efforts to combat the falsification of the truth of the Second World War.
The Assembly then adopted “L.30” without a vote.
By the text, the Assembly rejected and condemned without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, and urged all Member States to reject without any reservation any denial or distortion of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end.
By other terms, the Assembly urged Member States to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust to help to prevent future acts of genocide, and in this context commended the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Further, it urged Member States and social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion by means of information and communications technologies and to facilitate reporting of such content.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Germany said through the adoption of the text, the Assembly stands united in sending a strong message against the denial or distortion of the facts surrounding one of the worst crimes against humanity, in which 6 million people were murdered, including 1.5 million children. She thanked Israel and co-sponsors of the text for their agreement on a text whose substance is focused and balanced. Germany is aware of its special obligation and responsibility in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, and will relentlessly oppose any attempts to diminish, distort or deny historic facts. Noting the disturbing spread of disinformation around the Holocaust, especially online, she called on Member States, United Nations agencies and social media companies to combat the trend.
The representative from the European Union, speaking in his capacity as an observer, said the Holocaust happened on European soil and was the most abhorrent crime in history, applauding Israel and Germany for their exemplary cooperation on this important resolution.
The representative of the United States said she was proud to have cosponsored the resolution. Cautioning against the rising tide of antisemitism in her country and around the world, she stressed the need to consistently speak out against hateful narratives. The resolution will help the next generation to avoid the repeat of tragedy. “Never again is our charge,” she said.
The representative of the Czech Republic welcomed the adoption of the text and said her delegation was among the more than 100 co-sponsors. Stressing the importance of accountability, she said her country takes legislative and educational measures. It is important to create a safe online environment, she said, cautioning against antisemitic speech on the Internet. International cooperation and involvement of youth is essential in this field to fill virtual space with positive messages.
The representative of Poland, associating himself with the statement delivered by the European Union, said the connection between Holocaust denial and antisemitism is obvious. Pointing out that as many as 3 million victims of the Holocaust were Polish citizens, he said his country preserves the sites of Holocaust crimes as museums and memorials, and honours those who fought against the Nazis and liberated concentration camps.
The representative of Ukraine, noting that 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews were killed during the Holocaust, recalled a visit to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Israel, where a recorded message reciting the names of the children killed during the Holocaust and the places where they perished took three months to be fully read out, and said he left the dark candle-lit room devastated but determined to prevent such tragedies from occurring. Ukraine condemns Nazism, neo-Nazism, xenophobia and related intolerance. “It is morally egregious to poison this moment and use it to attack and single out countries,” he said.
The representative of Italy, aligning himself with the European Union, welcomed the adoption of the resolution by consensus, and stated that it is timely, given the growing examples of denial and distortion of the facts of the Holocaust through information and communications technologies. Quoting writer Primo Levi, who said, “It happened; therefore it can happen again,” he condemned any denial or distortion of the Holocaust and stressed the need to safeguard the truthful memory of the most appalling crime in human history.
The representative of Cyprus said the resolution is important for the preservation of the integrity of historical truth, for combating attempts to sanitize history through revisionism, for ensuring accountability and for fighting impunity of atrocities, and for the prevention of genocide. Above all, it fulfils a moral obligation towards the victims, for whom denial equals re-victimization.
The representative of Guatemala said his delegation is honoured to have co-sponsored the resolution. Stressing the importance of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said all should be able to enjoy fundamental rights, including freedom of thoughts and religion. His country designated 14 May as the Day of Friendship with Israel.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that today across the globe, there are malicious people who deny the Holocaust and seek to minimize the atrocities committed. Denying and distorting the Holocaust is a form of antisemitism. His country will chair the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and is the first to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism. The United Kingdom also plans to open a new Holocaust memorial and learning centre.
The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, echoed consensus on the resolution, stating that memory of such a black hole in history must be kept alive in the global consciousness so that it is never repeated. However, this can only be ensured if the international community makes a sincere effort to strive for peace, and recognize the rights of others, including the right to self-determination and mutual coexistence.
Reiterating his condemnation of the Holocaust and his rejection of any other crimes of genocide, he expressed the hope that the same spirit of consensus will be reflected with regard to resolutions pertaining to other people who are discriminated against on the basis of religion or ethnicity.
The representative of Belarus, calling the Holocaust “an unhealed wound in national and international history”, said as many as 260 concentration camps were on Belarussian soil. The memory of the Holocaust is holy, and maintaining it is of national significance, he said, adding that 500 memorials to its victims have been built across Belarus. He expressed regret that some countries continue to glorify Nazi individuals and their allies, which is unacceptable, and will be consistently combated by his country.
The representative of Malaysia, joining consensus, recalled that the events of the Holocaust were preceded by subliminal messaging, including cartoons disparaging people based on race and faith. The United Nations was founded to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and must learn from the Holocaust to prevent such tragedies from occurring. The international community must enhance efforts to promote the culture of peace and to combat all forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia.
Follow Up to Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries
Then, the Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted draft decision A/76/L.32, titled “Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries”, by which the organ decided to further postpone the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries to a date to be determined at the earliest possible time, given the situation concerning the coronavirus pandemic and its unprecedented impacts. The Conference was scheduled to be held in Doha from 23 to 27 January 2022.
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
The Assembly then extended the terms of office for Maimunah Mohd Sharif (Malaysia), Executive Director of United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑HABITAT), by two years, beginning on 20 January 2022. Ms. Sharif took up her duties on 20 January 2018 for her first term, which ended on 19 January.
Countering Criminal Use of Information and Communications Technologies
The Assembly then turned its attention to draft decision A/76/L.31, titled “Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes”, and related draft amendments A/76/L.33/Rev.1 and A/76/L.34/Rev.1, which were tabled respectively by the Russian Federation, the Dominican Republic and Belarus.
By the terms of “L.31”, the Assembly would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee hold its first negotiating session in New York from 24 January to 4 February 2022.
By the terms of “L.33/Rev.1”, the Assembly would decide to postpone the Ad Hoc Committee’s first session and convene a one-day meeting in New York as soon as possible, preferably before 28 February 2022, to address organizational matters. The amendment proposes that the first negotiating session be held in New York no later than 18 April 2022, health conditions and space permitting. If those conditions are not met, the Ad Hoc Committee would hold its first session in May 2022 in Vienna.
By the terms of “L.34/Rev.1”, the Assembly would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee hold its first negotiating session in New York no later than 18 April 2022.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation’s proposal for “L.31” maintains the essence of agreements in Assembly resolutions 74/247 of 27 December 2019 and 75/282 of 26 May 2021, insisting that the time and efforts to reach compromises in the long negotiation process should not be wasted. Noting that other in-person meetings are being held, he said the situation caused by the pandemic should not bog down the process, and the first meeting should be held as soon as possible. “L.33/Rev.1”, proposed by the Dominican Republic, contains elements not in line with the previously agreed modalities. It would set a precedent and Member States risk losing their control. Warning against selectively deciding which meetings are more important than others, he asked for support for the Russian draft and Belarus’ amendment, which, unlike the Dominican Republic’s version, does not change the modalities already agreed.
The representative of the Dominican Republic said today’s decision must give Member States the greatest certainty regarding when the first meeting can be held with the least health risks. Describing her delegation’s proposal as the most realistic, she said that no conference rooms are available at Headquarters until April. “L.33.Rev.1” also takes Belarus’ proposal into account and considers the needs of small delegations for greater inclusivity and transparency. Amendments were proposed in a constructive spirit.
The representative of Belarus said “L.34/Rev.1” does not revisit agreements reached earlier. The Dominican Republic’s proposed amendment may set an unclear precedent for the General Assembly and other bodies for making the holding of a meeting contingent on health situations and space availability.
In explanation of position before the vote, the representative of France, speaking for the European Union, said the bloc seeks to hold the first meeting as soon as possible. It is imperative that the greatest possible number of delegations can attend without endangering their health. The Dominican Republic’s proposal is the only viable option as no conference rooms will be available for a two-week session until April and a virtual meeting is not acceptable to many delegations.
The representative of Iran said the COVID-19 pandemic should not be assumed as an obstacle that prevent the General Assembly from tackling these crimes, rather it should be among the reasons for taking action against such crimes right away. Iran believes in the continuity of proper business within the United Nations system, in particular the Ad Hoc Committee, and supports the proposals by the Russian Federation and Belarus. Any further delay in the convening of the first meeting brings no benefit to the international community. Instead, it would lead criminals to jeopardize the rule of law to the detriment of all.
The representative of Venezuela said the current global situation increases the need to combat cybercrimes, expressing support for the texts put forward by the Russian Federation and Belarus.
The representative of the United Kingdom, noting he is committed to the Ad Hoc Committee process, as well as efforts to find a solution to meet the conditions set in previous resolutions pertaining to the balance between sessions in New York and Vienna, said he supported the Dominican Republic’s amendment, as it exhibits sound common sense and good logistical thinking. The United Kingdom will vote yes on “L.31” if the Dominican Republic’s proposal passes.
The representative of Switzerland noted that his country co-sponsors the Dominican Republic’s amendment, which provides predictability and flexibility, respects the agreed agenda, provides adequate time between negotiating sessions, and protects the health of United Nations staff and personnel in the light of prevalent conditions around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
The representative of the United States said he supported the Dominican Republic’s amendment, which provides a technical proposal and has made an effort to take on board Belarus’ concerns by orally revising the amendment to hold the first session in New York unless it is realistically not possible due to logistical limitations. The United States will therefore vote against the amendment put forth by Belarus and will vote in favour of the Dominican Republic’s amendment.
The representative of Brazil said that a majority of delegations are ready to start negotiations but holding a two-week, in-person session at the height of the pandemic would be imprudent. His delegation co-sponsored the amendment proposed by the Dominican Republic, he said, stressing a need for a new General Assembly resolution.
The representative of Australia said modalities agreed in resolution 75/282, including the sequencing of locations, were decided in a balanced manner. This balance should be kept, and the Dominican Republic’s proposal upholds that careful balance, without compromising safety, and offers fallback options, which Belarus’ proposal does not. Shorter gaps between sessions are a disadvantage for smaller delegations as they have fewer resources to prepare for the negotiations.
The representative of Mexico said he will vote for the draft amendment submitted by the Dominican Republic, considering that the text provides Member States and the Secretariat the flexibility to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Having accurate information from the Secretariats in New York and Vienna regarding the availability of space was useful in discussions.
The representative of Syria underscored that existing instruments are not sufficient to address the misuse of information and communications technologies for terrorist and criminal purposes. Therefore, Syria will vote in support of the amendment by the Russian Federation that will permit the convening of the Ad Hoc Committee meeting as soon as possible.
The representative of Ethiopia, emphasizing the need for inclusivity, said her country is one among 40 States that do not have a representative in Vienna. Given that the crucial importance of the first session, Ethiopia cannot support a proposal that changes the venue, and is not prepared to have it elsewhere.
Acting on the competing amendments, the Assembly first rejected “L.34/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 60 against to 42 in favour, with 49 abstentions, and then adopted “L.33/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 18 against, with 45 abstentions.
The Assembly then adopted “L.31”, as amended by the Dominican Republic proposal, by a recorded vote of 92 in favour to 18 against, with 41 abstentions.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Jamaica, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the bloc’s member States supported “L.33/Rev.1”, which takes a practical approach to the situation in the absence of specific information on the availability of rooms in New York. The bloc maintains its position that every effort must be made to convene the first session in New York by 18 April before any further consideration is given to hosting the session in Vienna. He also recalled resolution 75/282 urges Member States to provide voluntary extra-budgetary financial contributions to enable the participation of representatives of developing countries, especially those that do not have resident representation in Vienna, including by covering their travel costs and accommodation expenses.
The representative of Turkey clarified that his delegation does not oppose the necessary postponement and rescheduling of the Ad Hoc Committee sessions. Yet, the singling out of a one-day meeting and separation of that meeting from the main session has caused concern. The decision on the participation of other relevant stakeholders is a matter of substance, which should not be addressed only against the background of procedural rules.
The representative of Indonesia expressed regret that the Assembly was not able to adopt a decision by consensus today. It is for this reason that her delegation views that consultation process as not yet exhausted and consensual decision was still possible. She abstained on “L.33/Rev.1” and “L.34/Rev.1” due to the limited timeframe provided to Member States to consider those proposals thoroughly and inclusively. However, her delegation went along with the adoption of “L.31” as amended.
The representative of the Russian Federation, taking note of the decision, said his country had to vote against his own draft as amended. The consensus decision on holding an official meeting in line with adopted decisions was dependent on health conditions and availability of space, he said, pointing out that this is new to the Assembly’s practice. Emphasizing the need for business continuity and stressing the divergence between the epidemiological conditions on the ground and the Secretariat’s position, he said: “We’ve had enough of hoping; we would like the Assembly to be the master of its own house”.
The representative of Algeria said that taking into consideration the pandemic and impact on the United Nations calendar, a consensus decision would have been an appropriate way forward. All Member States should support consensual decisions, which will enhance collective efforts that satisfy the expectations of the international community.